Corona Virus? What’s that?… My time in the Andes Mountains During the 9 Month Argentine COVID Lockdown.

Not much had significantly changed for me when the COVID lock-down began. I was living in the mountains at a remote estancia (ranch) to get away from the insanity of modern civilization. My days were full of activities like riding horses, attempting to fish, reading, studying Spanish (Castellano in Argentina), making soft leather clothing, cooking goat, going to bed with and waking up with the sun.

Patagonia’s famous stunning sunsets.

I am putting up this blog post during my first trip off of the estancia in 9 months.

On March 19th, 2020, the Argentine government decided to shut down all “non-essential services” in response to COVID. I learned about this a few days later from someone living at the ranch.

I did not use the internet at the ranch while I was there because it is a WIFI/Satellite based system and anybody who has studied the topic of electromagnetic radiation knows that WIFI is extremely dangerous to living things. Much of my information about the virus was second hand and included the following:

  • All borders were closed.
  • All air flights had been cancelled with the exception of an occasional charter or repatriation flight out of the country. Foreigners were not supposed to be able to travel between provinces (or even between some cities) unless they were leaving. To leave required paperwork from your embassy identifying your vehicle, driver, etc. It also required proof of an airline ticket and a doctors “pass” of your current health status. One was also limited to a 24 hour travel period to arrive at the airport.
  • All bus service had been stopped. Later some inner-city and local buses resumed operation. Now, nine months after the lock-down began, some limited amount of national bus service has resumed.
  • At some point limited travel was permitted by private vehicle for medical and a few other reasons. One had to apply online for permission to travel and you needed to show your permission with a cell phone to be allowed to pass police check points. This introduction of a nationwide surveillance app allowed the tracking of the movements of people within the country. Presumably walking or riding a horse was possible with similar restrictions but I only heard about reports from people driving between towns in a car.
  • In my province some cities had their entrances closed off by using bulldozers to pile up dirt to make a barrier to close traffic. The remaining entrances had police stationed with one side of the road barricaded. At these check points the police would ask for your identity information. They would ask if you had any symptoms that might indicate if you were sick. They would ask if you had been around anyone who has been sick. They would take your temperature from a distance with an infrared gun. If the police decided to let you pass, you would then drive through a makeshift car wash that sprays your vehicle down with a bleach solution.
  • Most businesses and offices shut down. Later some businesses opened up with restrictions on the numbers of people allowed to come into the store at a time, typically 1-3 people were permitted at a time. We are supposed to keep a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from those around us. Sanitization stations were set up at most businesses. The station was typically a table or stool with alcohol gel or spray that you were supposed to use to wash your hands with when entering the building. Many businesses would serve you through a window and were not letting people enter the shop. Some businesses like cyber cafes and long distance call centers were not permitted to allow the public to use these services because they were considered a vector for disease transfer. Many businesses put up transparent plastic barriers between the public and employees.
  • It is required to wear a face mask in public or you may be subject to a fine.
  • People were discouraged from leaving their houses and there was a curfew in Buenos Aires, possibly in other places as well.

In the future I will post on my thoughts about the Corona Virus and what I believe to be true about it. This post is about how the so-called pandemic led to me being stuck in the mountains. It also illustrates the value of remote country living in a time of global crisis.

LAND CONTEXT

There are two climates that tend to be sparse with people and thus have a reduced amount of humanities’ insanity. These are arid landscapes (i.e. deserts) and very cold regions (i.e. tundra). Between the two I think I prefer the desert. This area is arid and dry like the Southwestern US.

On the estancia they graze sheep, cattle, goats and horses. There is a small shop space, barn, vegetable garden, orchards, housing and a micro-hydro system for electricity.

The land is rocky, hilly and mountainous with some flat spots here and there. It is within a section of the Andes mountain range in South America. The temperature is moderate during the summer as it doesn’t tend to get very hot. The Fall has crisp nights and warm days. Winter gets plenty of rain, snow and cold freezing temperatures. Spring has chilly nights and warm days. It is an area suffering from a prolonged drought and is in the process of desertification.

All of the water here is from snow fed rivers and is as clean as it gets. The river is the life blood for all things living.

It is a land of vast expanses where one can see for miles without a human settlement in sight. It is the perfect kind of place to be during a plague. A perfect kind of place to hide out as humans destroy themselves.

ANIMALS

Guanaco

There are many relatives to the animals that are present in North America, such as: voles, bats, deer, skunks, rodents, rabbits, opossums, wild cats, armadillos, otters, weasels, and foxes. Plus, some more exotic species like the llama and guanaco from the camel family or the rhea (an ostrich like bird). With over 5% of the world’s bird species, Patagonia is a bird watchers paradise.

In the mountains there are no poisoness reptiles, nor dangerous animals of prey. Puma (mountain lions) are typically aloof but do feed on livestock. There are wild boar, which are probably the most dangerous non-human animal one is likely to encounter in the these mountains.

Coral snakes, rattle snakes and pit vipers are in the north of Argentina and due to increasing desertification, now range into the northern most parts of Argentine Patagonia. They are less common in their southern most range than in the subtropical north, however. The venom paralyzes the nervous system but strikes are uncommon. Death is not instantaneous and antivenin is available.

There are spiders and scorpions. The small scorpions of Patagonia are not considered very poisonous, just painful. Some areas have Black Widows (northern Patagonia to Buenos Aires).

I have not seen any snakes or Black Widow spiders in my time here.

Ants, mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, lice, beetles, and nameless biting crawlers and fliers exist. Horse flies and yellow jackets have been the greatest nuisance so far. I have read accounts of people’s houses filled with flies lining the walls and locust swarms devouring everything green in sight.

More dangerous than the animals however is the weather. The risk of hypothermia and freezing in these great mountains is real. In the Andes the weather can change unexpectedly. Sometimes people are caught unprepared in the higher altitudes.

PLANTS

Most of the landscape is covered in various thorny dry land shrubs with some bunch grasses.

Some common wild trees that are familiar to me include: willow, poplar, cottonwood, pine and acacia.

There is poison hemlock and not much of the plant life is edible.

SHELTER

I lived alone in a house of stone, wood and concrete. The house is poorly designed and constructed. There is no insulation. The roof is made of reused corrugated metal, dotted with old nail holes and is very leaky. It is missing part of it’s ridge-cap. The walls and roof block most of the wind and sun, but since there are many air gaps and holes: rain, leaves and snow blows in through the roof or walls. Unwanted critters co-habitate. There is plastic (not glass) for some windows.

Open ridge

This shelter keeps out cows and horses, but rodents, spiders, flies, bees, and other small critters are free to come and go as they please through the various openings.

The wood-stove has a hole in the back that has streaked the wall with a dark creosote burn. Creosote buildup also dribbles down the outside of the stove pipe. The original cast iron cook plate is gone and a steel round serving dish fits in it’s place. The stove can be smoky with at least 7 points where smoke vents from the stove but at least the high level of ventilation in the building allows the smoke to clear quickly.

There is a small solar panel on the roof, that is connected to an old car battery. Attached to the car battery are two 12 volt incandescent light bulbs. The battery is dead and the lights no longer work. I prefer it this way because artificial light has adverse health effects. I am thankfully mostly free of electrical appliances: no refrigeration, no air conditioning, nor any of the many other contrivances that modern humans have come to depend on. I have my laptop, a watch, a camera and a headlamp. I use rechargeable batteries for these gadgets. I have no other electronics.

In a few ways the house could qualify as “ecological”: the wood fired stove, wood fired water heater, the compost toilet, some of the building materials (wood and stone from onsite), plus my low energy requirements. I would have preferred an adobe home or another earthen structure like cob. I would have even preferred a yurt or toldo. In any case this house served as my home for my first year in Patagonia.

COMPOST TOILET

I also have access to a separate bathroom structure. I don’t use the flush toilet as it is a waste of nutrients. I use a compost toilet.

I use a five gallon bucket for pee and poo. When only peeing, I just go outside. The bucket is set inside an old beehive box and I perch on two wood boards on either side of the bucket (squat-style). I line the bucket with leaves and wood charcoal (as a way to pre-charge the charcoal to use it as biochar). Each time I use the toilet, I wash up using a wine bottle full of water, instead of using toilet paper. Then I dry up with a hand towel. I have two of these hand towels that I rotate through. I wash one each week and alternate.

Because dogs are everywhere in Latin America I made a thorny rose barrier to keep them out of my organic wastes.

Each time I use the bucket toilet I add two or three handfuls of leaves to cover my deposit when done. This adds carbon. When the bucket is full I add it to the compost pile. Then I rinse out the bucket and dump the water on the compost pile. I then add more leaves to the compost pile and reline the bucket.

See The Humanure Handbook for more information on compost toilets.

PROCESSING FIREWOOD

I placed wet wood outside on a table (up off the ground) to dry on sunny days.

Making and stocking up on firewood was an essential task. I had a crosscut saw and axe for processing wood. Initially I used these tools more frequently. But I realized how much energy was required to cut each piece of wood by hand.

So I switched to using leverage to break branches, which required much less energy to accomplish than using the saw or axe. I used a crook between a poplar tree and it’s branch for splitting wood. I placed the tip of the branch into a pocket of the tree while applying side-ways pressure to the branch.

Branch splitting.

Pile of broken branches for firewood.

I added 4 side branches as upright supports to increase the carrying capacity of wooden produce boxes. I used these to haul in wood.

Different grades of wood (kindling and firewood) was stored inside the house, up off the ground on top of bed frames.

WATER

I have been drinking the spring water that flows from the snow melt in the Andes mountains for these past few seasons. I can’t remember a time when I drank water this pure. Thankfully there are not many pollutants in these mountains.

This water fills my body and courses through my veins. This same water courses through the veins of the Earth (it’s rivers and streams). This is the same water that has flowed through our ancestors, cycling again and again. All of the water systems on the estancia are gravity fed springs of good tasting water.

Water is one of the most important elements to work with if we are going to heal the planet and stabilize the climate. Science is now recognizing that water stores an incredible amount of information, of a much greater capacity than our most advanced silicon chips. It is said by some that water stores emotion and the memories of the Earth. It has also been discovered that when water is combined with the infrared heat from the sun, it generates a tremendous amount of energy. The energy generated from infrared light and water is greater than the amount of energy that we obtain from eating food according to Dr. Jack Kruse. Ones wonder and appreciation for life is deepened as we learn that bacteria cause rain events adding to the complexity of interactions and relationships.

Probably the only ecologically beneficial activity taking place at the estancia was the spreading of water throughout the landscape through the use of a network of irrigation ditches.

The dispersion of water supports more life.

By diverting some water from streams and rivers at the highest point possible in the landscape water is provided to a greater number of living beings. Everything below the ditches can now be periodically flooded with life-giving water. Different parts of the hillside can be irrigated in rotation. This provides lush vegetation for livestock and wildlife. It also helps build the soil carbon sponge that is necessary to stabilize the climate.

My Water System

Spring with a plastic bottle water intake in the middle.

The water systems at the estancia are simple. A particle filter (plastic bottle with holes) for sediment is slipped over a plastic polypropylene pipe and placed behind a small dam. Honestly, this pre-filter was only good for keeping out leaves. It would let small stones, sand, and other sediment into the water line. This later became a problem as the flow of the water in the line slowed down due to sediment buildup. When building a water system be sure to use a much finer sediment filter for your water intake point. If particles get into your line, you want the particles to be small enough to be carried through the water line from the gravity flow of the water moving through the pipe.

From the spring, water is gravity fed down to a small tank. This tank sits uphill from the house and provides a small amount of stored water for showers, etc. The tank is continually filled and overflows out the top.

The sink seems to go to some kind of septic system unfortunately. It would be better to have a gray-water system installed. Especially in such a dry climate, every drop of water counts.

Water Heater

This is a wood fired water tank. It is located in the separate bathroom structure. It is used for heating shower water. This heating method is using stored solar energy trapped as carbon in wood and is therefore renewable.

I mostly used the water heater in the winter as summer temperatures were warm enough for taking cold showers. During the winter season showers are less frequent and depended on whether the pipes were frozen and the availability of dry firewood.

Having a hot shower requires a lot of time to heat the water (at least 1.5 hours) and takes a lot of wood (which requires work). It saves a lot of effort and time just to take a cold shower when the ambient temperature is not too cold outside.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

Trash: I burn non-glossy paper in the stove. All other garbage is buried onsite. I try to avoid acquiring things that will add to the onsite landfill.

Ash, bones, and vegetable scraps are all composted and cycled back into the land.

CLEANING

Cleaning: I make my own soap. See my post: Making soap from water, fat, and wood ash for information on that. Otherwise I just use use water and rags for cleaning.

CLOTHES WASHING

I hand-wash my clothes. In this photo I am filling up plastic tubs with water in the shower. Then I will proceed to “dance” in the tub to agitate the laundry in the water. After a few minutes of this, I dump out the dirty water, squeeze out individual clothing articles and set them aside. Then I put the clothes back in the tub and refill it with water. I usually repeat this cycle about 8 times before I decide that the clothes are sufficiently clean. Initially I was using hot water from the water heater to do laundry but this used up a lot of wood and was a lot more work. So I switched to washing in cold water most of the time. If a specific clothing article felt greasy or was not getting as clean as I wanted it, I would put it in a pot on the stove with some soap and boil it for awhile. This cleaned the clothing quite well but was only used a few times over my nine months in this house.

Then I hang my clothes on a line to dry. I have a line indoors (near the wood-stove) and outdoor lines under the roof eaves, so that my clothes mostly avoid being rained on if I leave them out in a storm.

For large clothing items like my poncho I would wrap a rock around a corner and tie this off with a rope.

Then I would throw the poncho, etc. into the creek for a few hours or overnight to let the creek wash it for me. Why work when nature will do the work for you? I secure the rope to a tree along the creek bank.

TRANSIT

The property is pretty remote. It takes about 3 hours to get to the nearest small town by car. Most people in the area use horses to travel.

This is the horse that I primarily used to get around. We are crossing a river together.

This is a cable car used for crossing the river. For much of the year the river was too high to cross with a vehicle. Sometimes it was too high to cross with a horse. There is a hand crank to move the geared bobbin of cable.

COMMUNICATIONS

I am grateful that there was no cell-tower reception at the estancia and this was a primary reason why I went there originally. I avoid cell phones because of the massive biological damage caused by the technology. A primary motivation for me coming to Patagonia was to find a place to survive the microwaving of the planet by the telecom industry.

Some radio stations can be picked up on the ranch. In this area, people don’t tend to have television in the mountains. The radio is the primary form of news and entertainment. Most families will listen to the radio daily. It’s like going back in time.

I don’t use the internet or a phone at the estancia. I only use wired connections (landline and ethernet) when I travel through a town a few times per year. This keeps my internet time and radiation limited.

FOOD

I eat seasonal, organic and try to eat most of my food on the raw side. I didn’t buy food while at the estancia. I ate what the land provided during my nine month stay there. It is about 7.5 hours of driving (4 wheel driving for much of it) to get to the nearest natural food store (that I know of) and the selection is dismal.

Veggies

Dandelion

The wild edible plants that I have found include: dandelion, mint, lamb’s-quarters, sheep sorrel, mallow, fennel, rose, wild celery, purslane, water cress and willow sugar (aphid excrement – technically not a plant food).

Standard garden veggies were available from spring to early winter: tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, chard, beets, kale, squash, basil, sage, collards, cilantro, etc.

Fruit

This is a photo of berries available in the summertime. It is actually from off the ranch, just before I arrived there. They’re from a province further south.

Planted trees include: apple, plum, cherry, quince, and pear. There are also gooseberries and raspberries. Many of these fruits are propagated by wildlife, so there’s volunteer fruit trees/bushes popping up around the land. There is lots of seasonal fruit.

Gooseberries being prepared for dehydrating.

Cherries being dried in the sun on top of shade cloth. I would have preferred not to dry my food on top of plastic but I couldn’t come up with a better option.

Meat

The river provides crawdads to eat. This photo was actually from a ranch further south when I first arrived in Patagonia.

Crawdads cooked and ready to eat.

A goat carcass in a screened in cage. There was no refrigeration so all meat was kept in screened cages. Meat would last 2-3 weeks depending on the season before it became unappealing to eat.

Goat meat was my primary food staple. Many weeks passed where I ate nearly half a goat myself.

Using an axe to cut up the goat. I didn’t have a butcher saw, so I improvised.

Rabbits and quail are the main wild animals here to hunt for food but skunks and others could be eaten. I caught one rabbit and smashed it on the ground. It was suffering from some disease that causes the rabbit’s eyes to swell up so that it can’t see, which is how I caught it. I ate another couple of rabbits that one of the estancia dogs chased down and caught.

The local folk use a can as a hand-reel for fishing. This is my fly fishing rig. I have not yet caught anything but have only tried to fish a few times.

Two rib cages from a cow being cooked in the traditional asado (bar-b-que) style. Oh my goddess, so good!

All of my cooking is done on wood-burning stoves or fire pits. There was no electricity for cooking at my house. There was some propane around but I chose not to use it. See my post on the Traditional Asado: South American Barbecue for more info on cooking with fire.

Nuts

This is one of the great foods of Patagonia, the piñon nut from the Araucaria (Monkey Puzzle) tree. It’s looks like a giant pine nut but taste like a chestnut. It’s delicious. It has served as a staple food for the indigenous Mapuche tribes of the region.

Walnuts and quince fruit. I learned that quince can be eaten raw.

I had some walnuts, quince and piñon nuts in the early part of winter. Unfortunately my supplies were not sufficient enough to last very long or take me through till spring.

WINTER

The real survival test comes in the winter when temperatures are cold and pipes freeze. When there is little vegetation available to eat.

I had not stocked up well on food because I had actually decided I was going to leave this estancia two months after I arrived. I kept thinking the COVID lockdown was going to be lifted because of rumors that would occasionally circulate. I was planning to relocate before the winter.

With the first snow the mountain passes were closed to travel.

More people stayed over winter at the estancia than normal due to the COVID lockdown. Before the full food supply was hauled in winter snows closed the access to the ranch by vehicle. The pass was closed for a few months. The only practical way to travel off the ranch when snowed in was to take a horse. It was a half-day horse ride along the river and it was best to have a few days of mild weather before traveling. As a result of the pass closure much of the food supply didn’t arrive until much later.

Additionally there was a meat scarcity the whole time I was there. For some reason that I don’t understand the owner did nothing to address this problem the entire year. He chose not to build up the herd, even though this was an ongoing source of complaints and problems. This led to ongoing tension between me and some of the others who lived there. I don’t consider processed food, canned goods, pesticide laden agricultural commodities, etc. as food. These kinds of “foods” were relied on by everyone there except me. Because I don’t eat these things I depended heavily on eating goat which is the primary meat available at the ranch. Because I ended up eating more meat than was typical, the response by some of the people at the estancia was to try to restrict my access to the meat. Rather than focusing on how to create more abundance for all (a more evolved response to scarcity) people were trying to exclude my access to my primary food staple by complaining to the owner. I was constantly having to argue and fight for access to eat food. This was one of the many reasons why I decided to leave this estancia. People were not always taken care of and not enough effort was put into food self-sufficiency. The people at this estancia are highly dependent on purchasing food from the nearest towns.

That is the context going into winter for me and it led to some interesting and undesirable outcomes.

Keeping Warm

Clothing, insulated bedding, sitting in the sun and burning wood are the ways I stayed warm.

Any heat from the wood stove escaped through the air gaps all around the house. Because there was no insulation in the house I had to sit a few feet from the stove to receive any warmth from it.

I had 2 sleeping bags and used my wool poncho as an extra blanket when the nights were cold. In sub-freezing weather I wore a woolen beanie and covered my head with the poncho, leaving a small hole to breath through.

Woodstove

In the winter the stove is the center of activity. In this photo you will see me drying out boots that are resting on sticks (to avoid melting the rubber sole) on top of the stove. I am cooking in a pot that has two metcheros (cans burning goat fat for light) on either side of the pot. In the oven I am “baking” the moisture out of wet branches. These will be fed into the fire next. There is a log fed straight into the fire box with a pair of wool socks draped over the top to dry them out. To the right of the stove are branches that I am drying out. In the foreground is goat head stew. Up next for cooking.

Yum!

At some point I stopped breaking branches and just started directly feeding them into the stove. The floor and walls are made of stone and concrete, there was nothing flammable around the stove. So if a branch fell out it was not a fire hazard. Not having to break branches into little pieces that fit into the firebox saved me lots of effort. Much of survival is about energy conservation. Anything that can be done to reduce energy use allows one to get by on less food when supplies are scarce.

Notice that the entire stove is covered with pots. I tried to use all of the heat that the fire was generating to do work for me. It was a fair bit of effort to keep firewood stocked and I didn’t want to waste all the heat just cooking one pot of food. In this photo I am heating water, cooking several different meals and experimenting with homemade glue.

A quick photo series of winter goat slaughter and butcher in the mountains:

Last of the Vegetables

Here I am cutting up the last of the vegetables. These are stems from collards and kale plants as the greens were already eaten. After these vegetables, I ate only two things for a couple of months: rose hips and meat.

Top Choice Survival Food Plant

I learned to appreciate the rose. This was the only fruit, it was the only plant food available to me for much of the winter. It is rich in vitamin C and I came to greatly appreciate the texture once I became accustomed to it. This plant above all others in Patagonia is probably the most important survival plant. It has a long fruit season and it’s fruit is preserved well on the bush. It is available to eat when there is nothing else to be found. It also is a huge help to livestock and wildlife, helping them to survive the winter.

I wore gloves to harvest the berries because they have these very small thorns on the fruit that get stuck in the hand and are irritating. Then I shake the dried berries in a colander to knock off the little thorns and debris.

I stacked the fruit in plates and filled the plates with water.

After three days the water can be poured off for one of the most delightful beverages. It tastes kind of like strawberry lemonade. It’s refreshing and sweet with a little tanginess. The fruit is also a good texture at this point.

Scavenging the Dead to Eat

One day the estancia owner came to me and said that there are two dead horses. One just died of starvation and the other was shot dead because it was starving. Every year a couple of old horses starve to death during the winter there. The owner told me that I can’t eat anymore goat meat and that I’ll have to scavenge the horses for food. The owner had caved in to the complains of others about me eating “too much” goat. Initially I embraced the challenge to salvage the horses and thought it good to make use of the meat.

Here is part of one of the horses that I salvaged.

Here I am with a horse leg in my backpack and some ribs draped over my back. Horse is heavy to carry. The horses died/were killed miles from where I lived which was highly inconvenient. While scavenging the first horse, my neighbor found a cow that had died. It had been dead for a few weeks based on how dried the stomach contents were. Some animal had torn out the guts. But luckily it was on the cold side of a hill exposed to a cold wind so much of the meat was well preserved. The beef was surprisingly excellent. Some of the best I ever ate.

I spent five days hauling salvaged horse and cow with some help from my neighbor. It was some of the most exhausting strenuous work that I have ever done. All day everyday working through the pain in my body to save as much meat as possible. We lost some of the horse meat to a wild dog and some was just way too funky by the time I got to it, after sitting out in the sun for a coupe of days.

Skinning a horse leg. Mixed with the hauling was preparation of the meat for preservation.

The horse meat was cut from the bone.

The meat was spread out initially on the roof until further processing. The sun and wind helped to start drying the meat. Putting it on the roof kept it out of reach from the cats and dogs. Luckily this was winter so there were no flies or yellow jackets around.

The meat was cut into strips for drying.

I put some boards up on the roof against a ladder and than draped meat strips over the boards. After two days I would flip and reposition the meat strips to dry the underside of the meat strip. It took about 4 days in the sun to dry the meat. There was also a ranch freezer that I was able to put a bunch of the horse meat in.

Because the horse head was too big to fit into a pot to cook whole, I removed the eyes, tongue, and cheeks to eat. The brain was saved for making soft leather clothing (more on that in a future post). The organs tend to be the most valuable parts for health and nutrition. If there is only one book that you ever read about nutrition, make it Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price.

My first attempt at horse hair rope. I tried to use most of the horse.

New Foods

I learned to eat goat feet.

First I removed as much skin as I could.

Then I boiled the hooves to loosen them from their socket.

Supposedly the socket should be able to come loose after a little boiling. One can then bang them on a rock or put on a glove and pull them off. I was not able to get this to work. So I boiled them until the joint came loose. Then I made a nice bone broth with the rest of the foot, minus the hooves.

Flooding

Water flowing out my front door. When the rains were heavy my house would flood for days or weeks.

This is the view looking in from the front door. I have a couple of inches (5 cm) of water over much of my floor.

Here is a creek flowing through my bedroom. Luckily my bed was elevated, so I slept dry.

Drowning a Neighbor’s Goat

Let me just say for the record: Two months of just eating rose hips and starving horse meat is a real fucking drag. I am told that horse meat can be pretty good when slaughtered at the right time of year. Unfortunately starving old horse meat is tough and does not taste good. It has almost no fat at all and was lacking nutrients and hence the poor flavor.

I ended up eating about 75% of those two horses by myself.

I had most of the winter to work on personal projects, read, study Spanish and focus on staying warm and fed. As the seasons shifted to spring the ranch owner asked me to help out a bit on the ranch. This was a reasonable request because I had been stuck there for a long time, waiting to leave. I told him I needed my goat ration restored if I was going to start working again. He agreed to this and said that he sent a message to the grizzled old gaucho that takes care of the goats. I have to talk to the goat gaucho to get a goat. When I showed up the gaucho said he hadn’t received any message about me coming to get goat. I had to argue with him, which was typical, until he let me take a goat to eat.

The ranch owner said he would find me an alternate source for meat in the future. Based on past experience I knew I couldn’t count on him to deliver on his promise and I didn’t want to depend on him for my access to food. When I checked in with him a couple of weeks later, he had forgotten to sort out my meat supply problem. I had anticipated this.

One day I found some of the neighbor’s goats down by the river on the land of the estancia where I was living. I decided to get savage, corner some of the goats, lunged at one, dragged it into the river and drowned it. I was almost out of meat so the timing was fortunate.

Normally I wouldn’t steal a neighbors goat but there was a long history of problems with this neighbor.

In the US a property owner is responsible for fencing in their animals on their own property and can be held liable. In Argentina it’s the opposite. Animals have free reign and it is the responsibility of property owners to fence in their property to keep out unwanted animals. If animals are found on your land you can put them in a corral. You need to provide water but are not required to feed them. Than you notify the local radio station. Everyday nearly everyone tunes into the local radio station for the news: so and so got married, someone is missing their horse, etc.

Here’s a short history of some of the problems with this particular neighbor:

  • The neighbors property is surrounded by the estancia I was living on. The neighbor leases out her land for grazing to some people that have way too many animals for her acreage. So the animals quickly eat all of the forage available on her land which leaves only forage on the estancia where I was. So the animals spend much of their time over grazing the land where I was living. The animal owners trespass daily and graze without consent. They graze land that is not theirs without payment or any agreement.
  • When a fence was being built to enclose the animals in the neighbors property, the people who own the animals, stole the fencing materials. Arguments about where the boundary line was also occurred.
  • When animals that were trespassing were rounded up in a corral, as is legally permitted, this led to confrontations with their owners.
  • When animals that were trespassing were driven back onto the land where they were supposed to be, the animal owners would release their dog which then scattered the animals and sent them running back onto the estancia where I was. The dog was trained to chase the animals off of the land where the livestock were supposed to be.
  • Throughout various confrontations with the neighbors the police were called, nasty phone messages were left by the neighbor and in one case one of the trespassers charged through a cooking fire where someone was making mate tea and the man on horseback threatened to whip the woman who had been trying to maintain her property lines.

This kind of behavior has been going on for decades. The owner of the estancia where I was living did nothing about it because he is a coward and highly conflict avoidant.

I personally don’t tolerate that kind of behavior and would have put an end to this dispute years ago if it was my land.

So I had no qualms about taking one of their goats.

My goat “harvesting” was merely a small payment for years of unauthorized grazing and land degradation.

This is the neighbor’s goat that I drowned. I didn’t realize that she was lactating until after she was dead. I was mostly focused on grabbing a goat that I could carry back to my house. I was not thinking about whether or not they might have kids. There were no kids with these goats otherwise it might have occurred to me to grab a male.

Here I am milking the drowned goat.

This was the first time I had milked a dead animal.

I milked into the cup, then poured the milk into the stainless steel water bottle.

The water bottle was placed in the creek to cool. I placed two rocks next to the bottle to keep it from floating away. I obtained about 1.5 quarts (1.5 liters) of milk. The milk was really good. I hadn’t had milk for over a year so it was a real treat.

My first foray into eating the stomach and intestinal tract.

I washed out the intestines and stomach in the creek near my house. After washing each piece I hung it on a branch.

This is one of the four stomachs after being washed.

Drying washed intestines. The CDC and your local health department germ-a-phobe bureaucrats can suck on that. I’m sure the goat is just crawling with the corona virus too. People like me eat COVID for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Why? Because we can. Because we’re bad ass like that. Because food tastes better with a little COVID sprinkled on top. And most importantly for funzies. (Yes, I am mocking the fearmongering about COVID.)

Boiling various pieces of stomach and intestine. This actually did not taste good. I later learned that it is recommended to very briefly blanch the stomach and remove the inner membrane/lining before cooking. This is supposed to improve the flavor. Yeah, well, you live and learn. The intestines were pretty good though, they were mostly fat and I love me some fat.

So now I can cross “Drowned a neighbor’s goat” off my bucket list.

Not too long after my poaching experience the lock-down came to an end and I left the estancia.

I am glad to be off this estancia but honestly it was a lot better there than in the outside COVID crazy world. But that story will have to wait for another blog post.

I had a good year. I refined my survival skills. It was an interesting time. I suspect that next year will also have it’s share of new experiences as the world goes through biological meltdown.

Most days the sun shines bright and life is pretty darn good here.

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