Wednesday, May 29, 2013

la Cosecha

Our timing in San Rafael was perfect to help our friends John and Annette with their plum harvest (= cosecha).  After traveling by motorcycle for a couple of years, then returning to the UK for a short time, they ended up moving to a small farm in San Rafael.  Most of their land is planted with plum trees, but they also have a couple of acres of grapes, walnut and pine nut trees, fruit trees, and a nice garden.  While there, we got the down and dirty on what it takes to harvest over 30 metric tonnes of plums in a couple of weeks.

Plums in boxes (San Rafael)
(22 kg of plums go into each of these wooden boxes)

Mike and Jill catching a ride with a few plums (San Rafael)
(Mike and Jill catching a ride with a few plums)

The plums can either be sold fresh, or sun dried. The drying process depends on a number of factors:  rack space, sun, and high temps are big ones. But once dried, the plums generally have more value or can be stored until they do, so it's worth drying what you can.

Jill, John, and Annette spreading out the plums (San Rafael)
(Jill, John, and Annette spreading out the plums)

Annette and Jill spreading plums with John on tractor (San Rafael)
(Annette and Jill spreading plums with John on tractor)

Plum hand (San Rafael)
(plum hand)

John and Mike sitting for a break (San Rafael)
(Loading up ~275 boxes made us look this tired)

Fully loaded with ~275 boxes of plums, 22 kg each box (San Rafael)
(old trucks are the norm in the area. This one fully loaded and ready to go to the dryer)

Annette's nephew and some of his mates visited for a week or two while we were there. I'm not sure all 4 of those boys knew what they had signed up for, but it really helped having the extra hands!

Better than a tractor?  (San Rafael)
(UK boys making themselves useful)

Mike, Annette, John, Lamb, Richard, Tom, Pinner at lunch (San Rafael)
(Mike, Annette, John, Lamb, Richard, Tom, Pinner at lunch)

Kitty sleeps in some precarious spots (San Rafael)
(Kitty sleeps in some precarious spots)

John and Annette put on a fantastic asado while everyone was still in town.

1/4 cow and Mike.  San Rafael
(1/4 cow and Mike)

Some of the boys from the UK.  Lamb on guitar, Pinner next to him on lead vocals, Tom on relaxing.  Dogs in background focused on that 1/4 cow.
(Lamb on guitar, Pinner next to him on lead vocals, Tom on relaxing. In background, Annette butchering a cow with some devoted onlookers)

While we worked hard for a few weeks during the plum harvest, it was actually refreshing for both of us to be in one spot and doing something every day. The physical activity felt really good. Beyond that, we had a really good time getting to know John and Annette better, as well as Richard and his friends. Annette's wonderful cooking made our stay even more enjoyable - she's a natural culinary expert!

Mike and birthday cake (San Rafael)
(Mike and birthday cake)

John passing the grapes on his ol' Fiat (San Rafael)

** NOTE **

John and Annette are happy to host overland travelers with an exchange of some work for room and board. If you are interested in helping them out while on the road (which we looked at as a way to help ourselves out too - after 2 years of traveling, we appreciated the opportunity to stay in one spot, get our hands dirty, and have some English chats) give them a shout to learn more.

They are located just outside of San Rafael, which is about 3.5 hours south of Mendoza. Their farm is a pleasant place to stay. You may be lucky to get the guest bedroom, unless others are there already. But even if you are camping, they are happy to share their space with you (especially the bathroom and kitchen).

As far as what work you will do, you will need to coordinate with them, but there are a lot of varied tasks that will help them out. And they're not slave drivers; they just want a hand and in return for that you get a nice place to crash and some great food! At harvest time, that is what's done, but aside from that you could be out in the fields, or helping with their construction projects, or gardening, or whatever you think may be a good fit.

We enjoyed the chance to see what happens at harvest time. And the evening cocktails, too. we enjoyed those. A lot.

A really nice write up of other traveler's account of their time, there a couple of weeks before us:
John and Annette's offer is shown here:
Annette's email is: - at - annetteonwheels [you need to reverse this, and make the @ sign, of course]

Hope some of you have the chance to hang out with them in San Rafael.

** / **

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