Rio Muchacho Organic Farm Volunteering

From Quito, Dave and I took a bus ride to Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. I will have to say that this was the longest, most uncomfortable bus ride we’ve been on so far. We got an estimate that the bus ride would take anywhere from 6-9 hours. Well, it took 8 hours and 45 minutes.

The most unpleasant part was that the bus arrived at 9pm at night and the room we reserved at Coco Bongo Hostal apparently didn’t exist. The owner had mistakenly given it away to someone who she thought was us. She then proceeded to direct us in a city that we didn’t know to a hotel that might or might not be open and have rooms. We were not very happy after a 9 hour bus ride. I don’t suggest staying at Coco Bongo if you need a place to stay in Bahia. The hotel su descanso ended up having a room and it all worked out in the end, it just was one of our first, but I’m sure not last, unpleasant experience with not getting what we expected.

The following day we took a boat taxi across the river to San Vincente and then a bus to Canoa. In Canoa there is an office for Rio Muchacho, the farm that we volunteered on, where you take a taxi to go to the farm. I say taxi because that is what they called it. It’s actually a pick up truck where you sit in the back and ride for a good 20 minutes on paved roads and then another 20 minutes on dirt roads. Don’t worry, we were assured it was “safe.”

Dave holding on for our taxi ride.

I took a seat on our taxi ride. Nice views on the dirt road to the farm though.

When we arrived Kevin and Nicola greeted us. Kevin is an intern who has been there for over 6 months and Nicola is one of the owners. They had saved lunch for us, which was very nice of them. We proceeded to start helping out with the activities in the afternoon and got our routines for the following week.

Panoramic of the farm.

The farm has a consistent routine:

6:00 am – wake up and get ready for the animals

6:30 am – put on your rubber boots and head to the animal area or kitchen depending on your routine.

View of the animal area.

  • Chanchos (pigs) – mix sugar cane syrup with water and give it to the pigs, mix grains with water and then feed to the pigs, shovel out any wet area of the pig pens and by wet that means urine and crap. After that, put a small amount of  sawdust where the pend was shoveled. And lastly, collect dry leaves to give to the piglets to rest on.

Chanchos eating.

  • Caballos (horses) – see chanchos. The chanhcos were a lot of work and whoever was on caballos was helping with chanchos. I was on Caballos the second week.
  • Pollos (chicken) – Feed the baby chicks ground up corn and fill up their water and feed the adult chickens corn. Dave was on Pollos the first week.

Pollitos eating their ground corn.

  • Cuyes (guinea pigs) – Cleaned out the cages and feed the cuyes

Guinea pig cage

  • Concina (kitchen) – cut up watermelon and pineapple and wash dishes. I was on the concina the first week and the second week Dave was doing the concina work.
  • Dave doing some dishes

7:30 am – routines are done and breakfast is ready. Breakfast consisted of fruit salad with granola, tea made from the pineapple peels, and some sort of starchy bread.

7:45-8 am – wash breakfast dishes or rest if you’re not on dish duty

8:30 am – Morning work

  • Some days we had a “Minga” which is an indigenous word that means group work. This could have consisted of moving brush, moving compost and so on.
  • Working in the vivero and semillero (nursery)

    I worked in the nursery for a week planting seeds and filling those bags.

  • Transplanting leeks

    Watching Nicola explain how to remove the baby leeks.

    Leeks transferred. Success!

    Proud of my hard work.

  • Planting lettuce
  • Digging trenches and/or holes

    Corney and I working hard digging the trench in the hot sun.

    Dave did most of the hard work. He was made for heat.

    It was hard with the hot sun baking us.

  • Weeding
  • Watering
  • Moving the Chancho Train

12:00 pm – Morning work is complete and lunch is ready. Lunch consisted of soup as the first course, and then rice with a vegetable side, salad, and juice.

Lunch. Yum!

12:15-12:30 pm – wash lunch dishes or rest if you’re not on dish duty

1:30 pm – 4:30 pm – Afternoon work

  • Making marmalade

    Our first task on the farm, chop a lot of mandarins for marmalade. We chopped for a good 2 hours. We also separated the pips (seeds for those of us who don’t speak British English).

    After the chopping and seed separating, the mandarins get boiled until soft and the pips and other whites get boiled to create pectin. They are combined with the same amount of sugar and simmered until it starts to set. Then placed into sterilized jars.

    We made a lot of marmalade the first week we were on the farm.

    Our finished marmalade in the office in Canoa. We’re famous, kind of.

  • Watering
  • Drawing instructions

    He’s a professional.

    Hopefully Dave did a good job so people understand what to do and what not to do.

  • Decorate cups
  • Plant flowers
  • Ride horses for visiting students
  • Every Wednesday was cultural day. So we made rings from a local nut and visited the giant tree.

    Dave cutting the nut into a ring like shape before sanding it.

    Sanding the inside and outside of my ring.

    Finished rings!

    Dave climbing the giant tree.

    One of the strangest trees I’ve seen. It sends roots down from its branches and it can eat other trees!

6:30 pm  – Dinner, which consisted of rice and some vegetable sides

6:45 – 7:00pm – wash dinner dishes or rest if you are not on dish duty

7:30 pm – Night activity

  • Watching movies on dirt or permaculture
  • Making coffee

    Build a fire and then roast the coffee beans to the desired darkness level.

    Tomas and Kevin grinding up the roasted coffee beans.

    Dave enjoying his freshly made coffee.

  • Making chocolate

    Cacao beans prior to being roasted.

    Roasting the cacao beans.

    Peeling the freshly roasted and very hot cacao beans.

    Grinding the cacao and mixing with panela (sugar cane). We decided on a one to one mixture.

    Mix the cacao and panela mixture with milk on the stove and add more panela if needed.

    Enjoy!

    mmmm…chocolate and pineapple.

  • Hanging out and making friends.

    Cornelia, Tomas, Steffi, Kevin, 3 Ecuadorian Guys that were only there for the weekend, Sarah, Erin, and Zach

    Nicola and her adorable twins Raphael and Florence.

    Our packed full taxi pickup on our way out from the farm.

    The cabana Dave and I stayed in for two weeks.

    They compost everything. This is the humanure pile.

    A portion of the garden.

    Pineapple!

    Pretty birds

    Overall we had a fun time on the farm and it was a good experience. We now know how hard farm work really is.

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Categories: South America, Traveling, Volunteering | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Rio Muchacho Organic Farm Volunteering

  1. Bob Myers

    I don’t know, Dave. That leek row looks a little crooked. You haven’t said anything about your Spanish lately. Bob

  2. Yeah, I noticed that too. I tried to straighten it out part way through but failed miserably. I guess I’m better at drawing straight lines than digging them. Maybe I should stick to design. 🙂

  3. Great pictures!

  4. April

    Now that you have experience as farm hands, you should be able to find a job working on a farm back here in America in no time. I think it’s cool learning all these skills because one day they will really pay off. Maybe you can start a big garden of your own and teach the rest of us a thing or two.

    • Yeah, we definitely learned some useful skills even though we only scratched the surface of what they do on that farm. The whole idea of permaculture is very interesting. Waste not, want not.

  5. Pingback: Canoa, Ecuador « Peach and Bones

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