Saturday, March 12, 2011

Leila's Finca, San Isidro, Ecuador

Finca San Pablo de LEA

San Pabalo de LEA is a milk farm located an hour or two east of the beaches of Jama, Canoa and Bahia. I spent two weeks here with Leila an energertic mother of two beautiful daughters Estephania and Amber. There are four generations on the farm and Leilas mother would cook us a traditonal and tasty lunch each day.

The work here was hard because of the heat but Leila is super laid-back and never made us work for too long when it was hot. Most of the work consisted of cutting pasto for the cows, milking the cows and creating a living fence out of Piñon tree. She also taught us how to make chocolate, cheese, ceviche from snails, and sweets from watermelon.

This is a living fence made out of Piñon trees. They are a laxative so the cows don't eat them and they can also be used as biodeisel. They are really easy to propogate just cut a branch and stick it in the dirt and they will grow roots very quickly. Fast, easy and pretty fence
We got some practice milking cows, it's a lot harder than it looks. Leila laughs a lot at our awkward and cluless attmepts at various tasks such as milking cows, cooking madura (a.ka burning bananas), and struggeling with the bugs with a cow poo, sweat and bruises...

Family and Friends

There are 4 generations of girls here at the farm. Leila explained to me that she makes about 170 litres of milk a day. From that she gains $24 and after paying the two workers at her farm she makes about $5 a day. Big companies like Nestle also come in and pay half of what the milk is worth. Despite this, compared to all the farms I have been to, she asked the least of us and gave the most. I also noticed that although there are difficulties with not having a stuffed bank account she has an incredibly rich life full of family freinds and food.

She also told me that a lot of the farmers here in San Isidro who grow yucca and watermelon are barely making any money. The soil is in bad shape now and the chemicals they need to buy to keep the plants gowing and the bugs away are very expensive. Without some help learning to make compost here I would think in a short time the soil will be no good at all.

Sleep over at the finca. A few times a week at least Leila or her girls have a gathering with lots of food.
This is a drink called Queidmada by setting fire to aguardiente and sugar. It is really really strong and good
More freinds at the house. The town of San Isidro is pretty small. Leila can walk next door to get the milk processed, across the street to get eggs and all the stores are within 6 blocks. There are two "clubs" for dancing in town, it is really safe and I like it better than the cities here.

Below a freind holds Amber's son, Adriano. Amber is young and the father is too. Another girl who lives at the farm is 14 and married with a baby as well. Although some young girls do not go to college who have babies Amber does because there is a ton of family and freind support the help with the baby. Abortion is also illegal here in Ecuador although a lot of people do it illegaly and probably at great risk to thier health. Here the whole family helps take care of the baby, the young guys here also seem to adore holding and being with the baby..something I definitly don't see too much in the states.

The other volunteer Ariana feasting on fresh crab at Leila's house.


Ceviche de snail
Collect snails and feed flour to clean them out.
Then cook in bioling water for a minute de-shell and cut off the guts. Clean with lemon. Chop meat into bits and serve with onion, tomatoe and lemon
The left over guts..mmm

Cheese is too easy to make. You just put a special packet of store bought bacteria in raw milk and let sit. Stir a bit and strain.

To make chocholate powder (for hot chocolate) and bars first we collected the Cacoa fruit. The seeds inside are covered by a white flesh that is really sweet, you can suck it off then roast the seeds stirring them in a pan or in the oven for an hour or so. Or alternativly you can let them dry in the sun for a few days.

Once they are evenly black you peel the shells off
Then you grind the beans with a ginder or you can use a blender or rock. Add a bit of egg, sugar and spices like cinnamon and 5 star anise.
Below Kasie, a peace corps volunteer who lives at the house, is using the grinder. She teaches health to the community and helps in a juvanile garden in town as well.

Then to make the bars you rool the mixture flat and let it dry a day. You can also add milk.
Watermelon peel candy
Just thinly slice the peel and cook in water and sugar...really good.

Animals at the farm

PicassoHatchi the ugliest cutest dog you´ll ever seeMinuit and Hatchi

Some things nearby

A reserve helping to protect the last remaining 2% of the most diverse coastal forests in Ecuador. You can volunteer here in a permaculture program for 1 or 2 months for $14/day.

30 min drive from Canoa, you can book a day and night for $20 or just stop by. It's a bit pricy but you can also volunteer here for $15 a day or so.