March 14, 2010

One adventure after another with the family in rural Brazil: Milking the cows, Feeding the chickens, and a Waterfall

Our weekend trip to Fatima's farm outside of Itapuranga in Goias, Brazil turned out to be one adventure after another. This time, I took the whole family to the farm – Tatiana and Soraya had had been asking all week when we would be able to go.

We arrived around 6pm Friday evening. The girls were excited to see the calves and chickens. The first thing they tried to do was to pet the calves. That turned out to be more difficult than it looked. Tatiana, Soraya and Raymi got in the corral with the calves. But, each time they got close to a calf, it would run away. Finally, all of the calves had run out of the corral, and no one got to pet one.

Next up were the chickens. After many attempts, Soraya managed to catch a hen, and the girls took turns holding it. When they let it free, Raymi showed the girls where the corn on the cob was, and they de-grained a couple of cobs for the chickens.

Meanwhile, it was getting dark, and Fernando decided to start a campfire. Fernando and Braulio, Fatima's son, busied themselves bringing and cutting wood, and the girls helped by adding dry corn husks to the fire. By the time the fire was ready, it was time to eat dinner.

Dinner consisted of rice, beans, a little bit of free-range chicken, and inhame – a tuber vegetable. Tatiana and Soraya served themselves at least three plates of rice and beans. The food was hearty and tasty. After dinner, we had a little rapadura – concentrated sugar cane - and went outside by the campfire where Nando was playing his flute.

We relaxed by the fire for a while, but soon the girls wanted to play again. This time, Evandro had the idea of them playing with the wheelbarrow. Braulio gave the girls several turns each in the wheelbarrow before it was time to go to bed.

I woke up on Saturday morning at 6am, and the girls were already up and about. When I got out of bed, I found all three girls in the cattle pen, helping Braulio and Sebastiao milk the cows. Braulio showed them how to pull on the cows' udders to make the milk come out. They were able to do it, but not nearly as fast as Braulio. After milking the cows, Raymi and I went into town with Evandro to buy bread and some meat for lunch. Afterwards, we took the milk from the cows to the depository where they sell the milk each day.

After breakfast, Tatiana and Soraya finally got what they wanted most – to ride the horse. Evandro got the horse saddled up for them, and they took turns riding it around and around the house until finally it was time to let the horse eat some grass.

While the girls were riding the horse, Evandro took Raymi and me out behind the house where he cut a piece of sugar cane and squeezed the juice out of it with a small metal mill. We strained the juice and drank it. It tasted even better with limes from the tree – all natural lemonade.

After our morning adventures on the farm, it was time for a bit more adventure. Evandro drove us to Dominique's farm, which is about a 30 minute drive down a dirt road through several other small farms. Dominique's farm is more of a hacienda than a farm. She has several lakes where she raises fish, many pineapple and papaya trees, and a herd of goats for milk and cheese.

Dominique's hacienda also has a magnificent waterfall on the premises. The main purpose of our visit was to jump in the waterfall. Unfortunately, just as we got there, it began to downpour heavily. We waited the rain out at one of the small farmhouses where several men were cleaning fish to take to the market. Seeing all of the fish and lakes, the girls asked if they could also fish.

One of the workers gave them two fishing poles, and Tatiana and Soraya went down to the lake to fish. Soraya managed to catch a big fish. But, it was a little too big and she ended up falling backwards into the lake trying to get it out. Fortunately, the lake was not deep at all. But, she was full of mud and had to be rinsed off in the shower.

After their fishing adventure, we walked over to the waterfall. It was about a 15-minute walk down a muddy trail overgrown with vegetation. Each of us fell in the mud a few times, but managed to make it to the waterfall. It was beautiful. As usual, I was scared of slipping on the rocks, and, of course, I fell – right on my behind. So did everyone, but we managed to make it to one of the pools where we cooled off and cleaned up. The sun had come out enough to dry off the big rocks, and I relaxed on one of the boulders while the girls continued to swim and splash around. It was getting late, however, so we didn't stay too long.

When we got back to Dominique's farmhouse, the men had finished cleaning the fish and were taking them to market. We bought a large – two kilo – fish from them and took it home to cook. Evandro picked a few coconuts from Dominique's farm to make coconut milk to cook the fish. Evandro made coconut milk by taking the white meat out of the coconut and putting it in the blender. I added this delectable mixture to the muqueca de peixe that I made. The fish stew was delicious with the large, meaty, fresh pintado.

After dinner, Nando sang just a couple of songs by the campfire as we were all tired and full. The next morning, however, as promised, Nando made a bamboo flute for Braulio. They have some bamboo trees on the farm, and Nando and Evandro cut one down and fashioned a flute for Braulio. That way, they will have something to remember us by until our next visit.

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