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A Laid-Back Chilean Backyard Farm

A-photo-of-Evan-Blake-WelchGRIT Guest Blogger Evan Blake Welch hails from Louisville, Colorado. He’s interning at GRIT this summer with plans to attend college at Ft. Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, in the fall. A young, promising genius, he’s yet to decide on his major.

Life in my 19 years of existence had been the prescribed suburban Walmart and IHOP cookie-cutter neighborhood experience. I grew up in the same generic town as many Americans. Occasional field-trips to my uncle’s hobby farm was as far as my farming experience went. I knew I wanted a life closer to nature, and frankly I wanted to know where my food came from. A trip to Chile seemed like a perfect opportunity to step out of the mold and live off grid.

Horses, corn, barns and irrigation ditch in Chile

Situated in the foothills of the vast Andes 60 miles south of Santiago, Chile, sat the Acevedo compound. A backdrop of vast vineyards, palm trees, and happy residents was the norm in the suburb called Buin. Parakeets, chickens, horses, cows, pigs, and wandering dogs could be heard from any vantage at my new home.

Calves on a backyard farm in Chile

Corn, tomatoes, squash, and onions were grown there, and potatoes supplemented income for a seemingly lazy but satisfying lifestyle.

Chickens in Chilean chicken coop

A self-sustained lifestyle was a natural choice for my new family.

Irrigation ditch in Chile

Irrigation ditches were a common sight in all of the suburban yards, and chickens were sprawled throughout the town often scratching beside the highway. Closeness to nature and farm life was easy to find in spite of the urbanities nearby. Most everything was made by hand, with what ever supplies were readily available, including the house being built for the daughter and her husband-to-be. The builder in the neighborhood built a house alone with help from his two sons (9 and 12 years old). Work certainly came second to friends and family. They were content with less stuff and more free time. It was a slower pace of living for sure.

Pigs on a farm in Chile

After a light breakfast, a fresh avocado ham and cheese sandwich, I would start my chores. Simple mundane work, it was perfect. I fed the chickens (there were forty-some for eggs), cleaned the modest stables, and weeded the nearby potato field, then siesta. The family’s main income came from transporting workers to and from the neighborhood vineyard. I rode along with them, then siesta. Some more farm chores came soon after, and then, yes, more siesta. Watching the horse-driven plow was something I won’t soon forget. Other than futbol the main recreation for the family was spending time with each other, and it was the farm lifestyle that made it possible.

A horse in Chile

Most of what we ate came from either the backyard or farms no more than 5 miles from the house. An assortment of tomato, watermelon, peach, and corn farms decorated the countryside.

I’m sure towns like Buin can be found in the U.S., I know there are great communities that come together, but the coolest thing was the that the close proximity of massive cities didn’t hinder the choice of living as they wanted to. The farm existed because they wanted it to, they didn’t need its sustenance. They most definitely didn’t have to wage war against any city council for a few backyard chickens. I learned that a homestead style of life was as satisfying as I imagined it. I brought back with me a dream of having an American homestead, in laid-back Chilean style.