Our farm was always beautiful, but did need a lot of restoration when we first moved here.
We have built no new structures, the old farmhouse is adobe with a red tiled roof, all very idyllic, but we have had to replace most of it. However, as we are in rural Chile about 100k from the nearest big town most materials are sourced locally. We employed local craftsmen throughout who still operate using only the simplest hand tools, for example all concrete and plaster was mixed by hand by the 5 workers on the house project - four were local fishermen. They only work when the fishing is quiet, when the fish start running, they disappear for a week without a word, then come back and carry on as normal!
Our Cascada lodge was here when we arrived, and is pine built with wood from our own hillside, (We have 60 Hectares of Pine forest on the farm). Laguna lodge is an old cottage and barn, and is being restored by Carlos and his brother. It has kept their family busy over the winter months here and they both cycle to work - most local transport is by bike.
We ourselves employ 2 workers on the farm. One lives permanently on the farm. We have planted 5 hectares of olives for oil and another 2 for fruit trees. As these trees grow they will provide seasonal work for locals in the picking season. Our pine forests had been sadly neglected, so we have arranged with Leonardo our local contact to contract out this work. He works at one of the local houses round the Lake, but does forestry part time. He has a band of displaced workers who build a wooden shed in the woods and then thin the woods for you. They get 70% of the cut wood value, but it is very hard work and wood prices are poor at the moment, but it does allow the purchase of a few bottles of wine!
It is interesting that of the 6 men, only one has a chainsaw and he only cuts the bigger trees - all the rest have axes, and they are razor sharp! Still, the work progresses, but we do have to get machinery in to move the stacked piles of wood from the forest. Violetta, my plough horse is very good at that, but there is too much for her alone. Esquinero, my rodeo horse, is not allowed to do that. My worker Juanito is a Huaso and does Rodeo - Chilean rodeo that is- Esquinero was bought as a gentle horse for my wife with Juanito´s advice, he didn't tell me he was a fully trained rodeo horse and will gallop sideways at 20 mph!! Still he is a wonderful friendly horse.
I have been fortunate to live in the countryside most of my life and a lot of what responsible tourism stands for comes as second nature to us. We are farmers first and friendly hosts second! We won't be getting any bigger, 2 lodges is enough for us and we do believe in Reserva Nacional Laguna Torca.
I have a large section on my web page for this sanctuary, in fact much bigger than the official Conaf page. We are trying to bring this rural backwater to the eyes of International travellers. We are the only English language page in our locale. Buses are the main form of public transport around here. Buses throughout Chile are modern and on time, cheap and being well used, are plentiful.
We recycle all that can be here, metal is held for collection and all food waste is gladly received by the chickens. We are proposing a conversion to solar water here, only just starting here in Chile, but the prices of the units are still too high. Most hot water here is from gas bottles and expensive. We live in a sunny area and prices for the solar water systems will come down and be adopted.
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