“Uh…well…there wasn’t any heat. Not even any hot water…”
Friends had just come back from our ranch in Argentina. They brought hundreds of photos and many happy memories. But they brought us some disappointment too. We spent – how much was it, we’ve forgotten already – some $75,000 on a state-of-the-art solar heating plant, we find that it doesn’t work. It is winter in Argentina now. Up in the mountains, temperatures drop down into the teens (in Fahrenheit) every night. Without heat, it can be rough.
Our friends had a professional as well as a leisure interest in the ranch. Patrick is a cattle breeder in France. His animals regularly win top prizes at farm fests. We had asked him to take a look at the herd down in Argentina.
“It’s a different world down there. We were very impressed. Everyone was so nice. They treated us like family wherever we went.
“And the scenery is spectacular. We drove over the mountains to get to your place. It was unbelievable. There’s nothing like it in France. So wild. So empty. And the sky is so blue. It was always blue. Without a cloud. They told me that the sun shines every day. Even when it rains, the sun comes out soon after, so there is never a day without sun. Very different from here in France. In the winter here, you can go for weeks without seeing the sun.”
There, you can’t go a single day.
“We were impressed too by the way the mountains change color as the sun makes it way from dawn to dusk. It was so beautiful, we just wanted to stop, sit down and look at it…
“Even at night, it was spectacular. We had a full moon. And sometimes we would be out on the trail late, after the sun went down. But the moonlight was so bright, we didn’t need the sun. I have never seen anything like it.
“I have to tell you though, that your ranch is so rugged…we were surprised you had any cows at all. The first thing I asked when I got there was: ‘What do they eat?’ There’s no grass. It’s so dry. I know you have plans to build more water storage areas…but, you might need more than that.
“Naturally, the cows are very thin. They’re not the kind of cattle you’d find in Europe. You have a local brand – practically your own breed of creole cattle mixed with various trains of Brahmin, Bradford, even some Limousines. But the operation is so different…and the terrain is so different…I realized that everything I knew about cattle was nearly worthless out there.
“I heard from Jorge that your place is so remote even the cattle buyers don’t want to come out. Besides, the beef is too tough – which I guess is not surprising.
“You know, here we move cattle from one field to another. It takes about 10 minutes. But I asked Jorge how long it took to move them from that huge valley in back of the house to the pasture just in front, where you treat them for diseases and sell them. He told me it took 12 hours…if the cattle are in good shape.
“And they have to move them over a stone path barely a meter wide with a drop-off down the canyon of about 100 meters. It looked like a death trap to me. We wanted to see them, but we were afraid to ride over on horses…it just looked too dangerous and uncomfortable, so we decided to go on foot. Jorge told us it was just a ‘couple hours.’ So we set off. But after two hours, I could barely breathe…it’s just so high. And we looked over at a snow-capped mountain…and Jorge said, ‘it’s just over there…’ But I knew it was at least another couple hours hike. And it was getting dark. So we had to go back.
“It’s an amazing place…and we had a great time…with memories that we will keep for our entire lives. But, seriously, you need to get the heating system fixed.”
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