A Marvelous Day at the Farm

Day 20: Saturday, January 25th

Today was my first full day with my homestay family. It was the best day in Brazil by far! Luckily, Débora let me sleep in until 9:30 – that’s pretty close to a 12-hour night, and I could have slept longer. I felt much better but my body is still recovering from sleep deprivation and a cold.

We ate bread with cheese on cheese for breakfast. That’s right, first you spread the creamy white cheese sauce, called requeijão, and then you add a slice of firm, fresh, white cheese called queijo branco. It was pretty good! Then we added slices of ham and toasted the cheesy sandwiches, and I was happy.

Sejal, Erin, and their host mom paid a visit, which was short but very nice. I learned that Sejal and Erin were planning to spend the day walking to the river and the market, and tomorrow they’re going to their family’s farm.

My farm trip was planned for today. Débora and I left right after breakfast. I loved riding shotgun with the window down in the building heat. We passed an enormous estate in Débora's neighborhood. It stretched for blocks and blocks, and I could see tropical trees poking over the high concrete wall. Débora said it’s a private property that she’s always wanted to see, but she’s never been inside. I’m imagining a gigantic secret garden full of gnomes and fairies.

It took only a couple minutes for us to leave the city. There were no suburbs – we were immediately surrounded by rolling hills of sugarcane and cattle pasture. The drive to the farm was wonderful! We bumped over rocks and ditches in dirt road. The radio played a mix of Brazilian and American music. One time, the beginning of one of my favorite songs began to play. I started singing the first verse, but the song was in Portuguese! I sang along to the whole song anyway, my English words matching up in places with the Portuguese ones.

That bumpy road.

I was reminded of the time in the art museum when we were looking at oil paintings of rural Brazil, and Logan had said, “This is where I thought we would be!” Well, here I was, right in the middle of one of those sweeping green landscapes.

The view out the car window.

The drive ended at medium white house. Three horses grazed in the yard, and an enthusiastic black dog greeted us with licks. “Barbie e muito amigo,” Débora explained.

House and horse.

Barbie, the dog friend!

I met Débora’s uncle, Octavio, and grandmother, Aracy, as well as the farm’s two caretakers, Isabel and Mauro, and lots of animals!

Grandmother Aracy, who cooked the most delicious meal I've had in Brazil.

We fed the chickens, but only Isabel’s blind rooster would let himself be held.

The skittish chickens were loving their open run full of fruit trees.

This rooster liked to be photographed.

 I photographed lots of birds and even startled one sparrow from its nest in the pasture.

The grassy road where we startled a ground-nesting sparrow.

We stumbled upon this marvelous nest in a clump of grass, right in the middle of the road.

Mama rufous-collared sparrow was not pleased.

This pair of red-legged seriemas ran like characters out of a Dr. Seuss book.

I loved these masked bandit birds.

Caracaras and vultures shared the cattle pasture.

This black vulture kept giving me the eye.

We picked corn, acerola berries, mangoes, starfruits, and bananas. To pick the mangoes, we used a homemade contraption – a long wooden stick with a wire basket mounted on the end. The family also raises lots of cattle, some with horns and some without. There were tons of big-eared calves! We threw mangoes to the cows and watched them gum the whole fruits in their mouths.

Débora showed me how to harvest acerola berries.

They tasted like strawberry kiwi cranberries, and looked like miniature sunsets.

I have never eaten so many incredible mangoes.

The tropical harvest of acerola, mango, and starfruit.

Lunch was the tastiest meal I have eaten in Brazil. The rice was moist and salty, like it was in Ecuador. We ate thin slices of beef, cooked zucchini, fresh corn, and grated carrots with lime juice. OH SO GOOD.

After lunch, Débora and I rode two of the family’s horses! I can’t believe I was so lucky.

My host dad, who turned out to be the president of the coop I twice visited, helped get the horses ready for us.

My horse, Prechinho, was incredibly well-mannered, far more so than the professional trail-ride horses I’m used to in the United States. The cows weren’t scared when we passed on horses, as they had been when we were on foot. When we got to the top of the hill, the view was breathtaking.

Our two wonderful mounts.

The sweet Brahman cattle whose pasture we traversed. The cows were skittish when we were on foot, but completely unfazed when we passed on horseback.

We meandered through the eucalyptus grove, which should be ready for harvest in a few years. The straight rows of trees contrasted with the uneven mottling of shade. It was cool and calm within the trees. I was dripping with sweat and my bare legs were stuck to my saddle like glue, but I was still sad when we turned back to the house.

I was already stuffed with good food, but before I left I had to try all four varieties of banana that grow on the farm.

What a great day with my host sister!

In the evening, my family met up with Erin and Sejal, who are staying at the same house one block away. We spent the night eating small pieces of the most delicious, salty, juicy beef at a friend’s birthday pool party. Even though we slept for twelve hours last night, we were still wiped out and fell asleep on the car ride home.