National Geographic : 1971 Jan
Housewife at the End of the World At the height of the shearing season, in February, when our ranch employs about 22 workmen, we consume 8 to 14 sheep a week. When the men work any distance from the farm, a sheep carcass always accompanies them, slung behind a saddle. After I had conquered the stove, I tried to devise a varied menu. In time I worked it out. We now have mutton stroganoff, mutton meatloaf, mutton steak, mutton sauerbraten. We eat boiled mutton, fried mutton, roast mutton, smoked mutton. For a change, we can enjoy barbecued lamb or chicken, or have crab, fish, and mussels from the waters of our own "front yard." Less often we eat beef, which is not as flavorful as Fuegian mutton. We sell most of the beef we raise. Variety Comes From Estancia's Garden Our fruits and vegetables provide the real variety. Queipul, a jolly, chubby man who tends our garden, annually produces 9,000 pounds of potatoes, as well as cabbages, ruta bagas, carrots, lettuce, beets, radishes, peas, rhubarb, and cauliflower. Fruits include strawberries, raspberries, and currants. Tom built a small greenhouse where we grow cu cumbers and tomatoes. Our chickens provide eggs, and we have a herd of cows; after many trials Tom and I have learned to make cheese. In February the grassy hills are covered with native raspberries, and other bushes burst with a dark blue barberry called calafate. For our other needs-flour, sugar, rice, dried and canned foods, iron for the black smith shop, tools, fence wire, diesel fuel and gasoline-we must order from Buenos Aires, 1,500 miles north. Once a year Tom has goods shipped from there to Ushuaia, 40 miles west of Harberton (map, page 135). The supplies reach the ranch by local boat or in one of the Argentine Navy ships based at Ushuaia. It's a big day when our provisions arrive. Harberton certainly is different from my father's farm in Ohio. No silos, no tractors, no farm machinery. Here our sheep, plus some 60 horses and 100 head of cattle and oxen (page 143), live on the range throughout the year. We haye a shearing shed that doubles as a sawmill in winter. Other buildings include a boathouse, carpenter and blacksmith shops, bunkhouses, cookhouse, and storage and sad dle sheds. Most of all, life at Harberton emphasizes self-sufficiency. When I suggested buying curtain rods, for example, Tom was appalled. "We'll make them," he said, and he did. He even made cookie cutters from tin cans. Tom's mechanical skills are constantly in demand by friends who need to have their washing machines or radios repaired. Every other year Tom gives Harberton's venerable jeep a com plete overhaul, and handcrafts hard-to replace parts. Many of the amateur radio sets in Fuegia were Tom's creations. Before I arrived, Harberton had a seldom used washing machine powered by our big generator. But Santos, one of the workmen, did the household laundry by hand, when he wasn't tending the livestock. I thought I should assume that duty. Without consulting Santos, I put the laundry in the machine one morning. That afternoon Santos came into the kitchen, an embarrassed expression on his face. "Dofia Nati," he blurted, "don't you like the way I wash the clothes?" I had hurt his feelings, I realized. "Of course I do," I answered. "You have done a fine job. Why don't you continue to do the heavy clothes outside, and I'll wash the special things in the machine?" That satisfied him, and we're still friends. Pirates and Explorers Followed Magellan Another friend is Agustin Clemente Waiyel len, one of the last survivors of Indians who roamed Tierra del Fuego when Magellan in 1520 passed through the strait that bears his name. Magellan was followed by a procession of pirates and sealers, along with explorers Drake, Cook, Fitz Roy, and Darwin.* Four Indian tribes-Alacaluf, Yahgan, Haush, and Ona- -plied the cold channels in *The account of a modern sequel to Darwin's and Fitz Roy's voyage, "In the Wake of Darwin's Beagle," by Alan Villiers, appeared in the October 1969 GEOGRAPHIC. Chef when he's not a shepherd, aproned Edmundo Nail juggles a loaf of hot bread under the gaze of the cookhouse cat. The wood-burning stove frustrated the author until she learned to stoke an even fire. Main fare for the family and for crews of up to 22 workers: mutton, augmented by home-grown vegetables that include nearly five tons of potatoes annually. Other foods must be brought from Buenos Aires, 1,500 miles away.