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First post: bought land in Argentina  RSS feed

 
                                    
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Hello all, this is my first post on this forum. I'm from Argentina but I've been living in the USA for a number of years and will continue to live here for at least another 5-10 years (that's how things stand now). I recently purchased 8 hectares (20 acres) of land in Argentina, in the province of Mendoza, near the city of San Rafael. I'd like to give some information about the area in general and the property that I bought, so that people can chime in with comments or suggestions.

The region

The San Rafael area is at 34.6° of latitude South and 68° of longitude West. The altitude is 500 m (1600 ft). There are two rivers that originate in the Andes mountains whose waters are channeled into the farms for irrigation. The soil is sandy. Farms in the area mainly produce grapes, peaches, pears, plums, cherries, and olives. It seems that you can grow pretty much anything that can withstand some freezes. There is also cattle, pig, sheep, and goat ranching. During the summer, the typical daily temperature range is 16 to 32 °C (60 to 89 °F) and in the winter the range is 1 to 16 °C (34 to 61 °F). Average annual rainfall is 40 cm (16 in.) Occasional light snows are not uncommon. Heavy snows are rare. The main natural enemy is hail storms during the summer months. Some farmers install a (quite expensive) net over their fruit trees or grape trellises to protect them from hail. There are two ways to irrigate: dig a well about 70 m (230 ft.), or if the property has water rights, you get surface water distributed through a systems of canals. What farmers typically do is plow the soil and create small trenches in between the rows of trees that get flooded when they open their gate.


A vineyard at the end of winter. As you can see, what they try to do is plant a whole area with the same thing, and kill everything else. They also need to fertilize, as the soil is poor in organic matter to begin with. I don't agree with the "monoculture, fertilize, kill-everything-else" philosophy.


Another vineyard, with anti-hail netting


A fruit tree plantation. The skinny trees in the background are poplars, which are often used as wind break.


Another vineyard (lots of vineyards in this region). You can see a canal that is still wet. In the background, the majestic Andes.

My property

My land is a rectangle of 259 by 316 m (285 by 348 ft). It is leveled and there is nothing planted on it except for a few old olive trees.


A manifold outside the property. There is a main canal, and four gates that distribute water to four farms. The department of irrigation generates a schedule that tells each farmer when they are supposed to open their gate. I get water once a week for three hours. A few farms have a pond that collects the irrigation water.


One of a handful of trees in the property, a mature olive. Otherwise, it's just dirt with grasses growing on it. (This picture was taken in the summer)


A whole bunch a dirt waiting to be used. (This one was taken at the end of winter)

For the foreseeable future I will most likely remain in the USA, so the works I can do on the land will be either whenever I can make a trip there, or through a worker on-site that has offered his services. What I would like to do is to turn the land into a forest and build a small house to vacation or possibly someday retire there and live off the land. I haven't taken pictures of the trees that grow in the region, but there are all kinds of trees, and many of them are huge. Gigantic eucalyptus, oaks, pines, cypresses, deodar cedars (my favorite tree), almond trees, araucaria araucana, firs, poplars, you name it. I would like to have fruit trees of all kinds, and also shade trees for the summer. I would also like to build a pond ecosystem with aquatic plants, fishes, ducks, etc. Obviously some of these things can only be done properly when one is living there, but I'd like to get started with trees, since they take many years to grow.

One thing I learned is that it is cost prohibitive to buy a whole bunch of saplings at a nursery. While the common fruit trees might be inexpensive, a fir or a deodar cedar or any of the other nice conifers could cost north of $100 (US dollars). Not a big deal if you need a handful of them for a backyard, but with several acres, it would take a small fortune. I asked in a nursery about planting seeds, but the guy didn't seem interested at all in explaining how to do that. I guess nurseries are in the business of selling saplings, not seeds.

I would welcome any comments or suggestions about what to do with this land. I am eager to develop it into something beautiful and productive, although I don't have a plan. I am new to permaculture and farming in general. I bought the Mollison and sepp holzer books, but a lot of their concepts go over my city-dweller head.Thanks in advance.
 
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Hola Ché

That is a lovely region.  I spent a couple winters a little north of you (near the city of Mendoza).  It was dryer ...under 8-9"/year, (and warmer) than S. Rafael, but most of the rain came in summer, and with the river irrigation, it was very Mediterranean in the crops (mostly grapes and olives).

You will probably get more of the Pompero winds (cold/wet) than we did.  Ours were mostly the Zondas (warm/dry).

If you can take seeds down with you, you can get an affordable forest started.  Five to ten years gives you plenty of time.

Good luck!
 
                                    
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Thanks for the reply.

Where do I get seeds in the USA? I presume that with some species, you have to collect them, no?
 
John Polk
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Two excellent sources for trees/shrubs here are:

http://jlhudsonseeds.net/
http://www.treeshrubseeds.com/default.htm

They both have large selections, and very reasonable prices compared to most 'seed companies'/nurseries.

 
                              
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hi Argentino

i have recently looked at land in that area in the hopes of getting off grid/homesteading.
can you give me any idea what the taxes are in that area?

im cant be much help with where to start, as i am still learning also, but you may look into planting some plants that help repair the soil. something, anything that grows and also helps the soil would, imo be a good place to start.
alfalfa is what i most common in my area ( ~5300' desert with flood irrigation) but im sure others can recommend different varieties.

how often do you get irrigation water? (which month does it start and end?)
one problem in my area is that there are long periods where irrigation water may not flow, sometimes up to 3 months. if you ever suspect to encounter this sort of thing, i would suggest getting some kind of catchment set up. its illegal to do that where im at.

i have also recently read that the mining industry in Argentina is getting more and more water rights, hopefully they arent taking from your river

edit: im in the usa currently, but looking to move away
 
John Polk
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As much as I love "the argentine", I would suggest to any foreigner, investigate their recent history before investing/immigrating there.

With each change of government, there can be a complete reversal of politics and economy.  I had a US$ bank account paying 127% interest, but lost money in the 1,270% inflation...I maintained it strictly for tax purposes.

When Isabela (Peron) was 'dethroned', the governor of Mendoza was arrested (and spent years in prison) for the crime of supporting the "Peronistas".  (Later, he actually became President of the country.)  The universities, and public schools were closed (some for several years) until "they" could find enough educators who were not sympathetic to Peron to fill all of the vacancies created by firing the Peronista leaning educators.

Look before you leap.  For years, I could buy anything my heart desired, then suddenly, a beer became a luxury.  When they quote prices, they still use "millions".
 
                                    
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aether:

For the 20 acres that I have, the property tax is very low, like $150 (US dollars) per year. The irrigation "tax" (it's not really a tax) is around $400 per year. The water rights for my property (it changes from one to another) gives me 3 hours once a week. There are a couple of months in the dead of winter with no water. I've been told by people in the area that this is not a problem as the fruit trees are dormant anyway at that time.
 
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Argentino wrote:
aether:

For the 20 acres that I have, the property tax is very low, like $150 (US dollars) per year. The irrigation "tax" (it's not really a tax) is around $400 per year. The water rights for my property (it changes from one to another) gives me 3 hours once a week. There are a couple of months in the dead of winter with no water. I've been told by people in the area that this is not a problem as the fruit trees are dormant anyway at that time.



You won't need irrigation with this: http://groasis.com/page/uk/index.php and it's like that Ronco oven, you just "set it and forget it" which would benefit you in your position. I have some on my property now, a much more difficult piece of land than yours, and it seems to be what they claim it is, which it that it allows you to grow trees from seeds without irrigating.

One big caveat I can fill your mind with is, because there's water inside the Waterboxx, if you're not around to manage your property, you will need to bury these up to the ridge line on the side, and you'll need to wrap it in chicken wire so the coyotes or wolves or whatever you might have like that down in Argentina don't upturn your Waterboxx and ruin your plantings (and steal the water). I had that happen to me very recently thus requiring me to start over again with the first plantings.  Also I needed to protect against jackrabbits as they would scratch the top of the Waterboxx and biting the plastic leaving gashes. I'm sure over a long time they woudl eventually break through but anyway the chicken wire seems to be doing its thing. I'll be upscaling my Waterboxx plantings next year once we get past the winter freeze.  I hope to have 30 Waterboxxes set up by late February (here in California).
 
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