Volunteering in Mongolia: A Typical Summers Day on Anak Ranch, Mongolia

Volunteers are a valuable part of keeping the ranch running smoothly. Anak Ranch has hosted over 300 volunteers from all across the globe in the past few years alone. No day is the same, the work done is whatever needs to be done. A typical day in August looked something like this:

Morning Tasks (in addition to any other tasks that day):

Summer ger aka milking cows: 2 pax, 5.30-8am (sleep overnight in ger) 
Around 10pm the night before, two volunteers leave the ranch with Minjee and her daughter Zaya and are driven 15mins across the muddy fields to the ‘summer ger’ where they spend the night and wake at 5.30am to milk every single cow with calf. The volunteers job is to let the calves out of their pen one by one, follow it til it finds its mother, let it suck on each teet (to get the milk flowing and also to clean the teet) then pull the baby away by its ears and tie it to a nearby tree with a rope. As soon as the mother has given one bucket of milk, the calf is released and has full reign of its mothers udders! A

Note: Rubber boots are a MUST, as is the pre-acceptance that you will leave covered in and stinking of cow sh*t.

Breakfast: 2 pax, 6.30-8.30

Rising at the crack of dawn, two lucky volunteers each morning will rummage through the kitchen cupboards, sneak into the storeroom and arrive at the cooking ger with some pots and bowls, a rolling pin, some flour, salt, water and a heap of determination.

The actual process of making chapatis is the easy part, even without a recipe or any formal instruction, you simply combine the ingredients together until some marginally plausible dough has formed and get those biceps burning.
The difficult part is getting the fire started. Where are The Prodigy when you need them the most??
Provided with some logs (best to take an axe to these the night before), some dried cow sh*t and a box of economy matches you are expected to make a roaring, flaming, breakfast making fire. All in time to to have around 60 chapatis (quantity dependent of number of diners) cooked and on the table alongside a pot of salty milk tea, homemade jam, honey and on the special occasion dulce de leche (sweet milk). Cheese should be grated, and yoghurt is to be brought from the cheese house.

Note: If breakfast is late (past 9am) you will be scorned and have to repeat the whole gruelling process again the next morning (to ‘teach you how to do it properly’).

Goat/sheep herding: 1 pax, 9.30am-5pm 

A relatively simple and generally enjoyable task. A bit like dog walking except with sheep and goats, 150 of them, and they walk you.
There’s a real pack mentality and they don’t tend to stray too far from each other. To steer them you just have to walk on the opposite side that you want them to go and make a loud noise.

The main worries are getting too close to the railway station and mixing with other herds as its impossible to divide them again and the weather. Hot means gazillions of bugs, mosquitos, horseflies and also carrying a tonne of water which you could probably boil tea in after a few hours as it gets so hot. Cold means being cold. And wet means coming back looking as if you’ve ran the tough mudder. The ground is uneven, you will slip, or twist an ankle.

Note: hiking boots with ankle support are your friends on herding days.

Milk Separation: 2 pax, 9.30am-middayish
After breakfast, the milk makes its way straight from the cows udders into the cooking ger where someone will sit and spin the wheel of the separating machine to divide the milk and the cream. The helper, will pour the “fresh” milk through a double strainer as the wheel spinner must keep a constant spinnage. (All technical terms used here*)

The whey water is given to the goats and the milk is boiled for half an hour to make quark. Yoghurt, butter, cheese and cream are also made.

General tasks: Intervals throughout the day, whenever required.

Water collection: 2 pax
The ranch has no running water at all. Clean water comes from a well in the back yard and requires 1 person to pump whilst the other fills up two metal barrels, they are wheelbarrowed to wherever needed – drinking water, hand washing station, outside the cooking ger, shower.

Wood / Cow Sh*t Chopping: 1 pax

Attacking a huge wooden log with an axe is harder and not so satisfying as it seems.

Washing Up: 1-3 pax:

Every newbie will wash up after breakfast, lunch and dinner for their first three days on the ranch. There is no plug for the sink so the washer uppers need to find two large pots to wash everything in – one should be hot soapy water, the other cold and clean to rinse.Water needs to be boiled in the kettle if required to be hot.

Day Tasks:

Lunch & Dinner: 2 pax, 11am-2pm then 5-8pm.
Prepare, cook and serve lunch and dinner for all. Ingredients are the same everyday so the hard part is thinking of a new and exciting dish to serve. 

Wall: 3-6 pax. 9.30am-2pm then 5-8pm.
Building a wall around the main house for insulation in the winter. 1 person will mix concrete in a bathtub whist the others select a space on the wall, find a stone that will suit it and concrete it in. 

Stone Collection: 3-6 pax. One morning or afternoon every few weeks.

Volunteers will sit in the trailer of a pick up truck and be driven to the valley to pick up stones from the sides of the roads. These stones are then used to build the wall.

Weeding: 2-8 pax. 9.30am-2pm then 5-8pm.

Pulling up the weeds and leaving the vegetables.

Fruit Picking: 2-8 pax. Half day. Once every so often.

Blueberry picking.
Jam making: When the berries have been picked.

The picked berries are boiled with sugar to make jam.

The work is hard when the weather conditions are extreme, but the people and the location make volunteering on Anak Ranch a fulfilling and unforgettable experience. 

Leave a Reply