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Swiss  Alpine  Farming
(A  historical  Account  from  our  Dear  Swiss  Friend  "Roman")

As requested .. my experience with Alpine Farming.

(Note!  This article takes us back over 60 years ago when our good friend Roman was a boy growing up in the mountains of Switzerland - We must also comment that Roman probably had the most influence on us in making our move to Europe.)

Based on recent info alpine farming has mostly entered history now; young folks no longer are interested in subsistence farming in the alps.. My alpine farming happened in the attached pictured area.  My grandfather was a protestant minister of Luzein & Pany villages, living in Luzein ( mid/lower section of picture).

So during snow free months I was goat a herder.  Started at 4-5 AM fetching the farmers' goats from home bases Kueblis, Luzein and Pany and walking them with my herder's dog way up to the communal alpine meadows (3 hours, direction North) for their daily grazing. 

It's located in center section of picture, it was beautiful there; milked a goat & ate Grandma's sandwich for lunch.  Mid PM started back for home (some days a baby goat was born and I had to cradle it in my arms for the trip home).

Most of the time the goats knew exactly where their farm was located and left the flock of 30 to 40 without me having to coax them.  On rare occasions I arrived at the valley base with a couple of lost souls (goats) left over, and by checking their ID tags on their ear, I had to walk them back to their farm.

There was a communal sheep herder too with duties similar to mine. During this summer period the male farmers also went to the alpine meadows .They took the cows with them, set up an alpine dairy in a specially equipped hut, and lived mostly outdoors until the fall season, milking, making cheese & butter, cutting grass etc.  The return to the valley in the fall with all the cows decorated, especially the ones who gave the most milk, was a very beautiful parade and a highlight of the year for the whole community.

The village farmers' families, during the winter months, kept cows, goats and sheep in their base farms (Kueblis, Luzein, Pany) and supplied the local communal dairy with milk for butter & cheese making.  They didn't eat much meat but kept chickens for eggs and food.

However, the men (including me as helper) went to the commune's alpine meadows (mid section of picture) to retrieve the previous year's hay and firewood stored in little alpine huts ( You must have seen some), about once a week.  That's where the fun came in ha..ha..  We had to transport the hay and wood down to the valley bases on farmer-made wooden sleighs about 3-4 feet wide & 7-8 feet long each.  

You sit in front of your sleigh, with your back leaning against the load and your feet stretched out and on ground (mostly snowy/icy narrow roads or passes) for steering.  In steeper areas you might throw a chain around the sleigh's runner to slow you down.  Sleighs overturn and people get hurt .... but I was lucky!

While you look at the picture let me add a couple notes: In the upper right corner of the picture is the word Partnun and right above you see a rocky high up plateau. That is the mountain called "Sulzfluh" (2817 meters high).  My grandfather and I climbed to the top and then he really gave me a surprise!

He took a little chisel & hammer out of his backpack and on a rock chiseled loose a little chunk which he handed to me. On it was a perfect petrified imprint of an open round sea shell approximately 3 inches in diameter.  He explained to me that at one time, the whole alpine area was submerged just like some Hawaiian volcanoes still are today.

When I was a bit older and in the Swiss Army I returned to the Sulzfluh on border patrol.  We were climbing up what they call a chimney ( Between two big rock formations) when a soldier way above us hollered "rockslide!"  A big rock rolled right down towards me ..but luckily...it bounced off an outcrop right above me and thundered down inched away from me. Quite shaken up, I watched it bouncing down towards the alpine meadows.  Some of the bounces were at least 5o feet in the air ...uh...uh.

That's my story for today.

We express our thanks to Roman, our good friend, now lives in Turtle Bay, Oahu, Hawaii

Click on above Google Earth Image to enlarge and reference for article.
(Enlarged image is 277K)





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