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  • Snail Report  –  down from the summit and into the top row of cups. 

Now for the real Blog

When a population of nearly nine million lives in a land as small as Switzerland – and a lot of that land is too mountainous to populate – an awful lot of people have to live piled up on each other.

Hardy walker. They’re trying to stamp out nude hiking in Canton Appenzell – but bare feet are OK.

So, getting out of town takes on a real priority on weekends and holidays, and every other day for retirees.   Everywhere, the bike tracks are pumping, the walking tracks pounding.

Fortunately there are  kilometres and kilometres of both, so you can get away from most of the crowds all seeking the same solitude.

Somebody the other day calculated (can’t have counted!) that there are 72,000 walking track direction signs around the country.

That also means a tradition of restaurants on the top of hills,  in places where you couldn’t believe they could make a living – and some where you can’t believe they ever managed to build in the days before helicopters could drop in materials.

They look misty- mysterious, but yes, there are walking tracks and cable cars and restaurants up there too.

Often a large old farm house will have a wirtschaft (pub-café) attached – sometimes it’s the cowbarn converted.

We were at two such places in Canton Appenzell over the last couple of weeks   –  one was a farm with the farm-house converted into an old folks home.

Old folks home on left. It’s way out in the country – green and pleasant – but not easy to visit (or run away from!)

They put on an all-day-brunch for the 1st of August.

That’s Swiss National Day – which is always well and truly celebrated, finishing with enough fireworks to pay off a small country’s deficit!

The souvenir from that trip: Inge & I were visiting the cows, in their barn.

It was a gorgeous day, and I was wondering why they were being kept inside .. but perhaps it was that visitors’ cars were on their paddocks.  I noticed a cow lifting her tail.  I’m a farm-girl. I know what that means.   What I’d forgotten was how far fresh cowshit will splat when it hits concrete, and there are white linen pants to aim for.

I KNOW what that tail means. Note how all the tails are tied up to stay clean.

Cooling the milk for brunch coffe, the beer for later – and good for washing white linen pants!

I swear that’s a horse-laugh.

Swallows love barns as nestsites – and pay-back with insect-eating

Music while you brunch – typical “hand-organ band”.

The other visit was to a long-time favourite –  a farm-wirtschaft where many walking

Welcoming party at Eggli

tracks converge up above the town of Appenzell. “Eggli” it’s called – “little corner”.

Roman and friends. He didn’t mention Christmas dinner. Note the yellow walkway signs – everywhere!

Who’s stalking/kidding whom?

Margrit had knitted Rosli some new bedsocks – and the cards are ready!

Some of the gang played cards, and held fly-swatting contests.  We’d remembered the flies (a natural concomitant of a pub surrounded by animals) from last time, and Mani had taken his own swat.  He won.

Others of us went walking, not on a real cross-mountain walking track, but up a gentler drive that serves farms further up.   Some WAY higher up.  In the past, the higher places had little houses for the summer cowherd. They’d milk the cows up there, and make cheese, which they’d cart down in back-frames.  Then in September, still, a grand procession brings the cows, goats and farmers down into the winter farms and barns.  Now they bring the milk down – but see how!

Milk collection point. The cans come down the wire rope from the milking shed on the hill above, (see picture right) and the “downhill” farmer takes them with his to the factory (no tankers here!)

Old and new — the gate is very traditional technology, the fence-posts are hand-split – but the electric fence does the real work.

Farming is a strange mix of the primitive and modern up here in the hill country.

Some land is too steep even for the specialised hill farm machinery, and best managed by hand.

The aged parents rake the hay from the steep spots and corners – ready for their young to come with the machinery.

His pipe has a capped bowl to stop sparks getting into the hay. His shirt is traditional, and his pants have a wide flap opening front and back. Flies are for city-pants.

The mountain farmers get subsidies.

Of course my pure NZ farmer’s daughter mind goes “what!” at the thought…. but look at it this way.  If all your own city folk (and many many paying tourists) want to walk through post-card-perfect mountain landscapes – then perhaps it’s smart to subsidise hill-farmers to stay on the land and keep it in trim.

And if long grass causes snow-slides, and those could become avalanches threatening roads and villages – then perhaps you want farmers up there making hay and cutting grass into the autumn.

I’ve managed to rationalise it for myself  … these are not subsidies that tip the balance in global trade, they’re just a wealthy nation spending something on health and beauty, feeding their populace’s pride, and (by the by) keeping the tourist dollars flowing.

Down the track again, back to the pub  – where the farm income is subsidised by a constant stream of visitors eating and drinking, and enjoying the farm ambience.

Fabulous invention … it slices the little local salamis like butter, even with old hands. Roman thought he might like one – but … 120 Swiss Francs!

Old and new – Look at the wheels and low centre of gravity on the tractor – real hill-clingers. On the right is an old manure-spreader. “Schutti” from the cow-barn is fermented in pits and spread on the fields before rain and snow. Centuries of farming and millenia of weathering have created deep top-soil even up here on the hills.

A VERY vocal trio who’d have preferred (I think) to be outdoors. See the back-scratching brush conveniently placed for self-service

The Appenzell goat – a great milker

Typical Appenzell farm-house. The traditionaly mustard coloured part is the barn/cowshed (and house-heater). Piled in front of the house – firewood. You’ ve never seen any wood pile tidier than Swiss ones! The farms are small – you can probably see ten in this picture. Appenzell itself is down in the valley to the left; a beautiful town I’ll post some pictures of another day.