Alpine fever

Packing and organisation: notoriously the greatest challenges you will face when planning an out-of-the-ordinary trip. And that is exactly what I found myself up against in spring 2012 when I decided to throw myself and my four-year-old daughter into a new world, that of shepherd and Alpine cheese maker.

For the next few months our home would be a mountain farmhouse 1500 metres up in the Oberland Bernese (Swiss Alps). This was where I wanted to spend the whole summer with my daughter and learn to make cheese, butter and lead a simple life. It would also be a chance for my daughter to enjoy a special summer, surrounded by nature and animals.

The dairy farm belongs to a keen organic farmer who is a staunch believer in Swiss Alpine culture and old-world farming techniques.  The building still has its original structure that will never be replaced by any other construction and everything is still as it was in our grandparents' day. Cheese is still made on the fireplace, butter is produced in an original barrel and pressed in the traditional Buttermödeli, in pats of 200 grams. The cows are not fed cattle feed but just the grass in the meadows. It is not a highly efficient dairy farm but just normal cows of different breeds living a harmonious life in the mountains.

After the first month I was used to the hard work and apparent difficulties. Occasionally my fingers would hurt me, but that was all and, although the manual work was strenuous, I was thankful for this way of life. My body got stronger and this was a Godsend for me and my daughter. For me because I was feeling more and more at home in the Alps and a blessing for my daughter as I was now able to carry her more on my shoulders as I worked in the mountains. My AKU boots were a great help at times like this. Just like a mountain goat, my feet always had enough grip and my ankles were stable, even on the steepest slopes.

We had planned to spend four months on the farm but we actually stayed a little longer. The cows had already been taken down to the valley so we stayed on with the pigs, which would join them later. We cleaned up the farm and made jam from the fruit we had picked in the valley. We had our first snow in October and the water froze. So we left the farm and walked down over the fresh snow with a heavy rucksack on my back. What was in there? It was full of wonderful memories: times when I was tired but felt strong, times of deep emotions and beauty, times when I loved the animals and mountain life. Every spring, when the sun lights up the peaks and melts the snow, I will feel Alpine fever.

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