Tag Archives: WWOOF

WWOOF Switzerland, The Saga Continues…Part 9

30 July 2008

Today started off normally with yogurt making to get started in the kitchen and gardening tasks to complete. Lisbeth’s yogurt maker started acting up, it would shut off for no reason regardless of the timer setting. So she decided to have me put the jars in a water-bath in the oven on a very low temperature. Since I had done this once before she simply told me to do it and left me to the task.

Big mistake! I had made dinner in the oven, my mom’s meat crust pie recipe, the previous day and so the temperature setting was in memory from that meal preparation. That meal was cooked at 160-degrees C, but the yogurt setting should have been 40.

I was out in the garden and Layla (Mouse) came to tell me to come to the kitchen, where I found Lisbeth scowling over Felix, who was bent over trying to scrape melted plastic from the oven.

I took over the job, and it was quite an ordeal to clean plastic off the metal shelves and oven, but at least the jars didn’t explode! Now I know how they coat wire racks with plastic.

Gingers Artwork

Ginger's Artwork

Lisbeth had just cleaned the oven a few days prior to this disaster, which made me feel even worse. However, when I was done I think the oven was cleaner than when it was new, well at least as clean, for sure.

At dinner, Felix told me that the product of my fiasco reminded him of an artist named Alberto Burri that he had a book of his work. He said my artwork was at least as good as his. We all were finally able to laugh about the incident.

Melted Plastic Art by Alberto Burri

Melted Plastic Art

This was the last work-day in Krinau, what a way to end a stay!

Tomorrow we are off on holiday. Philip and I have decided to go to St. Gallen. It is the capital of this Canton. Several people have told us to visit there when we can. Roldan told us to visit the cathedral and library. This is what we will do among other things while there.

2 Comments

Filed under life, travel

WWOOF Switzerland The Saga Continues, Part 8

29 July

It was a busy week. Lots to do both indoors and out. Since I last wrote Philip and I went with Lisbeth Vogl and her two girls, Festie & Mouse, to Seven Mountains in Unterwasser (Under water for those who don’t speak German). We took a lift up to walk the base of the mountains and then near the end the girls and Lisbeth took a short, steep hike back which left us to manage the return trip on our own.

Seven Mountains

Seven Mountains

We had a bit of difficulty finding the entrance to the down lift (ski lift). However, we experienced something new because of our inexperience. As we walked up the outside stone steps to the mountain restaurant, we were met by an obstinate goat and a frustrated waitress who was trying desperately to shew the goat out of the restaurant via the stairs.

Alpine flowers

Alpine flowers

Once back down the lift, thanks to Larissa Glück and my German lessons, I tried out the one sentence that I worked so hard to learn on the cashier, “Wo ist die Bushaltestelle?” To my amazement he not only understood me, but I understood his directions. I heard a couple words I understood, pieced it together and off we went to the nearby bus station.

View from Seven Mountains

View from Seven Mountains

Philip wanted to find a pharmacy so he purchased two rail tickets to Winterthur – much farther than we intended. However, it turned out to be a fine outing and a relaxing trip. In Winterthur we found everything we needed.

During the bus part of the journey we met a man who was on his way to meet up with his wife, Hans Huerlimann, who works for Siemens as a programmer. We only had a few minutes to chat and Philip being a programmer too gave him his card so he could be in touch. It was during this time our computer connection to the world went down. We were so hoping to connect with the two of them while they were in Krinau.

Luckily, Felix was able to fix the problem and Philip found an email from Hans and immediately got in touch with him. They made arrangements to get together the next afternoon for a brief visit during which they discovered they had even more in common. So we agreed to meet them for pizza when we got to our next destination, Maur.

Then on Sunday night we went to evening service and spoke with Ellen, the visiting pastor and Anina the cellist. Anina also played the pipe organ. She is a very talented young woman.

1 Comment

Filed under life, travel

WWOOF Switzerland 2008 the saga continues… Part 7

Let’s see where did I leave off? Oh yes, we are in Krinau. Here it is almost two months later and we are still at the first organic farm, sorry folks — things have been nuts here, I’ll try to squeeze more time in for this story. Anyway, on with the tale.


Tues, July 22nd

Toggenburg Valley

Toggenburg Valley

Monday I went with Felix, our host, and Philip to pick up butter. We drove to the Toggenberg Valley and up to a mountaintop farm. The view was spectacular as we drove up the narrow winding road. We arrived at a secondary house which the family used near their lower barn when they came down from the Alps. It was small, but quite cozy, with all the modern appliances. We were invited to share a cup of coffee while the our hostess, a short squat woman with a warm and friendly demeanor, bounded down the stairs and returned with a huge tub of paper-wrapped butter.

I thought Felix was going to purchase a months worth, but in fact, he bought a whole years worth! Do you have any idea how much butter that is! Enough to give the cleanest arteries a fright. 😀

Today I helped transfer sheep. This was truly an experience. She put boards down on top of the fold-down rear seat and literally picked up the sheep one-by-one and put them in the car. Then she and drove up another mountain in another valley with three bleating, wobbly, sheep in the back of her car.

Lisbeth and family in tow on our first mountain treck

Lisbeth and family in tow on our first mountain treck

First we went to one farm and picked up another sheep and then we went on our way to the final destination for all but one. At the first farm I noticed that the sheep blindly followed the owner right to the car. Well, actually he walked them to the holding area where he picked out the one with the right number on her ear-tag and then Lisbeth picked her up and put her in the back of the car
with the other waiting sheep. My job was to make sure the others didn’t get out of the car while she put the sheep into the back. I was later told that this young sheep farmer was the area butcher.

We expected to pick up just one, but when we got there we were told that the lady who we were to transfer the sheep to had ordered two. So we repeated the process of transfer and confused about this unscheduled addition, off we went.

Down the mountain and then through a neighboring village we wound our way with sheep bleating and bouncing around on the wooden planks that were quickly turning black with feces which made the foothold even more precarious for their already wobbly legs to maintain.

When we finally arrived at the farm and unloaded the sheep that were to remain we were informed that the extra sheep was for us to take home. However, because Lisbeth is as strong-willed as she is well-built for farming life, we left with just the one we had come for. After unloading the sheep which were to be used for breeding we led them into the barn and then guided them into the holding area. The other sheep didn’t accept them and so they quickly leaped the barriers and we frantically chased after them and put them back only to repeat the process a second time.

Once securely placed, they were then moved to a scaling area where the sheep farmer woman pulled out a bathroom scale and after weighing herself, picked up the sheep, one-at-a-time and stepped on it. In this way she was able to get an accurate weight for the sheep. I never knew why that was done but I am sure it had something to do with an equal exchange.

Swiss Alpine sheep

Swiss Alpine sheep

All that done we headed down the mountain toward home with just the one addition to the family. This sheep was a young male that would be raised for meat. When we arrived back at the farm the two mothers who were left childless by the transfer were joined by this young unwanted stranger. Neither of the two mothers wanted to accept this interloper and so would butt him away at every opportunity. This meant that he might jump the fence and so we had to take turns standing guard for the first couple of hours. Felix and Lisbeth kept watch that night and by the next afternoon the adoption was complete.

Our evening was spent visiting the only friends of Felix and Lisbeth, a couple who had allowed their sheep to graze the hill behind their home up until the day of transfer. Roland was a retired math teacher. He played the cello and had just arrive back empty-handed from mushroom hunting in the Alps. It seems the only thing he brought back with him was a cold.

They were very gracious and we enjoyed our visit with them. When they informed us that they were not locals but he had been appointed headmaster of the school and church after only one year of residence we were curious and glad to receive this news.

We asked how so short of time before such a lofty position and the reply was that they merely informed the townsfolk that they wished to be involved and make Krinau their home.

This was just what we had hoped would happen for us. Now we just needed to find a place to settle down and dig our heals in.

Terrific news to end an eventful day.

Leave a comment

Filed under personal development, skills, Uncategorized

WWOOF Switzerland, The Untold Story Contines Part 6

The days in Krinau were long and fast. Hardly any time was devoted to personal desires, like writing in my journal or trying to get online long enough to do any business at all. Most of the days are spent weeding and cooking.

The first Sunday we were told that they took basically off so we were both able to attend the tiny village church that I mentioned in a previous post. The service was, as you would expect, in German. However, the lady who spoke, a visiting pastor by the name of Elaine, introduced herself before the service and explained the basic message she was going to give.

The singing was also in German but I did recognize one of the tunes and tried to sing along with the parisheners. My German being what it was, I did my best to follow along and keep up.

After service we were invited to join a group for coffee and quickly accepted. This was our opportunity to meet and speak with some of the townsfolk. One particular gentleman, Robert, invited us to his holiday house, (this is what they call second homes and vacation homes). They not only, he and his wife Hannah, showed us their home, but we walked through the town and all the way to a Bio Farm. It was even more enjoyable than the hour trek the previous week with Lisbeth and the girls. That trek was breathtakingly beautiful, but the company was much more enjoyable.

Wooden Biohauf signThe Bio Farm URL – in German of course – http://www.biohof-krinau.ch/

Along the way we saw an interesting site. The hills were terraced. When we asked Robert about this he informed us that the cows created those terraces.

Also, the signs in the town and the biohauf were made of wood. These signs were intricately carved into works of art Krinau village signas well as being informational. In comparison, the welcome sign to Krinau was beautified with the addition of flowers. Neither of these special touches would you ever find in the states!

1 Comment

Filed under life, travel

WWOOF Switzerland, The Untold Story Part 5

The difference in cultures is very much apparent, as you have probably surmised from my previous recants. The food, people and the scenery are so much “more” in Switzerland. The words that come to mind are beautiful, friendly and CLEAN! Hardly ever did I see any trash on the ground, including in Zurich.

The weather was warm with frequent rain showers, one of which actually produced hail! It was neat to watch from our upstairs bedroom window, as the small hailstones hit the street. However, I was later to see the damage it did to the crops when I got to the last farm.

The weather is very important to farmers and it was apparent from the start that all news reports that offered information were given full attention.

Kitchen chores

Kitchen chores

When it rained we would spend the day in the house doing what we could to help out. I was usually to be found in the kitchen while Philip worked putting up shelving, or some other manly chore.

In the tiny village of Krinau I would work diligently in the kitchen making cherry jam, yogurt, roasting oats and spelt or making syrup. The latter I explained earlier so I won’t bother repeating myself here.

Cross beam fruit press

Cross beam fruit press

To make the syrup and jelly from the berries it was necessary to steam and then press them. The berries used for this purpose didn’t need sorting as the press would remove all the unwanted excess parts, like stems and skin. The first step was to put them in a metal colander and then sit that in a pan that would catch the juice as they softened and warmed. Then the whole kit was put in a moderate oven to steam for about twenty minutes or so. Once that was done the accumulated juice and berries were put together into the old-fashioned wooden press. (Remember these are all small, organic farms.) This picture is similar to the one Philip had to press with using brute force and wooden blocks.

Country accommodations

Country accommodations

When it rained it was cold, even in the house. It seemed they didn’t have good insulation back two hundred years ago. So after a hard days work on a cold and rainy day I was chilled to the bone and tired, which was the perfect combination for a good night’s rest.

Note the mattress is on the floor. It was usually very hard. One thing that was constant in all the beds on the farms was the covering. They didn’t use top sheets, only down or wool blankets that were encased in a removable fabric with button closure. It was hard getting in and out of bed for two old-teens like us, but once in and under those warm, heavy covers we were quite comfortable.

1 Comment

Filed under life, travel

Day Four WWOOF Switzerland the Untold Story

Last time I spoke about how I missed my diet coke, or as I found out later in the trip Coke Light. Coffee was a similar event. This was one area where most “farms” use the same type of coffee maker. No longer the electric, carafe coffee maker I was used to; they use what is called a French Coffee Press. Here’s a photo so you can understand what I am talking about.

French coffee press

French coffee press


As I am sure you have already suspected, grounds were left in the cup, so I had to leave the last drop. Ahh, good to the last drop… Not anymore. However, in Krinau I was blessed by a German Cappuccino/Espresso machine. Now THAT was COFFEE!

Getting away from the food side of things, another interesting difference was the church graveyard. In Switzerland what we think of as a graveyard is totally different. As we walked into the village we passed a little church that had one in the back of it. This church was a one-size fits all church. What I mean by that is that it didn’t matter which religion you prefer, they all met together here for services. One week it would be a morning service another a evening one. Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran it made no difference. The reason they met at different times each week was so the farmers who couldn’t come in the morning would have an opportunity to attend.

Typical Swiss church cemetary

Typical Swiss church cemetary


Anyway, here are a couple of photos of the Krinau church and cemetery. You will notice that the church has an interesting painting on the side of it. It is actually a sundial.
Krinau church

Krinau church


Also, the cemetery plots as you can see are all well tended gardens. Even in the bigger cities, the church graves all had this well kept, garden look. I don’t know if you can see the stones, but they were also quite different than the marble slabs we are used to seeing in America. Everything it seems has more character there. Even the food was tastier. I heard it said Americans will eat anything, whereas Europeans demand excellence. I can rightly believe it.

3 Comments

Filed under life, travel

Day Two – The Untold Story, WWOOF Switzerland

I have been back in the states now for a thirteen days. Lucky thirteen! 😀 My body has readjusted and I am back to working with my design clients once again. To recap my Switzerland adventure I’d like to share some of the experiences I had.

My first stay, in Krinau, turned out to be a true test. I worked most of the time while I was there doing cooking, cleaning, weeding, or berry picking. Philip, my trusty companion and spouse, had the privilege to take care of the chickens, sheep, bug spraying and mowing as well as weeding (especially pulling nasty buggers called nettles) and berry picking.

As I mentioned previously, I learned how to make yogurt and have kept up that tradition since returning to the states. As a matter of fact, there is a batch forming as I type. It is really very easy and once I am through I can flavor it to my taste and not have to worry about preservatives and the like.

The long treck up the logging road

The long treck up the logging road

While in this place I had the opportunity to go on two hikes. One up a local hill, where I was able to see down into two valleys. On one side of the hill rested a whole line of towns towards Will (Veel) and the other Wattwill (Vatveel). Here are a couple of the photos from that hike.

As you can see from the first photo the family had children as well, two as a matter of fact. They took to us both and were mostly a delight as we taught each other language skills. The eldest, not pictured, was nicknamed Mouse, because she had been born pre-mature, and her little sister, pictured, was nicknamed Festie. It seems that when she was born Mouse couldn’t pronounce the German word for sister, Schwester (Schvester), and it came out Festie. So ever-after that was her name. She was a little spitfire and always, as any good little sister does, mimicked her big sister in every move and word.

Wil Valley

Will Valley

More on Krinau tomorrow…
Ginger

Leave a comment

Filed under life, travel