Saturday, September 13, 2008

Just like Heidi (but tougher)

I met the real Heidi last month on cow pasture in the German Alps.


Her name is actually Steffi, 22. While working on a story for the paper, I had the opportunity to spend a couple days on an Alm, which is basically a place in the mountains where cows get to roam around during the nice summer months. Farming families often hire young people aged 18-25 to look after the alm and animals for the summer.

It was just fun and a very relaxing place to spend a few days.

If anyone is interested in reading the German version, it's here: Alm frischen Seele auf. Sorry, but I just didn't have time to translate the whole thing.

This girl did it all. And she really enjoyed the job, even though her day starts at 4 or 5 a.m.

The Hollenbach Alm has 5 milk cows.

One must squeeze a little milk out first before attaching the mechanical pump that does most of the work.

The milk and milk chamber. A lot of work goes on in this room, and it smells strongly like milk. Or is it butter?...

Steffi also made some butter in the wee hours of morning. She said she has to make it every other day or so. The owners of the farm and alm also make their own cheese and meat products and both sell them and serve them to visitors.

That butter was FRESH. I swear I could almost taste the grass that the cows ate.

Steffi throws some hay down for the cows.

All that and more is finished before sunrise, when Steffi usually takes a walk up the hillside to check on the 28 other young cows.

A favorite activity for Steffi. She loves the animals.

For most of the rest of the day, Steffi serves food and drinks to hikers and bikers who wander by the alm. This entails wearing a traditional dress.

Steffi mixes herbs into a fresh cheese she made earlier before the alm gets too crowded.

Alm cheese. Yummy.

The "Brotzeit Teller"--Bread Time Platter.

Things are starting to wind down. By the way, Steffi lives in this building on the upper floor.

After an 8-hour shift of serving customers, Steffi goes back to the stalls for more work.

Yep. It stinks.

Steffi chats with the farmer who dropped by to check on everything. He often stops in to fix equipment or bring in fresh supplies.

The cow bells are actually quite loud.

After the second milking of the day, the milk chamber gets another scrub-down.

Barn door closed, day over.

Steffi eats Kaesespaetzle, a cheesy noodle dish, and enjoys the quiet at dusk.

Steffi goes to bed when it gets dark outside. She doesn't have a light in the upper floor where her room is, but she said she doesn't need it because she usually falls asleep quickly.


FWickeham said...

Great story and pictures. Can she yodel too?
Keep up the good work and enjoy.

Eric said...

Great story. I especially like the photos of her going upstairs and walking up the hill to check on the animals.