Up the valley

I am a naive midwestern American kind of guy–born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland–not really urban, not really rural. Farming has always been a mystery to this outsider. 

I had a view the other morning across the Brienzersee (+/-564meters above sea level). I could see that it was the time that farmers were making the first cut of pasture hay. Notice the yellow and brown patches which have just been cut . Adjacent to the yellow and brown are fully green pastures that have not been cut. Better seen in the following enlargements.
Note the fields just above the village. This is a mountain lake–the lake is a valley floor. The valley feels like an open bowl.
Hay pastures in the Berner Oberland Jungfrau Region of the Swiss Alps in late spring.
So, in the valley across the way, at about 560 meters above sea level, the first seasonal cutting of the pasture hay has begun.

Everything I encounter in this agricultural mountain landscape…naively captivates me.

Around my own home the first haycuts are already underway–there is the fragrance of a freshly cut lawn–we all have that familiar smell but the smell of freshly cut pasture hay? We had a couple good rains in May–all pastures were rich with grasses and wild flowers–the wild flowers went to seed first then the grasses–and as the grasses were going to seed in the first days of June we had a spell of sunny warm weather.

All the farmers down here at the valley bottom were out cutting their pastures. Fragrance at daytime and night time. They let the cut hay dry in the open fields for a couple days before binding it for later use as feed.

Before the cut.
The cut.
Cut and drying.
Bailed.

What does that have to do with ‘Up the valley’?

Well, everything in my topographical homeland was flat. Topography and its impact on life in the mountain landscape intrigues me. So, I took a walk up the valley–up the Lutschine River valley to a village named Gundlischwand (+/- 660 meters above sea level). That means uphill 100 meters–doesn’t sound like much does it? Couldn’t be further–amazing walk–here’s what happened. The valley changed. The topography changed. The plants changed.

The valley narrows. The mountains steepen. The walk not too strenuous at all–suitable for a suburban midwest American like me.
I love seeing how trees can make their home on the steepest of cliffs and the narrowest of flat ledges. They know how to adapt. Adapt.

I was going back in time.

In the mountains spring comes first at the low valley elevations. Then by the time spring comes to the higher elevations it is normally not days but weeks later. 

So when I walked up the valley I was walking back in time. Climatically speaking.

The price of admission?

A stuffy nose, a couple sneezes and a runny nose–all in sequence.

It took me 1/2 hour to walk the next 100 meters.

This is the edge of pasture some time before the haycut. 100 meters above where the haycut is occurring.
The wild flowers beckoned me.
Wild flowers well ahead of the grasses. Seed time not yet.
I was on a journey.
Finally, I arrived at Gundlischwand.
A village in an agricultural landscape in the mountains–mountains? Jungfrau Region, Berner Oberland, Swiss Alps.
Apple and walnut trees always close to the doorstep and kitchen.
Not far from the edge of town…a footpath into the dark forest…

But that will be a journey for another day.

Walnuts and apples

I’ve been scruffing through the local edge of town landscape, taking a soft pleasure in the unrolling of spring when…

…a couple trees seemed to be everywhere. Everywhere. Every farm barn, every hay barn, every pasture…so I grabbed a couple photos.

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About two weeks ago the light sweetness of the apple blossom filled the air around each tree. Undeniably magnetic.

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Like the walnut trees, these apple trees are everywhere.

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The bronziness of walnut tree spring foliage carries the promise. This is a region where dark walnut wood has been used traditionally for carvings like Brienz boxes and bears. But for me, it is about bakery treats.

So, it wasn’t long before I was thinking about what can be found in the bakeries every fall and winter–after the walnuts and apples ripen. Add cinnamon, sugar, pastry with just the correct amount of baking.

Fresh, warm walnut and apple bakery, the only thing that tops springtime apple blossom fragrance.

Want to take a walk?

Some days it is hard to get up from the computer.

Other days it is hard to take my eyes off my mobile.

Well, today it is time to take a walk for walk’s sake.

Take a walk?

Uphill? I’ll give it a try. But how far?

Do it!

Stealth

What happened to my beautiful autumn?

Today was one of those fall days when I just had to take a walk.

No mask. No distancing. Just a walk outdoors.

The fresh air keeps me from thinking why so many governments and media outlets want me to be afraid to breathe. Afraid to breathe? Yeah, because somebody might die. I have to be afraid of breathing? Doesn’t make sense.

So I took a walk. On a mountain path suitable for this 75yr old, three years after a stroke, nevertheless, in good health.

Clouds were everywhere. And they weren’t everywhere as I walked uphill.

I breathed deeply the air. The air was influenced by agriculture and forestry management. It was not influenced by bustling cities. When I inhaled deeply. The air felt clean and healthy deep down in my lungs. The entire passage felt clean and healthy.

To me that is not only the basis of life, it is the simplest pleasure of life. I was feeing refreshed, what to speak of fall color and 50 degrees Fahrenheit

Then I was in the clouds. I found myself walking in the sound of clouds. In case you haven’t, you should note that clouds come and go without sound. Without even the slightest whisper they come, they envelope, then they leave. Through the entire experience, the thread of sameness was silence.

But other things changed. As I walked deeper into the cloud, I saw less and less about me. My breathing became labored. Then my mind took over–had I been enveloped by a covid cloud? Hard to breathe–is this my end–is this the beginning of harder and harder breathing–never getting enough?

Then the cloud lifted. Clarity resumed. Unhindered deep breathing resumed. I was no longer afraid to breathe.

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1. In real life these mountain clouds form, dissolve, move at speeds that disable human powers of observation. They are as slow as they are silent.

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2. They arise, grow and dissolve while we are busy thinking. Stealth is their very essence.

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3. In these mountains, it is easy to walk above the clouds–not fog–clouds!

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4. Autumn colors seduce.

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5. Clouds arrive without warning.

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6. They thicken without warning.

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7. Breathing becomes labored.

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8. …and then under labored breathing, the mind troubles. The mind can become our worst enemy. Only proper use of intelligence can harness the mind.

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9. Clouds lifting, like intelligence cleaning out the worries of the mind.

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10. Clarity returns; but clouds are always just around the corner.

And speaking of stealth, I think my freedom to breathe healthy air deep into my lungs, under some debatable guise, may be in real life, stealthily taken from me.

Natural Social Distancing

When waiting to pick up the take-out, what is the safe social distance?

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In this landscape you find dense forests on steep slopes meeting flatlands filled with agriculture.

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This kestral, safely isolated near the top of a dead tree at the edge of a flat agricultural field, waits patiently for its take-out.…until I kept walking and broke into its 100 meter safe zone.

Flew away–without the take-out.

Grain or granular

Framing photos to lie or to tell the truth…

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The foreground means nothing.

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The foreground means everything.

Nothing and everything can’t be the same, can they?

There are grains everywhere; but which one holds the truth? I need a grain of truth.

Quarantine at the edge of town

All of us are experiencing quarantine in one form or another. 

But the edge of town? What is that? Traditionally the edge of town was the place where fertile flat lands were cultivated for agriculture that was more valuable than town housing. And necessary.

So, yesterday I took a walk–quarantine all around. Walked by myself. As I walked across town, I saw an open bakery, an open grocery store and an open drug store.  Everything else was closed.

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The town had plenty signs of spring–the forsythias always shout with joy.

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At the edge of town, I saw the agricultural landscape, the spring green of willow trees and the hopeful construction of a tree house.

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Then I saw the farmhouse–so many activities related to food. Farms are amazing producers and guardians.

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At one entry to the farmhouse, I was reminded of the simplest of their products–available almost any day of the year. Direct from the farm: eggs, jams, Alp cheese, goat cheese.

Quarantined? Take a walk. Check out the edge of town.

Vegan World

Here is a collection of images I have taken of plants and landscapes the past days as winter descends and the first frost arrives.

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Winter descends. Previously we had snow only 2000 meters elevation and above. Last night, I fell asleep listening to the slow and peaceful pitter patter of rain falling softly on the roof. I woke up this morning to find the snow had snuck down to 700 meters elevation.

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After this tree’s branches and trunk have built barns, built and heated homes, the remnants have become the nourishment for how many other living entities? Everything gets eaten in the end.

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Frost bite, frost burn, yet there is some beauty in this image. Is there a lesson to be learned?

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The frost is not the end but a tell that the end is near. In the background, the babbling brook runs away from that truth.