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.

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!

Couldn’t be happier

I couldn’t be happier

Spring is breaking out everywhere and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve had 75 of these northern hemisphere springs and I still bubble with joy as I watch the reveal. That, in and of itself, is reason enough for me to be happy.

Every day when I take a walk, something new awakens me, even calls me. Below I share my good fortune.

SunshineCrocus

It’s just a photo, but the sun was warm and these flowers were smiling.

SpringFlowerinWoods

Hepatica nobilis coming alive out of the forest floor–amazing what a little sunshine lets us discover. Hepatica nobilis? Liverwort is the common name because its leaves, when they finally emerge, are shaped like the human liver. Long ago, especially at the time when the Doctrine of Signs prevailed, hepatica was used medicinally. According to the doctrine the appearance of the plant could be used to discern which organ, body part or fluid the plant was able to treat–hepatica’s leaves are three-parted, just like a liver, and the underside of the leaves is the same colour as raw liver. It was therefore used to treat liver and kidney problems and to arrest bleeding–nowadays however it is identified as a poison. On the day, I was happy to see spring revealing itself after a cold lifeless winter.

SnowDrops

Snowdrops–spring enthralls me. Coming out of nothing. Nothing? Next to the snowdrops can you see last fall’s rotting apples nutrientizing the soil. And me, I saw these snowdrops as a clump of trees. Crazy? Or just drunk with pleasure?

KaffirLily

Kaffir lilies–Winter telling me to get ready for spring. Also these kaffir lilies remind me that I, a Christian westerner, survived residing for two decades in Muslim countries. So what?

HazelNutCatkins

Hazelnut catkins–there is nothing I like better than hazelnuts enrobed in milk chocolate. And these catkins will make it happen.

EverywhereintheLandscape

Even the larger landscape with its grassy meadows, shrubs and trees is beginning to show its spring bump. That is exciting and beautiful.

Can’t wait for another walk tomorrow.

And this is heaven?

Aletsch Glacier

River of ice? Sea of ice?

Often I intuitively feel an inspirational link in my plants, gardens and landscape photos. That makes them easy to share.

But this day, this photo left me wordless, speechless, spellbound.

Then finally came some words. Geography, topography. I was standing at 4,000 meters above sea level, looking down upon 3,000 meters above sea level. Those are the Swiss Alps.

I thought of the Himalayas and Mt Everest at 7,000 and 8,000 meters above sea level. Twice as high as I was on the day.

This is the Aletsch Glacier and its tributaries in the Berner Oberland. They live just off the back side of the famous Jungfrau mountain, above Interlaken.

Measured in human terms, the scale is incomprehensible. Even with the alarmists’ passionate flogging of the ‘end of the world’ ‘global warming’, which over millennia comes and goes like the seasons of each year, this living glacial landscape measures 14 km in length.

Still leaves me speechless. Its beauty takes my breath away. So I share this photo.

Is it clear yet?

007

I see the light.

That’s right. The ‘magic light’ that travels from the sun 93 million miles through ‘space’ and supplies an ‘energy’ to plants which in turn then support every living animal and human on this planet. Is that not amazing? Is that not magic? Or is that science?

Travels 93 million miles and still has enough power to feed this entire planet? And we think we can control that? Am I missing something?

Forests, Dreams and Fairytales

Forests and Dreams (1)

Have you ever been where black forests white, only to feel winter pushing at the edge, unleashing colored dreams?

These are the forests of fairytales. Forests, where blacks and whites dissolve…into the always gray, always shady dreams…or do they?

Color or gray, dreams invariably have misty, shapeshifting edges where certainty and uncertainty jostle. And the fairytales? Were they once dreams, or…?

Squeezed at the edge

In my last post, I referred to winter towns squeezed between the mountains and the lake at the shore line. Upon closer examination, they are not squeezed–they just fit. Like we’d all like to fit…and not be squeezed, not be forced.

Squeezed

I think, winter spring, summer or fall, I would have fun walking this village, don’t you agree?