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.

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?

I crossed the line

Late December 2020 in the northern range of the Swiss Alps.

I crossed the line.

What? Which line?

Did I stop wearing a mask?

Did I stop supporting local populism?

Did I walk the wrong way on a one-way-street?

No.

I stopped seeing winter as cold, naked and heartless. I stopped seeing winter as death to be abhorred.

Crossed the line

No leaves? No problem. No sun? No problem. Huge landscape? Big time. Mountains, sky, lake. Along the shoreline in the middle ground and background, the big landscape squeezes three towns into mere nothingness. And, by God, I saw beauty. I had crossed the line.

Head in the clouds

Clouds gently drift into and pause in places we humans can not easily access.

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I’d rather have my head in the clouds than my face in the mask.

What is freedom? What is science? What is clear? What is certain?

Portals

I have talked about, that is, written about portals…portals and plants.

What do I mean when I say portals? It is more about what words can not describe. What?

Perhaps you remember some TV shows, Twilight Zone, One Step Beyond…but this is about real life. That’s right, real life.

For centuries, dare I say, millennia, people, humans have spoken about, written and explored the indescribable relationships between plants and humans. Portals is my effort to continue that chain of communication.

GnomeAdvent

This last week I had a birthday. I received from my dearest friend two books of illustrations by the Swiss, Ernst Kreidolf. Both images in this post are his work. He spent his lifetime addressing the communication relationship between people and plants.

Ernst used gnomes and elves to describe these indescribable relationships.

Let me share some of Ernst Kreidolf’s life story.

He was born over one hundred years ago in Switzerland. He was a classic artist, a pioneer of children’s illustration and picture books…and gnomes in the popular imagination! His magical illustrations have a timeless quality. To this day, his art is still very popular in Switzerland.

Ernst Kreidolf und die Pflanzen

Kreidolf’s famous books first appeared in 1901 Die schlafenden Bäume (The Sleeping Trees), in 1902 Die Wiesenzwerge (The Meadow Dwarves), and in 1903 Schwaetzchen fuer Kinder (Chit Chat for Children).  In 1904 Kreidolf was involved in Richard Dehmel’s Buntscheck, ein Sammelbuch für Kinder (Patchwork, a Scrap-book for Children).  In 1905 the book Alte Kinderreime (Old Nursery Rhymes) appeared followed by in 1908 Sommervoegel (Butterflies).  The latter was highly acclaimed by Hermann Hesse.  In 1911 Der Gartentraum (The Garden Dream) was published.

In 1920 Blumen Ritornelle (Flower Chorus), in 1922 Alpenblumenmaerchen (Alpine Flower Fairy-tales), in 1924 Ein Wintermaerchen (A Winter’s Fairy-tale), in 1926 Lenzgesind (Servants of the Spring), in 1928 Das Hundefest (The Dogs’ Party), in 1929 Bei den Gnomen und Elfen (With the Gnomes and Elves), in 1931 Grashupfer (The Grasshopper), in 1932 Aus versunk´nen Gärten (From the Sunken Gardens) and in 1935 Die Himmelreich-Wiese (The Kingdom of Heaven Meadow).

 His illustrations carry us off to the world of fairytales and dreams, where plants play a leading role.

Snognomobile

One cannot but wonder at his ability in both identifying the key characteristics of plants and giving humans a unique interaction with them.

His legacy endures as a tender ode to Mother Nature’s glory. The best illustrated web site with Kreidolf biography–a fantastic display of his water-color work.

And portals? His work was all about portals.