Beiträge

Confessions of a Self Professed Ignorant Animal Lover in Schliersee

I was inspired to write this article after a walk up Firstalm with friends last Saturday. Due to the beautiful weather, large groups of people were wandering up the to Firstalm for lunch. As locals call it, the “alpine lunch rush”. From the animals perspective the volume of noise and people increased by ten fold compared to the weekly 5 days of virtual isolation. Monday through Friday in most of the year tourism is very light so the 2 days of weekend can be rather a shock.

 

Every effort by the farmer is made to keep his animals protected. Where it is possible, a portable electric fence is installed but even that is not deterrent enough to keep people at a safe distance and not entering the animal’s “personal space”.

 

On our short hike I was shocked when I witnessed a man leave the path and approach a sleeping cow. The cow, not knowing what this human wanted, quickly stood up. Then the well meaning man called to his wife and young child to come join him for a photo. Another shocking sight was a family with a young child who were walking through a remote pasture area on Spitzingsee. I am not sure what they did to awaken the cow herd but they had not one but the entire herd racing behind them. In their defense they did keep their cool and did not scream or run. It was a scary thing to watch. There are more than enough safe paths that this cross country excursion was not necessary.

 

I too have made this same mistake when I first moved to Schliersee. My husband and my dog decided to take a walk in Valepp before we realized not every walk we did in winter is safe to take when the cows are free in the pastures. At one point I watched while my husband and dog were chased out of the pasture by 15 young bulls. My dog was so terrified he managed to defecate and run all at the same time. It is funny now but neither of them would trust me to lead a walk for a few years.

 

So let me lay out a few suggestions and opinions. We have to remember that our farms are not petting zoos. Also remember with the volume of visitors in tourist season heightens the fear and stress level of our animal residents.

 

Here are a few of my observations and lessons I have learned.

 

  1. We say we love animals but each time we approach them inappropriately, we put them in danger. They do not enjoy our affection as much as we enjoy giving them affection. We have to check our motivation. It is more about our needs than theirs.
  2. We want to protect the rights of animals to live freely during the Alm season and your “Selfie” is not worth them loosing their rights. Learn how to zoom with your camera phone to keep at a safe distance.
  3. Cows are not 600-800 kilo Teddy Bears. These are living, breathing, giant animals not stuffed animals waiting to be snuggled. They haven’t been raised to cuddle.
  4. We come to the country to experience farm life, we say we have a passion for all living things but we must respect our local farmers and protect their delicate way of living.
  5. Some advice from this Recovering Well Meaning Animal Lover, we all love the critters but in our excitement to have a close personal connection with the 4 legged residents, we endanger them.
  6. Another false belief I see expressed by the actions of visitors to our bucolic land is that when the people are on vacation so are the dogs.That dogs are safe to be off leash here because it is the country. This is very wrong for many reasons but I will give you just two. Your visiting dog may feel the need to chase or hunt one of our many free range 4 legged residents thus endangering both farm animal and dog. And another good reason to respect the leash law is that you are more aware when your dog decides to defecate. So you will know that you must pick up after your dog. I know for many dog owners, the idea that if cows can relieved themselves here then it must be ok for their canine side kick to also leave a little something behind. Just remember, your dog feces is much more dangerous than a cows waste. Dog droppings cause an illness in cows which causes miscarriages.
  7. Mama horses, Mama sheep and Mama cows, there is little difference from mama bears when there are young animals in the pastures. The protection instinct is strong in all animals and that includes our beautiful local Miesbacher Fleckvieh breed. Remember to give them their space so they never feel threatened.
  8. Now place yourself in a free range animals perspective. You are alone with your little family and community on a wild mountain top. Your senses are on full force to be aware of anything that proposes a threat to your group. Most of the week things go with the flow. It is peaceful and quiet but on those two days of the week, everything changes. Imagine this feeling of threat or danger with loud noises and laughter. Imagine the possible negative affect it can have on the milk and cheese products when the cows are unnerved and upset. The weather can be danger enough, lets not in our ignorance be added worries to our local farmer and his livestock.

 

 

So the key is RESPECT. Stay a safe distance and arrive to the Alms for your local cheese laden lunches and be thankful to our famers and their animals who make all this possible.

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

Schliersee…So Much More Than Cows

After several years of obsessively photographing the various local Almabtriebs, this year I was sent a very kind invitation to come and experience another lovely local farming event. The Schafprämierung, in english we would call it a sheep “Best in Show” which, also included goats. This event is held each year in Tegernsee at Kohlhauf-Hof.

Sadly, after many years of great weather, this year the event received a complete soaking due to the remnants of hurricane Maria. Though the weather dampened everything, animal and people alike, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the farmers and young breeders.

Despite the weather, the atmosphere was a festive one. Of course there was a small local traditional band playing and the air was fragrant with hot homemade stews, sausages and lamb steaks. Never to be forgotten at any German gathering, an entire table of delicious homemade cakes. Local vendors set up booths and sold various hand made products like  cattle bells and sheep’s wool items.  An amazing weaver from Miesbach brought her traditional Bavarian style loom carpets while women carded and spun wool. For the children a class was offered on felting wool and they really enjoyed.

Representing Schliersee was Franz Leitner (junior). His families beautiful farm, Kirchbergerhof is located in the  Fischhausen part of Schliersee. Franz was showing his magnificent Alpine Steinschaff. Through this event I learned In 2009 the Alpines Steinschaf was named “endangered livestock breed of the year” so its cultivation and care are very important to the breeds survival. It was great to be there in support of a fellow Schlierseer.

What stole my heart were the happy faces of the young breeders, Jungzuchter, who were showing their sheep for the first time. Watching the connection of these young children and their much loved and trusting sheep was precious. The joy of the parents and grandparents who could share their passion for animal husbandry was written all over their faces. These traditions of local farming if not taught and shared might one day might sadly die out. Sharing and teaching them to the younger generations helps to keep the traditions alive. Their joy just fills you with pride for this beautiful alpine land and its people.

I am sure there were technical aspects of a Schafprämierung which were very important for the health of these local breeds but for me it was the joy of community that I most took away from the day. The excitement of seeing the results of the years hard work, breeding and caring for these sweet faced creatures. The sheep were definitely the stars and their personalities shined through. Many of the sheep tried nibbling on the serious judges aprons causing them to break from their important stoic roles into warm laughter.

 

 

The judges took great care to check each animal thoroughly for particular signs of good breeding. The health and care given to every animal was judged accordingly to a strict standard.

 

Unfortunately, although I was properly attired for the weather, myself and my camera encased in gore-tex for protection I ended up getting soaked to the skin which sadly brought and end to my visit.

 

 

For more information on Schafprämierung and events:
http://www.alpinetgheep.com/news-bayern.html

To learn how you can stay at the beautiful Kirchbergerhof farm:

http://www.kirchbergerhof.info/frame-index.html

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

Da summa is außi -The Summer is Over

After a long peaceful summer with the cows dotted lazily about in alpine pastures we are reaching the final climax of a successful season. There is such peace and tranquility in these days filled with the long golden light of autumn.

As the many tourists begin to head back to their homes and sometimes stressful lives, a calm sets on our land here in Schliersee. Daily life and Bavarian traditions return once more. Though the animals on the mountains seem blissfully unaware. I am sure somewhere in their DNA their internal clocks are ticking away their time of freedom under the great big sky is ending.

Soon their farmer will return, one last time, to guide them on their long journey back to the valley and the familiarity of their farms. Their big day of celebration will soon be upon them and  their joyful reunion with the other animals from the farmstead.

To wander in these final moments amongst the cows and they lay about like lizards sunning themselves accompanied by the tinkling of the bells as they groom. I can honestly say there is a feeling of serenity that takes over and you just can’t help but smile.

At this time the swallows dash about gathering the last of the insects for fuel for their next journeys. Everything on the mountains seems to preparing for their next adventure. With the shorter days and cooler temperatures signaling all that the big change is near. Some may call it as the last breath of summer.

In each season here in Schliersee, from the mountain peaks to the shores of our green lakes there is magic to be found.

 

 

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

The Great Debate…To Pick Up or not to pick up…that is the question.

It’s a constant discussion amongst dog owners here in Schliersee, ”Why exactly do I have to pick up after my dog when all other animals are allowed to defecate wherever they wish?”. Are the reasons simply cosmetic or a real environmental concern? Do the dog droppings somehow affect our precious cheese production? Isn’t it just considered fertilizer like the cow and horse manure?

 

After asking many of our local farmers for the exact reason dog owners must be vigilant I decided to do a bit of research on my own. It’s very important for us dog owners to not only be respectful of our farming neighbors but for us all to live in harmony. Making sure we carry a couple biodegradable bags is a small price to pay for keeping everyone happy and healthy.

 

The parasite Neospora Caninum is the concern when dog owners carelessly forget to pick up after their dogs. This infection naturally leads to the development of neosporosis which is spread through dog droppings. Dogs can become infected with neospora through eating raw meat. And if cows come into contact with the parasite, it can cause them to abort. One farmer told me that if cows eat dog faeces it makes the milk and cheese taste foul.

 

So the long and short of the great pick up debate, yes, it is very important you remove and properly dispose of your dog’s waste in a biodegradable pick up bag. Sadly I have noticed a lot of folks are unwilling to walk to the next trash can or dog waste station. We wish Schliersee to remain a dog friendly vacation spot, so please be aware while walking your dog and clean up accordingly. Schliersee and the surrounding areas have made this job easier by installing more designated dog stations in and around the towns and lakes.

 

 

For more information on Neospora:

 

https://www.fginsight.com/news/news/neosporosis-in-cattle-farmer-issues-emotional-plea-to-dog-walkers-after-cull-scare-20648

 

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

Eisheiligen and Spring’s Folkloric Lesson

A bitter spring snow storm is a great reminder of the importance of listening to certain local folklore. One of my first homes in Germany was a cozy garden apartment and I spent many a day puttering around the garden with the my landlord’s elderly father.  He taught me many wonderful folk stories and many I still follow to this day.

One evening while we raced about finding containers and blankets to tuck in and protect our new little plants from the dropping temperatures and icy precipitation I was reminded of one very important lesson I was taught those many years ago. Here in Germany there are weather saints called the “Eisheiligen”, who dictate when you should begin your spring planting.  They serve an important purpose because it is easy to get lured by beautiful early spring sunshine to start plotting and planting your garden. Especially after a long hard winter.

The Eisheiligen are so important here in Germany that they have their own calendar which tells you when it is safest to plant each year. Not only do they have a calendar but they have names and their particular date which are as follows for 2017:

Termine 2017

  • Mamertus – Thursday, 11. Mai 2017
  • Pankratius – Friday, 12. Mai 2017
  • Servatius – Saturday, 13. Mai 2017
  • Bonifatius – Sunday, 14. Mai 2017
  • Kalte Sophie – Monday, 15. Mai 2017

For European farmers and gardeners 20-25 May seems to be the magical date deemed safe enough for animals to come out of the barns as well as seedlings to be planted. I have always wondered about this because many times people believe the first day of May to be the beginning of frost free time. But if you get the chance, you often see safe inside neighbors garages abundantly planted flower boxes waiting for the right date to be put out on display.

Creating those amazing flower boxes is an article for another day. Right now, as I sit here watching the snow fall I think I will put another log on the fire and go find my warm winter clothing I obviously put away too soon.

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).