Helpx number 6…. .

So, once again behind with the blog.  I had intended putting out a blog post just before we started our 6th Helpx but alas it never happened.  The German learning kind of took over as I wanted to get through the whole of the Michel Thomas Foundation German before starting on our current Helpx and my brain can only cope with one thing at a time these days.

Time was getting on though as we had been lingering along the Moselle for over a week.  It was time to carry on up to Koblenz and swing a right onto the Rhine.  The sixty five kilometre stretch between Koblenz and Rüdesheim, known as the middle Rhine, is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Pfalzgrafenstein Castle on an island in the middle of the Rhine built for the sole purpose of generating revenue from boats travelling along the river.  

Although much busier than the Moselle, with a railway line on both sides of the river, it does boast more castles sitting on hillsides overlooking the Rhine.  We based ourselves for a few days at a Stellplatz in Bacharach, a very pretty small medieval town.

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Bacharach.

I think the best way to ‘do’ the Rhine is by boat though as the cycleway is adjacent to the busy road and railway line and it’s not as relaxing as cycling alongside the Moselle.

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Bacharach.
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Campers enjoying the sunset whilst sampling the produce of Wiengut Gehring at Nierstein which also happens to have a lovely stellplatz in the grounds. 

After kicking back for a week on the Rhine cramming our heads with German we arrived at our latest Helpx.  We are staying at a dairy farm near Markelsheim in the Baden-Württemberg region learning all about cows and crops.

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A different kind of commuter vehicle.

The Bayer family has farmed here I think for five generations and are in the process of changing over to organic status.  They should have their organic status by next year and they are the only organic farm in this area.  The farm is in a little village four kilometres away from Markelsheim set in a valley with rolling countryside all around. Every child in the village seems to have their own toy sit-on tractor so very much a farming community.

We’ve been here for over a week now working alongside Mum and Dad Bayer, their two grown up sons, an aussie helper, an American helper, two French helpers and Siegfried the family mascot who isn’t related to the Bayers but who came to live and work at the farm in his early twenties over fifty years ago.  There are also two Polish guys doing some building work and alterations to the cow enclosures.

We’ve had a full on first week with a huge variety of jobs to do.  We’ve helped out with all things cow related like feeding, mucking out, milking, moving cows to different pastures, fencing and the feeding of the calves.

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Feeding time.
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Ten days old.
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Ilsa (Mum Bayer) feeding the calves.

Tim also helped with the birth of a calf which I completely missed as I’d nipped back in to the kitchen to do the washing up.  It was a bit of a drama with the calf having to be pulled into the world with a piece of rope tied around its back legs.  All very James Herriot!

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‘It’s a girl’ – a few minutes old 🙂

Tim has done lots of boy stuff like riding around in the tractor, cleaning one of the barns and cleaning the bathrooms!

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Boys toys.

I’ve been helping Mum Bayer in the kitchen making jams and cooking for everyone on the wood fired range which is no mean feat with the numbers to cater for.  It’s a military operation in that kitchen.

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Cooking homemade Wurst on the wood fired range.

I am in awe of the amount of work that everyone does here.  Aside from the cows the family have 120 acres of crops, some of which need weeding as, being organic, no pesticides can be used.  We’ve been out in the fields pulling up thistles trying to clear them before they flower which has been back breaking work.  If they have flowered they need to be hoiked out and then carried out of the field otherwise there will be even more next year.

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No end in sight.

It is something that needs to be done though whilst converting to organic status and should reduce year on year with the crops rotating but it will always be a continual headache for organic farmers.  The bed in the room we are in is very low to the floor and I have had to roll out of it in the mornings onto my hands and knees!

I will never. Ever. Ever. Ever. E.v.e.rrrrrr. again complain about clearing the small patch of weeds at the front of our house back in Wiltshire.  NOT EVER!  In comparison, I would now see that job as a bit of light entertainment.  Even though it has been hard work it has also been very satisfying being out in the countryside in the sunshine on a completely still evening listening to the skylarks singing above us and seeing the end results of a clean field.

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It seems even cows have bad hair days!

So that’s it folks, our first week down on the farm.  More next week if we survive!

Bis bald!

Meandering along the Mosel…. .

So a break in the weather sees me returning to the blog.  Apart from some rain overnight and the odd shower we have had two glorious weeks of weather here in Germany.  Today, though, it is raining which gives me a chance to catch up on a few things.

We moved on yesterday after having spent a whole week at a stellplatz at Losnich on the Mosel.  We hadn’t planned to stay that long but every evening I found myself saying ‘eine weitere nacht bitte’ to the lady who came to collect the money.  We just didn’t seem to want to leave.  It wasn’t that there was anything exceptional about Losnich it was more that every once in a while it is nice to stay put for several nights.

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The stellplatz at Losnich.  It filled up as the week went on as the weekend was a bank holiday in Germany.

We managed to pick up some free wifi in the village to do some research on a few little projects we have on the go at the moment so for a couple of hours every morning we’d go to ‘the office’ in the village to ‘work’.  ‘The office’ being a couple of benches in the shade set around a fountain.   It might conjure up a nice picture but it wasn’t without its frustrations with the wifi dropping out occasionally or not working at all sometimes but we managed to get a few things done and some info downloaded.  Not least of which was we have organised another Helpx to start next week.  Woop!  This one is going to be a challenge.  Not so much in the work we’ll be doing but the language barrier.  I think only one person in the family speaks English.  With our German being non-existent it’s going to be interesting.  Hence taking advantage of the free wifi to frantically download some language learning material.  We are now on a crash course in learning German.  We need to be fluent by next week or we are doomed!   There’s nothing like a deadline to get me motivated.  More on the Helpx next week.

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Bernkastel-Kues.
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You can volunteer at this former winery just outside Bernkastel-Kues, via the Workaway website, painting antique furniture amongst other things.  It will be opened as a hotel later in 2017.

In addition to our language learning exploits we thought we’d start a new fitness regime to give us a bit of structure to our day and keep us ticking over.  Tim came back from a run feeling mightily pleased with himself but then somehow managed to pull a muscle in his calf right at the end.  I did some circuit type training and got up the next morning feeling like I’d been repeatedly hit by a cricket bat.  After walking around like a pair of cripples for a few days we are probably ready for another go at it if we can summon up the enthusiasm again in this rain.  Watch this space.

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Happy as larry cooking…………something!
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Speed boat event going on at Traban.
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Our first Bratwurst in Germany 🙂

 

In amongst reading, language learning, planning, researching and cooking we have combed the countryside on the bikes and on foot.  It’s a very lush green area dominated by forest and steeply terraced vineyards.  In the last week I have pondered on how the vineyards are maintained being on such steep slopes.  Every scrap of the hillside is utilised for vines.  Even the rocky outcrops don’t go to waste.  My musings were answered whilst out on the bikes cruising the cycle paths along the Mosel.  We watched as a mini caterpillar contraption attached to a tractor was winched up and down the hillside whilst rotavating the land in between the vines as it went.

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The mini digger thing is winched up and down between the vines.

Then, we noticed the metal snakes winding their way at intervals up the steepest slopes.   Aha, kind of a stanner stair lift to transport the workers up the slopes and to get the grapes down from the hills.  Apparently it is called a monorack train.

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A monorack train to transport workers and grapes to and from the vines.

Even with the machinery it still looks like a lot of hard work and labour needed to look after and harvest the grapes.

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We’d have loved to have a go on it but had to make do with just sitting in the chair!

Bremmer Calmont, one of the steepest vineyards in the Europe, at a 68% incline, is right here in the Mosel valley at Bremm.

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On the cycle path looking back towards Bremm.

We just happened to be staying on a stellplatz a few kilometres away from Bremm and we’d seen some walkers traversing the hillside in amongst the Bremmer Calmont vines when we cycled past on our way upriver to take a look at Zell.

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Looking down to Zell.
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That was at least four of my five a day!

We did the walk the following day.  And what a walk it was.  Wunderbar!  It’s only a few kilometres in length but the views are spectacular and there are various interesting obstacles to negotiate along the way.  You’ll see from the pictures it isn’t ideal if you have no head for heights and the warning signs clearly spell that out at the start.

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We had no idea what the walk entailed.

The walk, or climbing trail, as it is called was set up in 2002 as a joint project between the communities of Bremm, Ediger-Eller and Neef.  The German Alpine Association secured the paths with the steel ropes, ladders, stepping brackets and pegs.

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As well as the stupendous views the walk was great fun too.

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Bremmer Calmont vines.
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Did I sign up for mountaineering?

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P1040336.JPGI can’t ever imagine Joe Public being free to roam on such a trail in the UK.  The health and safety police would be all over it before it was even thought of.  Seeing the vines from the path really gives you a feel for what it must take to farm this sort of terrain.

Surprisingly, you can pick up a Bremmer Calmont wine at less than €10 a bottle which is cheap as chips when you consider what it takes to harvest the grapes to get it.  We would have bought some if we could have found somewhere open in the village but everything was as dead as a dodo. It was the day after a national holiday with few people about.  We hadn’t even passed anybody on the walking trail either.  Ah well, maybe next time.

Onwards then to the Rhine or Rhein as we are in Germany.

Bis später!