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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Tim has done lots of boy stuff like riding around in the tractor, cleaning one of the barns and cleaning the bathrooms!
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.
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.
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.
So that’s it folks, our first week down on the farm. More next week if we survive!