Today’s my last day on the farm. I woke up late, with a stuffed nose and a headache. I intended to help out on the farm in the morning, but instead spent it packing my luggage… slowly. I got to see some of Philip’s plans for the farm, and this cool model of he made:
This is the design Philip has for the farm. The yellow striped area is where the barley/hops/grapes are being planted.
I took a picture with Gala, American Gothic-esque:
Then I went to Geneva. I have a very early plane to Brussels in the morning, so I’m staying at an apartment near the airport for the night. I met an old friend for dinner in Lausanne, and he took me for fondue! What a great idea! I’ve truly enjoyed Switzerland’s cheeses.
We hung out late. Too late. We stopped for coffee at McDonalds, the only place open at 1am. Would you believe that this display case is from McDonalds? I was impressed!
Monday on the farm! Today was a lot of good hard work. Philippe, the owner of the farm, was putting his big plans into action. We started the day by removing a bed of root vegetables to make space for new beer and wine garden. There are plans to grow barley, hops, and grapes! The large wooden poles mark out a grid for the new plants.
The root vegetables we removed (I have no idea what they’re called!) were popular in World War II, when “victory gardens” enabled people to eat healthily despite the strict rations.
We layed out a bed for the root vegetables in another part of the garden. I was impressed by the precision used to lay out the rows of plants. They had a plan in place, measured it, and checked it several times as we dug trenches for the plants. I’ve always wondered how cornfields are planted in such precise rows, and though most of the farms in the USA probably use machinery for it, it was really nice to see the manual way of tackling the problem. There was a little bobcat that helped us dig the trenches, but some rows, along the tent and the greenhouse, had to be done by hand. Good hard work!
Lunch was couscous with squash and cilantro. We all eat together in one of the big tents.
Tuesday the farm delivers its crops. There was a table full of the fresh vegetables we’ve harvested over the last week:
I took a rest in the sun before returning to work.
In the afternoon, we harvested the pumpkins. I keep forgetting it’s late October (today I said something about it being August), but this was a welcome reminder. We were taught to cut the pumpkins so they have about 6″ of stem still connected, which helps them stay alive/fresh for longer. We cleared out one of the greenhouses and laid a bed of straw for the pumpkins. Sunlight, not necessarily heat, also helps keep them alive for weeks or months.
After we finished the work day, I took a walk in the woods with some of the farmhands.
The dutch girls cooked dinner tonight: garden salad, couscous, onions & vegetables, and DUTCH PANCAKES! What a treat! I was surprised that they made the pancakes with cheese on top – twas delicious! We also enjoyed them with maple syrup. Yum! The girls went to bed early, but I stayed up a bit to wash my dirty hiking clothes, and pack my bag for my departure tomorrow.
women girls who are WWOOFing at Mamajah Farm arrived yesterday. Myrthe, Iris, and Marieke are 18, 17, and 16 respectively, and are on a two month trip to different farms around Switzerland. They attend a democratic high school, where the students vote on issues along with the teachers, and have a many more options for their education. Their trip to visit and work on farms was approved to be a part of their education, how cool! Myrthe has already graduated and is taking a “gap year” to figure out what she wants to study before starting university. They invited me to join them on a trip today, as they can purchase a pass for unlimited travel for very cheap. I enthusiastically accepted their offer, and said it didn’t matter where they chose to visit: I’d like to go everywhere! Our tickets were only 32.50CHF (swiss francs) each, and covered pretty much all the busses, trams, and trains in the country. It was really nice to simply follow the girls rather than navigate and make decisions for myself. The girls were excellent company, so intelligent, curious, fun, and up for anything!
We started with a train to Montreux, about an hour from Geneve. From there we transferred to a beautiful classic train that took us to Gstaad. At times, we went through dark tunnels, that revealed the ambience of the train car:
Marieke wanted to “be in the snow”, which requires an ascent high into the mountains. We took a bus to a cable car that would have taken us 3000meters high to Scex Rouge, a mountain in the Diablerets, but the cable car wasn’t running. October is the slow period between the touristic summer months and the skiing winter months, and many of the lifts were closed for seasonal maintenance. We took in the view and tried to figure out an alternative plan.
We grabbed the bus back towards Gstaad, and the nicest bus driver told us several options for hiking and nature-viewing. It didn’t sound like snow was possible to find, so we abandoned that mission. The bus driver dropped us off at one of the few operating cable cars. It took us up to Wispile, about 1900meters high.
We stopped for lunch. I had rosti, a traditional Swedish dish made of potatoes and cheese. I’m not sure if the egg on top is typical or not. It was delicious, and gave me plenty of energy for my upcoming hike. But this is a heavy meal! As hungry as I was, I couldn’t finish it all.
We hiked along a trail called Wanderweg, Wonderway. It took us five leisurely hours in beautiful sunshine to hike to Launenensee.
All along the way there were fountains of freezing cold fresh mountain water. It was unbelievably delicious, and so refreshing!
The trail ends at a beautiful lake. In the picture below, you can just see it behind the little cabin.
Below is a picture of a little channel to guide rainwater down the mountain. It’s made of guardrail, how resourceful!
We finally arrived at the lake, and stopped at a waterfall nearby.
We arrived in Lauenensee just in time to see the last bus leave for the day. We decided to quickly dip our toes in the lake’s water, and then hitchhike a ride back to the train station. I carefully rolled up my pants, preparing to wade into the shallow lake. See the picture below? It looks like it’s just a foot deep, right? WRONG! I hopped into the lake and ended up waist deep! Ah! Cold! But at least my laptop and phone were dry, so I didn’t mind much.
The girls and I split up in pairs, and were lucky that the first two people we asked for a ride kindly obliged. Marieke and I got a ride from a nice couple in their convertible. I took the second selfie of my trip on the way:
We arrived at Gstaad, tired and hungry. Luckily we found a small market that was still open. We grabbed some local Swiss cheese and bread, and took the train to the train back to the farm.
Today I rose early and took the bus/tram to Geneva. The first thing I saw upon my arrival was the “velostation,” which is a parking lot for bicycles. I’ve seen many bicyclists in Europe so far, but Geneva has the most!
From the train station, it’s a quick walk to the Jet d’Eau, which I unfortunately have NO pictures of! Surprising, as I spent most of the day in full view of it. The monument below was in a park directly across from the Rhône river, and the Jet d’Eau.
I toured the town, and was enchanted by the display of Swiss army knives…
And of course I tried some Swiss chocolate! I bought a few pieces and loved the cappuccino one the best, no surprise!
This is a plaza in La Vielle Ville, the Old Town. It’s very charming.
The red flag with the plus sign is the flag of Switzerland, and the other one is the flag of Geneva.
This is St. Peter’s Cathedral. It’s beautiful, but I couldn’t find a good vantage point to take a photo:
I had a crepe for dinner before heading back to the farm.
I woke up at 7am today and was surprised that it’s still dark at this hour. The weather in Italy and Crete was so nice that I keep forgetting it’s autumn! Mamajah looks so pretty in the dawn light, with the faery lights lit.
Today I worked on another part of the farm, where there are rows and rows of fresh lettuces, and a big greenhouse tent full of tomatoes.
I spent the morning harvesting carrots! They were planted in clay, which made them difficult to remove. One of the workers, Mike, explained to me that they’re often planted in sand.
I said hello to the two llamas on the farm. They aren’t really used for anything, but Philippe, the owner of the farm, took them in to save them from being butchered.
Today I cooked lunch for the farmers! I made couscous with caramelized onions and walnuts, and green beans with carrots and garlic. I didn’t cook at all in Crete, or Amalfi, so I really enjoyed being in the kitchen!
I found myself all alone Friday night. The workers had gone for the day, and Armel and the other person staying at the farm had left for the night. I cooked myself some squash with rosemary and thyme, and re-heated some of the couscous from lunch. And I went to bed early. How lovely and simple farm life is!
When I arrived in Lyon late last night, eating was on the agenda (as always). Lyon is known for being the gastronomical capital of France, and both my mom and my French friend Flora encouraged me to enjoy it. I rushed to the train station, caught the last train to the center of Lyon, and dropped my bags at my Airbnb. But when I ventured to the one restaurant nearby that was open until 1am, I got hopelessly lost. I blame my empty stomach for this; my brain does not work well when I’m hungry. Even after asking multiple people, I got more and more lost. The restaurant was closed by the time I found it, and I hadn’t passed a single shop that was open. I managed to buy a bottle of water at a hookah bar (I thought it was a strip club at first haha), wandered home and went to sleep. It wasn’t such a pity though. It turns out that Lyonnaise cuisine is mostly meats that I probably wouldn’t enjoy.
I woke up early the next morning, determined to find a good breakfast before my 8:30am train to Genève, Geneva. Guess what I found? La boulangerie! Je vraiment prèfere la boulangerie que le bouchon. I greatly prefer the bakery to the butcher. I chose an assortment of goods:
After a 2-hour train ride, I arrived in Geneva. Though I immediately caught the tram to the farm, Geneva won my heart with it’s charming architecture.
Then I arrived at the farm…
I met Armel, who introduced me to the farm, showed me to my new home, the Airstream, and suited me up in boots.
The farm has a couple of huge teepees, a biodome, several large tents, a cute little blue sauna that’s used for bathing… there was so much to see!
I particularly love this little seating arrangement. The big red chairs are very comfortable, the mobile is festive, and it’s a great place to prend un pause au soleil, take a break in the sun.
I joined the farmers to work in the garden. Today I harvested green onions; re-planted some verbena; weeded the herb garden; and staked up the cilantro.
Armel cooked us all lunch: green beans, carrots and potatoes with ginger, garlic, and fresh herbs, all from the garden. The chicken is from a neighboring farm.
I love this spacious, open-air kitchen.
Armel made an apple tart that evening, and shared her fresh herb tea with me before bed.
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