Well, the last week of our holidays came and went… the main highlight of that week was our Farmstay, or in German “Ferien auf dem Bauernhof”.
Last year we did a “Sleep-in-Straw” farmstay (read about it here). This year Tobias wanted to bring his best friend along, who may or may not have an allergy to straw so i decided that would not be good to sleep in straw. So we chose a farm where they had a little apartment for us to stay in; it was the Guggishaus (that’s the name of the farm), near Köniz, Bern. We booked it through the Reka website; a travel agency of sorts which handles holiday homes and has travel vouchers which you can purchase as gifts.
i find that these adventures are best shown in pictures so warning this will be a very picture-heavy post.
My beloved husband, who had to work, was unable to come with us but he did drive us there on Sunday afternoon. And the first resident of the farm to greet us was the ever-energetic farm dog – Xenia. She is such a sweetie! Once she gets to know you, she is always coming up to you, asking for a little love and attention.
Here you can see the farmhouse and the barn. i was told that this farm has been in their family for 4 or 5 generations now. So these are truly people of the land. We stayed in the apartment on the second floor.
It wasn’t a huge apartment and it wasn’t new but it was clean and comfortable, and had more than enough room for me and the boys. Here’s a mosaic of what the inside looks like.
Once we were settled and had unpacked, it was off to help the farmer with the cows. The boys helped to shovel the cows’ evening feed into the feeding trough. Then they were allowed to walked the cows down into the barn. The farmer gave careful instructions that we should stay clear till the last cow came through the gates, then we could walk behind them. He said the cows will charge down and he wasn’t kidding. They knew it was time to go home and most were already at the gate the moment they heard the farmer’s voice. There was a stubborn one which lingered behind chewing the fresh grass. It was interesting to watch the farmer get each cow into the correct position; they all have a specific place to go to with their names clearly labeled at the top.
There was more shovelling of the feed while the cows were being milked. i didn’t get a good picture of the milking so i can’t show that to you. He had a portable milking machine which could be wheeled around to each cow in turn. The boys helped with moving the machine around for a bit. i also learnt that the cows’ tails had to be tied up with a string attached on a line above their backs. They could still move around freely but when they sat down for the night, it kept their tails out of any poo which may have accidentally fallen outside of the poo drain. The farmer said you really didn’t want tails full of poo swinging around all over the place. And they do swing their tails quite hard; the farmer got smacked in the face several times quite hard!
After the milking, it was dinner time. i took the option of having dinner and breakfast provided so i didn’t have to think about preparing food while on holiday (Not every farmstay can provide this service so do check if you want meals provided). We ate with the farmer’s family. It was a lovely Swiss meal and afterwards we sat around and talked, had tea and ice cream. They have 5 children, 2 girls, 3 boys. The older daughter lives away, doing an internship. The second girl speaks a little English as does the farmer himself. The older boy is a good lad who helps out around the farm. The 2 younger boys are about Tobias’ age which was just great. It was also great to find out that they are Christians and go to the local church when work on the farm permits them to go.
The next morning, the farmer and his wife were up very early and the children left early for school (they start school a week earlier than us). We had breakfast while the farmer read his morning devotion. Then it was off to have a ride in the tractor – this was the favourite part of the whole day for the boys. The corn feed for the cows was freshly cut each day from the farmer’s fields down the road. The boys also spent a good deal of time playing with the farm kitten and the rabbits. Then we helped the farmer and his wife to pick apples which would be juiced the next day. The apple juice they make is yummy! We brought home 5 liters which was gone in a little over a week. i have a good mind to go back up there just to get more apple juice! 😉
i made a simple lunch for us – this was the only meal i cooked on this trip. In the afternoon, it was rest time for the animals. While the farmer took the apples to be pressed and his wife ran errands, we took a little hike up the neighbouring hill to a lookout point with an amazing view. It took us about 25 mins to get to the top so it was a nice walk, not too difficult at all.
When we got back to the farm, everyone was home already. The boys along with the 2 younger farmer’s boys gathered the water and pellets for the sheep, which were in the field a little way down the hill. Then the boys played some soccer on the street. After which, they went to feed the calves with milk from the evening’s milking. Those calves were hungry little things!
Then it was dinner. The farmer did not join us as he had to go for a fire drill; he was a volunteer fireman. The wife and myself chatted while the boys played games or watched a movie. She made a really nice dessert of baked apples. At about 8.30pm, we (the adults) tried to get the kids off to bed. It took a good half hour before they moved; they got along so well with each other and, i think, were a little sad to say goodbye.
The next morning, our last morning, we watched the farmer clean out the pig pens and feed the pigs. Then it was off for our little trekking outing with the donkeys. First, the boys helped to groom the donkeys and get them ready. Then off we went. The boys took turns on the donkey (only one was harnessed for riding on). On the walk, the farmer showed me the farmlands and which families were still actively farming and which were giving up. It was sad to hear that farmers have to give up on farming because they have no children to pass the farm and land onto. But he did say the land either remained with the farmer’s family till a grandchild can take over or else they sell to another farmer in the area. This way at least the land would likely remain farmland.
We had a quick snack after our trekking with the farmer and his wife, and then the farmer very kindly drove us to the train station. We were tired but we had a good time and learnt a lot. In fact, Tobias is so happy with this experience that he wants to come and stay again, next time for 4 nights!
There are more pictures but too many to share here. So i’ll just leave you with a shot of the happy boys coming back from the donkey trekking outing.
Oh i do want to say, the weather forecast for those 2 days was not looking good a week before we went. We prayed real hard for good weather and thank God that we only had rain overnight and one overcast morning. Praise the Lord for the good weather those 2 days.
Oh and you can find out more details about the farm here.
Have you been to a farmstay? How was your experience? Do share.