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  • Yvonne

Cows getting high! The Alpine ascent.

Updated: Jan 7, 2020

Some of these bells cost up to 3,000 francs!
Wearing their traditional bells for the occasion

What does this have to do with knitting? Absolutely nothing! What does it have to do with life in the Jura? Read on.....

Have you ever seen photos of the cows in Switzerland being brought up to higher pastures for the Summer? This practice, which happens all over the country is known as the Ascent (Summer time) or Descent (Autumn time) and is part of the rhythm of our village life by now. This year we were invited to join in the Ascent with the Tschan family, who are bio farmers and who were moving around 30 heifers and milk cows which is about half their herd up to the higher pasture above Courtelary.

Can you spot the trusty Roxy, the Tschan family's Jack Russell?
Traditionally the owner of the herd is at the very back

We set off on an overcast but dry morning through our village of Corgémont and along the Rue Principale turning off at Cortébert.

The whole ascent would be 12km and the initial pace had me wondering if I was fit enough to make it to the end! Turns out the fast pace was necessary because the cows had to cross the railway line as they left Corgémont and then cross back to the other side at Cortébert so we were at the mercy of the railway timetable! Cows and trains do not mix!

Turn the sound up when you play the video below!! Walking behind the herd are Martin, Sandrine and Loric Tschan.

Mercifully above Cortebert we stopped to let the cows graze and for the herders to get some refreshment. As usual, the Tschan family were generous with their offering of Apero, home baked Tresse, their own dried meats and of course Tete de Moine cheese.

First stop - Grass for the cows and Apero for us!

As we got underway again we began to wind our way up the path and across the gorge between Cortebert and Courtelary.

Although I grew up on a dairy farm, in Ireland I never had the nerve wracking experience of herding cows along a path with some very steep drops on one side. Being cows of course they wanted to walk on the soft ground, which was, of course, the same side as the steep drop. The herders at the front of the herd and along the sides were younger and agile enough to spring into action when a cow tried to take a detour!

Second rest stop - see the cow with the biggest bell?

The second stop involved a bit of excitement as one of the cows took fright at what was probably a squirrel or mouse in the greenery and leaped backwards making all the others take fright. Thankfully they decided to charge uphill where the herders quickly waves their arms and called to them and they quieted down. Thankfully I say because if they'd headed downhill there was only me and one other herder to stop them - eek!!

So on to the last very quick pit stop and we reached their Summer home with all cows accounted for.

Happily grazing in their Summer pasture

Ah but it didn't end there. Time for a splendid Bio Suisse lunch and music!! Turn that sound up again....

It was such a marvellous day and we are already looking forward to the Descent which will be sometime in September, marking the end of Summer and time to look towards Autumn.

Did you like the music? You can listen to more of Kevin Tschan's music here

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