Life on the Farm – A Busy Autumn

Autumn is traditionally one of the busiest times of year for our farmers. The cattle are brought down from the mountain pastures to the valley, ripe fruit is harvested and everything on the farm needs to be prepared for the cold winter ahead.
Autumn at the farm

©Paul Sürth

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Extra hands are needed and so everyone has to pull their weight. Read on to find out what exactly has to be done. 

 

Harvest Festival – time to give thanks for a successful harvest 

The harvest festival traditionally takes place at the beginning of autumn. The purpose for this festival is to thank the Lord for a fruitful harvest in the previous year and to pray for a successful harvest for the coming year. The Young Farmers and Rural Youth associations from Mayrhofen work together with the church to organise a procession in which a harvest crown made from wheat and grain is paraded through the town to the church. In the church, decorative baskets of harvested crops and different types of grain are placed next to the crown. The harvest festival marks the beginning of a hectic autumn for our farmers, who are also busy preparing for the Almabtrieb (cattle drive).

Herbst am Zillertaler Bauernhof
©Landjugend Mayrhofen
Herbst am Zillertaler Bauernhof
©Landjugend Mayrhofen
Herbst am Zillertaler Bauernhof
©Landjugend Mayrhofen
©Hubert Aschenwald

Time for the cattle to return to the valley

When the days get shorter and the temperatures cooler, it is once again time to bring the cows back to the valley. The cows have to leave the Alms and the lush pastures of the mountains and return to the warm barns on the farms. However, this process takes a lot of preparation. If the summer on the Alm was a good one and no cows got hurt, then the animals are adorned with festive floral decorations, boughs and ribbons. In the valley, preparations are also made for the cows’ arrival. Fences must be erected for grazing fields, as the cows are not immediately shut up in the barns for winter but are put out to graze the soft green grass of the valley meadows until the cold really starts to bite. The farmer must also get the barns ready for the cows’ return and stock them with enough feed for the animals. For this, the last crops must be harvested. 

A golden autumn - time to harvest the fruit and vegetables

Before the frosty temperatures set in, all of the various fruits and vegetables grown by the farmer must be harvested. In addition to corn and pumpkins, potatoes and other root vegetables must by brought in from the fields. Certain fruits are also ready to be picked in autumn, particularly apples, pears and plums. These fruits are good for making jams and juices. Of course, many farms also ferment them and distil their own schnapps and liquors. Once all of the crops have been harvested, the farmer can begin to prepare for winter and the following spring. 

Herbst am Zillertaler Bauernhof
©Norbert Freudenthaler
Herbst am Zillertaler Bauernhof
©Norbert Freudenthaler
Herbst am Zillertaler Bauernhof
©Norbert Freudenthaler

Final preparations for the cold months ahead

To protect the farm against the winter and the accompanying frost, the farmer has to make some final preparations. After the animals are brought into the warm barns for the winter, the farmer begins to prepare his fields. Before the first snow falls, the fields must be sprayed with cow dung to give them enough nutrients.  Then the tractors and machines have to be checked, repaired if necessary and “winterized”. If you thought that then a farmer’s work is done, you’d be wrong. He still needs to tend to his animals on a daily basis throughout winter. And, when the winter nears its end and the snow starts to melt from the rooftops and pastures, the farmer has already been busily making plans for spring. There really is never a quiet time on the farm. 

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