This year 20th April was our 10th marriage anniversary and we wanted to do something unique to remember the anniversary celebration life long.

During our last year’s trip to Switzerland for 10 days ( Read https://vikramviknowledgesharing.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/switzerland-grand-tour-for-10-days-panoramic-trains-mountains-lakes/ ) we met a farmer ( staying in small cute alps village named Chateau-d’Oex on Golden Pass Line ) who mentioned about possibility of staying in farm and doing eco tourism.  After spending nearly 2500 Euro for 10 days and seeing almost whole of Swiss beautify; it wouldn’t have been fun to do similar thing again this year as well .

This is our story of spending 9 days at traditional Swiss farm in Alps mountain with 5 swiss people, 1 dog, 10+ cats, 29 cows, 500+ chickens, 100+ pigs without paying single cent for accommodation & food ( except we need to buy freshly baked cup cakes though as on weekly basis swiss grand mother sells them in local market )

 

How We Saved Money

While searching for eco tourism I came across this website https://www.workaway.info/ . The concept is very simple; you stay with a host and help daily basis 4 – 5 hours with some tasks. You get to stay free and 3 meals a day free of cost. You need to work only Mon – Fri & get weekends free.

After daily work; you’re free to do whatever you want. You can as well do 8 hours of work and get free day during weekdays as well. If you calculate daily expenses of staying and food in Switzerland for 2 people; it comes to almost 140 – 170 CHF. We could save this cost for 9 days.

 

Tasks Done
Cows ( Barn ) Tasks
  • Picking cow dung in a container and dumping in a dumping ground outside barn
  • Milking 19 cows morning & evening with machine
  • Cleaning milk containers, milking machines, calf feeding utensils
  • Delivering milk to Cheese making unit nearby
  • Feeding cows
  • Listening to Swiss Radio channel dedicated to cow ( I’m not joking here, music keeps cows in good mood like just like humans )

Note: Click on image to see larger view

 

Alps Mountain Tasks
  •  Putting up fence on mountain and electrifying it ( to make sure your cows stay in your mountain itself )
  • This involves lots of physical work & strength with very minimal tools usage. After this day next 2 days my whole body was paining but luckily I didn’t fell sick
  • A very small amount of electricity flow through it but you get a nice shock touching it and I did get it after farmer’s grandson accidentally turned it on.  Can’t forget heartily laugh my wife ( Anna ), farmer ( Ernst ) and Lukas had for 5 minutes 🙂 priceless.
  • Mr. Ernst is 69 year old & seeing his superb health, enthusiasm; I felt how much weak I’ve become sitting in front of computer for last 16 years.

Note: Click on image to see larger view

 

 

Chicken Related Tasks
  •  Picking eggs ( almost 600 ) in morning, while hundreds of chickens trying to peck your legs. We were given rubber shoes till knee height so we’re mostly safe 🙂
  • Once you enter their den, it’s fun to see how 10 – 15 of them try to attack you
  • It’s fun to see how they hide eggs below them & while you’re trying to pick them up they either step on your hand or sometimes try to peck you
  • After picking; you need to clean dirty eggs and sort them based on weight ( S < 54 gm, M < 70 gm, L > 70 gm )

Note: Click on image to see larger view

Other Random Tasks
  • Grass cutting
  • Help in kitchen to prepare food
  • Playing with host’s 2 year old son
  • Helping host’s mother in baking bread, cake for weekly market in region
  • Gardening

 

Note: Click on image to see larger view

 

Priceless Moments
  • Getting each night between 01:30 – 2:30 just to sky full of stars. It was like there is special “stars show” going on just for two of us. With hardly any artificial lights around mountain home, this was memorable moment. But lack of powerful camera; I couldn’t capture it
  • During milking; cats behaving like most obedient, sincere students in the whole world asking you to feed them with fresh milk
  • Cows lifting back legs in order after listening to “achtung!” command so that I can collect cow dung easily
  • Eating freshly baked bread, cup cakes baked by Swiss grand mother.
  • Curious looks from cows of other farmer’s mountain farm while you’re walking, cycling nearby them
  • Cows jumping around & being super happy once they are out of barn & grazing happily on mountain fresh grass.
  • Learning cheese making techniques from “world’s best Emmental cheesemaker of year 2015”
  • Getting to know best Swiss chocolate from the host ( Cailler vs Lindt ). Per her most of Swiss people consider Cailler brand better than Lindt, as later has done more marketing thus famous with outside world than Cailler brand.

 

What We did’t like at all

–   Not everything was perfect with this experience but we had problem with food.  Initially host said that she would like to have Indian food. After eating Egg Bhurji & Pav Bhaji ( which we prepared with 50% less spices than out moderate daily meals ); she said lets eat swiss meals for rest of our stay

–  Swiss meals was completely bland, potatoes, meat, rice, cheese, bread, salad etc

–   Strict timings for meals 07:15, 12:00, 19:00. We drink Tea at 07:15 so it quite difficult to have early meals per their practices

–   We suggest you carry your own food as well and talk with your host about your food habits

–   You’re totally depend on host for food and in case you’re staying in mountains like us there is no bakery or restaurant nearby. You can’t ask for food in between or it can depend how you maintain relationship with host as well.

 

Farm Economics
–  Milk

We use to collect 170 liters of each morning & evening

For each liter; farmer gets paid 0.58 cent.

– Cheese

All the milk collected from my host & 9 other farmers ( 3400 kg per day ) used  for         making 300 kg ( 100 * 3 ) of Emmental cheese

This cheese is bought by Emmi Supermarket

For 1 block of cheese ( 100 kg ), Emmi pays 800 CHF

Post cheese making process remaining by-product is consumed by pigs

– Eggs

Daily we use to collect around 600+ eggs

Each egg is sold for 0.40 cent to shop and if somebody comes to farm; it will cost 0.25 cent

– Pig Farming

Our host had 60+ pigs ( adult, small ). Once pig weighs 100 kg, it is sent to meat factory.

1 pig can fetch between 300 -600 CHF

– Wheat

Not all part of hill is used for fodder but some part it used to grow wheat crop as well

Per season it grows around 4 tons of wheat.

– Global Warming Effect on Swiss Farming

Our host said there use to be knee height snow for many months on the mountain. This was helping in killing rats or at least go them deeper into the ground.

As from many years snow fall is reducing gradually; rats dig the mountain surface & because of this cows are not getting fodder grown on the swiss mountain itself during winter season.

Now farmers need to import fodder from Germany which is of poor quality and with lots of small stones.  After VW scam; I’m hardly surprised about the quality of German goods in all the sectors

– Earnings

Per my calculation our host was making between 10K – 15K CHF per month ( this is revenue & profit marge between 50 % – 60 % ) . You can compare this income against Sr. software engineer’s salary of 10K CHF in Zurich

 

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Comments Please

Share how you’ve celebrated your 10th marriage anniversary in comments section or planning to celebrate.

We’re looking forward to celebrate coming decades anniversaries in similar ways.

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