July

Many people are now enjoying their summer holiday in the area around Gimmelwald but for the locals the hardest time of the year begins. With scythe (and mowing machines where possible) they cut the little grass that can be found on the steep mountainsides. In some remote places the hay is loaded into nets and the farmers carry these nets on their shoulders to the nearest hayloft. In every net there are 70-90kg of hay. This is men's work. In spite of emancipation women just do not have the necessary strength. Near the village another method of transporting the hay can often be observed: huge amounts of hay are loaded onto enormous plastic sheets and then a strong, deft man takes hold of the plastic and drags it down to the next road where it can be loaded onto a wagon. Some farmers grow strawberries every year, for which hotels and businesses are very grateful. The strawberries grown here are sweeter and better than those of the lowlands. After heavy thunderstorms the mountain slopes are very slippery which proves disastrous for several cows every year. Many cows fall and break a leg.
Nowadays these cows are flown back to the village by helicopter. To do this the cow is attached to a rope and hangs about 20m below the helicopter. As the rotor blades of the helicopter turn they cause the cow to go round in circles. Whether or not the cows appreciate this, I don't know. A few years ago the support harness came undone during a flight. The poor cow didn't survive the fall and the helicopter pilot was so shocked that he had to make an emergency landing. Every year 5-10% of all the animals on the alp have a fatal accident. The vitally necessary hay can only be cut while the cattle is away on the alp, so this high percentage of losses during the alpine summer just has to be taken into account.