June

At last spring has arrived in all its splendour. The meadows have been transformed into carpets of flowers. The beauty of the daisies, forget-me-nots, red campion (Silene dioica), harebells and greater yellow rattle (Rhinanthus alectorolophus) is breathtaking. Not only the cuckoo has returned. On the Sefinen the grey wagtails are breeding and flocks of citril finches (Serinus citrinella), linnets, goldfinches and whinchats can be seen flying around. Then comes the day when all farm vehicles suddenly set off for Mürren. At the flower market every family clan stocks up with geraniums and petunias. No expense is spared. Flower boxes appear in front of every window. The geraniums which have been overwintered look rather sorry for themselves for a few days but they soon perk up and start flowering a few weeks later. While the hay is being cut in the lowlands we can begin with siloing. This has become popular during the last few years. In the mountains, where there is often a thunderstorm in the evenings, this method of storing the hay has become widespread. In the middle of June all the farmers go to the Busenalp together to repair fences. All the posts which were made in winter for four francs each are now transported to the alp by helicopter. The farmers often fly too and so the work can be completed in a day. Towards the end of May the 'Pfander', who is responsible for all decisions made about the alp, or the President of the Alp Cooperation sets the date on which the cows will go up to the alp. When deciding this date practical considerations and tradition have to be taken into account. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday were found by our ancestors to be extremely unfavourable, so, if there is no compelling reason not to, the cattle will be driven up to the alpine pastures on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. June 22nd is a special day which must also be taken into consideration.
On this day one really should not take the cattle to the alp. As long as there are people in Gimmelwald with a sense of responsibility then no cow will have to make its way up to the Sefinenalp on June 22nd. Should this be ignored then every possible misfortune would be pre-ordained - they would be struck by lightning, an alpine hut would burn down or something equally terrible would happen. But that's common knowledge! Every family takes its own cows up to the alp. How early or late they leave depends on the family. Early means 2 o'clock in the morning and late means five o'clock in the morning. What is important is that they can all milk the cows on the alp at the same time in the morning (seven o'clock) and then the herdsmen can start making the first mountain cheese of the summer. There is nothing more majestic than a herd of cows bidding the village farewell for the summer in the middle of the night with their bells. The bells are an important part of tradition. They are really only for decoration and cost the farmer a fortune. After breakfast in the alpine dairy hut and trying the fresh cheese (this is called 'Vogel') the farmer and his family usually have a leisurely day. After all, they don't have to work in the cowshed in the evening. This is now the responsibility of the herdsman. It is easy to see why the mountain farmers send their cattle up to the alp as early as possible in the year and collect them as late as possible. On average the animals spend 90-100 days on the alp. There are several alps around Gimmelwald. The cows for milking spend the summer on the Sefinenalp and on the Schilt. The younger ones are on the Busenalp. There are also alps nearby for goats and sheep.