All this to say that goats/sheep/cows in an Alpine pasture was just literature to me, a scene seen on the silver screen.
And then I came to France. The middle of it, to be more precise.
|An old photo of a shepherd on his stilts|
|Salers cattle, with their recognizable color and horns|
|Improvised herding of straying cattle|
All this reminded me of something I saw in Switzerland when I was very young, just after my father had traced the family back to the Bern region. He drove us in a rented car over mile upon mile of backroads, to get a feeling for our roots. In front of almost every dairy farm was a tall square - and open! - enclosure full of... well full of bullshit. And cowshit as well. All very fragrant, but rather perplexing to us asepticized Americans. “Why don’t they put that in the back of the house where you can't see it?” my mother asked, not being Swiss at all. We eventually found out that a pile of manure was a mark of wealth. The bigger the pile, the more cattle you have, so the richer you are. Some people buy Rolex Oyster watches, some amass cow patties.
P.S. Here's a short video about this phenomenon. It's in French, but the pictures do the talking. I love the way they have to go find them in a Jeep because they're just running around loose. And that the calves are left to drink their mother's milk and not stuck in some fattening stalls. The farmers brought up salt licks and check that the snow that fell overnight didn't create any problems.