Spring is in the Swiss air!

Early daffodils flourish in the protection of an old stone wall.

Pastel primula cover whole lawns, violets push through the dead grass, and the winter cereals are a lush green. Spring is in the Swiss air, and so is liquid manure and Decis. The beginning of the growing season is a good time to spread liquid manure on winter crops. So much for that fresh air driving through the spring countryside! It’s also a good growing season for all kinds of bugs. Hence the Decis. When hiking in Switzerland right now, stay upwind of a sprayer. Insecticides are not a good thing to inhale.

Not just the wheat is growing! The sprayers are busy.

Despite the coldest winter in over 20 years, the winter crops are all thriving. There was some concern when the coldest days went down to minus 20 degrees Celsius, but there was enough snow cover. It’s been close to plus 20 degrees Celsius lately. The canola will probably bloom in a couple weeks – about then when western Canadian farmers will be getting their seed drills ready. The sugar beets were seeded just before the rain a week ago; the moisture just enough to germinate that which was in the dry. A rain would be timely about now.

There’s a hay field between our house and the street, about the size of four building lots. Every available arable piece is utilized here. The guy renting it just fertilized it – it probably took him all of fifteen minutes. I hardly had time to get my camera out. A good amount of fertilizer granules landed on our lawn. He’s lucky I’m not as picky as some house owners around. I once watched a woman laboriously pick out each granule that landed in her garden, because she passionately believes in living organic.

Bigger machinery makes it ever more difficult to farm those little patches between village buildings.

It’s not always easy for farmers to cultivate fields and meadows tucked in so closely among the village. People are highly sensitized to overuse of chemicals and manure, and there are always those who don’t hesitate to make phone calls if they feel farmers have been on the road with the sprayer once too often. It really does take a certain amount of cooperation between residents and farmers of a rural village like Schleitheim, where most days see tractors hurtling down Main Street at 40 kilometres per hour, and farmers spray insecticide on canola next to apartment blocks. But as long as everyone is reasonable, things seem to work.

There's hardly a field in Switzerland that isn't along the trails of hikers and bikers.

I think part of the reason the Swiss take such an interest in how their food is produced could be that farmers and non-farmers live in such close proximity to each other. The farmer’s fields are the urbanite’s playground. They hike and bike along the fields and meadows. Not much can be kept secret. This frustrates some farmers, who feel they are under constant watch. Others use the opportunities the situation provides for roadside produce stands, cut-flower fields, or signs that showcase what farmers are doing for the environment.

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