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The Goat Pens

by Theresa König last modified 2007-02-16 14:36

Goat Pens

This is where the farmers that lived in the area brought their goats at the beginning of May.  The goat herd stayed together till the end of September.  Because of this, the farmers had fresh goats milk all summer while their cows were on the Alpine pastures.  The goats were looked after by a young goat herder.
Lorenzin Hermann, born in 1933 to a family with many children, was one of these goat herders or “Gässler” as they are called in the local dialect.  In 1944, at the age of 11 he was already working as a goat herder and in 1949 took over this herd.  His day started at 5:30 a.m.when he would pack his “Goat-herder lunch” made up of a beer bottle full of malt coffee, a piece of bread and a piece of smoked bacon, into his back pack and then start on his way.  If he was lucky one of the farmers would give him something to add to his lunch. He remembers well the day that a farmer told him he was allowed to pick up as many pears from under the pear tree as he could eat on that day.
28 milk goats would be waiting impatiently in the “Gaeßschäerem” goat pen for him to take them on their daily excursion.  Hermann’s herd grew to about 100 animals about a half hour’s walk in the direction of the valley, where he picked up 4 herds of goats from Ziegerberg and Bitschweil from a large goat pen.  The kids and nanny goats that didn’t give any milk, were left on the Alp at “Kobel” or “Gitzi-Ste” overnight and waited there for the herd to pick them up the next morning.
The spring was the hardest time for the goat herder.  If he was able to train the animals well, he didn’t have any trouble from them all summer.  It always took a while for the goats to get used to each other and there were many fights amongst them for dominance.  Some of the goats were stubborn and just turned around and went home.  In order to break their stubborn streak, the goat herder would throw the goat on its back and bite its ear.  The goats remembered that and usually did as they were told for the rest of the season.  From the time the cows were taken up to the Alpine pastures until St. Bartholomew’s Day, on the 24th of August, the goats weren’t allowed to graze on the cattle pastures, which was often hard for the goat herder to stop since he had to pass by the pastures with a hungry herd of goats.  If this happened, the goat herder would usually get a good slap across the face from the cattle herder, and if his herd strayed onto the hay fields, he got slapped again by the hay makers. 
A day rarely went by that he came home without having been slapped.  He had to be extremely careful that his herd only grazed above the cattle pastures and outside of the hay fields.  Once there, they loved to eat the shoots of the creepers that were known to the locals as “Droossa”, which kept this unpopular plant in check.  Since there aren’t any goat herds anymore, the creepers are running rampant which is a nuisance to every Alpinist. 
The longest stretch the goat herder made was along the right mountain side to Plaesseggapass on the Swiss border.  Around 4 p.m., he would start the 10 km trek back to the goat pen where the women and girls would be waiting at 7 p.m. to milk the goats.  A good goat produced about 4 to 5 litres of milk a day. 
The day wasn’t over for the goat herder yet, though.  He usually had to help the farmers with a few things before he could fall into bed, dead tired around 10:00 p.m..  The goat herder never saw the money he made but Hermann proudly tells how his wages helped his father buy a cow one autumn. 
There used to be a path called the Tobelweg that started in the Gampadel Valley and passed by this goat pen.  This important link was partly washed away and destroyed by the floods in 1966 and cannot be used anymore today.  The acute danger of rock slides makes it impossible to repair it.


P11-1 Goat Pens.mp3

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