This blog collects notes from Höfen, a small village in Southern
Germany, where Kathrin from public works was living and working for
The plan to slaughter a pig at home continues, and is scheduled
for early February. This kind of home slaughter made a lot of sense
even 20 years ago, when pigs were actually fed and available in the
village, when the communal animal scale was still in place, before
the local meat inspector had retired, and when people still ate all
sorts of pork meat and pork sausages. Everyone who is involved in
this plan agrees that it's partly for nostalgic reasons, but that
it is also an opportunity to do it once more - and to document it -
before it'll never be done again. Luckily Andi, who has the skills
to slaughter and to process the pig, is up for it. So, we now have
to find a pig, someone who can weight it, then tranpsort it, and
someone who can inspect the meat. None of this is easy or
economical anymore. We than have to decide what to do with the pig
- what kind of cuts and sausages to make, which raises the whole
issue of contemporary diets. Who will actually eat the whole pig?
This being a really important aspect of slaughtering one - that
everything but the bones gets used somehow - also means that the
fat, the skin, the off-cuts, etc. will need to get used somehow.
Traditionally this was done by making sausages and conserve, but
today no one fancies 30 jars of home made sausage in the larder.
The solution for February is that we will share the pig with Andi
and his family - so the enthusiasm for a home slaughter will not
get jeopardised by the prospect of having to eat "Pressack" twice a week
for the next six months.
One million small bells a year - for export, but this time
exported from here (the next village Rattelsdorf) mainly to Asia -
I was surprised to hear that. The bells are quite special. They're
made for baby toys for a well known toy manufacturer in Nuremberg,
then powder-coated with child friendly pigment (that's what the
company here does) and then assembled in home work. You could see
that everyone in the powder coating company was very proud of this
export story. It's obviously a niche market, but I heard a radio
report today about a national competition called "Our village has a
future", which looked at how to sustain rural local economies, and
obviously it's about getting money in and keeping it there. Like
the famous NEF (New Economics Foundation) story in Marsh Farm near
Luton, where they found out that the locals ordered pizza in from
outside worth 1 Million £ per year. What was the obvious action?
Opening a local pizza delivery service.
The main indicator is the tree in front of the chapel. The snow
is arbitrary, even though quite heavy this year.
Windows might get cleaned - but probably not in this weather. The
pub is less busy than usual. Christmas starts after lunch on
Christmas eve, and presents will be done with by 6pm - before
people have, well had in the past, to go to milk their cows.
Sauerkraut is in jars by now.
No, it's not snow, but home made potatoe dumplings - a farely
rare species even in what could be called dumpling country. There
are very many types of dumplings and everyone is keen on them -
there is even an official dish called "Kloss mit Soss" (dumpling
with gravy - the german equivalent of chips with gravy) which you
can order for around Eur 2.50 in most countryside pubs. They're all
made from factory dumpling mixtures, which is fair enough and a
great time safer for all those women in charge of Sunday roast
(yes, there is a clearer gender divison going on), but nothing
beats the ones made from freshly boiled and mashed potatoes, with
two gently fried pieces of bread in the middle.
Pigs and art seem to like each other. Remember the
"house for pigs and people" by Rosemarie Trockel and Karsten
Höller for documenta X. Or Atelier van Lieshouts photo series of
slaughtering a pig in their 1997 manual, or their version of a
toilet. Not to mention the painful "Orgien und
Mysterien Theater" von Hermann Nitsch.
Last week I walked into a film screening ("Luna Park") by
Heather&Ivan Morison at firstsite
in Colchester, where the butchering of a pig is part of the
documentary of the making of a dinosaur in Serbia. Grizedale Arts
let us know about their pigs on the Lawson Park
blog, and last not least, we're planning a home slaughter here
for January - not so much for art reasons, but to remember how it's
We had our slot for distilling today, and came proudly back with
20l of schnaps. Mr Leicht who runs and owns the destillery was
rather chatty, and told us that his greatgreat....father saw a
distillery in France during the French-german war in 1872 (!), and
brought the idea back home. The handles of the current destillery
are from back them, all other parts have been replaced many times
over. It is set up as a "public private distillery"* where fruit
tree owners pay for getting their schnaps made. Until the 1950ies
it was predominantely used for distilling potatos and grain - only
with the introduction of export fruit people could afford to turn
their cherries and apples and plums into schnaps.
* this is the closests translation we can find for what is
called a "Lohnbrennerei" in German.
... playmobil style. The skeleton pirate figure in the middle is
Baby Jesus. So they say.
The chapel has been built 59 years ago by the villagers on
public land, with donated work and material and no external
support. It needs some renovation work soon, but of course 60 years
later the municipality has changed and informal money and work flow
seems less possible. So it's probably going to be a standoff
between villagers who want the mayor to pay for the work, and the
municipality who wants the villagers to start an association to
raise funds for the renovation. The official church interestingly
doesn't get involved. This is not the only building with ownership
issues. There are three more road side crosses and another small
chapel which require some renovation. They've all been "donated" by
individuals and families at the time and are now practically
ownerless. It is felt that they belong to the village and people
like Rosa remember who built it and why, and it' ll have to become
a public issue for them to remain.
I'm sure that everyone has plenty of snow stories at the moment,
but I thought this one is quite good.
I got stuck on a high speed train from Berlin back home to Höfen -
due to severe weather conditions in the Frankonian Forest. Four
hours travel time turned into eighteen, and I spent eight hours on
a platform (well, in the train) in snowy Saalfeld without any
useful announcement of what was going on. Positive side effects
were that the local Kiosk had sales records, that I spoke to people
I normally don't meet and that whole books could be read. Today I
found out that my brother - who I don't see very much - was on the
same train, and we didn't bump into each other. He travels first
class, is well equipped mobile phone and internet wise (unlike me
who lives with a british pay-as-you go mobile here) and decided to
book into a local hotel. I stayed on the train, kind of believing
in what I remember as a functioning train system (big mistake!). We
both arrived in Southern Germany at roughly the same time the next