The village fete always takes place on the first weekend in October.
This blog collects notes from Höfen, a small village in Southern Germany, where Kathrin from public works was living and working for a year.
We have two openings very near-by to go to this week. One is by Manfred Frey, who helped a lot with the molds and the casting of the Butterspoon. He is showing his porcelain design at the Stadtmuseum Bad Staffelstein. The other opening is at the Kunstmühle in Mürsbach. A former mill and listed building, which is partly used for exhibitions of contemporary art - run by Familie Eller, whose son Thomas Eller is an artist based in NY.
I'm slightly feeling surrendered by masses of material that I
have to upload (mainly the new International Village
Shop website) - and having to deal with an an extremely slow
internet connection here in the village.
"Welcome to the countryside" as my fellow rural art colleagues - or colleagues in the rural - point it out. What does it mean: my parents, who live upstairs, have hand-picked mushrooms with a bread dumpling (made almost exclusively from produce from right here) for lunch. I have frozen pizza. Pretty much the same one that I would have in Hackney. Hm.
I had the name of Aida Bosch in my notes since I read about her on a mail out from akademie c/o, announcing her talk on the relevance of human-object-interactions. Googling her name now - with the upcoming RHYZOM publication in mind - it turns out that she's a professor at Erlangen University, which is only 30 miles from here. I met her this morning to talk about a possible contribution for the book to do with the role of the object in teh International Village Shop. We swapped goods, her recent book "Consumption and Exlusion" for a Frogbutterspoon and a Doily Bag from the Höfer Goods series.
It has cost me hours to work out how to get to the final RHYZOM meeting in Paris from here. From London it's two hours by train. From here it's eleven. So I finally decided to do the overnight train thing, went to the train station to get my ticket, and ........ the French train system is on strike from tomorrow on for two days. So Paris seemed seriously unreachable. It's going to be the overnight coach from Nürnberg now (can't wait) - thanks to Eurolines. Prices for flights have gone through the roof anyway.
Sweeping as in "sweeping the road" that is. And the road is - well was - always swept on a Saturday afternoon. You could do it in 12 minutes or three hours, chatting to everyone who would pass by. What seemed like a iron rule, has become more open to interpretations: "The road isn't really THAT dirty today, it will be enough to sweep it next week." There are obviously far less tractors with muddy tires around, and in general everything has become much tidier. So I sweep the road anyway, to see if I can still do it in 12 minutes, and the only remarkable thing I come across is a flat dead frog. I ask my father later, when the street had actually been tarred for the first time, and he thinks it was in the early 60ies. The tradition of the weekly street sweep was a rather short lived one.
(Again something that might get lost in translation) I had a tour around all the landmarks (milestones, or in German "Marksteine) which define our house and the land attached to it. It's obviously all surveyed digitally today, but the landmarks are there: as nails in the wall, stones deeply sunk into the ground, painted crosses on the wall, etc.
... this time it was Michael Back, who dropped by on the off chance. Mr Back held a clay seminar as part of the RHYZOM workshop in Höfen in June. He returned some hand made clay tiles that were made during the workshops and which he he had fired for free at the historic clay factory at the open air museum in Bad Windsheim. He came in for a drink and DJ talked to him about his pottery A levels and his old pottery tutor in Lancaster. We also talked a bit about plans for the Höfer Waren 2010 and the idea to develop a new product that combines fruit and clay. He's an incredibly nice and knowledgeable man and offered to stay involved further. He left with a nice bottle of red Frankonian wine for now, and watch this space for some new clay product development.
I asked Andi in passing on the street at around lunch time today, if he knew any places for picking elderberries (see myambition below to get some schnaps out of some fruit this autumn). Three hours later the door bell rings, and it was Rosi - Andi's wife - who had come to our house, to tell me that Andi just rang her from his mobile, to let me know that there were ripe elderberries near where he was working that afternoon (apologies for very long german-style sentences..). And that I have to pick them today, because tomorrow by 8am the bushes might be gone, because the path will be dug up as part of the land rationalisation scheme that's going on all around the village (after it had been under negotiation for 17 years). We went, and Andi was still there. He offered to cut the bushes down so it would be easier to pick the berries, but I didn't think that was necessary. So we picked three buckets before it'll all be gone tomorrow.
Three things to do today:
To talk to Sergej who knows mushrooms really well, and to ask him if I could come on a mushroom tour through the woods with him.
To preserve the juice made from the elderflowerberries from Berlin.
To pick the runner beans in the garden.
The annual viilage fete season is slowly reaching its end, but for now we can still go to a local village fete every weekend. The last two days is was Zaugendorf - 3 miles away - which doesn't have a pub or shop anymore, but once a year everyone gets together to run this fete: a large awning, food stalls and very good beer, and the obligatory super-sticky-sweets stall.
I had a conversation with DJ whose parents are here from the UK - how difficult it actually is for a visitor from outside to grasp the fete. Everything - to me - seems very direct, and most people at the fete would be able to name very precisely where the different parts come from and who is doing what during the two days. It is a very local economy that is happening here, and nothing (but the sweets stall) is "outsourced" to a commercial outsider party.
The (kind of no) fruit situation and my perosal task to make some schnaps whilst I'm here have led to a new food route: two bags of elderflower berries from the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (as part of myvillages.org starting the Vorratskammer project) in Berlin have travelled with me to Höfen - by high speed train. I am waiting for some sunnier weather to match them with some rural berries, and to reach the crucial 100l volume that is needed to take it to the official distillery.
Andi very kindly drives us around the fields on his tractor once in a while. The kids are superhappy - all bouncy and bumpy and no safety belts - and I got a good update on the latest Land Rationalising Programme (Flurbereinigung). Can you see how wide and solid and mud free the lanes now are? This is obviously not part of my memory of a rather unorganised and romantic landscape around my village, where you could wander around overgrown lanes and flooded meadows. Those lanes and landscaping is rationalisation and engineering on quite a level, and listening to Andi is a good lesson in avoiding nostalgia about the countryside that I never even used as a farmer.
Swapped a cucumber and some peppers for a bucket full of blackberries with Waltraute Müller - arrange by my mother Heidi Böhm.
It had never occured to me until today, that my ambition to make some of my own schnaps in Höfen might be cut short by the fact that there is simply not enough fruit. A very long and very cold spring, and a cold and wet summer mean that there isn't any of the surplus fruit that normally fuels local wine and schnaps production: apples, pears, plums.
After a walk around the fields I can report that there are luckily some trees with fruit, and it's now a matter of who owns them and if they harvest them, in order to rescue my schnaps plans. Otherwise I will have to divert to elderflower and rosehip, which are both classified " specialist" schnaps - probably because it's incredibly timeconsuming business - which means my Schnaps would indeed be for very special occasions only.