This blog collects notes from Höfen, a small village in Southern
Germany, where Kathrin from public works was living and working for
Every family with a child ready for the first communion this
coming sunday is this week busy with making cakes and special sweet
dumplings, to be delivered to each household in the village. We
just got a bag full from the neighbours and in return it's money or
a gift, and a card.
"Raschpeln" or "Ratschen" is the bell replacement between Good
Friday and Easter Saturday. Kids walk the village three times a day
with their wooden instruments, and try an be as noisy as possible.
At the end they collect money and sweet from each housefold, and
considering the current minimum wage for adults, they did pretty
well this year. Almost 5 euror per kid per sessions plus bags of
This definitely means that spring is in full swing. We had our
first proper portion of white asparagus from a field in the garden
today. Cut it, peel it, boil it, and then just add a bit of melted
butter and freshly chopped chives. You can buy it everywhere now,
from the side of a field to the street veg markets and any
supermarket. It ain't cheap, at least not the local stuff, which
has more to do with labour costs. Because white asparagus needs to
be harvested just as the "heads" are showing, and the season is
from now until St Johns on 24th June. So this means a lot of
walking up and down the field in early mornings.
Always reminds me of the Fumata - the white smoke that signals
the end of a papal election. This smoke means that our neighbours
brew a new round of beer, which takes around 6 weeks to be ready.
Almost every village around here has a working brewery, and the
beer is served directly. Upper Frankonia - the area here - has the
the world’s greatest density of breweries, and half a liter
shouldn't be more than two euros.
Bernhard and Bärbl have opened their "shop' again - for Easter.
Last time we
went just before X-Mas, and now of course the animal range has
changed from bull to rabbit and from reindeer to chick. It seems
that there is much more Easter decoration floating around in public
than a few years ago. Ceramic easter bunnies looking after front
gardens and front doors, chicks in all sorts of material and size
appearing amongst flowers and bushes, countless easter eggs and
ribbons hanging on almost everything. There are also more
traditionally shaped easter wells around, which go up on Palm
Sunday and come down on Whitsunday.
Höfen had such an easter well until a few years ago, but then the
man died who always got the special green from the woods, and no
one new could be found to do it. The iron frame used as an under
construction has also disappeared. Only the decorated eggs are
stored in the attic of the community house, probably a couple of
I've been to Playmobil Land at Playmobil HQ in Zirndorf which is
60 miles away. Everyone who ever had to do with Playmobil is amazed
by all the tiny details that come with it. From the strips for
binoculars, to screwdrivers for the spare wheel and white bandages
for injured animals. So at Playmobil Land this is multiplied many
times over without giving up on any of this. There is so much staff
there who do nothing but constantly collect, sort and redistribute
the milions of tiny parts which at home normally end up in the
Cherry, apple, damson, magnolia.
We went back to the Götz brick factory across the hill - to see
the pit and the machinery, and were (again) amazed by how direct
brick making is. The factory sits right next to the pits, the old
one is now exhausted and has filled up with water, and small
amounts of clay are dug twice a year for unfired bricks and paint
products. This has clearly created an industrial landscape,
something I never associate with neighbouring villages. The factory
hall is vast, chilly and filled with machinery that has produced 10
milion bricks a year until 1989. It's another one of the big empty
volumes - like barns - which are not used anymore, but so much
bigger, and I don' t envy the family who still owns it.
Frau Götz will come to the next clay event in Höfen, on Monday
9th May, to talk about clay as a building material and afterwards
we will offer clay facials.
Herbal walks, edible wild plant tours, cooking with weeds ...
this spring's fashion has arrived at Höfen, too - or again. On my
search for someone to help with the next clay event, I spoke to
Sylvia at the other end of the village, and it turns out that she's
just finishing a course as a herbalist. She's showing me "Giersch",
or more correctly, is telling me the name for what I simply know as
a garden weed. Regina, a friend from Nuremberg was here, and
reassured us that it s fine to eat violets and daisies just as they
are. And because it's all so exiting, daisy buds get pickled now,
violets chrystalized, nettles steamed...
"Country children are, sadly, one of the ingredients of our
nostalgia-ridden rural mythology. We still half-believe them to be
blessed with special health and innosence, and to have more earth
wisdom than street credibility. The reality, as Colin Ward so
vividly documents here, is often that they are quite simply cut
Richard Mabey in his forward to Colin Ward's "The Child
in the Country", published in 1988, ten years after "The
Child in the City".