My wife’s suggestion seemed innocent enough: let’s visit my cousins on the farm for a couple days before the wedding. I was at the farm once – in the winter of 2013 – and it seemed like an okay suggestion, as long as I could find internet. “Oh don’t worry, you have your cell phone and USB internet,” said my wife.
The farm is located near the village of Mulfingen, in Baden-Württemberg near the Bavarian border, with Schwäbisch Hall the nearest town about 25km away. This area of Germany, like much of the country, is beautiful and filled with rolling green hills and giant shade trees. As we drove in from Frankfurt, I thought this would be a nice experience, a change of pace to remind me how my grandparents, who were farmers in the Dakotas, grew up.
My hopes for a nice stay were quickly dashed. First, the stench was nearly unbearable. One of my uncles lived in a farming community in California’s Central Valley so I was used to the smell of animals and agriculture, but this was overwhelmingly bad – even inside the farmhouse.
And yet I won’t say that the worst thing. You get used to bad smells after a few hours – trying living in the smog of Beijing for a week. There is no other choice but to get used to it. But when you step outside after being inside for a few hours, it hits you again, more strongly than before. Ugh.
Next, the internet. My whole livelihood is based on having stable access to the internet, so wherever I go I take along a mobile phone capable of tethering data and a USB internet stick, as two redundant internet sources in case my locale does not have wi-fi. Here, I was told that the “W-Lan ist kaputt”, my USB stick could not pick up a signal, and I only had 2G “EDGE” data on my phone, which only worked if I stood in the center of the fallow corn field and held my phone up above my head. No joke.
Thankfully, the wi-fi wasn’t really broken, just needed some tinkering, and I eventually secured a connection inside the farmhouse. Had that not been the case – and in retrospect, I wish it had been the case – we would have left immediately to seek a hotel in Schwäbisch Hall.
I wish I had, because of the farm’s most annoying feature in the summer months – flies. A lot of flies. My wife’s cousins have six children, five who work the farm. Late in the evening, after the sun went down and all the chores were complete, we sat down at the giant table in the dining room for a light meal (a proper German farm always serves the main meal around 2pm). Around the table were the seven family members, two boarders, and my wife and I…and the flies. Dozens of them. No one seemed to pay any attention to them – they were on the bread, on the fruit, on the salad, on the table, on the lights, on the floor…just ignore them, they don’t bite you.
Which leads me to by far the worst thing about the farm: things that do bite you. When the flies go to bed at night, the mosquitos wake up and come out in force. Our room was full of them and although my wife and I did our best to genocide them before going to sleep, it seems we missed a few, because I woke up the next morning covered in bites. Right now, my face looks like I just had a bad acne breakout, though it is not acne, just itchy mosquito bites.
So I told Heidi there will be no more visits to the farm unless she wants to go alone. She nodded her head in sheepish agreement, though she did not have nearly as horrible a time as I did. “Your blood must be sweeter,” she remarked.
Now that I have scared you away, let me recount the good of this farm – the cousins are incredibly hardworking people and I don’t know how they do it. I work long hours, yet I can sit in a chair or on my bed or by the pool and do my work. We sat down to a late supper at around 10pm after they completed the evening chores and they would be up (with the delightful crow of the roosters) at 5am to do it all again. They operate a relatively small family farm, but with pride. It has been in the family for generations and they take special care of their crops and livestock.
The farm is called the “Railhof”, which literally translated means nothing, but is akin to “Tara”, the name of the plantation in Gone with the Wind. There are a few farms in the community and everyone gives their farm a name.
The food truly is farm fresh – fresh cow milk only an hour old, vegetables and fruits from the garden, homemade bread, butter, and marmalade. That was nice.
It is a huge farmhouse and they do accept boarders. If after reading my account above you are still interested in suicide an authentic farm experience, feel free to send me an e-mail and I will put you in touch with the farm. And, they’ll be happy to house you and feed you for a nominal fee and taking part in the daily chores. Fun, fun! But bring your insect repellent please.
The beautiful lake at sunset…in which the beatiful mosquitos congregate
We rode these horses in 2013 – now they are 27 years old, “dead” as my wife calls them
No farm would be completed without the kind old farm dog
Our 5am alarm clock
The cousins sell their meat…bred, raised, and slaughtered at the source
BTW, remember that wedding? Well, here was the view from mountain top where the reception was held:
Not Lufthansa First Class or St. John’s, but beautiful
I am a city slicker and I don’t think that will ever change – the farm may have built a little bit of character, but was not a good experience overall. As I sit reflecting on the week and scratching my many mosquito bites, hoping I have not contracted malaria, trying to catch up on work, I can only say that I miss Frankfurt and miss LA!