The Goat Farm In Germany (BREXIT TOUR)

After ten months of travelling willy-nilly and not really staying anywhere longer than a few days, we ended up on a goat farm in southern Germany for two weeks! It was a fantastic experience that definitely changed both myself and Ross for the better.

A couple of months before, our lovely friend Hannah had introduced us to the website HelpX, which is exactly like Work Away if you've heard of that - where you work in return for food and board. If you want to become a "helper" then you have to become a member of the HelpX website, which costs £20 (or Euros if you prefer) for a single person or a couple. The "hosts" put a listing on HelpX describing what they need help with and their lifestyle. The helpers then contact the hosts if they have any questions or want to organise visiting and helping. The website is pretty old school but we decided to try it out anyway as there were a few very interesting listings on there.

However, there were also some rather strange listings on the site... Such as men who would only take female helpers; people who didn't provide food but instead proffered life counselling; families who were happy to have a complete stranger take care of their child for them... So beware the dodgy sounding ones and tread carefully through the different hosts!

We messaged a couple of places that we really loved the look of in Slovenia, but ended being let down because no one replied to our enquiries. Feeling a little forlorn, we decided to switch the dates for our HelpX experience to the end of our trip, when we would be in Germany instead (hoping that the Germans would be more responsive!). We eventually found the perfect listing - an organic goat farm in Southern Germany with people who spoke, as they put it, "some English" (though this turned out to be a very modest statement) who were happy to feed vegetarians and who appeared to be willing to teach us more about the German culture and language. We sent our last hopeful message and waited to see if we would get a reply this time...

We heard nothing for weeks and weeks, UNTIL the first day of the dates we had requested. By this time, we had carried on driving up through Germany, assuming that our goat farm experience was never going to happen! But we were sent a sincere apology (we should have known that older farmers would be less likely to check their online profiles) and the message ended with a jokey "You can still come and help us out if you don't have anything else lined up!". After reading the message, Ross and I looked at each other questioningly. We could say it was too late and just carry on travelling, but luckily we both agreed to turn the van around and head to the mysterious goat farm!

The two hour drive seemed longer because I was bricking it a little... I had, what I call, "stress belly" and it got worse the closer that we got to our destination! But I needn't have worried: once we had arrived, we were quickly greeted by a very friendly and welcoming middle-aged couple, Jakob and Margret. I was previously a little nervous about speaking German, but not only was their English superb, they were very patient with my limited German and were willing to correct and explain new words to me. This did wonders for me and increased my speaking drastically.

We were also introduced to 25 year old Anna, another local but who spoke fluent English! In fact, I initially thought that she was a fellow Englishwoman and was rather surprised to find out that she was German! These three people would turn out to be great friends, and we were treated as part of the family while we were staying with them.

The farm itself was set up to make organic cheese. They had about 6 types of goat cheese that they made, mostly by combining it with other beautiful organic ingredients, such as honey and herbs. Every part of the process was done on the farm: they grew the crops to feed the goats, milked the goats themselves, pasteurised the milk, made the cheese in their little dairy, then sold the cheese themselves at the local market.

We would work varying amounts each day, depending on how we felt and what Magret and Jakob wanted help with, for example: chores, collecting fruit, milking the goats, decorating the cheese, chopping and stacking wood, mucking out stables, sorting a big box of screws into different sizes and cleaning out what we affectionately called "The Shit Pit" (I think that's all you need to know about that).

My favourite job was definitely milking the goats! It was harder than I'd thought it was going to be, but eventually me and Ross really got the hang of it! Interestingly, just like human women, the goats each had different shaped udders and teats. This meant that milking each one needed slightly different techniques, which I hadn't appreciated before. I also learnt that goats also have such strong characters! They were naughty, they were cuddly, they were stubborn, they were cute!

Apparently goats are not easy to farm though, hence why you don't see many goat farms around. Goats need perfect conditions for them to thrive and they are very fussy about their food! Unlike sheep and cows that will eat grass forever and be happy about it, goats get bored of the same food too many times!

I must say though, that me and Ross did not have that problem. We ate delicious organic goats cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I would never have been bored of it, it was so tasty! The farm also had lots of fruit trees and a vegetable patch that churned out delocious fruit and veg for our dinners.

The family lived very simply, and cared deeply about their impact on the environment. They tried to limit the plastic and electricity they used, and they were very passionate about organic farming and how important remaining static is. As they pointed out to us, everyone wants to be bigger, have more money, expand. But the earth is not infinite, and neither are the materials we have. Instead of growing and expanding, they put their efforts into making what they have better, by trying to use what they already have.

It was such a short amount of time but we left that farm slightly different than when we entered it. We learnt so much from Margret, Jakob and Anna, and we are both truly grateful for everything they taught us and how they looked after us so well while we were there. I could probably write a novella about our time there but I think I'll leave it here. I'm sure that we will go back one day, I already miss those cheeky goats!

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