Roman has been coming to photograph the Straubs each year for the last four years. Today we sit in their living room while Frau Straub sets out coffee and biscuits for us. I smile a lot and nod at what I hope are appropriate moments. Herr Straub dominates the conversation and Frau Straub sits beside him. I throw in the odd question that Roman translates and I am rewarded with Frau Straub’s presentation of the pears she has drying in the oven, followed by a sack of cherry stones. The fruit and nuts from their trees are made into preserves, pies and cider or eaten fresh.The cherry stones are dried and sewn into packs. They are also placed in the oven to be heated and used as bed warmers. Herr Straub’s mother gave them a cherry stone bed warmer as a wedding present in 1963. Frau Straub has been making them ever since.
The Straubs valued self sufficiency, recycling and organic farming long before these phrases were even used. Herr Straub proudly tells Roman that their bedroom furniture is fifty years old and there is nothing wrong with it. And he is right. It is functional and in good order, but not fashionable. The same goes for the car and the tractor. Many of their purchases can be traced to the year they married.
We go outside and Herr Straub goes to his bicycle. Roman is surprised that he is still able to ride it as his back is bent. He isn’t. Last year he fell off and his doctor has forbidden him to ride it anymore, so now he wheels it for support, refusing to succumb to a mobility walker.
Frau Straub, walks ahead and brings back Flecki, their cow, who is treated more like a family pet than a stock animal. Finally we walk down to the trees, which Herr Straub defended against removal. He hugs the Linden tree his father planted in 1918 to celebrate the end of World War 1 and then shows us the walnut tree he planted beside it in 1945, commemorating the end of World War 2.
Laden down with a bag of apples and pears and a handful of walnuts we bid farewell to these gentle people of the land and hope that next year we will have the privilege of visiting them again.
Herr and Frau Straub in their living room in Stachen, Switzerland
Frau Straub displaying a tray of dried pears
Herr Straub reminiscing
Herr Straub wearing his traditional Swiss Farmers outfit
Beloved Flecky the 26 year old house cow
Herr Straub hugging the Linden tree his father planted to celebrate the end of WW1 in 1918
Herr Straub standing between the two Peace trees he and his father planted