Making The Rounds

People ask me how I don’t get bored running the same loop after over twenty years. Out the door, up the road that leads out of the village towards the Jura mountains, past the little château and then up through the fields that skirt the French border to Switzerland.

The loop is a little over 4 km (2.5 mi), and I usually do it twice. Most of it is along a gravel road that divides the local golf course from agricultural land, with views of the Alps and Lake Geneva to the east, and the Jura to the west. The river Rhône is at the heart of a V between two ridges directly to the south. How could these views ever become boring? Summer, autumn, winter, spring, they change with every week – loud with birdsong in the spring and summer, crickets in the evening and cows noisily grazing in the morning. Silence and snow in the winter.

When it’s not hazy, I can see Mont Blanc as if it’s within a short sprint. When the clouds and fog descend, I might as well be living in the plains.

Hay bale, clouds, France, summer
Fallen harvest with the Jura beyond – this round bale clearly fell off the truck. The birds are picking it apart, day by day.
Photo: PKR

Earlier this year, I was out with a friend who grew up on an Austrian farm, and she pointed out another facet I hadn’t consciously noticed, even after two decades:

The local farmer (his farm is just past the château on the edge of the village) works all the surrounding fields here. He also has a herd of free-range dairy cows. What my friend noticed was just how carefully he rotates his crops, leaving many of the small fields fallow and grazed by the cows. The green spaces between the fields and the path are packed with blooming flowers, loud with the sound of busy insects.

France, field, wheat, summer
Recently shorn fields, soon to be plowed and either left fallow, or planted with a new crop.
Photo: PKR

The fields rotate through various crops – clover, wheat, corn, potatoes, barley, rapeseed. “This is old-school farming,” she marveled. “This means he’s using less fertilizer, he’s letting the cows do the work in each fallow field, he’s taking care of the soil.”

A field clock of harvest and cows: One more thing to watch as the seasons and years pass and I make my rounds.

cows, dairy, field, summer
I met these girls just after they’d been herded onto a fresh field. The farmer had just closed the fencing and was marching away with his dog. The cows were still deciding whether this field was acceptable or not.
Photo: PKR