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For centuries, the farmers of the Swiss mountains have been able to interpret wind, clouds and the signs of the flora and fauna - a visit to the "Muotathal weather forecasters", who continue this valuable tradition.
The weather is constantly changing in the mountains above Schwyz. From the southern slope of the Little and Big Myths you look down on the canton city
It is raining heavily, the sky does not provide a ray of hope. The day before, three weather services have announced heavy precipitation - for here on the Upper Rhine and for the town of Schwyz, 250 kilometers further south. But Alois Holdener has promised a dry walk on the phone with "Des passt scho". After Basel it suddenly clears up. In Zurich, the clouds are gaining in structure. It's amazing: In Schwyz Alois is waiting under a gray, but rain-proof cloud cover next to his SUV. From the canopy of the beeches it drips - the only sound beside our crunching steps. In the Mythenwald we have put on the hiking boots. "The forest can only be read as a whole," says Alois, pointing to the narrow spruce trunks. Drought spruce branches, fallen leaves, amount and texture of the spruce cones - all this he observes to make his predictions.
Weather farmer Alois Holdener explains to editor Katharina Wiegert what he is looking for in the forest.
Alois is one of six "Muotathal weather prophets". The men can predict the weather particularly well. He pays attention to the clues of the forest: If an unusually large number of spruce cones are lying on the forest floor, this means that a hard winter is imminent: The trees produce more in time, because many seeds will not survive the cold. The weather has a long tradition in the rugged Alpine foothills: wind, rain, sun and thunderstorms often change abruptly here. Earlier, when there was no TV or radio, the peasants tried to recognize the harbingers of the weather. For farmers and mountain farmers, this was vital. Since not every native developed real intuition and observation, he was dependent on so-called messenger runners. They brought the news of the weather from the valley to the mountain.
"From my farm, I can see very well where the weather is heading, what it is dumping," says Martin Holdener
"Ma has to be talented for Wattr ha, s' Gschpüri", Martin Holdener pithily comments. The 48-year-old farmer has alert eyes and a curly beard, he has been a weather prophet for eleven years. Its yard at an altitude of about 1,200 meters gives a clear view of the nearby Rigi, the lakes and valleys. Martin observes, among other things, the activities of mice and moles to provide a long-term weather forecast. A clue gives the tail length of mice in the spring: If the tails stay nice long, the mice did not get many young ones and it stands before a warm, beautiful summer. Mice with shorter tails and many offspring indicate a rainy, rather cool summer: Under such adverse conditions, they would secure their existence with many offspring.
Every weather prophet is attentive to other signs in nature
Peter Suter has a lot of experience in the weather. He is still regularly traveling between the peaks, where he observes plants, clouds and animals
In the afternoon, the weather in the Muotathal is moody. From the front bridge you could walk into the valley in the direction of sheep clouds with a blue sky. Or out of the valley into the threatening thunderstorm. Actually, the valley is well protected from the changing west wind. "But cold air flows badly. And we do not have that much sun, "explains Peter Suter. We are sitting in the room of the 83-year-old, only a few hundred meters further. The mountain belongs to Peter like his wiry figure. "If snails move up the plant stem, there will be rain in the evening. Stay calm or slide down, or is good weather, "says the former sandblaster. If in the summer the pine tops curve north or east, it rains the next morning. Bent at right angles, they announce bad weather on the same evening. On walks, the 83-year-old pays special attention to the plants from 1400 meters altitude. "Alpine Rose or Yellow Gentian blossoms for the second time in October, winter becomes long. On the alp you do not like to see spring flowers in autumn, "says Peter.
The other three weather prophets are quite different: Hobby painter Benny Wagner compares old monastery records with the current weather development, hunter Karl Reichmuth pays attention to the fur thickness of wild and fox, Grim Reaper Martin Horat interprets the signs of snow, bogs or ants. Because of their extensive knowledge, they respect and respect the six nationwide. But nature does not always work according to rules."There are mice that are not weather-sensitive," says Martin, "that's just like humans." Because the flora in the valley is often overfertilized, Peter only examines mountain flowers.
Nature is still puzzling
Alois Holdener tells Katharina Wiegert about the past life in the Alps
A little detective work is also part of this: Alois registers fewer and fewer squirrels, Peter discovered small worms in the fruit stands of the Alpenrose last autumn, which he does not know. "I do not have a solution yet," he admits. And Martin is well aware of long-term changes, such as rising temperatures. But he, who lives with his livestock year-round after the winter time, quietly trusted Mother Earth: "Nature, you can not disturb."