From mountain grass to decorative panel

Interview with Joseph Schlatter, also known as "Peppi", a farmer in the Austrian Tyrol.

Five of the fourteen models in the SuperOrganic collection are made with Peppi's hay, which is all natural, organic, and additive-free. Peppi harvests the alpine grasses from the mountain pastures in August, at 1700 meters and higher. Once the flowers have spread their seeds, he can start the hard work with his family.

Why do mountain pastures have to be mowed?

It is important to mow and collect these grasses to prevent them from spilling onto the ground and forming a huge carpet of grasses and flowers that would prevent the growth of other plants. This is also the best way to limit the risk of avalanches in winter. Too few of us farmers mow the mountain pastures because it is a very physical work that is not profitable.

How do you harvest the hay?

At this altitude, the slopes are too steep to use a motorized mower. So we are left with using a scythe. For that, we need an absolutely perfect cutting edge and that is why we sharpen it very regularly. Hand mowing with a scythe is a science in itself. There are even championships!

What makes a good scythe?

The most important thing is the cutting edge! The scythe must be constantly kept in serviceable condition to ensure efficient use and a long life. Broken tips on the cutting blade are repaired during sharpening. I used to harvest hay when I was a child. I had my own scythe and I even learned to build one with my father. Very few people still know this traditional craft.

How long does it take to dry the hay?

The cut grasses and flowers stay in the meadow for about 3 days, depending on daytime temperature, and are turned over at least once. Good weather is important! The hay is then raked with a large, wide rake.

How do you store hay?

The barns are at the bottom of the meadow and the hay is stored in open air. To avoid having to rake the hay all over the slope of the meadow, we wrap it in tarps, which are then carried on the shoulder back to the barn where it is spread out. This is a very dusty and exhausting activity.

Why does hay smell so nice?

I can recognize the smell of hay with my eyes closed. Coumarin is what gives hay its distinctive, pleasant, and aromatic smell. Coumarin is a natural substance that perfume designers love because of its delicate and stable smell.

Are all hays the same?

With a little bit of experience, one can recognize the origin of the grass in each meadow. I can immediately recognize hay that does not come from my pasture.


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