As you may know, I like to educate as well as entertain, so…
Transhumance – what is it? It’s a word that I’d certainly never come across in all my long years until my very learned friend, Pete, told me about it. Dictionary.com defines it as:
“the seasonal migration of livestock, and the people who tend them, between lowlands and adjacent mountains.”
Although a noun, it’s derived from the French verb transhumer – to shift ground, which itself is modelled on the Spanish, trashumar.
This activity takes place in our local villages twice a year, but I’ve never got involved until yesterday, when I accepted an open invitation from Marius of the Ferme de Clos Lombard to accompany his cows up to the meadows near Lac d’Arbey.
The cows spend most of the winter down in the valley inside their sheds, only coming out if and when the weather allows. So you can imagine their joy at spending the summer on the open fields high on the alpage (that’s the verdant area of open land between the valley and the high, rocky mountain peaks).
After setting off through the village and briefly along the road to Lannaz, the procession of cows and people took to the path up to the far side of Lac d’Arbey. About half way, there was a short pause for the cows, and some of the people I might add, to catch their breath. (I know how they feel after a winter of inactivity!) Two or three (cows that is) made bids for early freedom, but they were soon brought back into line by the helpful followers. And then finally, after a few more short breaks, we all arrived at the lake where not only the cows took to wading in…