This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Margaret talks with Sam and Amadeo about their experiences shepherding in the Swiss Alps. They talk about the problems that shepherds are facing in Switzerland with wolves, climate change, city mentalities, and right-wing propaganda.
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.
Live Like the World is Dying: Sam and Amadeo on Sheep, Wolves, and Climate Change
**Margaret ** 00:16
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the times. I’m your host today, Margaret Killjoy and this is an episode about sheep…and sheep farming. Shepherding, I believe we might want to call it, in the Alps. I’m really excited about it. We’ve been planning this episode for a while, because we are going to be talking to two sheep farmers in the Alps about climate change and about the return of wolves and about ecology and about why the right-wing picks all the wrong talking points and a bunch of other stuff. But first, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network.
**Margaret ** 01:52
Okay, we’re back. So if y’all could introduce yourselves with your name…your names, your pronouns, and I guess just a little bit about your background with shepherding.
**Sam ** 02:05
All right, Hi, I’m Sam, my pronouns she/her and we are in Vienna right now. And yeah, I’m an artist and also a bit of a writer, filmmaker. I do a lot of that kind of stuff. Lately I have been working a lot with metal and smithing And yeah, I went with Amadeo on a sheep farm and Alps in Valais in Switzerland. And we want to tell you a bit about our experience.
**Amadeo ** 02:38
Yeah, my name is Amadeo. He/him. I’m 38. Actually, I started to work as a teacher now. I teach biology and some other stuff, politics, and so on. And yeah, This was my third year…third summer, not third year, third season to work as a shepherd but the first time with sheep, actually. Before that I worked with cows and milking and so on. Yeah, and for me it was also the first time with sheep and the first time in this area of Switzerland. I’m Austrian. But the payment in Austria is really bad so we went to Switzerland. So we are also the working migrants. Or what do you call it in English?
**Margaret ** 03:31
Migrant workers, I guess.
**Amadeo ** 03:34
**Margaret ** 03:36
Okay, so what brought you all to sheep farming or to farming in general as like the thing to go do with your summers for work?
**Amadeo ** 03:47
**Sam ** 03:48
Yeah, you can.
**Amadeo ** 03:50
So, I had this experience in 2020 and 21, I think, and I really liked it in a way. It was very hard work back then, but I learned a lot. And we met after that, actually, and decided we would like to go together. And then we just hit up the internet and looked for work and places to go and then we found this place that sounded pretty ideal for us because it was sheep farming and no milking, which is nice. I didn’t want to do the milking job and do cheesemaking and so on again, I wanted to stay outside mostly, like the whole day under the sky and not in the staple. And yeah, we found this place where you don’t need your own dogs, which is nice. We were working with blacknose sheep, they’re called. It’s like a breed that is only bred in this area. Or not only but traditionally there. And yeah, we tried to get the job and we got it.
**Sam ** 05:08
I guess we also got in because Amadeo also already had a lot of experience. And yeah, they were looking for two people there and without dogs. And yeah, I also got…I was really lucky that I was with Amadeo because, you know, like some very daily stuff, he already was prepared for this job. Like, you need a lot of some equipment and know what to take. And yeah, I was really….
**Amadeo ** 05:36
The thing was that, of course, the owners of the sheep, they want someone who has some experience because it happens often that you think, "Oh, it’s nice. It’s in the mountains. It’s beautiful." And then people after two weeks, three weeks, they say, "No way. I can’t work here. It’s way too hard." I mean, it’s like pretty hard work. It’s outside all day. With rain, with snow sometimes. And you work from sunup to sundown every day, seven days a week. And many people underestimate it because there’s like, I don’t know, this idea drawn of what it’s like to work in the mountains and it’s always beautiful. And it is. But it’s also very hard work, actually.
**Margaret ** 06:22
It seems really hard. It wouldn’t immediately occur to me that I could just go run out and become a shepherd like tomorrow. But I have two questions. And they’re related. And one is, what does an average day look like for a shepherd in an Alpine Valley? And the second question that’s related is, do you get a shepherd’s crook?
**Sam ** 06:42
Yeah, well, the day starts with sunrise. Around five was when the summer started. We got there in mid of June. I stayed till mid of September. Amadeo had to leave a bit earlier. And the day ends with sunset. And yeah, you bring the sheep back into the night pen. You say, "pen," huh? Like a space where there is electricity on. Pen? [Said with air of not being sure if it’s the correct word]
**Amadeo ** 07:15
Do you know what that is? Or, did we get the right word?
**Margaret ** 07:17
Like an animal pen? Or is it a barn?
**Amadeo ** 07:19
Yeah, it’s like it has no roof. It’s not a barn. It has no roof. It’s just a fence. An area fenced. A fenced in area with strong electricity because of the wolves.
**Margaret ** 07:35
Oh, yeah. Okay, it has an electric fence. Yeah,
**Sam ** 07:37
yeah, exactly. And yeah, we would move every two weeks to a new pasture with the sheep. And there were 12 farmers or sheepherders. They’re not all farmers. They also have another life. Most of them have another job. They work as bus drivers in heavy industry. And yeah, they also are doing a lot of work. So they’re working with us there. We were there most of the time alone, but they come on weekends. They bring us food. They set up the pastures, lines, the fences too. Yeah. And so then we stay out with the sheep all day, any weather. And yeah, also, when we moved the pasture, they came for help because it’s hard to change the pasture. You sometimes have to cross a river. And….
**Margaret ** 08:29
Wait, how do you cross the river? Do you just like drive them through the river?
**Amadeo ** 08:33
**Margaret ** 08:35
Like , "Go swim!"
**Amadeo ** 08:38
It was not such. It was more like a stream than the river. A river sounds bigger than it was.
**Sam ** 08:48
It was like this, like we always make a plan in the evening. Even a drawing. We were five people planning this. And then it always ends up in pretty much chaos and completely different. And in the end they were screaming, "Sam! Go! Go!" And I was like, I even had shoes on and the first sheep I was pulling, just one sheep, with all my strength through the river. And then all the sheep follow.
**Margaret ** 09:14
Okay, okay. I have friends who keep sheep but in the city. And they just keep like six of them or something. And it’s just a very different thing than like a free ranging sheep. And so it’s hard for me to conceptualize.
**Amadeo ** 09:30
We had 400.
**Margaret ** 09:32
Yeah, that’s more than six. I’m good at numbers. That’s amazing. Okay, cool.
**Sam ** 09:38
So part of the daily routine is also to do the basic medical care. So we were introduced to that. Sometimes they have claw problems. [Claws are sheep toes]
**Amadeo ** 09:38
Problems with the claws.
**Sam ** 09:39
Problems with claws. So this was a regular thing. And sometimes using antibiotics against….
**Amadeo ** 09:58
Yeah, and we had to clean the pen every day, which was like three to four hours of work for one of us. Like shoveling shit.
**Margaret ** 10:09
Yeah, okay. But you didn’t answer the second question. Did you have a shepherd’s crook? Do you know what that is? [Laughing]
**Amadeo ** 10:17
Not a real one. We had like umbrellas. Big ones that were very useful against the sun. And so preparedness thing number one, if you stay in the high alpine areas, the altitude of the higher pastures were 2500 meters [8,200ft], you need something to cover you against the sun and against the rain. So big umbrellas were pretty handy.
**Sam ** 10:46
And also the sheep have horns so it’s easier to catch them. You have to learn this also, but you throw yourself on the sheep and then you tackle them down. I got really good at this. And also the blacknose sheep in the valleys, they have very long hair. And, I mean, it’s breeding, right? They do it for breeding, the sheepherders. So the wool, it doesn’t get any money. It’s nothing. It’s not worth anything anymore. But for the beauty contests that the sheep go to it’s really important. It’s a tradition. And they let it grow….
**Amadeo ** 11:26
They have very long face hair so some of them are basically blind. Most of them have like, how do you say something that rings? What is it? A bell? Yes.
**Sam ** 11:39
Yeah, but they get lost because they don’t see anything and our job was also to make them hair ties and to tie the hair. And also the sheepherders would come to do this because we could not do this for 400 sheep. Yeah, so that was also part of the job, Yeah, it adds up. There are some different tasks. And yeah, since we would move with the sheep, maybe also that. So also the moving is part of. You’re always packing your stuff. You need to think, okay, how much food we need to…how much will we eat and how much do we need to take to the next hut. So organizing this is part of it. And then we had a small hut that was flied in with a helicopter. It was…
**Amadeo ** 12:12
Flown in. Flown with the helicopters for the most remote places where we would stay with the sheep because otherwise you would have to walk a long way, like 45 minutes to the cabin every day. So they brought in a tiny hut for one person, actually.
**Margaret ** 12:47
For you all?
**Amadeo ** 12:49
Yeah, yeah. Flown with the helicopter so we could stay next to the sheep.
**Sam ** 12:55
But it was so small. Like one was sleeping on the floor, the other on this little bed. And also you always need to organize this hut when you come with very wet clothes. You have no space in there. We had a little solar panel. So this was doing…. We had a fridge at least. Very high tech. I guess 20 years before, we would not have a fridge. And some light even in the cabin and a stove. A wood stove. It got crazy hot because it’s so small and yeah. So organizing this hut was also not so easy. And we were lucky because there was a lot of water in this valley. Like it’s full of water. And so we would get water from the…
**Amadeo ** 13:43
From the springs around. Wells? How you say?
**Margaret ** 13:48
Well, I mean, a well is a hole dug in the ground and then a spring is usually a natural spring or it’s like a pipe stuck in the side of a hill that the water comes out of.
**Amadeo ** 13:57
Yeah, it was a natural spring. No pipe, though. Just some moss and it was nice.
**Margaret ** 14:04
And so you can just go straight from that or do you have to filter it?
**Amadeo ** 14:08
It depends. We had, at some points, we could just drink it from there. We didn’t filter it. At the cabins we had covered springs, wells. Or springs? So we could…it was okay. But the open ones, we had to take care of where the sheep were. If the sheep can go around then it’s not so good. It was better if it was higher up where they wouldn’t go.
**Sam ** 14:42
Yeah also good that there were a lot of springs so the sheep would get water. They need to drink. And sometimes there were pastures where they could only drink one time in the day, so they also learn when they have to drink in the morning because we had really hot days also where these blacknose sheep with all the wool, they really get hot. And yeah, then also we learned how the sheep walk in every pasture. They have the same kind of routine that follows the sun also. And you kind of learn their ways. And also maybe when it’s time to act to get the sheep back, I mean, without a dog. Yeah, you need to learn this also, I guess, when it’s time.
**Amadeo ** 15:33
I always said, if you want to move against their will, you are the dog, you have to run around like crazy. They have their rhythm and they have their ways, you know?
**Margaret ** 15:46
So, did you all use dogs? Like also? Or is it sometimes dogs, sometimes no dogs?
**Amadeo ** 15:54
No, we had none. The thing is that this kind of race [breed of sheep] is very used to people and they’re not moving that far. So you can walk with them. It’s okay. It’s just the problem is you can have two kinds of dogs, right? You can have dogs to protect against wolves, for example. Then they live with the sheep. They’re inside of the flock all the time. But it’s a problem with hikers and so on. Because they attack everyone that comes near, right?
**Margaret ** 16:33
This explains a little bit about my dog.
**Amadeo ** 16:36
Yeah, and so you can really have them there because it’s also like a recreational area. This area, like a lot of people go hiking there and so on. So you can’t have dangerous dogs. And the other thing would be like dogs that help you move the flock.
**Margaret ** 17:01
**Amadeo ** 17:02
We didn’t really need it, right? Because we would have not…. I mean, it was big areas but still we would stay in one area for two weeks and then we would move on to the next area. So you didn’t really need dogs to guard them the whole day.
**Sam ** 17:23
But it’s really a calm…. The blacknose sheep are really really calm sheep. We learned this also because like certain sheep breeds, you say, right, they run way more. They run all day. And you really need dogs there. Yeah, so we….
**Amadeo ** 17:40
But with the blacknose, no, they are kind of calm. Yes. And they have a long…during the day they have a long break time.
**Sam ** 17:48
**Amadeo ** 17:49
Yeah, because if it’s getting hot up there, the sun is very strong. It can be like, I don’t know…. Like I mean the degrees don’t get up that much like in the flat areas but the sun, how you say…the sun rays are really strong.
**Margaret ** 18:11
Yeah, because when you’re at a higher altitude there’s less atmosphere to protect you, right? I know what I mean. But I don’t know the words for it.
**Amadeo ** 18:22
Yeah, the sheep have some…if it’s a hot day, they rest for four hours during midday. They try to find, you know, shady spots and just rest. And so at that time, you can also rest. If it’s rainy, you can’t rest because then they are moving too. Yeah.
**Margaret ** 18:48
It makes me…the no dog thing, I’m like…. My dog was bred to have a million different jobs. My dog is just a complete mutt of a lot of different working breeds. And so Rintrah, my dog, is never quite sure whether he’s supposed to be herding, or chasing, or retrieving things. He just wants to do all of it all the time. And one of the proudest things I’ve ever had, my proudest dog mom moment, was staying with my friend who has goats and sheep and one of the baby goats just got out of the pen and was running around the yard. And so Rintrah just herded it into a corner and then like calmly barked to inform us that he had trapped the goat. And I was just like, no one taught you how to do that. He wasn’t a year old. He just was like , "This is what I do." And so like, I imagine how happy my dog would be as a sheepdog, a herding dog, which isn’t necessarily true because he has adhd. This is a complete tangent. I just like talking about my dog. But you all, one of the reasons I want to talk to you, you talked about how a lot of this ties into preparedness and how it feels you’ve learned a lot about preparedness that you’re like taking into the rest of your life by having done this work. I was wondering if you wanted to talk more about that. As a complete, look how expertly I tangented…pivoted from one topic to another.
**Sam ** 20:11
Yeah, yeah, actually your podcast was really a bit with us in this time. It was cool, the topic of preparedness. And yeah, for me in this way, thinking about preparedness, what’s also weighed in with this work was to get somehow familiar again with the conditions of doing this work, of ways of living in this open environment, of existing there with the sheep and in this non-human environment. And also, maybe, in this threatened environment that somehow you would…. And also the organization structures, how this work is possible, that it needs a lot of people and it needs a lot of people who do this. I mean, there’s the farmers or sheepherders, they do this because they love this work. Because they have done this all the time. It’s tradition. And yeah, that they somehow save something.
**Amadeo ** 21:17
I mean, to talk about the practical side, if you stay outside the whole day, every day, seven days a week, you learn a lot of what you really need and what you don’t need. I think that was big. Yeah, it was like very valuable to me to see what I really need. And I remember listening to your podcast, and you talk a lot about being prepared in a way, like having podcasts on your phone, for example. Because if you have to stay with sheep for 10 hours a day, you need to…you had a lot of time to think. And I loved having a good book because I could read and then think for hours about it and have like, I think, yeah, more time than in the city where you are distracted from one topic to another. So this really is good to have more, I don’t know, space in my head. This was a good thing. And yeah, I think looking at, how you say, like, being outside in nature everyday and witnessing all these little changes from day-to-day. This was very, very, very special. And I think I learned so much about life and also about survival because all the animals and the plants there, they are…like, they have to survive in a very harsh environment with very short growing period, for example. I mean, lots of snow during…. Winter lasts, I don’t know, for 10 months, or like, let’s see, nine maybe? You know what I mean? Like when we came mid June, there was still snow. And in August before we…the end was the 16th, I think, of September, but we had to leave the higher pastures at the end of August because it was starting to snow heavily. And yeah, it’s like very different too.
**Sam ** 23:30
But still to also learn about the fears and the sheepherder have. And also, yeah, it’s an environment that’s threatened and that will change through climate change for sure. Like it is changing. And I thought also on some days that it gets hotter and hotter every summer. And also last year, the grass was really dry. So the sheep would get this disease called, in German, Lipinkin [cannot translate], which is little bit like herpes. Yeah. And yeah, they had to be treated, every sheep, and give some….
**Amadeo ** 24:05
Some cream. But do that for 400 sheep, man.
**Margaret ** 24:11
Yeah, that sounds like it would take a while.
**Sam ** 24:14
Medication for 400 sheep. So yeah, they have struggles they face. And then the wolf, of course, is a new topic. And yeah, they have to deal with a lot of stuff. Yeah.
**Margaret ** 24:27
Well, let’s talk about wolves. Let’s talk about–you all mentioned beforehand when we were getting ready to talk about how wolves have maybe either been reintroduced or are coming back in that area to a certain degree and how that threatens this way of life but like not as much as climate change does and how it all ties into the right-wing and I kinda wanna to hear about it.
**Amadeo ** 24:51
Yeah, since a few years, since I was like…. 2020 was really when I was first introduced to this life, to these people in Switzerland. First of all, I came from the city and I didn’t know that it’s such a big topic already. Because in Austria, we have a few wolves. But not to mention, you know, maybe a dozen. But I learned that in Switzerland since the last, I don’t know, 20 years, from a dozen they now have, I think, 250. Around 250. And, like, I don’t know, 25 packs or something, or something like this. Which doesn’t sound so much, but it’s like…it’s not such a big country. And they are a lot in these areas. For example, in Valais where we stayed, we knew that the nearest wolves are just two kilometers away. And they have offspring. So for them, they need meat and so on. And I mean, the sheep are puffy, you know. It’s like, go get them.
**Sam ** 26:01
Also, on the other side of the mountain, actually, there was another shepherd with a, I think, also around 400…. Fuck, I don’t know exactly how many sheep. And there the wolf came. And he killed, I think, seven sheeps. And also one of his dogs was attacked. So it was really close. And also the fear that we might face an attack was also really with us. And also there was a guy who takes care of the area.
**Amadeo ** 26:34
**Sam ** 26:35
Yeah, and he came and told us, "Hey, you really have to watch out. They’re really close." So yeah.
**Amadeo ** 26:42
But the thing is, the crazy thing for me is that, of course, this threatens, in a way, people that are used to putting their cattle, putting their sheep just in a meadow and leaving them, you know. Have a look once a week or something. Of course now with the wolves, it’s not possible because a wolf would kill many. They start to, you know, get into like…. If they can they kill 10 and then just take one, you know. They just…. If they [sheep] don’t run away and they don’t run far, you know, 100 years of, I don’t know, living with humans and being petted and so on, they don’t have–you know what I mean? They don’t have it in them anymore to really run. Because normally, if a wolf attacks a deer, for example, the pack can’t find any deer for another week or something because they’re all alert. They’re alert as soon as there is an encounter. With the sheep, it’s not so much. So now it’s a problem, of course, but there would be solutions. You just, you need to adjust. You need to change the way it works. Yeah, you need protection. You need people to look after the sheep and so on. And for many areas, this is really hard. Because if you have an alpine pasture that is very remote, steep hills everywhere, you know, it’s so hard to really fence it off or something. It’s not possible. So I can understand it for the farmers. It’s hard. And when we talked with them about it, they were always like, "We have to kill the wolf," you know? And it’s now protected. It’s under national protection. You cannot just shoot them. Even if they kill some of your sheep, you can’t. And there was a big–in Switzerland you have more, how you say, basic democracy. So many of the laws are decided by a vote of everyone. So there was a big vote about if the protection status of the wolves should be loosened in a way. Not that you can just hunt them but loosen in a way that you can, I don’t know, shoot some if they’re attacking cattle or….
**Margaret ** 29:11
Can you shoot them if they attack you?
**Amadeo ** 29:13
No, we had no gun. I mean, they won’t attack humans but…
**Margaret ** 29:20
I’m an American, so I’m like….Okay, so like, I think about this a lot. Okay. I’m really…the wolf thing is so interesting to me for a thousand reasons. And one is that the destruction of wolves is such a emblem of civilization. It is such an emblem of the conquest of nature, right? And you have, for example, the no wolves in Ireland thing. You know? And that the British were very into killing all the wolves in Ireland and part of that even…. Like, so you even have the Irish rebels who would be to a certain degree, would be like, "Oh, we are the wolves. Like we are the people that they’re trying to conquer," because it’s like they are the unconquered, you know, wild folk, or whatever fucking bullshit colonial thing that gets thrown at them, you know? But at the same time, it’s like…. So I’m kind of rooting for the wolves here with what you’re describing, right? I like sheep. I don’t specifically want the sheep to die. And where I live, we have coyotes, right. And we don’t really have wolves where I live, but we have coyotes. And they kill, you know, they kill livestock. And they also kill dogs, right? And I have a dog. And I very actively want my dog to not be killed by coyotes. And apparently coyotes will do this thing where they’ll befriend a dog, and be like, "yeah, totally, come hang out with us," and then kill and eat that dog, right? And so I have a neighbor who oversees about 400 acres. And he’s from France. And he carries around a handgun. And he’s so confused by this. He’s like, "I came to America and now I have to carry around a handgun." But he carries around a handgun in case he’s attacked by coyotes. Right? And it’s like, interesting to me because it’s like…. The urge to be like, "Oh, we should kill all the wolves so we can happily raise our sheep in peace," like fuck that, right? That, to me, is like the example of a negative form of peace, where you have conquered and like flattened everything. Sorry, it’s a little bit of a rant, but I’m going somewhere with it. I promise. And then, but at the same time, there’s this balance, right? Like, I’m not going to let a coyote kill my dog. Or if I was around wolves, I wouldn’t let the wolves kill me, right? I mean, whatever I…as much as I can control that, you know? The coyotes are kind of on the other side of the hill. So I don’t carry a gun around my property. But that would be a thing that I would need to consider in certain circumstances. So, it’s just really interesting to me that, like, I get why the sheep farmers are like, "Oh, we got to get rid of all these wolves." But I’m also like, "Whatever. Fuck you. Let the wolves be." But then I’m also like, it’s complicated. And I get why you have to defend the sheep. But I don’t know. Anyway, that’s where I’m going with it. I guess I wasn’t going anywhere with it after all.
**Sam ** 32:15
Yeah, no, I think it’s a really complex situation. Yeah, there is not an easy answer to like kill the wolf or…. Yeah, I’m also pro Wolf. And there needs to be a different solution. And yeah, like to see what the sheepherders really face, what kind of struggles they face with this was really interesting. And also, I think the problem is that it’s super instrumentalized [wonders if that’s the right word]…instrumentalized by right-wing people politically.
**Margaret ** 32:55
Weaponized? [Offering a different word]
**Amadeo ** 32:58
Yeah. In a way. I mean, the thing is, it also turned in Switzerland, for example, into a city versus countryside. Because at the vote, most people from the cities would vote for the wolf for what keeps the protection. But many people in the countryside, with also more like conservative political beliefs–and the conservative parties–said, "No, no, no, we have to change that because it threatens our way of living around in the remote areas in the countryside. And so this is somehow so stupid because….
**Sam ** 33:37
Yeah, that’s also covering certain other threats, right, like climate change. They don’t talk about climate change. The only thing they speak about is the wolf and the wolves. And yeah, that’s really…. So it’s somehow a weird thing that it’s so taken over by this discourse, which is, yeah….
**Amadeo ** 33:57
Yeah, you can shoot climate change. That’s the thing. It’s easy to say, "Oh, it’s all the wolf. We have to kill the wolf. And then we get rid of this problem." But on the other hand, climate change…. [interrupted]
**Margaret ** 34:11
I can think of some ways to solve climate change with guns, but…. Anyway….
**Amadeo ** 34:16
I mean, I got so sad up there because it’s so special. I mean, this area was a natural reserve too. And it has golden eagles. It has vultures, it has marmots, it has like….
**Sam ** 34:35
A lot of marmots. Everywhere. [Laughing]
**Amadeo ** 34:38
And some protected bogs, some plants that are really like really rare, like at the brink of extinction. And I know, I stood there and I saw this, I don’t know, this beauty and I know in 50 years from now it will be gone. Probably. It’s very, very likely. Because…. I mean, some species can move…. Like, seen on a global level, they move north because it’s getting warm. But on the on fucking mountain, there is an end. There is no moving more up. Because at 4000 meters or something, it’s….stops, you know? Like there’s nothing there. And all the farmers there, for example, if you ask them, they see these changes. They witness it. They say, "Yes, it’s so much different than it was when I was a kid." And the glaciers, for example, in Switzerland–I read about it–there were since the 70s, 800 glaciers are gone. And there is still 1400 glaciers in Switzerland. And they say 2100 [year], they will be probably most of them, like 95%, will be gone. And it’s so sad. But still, if you say something like, "Climate change," even those farmers there, that witness it every fucking day, they say like, "Well, you know, I don’t know if you can call it that." It’s ridiculous. And it’s because the discourse, the political discourse, is framed by conservatives mostly. And they say, "Your problem is the wolf. We can shoot the wolf." So…. [Margaret starts talking and apologizes] No, no, it’s, I’m, I’m done with ranting.
**Margaret ** 36:40
No, this is so interesting for a thousand reasons. And one of them is that we always…. It goes back hundreds of years that leftists will be like, "Oh, the countryside are all right-wing. Fuck them." And this is not true, right? This is like…. The most interesting leftist revolutions have generally involved also the rural folks, right? I mean, like, famously, the fucking Russian Revolution was all rural people. And to be fair, Marx was…. I think he owned up to getting that wrong, because he was one of the people who started this myth that "The peasant is not the revolutionary subject, only the proletarian worker in the city is," right? "And the peasants are always reactionary." And I think he owned up to, when he looked at Russia, he was like, "Oh, I got that one wrong. Okay, cool." You know. It’s true if we let it be true, because you have this thing where…. I think it is actually a flaw that we have to be careful with in democracy–and majority rule in general–is if people in the cities make the rules for the people in the countryside, and they don’t understand the people in the countryside and they don’t understand their way of life. And so it’s like, really easy–even though I’m still on the wolf’s side–I see it as complicated. Whereas it’s like really easy to live in a city and be like, "Whatever. Fuck it," you know, because it’s not their livelihood, or dog that is being threatened, right? And so I feel like, to me, it’s this thing where we can’t cede that ground to the right-wing, you know? And I really, I think it’s cool that you all…. And that’s one reason I want to talk to you about it is that there’s like all of these…. It doesn’t have to be this inherently conservative space to be in the countryside, to be in a rural area. And then the other thing that I was thinking about with what you’re talking about, about mountains and how things retreat, is that mountains are so interesting to me because they’re always where people run to, right? And you look at…. I mean, you look at Switzerland as a country and as the history of the country is people fleeing there in order to–well, I don’t know enough about how Switzerland was formed–but in World War II, every time I’m like reading about Dutch revolutionaries, or whatever, they’re like, "Fuck!" and they all run over to Switzerland and climb up the glaciers with their bare hands, or whatever the fuck. I don’t know. I clearly know what I’m talking about. And in the United States, you have. where I live in Appalachia, that is the place that people would retreat to. That is the place where people losing wars against the conquest of the United States would go to. And it is. It’s that weird thing where you’re always free in the mountains, but there’s only so far you can run. And that’s just so heartbreaking to think about, you know? There’s only so far up the mountain that these plants can migrate. On the other hand, I have a feeling that’s what we’re all going to be living. We’re all gonna be in Antarctica. Antarctica bloomed this year, I think. I think we’re being on Antarctica and on the mountains. So…
**Sam ** 39:39
Yeah, but it’s interesting how it’s idolized and romanticized. I mean, we had like…and how extreme, actually, the weather really changes. I really didn’t know. I had never lived for three months so high up. And yeah, but also, they’re so romanticized. There’s this huge hype around survivalist shows, at the moment on TV, which is also really interesting and comes with this. And on the opposite for me the…Yeah, the question was how does being there in the Alps, what does this really change with me and what does it do to experience this? And yeah….
**Amadeo ** 40:20
Yeah, what does it do?
**Margaret ** 40:23
**Sam ** 40:23
It’s still settling in. And it’s about reconnecting and really realizing what it takes to do this work. And I have a lot of respect…. Also, to be in a very patriarchal space where the shepherds were only older men. Yeah, they have their ways of acting. They have their ways of being. And for me, this was really difficult. Yeah. And still, somehow to not say, "Hey, I won’t enter this space," but to go there and…. Yeah, also see what community they have, you know. Yeah, to also go beyond this, I think, that they have their tradition and they have to face this, but yeah, it was also…. [Interrupted]
**Amadeo ** 41:11
Maybe you can maybe explain a little bit this, I don’t know, this group of people we worked for, because it was actually pretty interesting because it’s a conservative area, but they were very working class and very, very nice to us. I think. They treated us really respectfully. And I know, in my other place where I worked as a shepherd, it wasn’t like that. I was treated, actually, a little bad. And that’s…I don’t know.
**Sam ** 41:45
Yeah. And to see how they are with the animals. I mean, for them, that’s…they are their life. And it’s this encounter.
**Amadeo ** 41:50
They love them.
**Sam ** 41:51
And for us, to get to know every sheep personally, it’s really interesting what connection you get. You watch them all the time. You learn, hey, they are totally different. They have totally different characters.
**Margaret ** 42:09
Yeah. Okay, my question to you is how do you, when you’re working with people who are seeing this climate change happen, how do you–but but can’t acknowledge it–do you have any insight or thoughts about how to connect with people about that, about how to talk to people, you know, who want to focus on the wolf instead of the bigger wolf, the climate wolf? What’s the name of that wolf that’s gonna eat the sun and Germanic paganism? Wow, how do I not remember that. Anyway, whatever, at the start of Ragnarok. Someone’s gonna get really mad at me for not knowing this. Fenrir!
**Amadeo ** 42:51
I think we had some very good discussions at times. Right? With the guys…. Sorry? [Margaret interrupting]
**Margaret ** 43:01
No, no, no, I was just…I remembered the name of the wolf that eats the sun and starts Ragnarok. It’s Fenrir. Anyway, or Fenris? Oh, God, no people gonna get mad at me. Anyway, please continue. Tell you something.
**Amadeo ** 43:13
I think also, even though some of them were a little bit panicky about wolves, and so on, I think the system with the night pens and with having shepherds like us, since a few years, to look after the sheep, day and night, basically, it works pretty well. I mean, they told us they have one to five, maybe, sheep per year that are getting killed by the wolf. But that’s okay. I mean, they’re realistic about it, right? And when we talked about climate change, of course, it was–I mean, for me, it’s not much different–I mean, they acknowledged that things are changing. They didn’t use the, I don’t know, scientific vocabulary or whatever. And they acknowledged in a way–or some of them at least–that there are new problems that we have to face. For example, it’s too dry, and so on. Water issues. Dying out of certain plants, animals in certain areas, and so on. They all see this. More avalanches in the winter. All of this. But, I mean, they were a little helpless. And I mean, we are also often a little helpless, because it’s getting individualized. How should you react? Not drive a car? Great. I mean, we have to, you know, rise up and change all of the economy, you know, and this is hard to do.
**Sam ** 44:53
But I guess, I mean, I also came there with my artistic background and as an artist and I also was filming a lot–more some of the sheeps but also us–and I think for me to show as someone coming there with a city background, but also with our backgrounds as biologists and artists, and showing how this encounter happens maybe from us as city people with also another perspective in encountering this world. I think I find this really interesting. Also showing some part of this being not exactly in this. I think that’s an interesting perspective, also, for other people to see. And yeah, I’m probably cutting a bit of a movie out of this. And I think it can…. Yeah, it’s good to go to this place and to show our perspective.
**Amadeo ** 45:53
I mean, I’m so grateful for what these people taught us, right, and that we were accepted and we did this job. And I think we did a good job. But also they trust us, right?
**Sam ** 46:06
And what the sheep teach us.
**Amadeo ** 46:08
Yeah, the human and non-human individuals that trusted us. And it was, I think…. I’m very, very grateful. But on the other hand, also, for them, I think it was kind of interesting to have unorthodox people there, people who didn’t grow up around the corner with animals, and sheep, and so on. Because for them, they all grew up with this. They inherited this from their parents and grandparents. And we came…. Actually it was a meeting of different worlds, right? We came….
**Sam ** 46:45
And I want to show this, also, this discrepancy that there is some dialog or some encounter that needs to happen. And I mean, many people are so disconnected to this world and don’t know. They have lived in Switzerland all their life and they don’t have so much connection to this work. Yeah. And it’s cool to….
**Amadeo ** 47:05
I think, yeah, it was really…like we came from 1000 kilometers away. But even what made more of a difference was that we live in a city of 2 million people and they live in tiny mountain villages. But we came. We had a good time together, right? They were like helping us. We were helping them. It worked out. And I mean a lot of prejudicism, I had also, as a young radical from the city, dogmatic, and so on, about people back in the days. I mean, it changed over the years, but more and more when I encountered these, I don’t know, social places, I have to say, yeah, they were very social with us and very helpful and very, I don’t know, cool. Very cool also. Even though they have like strange habits like drinking coffee that isn’t coffee but…. [Laughing]
**Margaret ** 48:04
Wait, what do they drink that isn’t coffee?
**Amadeo ** 48:07
It’s called Lupinion. It’s made out of Lupin, I think. I don’t know the English word, like some grain. And it has no caffeine at all. And they always say, "Let’s have a coffee and then they drink this."
**Sam ** 48:21
But with a lot of schnapps.
**Margaret ** 48:24
I don’t drink caffeine. So I’m like, I want to drink that shit. That sounds great.
**Sam ** 48:28
That would be the place for you to go.
**Amadeo ** 48:32
They put Apple booze inside like apple schnapps instead.
**Margaret ** 48:38
Okay, well, are there any last things that we didn’t cover that you wish we had? Or things that you’re really excited to say about sheep and climate change? Oh, does it make you want sheep? That’s my…that was like the question. Like, are y’all gonna get sheep? Do you have a yard? I don’t know where you live.
**Amadeo ** 49:00
We live in the city. But we are planning to move in the coming years. And actually, I would love to have some sheep.
**Sam ** 49:10
Maybe not 400.
**Amadeo ** 49:16
Some 20 or something? 15.
**Sam ** 49:18
Or we will continue doing this work. It’s cool to also work with them and then for a long time be with them. I guess we’re…. And then also say, "Hey, gratz [congratulations], that was the summer." . And give them back.
**Amadeo ** 49:35
Yeah, like sometimes it’s nice to play with kids but having your own kids it’s kind of a different cup of tea.
**Sam ** 49:42
Like co-parenting. [Laughing]
**Amadeo ** 49:45
Maybe some sheep co-parenting? Yeah. Right.
**Margaret ** 49:51
Alright, well, is there anything that you want to plug, that you want to direct people towards, either your work or something else that’s going on that you want to draw attention to.
**Amadeo ** 50:01
I wanted to say, because I always said while I was there, that it needs more people to help the little farmers deal with the wolves, because if we don’t help them then they will always tend to the parties that say, "Oh, let’s just get rid of the wolves." And I found out that there are some NGOs to do that, that come from an environmental side. There’s one group called Au Pair. I think they’re in the French speaking part of the country, mostly. And they actually sent volunteers to alpine pastures where there are wolves nearby, to help, to guard, and also monitor the wolf activities. So it’s for research and also to help the farmers. And if I can’t go next year to work as a shepherd, I will volunteer there. And I think it’s a great, great thing and somehow a solution for how ordinary people can get in touch with the small farmers and help with maintaining the alpine pastures that are also so important for biodiversity. Yeah. And to help save the wolf from people.
**Margaret ** 51:22
Yeah. No, that’s so good. Because instead of just abandoning people to being like, "Whatever, the wolf is good and you suck," just being like, "Hey, what will it actually take? Like what resources do you actually need in order to be able to continue to do your work in a world full of wolves?" That’s cool.
**Amadeo ** 51:40
Yeah, I think it needs a lot of growing together, the countryside and the cities, in understanding and talking and like supporting each other.
**Sam ** 51:51
Hey, thanks for having us, Margaret.
**Margaret ** 51:54
Yeah, thanks so much. And good luck next year with the sheep season. And I’ll talk to y’all at some point soon I hope. Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, go try to convince sheep and wolves to be friends. No, that’s not going to work. Hang out with sheep and then separately hang out with wolves. Actually, you probably just shouldn’t even hang out with the wolves. You should probably leave them alone. That’s pretty much what we want. But that’s what you can do. You can also support this podcast. You can support this podcast happening by helping us pay our transcribers and our audio editors. I say this is if there’s a plural of each, but there’s actually one of each. And thanks to those editors. And thanks to everyone who helps us do that. And the way we do that is through Patreon. This podcast is published by Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. We have several other podcasts, including one called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, as well as one called Anarcho Geek Power Hour. And if you support us on Patreon, we’ll send you a monthly feature that we put out. We’ll send it anywhere in the world. And if you pay us $20 a month, I’ll read your name out right now. In particular, I’d like to thank Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milaca, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Machaiah, and of course, Hoss the Dog. I hope everyone is doing as well as you can and don’t let the people divide us along cultural lines because we just shouldn’t let that happen. Talk to you all soon.