Each summer since 1976 I have been hiking up to alpine pastures (or ‘z’Alp’, as it is called in the Bregenzerwald, a forest region in Vorarlberg, Austria). When my parents decided to lease the alp ‘Andles Brongen’, we kids jumped for joy. I was ten. I loved the alp as a child, quarreled with it as a juvenile, it forced me into its services and never released me. Having become an urban dweller the alp then returned a different feeling of freedom back to me.
Ample, physical work, the meaning of which becomes directly visible in the product.
I have learned to make cheese from my parents – both cheese makers – on the alp ‘Andles Brongen’ at Egg in the Bregenzerwald. The central place in these old alpine huts was the dairy kitchen. Adjoining you could find the living room and the stable, downstairs the cellar, upstairs the sleeping quarters, the barn and the way out. Everybody was involved in everything, milking, cleaning the stable, dairy work and cooking (the stove stood next to the dairy kettle), weeding and manuring. That is how we kids also grew into dairy work. On sunny days we had to go down into the valley to make hay. As I had a downright aversion to machines I could not and would not drive a tractor and thus was unfit for haymaking. So when the others were making hay I stayed on the alp all by myself
and made the cheese. I was fond of cheesemaking and proud when classmates from grammar school came to visit. And valuation in autumn showed that I was not untalented.
After the school-leaving exams I moved to Vienna to study art history.
As a holiday job I took over an alp in 1992, self-employed and independent from my family.
It was the alp ‘Isewart’ at Egg in the Bregenzerwald, which had 30 cows. They were milked by hand and each day I processed the milk into one loaf of cheese. At this alp everything was very simple. There were no machines, everything was done by hand. Konrad Troy was the dairyman at the lower neighbouring alp ‘Untere Falz’. He is substantially responsible for the fact that a certain
small-sized cheese production in the central Bregenzerwald has survived the 70s and 80s. He allowed me to participate in his rich experience and his unbelievable sensitivity for milk qualities and nuances of cheese processing. As a friend said, cheese from Isewart melted like chocolate on the palate.
In 1995/96 I returned once more to the alp of my childhood, Andles Brongen.
In 1997 I took over a larger alp for the first time, the alp ‘Gulm/Gavis’ in the Laternser Valley in Vorarlberg. The alp had approx. 100 cows from the community of Satteins. Before that I had attended a short training course with Vinzent Konzett, an experienced daityman in the Great Walsertal, from whom I could learn a lot.
Since 2001 I have been dairyman at the alp ‘Untere Falz’, again at Egg in the Bregenzerwald. Over the summer the ‘Untere Falz’ has about 80 cows, whose milk, together with the milk from the alp Isewart (meanwhile supplied by a ropeway for the transport of material) is processed into approx. 9000 kg of cheese. For a few years now, I have been sharing cheese production with Daniel Flatz, who has taken over part of the summer.
Summer is alp time. The rest of the year I spend in Vienna. For over 20 years I have worked as an art-educator in the field of modern and contemporary art. For 10 years now I have been doing performances.
Since living in Vienna I have always brought along cheese for friends. This circle of cheese aficionados has meanwhile grown considerably. So I have decided to turn the distribution of cheese into a job and founded Antonmachtke:s.
Handel mit Käse