October on Le Matou

I left for Germany at the end of September, on the trailer firewood for friends in Germany. Mario gets the firewood from our forest and at the moment there are enough dead trees to be found so that trees don’t even have to die for a heated stove. Mario has also installed the solar system on the roof and with the good weather here in the south we can be optimistic!

The project “wood finishing” is taking shape, some conifers are ready to be harvested on the property of a Belgian friend. The sawmill, where the oaks for our rocker skids are also sawn to size, is to be mounted on the big trailer. This way, Mario can not only saw up our own wood for various construction projects still to come, but also saw the desired dimensions directly on site at different places.

While I visited our son, family and friends and had a lot of fun teaching, Mario and our intern Lilly stocked our experimental raised bed boxes. At the barn, we hayed down, collected it in a paloxe (a mixture of grid box and pallet), put 30 cm of soil on top as the top layer-et voila, the seeds for the winter vegetables can be spread. If the wild boars get too close to the house, it is still safe. Next year, when the chaff has rotted, we will hopefully have decided on a place for the garden and can empty the paloxes there.

The herd of horses grazing at the hand of Le Matou
The herd of horses grazing at the hand of Le Matou

What will also accompany us for a long time are the paths on Le Matou. Fortunately, we now have an “epareuse” to keep the existing ones clear. If we wanted to do it all manually, we wouldn’t need any other hobbies. There are some old ones to discover, uncover and repair.

In addition, we have the dream project that one day a passable – i.e. with a very off-road vehicle – path should run along the outer border. Which, of course, can also be used by horseback, mountain bike or on foot. So far, Mario continues to fight his way through the undergrowth with the Jimmy and is definitely having a lot of fun.

The small all-terrain vehicle is also the transport means of choice when it comes to fetching clay to the house. Lilly plasters the walls of the upper shell with it. Next year, when the first “Matou Experience Week” begins, it will eventually serve as a common room and hostel.

We are planning stays with a less focused training emphasis, but more into the theme of quality of life through awareness and well-being. The planning of activities then needs to be well coordinated. When some are playing with the mini-excavator, others are doing their training with the animals at the opposite end of the property… A big plus in experiencing also happens through silence, through noticing everything that is around you. And that completely without any machine-made background noise.

Under this sign of the challenges of the “civilised world” are also the tasks with the ponies and Jupiter after my return. The New Year’s Eve Challenge helps our animals to cope with the events of their not always animal-friendly environment. Would you like to support your animal too, or are you just curious what it’s all about? Then take a look here: New Year’s Eve Challenge

Click Ruprecht

Not so very long ago punishment was common practise at Christmas, the feast of love. However, I strongly believe that the peoples’ attitude toward aversive measures will change to the better, and develop into a more humane way of living together. In the light of this belief and my deeply rooted, Schleswig-Holstein-born bond to Theodor Storm, I had huge fun re-writing his song of Knecht Ruprecht to reflect a similar transition in animal training. Enjoy!

Click Ruprecht

Out from the forest I appear,
To tell you: Clickertide is here!
For at the top of every tree
Smart chickens sit, for all to see;
and there from Heaven’s gate on high
I saw B.F. Skinner in the sky.
And there beside a darkened tree,
In loud a voice he called to me:
‘Click Ruprecht, old fellow,’ aloud he cried,
‘Be quick, make haste, and do not hide!
All candles now are shining bright,
The Knowledge’s Gate is opened wide!
Both man and animal should train
With skill and fun, and not in vain;
and when tomorrow to earth I glide
Plus R will fill all hearts with pride.’
And then I said: ‘Oh, Mr Skinner, sir,
They still make use of whip and spur.
And in the stables I’ve still to go,
many a horse feels bad, I know.’
‘You have your clicker in your sack?’
‘Oh yes, of course, it’s on my back.
With apples, oats, and more thereof
Because these treats our horses love!’
‘And is the whip there on your sleigh?’
‘Why, no! The whip would do away
With love, respect and mutual joy
And thus the bond it will destroy.’
And Skinner spoke: ‘Then that’s all right!
I’m glad that you will spread the light!’
Out from the forest I appear
To tell you: Clickertide is here!
Now tell me quick, how do you train?
Will whip and rope or clickers reign?


(Nina Steigerwald freely adapted from Theodor Storm, translated by Regine Witten)