The Mostviertel, Austria’s pear country, stretches from the river Danube to the Alps, right in the heart of Austria. Pear trees are scattered across the landscape and produce 200 different kinds of pears. Their naturally tart fruits have been used for centuries to extract the delicious pear cider (perry). As production has grown over time, „Most”, the Austrian name for cider, has given the charming region its name. From a geographical point of view, pear country is spared the climatic extremes of other Alpine regions in Austria and has thus become one of Europe’s remaining sanctuaries for a variety of rare, altogether 3000 different — including some endangered — species: the little owl, the European otter, the hoopoe, or the curlew.
and it's cold and the men are getting old and the trees are getting older and the wind is getting cold around the frame it's the same and the picture is new and we are what we are and we do what we do and we talk about the weather and we talk about the trees.
15 hours in a day 15 months in a year and we're sewing and we're plowing and we're harvesting the hay and we're keeping on the move don't you get in the way and it's hot and it's cold and it's green and it's white and it's early and it's late and it's dark and it's light a.
is me it's like is you are not from here.
there is nothing imposing about this land its beauty is unassuming its fragrance a gentle temptation it is a land of special trees trees of tempting fruit.
For centuries this land of pear trees has been tempting humans and a multitude of other creatures to come and stay blessed be the pear trees they've given this land its character around them life has centered since time immemorial draped in silk and white the pear trees tempt myriads of insects their help is.
Needed to pollinate the blossoms after an insect has serviced a flower its stamens turns outward and release the sweet reward insects are looking for nectar is nothing but a sweet drink but it makes millions of bees and beetles work hard.
striped like wasps but stingless hoverflies pollinate most of the pear tree blossoms wherever old trees and dead branches are left to themselves the green woodpecker feels at home like all woodpeckers it keeps chiseling.
Ever new nesting holes when the woodpecker abandons a hole smaller birds take over up to 30 different bird species in this region need hollow trees for nesting only a few of them can chisel their own holes a blue tit inspects a woodpecker hole but the claim is staked by a pair of nut.
Hatches in the next row of trees a tree creeper checks out the bark of an old pear tree it's looking for a narrow crack in the trunk the perfectly round woodpecker holes are left to others when the sweet scent of spring wafts across the land young lovers often.
Become oblivious to their surroundings the badgers nearby are really night creatures but now they're young make them leave the den in bright daylight badgers are found almost all over europe.
But they are happiest in a landscape with hedges bushes and small patches of forest this kind of habitat is also perfect for the long-eared owl during the day it huddles against the trunk of a pear tree and enjoys the sun's warmth long-eared owls do not build nests of their own they use existing ones.
The young are mostly fed after dark the land of pear trees is a land of transition from the flood plains of the danube valley to the rugged austrian alps because of its varied climate and topography it is home to some three thousand animal species pear growers who have long-aired owls in.
Their trees are lucky these birds feed almost exclusively on ground voles the arch enemies of young pear trees the story of these pear trees goes back to the stone age wild pear trees tiny and crooked were part of the hardwood forest that once covered the land early nomads gathered.
Their acid fruit but the romans began to cultivate them their fruit was not only eaten but also used to produce a cider like drink pear wine or perry this austria's perry district boasts the highest density and greatest number of pear trees in the world.
In recent years more and more farmers have switched to biological agriculture their traditional products are of excellent quality even from ordinary dandelion they make a tasty syrup and it is worth the trouble both direct sales from the farm as well as distribution by health stores are booming.
in contrast wild animals like meadows with more variety especially the gourmets of the land roe deer look for fine herbs and tender buds they despise ordinary grass even the young are being pampered the kid stays with his mother for an entire.
Year until just before the next birth row deer live close to human settlements and are a familiar sight in the countryside middle spotted woodpeckers keep to the eastern part of the perry district.
Their presence here is reassuring like all woodpeckers they are extremely sensitive to any deterioration of their environment the woodpeckers are busy caring for their young and so are the nut hatches as soon as the young birds hatch the parents are busy every minute of the day flying in food and flying out waste.
Once the nestlings stick their beaks out of the hole it is only a matter of days until they are fully fledged and leave the nest forever a hollow tree serves as a little owl's nursery their young are all the same size in contrast to other owls this one only.
Begins to sit on the clutch when all the eggs are laid the little owl is on the red list of endangered species there are 10 breeding pairs left in the perry district reason enough to protect this unique orchard landscape.
Pear trees offer niches to all kinds of creatures from the ground floor to the top all levels are inhabited but many of the trees inhabitants remain unseen throughout their lifetime only their traces can be made out withered buds are the work of a tiny beetle a member of the weevil family during the winter its lava has eaten the.
Inside of the bud inches away a mature beetle is just leaving its pupa the tiny four millimeter long insect lives on peri tree leaves when the weather gets hot the beetle withdraws to estivate a resting state similar to hibernation only in autumn when next year's buds.
Begin to grow do the females deposit their eggs weevils cannot seriously damage a healthy mature pear tree nature has enough for all as the local farmers say it creates its own balance some wasp species lay their eggs into buds that are already inhabited.
Their larvae predate on beetle larvae literally sucking the life out of them as the one shrinks the other fattens dead young shoots give away the presence of a janus wasp its larvae eat the marrow of the shoots as soon as the spring sun gains strength they enter their pupil state.
In may the metamorphosis is complete and out comes a mature wasp so the short life of a mature janus wasp only lasts two weeks just enough to mate and lay eggs.
Starting another generation is its sole purpose first the female drills several holes into a young chute then she deposits one egg in each hole from may to june an undescript butterfly hovers around the canopies of pear trees the piercer it places its eggs on individual leaves.
Branches or young fruit within a few weeks these eggs develop into familiar creatures fruit maggots in late april when heavy rain storms bear down on the perry orchards and the danube brims with melt water from the alps the meadows are often flooded.
The seasonal floods do not bother treetop dwellers but they do pose a risk to the curl you a ground breeder the colu is another species on the red list in the early 90s there were three breeding areas left in the perry district.
Today only a handful of birds survive in the wetlands along the danube this tiny remnant of the population is now getting some aid farmers who will not cut their meadows until after the breeding season are given a financial bonus not only the pear tree meadows but the entire mosaic of different biotopes make.
The perry district so unique for many years this old quarry has been home to a pair of eagle owls while the parents spend the day hidden away in the woods a small drama is played out by their nestlings so.
each desperate attempt to scramble back to the safety of the nest only makes things worse still unable to fly the young eagle owl has slid down to a point of no return.
The youngster is unhurt and the parents will look after him even here far from the nest they will keep an eye on him from a distance until he is fully fledged one of the most beautiful rivers in all the foothills of the alps runs through.
The perry district the pierlach's riverbed and banks have remained very natural they offer an ideal refuge to europe's smallest kind of swallow the sand martin the kingfisher needs clay banks to dig its nesting tunnels for this predator on fish early summer.
Is a season of abundance below the surface a grand spectacle is about to begin thousands of fish are pushing upstream from the danube to mate and spawn the first to arrive are the undermouths then come the barbels anticipating an annual feast eurasian.
Minnows gather on the spawning grounds of other fish ready to release her eggs a female barbel is surrounded by eager males the female can produce up to 9000 eggs almost all of them are instantly devoured by minnows.
the spawning takes hours it is an exhausting process for the females from april to june the riverbed is littered with fish eggs while the barbels are still spawning the minnows are already hatching.
Swarms of fry make the water boil with life where the calves come to drink wherever small farms work in traditional ways and pest control is left to nature the little owl finds rich hunting grounds now the little owl nestlings are some.
Five weeks old comparable to voracious teenagers each one demands up to three voles a day so long as they are not disturbed little owls stay in a territory with one mate for life in mid-july under a midday sun big pear trees cast a tempting shade but there is work to be done and nature.
Will not wait the grass is as high as it gets and the cows need forage insects are hunted by countless predators above and below ground many insect hunters are insects themselves ladybirds are the most efficient of aphid killers a single ladybird lava will suck the.
Life from 50 aphids day after day on a freshly cut strip thousands of ground dwellers are fleeing in panic but since only a day's supply of cattle feed is mowed most of the creatures can quickly escape into the high grass this is why the stalk has to follow the mowers closely and can't afford to be shy.
mowing the meadows in daily strips helps many animals partridges and pheasants profit from the fact that they do not lose all their cover in a single day even the often despised stinging nettle is allowed to grow here there is more beauty to its role than.
Meets the eye red admirals lay their eggs only on them and nettle leaves are their caterpillar's soul diet as soon as the admiral caterpillar is ready for its pupil state it makes a funnel out of a nettle leaf to hide in at 55 miles an hour a healthy adult brown hair can outrace any predator.
But the young ones are at risk in daytime they're left alone in a hollow in recent years the perry district has had a secret renaissance as a tourist region a body and health conscious generation.
Has rediscovered the delight of dry peri of all fermented fruit juices peri is the least alcoholic it is low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals and there's an extra reason to have your fill.
Perry drinkers are conservationists only if perry farming remains viable will the perry orchard survive in the long run these farms have been built by the perry the locals say perry used to be a working man's drink for every hand on the farm the farmer.
Would keep a barrel in the cellar it was back in those days that the little owl was given a somewhat morbid epithet when someone on the farm was seriously sick the light in the patient's room was left burning all night.
The light attracted insects to the window and they in turn attracted the little owl all night the bird would call near the house when the sick person died the death was associated with the birds call the little owl became the harbinger of death today the death knell rings for its entire species.
the little owl's natural competitor is the tawny owl wherever the tony owl takes up residence its much smaller cousin is forced to withdraw bats often use man-made structures as.
Their living quarters this horseshoe nose has made a nursery of an old attic whether small or large all inhabitants of the perry orchards profit from the.
Fact that these trees have never been treated with chemicals though to the piercer maggot spraying with insecticides would make little difference it drills a hole through the fruits skin without swallowing it only inside the fruit does it begin to eat.
Pear trees flourish in a moderate climate they need more warmth and are generally less robust than apple trees above all they want sufficient moisture in the stinging nettle patch the wonderful metamorphosis of the red admiral butterfly is nearing its.
Completion the caterpillar was not exactly an attractive creature but the pupa is now occupied by a sleeping beauty the lovely colors of butterfly wings are already shimmering through in a few weeks the brightly colored butterflies will again appear on the.
Fallen fruit in the meadows each year almost forty thousand are killed on austrian roads to remind drivers of the danger deer crossings are marked by iron deer along the roadside so this female row deer is neither bothered.
By the traffic nor by the iron deer on the roadside the mating season has begun and a buck is waiting this female badger was found as an abandoned pup and raised by the farmer's children now she is part of the family badges are active at night and at dawn drowsy from her daylight sleep she tries.
To escape around the house it is impossible to find quiet it is the calves first encounter with a badger but once they've checked out the unknown creature they quickly lose interest oh.
august isn't over yet but the deer mating season is ending the one pronged buck is marked for the kill but he's given a few more days to make sure that the species survives in a lifetime of 300 years this methuselah among the peer trees has.
Survived many great and small disasters day in day out there is a constant coming and going on the trunk and on the branches and twigs of the pear trees red wood ants have moved their entire household to the treetop for the summer from here it isn't far to the pastures of their herds of aphids aphids produce.
A sweet liquid called honeydew ants milk their aphids for what they're worth but they let them live while the hoverfly larvae suck the life out of them the style of these typical square farms with their large patios may date back to roman times.
The only building rising above the treetops is the abbey of zeitungstatten on what the locals call zontagsberg or sandy hill at the agricultural college of the perry district around 250 breeds of pears are registered a genetic reservoir unequaled anywhere in the world there are three.
Basic groups the large sweet table pears the tiny but juicy peary pears and a kind traditionally used for fruit bread which is particularly rich in sugar in autumn some of the red admirals cannot resist the sweet temptation of over-ripe pears until the last chance to fly south for the winter has been passed up.
Maggoty fruit is the first to drop from the tree forcing inhabitants to move to new living quarters abundantly fed the piercer lava leaves its home of plenty and tries to make its risky way to its winter quarters not all of them make it this maggot has arrived safely it withdraws into a suitable crack in the.
Bark here it'll sit out the winter some trees are now dangerously laden with fruit sometimes fruit trees will not let go of their load in time now the ground dwellers also get their share of mature fruit the old story of the hedgehog carrying.
Away apples impaled on their backs is well told but not true what is true is that hedgehogs do love apples if not as much as fat earthworms beating the fruit from the branches with long poles is a traditional but risky way of harvesting some pear trees have their fruit ripen all at once while other kinds drop.
Mature fruit over a long period of time a sweet ripe pear can even tempt fish as soon as the pears get soft and begin to rot swarms of chub come jostling to get a bite unlike table fruit perry fruit is not.
Picked from the tree but gathered from the ground the old perry orchards are no longer routinely maintained as in the old days on many farms only the older generation still cares for perimaking but when it comes to drinking the young ones will not decline.
Today the perry district not only attracts tourists but also four-legged immigrants north american raccoons were brought to europe by fur farmers some raccoons escaped and have begun to breed in freedom as good climbers they need not wait for ripe pairs to drop onto the ground.
Indigenous badgers keep to the forests until the meadows are literally strewn with ripe fruit badgers eat sugary fruit to build their fat reserves for a long winter whatever is left over by the animals may be used by humans.
The old farmers know that perry from early pairs is no good the later in the year the fruit matures the better the perry good peri depends not only on sugar content but also on the acid content of the pear the fruit's natural acid curbs the growth of bacteria only a few nostalgics have kept their.
Ancient wooden presses and juice buckets in most cellars perimakers use hydraulic presses and stainless steel containers the later the hour the prettier the guests the red and the blue underwings are regulars on the pear tree meadows the juice of the ripe fruit is richer than any nectar a good drinking position.
Will be defended vehemently the nightly drinking sprees go on until late october then butterflies are no longer seen today these tall pear trees are appreciated as landmarks of the perry district but that was not always so.
Millions of pear trees survived two world wars but only a tiny fraction has made it through the 1960s hundreds of thousands of trees fell victim to the chainsaw in a publicly funded drive to clear the land for mechanized farming.
these times are over yet the survival of the periculture is anything but certain the fire plight a bacterial fruit disease threatens entire regions in central europe if it should ever strike in the perry district the only remedy is the axe the vole has suddenly lost the roof.
Above its head voles are day and night active they gnaw on tree roots which makes them the number one orchard pest voles can hardly damage an old tree but they often kill newly planted trees late october is the best planting season for young fruit trees a supporting pole and a wire net against.
Bowls help the young tree to make it through the first years fortunately the number of pear trees in the perry district is on the rise again although it takes twenty to thirty years until a newly planted tree bears enough fruit to become profitable in the old days the pumice the fruit pulp taken from the press was used as.
Cattle feed today it is turned into compost or burnt in fireplaces where it spreads a lovely scent and it is that scent that lures a mouse to its doom the cowshed is a better place for mice they have nothing to fear from vegetarians one should expect cows do stick with grass if they have a.
Choice though to the mouse this may have seemed a close call gradually the quiet of winter settles over the perry district bright red and yellow leaves adorn the trees the summer guests have long left one by one the remaining inhabitants are going into hibernation.
the only excitement is among the hares this time it's not about sex but about violence in fact it is a matter of life and death the hares know that this is the most dangerous season of the year the hunt is on.
The road dear have nothing to fear the guns are loaded with hair shot after an alarming breakdown in recent decades the hair population is back to its full strength good for the hair and even better for the hunter as soon as there are more than 30 hairs per hectare hunting.
Permits are issued tv 35 hairs dead when the autumn morning mists linger long into the day the first snowfall is.
Not far off the old pear tree meadows are witnesses to a time-honored way of farming the land they symbolize harmony between man and nature even during the cold season it is the.
Pear trees that feed the wildlife field fairs first descended on austria in the 19th century they too love the varied half-open landscapes of the perry district in winter large flocks gather in the naked canopies of the tall trees while some find food in the treetops the.
Others look under the trees the deer are digging through the snow cover for frozen fruit at the height of winter the frost turns the landscape into a bizarre and picturesque scenery the land has fallen silent but in the.
Cellars the monotonous bubbling of pear wine never stops the perry is talking to itself the farmers say now and then a beetle comes by to listen the young perry is tested by experts not only by the farmer but also by other special guests sometimes the cellar floor is all but.
Covered with dead beetles they fall on their backs when they're drunk and often can't get back on their feet on the naked clay floor unless a small pebble saves them gradually the days are getting longer and the sun is gaining strength.
The trees still display their naked shapes their infinite variety in age and size and character make up the perry district's unique scenery it is now only a matter of weeks until the perry district will again blossom in all its glory.
so uh the bucks have hardly lost their winter fur and already they start looking for females the stalks are back from africa to.
Renovate their nests and the hares have only one thing on their minds and when young lovers again become oblivious of their surroundings may has surely returned among the trees of tempting fruit.
me do foreign
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