Hay drenched in cattle urine and manure – that is one of the defining smells of the towns of southern Germany and I inhale it with gusto. This is most pleasurably done in the morning on the way to the bäckerei as wisps of steam twist from the piles into the crisp air.
On my first visit to Germany I was delighted to discover that the tank being pulled by a tractor the BB and I were following was full of cattle urine – not something one encounters every day. The aroma of this nutritional liquid wafted up our passing nostrils from the fields flanking us. My understanding is that the spreading of the urine and manure collected from barns is now regulated – urine in spring before seeding, manure in winter after harvest.
Unfortunately for the cattle, there is not too much roaming of pastures but, for the townsperson and tourist, their proximity evokes a notion of companionship between man and beast and is a daily reminder that many of our provisions are sourced from, or at the expense of, sentient beings.
Placing them in the heart of the town, close to our hearths, invites us to reflect on our dependence on the natural world and the ways we harness it for our own benefit. Hopefully their presence provides an impetus to live with more connection to our planet.