"I've never woken up in the morning and loathed the day ahead of me," Maria Gapp summarizes her life as a farmer. For many years she has been running the Gapphof in Seefeld, which has existed since 1804. Apart from her son's help for work in the fields, she does all the work on her own. The energetic woman, who once upon a time worked in a bank, has never considered quitting.
When you visit the Gapphof's website – easy to find if you search for "holidays on a farm in Seefeld" – the first sentence immediately invites you to linger: "Draw from the fountain of life." These words somehow feel right and it's soothing to dwell on the image they conjure. Even without knowing Maria Gapp you can feel her free spirit.
Meeting her for the first time confirms the initial feeling: Her empathy, or emotional intelligence as we would call it today, is deeply impressive. Maria purposely doesn't offer a specific programme on her farm. It's not only because she refuses to follow every fad or trend, but also "because people just want to get away from it all."
Nature, the life healer
Four generations can be found on the nearly 400-year old farm of the Gapp Family, from great-grandmother to great-grandchild. Maria, the open-minded and modern matriarch, built a house of her own close by, because not only younger generations need their privacy. It's good to have a place to recharge every now and then, when life's challenges feel too big. The challenges of life on a farm can become quite intense.
When Maria, 20 years old at the time, left her job at a bank to work on the farm in 1979, she and her husband completely restructured the whole farm and lovingly watched it grow in the following decades. It's easy to understand why she wouldn't trade the world for her beloved Gapphof. Even when she lost her husband to an accident ten years ago, she didn't waste a single thought to quitting. She kept on going on her own and quickly adapted. What helped her grasp the transience of life was working outside, in tune with nature and the rhythm of the changing seasons.
There's always something to do, whether it's the guests or the cows. The latter "come running to the fence as soon as I call them for milking… I cry every time I sell one of them." That Maria is a farmer through and through also shows when she proudly opens the door of her garage. Instead of boasting a regular car, a tractor comes into view. She prefers it to any car.
A woman in her own right
Isn't it exhausting to run a farm all on your own as a woman? "I feel myself getting tired sometimes," she says with a shy smirk. If you've ever seen Maria working a chain saw, you know that she stands her ground. Within minutes, an entire tree trunk is neatly sawn into pieces.
Maria chuckles with amusement when she hears guests dream of dropping out and living the farm life. "Quite a few come back after two years and start complaining that I should have told them how much work it is." In her day to day chores, she picks her own highlights, like making traditional Topfen, or curd cheese, and cream cheese, which she sells on her farm and to a few wholesale customers like the Quellenhof in nearby Leutasch. While most of us would waste hours with how-to videos, Maria just goes ahead and gets things done. And she does things with an inner sense of joy and knowledge that seems so natural in her.
As the sun breaks through the clouds we take a small break and sit on the wooden bench in front of the house. Maria serves freshly baked bread with her delicious homemade cream cheese. Enjoying our snack and the magnificent view of the mountains makes it easy to relax and let go. It's moments like this one that will give us a boost when we're back in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. "Would you like anything else to drink? We have our own fountain water," Maria's cheerful voice brings us back from our thoughts. We listen to the lively burbling of the farm's well out in the garden. Maria Gapp had always wanted to live in Tyrol. Seefeld became her home.
I've got tons of ideas, but I'd have to live to 100 to get them all done
Bustling Maria has a great sense of humour. Her energy seems to never run out: She quickly finishes some marigold ointment for her guests, whom she can effortlessly converse with in French. She is a certified alpine mountain guide. She's taking a computing class and an Italian class. And then there's her dream of learning to be a herbologist. "Oh dear, I've got tons of ideas, but I'd have to live to be 100 to get them all done," she laughs.
After three hours with Maria, her enthusiasm is still contagious. Looking at her you can feel that she's a person who fully embraces the here and now. You can feel her thankfulness for life, for every single experienced moment – like quickly bringing in the hay before a summer shower.
And so the first sentence on the Gapphof's website returns to our thoughts and there's that soothing sense of calm again. If there's one person who truly draws from the fountain of life, then that's Maria Gapp.
Text: Sandra Pfeifer
Photos: David Payr // friendship.is
June 14, 2016