How a squirrel saved Christmas

The cook had a headache. And a backache to boot. No wonder, she had been kneeling in the vegetable patch for more than two hours, plucking and pulling and pulling the weeds out of the summer-warm earth. The small walnut trees with their long roots made it particularly difficult for her. She had already dug up a dozen. At least! The Alte Mühle's vegetable garden was located right between the forest and the stream and the Ahrntal squirrels had decided that this would be a particularly suitable place to hide nuts. However, they buried so many that they couldn't eat half of them and the squirrel food soon turned into stately little trees, which were such a nuisance to the cook that she cursed the „Oachkatzlan“ (squirrels), as they are called here, crosswise. But only in her mind! Because curses were a serious matter at the time and not something that came lightly to the lips.

Just as our cook pulled the thirteenth little walnut sapling out of the ground, something flitted past her. She blinked. Indeed! A chestnut-brown squirrel was sitting on the garden fence not a metre away, looking at her with big beady eyes. As if to say: don't be angry with me, I have children to feed too. The cook wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead. The August sun must have taken its toll on her. Anyone who spoke to an "Oachkatzl" in their mind was beyond help.

The days and weeks went by and it had become winter in the Alte Mühle. The cook's headache and backache were only a faint memory. But she couldn't get the squirrel out of her mind. A guilty conscience plagued her. After all, the squirrels didn't bury the walnuts for nothing. Had she interfered with the cycle of nature and thwarted the plans of the Lord God? Father Jungmann knew what to do: a little " Lord's Prayer" and a kind gift to the squirrels would probably put things right. And so the cook placed a walnut on the windowsill every week and was delighted when she saw the maroon squirrel picking up the nut.

Christmas was only a few days away. The Alte Mühle was almost drowning in snow and our cook could hardly save herself from work. The "Kletzenbrot", a kind of Christmas stollen with all kinds of dried fruit and nuts, still had to be baked. What a disaster! She had thought of everything and the pantry was well stocked. The cook was only missing one ingredient. Can you guess which one? That's right: she had completely forgotten the walnuts. And there were none left in the whole village. Tears of anger welled up in our cook's eyes. What a forgetful sheep she was! What could she do now? A Christmas without Kletzenbrot was unimaginable. When her anger at herself had subsided somewhat, she looked out of the small kitchen window to organise her thoughts. What was that? There, on the windowsill? Where there had just been a hand's breadth of snow, there was a hefty pile of walnuts. At least three handfuls. Enough for the Kletzenbrot. Next to it, our cook had to look twice when she spotted small tracks in the snow. Tiny little paw prints could be seen. And she knew that: The squirrel had just saved her Christmas.

The recipe of barley soup

Ingredients for 4 people:
•    1 chopped onion
•    30 gr carrots, celery, wild celery and chopped potatoes
•    100 gr smoked bacon
•    100 gr barley
•    2 l meat soup
•    some butter
•    1 bay leaf
Chop the onion and roast it in the butter. Then add the vegetables and the barley and let it roast.

Then add the soup and the bay leaf. Cook for 1 hour. At this point chop the bacon and the potatoes, add to the pot and cook for another 20 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to your taste.

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