Making A Living Off The Land

RONALD FROMMANN/LAIF for TIME

HAY FEVER: The barn-hotel run by the Winkelmanns.

The Ritz it ain't. Christina Ast's idea of a great summer vacation is mucking out cowsheds and picking potatoes with her three daughters and their children at Heinrich Winkelmann's farm on the heaths in Lower Saxony in northern Germany. At night, they bed down in the barn on a layer of hay. Never mind the mice audibly scurrying around in the dark or the spiders that crawl into their sleeping bags. "It's the most wonderful experience," says Ast, 47, a health-care administrator from Halle/Saale. "The hay is beautifully soft and warm and it crackles when you move."

"Hay...

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