My husband and I are starting a homestead in the Italian Alps (on the border between the Alps and the Prealps). We're at about 400 m above sea-level, with only a slight height difference of about 30 m from our lowest to highest plot of land.
I feel like the Alps really have their own micro-climate, and is difficult to compare to the rest of the country. What little experience I have with living here tells me that it has lots of challenges (limited sun-hours depending on the position of your land with the mountains around it, higher altitude colds, rocky and steep terrain, erosion), but it also can have lots of benefits (lots of water year-round due to rainfall and snow pockets), sunny valleys creating seemingly mediterranean climates due to the warmth getting trapped and reflected by the mountains, and ofcourse the ever so beautiful scenery!
I would love to hear the experiences of other people trying to farm / live in the Alps!
Lake Geneva region here, Swiss part.
Some particularities I've noticed in the decade or so of living here:
Height makes a big difference. They say spring comes a week later and fall a week earlier for each 200 metres above sea level.
The large and very deep lakes create their own climates. They reflect sunlight and stay warm well into fall, reaching their lowest temps about now in early March.
Valleys direct winds, which have names according to their direction or character. The bise is a cold dry very strong wind from the north east, the joran thunderstorms from the northwest in gusts, the vent brings rain from the east... old folk can point out the direction of these winds accurately.
Mountain shadow is significant especially in winter. South or North side of a mountain can be very different!
There are long periods without rain, especially in the spring. In summer, snow evaporation off the glaciers and lakes rises to spark impressive thunderstorms in the afternoon, especially if a stable anticyclone gets established.
Glaciers shrinking and Ross Cycles slowing are modifying these patterns. We are expecting hot summers and snow less winters. Drought will probably become a major concern. Will Switzerland remain the water tower of Europe?
Location: Italian Alps, Zone 8
posted 8 months ago
So nice to hear from you!
I'm so fascinated by everything you said in your post (also browsed some of your other threads on permits and I very much liked what I read so far).
I'm surprised you mentioned drought in the Alps. I could be mistaken as I only live here for about 2 years, but from what I've seen, when everywhere else in Europe drought is challenging the land and vegetation, our region always seems to still be covered with lots of thick lush grasses and spring water everywhere. Ofcourse this is more true when it comes to the valleys than it is for the slopes. I think finding ways to create water storing ponds on slopes like on the Holzer farm in Austria seems like a good way to tackle this.
What elevation is your land situated? And how is your terrain in terms of sun exposure?
Have you got any experience with ponds on sloped land?
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