1941. Second World War. «Somewhere in Switzerland». Kaspar Tanner, together with his family, runs the Gschwend farm. He is told by the authorities to turn part of his meadow into farmland. Tanner, a patriot and democrat, prepared to defend his homeland at all times, nevertheless refuses to let the government run him. Despite the present state of emergency, which would seem to justify intervention in his «private realm», Tanner feels his «self-reliance» must be preserved. Threats of legal action and fines only make Tanner more determined. Isolated and with his back to the wall, he begins to farm again, in the same self-supporting manner of his forefathers. He ends up by turning to black marketeering and eventually going to prison - where he finds himself on the brink of death. Characters like Tanner, bound to nature and the land, are becoming more and more of a rarity. Tanner's willful resistance reveals a lot of primitive, democratic «mud» clinging to his boots, mud which is stirred in the story by ironic means.