Threshing In Germany

Threshing process

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6583 Lower Macungie Rd.

Macungie, Pennsylvania 18062 I grew up during the early decades of the twentieth century in a small farming town south of Stuttgart, Germany, called Aich. In 1930 I immigrated to the United States, following the example of several people from my village, and settled in Allentown, Pa. I am a member of the Antique Engine, Tractor, and Toy Club, Inc. of Kempton, Pa. The following are some recollections of farming and threshing from my childhood in Aich.

Prior to World War I, farmers in southern Germany were relatively prosperous. Most lived in villages, with their fields scattered in the outlying areas. A farmer usually had many small fields of one quarter to one acre in size. My father alone had over twenty five fields in the vicinity of Aich. Crops included wheat, oats, barley, as well as many varieties of vegetables. Plowing, sowing, and cultivating were done with horses, cows, or oxen. Harvesting was done by hand with scythe and cradles. Once cut, the grain was bound into sheaves and brought on horse-drawn wagons to barns for drying and storage.

Threshing was done in the late fall and winter. During the pre-World War I period, farmers usually helped one another and hired someone with a threshing machine and a steam powered engine to do the threshing. The picture below was taken in Sielmingen during just such an event. The engine was powered by a wood fire, and had to be moved from place to place with horses. This particular one was used in Sielmingen and a neighboring village of Ecterdingen (the present site of the Stuttgart airport). The steam engine and threshing machine made fast work of the threshing process.

World War I and the hyperinflation period following the war brought many hardships for the German farmer. During the war, the German government had drafted most of the country's horses into the army. After the war most farmers had only cows to use as draft animals. Many farmers could no longer afford to have an outsider do threshing. My father, Friedrich Rauscher, was no exception. Threshing in this period, was done on the threshing floor in our barns using hand flails. My father, mother, and five or six neighbors worked from early morning till evening for five to six weeks to thresh the grain that could have been done by machine in several hours. My job was to turn the grain on the threshing floor, then in turn each thresher hit the grain with his flail. At the end of the day four to five bushels of wheat had been removed from the straw. We then swept the grain and chaff together and separated it with a hand cranked windmill. When our grain was finished my parents moved on to help our neighbors with their threshing. The whole process took all fall and winter to complete.

Although our village of Aich was small, because of the Aichtal stream that flowed through it we had two grist mills in operation. The Horning and the Reiner Mills, both run by water power, attracted many farmers from miles around. Taking our wheat to the mills to be ground into flour was one of my favorite jobs. My mother used the flour from our own wheat to bake bread. Every week she baked six to eight loaves. The bread, a dark whole wheat, was begun in the evening by mixing flour, yeast, water, and a starter sourdough from the previous week together and letting it rise. The bread was baked in one of two communal bake ovens which were located next to the town hall. Each family in Aich had a scheduled time to use the ovens. On rare occasions my mother would bake raised cakes with bought white flour.

As times became better, Emil Merkle and Erwin Schworer, two enterprising young men in our village, purchased a small threshing machine and electric motor to run it. They began to go around to the farmers and do their threshing for them.

Although the threshing machine worked well enough, the electric motor did not have enough horsepower to really run it. The wheat had to be fed very slowly into the hopper. Despite the shortcomings, Emil and Erwin worked hard and saved their money and in 1928 they bought the first Lanz Bulldog diesel powered tractor in the area. The men traveled from Aich forty-five miles to Hielbronn to C.C. Storzbach the tractor distributor. When they arrived, their tractor was waiting for them, but the brake assembly had not been attached. Anxious as they were, they drove the tractor home anyway. The picture above is of Emil and Erwin on their arrival in Aich. Note the long wooden pole on top of the tractor. This was used as a makeshift brake on the hilly ride home.

The arrival of the Lanz Bulldog marked the beginning of change for Aich. Threshing could now be efficiently done in half a day per farm, and the new proud owners were making a good living with their tractor. One unusual note about the Lanz: when the tractor was stopped and then restarted, it often ran backwards. If this happened, it had to be stopped and then restarted again.

In the following years, Aich got many other tractors and continued to modernize, but in my memory none made a greater impact upon our lives than the arrival of the first Lanz Bulldog. In 1951 I made a return trip to Aich, and at that time many of the old Lanz Bulldogs were still in use.