Threshing In Germany


| December/January 1991



Threshing process

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.