A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Cultivation, “Hutweide?,” "Segregation?,” "Kommasierung?,” 

Sowing the Harvest Corn Session Farmer

by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
Translated by Brad Schwebler

     The farmer at the time did not have his field like today..  It was mostly on a piece of land (complex), more on spots of the "Hotter" (border meadows), so for example, a quarter field (about 9 chains) laid on eight or nine different spots of the "Hotter" and was divided up into agricultural fields of about six chains, a large meadow two chains in extent and a small meadow of one chain in extent and with it still came the right to the "Hutweide" (border pasture).

     The farmer at the time did not have his field like today..  It was mostly on a piece of land (complex), more on spots of the "Hotter" (border meadows), so for example, a quarter field (about 9 chains) laid on eight or nine different spots of the "Hotter" and was divided up into agricultural fields of about six chains, a large meadow two chains in extent and a small meadow of one chain in extent and with it still came the right to the "Hutweide" (border pasture).

What is a "Hutweide"?

  A "Hutweide" is understood to be the common pasture in which the "Viehstand" (pasture) horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, etc. of all the inhabitants as well as the rulers could be grazed.

     When the farmer had his horses unhitched in the evening, they were driven onto the "Hutweide" where they grazed until he fetched them again.  The supervision (so called "Hut", from which the word "Hutweide" arose) of the horses was cared for by a housekeeper (formerly known as csikos).  The foals stayed on the pasture uninterrupted from early spring to winter time.

     The beef cattle such as the calves of the beef breed were also driven onto the pasture in the springtime (24th of April) and stayed constantly outside until late fall (1st of November).  The "Nutzvieh" (useful cattle), such as the cow, for example, was driven out into the pasture at daybreak and brought back home again in the evening.  There the milk maid had to milk the cow late in the evening, and in the morning had to care for it very timely, then at daybreak the cow had to be brought back to the pasture again.

     The cows were tended by the cow keeper with his own lads who were paid by the owners of the beef cattle from the heads of cattle.  Pasture money was not paid.  There through the common grazing on the Hutweide between the village inhabitants and the rulers very often resulted in differences in opinion, because just the rulers or the state leased his right or let the sheep graze up so much that the cattle could hardly still exist on the pasture.  So the "Hutweide" was now legally allocated and this happened through the "Segregation" in the year 1875.  

What is "Segregation"?

     "Segregation" meant the partition of the rights.  In this case the allocation of the Hutweide between the "Untertanen" (Subjects) and the rulers.  At the division of the Hutweide each one kept a quarter field one and a half chains allotted as their Hutweide share.  The house of the small homeowner, which still dated from the time of the settlers, as the Hutweide was now legally allocated, kept 1475 square fathoms of land as their Hutweide right which lay near the community and "Jog" (from German law, understood as the Hutweide right) was called.

The Management of the Field by the “Kommassierung”

Webmaster note: Definition of "Kommassierung": Due to a law of 1848, the farmers were to become landowners.

     As was already mentioned before here, the field of the farmer consisted of a session (four quarter-fields), mostly on 8 or 9 spots, so the management of the field at the time could be determined from that which mill and how much work and expenditures were needed towards it.

     In summary, and to get an idea how the management was carried out, lying in so many spots of the field, it must be mentioned that the farmer, because he had neither well nor building on his small piece of field, each day at three o'clock in the morning and again in the evening had to leave the field and drive home, which meant a great deal of trouble not only for the farmer, but also for his cattle. - He had to go the whole day to get the necessary drinking water (Trenkwasser), not only for himself but for his horses as well, which usually came from the community cattle well at the site of the present day marketplace at the edge of the community situated towards Srbobran.  The farmer wanted to accomplish something during the day, so he had to get up on time in the morning, in the summer and fall at 1:30 or 2:00 AM, feed and clean his horses, harness one to the wagon about 3:00 or 3:30 AM, drive to the community cattle well, fill his water vessel (usually a small wooden cask) and drive on out to the field to his work.  So it went, one day on one side of the Hotter, another day on the other side, and so on, until finally he was finished in all spots everywhere where it was just his field.

     The "Kommassierung" of the Hotters brought relief in this matter to the farmers in 1878 since each one of the proprietors and small homeowners had so many spots on the field that a piece was obtained measured together.  


     The Kommassierung in Feketitsch was carried out in 1878.  Kommassierung was a complex which united the fields of the farmers which lay in so many spots.

     In the year 1878 it also attached itself to the formation of the Salasch (work yard on the field) which was now already built on a spot (complex) on the farmer's field.  From now on it would only be possible to thresh the fruit on the Salasch, give the beef cattle found here their feed, and the manure was only driven out to the field from the Salasch but not from the community.  That has been the greatest reason why the fields have generally not been or were very sparsely fertilized by the Kommassierung.  This great omission of our farmer at the time can only be understood and grasped when we know that, first, the harvested grain in the community had to be taken to be threshed, because no field thresher existed at that time.  Secondly, that no one had made a completely suitable cattle stall with a working feed trough, and with the grain straw, mostly wheat straw, the stable manure was transformed to stable fertilizer by spreading it in the field.  Thirdly, that no one had attributed any great worth to the stable fertilizer.  From a proper fertilizer treatment (as it is unfortunately still too often the case today) no one knows anything still anyway.  At the time they were richly supplied in nutritional value although there was still no demand for nutrition, at first the hardly developed ground still supplied in abundance.  However the fertilizing generally ceased because all fertilizer had to be driven to the fields from the community.  

     The management of the fields by our farmers at the time was not only laborious and difficult because the fields were overgrown and lay apart, but also because the equipment the farmer possessed left too much to be desired.  The plough, one of the most important tools of the farmer at the time, was made almost entirely of wood.  He merely had an iron "Schar?", an iron screw for the deeper and higher places, and an iron "Sech?"

     How the fields could be worked with such wild and barren ground and with such a plough is hard to grasp, especially when one thinks that such a plow could not be solidly put together, since the wood became soaked from the weather conditions, then dried out from the sun and wind.  To do it justice in these circumstances each one of the farmers brought a hand axe, a hammer, and some wooden wedges in a small sack with him.  How one appeared to plow a field with such a plough, one can easily imagine himself.  With a wooden plow a man could also not plow alone in those days, but had to be in twos, because he had to constantly hold on to the plow and press down.  When it didn't come out of the furrow, the other had to guide the horse.  Such a field must have been much laborious work.  With this plough (to which three, or even four horses were harnessed) it took the farmer at least twice as long as today.

Wooden Plow


    When we consider all this difficult work, great expenses, "Robot" output, etc. of the former farmers, it is also clear to us why someone at that time, in the beginning of the past century, was not very eager to own more fields, as is the case today.  It is also understandable that at that time it was not seldom when one had exchanged a small piece of land, such as a quarter piece of land or 150 square fathoms of land, for a loaf of bread.  It is still known even today, because it is still told and handed down by the parents and grandparents, that Fillip Weber, born 1833, was offered a small piece of land for a loaf of bread.  However, it was not taken in exchange because he already had 8 pieces of land without this new piece and an increase meant more work had to be done.

     The fields at the time still lay in many farmlands led the farmer, at most, to a three farmland or four field economy.  The regularly alternating cultivation was strictly observed, so that the fallow lying fields would be used by each one of the farmers at the same time for grazing their beef cattle.

     For wheat the fallow field and the oat field were ploughed, turned, and tilled three times and in the fall before the sowing of the seeds, it was ploughed once again medium deep, 4 or 5 inches.

The Sowing

     Many of the farmers have already scattered and ploughed under a third of the seeds before the plowing, but many after first completing the seed beds, so after the plowing, and after the grinding with the "Schleehecken" (hedge?) (thorn) grinder.

Dornenschleife (thorn grinder)

     To be ready for sowing, the seeds had to be cleaned beforehand with the "Windfege" (sweeper) and possibly mixed in with lime muck seed dressing using well-matured seeds which were sowed by hand by someone knowledgeable in sowing, from one of the sowers (am Halfe?) in the heap evenly tied up (Sätuche?) were scattered in evenly measured steps.

     In this activity of the sowers a solemn act was revealed.  In addition to evenly measured seeds the sowers needed to be very careful and punctual and their work in perfection or imperfection would determine if the seeds would rise.  The scattered seeds were placed by the thorn grinder.  Two "Metzen" were calculated and spent for sowing about 150 kg. of seeds on a chain (2000 square fathoms) of land.

     The treatment of the seeds existed from "the time of spring" when the days were already warm, when grinding up (Abschleifen) the wheat field was carried out.  When the wheat was grown in the "Kukuruzvorfrucht?" field, were then (strumpfen?) after the grinding of the Kukuruz (corn), ( which after cutting off the corn leaves in the ground  and about 10 cm above the ground the rest of the corn stalk is found with roots) picked together and taken away from the field.  Cutting the mustard with the wheat did not prevent it and also because one could use it as good burning material such as heating material that had to be used for heating in the winter and is also still used today. - After that the wheat seeds did not receive any more treatment.  In normal times the wheat ripened usually in the time of Peter and Paul's days, the 29th of June, then the cutting was begun.


Windfege (Wind Sweeper)

     The cutting of the wheat of three to four quarters of a large field property at the time was still carried out mostly by the owner such as by him and his lads themselves, and this began with the twisting of the ropes in which the cutters prepared to grind up the wheat and the wheat laying there was collected in bells by the female cutters and were tied up in a sheaf.  The cutting work was and still is today the most difficult task for the farmers and demands the greatest stamina.  The rope making begins already in the morning at about 2 AM and because the rope making is only possible in the wet conditions of the grain stalks, they had to have the necessary amount of rope to be prepared to last the whole day (for a scythe to cut 450-500 pieces).  This lasted until 4 or 5 o'clock. - After that they began to reap the grain and went at it the whole live long day until afternoon, - towards 5 or 6 o'clock, and lasted until the scattered ears were erected (Aufrechen) in the evening. - And so it went until the cutting was finished and this lasted for some years, when the grain was well-developed, even when it was laying in places, also not infrequently for three weeks long.  How much sweat, tiredness, and weariness it may have caused at the time, when one thinks how long and how hot one long summer day still is.

     When the harvest, such as the cutting, was finished, which was after the tithing to the rulers, the introduction of suitable grains began.  At the time it was all driven to the home in the community which was also a great and weary work.  Then all sheaf's on the "Tretplatz" were set on the sheaf slide.  Before they started putting in the beds, the "Tretplatz" (stepping place) was first suitably prepared for this purpose.  The ground was watered in the evening and then steadily and evenly stepped on.  After the ground was firmly trampled many times it was rock hard so that the trampled grains could already be shoveled on and sunk in. - On this hard and already smoothly prepared ground the sheaves were now already laying in a round mould from a previous opening until its size reached 25-30 meters in circumference.  Then the sheaves were lain one on top of another and as the step bed was put in, the trampling was begun by the horses.

The Trampling of the Grains

     For the trampling 4 to 6 horses were usually used, harnessed with two next to each other. - The horse keeper (Roßhalter) steered them with long reins standing in the middle of the step beds and they drove in a circle over the open displayed sheaves for a long time until this was not firmly stepped on.  After that the step bed was overturned and after the beds were firmly trampled once again, which after the slipped ears were thrown out, the ground was newly stamped, turned, and freshly trampled again, until finally no more ears were to be seen than those that were cleared from the step bed, the lower layer was turned over and the trampling continued for a long time, until the straw was cleared from the upper layer after many times, the straw itself either had to be crushed in the form of chaff or was completely cleared.  Now the grains were shoveled together with the chaff and about the grains, and the part in the chaff was taken out (in the yard), the horses at a racing tempo were driven to trot over the already shoveled together bed until the grains were not all free of chaff.  When this was all done it was already towards evening.  Then the wheat, oats, barley, etc. were cleaned off with the "Windfege" (sweeper), even twice and carried to the house floor to be cleaned.  The lasted the session farmer the length of the harvest and collection of the goods, for 3 to 4 weeks in good, dry weather.  The wheat straw was used partly in the straw yard for heating the living room and only a small part was used at the time for the "Einstreu" (scattering?) because at the time very little or generally no importance was given to fertilizer production. The chaff was fed to the beef cattle in the winter as raw feed.

     The yield was a good medium "Fechsung" per chain (2000 square fathoms), 18 to 22 Kreuz (crosses) with 18 sheaves with 12 to 15 Pester Metzen or 94 liters of grain.  The "Metz" is approximately 72-75 kilograms per four quarters or three thirds.

     The farmer gave away a part of his harvest to the agreement (Abmachen) at a "Riesaren", so he paid for the agreement, "Einbinden" (binding), "Kreuzen" (crossing), raking, driving in, and threshing an 11th or at least a 12th part of the "Fechsung" by the agreed upon area.

     Except for wheat the "stalk fruit?", oats, barley, and grain were still grown.  The process for this "stalk fruit" was similar to the wheat.

     A principal cultivated plant already developed at the time was similar to today's corn (Kukuruz).

    The corn was sowed in the spring, 3 to 4 inches deep, not like today where this has already mostly been done in the fall, 8 to 10 inches deep and around it, because the farmers at the time still set the corn in the furrows by hand.  If the corn had been put in deep, it would not have come up.  Later, in the 1900's the corn was sowed by means of a corn planter which was brought along on a plow cart although it was still placed directly in the furrows.  

Old "Kukuruzsetzer" (corn planter)


    Through this process one has spared himself a worker and the seeds were evenly sowed.  After the corn fields were sowed in the second half of April the fields were harrowed.  The corn was still chopped without any other tools except the hand axe at the time.  So the chopping was the main work of the farmers like the harvest, trampling, etc.  After the chopping of the corn fields, since the corn was already pretty well grown, approximately 35-40 cm high, quite a bit of earth (ground) was piled up around each one of the corn plants, with the determination that the wind could not break the tall corn plants so easily.  This piling was one large and difficult work, like the chopping, lasted one chain after another, even two days longer than the chopping.  The piling occurred as a rule somewhat before the wheat harvest and with it the preparation work for the corn was also finished.

     The corn ripened at the time somewhat later than today because it was just put in deeper and later as a rule (the first results were in April), the only ripened results after that were in September, so that when the farmer wanted to grow wheat after the corn, he either had to break off the corn half green or he first had to delay cultivating the wheat, and that is why there was also little wheat after the corn, yet on the other hand more was grown in the fallow fields and the oat fields. - Twenty to twenty-five years ago the corn was still broken with the husks of the stalk and driven home. - The corn was sorted either in the yard or in the hold of the wagon in which it was brought in from the field during the day to be unloaded and in the evening when the work had to be put up towards darkness, the husking of the corn began.

    The corn (Kukuruz) husking was mostly a merry work and lasted daily until late into the night.  It was already often dark very early in the autumn days and the work was nevertheless continued in the dark. - The corn husker sat around and drove around during the day on a pile of corn, the young sang merry songs and the old always knew something to talk about during the day.  So the work took place very merrily and happily in the beginning, but later the songs fell silent as the young were mostly sleepy and the tales of the old were also quieter and interrupted by long pauses.  The tiring work during the day made the members weary and already have some with closed eyes, half asleep doing the typical work.  Meanwhile it was 9:30 or 10:00 o'clock when the head of the household declared that the work for this evening was finished and the neighbors and relatives who came to the husking went home and gave in to a blissful sleep, as well as the whole household, after which only a part of the rested members would continue in the morning of the next day with the corn breaking work again.  The husked corn was always separated from the unhusked corn and there it lay for a few days in the sun until it was dry and the corn cobs were carried to their own prepared "Schupfen", stable floor, or "Schardak".  This work often lasted 10 to 14 days in favorable weather, in rainy times it lasted as long as three weeks.

Wooden harrow

    The farmer could not always do the corn work himself, so every two to three chains were given away to a work pair.  For the chopping, piling, breaking, and husking work and to carry the corn to the "Schardak" or "Schupfen" after that, the workers kept a fourth part of the cob "Fechsung".  The yield of a good medium "Fechsung" was 3 to 4 wagons full of corn cobs, without the husks, so the husked corn on the cob was approximately 25 Metzen per chain.

     There was a freedom fight in the years 1848-49 during which time our farmers in particular suffered great losses.  Everything, their possessions and goods went, as well as the whole livestock were carried off and their homes were burnt down.  After that there was a partial reestablishment of order in the late fall of 1849 from their hiding place where they had fled to, mostly from the community of Sekitsch which was spared of the plundering.  When they came back again they found a very sad picture.  Everything they had left behind in their flight was transformed into a pile of rubble.  No bread, no shelter, no wandering cattle for the new cultivation of the fields.  With a word said their reunion with their homes was a "misery".  It is easy to understand what despondency and what anxiety one went back to work again.  For the time being an accommodation had to be made, then the necessary migratory cattle to tend to the cultivation of the fields, and then they still kept looking around for the scanty bread grain and feed to borrow for the migratory cattle until the next harvest and this was their first concern so the work in the field could be begun anew.  How many years the industrious farmer met such devastation, one cannot exactly say, but it has been many years, perhaps a decade, and it can be easily explained by the reasons given.

      The year 1852 brought the farmer a new form of contribution to the state.  From then on the contribution was no longer paid in the form of grain (natural produce) etc., but rather a tax had to be paid in cash.  Therefore 1852 was the unfortunate birth year of the tax which we farmers still always have to pay too much today.

     As was already mentioned beforehand, the farmer had to give before and up to the years 1848 to 1852 their obligation to the state in natural produce, a tenth, "Robot", and portion, which burdened the farmer with a property of 4/4 (one session) of field with the following arrangement:

     When we take into consideration that a session farmer, of his 36 chains of field, he grew a third or 12 chains of wheat, and in the normal average of a medium "Fechsung" of 20 Kreuze per chain harvested, 240 Kreuze altogether, to the state he had to deliver a seventh part or 34.28 Kreuze.

     On the second third he grew oats and harvested also, a normal average taken on the basis of 30 Kreuze per chain, 360 Kreuze altogether.  Therefore the part delivered to the state was 51.42 Kreuze.

     On half of the third part he usually grew corn, and this was 6 chains.  The yield of the corn at the time in Metzen was calculated to be 2500 kg. of cobs per chain, 150 Metzen altogether.  Therefore the share delivered to the state was 21.42 kg. of corn on the cob.

     The second half of the third part was left to grow fallow.

     Besides these contributions he had to accomplish approximately 80 days of "Robot" (I take the middle average, then according to Urbarial law a session farmer had to do from 62 to 104 days a year), per chain which was 2.22 days.

     There was also the burden of the "portion" in addition, to be precise, a head tax which was 48 Kreuzer for a farmer, 41 Kreuzer for a cow, 20 Kreuzer for a horse, 10 Kreuzer for a foal, and 1 Florint, 17 Kreuzer for each quarter of field.  So for four quarters of field a session farmer had to pay on the "portion" the following:

Guilders           Kreuzer

On the head tax -   48

Assuming he had 2 cows at 41 Kr. per cow - 82

To work his fields he needed 4 horses at 20 Kr. each - 80

From breeding his horses he probably had 2 foals at 10 Kr. ea.- 20

For four quarters of field at 1.17 each     4              68

Altogether in cash 6  98 was delivered to the state.

This quantity distributed on 36 chains, amounted to per chain:

        in grain   . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 166 kg.

        in "Robot" accomplishment . . . .   2.2 days

        in "portion" paid . . . . . . . . . . . .   19 Kreuzer

A session farmer had these obligations until 1848 for a chain of field.

     In the first year after 1852, as the tax was merely paid in cash, a session farmer had to pay 37 Florints, 44 Kreuzer altogether.  That is 1 Florint, 4 Kreuzer per chain.  In 1853 the farmer paid 69.84 Florint altogether.  That is 1 Florint, 94 Kreuzer per chain.

     In the 1860's and 1870's approximately 108 to 110 Guilders already had to be paid for one session of field.  That is equivalent to 3 Guilders per chain.  

The first plowshare made completely of iron.

The years 1870-1880 until 1900 were not so bad in tax payments.

     Agriculture in the 1900's until the World War in 1914 was the relationship in regards to the ability to make a profit, somewhat acceptable, the raw products and the requisites of the farmer were more or less adapted to the grain prices, so the farmer would be well off and the session farmer, if he also saved a little and in using his products well and with careful manipulation he could also still set something aside.  The taxes were also not too excessive.  One paid 8 to 10 Kronen a year altogether for one chain of good field.

Cast iron plow with wooden handles.

     If one considers the wheat price of 14 to 16 Kronen per 100 kg. at the time in comparison to the tax burden now, so it established for the farmer the favorable relationship in the times from 1870 to 1914, that one merely needed to make a tax payment of 50 to 70 kg. of wheat for a chain of field.

Source: Die Deutschen der Gemeinde Feketic-Feketitsch by Dr. Viktor Pratscher, 1936. Herausgegeben vom Festausschusz der Gedenkfeier.

[Published at 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr]