Germany – A German Farm

One day my interpreter and I took a train for the province of Pommern, to visit Herr Ernest Schlange, Rittergut, who has a great farm at Schonningen, near Colbitzow. His fine carriage met us at the station; the driver was in good livery. Presently we were driving through a lane that led through the estate to the farmsteads and dwelling of Herr Schlange. It is a great place of 1,850 acres, some of it of rich soil. As we were going through a sandy part in the thin grass beside the fence, I saw something new and interesting to n e-a wild-growing alfalfa with a yellow bloom, evidently the true “sand lucern” of which I had read; but the flowers were truly of a bright canary yellow. That alfalfa gave me a thought—there is certainly a strain that will endure cold, poor soil and lime deficiency and that will grow in the sand. Herr Schlange received us with cordial welcome. I remember the enormous extent of roof, over feeding yards and barns for cows, sheep and horses. I know that I made a mental calculation and decided that there must be here at least two acres under roof. There is where we are so lacking in America; we have not shelter enough for our animals and crops. Herr Schlange breeds a magnificent type of Soissonais Merino, and is one of the men with a creative brain. “I have not one that has not a bad fault,” he said to us; “I see always the fault when I look at an animal.”

Herr Schlange talked of the decline in sheep breeding in Germany. Naturally the opening up of Australia had much to do with it. He thought that a strong factor also was the growth of cities, which enhanced the value of dairy products. He was sure that, had men used his type of Merino, which was easily fattened, hardy and healthy, it would have given them encouragement to keep their flocks. Now the English Oxfords, Hampshires and other breeds are coming in use to breed for mutton. The government had recently cooperated with the farmers to sell their wool at auction, and that had materially improved prices.

Pigs are greatly on the increase in Pommern, said Herr Schlange, because prices are so good, due to the enormous growth of cities. Therefore the, keep many pigs on Schonningen. Live pigs were worth from 10 to 15 cents per pound. Land in the region was worth $200 up to $300 per acre for choice farms, with little being sold, of course. As we sat at dinner I questioned my host industriously as to labor conditions. I think he never before had so many questions put to him in one day; in fact, now and then he half rebelled at answering, but at last good-naturedly the revealed nearly all. He has for his 1,850 acres about thirty-five men, largely Russians and Austrians, who work the year around. In the summer he employs eighty men. He has the patriarchal system, of which he is very proud. To each man is given, if married, a piece of land, a cow and some money (just how much Herr Schlange forgot to tell me). A carter, unmarried, has, how-ever, lodging, a garden place, firewood and $60 to $70 per year. I was immensely interested to see on this place the mingling of the old and the new. For instance, he was using great steam plows the day we were there, each gang drawn back and forth by two engines stationed at opposite sides of the field. He had fine threshing machines in his barn, but still was having a lot of grain threshed out either with flails by hand or with small horsepower machines. When asked about this, he said that it was to give employment to his thresher families; that it was an old custom; that he gave to each one a mark (about 25 cents) per day, kept a cow for him and in addition gave him 4 per cent of the grain that he threshed. Eight families were so employed on the place.