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About the Bakehouses in the Village

Report by Karl Schäfer

Are there any housewives who are able to bake the daily bread in our days? Probably housewives over 70 years who took part in the baking procedure in the bakehouses, when they were young.
From their mothers or grandmothers they learnt how to bake bread. In my youth time there were two private bakehouses in the village, one was owned by Schalk – Schalks and the other one belonged to Emde – Jaustes.
A community bakehouse stood 10 m above the float- in of the Stender – Water into Neerdar Creek.
During the NS – aera it became a house for HJ (Hitler Youth) and BDM (Federation German Girls).
The community oven was larger than the others, two families could bake there at the same time. The loafs usually were sufficient for about a fortnight.
According to the number of family members 10 to 12 doughs were “shot in".
Probably a bakehouse belonged to each farmhouse in former times. Sometimes it was established in the cellar or they built a small extra building.
When the loafs ran short, the preparations had to start. The fixed day including the exact time was written down with chalk in the bakehouse and the village servant was informed. In larger communities it was him who decided by lot whose turn it was. The day before the baking started, the rye flour – delivered by miller Behlen- was firstly set warm, then it was poured into the baking trough. Sour dough and water followed (some people also poured some milk in) Then they were kneading the whole mixture. The dough had to “go”and to produce bubbles, so it was put aside and covered with a cloth. Some women cut a special sign in the loafs to make it fine.
No one liked Monday for baking, because it would take a lot of fire wood, for the oven had got cold over the weekend.
An “armful” of thin dry branches to light the fire and about 10 – 13 logs of “bakingwood” were taken to the bakehouse. When the oven was hot enough, it was tidied up from coal and ashes and the dough loafs were put in. A short time later they were drawn out by slider (a kind of wooden shovel). They began to become crispy and were wiped up with a wet cloth. Then they were slided in again.The baking time depended from the oven´s heat, often it took one hour or more.
The children were happy when the loafs had been shifted in too narrow. Then the loafs would grow out and got “humped backs” at those points where they stuck to one another. The children liked those crusty bowls very much.

My parents had a kitchen stove containing a small oven that was heated with firewood, for about 6 loafs.

(1912). It was also suitable for cooking. By Heinrich Emde. – Photos by the author.


By Heinrich Emde, with photos by the author, WLK 1965, S. 49f

If we install central fuel heating, "he" – sad to say- will have to go.”

HE“ is an old cast iron tile stove which stands in the former mill, the property of farmer Behlen in Bömighausen. Saying this, the young farm wife does not look very happy. Although she has to clean it daily and once a week thoroughly she does not really like that the oven will have to disappear. Ovens like this are Backhäuser in Bömighausenmore than heaters, they make the farmers feel comfortable in their rooms with the old, heavy furniture and give them a warm and cosy feeling.

Formerly those ovens were a part of every house. Above the large furnace the meal was cooked in an opening called “Kachel” and the water kettle used to hum its song there giving hot water at any time, and when visitors came, a cup of coffee could be prepared very quickly. In this “Kachel” also the so - called „Uowenkoken“(= oven cakes) were baked, thin, round cakes made from rubbed potatoes. They had a hearty taste and were liked by everyone.

However, the iron stoves´ and ovens´ époque finished when mineral coal became more and more popular as heating material in the households. Having been constructed by 1800 the railway transported the coal cheaply, even to those areas which were far away. For a while firewood was liked for heating as well in areas which were covered with woods. Those who owned forests and were able to cut down enough beech trees, kept their tile ovens and liked them more than the ceramic stoves, because using firewood meant “clean” heating, coal fire made bad air. But by and by the tile ovens disappeared, and there weren´t many which overcame the “mineral coal époque”.

Now the last ones have to set the course for the central heating, like the veteran in the old mill of BackhäuserBömighausen. But “He” still stands, warms the ancestors´ grand children und great- grandchildren. The oven was bought nearly 100 years ago, very likely it was extra made for the family.Backhäuser in Bömighausen The pictures on the iron tiles have something to do with millers and farmers. In the picture on one side you can see the embossment of a mill with a big wheel and a watercourse. On the left tile door there is a country woman in her room peeling potatoes. A farmer with a pointed hat sharpens his scythe on the right.

Not many mills stand by the rivers in our days, most of them have disappeared. Where is the water still streaming over the wooden wheel? Where does still a mill rattle aside a rushing creek? Where can you listen to a scythe sharpener´s ringing through a summer evening? Today noisy motors roar through the night. Only the country woman´s work has not changed that much: She still has got to peel the potatoes using a small „Ülmeken“ (=a small kitchen knife. Its handle often was carved out of elmtree wood Ülm= elm, -eken = diminishing word ending). And so did the farmers´ wives some hundred years ago.