Part 36: Potato Vacations And Rabbit Breeding

Most of the harvest help fell during the summer vacations, it did not so much diminish the lessons, but our free time. The autumn vacations were called ‘potato vacations’ anyway, which meant that we had to help vigorously with the harvest of this especially important food.

When the autumn weather was sunny and not too rainy, we children even enjoyed the work. Besides picking and bagging potatoes, we were allowed to burn the haulm and sizzle the fresh tubers in the hot ashes. The yellow core tasted delicious when we broke open the charred black peel.

After school and besides all the work, there was never any boredom, and it was always about the daily bread. My exchanged pair of rabbits had multiplied over time so to 30 animals splendid. A few chickens also clucked on the farm. The rabbit meat and the eggs were a good extra income. We had enough to eat, but the relatives from home also wanted to live. They had helped us selflessly during the war, and now we were indebted to them. Father could not manage everything on his own. Feeding the livestock without a field of our own was a feat.

Like the fruit trees along the paths, the grass in the ditches was also leased. I mowed forest meadows with a sickle and dried hay for the winter. From the threshing floor I collected the threshed chaff by the sack, in which there were still grains and weed seeds for the chickens. Sometimes I had no choice but to steal a bag of clover from somewhere to feed my hungry rabbits. Past the official count, sometimes a mutton or a pig was black slaughtered. This was not without danger and was severely punished.

Of course, firewood had to be provided, because the winter was long. Father had a discarded front axle with two wheels from a horse-drawn wagon refurbished by the blacksmith. Now the two-wheeled vehicle had four strong stanchions and an arm-strong drawbar. Side walls and gables were superfluous, as the main purpose was to transport logs. Pulling the heavy cart uphill into the forest was a grind. In the forest, the bark beetle had done an excellent job. The bark of the infested spruces came off, the needles turned brown due to lack of nourishment, and the trees died.

Whole districts fell victim to the beetle larvae. Using only an axe, I felled the dry trees, chopped them into three- to four-meter logs, and loaded them top-heavy onto the cart. The drawbar was extended with the top of the tree and the cart was lashed down with chains. Like a raftsman, I chased the cart downhill into the village. If it became too fast, I braked the cart by pushing up the extended drawbar and letting the tree trunks drag on the ground.

Over the year, it took a few dozen trips to bring in enough firewood for the winter. When there was enough wood on the farm, father came with the ox team, and we transported the thickest logs to the circular saw in the village. A good hour later there was a mountain of logs in the yard waiting for my axe. Father didn’t have time to chop wood. It was a long time before I could warm myself by the hearth fire, but I handled the axe like I handled my soup spoon. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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