The Bensemanns lived in a Bauernhof or small farm in which the livestock were kept inside (unlike in New Zealand) at night and during winter months. This is still the practice in many of the buildings, including ancestral buildings, in the Vilsen district today.

Click photo to enlarge: Even chooks (poultry) were kept inside - Hebertos Feldkamp explains that this is a typical nest at the edge of the threshing floor area (where grain was collected inside by the family after beating wheat and oat stalks etc on the floor - surely the chooks grabbed a few spare bits and pieces too!) Members of the household had merely to reach up into the nests to obtain eggs.

Daily life in the Bauernhaus or farm house revolved to a large extent around strong family matriarchs who organised the family and any staff members from her usual position around the constantly-attended cooking fire, which was truly the heart of the whole farming venture. Her herbs and spices etc were kept in racks above the fireplace, together with root vegetables and the curing wursts (salamis) like our grandparents made at Sarau and Ranzau in Nelson Province and hung up in their chimneys. (The author's father had an old family recipe, does anyone else have one?).

From her position in the "kitchen" ( a typical example is pictured above) the hausfrau could see out of the double doors - large enough for horse-drawn vehicles - and many of these matriachs took a major role in what went on in the fields.

Click photo to enlarge - The front of a very old bauernhof - not exactly the same as the ones still existing in the Vilsen area, but showing the double doors and outside toilet.

Click photo to enlarge - An old granary. These were typically surrounded by a moat or creek and doubled as a refuge in times of trouble. Although it cannot be seen in this shot, a little off-set toilet extends out the back of the upstairs room in this one, with a long rectangular wooden pipe under the toilet extending down to the stream.

Around the kitchen area, cooking implements were kept in the racks above the fire also, or under the typically long seat or form the matriarch sat on. A large wooden trunk containing rolled-up white linen took pride of place somewhere in the home. It was a kind of dowry. The beds were distinctive - often very short by modern standards. People slept on an angle - almost in a sitting position, as it was generally believed a person should not lie flat until dead. These little bedrooms can still be seen in traditional hofs but are usually used as store-rooms. Modern Germany families usually sleep in much larger rooms built as attachments in recent centuries.

Click photo to enlarge: A bauernhof bed.

Below is a typical layout of a bauernhaus: 

Many thanks to the kindness of German historian Herbertos Feldkamp of Osnabruck who hosted the author, and brought these buildings to life in his descriptions of them, and to the Westphalian Open Air Museum in Detmold at which these photographs were taken.  


This site was last updated 11/18/09