Land-owning city dwellers usually need more manure that they are able to produce with their limited quantity of livestock. Therefore, they are eager to take the dung that poorer people accumulate over the course of the year. In the spring, for a small transportation fee, the farming burghers take this dung to their plots. Whatever land can be fertilized with this manure is then made available to people for potato growing. Once the potatoes are harvested in the fall, the city landowner normally sows these fields with a winter crop (rye), with the grain benefiting from the manure as well.
Given these circumstances, it is easy to understand that each “planter” aims to collect as much manure as possible. The more he manages to accumulate, the more potatoes he can cultivate; not to mention the fact that urban landowners definitely prefer it when someone provides approximately two to three loads of manure rather than just a half.
Anyone capable of doing so will therefore raise a goat, and, if possible, a pig, too. We only managed a goat, whose care was largely entrusted to me. It was essential to fetch sufficient food in the summertime so that the animal did not “dry out.” Well, I soon became an expert at that sort of thing and learned to avoid being grabbed by the neck by the field guard. Additionally, the necessary straw needed to be collected, since there wouldn’t be enough dung otherwise. I also knew how to accomplish that to the satisfaction of – the goat. During the haymaking and grain harvest season, I “raked together” a lot of stuff that was lying in front of the barns of the farming burghers and on the dirt roads. To the same end, I gathered moss and spruce needles from the surrounding copses. A small supply could even be set aside for winter. In late fall, when there was no more grass and leaves to pick, the goat was fed potato peels and rutabagas. Eventually, there was no way to avoid buying one to one-and-a-half short hundredweights of hay. In the summertime, after school, my sister and I often set out on the country lanes, equipped with a bag and cart, to collect “windfalls” to enlarge our manure heap. That’s what we called road apples and cow pies, which we picked up carefully in various states of dryness – sometimes half dry but often still relatively warm and fresh – and transported home triumphantly. The more, the better. We were not overly enthusiastic about it, though, as the business was not only quite grubby but occasionally taxing on the olfactory nerves. But what was one to do? Mother’s wish was our command, and afterwards we got an extra slice of bread.
Moreover, my sister and I put a lot of effort into gathering firewood as well. Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, when there was no school, we grabbed our cart and walked about half a mile to the forest to collect a load of so-called “grabbing and gathering wood,” an activity authorized by the forest warden’s office. The summer holidays, in particular, provided extensive opportunities for picking up firewood; during that time, we were out in the bush almost every day. After all, the point was to collect as large a supply as possible for the wintertime. Frequently, we also brought home a meal’s worth of mushrooms on these occasions. For us, however, the best thing about these bush outings were the ripe and ready berries, even though they gave us severe stomach upsets every now and then.