The Week in Research

Welcome to a new feature. I hope it interests you. It’s where I write about what I’ve researched, lately. I love research, and I’ve been meaning to start this feature for quite some time.

So I’m writing about some events that take place on a farm. Yeah, I know, The Sevenfold Spell also took place partially on a farm. But farm life was very common in the centuries before this one and the previous one, so I think I’m good.

Another important fact about the story: it takes place in an unnamed Germanic country.

Anyway, I had envisioned this scene that took place at the top of a grain silo. When did farmers start using grain silos, I wondered? I looked it up. Not until grain elevators were invented. In other words, fairly recently. Scratch that scene. It’s been totally rewritten.

See how research can drive the story?

Anyway, I’m happily writing away about life on this farm, and I have this scene envisioned that takes place in a kitchen. I start wondering if German kitchens had any significant differences from ours. And then I wondered if I was totally off in my vision of a typical family farmhouse in Germany during Little House-ish times, or maybe a hundred years before. What was the kitchen like? How were the bedrooms arranged? Did they even have bedrooms?

Good thing it occurred to me to wonder that. Behold, the German Farmhouse:

The Low German Farmhouse, to be exact. It is what’s called an einhaus, or a “one-house”, called so because the house and the barn are one. Note the windows in the back. That’s the part of the house that’s inhabited by humans. The rest of the house is occupied by cows, horses and other farm animals–except pigs. They get a separate building because they stink so bad.

That big yawning door opens to an aisle between animal stalls. Where the window starts, the aisle becomes the top of a T, where the kitchen is, toward the back-center of the house. Behind that is the living area. The farmhands and the female servants have quarters just before the T–between the animals and the people.


It changes huge swaths of my story.

But it also adds a lot of atmosphere and interest, I think. I thought briefly about taking away the German-ness of the story, but I decided to carry on. Snow White is a German story, and I wanted to make it German from the start. I have given everyone German names, and right now, it would be very difficult for me to change them.

I love that picture. Pictures are so valuable to research. Descriptions are all and good, but a picture can tell you so much more. So I have scoured the Internets for pictures of the interior of that Low German Farmhouse, without success. I found German open air museums–the above picture is from one, in fact–but they only have pictures of the exterior.

I did find a floorplan:

Fortunately, the Wikipedia entry gives a translation. Mostly. Google Translate helped.

  • Einfahrstor – entrance gate.
  • Diele – threshing floor. The harvest was gathered there, and the wagon was stored here. A huge hall. Could be used for parties while the cows and horses looked on. The chickens were kept near the entrance gate.
  • Stall – stalls for horses and cows.
  • Futter – food. Maybe a pantry? I also saw another plan that identified this as the room for the farmhands.
  • Gesinde – servants.
  • Flett – large, open-air kitchen and dining area.
  • Feuerstelle – fireplace.
  • Seitentor – side gate.
  • Stube – room. The living area.
  • Tragender Holzstander – identifies the locations of the weight-bearing columns. Some farmhouses were 3 or 5 posts wide. This one is a two-post house.

And that is my fascinating research entry for the week. I hope you enjoyed it. And if you happen to have any pictures of the interior of a Low German Farmhouse–perhaps from a museum trip (I understand there’s one in Iowa, so this isn’t too much of a stretch)–I would love to see them.

Is Iowa too far away from Florida for a road trip? Hmm.

15 Thoughts to “The Week in Research”

  1. Tia,
    Love the idea of sharing research. This was great!

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. That’s fascinating, Tia.

    Sad thing is that it might’ve never occurred to me to wonder just how different a farmhouse in Ye Olde European Country might be from a farmhouse in another Olde European Country.

    Good for you. I love those sorts of details in my fiction that point to the author having done her research.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      I certainly hope it turns out that way. I was glad the Wikipedia entry pointed to two open air museum websites. When it comes to Wikipedia, I trust but verify.

  3. Deborah Blake

    Very cool. I envy authors who like to do research. I hate it, for the most part. So of course I am currently working on a novel that requires a ton of it 🙂

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Really? I would have thought you a research nut because of all the nonfiction you write.

      1. Deborah Blake

        I know…but nope :-)And a lot of my NF is based on things I already know. So the research was long done.

  4. Hi Tia,
    that’s a great idea. I like to read this kind of post. And in your case it even more interesting because I live in Germany. When I want to see old houses and the interior I go to a so called outdoor museum.
    There are museums which look like a complete hamlet. Please have a look at the video Outdoor museum Molfsee in Northern Germany. I think you will get a good overview within the 14 minutes runtime.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Excellent! Thank you! I will watch it tonight! And I may ask you to read my story to check my incidental uses of German. I am challenging what I recall from my high school German.

    2. Tia Nevitt

      That was extremely helpful, not only for the video, but for another term upon which to search. I found all sorts of pictures. Along with interior atmosphere completely different from what I expected.


  5. Chicory

    This is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing your research. I admit, my `research’ usually consists of reading fairy-tales and folklore, and doing a bit of mix-and-match with things I happen to know that seem interesting. I admire your commitment to details. (I may seriously thieve facts from your new feature for my idea stew, if you don’t mind.)

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Feel free to help yourself! However, I encourage you to “trust but verify” by double-checking everything for yourself. This is why I doublechecked Wikipedia by checking out the museum websites.

      1. Chicory

        I meant that you’d given me a good starting point, as I’d never heard that about German farmhouses before. Hope I didn’t come across as a flitterigibbet. 🙂

  6. JenM

    I love this new feature. I’m one of those people that goes around collecting what I call “useless tidbits of information”. I’ve always thought that my dream job would be doing the research for authors. I have no writing talent myself, but I love to do the research.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      I love useless tidbits!! It’s amazing how many things turn out to be interesting once you start reading about them. One would think that farmhouses are boring, but not for me!

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