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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Sep, 2009 7:10 am    Post subject: Winter in the middle ages         Reply with quote

So it's a given that common agrarian workers spend their time mending things, caring for their fields and the fields of their liege-lord, and doing other farm-related things.

But what's he to do in the winter? You need to take care of your animals, surely, but what else with your time? There aren't many crops to tend to, surely. Would you engage in some kind of craft to supplement your income, or leave home during this season to find work elsewhere?

M.

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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Sep, 2009 7:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Spin wool. You need several people spinning to keep up with one weaver, and EVERYone knew how to spin. Winter is good incentive to produce more woolen clothing!

Cut firewood. Good incentive for that, too, and chopping warms you up.

Plus all the regular farm chores, as you said. Don't worry, you won't get bored!

Matthew
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Stephane Rabier




Location: Brittany
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Sep, 2009 8:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi,
here's a period photograph Wink
http://2pat.files.wordpress.com/2007/02/les_t...evrier.jpg
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James Head





Joined: 09 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Thu 03 Sep, 2009 11:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephane Rabier wrote:
Hi,
here's a period photograph Wink
http://2pat.files.wordpress.com/2007/02/les_t...evrier.jpg


In the winter months peasants sat around the house warming their genitals by the fire!
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Sep, 2009 11:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had always assumed medieval laborers worked unceasingly and very hard throughout the year. While reading on the subject of melee tournaments, I encountered several contrary statements about high medieval era being a relatively prosperous era and important precursor to the Renasissance (with a harsh combined interruption of the 100 years war and a brief micro-ice age.) The agrarian, serf laborer was no longer the "average" person in the population by around mid 11th to early 12th century. I would not overlook the possibility that there was leisure time and festivities. Possibly more so back then than today.

Some authors (Francis Gies, David Crouch, Richard Barber) pointed out that for many laborers there was actually quite a bit of "free" time once harvests were over. Around 12th century era, it was common to have three holidays per week, and multi-week long festivities around Whitsunday/ religious occasions. Some rough comparison can be made with the trend towards 3 day jousting format tournaments and prime seasons of when the tournaments were held during the era as well. Obviously for merchants and some supporting service laborers, the timing of labor and profits were reversed (working extra hard during periods of festivities.)

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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John Gnaegy





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PostPosted: Thu 03 Sep, 2009 12:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
In the winter months peasants sat around the house warming their genitals by the fire!

Well that settles it. If I ever get a time machine, I'm going back to the middle ages and "inventing" pants. Two of the three people outside are running around with bare legs. If you're going to dress like that in winter, you're going to need to chop a lot of firewood.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Sep, 2009 2:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In all honesty, I can go around in short pants in the winter and not notice it, unless it's -really- cold.

Then again, I have doctors who can cure things, if I get sick. Shouldn't they be wearing leg wraps?

M.

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Chuck Russell




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Sep, 2009 2:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

leg wraps? no maybe stockings. thats picture is what late 14th early 15th?
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Eric Spitler




Location: PA
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Sep, 2009 4:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
Some authors (Francis Gies, David Crouch, Richard Barber) pointed out that for many laborers there was actually quite a bit of "free" time once harvests were over. Around 12th century era, it was common to have three holidays per week, and multi-week long festivities around Whitsunday/ religious occasions.


I once read in one of those 'everyday life in the middle ages' books that between holidays, feast days, saint's days etc. peasants actually more time off altogether than most working people today! That was depressing.

"I never heard a corpse ask how it got so cold."
- Richard, The Lion in Winter
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MB Tharp




Location: IN
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Sep, 2009 4:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While not in the period a good reference would be to watch the BBC show called "Tales from the Green Valley " set around 1620ish? It shows a year on a small farm and a lot of the typical skills needed to run a farm.
Here is a short clip of the show:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxtbCufq58U

You can't take the Sky from Me!
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Johan S. Moen




Location: Kristiansand, Norway
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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 12:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You can pretty much do everything in the winter, except tending crops. I'd think that a lot of craftwork and such would get done during winter, since you could do it without it cutting into the time needed to tend the crops. Making/repairing equipment, building upkeep and such would all be things you could do in preparation for summer.

A favourite pasttime during winter, at least in Norway, seems to have been whittling rake teeth...(at least from the 16-1700's and on, I haven't really doublechecked for correlating sources for earlier periods. Wink ).

Johan Schubert Moen
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Julien M




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 2:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

another period photograph, a favourite of mine (has been hanging above my desk for years now) by Brueghel the Elder. Might also yield some clues Happy


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Bruegel-hunterssnow (Medium).jpg

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Stephan Johansson




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 2:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

After reading some books about mediavel wars and conflict. It seems that wars started in the autumn when all crops had been taken care of and ended in spring time when farming started again. At least this was the way in Sweden.
There wasnt time for conflicts in the summer. So probably there were a lot of spare time during the winter, with hunting, makin business in market places and social networking Wink

Best Regards
Stephan Johansson

IN NOMINE DOMINI
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Julien M




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 3:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephan Johansson wrote:
So probably there were a lot of spare time during the winter, with hunting, makin business in market places and social networking Wink


it certainly looks that way on the picture above Happy

Your comment reminds me of a movie I really liked, one the rare ones dealing with the 30 years war: "the last Valley"by James Clavel, which is about a compagny of mercenaries taking winter quarters in a valley spared by plague and war...Michael caine as the cynical condottiere...well worth a watch!

Cheers,

J
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 3:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In Scandinavia at least, the winter is the time for cutting timber. The trees are relativley dry, the snow makes it possible to pull out the timber on sleighs. Also manpower is available since there is no fieldwork to be done, ditchdigging and fencing is also made impossible by the frozen earth and snow.

Some game are traditionally hunted in wintertime as well, most notably and economically important would have been animals that have valuable winter-fur such as squirrel, ermine, marten and sable. Ice-fishing can be done as well.

Otherwise any chores and crafts that can be done by the light of the fire would probably be left for the cold season (remeber days are significantly shorter here during the winter months) This would include as have already been mentioned spinning, rake-teeth withling, arrow making, sewing, and of course storytelling and passing on sagas, laws and lores.

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 4:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While we're at it, from what I've been told Scandinavians in the past actually would spend a surprisingly great amount of time in their beds sleeping, as the puny few hours of bleak daylight during early-mid winter wouldn’t allow for pursuing bigger outdoor chores or tasks.

Then there were crafts, as already mentioned. My Dalecarlian ancestors of Orsa would for instance spend most of the winter carving and chipping grind-stones for sale, which provided the local farmers with a vital supplementary income ever since the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, that work caused premature death from silicosis, contracted by inhaling stone dust in the cramped, tiny log cabins (in fact, some of these chipping cabins still in use by the early 20th century dates back to the late Middle Ages).

Another medieval Scandinavian/Swedish winter occupation, at least in the Dalarna region, was the extraction of bog iron. The process was facilitated when the lakes and marshes had frozen, so that the ore could be pulled up through drilled holes on the ice. This primitive albeit profitable iron production caused the Dalarna region to go by the name of “Iron bearing land” (swe Järnbäraland) during the Viking age and early Middle Ages.
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James R.Fox




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 6:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs-You have winter plowing and seeding to do,caring for the breeding snimals to be brought through the winter (the rest were slaughtered) getting all the womenfolk pregnant,and lots of hand craft espicially clothmaking.
Ja68ms
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 01 May, 2015 9:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think you are forgetting an important winter duty: threshing grain.

Today a harvester machine will go through a field and get those small pods it's all about. Then you can use a convener belt to dump it all in a big metal silo and you are done.

Back in the day harvesting grain meant cutting it with a sickle or scythe, carting it back to your farm with an oxen or horse cart.



This represents and enormous bulk compared to those small grain pods you really want which is why medieval barns had these huge attics to store it all. An important winter time job was bringing it down to the first floor and threshing it with flails. The floor is of importance is this, if the floor is to soft you are going to ram the grain into the floor, if the floor is to hard you risk breaking open the pods and ruining your wooden flail.



Dairy farmers would still have to milk their cows and repairs to the farm and tools was an ever ongoing process.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 01 May, 2015 2:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric Spitler wrote:
Jared Smith wrote:
Some authors (Francis Gies, David Crouch, Richard Barber) pointed out that for many laborers there was actually quite a bit of "free" time once harvests were over. Around 12th century era, it was common to have three holidays per week, and multi-week long festivities around Whitsunday/ religious occasions.


I once read in one of those 'everyday life in the middle ages' books that between holidays, feast days, saint's days etc. peasants actually more time off altogether than most working people today! That was depressing.

Even the serf, who was considered particularly poorly treated, only needed to work half a day (around 5 hours) to fulfill his feudal labour obligations. Manorial records indicate that if a serf actually worked for a full day, then it was counted as two days’ labour. During summer, a day in England or northern Europe might last 16 hours but not all of this was spent working. The peasant had many breaks during the day including an extended nap in the afternoon. It has been calculated that the average amount of work done each day was between 7 and 9 hours but it depends on the time of the year. A peasant might work from dawn till dusk during peak times such as planting and harvest but only work till noon during slacker times.

Consider also, the number of holidays celebrated each year – both religious ones and local traditions. Rest days and holidays took up 4-5 months each year and this doesn't include extra time off for weddings and funerals. During times of labour shortages (after the Black Death for instance), higher wages meant that peasants could (and often did) work significantly less time for the same amount of income. One estimate indicates that during these times people worked as little as 120 days per year. Given the choice of working less hours or earning a higher income, it seems that many chose to have more leisure time. This work ethic would be completely alien to many members of today’s post Industrial Revolution workforce

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Augusto Boer Bront
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PostPosted: Sat 02 May, 2015 1:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Eric Spitler wrote:
Jared Smith wrote:
Some authors (Francis Gies, David Crouch, Richard Barber) pointed out that for many laborers there was actually quite a bit of "free" time once harvests were over. Around 12th century era, it was common to have three holidays per week, and multi-week long festivities around Whitsunday/ religious occasions.


I once read in one of those 'everyday life in the middle ages' books that between holidays, feast days, saint's days etc. peasants actually more time off altogether than most working people today! That was depressing.

Even the serf, who was considered particularly poorly treated, only needed to work half a day (around 5 hours) to fulfill his feudal labour obligations. Manorial records indicate that if a serf actually worked for a full day, then it was counted as two days’ labour. During summer, a day in England or northern Europe might last 16 hours but not all of this was spent working. The peasant had many breaks during the day including an extended nap in the afternoon. It has been calculated that the average amount of work done each day was between 7 and 9 hours but it depends on the time of the year. A peasant might work from dawn till dusk during peak times such as planting and harvest but only work till noon during slacker times.

Consider also, the number of holidays celebrated each year – both religious ones and local traditions. Rest days and holidays took up 4-5 months each year and this doesn't include extra time off for weddings and funerals. During times of labour shortages (after the Black Death for instance), higher wages meant that peasants could (and often did) work significantly less time for the same amount of income. One estimate indicates that during these times people worked as little as 120 days per year. Given the choice of working less hours or earning a higher income, it seems that many chose to have more leisure time. This work ethic would be completely alien to many members of today’s post Industrial Revolution workforce


Please, more of this!

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