Medieval Monday: The Labors of March

plowingWarmer March weather meant it was time to finally put most indoor tasks aside and get out into the fields. There weren’t a great variety of tasks associated with March, mainly because preparing the fields for plowing and planting was such an onerous chore that began at dawn and ended at dusk.  Getting the spring grain into the ground was one of the most important tasks of the season.

Medieval farmers generally had a three field system, where each season one of the fields was left unplanted. But leaving it fallow didn’t mean there wasn’t any work involved. The fallow field would have to be plowed several times during the year to keep the weeds under control and at the same time enrich the earth with organic matter. Every time the field was plowed, new weeds would grow, and livestock would be sent out to graze on it, with the added benefit that they would fertilize it with manure as they went.

plowing-and-pruning-in-marchPruning vines and trees continued in March, as did calving. By the end of March, some of the calves were ready to be weaned, which meant milk became available once again. Cows whose calves had been weaned were milked twice per day. The same was true of sheep. Another important food source which returned to the medieval diet in March was eggs. Hens require at least 12 hours of daylight to produce, which meant they began laying around the spring equinox at the end of March, and ceased production around the autumn equinox at the end of September.

This week you can also enjoy another episode of “Tales from the Green Valley” which focuses on what daily life would have been like during the month of March. As I watched, I was reminded that even though certain jobs took priority in specific seasons, many of them happened to some degree all year round. In this video, you will see in action some of the tasks that have been mentioned in past Medieval Monday posts, such as threshing and winnowing, milling wheat into flour, sending pigs out to forage, playing games, and brewing ale and beer for every day drinking. You’ll get to see some period recipes being made as well (like what they did with all that dried, salted fish saved up for winter). Again, it’s worth setting aside half an hour to watch this BBC production. It makes for excellent research and really sends you back in time!

Use the Medieval Monday Index to discover more topics relating to daily life in the Middle Ages.



14 thoughts on “Medieval Monday: The Labors of March

  1. Scottie says:

    I love the video. I learned so much. If given the choice I would have lasted until the first meal. Everything else ( except maybe the heavy field work ) I could give a shot to. My love of food,a nd certain foods would disqualify me from being in this. I disliked the preparing of it, muchless to try to eat it. Thanks. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

      • Scottie says:

        🙂 If I was not already crippled it would make so in a short order. Few people today are trained to do such constant work, the strain and movements would be horrible on our modern bodies as we see. Most of us would be far worse than those folks. I am not sure if having to do it since childhood is a factor? Hugs

        Liked by 1 person

      • weavingword says:

        I’m sure it helped to start with this kind of work at a young age. This was the only life they knew, so no doubt their bodies learned to cope. On the other hand, the average life expectancy was about half ours.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Scottie says:

        Great points. But if I had to eat the things they did and wear what they were dressed ( how did they move being bundled up in all that baggy clothing ) maybe half would have seemed enough? Nah, but still I would have needed a seamstress and a rather widely versed cook. 🙂 Hugs

        Liked by 1 person

      • weavingword says:

        I’ve dressed up in authentic medieval garb for SCA events before, and though it looks baggy and cumbersome, it was actually quite comfortable and surprisingly easy to move around in. Particularly for women, styles weren’t yet restrictive in terms of having to wear corsets or other stiflingly tight undergarments. With the right cloak and footwear, you could stay pretty cozy in cold weather. The difficulties I noted were with the summer heat. Granted, it doesn’t generally get as hot in Europe as it does in the US during the summer months, but modesty norms of the era forbade the type of summer attire we’re used to. For women, bare legs, arms, and heads for married women, weren’t considered appropriate. Yet they still had to go out and work in the summer heat. Women did field labor too, and also took care of animals, gardens, etc.

        Liked by 1 person

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