Monday, July 21, 2014

Tales from the Green Valley

What the hell do people get up to for most their days in the Middle Ages? Well, if you're a farmer, your every day life is busy constantly. Repairing buildings, constructing new ones, sewing, reaping, ploughing, turning, slaughtering, cooking, weaving, making clothing, brewing, enclosing pastureland, making furniture, preserving meat. These tasks go on and on forever until you're buried.

While it is admittedly a 17th Century Stuart/Tudor recreation, you can still take a lot of great inspiration for farm life from the BBC show Tales from the Green Valley in which a group of historians and archaeologists attempt to live for one year precisely as a Tudor farming family would have. Finnicky things like how hard it was to create wattle and daub, how many hazel rods it takes to affix a section of wall, how long it takes to slaughter and process a single pig (2-3 days), and other little details can be found here. Most of the techniques in use would have been very similar in the Early and High Middle Ages, though you wouldn't have had cookbooks (printed or written) and many of the tools (for example, the ploughs) would have looked somewhat different and been more difficult to use. Indeed, there would have been a deal less metal and more wood in all construction as well; Saxon halls were known for mortise and tenon construction which more or less alleviated the need for metal nails.

It's a great show, and I strongly recommend it for a sense of place and time, as well as for insight into the everyday routine.


  1. Replies
    1. I have not! But I am assured that there's also a similar BBC series that takes place on a monastery (I believe) on youtube as well. The name slips my mind currently.