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Around most middle ages villages there were three huge arable fields. 2 of these fields grew crops while the 3rd was left fallow. The village would likewise have hay meadows and also common land wherein the peasants had the ideal to graze your animals.

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The three arable areas were separated into strips, every one gift separated indigenous the following by balks that unploughed land. Come ensure the everybody had actually a same share of the an excellent land, each household was given strips in all 3 fields.

These strips were long and also narrow since the peasants want to alleviate to a minimum the number of times the plough-team had actually to revolve round. On light soils a pair the oxen could successfully pull a plough. However, hefty clay soils essential a team that eight oxen. As most peasants just owned around two oxen they would need to join v others in bespeak to have actually their land ploughed.

Medieval farmers wanted oxen to horses due to the fact that they were much less expensive come feed, stronger on hefty land and also could be eaten when castle died. The till they used had actually an iron-tipped coulter in former to do the early stage cut and also a mould board to rotate the floor over in a furrow. The areas were ploughed three times: the very first turned the stubble over, the 2nd removed the thistles and weeds and also the 3rd prepared the ground because that sowing.

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Illustration in Queen Mary"s Psalter (c.1320)

The three-field mechanism of crop rotation was employed by medieval farmers, with spring and also autumn sowings. Wheat or rye was planted in one field, and oats, barley, peas, lentils or vast beans to be planted in the second field. The third field to be left fallow. Each year the plants were rotated to leaving one ar fallow. This system also ensured that the same crop was not grown in the same ar two year running.

Medieval farmers did what they can to boost the fertility that the land. Lock were aware that the soil would only give back as lot as was put right into it. Marl (a mixture the clay and also carbonate of lime) and also seaweed were supplied as fertilisers. Farmer knew that the best fertiliser was animal dung. However, small farmers can not bought the price of feeding large numbers the animals and so manure was regularly in short supply.

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(Source 11) The Luttrell Psalter (1325)

The timing of the harvest in the Middle eras was vitally important. If the wheat was also dry the grain would fall off. If it was also wet the grain would rot. To ensure the his own crops did no go come waste, the lord of the manor can demand extra work services dubbed boon-work throughout harvest time. Boon-work was hated by the villeins as it delay their own harvesting and could cause their own crops to be ruined.

Despite the efforts of medieval farmers, their chop yields every acre amounted to only around a fifth of those achieved by farmer today. As villeins had actually to give about half their chop away as rent and also taxes, they needed to farm a big area of soil to carry out an sufficient diet because that themselves. Civilization dying of famine was not unusual in the center Ages. This was particularly true when bad weather led to a negative harvest.


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Primary Sources

(1) part of a track performed by middle ages minstrels, The Husbandman Song (c. 1360)

To find money for the king I marketed my seed. Wherefore mine land lies fallow and learns to sleep.

(2) Chronicle of ask St Edmunds (1258)

There to be a an excellent shortage of everything since of the floods of the ahead year, and corn, i m sorry was an extremely scarce, cost from 15 shillings come as lot as 20 shillings a quarter. Starvation resulted so that the poor had to eat horse-meat, the bark that trees and even more unpleasant things. Numerous died that hunger.

(3) Walter of Henley, Fleta (c. 1275)

The Reeve, chosen by the village to the office as the ideal manager... Permit him thus not it is in slothful or sleepy, but let him unceasingly strive because that his lord"s profit... As soon as the dung is to be lugged to the fields, allow the Reeve stay with the carters, that they might labour and finish your day"s job-related without trickery... Permit the threshers and also winnowing-women be carefully spied upon, lest lock steal corn in your shoes, gloves, bags or satchels surprise near the barn.

(4) Anonymous, The power of King Stephen (c. 1190)

In 1143... A disastrous famine prevailed everywhere England... Some, from lack of food, ate the forbidden flesh of dog or horses... Human being wasted away and also died in droves... You can have viewed villages exceptionally well-known stand lonely and nearly empty due to the fact that the peasants that both sexes and also all periods were dead.

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(5) william Langland, The Vision that Piers Plowman (c. 1365)

Charged v children and overcharged by landlords, what they might spare they spend on milk/ or on enjoy the meal to do porridge come still the sobbing of the kids at enjoy the meal time... The sore of the women who live in these hovels is also sad come speak that or to speak in rhyme.