1. Baeraad

    Baeraad Senior Member

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    What is my medieval farming family doing on a regular day?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Baeraad, Jul 17, 2019.

    I have a short story that takes place on an isolated medieval (ish - the precise technology level isn't important to the story and so can be set to whatever is convenient) farmstead. The family who lives there don't spend a lot of time going about their daily lives before the plot starts, but I still want to mention something plausible-sounding for them to be doing, just to establish a feeling of comfortable mundanity before things get weird.

    The demands of the plot are as follows:

    1. The father is away working somewhere, far enough away that shouting for him or running to get him when things get dangerous isn't an option.
    2. For the same reason, there are no nearby neighbours or similar who can be summoned in a hurry.
    3. The mother is doing something outside, in front of the house.
    4. The daughter (age negotiable, but somewhere between 5 and 10 years old) at one point has an errand that takes her around the barn (or similar building), out of sight from her mother.
    Any suggestions for concrete things I can have them doing?
     
  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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  3. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Father is away in the fields overlooking his tenants, or the serfs bowed over in a hot sun.

    All at once he realises from his horse, horseback, how he has forgotten his pizzle for striking mutinous serf labourers.

    A junior serf is despatched back to mother to collect the pizzle.

    Mother is eating bread and honey in the parlour, and she sends her daughter, Porcia, to go find the pizzle from the whipping barn.
     
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  4. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I suspect Mat will go write a story now...we await developments.....:)
     
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  5. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    Pizzle.:superlaugh:
    [​IMG]
    Shit looks like it would hurt though.
     
  6. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    First off it sounds like the father is out far off into the fields, which means either their landlord owns a fairly large plot of farm-lands, or they do, depending on their status. Yeomen are around the middle of their society, they may own part of a larger plot, but are more blue-collar than the true landowning classes. Husbandmen are the most numerous class of farmers and and only possess land through rent. Then there are hired labourers who hold no claim to the land. Sounds like your family are either husbandmen or yeomen. If they are yeomen, especially well-to-do yeomen, they may have servants and apprentices. If they are husbandmen, they may have an apprentice or two, some hires, or no-one but the family.
    In regards to the mother, laundry(hose and undershirt) or sewing seem the most likely. Laundry in particular is something that was done outside in your yard, not dissimilar to if you use a laundry hanger today, although there is more beating stuff. :p (You have to beat it with paddles to dry it properly).

    Lucy Worsley demonstrates the 16th century method starting 9:51 timestamp. Earlier cleaning would have been similar with underclothes, perhaps less rigorous.
    I recommend Ruth Goodman's How to be a Tudor, which includes a lot of detail about life that also apply to late medieval society, especially the aspects that are identified from the early Tudors. You can access a preview on Google Books to get some of it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
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  7. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Women may also have a small outdoor garden to tend, gather eggs from hens. The man may be tending to animals, splitting, repairing a fence. The little girl might be the one getting the eggs. My sense is you were look for yeomanry of husbandmen, not lairds o' the keep.
     
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  8. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    My ‘sense’ and also my reading...if I needed to be rigorous...would be of the entire family toiling in the field as one party.

    Of course it’s ‘prettier’ to maybe think otherwise with Pops in the field and Mom practising the domestic arts..
     
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  9. Baeraad

    Baeraad Senior Member

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    That's correct. Smalltime farmers, not a big bustling place. And yeah, fetching eggs could work.

    It's not so much that it's prettier as that it's necessary for the story to come together smoothly. And no, it doesn't have to be rigorous. None of the rest of my worldbuilding is. ;) I just want something that at least sounds vaguely like something that might happen.
     
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  10. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Something for your father to be doing away from the house, depending on the time of year:
    [​IMG]

    And for Momma:

    [​IMG]
    By the way, Google "medieval farming illuminated manuscript" and you'll get a lot of contemporaneous illustrations of what such a place would be like.
     
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  11. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Well, I'm assuming a farmstead would have animals? They need taking care of. They need daily feeding, watering, stable mucking, horses may need to be turned out or prepared to be ridden. Cows need checking on in pasture, milking. Eggs need collecting from hens, fences may need repairing. Yards need sweeping. Dad could be away in pasture with the cows, maybe a fence got broken down in the night and some escaped into the hills and he's rounding them up. Mum could be collecting eggs.
     
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  12. LazyBear

    LazyBear Banned

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    * Chopping and carrying wood.
    * Starting a fire.
    * Carrying water from the well.
    * Milking cows and producing butter.
    * Collecting eggs.
    * Producing traditional soap from animal fat and lye.
    * Selling cow hides to the local tanner.
    * Maintaining the crops.
    * Producing own chairs and basic tools.
    * Painting the walls.
    * Avoiding the bears and poison snakes.
    * Taking out some ant nests while keeping enough against the snakes.

    Pretty much like my childhood summers.
     
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