Monday, August 30, 2010

Borderlands agriculture

The nearest villages, not to speak about towns are located faraway in the West, in the Kingdom, and there’s no signs of villages in the Borderlands. But we know, from the Keep’s Fountain’s square entry that farmers live around, as they come for holidays to sell their products. As Gary expressed many times his views about typical fantasy setting as being filled with petty landowners and freeholders, as opposed to the common use of salves in Dave’s Blackmoor, or to serfdom which is not mentioned, I guess we should read farmers in that meaning: owners of a farm, paying a yearly rent to the castellan. These farms are scattered in the landscape, the Keep being the only real “village”, as Gary refers it (p. 2).

To feed the more than 200 people living in the Keep, we could use several means of calculation, but I will use two very rough one. According to John Ross’ Medieval demography made easy, it means 2 1-miles hex are sufficient for this purpose, and a 40 people par 1-mile density seems to fit the region. So, let’s say around 80 farms surrounds the Keep in a one-mile line of sight from its towers. Another means of calculation would be to use a 10% ratio for “urban” population. Even if the Keep is not a town, this is a correct ratio for how many peasants are needed to feed non-peasants. If so, almost 1800 people could live in these farms, so more than 20 people dwells in each one. Note it fits John Ross supply value’s system, as 1500 people are needed to get 100% chances to get a smith and 2000 for a inn.

I first thought a farm could include an extended family (old people, couple, unmarried brothers and sisters, kids, etc.), but the Keep’s typical family is rather small: husband, wife and two kids, without any old people, which weaken that hypothesis. Demography is harsh: such numbers means that people marry late, children death is common and living old is not. So, I would suggest another model: farms are held by a farmer and its small family, surrounded by many daily workers and some wards, as the region is dangerous.

The Tavern’s (15) list of meals is an interesting source for local productions. You can’t find anything such as tea or coffee, but local people use bark tea as a warm drink, a very local custom. Wine is obviously imported from the West, as two tuns of wine are available in the common warehouse (5). But ale and beer could be local, which suggest than barley and hops are produced around the castle. Cool and contrasted climate suggest wheat as a prime cereal, so I suspects farmers practice shift of crops: one year with wheat, one year with barley and one year with legumes, most probably carrots and cabbages. These are the one you can expect in the Tavern’s soup or stew. Fruits could be apples, the most common, and seconded by pears. Raspberries and cherries are also very common in farmer’s personal orchards.

Honey mead may be from local bees, but its price two times higher than wine let suspects it could be either rare or imported from the West. Various quotes about meat are not so useful, as stew and roasted joint could be from any animal, while roasted fowl could mean almost any bird. My suggestion is that the most common fowl is Turkey, while the most common meat is hog. Quote of a hard cheese (in the ogre cavern!) and the fact that cheese is sold by wedges at the Tavern strongly suggest it is a cow’s milk cheese, probably a variety of Cheddar. So cows are probably raised in the lands surrounding the Keep, but for milk purpose rather than meat. It seems no textile is produced in the Borderlands, as clothes are also listed as products for merchants in the warehouse. So, sheep are unlikely to be raised there.

So, the common Borderlands’ farm is probably like a little keep, as the keep is like a little village: a yard for the Farmer’s private house and another for his workers, with a common room, a barn, the pig-house and building for cows and turkeys, all being surrounded by stone walls to protect against raiders. 


Ian said...

Very interesting. I like where this is going. There's one problem though. Unless someone is growing cane sugar (and I doubt it in that climate) large quantities of honey are going to produce beer and meed. he sugar is the honey is what is fermenting into alcohol. No sugar=no fermentation. What would be common in your setting is hard apple sider, however. Perry cider is even easier to make because of the natural yeast stains that grow on pears.

An alternative to honey I guess could be to use the sugar (and yeast) from the pears and apples. Using 20 lbs of crushed apples should be able to yield (with 4 oz of hops and or 2lbs of barely) 5 gallons of bear.

Nicolas Dessaux said...

@Ian: You're right, my evidence about honey's price is rather light,as honey is an expensive good due to its production's conditions. Spring seems nice and presence of flowery trees, and probably plains filled of flowers during teh spring, suggest vbees could be local as well. It solves the problem.

Now, I'm studying carefully the keep's archaelogy. After all, it's supposed to be my specialty.