Here I shere
...Here I shear my grain very low
Women bend to tie the harvested grain into sheaves,
while the reaper in the above and to the right stretches her back. To the left,
a man gathers the bundles of sheaves and binds
them into stooks.
Luttrell Psalter, created in Lincoln, England
British Library Add. Ms 42130,
c. 1325 CE.
Labors of the Month
Finish the harvest of winter-planted grains and begin
harvesting spring-planted fields. Finish turning hay and
make haystacks; gather straw (hay is eaten by livestock;
straw is used for bedding, etc.). Plant turnips.
The harvest of rye and winter
wheat continued and, if the weather cooperated
with sunny days, this harvest would be completed in August.
Next, the barley and oats would
Wheat was cut with a short-handled tool called a
Reapers would tightly grasp a handful of stems about 18”
below the heads of grain, and cut them with the sickle.
Other grains, and tall grasses used for hay, were cut
with long-handled scythes.
Stalks of grain were first bundled into a small sheaf
and left on the field. These were then gathered into
larger bundles, called shocks or stooks,
that were set upright to dry in the field before they
were taken to the barn to be stored.
was important to have dry, sunny weather during the
harvest, so that the grain could dry quickly. In areas with shorter growing
seasons or damper climates, grain-drying ovens were
used. After drying, the grain was threshed and winnowed to
separate it from the chaff.
After harvest, livestock was allowed to graze (and
manure) the field.
Labors of August from Early Calendars
Salzburg Labors of the
Abbey of St. Peter,
Austria, c. . 818 CE
Harvesting wheat with a sickle, the August
figure grasps several stems with his left hand and cuts it just below his fist, a method
that results in very little lost grain. A binder would follow along behind him,
binding up the grain into sheaves. A five-person team could harvest about two acres a day.
wheat stubble that remained, visible here on the ground in front of his feet, would
grazed by livestock. Other grains were cut closer to the ground with a
Our reaper wears a green,
knee-length tunic that is belted at the waist, and that has long
short trousers, or braies, can be seen just below the hem of his tunic.
His leggings are red, and he wears brown
the early 800s, the
(Codex 387 fol-90v) is one of the oldest calendars of its
kind. It is now in Vienna's Austrian
National Library. Image from Wikimedia
Martyologium, Wandalbert of
c. 850 CE
Wearing a leafy cap, this portly
reaper is dressed in a bright green, flowing tunic over red leggings. His
feet are bare. A small, bound sheaf lies on the ground in front of him, just
above a diminutive lion, signifying the Zodiac's Leo.
Wandalbert of Prüm wrote his
Martyrologium (I. Cod. Reg. Lat. 438) in what is now Germany in the 9th century;
the manuscript is in the Vatican Library in Rome.
Wearing a form-fitting blue tunic with brown
edging, and a short tan cape, this worker
celebrates the harvest,
holding a fruiting
branch in his right hand, and a shock of
over his left shoulder.
In the center of the
Fulda Sacramentary is Annus, the year.
In each corner is a season, and the twelve months
are in arranged in vertical columns, six to the
left and six to the right. Day and night are in
the round medallions top and bottom.
Alban's Psalter, now at
A balding, bearded, seated man
uses both hands to lift a
sheaf of grain, symbol of the harvest. His elaborate chair resembles a throne,
and he wears a green and red striped tunic and mantle, blue stockings, and brown shoes.
12th century St. Albans Psalter is also known as the Albani Psalter, and as the Psalter of
Christina of Markyate, an early mystic. It was a product of St. Albans Abbey in
it can be found at the Cathedral Library in Hildesheim, Germany. Image from
c. 1135 CE
harvest the wheat. Only the red-headed, red-bearded worker is the foreground is
fully visible; he wears a long, brown tunic; green boots; and a soft hat with a
rolled brim. In his left hand, he grasps the grain, and he cuts it with the
sickle in his right. A tall stook of grain is visible beside the left-hand
Probably made at the nunnery at
Shaftesbury, Dorset, this psalter with its prayers, psalms, and calendar,
is the oldest manuscript in the
British Library to have been made for a woman. Dating to the early 1100s, its
Romanesque, became popular
following the first crusade. It employs vivid colors -- blue from lapis lazuli, red
from vermillion, green from buckthorn berries; and is illuminated with gold
c. 1145 CE
A reaper holds the grain
with his left hand and cuts it with the sickle
in his right. Behind him is a tall, bound stook of
Zwiefalten calendar (Cod hist 2° 415, fol.17v)
shows the Zodiac figure and the labor for each
month in concentric circles around a central
figure representing the year (see a larger image
here). This calendar is now in the collections of the
Wurttemberg State Library, Stuttgart, Germany.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.
British Library Harley 2895.
c. 1175 CE
Charité-sur-Loire Psalter (BL
Harley 2895) was created in central France c. 1175, CE. Now in the collections
of the British Library, this psalter that begins with a calendar whose glowing
labors of the months appear as illuminated roundels.
blue-capped thresher uses a flail to separate the grain from the chaff; on the
threshing floor lie bound stooks of grain. The man is shirtless,
and has rolled his trousers up and tucked them into his belt so that he can move
more more freely. His feet are bear. Behind him stands Virgo, the virgin, with
long flowing hair. She is dressed in a red over surcoat, and a floor length, long-sleeved blue
undertunic. She points with her right hand at his the thresher.
Threshers, from the
British Library Add. Ms 42130,
created in Lincoln, England,
c. 1325 CE.
August, from the Cathedral Basilica
of our Lady of Amiens,
c. 1250 CE
Wearing a laborer's smock, our thresher raises a flail above the
grain at his feet.
Amiens cathedral, the largest surviving Gothic
cathedral in France, was begun in 1220 and
completed fifty years later. The
labors of the month appear in two sets of
quatrefoil rows on its west facade. The
upper row in each set contains images from the
Zodiac; the lower row contains the labors of
the months. This image is from Wikimedia
Koninklijke Bibliotheek 76 F 13,
c. 1180 CE
A barefoot woman, wearing a long blue tunic with a
brightly colored belt, bends low to gather up
the grain. Ahead of
her, a white-capped reaper uses his sickle to
cut the wheat. He is bare-chested, and has
tucked his tunic into his belt, but wears red
leggings and high black shoes.
In the frame below, stooks of grain have been
loaded onto a wagon pulled by a pony whose rider
wears a red cap, a pale green tunic, and black
shoes. He is seated on a saddle, with his feet in the stirrups. In his
right hand, he holds a green stick or whip.
Fécamp Psalter (KB 76) was made for a
woman in Normandy in the late 12th century.
Unlike most psalters, its calendar provides
colorful, full page images for the labors of the
months. It is now in the collections of the
National Library of the Netherlands, Den Haag.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Royal 2 B II,
c. 1250 CE
This vigorous thesher has rolled
his long tunic down to bare his upper body -- no doubt threshing is hot work. He
has tucked it into his belt, but his legs remain covered by its fabric. His feet
are bare. It appears that, as seems to have been common, he is flailing the grain while it is still
bound in stooks.
Made in France in the first
half of the 13th century, this illuminated psalter has twelve miniatures showing
the labors of the months. It was written for a nun, perhaps at Nantes. It is now
in the collections of the British Library.
An man in a broad-brimmed hat,
perhaps an overseer, points across the field with a long stick in his left hand, and holds a
walking stick in his right. A sickle blade can be seen just below his waist. In
front of him, three reapers cut the wheat with their sickles, leaving tall,
uncut stalks at their feet.
Queen Mary Psalter, British Library Royal 2 B VII, made in London at Westminster
or in East
c. 1315 CE.
c. 1360 CE
A reaper in a flamboyant red,
broad-brimmed hat cuts the golden wheat with a large sickle.
The Bohun Psalter (Egerton 3277) was
probably made for one of the Earls of Hereford in the late 1300s, or for Mary de
Bohun, who married Henry of Bolingbroke in 1380. Its calendar has a dozen
historiated Ks like this one, to the left of the
reaper; each K precedes
a labor of the month.
Labors of the Months
By thys fyre
I warme my handys
And with my spade
I delfe my landys
Here I sette
my thinge to sprynge
And here I here
the fowlis synge
I am as lyght
as byrde in bowe
And I wede my corne
With my sythe
my mede I mawe
And here I shere
my corne full lowe
With my flayll
I erne my brede
And here I sawe
my whete so rede
I kylle my swyne
And at Christes masse
I drynke redde wyne
Oxford, BL Digby 88 (SC1689),