Wyrtig

For gardeners with a sense of history
 

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312
.

  

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August

Here I shere my corne full lowe

   ...Here I shear my grain very low

 

Typical August scenes:

  • Harvest

  • Threshing

 

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 be gathered.

 

Wheat was cut with a short-handled tool called a sickle. 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.

 

It 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

August, Salzburg labors of the months, Austrian National Library

Salzburg Labors of the Months, from
St. Peter's
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.

The wheat stubble that remained, visible here on the ground in front of his feet, would be grazed by livestock. Other grains were cut closer to the ground with a scythe.

Our reaper wears a green, knee-length tunic that is belted at the waist, and that has long Salzburg labors of the months, Austrian National Librarysleeves. His short trousers, or braies, can be seen just below the hem of his tunic. His leggings are red, and he wears brown shoes.

Dating to the early 800s, the Salzburg manuscript (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 Commons.
 

Martyologium, Wandalbert of Prüm,
France, 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. Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Fulda Sacramentary,
Fulda, Germany
,
980 CE


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 grain 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.

St. Alban's Psalter, now at
Hildesheim, Germany,
1100 CE

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.

 

 



The 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 Britain. Today it can be found at the Cathedral Library in Hildesheim, Germany. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Shaftesbury Psalter,
British Library Lansdowne 383,
c. 1135 CE

Four reapers 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 pillar.


 

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 style, 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 throughout.
 

Zwiefalten calendar,
Zwiesel Monastery, Stuttgart, Germany,
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 wheat.

The 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.

 Charité-sur-Loire Psalter,
British Library Harley 2895.
c. 1175 CE

 

 

The 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.

This 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 Luttrell Psalter,
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 Commons.

Fecamp Psalter,
Koninklijke Bibliotheek 76 F 13,
Normandy, 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.
 

The 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.

Psalter,
British Library Royal 2 B II,
France, 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.

 

The Queen Mary Psalter, British Library Royal 2 B VII, made in London at Westminster
or in East Anglia( ?)
c. 1315 CE.

Bohun Psalter,
British Library Egerton 3277,
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

Januar
By thys fyre
I warme my handys

Februar
And with my spade
I delfe my landys

Marche
Here I sette
my  thinge to sprynge

Aprile
And here I here
the fowlis synge

Maij
I am as lyght
as byrde in bowe

Junij
And I wede my corne
well i-know

Julij
With my sythe
my mede I mawe

Auguste
And here I shere
my corne full lowe

September
With my flayll
I erne my brede

October
And here I sawe
my whete so rede

November
At Martynesmasse
I kylle my swyne

December
And at Christes masse
I drynke redde wyne


Oxford, BL Digby 88 (SC1689),
1450 CE

 

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