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




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Tools Used for Harvest and Storage






Winnowing fans

Winnowing sieves




Large containers

Boxes, chests


Smaller containers





Fecamp Psalter, Koninklijke
Bibliotheek 76 F

Harvest and storage were carefully managed, of course, as success in these endeavors meant survival. Grasses were cut with scythes, other crops with smaller scythes called sickles, or with bladed tools such as billhooks or knives.


Many of the tools shown below would have been used to harvest grain (agriculture), but they may also have been put to use in large vernacular gardens (horticulture).



Psalter, British Library Royal 2 B II,
France, c. 1250 CE




Scythes are used to cut hay; sickles, to harvest grains.


The long handle of the scythe allows the mower to remain in an upright position while mowing. The blade of the scythe is offset from the shaft, so that blade remains parallel to the ground as the scythe is swung in a graceful half circle.



Falcis, falx - scythe


Old English 

Hegsíþe - hay scythe

Ripisern - reaping iron, scythe

Siðe, Sigdi, síþe - scythe 



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


Zwiefalten monatsbilder, Zwiesel Monastery, Cod hist 2° 415, fol.17v, Germany, c. 1150 CE



Fécamp Psalter, Normandy,
c. 1180 CE



Sickles -- a smaller, short-handled version of the scythe -- were used to harvest grain, a sheaf at a time. Some sickles were serrated, while others had smooth blades. The cutting surface was on the inside of the blade. Both scythes and sickles dulled quickly, and had to be regularly sharpened.



Falcicula, falciola - "Little scythe," a small sickle with short handle

Runcina - small, curved sickle

Secula - sickle

Tribulata - toothed sickle


Old English

Hócísern - iron hook, sickle

Sicol, sicu - sickle

Riftr, riftras, riptere - sickle




Salzburg Labors of the Months,  
St. Peter's
Austria, c. 818 CE


Luttrell Psalter,
 BL Add MS 42130

c. 1330 CE





When grain is brought in from the field, it must be  threshed to separate the chaff surrounding the kernel. Threshing could be done with a drag or with flails. After threshing, the grain is winnowed to remove chaff and debris.



Flagello - flail

Tritorium - flail


Old English

Fligel - flail

þerscel, þyrscel - flail


Raddle, drag, threshing board
Flailing the grain by hand was very labor intensive, so some threshed it by spreading it on the ground and dragging a heavy sled over it, or by having hoofed animals or wheeled vehicles trample it.



Traha, tragum, tribulum - drag


Old English

Drægnet, dræge - drag


Winnowing fan
Makiejowski Bible,
c. 1250 CE

Winnowing tools

When threshing is complete, the grain is winnowed -- thrown in the air so that the wind can carry away the lighter chaff while the heavier grain falls to the ground. This was done using winnowing fans or winnowing shovels.


Winnowing fans, shovels, scoops



Capisterium - a vessel for cleaning grain

Palas, palas lignea - shovel, wooden winnowing shovel

Vannus - fan, winnowing fan

Ventilabrum - winnowing shovel

Stelmelas - scoop, bowl with handle


Old English

Corntroh - grain trough, winnowing shovel

Fann, fanna - winnowing fan

Scoble, sceofel - shovel

Windscofl, windwigscofl - winnowing shovel



Taymouth Hours, British Library Yates Thompson 13, England c. 1350 CE


Anglo-Saxon Calendar,  British Library Cotton Tiberius B.V. Part I; England, c. 1050


Winnowing sieves

After the first winnowing, grain was often put through a sieve to remove smaller bits of debris. This process also helped eliminate insect pests, which could decimate the stored grain.



Cribrum, from cribro, to sift - a winnowing sieve

Cribella - small sieve


Old English

Hǽr-sife, hérsyfe - Hair sieve

Hridder, hriddel, from hriðian, to sift - a winnowing sieve

Sife, syfa, sibi - sieve for winnowing grain; lytel sife, small sieve; lytel sife, small sieve

Tæmespilan - sieve stand

Windwigsife. windwigsyfe Winnowing sieve



Medieval storage pots, kegs, and baskets, from Den Medeltida Kokboken


Once harvested, crops were processed in various ways to prevent or slow decay before being put in special storage containers, which were then often kept in purpose-built storage buildings that were designed to keep rodents out.


To prevent decay, crops might be:

Dried, sometimes on an openwork wattle panel laid horizontally (Latin cratis, OE hyrdel)

  • Fruits - dried in the sun or in an oven
  • Grains - dried, cleaned 

  • Meats and fish - dried in the sun



  • Fruits, as compotes
  • Grains, as beer
  • Grapes, as wine

  • Milk, as cheese


Pickled in sour whey, vinegar, or verjuice

  • Fruits
  • Meat and fish

  • Vegetables

Immersed in fat

  • Meat confit was  put hot into a pottery crock; hot fat was poured over tto seal

Immersed in honey

  • Fruit, as preserves


  • Meat and fish


Salted down in crocks

  • Butter

  • Meat and fish

  • Vegetables

Stored in underground pits, often sealed

  • Fruits

  • Grains

  • Vegetables

Storage containers

Fécamp Psalter, Normandy,
picked grapes put in handled baskets,
c. 1180 CE





Scirpea - large rush basket

Sporta - large rectangular basket

Cistula - small basket or chest, often made of rushes


Old English

Mand - basket

Riscenne windel  - rush basket

Stictænel - wicker basket

Tænel, litel - small wicker basket

Wearpfæt - wicker basket


(More medieval baskets)



Middleham pot,
York Museum,

c. 1300











Medieval wooden chest, c. 1200 CE,
Volkskundemuseum Dietenheim

Large containers
Pottery and stone containers with secure lids were rodent proof, an important consideration.


Alabastrum - stone pot for storing oil

Amphora, anforra - large storage jar

Aula - large storage pot, jar, olla

Dolia - vat, tub, large storage jar, sometimes coated with pitch

Gillo lagena - stone pot for wine

Lagena - large pot with a neck and handles

Legythum - pot

Libitorium - tub, vessel

Vas fictile - vessel made of clay 


Old English

Croc, crocc, crocca, crog, crogg, croh, crow - pot, earthenware jug 

Hlydan - lids

Sester - large storage jar

Stæna, elefæt, stene - stone pot, often for storing oil

Stænen gillone - stone pot for wine

Trogas - trough, basin


Boxes, chests

Wood was also used, but rodents could gnaw holes to get to stored food.


Armarium - chest, trunk

Cybutum, cista - chest, coffer

Riscus - trunk, chest


Old English

Ciste, cyste - chest

Cyf, cyfa - large storage vat, tub, vessel, sometimes coated with pitch (as were other types of containers), an insect repellent as well as sealant.



A cellarer samples wine from the barrel
while simultaneously filling his jug.

Le Regime du Corps, British Library Sloane 2435, France, c. 1275 CE




Cadus - large vessel for wine

Cupa - large barrel, cask, vat

Dolia - vat, tub, large earthenware storage jar, sometimes coated with pitch

Oenophorum - wine container


Old English

Beorbydene - beer barrel

Cyf - vessel, vat, cask

Fæt - vat, vessel

Sá, saa - tub, pail, vessel

Tunne - barrel, cask, vat

Winfæt - wine vat

Wyntunne - wine barrel

Wynbyrels - wine barrels



Roman flagon, c. 400 CE,
Wikimedia Commons





Medieval pot


Smaller containers


Bottle, flagon



Uter - bottle, flagon made of leather, wineskin


Old English

Byt - bottle, flagon, butt

Cullan - leather bottle


Small pots


Acetabulum, garale - small vinegar or sauce pot

Lenticula - small, lentil-shaped pot


Old English

Ærenbyt - small brass pot

Ecedfæt - vinegar pot

Hunnigbinna - honey pot


Boxes, chests


Moystia, arcula - small chest, casket


Old English

Bearmteage - yeast box

Mydercan - coffer

Sticfodder - wicker box

Tæg - small chest,box

Yrse[n]binne - iron box


Man carrying notched pole ladder.

Anglo-Saxon Calendar,  
BL Cotton Tiberius B.V. Part I
England, c. 1050



For hauling crops into storage



Scala - ladder, set of steps


Old English

Hlæder - ladder, steps, used                    



Notched pole ladder to

         enter raised storehouse


Storehouse, raised on staddle stones to protect its contents from damp
and from rodents, England


Another storehouse on staddle stones, Hampshire, England




Latin                     Old English

  Armarium               Cæpehus





Granarium - granary


Old English

Cornhus, grain house




Foenile - barn

Horreum - barn, storehouse


Old English

Bærern, bern - barn

Hig hus - hay house

Storehouse for produce



Pomarium - storehouse for fruits

Cucumerarium - storehouse for vegetables

Old English
Æppelhus - storehouse for fruits


Storehouse for meal



Farinale - meal house


Old English

Mealehus, meluhudern

Medieval garden tools

I. Preparing

II.  Planting

III.  Cultivation

IV.  Harvest and storage


About the Astute Reeve

Medieval baskets







Utensilia - Inventory of equipment at the royal estate of Asnapio

  • Concas aereas - bronze bowls

  • Poculares - bronze cups

  • Calderas aereas - bronze cauldrons

  • Patellam - plate

  • Secures - axes

  • Dolatorum - adze

  • Terebros - augers

  • Scalprum - chisel

  • Ferrea - iron cauldron

  • Andedam - fire-dog

  • Palas fero paratas - iron-tipped spades

  • Runcinam - plane

  • Falces - scythes

  • Falciculas - sickles

  • Sartaginem - cooking pan

  • Farum - lamp

  • Patellam - salt-pan

  • Baccinum - basin

  • Utilensia lignea ad ministrandum sufficienter - wooden equipment sufficient to needs


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F.D. Drewitt


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