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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Tools Used for Harvest and Storage

 

Harvest

Scythe

Sickle

Flail

Winnowing fans

Winnowing sieves

 

Storage

Baskets

Large containers

Boxes, chests

Barrels

Smaller containers

Ladders

Storehouses

 

                

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.

Harvest

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


 

 


Scythe

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.

 

Latin

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

 

Sickle 

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.

 

Latin

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
Abbey,
Austria, c. 818 CE

 

Luttrell Psalter,
 BL Add MS 42130
,

c. 1330 CE

 


Drag

 

Flail

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.

 

Latin

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.

 

Latin

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

 

Latin 

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.

 

Latin

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

Storage

 

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

 

Fermented

  • 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

Smoked

  • 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

 

Baskets

 

Latin

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.

Latin

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.


Latin

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

Barrels

 

Latin

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

 

Latin

Uter - bottle, flagon made of leather, wineskin

 

Old English

Byt - bottle, flagon, butt

Cullan - leather bottle

 

Small pots

Latin

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

Latin

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

 

Ladders

For hauling crops into storage

 

Latin

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

 

Storehouses

 

Latin                     Old English

  Armarium               Cæpehus

 

Granary

 

Latin

Granarium - granary

 

Old English

Cornhus, grain house

Barn

 

Latin

Foenile - barn

Horreum - barn, storehouse

 

Old English

Bærern, bern - barn

Hig hus - hay house
 

Storehouse for produce

 

Latin

Pomarium - storehouse for fruits

Cucumerarium - storehouse for vegetables

Old English
Æppelhus - storehouse for fruits

 

Storehouse for meal

 

Latin

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

Sources

 

 

 

 

 

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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