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My main character grows up on a farm. The fantasy world where my story takes place is similar to our own medieval time, so I used it to make sure that any mention of farming was realistic. It was fascinating learning more about medieval farms.
One website that was particularly helpful gave much information about crops and livestock as well as a calendar of what the farmers were doing different times of the year. It is found at: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2001/20010212/agriculture.shtml.
One interesting note is that farmers generally had what they called winter crops and spring crops, named after the time of year they are planted. Winter wheat and corn were planted in the fall with the expectation that they would come up as soon as the temperatures warmed back up. If the spring was especially cold or stormy, though, the entire crop could fail.
To protect themselves, they planted more wheat and corn in the spring. These crops didn't generally do as well as the winter crops because their growing season was shorter, but they were less risky than the winter crops.
The following farming calendar is dependent on climate. It is an approximate for farmers who lived in central and northern Europe during the middle ages.
- January: Clear the ditches, cut wood, spread manure
- February: Mend any broken fences; kill moles; add lime, chalk, and manure to the soil
- March: As soon as the ground is soft enough, plow and harrow; sow the spring wheat
- April: Plant onions and leeks, the piglets will be born
- May: Weed the winter corn, do any needed home repairs, sow pulses, plant the garden vegetables (except for turnips)
- June: Start harvesting the hay
- July: Finish harvesting the hay, begin harvesting the winter corn and wheat
- August: Finish harvesting the winter crops, begin harvesting the spring wheat and corn, gather in the straw, plant turnips
- September: Harvest the vegetable garden crops, plow the fields for the winter wheat and corn, sow the winter wheat, take the excess stock to market
- October: Turn the pigs loose to forage on acorns and beechnuts, thresh the wheat
- November: Take in firewood, continue threshing the wheat
- December: Slaughter the hogs, begin spreading manure for next year's crops