The Weaving Word

Weaving together the threads that make up my passion for the written word…as an author, editor, and follower of The Word.

Medieval Monday: The Labors of June

June is just around the corner. In the Middle Ages, that meant not only a change in the weather, but a shift in daily labors, and in what was on the menu to eat.

Labors of the month JuneWhile most crops were harvested much later in the summer, hay was the first to be cut in June, though it was typically poor quality. In a society so dependent on animals for survival, haying was a vital community activity, with the lord’s fields taking priority over all the others. This was a labor carried out by men, women, and children. They worked in groups under the supervision of a reeve that had been elected by the peasants themselves. The men cut the hay with long scythes, each going through about one acre per day. Women and girls were responsible for raking and turning it. If the hay was not able to dry out, it would rot and be of no use.

On the edge of the field, there would be a man with a whetstone who could make quick repairs to dull and broken scythes as needed throughout the day. A horn would be blown at dusk to signal the end of the work day.  Sometimes a lord would provide the laborers with a meal and ale, or allow villagers to take home as much hay as they could carry home on their scythe. Anyone who tried to pile on too much was likely to lose their load on the way and go home with nothing.

At the end of June, it was time to pull weeds from the wheat fields, plow fallow fields, and uproot thistles. However, it was considered unlucky in England to pull thistles before June 24th (St. John’s day).  Anyone who did would find they would only multiply three times over.

Bee keeping was another important activity of June, which was when they were expected to begin swarming. Watching a hive was typically children’s work, as they could do so while spinning or doing some other household task. When a swarm formed, it would be followed by villagers banging pots and making other loud noises to “help the bees settle” and also stake their claim on the swarm.

During the month of June, sheep would be taken to a pond or a stream to be washed before shearing. Running water was preferred because their wool tended to be so filthy. Other tasks for June included repairing barns and outbuildings, clearing away brush, digging hop plots, fixing broken carts, gathering hemp and flax, and making salt.

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About weavingword

Allison D. Reid is a Christian Fantasy author with a fondness for Medieval history. Her first published series, the Wind Rider Chronicles, embraces traditional fantasy elements but is also infused with deeper spiritual themes. The first two books in the series, "Journey to Aviad" and "Ancient Voices: Into the Depths" can be found at Amazon and other online book retailers. "Journey to Aviad" is now FREE. Visit http://allisondreid.com/books-2/ to learn more.

11 comments on “Medieval Monday: The Labors of June

  1. Andrea Lundgren
    May 31, 2016

    The funny thing is, this lasted long past the Middle Ages. I remember reading about these activities, as done by hand, in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. Though, by then, the women typically had other tasks, and there was no “Lord’s manor” that got the first of the labor.

    Like

    • weavingword
      May 31, 2016

      Very true! It is surprising how little changed, at least in the countryside, between the Middle Ages and the 1800s. Those who came to settle America didn’t have the advantage of an infrastructure already in place, and they didn’t have the latest technological innovations at their disposal either. The had to make do with the natural resources at hand, simple tools, and lots of back breaking labor. Which is pretty much what the medieval period was like coming out of the Dark Ages.

      Like

  2. Ali Isaac
    May 31, 2016

    Fascinating insight into the past! Enjoyed it a lot! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. drewdog2060drewdog2060
    May 31, 2016

    Reblogged this on newauthoronline and commented:
    A fascinating post on the history and traditions surrounding June in medieval times.

    Like

  4. Let's CUT the Crap!
    May 30, 2016

    So interesting. Riveting reading. 😀

    Like

  5. Loretta Livingstone
    May 30, 2016

    Reblogged this on lorettalivingstone and commented:
    Jobs for June in the medieval calendar.

    Like

  6. amreade
    May 30, 2016

    Found this blog on Chris the Story Reading Ape’s site and love it!

    Like

  7. The Coastal Crone
    May 30, 2016

    Thanks for the glimpse into June in those times! We have come a long way and take so many things for granted.

    Like

    • weavingword
      May 30, 2016

      We certainly do! Summer in the Middle Ages was pretty much hard labor, all day, every day, from sun up to sun down. And June could be a pretty hungry month, since not a whole lot of food was in season yet. They were still relying heavily on what had been harvested and preserved the previous season.

      Like

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