Gram-Letter6-art - 7/19/15
"12th Night and the Plowboys" by Lady Shara of Starwood, OVO, CMC, AoA. A series of articles on various crafts and medieval life written in first-person style. This is number 6 of 11 articles in this series.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
This article was originally published in the "Tal-Mere Tidings", the newsletter of the Shire of Tal-Mere, Kingdom of Meridies.
12th Night and the Plowboys
by Lady Shara of Starwood
My Sweet Girl,
As I write this there is snow, yet again, soft upon the Southern meadows, and ice upon the duck pond and in every other place where water is wont to be.
Someone left a glazed pitcher of the potter's crafting in the sill of a window, and the morning found it in shattered pieces about the floor amongst it's frozen contents. Such as the cold has been that it creeps even into the manor house with sharp breath to reek selected havoc. I suspect Sarah, as usual, for little can she remember to finish a task before her mind is off wherever it goes when I am not looking but twould be unfair to blame her when it could well have been Agnes' fault, or even my own.....still, the pitcher is lost to foolish forgetfulness for all that I would it not be so.
We have only just had 12th Night and taken our leave of our many guests and the visiting neighbors and I had settled down for a well-earned rest and a chance to count our blessings when there was reason to feel the cold would not be with us much longer, as only days ago, on "Plough Monday, we were visited in the fading light by the ploughboys, their faces blackened, their tunics turned inside to the out....They were a merry lot, laugh-ing as they arrived and shouting outside the door for "largess for the ploughboys!" and well were they rewarded with both coin, and such that could be found about the kitchens to delight the palate, so that when they left, they drew their line, across the lane to the manor house, to warn all who might come by our way later, that we had already been called upon and had paid well enough their due, and so none were to worry us further... Not so lucky, nor so wise, was Lord William of Amber-wine manor last year, for he was so deep in his cups by their arrival there and thinking not so much of the consequences of his scolding of them to leave off their racket and be away from his door,....for after he slammed it and went back to his warm fire, and his ale, they did set about the ploughing of the ground before his door, well and wide, between it and all the out buildings, so that there-after, there was no end to the dirt and mud that did travel in doors that twas once out, for months afterward. I pray he learned a lesson and sent them away with enough coin this year to pay the innkeeper and have a fine supper.
I am already so tired of salt and dried meat and pigeon pie, dried parsnips and peas, and we've just finished the last of the cheeze...As usual, we had to thin the stock in the late fall of all the extra mouthes that would not hold their own over the winter and/or be of no use for the new year's breeding, and put them to salt. All, of course, but your Aunt Gwen's remaining pets. Few though there are, they remind us of her and so receive her share in the ways of their need. The rest we do with as we must for the betterment of all which remain.
The cows were turned into the fallow fields to graze such as they could find there and to return to the earth much needed manure to strengthen it for future use. A new hovel has been erected for the shepherd, and now the lambs and calves have begun arriving, and such a crop of lambs already! So many twins, and even threes before each day's close. It seems it will never end. (Old Maribell, one of Gwen's lot, had three this year and all in good health. She will be so delighted to hear that her old pet is still doing well and not an un-necessary burden upon us). The bleeting of so many new young is like music to mine old ears and I cannot get my fill. I spend as much time as can be spared in the lambing sheds just to witness the joy of new life in the land and to lend a hand as I'm able and needed, for not all arrive with ease, because if we lose a ewe, there will be orphans in need of hand-rearing and we have too many, and not enough hands to spare to the task. So it is, that Sarah watches and waits, as with one brown eye she sees lambchops and with the other she has a mind (or her stomach) awater at the thought of savory lamb stew and as well as I am to favor such dishes upon my winter table, even I do not look to the sacrifice of such new life with the eagerness of her noticeably rumbling belly.
I know, tis only that she'd so often known hunger before coming here to us, that she cannot help herself, but still it gives me chills to see her at such times or to witness her small smile as she wrings the neck of a chicken for the pot.....Thank goodness she did not join our household until after dear Gwen had left to her calling, for tender-hearted as is her way, she would have demanded that the child be taken into the forest and left to the wolves, even as her Romani parents abandoned her on a winter night, in one of the barns; one less mouth to feed, and your grandfather found the dirty child competing with a new calf for his nourishment, on his morning rounds.
Ever since then, though it's been a full 10 years, Sarah has never gone any hungrier than anyone else here, and yet has it always been that she has never forgotten and so is never full, even when she can eat no more, still she looks with a longing that is heart-breaking, upon any food yet upon the table...
Gwen always had a special favorite in each new family brought forth in it's season and was always a vexation to your grandfather as she announced first this one and that as 'her's' and nameing them in their turn and so saved them from ever knowing the ax or mallet as your grandfather grumbled, mostly in our privacy, that if sweet Gwen had her way there would never be a morsel of meat ever to grace our table or fill his man's belly.....
So it was, that once named by her, that he dared not touch it for fear of her unforgiving tears and devastation, and so it is that you know why so many of the oldest stock here have names and scratched slate markers populate Gwen's meadow....for none of hers ever knew a cooks fire.
Ah, my mind wanders again, for I was speaking of Sarah and the lambs... She is not so bad, as it is that she is somewhat simple in her wits; she is good with the wee 2-legged babes. Perhaps it's the coos and baby smiles...(perhaps it's that she has no recipe for them, to think upon...) As Gwen was with us at Christmastide and saw for herself, Sarah's malicious interest in the goose, it was that my Gwen took me aside in private, and told me in a half-serious way to be sure to count the children both here and in those leaving in the coming days, and to be sure all were accounted for, and if not, to look to Sarah to question their where-a-bouts.
I do seriously pray, that she was joking, for never have I worried of the safety of any left in Sarah's charge. She does all to keep them in peels of laughter and is such a good story-teller that even the older children are drawn back to her to sit with the toddlers around the floor at her skirts, eagerly asking to re-hear old favorites...
Young Adam, your grandfather says, is showing much promise at the forge. Hen is so eager to learn and grasps each new lesson like a barn snake upon it's latest victim, not loosening it til it's safely inside, so it is that fair Adam has taken to the anvil and swift iron.
The sows are breeding and now that the cows have begun calving there is much to begin doing about the dairy, mostly in the cleaning and scouring and sweetening with marsh rush and lime the churns, buckets and crockery as soon we shall have milk aplenty with which to make fresh butter and cheeze...Ah, to have such upon my bread once more! It goes without saying that in this, our Sarah is most eager to the task, and does well at the milking of ewe or cow.
Today, as I write more to this your letter, the sun has come out and shines for the first time in over a week, and I would be out in it's light, tending to my herb garden, such as it's winter needs are, for there is still pruning to do, and chickweed to gather for the soup as it now fills herbal pots that in Summer held so much nicer things to tempt me...still, I like it well enough, and some will see my lips long before other of it sees the kitchen, for so starved am I for that which is not salted and or dried.
And now my sweet girl, I must take my leave of you, for tis time to go about my own tasks once more.....
Be well, my sweet.
Copyright 2001 by R.D. Wertz. <windsingersmoon at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.