Bringing the Early Iron Age to Life



The barley had been harvested earlier this moon cycle, as have the oats. Thankfully, we had clear weather for the days it took to get the crops in. Hopefully, we will have enough to last the winter – for both us and the animals.

Since we have such long days, I guess I better go get some more peat, or turf if I can’t find enough peat to dry. I don’t really want to run out of fuel when trying to cook our meals.


According to Dickson & Dickson’s Plants & People in Ancient Scotland (2000) the principle grain crops were a variety of barleys, notably Bere (pronounced “bear”) Barley, but also some samples of Naked Six-rowed barley. Oats it seems were a Wild Oat variety.

Edited to add: The oat varieties would have been “Common Oat” (Avena sativa, cultivated), Bristle Oat, often called Black Oat, (A. strigosa, cultivated) and Wild Oat (A. fatua, weedy). Sativa means cultivated, strigosa means bristly and fatua means insipid or not good.” (From Dickson & Dickson Plants & People of Ancient Scotland, p. 234)


Woke up this morning, slightly before sunrise. The cow and sheep were making more than their usual amount of noise in the byre… the only thing I can think of, is that a strange dog or cat must have disturbed them. I’m not too worried about the possibility of a strange cat, since it was problably hunting some voles. Useful, as there have been a few incursions by voles into the grain bin for the animals.

After checking on the animals, and seeing if the geese had laid any new eggs, I returned to my hearth to stir up the fire, and get some breakfast. I added a few berries that I managed to forage the other day into my cooking pot, to add some sweetness to my barley pottage. As it warms up gently, beside the fire, I puttered around, straightening things up a bit from last night that I missed in the darkness.

Today I will be checking on how the grain plantings are doing. We’re getting close to harvest time, and I don’t want to lose too much of the planting to the ever present wind, in case there’s a late storm. With all the heat we’ve been having, I think the barley and spelt will be ripening quicker and hope to the Gods that we can get it in before any early fall/winter storms hit. After that, I’ll make sure that the pasture i’ve planned for the sheep to move into is good to go… meaning, making sure that the sheep won’t be able to get through the border walls. Of course, this is an ongoing problem, since a few of the ewes are apparently excape artists. I still have plenty of wool to finish spinning, and need to grab another spindle, so I can take it with me. I’ll never get all the yarn made I need for Eidiard’s new cloak, if I don’t get it all spun soon.

Well, smells like my breakfast is ready. Have to go… more later.


I started this blog, a month ago, with the idea of creating a persona story. After my first blog post/entry, I realized that I didn’t know quite enough (so I felt) to answer even the most basic question of – What would she have eaten for breakfast? I then proceeded to use this conundrum as an excuse not to write anything more, until I had done “enough” research. The only problem with doing, or trying to do, “enough” research, is that I allowed it to stop me from creating this persona story. I have been convinced, that this was the wrong approach to me joy of research. So, I will be starting over, or rebooting, and while Finche’s story may have many inaccuracies, know that these anachronisms will and are leading to more and moer research.

Hopefully, this will help not only disseminate what I learn, as I endeavor to bring Finche’s era and story to life, but also maybe, just maybe, inspire others not only to do research of their own, for their personas, but to help bring their personas to ‘life’.


This morning I woke up before the sun because the animals were making more than their usual levels of noise. The only thing I can think of, is that a wild cat or strange dog got to close to their shelter. After checking on them and finding no dead or injured animals, I went about my usual morning routine. I let the animals out onto their pasture land, relieved myself, then stoked up the fire from last night, so that I could heat up my pottage… while it was heating up, I went outside to see if there were any fruit still on the bushes to add to my pottage for a bit of different flavor. Later I will move the cow to a different field, and the sheep will hopefully let me move them up to the upper field that needs clearing.

What type of enclosure would the cows and sheep be kept in overnight? If I live in a roundhouse, is it made strictly of wattle and daub, or could the walls have incorporated in them, stone?

Update: The home I would live in, would be made of stone since by this time period (Late Iron Age) there were no trees other than scrub. The reason for this is due to the salt-laden winds which are quite prevalent across Orkney. Fresh water would have been drawn from the well that was dug and stone-lined, within the enclosure for the settlement/village.

What kind of cows would I have? What poultry would I be raising, and were there any pigs? The sheep I’m pretty sure would be Soay, as they are indigenous to Northern Scotland…

Update: While it is possible that I would have raised only Soay sheep, there is some evidence that there was trade with the Norse people (based on archaeological evidence of trade goods in the 5th century) and that means that there could have been sheep brought over with them (Spaelsau, Villsau or Gammelnorsk) that then cross-bred with the Soay – giving rise to the Orkney breed of sheep.

What would my pottage be made of? Update: Don’t know that I would have made/eaten pottage, but the porridge would have consisted of barley and oat grains.

A day in the life…. hopefully for at least a year

So, I’ve been thinking about writing up blog posts in the first person for my persona. After chatting with Mistress Melisande about it, I decided to do this online so that perhaps others will join in the conversation. With this journaling, I expect it to generate new research questions for me (and anyone who’s interested in this project).

So, with luck, time and perseverance, I hope to have a two-part posting as Finche (pronounced fin-ka) when I post. The first part being in first person, the second being either research notes or questions to be researched further. In this manner, I hope to flesh out my persona into a living, breathing being, as it were. This may not happen every day, but hopefully, there will be enough that I can get a better idea of what life may have been like, in either Orkney, or the Kingdom of Cait in the 4th-7th centuries. The time and place bracketing is due to how little we actually know about these places, and time period.

(Cross posting this first entry to my Facebook timeline.)