Finche's Soutterain

Bringing the Late Iron Age to Life

Research to flesh out my experiments

Farming in the First Millennium AD: British Agriculture Between Julius Caesar and William the ConquerorFarming in the First Millennium AD: British Agriculture Between Julius Caesar and William the Conqueror by Peter Fowler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In order to understand a culture, fully, one needs to understand how that culture developed. The most basic way to gain this understanding, is to start at the beginning of that culture or society. Agriculture is one of our most basic endeavors. Without the ability to raise (or gather) food, our culture and society would have died out millennia ago.

The first five chapters of this book lays out the framework for the study of agrarian history. We are given a glimpse into the beginnings of this fairly young field of study. We are also presented with the various forms of evidence. In this case, mostly two: archaeological and historical (written records) for the development of agrarian technologies. From there, the author goes on to discuss the changes in landscape wrought by human civilization, the changes in farming technologies, the various crops and livestock, and how various land allotments developed by and into laws.

Overall, once I came to understand the how and why of his methods of presentation, I found this book to be not only very informative, but quite an enjoyable read as well.

Now to plunder his bibliography. 🙂

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Spring is here

Heard my first mourning dove today. For me, they have always been the heralds of Spring. Even though the Cornell site (All About Birds) shows them as being year round in Ohio, I never hear them during the winter months – and not just because I’m indoors.

Soon I should be getting back to my persona story blog entries. I just wanted to post about this because I like to make note of when I first hear the mournful sounds of the mourning doves.

Musings on Candlemas

So, as is often the case these past few days, I was thinking about today – February 2nd – being Candlemas/St. Brigid’s Day/Groundhog Day. Yesterday’s post showed that the Sun will make it’s transition to the cross-quarter day (by degrees) on the 18th of this month. That’s a given. But, if one were to count the number of days from the Solstice, to today and then from today to the Equinox, the *number* of days is about equal (more or less and depending onif you count the day of, or the day after). So, that could be the “reason for the season” as it were.

As the days grow longer, the Sun appears to travel faster from sunrise to sunrise in its course toward the Equinox. Hence why the number of days are less between the Sun’s rising at its actual midpoint and the Equinox, compared to the number of days from the Solstice to the midpoint.

Calendars and man are funny things.

Imbolc & the 1st days of Spring (MM*)

To some, today is Imbolc Eve, to others Imbolc isn’t until February 2nd. Either way, it is a celebration of the first stirrings of Spring – or the coming of Spring.

Astronomically, the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox won’t happen until sometime on February 18th – when the sun reaches its midway point between its southern most rising (closest to 23° 30′ declension)  and its ‘truest’ Eastern rising (closest to 0° 0′ declension). The morning of February 18th, at least in my part of the world, the sun will rise at 11° 23′ and reach its true midpoint (11° 15′) in the early daylight hours. On February 19th, it rises at 11° 01′. To me, the “First Day of Spring” will be February 18th, and I will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of our last frost date (which, isn’t officially until May 15th here in Ohio).

So whether you are playing close attention to the Sun’s movements, or just celebrating the accustomed Solar festival, I hope everyone has a  wonderful Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day and that the coming growing season brings you much happiness.

* Since this was a longish title, “MM” means “Mundane Musings” 🙂

Sun Musings (long mundane post)

No, it’s not Spring yet, despite what the weather felt like today. The high tempurature today reached at least 60° F, if not higher. That’s okay, we’ll have winter (again) by the weekend.

So, in tracking the sun and shade patterns in my back yard I have been using my almanac to see just how far south of true east it has been rising. And this got me to thinking about the Pagan solar festivals, and how modern marketing has really helped to distance people from the actual agricultural rhythms.

Let’s start with Yule/Winter Solstice. This is the midpoint of the dark half of the year. It is also celebrated as the “birth” of the Sun. It marks the longest night/shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere (reversed for the Southern). On this day, the Sun’s declination is 23° 26′ – the furthest South of due East it gets. The beginning of the “dark half of the year” falls on the Autumn Equinox – but we’ll get to that in due course.

The next festival is Candlemas/Brigid’s Day/Imbolc – which is generally celebrated on February 2nd. This, by modern man, is considered to be the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. Now, if you look at just about any almanac, in my case The Old Farmer’s Almanac, you’ll notice that the Sun’s declination is only 16° 36′. While it has indeed moved further north, it hasn’t yet reached the ‘true’ midpoint between the Solstice and Equinox. That date falls between (or during the night of) the 18th and 19th of February. The sun rises at 11° 23′ on th 18th and 11° 01′ on the 19th. And the midpoint from 23° 26′ and 0° (s.) is closer to 11° 15′. (Maths is not my strong suit.) As such, it can be considered the actual start, or first day, of Spring – despite what the American media would have you believe of the prognosticational abilities of Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog in Pennsylvania.

This brings us to the Vernal Equinox. This is where the Sun rises closest to 0° 0′ declination of due East. This year, the actual Equinox falls between March 19th (0° 17′ s.) and March 20th (0° 06′ n.). Modern man celebrates this day (erroneously, as far as I’m concerned) as the “First Day” of Spring. What this day is actually marking is the midpoint – equal day and equal night – of the Sun’s northward journey. Which, for the agricultural world is actually the middle of Spring. After this date, the days get to be longer than the nights, as we head into Summer.

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