Finche's Soutterain

Bringing the Early Iron Age to Life

Sunny, but shorter, days

Seeing as we have been enjoying an unusual spate of balmy days, I have been taking advantage of the weather to get more things done outside. Getting the newly reclaimed land ready for spring planting has been more demanding than at first thought. I still don’t know how rubble rocks from the broch made their way all the way into this unused field. Or perhaps it’s just that the rocks are so prevalent… either way, getting them out of the field – as well as the bracken and other unwanted plant roots – has kept me pretty busy, along with all the other things I have to get done to prepare our little household for winter.

Mundane vs. persona – My persona has different challenges than I actually have in reclaiming land. For her, there would be no trees to deal with removing, but she would have rocks, shrubs and various other low-growing plants. Me? I have three more trees to remove so that my proposed location for my garden and cereal crop experiment will get enough direct sunlight. Admittedly, the amount of direct sunlight may be toward the lower end of the spectrum in desirability, but that’s all part of the experiment.


Rainy days, smoking meats, baking bread

Last week, Eidiard decided he wanted to smoke some meats, as a project for our lunch on Faire Day (this Faire Day was a good few hours journey from our home). Of course, the gods have a sense of humor and made sure that it was going to rain on the days of smoking. Not having a dedicated smoke house (although it now appears that may change) meant that Eidiard had to figure out a way to accomplish this… since the meats, once smoked, needed some time to ‘sit’ to maximize their flavors. I am happy to say, that even with all the challenges the gods threw at him, Eidiard was successful in his endeavors.

I decided, that we needed to have some bread to go with the meat and pulled out my baking skills. I decided to make a sourdough bread using the spelt flour that we had traded for. Even with the damp weather, my bread loaves were successful. Not having a purpose built bread oven, while challenging, was not an impediment to the success of the loaves.

In all, our lunch with our friends at the Faire Day was quite successful, tasty, and filling.

Our lunch Photo credit - Tammy Crawford

Our lunch. Photo credit – Tammy Crawford

Reclaiming land

I have begun the process of clearing out the scrub and weeds to make a new section of our farm usable. The challenge of this is that particular section is on a hillside, facing east. While this is not generally a problem, it does present some challenges. While there are a few small patches that are mostly flat, I intend to use the hill as well. The biggest problem, is that as we go through the growing season, this area will get most sun in the morning hours – due to the hill, and the fact that the broch is to the west of this patch of land.

Once I get all the growth cut down, then comes the digging out of the bramble’s roots.

Mundane stuff: I have decided to experiment with turning our back yard jungle into an arable patch of land for my growing experiments of period (or as close as I can get) crops and vegetables. One of the cereal crops I know will do well in my part of Ohio, is Bere Barley, which through evidence found at various broch sites and other archaeological digs, has been found to at least the Bronze Age. My next cereal crop to experiment with growing is Bristle Oat (or Black Oat as it’s more commonly known). The challenge with the Bristle Oat, is to find a variety that has been grown in Orkney and dates back to at least the 5th century, if not further back. There is a cultivar that has been developed in Brazil with cooperation from a university in Arizona, but it is not cold tolerant. i will have to do some more research and see if it is possible to get viable seed from one of the northern countries (Shetland maybe?) legally.


Mundane land – Looking east-southeast and downhill.


Stormy weather

Today dawned dark and blustery. With the equinox having passed, the winds are picking up and have a decided chill to them. I’m glad we got all the weathering tken care of during the last part of the summer – after the harvests were in. At least the winds that howl, will not be howling inside our home. And I know that the animals will be safe from the storm… even though the sheep don’t like to come into the byre. At least our cow is sensible. The pigs though, they love their shelter and sometimes, getting them to get out into the yard is a challenge.

Research: It took some digging, and a bit of Google-fu, but I did finally find what the breed of pig is most likely to have been raised by my persona.The breed is called “Grice” which apparently means “young pig”. They were native to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and in Ireland. It became extinct, surviving longest in the Shetland Isles, where it disappeared in the late nineteenth century and were also known as the Highland, Hebridean or Irish pig.* In 2006, Shetland Museum & Archives (where the pig lasted the longest, going extinct in the 19th century) had put on display a “recreated” Grice – based on the body of a young wild boar. There was an interesting article posted on the BBC website.

*Yes, I actually had to use Wikipedia as a jump point for finding out about this particular pig… basically, because there is so little known (at this point in time). If/when new information becomes available, I will update my information.

Non sequitur

There seems to be something about this time of year (right around/just past the Autumn Equinox) that puts me in mind of starting a small farm or homestead. Is it because of the potential for econimic collapse seems to be so great, or perhaps it’s simply the fact that this time of year is the “seed planting” time. I know, not all types of seeds get planted, but here I’m talking more about “idea seeds” than actual plant seeds – although there are certain cereal cros that get planted around this time.

I know that in times past, the medieval period and earlier perhaps, that September was the start of the agricultural year – starting with preparing the fields for raising crops.

I would like to start a homestead, with the idea of growing it into a productive small farm, specializing in not just heirloom plants and animals, but as a successful experiment in raising historical cultivars and breeds – perhaps even contributing to the preservation of the biodiversity that once sustained our forefathers and foremothers.