Life in a Medieval village by Frances and Joseph Gies

Life in a Medieval Castle by Frances and Joseph Gies is an outstanding read for any survivalist who wants a better understanding of how people survived the medieval ages. The book covers peasant life from around the 1100s to what happens after the Black Death of 1348 and 1350.

Just about every detail of daily life is described; such as what crops were raised, what farm animals were raised, what uses the animals served, what services the animals preformed, which animals were best for butchering, which ones were not butchered, what people ate, and the difficulties that people ran into.

One example is that crop fields slowly turned into sheep fields. Sheep served several purposes – meat, milk, wool and skin for writing. People could make more money by raising sheep and exporting their wool, then could be made from growing food crops.

While reading Life in a Medieval Village, I never expected people of that time period to lead such complicated lives. People went to church, paid taxes, had to work X number of days for the lord, sued, were sued, severed on a jury, and led what seemed like normal everyday lives.

Something that really stands out, is now little people have changed in the past 700+ years. There is one story that mad me say “that could have happened anywhere today” – a man goes over to friends house for dinner. While he is there the husband and wife get into an argument. The innocent bystander tries to break up the fight, only for the man or woman to turn on him with an axe and kill him.  Moral of the story – Never get inbetween and husband and wife while they are fighting.

272 pages
Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
ISBN-10: 0060920467
ISBN-13: 978-0060920463
10 chapters

While reading about the crops that were raised, it seemed that people focused on wheat, barley, oats, beans and peas. The poorest of the poor ate pootage – which is a boiled mixture of different ingredients. Meaning, the poor peasants boiled and ate whatever they had on hand.

One good thing about the medieval diet, is that by todays standards it would be considered heart healthy. People ate very little meat, except during holidays such as Easter and Christmas. From existing journals meat and fat was so rare, that people dreamed of eating food items like sausage. The majority of the fat in their diet probably came from salted pork, cows or lambs milk, butter and cheese.  Even though people fished, fish does not provide a sufficient amount of fat for the diet.

Cows were rarely butchered – first there was problem preserving the meat, second their milk was used for drinking and for making cheese and butter. Making cheese and butter from milk usually fell to the women.

The animals that were butchered included chickens, pigs and ducks.  In other words, things that had a high reproduction rate.  If you butcher a couple of pigs, they will reproduce in a matter of months.  Cows on the other hand took years to replace the butchered animals.

So why should a survivalist read a book on the middle ages or medieval times? Because life after some kind of long term SHTF or TEOTWAWKI might return to something like the middle ages. What kind of crops are the easiest to raise, what are the best uses of farm animals, which animals are the easiest to raise,,,,,. Instead of doing trial and error experiments, let the people from the medieval and middle ages do most of the work for you.

Lets take peas and beans for an example – by reading Life in a Medieval village, its become very clear that beans and peas have substantiated mankind for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  That means that you should have plenty of peas and beans as part of your survival garden seed stockpile.