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Excerpts from Fitzherbert's Book of Husbandry c. 1543



To carry out dung or muck and to spread it:

And in the later end of April, and the beginning of May, it is time to carry out his dung or muck, and lay it upon his barley ground .... But the husband that can find the means to carry out his dung, and to lay it upon his land after it be the once stirred, it is much better than to lay it upon his fallow, for divers causes. One is, if it be laid upon his fallow, all that falleth in the hollow rig shall do little good, for when it is rigged again, it lieth so deep in the earth, that it will not be ploughed up again, except that when he hath spread it, he will with a shovel, or a spade, cast out all that is fallen in the rig. And if it be laid upon the stirring, at every ploughing it shall meddle the dung and the earth together, the which shall cause the corn much better to grow and increase, And in some places, they load not their dung, till harvest be done ... and that I call better than upon the fallow, and specially for barley: but upon the first stirring, it is best for wheat and rye, and that his dung be laid upon small heaps nigh together, and to spread it evenly, and to leave no dung there-as the muck heap stood, for the moistness of the dung shall cause the ground to be rank enough. And if it be meddled with the earth ... it will last the longer, and better for barley than for wheat and rye, because of weeds.

Horse dung is the worst dung that is. The dung of all manner of cattle, that chew their cud, is very good. And the dung of doves is best, but it must be laid upon the ground very thin.

To carry out wood and other necessaries:

And in May, when thou hast fallowed thy ground, and set out thy sheepfold, and carried out thy dung or muck, if thou have any wood, coal or timber to carry, or such other business, that must needs be done, with thy chart or waine, then it is time to do it. For then the way is like to be fair and dry, and the days long, and that time the husband has least to do in husbandry ....

To know divers manners of weeds:

In the later end of May, and the beginning of June, is time to weed thy corn. There be divers manner of weeds, such as thistles, kedlokes, docks, cocledrake, darnolde, gouldes, haudoddes, dogfennel, mathes [mayweed], ter, and divers other small weeds. But these be that grieve most: the thistle is an ill weed, rough and sharp to handle, and fretteth away the corn nigh it, and causeth the shearers or reapers not to shear clean. Kedlockes has a leaf like rapes, and bears a yellow flower, and is an ill weed, and groweth in all manner of corn, and has small coddes, and groweth like mustard seed. Docks have a broad leaf, and divers high spires, and very small seed in the top. Cockole has a long small leaf, and will bear five or six flowers of purple colour, as broad as a groat, and the seed is round and black, and may well be suffered in bread corn, but not in seed, for therein is much flour. Drake is like unto rye, till it begin to seed, and it hath many seeds like fennel seeds, and hangeth downward, and it may well be suffered in bread, for their is much flour in the seed: and it an opinion that it comes of rye, etc. Dernolde groweth up straight like a high grass, and hath long seeds on either side of the stert [?start], and there is much flour in that seed, and groweth much among barley: and it is said, that it cometh of small barley. Golds hath a short jagged leaf, and groweth half a yard high, and hath a yellow flower, as broad as a groat, and is an ill weed, and groweth commonly in barley and peas. Hawdod hath a blue flower, and a few little leaves, and hath five or six branches, flowered in the top, and groweth commonly in rye upon lean ground, and doth little hurt. Dog-Fennel and mathes is both one, and in the coming up is like Fennel and beareth many white flowers, with a yellow seed: and is the worst weed that is, except terre, and it commeth most commonly, when great wet cometh shortly after corn is sown. Terre is the worst weed, and it never doth appear till the month of June, and especially when there is great wet in that month ....

How to weed corn:

Now it would be known, how these corns should be weeded. The chief instrument to weed is a pair of tongs made of wood, and in the farther end it is nicked, to hold the weed fast; and after a shower of rain it is best weeding, for then they may be pulled up by the roots, and then it cometh never again. And if it be dry weather, then must ye have a weeding hook with a socket set upon a little staff of a yard long, and this hook shall be well steeled, and ground sharp both behind and before. And in his other hand he hath a forked stick a yard long, and with his forked stick he putteth the weed from him, and he putteth the hook behind the root of the weed, and pulleth it to him, and cutteth the weed fast by the earth ....

To mow grass:

Also in the later end of June is time to begin to mow, if thy meadow be well grown: but howsoever they be grown, in July they must needs mow, for divers causes. One, it is not convenient to have hay and corn both in occupation at the same time. Another is, the younger and sweeter that the grass is, the softer and sweeter it will be when it is hay ... and the elder the grass is, the harder and drier it is, and the worse for all manner of cattle: for the seeds be fallen, which is in manner of provender, and it is the harder to eat and chew. And another cause is, if dry weather come, it will dry and burn upon the ground, and waste away ...

How forks and rakes should be made:

A Good husband hath his forks and rakes made ready in the winter before, and they would be got between Michelmas and Martylmas, and baked, and set even, to lie upright in thy hand: and then they will be hard stiff and dry. And when the husband sitteth by the fire, and hath nothing to do, then may he make them ready, and tooth the rakes with dry wethywood, and bore the holes with his wymble, both above and under, and drive the teeth upwards fast and hard, and then wedge them above with dry wood of oak, for that it hard, and will dry and never come out ....

To tedd and make hay:

When thy meadow be mowed, they would be well tedded and laid even upon the ground: and if the grass be very thick, it would be shaken with hands, or with a short pikefork. For good tedding is the chief point to make good hey, and then shall it be well withered all in like, or else not: and when it is well withered on the over side, and dry, then turn it clean before noon, as soon as the dew is gone. And if thou dare trust the weather, let it lie so all night: and on the next day, turn it again before noon, and toward night make it in windrows, and then in small haycocks, and so stand one night at the least, and sweat: and on the next fair day cast it abroad again, and turn it once or twice, and then make it in greater haycocks, and to stand so one night or more, that it may ungive and sweat ... And for to know when it hath withered enough, make a little rope of the same, that ye think should be the most greenest, and twine it as hard together between your hands as ye can, and so being hard twon, let one take a knife, and cut it fast by your hand; and the knots will be moist, if it be not dry enough. Short hay, and ley-hay, is good for sheep, and all manner of cattle, if it be well got. A man may speak of making of hay, and getting of corn, but God disposeth and ordereth all things.

How rye should be shorn:

In the later end of July, or in the beginning of August, is time to shear rye, the which would be shorn clean, and fast bound. And in some places they mow it, the which is not so good to the husband's profit, but it is the sooner done. For when it is mown, it will not be so fast bound, and he cannot gather it so clean, but there will be much loss, and taketh more room in the barn than shorn corn does. And also it will not keep nor save itself from rain or ill weather, when it standeth in the cover, as the shorn corn will do.

How to shear wheat:

Wheat should be shorn clean, and hard bounden in like manner; but for a general rule, take good heed, that the shearers of all manner of white corn cast not up their hands hastily, for then all the loose corn, and the straws, that he holdeth not fast in his hand, flieth over his head, and are lost: and also it will pull off the ears, and especially off the corns that be very ripe. In some places they will shear their corns high, to the intent to mow their stubble ... [for thatch to roof houses].

To mow or shear barley or oats:

Barley and oats are most commonly mown, and a man or a woman followeth the mower with a hand rake half a yard long, with seven or eight teeth, in the left hand, and a sickle in the right hand, and with the rake he gathereth as much as will make a sheaf....

To reap or mow peas and beans:

Peas and beans be most commonly last reaped or mown, of divers manners, some with sickles, some with hooks, and some with staff-hooks ...

How all manner of corns should be tithed:

Now that all these corns before specified be shorn, mowed, reaped, bounden up, and laid upon the ridge of the land, let the husband take heed of God's commandment, and let him go to the end of his land, and begin and tell nine sheaves, and let him cast out the tenth sheaf in the name of God, and so peruse from land to land, until he have truly tithed all his corn. And beware and take heed of the saying of our lord by his prophet Malachias ... Because you have not given to me your tithes, and your first fruits, therefore ye be cursed, and punished with hunger and penury ....

Please go to page three of Fiztherbert's Rules.



Please also visit Old London Maps on the web as many of the maps
and views available there have plans and depictions of gardens from
the medieval period through to the late nineteenth century.

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