Forum: Hobbiton

Discussing: Shire seasons

Shire seasons

Can anyone tell me when would be "harvest season" in the Shire? In relation to Frodo's birthday, especially -- or if you had to close a school to send the youngsters out to help with harvest, when would that be? I guess, harvest for grain crops and orchard fruit -- that's what you'd need a lot of workers for, right?



Re: Shire seasons

Can't help you with the grain crops but many fruit crops do come in during the traditional modern summer vacation of July and August.
(At least in the Canada/US border region - 49th parallel - on the west coast, which seems rather similar climate wise to England and the Shire.) Berries tend to be in June and July, soft tree fruits (eg. peaches, apricots) in July and August, hard fruits(eg. pears, apples) in August and September. The only grain I know is rice, which is harvested around October here in central Japan near the 36th parallel but I don't recall any mention of rice in M.E. Oops. Forgot corn. That comes in August/September (49th P) but I think is a New World grain.

This brings to mind another question. What about things grown in the Middle and Far East? Much has been said about New World plants like potatoes and tobacco but what about plums, peaches, silk?

Back to the issue of letting kids out of school. If kids didn't start school until they are 7 or 8, that would leave lots of older pre-schooler available for tree fruit harvest. Small kids can more easily and safely climb thru the trees to get more fruit. Shaking trees to knock down fruit is really a last resort that gives fruit which is only good for jam or sauce.



Re: Shire seasons

Thanks, katakanadian!

When it comes to varieties of plants grown in the Shire, my own feeling is that anything grown in England in the last couple of centuries, would be legitimate for the Shire -- simply because Tolkien has them growing potatoes, a New World plant. I can't remember if he mentions silk, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised. And doesn't he say that in the wonderful year of 1420 young hobbits ate plums and peaches and piled the pits like the skulls of vanquished foes, or something like that?

That's a good point about older pre-schoolers, when schooling is started late.



Re: Shire seasons

Just a bit of info about the uk school system. I've no idea what the holidays are like outside of England, but here there's 6 weeks for summer holiday, left over from when the kids would be needed for harvest. This usually runs from mid-late july to september, so you could certainly make a case for giving your shire children the whole of wedmath off, and a chunk of halimath too.

I've vauge memories of the grain harvest on my friend's farm beginning around the start of august. There's also the festival of lughnasadh/lammas - bread-mass - which was celebrated at the start of the harvest, around the first of august. There's nothing in canon to say the hobbits celebrated lammas, but i like to think so. I can definately hear Merry and Pippin singing to John Barleycorn (

You'd definately want older kids helping with the grain harvest rather than preschoolers. Because it's not mechanised, they'll be harvesting with scythes and sickles, which have a knack to them and one hell of a sharp edge that has to be sharpened regularly in the field. Not an environment for someone under 10. The children wouldn't be using the scythes - far too dangerous. They'd collect the cut grain with rakes and stack it in sheaves. Then there's the threshing. Children could be employed to separate the grain from the chaff (put said threshed mix onto a canvas and toss it up and down. The chaff would be blown free)

We also still celebrate harvest festival at the Autumn equinox. The grain harvest should be complete by then, and gifts of fruit and vegtables are given out.

fruit and veg, I have no idea about.



Re: Shire seasons

And doesn't he say that in the wonderful year of 1420 young hobbits ate plums and peaches and piled the pits like the skulls of vanquished foes, or something like that?

Yeah. I remember reading that. The discussion I was refering to was all of us Tolkien geeks arguing over whether there really should be New World plants in M.E. I haven't really noticed the same pondering about whether Far East flora were anachronistic.

Re: summer holidays. In Canada, they start in the last week of June and end in the first week of September. In Japan, they start in the last week of July and end with the start of September. These are modern conventions tho. I don't know what the schedule was 200 years ago.



Re: Shire seasons

A modern conventions with historical roots. It's been 4 years since i studied history in any form and the history of education was never my interest, but a quick google returns this quote, which lends strength to the idea.
"In Gairloch in 1716, only ten boys attended the school in the entire summer although more appeared after harvest."
I don't think growing seasons have altered that much since 1716, and that the few farmers I know harvest grain from late july to september.

I've got the quote about plums. It's in "the grey havens"
the fruit was so plentiful that young hobbits very nearly bathed in strawberries and cream; and later they sat on the lawns under the plum-trees and ate, until they had made piles of stones like small pyramids or the heaped skulls of a conqueror"

Regarding the anachronism of plums, could they be the European plum as opposed to the Japanese plum?
from the following website
European Plums-Prunus domestica These are usually, but certainly not always, yellow fleshed blue skinned plums, that are often naturally 'drier' than the Japanese plums, and with a more delicate and refined flavor. They also encompass prune plums, which are sweet but rather insipid. The Damson plum is also in this group, and in contrast, it is very acid, and usually used soley for preserves or flavored gin.
European plums are usually late flowering and have a higher winter chill requirement than Japanese plums. Some European plums, such as the damson, produce prodigously in the warm temperate areas, others hardy at all. As a general rule, they are better adapted to temperate, rather than warm temperate areas.

gives details about look, flavour and planting/care.



Re: Shire seasons

Thank you, kerosene! Alas, I'll have to go back and revise my chapter, I didn't think grain harvest would begin quite that early. Must stick a bit more time between the end of term for Hobbiton's first school (in the Bag End dining room) and Frodo's birthday. But better to find out now than after the story was all finished -- and wrong!



Re: Shire seasons

I grew up in a wheat farming community. The harvest season would be from around mid-July to early September, depending on the amount of rain and how much was planted. Farmers also check the grain once the stalks start turning gold to see if it's ready to be reaped. Small children do not reap wheat. Back then, it would have been scythes, now it's machines, but both are very dangerous. Children would probably also help sow crops. This would either be in April and May (when the rain is at it's height) or after harvest, depending on if it's summer or winter wheat. I believe winter wheat is a more modern variety, however, which is why the schools in farming communities still let out in early May.
If you plan on dealing with acres, please be aware that an acre is based on what a man should be able to take care of in one day (and that's not an 8 hour day, either).
Animal husbandry is a whole 'nother ballgame if you get into that.



Re: Shire seasons

Thank you, Nike! A couple of people have told me that reaping wheat is no chore for children, so I guess my hobbit lads are helping dig potatoes and pick apples and suchlike!



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