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Medieval Sourcebook:
On Husbandry, c. 350

Book I, C.5. Lands fat or lean, thick or rare, dry or moist, and not without defects, are good for divers seeds; but my advice is to choose the fat and moist. Its work is least and its fruit is best. And next the thick and rank is best; but eschew the thick and dry and let it alone.

C.24. Till all the field or all the field is lost; wheat sown thrice in too fat land will, wonderful to say, change into other grain....

C.27. To till a field one must have diligence and leave no part unsown; but plough it up altogether. A little well tilled will repay expenses well, so undertake as much as you can easily do.

C.33. But after it is burnt do not go near it for five years; and after that you will see that it, as richer land, will grow and thrive.

C 40. I am unwilling to make him who is a favorite foreman over the field; and why? For he will deem his work is well howsoever it may be.

C.65. And it is good for pipes to lead from it (the cistern) each to carry drinking water, the liquor of grace above, a thing celestial.

C.72. One should also take care about an oil-cellar; to warm it the pavement below should be perforated and raised. So that smoke cannot harm it, make a trench under the fire, and heat the well protected house from winter, keen and cold. Now I would like to write on the husbandry of stables.

C.73. Toward the south you set the stable and the stall for horses and neats and get the light from the north, and close it tight to keep out the winter cold. In summer take care to cool the house and in the cold weather make a fire near the beasts; it will help the oxen and make them fair if they keep near the fire.

C.108. Set the dunghill wet so it may rot and be odorless; also set it out of sight; the seed of thorn will decay and die in it. Assess dung is best to make a garden with; sheep's dung is next; and after that the goat's and neat's; also horses' and mares'; but swine's dung is the worst of all this lot.

C.114. One plants thorns; another sows seeds; but (for fences and garden walls) seeds of bramble and hound's thorn do well; and gather that as ripe as necessary.

C.145. The bee-yard should not be far away but aside, clean, secret, and protected from the wind, square, and so strong that no thief can enter it.

C.165. Make ready now each needed instrument; look to the little plough and the large one also; sharpen the edges and plough up where the land is moist; still more tools should be prepared as the mattock, axe, pickaxe, saws long and short, also crooked knives for vine and bough, and scythes and hooked sickles.

C.266. And crooked sharp-backed scythes; and bring forth also the little crooked knives to take away a branch in young plants, the hooks that cut the ferns, bills to dig up briars, rakes, crooks, adzes, pitchforks, and double-bitted axes for the thorns.

C.67. There must be marking irons for our beasts, and tools to geld, and clip, and shear; we also need leather coats to wear with hoods about our heads; and we must wear boots, leggings, mittens; all this is good for husbandmen and hunters; for they must walk in briars and in woods.


Book IV. C.25. Now sow hollyhocks and armorace or arborace which is wild radish; and now plant origan in its place; now (sow) leeks, beets, lettuce, capers, savory, colocasia, and cresses; let all now sow marigolds or radishes; and bless them; trust in God that all shall grow.

C.32. Asparagus is sown about the first of April in wet and fat land in small ridges made by a line, so that seeds which fall a half or three feet are left; and spread on it a sheet of dung and weed it well, and cast straw on it till spring; then it may be taken off.

C.98. Now graft pears, sweet or sour apples, service trees, quince, plum, and mulberry trees. On March 24th this should be done. Pistachio is now grafted to grow in cold lands; and pine seed is sown.


Book V. C.1. Medicago should be sown in April in prepared beds; it is taught that, once sown, it will grow for ten years and be cut annually four or six times. It dungs lean lands and fattens up lean beasts and cures the sick ones. An acre a year will suffice for three horses.


Book VII. C.5. One ox's work with a little help from man will take up all the harvest in this wise: they make a square cart on two wheels and board it up in a certain way widening it toward the top so that toward the top it is broad. Its jaw in front which gathers up the wheat should not be high but even.

C.6. That instrument should be bent upwards and toothed so close that the spikes of grain will not pass them. And at the back fix two shafts as a dray has in front, and yoke to it a meek ox that will draw and stand and turn and make it go forward. And all the grain will fall into this cart.

C.7. These teeth will force in the ears that are in front; the drover notices how low and high the grain is which is going in and leaves the chaff behind. Thus shall an ox in a few days gather up the whole harvest; this cart is to be used in plain field lands where chaff is of no use.


Book VIII. C.3. Small onions should now be sown in cold and wet places; also radishes and orage if you can water them, and basilicon; lettuce, mallows, beets, leeks should be watered now. Now sow turnip and rape in wet lands; they rarely thrive in rotten lands but in wet lands and fields.


Book X. C.23. Gith (cockle) is lastly also to be sown in this moon; cresses and dill in temperate lands or radishes in dry lands will grow quickly; parsnips and caerefolium may also be set out; at the first of October sow by hand lettuce, beets, and also coriander seeds; rape and turnip it is now indeed good to sow.


Book XI. C.38. The apple is planted in hot and dry land. At the first of November quince and service-berry are set in seed beds to multiply. And they do the same with the almond tree. Pine is to be sown now, and fruits to be kept for preserves, as has already been taught of each.


Book XII. C.3. For Columella affirms that a field which has been fallow has proved more profitable for wheat than the fields where the yield has been beans: sow six strikes to the acre of rich land; less is sufficient in poor land; but in firm land the bean will grow and it hates weak and lean soil.

C.45. This moon in dry places and cold regions the wild pear should be planted to be grafted; citron, olive, pomegranate, service, medlar, carob, mulberry, cherry, fig, almond, and walnut, as the craft has been taught before, are to be renewed in seed plots.


From: Palladius, On Husbandrie, trans. Barton Lodge, Early English Text Society, Vol. XXIV, No. 52, (London: N. Trubner, 1873-1879), reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 38-41.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, September 1998
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