One of the most important things to understand when reading history is how much the seasons used to have an effect on how people live. It’s easy to forget about that today, since right now it’s -20 degrees Celsius outside and I’m sitting here in my shirtsleeves blogging. Weather like this, you’d be crazy to go outside.
With the death of industrialized society, the Age of Lions is once again back to where we came from originally, following the passing of seasons closely. Let’s take a look at what kinds of effects the weather has on life.
Since most roads except for a few legacy roads aren’t anything but muddy paths, spring rains and autumn rains stop most overland travel. When the ground freezes or dries, carriages and wagons can move again.
Most of the year, travelling by sea is what people do for longer distances, since it’s both faster and safer than traveling overland. Usually the Baltic starts freezing after the holiday of Kekri (you could just say “Halloween” and get pretty much the same thing) in early November and the seas remain frozen until late March or early April.
The port of Hanö frequently remains open until December, which allows the Republic to get some late-year trading done. Frequently, Hanöan ships winter in the Pomerianian League cities in Northern Germany where the Baltic almost never freezes. Unmarried sailors tend to prefer these trips, since they get paid for the months they spend in the south, and especially Flensburg is a great place to spend the winter, because of an overabudance of entertainment and partying opportunities.
In the winter, most travel is done by horse and sleigh, with a few roads being kept open by plowing. Most farmers and fishermen hunker down for most of the winter, since there’s not much work to be done in the winter, apart from felling trees and taking care of livestock. Fermented winter feed is added to hay to ensure survival of cows and goats. Most pigs are slaughtered and butchered in the fall, apart from a few to ensure. Chickens and their eggs are an important source of protein in the winter.
Fishermen do fish with nets in the winter. This is hard and dangerous work, since it involves stringing a net between two holes in the ice, using a long stick to get it in place. Most fishermen only do this when it’s necessary or the payoff is good enough, for example when a rich merchant wishes to buy fresh fish for his guests. Ice-hole fishing is done for both fun and to supplement diets. It’s an excellent reason to sit around in the winter sun, drinking hot drinks and avoiding cabin fever.
Winter is in many ways a social season, since there’s little work to be done on the farms, so people visit each other in the winter a lot. There’s also winter markets in villages which are very popular, where people can buy all sorts of treats and handicrafts to break the boredom of sitting around.
Winter is also the time when there’s really never a war around. Supplying an army during the winter is hard enough so winter campaigns are avoided whenever possible.
The downside of winter is the cold, which will kill you. Also, if you had a bad harvest, you might starve to death. And of course, if you live on the frontier, you might realize your farmstead is surrounded by unnatural things like draugr and you have no way to get help. But them’s the breaks.
Springtime comes when the snows start to melt. The merchant ships get out to sea, the fishermen too, farmers plant crops and everyone starts to move around a lot more., despite the difficulty of traveling along muddy roads. Springtime isn’t for war either, since it’s not unusual to get springtime snows even in May and everyone really wants to get their crops planted. Springtime markets spring up in villages and towns, the cattle gets to their pastures and in general spring is a time for relief for many, since they can finally get things done and they’ve survived another winter. First of May is a traditional day of celebration for labourers and farmers, but the upper classes tend to celebrate too.
Summertime keeps everyone busy, especially potato farmers who try to get at least three harvests done each summer. There’s a midsummer festival on the last weekend in June, which means a weekend of hard drinking and revelry everywhere. Summer means good eating and for soldiers, it might mean going on campaign.
When fall comes, most of the agrarian population is occupied by getting the harvest done. Less intense wars tend to end around harvest time since getting the harvest done is so important for everyone. While there’s lots of celebrations and dances during the fall, it’s also a season of dread. No one can ever tell how hard the winter will be, and there’s always Kekri, the day of the dead, which signals an end to summer and the beginning of winter. On Kekri, the dead walk the earth, and people stay indoors.