The Life of the Peasantry
The many things that made up a peasant's life depended on the season. Because of their diet, the peasants had to harvest grain in the fall before winter so that they could have bread during the cold months. In October, it was common to see them planting the winter crops, and when November came, they were slaughtering the expendable livestock. They used the meat from the livestock to feed themselves during the winter. Once winter was over, they would plow the land to prepare for the spring crops such as grains and vegetables. Once summer came around, it was time to relax. There was a little work to do here and there, but the peasants mostly enjoyed themselves at this time of year. When they planted crops, they not only cultivated their land, but the lord's as well. Not only were they responsible for the fields, but also gardens that contained fruit and vegetables.
Holidays and the Village Church
Because of the many holidays, the peasants did not have to work constantly. The big feasts that they participated in were Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. There were also many other feasts that they celebrated throughout the year. The peasants often went to the village church for the religious feast days such as weddings, baptisms, Mass, and funerals. The peasants would normally be baptized while a baby, then confirmed, often but not always married, and partake in the Holy Communion. The village priest taught the peasants about Jesus and about how to reach their ultimate goal of eternity with Him. Because the priests often were illiterate, the peasants would just pray to God for protection of their crops.
The Peasant Household
The peasants lived in a very organized and uncomplicated style. Their houses often were made of wood and clay with thatched roofs of reed or straw. Some houses were built of stone if there were no woods surrounding them. The poor peasants often had only 1 room, but most had multiple rooms. These houses often contained a room for eating and other activities, and a bedroom. This meant that there was little to no privacy. They usually used the hearth to cook things. These simple houses were very typical of the High Middle Ages peasants.
Family and the Role of Women
Most families included a husband, wife, and 2 or 3 kids. There was often a great chance that a baby would die before or directly after its birth. The women had to make things with thread such as clothes, take care of the garden, make the food, and produce the babies. Sometimes, if the woman couldn't grow the garden well enough or feed the family, it could mean starvation. The women also worked in the fields sometimes.
The Peasant Diet
The peasants had a strict, yet healthy diet. The most important food in their diet was bread, which came from the grains that they harvested in the fields. The loaves of bread that they made were often baked in large ovens for everyone to use. The peasants often used rye, barley, millet, and oats to make their bread. They also ate many peas and beans along with the bread. Along with this came bacon and goat cheese, and sometimes fish or wild game. The lords of the manors often charged the peasants part of their catch from the local ponds, and rarely let them hunt because they feared a lack of game for themselves. The peasants often would go gather nuts and berries from the woods and let their pigs graze there as well. Some of the fruit that was grown in the orchard included apples, pears, and cherries. Sometimes they would eat chickens or their eggs, but this did not happen very often. They rarely ate fresh meat except for on big holidays. Because their main food was bread, grain was very important. They also made ale with barley. This was a regular drink for the peasants because it was cheap to make. They drank it in huge amounts too. Gallons upon gallons could be consumed by 1 person in just a week. Because of this quantity of alcohol consumption, many fights broke out.