Good- day. I go by the name of Krishan. I am a son of a society peasant. I have three brothers and a sister. As mid teenagers, we help on the farming fields with the backbreaking work, by leading the plough-teams through the mud, whilst my sister learns how to do the housework, cooking and spinning. We all scare away birds from the newly sown corn. My father used to tell us how the local peasants wanted to have more boys in their families to ease off the workloads for them! “More income than expense that way!” they say.
I do not go to school because they are affordable for only the rich, leaving no room for us poor. We cannot afford to stay on course with fees and amenities. Our parents educate us instead. We learn good behaviour and the skills needed to do the sort of job our parents do, seeing as our education is designed to fit our place in the grown up world (farming in this case). My friend (a very lucky boy) from a free peasant family has a chance to train for a career in the church. We were all shocked when we heard about the news, but very happy for him and his fortune.
The wealthy afford to eat plenty of meat, as well as expensive luxurious such as sugar, raisins and wine. Instead of plates, they used large slices of rather stale bread. At the end of the meal, these were gathered up and given to us poor, along with other leftovers. I sometimes go to the wealthy kitchens to get as much as I can.
We killed one of our pigs last autumn. We hung the meat up in the smoke from the fire to preserve it for the winter. Unlike the rich, we could not afford large quantities of salt and spices to preserve meat or to hide the taste when it was beginning to go bad. This rotten meat and mouldy grain led to sickness to family members.
The richest man of the village, the great noble, lives up in the manor house. It is the largest and most private house in the area. He is the descendent of a warrior who fought fiercely during the Viking invasions of the 9th -11th century. Now he is a very wealthy and powerful man, who lives a fine style on the great estate he had inherited from his ancestors. They also have many servants to service them. His son goes to one of the best schools around, and learns many subjects unknown to us poorer people.
The houses us poorer live in are scattered in small hamlets and are surrounded by large, open fields that are divided into strips. The wealthier of peasants hold several strips of land, whilst the poorer have only a small amount of land. Peasants without land work as blacksmiths, wood-workers or potters. Other landless peasants work as farm labourers for lords or for wealthy peasants. Lord’s land lies in the open fields by the peasants’ land or in a separate enclosed area.
Our house is a common countryside timber-framed one. We built it with the help of local craftsmen. Local materials were used, since the costs of transporting materials from far away were very high. The spaces in between the timbers were filled with wattle (woven twigs) and then covered with daub (clay or mud).
The cows, sheep and horses graze on the rough common pasture which lay beyond the cultivated fields, and on the stubble of the open fields after the harvest. In the autumn, pigs feed on acorns in the woods. The fence around our house prevents the pigs and animals from getting out.
Us peasants help each other by sharing expensive equipment, such as carts and ploughs, as well as the oxen and horses needed to pull them. At harvest time, it is important that we all work together to gather the crops quickly, before they were spoiled by rain. If the harvest failed, we all go hungry that winter.
Life is not all about hard work! Even us poor peasants can take part in Church festivals, join a marriage of funeral procession, or watch and listen to travelling poets, musicians, acrobats and dancers. Our village was visited by a troupe leading a performing bear and dancing monkey last year. We enjoy these entertainments very much.
Plays are performed in the open air, on portable stages or even on the back end of carts. They are often acted on special occasions, for example, at Easter, when there was perhaps a fair nearby. Crowds flock to listen to (or jeer!) the actors, and stallholders did a brisk trade in refreshments.