Given that many of our readers are celebrating seasonal festivals, this post will touch on what festivities one might expect in Maldon. I gather that Settlement Day (when the original settlers planted their flag of residence, or so tradition has it) is celebrated throughout the realm. Children are given presents to remind them of the good that came of the Settlement, and adults might share a glass or two of some tipple while toasting the Settlers. And of course there’s a feast!
In the countryside, most settlements will also celebrate the first day of spring planting and the last day of autumn harvest. These dates vary between settlements and are symbolic rather than actual, since of course different crops need tended at different times of year. In Maldon, there’s a tradition of singing to the orchard trees mid-winter, to persuade the sap to activate and give a good yield the following year. It’s also a popular day for betrothals and other, let’s say, fertility customs. After spring flowering, ribbons are tied around the branches to set the fruit a good example.
I have to thank Marcus Greenman, Maldon’s most prominent farmer, for the information above. Since Maldon’s a rural community, many of its residents work on farmland, particularly at harvest time. Marcus, however, has managed a greater degree of success than many of his neighbours with some ideas that are rather innovative for this realm. Today we’re meeting Marcus for a chat. He’s inspecting his fruit groves, although being wintertime the trees are bare.
IC: Marcus, can you explain how farming is run in the settlements?
MG: I can only speak for Maldon, since other settlements may do things do differently. Most of the farmlands around Maldon are communal, and everyone who contributes to their upkeep has a say over what the lands get used for each year. We practice crop rotation, of course. My father, Settlers look after him, was actually born in Ascar and used to work with the historians. He moved here as a young man.
IC: That’s rather unusual, isn’t it? Moving to the country from the city?
MG (coughing): There may have been a bit of an issue over a young lady…
IC (nodding): I understand. Anyway, what did your father do when he arrived here?
MG: Based on his reading from the historical archives, he wanted to experiment with some novel methods. He spoke to the mayor, who allowed him a patch of land to be cultivated by himself only. Working in conjunction with the Maldon artisan — this was before Adrian’s time of course — they came up with a better way of nourishing the lands. The residents were so pleased with the results they agreed that he and his descendents should hold lands of his own in perpetuity, provided they continue to be as productive.
IC: So… there’s some pressure on you to be successful each year.
MG: Yes, my reputation and livelihood are linked. I employ dozens of workers. I’d like to think that they make a better living with me than they would working on their own.
IC: Aren’t your methods used by everyone else?
MG: They are now. But because my father got there first — it took some twenty years to get the maturity in some of the crops — the fields and orchards he started are ahead of everyone else.
IC: I’m sure your children will inherit a fine estate.
MG (laughing): I hope so. They’re still little — Poppy and Rosie. Unfortunately, their mother decided to seek her fortune elsewhere. But I have hopes of expanding our family if there’s some other lady who would like to join us.