I’ve read a lot about world building in fantasy lands. Of course, there’s systems to figure out: government, social classes, transportation, money…the list goes on. But for me, one of the most vital components in creating the Land of Ath-o’Lea was where its population got its food.
There’s the usual places: shops and markets in cities, towns and villages. Like in the old west, supply shops on the trail, where travellers stopped, picked up the necessities, usually food, and carried on, are also found in my stories. I call them keeps. Depending on location and how busy it is, there may be an inn, tavern or a place to camp on site.
Given the Land of Ath-o’Lea is in an archaic setting, it’s easy to surmise many inhabitants grow their food. Those in the city may be dependent on the supply chain, but all other areas possess some form of gardening. Not only does it fit into the world, I love gardening, so it gives me a chance to talk about it.
Gardening has intrigued me since a young age. I’m always amazed when a seed sprouts; it’s like magic. And I love picking food from my yard and eating it. In the currency of money, it’s practically free. In the currency of taste, it’s worth a million dollars.
In the Castle Keepers series, the race that has revealed the most about their gardening techniques is hauflin. Bronwyn, Alaura, Tam and Kellyn witness this when they visit Cottleshire, a village north of Glen Tosh, in Scattered Stones, book 2 in the Castle Keepers series.
From Bronwyn’s Perspective:
The single-room dwellings were connected with other homes to create a large block with four acres in the centre of their square. The front doors opened onto wooden sidewalks and the rear entrances led to a series of gardens. All those who dwelt in the square tended the garden. They shared the toil; they shared the harvest.
After Bronwyn spent the night at Cottleshire:
Bronwyn found the chair and moved it next to Tam. He plopped into it and rubbed his eyes. He yawned and lay back, staring out through watery eyes at the garden before him. Two hauflins tended the four-acre square. Neat little footpaths ran along the perfect rows of crops. In each corner of the garden rested a large wooden barrel to collect rainwater from the roof that framed the square. Buckets hung on the side of the barrels. The folks of Cottleshire were meticulous. Everything appeared in order.
After being at Cottleshire for more days than he could count, Bronwyn helps with the harvest:
The cool air whistled around Bronwyn’s ears as he carried the wooden basket of root crops to the cellar. Tam walked behind him with another full basket. They handed off their loads to the hauflins organising the underground storage room and returned to the garden for more. Feeling overheated, he unfastened the top button on his jacket.
He passed Kellyn heading towards the cellar. She joked with a male hauflin she had befriended. They had an on-again, off-again relationship. Some days they couldn’t be separated and others, she literally threw him out the door.
He knelt next to Alaura who dug into the soil, turning up potatoes. “Are you warm enough?” She wore trousers, boots and a thin sweater over her blouse.
“I’m fine.” She grinned as she piled potatoes into the basket. “This is warm work. Gratifying.”
“Only means we’ll need baths later.” She winked at him.
He knew what that wink meant. It made him smile.
Gardening. It sounds so simple. Yet, there are as many ways to do it as there are types of tomatoes.