Sometimes, completely out of the blue, I get the urge to look at an unusual aspect of world build. So the time has come for me to add to my guidance piece on food production, cash crops and deal with the add-on aspects of the agricultural economy. I can almost hear the cries of ‘Why?’ now – but let’s just say I revisited an old article on forest gardening and then saw something about flax.
I wrote Forest Gardens years ago for a forested NPC state in a game I ran years ago, well before I started writing campaign rules. PCs would never use them, and I don’t think any PCs ever saw one, as the game didn’t take them to that part of the world – but I still had a thing about making worlds that worked and that I could describe easily. I spent some time researching internet articles on woodland and forest agriculture, then a bit of forest/woodland plants that were edible. I am not sure that I have a plan that would work in RL, but it is certainly feasible in a fantasy setting.
Forest gardens are clearing that have been cultivated to produce more of the forest plants that are edible by humans. Most gardens have one or more Sweet Chestnut, Hazel or Beech trees growing along their perimeter, while the borders of the garden are clearly defined by a thick hedge of Forest Gooseberries. The clearing itself is generally scattered with wild apple trees, although the bulk of the garden is taken up by Apios Vines trained up trellises. Clumps of sorrel grow close to the perimeter, while sweet smelling violets make up most of the ground cover and are used to mark the borders of paths through the garden.
Everything in there is edible, the violet leaves make salad greens and can be cooked in stews, and (for the Stolen Lands) I probably need to add a scattering of Plum trees. However, it is the Apios Vine (Based on Apios Americana) that is the star of the piece, with both edible tubers (that work like potatoes) and edible beans. I don’t think that would fully support a family – although it works well for smallholdings in forested areas. But then, smallholders (in game) are written so that they need to hunt, gather, craft or work for someone else, to make ends meet.
I have known that Flax is an interesting plant for years. It is the source of the fibre used to make linen, and the seeds used to make Linseed Oil. Linseed oil is an edible cooking oil, has been used in early oil paints and as a wood treatment. It is said to be the first vegetable oil produced on a commercial basis. And once the oil has been extracted, the remains of the seed make good animal fodder. Flax is one of nature’s original wonder plants :} Then I saw something that reminded me that flax grows well in damp ground – and I had farming in swampy hexes on my mind. Not farming in full on swamps, but farming in areas that are partial swamp – as I was thinking about the settlements of Reedham and Litwins Cove, in the stolen lands game.
In The Stolen Lands
I don’t really get a lot out of this, except for a sense of satisfaction :} However, I do get a description for smallholdings in forested areas and I get another choice for the cash crop for some Great Farms. However, I think I will restrict Flax as a crop to hexes that are part swamp – part plains or hills. For The Stolen lands – that probably just means Litwin cove – but it is nice to have a range of alternatives.