The Labors of October

The traditional, and most commonly featured labors of October in books of hours are ploughing and sowing in colder climates, or transferring the new wine into casks and barrels for aging in warmer wine-growing areas, or even, a late harvest of grapes in the warmer Mediterranean climates (see the Da Costa Hours image for October for an example).

An anonymous Middle English lyric about the labors of the months describes October’s labor as

And here I sawe my whete so rede.

The wheat would be winter wheat, or possibly, rye, destined for harvesting in spring or early summer. It is not uncommon to see ploughing featured as one of the labors of October or even both labors in the same image, with one man sowing seeds (typically, casting them over a freshly ploughed field from a crude sack over one shoulder or suspended from a rope around the sower’s neck, or even stored a fold of clothing) while in another nearby field someone is ploughing. Sometimes the labors for October feature one man sowing seeds, while another turns the earth, covering the freshly sown seed, and a third man ploughing. Occasionally an image features a cow being lead to slaughter, or, borrowing from the traditional labors of November, pigs grazing on nuts while men with sticks beat the trees to knock nuts or acorns to the ground.

October from The Très Riches Heurs

October from The Da Costa Hours

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