How Do We Feed Ourselves? Nov 23, 2008 21:36:19 GMT -5
Post by Taos on Nov 23, 2008 21:36:19 GMT -5
How Do We Feed Ourselves?
Just how much food does the LBTL grow every year? Who grows this food? Where does it go? What are the trade patterns and economy like?
I’m approaching these questions with some basic assumptions.
1: Most of the realms don’t necessarily farm enough food for themselves. This could be for any number of reasons, but most of the realms are butted right up against the mountains, or in other difficult to farm lands.
2: Most new arrival realms tend to require assistance to make it through the first winter.
3: The classic Western crops are grown. (Barley, Oats, Wheat, Rye) Farmers follow a one-year growth/one-year fallow pattern to protect the soil.
4. There is a barter/gold-standard economy. For our purposes, a farmer will trade his cow for so many bushels of wheat, or for so many gold coins, and there is a base standard of worth for every item. This is quite similar to the actual medieval economy.
To begin with, how many bushels of crops can we grow? It takes approximately 24 bushels of food a year for a person to survive. The large forested areas, as well as the Northern Steppes are going to be poor farming areas, and likely unused. Because of the forests, and the position of most of the cities, Aethenu stands out as the realm with the most arable land, and also the population to support large-scale farming. With 105,000 square miles of land on the island, only 5,000 or so is likely to actually be farmed, with probably half of that being farmed in the Aethenric. Using Muhdurin of the Senegal’s numbers, we have this to work with.
Wheat yields 160,000 – 192,000 liters grain per square mile (4,571-5486 bushels)
Barley yields 448,000 – 460,800 liters (12,800-13,165 bushels)
Oats yields 230,400 – 256,000 liters (6,583-7,314 bushels)
Rye yields 7 bushels in one acre 4550 per square mile
Amount of crop per square mile:
Barley – 17%
Wheat – 41%
(The remaining 11% is left over for animal grazing.)
This gives us 5,623,150 bushels of wheat, 5,595,125 bushels of barley, 3,657,000 bushels of oats, and 1,251,250 bushels of rye. This adds up to 16,126,525 bushels of grains total, and with each human requiring 24 bushels a year…we find that the Lands can support approximately 671,938 people. Considering hunting and animal husbandry, 700,000 seems a reasonable number, with a total of about 16,800,000 bushels of food made every year. Remember, Aethenu is the center of the agricultural industry, producing roughly half of this harvest.
So how does it move around? Most major trade, even in the modern era, centers on port cities. Water has always been the most efficient method of transmitting in bulk. Only three cities could be considered hooked up to their water ways. Mittelmarch sits directly on the River of Flame, and Dunland and Aethenu appear to sit close to the unnamed river that flows into it. Dunland isn’t a particularly large city, so we can consider Mittelmarch and Aethenu to be the two major inland ports of the LBTL. The trade ships are certainly oared, flat-bottom type river barges. Food transits down the river from Aethenu, stops at Dunland to be traded for, I suspect, metalwork and Dunland’s mountain horses. Some of it is off-loaded to merchants from Dragonspire as well, then taken by land to that city. The map is a little hazy here, but it appears the river goes through the mountains, possibly through a cut in them, or even an underground portion of the trip. (And wouldn’t that be a fascinating feature of fantasy geography?)
At its intersection with the River of Flame, some ships go south towards Fangorn, while the majority sail north upriver towards the other major port, Mittelmarch. Here, they trade mostly for stone from Mittelmarch’s quarries, with trade then moving by land to Stormhaven and the Northern Steppes.
The Steppes are an interesting part of the trade cycle. It’s likely that almost no agriculture is performed in the Steppes. The climate is just too harsh for anything besides grazing herds. Most of the Steppes trade, therefore, probably boils down to three things. Meat from the herds, interesting hunting trophy’s, since most of the Lands really strange beasts live in the Steppes, and caravan guards.
It’s a reality of the Steppes that it tends to weed out anything but the strongest. It’s the least tamed area of the Land, with the exception of the Central Iron Mountains. Its climate is the harshest, and its largest settlement is a moving encampment where people cluster up under the protection of the Dragoons. It’s very likely that steppe warriors are in high demand, and will hire themselves out for one or more round trips with a merchant, in exchange for enough food and manufactured goods from the south to keep their families comfortable.
This gives us a complete and most importantly, viable economy for the Land. These are ideal numbers, though. The reality is that transiting from East to West and back again in the Lands is hazardous. With war, general monster population, and imperfect weather taken into account, we are probably looking at about…600,000 total people living in “The Good Parts” of the Land. These are mostly split between Aethenu and Mittelmarch, then Fangorn, Dunland, Dragonspire and others, as well as numerous unnamed villages. Roughly, the population of the Indianapolis metro, excluding suburbs like Lawrence and Carmel, spread out across a space roughly twice the size of Iceland.
Postscript: This excludes cash crops. Someone somewhere grows tobacco, as characters are seen to smoke pipes in various stories. Fangorn seems the likely candidate, due to its southern location. It also provides a reason for merchants to go there instead of always going north to Mittelmarch and beyond. With cash crops like coffee, sugar cane, cotton, and spices added in, the population would drop another 5 or 10,000 people. However, the only place most of these would grow is probably Fangorn…MAYBE Mittelmarch, and Fangorn, I believe, prefers not to intrude too much upon the forest. Certainly not to the extent that cash crops would require.