How They Fenced In And Tilled Their Land
Ever since that remote time when legend and history begin to give us
glimpses of the occupations of the inhabitants of this country, we find
them engaged in Agriculture and Pasturage. For both of these purposes open
land was necessary; and accordingly, people worked hard in old times to
clear the land from wood. But there was always more pasturage than
In very early ages there was little need of
ences, for the people were
few and the land was mostly common property. But as the population
increased it became more and more necessary to fence off the portions
belonging to different individuals. The Brehon Law describes the several
kinds of farm fences, some of which are still used; and it lays down
strict rules regarding them.
Fences or merings of a more enduring kind were needed to bound off large
territories or sub-kingdoms. There were several kinds of these territorial
boundaries, some natural, some artificial, the most usual being rivers,
roads, pillar-stones, and great ramparts of earth sometimes extending for
Manure--chiefly stable-manure--is often mentioned in the Brehon Laws. The
laws also take account of several things that add to the value of land;
such as a wood properly fenced in: a mine of copper or iron: the site of
an old mill [with millrace and other accessories, rendering easy the
erection of a new mill]: a road opening up communication: situation by the
sea, by a river, or by a cooling-pond for cattle. The art of obtaining
water by digging deeply into the ground was understood and practised.
Most of the native crops now in use were then known and cultivated: chief
among them being corn of various kinds. Nearly all the agricultural
implements now known were then used:--such as ploughs, sickles, spades and
shovels, flails, rakes, clod-mallets, etc.
The chief farm animals were cows, pigs, sheep; and oxen, which were used
for ploughing and for drawing waggons. Horses were not then so much used
in farm-work as they are now. Pigs were kept in great droves at very
little expense; for as forests abounded everywhere, the animals were
simply turned out into the woods in care of a keeper, and fed on nuts,
roots, and whatever else they could pick up.
Cows and sheep were very often grazed on 'Commons,' i.e., tracts of
grassy uncultivated land lying near a village--generally upland or
mountain land--which belonged to the whole of the village or townland, but
not to any particular individuals. These commons exist to this day near
many villages, and are still used as in old times.
Women always did the milking, except of course in monasteries, where no
women were employed, and the monks had to do all the work of the