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Senta Signora

Surviving the Winter

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One thing I would like to see in the World of Ice and Fire book is a fuller explanation of how the various regions survived the Winter. Winterfell had hot spring and IIRC hothouses for growing vegetables. But what did other Northern houses do? Would greenhouses work in the darkness of winter? Is winter darker in the North than in the south? Apparently most autumns last long enough for more than one harvest and it is the practice to set aside a portion of each summer harvest for the coming winter. I would like illustrations of storage silos, smokehouses, etc. Do Westerosi eat a lot of preserved food in winter like dried meat and fish, sausages, cheese, etc.?

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They can still hunt and fish, but all veggies and grain would have to come from summer and autumn stores. Even at Winterfell with the greenhouses, they'll be barely enough to grow veggies just for the Starks and maybe some higher up servants.

I'd imagine they feed animals throughout the winter and then slaughter them later on.

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Good questions. I suppose the technology level of Westeros has not yet reached the stage of hot-canning vegetables and fruits to preserve them? That's not very advanced technology, but on Earth, it wasn't discovered until 1810 (according to the Wikipedia page for Canning), so I suppose they probably would not have that ability.

On the plus side, they can probably just keep a lot of stuff preserved by freezing it in unheated sheds and suchlike during the winter.

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Do Westerosi eat a lot of preserved food in winter like dried meat and fish, sausages, cheese, etc.?

I imagine so. Proteins could be smoke dried or freeze dried. As far as grains and veggies, I highly doubt they'd have any available ... perhaps very similar to how the Inuit tribes of the arctic circle survive their winter.

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Fruits and veggies can still be preserved by drying them, or by using wet-preserving methods (salt, vinegar, alcohol; maybe sweet preserves/jams if there's enough natural sugar in the fruit, or if there's enough honey or other sugar available). Sauerkraut and umeboshi were invented for a reason, after all. I've been making salt-preserved lemons for the past two weeks-- all you need for that is lemons, salt, and somewhere to put them for several days at room temperature; once they've softened up, they'll keep indefinitely.

Or some of the fruit could be juiced for storage/fermentation: apple juice, apple cider, applejack etc. It doesn't salvage all of the nutritional content, but it might save enough to stave off scurvy for a while.

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You can save root crops like beets, carrots, turnips (neeps!) in underground root cellers where they stay very cold, but just above freezing, for a year or so.

Apples you can pack away in barrels and store in cool places. You have to sort them regularly to pick out the soft ones before they spoil so that the whole barrel won't spoil. They can be kept up to two years.

Dried fruits will keep indefinitely if kept dry and in the dark.

You can preserve eggs by sealing them with varnish and then packing them in sawdust. Or you can bury them and let them ferment (Chinese thousand year old eggs are actually quite good.

Dried greens, herbs, and plant flower tops can be dried and stored in a cool very dry place and will last indefinitely. Same with garlic. Onions won't keep so long but will last half a year. Even heads of cabbage will keep if kept very cold. And of course, a lot of stuff could be just left out in the back porch larder and allowed to freeze, then brought in and defrosted and cooked.

Of course you can brew wine and beer and distill whiskeys and fruit wines and store away for better times.

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I imagine so. Proteins could be smoke dried or freeze dried. As far as grains and veggies, I highly doubt they'd have any available ... perhaps very similar to how the Inuit tribes of the arctic circle survive their winter.

Most grains will keep for years in clay pots sealed with wax - they were the first foods people learned to store.

Meat will probably be salt cured in large quantities, as traveling food in summer and storage food in winter.

Some veggies can also be salt or smoke dried, and some among the Westerosi might have figured out the basics of canning, there's no reason it would be impossible with that level of technology, despite the fact that it took the French until the 19th century to get the hang of it.

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Having two coastlines - each a thousand miles long or more - gives them plenty of access to the bounties of the northern oceans.

If the North invested in a proper fishing fleet, they could supply the entire continent with fish indefinitely. It being winter, the fish can be transported in a natural frozen state to every corner of the North without ever spoiling.

That's the protein requirements sorted out. They just need to store enough vegetables to avoid scurvy and they're good to go for a 20 year winter, no sweat. It sounds like there are a lot of thermal heat sources in the North - both Winterfell and the Dreadfort are built on such sites - so if they invest in enough greenhouses they can grow vegetables all winter round.

Over 8000 years they should have become highly skilled at these strategies.

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On a slight tangent:

It's one of the puzzles of Westeros: why aren't all the northern towns and strongholds by the coast? Not only would they benefit from a more mild maritime climate, but they'd also have access to fish in all seasons. Logically, White Harbour, not Winterfell, should be the seat of power in the North.

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Greenhouses are great BUT you still need sun light and iirc those winters come with endless nights

just the same can you fish in that winter or import food in that winter by sea? after all the ports would be frozen and with those blizard storms and endless night, it would be hard to get even close.

but dont forget it's still fantasy, we got magic to sustain us and fight the others. (btw if you would scope to cannibalism then fried other might be in high demand :huh:

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We know that trade and travel by sea gets a lot more dangerous during autumn. We don't know if it gets safer during winter. Fishing for sustenance might not be feasible in the far North.

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We know that trade and travel by sea gets a lot more dangerous during autumn. We don't know if it gets safer during winter. Fishing for sustenance might not be feasible in the far North.

Yeah, I with the naysayers on this one. Especially with this winter, nobody has been storing food (Winterfell and lots of other places seem completely empty), and given discussions it sounds like even noble families lose heaps of people during the winters. I especially don't understand how the hill tribes survive, nor the wildlings - doesn't sound like they have much agriculture to speak of, and no settlements to trade with.

Or, can someone clarify this, and I'm not sure how I don't fully understand this already - but is it that the seasons themselves last for years, or is it that the years get progressively colder and warmer? I'm a little embarrassed that I don't already have this answer.

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On a slight tangent:

It's one of the puzzles of Westeros: why aren't all the northern towns and strongholds by the coast? Not only would they benefit from a more mild maritime climate, but they'd also have access to fish in all seasons. Logically, White Harbour, not Winterfell, should be the seat of power in the North.

Good point. Is Winterfell even near a river? If not then I'd think it would lose out on a lot of valuable trade.

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There are also very nutritious lichens (rich in starch), tree sap, inner tree bark, and plant roots that can be harvested through winter (requires much digging though snow though) :ack: , mushrooms, berries, and many etable plants in the forests that can be dried or processed easily.

The coast would not freeze everywhere most likely, because of currents. But where it does you could still fish, water only freezes down to a certain level, even in extreme cold. True for deep lakes too.

The real peoples living in extreme cold conditions have always relied on fishing, hunting and the vegetables mentioned above to survive through winter, and milkproducts from whatever animals they had domesticated.

However, surviving winter takes a lot of preparation... And winter that lasts many years... Very had to survive. Many northmen in Westeros will die in a few months by the look of it. :frown5:

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From what I've gathered in the book, in year's past they had been more efficient in terms of preparation. I recall someone, maybe Catelyn Stark, say something along the lines that summer was the time for fool's fights and winter was the time to band together... I forget how it goes though. In any case, the course of time over the books has been very tumultuous for the residents of Westeros. While a summer skirmish between 2-3 houses is fairly commonplace, an entire war involving 4-5 kings will naturally devastate any landscape and deplete a majority of the resources in the region. Especially one as drawn out and extensive like this one has been...

We know from in the 1st & 2nd books, when Bran is lord of Winterfell Castle, that as winter approached more and more of the smaller villages and the like were moving into the Winterfell houses for security of numbers and to merge supplies. We also know that Bran got help from his Maester in determining what the Northern lords and banner men should stow away for winter, each were circumstantial to the individual's current needs.

I can't imagine too many places having the "glass gardens" like the one in Winterfell castle, because John Snow states that none of the 17 NW forts have any.... arguably the one place that would need it the most. Though that's probably due to the cost of myrish glass.

I imagine most places would suffer hardship in any winter, but this one should be extremely harsh. Between the war which is being fought on all sides, the best and strongest men off to fight or dead, the majority of resources used to supply said war, and the encroaching 10 year blizzard... things aren't looking good.

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Maybe I'm totally off base, having only read half the books, but my feeling was that they were always exaggerating just a little about "winter." I mean, they still have years, right? So winter isn't going to be a conventional season. I'd always assumed "winter" to them just meant a series of cold years.

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Maybe I'm totally off base, having only read half the books, but my feeling was that they were always exaggerating just a little about "winter." I mean, they still have years, right? So winter isn't going to be a conventional season. I'd always assumed "winter" to them just meant a series of cold years.

Lords with lands have "smallfolk" to tend it, no matter the season. Both lands and smallfolk have been put to the torch, their alliances thought useless. I have a feeling those burnt fields will come back to haunt even Tywin Lannister :-)

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Maybe I'm totally off base, having only read half the books, but my feeling was that they were always exaggerating just a little about "winter." I mean, they still have years, right? So winter isn't going to be a conventional season. I'd always assumed "winter" to them just meant a series of cold years.

No, I'm pretty sure it means a several year long season of winter. After the long summer comes the long winter, and they worked hard to fill the winter-storages during the summers. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but I can say that because of the war there will be problems this winter all over Westeros.

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On a slight tangent:

It's one of the puzzles of Westeros: why aren't all the northern towns and strongholds by the coast? Not only would they benefit from a more mild maritime climate, but they'd also have access to fish in all seasons. Logically, White Harbour, not Winterfell, should be the seat of power in the North.

Really it is just Winterfell and the Last Hearth that seem to be totally landlocked.

White Harbor, Deepwood Motte and Flint's Finger are quite close to the sea. The Dreadfort, Karhold, Torrhen's square and Moat Cailin all sit on rivers or lakes that run to the sea.

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There is a very simple answer to the food issues. The Starks, Umbers, and everyone else in the North can kill the Boltons and Freys as well as take their stores and there you go. You have tons of corpses to make pie whenever you want it, right Manderly! And theri veggie and grain stores will fill up everyone elses.

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