You've been transported to Europe, ca 1000 AD. Can you survive, or better yet, thrive?
Clothing - Water - Food - Money/trade goods - Shelter - Language.
Those things are needed in that order. I'm an older man and as I sit here I find about 96 cents in coins in my pocket (And two $100 bills, a $10 and two $1, which are useless). I have a tiny pocketknife (about two inches of blade) and a dozen or so keys, of which half are made of brass, (the others are aluminum I think). I have jeans, shoes, socks, underwear (jockeys, btw), a tee shirt and a polo shirt. I also have a pair of glasses for reading. Those I will remove and hide in a pocket.
First I must melt into the local population so I hide in the forest until nightfall, creep to a nearby house and attempt to steal clothing. A simple cloak will do, a blanket if that's all I can find. The cloak will cover up my modern clothes and I'll take my shoes off and roll up my jeans. The polo shirt I will use to roll up my shoes in and tie it off with a piece of supple bark. A barefooted man in a cloak will pass as a local.
Water can be obtained from a clear creek (although there's a good chance it's contaminated, but I have to chance that this time.) With the "toy" pocket knife I can make a snare and by striping the right kind of plant or small tree I can get a piece of supple bark that I can use to make several rabbit snares. From my Boy Scout Experience I know how to made a "fire drill" to start a small fire in the forest to cook the rabbit. A lean to shelter I can make out of a few branches and some brush. A few rocks piled up into a low "fence" in front of the open side of the lean to will store warmth and reflect heat from the fire back into the lean to. Dry grass is spread on the ground in the shelter to protect me from ground cold. The cloak will cover and keep me warm during the night.
The coins I have in my pocket I take out and using two rocks as an anvil and hammer, I mash into an unrecognizable masses and then pound out into round, flat "coins" of copper and a silvery metal that might be taken for silver coins that have been mangled at some time. I now have six "penny" coppers, (enough to buy perhaps six pounds of ground wheat), two "nickle" silvers worth an unknown amount, three "dimes" that look much like an old Roman coin worth about 10 pounds of wheat each, and two silvery quarters worth an unknown amount.
I walk into the nearest town and, pretending to be a without speech, manage to buy two pair of sandals at the local market for one of the quarters, and a cotton "dress" for one of the nickels. I trade one of the sandals for a clay pot that can hold about a gallon of liquid and a smaller clay pot that can hold about a quart of liquid.
I return to the forest where I reset the rabbit snares and break off a straight, dry branch that I sharpen by cracking a small rock to get a sharp edge and use that to roughly chop a point on the branch which I harden in my fire to create a spear. I began work on making a bow from a supple sapling using a woven "string" of thin rabbit hide that has been made of 3 very thin strips of hide from the rabbits I captured the day before. In the nearby creek I cut some strong, straight reeds, and attach an arrowhead made of a piece of rabbit bone that I've ground to a sharp point, slitting the end of the shaft, inserting the bone and tying it with more rabbit skin thong. The other end of the reed I slit and slide in a thin piece of wood to make a two-sided "feather" to make the arrow fly straight.
I bring water back to the lean to in the gallon jug, put a little water in the quart pot, then cut up the freshly captured rabbit into small chunks, add a bit of fleshy roots I dug up from the cattails in the creek and boil up a simple stew. The remaining rabbit I roast on a stick over the fire for the meal tomorrow.
During the day times for the next several days I explore the nearby village and surrounding farms, getting the "lay of the land". I spend some time in the village around the market, soaking up the strange language as best I can. It's hard for I have no idea WHAT the language is or where I'm at. Being mute is definitely the best thing to be right now.
In the evening I begin reducing my brass keys to shapeless lumps and then "fake coins". The money and my wallet I leave in the camp, along with my modern shoes and socks.
One day I locate some poor clay along the stream, I gather what I can and form some crude containers ranging from a mug and a "plate", through some pint and quart sized containers up to a two gallon one. These I let dry, then stack in a pyramid around a pile of wood, then lay some flat rocks around the pile and set it afire. Half of the items inside shatter during the firing, so I have to make more and do the firing a second time. I now have some "dishes" and containers to store liquids and other foods.
In the forest I locate some wild berries and grapes which I harvest. The grapes I lay out in the sun to turn into raisins and the berries I eat or mash into a pulp for a refreshing drink. The water I now drink I boil in my new clay pots first. In the village I take my raisins to the market and trade some for a few, poor vegetables that I identify as turnips, leeks, onions and some kind of a bean. The rest I manage to sell for four tiny copper coins.
I have been practicing with the crude boy and arrow and am able to shoot a young deer which is a real prize.
Not just for the meat, which is welcomed after two weeks of rabbit meat, but the deer fat can be used to cook with, the skin I begin to tan using bark from some oak trees I locate (I will turn it into more sandals and leather thongs later). The antlers I use to begin "knapping" various stones to make some sharp-edged stone knives, scrapers and other stone-age tools. I think the best stone I find is a "chert", which is second best to obsidian glass for this purpose.
In odd times I begin building a new "residence" out of downed trees. I have no ax, but it's amazing how much leverage you can get by sticking a small tree trunk between two trees growing close together and pushing. These "logs" are stacked to form a three-sided cabin with walls about four feet high, then a peaked roof covers it made of limbs and larger trees that I've split using my fractured stones and a wooden maul that I've made from the trees to make "shingles".
The door is a piece of the deer skin that I've tanned. It's really still a "crawl-hole" but it will keep off the rains and help keep me warm during colder nights.
I'm shooting more deer now and sun-drying the meat along with sun drying more grapes to make raisins. From the river I've managed to spear or kill with an arrow a number of fish. These I am eating fresh.
I have now picked up a few words of the language in the village, but I'm still not able to really "talk" to anyone, but I can begin to understand what the locals are saying. They have accepted me now since I'm showing up regularly at the daily market and selling my raisins and even a few of my better pots, even though they are not even close to the quality of those made by the village potter. My stash of coins is growing, I now have almost 30 of the tiny copper coins and I've figured out that one coin is worth about a small loaf of baked bread, or a full pound of ground wheat. Of the next size up I have 12 coins, and each is worth about 10 of the small copper coins. The next largest coin is a small silver coin. It takes about 12 of the of the "10-coppers" to equal one of these coins, and I have 4 of these. If the small coppers are worth $1, then I figure I have about $530 in "cash", which is not too bad considering I have been here less than two months and the going wage rate seems to be about two of the tiny coppers a day.
I take my cash into the village and go to the blacksmiths. There I buy a sharp ax, a 24-inch long steel knife and a piece of thin flat iron shaped into a triangle and about a foot on each side. I then go to the local stable where I purchase an older horse that has seen better days. This takes about $450 of my cash, leaving me about $80. With that I purchase a variety of seeds from one of the outlying farmers. Included are some wheat, oats, parsnips, turnips, peas, beans, onions and several seasoning herbs that I do not know the names of.
I return to my humble quarters and put the horse in the meadow to graze. The Iron I attach to some wood to form a simple plow and make a horse-yoke out of some more wood and leather. I till about two acres of the pasture over the next few days and plant my first crops. I then begin to cut trees with the axe and build a tiny log cabin about 12x12 feet square with a tiny window slit and a doorway with a door that hangs on deer leather hinges. Inside I take some of the clay bricks I have been making and build up a small hearth with brick sides. It's very narrow so the pots I've made will reach across the hearth... There is no chimney flue for it, that will come later.
I have made a wooden hoe and root out the weeds growing in the garden, and I continue to add to my supply of clay storage pots. When the first crops come in I begin the harvest and storage of the excess foods. The wheat and oats are simply beaten and the grains stored in the clay jars. I dig a hole and line it with dry hay made from the meadow grass I have cut with the 24 inch knife. Parsnips and turnips are placed on the grass and covered with more grass, then a layer of onions, more grass, then peas and beans are put into pots with lids and covered with more grass. A final thick layer of grass and then it's covered with dirt and more grass and some thin pieces of wood. I make about a dozen of these storage pits so I can open one every couple of weeks and eat what's in them.
The jerked deer and rabbit is saved in the "log cabin" hanging from the ceiling. I've also built a shelter for the horse to winter in and have been practicing riding him.
When the harvest is in I collect up the extra fresh vegetables, along with a supply of raisins and again go into the village for the market. There I sell my extra goods and with the proceeds, purchase a two-wheeled cart that the horse can pull.
Winter comes and I pretty much hide out on my farm.
Spring comes and I quadruple my fields. I purchase a few hens and two roosters, two nanny goats and a buck and three young piglets, two females and one male.
I build a new barn/storage house to hold all the new livestock and foods I expect to harvest in the fall. Soon it's obvious that I can't handle all the work myself so I go into the village and hire a farm hand to help me. He sleeps in the new barn and we eat out of doors. He works for room and board and 15 of the copper coins each month, cheap labor.
When the harvest comes and we sell the excess, I find that I have the equivalent of nearly $2000 in coins, which makes me one of the richest farmers in the area. Over the winter I experiment with making ale (beer to moderns) and when spring comes I plant about 10 acres of grain just for this purpose. Strange plants are added to the ales by the locals (they call it "gruit") But I find that the profit from it is large, much better than selling peas or onions. I have to increase my production of clay pots to hold the ale and I am forced to hire two more workers for the ale production alone. I soon outgrow what the local village can consume and am forced to begin peddling the ale to other villages. What I do is set up customers then have one of the new hands deliver the goods to them and return with the money. Soon I have to buy a bigger four-wheel wagon and two more horses just to deliver the ale in the immediate area.
At the end of the third summer I find that my cash horde is now about $8,000 worth of coins. I am able to purchase new clothing and sandals now and I begin building a much nicer residence, including an iron stove I have the blacksmith build to my drawing specs that has a chimney and can be used to cook on.
I build a tiny version of an old Roman bath. Basically a tiny four-foot deep "swimming pool" that is tiled and has hot water coming in from a large copper heating tank fired by wood. At the river I have the men build a water wheel driven by the river water itself that is used to lift water up so it can be delivered directly to my new residence. Other wheels are built to drive my new grist mill (grinds grain into flour) and run the blowers for both the clay firing kiln and the new black smith forge shack I have built and hire a blacksmith to build what I need for the growing farm.
Hey, all in all, I think I'm doing pretty good for being here all alone in 1000 AD in Europe...I'm the richest farmer around and the largest supplier of booze, flour, worked iron and steel... and I don't stink like everyone else does....
Enough for now