I'd like to greet you on behalf of our group of Russian fans of your work, and to thank you sincerely for your wonderful books. Special thanks from me personally, as a great lover of Medieval history and lore - it is so rare a thing to see such a beautiful and vivid image of Medieval world in literature. Thank you again:).
You're most welcome. I appreciate the kind words. Are you reading the books in English or in Russian? In either case, I am glad you're enjoying them.
But I'd also like to ask you a couple of questions - of course, if it doesn't take away too much time and attention. The first and main of these questions we've been discussing for some time now, and weren't able to come to a clear answer by ourselves. It's the question of agriculture in the North. From what we've seen in the books so far, it looks like even in summer the snow covers most of the lands in the North, and it surely does cover all in winter, doesn't it?
I wouldn't say that snow "covers most of the lands" in summer. Rather than they have occasional summer snows. It never gets really hot in the north, even in summer, but it's not icy and snowing all the time either.
Winter is a different tale.
But quite a lot of people are living there. What do they eat?
A lot of food is stored. Smoked, salted, packed away in granaries, and so on. The populations along the coast depend on fishing a great deal, and even inland, there is ice fishing on the rivers and on Long Lake. And some of the great lords try and maintain greenhouses to provide for their own castles... the "glass gardens" of Winterfell are referred to several times.
But the short answer is... if the winter lasts too long, the food runs out... and then people move south, or starve...
Are there some areas without snow, which are suitable for agriculture, or are there significant temperature changes inside the "bigger seasons"? To grow a harvest, at least a couple of months' time of warm temperature (15-20 degrees by Celsius) is needed. Is it available in the North?
Sometimes. It is not something that can be relied on, given the random nature of the seasons, but there are "false springs" and "spirit summers." The maesters try and monitor temperature grand closely, to advise on when to plant and when to harvest and how much food to store.
And what happens when a winter comes - five, six years long?
Famine happens. The north is cruel.
Surely, the import of grain from the South alone can't cover the North's needs. And, by the way, does it snow in the South during the winter?
Yes, some times, in some places. The Mountains of the Moon get quite a lot of snow, the Vale and the riverlands and the west rather less, but some. King's Landing gets snow infrequently, the Storm Lands and the Reach rarely, Oldtown and Dorne almost never.
My second question is a small one, and probably quite stupid:). Perhaps, that's just a problem of language, but nonetheless... What is the origin of a term "hedge knight" and why are those people called so? I couldn't find any analog of this term is history, so the word must be a Westeros peculiarity. Why "hedge"?
The term does occur in history, and not just for knights. Hedge teachers, hedge poets, hedge wizards... basically they are itinerants who have to sleep in the hedges as often as not, since they don't have a roof over their heads. I have seen the term used most frequently in Irish history, which is where I swiped it.