Banished photo essay: 25 years of farming and surviving harsh winters

Ian Birnbaum


The town of Dolothia was established when five families were unceremoniously banished from a nearby nation. The exact circumstances of this banishment were never explained to me, and I didn't press the issue.

After The PCG Herald heard about the town's struggle to survive in the wilderness, I was dispatched as a field reporter to document its early years. What I found was a harsh reality where 10-year-olds work fields in driving rain and snow, a bad harvest kills families, and a single misstep leaves the town frozen during winter. In the end I was embedded in Dolothia for 25 years, chronicling its struggles and triumphs in photos and timelapse gifographs. This is the life of a Banished town.

In this high overhead view, the town expands in fits and starts over the course of 25 years, slowly expanding beyond its humble beginnings. Click here to view at 720p.

Dolothia's five founding families set to building permanent shelter. Whether they like it or not, this place is now home.

Town leaders had hoped to plant crops before the first winter, but an early snow ends those plans. The town's only crop field sits vacant.

The first year of the town saw rapid expansion, food shortages, and an early, brutal winter.

After a long winter, Galantice, a 22-year-old farmer, gets an early start on planting the town's first wheat crop.
The first snowfall of winter finds 8-year-old Jadence playing while her mother carries the day's catch to storage.

Everyone's sick of wheat, and some of the children are getting scurvy. The town builds a new trading post to attract merchants traveling downriver and, hopefully, purchase new seeds, exotic food, and livestock.

Set away from the town, the forester's hut is a lonely place to work. It supplies logs crucial for firewood and construction.

A huge surplus of plums, and a serious lack of fun things to do at the end of the day, spurs the establishment of the town's first public house. Plum ale isn't anybody's idea of a good time, but it gets you drunk. That's what matters.

After three years of good crops, the plum orchard is cut down to relocate to the outskirts of town. A new market will be built in this space.

Though it is a blight on the landscape, town planners hope that this mine will provide coal and iron for the next hundred years.

The town decides the time has come for a permanent church. The building is the most expensive erected by the villagers so far.

Wealthy, well-established families have been saving the land between the schoolhouse and the town's first houses for a city hall. With its construction, new census data and records will be available to town planners.

A dry summer results in a pathetic pumpkin harvest this year. Four people died in the resulting food shortage.
Three harsh winters in a row kill off many of the town's older citizens, filling the new graveyard to capacity. The only priest, 24-year-old Ferricky, is always busy.

The brainchild of a now-disgraced town planner, this riverside housing development was more costly than anticipated. The resulting firewood shortage caused the deaths of three farmers during the next winter. Their absence caused a food shortage that killed four more people. Click here to view at 720p.

After years of waiting, a livestock merchant arrives in town. The supply barn is emptied to purchase a mating pair of cows to start a herd.
Harvest time is a busy season for the town market.

Nestled into the side of a nearby hill, this camera captured the development of the town center over the course of 25 years. Click here to view at 720p.

When I finally left Dolothia, it seemed to be on the cusp of thriving. After rough winters and poor decisions, the population was booming and crops growing strong. Even on the best of days, though, Dolothia remains one or two bad harvests away from disaster. — Reporter Ian Birnbaum, summer 25 A.B.

Around the web