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A Year's Residence in the United States of America: Vol 2
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225. UPON this subject I have no great deal to add to what was said in Part I. Chap. II. There are a few things, however, that I omitted to mention, which I will mention here.
226. I sow my seed by hand. All machinery is imperfect for this purpose. The wheel of the drill meets with a sudden check; it jumps; the holes are stopped; a clogging or an improper impelling takes place; a gap is produced, and it can never be put to rights; and, after all, the sowing upon four feet ridges is very nearly as quickly performed by hand. I make the drills, or channels, to sow the seed in by means of a light roller, which is drawn by a horse, which rolls two ridges at a time, and which has two markers following the roller, making a drill upon the top of each ridge. This saves time; but, if the hand do the whole, a man will draw the drills, sow the seed, and cover an acre in a day with ease.
227. The only mischief in this case, is, that of sowing too thick; and this arises from the seed being so nearly of the colour of the earth. To guard against this evil, I this year adopted a method which succeeded perfectly. I wetted the seed with water a little, I then put some whitening to it, and by rubbing them well together, the seed became white instead of brown; so that the man when sowing, could see what he was about.
228. In my directions for transplanting turnips I omitted to mention one very important thing; the care to be taken not to bury the heart of the plant. I observed how necessary it was to fix the plant firmly in the ground; and, as the planter is strictly charged to do this, he is apt to pay little attention to the means by which the object is accomplished. The thing is done easily enough, if you cram the butts of the leaves down below the surface. But, this brings the earth, with the first rain at least, over the heart of the plant; and then it will never grow at all: it will just live; but will never increase in size one single jot. Care, therefore, must be taken of this. The fixing is to be effected by the stick being applied to the point of the root; as mentioned in paragraph 85. Not to fix the plant is a great fault; but to bury the heart is a much greater; for, if this be done, the plant is sure to die.
229. My own crop of Swedish Turnips this year is far inferior to that of last in every respect. The season has been singularly unfavourable to all green and root crops. The grass has been barer than it was, I believe, ever known to be; and, of course, other vegetables have experienced a similar fate. Yet, I have some very good turnips; and, even with such a season, they are worth more than three times what a crop of Corn on the same land would have been. I am now (25th Nov.) giving the greens to my cow and hogs. A cow and forty stout hogs eat the greens of about twenty or thirty rods of turnips in a day. My five acres of greens will last about 25 days. I give no corn or grain of any sort to these hogs, and my English hogs are quite fat enough for fresh pork. I have about 25 more pigs to join these forty in a month's time: about 40 more will join those before April. My cabbages on an acre and a half of ground will carry me well on till February (unless I send my Savoys to New York), and, when the cabbages are done, I have my Swedish Turnips for March, April, May and June, with a great many to sell if I choose. I have, besides, a dozen ewes to keep on the same food, with a few wethers and lambs, for my house. In June Early Cabbages come in; and then the hogs feed on them. Thus the year is brought round.
230. But, what pleases me most, as to the Swedish Turnips, is, that several of my neighbours have tried the culture, and have far surpassed me in it this year. Their land is better than mine, and they have had no Borough-villains and Bank-villains to fight against. Since my Turnips were sown, I have written great part of a Grammar and have sent twenty registers to England, besides writing letters amounting to a reasonable volume in bulk; the whole of which has made an average of nine pages of common print a day, Sundays included. And, besides this, I have been twelve days from home, on business, and about five on visits. Now, whatever may have been the quality of the writings; whether they demanded mind or not, is no matter: they demanded time for the fingers to move in, and yet, I have not written a hundred pages by candle-light. A man knows not what he can do 'till he tries. But, then, mind, I have always been up with the cocks and hens; and I have drunk nothing but milk and water. It is a saying, that "wine inspires wit;" and that "in wine there is truth." These sayings are the apologies of drinkers. Every thing that produces intoxication, though in but the slight est degree, is injurious to the mind; whether it be such to the body, or not, is a matter of far less consequence. My Letter to Mr. TIERNEY, on the state of the Paper-Money, has, I find, produced a great and general impression in England. The subject was of great importance, and the treating it involved much of that sort of reasoning which is the most difficult of execution. That Letter, consisting of thirty-two full pages of print, I wrote in one day, and that, too, on the 11th of July, the hottest day in the year. But, I never could have done this, if I had been guzzling wine, or grog, or beer, or cider, all the day. I hope the reader will excuse this digression; and, for my own part, I think nothing of the charge of egotism, if, by indulging in it, I produce a proof of the excel lent effects of sobriety. It is not drunkenness that I cry out against: that is beastly, and beneath my notice. It is drinking; for, a man may be a great drinker, and yet no drunkard. He may accustom himself to swallow, 'till his belly is a sort of tub. The Spaniards, who are a very sober people, call such a man "a wine bag," it being the custom in that country to put wine into bags, made of skins or hides. And, indeed, wine bag or grog bag or beer bag is the suitable appellation.
231. To return to the Swedish Turnips, it was impossible for me to attend to them in person at all; for, if I once got out, I should have kept out. I was very anxious about them; but much more anxious about my duty to my countrymen, who have remained so firmly attached to me, and in whose feelings and views, as to public matters, I so fully participate. I left my men to do their best, and, considering the season, they did very well. I have observed before, that I never saw my Savoys 'till two months after they were planted out in the field, and I never saw some of my Swedish Turnips 'till within these fifteen days.
232. But, as [ said before, some of my neighbours have made the experiment with great success. I mentioned Mr. Dayrea's crop before, at paragraph 197. Mr. HART, at South Hampstead, has a fine piece, as my son informs me. His account is, that the field looked, in October, as fine as any that he ever saw in England. Mr. JUDGE MITCHELL has a small field that were, when I saw them, as fine as any that I ever saw in my life. He had transplanted some in the driest and hottest weather; and they were exceedingly fine, notwithstanding the singular untowardness of the season.
233. Mr. JAMES BYRD of Flushing, has, however, done the thing upon the largest scale. He sowed, in June, about two acres and a half upon ridges thirty inches apart. They were very fine; and, in September, their leaves met across the intervals. On the 21st of September I saw them for the second time. The field was one body of beautiful green. The weather still very dry. I advised Mr. Byrd to plough between them by all means; for the roots had met long before across the interval. He observed, that the horse would trample on the leaves. I said, "never mind: the good done by the plough will be ten times greater than the injury done by the breaking of leaves." He said, that, great as his fears were, he would follow my advice. I saw the turnips again on the 8th of October, when I found, that he had begun the ploughing; but, that the horse made such havock amongst the leaves, and his workman made such clamorous remonstrances, that, after doing a little piece, Mr. Byrd desisted. These were reasons wholly insufficient to satisfy me; and at the latter, the remonstrances of a workman, I should have ridiculed, without a grain of mercy; only I recollected, that my men had remonstrated me (partly with sorrowful looks and shakes of the head) out of my design to transplant six acres of Indian Corn.
234. Mr. BYRD'S crop was about 350 bushels to an acre. I was at his house on the 23rd of this month (November); and there I heard two things from him which I communicate with great pleasure. The first was, that, from the time he began taking up his turnips, he began feeding his cows upon the greens; and, that this doubled the quantity of their milk. That the greens might last as long as possible, he put them in small heaps, that they might not heat. He took up his turnips, however, nearly a month too early. They grow till the hard frosts come. The greens are not so good till they have had some little frost; and, the bulb should be ripe. I have been now (27 Nov.) about ten days cutting off my greens. The bulbs I shall take up in about ten days hence. Those that are not consumed by that time, I shall put in small heaps in the field, and bring them away as they may be wanted,
235. The other thing stated to me by Mr. BYRD pleased me very much indeed; not only an account of its being a complete confirmation of a great principle of TULL applied to land in this climate, but on account also of the candour of Mr. BYRD, who, when he had seen the result, said, "I was wrong, friend Cobbett, in not following thy advice." And then he went on to tell me, that the turnips in the piece which he had ploughed after the 21st of September were a crop a fourth part greater than those adjoining them, which remained unploughed. Thus, then, let no one be afraid of breaking the pretty leaves that look so gay; and, how false, then must be the notion, that to plough Indian-Corn in dry weather, or late, is injurious! Why should it not be as beneficial to Corn as to Turnips and Cabbages?
236. Mr. BYRD transplanted with his super abundant plants, about two acres and a half. These he had not taken up on the 23rd of November. They were not so fine as the others, owing, in part, to the hearts of many having been buried, and to the whole having been put too deep into the ground. But, the ridges of both fields were too close together. Four feet is the distance. You cannot plough clean and deep within a smaller space without throwing the earth over the plants. But, as bulk of crop is the object, it is very hard to persuade people, that two rows are not better than one. Mr. JUDGE MITCHELL is a true disciple of the TULLIAN SYSTEM. His rows were four feet asunder; his ridges high; all according to rule. If I should be able to see his crop, or him, before this volume goes to the press, I will give some account of the result of his labours.
237. This year has shown me, that America is not wholly exempt from that mortal enemy of turnips, the fly, which mawled some of mine, and which carried off a whole piece for Mr. JUDGE LAWRENCE at Bay-side. Mr. BYRD says, that he thinks, that to soak the seed in fish-oil is of use as a protection. It is very easy to try it; but, the best security is, pretty early sowing thick, and transplanting. However, this has been a singular year; and, even this year, the ravages of the fly have been, generally speaking, but trifling.
238. Another enemy has, too, made his appearance: the caterpillar; which came about the tenth of October. These eat the lea vest; and, sometimes, they will, as in England, eat all up, if left alone. In Mr. BYRD'S field, they were proceeding on pretty rapidly, and, therefore he took up his turnips earlier than he would have done. Wide rows are a great protection against these sinecure gentry of the fields. They at tacked me on the outside of a piece joining some buck-wheat, where they had been bred. When the buckwheat was cut, they sallied out upon the turnips, and, like the spawn of real Borough mongers, they, after eating all the leaves of the first row, went on to the second, and were thus proceeding to devour the whole. I went with my plough, ploughed a deep fur row from the rows of turnips, as far as the cater pillars had gone. Just shook the plants and gave the top of the ridge a bit of a sweep with a little broom. Then burried them alive, by turning the furrows back. Oh! that the people of England could treat the Borough-villains and their swarms in the same way! Then might they hear without envy of the easy and happy lives of American farmers!
239. A good sharp frost is the only complete doctor for this complaint; but, wide rows and ploughing will do much, where the attack is made in line, as in my case. Sometimes, how ever, the enemy starts up, here and there, all over the field; and then you must plough the whole field, or be content with turnips without greens, and with a diminished crop of turnips into the bargain. Mr. BYRD told me, that the caterpillars did not attack the part of the field which he ploughed after the 21st of September with nearly so much fury as they attacked the rest of the field! To be sure; for, the turnip leaves there, having received fresh vigour from the ploughing, were of a taste more acrid; and, you always see, that insects and reptiles, that feed on leaves and bark, choose the most sickly or feeble plants to begin upon, because the juices in them are sweeter. So that here is another reason, and not a weak one, for deep and late ploughing.
240. I shall speak again of Swedish turnips when I come to treat of hogs; but, I will here add a few remarks on the subject of preserving the roots. In paragraph 106, I described the manner in which I stacked my turnips last year. That did very well. But, I will not, this year, make any hole in the ground, I will pile up about thirty bushels upon the level ground, in a pyramidical form, and then, to keep the earth from running amongst them, put over a little straw, or leaves of trees, and about four or five inches of earth over the whole. For, mind, the object is not to prevent freezing. The turnips will freeze as hard as stones. But, so that they do not see the sun, or the light, till they are thawed, it is no matter. This is the case even with apples. I preserved white turnips this way last year. Keep the light out, and all will be safe with every root that I know any thing of, except that miserable thing, the potatoe, which, consisting of earth, of a small portion of flour, and of water unmixed with sugar, will freeze to perdition, if it freeze at all. Mind, it is no matter to the animals, whether the Swedish turnip, the white turnip, or the cabbage, be frozen, or not, at the time when they eat them. They are just as good; and are as greedily eaten. Other wise, how would our sheep in England fatten on turnips (even white turnips) in the open fields and amidst snows and hard frosts? But, a potatoe, let the frost once touch it, and it is wet dirt.
241. I am of opinion, that if there were no earth put over the turnip heaps, or stacks, it would be better; and, it would be much more convenient. I shall venture it for a part of my crop; and I would recommend others to try it. The Northern Winter is, therefore, no objection to the raising of any of these crops; and, indeed, the crops are far more necessary there than to the Southward, because the Northern Winter is so much longer than the Southern. Let the snows (even the Nova Scotia snows) come. There are the crops safe. Ten minutes brings in a waggon load at any time in winter, and the rest remain safe till spring.
242. I have been asked how I would manage the Swedish turnips, so as to keep them 'till June or July. In April (for Long Island); that is to say, when the roots begin to shoot out greens, or, as they will be, yellows, when hidden from the light. — Let me stop here a moment, to make a remark which this circumstance has suggested. I have said before, that if you keep the bulbs from the light, they will freeze and thaw without the least injury. I was able to give no reason for this; and who can give a reason for leaves being yellow if they grow in the dark, and green, if they grow in the light? It is not the sun (except as the source of light) that makes the green; for any plant that grows in constant shade will be green; while one that grows in the dark will be yellow. When my son, JAMES, was about three years old, LORD COCHRANE, lying against a green bank in the garden with him, had asked him many questions about the sky, and the river, and the sun and the moon, in order to learn what were the notions, as to those objects, in the mind of a child. JAMES grew tired, for, as ROUSSEAU, in his admirable exposure of the folly of teaching by question and answer, observes, nobody likes to be questioned, and especially children. "Well," said JAMES, "now you tell me something: what " is it that makes the grass green." His Lordship told him it was the sun. "Why," said JAMES, pulling up some grass, "you see it is white down here." "Aye," replied my Lord, "but that is because the sun cannot get at it." "How get at it?" said James: "The sun makes it hot all the way down." LORD COCHRANE came in to me, very much delighted: "Here," said he, "little JEMMY has started a fine subject of dispute for all the philosophers." If this page should have the honour to meet the eye of LORD COCHRANE, it will remind him of one of the many happy hours that we have passed together, and I beg him to regard any mention of the incident as a mark of that love and respect which I bear towards him, and of the ardent desire I constantly have to see him avenged on all vile, cowardly, perjured and in famous persecutors.
243. When any one has told me, what it is that makes "grass green," I shall be able to tell him what it is that makes darkness preserve turnips; and, in the meanwhile, l am quite content with a perfect knowledge of the effects.
244. So far for the preservation while winter lasts; but, then, how to manage the roots when spring comes? Take the turnips out of the heaps; spread them upon the ground round about, or any where else in the sun. Let them get perfectly dry. If they lie a month in sun and rain alternately, it does not signify. They will take no injury. Throw them on a barn's floor; throw them into a shed; put them any where out of the way; only do not put them in thick heaps; for then they will heat, perhaps, and grow a little. I believe they may be kept the whole year perfectly sound and good; but, at any rate, I kept them thus, last year, 'till July.
245. Of saving seed I have some little to say. I saved some, in order to see whether it degenerated; but, having, before the seed was ripe, had such complete proof of the degeneracy of cabbage seed; having been assured by Mr. WILLIAM SMITH, of Great Neck, that the Swedish turnip seed had degenerated with him to a long whitish root; and, having, besides, seen the long, pale looking things in New York Market in June; I took no care of what I had growing, being sure of the real sort from England. However, Mr. BYRD'S were from his own seed, which he has saved for several years. They differ from mine. They are longer in proportion to their circumference. The leaf is rather more pointed, and the inside of the bulb is not of so deep a yellow. Some of Mr. BYRD'S have a little hole towards the crown, and the flesh is spotted with white where the green is cut off. He ascribes these defects to the season; and it may be so; but, I perceive them in none of my turnips, which are as clear and as sound, though not so large, as they were last year.
246. Seed is a great matter. Perhaps the best way, for farmers in general, would be always to save some, culling the plants care fully, as mentioned in paragraph 32. This might be sown, and also some English seed, the expense being so very trifling compared with the value of the object. At any rate, by saving some seed, a man has something to sow; arid he has it always ready. He might change his seed once in three or four years. But, never forgetting carefully to select the plants, from which the seed is to be raised.
TO THE CHAPTER ON SWEDISH TURNIPS.
247. Since writing the above, I have seen Mr. JUDGE MITCHELL, and having requested him to favour me with a written account of his experiment, he has obligingly complied with my request in a letter, which I here insert, together with my answer.
Ploudome, 7 Dec. 1818.
248. About the first of June last, I received the First Part of your Years Residence in the United States, which I was much pleased with, and particularly the latter part of the book, which contains a treatise on the culture of the Ruta Baga. This mode of culture was new to me, and I thought it almost impossible that a thousand bushels should be raised from one acre of ground. However, I felt very anxious to try the experiment in a small way.
249. Accordingly, on the 6th day of June, I ploughed up a small piece of ground, joining my salt meadow, containing sixty-five rods, that had not been ploughed for nearly thirty years. I ploughed the ground deep, and spread on it about ten waggon loads of composition manure; that is to say, rich earth and yard manure mixed in a heap, a layer of each alternately. I then harrowed the ground with an iron-toothed harrow, until the surface was mellow, and the manure well mixed with the earth.
250. On the first of July I harrowed the ground over several times, and got the surface in good order; but, in consequence of such late ploughing, I dared not venture to cross-plough, for fear of tearing up the sods, which were not yet rotten. On the 7th of July I ridged the ground, throwing four furrows together, and leaving the tops of the ridges four feet asunder, and without putting in any manure. I went very shoal with the plough, because deep ploughing would have turned up the sods.
251. On the eighth of July I sowed the seed, in single rows on the tops of the ridges, on all the ridges except about eighteen. On eight of these I sowed the seed on the 19th of July, when the first sowing was up, and very severely attacked by the flea; and I was fearful of losing the whole of the crop by that insect. About the last of July there came a shower, which gave the turnips a start; and, on the eighth day of August I transplanted eight of the remaining rows, early in the morning. The weather was now very dry, and the turnips sown on the 19th of July were just coming up. On the 10th of August I transplanted the two other rows at mid-day, and, in consequence of such dry weather, the tops all died: but, in a few days, began to look green. And, in a few weeks, those that had been transplanted looked as thrifty as those that had been sown.
252. On the 10th of August I regulated the sown rows, and left the plants standing from six to twelve inches apart,
253. A part of the seed I received from you, and a part I had from France a few years ago. When I gathered the crop, the transplanted turnips were nearly as large as those that stood where they were sown.
254. The following is the produce: Two hundred and two bushels on sixty-five rod of ground; a crop arising from a mode of cultivation for which, Sir, I feel very much indebted to you. This crop, as you will perceive, wants but two bushels and a fraction of five hundred bushels to the acre; and I verily believe, that, on this mode of cultivation, an acre of land, which will bring a hundred bushels of corn ears, will produce from seven to eight hundred bushels of the Ruta Baga Turnip.
255. Great numbers of my turnips weigh six pounds each. The greens were almost wholly destroyed by a caterpillar, which I never before saw; so that I had no opportunity of trying the use of them as cattle-food; but, as to the root, cattle and hogs eat it greedily, and cattle as well as hogs eat up the little bits that remain attached to the fibres, when these are cut from the bulbs.
256. I am now selling these turnips at half a dollar a bushel.
257. With begging you to accept of my thanks for the useful information, which, in common with many others, I have received from your Treatise on this valuable plant,
Your most obedient servant,
To Mr. William Cobbett,
258. P. S. I am very anxious to see the Second Part of your Year's Residence. When will it be published?
Hyde Park, 9th Dec. 1818.
259. Your letter has given me very great pleasure. You have really tried the thing: you have given it a fair trial. Mr. TULL, when people said of his horse-hoing system, that they had tried it, and found it not to answer, used to reply: "What have they tried? all lies in the little word IT."
260. You have really tried it; and very interesting your account is. It is a complete answer to all those, who talk about loss of ground from four-feet ridges; and especially when we compare your crop with that of Mr. JAMES BYRD, of Flushing; whose ground was prepared at an early season; who manured richly; who kept his land like a neat garden; and, in short, whose field was one of the most beautiful objects of which one can form an idea; but, whose ridges were about two feet and a half apart, instead of four feet, and who had three hundred and fifty bushels to the acre, while you, with all your disadvantages of late ploughing and sods beneath, had at the rate of five hundred bushels.
261. From so excellent a judge as you are, to hear commendation of my little Treatise, must naturally be very pleasing to me, as it is a proof that I have not enjoyed the protection of America without doing something for it in return. Your example will be followed by thousands; a new and copious source of human sustenance will be opened to a race of free and happy people; and to have been, though in the smallest degree, instrumental in the creating of this source, will always be a subject of great satisfaction, to,
Your most obedient,
And most humble servant,
262. P. S. I shall to-morrow send the Second Part of my Year's Residence to the press. I dare say it will be ready in three weeks.
263. I conclude this chapter by observing, that a boroughmonger hireling, who was actually fed with pap, purchased by money paid to his father by the minister PITT, for writing and publishing lies against the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, the acknowledgment of the facts relating to which transaction, I saw in the father's own hand-writing; this hireling, when he heard of my arrival on Long Island, called it my LEMNOS, which allusion will, I hope, prove not to have been wholly inapt; for, though my life is precisely the reverse of that of the unhappy PHILOCTETES, and though I do not hold the arrows of HERCULES, I do possess arrows; I make them felt too at a great distance, and, I am not certain, that my arrows are not destined to be the only means of destroying the Trojan Boroughmongers.
264. Having introduced a Judge here by name, it may not be amiss to say, for the information of my English readers, what sort of persons these Long-Island Judges are. They are, some of them, Resident Judges, and others Circuit Judges. They are all gentlemen of known independent fortune, and of known excellent characters and understanding. They receive a mere acknowledgment for their services; and they are, in all respects, liberal gentlemen. Those with whom I have the honour to be acquainted have fine and most beautiful estates; and I am very sure, that what each actually expends in acts of hospitality and benevolence surpasses what such a man as Burrough, or Richards, or Bailey, or Gibbs, or, indeed, any of the set, expends upon every thing, except taxes. Mr. JUDGE LAURENCE, who came to invite me to his house as soon as he heard of my landing on the Island, keeps a house such as I never either saw or heard of before. My son JAMES went with a message to him a little while ago, and, as he shot his way along, he was in his shooting dress. He found a whole house full of company, amongst whom were the celebrated Dr. MITCHELL and Mr. CLINTON, the Governor of this state; but, they made him stay and dine. Here was he, a boy, with his rough, shooting dress on, dining with Judges, Sheriffs, and Generals, and with the Chief Magistrate of a Commonwealth more extensive, more populous, and forty times as rich as Scotland; a Chief Magistrate of very great talents, but in whom empty pride forms no ingredient. Big wigs and long robes and supercilious airs, are necessary only when the object is to deceive and overawe the people. I'll engage that to supply Judge Laurence's house that one week required a greater sacrifice of animal life than merciful Gibbs's kitchen demands in a year: but, then, our hearty and liberal neighbour never deals in human sacrifices.