Australian enquiry book of household and general information/Scientific Farming
THIS is only farming in a common sense fashion, or rather, using your own sense and reason when putting in crops, studying the soil, its capabilities, properties and suitability for certain crops. When a practical farmer buys land for farming purposes he first examines it thoroughly, drains it if necessary, and manures the impoverished portions. The rotation of crops is very little understood by many farmers who live away from large centres of civilization. Too often in these colonies a man simply buys land and becomes a farmer because he thinks he would like the life, or because he has several sons who would be able to help him. In many instances he knows nothing beyond the fact that if he plants a single grain of corn it will grow, and by-and-bye produce a few cobs of corn, or that if he plants a crop of oats, when it grows he can make a fine stack of hay by drying it in the sun. The ignorance of some so called farmers is most comical, and, unhappily for themselves, these are the men who so often come to ruin after a few years. Just as they are beginning to know a little from experience they go under through not having enough money to carry on. It is for this reason I have in another part of this work advised the young farmer from the old country to take service with an experienced man in the first instance, and until he begins to understand the country and know the seasons.
The rotation of crops means—taking a surface crop, such as wheat, oats, maize, &c., off the land, and then ploughing and planting a root crop, say turnips, potatoes, &c., &c. One of the best ways to manure a field impoverished by successive cropping without rest or manure is by sowing broadcast some such crop as peas, vetches, turnips, or any quick growing tender leaf plant, and when it is a few weeks old, or when the plants have leafed out well, plough it under and leave the field fallow till the following spring. I have heard farmers call this waste and have heard them laugh at others for trying it, but invariably they have had to admit their surprise at the results of the crop after this green-soiling — or green-manuring as it is called. Very often a field will recover its productive powers if left fallow a season or two, even without any manuring, but the ground requires working or ploughing before being left, and it will be all the better for being moved again two or three times, so that the sun and air can get into it and permit the soil to draw in the carbonic acid and nitrogen from the atmosphere for use as plant food hereafter. A field thus left is all the better for any manure that can be put on it. Stable manure is most excellent and very often procurable at very small trouble; fowl house manure is another. A farmer who has only a small portion of agricultural land can often get a better return from it than one who has three times the quantity if he will only bring a little science into his work — a little theory with the practice. Theory is no good without practice, and I doubt if practice is without theory in farming matters.
Every young farmer would do well to subscribe to some magazine or journal and read it regularly, or have it read to him, for there he will find many things, ideas, theories, etc, etc, which he can try himself. There are many very good farmers' journals and papers published now-a-days which would be invaluable to those far out. And, besides, not only does a man gain useful knowledge on many subjects, but he also hears all about what other farmers are doing or trying to do, and it gives him an interest outside himself and his own farm, and in his turn may be able to assist others by corresponding with the journal on some subject he knows thoroughly.
The system of farming in vogue in many parts of Australia is a very bad one. It has, indeed, been well called slip-shod, and the sooner it is remedied the better for all those who live by the soil and what comes from it. A great reason for this loose style of working is doubtless owing to the cheapness of land, when a man has exhausted one piece of land, instead of manuring it and returning to it the salts and sodas he has taken out of it, he lets it lie fallow to recover itself in course of time, and turns his attention to a fresh patch. Our colonial farmers who have had no experience but what they have gained from one another, or picked up by observation, know little and understand less about the rotation of crops, or about green manuring, or if they do know they are too rich in new land to follow it out to any great extent. It is usually the man who possesses a small patch of ground, ten or twelve acres, who not only takes most care of it, but who gets most out of it. It stands to reason that the earth must become exhausted after a long course of cropping, just as a tree will become worn out and cease to bear after many seasons of bearing without attention. I have heard young farmers say that they did not believe manure affected the crops. I was at the moment advocating a course of bone manure, and suggesting that, as he could not buy bone dust, he should bury all the bones he could find about his fruit trees and grape vines. He did not see how the bones could do good, or that they would ever become dissolved. A young apricot tree was near us, so I said gather up half a dozen bones now, open up the roots of this tree put them in and cover again. In six months' time come and look at your bones. He did as I directed, laughing sceptically all the time, while, no doubt, thinking to himself "How can a woman know anything about farming." It was nearly three years before I chanced upon him again to ask about the bones, and then he had forgotten all about the matter, but he came to see me a week later and brought in a paper a small portion of what was left of the bones; it was nearly dust crumbling at the touch. "Had the tree done well in the meantime?" I asked. "Well, it has not borne yet, it was too young, but it looked grand, and would bear next year," he expected.
If there are many of my readers who do not believe this, let them try it. Collect a few old bones and if you have any grape vines, or indeed any growing vine or tree and bury them under one and in a year or two come and look at them, and you will find them gradually being eaten away by the roots of the vine or tree. Such crops as corn, oats, potatoes, require the crushed bone manure, bones buried beneath them would not be affected, but would take many years to decay. Possibly, like my friend the farmer, you are wondering how I, a woman, know all this. Simply because I was told it by a very old and successful farmer on the Hunter River, and also because I tried it to convince myself, just as I have tried every recipe in this book.
Ploughing, cross-ploughing and harrowing are in some instances a partial substitute for manuring, because by so stirring and opening up the earth it is rendered more fit for absorbing the chemical properties of the rain, and also the atmosphere. As both the air and the rain water effect strange and, to our eyes, quite imperceptible changes in the ground when the two are brought together, just as soda and acid will fiz, or effervesce, when put together in water. So doubtless some such change takes place in the earth when the rain falls upon it. You may be quite sure that not only the rain, but the frost, the sunshine, the dew, all affect the earth in some wonderful way and help it to produce. Some crops exhaust certain qualities or salts in the earth sooner than others, and so much so that though they may grow very well for one year they will not the next. I have noticed this particularly with tobacco, it seems to take more out of the ground than any other crop, but 1 believe the land can be renewed by "green manuring." It is a mistake to go on growing the same crop on the one piece of ground; change your crops. If this season you grow a root crop on a certain patch, next year grow a surface crop. If you have not tried it do so. Believe me you will not lose by it.
This is one of the best and favorite forage plants in districts where it will grow readily, but it requires a rich soil and very careful cultivation. On the banks of the Hunter, Hawkesbury, and several other rivers in New South Wales, it grows luxuriantly and forms one of the chief crops with the farmers, who make it into hay and also sell it in a green state for forage. After the periodical floods that devastate the land and leave a rich subsoil, the lucerne fields are a perfect picture; the refuse and mud that remains after the water has gone down seeming to contain the very qualities necessary for the fertility of the lucerne. If sown in drills from one to two feet apart about ten pounds of seed will be required per acre; but if sown broadcast about fifteen pounds must be allowed. Lucerne bears from four to six crops per annum according to the seasons, and being perennial, or almost so, it requires no renewing. It does not arrive at its full growth and strength till three years old. It should be cut before it gets too heavy, and cured like clover. But lucerne is a crop not worth growing unless it grows really well and the ground and climate suit it. In some parts of Queensland it is mere waste of time and ground to attempt it, for though it comes up and appears to thrive it becomes sticky, tough and not worth growing. The climate is too hot and too dry for it, save on the Downs and such places. In most of the other colonies it does well and repays the cultivation, though from the care, attention, and extra cultivation required, I would not advise small farmers to go in for it unless they are near to large centres of population and can sell it green.
For green feed this makes an excellent crop, particularly if you have a small enclosure you can devote entirely to it and only turn the sheep or cattle in for half an hour or an hour per day. It will grow in almost any well drained soil of fair strength and moderate depth. It does not require great depth of soil, in fact I have seen it grow luxuriantly in a verandah garden, where the soil was all made and only some six or eight inches in depth. The time to sow it is early in spring, and the quantity of seed per acre will depend upon the kind of soil and the amount of preparation that it has had. It can be sown with couch grass, and without any preparation, either during; or directly after heavy rains. But when sown to make a crop it is as well to allow from ten pounds to twelve pounds per acre, and if sown on well pulverised soil and just before rain it will require no harrowing. In making hay from clover it should not be cut till it has fully blossomed and assumed a bronzey or brownish hue. Then it should be mown as closely as possible and as evenly. Any good bush grass can be added to the clover if preferred, and thus the quantity of hay can be greatly increased.
HINTS ON HAYMAKING.
Choose good weather for the haymaking, you want at least three or four days' hot sunshine.
Let the swarth (the grass, clover, &c., &c., cut with the scythe) lie as it falls and without spreading the first day. At sundown rake into cocks for the night, and spread out again next morning when the dew is off the ground, rake up at night as before, and repeat this for three days.
Many farmers now-a-days let their hay dry in the cocks and without spreading out at all. It is merely a matter of opinion, and mine is that the old fashion is the surest.
After the third day's drying take the hay under cover, and if your bush grass has not already been mixed with the clover spread it in layers between now, and in this way much of the grass will absorb the juices of the clover. Allow from five to seven quarts, or from ten to fourteen pounds of coarse salt to each ton of hay, spreading it evenly here and there through the mow or stack. If for sale it can then be pressed into bales or used from the stack.
Clover makes excellent silage and can be mixed with bush grass in proportions of one ton of clover to one and a half of grass.
When allowed to ripen, clover is a biennial, dying off after the second year, but it can be sustained from year to year by allowing the seed to ripen and fall until the ground is so full of roots that the young plants are choked. Then the field should be ploughed up and some other crop put in for a time. When manuring for clover bone dust, ashes or gypsum are the best to employ.
There are many varieties of clover (which really comes under the same head as the bean, pea, vetch, &c.), the common red and white appear to be the best and most often seen. An old sheep yard makes an excellent patch for a clover field, but cattle and sheep should never be allowed to surfeit themselves on it or it may kill them. In one district in New South Wales many years ago, 1863 or 64, hundreds of both cattle and sheep died from eating too freely of the clover that grew all over the place. On one station, where the mortality was very great, the flats were a perfect picture, ankle deep in beautiful green clover and a mass of white flower. But the scene was quite spoilt by the dead cattle and sheep everywhere to be seen. An enthusiastic Englishman, with the best intention possible and meaning to benefit his relations out here, to whom he was on a visit, imported some tons of clover seed and had it sown broadcast all over the station. As it happened rain set in immediately afterwards and the clover sprang up everywhere, with the result I have stated. I believe the greatest mortality was among travelling stock, who, put upon it suddenly, ate their full too greedily and consequently swelled and burst afterwards.
Clover grows well, sowed with some other grass in a lawn, such as couch and the American blue grass.
Every farmer will do well to have a small patch for special purposes and special stock. It is most excellent for milch cows, and sheep, or calves being fattened for the butcher. It is easily raised and cheap besides being subject to few blights or diseases.
It also makes the best green soiling when ploughed under, bees are fond of it too.
The wonder is that some of the squatters in Queensland do not sow clover over their runs as an experiment. It would never become too prolific from the heat of the country, but it might possibly enrich the pasturage on some places. I think the attempt worth trying.
TO GROW RAPE.
This is a very profitable crop if properly sown and the land prepared before hand. Light, easily worked land is most suitable for this crop, but it will do just as well in stiff clayey soil if well worked. Plough from five to six inches in depth, and break down and keep the grubbers going as often as possible so as to get it well pulverised and friable before sowing. Do not on any account let it settle down or harden after the rain. If necessary manure the field with bone dust or guano, the latter is the best. Lastly, harrow with a fine harrow so as to have a fine crease. About the quantity of rape seed to sow to the acre: there is great diversity of opinion and the amount differs so widely that it is, perhaps, best for every farmer to use what his own experience has told him is sufficient for his especial piece of land, as I believe the land has a great deal to do with it. It seems hardly possible that one patch of land should yield a good crop from three pounds of seed per acre and the next equally well farmed should take eight pounds for exactly the same result. Yet such has been the case. Most farmers will tell you that from two pounds to three pounds of seed is enough per acre, and possibly it may be sufficient to give a fairly good crop. But considering that it is the stems and not the leaves that hold the nourishment and fattening qualities it stands to reason that the thicker the plants the better, and therefore from six pounds to seven pounds of seed per acre is not too much to sow broadcast to ensure a good heavy crop. Believe me, the few pounds saved per acre is no economy; and when buying be careful to get the broad leaf winter rape, and not spring rape which is not nearly so good. Another thing do not be persuaded to buy cheap seed, which is, most probably, old and musty. Pay 5d. or 6d. per pound, and ensure having really good seed. Where a farmer keeps a small flock of sheep as merely an extra source of profit, and chiefly for his own consumption, he cannot do better than sow a small field of rape for their winter feed, as in most climates it is ready for cutting by June, and a good crop sown, as I have suggested, will feed from 25 to 35 sheep per acre.
It is a great mistake to imagine that silage cannot be made without an expensive silo. I believe it is this idea that prevents many small farmers from trying their hands at this very useful form of winter feed for their stock. Lately I saw a very simply made silo on a dairy farmer's small place, and though the silage did not look perhaps as appetising as it might, the cows did not notice it apparently, as they were most thoroughly enjoying it. The silo was merely a large square hole dug in the side of a ridge and boarded and lined with slabs. It was an experiment in the first instance, they told me; but it is an experiment any of my readers who keep cows might do well to try. The silo was filled with ordinary summer grass and also a couple of drayloads of thistle, wild vetches, &c., &c., from a field that had been ploughed and laid fallow for a year and so had become covered with weeds, thistles, &c., &c., this with the grass was put into the silo dry, and a square lid just fitting it put over and weighed down with heavy stones. Every three or four days more was added and a few pounds of coarse salt sprinkled through each time. When quite full and the stuff had sunk to the level of the silo, enough to allow the lid to cover it easily, the weight was applied with a lever, and finally roofed over with a few sheets of iron, and so left for very nearly six months; when requiring food for the milking cows it was opened, and proving a huge success, several more silos of the same primitive pattern have been made. In this way many of the small farmers would find themselves able to feed as many cows in the winter as in the summer, to say nothing of the horses, which, on some places, cost a small fortune for feed in a bad or dry season. Silage stacks can also be made in the open field, though of course the fodder is not so well preserved as in a silo.
The stack should not be built too rapidly, say from four to five feet at each building and leave a few days according to the weather, if very dry, add to the stack in two days because of the top grass withering more quickly and becoming mouldy perhaps. In damp weather there is not so much fear as the grass does not die so quickly, so may be left untouched four or five days. The grass must not be cut till the dew is quite off it and it is dry. About twelve o'clock, or even later, is the best time for cutting as then it can be carried direct to the stack if wished, or time has to be studied, otherwise it can remain on the ground a few hours. If soft it is the better for lying to wither before stacking, but if hard and over ripe it should be stacked at once. During wet weather if one dry day comes it will be sufficient to get in any crop convertable into silage, so that it need not be lost entirely. Always cover the stack at night with a waterproof sheet. When completed it can be pressed or not, if the latter there is likely to be a layer on top that is mouldy and useless, but that is all, and a man loses more than that very often when making hay during a wet season.
The stack can be pressed by placing wires, after a board has been laid over the top, over the stack and winding them up on each side by a windlass (a wire fence straining bracket)fixed to a piece of wood about four feet nine inches long,five inches broad and three inches thick, the bracket being screwed on to the under side, close to the end, with the wire passed through a hole cut for it. These pieces of wood should be laid on the stack when it is only one or two feet high, at intervals of about two feet, then when the stack is ready for pressing, a wire can be put over and attached by each end to each bracket, then by winding the barrels the wire is tightened. The stack should be raised a little in the middle and bits of stick or board must be put under the wire to prevent it slicing the silage like a knife.
Tobacco requires a rich soil and plenty of attention. If you are within easy distance of a factory it is very profitable, but once land has grown tobacco it, for a few seasons, will require very heavy manuring to grow anything else, or else to lie fallow for a year or more. Nothing I know of takes so much out of the soil as tobacco. As an instance I can mention a piece of good land which adjoined my husband's sugar plantation, it had been cropped with tobacco and my husband then rented it for growing sugar, but, in spite of slight manuring, the cane never reached any height. It was then ploughed and manured again, but to no purpose, and not until it had been idle for two years, and then green manured, did it produce anything worth having, yet it had produced a splendid crop of tobacco. I only quote this as a warning to others. One ounce of tobacco seed to the acre is sufficient. It should be raised in small beds and then planted out. In sowing all seeds to be transplanted a heap of grass or brushwood can be burnt and then the ashes dug in and the seeds sown there, in this way you kill all the insects and their eggs which are in the earth at this season (August to October).
In planting out be sure to work the ground that is to receive the plants, and choose a cloudy day for transplanting, being careful when lifting not to break the roots which are long and large, take up as much earth as possible with them and make the holes to receive them large, roomy and deep, and be careful not to double in the roots. Press the soil well round, and if the sun is very hot they must be shaded for a day or two. When the plant is about a foot high pull off the lower leaves to about five inches from the ground, and hill the earth up round the plant, and when at is nearly two feet high the last hoeing can be given. Directly blossom buds appear pinch off the tops so as not to leave more than eight or nine leaves on each plant, and at the same time nip out any shoots that may start from the base of the leaves and the roots. Thus you will turn the whole strength of the plant into the leaves. The young plants must be carefully watched for grubs which are very fond of them, the cabbage bug or grub is the same that attacks the tobacco plants.
It is as well to have portable calico screens for use on frosty nights, or as protection against bleak cold winds. When sowing the seed, mix one ounce of it with about three pints of sand, thus sown it falls more evenly.
Elsewhere I have entered very fully into this subject, from the time the plants are fit for cutting, but a few words on the sowing and the cultivating may not be out of place. Prepare the seed bed on rich virgin loam. A river flat or a plot near a creek or lagoon is best if possible, as the young plants require a good deal of water. Clear the ground, grub out all roots, and cover the plot thick with brush and dry grass and burn it, heaping more wood on to make the fire as hot as possible and to last as long, for well burned ground is the very best for raising all such plants as tobacco, cabbage, &c. I have seen two plots close together planted with tobacco seed; one had been burned the other not. On the former the seed came up readily, on the latter only an odd one appeared. This is proof positive I think. When the ground is cool rake off the coals and pieces of half-burned wood but leave the ashes. Dig it about three inches deep with a fork and make the earth perfectly fine and loose by breaking up all clods and raking off those too hard to break. Don't turn the ashes under more than you can help. A very good plan is to give the ground a second burning after it is broken up, laying on a heap of grass for the purpose. Divide it off into beds three or four feet wide and raised some inches if dry, if not dry it must be raised higher and well drained. Allow one teaspoonful of seed to each 26 square yards, that should give nearly 3,000 good plants, and mix every spoonful of seed with half a gallon of fine wood ashes, and sow in three operations crossing directly and again at right angles. After sowing flatten the ground by laying boards over. An old door answers as well or better than anything, but failing anything else you can tramp the bed smooth. Having done this lay brushwood over. If you have fowls and a fowl house the manure from the latter is a great help to the young plants; break it up, sift through a coarse riddle and put a thin layer all over the beds, and then put on the brush wood which should be left till the plants are pretty strong.
Water freely every evening or every second evening if the weather is dry. When about five inches high and the under leaves begin to turn yellow they are ready for transplanting, which should be done on a cloudy day if possible. When lifting the young plants care is necessary to prevent breaking the roots which are very large, and it is as well to take plenty of earth with each plant. 1 have given all other directions elsewhere.
TO MAKE TOBACCO.
This is one of the very few industries mentioned in these pages- which I have not personally tried. But I have seen it done—have even assisted in the doing. And I will here relate, as well as I can, all about it, though if you have enough leaf I would advise it being sent to a factory, because, even with a very small amount, the trouble is great and the success very uncertain. I have seen a small quantity of most excellent tobacco made with, I may say, no proper appliances ; and again, I have seen a good many failures. If you have only a little, there is no harm in trying, as in case of loss it won't be very great, and you may succeed. There is nothing like courage and enterprise.
When the leaf is ready for picking, it will be a dark deep blue, and appears as if it had swelled and become rougher, something like a cabbage leaf when it is old and getting mouldy. The tobacco leaf when ripe becomes first spotted with yellow, and the leaf itself gets a brownish yellow. It must not be picked then, or till it again changes to the dark blue; it will then be sticky to the touch, and directly you notice that it must be gathered. The best time to pick it is when the weather is close, heavy and sultry. If wet should come just before picking, wait till fine weather as the rain will wash the gum from the leaves, but fine weather will soon bring it again.
To pick the leaf. — Take a sharp pointed knife, and split the stem down the centre from about one-third of the top to three inches of the bottom and cut it off below the split. Let the plants lie on the ground in rows for two days and nights, giving each side of the leaves twelve hours' hot sun. Remove from the field on the third morning after the sun has quite absorbed all dew upon them. If rain should come while they are out, gather them under a tarpaulin or a shed, but they must be spread in the sun afterwards. I think the reason so many fail is because rain so often comes just at this time, and the leaves go off before treated at all. Now bring it all into a shed or outbuilding, a thatched room is the best I believe. Pack the tobacco in a heap, the larger the heap the better for sweating, but in any event pack it as closely as possible, and heap dry hay or grass upon it, sides and all; cover it quite thickly, and on top place some weight (bags with slabs on top of them). Keep the air from getting to it, for if it does get in the leaf will mildew. Watch the heap and feel it now and then very carefully. When it is so hot that yon can hardly bear your hand in it, proceed to the next stage.
Clear away the hay; sort the top of the heap by itself, the centre by itself, and the sides and bottom can go together, and re-stack it putting the centre leaves at the bottom and the bottom and sides in the centre. This is done to get it all sweated evenly. It is best to replace the greenest stalks nearest the middle. Do it as quickly as possible so as not to let it get too cool. Cover just as before. When done, the leaves should be a nice brown colour. Drying is a troublesome business, and it must be done in a room where there is a window or door to admit a draught, when necessary, as it sometimes is. But if you have only a small quantity the drying can be managed somehow. I saw it done in nothing more imposing than an old packing case.
Cut some sticks, or pieces of paling will do, run them through the slits in the stalks, and hang them the thick end up to dry. Don't let the different stalks touch each other as they hang. Before threading, well shake each stalk to loosen the leaves and prevent them sticking to each other. In wet weather, or if the air be damp, smouldering fires had better be kept going on the floor of the shed, to prevent the tobacco turning mouldy. It should hang like this for three or four weeks, and when it is dry enough, break a stalk, and if it breaks short it is ready. A damp day is best for removing it as the leaves are not so apt to be stiff and hard.
Now the leaves must be sorted. Beginning at the bottom of the stalk, the first three are the best quality, call them No. 1; the next three, No. 2; and all the rest, No. 3. Ten leaves make a bunch, and each one is wrapped separately in a leaf, if to be sent to the factory. That is not necessary when you make up the tobacco yourself. This is only the preliminary stage, or what the grower is supposed to do before sending to the manufactory. So, having read so far, the enterprising young grower can pause and consider whether he will proceed on his own account to make tobacco or not. It is quite possible, as I said before, but it is about the most troublesome thing there is to make; and, worst of all, when you have taken all the pains it may not be a success.
To make it.—The first thing to be done is to expose the leaves to the action of steam, and to do this you may have to resort to the most primitive means. I saw it done with merely a common potato steamer, the leaves being laid upon an ordinary sieve fitted over the steamer, then the leaves are taken one by one, and the mid rib or main leaf vein is stripped. To do this, double back the leaf in the left hand, and with the right strip out the mid rib. All leaves, directly they are taken from the steamer, had better be covered up with a heavy rug or blanket (if the steamer is not big enough to hold all at once) until wanted for stripping, as if exposed to the dry air they will not strip well or easily. As they are stripped, tie in small bundles and string on to long sticks to be hung in a drying room until perfectly dry.
I believe the next process varies according to the maker, and, rather, the recipe he follows in making. The man I saw worked on a plan of his own, I think, and as he only made enough for his own household (his sons and himself) it was right enough. But my readers, if anxious to make their own tobacco, can easily get another recipe if they wish. The leaves, when perfectly dry, are taken down and dipped in a decoction of molasses and liquorice: the quantities must depend upon the amount of leaf you have. Two or three sticks of liquorice melted and boiled with three or four quarts of sugar-mill molasses will be sufficient for a good quantity. Boil the mixture, and while boiling-hot pour it into a tub or milk-dish, and into this dip the tobacco as quickly as possible, and then at once spread them on trays or boards in the hot sun.
The next stage is the drying room again, but this time the heat is artificial. My friend did his in a oven kept at 90° (ninety degrees) or a little higher at night. Do not by any chance let it burn. I believe a better way would be to heat bricks, and having enclosed the tobacco in a box, keep the heat up with them. When it has become dry in this way, sprinkle sparingly with the best rum. I do not know whether this last is necessary, or only a fancy of my friend's who was rather partial that way.
The leaves now have lost their identity, and look like—well, I do not know exactly what,—very unsightly, anyway. Now take a handful of leaves and work and twist them into a lump, in the fingers, and having done so wrap a fresh leaf round it and then lay it in a small box or anything to be pressed. My friend put his into small old-fashioned fig-drums,which are made of very thin wood (shaving I think), and having nothing more appropriate he used an old letter-press for the purpose of pressing.
He had only a small quantity the season I assisted him at the process, but the following year I was told he pressed quite a large quantity in a cheese mould and press. This was making tobacco under difficulties, and of course, not being a smoker myself, I cannot say whether it was any good or not. Of one thing I am certain, and that is that good, bad or indifferent the old man himself smoked no other while he had a bit of that left. He smoked the tobacco he made and pronounced it first-class.
Unlike tobacco, this is very simply made. A woman with a good bread-grater and plenty of water can make enough from a row of plants in her own garden to last her family for a year. I am not writing from hearsay or only a partial knowledge of this matter, for I have made it myself, aye, and made so much from my own few roots, that I was enabled to use it instead of starch in the laundry.
Arrowroot grows in almost any fairly rich soil, and is a capital crop to put in after some surface crop, as oats, barley, maize. It should not be put in land too freshly manured or it grows too much to leaf. It will yield as much as 14 to 16 tons of bulbs per acre, and upon some soils more than that.
It is a very good crop for a young selector farmer to put in, particularly if no one else about has done so, as he will then have a certain market for it in town. From seven to eight months after planting the crop is ready for digging. Frost does not really injure it, for though it kills the tops, it tends to concentrate the glutine matter in the bulbs. When ripe, the tops wither, and digging the bulbs is not unlike potato-digging.
To make it. —The bulbs are first well washed and then grated into pulp, for this purpose a grater can be very easily improvised from a piece of tin or galvanised iron with a number of holes made in it. The grating must be done in a tub of water, the easiest way being to fix the grater against the side of the tub firmly, and then rub the bulb upon it until it is all torn to pieces, and a thick sediment over the bottom of the tub.
When all the bulbs are done stir up the sediment and get all the fibre and lumps of stuff out, then wash well in ever so many waters, letting the arrowroot settle and then pouring it off, and more on, and repeat the process till it looks as white as snow. Then leave in the sun till every drop of water is evaporated. It is a good plan when washing to use two vessels for the purpose, pouring from one into the other, and nothing is better than two large milk dishes. When all the water is poured off at last, and the arrowroot left to dry, tilt the dish a little. When all the water is gone, break up the white cake in the dish and spread it out on calico in the sun, every now and then stirring it about to keep it perfectly dry, and as soon as possible get it put into tins or bags. The quicker it is made and done with, the better, as if left in water any length of time, it will begin to ferment and go sour.
There are very cheap machines for making arrowroot to be got, but unless you grow a large quantity it can be made just as well, a little at a time, with a common grater, or better still, a rough one made as I have directed.
In preparing to grow potatoes the soil must be well drained, at the same time the ground must be sufficiently moist to keep the tops of the plants green and healthy, indeed, moisture is of more importance to potatoes than manure, provided the ground is moderately good. Wood ashes mixed with coarse salt will generally keep the ground moist enough without rotting the tubers. Where the soil is well drained it is advisable to plant pretty deep, as this will start the first set of roots or tubers farthest down, and ensure them a more equal temperature than if nearer the surface. The great thing is to look after the growth of stalks and leaves, by so doing you will ensure a good root crop, as these last draw from the top their food and the qualities and ingredients that go towards their formation. If the leaves do not thrive, you may be sure the potatoes won't; and the longer the tops can be kept green and growing, the better.
I once heard of a man (I won't call him a farmer) who cut down all his potato tops to save the tubers from the beetles, and was greatly surprised when he found he had ruined his whole crop.
Once they are dry they should be marketed as soon as possible, and if kept must be stored in a dry, cool place, to prevent the eyes starting. Potatoes require a strong soil and should be planted in rows in trenches; cover them to a depth of three inches, leaving the trenches then not quite full, so that when they come up there will be room to fill in. A side of a hill is a good site for potatoes, and if not very good soil they can be forced by having cow-dung spread between the rows. It need not be dug in, the rain will wash the goodness into the roots.
Onions are a very profitable crop if the soil is good and has been well worked. The soil should be fine and dry under the rake. If heavy rain comes just before planting, it is best to wait a few days for it to dry.
SOWING VEGETABLE SEENDS.
In sowing vegetable seeds, much time is often lost through bad seed—seed which you wait and wait to see above ground, and which never comes. Now a very good plan, if you have only a small vegetable garden, is to germinate or burst your seeds before putting them in. Say you are going to sow turnips, well, put your seeds in to soak in a basin or dish overnight, pour off the water in the morning and place the seed in the sun, spreading it out well so that one is not on another. At night, again put water on, and leave all night, and again put out in the sun next day. Repeat this process until the seeds begin to shew life and burst, then sow them at once, of course picking out all those that are no good. I have done this with nearly all the seeds I know—melon, pumpkin, peas, beans, cabbage, turnips, etc., etc, and also with flower seeds.
Many growers sow this seed in a hot-bed, and then transplant into long narrow beds easily worked, they are better than the very wide ones, but all depends upon the room one has to devote to each vegetable. If the seed is sown on a small patch where a heap of brushwood or grass has been burnt, the plants will not be so troubled with beetles. I saw this in an old newspaper, tried it, and was surprised at the result, not a cabbage plant was eaten by the bugs. The way is to prepare a small piece of ground, and then collect a heap of dry grass and undergrowth, enough to leave a good deal of ash. Burn this and then lightly rake in the ashes and sow your seed. Sow cabbage seeds rather thin, so as to have strong plants, and after sowing roll or flatten the ground with the back of the spade, till quite firm. If the beetle or bug does come, sift some fine ashes or soot over the plants.
Before transplanting, thoroughly prepare and manure a piece of land, digging it deeply and breaking up finely. It cannot be too rich, as the better the land the finer the cabbages. The great thing in selling vegetables is to be the first in the market.
This is a very favourite vegetable with both those who cook and those who are cooked for—with the cooks because it can be used in so many ways and form so many dishes.
The large or Mammoth Tomato is the best to grow for market, it should be raised on a frame, trained, in fact. The golden pear-shaped tomato is the best for jam: it requires a fairly rich soil, though it will grow on anything, but to bring to any perfection it must have a rich, loamy sand—if I can use such a term. As a matter of fact, the tomato will grow on the very poorest of soil, but as a rule, any land that will grow potatoes or corn will grow tomatoes to perfection, and they are a crop that will stand any amount of dry weather, but frost cuts them down at once.
PUMPKINS, MELONS, &C.
Pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, and marrows should be planted early in their season, which, in most colonies, is from early in September. For table purposes the "Ironbark" pumpkin is one of the best, being a dry, firm kind. The "Crown" and the "Button" are also good. If you have a rubbish heap about the yard the pumpkin vine will do well on it, On freshly-cleared ground, too, they do well, particularly if it be scrub land. One of the strangest sights I ever saw in Queensland was a scrub where the pumpkin vines had climbed up about the branches of the trees and over the undergrowth, and the fruit hung in all directions. Great big pumpkins were hanging high up from the vines on the trees like so many apples or oranges might; the wonder was, that the stalks could bear the weight.
The ground requires to be prepared for melons, raised in hillocks, and manured well to ensure a good crop. Vegetable and custard marrows require the same, but they must not be planted near each other, or they will spoil each other, the bees impregnating melon flowers with pollen from pumpkin flowers and vice-versa. The best plan is to have a special patch whereon to grow melons, and another for marrows.
Peas require a warm, sandy soil. The dwarf varieties are the best to plant in a small garden as they take least room. If the creeping varieties are sown they should be sticked early. Twigs of brushwood are very good for this purpose, and the peas are easily gathered from them.