Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/348

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quickly as possible. It cost me one dollar and fifty-six cents to find out the difference between a bushel of apples and a bushel of apples.

Picking and husking the almonds cost us exactly fifty dollars a ton, and our neighbors all the way up to twice that. Outside of my own family we employed a varying number of Chinamen, up to nine. The task lasted from the 18th of September to the 28th of October. The boxes picked each day are gathered in the evening and conveyed to the drying-yard, where the nuts are sun-dried for a few days. Then comes the bleaching, which is done with the fumes of sulphur, and requires care and some experience.

The bleaching-box is built in various fashions, but covered with tongued and grooved boards and in other ways made tight, so as to confine the sulphur-smoke as much as possible. In common orchards it is about six feet square and six or seven high. It is a complete inverted box, and often movable. The drying-trays are slid in on cleats like the draws of a cabinet. Almonds, being dried before they are bleached, are sprinkled or sprayed with clean water just before sulphuring, the moisture being necessary to make the sulphur do its work of bleaching. The proper quantity of sulphur for one bleaching is put into a pan, ignited, and set inside the bleaching-box. The doors are closed tightly, and left so until the sulphur is all burned. The almonds are then taken out and dried again for a few hours, to remove the moisture sprayed upon them before bleaching.

If they come out bright and evenly bleached, the grower's heart beats more quickly. He knows that it is the color that sells his almonds. Consumers may growl as much as they please, and preach on the sin of poisoning their fruit with sulphur-fumes, but they will always buy the poisoned (?) fruit and give a much higher price for it. They may pat the honest grower of unbleached fruit on the back, but trust them never to give him a penny's worth of encouragement in the market. To-day my paper quotes unbleached apricots at two to four cents a pound, and those that are bleached, or "sulphur-poisoned," at five to six and a half cents. All these prices preclude living profits. Who knows how many growers of unbleached fruit this year's ruinous prices will drive off their farms and out of business, to make room for a like number of sulphur-poisoners? And, going back to the apple merchants and butter dealers, we must admit the full force of the same apology for their crookedness.

But aside from the fact that the fruit-grower is held, much against his inclination, by his final consumers to his questionable trick of trade, the question is still open whether it really does them any harm. Sulphuric acid, like many poisons, is a medicine in proper doses. Does a tablespoonful or two of well