I miss posting on my blog! So on this icy, homebound January morning, I decided to do something about it. I didn’t know what I wanted to post about, so I opened Google Books and typed a phrase just to see what came up. I found The Complete Farmer and Rural Economist: Containing a Compendious Epitome of the Most Important Branches of Agriculture and Rural Economy, published in Boston in 1834. I almost passed up this book, but then I saw the chapter “Farmer’s Calendar.” I was drawn to this section because several times in the process of writing a book, I’ve had to research when crops were harvested or when certain flowers bloomed. I’m thinking writers in the vein of Little Women might find this book useful.
The monthly sections refer to the pages in the book for further reference. I’ve kept the page numbers, but I’m not going to link every one of them because I’m lazy.
The following Calendar is intended merely as an agricultural prompter, noting that certain kinds of work should be performed about the time in the year specified at the head of each article. The figures refer to the pages in this little volume, in which farther directions may be found relative to the operations which the season in general demands from the diligent, correct and careful cultivator.
The directions in the following pages are intended for the New England States, or about the latitude of 42° N., and the vicinity, or a small elevation above the sea. Allowance, however, should be made for height above the sea, as well as for situation north or south of any particular latitude. But we believe it not possible to state with any near approach to precision, what such allowance should be. The nature of the soil, the aspect, the exposure, the forwardness or backwardness, or what may be styled the general character of the season, are all to be regarded. We will, therefore, not claim precision, where accuracy is not attainable. ‘Kalendars,’ as Loudon has well observed, ‘ should be considered as remembrancers, never as directories.’
Stock. If cattle are fed with straw, it should be done with necessary attentions and limitations. The celebrated Arthur Young observed that ‘the best farmers in Norfolk are generally agreed that cattle should eat no straw, unless it be cut into chaff mixed with hay; but, on the contrary, that they should be fed with something better, and have the straw thrown under them to be trodden into dung:’ and I am much inclined to believe, that in most, if not in all cases, this maxim will prove a just one. See that your cows are of the best breed. Page 40. Give them roots as well as hay, and they will give you more than an equivalent in milk, for their extra keep. Pages 41,42. Provide pure water for your milch cows, and not oblige them to go a mile more or less after it, manuring the high way, and running the gauntlet of dogs, teams, the horse and his rider, the sleigh and its driver, with more annoyances than Buonaparte met with in his retreat from Moscow. See also that the master-beasts do not tyrannize over their weaker brethren, and if any are inclined to domineer, take them into close custody, and deprive them of the liberty of the yard, till they will give indemnity for the past, and security for the future. Cut or chaff your hay, straw, corn tops, bottoms, &c, with one of Willis’s or some other straw cutter, to be found at Newell’s Agricultural Warehouse, No. 52, North Market Street, Boston, or some other place. You may also make use of Col. Jaques’ mixture, (p. 50,) without charge for the prescription. If you give your cows good hay, roots, and comfortable lodging, you may make as good butter in winter as in summer, and become rich by sending to market the product of your dairy. Pages 53, 54, 89, 8tc.
Attend particularly to cows which have calved, or are about to calve, as well as to their offspring. You know, or should know, what time your cows may be expected to produce their young, by means pointed out, page 44, where you may find a recipe for those cows which need to be doctored, that they may stop giving milk. You will find observations on rearing and fattening calves, pages 56, 57, &c, to p. 63. Your ewes and lambs will now require that care and attention which is indispensable to make sheep husbandry profitable. Page 22. The way to doctor lambs to advantage is to give good food, and a plenty of it to their mothers. Half a gill of Indian corn a day to each ewe before yeaning, and about two quarts per day of potatoes, turnips, or other roots, when they have lambs to nurse, will make your sheep and lambs healthy, as well as their owner wealthy. But if you half starve your sheep, you will quite kill your lambs. You will continue to cut, split, and pile wood in your wood house, till you have enough to last at least two years. It is very bad economy to be obliged to leave your work in haying or harvesting to draw every now and then a little green wood to cook with, which is about as fit for that purpose as a brick bat for a pin cushion, or a lump of ice for a warming pan.
You may sow grass seed either as soon as the snow is off the ground, or as some say in August or September. You may see the question relative to the time for this purpose discussed, pages 23, 24. Be sure to use seed enough, say about twelve pounds of clover and one peck of herd’s grass [timothy] to the acre, p. 25. If you did not sow grass seed in autumn, or winter grain, you may now sow it, and even harrow it in. Though a few plants will be torn up, the grain will on the whole, receive benefit from being harrowed in the spring. Before the spring work presses hard upon you, it will be well to employ your boys under your superintendence to train your steers or calves and colts to the yoke, saddle, or harness, for which you may see some excellent directions by Mr James Walker, page 65. Top dress winter grain. Top dressings should not be used in the fall for winter grain, because they would be apt to make the young plants come forward too fast, and be the more liable to be winter killed. Page 186. Attend to fences. Page 213, and to drains. Page 294. By often changing the direction of your water courses, you may render your mowing even, and prevent one part from becoming too rank and lodging before the other part is fit to cut.
Ploughing. Light sandy soils had better be ploughed in the spring, and not late in autumn, lest they become too porous and are washed away by the rains and floods of fall and winter. For general rules on this subject, see page 278, &c. It is best to sow spring wheat as soon as it can well be got into the ground. The soil and preparation should be the same as for winter wheat. Page 112. Sow barley, as soon as the ground is sufficiently dry. Page 142. Sow oats. Page 139. Spring rye is cultivated in the same manner as-winter rye. Page 130. Field peas as well as garden peas make an excellent crop. Page 154. Beans are also highly worth the judicious cultivator’s particular attention. Page 159. Plant some potatoes of an early sort on early ground, to be used in July and August as food for your hogs, that you may commence fattening them early in the season. Page 272. Potatoes in small quantities at a time are good food for horses and oxen as well as most other animals, especially in spring. They will go farther if steamed or boiled, but when given raw they are useful as well for physic as for food, being of a laxative and cooling quality. It is now about the time to sow Flax, (Page 104,) and Hemp. Page 94. Every tool, utensil, &c, which will be wanted for the labours of the season should now (if not done before) be critically inspected, thoroughly repaired, and such new ones of the best quality added as will probably be needed. We know of no place where every want of that kind can be better supplied than at the Agricultural Warehouse, No. 52, North Market Street, Boston, owned by J. R. Newell, connected with which is the Seed Store of G. C. Barrett, where may be procured the best of seeds, both for garden and field culture.
Attend to your pastures. Do not turn cattle into pastureground too early in the spring, but let the grass have a chance to start a little before it is bitten close to the soil. If your pastures are large, it will be good economy to divide them as stated page 297. Cleanse your cellars, as well as the rest of your premises from all putrescent, and other offensive and unwholesome substances. Plant Indian corn as soon as the leaves of the white oak are as big as the ears of a mouse. Page 26. Not only Indian corn, but peas, oats, buck-wheat, and probably most other seeds are benefited by wetting them in water, just before sowing, and rolling them in plaster. Plant potatoes for your principal crop. Page 272. Sow millet. Page 145. Sow lucerne on land thoroughly prepared, and keep it free from weeds. Page 17. Declare war against insects. Page 315. The artillery for the engagement may be elder juice, or decoction of elder, especially of the dwarf kind, decoction of tobacco, quick lime, lime water, soot, unleached ashes, strong He, tar or turpentine water, soap suds, 8tc. Dissolve about two pounds of pot-ash in seven quarts of water, and apply the solution to your fruit trees, with a painter’s brush, taking care not to touch the leaves or buds. A lot of land well stocked with clover is wanted by every good cultivator for pasturing swine. Page 166.
Summer-made Manure demands attention. Most farmers yard their cows at night through the summer; their manure should be collected into a heap, in some convenient part of the barn yard, to prevent its being wasted by the sun and rains; a few minutes attention in the morning, when the cows are turned out to pasture, would collect a heap of several loads in a season, ready for your grass grounds in autumn. Dress your Indian corn and potatoes^ thoroughly extirpating weeds, and please to place a handful of ashes or plaster, or a mixture of both, on your hills of corn and potatoes. These substances are commonly applied before the first or second hoeing. But ashes or quick lime, (which is also an excellent application for corn) will have a better effect in preventing worms, if laid on before the corn is up. Be careful to save all your soap suds after each washing, as they answer an excellent purpose when applied to fruit trees, both as manure and as an antidote to insects. ‘Plaster or live ashes sown upon your pasture grounds, will not only repay a handsome profit by increasing the value of your feed by bringing in the finer grasses, such as white clover, &c, but will greatly improve your lands for a potatoe fallow, and a succeeding wheat crop, whenever you may wish to take advantage of a routine of crops.’
Hay-making. Page 286. Make as much of your hay as possible in the early part of the season, as there is at that time a greater probability of your being favored with fair weather. More rain falls on an average in the latter part of summer, or after the 15th of July, than before. If the weather is so unfavorable that hay cannot be thoroughly cured, the application of from 4 to 8 quarts of salt to the ton is recommended. In this way it can be saved in a much greener state, and the benefit, derived from the salt, is many times its value. Another good method of saving green or wet hay, is that of mixing layers of dry straw in the mow or stack. Thus the strength of the grass is absorbed by the straw, and the cattle will eagerly devour the mixture.
Harvesting. Page 294. The time in which your grain crop should be cut, is when the straw begins to shrink, and becomes white about half an inch below the ear \ but if a blight or rust has struck wheat or rye, it is best to cut it immediately, even if the grain be in the milky state. Barley, however, should stand till perfectly ripe.
Please to attend in season to preserving your sheep from the œstrus ovis, or fly, which causes worms in their heads. Page 239. This may be done by keeping the noses of the animals constantly smirched with tar from the middle of August till the latter part of September. In order to accomplish this, it has been recommended to mix a little fine salt with tar, and place it under cover, where the sheep can have access to it, and they will keep their noses sufficiently smirched with tar to prevent the insect from attacking them. Destroy thistles, which some say may be done by letting them grow till in full bloom, and then cutting them with a scythe about an inch above the surface of the ground. The stem being hollow, the rains and dews descend into the heart of the plant, and it soon dies. Select the ripest and most plump seeds from such plants as are most forward and thrifty, and you will improve your breeds of vegetables by means similar to those which have been successful in improving the breeds of neat cattle, sheep, &c. As soon as your harvesting is finished, you will take advantage of this hot and dry weather to search your premises for mines of manure, such as peat, Page 209, marle, Page 205, mud, &c, which often gives unsuspected value to swamps. Now is also a good season to work at draining. Page 294. You may drain certain marshes on your premises, which will afford you better soil than you now cultivate, cause your land to be more healthy, and the earth taken from the ditches will make valuable deposites in your cow-yard and pig-sty.
A correctly calculating cultivator will make even his hogs labor for a livelihood. This may be done by throwing into their pens, potatoe-tops, weeds, brakes, turf, loam, &c, which these capital workmen will manufacture into manure of the first quality. Page 189. You cannot sow winter rye too early in September. If it be sowed early its roots will obtain such hold of the soil before winter, that they will not be liable to be thrown out, and killed by frost. Page 130. It may be sowed early to great advantage in order to yield green food for cattle and sheep, particularly the latter, in the spring. Winter wheat, likewise, cannot be sowed too early in September. Page 112. Attend to the barn yard, and see that it has a proper shape for a manure-manufactory, as well as other accommodations, adapted to its various uses. Page 78. You may as well have a hole in your pocket, for the express purpose of losing your money, as a drain to lead away the wash of your farm yard. True it may spread over your grass ground, and be a source of some fertility to your premises, but the chance is that most of it will be lost in a highway, or neighboring stream.
Ploughing. Page 278. Stiff, hard, cloggy land intended to be tilled should be ploughed in autumn. Fall ploughing saves time and labor in the spring when cattle are weak, and the-hurry of the work peculiar to that season presses on the cultivator. A light sandy soil, however, should not be disturbed by fall-ploughing, but lie to settle and consolidate through the winter. Select your corn intended for planting next season from the field, culling fine, fair, sound ears from such stocks as produce two or more ears, taking the best of the bunch. Page 30. You will consider well, which is the best method of harvesting corn, and adopt one of the methods mentioned by Judge Buel. Page 29. If the husks and bottoms of your corn, when stowed away for winter, are sprinkled with a strong solution of salt in water, (taking care not to use such a quantity of the solution as to cause mould) and when dealt out are cut fine with a straw-cutter, they will make first rate fodder. Do not feed hogs with hard corn without steeping, grinding or boiling it. The grain will go much the farther for undergoing some or all of these operations, and if a due degree of fermentation is superadded, so much the better.
In many situations it will be excellent management to rake up all the leaves of trees, and the mould, which has been produced by their decay, which can be procured at a reasonable expense, and cart and spread them in the barn yard as a layer, to absorb the liquid manure from your cattle. Likewise it would be well to place quantities of them under cover, in situations, where you can easily obtain them in winter to use as litter to your stables, &c. They do not rot easily, but they serve the purpose of little sponges to imbibe and retain liquid manure, and by their use you may supply your crops with much food for plants which would otherwise be lost. Attend with diligence and punctuality to the wants of the four footed tenants of your barn, hog-sty, &c. Do not undertake to winter more stock than you have abundant means of providing for. When young animals are pinched for food at an early period of their growth, they never thrive so well afterwards, nor make so good stock. See that you have good stalls, stables, &c, page 243; cowhouses, page 44; a proper implement for cutting hay and straw, page 49 ; an apparatus for cooking food for cattle and swine, page 51. You may also carry out and spread, compost, soot, ashes, &c, on such of your mowing grounds as stand in great need of manure. Though some say that the best time for top dressing grass land is immediately after haying, any time will do when the ground is free from snow, and the grass not so high as to be injured by cattle’s treading on it.
Woodland. We think that cultivators may derive advantage from attending to the observations by the Hon. John Welles, relative to- wood-lots, the manner of cutting them over, &c. Page 314. We advise every farmer, and his help, &c, so to treat domestic animals that they may be tame and familiar. It is said of Bake well, a famous English breeder of cattle, that by proper management he caused his stock to be very gentle. His bulls would stand still to be handled, and were driven from field to field with a small switch. His cattle were always fat, which he said was owing to the breed as well as keep. Colts should also always be kept tame and familiar, and you may then train them to saddle or harness without danger or difficulty. Page 66. The farmer should obtain his year’s stock of fuel as early in the season as possible, and before the depth of snow in the wood-lands renders it difficult to traverse them by a team. You may, when the ground is frozen, cut and draw wood from swamps, which are inaccessible for cattle in warm weather. If you cut wood, with a wish that the stumps should sprout, let it be after the fall of the leaf, and before the buds swell in the spring. [See Gen. Newhall’s statement, N. E. Farmer vol. x, p. 230.] The Rev. Mr Elliot wisely recommended, when bushy ground, full of strong roots, is to be ditched, beginning the ditch in the winter, when the ground is frozen two or three inches deep. The surface may be chopped into pieces by a broad axe, with a long helve, and the ditch completed in warm weather. The farmer may, probably, hit on a good time for this work in December, when there happens to be no snow, and when it will not interfere with other farming business. When the season has become so severe that little can be done abroad, much may be done relative to farming operations, and other good works, by the fire side, in contriving the proper course of crops for each field, settling accounts, reading useful and entertaining books, and laying the foundation, by mental culture, for the usefulness and respectability of those who compose the Farmer’s Family.