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Ten Acres Enough
Chapter VII.—Planting Raspberries and StrawberriesTricks of the Nursery


My peach-orchard was no sooner finished than I filled each row with raspberries, setting the roots two feet apart in the rows. This enabled me to get seven roots in between every two trees, or five thousand six hundred and fifty-six in all. This was equivalent to nearly two acres wholly planted with raspberries according to the usual plan. They would go on growing without injuring the peach-trees, or being injured by them; and when the latter should reach their full growth, their shade would be highly beneficial to the raspberries, as they thrive better and bear more freely when half protected from the burning sun. The tops were cut off within a few inches of the ground, thus preventing any excessive draft upon the newly planted roots. No staking up was needed. These roots cost me six dollars per thousand, or thirty-four dollars for the lot, and were the ordinary Red Antwerp. The season proving showery, they grew finely. Some few died, but my general luck was very satisfactory. I planted the whole lot in three days with my own hands.

I am sure the growth of my raspberries was owing, in a great degree, to the deep ploughing the land had received. The soil they delight in is one combining richness, depth, and moisture. It is only from such that a full crop may be expected every season. The roots must have abundance of elbow-room to run down and suck up moisture from the abundant reservoir which exists below. Deep ploughing will save them from the effects of dry weather, which otherwise will blast the grower's hopes, giving him a small berry, shrivelled up from want of moisture, instead of one of ample size, rich, and juicy. Hence irrigation has been known to double the size of raspberries, as well as doubling the growth of the canes in a single season. Mulching also is a capital thing. One row so treated, by way of experiment, showed a marked improvement over all the others, besides keeping down the weeds.

As a market fruit the raspberry stands on the same list with the best, and I am satisfied that one cannot produce too much. For this purpose I consider the Red Antwerp most admirably adapted. There are twenty other varieties, some of which are probably quite as valuable, but I was unwilling to have my attention divided among many sorts. One really good berry was enough for me. Some of my neighbors have as much as ten acres in this fruit, from which they realize prodigious profits. Like all the smaller fruits, it yields a quick return to an industrious and painstaking cultivator.

Immediately on getting my raspberries in, I went twice over the six acres with the cultivator, stirring up the ground some four inches deep, as it had been a good deal trampled down by our planting operations. This I did myself with a thirty-dollar horse which I had recently bought. Having eighteen feet between two rows of peach-trees, I divided this space into five rows for strawberries, giving me very nearly three feet between each row. In these rows I set the strawberry plants, one foot apart, making about 10,000 plants per acre, allowing for the headlands. I bought the whole 60,000 required for $2 per thousand, making $120. This was below the market price.

In planting these I got three of the children to help me, and though it was more tiresome work than they had ever been accustomed to, yet they stood bravely up to it. Every noon we four went home with raging appetites for dinner, where the plain but well-cooked fare provided by my wife and eldest daughter—for she kept no servant—was devoured with genuine country relish. The exercise in the open air for the whole week which it took us to get through this job did us all a vast amount of good. Roses came into the cheeks of my daughters, to which the cheeks aforesaid had been strangers in the city; and it was the general remark among us at breakfast, that it had never felt so good to get to bed the night before. Thus honest labor brought wholesome appetites and sound repose. Most of us complained of joints a little stiffened by so much stooping, but an hour's exercise at more stooping made us limber for the remainder of the day.

It occupied us a whole week to set out these plants, for we were all new hands at the business. But the work was carefully done, and a shower coming on just as we had finished, it settled the earth nicely to the roots, and I do not think more than two hundred of them died. I intended to put a pinch of guano compost or a handful of poudrette into each hill, but thought I could not afford it, and so let them go, trusting to being able to give them a dress­ing of some kind of manure the following spring. I much regretted this omission, as I was fully aware of the great value of the best strawberries, and plenty of them. My wife thought at first that six acres was an enormous quantity to have—inquired if I expected to feed the family on strawberries, and whether it was not worth while to set about raising some sugar to go with them, feeling certain that a great deal of that would be wanted.

I forgot to say that I had planted Wilson's Albany Seedling. This was the berry for which we had been compelled to pay such high prices while living in the city. Everybody testified to its being the most profuse bearer, while its great size and handsome shape made it eagerly sought after in the market. It was admitted, all things considered, to be the best market berry then known. My experience has confirmed this. True, it is a little tarter than most other varieties, and therefore requires more sugar to make it palatable; but this objection is more theoretical than practical, as I always noticed that when the berries came upon the table, while living in the city, we continued to pile on the sugar, no matter what the price or quantity. The berries were there, and must be eaten.

On one occasion, on repeating this observation to my wife, she admitted having noticed the same remarkable fact, and added that she believed strawberries would continue to be eaten, even if each quart required a pound of sugar to sweeten it. She declared that for her part, she and the children intended to do so in future.

Now, although she was extravagantly fond of strawberries, and had brought up our children in the same faith, this threat did not alarm me, for I knew that hereafter our berries would cost me nothing, and that if they devoured them too freely, sugar included, a slight pain under the apron of some of them would be likely to moderate their infatuation. I then suggested to her, how would it do—whether it would not make our establishment immensely popular—if in selling my berries, when the crop came in next year, to announce to the public that we would throw the sugar in? She looked at me a moment, and must have suspected that I was quizzing her; for she got up and left the room, saying she must go into the kitchen, as she heard the tea-kettle boiling over. But though I waited a full half hour, yet she did not return.

The reader may have been all this time watching the condition of my purse. But he has not been so observant as myself. These plants did not cost me cash. I had intended to plant an acre or two to begin with. But after buying my peach-trees and raspberries, the nurseryman inquired if I did not intend to plant strawberries also, as he had a very large quantity which he would sell cheap. His saying that he had a very large lot, and that he would sell them cheap, seemed to imply that he found a difficulty in disposing of them. Besides, the selling season was pretty nearly over. I therefore fought shy, and merely inquired his terms. This led to a long colloquy between us, in the course of which I held off just in proportion as he became urgent. At last, believing that I was not disposed to buy, although I went there for that very purpose, he offered to sell me 60,000 plants for $120, and to take his money out of the proceeds of my first crop. This offer I considered fair enough, much better than I expected; and after having distinctly agreed that he should depend upon the crop, and not on me, for payment, and that if the coming season yielded nothing he should wait for the following one, I confessed to him that his persuasions had overcome me, and consented to the bargain.

In other words, I did not run in debt—I saved just that much of my capital, and could make a magnificent beginning with our favorite fruit. As I was leaving this liberal man, he observed to me:

"Well, I am glad you have taken this lot, as I was intending to plough them in to-morrow."

"How is that?" I inquired, not exactly understanding his meaning.

"Oh," said he, "I have so many now that I must have the ground for other purposes, and so meant to plough them under if you had not bought them."

This was an entirely new wrinkle to me, and fully explained why he could afford to farm them out on the conditions referred to. Though a capital bargain for me, yet it was a still better one for him. What he was to receive was absolutely so much clear gain. But then, after all that has been said and written, is it not a truth that cannot be disputed, that no bargain can be pronounced a good one unless all the parties to it are in some way benefited?

Here, now, were six acres of ground pretty well crowded up, at least on paper. But the strawberries would never grow higher than six inches; the raspberries would be kept down to three or four feet, while the peaches would overtop all. Each would be certain to keep out of the other's way. Then look at the succession. The strawberries would be in market first, the raspberries would follow, and then the peaches, for of the latter I had planted the earliest sorts; so that, unlike a farm devoted wholly to the raising of grain, which comes into market only once a year, I should have one cash-producing crop succeeding to another during most of the summer. On the remaining three acres I meant to raise some­thing which would bring money in the autumn, so as to keep me flush all the time. You may say that this was reckoning my chickens before they were hatched; but you will please remember that thus far I have not even mentioned chickens, and I pray that you will be equally considerate. I know, at least I have some indistinct recollection of having heard that the proof of the pudding lay in the eating. But pray be patient, even credulous, until the aforesaid mythical pudding is served up. I am now cooking it, and you ought all to know that cooks must not be hurried. In good time it will come smoking on the table.


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