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Cottage Economy

RABBITS.

184. In this case, too, the chief use, perhaps, is to give children those habits of which I have been just speaking. Nevertheless, rabbits are really profitable. Three does and a buck will give you a rabbit to eat for every three days in the year, which is a much larger quantity of food than any man will get by spending half his time in the pursuit of wild animals, to say nothing of the toil, the tearing of clothes, and the danger of pursuing the latter.

185. Every-body knows how to knock up a rabbit hutch. The does should not be allowed to have more than seven litters in a year. Six young ones to a doe is all that ought to be kept; and then they will be fine. Abundant food is the main thing; and what is there that a rabbit will not eat? I know of nothing green that they will not eat; and if hard pushed, they will eat bark, and even wood. The best thing to feed the young ones on when taken from the mother, is the carrot, wild or garden. Parsnips, Swedish turnips, roots of dandelion; for too much green or watery stuff is not good for weaning rabbits. They should remain as long as possible with the mother. They should have oats once a-day; and, after a time, they may eat any-thing with safety. But if you give them too much green at first when they are weaned, they rot as sheep do. A variety of food is a great thing; and, surely, the fields and gardens and hedges furnish this variety! All sorts of grasses, strawberry-leaves, ivy, dandelions, the hog-weed or wild parsnip, in root, stem, and leaves. I have fed working horses, six or eight in number, upon this plant for weeks together. It is a tall bold plant that grows in prodigious quantities in the hedges and coppices in some parts of England. It is the perennial parsnip. It has flower and seed precisely like those of the parsnip; and hogs, cows, and horses, are equally fond of it. Many a half-starved pig have I seen within a few yards of cart-loads of this pig-meat! This arises from want of the early habit of attention to such matters. I, who used to get hog-weed for pigs and for rabbits when a little chap, have never forgotten that the wild parsnip is good food for pigs and rabbits.

186. When the doe has young ones, feed her most abundantly with all sorts of greens and herbage and with carrots and the other things mentioned before, besides giving her a few oats once a-day. That is the way to have fine healthy young ones, which, if they come from the mother in good case, will very seldom die. But do not think, that because she is a small animal, a little feeding is sufficient! Rabbits eat a great deal more than cows or sheep in proportion to their bulk.

187. Of all animals rabbits are those that boys are most fond of. They are extremely pretty, nimble in their movements, engaging in their attitudes, and always completely under immediate control. The produce has not long to be waited for. In short, they keep an interest constantly alive in a little chap’s mind; and they really cost nothing; for as to the oats, where is the boy that cannot, in harvest-time, pick up enough along the lanes to serve his rabbits for a year? The care is all; and the habit of taking care of things is, of itself, a most valuable possession.

188. To those gentlemen who keep rabbits for the use of their family (and a very useful and convenient article they are,) I would observe, that when they find their rabbits die, they may depend on it, that ninety-nine times out of the hundred starvation is the malady. And particularly short feeding of the doe, while, and before she has young ones; that is to say, short feeding of her at all times; for, if she be poor, the young ones will be good for nothing. She will live being poor, but she will not, and cannot breed up fine young ones.

 

GOATS AND EWES.

189. In some places where a cow cannot be kept, a goat may. A correspondent points out to me, that a Dorset ewe or two might be kept on a common near a cottage to give milk; and certainly this might be done very well; but I should prefer a goat, which is hardier and much more domestic. When I was in the army, in New Brunswick, where, be it observed, the snow lies on the ground seven months in the year, there were many goats that belonged to the regiment, and that went about with it on shipboard and every-where else. Some of them had gone through nearly the whole of the American War. We never fed them. In summer they picked about wherever they could find grass; and in winter they lived on cabbage-leaves, turnip-peelings, potatoe-peelings, and other things flung out of the soldiers’ rooms and huts. One of these goats belonged to me, and, on an average throughout the year, she gave me more than three half-pints of milk a day. I used to have the kid killed when a few days old; and, for some time, the goat would give nearly or quite, two quarts of milk a day. She was seldom dry more than three weeks in the year.

190. There is one great inconvenience belonging to goats; that is, they bark all young trees that they come near; so that, if they get into a garden, they destroy every thing. But there are seldom trees on commons, except such as are too large to be injured by goats; and I can see no reason against keeping a goat where a cow cannot be kept. Nothing is so hardy; nothing is so little nice as to its food. Goats will pick peelings out of the kennel and eat them. They will eat mouldy bread or biscuit; fusty hay, and almost rotten straw; furze-bushes, heath-thistles; and, indeed, what will they not eat, when they will make a hearty meal on paper, brown or white, printed on or not printed on, and give milk all the while! They will lie in any dog-hole. They do very well clogged, or stumped out. And, then, they are very healthy things into the bargain, however closely they may be confined. When sea voyages are so stormy as to kill geese, ducks, fowls, and almost pigs, the goats are well and lively; and when a dog of no kind can keep the deck for a minute, a goat will skip about upon it as bold as brass.

191. Goats do not ramble from home. They come in regularly in the evening, and if called, they come like dogs. Now, though ewes, when taken great care of, will be very gentle, and though their milk may be rather more delicate than that of the goat, the ewes must be fed with nice and clean food, and they will not do much in the milk-giving way upon a common; and, as to feeding them, provision must be made pretty nearly as for a cow. They will not endure confinement like goats; and they are subject to numerous ailments that goats know nothing of. Then the ewes are done by the time they are about six years old; for they then lose their teeth; whereas a goat will continue to breed and to give milk in abundance for a great many years. The sheep is frightened at everything, and especially at the least sound of a dog. A goat, on the contrary, will face a dog, and if he be not a big and courageous one, beat him off.

192. I have often wondered how it happened that none of our labourers kept goats; and I really should be glad to see the thing tried. They are pretty creatures, domestic as a dog, will stand and watch, as a dog does, for a crumb of bread, as you are eating; give you no trouble in the milking; and I cannot help being of opinion, that it might be of great use to introduce them amongst our labourers.

 

CANDLES AND RUSHES.

193. We are not permitted to make candles ourselves, and if we were, they ought seldom to be used in a labourer’s family. I was bred and brought up mostly by rush-light, and I do not find that I see less clearly than other people. Candles certainly were not much used in English labourers’ dwellings in the days when they had meat dinners and Sunday coats. Potatoes and taxed candles seem to have grown into fashion together; and, perhaps, for this reason: that when the pot ceased to afford grease for the rushes, the potatoe-gorger was compelled to go to the chandler’s shop for light to swallow the potatoes by, else he might have devoured peeling and all!

194. My grandmother, who lived to be pretty nearly ninety, never, I believe, burnt a candle in her house in her life. I know that I never saw one there, and she, in a great measure, brought me up. She used to get the meadow-rushes, such as they tie the hop-shoots to the poles with. She cut them when they had attained their full substance, but were still green. The rush at this age, consists of a body of pith with a green skin on it. You cut off both ends of the rush, and leave the prime part, which, on an average, may be about a foot and a half long. Then you take off all the green skin, except for about a fifth part of the way round the pith. Thus it is a piece of pith all but a little strip of skin in one part all the way up, which, observe, is necessary to hold the pith together all the way along.

195. The rushes being thus prepared, the grease is melted, and put in a melted state into something that is as long as the rushes are. The rushes are put into the grease; soaked in it sufficiently; then taken out and laid in a bit of bark taken from a young tree, so as not to be too large. This bark is fixed up against the wall by a couple of straps put round it; and there it hangs for the purpose of holding the rushes.

196. The rushes are carried about in the hand; but to sit by, to work by, or to go to bed by, they are fixed in stands made for the purpose, some of which are high to stand on the ground, and some low, to stand on a table. These stands have an iron port something like a pair of pliers to hold the rush in, and the rush is shifted forward from time to time, as it burns down to the thing that holds it.

197. Now these rushes give a better light than a common small dip-candle; and they cost next to nothing, though the labourer may with them have as much light as he pleases, and though, without them he must sit the far greater part of the winter evenings in the dark, even if he expend fifteen shillings a year in candles. You may do any sort of work by this light; and, if reading be your taste, you may read the foul libels, the lies and abuse, which are circulated gratis about me by the “Society for promoting Christian Knowledge,” as well by rush-light, as you can by the light of taxed candles; and, at any rate, you would have one evil less; for to be deceived and to pay a tax for the deception are a little too much for even modern loyalty openly to demand.

 

MUSTARD.

198. Why buy this, when you can grow it in your garden? The stuff you buy is half drugs; and is injurious to health. A yard square of ground, sown with common Mustard, the crop of which you would grind for use, in a little mustard-mill, as you wanted it, would save you some money, and probably save your life. Your mustard would look brown instead of yellow; but the former colour is as good as the latter: and, as to the taste, the real mustard has certainly a much better than that of the drugs and flour which go under the name of mustard. Let any one try it, and I am sure he will never use the drugs again. The drugs, if you take them freely, leave a burning at the pit of your stomach, which the real mustard does not.

 

DRESS, HOUSEHOLD GOODS, AND FUEL.

199. In Paragraph 152, I said, I think, enough to caution you, the English labourer, against the taste, now too prevalent, for fine and flimsy dress. It was, for hundreds of years, amongst the characteristics of the English people, that their taste was, in all matters, for things solid, sound, and good; for the useful, and decent, the cleanly in dress, and not for the showy. Let us hope that this may be the taste again; and let us, my friends, fear no troubles, no perils, that may be necessary to produce a return of that taste, accompanied with full bellies and warm backs to the labouring classes.

200. In household goods, the warm, the strong, the durable, ought always to be kept in view. Oak tables, bedsteads and stools, chairs of oak or of yew tree, and never a bit of miserable deal board. Things of this sort ought to last several lifetimes. A labourer ought to inherit from his great grandfather something besides his toil. As to bedding, and other things of that sort, all ought to be good in their nature, of a durable quality, and plain in their colour and form. The plates, dishes, mugs, and things of that kind, should be of pewter, or even of wood. Any-thing is better than crockery-ware. Bottles to carry a-field should be of wood. Formerly, nobody but the gypsies and mumpers, that went a hop-picking in the season, carried glass or earthen bottles. As to glass of any sort, I do not know what business it has in any man’s house, unless he be rich enough to live on his means. It pays a tax, in many cases, to the amount of two-thirds of its cost. In short, when a house is once furnished with sufficient goods, there ought to be no renewal of hardly any part of them wanted for half an age, except in case of destruction by fire. Good management in this way leaves the man’s wages to provide an abundance of good food and good raiment; and these are the things that make happy families; these are the things that make a good, kind, sincere, and brave people; not little pamphlets about “loyalty” and “content.” A good man will be contented fast enough, if he be fed and clad sufficiently; but if a man be not well fed and clad, he is a base wretch to be contented.

201. Fuel should be, if possible, provided in summer, or at least some of it. Turf and peat must be got in summer, and some wood may. In the woodland countries, the next winter ought to be thought of in June, when people hardly know what to do with the fuelwood; and something should, if possible, be saved in the bark-harvest to get a part of the fuel for the next winter. Fire is a capital article. To have no fire, or a bad fire, to sit by, is a most dismal thing. In such a state man and wife must be something out of the common way to be in good humour with each other, to say nothing of colds and other ailments which are the natural consequence of such misery. If we suppose the great Creator to condescend to survey his works in detail, what object can be so pleasing to him as that of the labourer, after his return from the toils of a cold winter day, sitting with his wife and children round a cheerful fire, while the wind whistles in the chimney and the rain pelts the roof? But, of all God’s creation, what is so miserable to behold or to think of as a wretched, half-starved family creeping to their nest of flocks or straw, there to lie shivering, till sent forth by the fear of absolutely expiring from want?

 

HOPS.

202. I treated of them before; but before I conclude this little Work, it is necessary to speak of them again. I made a mistake as to the tax on the Hops. The positive tax is 2d. a pound, and I (in former editions) stated it at 4d. However, in all such cases, there falls upon the consumer the expenses attending the paying of the tax. That is to say, the cost of interest of capital in the grower who pays the tax, and who must pay for it, whether his hops be cheap or dear. Then the trouble it gives him, and the rules he is compelled to obey in the drying and bagging, and which cause him great expense. So that the tax on hops of our own English growth, may now be reckoned to cost the consumer about 3¼d. a pound.

 

YEAST.

203. Yeast is a great thing in domestic management. I have once before published a receipt for making yeast-cakes, I will do it again here.

204. In Long Island they make yeast-cakes. A parcel of these cakes is made once a year. That is often enough. And, when you bake, you take one of these cakes (or more according to the bulk of the batch) and with them raise your bread. The very best bread I ever ate in my life was lightened with these cakes.

205. The materials for a good batch of cakes are as follows:—3 ounces of good fresh Hops; 3½ pounds of Rye Flour; 7 pounds of Indian Corn Meal; and one Gallon of Water.—Rub the hops, so as to separate them. Put them into the water, which is to be boiling at the time. Let them boil half an hour. Then strain the liquor through a fine sieve into an earthen vessel. While the liquor is hot, put in the Rye-Flour; stirring the liquor well, and quickly, as the Rye-Flour goes into it. The day after, when it is working, put in the Indian Meal, stirring it well as it goes in. Before the Indian Meal be all in, the mess will be very stiff; and it will, in fact, be dough, very much of the consistence of the dough that bread is made of.—Take this dough; knead it well, as you would for pie-crust. Roll it out with a rolling-pin, as you roll out pie-crust, to the thickness of about a third of an inch. When you have it (or a part of it at a time) rolled out, cut it up into cakes with a tumbler glass turned upside down, or with something else that will answer the same purpose. Take a clean board (a tin may be better) and put the cakes to dry in the sun. Turn them every day; let them receive no wet; and they will become as hard as ship biscuit. Put them into a bag, or box, and keep them in a place perfectly free from damp. When you bake, take two cakes, of the thickness above-mentioned, and about 3 inches in diameter; put them into hot water, over-night, having cracked them first. Let the vessel containing them stand near the fire-place all night. They will dissolve by the morning, and then you use them in setting your sponge (as it is called) precisely as you would use the yeast of beer.

206. There are two things which may be considered by the reader as obstacles. First, where are we to get the Indian Meal? Indian Meal is used merely because it is of a less adhesive nature than that of wheat. White pea-meal, or even barley-meal, would do just as well. But Second, to dry the cakes, to make them (and quickly too, mind) as hard as ship biscuit (which is much harder than the timber of Scotch firs or Canada firs;) and to do this in the sun (for it must not be fire,) where are we, in this climate, to get the sun? In 1816 we could not; for, that year, melons rotted in the glazed frames and never ripened. But, in every nine summers out of ten, we have in June, in July, or in August, a fortnight of hot sun, and that is enough. Nature has not given us a peach-climate; but we get peaches. The cakes, when put in the sun, may have a glass sash, or a hand-light, put over them. This would make their birth hotter than that of the hottest open-air situation in America. In short to a farmer’s wife, or any good housewife, all the little difficulties to the attainment of such an object would appear as nothing. The will only is required; and, if there be not that, it is useless to think of the attempt.

 

SOWING SWEDISH TURNIP SEED.

207. It is necessary to be a little more full than I have been before as to the manner of sowing this seed; and I shall make my directions such as to be applied on a small or a large scale.—Those that want to transplant on a large scale will, of course, as to the other parts of the business, refer to my larger work.—It is to get plants for transplanting that I mean to sow the Swedish Turnip Seed. The time for sowing must depend a little upon the nature of the situation and soil. In the north of England, perhaps early in April may be best; but, in any of these southern counties, any time after the middle of April and before the 10th of May, is quite early enough. The ground which is to receive the seed should be made very fine, and manured with wood-ashes, or with good compost well mixed with the earth. Dung is not so good; for it breeds the fly more; or, at least, I think so. The seed should be sown in drills an inch deep, made as pointed out under the head of Sowing in my book on Gardening. When deposited in the drills evenly but not thickly, the ground should be raked across the drills, so as to fill them up; and then the whole of the ground should be trodden hard, with shoes not nailed, and not very thick in the sole. The ground should be laid out in four-feet beds for the reasons mentioned in the “Gardener.” When the seeds come up, thin the plants to two inches apart as soon as you think them clear from the fly; for, if left thicker, they injure each other even in this infant state. Hoe frequently between the rows even before thinning the plants; and when they are thinned, hoe well and frequently between them; for this has a tendency to make them strong; and the hoeing before thinning helps to keep off the fly. A rod of ground, the rows being eight inches apart, and plants two inches apart in the row, will contain about two thousand two hundred plants. An acre in rows four feet apart and the plants a foot apart in the row, will take about ten thousand four hundred and sixty plants. So that to transplant an acre, you must sow about five rods of ground. The plants should be kept very clean; and, by the last week in June, or first in July, you put them out. I have put them out (in England) at all times between 7th of June and middle of August. The first is certainly earlier than I like; and the very finest I ever grew in England, and the finest I ever saw for a large piece, were transplanted on the 14th of July. But one year with another, the last week in June is the best time. For size of plants, manner of transplanting, intercultivation, preparing the land, and the rest, see “Year’s Residence in America.”

 

 



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