« AnteriorContinuar »
cause an astonishing difference in the character of their products. · It is this which occasions the slightest alteration produced in the organs to give rise to new compounds; bearing no resemblance to the first.
No one has ever disputed that the juices, the oils, the resins, the fibric, and other essential parts of vegetation, are the result of the action of the different organs of plants; and that the elements composing them were those of the bodies by which they are nourished, and which each combines in a manner peculiar to itself, and fitted to its own organization. There is, in all this, nothing like creation, but simply decomposition upon ore side, and upon the other, a new combination of the elements, in different proportions.
Many philosophers, in other instances very correct, have asserted that plants themselves form, even by the act of vegetation, salts and earths, but as science has advanced, it has been ascertained that none of the experiments cited by them have been made with exactness. Some have watered plants with distilled water; others have raised them in washed sand; nearly all have allowed free access to the air to them; many have analyzed, with a certain degree of care, the soil upon which they raised these plants; and nearly all have concluded, that the salts and earth which they found in them, and of which they could demonstrate neither the existence, nor even the quantity if found, in the different substances concurring to produce vegetation, must be the work of the plant. But does not the after disturbed atmosphere frequently change the salts, and the earths, which it deposits upon plants? Does not the dust which it carries, alight upon the upper surfaces of leaves and branches? Water, the best distilled, according to the experiments of Davy, contains some alkaline and earthy atoms.
Messrs. Schrade and Braconnot have published the results of their experiments, by which they have been led to believe, that salts and earths are created in the organs of plants; but M. Lassaigne has proved, that the salts and earths, contained in the developed plant, are the same as those that are found in the seeds from which they sprang. * M. Th. De Saussure, whose opinion upon these matters is of great weight, has proved that plants do not create any of these substances. - Besides, if the formation of certain salts be a power of the plant itself, why does not the salsola afford more marine salt when it grows at a distance from the sea? Why, under the same circumstances, does not the "tamarisk” furnish more sulphate of soda? And, finally, why does the turnsol remain destitute of salt-petre, if raised upon a soil which does not contain it?
Be this doctrine as it may, there are two practical truths which we do know; the first is, that certain salts enter, if I may so speak, as natural elements into the composition of some plants; since it is found that they languish in earths not containing those substances; and that the plants absorb them abundantly, when they are present.
The second is, that the salts ought always to be united with manures; the excellence of which is increased, provided it does not exceed the wants of the plants, and that the action be not too energetic.
I may add, that a plant absorbs, from preference, the salt most analogous to its nature. The salsola, which grows by the side of the tamarisk, sucks up from the earth marine salt; whilst the tamarisk imbibes from it the sulphate of soda. It is proved by the analysis of different kinds, that have been raised upon the same ground, that they do not furnish the same salts, or that, at least, they present a great difference in the qualities they contain, .
The salts are necessary to plants; they facilitate the action of their organs so much, that they are often employed without mixture.
Limestone submitted to the action of fire, loses the carbonic acid, which is one of its constituent principles, and the result is a whitish stone, opaque and sonorous, of a sharp and burning taste, absorbing water with noise and heat, and forming with it a paste, which is a perfect hydrate. Good limestone may be deprived of 50 per cent: of its weight by calcination, but it is seldom that the heat of the kilns is sufficient to deprive it of more than 35 to 40 per cent. when the carbonate is dry.
As soon as lime is exposed to the air, it absorbs moisture from it with great readiness; gradually cracking and breaking in pieces. It likewise absorbs the carbonic acid contained in the atmosphere, and is thus insensibly reduced to an impalpable powder.
In this manner, lime resumes the principle of which it has been deprived by calcination, and is reconstituted limestone, or calcareous carbonate, without regarding its solidity. In proportion as the decomposition goes on, the lime loses the properties which it had acquired from the action of fire; it ceases to be caustic, its solubility in water is diminished, and its affinity for that fluid becomes almost nothing.
The lime used in agriculture is that which has been slacked by air. Unslacked lime destroys vegetation, at least if it be not combined with manures which moderate its action, or with such bodies as can furnish enough carbonic acid to saturate it.
We are indebted to Davy for some experiments which throw a great light upon the action of lime upon vegetation. He has proved that the fibrous portion of plants, deprived of all the particles which can be dissolved by water, presents another series, soluble after having been for sometime emacreated with lime. Thus lime may be very efficaciously employed, when it is wished to convert dry wood or fibrous roots and stalks, to the nourishment of plants. Limestone broken, and lime completely restored to the state of a carbonate, do not produce this effect; it is necessary to employ lime slarked with water, and mixed with a fresh portion of that fluid, and the fibrous substances must remain for some time exposed to the action of solution. In the case of which I have just spoken, the lime renders soluble and suited to the nourishment of plants, some substances, which, in their natural state, do not possess this characteristic; and, for this purpose the use of it may be very advantageous. Thus, when it is desirable to convert ligneous and fibrous plants into manure, it may be done by treating them with lime.
If it be required to employ, as manure, some substances, whether animal or vegetable, which are by nature soluble in water, their mixture with lime forms new compounds of natures completely different from their constituent principles, but which may, in time, become very proper for the nutriment of plants; this requires some explanation.
The compounds formed by lime, with nearly all the soft animal or vegetable substances, which will combine with it, are insoluble in water; accordingly, lime destroys, or greatly diminishes the property of fermentation in the large part of them; but these same compounds, at length undergo a change from being exposed for a length of time to the constant action of air and water; the lime passing to the state of a carbonate, and the animal and vegetable substances being gradually decomposed, and furnishing new products capable of applying nourishment to plants; as that lime answers two great purposes for nutriment; first, it disposes certain insoluble bodies to form by their decomposition soluble compounds; and, secondly, it prolongs the action and nutritive virtue of some soft and insoluble animal and vegetable substances, beyond the term they would continue to act, if they were not made to enter into combination with lime.
Very striking instances of the facts, which I have just stated, may be found in some of the operations performed in various branches of manufactures. For instance, in the process of refining sugars to free them from the vegetable extract and albumen which they contain, the milk of lime is employed, which, combining with these substances, rises to the surface of the liquid in the form of a thick and insoluble scum; this, if carried immediately into the fields, destroys vegetation, but if deposited in a ditch during a year, it forms one of the most fertilizing manures with which I am acquainted. I have established this fact, by having employed, in this manner, during the period of a dozen years, the abundant foam arising from the sugar of beets in my manufactory.
THE OSAGE ORANGE TREE. The St. Louis, Mo. Gazette gives the following interesting description of this indigenous tree of Arkansas, called there bow-wood, and named by Nuttall the maclaura aurantica:
"The wood has the color of the Fustic of commerce, but has a a livelier yellow. It has apparently as much of coloring matter as the Fustic, and is used extensively for dying yellow in the lower country. It is used for bows by the Indians, being very firm and elastic. It has been used here for gun stocks; and for knobs for bureaus, bearing a close resemblance to satin wood. Being allied to the mulberry, it has been found a valuable substitute for it in feeding silk worms. It has been highly recommended for making hedges, being covered with thorns about three-fourths of an inch in length, which render a hedge composed of it impervious to man or beast-and it would doubtless be a valuable tree for hedges, on the prairies of Missouri and Mlinois. The fruit, when ripe, is yellow. At this time, it resembles an unripe lemon precisely, except that the skin is more deeply serrated. The fruit is solid throughout, and resembles a green melon or cucumber, having a scent and taste similar to the latter.
It has, in this city, a rapid growth, some of the present year being six or seven feet in length, and it may, we are told, be propagated by slips or cuttings.”
EGGS AND POULTRY. Among all nations, and throughout all grades of society, eggs have been a favorite food.-But in all our cities, and particularly in winter, they are held at such prices that few families can afford to use them at all; and even those who are in easy circumstances, consider them too expensive for common food.
There is no need of this. Every family or nearly every family, can with very little trouble, have eggs in plenty during the whole year; and of all the animals domesticated for the use of man, the common dung-hill fowl is capable of yielding the greatest possible profit to the owner. . In the month of November, I put apart eleven hens and cock, gave them a small chamber in a wood-house, defended from storms, and with an opening to the south. Their food, water and lime were placed on shelves convenient for them, with warm nests and chalk nest eggs in plenty. These hens continued to lay eggs through the winter. From these eleven hens I received an average of six eggs daily during the winter; and whenever any one of them was disposed to set, viz. as soon as she began to cluck, she was separated from the others by a grated partition, and her apartment darkened; these cluckers were well attended and well fed; they could see and partially associate through their grates with the other fowls, and as soon as any one of these prisoners began to sing, she was liberated, and would very soon lay eggs. It is a pleasant reereation to feed and tend a bevy of laying hens; they may be tamed so as to follow the children and will lay in any box. Egg shells contain lime, and in winter, when the earth is bound
with frost or covered with snow, if lime is not provided for them, they will not lay, or if they do, the eggs must of necessity be without shells. Old rubbish lime, from chimneys and old buildings, is proper, and only needs to be broken for them. They will often attempt to swallow pieces of lime plaster as large as walnuts.
I have often heard it said that wheat is the best grain for them, but I doubt it; they will sing over Indian corn with more animation than over any other grain. The singing hen will certainly lay eggs, if she finds all things agreeable to her; but the hen is mucha prude, as watchful as a weasel, and as fastidious as a hypocrite; she must, she will have secrecy and mystery about her nest; all eyes but her own must be averted; follow her or watch her, and she will forsake her nest, and stop laying; she is best pleased with a box covered at the top, with a backside aperture for light, and a side door by which she can escape unseen.
A farmer may keep a hundred fowls in his barn, may suffer them to trample upon and destroy his mows of wheat and other grains, and still have fewer eggs than the cottager who keeps a single dozen, who provides secret nests, chalk eggs, pounded brick, plenty of pounded lime, plenty of Indian corn, water and gravel for them; and who takes care that his hens are not disturbed about their nests.
Three chalk eggs in a nest are better than a single nest egg, and large eggs please them; I have often smiled to see them fondle round and lay into a nest of geese eggs. Pullets will commence laying earlier in life where nests and eggs are plenty, and where others are chuckling around them.
A dozen dung-hill fowls, shut up away from other means of obtaining food, will require something more than a quart of Indian corn a day; I think fifteen bushels a year a fair provision for them. But more or less, let them always have enough by them; and after they have became habituated to find enough, at all times a plenty in their little manger, they take but a few kernels at a time, except just before retiring to roost, when they will take nearly a spoonful in their crops: but just so sure as their provision comes to them scanted or irregularly, so sure they will raven up a whole crop full at a time, and will stop laying.
A single dozen fowls, properly attended, will furnish a family with more than 2,000 eggs in a year, and 100 full grown chickens for fall and winter stores. The expense of feeding the dozen fowls will not amount to eighteen bushels of Indian corn. They may be kept in cities as well as in the country, and will do as well shut up the year round as to run at large; and a grated room well lighted, 10 feet by 5, partitioned from any stable or other out-house, is sufficient for the dozen fowls, with their roosting places, nests and feeding troughs.
At the proper season, viz. in the spring of the year, five or six hens will hatch at the same time, and the fifty or sixty chickens given to one hen. Two hens will take care of 100 chickens well enough, until they begin to climb their little stick roosts: they should