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their supplies of flax from Europe; and the prices paid for it, including the cost of transportation, duties, etc., makes the material pretty expensive before it reaches their hands; the question, therefore, arises, whether flax would not be much less expensive as a home product. There can be no doubt that it would—and great sums would be added to the present profits of flax-growing, which are only based upon the yields of flax-seed.
It is thought by some, that the growth of flax is injurious to the soil; but the experience of those who have paid complete and long attention to it, entirely contradicts this.
The soil best adapted to flax, is a rich, alluvial, or sandy loam, or a loose marl, neither too wet nor too dry. Upon poor, wet, or gravelly soils, it will not succeed, and manure should be applied on land of an inferior kind. Good wheat land will also be good for flax; soils of medium quality are best suited to its growth.
The ploughing should be done in fall, and the land be well drained, and repeatedly and carefully cleansed from weeds. In the spring the cultivator may be passed over the land to the depth of four or five inches; a light harrow may then be run over it. Then the land should be rolled and harrowed, to make a fine surface for the reception of the seed, and a firm and compact bottom.
The expense of preparing grass land directly for flax, may sometimes be too great, and it is therefore desirable that some other crop should intervene, of plants such as do not occupy the land long, and which during their growth want frequent stirring; such plants as beans, peas, &c., because the repeated stirring renders the mould soft and loose, and at the same time destroys the weeds which would otherwise do much damage to the flax.
The seed may be sown any time between the middle of April, and the middle of June; later sowing is not to be recommended, as the crop always blossoms in the month of July, and if sown later, the plant is short, and the fibre soft and brittle. The seed should be spread evenly, and, if possible, in moist weather.
The roots penetrate downward about half the length of the stem; and a scil of the above description, loose and loamy, should therefore be chosen for the cultivation of flax; a soil which is not liable, either to contain too much moisture, or to be too dry, but is capable of being
well tilled, answers the purpose best. With regard to the choice of seed, it should be of a bright, brownish color, oily to the feel, and at the same time heavy. The seed from Holland not only ripens sooner, but it also yields more fibre than most others. American seed produces a common fine flax.
The quantity of seed required per acre is from two, to two and a half bushels, when sown broadcast. It may, however, be added, that with regard to the quantity of seed, much depends upon the quality of the soil, and also on the weather; for if too much seed is sown on rich and fertile land, the crop is in danger of lodging.
If the cultivation is performed in a proper manner, an acre of good soil will readily produce 20 bushels of this seed, which is worth from $1 50 to $2 per bushel, according to the quality.
In regard to the preparation of the flax, the following is to be observed: If we take straw, break it, and carefully examine it, it will be found to consist of three distinct parts; the centre is occupied by a sort of cellular tissue, having the appearance of wood; this is usually called the "shave," or "bean;" it is composed of bundles of long and tough fibres, the whole enveloped by a thin and delicate bark or skin.
The first process is called the "steeping," or "dew-rotting;" in this, the straw is spread on the grass, and carefully watered, sufficient moisture being supplied to support the action of fermentation in the tissues of the plant. This method, however, is very tedious, and requires several weeks for completion. The usual method is to immerse the straw, either in tanks or pits, constructed for the purpose, or in slowly-running streams. In a few days, a scum appears on the surface of the water, and is succeeded by the evolution of gaseous bubbles, arising from the decomposition, which is now actively at work.
Great care must then be taken to prevent this from proceeding too far, and effecting injury to the quality of the fibrous portion; it must be constantly watched, and removed as soon as the desired end has been attained. This is known immediately by a person of experience, from the manner in which the fibre separates from the straw, in breaking a portion of the stalk. Great judgment is required in determining the proper time for drawing the flax from the steep;—if the process has not been carried far enough, the fibre is coarse, and can only be used for the manufacture of the common goods.
The temperature of the steep is kept between 80 and 90 degrees.
This corn is not very extensively cultivated, as yet, in the State, but the usefulness of it makes it a subject worth mentioning, as it may be cultivated in localities adapted for it. Mr. Beebe, a farmer near Platteville, Illinois, is known to have cultivated this corn for about three years, raising, however, but a small quantity, until last year, when he planted about 12 acres, and obtained an excellent crop. The soil best adapted for it seems to be the broken sod of an old prairie or pasture. Any soil which will serve for the cultivation of Indian corn, is equally adapted for Broom corn. It is not necessary to apply manure if the soil is but of a middling quality. Broom corn is considered to be a crop which will hardly fail, if it is not sown too late. The soil is prepared almost in the same manner as for Indian corn, but should be tilled a little more with the roller and cultivator, because the seed is smaller, requiring a more loosened soil for sprouting. The ridges are laid about three and a half feet distant from each other, so that the sun's rays may penetrate to the roots; the hills 18 inches apart; and from 10 to 12 kernels are taken for each hill. It is best to plant as early as the season will permit. As soon as the corn is grown high enough to distinguish the rows, it is worked with the cultivator and the hoe, not leaving more than four or five stalks to a hill; the hoeing is usually performed twice.
There are two methods of harvesting, the one is, to cut the stalks as soon as they are ripe, to bring them to the barn, remove the seed, and place the stalks on planks for drying. In this manner the stalks preserve their original bright color, and the brooms bring a higher price. The other method is to let the crop stand until the seed is perfectly ripened, then to cut it and spread it on the field for two or three days, to get dry; it is then taken to the barn and put on scaffoldings, for thorough drying, in such a manner as to allow the air to pass freely over it, and to prevent its rotting. By following this latter method, from 30 to 50 bushels of good seed per acre are obtained, which are equal in value to the same quantity of oats, for feeding poultry, cows, sheep, etc. The average yield is about 400 brooms per acre—100 pounds of good brush make about 70 medium sized brooms.
The brush of Mr. Beebe's Broom corn crop, of last year, was of the
finest order; and he was engaged during the fall in manufacturing brooms. He intends to build larger shops, and carry on the business on a more extensive scale. He is ready to furnish seed, and will purchase, next fall, all good Broom corn which may be offered him. It is beyond any doubt, that the raising of this corn, will soon prove very profitable for the farmers in this State, as well as for those who are engaged in the manufacture of brooms made of this domestic material About one peck of seed is required per acre.
This seems to be a variety of the so-called "millet corn," and as it may, perhaps, be little known as yet, I take this opportunity of presenting to the reader the information that was given to me with regard to this corn, by Mr. Feussner, in St. Clair County, Illinois; he says: “I raise a plant for my household use, which seems to be a variety of millet, having a black seed. The right name of it I have not been able to find—we call it "chocolate corn,” a name which may be derived partly from the way in which it is used, and partly from the manner of its cultivation. We use it as a very delicious substitute for coffee; and it sometimes also serves us as a savory dish at our meals. It is easy of digestion, and tastes precisely like weak chocolate, and even resembles it in color. It is sown in the beginning of May; it ripens about the beginning of September, and is not affected by light night-frosts. This plant is cultivated like Indian corn or potatoes; the seed, if sown, is covered but one inch high. The hills are to be kept apart a distance of three or four feet, and from five to seven plants are left to each hill.
"The preparation of a beverage from this corn, is accomplished in the following manner :
"We want for our table four pints of chocolate; we take one and a half ears, nearly filling the funnel of our coffee-mill, which is about 44 inches wide, and 12 inches high, and grind the kernels a little fine; having proceeded thus far, we mix the ground substance with two pints of water, and boil it until the starch contained in it forms into a lump, the liquid is then passed, to separate it from the grains, through a fine wire sieve, or tin colander; two pints of sweet milk, from which the cream has been skimmed, and a good tablespoonful of common
powdered sugar, and a little cinnamon are then added to the decoction; it is now boiled once more, and a most delicious beverage, which is scarcely distinguishable from light chocolate, is ready for use. If you wish to improve it still further, you may add an egg, and a little nutmeg."
If this corn could gradually be brought to serve as a substitute for coffee, considerable sums which are every year paid for this latter article would be saved.
CHINESE YAM. (Dioscorea Batatas.)
This tuber has not been cultivated, as yet, in the State; but as it can be raised in Illinois, we think it a duty to call the attention of the farmers and settlers to it.
From a report made by the agricultural division of the Patent Of fice, it appears that this variety of tuber has lately been introduced into the United States, for experiment.`
The method of cultivation as adopted by the Chinese, appears to be easy and simple.
"In the autumn, they select the smallest tubers, preserving them from injury by frost, by covering them in a pit with earth and straw. The spring succeeding they plant them near each other, in a trench, in well prepared soil. When they have put forth shoots, one or two yards in length, the joints and leaves, containing the buds, are cut off and planted for reproduction. For this purpose, they form the ground into ridges, on the top of which a shallow trench is made with the hand, or some suitable implement, in which these joints are planted, covered slightly with finely pulverized earth, with the leaves rising just to the surface. Should it rain the same day, they shoot immediately; if not, they must be gently watered, until they do so. In fifteen or twenty days, they give birth to new tubers and stalks, the latter of which it is necessary to remove from time to time, to prevent them from taking root on the sides, and thus injuring the development of the tubers already formed."
By the report of the gentleman to whom the yam was sent for experiment, we learn that it is growing finely, promises an abundant yield, and appears to be well adapted to the soil and climate.
Another communication, received from a gentleman in the State of