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15 DE S
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u zme urn e ca si s goe-boeke in na in zayi mmis inery joe Landrat mi 1.67 3* TIL Firmen ver RTEr de about the min. ui e n os ass ragus proceeded u s e ni se krets gas firing-houses hea t Fia, vti le ris one of the int to intacize sa Bacood He i not take so much Fiestre is E. Fers ss is friss is one of the county autizstral meetings he si i tha: he intended yes to grow pineapples at Tafton as big as pumpkins. The only man to
whom he would “knock under ” was his friend Paxton, the gardener to the Duke of Devonshire; and he was so old in the service, and so skilful, that he could scarcely hope to beat him. Yet his “ Queen” pines did take the first prize at a competition with the duke, — though this was not until shortly after his death, when the plants had become more fully grown. His grapes also recently took the first prize at Rotherham, at a competition open to all England. He was extremely successful in producing melons, having invented a method of suspending them in baskets of wire gauze, which, by relieving the stalk from tension, allowed nutrition to proceed more freely, and better enabled the fruit to grow and ripen. Amongst his other erections, he built a joiner's shop, where he kept a workınan regularly employed in carrying out his many ingenious contrivances of this sort.
He took much pride also in his growth of cucumbers. He raised them very fine and large, but he could not make them grow straight. Place them as he would, notwithstanding all his propping of them, and humouring them by modifying the application of heat and the admission of light for the purpose of effecting his object, they would still insist on growing crooked in their own way. At last he had a number of glass cylinders made at Newcastle, for the purpose of an experiment; into these the growing cucumbers were inserted, and then he succeeded in growing them perfectly straight. Carrying one of the new products into his house one day, and exhibiting it to a party of visitors, he told them of the expedient he had adopted, and added gleefully, “I think I have bothered them noo ! ”
Mr. Stephenson also carried on farming operations with some success. He experimented on manure, and fed cattle after methods of his own. He was very particular as to breed and build in stock-breeding. “You see, sir,” he said to one gentleman, “I like to see the coo's back at a gradient some
thing like this ” (drawing an imaginary line with his hand), “ and then the ribs or girders will carry more flesh than if they were so, or so.” When he attended the county agricultural meetings, which he frequently did, he was accustomed to take part in the discussions, and he brought the same vigorous practical mind to bear upon questions of tillage, drainage, and farm economy, which he had been accustomed to exercise on mechanical and engineering matters. At one of the meetings of the North Derbyshire Agricultural Society, he favoured the assembled farmers with an explanation of his theory of vegetation. The practical conclusion to which it led was, that the agriculturist ought to give as much light and heat to the soil as possible. At the same time he stated his opinion that, in some cold soils, water contributed to promote vegetation, rather than to impede it as was generally believed; for the water, being exposed to the sun and atmosphere, became specifically warmer than the earth it covered, and when it afterwards irrigated the fields, it communicated this additional heat to the soil which it permeated.
All his early affection for birds and animals revived. He had favourite dogs, and cows, and horses; and again he began to keep rabbits, and to pride himself on the beauty of his breed. There was not a bird's nest upon the grounds that he did not know of; and from day to day he went round watching the progress which the birds made with their building, carefully guarding them from injury. No one was more minutely acquainted with the habits of British birds, the result of a long, loving, and close observation of nature.
At Tapton he remembered the failure of his early experiment in hatching birds' eggs by heat, and he now performed it successfully, being able to secure a proper apparatus for maintaining a uniform temperature. He was also curious about the breeding and fattening of fowls; and when bis friend Edward Pease of Darlington visited him at Tapton,
he explained a method which he had invented for fattening chickens in half the usual time. The chickens were shut up in boxes, which were so made as to exclude the light. Dividing the day into two or three parts, the birds were shut up at each period after a heavy feed, and went to sleep. The plan proved very successful, and Mr. Stephenson jocularly said that if he were to devote himself to chickens he could soon make a little fortune.
Mrs. Stephenson tried to keep bees, but found they would not thrive at Tapton. Many hives perished, and there was no case of success. The cause of failure was a puzzle to Mr. Stephenson; but one day his acute powers of observation enabled him to unravel it. At the foot of the hill on which Tapton House stands, he saw some bees trying to rise up from amongst the grass, laden with honey and wax. They were already exhausted, as if with long flying; and then it occurred to him that the height at which the house stood above the bees' feeding-ground rendered it difficult for them to reach their hives when heavy laden, and hence they sank exhausted. Mr. Stephenson afterwards stated the case to Mr. Jesse the naturalist, who concurred in his view as to the cause of failure, and was much struck by the keen observation which had led to its solution.
Mr. Stephenson had none of the in-doors habits of the student. He read very little; for reading is a habit which is generally acquired in youth; and his youth and manhood had been for the most part spent in hard work. Books wearied him, and sent him to sleep. Novels excited his feelings too much, and he avoided them, though he would occasionally read through a philosophical book on a subject in which he felt particularly interested. He wrote very few letters with his own hand; nearly all his letters were dictated, and he avoided even dictation when he could. His greatest pleasure was in conversation, from which he gathered most of his
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