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- Success With Small Fruits - 3/57 -


become open ones. I shall conduct the reader to all the "good places," and name the good things I have discovered in half a lifetime of research. I would, therefore, modestly hint to the practical reader-- to whom "time is money," who has an eye to the fruit only, and with whom the question of outlay and return is ever uppermost--that he may, after all, find it to his advantage to go with us. While we stop to gather a flower, listen to a brook or bird, or go out of our way occasionally to get a view, he can jog on, meeting us at every point where we "mean business." These points shall occur so often that he will not lose as much time as he imagines, and I think he will find my business talks business-like--quite as practical as he desires.

To come down to the plainest of plain prose, I am not a theorist on these subjects, nor do I dabble in small fruits as a rich and fanciful amateur, to whom it is a matter of indifference whether his strawberries cost five cents or a dollar a quart. As a farmer, milk must be less expensive than champagne. I could not afford a fruit farm at all if it did not more than pay its way, and in order to win the confidence of the "solid men," who want no "gush" or side sentiment, even though nature suggests some warrant for it, I will give a bit of personal experience. Five years since, I bought a farm of twenty-three acres that for several years had. been rented, depleted, and suffered to run wild. Thickets of brushwood extended from the fences well into the fields, and in a notable instance across the entire place. One portion was so stony that it could not be plowed; another so wet and sour that even grass would not grow upon it; a third portion was not only swampy, but liable to be overwhelmed with stones and gravel twice a year by the sudden rising of a mountain stream. There was no fruit on the place except apples and a very few pears and grapes. Nearly all of the land, as I found it, was too impoverished to produce a decent crop of strawberries. The location of the place, moreover, made it very expensive--it cost $19,000; and yet during the third year of occupancy the income from this place approached very nearly to the outlay, and in 1878, during which my most expensive improvements were made, in the way of draining, taking out stones, etc., the income paid for these improvements, for current expenses, and gave a surplus of over $1,800. In 1879, the net income was considerably larger. In order that these statements may not mislead any one, I will add that in my judgment only the combined business of plants and fruit would warrant such expenses as I have incurred. My farm is almost in the midst of a village, and the buildings upon it greatly increased its cost. Those who propose to raise and sell fruit only should not burden themselves with high-priced land. Farms, even on the Hudson, can be bought at quite moderate prices at a mile or more away from centres, and yet within easy reach of landings and railroad depots.

Mr. Charles Downing, whose opinions on all horticultural questions are so justly valued, remarked to me that no other fruit was so affected by varying soils and climates as the strawberry. I have come to the conclusion that soil, locality, and climate make such vast differences that unless these variations are carefully studied and indicated, books will mislead more people than they help. A man may write a treatise admirably adapted to his own farm; but if one living a thousand, a hundred, or even one mile away, followed the same method, he might almost utterly fail. While certain general and foundation principles apply to the cultivation of each genus of fruit, important modifications and, in some instances, almost radical changes of method must be made in view of the varied conditions in which it is grown.

It is even more important to know what varieties are best adapted to different localities and soils. While no experienced and candid authority will speak confidently and precisely on this point, much very useful information and suggestion may be given by one who, instead of theorizing, observes, questions, and records facts as they are. The most profitable strawberry of the far South will produce scarcely any fruit in the North, although the plant grows well; and some of our best raspberries cannot even exist in a hot climate or upon very light soils. In the preparation of this book it has been my aim to study these conditions, that I might give advice useful in Florida and Canada, New York and California, as well as at Cornwall. I have maintained an extensive correspondence with practical fruit growers in all sections, and have read with care contributions to the horticultural press from widely separated localities. Not content with this, I have visited in person the great fruit-growing centres of New Jersey, Norfolk and Richmond, Va.; Charleston, S. C.; Augusta and Savannah, Ga,; and several points in Florida. Thus, from actual observation and full, free conversation, I have familiarized myself with both the Northern and Southern aspects of this industry, while my correspondence from the far West, Southwest, and California will, I hope, enable me to aid the novice in those regions also.

I know in advance that my book will contain many and varied faults, but I intend that it shall be an expression of honest opinion. I do not like "foxy grapes" nor foxy words about them.

CHAPTER II

THE FRUIT GARDEN

_Raison d'etre_

Small fruits, to people who live in the country, are like heaven-- objects of universal desire and very general neglect. Indeed, in a land so peculiarly adapted to their cultivation, it is difficult to account for this neglect if you admit the premise that Americans are civilized and intellectual. It is the trait of a savage and inferior race to devour .with immense gusto a delicious morsel, and then trust to luck for another. People who would turn away from a dish of "Monarch" strawberries, with their plump pink cheeks powdered with sugar, or from a plate of melting raspberries and cream, would be regarded as so eccentric as to suggest an asylum; but the number of professedly intelligent and moral folk who ignore the simple means of enjoying the ambrosial viands daily, for weeks together, is so large as to shake one's confidence in human nature. A well-maintained fruit garden is a comparatively rare adjunct of even stylish and pretentious homes. In June, of all months, in sultry July and August, there arises from innumerable country breakfast tables the pungent odor of a meat into which the devils went but out of which there is no proof they ever came. From the garden under the windows might have been gathered fruits whose aroma would have tempted spirits of the air. The cabbage- patch may be seen afar, but too often the strawberry-bed even if it exists is hidden by weeds, and the later small fruits struggle for bare life in some neglected corner. Indeed, an excursion into certain parts of Hew England might suggest that many of its thrifty citizens would not have been content in Eden until they had put its best land into onions and tobacco. Through the superb scenery of Vermont there flows a river whose name, one might think, would secure an unfailing tide from the eyes of the inhabitants. The Alpine strawberry grows wild in all that region, but the puritan smacked his lips over another gift of nature and named the romantic stream in its honor. To account for certain tastes or tendencies, mankind must certainly have fallen a little way, or, if Mr. Darwin's view is correct, and we are on a slight up-grade, a dreadful hitch and tendency to backslide has been apparent at a certain point ever since the Hebrews sighed for the "leeks and onions of Egypt."

Of course, there is little hope for the rural soul that "loathes" the light manna of small fruits. We must leave it to evolution for another cycle or two. But, as already indicated, we believe that humanity in the main has reached a point where its internal organs highly approve of the delicious group of fruits that strayed out of Paradise, and have not yet lost themselves among the "thorns and thistles." Indeed, modern skill--the alchemy of our age--has wrought such wonders that Eden is possible again to all who will take the trouble to form Eden- like tastes and capacities.

The number who are doing this is increasing every year, The large demand for literature relating to out-of-door life, horticultural journals, like the fruits of which they treat, flourishing in regions new and remote, are proof of this. The business of supplying fruit- trees, plants, and even flowers, is becoming a vast industry. I have been informed that one enterprising firm annually spends thousands in advertising roses only.

But while we welcome the evidences that so many are ceasing to be bucolic heathen, much observation has shown that the need of further enlightenment is large indeed. It is depressing to think of the number of homes about which fruits are conspicuous only by their absence-- homes of every class, from the laborer's cottage and pioneer's cabin to the suburban palace. Living without books and pictures is only a little worse than living in the country without fruits and flowers. We must respect to some extent the old ascetics, who, in obedience to mistaken ideas of duty, deprived themselves of the good things God provided, even while we recognize the stupidity of such a course. Little children are rarely so lacking in sense as to try to please their father by contemptuously turning away from his best gifts, or by treating them with indifference. Why do millions live in the country, year after year, raising weeds and brambles, or a few coarse vegetables, when the choicest fruits would grow almost as readily? They can plead no perverted sense of duty.

It is a question hard to answer. Some, perhaps, have the delusion that fine small fruits are as difficult to raise as orchids. They class them with hot-house grapes. Others think they need so little attention that they can stick a few plants in hard, poor ground and leave them to their fate. One might as well try to raise canary-birds and kittens together as strawberries and weeds. There is a large class who believe in small fruits, and know their value. They enjoy them amazingly at a friend's table, and even buy some when they are cheap., A little greater outlay and a little intelligent effort would give them an abundant supply from their own grounds. In a vague way they are aware of this, and reproach themselves for their negligence, but time passes and there is no change for the better. Why? I don't know. There are men who rarely kiss their wives and children. For them the birds sing unheeded and even unheard; flowers become mere objects, and sunsets suggest only "quitting time." In theory they believe in all these things. What can be said of them save that they simply jog on to-day as they did yesterday, ever dimly hoping at some time or other "to live up to their privileges"? But they usually go on from bad to worse, until, like their neglected strawberry-beds, they are "turned under."

In cities not a hundred miles from my farm there are abodes of wealth with spacious grounds, where, in many instances, scarcely any place is found for small fruits. "It is cheaper and easier to buy them," it is said. This is a sorry proof of civilization. There is no economy in the barbaric splendor of brass buttons and livery, but merely a little trouble (I doubt about money) is saved on the choicest luxuries of the year. The idea of going out of their rural paradises to buy half-stale fruit! But this class is largely at the mercy of the "hired man," or his more disagreeable development, the pretentious smatterer, who, so far from possessing the knowledge that the English, Scotch, or German gardeners acquire in their long, thorough training, is a compound of ignorance and prejudice. To hide his barrenness of mind he gives his soul to rare plants, clipped lawns, but stints the family in all


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