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- Farmers of Forty Centuries - 20/48 -


and everything but the tea had to be negotiated with chop sticks, or, these failing, with the fingers. When the meal was finished the table was cleared and water, hot if desired, was brought for your hand basin, which with tea, teacup and bedding, constitute part of the traveler's outfit. At frequent intervals, up to ten P. M., a crier walked about the deck with hot water for those who might desire an extra cup of tea, and again in the early morning.

At this season of the year Chinese incubators were being run to their full capacity and it was our good fortune to visit one of these, escorted by Rev. R. A. Haden, who also acted as interpreter. The art of incubation is very old and very extensively practiced in China. An interior view of one of these establishments is shown in Fig. 96, where the family were hatching the eggs of hens, ducks and geese, purchasing the eggs and selling the young as hatched. As in the case of so many trades in China, this family was the last generation of a long line whose lives had been spent in the same work. We entered through their store, opening on the street of the narrow village seen in Fig. 10. In the store the eggs were purchased and the chicks were sold, this work being in charge of the women of the family. It was in the extreme rear of the home that thirty incubators were installed, all doing duty and each having a capacity of 1,200 hens' eggs. Four of these may be seen in the illustration and one of the baskets which, when two-thirds filled with eggs, is set inside of each incubator.

Each incubator consists of a large earthenware jar having a door cut in one side through which live charcoal may be introduced and the fire partly smothered under a layer of ashes, this serving as the source of heat. The jar is thoroughly insulated, cased in basketwork and provided with a cover, as seen in the illustration. Inside the outer jar rests a second of nearly the same size, as one teacup may in another. Into this is lowered the large basket with its 600 hens' eggs, 400 ducks' eggs or 175 geese' eggs, as the case may be. Thirty of these incubators were arranged in two parallel rows of fifteen each. Immediately above each row, and utilizing the warmth of the air rising from them, was a continuous line of finishing hatchers and brooders in the form of woven shallow trays with sides warmly padded with cotton and with the tops covered with sets of quilts of different thickness.

After a basket of hens' eggs has been incubated four days it is removed and the eggs examined by lighting, to remove those which are infertile before they have been rendered unsalable. The infertile eggs go to the store and the basket is returned to the incubator. Ducks' eggs are similarly examined after two days and again after five days incubation; and geese' eggs after six days and again after fourteen days. Through these precautions practically all loss from infertile eggs is avoided and from 95 to 98 per cent of the fertile eggs are hatched, the infertile eggs ranging from 5 to 25 per cent.

After the fourth day in the incubator all eggs are turned five times in twenty-four hours. Hens' eggs are kept in the lower incubator eleven days; ducks' eggs thirteen days, and geese' eggs sixteen days, after which they are transferred to the trays. Throughout the incubation period the most careful watch and control is kept over the temperature. No thermometer is used but the operator raises the lid or quilt, removes an egg, pressing the large end into the eye socket. In this way a large contact is made where the skin is sensitive, nearly constant in temperature, but little below blood heat and from which the air is excluded for the time. Long practice permits them thus to judge small differences of temperature expeditiously and with great accuracy; and they maintain different temperatures during different stages of the incubation. The men sleep in the room and some one is on duty continuously, making the rounds of the incubators and brooders, examining and regulating each according to its individual needs, through the management of the doors or the shifting of the quilts over the eggs in the brooder trays where the chicks leave the eggs and remain until they go to the store. In the finishing trays the eggs form rather more than one continuous layer but the second layer does not cover more than a fifth or a quarter of the area. Hens' eggs are in these trays ten days, ducks' and geese' eggs, fourteen days.

After the chickens have been hatched sufficiently long to require feeding they are ready for market and are then sorted according to sex and placed in separate shallow woven trays thirty inches in diameter. The sorting is done rapidly and accurately through the sense of touch, the operator recognizing the sex by gently pinching the anus. Four trays of young chickens were in the store fronting on the street as we entered and several women were making purchases, taking five to a dozen each. Dr. Haden informed me that nearly every family in the cities, and in the country villages raise a few, but only a few, chickens and it is a common sight to see grown chickens walking about the narrow streets, in and out of the open stores, dodging the feet of the occupants and passers-by. At the time of our visit this family was paying at the rate of ten cents, Mexican, for nine hens' and eight ducks' eggs, and were selling their largest strong chickens at three cents each. These figures, translated into our currency, make the purchase price for eggs nearly 48 cents, and the selling price for the young chicks $1.29, per hundred, or thirteen eggs for six cents and seven chickens for nine cents.

It is difficult even to conceive, not to say measure, the vast import of this solution of how to maintain, in the millions of homes, a constantly accessible supply of absolutely fresh and thoroughly sanitary animal food in the form of meat and eggs. The great density of population in these countries makes the problem of supplying eggs to the people very different from that in the United States. Our 250,600,000 fowl in 1900 was at the rate of three to each person but in Japan, with her 16,500,000 fowl, she had in 1906 but one for every three people. Her number per square mile of cultivated land however was 825, while in the United States, in 1900, the number of fowls per square mile of improved farm land was but 387. To give to Japan three fowls to each person there would needs be an average of about nine to each acre of her cultivated land, whereas in the United States there were in 1900 nearly two acres of improved farm land for each fowl. We have no statistics regarding the number of fowl in China or the number of eggs produced but the total is very large and she exports to Japan. The large boat load of eggs seen in Fig. 97 had just arrived from the country, coming into Shanghai in one of her canals.

Besides applying canal mud directly to the fields in the ways described there are other very extensive practices of composting it with organic matter of one or another kind and of then using the compost on the fields. The next three illustrations show some of the steps and something of the tremendous labor of body, willingly and cheerfully incurred, and something of the forethought practiced, that homes may be maintained and that grandparents, parents, wives and children need neither starve nor beg. We had reached a place seen in Fig. 98, where eight bearers were moving winter compost to a recently excavated pit in an adjoining field shown in Fig. 99.

Four months before the camera fixed the activity shown, men had brought waste from the stables of Shanghai fifteen miles by water, depositing it upon the canal bank between layers of thin mud dipped from the canal, and left it to ferment. The eight men were removing this compost to the pit seen in Fig. 99, then nearly filled. Near by in the same field was a second pit seen in Fig. 100, excavated three feet deep and rimmed about with the earth removed, making it two feet deeper.

After these pits had been filled the clover which was in blossom beyond the pits would be cut and stacked upon them to a height of five to eight feet and this also saturated, layer by layer, with mud brought from the canal, and allowed to ferment twenty to thirty days until the juices set free had been absorbed by the winter compost beneath, helping to carry the ripening of that still further, and until the time had arrived for fitting the ground for the next crop. This organic matter, fermented with the canal mud, would then be distributed by the men over the field, carried a third time on their shoulders, notwithstanding its weight was many tons.

This manure had been collected, loaded and carried fifteen miles by water; it had been unloaded upon the bank and saturated with canal mud; the field had been fitted for clover the previous fall and seeded; the pits had been dug in the fields; the winter compost had been carried and placed in the pits; the clover was to be cut, carried by the men on their shoulders, stacked layer by layer and saturated with mud dipped from the canal; the whole would later be distributed over the field and finally the earth removed from the pits would be returned to them, that the service of no ground upon which a crop might grow should be lost.

Such are the tasks to which Chinese farmers hold themselves, because they are convinced desired results will follow, because their holdings are so small and their families so large. These practices are so extensive in China and so fundamental in the part they play in the maintenance of high productive power in their soils that we made special effort to follow them through different phases. In Fig. 101 we saw the preparation being made to build one of the clover compost stacks saturated with canal mud. On the left the thin mud had been dipped from the canal; way-farers in the center were crossing the foot-bridge of the country by-way; and beyond rises the conical thatch to shelter the water buffalo when pumping for irrigating the rice crop to be fed with this plant food in preparation. On the right were two large piles of green clover freshly cut and a woman of the family at one of them was spreading it to receive the mud, while the men-folk were coming from the field with more clover on their carrying poles. We came upon this scene just before the dinner hour and after the workers had left another photograph was taken at closer range and from a different side, giving the view seen in Fig. 102. The mud had been removed some days and become too stiff to spread, so water was being brought from the canal in the pails at the right for reducing its consistency to that of a thin porridge, permitting it to more completely smear and saturate the clover. The stack grew, layer by layer, each saturated with the mud, tramped solid with the bare feet, trousers rolled high. Provision had been made here for building four other stacks.

Further along we came upon the scene in Fig. 103 where the building of the stack of compost and the gathering of the mud from the canal were simultaneous. On one side of the canal the son, using a clam-shell form of dipper made of basket-work, which could be opened and shut with a pair of bamboo handles, had nearly filled the middle section of his boat with the thin ooze, while on the other side, against the stack which was building, the mother was emptying a similar boat, using a large dipper, also provided with a bamboo handle. The man on the stack is a good scale for judging its size.

We came next upon a finished stack on the bank of another canal, shown in Fig. 104, where our umbrella was set to serve as a scale. This stack measured ten by ten feet on the ground, was six feet high and must have contained more than twenty tons of the green compost. At the same place, two other stacks had been started, each about fourteen by fourteen feet, and foundations were laid for six others, nine in all.

During twenty or more days this green nitrogenous organic matter is


Farmers of Forty Centuries - 20/48

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