Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Gardener's Calendar - March 1863

This is from Whitnash Parish Magazine, in 1863, and here is the section that begins March, and the gardening tasks. While England in 1863 had a predominantly urban population, most of the food was local, being the surplus grown by the rural community, from farmsteads and small villages and towns like Whitnash. Whitnash is a Parish in Leamington Spa, and I came across the magazines, bound, from a second hand bookshop that was closing down.

The Whitnash piece made me think how rural the parables of Jesus are - the sower, the shepherd, the vineyard, and how that rural theme continued in English hymnody, with such hymns as "We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land", and looking at the Whitnash notes for March, how much of that is present! I've also included a poem from the Magazine on March

The flood theme in the poem which follows is interesting. Contrary to what one might expect, by the 19th century, the age of the earth's lifespan was already generally considered longer that than the chronology devised by Archbishop Ussher of around 6,000 years, and increasing numbers of scholars, including educated clergy, would have probably taken the position of William Buckland, of "geological catastrophism".

The Reverend William Buckland, first Professor of Geology at Oxford University, had published in 1820 his "Vindiciae Geologiae; or the Connexion of Geology with Religion explained.", in which he - following both Augustine's arguments and the geological evidence for "deep time" - suggested a much greater lifespan for the earth:

Buckland set out the facts as he saw them, noting clear evidence for a universal deluge, and introducing the hypothesis that the word "beginning" as used in Genesis expressed an undefined period of time between the origin of the earth and the creation of its current inhabitants, a period during which a long series of revolutions had occurred with successive creations of new plant and animal groups.(1)

Following his careful excavations in Kirkdale Cave in Yorkshire, Buckland had noted fossil bones alien to contemporary England - elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, horse, ox, deer, hyaena, tiger, bear, wolf, fox, rodents and birds. Previous explanations had assumed these had been swept across the globe by a universal catastrophic flood, but Buckland came to quite a different conclusion in his 1823 "Reliquiae Diluvianae, or, Observations on the Organic Remains attesting the Action of a Universal Deluge"

the great quantity of hyaena remains and the splintered state of all the bones pointed to a quite different conclusion - that the cave had actually been inhabited by hyaenas in antediluvian times, the effect of the Flood being no more than to cover bones already present with a layer of mud. (1)

In 1837, with Adam Sedgwick and Charles Lyell, he prepared a report that initiated the Geological Survey of Great Britain, and in 1838, he broke away from the theory of the universal flood, meeting Louis Agassiz in Switzerland and examining  for himself the polished and striated rocks and transported material that Agassiz had attributed to the agency of ancient glaciers, as an alternate explanation.

Whitnash Parish Magazine - March 1863

In March comes the spring ; sometimes quietly enough, and sometimes heralding his arrival with much boisterous music. Most of the lambs that we see sporting in the meadows during the summer months, come into the world in March, and it is an anxious season for the shepherd and the breeder of flocks. The husbandman has abundance of work on his hands: the plough is turning up the glebe on the bill-sides ; the hedger is plashing and trimming the fence; the sower is dibbling in the grain ; and you may hear the thud of the woodman's axe sounding in the copse.

As you walk along the green lanes you may gather the primroses in bunches, and are guided by its rich fragrance to the hiding-place of the March violet. The tops of the distant woods are purple with the multitudes of small buds which here long will burst into small leaves, and high above them you may see the lark quivering in the clear sky, and hear him, for the first time this year, pouring forth his song.

Our native birds are now generally pairing, and those who visited us for the winter are beginning to move off. In March the first of the butterflies makes his appearance.

THE GARDEN.-Sow cauliflowers for summer use, radishes, lettuces, cress, parsley, leeks, and spinach. Plant potatoes, and sow main crop of carrots. A small sowing of turnips may now be made for a summer crop, and when the young leaves appear, dust them with lime. Give growing plants in frames more air, light, and water. Plant Windsor beans in succession, and sow additional crops of peas. Sow celery, cucumbers, vegetable-marrows, tomatoes, and gourds in a hot-bed. Take cuttings of chrysanthemums. Prune rose-trees, cutting away about two-thirds of every shoot; but China roses should only be thinned. Sow mignonette and other hardy annuals in the open ground. Keep down weeds everywhere. Propagate dahlias, salvias, verbenas, and scarlet geraniums. Plant out pinks and carnations.

As a concluding piece of advice, let all digging, leveling down, sowing, &c., be performed when the soil is very dry. No crop can be counted secure which is got in while the ground is wet; besides, such involves double the amount of after-labor. Let the allotment-holder make up his mind to give no quarter to weeds, and to be in earnest he must. make an early start. No manures should be left uncovered after the beginning of March. If any is wheeled out and not spread or dug, let a thin covering of soil be put over it, smoothing the surface to keep out the rain.


As when of old, the water floods assuaging,
God sent a gracious wind to dry the earth ;
So, when the gales of March are wildly raging,
Let us remember Him who gives them birth.
Before His breath see mist and vapour flying,
The moistened earth again his power shall know
God's promise of a seed-time never dying ;
Now be it ours the precious seed to sow !

Labour of love ! the tiny grain bestowing,
To see it spring again a summer flower;
To watch each leaf expand, each blossom blowing,
Warmed by the sun and nurtured by the shower ;
To find the dainty mignonette a dwelling,
To bid the sweet pea's tendrils linger there,
To plant the hollyhock in grace excelling,
And find a home for every flow'ret fair.

Hope sows the seed ; and patience, duly waiting,
Expects the early and the latter rain ;
Waits till the breath of April, life creating,
Shall teach us that our work was not in vain :
Patience and hope, almighty in their power,
And never weary in their daily task,
Point us to Him who rules the varying hour,
And bid us only for His blessing ask.


No comments: