Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Gardener's Calendar - July 1863

This is from Whitnash Parish Magazine, in 1863, and here is the section that begins July, and the gardening tasks.

The opening paragraph of this section might well lends its way to some kind of "Carry On" film innuendo, because of the way in which the words have changed their meanings - "This month is usually that in which we make hay ; and all the circumstances of haymaking make up a sort of rural festival. The mowing of the grass, the turning, the tossing, the cocking, the carrying, and the stacking of the hay area. bright. cheerful work, and give occasion for gay frolic and merry intercourse" 

Tackling one of the words: "Cocking" in this context is actually a noun or adjective, and refers to hay.

It is first mentioned in 1579 where Edmund Spenser in his "Shepheardes Calendar" talks of "Summer shade under the cocked haye."  Then in 1659, Henry Hammond (1605-1660), a Church of England clergyman and theologian, wrote "A paraphrase and annotations upon the Books of the psalms" in which he mentions  "The toyle of the harvest, in reaping, binding, cocking."

But the first mention in agriculture is found in 1805, when R. W. Dickson's "Practical agriculture; or, A complete system of modern husbandry" tells us that "Grass should be protected against rain and dew by cocking.". Later, in 1874, Edward Knight's "The practical dictionary of mechanics" shows the advances of Victorian science, by telling us that "A cocking-machine gathers hay from the swath or windrow and puts it in cock."

Richard Watson Dickson's work is still available today online, and recently the two volume work, with 85 engraved plates, 27 hand-coloured, one map went for sale in Christies, the London Auction House, for £823!

Dickson studied medicine, first in England and then at St. Andrew's University, Aberdeen where he graduated as a medical doctor on 25 May 1787 at the relatively mature age of 28.  Yet somehow, and the records seem obscure, he became an authority on agriculture.

According to his cousin Jane Dickson, he had pursued this interest for 35 years, i.e. since about 1789. In 1802 Richard contributed the section on agriculture in "The New Cyclopedia; or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences", by Abraham Rees. According to his cousin, he also contributed a number of articles to The English Encyclopedia: A Collection of Treatises Illustrative of the Arts and Sciences (10 vols), London: G. Kearsley of Fleet Street, 1802. In 1804 Richard published his seminal work, "Practical agriculture, or a complete system of modern husbandry", a two volume work that comprised 2000 pages. This work built on the work of Andrew Young (1741-1820) who was developing the science of agriculture, both through documenting and disseminating best practices, and conducting experiments and publishing the results. English agriculture was acknowledged as leading edge and works on English agriculture were eagerly sought and disseminated on the Continent and in America. Dickson's work was republished several times and was translated into German in 1807. It remained a standard reference on agriculture for decades.

The Gardener's Calendar - July 1863

This month is usually that in which we make hay ; and all the circumstances of haymaking make up a sort of rural festival. The mowing of the grass, the turning, the tossing, the cocking, the carrying, and the stacking of the hay area. bright. cheerful work, and give occasion for gay frolic and merry intercourse: and the sun usually shines with additional warmth and splendour. The fields are now in their brightest dress. the foliage of the trees dark and dense, the hedgerows full .of flowers, and as yet show no sign or symptom of decay , but the birds are silent in the woods, their shriller notes are token tip by the murmur of myriads of insects,
which fill the air with the sound of a low and not unmusical hymn of praise like the roar of rushing water, or the many-voiced waves of the ocean. Now, too, we may expect sudden summer storms, with the bright lightning and the crash of thunder, and the down-pouring of heavy-beating rain.

THE GARDEN. Plant out celery, if not already done. Continue to plant out broccoli and winter greens as other crops give space by their removal. They may be planted also between rows of peas or other crops. You must look after the fly lest it destroy your young turnips. Sow early spring cabbages, and winter cabbages for greens. Asparagus beds should be sprinkled with salt, the crop being now over. Attend to cucumbers and vegetable marrows, and check their too luxuriant  growth. Make new strawberry-beds; keep weeds down ; cut all herbs for drying when in full flower. In dry weather, water copiously all newly transplanted crops. Peg verbenas, continue to bud roses, nail and regulate the young wood of wall trees, give autumn flowering roses plenty of manure water, sow mignonette for flowering in winter, cut down geraniums which have flowered in the window and plant the cuttings in a sunny border.


Spreading abroad thy silvery mantling mist
To cool the morning hours,
Or o'er the sun with hasty love has kissed
The dewdrops from the flowers,
Welcome, July, thou pleasant dreaming time
Beneath the dark tree's shade;
Crowning the summer with thy golden prime,
And nights of twilight trade.
Welcome with thee the rose-embowered chair,
Where I may sit and gaze
On bud and blossom, that have sprung up fair
Since laughing Spring's young days.
Seems it but yesterday the tiny seed
Fell on the dull brown earth ;
Soft rain and gentle sunshine both agreed
To give the leaflet birth.
And now draw nigh the floral harvest hours,
When loving hands shall meet
In many a cherished nose
gay of fair flowers,
Nature's reward most sweet.
Sure, never Spring shall find us idle more ;
But gladly we will go,
haven as He of old, the Scripture sower,
Went forth His seed to sow-
To sow beside all waters, stony ground,
Or barren rocky soil ;
And where the good and pleasant place is found,
Resolved to spare no toil.
The truth that came as if on angels' wings,
Our motto we will keep ;
For as we sow in earthly, heavenly things
So-surely shall we reap.



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