Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Gardener's Calendar - September 1863

Another extract below from Whitnash Parish Magazine, in 1863, with the section that begins September, and the gardening tasks.

I was watching an old episode Upstairs Downstairs set in the countryside, and as mentioned here, shooting game birds for sport was very much a part of Victorian culture, continuing long into Edwardian times.

The famous liberal leader Gladstone is not someone naturally associated with the hunting and shooting brigade, but in fact, like his contemporaries, he was not averse to going out and shooting, as a break from his busy political routine. One of his diary entries notes letter writing, reading, billiards and shooting!

Wrote to Ld Clarendon --Abp Manning--T.D. Acland--Ld Fortescue--Sir S. Adair  --Mr Hamilton--Ld Spencer 2)-Mr Cardwell --Bp Hinds--S.E.G.--C.G.--and minutes. Read Law of Patronage in Scotland and Burton's History. Went out shooting. Billiard table Games in evg..

But probably the greatest Victorian sportsman was Colonel Peter Hawker (1786-1853), who was the author of  "Instructions to Young Sportsmen", a very popular book which went into several editions; his reputation was further enhance by his diaries, published posthumously in two volumes in 1893.

He was a crack shot and his diary gives a fairly complete record of the birds which fell to his gun and of his various guns and punts and devices which he invented for shooting. Fishing he also indulged in but only as a side issue when something prevented his shooting; he confesses he never much cared about it "except to supply his friends." He killed, however, above twelve thousand trout in the river Test at Longparish, which was his home. The number of birds he shot could only be computed by some one who was accustomed to astronomical figures.

and here is a diary extract from the 1850s, only a few years before his death at the age of 67:

in order to shake off the shivers that I've had for a week I slipped my long water boots and waded up the river. I killed in good style all that I shot at viz 3 jack snipes, 2 of them a brilliant double shot to front and rear with 9 moorhens and 3 divers. I then shifted my boots and beat all the woods and the rows and the only head of game I set eyes on was I rabbit which I bagged.

The poem of September in the magazine mentions some plant names which may be unfamiliar to the reader.

Ononis is a large genus of perennial herbs and shrubs from the legume family Fabaceae, which is more commonly called "restharrows" as some species are arable weeds whose tough stems would stop the harrow -the agricultural implement with spike like teeth, which was drawn over plowed land to level it, break up clods, and root up weeds,  In herbalism, "restharrow" is used to treat bladder and kidney problems and water retention.

As part of his detailed studies of reproduction in natural world, Darwin (1809-1882) studied the Ononis minutissima, which propagates by using non-opening, self-pollinating flowers as well as self-fertile opening flowers, and noted that the crossed and self-fertilised capsules produced seed in the proportion of 100: 65 and that the average bore the proportion 100: 86.

Eryngium is a genus in the family Apiaceae  with hairless and usually spiny leaves, and dome-shaped umbels of flowers resembling those of thistles. Some species are native to rocky and coastal areas, but the majority are grassland plants. Common names include Sea-holly and Eryngo, the former typically being applied to coastal species, and the latter to grassland species. The roots have been used as vegetables or for sweetmeats. Young shoots and leaves are sometimes used as an asparagus substitute.

Victorians would have had the work of the noted physician Francis Glisson (1597-1677 to hand. He suggested a cure for ague (fever) cure was snails, pounded and boiled in milk, to which was added cut-up earthworms, sugar, and candied eryngo (sea holly). I can't say that I would relish drinking that! I much prefer the hot posset mentioned in the writer John Masefield's Box of Delights - a jorum of hot milk, egg, treacle and nutmeg, which was popular from medieval times to the 19th century as a cure for fever.

The Gardener's Calendar - September 1863

A delightful month, but full of warnings that summer is drawing to its close. The fiercer heat of the August sun is tempered with balmy and invigorating freshness, the landscape assumes a gayer hue for the deep monotonous greenness of summer, gives place to varied tints, and the changing colors of the foliage their coming decay. In the course of this month the nightingale, long since silent in the grove, takes its departure, and the swallows assemble with strange twitterings in large flights, till you find suddenly that they too have gone. And then the equinoctial gales sweep across the woods and fields, scattering the withered leaves, and proclaim that summer is ended.

This is, however, a welcome month for the sportsman. With September begins partridge shooting; the corn crops will this year be off' the ground, and the sportsman without let or hindrance can follow the coveys across his land.

THE GARDEN. Dig and store away potatoes, prick out cabbages, cauliflowers, and lettuces; plant broccoli, and the main crop of cabbages ; liberally supply celery with water, a  good soaking of manure - water once a week, with a handful of salt in each can or pail full, will prove an excellent stimulant, and will also render the celery more tender and crisp. This is an excellent season for removing evergreens, giving them a liberal soaking of water immediately after removal, and occasionally afterwards. Take up onions, and leave them on the beds to dry. Dig Jerusalem artichokes as they are wanted. Cut down exhausted raspberry canes, but leave the young ones untouched till November. Clear strawberry beds from runners, but not from leaves. Pinch off the points from wall-fruit trees, and thin the shoots of gooseberry-bushes. Plant stocks and wall-flowers where they are to stand during the winter. Plant anemonies, crocuses, and snowdrops.


Summer's bloom is fading fast,
Yet she fondly lingers
'Mid the scenes of beauty past,
While September's fingers

Deck her with a robe so fine,
That, her youth forgetting,
Like the sun she seems to shine,
Lovelier in her setting!

Now for bracing walks at noon,
Rock and river scrambles,
Loiterings 'neath the harvest moon,
Now for sea-side rambles.

Over cliff, and crag, and height,
Now, how sweet to wander;
Reach those sands that gleam so bright,
That tempting headland yonder !

Amidst tall grass and wiry bents,
Ononis here is straying ;
Eryngo, too, in queenly state,
Its azure crown displaying,

Sea-convolvulus and thrift,
Horned poppy, yellow,
Dwelling where the white sands drift,
And stay the foaming billow.

Blend them all with golden ears,
Grateful to remember ;
Past are harvest hopes and fears,
Crowned with glad September.

The Gladstone Diaries. Volume: 7. H. C. G. Matthew, editor, 1968, p135
More English Diaries: Further Reviews of Diaries from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century with an Introduction on Diary Reading. Arthur Ponsonby, 1927, p166
Darwin and Modern Science: Essays in Commemoration of the Centenary of the Birth of Charles Darwin and of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Publication of the Origin of Species. A. C. Seward, 1909, p423
James Welwood: Physician to the Glorious Revolution. Elizabeth Lane Furdell, 1998, p195

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Tony, I loved this post as I too dabble a bit in farming :-P Thanks - Sarah