We have never been very successful here with the growing of Mushrooms. We have no Mushroom house, and have to try what can be done in various sheds and outhouses. I am told the most essential point to remember is that the horses must have no green food or carrots during the time that the droppings are being collected. My own belief is that our beds have been kept too dry, and that this is the reason of our failure, in spite of making up the beds with the greatest care according to the directions in the excellent little books which are sold everywhere, and which always represent mushroom culture as the easiest thing in the world. Also it may be that when the beds were watered it was not with rain-water. Our soil is so sandy that even when mixed with anything that is put to it, it dries more easily than any ordinary garden soil. This winter my gardener has tried, with marked and satisfactory success, a bed under the greenhouse stage. It is made up in the ordinary way, and darkened and saved from the drip of the plants above by a sheet or two of that invaluable corrugated iron which I mentioned before, and which I find more and more useful for protection at night, protection for pot-plants in spring, keeping the wet out of sunk pits, shading summer cuttings effectually, and so on. It also makes an excellent though ugly paling instead of a wall. Even Peach-trees will grow well against it if the plants are tied to pieces of batten or sticks - some stuck into the ground and the branches tied horizontally from stick to stick, and some put across the zinc - as then the plant, be it Peach or Vine, enjoys the heat radiated from the zinc, which yet cannot burn or injuriously dry the bark, in summer. In winter it is still more important that air should be between the plant and the zinc, which gets extremely cold in frosty weather. This, of course, applies equally to covering zinc houses or sheds with creepers.
This is a long digression from the Mushroom bed. We have already had several excellent and useful dishes off it from this the first experiment. Our outer cellar is too cold here to grow Mushrooms in winter, though it does well to grow the common Chicory for the Barbe-de-Cajpucin salad, and also protects from early autumn frosts the Broad-leaved Batavian Endive, which does so infinitely better here than the Curled Endive. We grow this in large quantities. It makes by far the best late autumn salad, and is also quite excellent stewed. (See 'Dainty Dishes.')
We have not yet succeeded here with the vegetable now so much sold in London in the early spring, viz. Witloof or Large Brussels Chicory, but I mean to try this next year.
I went to lunch to-day with a neighbour whose house is full of things recalling memories which belong to other days. As we sat at luncheon I began to gaze, as I invariably do, at whatever hangs on the walls, and I am always thankful when I have not to look at photographs. I have plenty of these myself, but they are the least decorative of furnishing pictures. On the wall opposite to me was rather an uncommon print of the Duke of Wellington, looking more than usually martial and stand-upright, and with an extra severe thundercloud behind him. It was from a picture by Lawrence, I expect, and a fine thing in its way. As a pendant to this was another print of a soldier. I turned to my hostess and, pointing to it, said: 'Who is that?' My friend answered with rather a marked tone: 'Why, that is Lord Lyndoch,' as if most certainly I ought to have known. Now, frankly, I had never heard of Lord Lyndoch, so I said rather humbly and inquiringly: 'Peninsula, I suppose? But I am very badly read; who was he?' And then she told me: 'Why, the Grahame who went to the wars after his wife's death, as you describe in your book in speaking of young Mrs. Grahame's picture in the Edinburgh Gallery.' She added: 'He was on Sir John Moore's staff and standing close by his horse when he was wounded at Corunna, and Sir John Moore was carried into Mr. Grahame's tent or hut, where he shortly died, and the poor young man was so utterly exhausted he lay on the floor by his dead friend and slept.' She told me that Lord Lyndoch was a known feature in society and a visitor in country houses in her youth, and she remembered him well at her grandmother's house in Hertfordshire.