This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
The following extract from 'Land and Water' will give our northern readers, who appear to have been blessed with an abundance of rain, some idea of the effect of the drought "down south." Up to this time (July 18) but little rain has fallen in London; the clouds are now to all appearance "big with the blessing of rain," but none falls: -
'The drought,' which nobody recollects the like of but those who remember 1826, still continues at Hereford, and but for two hours' rain last week, here we are in the second week of July still grumbling we have had none, and envying those beyond the Black Mountain, who must have had a soaking to send down the river Wye with a yard of fresh water in it, and even with so short a rise to move up so many salmon that the market price falls to 9d. Our fine grazing meadows still continue as bare as goose commons; our milch-cows look as if they were only just turned out of the winter straw-yard. Bullocks sold at Candlemas fair at £14 each to those who hoped to keep them till October or Christmas, and then ' tumble them over' in value, are again sold at our July fair at £10 each. Horses are quite a drug, and many a useful beast will find he has to take a premature journey to the dog-kennel; and in localities where the small and poor farmer lives, it is pitiable to hear the cattle lowing for food and water. It is but little less sad, too, to see the stalwart labourer going from farm to farm to seek for work, to find no haymaking, no turnip-hoeing, no job to be done. Yet * drought ne'er brought dearth to Old England' is perfectly true even now.
The wheat is splendid, the barley and oats are good, and the hops and fruit were never better; evergreens and forest-trees make the scenery and gardens as beauteous as ever; whilst Roses, flowers, and almost every delicate plant, not excepting the tender stinging nettle, never were more free from blight. Here we may remark upon the absence of insect life this year, and particularly of slugs and worms, to the great complaint of poultry-rearers. The swallows and martins are as scarce this summer as last, the vigorous swift being almost the only representative of this tribe. Not less remarkable is it to see the blackbirds and thrushes resorting to the berries left upon the hollies, just as in mid-winter; and who can begrudge them a little garden fruit? All kinds are plentiful, and if genial rain had only come in spring, or in June, perhaps, a more fruitful and abundant year of everything never would have been known. Let us be thankful we are not worse off than we are, and if this drought has indeed extended to all four quarters of the globe, consider how many there are suffering by famine whilst we are blessed with plenty. - I. F. S. (Hereford, July 11, 1870.)"