This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
While on a visit to a relative, one of our practical German farmers, a man of good common sense and a close observer, I found that he entertained peculiar prejudices against horticultural journals, and what he called, book-farming.
He evidently seemed to consider those men who exercised their brains and pens to disseminate useful information, as "idle fellows," whose object was to tax the farmer indirectly, by imposing their speculations upon him in the shape of a subscription, deeming it presumptuous in such who never held ' the handle of a plough, (however well they might handle the pen,) to undertake to teach and theorize about matters upon which the farmer is daily employed.
My favorite pursuits of collecting plants and insects for my herbarium or cabinet he ridiculed as a waste of time, without any practical utility, wondering what on earth I wanted with those "weeds and bugs".
I endeavored to impress him with a view of the vast importance that even a rudimental knowledge of vegetable physiology, geology, chemistry, or even entomology, exerted in promoting the best interests of the agriculturist: assuring him the art of cultivating the soil intelligently, required more than a mere knowledge of ploughing and seeding; that in order to keep the soil in good condition, by a judicious manuring and rotation in the crops, involved a knowledge of the organic and elementary principles used in nature's laboratory, not acquired without much reading and some study. Further declaring that the old routine of plodding along ignorantly, actuated by the mere force of habit, was fast giving way, and the drudgery of farming becoming elevated to a profession based on scientific principles.
Thus I almost persuaded him to subscribe to one or more of the numerous journals and papers devoted to the subject, believing as I do, that an investment of a few dollars in that direction would prove a source of profit, by yielding him compound interest twice told.
Somewhat modified in his views, if not thoroughly convinced by my arguments in favor of book-farming, our conversation was interrupted by the entrance of one of his boys, with a long face, expressive of some bad tidings to tell, which arrested the attention of my kind host, who received the unwelcome intelligence that one of his favorite horses was sadly foundered. He repaired to the barn-yard with hasty strides - I mechanically followed the lad, whose motions were less impulsive. There stood the horse, with drooping head, evidently in a bad state, while my uncle, with a perplexed look, slowly walked around the animal, evidently puzzled to know what to do in his dilemma; so he scolded the boys, and finally appealed to me for advice.
I briefly related to him the account given by Dr. Stephen Burgon, of Bucks Co., Pa., published in the third volume of the "Medical Recorder," in which he states that while on a tour out West, in 1814, his horse became foundered, and was cured during the night by having him drenched with several gallons of a strong decoction of the May Apple root. "Now uncle," said I, "as the root is abundant here in your woods, you can avail yourself of the doctor's experience, and have the benefit of my reading, if you choose.
Perfectly willing, we speedily collected about two pounds of the fresh root, sliced it, and put it into boiling water to steep for half an hour, and then drenched the horse thoroughly - it proved an excellent purge, and by next morning the animal was so far recovered as to eat with a good appetite, and speedily regained his usual health and activity.
This gave such satisfaction to my host, and so excited his curiosity to know all about the May Apple, that I am induced to write out a brief notice, accompanied with one of my own wood cuts, for his and others' benefit. - [Which shall appear in our next. - Ed].