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.
A man who writes with the perspicuity and force, of J. 0. H., should tell us something to instruct as well as to amuse. There is pith in him, beyond question; and he holds a quarry of information behind these salient arrows which he lets fly with such facile directness. He has a kind heart too; otherwise he could not talk of the charming little birds as he does. But my friend, many of them do catch worms - caterpillars even - and bugs, and spiders, although you may not believe it.
"No method has proved effectual, [against the Curculio,] but placing the trees in the midst of the nig and poultry yard - and, notwithstanding the numerous remedies that have been proposed in our pages since the commencement of this work, this proves the only one that has not failed oftener than it has succeeded".
"For our own part, we fully believe that it is the gradual decrease of small birds part from the destruction of the forests, but mainly from the absence of laws against the vagabond race of unfledged sportsmen, who shoot sparrows when they ought to be planting corn - that this inordinate increase of insects is to be attributed." [From the leader in Hort, for July, 1851].
Mr. Editor - I select the two passages from our pomological scripture, for the purpose of showing the limited operation of the remedy applauded in the one, and of protesting against the injustice of the conclusions involved in the other.
It may do very well for the plum cultivator, who has ample room and verge enough, to set apart a portion of his grounds for an extensive pig-sty - who has the means to furnish it with tenants and to support them - whose taste and circumstances admit of the raising of pork and poultry - and whose plum planting is yet to be begun - to adopt the " only remedy that has not failed more frequently than it has succeeded," against the operations of the curculio. But unfortunately for the success of this beneficent plan, it is of the most circumscribed applicability. The great mass of plum growers live in towns and villages, occupying lots ranging in extent from one-eighth to one whole acre, and whose trees, in the garden, or front yard, or wherever else on their limited premises they can find room to " tuck" them, are already grown - circumstances which render the recommendation of the union of plum orchards and piggeries more easily smiled at than carried out. Yet it is for this class of cultivators, above all others, that an universal remedy against the curculio is demanded.
The retired citizen, passing the time pleasantly under the delusion that he has become an agriculturist by virtue of his "park" of a few acres, and the extensive cultivator for the stalls, from whence the citizen retired, can afford to protect their fruit by whatever appliances, and at whatever cost; but even they in most instances, are unable to call into requisition the services of hens or hogs, because their parks and plantations were not originally planned for hen-yards and hog-pens, their fruit trees having been scattered through their grounds wherever fancy or convenience directed. It is plain to see then, that father Thomas' prescription of a mallet and sheet, will not suddenly be superseded by this contrivance, and that the hens will abide by their dunghill, the swine continue to riot in the congenial thoroughfares of the metropolis, and the fallen fruit be left to be gathered and destroyed by human agency, or not at all.
Somehow, writers upon the curculio seem universally to be possessed of a most amiable insanity. They invest the victims of that little pest with unbounded resources. Their grounds are always broad enough for ' orchards,' - the one devoted to plums being already set apart, and filled with full grown trees, nothing of course wanting to convert it into an immense piggery, but forty or fifty rods of fence, which, to be in keeping with the grand conception, shall cost from ten to twenty dollars per rod, herds of swine and flocks of fowls being always at hand to stock it. This is the peculiar vagary of one. Another, in his benevolent hallucination, dispensing with pigs and poultry, prescribes pavements. Though the largeness of comprehension which distinguishes the former philanthropist, cannot be claimed for this, yet his scheme involves bricks, stone quarries, and deposites in bank ad libitum, if not ad infinitum, and provides a separate domain for the usual variety of the lesser fruits, flower beds, and vegetables, each class of which, by the necessities of real life, must occupy a portion of the space which he so liberally dedicates to pavements.
But neither of these tantalizing lunatics has the disease in its most desparate form.
The distempered reason of the third, requires the luckless plum grower to be the proprietor of whole ranges of well occupied stables, cart loads of whose seething product are to be applied to his trees, morning and evening - twice a day, I think, sir? - warm, like a poultice; his trees, of course, being a long drive down the park, else the remedy to expel the invader of the orchard, will be more effectual against the indwaller of the mansion. Now, sir, thpugh all very pleasant, this is,all very absurd. It hasrnp.a4aptability,.even in a much mitigated form from that in which I have presented it, to the existing condition of things; nor can it now have. One man in a thousand may be able to adopt either suggestion; but the circumstances of .the other nine hundred and ninety-nine, render it utterly impracticable. What,we want, then, is some remedy of universal application, - something within the reach of all - rand let the one thousandth individual, the man of money, take care of himself.
The main cause of the destruction of small birds, which, in the latter of the extracts quoted, you ascribe to " unfledged sportmen who shoot sparrows," etc., is wider of the mark than are the youngsters themselves, even in their most random .shots. If it be true that there is any great decrease of small birds, which a familiar acquaintance with them for more than thirty years would lead me.to gainsay, the cause alledged is not adequate to the result. I have been an ' unfledged sportsman myself. I was born one. I have passed through, in my experience, the whole range of 'light artillery,' so terrible to your imagination, from the quill pop-gun to the beautifully telling eloquence.of a twin-tubed ' Joe Manton;' and, boy or man, I can truly say I never yet met with a disposition, even in the most thoughtless, to squander his ambition upon game so insignificant.as the class of birds whose fancied destruction you so feelingly deplore. The instinct of economy, if not of scorn, or a feeling of humanity, would forbid it.