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.
"Old Winter has come with his cold, chilling breath".
The early and the latter rains fell copiously and gave us an abundant harvest. Our gardens never made a better yield. Of peas, we had abundance for ourselves and neighbors; our watermelons - "Orange" and "Mountain Sprout" - were splendid; our tomatoes - mostly "Keyes" - though late, exceeded expectation; and our root crop was the best we ever had.
We set out some six thousand (6,000) Concord grape cuttings in the spring, and about five sixths of them started, and have grown quite well. Our Victoria currants bore profusely; our Lawton blackberries sustained their reputation. "Brightside" is in a valley; the mean temperature is from one to two degrees lower than in the town above; yet the soil is sandy loam, and the Isabella grape there ripened to perfection. The wild grapes in the vicinity were injured by the early frost. Our bee-hives were well stored with honey, which now is selling - if in small glass boxes - at about 40 cents per pound.
From ten acres - and ten acres is enough - we have filled our barn, our pantry, and our cellar, and now enjoy the guerdon of our toil, and wait in hyemal - I had almost written hymeneal - repose for the opening of another season. A dazzling sheet of snow surrounds our comfortable dwelling, and stretches far away on every side to the ever-green forests. The long icicles hang over the door; the moon suspends her silver bow above a low line of stratus cloud in the west; the stars shine out with a kind of "winterish sparkle," and the distant tinkling of a slender waterfall is heard. Old chanticleer - my little Florence thinks him very a - rooster - cratic in his way - has "turned in," with his well-fed harem, for the night; the "yearlings" are gently reposing near their dams, and "Charlie," the wounded war-horse, is profoundly musing on some battle race upon the "sacred soil," or casting" a long, lingering look" in front for his accustomed "ration." We ourselves are cosily seated, pater-mater familias, and the "little circle" negligently around us, for the long winter evening.
Shall I tell you how we spend it ? Well, variously; but this one night may serve you as a kind of sample.
Our house, as every one should be, is well supplied with books; but books, as blueberries, are always better in their own appropriate season. This evening we therefore read aloud in turn a part of Shakspeare's " Winter Night's Tale;" then Thomson's " Winter," beginning,
"Ah! little think the gay, licentious crowd," continuing to the end. Burns' beautiful "Winter's Night" follows -
"When biting Boreas, fell and doure," etc.; and then we close our poetry with "January's Husbandry" of quaint and rare old Thomas Tusser - "When Christmas is ended, bid feasting adieu".
We stop at every curious verse or word and criticise the fault or beauty; and on closing make a general resume of the whole, comparing it as to style and subject matter with such other kindred writers as we know in German, French, or Italian We pass from poetry - and the little ones most gladly - to the items in the "Evening Traveller;" thence to the last number of the Horticulturist, which we always read with pleasure, even to the last advertisement, and then discuss the merits of the various articles. Then the " young democracy" bring forward Demorest's "Young America;" and while the kitten sits in a kind of sleepy wisdom in the corner, amuse themselves with "puzzle-pictures," riddles, and conundrums till the number is exhausted.
"Now for pop corn!" some one cries; and in a twinkling we hear the " popper" shaking over the red-hot coals and the bursting of a thousand grains of maize, like the explosion of the India crackers on a Fourth-of-July morning. We all partake of the snow-white luxury, and then pass round the luscious grapes, which careful culture has produced for " winter evening consolation." " A story! yes, father, a story of the war," the young " wide-awakes" now cry; and so we essay to charm their fancy and inspire their patriotism by telling how Kilpatrick started on his famous raid to Richmond; how Gen. Grant went through the " Wilderness;" or how the President was shot while listening to the " American Cousins" at Ford's Theater, Washington. The " regimentals" from the battle-fields are now brought in, and every one takes in the hand the identical minie ball that struck one of our number on the bloody field of Gettysburg. Music now comes on to close the evening. "Tramp, tramp, tramp!" for soldiering memories, and then duets - flute and piano - from "Norma," "Martha," "Somnambula," "Faust," and "Traviata." We sing a sacred song in harmony; we thank the glorious Giver for his marvelous mercy; take the parting kiss, and say the kind "Good-night!" "father," "mother," "Florence," "Willie," " Emily," " Charlie," " Paul," and seek repose and slumber on the peaceful couch.