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.
Yes! gentle reader, (as we used to say in the old-fashioned times - and I am an old-fashioned body in my way,) " Written by itself." And why not? In these days we have tables and chairs dancing polkas, and although they may have legs and I have not, yet I trow I have more life within me, generally speaking, than they have. Why should not I, therefore, essay my literary powers and tell my own story?
New this may be to you, and may be to me also, but that is no business of yours; and if my master is a good-natured fellow, and willing to help me with his pen, provided my tale be true, and you find a wrinkle or two worth knowing in it, what does it concern you to know howmuch is my writing and how much my master's? He and I always work together. He may have the advantage of me in penmanship; but can he grow a lettuce or a melon? Not a bit of it. I can. Ay, and what is more, I can make a bit of ground not half the size of your dining-room grow more crops in number in one year than you can, Mr. Reader, on all your big acres in two; and that is what makes me write my life for your benefit. So here goes.
Unlike the butterfly, my Imago state was that in which I first drew breath, a fine, handsome pine, down south, in good old Georgia. Gloriously did I with my fellows luxuriate in the freedom of forest scenery in that sunny clime. But, as with many a daughter of Eve, my beauty was my ruin! The ruthless axe at my root laid me low; and I will not dwell on the indignities I was destined to undergo until I found myself transformed into my present shape - a four-light garden-frame, six feet by twelve.
It was in this shape that I made the acquaintance of my present master, who, I must admit, uses me well; albeit, he insists on my being always at work. This, however, I do not mind, for since I have left the South, and find every body up in these northern latitudes so plaguy active, I have never liked to be idle, having, you must know, a certain degree of pride left in my composition, (notwithstanding the severe check my vanity received when that rascally fellow's axe put an end to the verdant beauty of my early forest life,) and consequently I should not like to be looked down upon as either useless or idle.
It is with me as with many people one meets with in the world; much depends, as to the good I do, upon the people with whom I associate. "Evil communications," etc, (you know the rest,) and if I fall into good hands, why, I can do no end of work. I always, say to my master, "You do your part and I will do mine" - and I am now going to give you the history of the last year of my life, it having been, in my modest opinion, a pretty satisfactory proof of what I can do; and as I must admit that my style of living has something of the monotonous in its character, I will not weary your patience with more than this sample of my existence since I assumed my present form.
On the advent of the new year before last, I found myself resting on a spot of rich earth in my master's garden, and filled with a luxuriating growth of endive and lettuce, the latter of which I then supplied daily to my master's table, and which had been planted into my quarters in the preceding month of September, (the latter end,) from a seed-bed. The endive had not been sown so early, and I noticed that ray master cut it back, leaving nothing but the centre small leaves, which, however, grew so rapidly, that by the end of March there was a fine growth of bushy endive, which through part of March and April took the place of the early lettuce in my master's salad bowl.
I should mention, that the part of my lights that had contained the lettuce was emptied by the frequent demands upon it in January and February, and therefore, in the first week in March, my master refilled it with young lettuce plants from a seed-bed that he had provided in another frame, and these I immediately started into rapid growth; and by the first week in May they were ready to succeed the endive, which by that time had been disposed of.
I have, always been fond of the fair sex. Their smile of approbation seems always to stimulate my efforts, and I conclude my master has the same taste, (or weakness, as you please,) for he pushed a few roots of violets into one of my corners before the winter, so that whenever the ladies of the family came, as they would do sometimes on a sunny day in February, to see how I progressed in my operations, there was always some fragrance to welcome their approach.
But having arrived at the first week in May, and having brought up a fine crop of lettuce, then in perfection, and some endive being still left, my master thought my further services were no longer required by them; and I found he was about to change my position altogether, and I soon discovered the cause. He had, it seems, toward the end of March, sown some cauliflower and early cabbage on a hotbed, and the plants were now in a state that required transplanting previous to their final removal to the open ground; a plan which many persons do not take the trouble to adopt, but which will always repay the gardener both as regards the quality and the early maturity of the crop.
I was therefore, early in May, removed to a part of the garden that had been prepared for these cabbage plants, and they were introduced to me immediately; and I assure you, that by the end of that month I had brought them into such a state of sturdy growth, that when they were then carefully transferred to the open compartments of the garden, they soon told a tale that I am too modest to repeat. 1 admit, however, I was proud of them, and those who have tried it know that it is not every one who can grow early summer cauliflowers fine from spring-sown seed.
Having a pretty good knowledge of gardening, I now thought that the time had arrived when I should be allowed a run of idle time; and, as I have said before that I hate laziness, 1 was wishing 1 could take a trip to a colder region, where I might find some constant employment; but I reckoned without my host, for before the last of my cabbages and cauliflowers had vanished, I found myself again on the wing to new quarters - where, I could not imagine; but my wanderings were of short duration, for my master and his man put me down in a few minutes in the melon ground.
I had seen plenty of melons grown in the open ground, but my master thought, as 1 heard him say, that he saw no use in my remaining idle, and that I might just as well serve his turn by helping the melons along, and at the same time take care of some pots of cuttings of greenhouse plants that he had picked up in his wanderings, and which there would be ample room for in my spacious quarters until the melons made more foliage. Accordingly, I was placed over a good bed of manure with rich compost upon it, and some fine young melon plants that came from the hotbed were planted in it in a couple of days, as soon as the compost was warmed by the sun above and the manure beneath; and off 1 started again for a fresh crop!
With the assistance of the sun and my master's watering-pot, I can tell you those melons grew; and after due thinning and stopping, and various manipulations that seemed to indicate a vast amount of care on my master's part, (much of which seemed to me needless,) there certainly was as fine a crop of melons in August and September as I ever beheld. But before they were all disposed of, my services were no longer of any use, and according to my master's system of always keeping me busy, the time had arrived for me again to change my quarters. About the middle of September, then, I was sent back to my old quarters for the winter; and a lot of old hotbed compost having been placed within my four sides, I found that three-fourths of my compartments were filled with young lettuce plants, (from a seed-bed made in a shady spot early in August,) and the remaining fourth was sown with cauliflower plants at two or three sowings between the 12th and 25th of September, and which it was to be my duty to protect until the spring.
The lettuce grew steadily and well, and as my master took good care to furnish me with an ample overcoat of hay and litter as soon as frosty nights occurred, and, moreover, in very sharp December days, to leave it on sometimes in the day as well as at night, I had the satisfaction of sending as fine a bowl of lettuce to the Christmas dinner-table as any one would wish to eat They are . great salad people at our house, and, winter or summer, it never comes amiss. Were it otherwise, I suppose my winter's crop would be limited to seed lettuce or cabbage plants. But these we get as early from a spring hotbed as they can be trusted for planting out, and, consequently, my master does not trouble himself about keeping any of that tribe but cauliflowers through the severe weather. And now I have told my tale. I have turned out:
1. A crop of lettuce and endive January to March.
2. Lettuce again early in May.
3. Cabbages, end of May.
4. Melons in August.
5. Lettuce in December.
6. Cauliflowers for the winter. A plain, unvarnished tale, which, if they like it, all my brethren may imitate; nay, which many doubtless in skilful hands may excel. But I write not to the learned, but to the lazy, and also to encourage him who would be a gardener, but knows not how. And to the latter let me add, that my master says, no one can work me even for a single year without learning "To look through nature up to nature's God!"
[We are much obliged to you, Mr. Garden-frame, for this interesting sketch of your history; no doubt you could tell us a great deal more. If all your inanimate brethren could speak, what lessons of wisdom might be learned! Let us hear your voice again. - Ed].