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   Chapter 22 FIRST FRUITS

Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 7393

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

For the first time since they had come to the farm, Hiram was the last to get up in the house. And when he came down to breakfast, still trembling from the exertion of the previous night, Mrs. Atterson screamed at the sight of him.

"For the good Land o' Goshen!" she cried. "You look like a singed chicken, Hiram Strong! Whatever have you been doing to yourself?"

He told them of the fight he had had while they slept. But he could talk about it jokingly now, although Sister was inclined to snivel a little over his danger.

"That Dickerson boy ought to be lashed-Nine and thirty lashes-none too much-This sausage is good-humph!-and pancakes-fit for the gods-But he'll come back-do more damage-the butter, yes I I want butter-and syrup, though two spreads is reckless extravagance-Eh? eh? can't prove anything against that Dickerson lout?-well, mebbe not."

So Old Lem Camp commented upon the affair. But Hiram could not prove that the neighbor's boy had done any of these things which pointed to a malicious enemy.

The young farmer began to wonder if he could not lay a trap, and so bring about his undoing.

As soon as the ground was in fit condition again (for the nights rain had been heavy) Hiram scattered the lime he had planned to use upon the four acres of land plowed for corn, and dragged it in with a spike-toothed harrow.

Working as he was with one horse alone, this took considerable time, and when this corn land was ready, it was time for him to go through the garden piece again with the horse cultivator.

Sister and Lem Camp, both, had learned to use the man-weight wheel-hoe, and the fine stuff was thinned and the weeds well cut out. From time to time the young farmer had planted peas-both the dwarf and taller varieties-and now he risked putting in some early beans-"snap" and bush limas-and his first planting of sweet corn.

Of the latter he put in four rows across the garden, each, of sixty-five day, seventy-five day, and ninety day sugar corn-all of well-known kinds. He planned later to put in, every fortnight, four rows of a mid-length season corn, so as to have green corn for sale, and for the house, up to frost.

The potatoes were growing finely and he hilled them up for the first time. He marked his four-acre lot for field corn-cross-checking it three-feet, ten inches apart. This made twenty-seven hundred and fifty hills to the acre, and with the hand-planter-an ingenious but cheap machine-he dropped two and three kernels to the hill.

This upland, save where he had spread coarse stable manure, was not rich. Upon each corn-hill he had Sister throw half a handful of fertilizer. She followed him as he used the planter, and they planted and fertilized the entire four acres in less than two days.

The lime he had put into the land would release such fertility as remained dormant there; but Hiram did not expect a big crop of corn on that piece. If he made two good ears to the hill he would be satisfied.

He had knocked together a rough cold-frame, on the sunny side of the woodshed, to fit some old sash he had found in the barn. Into the rich earth sifted to make the bed in this frame, he transplanted tomato, egg-plant, pepper and other plants of a delicate nature. Early cabbage and cauliflower had already gone into the garden plot, and in the midst of an early and saturating rain, all day long, he had transplanted table-beets into the rows he had marked out for them.

This variety of vegetables were now all growing finely. He sold nearly six dollars' worth of radishes in town, and these radishes he showed Mrs. Atterson were really "clear profit." They had all been pulled from the rows of carrots and ot

her small seeds.

There were several heavy rains after the tempest which had been so Providential; the ground was well saturated, and the river had risen until it roared between its banks in a voice that could be heard, on a still day, at the house.

The rains started the vegetation growing by leaps and bounds; weeds always increase faster than any other growing thing.

There was plenty for Hiram to do in the garden, and he kept Sister and Old Lem Camp busy, too. They were at it from the first faint streak of light in the morning until dark.

But they were well-and happy. Mother Atterson, her heart troubled by thought of "that Pepper-man," could not always repress her smiles. If the danger of losing the farm were past, she would have had nothing in the world to trouble her.

The hundred eggs she had purchased for five dollars had proven more than sixty per cent fertile. Some advice that Hiram had given her enabled Mrs. Atterson to handle the chickens so that the loss from disease was very small.

He knocked together for her a couple of pens, eight feet square, which could be moved about on the grass every day. In these pens the seventy, or more, chicks thrived immensely. And Sister was devoted to them.

Meanwhile the old white-faced cow, that had been a terror to Mother Atterson at the start, had found her calf, and it was a heifer.

"Take my advice and raise it," said Hiram. "She is a scrub, but she is a pretty good scrub. You'll see that she will give a good measure of milk. And what this farm needs is cattle.

"If you could make stable manure enough to cover the cleared acres a foot deep, you could raise almost any crop you might name-and make money by it. The land is impoverished by the use of commercial fertilizers, unbalanced by humus."

"Well, I guess You know, Hiram," admitted Mrs. Atterson. "And that calf certainly is a pretty creeter. It would be too bad to turn it into veal."

Hiram did not intend to raise the calf expensively, however. He took it away from its mother right at the start, and in two weeks it was eating grass, and guzzling skimmed milk and calf-meal, while the old cow was beginning to show her employer her value.

Mrs. Atterson bought a small churn and quickly learned that "slight" at butter-making which is absolutely essential if one would succeed in the dairy business.

The cow turned out to pasture early in May, too; so her keep was not so heavy a burden. She lowed some after the calf; but the latter was growing finely under Hiram's care, and Mrs. Atterson had at least two pounds of butter for sale each week, and the housekeeper at the St. Beris school paid her thirty-five cents a pound for it.

Hiram gradually picked up a retail route in the town, which customers paid more for the surplus vegetables-and butter-than could be obtained at the stores. He had taught Sister how to drive, and sometimes even Mrs. Atterson went in with the vegetables.

This relieved the young farmer and allowed him to work in the fields. And during these warm, growing May days, he found plenty to do. Just as the field corn pushed through the ground he went into the lot with his 14-tooth harrow and broke up the crust and so killed the ever-springing weeds.

With the spikes on the harrow "set back," no corn-plants were dragged out of the ground. This first harrowing, too, mixed the fertilizer with the soil, and gave the corn the start it so sadly needed.

Busy as bees, the four transplanted people at the Atterson farmhouse accomplished a great deal during these first weeks of the warming season. And all four of them-Mrs. Atterson, Sister, Old Lem, and Hiram himself-enjoyed the work to the full.

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