Farming advice in 1947

Jot 101 Farmer's friend cover 001

When the Director of the Cambridge Farm, W. S. Mansfield, brought out his Farmer’s Friend in 1947, he did so in one of the coldest winters on record, when farming wisdom may not have had much effect. Speculating on why most of the old farming precepts he listed made sense, Mansfield turns to modern farming theories and simple entomological and botanical knowledge for some answers. However, there are still questions to be asked of a few of these pieces of ancient wisdom. Your Jotter’s comments are in italics.


On a farm where there are geese, the farmer’s wife wears the breeches


Traditionally, the poultry on a farm are the perquisites of the farmer’s wife. This is perhaps one of the reasons why on so many farms they receive such scant attention from the farmer. Certain it is that no class of poultry is popular with the majority of farmers, and geese are the least popular of all, so much so that in ordinary times few farmers will tolerate their presence. For this they have reason, as geese eat an incredible amount of grass, and compete directly with both sheep and cattle. It has been estimated that seven geese eat as much grass as a cow, and those who have had most experience with geese are the least likely to quarrel with this figure. Moreover, it is not only the amount of grass that geese eat that makes them unpopular but the amount they foul.


Mansfield neglects to mention the usefulness of geese to warn the farmer or farmer’s wife of unwelcome visitors, whether man or beast. A flock can create more noise than two dogs and many can be more aggressive. Plus, unlike dogs, they are good to eat and produce eggs. Geese one. Dogs nil.


If the moon is full at Christmas no black fly will be seen on the beans


The attacks of black aphis, which often do serious damage to the bean crop, are far worse in some years than in others, but there is of course no connection between the severity of the attack and the phase of the moon at Christmas.

A very good indication, however, of the severity of the attack to be expected the following summer may be obtained by examining spindle trees during the winter. The black fly lays its eggs on these trees at the end of the summer, and it is the eggs which form the over wintering stage of this pest. A close examination of shoot and buds of spindle trees during the winter may reveal a large number of black aphis eggs, which are black shining objects, rather smaller in size than a pin’s head. By making counts of the numbers of eggs present on spindle trees entomologists can now predict fairly accurately whether there is likely to be a severe attack of bean aphis in any one district. Continue reading

The Land Girl

IMG_1510Found at the London 2016 May Ephemera Fair – an issue of this magazine – THE LAND GIRL. (NO. 7. VOLUME 2, OCTOBER 1941.) This was issued by the Women’s Land Army The first article  is an encouraging piece aimed at the new Land Girl, who possibly for the first time, will be meeting other girls from far flung parts of Britain and  the British Commonwealth.

On Being Strange.

At this time of year many members of the Land Army are working far from their  homes. In particular, girls who are threshing and potato lifting have come long distances, and many others have undertaken particular jobs in counties they have never visited before.

This offers a grand opportunity to break down prejudices which have survived from the times (little more than a hundred years ago) when it took many days of laborious travel to traverse this island and the vast majority of people never left their own county throughout their lives. But prejudice dies hard, and in many counties people who have lived in them for less than ten years are still called “foreigners.”

It is the right spirit which makes girls volunteer to go where they are most needed – once they have got there it is very important that they should stay, for they are needed, and a failure to stick it out means a great deal of trouble and wasted time and money, neither of which can be afforded nowadays. Home-sickness is almost inevitable, but it does not last, and a determination to be interested in new places and different people will help it to pass quickly. Continue reading

Edwin Chadwick on sewage farms

Today, it is Joseph Bazalgette, father of the revolutionary sewage system for London that gets most attention from the press. But Bazalgette was really building on the earlier pioneering work done by the lawyer Edwin Chadwick (1800 -90), who pushed for sanitary reform from the 1840s, not just in London, where perhaps it was needed most, but in the non-metropolitan centres, and continued to work for the principle of clean water up to and beyond the 1880s, long after he had retired.

Here we have a letter from Chadwick, dated August 21st 1884, to a James Blackburn, who turns out to be the man who in the 1870s was dealing with the sewage coming from Aldershot Army Camp. Blackburn, who was then Ranger of Windsor Forest, had used the effluvia on 100 acres of mainly heather-strewn land, and so successful was he in growing crops on it that in 1879 he entered the Camp Farm for the Agricultural Society’s £100 prize for the best sewage farm in the United Kingdom. He didn’t win it, but Chadwick, evidently impressed by Blackburn’s methods, wrote to him from his home in East Sheen asking if he could visit him to discuss the latest thinking on metropolitan sewage disposal.

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