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THE GENESIS OF SOIL

Soil primarily had its beginning from rock together with animal and vegetable decay, if you can imagine long stretches or periods of time when great rock masses were crumbling and breaking up. Heat, water action, and friction were largely responsible for this. By friction here is meant the rubbing and grinding of rock mass against rock mass. Think of the huge rocks, a perfect chaos of them, bumping, scraping, settling against one another. What would be the result? Well, I am sure you all could work that out. This is what happened: bits of rock were worn off, a great deal of heat was produced, pieces of rock were pressed together to form new rock masses, some portions becoming dissolved in water. Why, I myself, almost feel the stress and strain of it all. Can you?

Then, too, there were great changes in temperature. First everything was heated to a high temperature, then gradually became cool. Just think of the cracking, the crumbling, the upheavals, that such changes must have caused! You know some of the effects in winter of sudden freezes and thaws. But the little examples of bursting water pipes and broken pitchers are as nothing to what was happening in the world during those days. The water and the gases in the atmosphere helped along this crumbling work.

From all this action of rubbing, which action we call mechanical, it is easy enough to understand how sand was formed. This represents one of the great divisions of soil sandy soil. The sea shores are great masses of pure sand. If soil were nothing but broken rock masses then indeed it would be very poor and unproductive. But the early forms of animal and vegetable life decaying became a part of the rock mass and a better soil resulted. So the soils we speak of as sandy soils have mixed with the sand other matter, sometimes clay, sometimes vegetable matter or humus, and often animal waste.

Clay brings us right to another class of soils clayey soils. It happens that certain portions of rock masses became dissolved when water trickled over them and heat was plenty and abundant. This dissolution took place largely because there is in the air a certain gas called carbon dioxide or carbonic acid gas. This gas attacks and changes certain substances in rocks. Sometimes you see great rocks with portions sticking up looking as if they had been eaten away. Carbonic acid did this. It changed this eaten part into something else which we call clay. A change like this is not mechanical but chemical. The difference in the two kinds of change is just this: in the one case of sand, where a mechanical change went on, you still have just what you started with, save that the size of the mass is smaller. You started with a big rock, and ended with little particles of sand. But you had no different kind of rock in the end. Mechanical action might be illustrated with a piece of lump sugar. Let the sugar represent a big mass of rock. Break up the sugar, and even the smallest bit is sugar. It is just so with the rock mass; but in the case of a chemical change you start with one thing and end with another. You started with a big mass of rock which had in it a portion that became changed by the acid acting on it. It ended in being an entirely different thing which we call clay. So in the case of chemical change a certain something is started with and in the end we have an entirely different thing. The clay soils are often called mud soils because of the amount of water used in their formation.

The third sort of soil which we farm people have to deal with is lime soil. Remember we are thinking of soils from the farm point of view. This soil of course ordinarily was formed from limestone. Just as soon as one thing is mentioned about which we know nothing, another comes up of which we are just as ignorant. And so a whole chain of questions follows. Now you are probably saying within yourselves, how was limestone first formed?

At one time ages ago the lower animal and plant forms picked from the water particles of lime. With the lime they formed skeletons or houses about themselves as protection from larger animals. Coral is representative of this class of skeleton-forming animal.

As the animal died the skeleton remained. Great masses of this living matter pressed all together, after ages, formed limestone. Some limestones are still in such shape that the shelly formation is still visible. Marble, another limestone, is somewhat crystalline in character. Another well-known limestone is chalk. Perhaps you’d like to know a way of always being able to tell limestone. Drop a little of this acid on some lime. See how it bubbles and fizzles. Then drop some on this chalk and on the marble, too. The same bubbling takes place. So lime must be in these three structures. One does not have to buy a special acid for this work, for even the household acids like vinegar will cause the same result.

Then these are the three types of soil with which the farmer has to deal, and which we wish to understand. For one may learn to know his garden soil by studying it, just as one learns a lesson by study.

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April 28, 2009 Posted by | gardening | Leave a comment

EXPOSURE OF INFANTS TO OPEN AIR

The respiration of a pure air is at all times, and under all circumstances, indispensable to the health of the infant. The nursery therefore should be large, well ventilated, in an elevated part of the house, and so situated as to admit a free supply both of air and light. For the same reasons, the room in which the infant sleeps should be large, and the air frequently renewed; for nothing is so prejudicial to its health as sleeping in an impure and heated atmosphere. The practice, therefore, of drawing thick curtains closely round the bed is highly pernicious; they only answer a useful purpose when they defend the infant from any draught of cold air.

The proper time for taking the infant into the open air must, of course, be determined by the season of the year, and the state of the weather. “A delicate infant born late in the autumn will not generally derive advantage from being carried into the open air, in this climate, till the succeeding spring; and if the rooms in which he is kept are large, often changed, and well ventilated, he will not suffer from the confinement, while he will, most probably, escape catarrhal affections, which are so often the consequence of the injudicious exposure of infants to a cold and humid atmosphere.” If, however, the child is strong and healthy, no opportunity should be lost of taking it into the open air at stated periods, experience daily proving that it has the most invigorating and vivifying influence upon the system. Regard, however, must always be had to the state of the weather; and to a damp condition of the atmosphere the infant should never be exposed, as it is one of the most powerful exciting causes of consumptive disease. The nurse-maid, too, should not be allowed to loiter and linger about, thus exposing the infant unnecessarily, and for an undue length of time; this is generally the source of all the evils which accrue from taking the babe into the open air.

April 25, 2009 Posted by | child care | Leave a comment

THE CULTIVATION OF VEGETABLES

Before taking up the garden vegetables individually, I shall outline the general practice of cultivation, which applies to all.

The purposes of cultivation are three to get rid of weeds, and to stimulate growth by (1) letting air into the soil and freeing unavailable plant food, and (2) by conserving moisture.

As to weeds, the gardener of any experience need not be told the importance of keeping his crops clean. He has learned from bitter and costly experience the price of letting them get anything resembling a start. He knows that one or two days’ growth, after they are well up, followed perhaps by a day or so of rain, may easily double or treble the work of cleaning a patch of onions or carrots, and that where weeds have attained any size they cannot be taken out of sowed crops without doing a great deal of injury. He also realizes, or should, that every day’s growth means just so much available plant food stolen from under the very roots of his legitimate crops.

Instead of letting the weeds get away with any plant food, he should be furnishing more, for clean and frequent cultivation will not only break the soil up mechanically, but let in air, moisture and heat all essential in effecting those chemical changes necessary to convert non- available into available plant food. Long before the science in the case was discovered, the soil cultivators had learned by observation the necessity of keeping the soil nicely loosened about their growing crops. Even the lanky and untutored aborigine saw to it that his squaw not only put a bad fish under the hill of maize but plied her shell hoe over it. Plants need to breathe. Their roots need air. You might as well expect to find the rosy glow of happiness on the wan cheeks of a cotton-mill child slave as to expect to see the luxuriant dark green of healthy plant life in a suffocated garden.

Important as the question of air is, that of  water  ranks beside it. You may not see at first what the matter of frequent cultivation has to do with water. But let us stop a moment and look into it. Take a strip of blotting paper, dip one end in water, and watch the moisture run up hill, soak up through the blotter. The scientists have labeled that “capillary attraction” the water crawls up little invisible tubes formed by the texture of the blotter. Now take a similar piece, cut it across, hold the two cut edges firmly together, and try it again. The moisture refuses to cross the line: the connection has been severed.

In the same way the water stored in the soil after a rain begins at once to escape again into the atmosphere. That on the surface evaporates first, and that which has soaked in begins to soak in through the soil to the surface. It is leaving your garden, through the millions of soil tubes, just as surely as if you had a two-inch pipe and a gasoline engine, pumping it into the gutter night and day! Save your garden by stopping the waste. It is the easiest thing in the world to do cut the pipe in two. By frequent cultivation of the surface soil not more than one or two inches deep for most small vegetables the soil tubes are kept broken, and a mulch of dust is maintained. Try to get over every part of your garden, especially where it is not shaded, once in every ten days or two weeks. Does that seem like too much work? You can push your wheel hoe through, and thus keep the dust mulch as a constant protection, as fast as you can walk. If you wait for the weeds, you will nearly have to crawl through, doing more or less harm by disturbing your growing plants, losing all the plant food (and they will take the cream) which they have consumed, and actually putting in more hours of infinitely more disagreeable work. If the beginner at gardening has not been convinced by the facts given, there is only one thing left to convince him experience.

Having given so much space to the  reason  for constant care in this matter, the question of methods naturally follows. Get a wheel hoe. The simplest sorts will not only save you an infinite amount of time and work, but do the work better, very much better than it can be done by hand. You  can  grow good vegetables, especially if your garden is a very small one, without one of these labor-savers, but I can assure you that you will never regret the small investment necessary to procure it.

With a wheel hoe, the work of preserving the soil mulch becomes very simple. If one has not a wheel hoe, for small areas very rapid work can be done with the scuffle hoe.

The matter of keeping weeds cleaned out of the rows and between the plants in the rows is not so quickly accomplished. Where hand-work is necessary, let it be done at once. Here are a few practical suggestions that will reduce this work to a minimum, (1) Get at this work while the ground is soft; as soon as the soil begins to dry out after a rain is the best time. Under such conditions the weeds will pull out by the roots, without breaking off. (2) Immediately before weeding, go over the rows with a wheel hoe, cutting shallow, but just as close as possible, leaving a narrow, plainly visible strip which must be hand- weeded. The best tool for this purpose is the double wheel hoe with disc attachment, or hoes for large plants. (3) See to it that not only the weeds are pulled but that  every inch  of soil surface is broken up. It is fully as important that the weeds just sprouting be destroyed, as that the larger ones be pulled up. One stroke of the weeder or the fingers will destroy a hundred weed seedlings in less time than one weed can be pulled out after it gets a good start. (4) Use one of the small hand-weeders until you become skilled with it. Not only may more work be done but the fingers will be saved unnecessary wear.

The skilful use of the wheel hoe can be acquired through practice only. The first thing to learn is that it is necessary to watch  the wheels only:  the blades, disc or rakes will take care of themselves.

The operation of “hilling” consists in drawing up the soil about the stems of growing plants, usually at the time of second or third hoeing. It used to be the practice to hill everything that could be hilled “up to the eyebrows,” but it has gradually been discarded for what is termed “level culture”; and you will readily see the reason, from what has been said about the escape of moisture from the surface of the soil; for of course the two upper sides of the hill, which may be represented by an equilateral triangle with one side horizontal, give more exposed surface than the level surface represented by the base. In wet soils or seasons hilling may be advisable, but very seldom otherwise. It has the additional disadvantage of making it difficult to maintain the soil mulch which is so desirable.

Rotation of crops.
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There is another thing to be considered in making each vegetable do its best, and that is crop rotation, or the following of any vegetable with a different sort at the next planting.

With some vegetables, such as cabbage, this is almost imperative, and practically all are helped by it. Even onions, which are popularly supposed to be the proving exception to the rule, are healthier, and do as well after some other crop,  provided  the soil is as finely pulverized and rich as a previous crop of onions would leave it.

Here are the fundamental rules of crop rotation:

(1) Crops of the same vegetable, or vegetables of the same family (such as turnips and cabbage) should not follow each other.

(2) Vegetables that feed near the surface, like corn, should follow deep-rooting crops.

(3) Vines or leaf crops should follow root crops.

(4) Quick-growing crops should follow those occupying the land all season.

These are the principles which should determine the rotations to be followed in individual cases. The proper way to attend to this matter is when making the planting plan. You will then have time to do it properly, and will need to give it no further thought for a year.

With the above suggestions in mind, and  put to use , it will not be difficult to give the crops those special attentions which are needed to make them do their very best.

April 10, 2009 Posted by | gardening | Leave a comment

EARLY DETECTION OF DISEASE IN THE CHILD

It is highly important that a mother should possess such information as will enable her to detect disease at its first appearance, and thus insure for her child timely medical assistance. This knowledge it will not be difficult for her to obtain. She has only to bear in mind what are the indications which constitute health, and she will at once see that all deviations from it must denote the presence of disorder, if not of actual disease. With these changes she must to a certain extent make herself acquainted.

Signs of health.
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The signs of health are to be found, first, in the healthy performance of the various functions of the body; the regular demands made for its supply, neither in excess or deficiency; and a similar regularity in its excretions both in quantity and appearance.

If the figure of the healthy infant is observed, something may be learnt from this. There will be perceived such an universal roundness in all parts of the child’s body, that there is no such thing as an angle to be found in the whole figure; whether the limbs are bent or straight, every line forms a portion of a circle. The limbs will feel firm and solid, and unless they are bent, the joints cannot be discovered.

The tongue, even in health, is always white, but it will be free from sores, the skin cool, the eye bright, the complexion clear, the head cool, and the abdomen not projecting too far, the breathing regular, and without effort.

When awake, the infant will be cheerful and sprightly, and, loving to be played with, will often break out into its merry, happy, laugh; whilst, on the other hand, when asleep, it will appear calm, every feature composed, its countenance displaying an expression of happiness, and frequently, perhaps, lit up with a smile.

Just in proportion as the above appearances are present and entire, health may be said to exist; and just in proportion to their partial or total absence disease will have usurped its place.

We will, however, for the sake of clearness examine the signs of disease as they are manifested separately by the countenance, the gestures, in sleep, in the stools, and by the breathing and cough.

Of the countenance.
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In health the countenance of a thild is expressive of serenity in mind and body; but if the child be unwell, this expression will be changed, and in a manner which, to a certain extent, will indicate what part of the system is at fault.

The brows will be contracted, if there is pain, and its seat is in the head. This is frequently the very first outward sign of any thing being wrong, and will occur at the very onset of disease; if therefore remarked at an early period, and proper remedies used, its notice may prevent one of the most fearful of infantile complaints “Water in the Head.”

If this sign is passed by unheeded, and the above disease be threatened, soon the eyes will become fixed and staring, the head hot, and moved uneasily from side to side upon the pillow, or lie heavily upon the nurse’s arm, the child will start in its sleep, grinding its teeth, and awake alarmed and screaming, its face will be flushed, particularly the cheeks (as if rouged), its hands hot, but feet cold, its bowels obstinately costive, or its motions scanty, dark-coloured, and foul.

If the lips are drawn apart, so as to show the teeth or gums, the seat of the pain is in the belly. This sign, however, will only be present during the actual existence of suffering; if, therefore, there be any doubt whether it exist, press upon the stomach, and watch the eifect on the expression of the countenance.

If the pain arise simply from irritation of the bowels excited from indigestion, it will be temporary, and the sign will go and come just as the spasm may occur, and slight remedial measures will give relief.

If, however, the disease be more serious, and inflammation ensue, this sign will be more constantly present, and soon the countenance will become pale, or sallow and sunken, the child will dread motion, and lie upon its back with the knees bent up to the belly, the tongue will be loaded, and in breathing, while the chest will be seen to heave with more than usual effort, the muscles of the belly will remain perfectly quiescent.

If the nostrils are drawn upwards and in quick motion, pain exists in the chest. This sign, however, will generally be the accompaniment of inflammation of the chest, in which case the countenance will be discoloured, the eyes more or less staring, and the breathing will be difficult and hurried; and if the child’s mode of respiring be watched, the chest will be observed to be unmoved, while the belly quickly heaves with every inspiration.

Convulsions are generally preceded by some changes in the countenance. The upper lip will be drawn up, and is occasionally bluish or livid. Then there may be slight squinting, or a singular rotation of the eye upon its own axis; alternate flushing or paleness of the face; and sudden animation followed by languor.

These signs will sometimes manifest themselves many hours, nay days, before the attack occurs; may be looked upon as premonitory; and if timely noticed, and suitable medical aid resorted to, the occurrence of a fit may be altogether prevented.

The state of the eyes should always be attended to. In health they are clear and bright, but in disease they become dull, and give a heavy appearance to the countenance; though after long continued irritation they will assume a degree of quickness which is very remarkable, and a sort of pearly brightness which is better known from observation than it can be from description.

The direction of the eyes, too, should be regarded, for from this we may learn something. When the infant is first brought to the light, both eyes are scarcely ever directed to the same object: this occurs without any tendency to disease, and merely proves, that regarding one object with both eyes is only an acquired habit. But when the child has come to that age when the eyes are by habit directed to the same object, and afterwards it loses that power, this circumstance alone may be looked upon as a frequent prelude to disease affecting the head.

Of the gestures.
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The gestures of a healthy child are all easy and natural; but in sickness those deviations occur, which alone will often denote the nature of the disease.

Suppose an infant to have acquired the power to support itself, to hold its head erect; let sickness come, its head will droop immediately, and this power will be lost, only to be regained with the return of health; and during the interval every posture and movement will be that of languor.

The little one that has just taught itself to run alone from chair to chair, having two or three teeth pressing upon and irritating the gums, will for a time be completely taken off its feet, and perhaps lie languidly in its cot, or on its nurse’s arm.

The legs being drawn up to the belly, and accompanied by crying, are proofs of disorder and pain in the bowels. Press upon this part, and your pressure will increase the pain. Look to the secretions from the bowels themselves, and by their unhealthy character your suspicions, in reference to the seat of the disorder, are at once confirmed.

The hands of a child in health are rarely carried above its mouth; but let there be any thing wrong about the head and pain present, and the little one’s hands will be constantly raised to the head and face.

Sudden starting when awake, as also during sleep, though it occur from trifling causes, should never be disregarded. It is frequently connected with approaching disorder of the brain. It may forebode a convulsive fit, and such suspicion is confirmed, if you find the thumb of the child drawn in and firmly pressed upon the palm, with the fingers so compressed upon it, that the hand cannot be forced open without difficulty. The same condition will exist in the toes, but not to so great a degree; there may also be a puffy state of the back of the hands and feet, and both foot and wrist bent downwards.

There are other and milder signs threatening convulsions and connected with gesture, which should be regarded: the head being drawn rigidly backwards, an arm fixed firmly to the side, or near to it, as also one of the legs drawn stifly upwards. These signs, as also those enumerated above, are confirmed beyond all doubt, if there be present certain alterations in the usual habits of the child: if the sleep is disturbed, if there be frequent fits of crying, great peevishness of temper, the countenance alternately flushed and pale, sudden animation followed by as sudden a fit of languor, catchings of the breath followed by a long and deep inspiration, all so many premonitory symptoms of an approaching attack.

Of the sleep.
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The sleep of the infant in health is quiet, composed, and refreshing. In very early infancy, when not at the breast, it is for the most part asleep in its cot; and although as the months advance it sleeps less, yet when the hour for repose arrives, the child is no sooner laid down to rest, than it drops off into a quiet, peaceful slumber.

Not so, if ill. Frequently it will be unwilling to be put into its cot at all, and the nurse will be obliged to take the infant in her arms; it will then sleep but for a short time, and in a restless and disturbed manner.

If it suffer pain, however slight, the countenance will indicate it; and, as when awake, so now, if there is any thing wrong about the head, the contraction of the eye-brow and grinding of the teeth will appear; if any thing wrong about the belly, the lips will be drawn apart, showing the teeth or gums, and in both instances there will be great restlessness and frequent startings.

Of the stools.
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In the new-born infant the motions are dark coloured, very much like pitch both in consistence and appearance. The first milk, however, secreted in the mother’s breast, acts as an aperient upon the infant’s bowels, and thus in about four-and-twenty hours it is cleansed away.

From this time, and through the whole of infancy, the stools will be of a lightish yellow colour, the consistence of thin mustard, having little smell, smooth in appearance, and therefore free from lumps or white curded matter, and passed without pain or any considerable quantity of wind. And as long as the child is in health, it will have daily two or three, or even four, of these evacuations. But as it grows older, they will not be quite so frequent; they will become darker in colour, and more solid, though not so much so as in the adult.

Any deviation, then, from the above characters, is of course a sign of something wrong; and as a deranged condition of the bowels is frequently the first indication we have of coming disease, the nurse should daily be directed to watch the evacuations. Their appearance, colour, and the manner in which discharged, are the points principally to be looked to. If the stools have a very curdy appearance, or are too liquid, or green, or dark-coloured, or smell badly, they are unnatural. And in reference to the manner in which they are discharged, it should be borne in mind, that, in a healthy child, the motion is passed with but little wind, and as if squeezed out, but in disease, it will be thrown out with considerable force, which is a sign of great irritation. The number, too, of stools passed within the four-and- twenty hours it is important to note, so that if the child does not have its accustomed relief, (and it must not be forgotten that children, although in perfect health, differ as to the precise number,)

Of the breathing and cough
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The breathing of a child in health is formed of equal inspirations and expirations, and it breathes quietly, regularly, inaudibly, and without effort. But let inflammation of the air-tubes or lungs take place, and the inspiration will become in a few hours so quickened and hurried, and perhaps audible, that the attention has only to be directed to the circumstance to be at once perceived.

Now all changes which occur in the breathing from its healthy standard, however slight the shades of difference may be, it is most important should be noticed early. For many of the complaints in the chest, although very formidable in their character, if only seen early by the medical man, may be arrested in their progress; but otherwise, may be beyond the control of art. A parent, therefore, should make herself familiar with the breathing of her child in health, and she will readily mark any change which may arise.

Whenever a child has the symptoms of a common cold, attended by hoarseness and a rough cough, always look upon it with suspicion, and never neglect seeking a medical opinion. Hoarseness does not usually attend a common cold in the child, and these symptoms may be premonitory of an attack of “croup;” a disease excessively rapid in its progress, and which, from the importance of the parts affected, carrying on, as they do, a function indispensably necessary to life, requires the most prompt and decided treatment.

The following observations of Dr. Cheyne are so strikingly illustrative, and so pertinent to my present purpose, that I cannot refrain inserting them: “In the approach of an attack of croup, which almost always takes place in the evening, probably of a day during which the child has been exposed to the weather, and often after catarrhal symptoms have existed for several days, he may be observed to be excited, in variable spirits, more ready than usual to laugh than to cry, a little flushed, occasionally coughing, the sound of the cough being rough, like that which attends the catarrhal stage of the measles. More generally, however, the patient has been for some time in bed and asleep, before the nature of the disease with which he is threatened is apparent; then, perhaps, without waking, he gives a very unusual cough, well known to any one who has witnessed an attack of the croup; it rings as if the child had coughed through a brazen trumpet; it is truly a tussis clangosa; it penetrates the walls and floor of the apartment, and startles the experienced mother, ‘Oh! I am afraid our child is taking the croup!’ She runs to the nursery, finds her child sleeping softly, and hopes she may be mistaken. But remaining to tend him, before long the ringing cough, a single cough, is repeated again and again; the patient is roused, and then a new symptom is remarked; the sound of his voice is changed; puling, and as if the throat were swelled, it corresponds with the cough,” etc.

How important that a mother should be acquainted with the above signs of one of the most terrific complaints to which childhood is subject; for, if she only send for medical assistance during its first stage, the treatment will be almost invariably successful; whereas, if this “golden opportunity” is lost, this disease will seldom yield to the influence of measures, however wisely chosen or perseveringly employed.

April 5, 2009 Posted by | child care | Leave a comment