Breeding and rearing of the silk worm
Is there any need for me to demonstrate the immense advantage of the silk worm? These are too generally known, and the limit of this small treatise too narrow for me to explicate at length on that part of the subject. I will content myself with having you to observe that this culturebrings into existence numberless first-class industries, and imparting life and motion to all those great or small, already established in the country, and to the agriculture as well, by drawing and settling in the
... nd settling in the country a considerable population of workmen and traders who consume the products of the farmer, and constitute at his very door a permanent market, by reviving and increasing the commercial movement in all its various branches, by bringing in the cash capital and increasing four -fold the value of land. There is not one person in the country who can remain unconcerned in the progress of silk culture ; not one but has a strong interest in it. The rich will find there a profiable use for his funds ; the workman a steady employment ; the mining industry a powerful help on account of the large amount of fuel used in the factory and spinning mills, and the farmer a sure resource. One of the peculiarities of this industry is its aptitude to be divided and sub-divided indefinitely. Silk is like a precious manna, which every one may gather according to his strength and ability to work. There is even something more than this, for the poor can reach to it as easy and more surely than the rich, for experience has proven, long ago' and everywhere, that breeding on a small scale is almost always a sure success, and at all events runs much less risk than breeding on a large scale, which is the more exposed to disease as the worms are more in number. Another advantage of a limited breeding is, that it requires scarcely any expense. Every year, a few weeks in the smallest cottage with an acre or two of young mulberry trees, one will make first $50 then $100 or $400 worth of cocoons,' without neglecting the other culture, bring into usefulness the girls, children and the old during the first stage, and men only for eight or ten days, when the work needs hurrying. Then money will come, truly a discovered treasure for the poor family, coming in so fast it will seem as if it had been dropped directly from above. And why should we not see done here what we see done in France '? There even the highly educated ladies participate in this interesting business, as they would in a plaything making, at the same time realizing a nice little profit of $90 to $100 or more. To sum it up : Breeding on a small scale is so easy that in silk growing countries you see it multiply indefinitely and become the true source of wealth, for they make at least three-fourths of the general production of silk. For more extensive breeding, which needs costly buildings and other Rearing and Breeding expenses, though it requires more care, more practical instruction, and is more exposed to failure than limited breeding ; it is likely to succeed better here than in any other place in the world owing to the remarkable qualities of the climate. Further, it is useful and indispensable to impart impulse to industry and to spread it in a new country. It is not expected from a poor farmer to go into planting mulberry trees and raising silk worms in a country where he supposes there is nobody to buy his cocoons, because he does not know that he who has cocoons, secures the whole Avorld for his market ; that should his country refuse to buy them, Italy, France, Spain and even England will always send hun gold for his goods. This the rich man knows, and he is to set an example and take the lead. When the most intelligent, the most devoted to public progress and their own personal benefit have seen and handled the results and proved how easy and surprising the success is which await them in that direction, it will then happen with the culture of the silk worm in America, as it happened in France with the culture of the potato, tame grasses, etc., once so difficult to introduce, and which afterward spread so rapidly, becoming a great resource for the whole world. I say it will be the same story again with the silk worm in Louisiana, Mississippi, etc. The experiments made at Silkville with the breeding of silk worms, have already proven how particularly adapted to that culture your climate and soil are. By erecting his factory for milling and reeling, M. de Bossiere, will go one step farther, and set up in your midst a ready market, even in advance of the production, so that the most obstinate cannot preserve the slightest objection to oppose. As for me, I shall feel happy and proud to tiring ail the intelligence and strength I may have to help this important enterprise and make it a final success. This I shall do with entire confidence, for with a leader so enlightened, so alive to the interests of all, and at the same time so resolute, with the abundant means at his disposal, and above all that, with a nation so full of intelligence and instruction, so anxious of improvements as the one we live with, the success is assured. I mean success in establishing and spreading the culture of both, mulberry and silk worms ; as for the success of the crop, three years' experiments have thrice proved how easy it is. THE MULBERRY TREE. It being proved by facts that the naturalization of the silk industry in this country is not only possible, but even easy and economic, more so than in any other region of the world. Persons desirous of engaging in the silkworm business must, first of all, plant mulberry trees. A regular cocoonery need not be erected till the trees have grown up larger, the small temporary accommodations that may have been used are no longer spacious enough to hold silk worms. In the Mississippi valley buildings are plenty. The mulberry tree belongs to the Urticn family ; its flowers are monoic and dioir, disposed in close spike, oval or elongated, of which the females grow into compact juicy berries, containing the seed. Many (authors) writers say it originated in China, still it grows spontaneously in Persia, India and many other places in Asia, as well as in North America. There are two kinds or varieties quite distinct; the black mulberry tree and the while mulberry tree. The black one to the family of which the American belongs, vieds a great variety of excellent fruit. The leaves, strictly speaking, might be fed to the silk worms, still they are coarse and tough, and the worms do not eat them readily Those fed on them exclusively yield an inferior quality of silk. The white mulberry tree will grow fifty or sixty feet high with a trunk four to eight feet in circumference. The leaves, which produce the most beautiful silk, are alternate glossy on the upper side, smooth on both sides, oval, tough, with a little heart-shaped cut at the base, denticulate on the edge, often too, diversely divided in lobes when the tree grows wild, and whole on the grafted varieties. Sometimes on the same tree, no matter of what vari-of the Silk Worm. ety it is, leaves are found of different shapes. In color, the berries present numberless shades, from pure white to most perfect black. Fowls and pigs grow fat on them. Sweeter than raspberries, they taste agreeably when mixed with them. The second leaves, gathered and dried in the fall, form a first class f|dder for all herbivorous animals ; green they are eaten still more readily. The wood of the white mulberry tree has a fine compact grain, nice citron-yellow colored, and apt to take a beautiful polish. These qualities make it fit for several different uses ; cabinet-makers, cartwrights and coopers work it to advantage. It has, too, a well deserved reputation for fence posts and vine stakes, lasting very long in the ground. For kegs and barrels it is as good as the best oak. The bark of the young limbs yield a kind of tow, smooth and pretty near as fine as silk. Olivier de Serre, the father of French agriculture, had some tablecloths worked out of it, worthy to be presented to Henry IV., his king and friend. Out of the same bark the Chinese and Japanese make the most strong and beautiful paper. As an ornamental tree the mulberry cannot be beat. Its natural tall bearing fits it nicely to border roads and public grounds, while with suitable pruning it will submit to any shape wanted, bower, hedge, etc., and more than all that, its growth is rapid ; it stands the drouth so well that no other tree can be compared to it in that respect. For these many reasons the mulberry tree ought to supersede as ornament and shade tree quite a number of other kinds which are badly wanting in usefulness Gay, healthy foliage, so reposing to the eye, succulent berries, a delight of your children and birdies, without recalling to y<5u its immense practical utility for the silk culture. Do not these points entitle it to a place of honor around your cottage ? Plant mulberry trees then, men of the South, give it its due of care, and -my word for it-you will be paid for your trouble a hundred fold. See next chapter how to do it. THE MULBERRY TREE PLANTATION AND CUL- TURE. The mulberry tree is propagated from seed, cuttings and layers. From seed the trees are hardier and live longer, but they are born wild. and bring forth so many different varieties that out of a hundred there are not twenty alike. Very good stock has been sometimes obtained from seedlings, but, as a rule, they need to be grafted. We want two good points in a mulberry tree for our purpose, viz : good quality of the leaves and facility in gathering them. This implies large, soft, tender leaVes, growing on long, smooth shoots without side twigs. This is very important, for on a good tree a man acquainted with that work could pick 100 pounds of leaves in one hour's time, while, on the other hand, some trees present such small tough leaves, and so very hard to pick, that it is better to let them alone and save time, except if it happens to be on the very first stage of growth, both of the worms and leaves ; these last are then tender enough to be fed to the tender worms. Young, tender leaves are milk for them, leaves of wild mulberry trees are desirable too, for the first meal after every moulting period, which is a critical time for the worms, who, somewhat indisposed yet, need food fine and light, for which they show a marked preference. Since, then, that seedlings are not to be'relied upon in that respect, it is necessary to set the largest number possible of grafted or selected trees in view of economy and facility in breeding. The mulberry tree may be grafted or budded ; the graft is either cleft or flute, the first one being seldom adopted. The flute graft is easiest and succeeds best. It is practicable from April to August. A smart man can set from 250 to 300 grafts a day. Whereas the white mulberry tree succeeds admirably from cuttings, the silk growers of America will do well to adopt that way of propagation to procure their stock, provided they take the cuttings from good 6 Rearing and Breeding trees, possessing all the qualities described in this chapter ; in that case there is no use for grafting. The ground being prepared by deep plowing and harrowing, take your cuttings, make ready beforehand (we make them six or eight inches in length,) and set them three or four inches apart, in rows three or four feet distant. Two precautions are to be remembered. First. to press the ground firmly around the lower end of the cutting, and t<f cover the upper with but one-half or one inch of mellow earth, to alleviate the effects of a possible drouth, and to protect the upper eyes against the rays of the sun. Between the rows run the cultivator, but not so close as to hurt the young plants. There will be some work left for the hoe and hand, killing the weeds, always taking great care not to disturb the young roots, or to break the tender buds. Layers are made by bending on the ground one or more shoots of the selected mulberry trees. These are pegged in the bottom of small ditches two or three inches deep, then covered with earth to the same depth. In that way often out of every bed springs a rooted tree.