Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed]

THE TWO BUSINESS ENDS OF THE FROST ALARM. When the thermometer drops to the danger mark, a bell rings at the orchardist's bedside.

used in handling it. It has certain advantages that appeal to many users, in spite of the trouble of handling it. Next to wood it is the commonest and best known fuel, and every one understands its action in combustion. It requires less expensive storage equipment, and the cost of the first outfit is less than for an oil burning plant. The little sheet iron coal furnaces hold about twentyfive or thirty pounds of coal and will burn four to six hours. The cost of heating an acre with about sixty furnaces of this description will average five or six dollars, including labor, interest on the cost of the pots and about 250 pounds of coal.

The little outdoor oil stove has come to be recognized as the dreadnaught of all heaters when it comes to making fires easily and quickly with a minimum of labor and the greatest economy of material. The oil pots can be lighted as fast as a man can walk through the orchard, can be regulated to burn any length of time or any quantity of fuel and at any strength demanded by the weather. When the necessity of fire is past, they can be extinguished and the rest of the fuel saved.

The development of the machinery of orchard heating has been an amazing industrial growth. It has sprung within three years from nothing to an industry employing a score of firms that supply fruit growers with upwards of a million

heaters a year. The manufacturers estimate that some two million are now in use, and the next few years will see millions more installed. The value of the heaters now in use is estimated at $300,000. The two leading factories alone have put out in the neighborhood of a million. One of them has a capacity of 10,000 a day and has turned out a half million heaters. There are now some two thousand orchards equipped with these small furnaces. It must be understood that these figures represent an industry that is but in its infancy. When orchard heating has been as generally adopted as spraying they will be many times multiplied.

The first cost of installing an oil heating plant is higher than for a coal or wood outfit, but the results in time saved and efficiency gained have made it the most popular fuel. Oil can be obtained in quantity at prices ranging from four to six and a half cents a gallon, and it makes a quick, strong and easily controlled heat. One man can care for from three to five acres of orchard for four or five hours and this is about as long as it will be necessary to burn under ordinary frost conditions. The prices of the oil heaters range from twelve cents for a simple "lard pail" type to forty-five cents for one of the controlled fire area type, holding thre gallons and burning at full capacity for ten or twelve hours, or even longer if

regulated for a smaller blaze. Heaters with larger reservoir attachments holding a supply of oil that will burn from thirty-six to fifty-six hours are also manufactured this season, and will be tested out in next spring's frosts.

The complete oil heating plant includes a storage tank holding from a thousand to three thousand gallons, and one or two tank wagons from which the heaters are filled. The best of these storage tanks are built of concrete, and are usually placed on a hillside so that the entire handling of the oil is accomplished by gravity. The wagon gets the oil from the tank cars on the nearest side track by gravity, and delivers it through a hose to an opening in the top of the storage tank. An opening on the down hill side of the tank lets it run out into the wagon again when ready for use, and a hose carries it from the wagon tank to the heaters as the wagon is driven through the orchard. estimate of the average cost of installing an outfit on an orchard of ten acres is as follows: Heaters

One 3,000 gallon cement
tank

200 gallon tank for wagon.
Four gasoline lighting cans
Three good thermometers..
Frost alarm thermometer..

Total

The time of greatest danger to the fruit is when the buds are opening and the process of blossoming is under way. Peaches especially have a foolish way of blooming before the leaves come out to protect the tender blossoms. Usually they are in bloom in the last days of March, and our late spring last season would have been particularly disastrous if it had not been for the protection of orchard heating. There are four stages in the life of the fruit bud when the crop may be lost by injury from the cold. The first is that of the fully dormant buds as we find them in early winter. At this time they may safely stand a temperature of eight or nine degrees below zero, Fahrenheit, though there might even be injury at nine degrees if maintained long enough. The second stage is when the growth of the buds begins until they are fully open. This is a very critical period and the buds are even more tender than when fully dormant. The third stage is the time between the opening of the flowers and the falling of the petals. This is the $200 to $250 time of the late frosts, and the danger point lies somewhere between twenty-six and thirty degrees above zero. fourth and last stage begins after the fruit has set and lasts till all danger of cold weather is past. Just after the fruit has formed, when the calyx is beginning to fall, the young fruit can safely endure thirty-two degrees. Beyond this stage the larger the peaches are the less cold they can withstand.

A good

70 to

75

20 to

22

6 to

6

3 to 20 to

25

3

$319 to $381

The cost of labor and other items of maintenance and the quantity of oil incident to the operation of the plant will of course vary with the severity of the weather and the number of nights it is necessary to keep up the fires. Generally, however, not more than a few days or a week of lighting is necessary.

The

Growers are firm and unanimous in the belief that orchard heating is the greatest advance ever made in battling with the natural elements. By heating all out-doors in the fruit belt, scientific horticulture takes its place abreast of scientific agriculture.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

PAUL GRISWOLD HOWES

Curator of Ornithology and Entomology at the Maplewood Museum of Natural Science,
Stamford, Connecticut.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE AUTHOR

[blocks in formation]

with the sadness of summer's aftermath.

During the early part of last September, during a tramp through the country, I stumbled across a lifeless starling which was hanging from a gate-post with one of its legs tightly held in a large deep crack. The unfortunate bird had evidently alighted upon the rounded top of the post and its foot had slipped into the crevice. Panic-stricken it had made vain efforts to free itself, succeeding only in wedging its limb more firmly into the crack. Here it perished more

[graphic][merged small]

from exhaustion than its internal injuries.

While removing this bird from its ́death trap, a drop of opaque greenish liquid dropped from its mouth to the ground. Fortunately it landed upon a leaf below and I was thus enabled to remove it to the laboratory for closer examination. Tiny black dots had already been noticed within the greenish fluid, and when placed under the microscope these proved to be great numbers of minute living creatures! Among Among them a tiny form of water insect, named Cyclops, was recognized which had often been found inhabiting Algae, a slimy fresh water plant. It was evident then, that as the bird had been found close to a small pond, the Cyclops insects had probably been obtained there. A small amount of Algae from the above mentioned pond was immediately collected, and upon examination the same tiny creatures that dropped from the un

fortunate starling's mouth were found in it. These facts led to the recovery of the bird which had already been buried. The stomach was carefully taken out, cut open and the entire cavity found to be filled with partly digested vegetable matter which proved to be Algae when placed under the microscope! Why this particular bird chose a vegetable diet at a season when its natural food was so abundant is one of nature's deepest mysteries. Whether or not this had anything to do with the starling's death is left to the imagination of the reader.

Many of our feathered friends accidentally hang themselves while carrying bits of string, horse-hair and sometimes even wire to their nests. As the bird flies into the nesting tree, the string or wire becomes entangled among the branches and in its wild efforts to free the coveted article, the bird is also caught by the foot or sometimes by the

neck. In this position it soon expires, perhaps within sight of its own nest, either from exhaustion and lack of food or from strangulation.

A pitiful case of a slow and torturous bird death is shown in the illustration of the purple grackle who caught its foot in the string of a kite, which in its descent had unfortunately landed within a few inches of the bird's nest. Perhaps on coming to its home. among the branches, the unsuspecting grackle placed its foot upon the fateful cord which became looped about its leg unnoticed by the bird. Terrified out of its senses at finding itself in the grip of some unknown, invisible power, the bird was soon overcome by exhaustion

[graphic][merged small]

from its frantic struggles for freedom. Hanging thus in a helpless position, the poor grackle was turned round and round by the wind, each circuit binding its toes more firmly together, and each turn wrenching harder upon the victim's muscles until finally its leg was torn, flesh and bone, from the strained and battered socket. Once a shining, glossy blackbird, but now a twitching mass of clotted blood and feathers, it hung, still alive and writhing; perhaps for days, hidden from us only by the "peaceful" foliage of the countryside in May!

Small birds who occasionally vary their insect diet by eating a certain amount of grain are not infrequently choked to death in attempting to swallow morsels too large for their throats. A starling killed in this manner came to my notice one autumn not many years ago. The bird was found suspended by the neck in a large sycamore, from a crotch some forty feet above the ground. From all appearances, the slight resistance on the part of the bird would have set it free as the neck was not firmly wedged into the crotch and for this reason it did not seem probable that the

bird could have perished simply from hanging. However, other causes for its death were sought in vain until as a final effort to clear up the mystery, the bird was recovered and dissected. Upon opening the throat, two large kernels of corn were found, lodged in such a manner as to have shut off the entire air supply to the lungs. After attempting to swallow the corn, the bird may have flown to any branch in the tree, then in its death fall, it might have been caught in a hundred different ways. In this case, only the neck became wedged, giving it the appearance of having been caught and killed in this manner.

Hundreds of thousands of birds lose their lives when the first warm days of spring send them hurrying homeward from the Southland, when the "Storm of Wings" is at its height. For our own safety at least, we have dotted our coast lines and river mouths with tall stone towers and in the top of each we have placed a light which sends its blinding rays, friendly to mankind, but hostile to the bird world, in great sweeping gestures into the night. During migrations, birds follow the coast, commencing their inland journeys from the

« PreviousContinue »