The Old Time Farm Magazines: How to Build a Hot Bed, How to Plant Tomatoes and Uses for Straw

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These old-time farm magazines give some old-fashioned great advice, including how to build your own hotbed.

Back in MOTHER November/December 1972 we brought you the best of what we
found while rummaging through some of the early farm
publications. Here then — repeated by popular demand
— are two more pages of that old-timey information
taken from issues of
to 1902.

How to Build a Hot Bed

By C. H. Hickox, Geauga Co., O.

The methods of preparing and caring for a hot-bed are very
simple, and with a little forethought and care one should
have no trouble. The ordinary stock size of hot-bed sash,
carried in stock by dealers is 3-by-6 ft., but my old sash
will answer the purpose.

The hot-bed should be laid out to extend east and west, and
the north side of the frame should be about six inches
higher than the south side, to give the glass a pitch
toward the sun. Take a plank or board ten inches wide for
the front and one sixteen inches wide for the back is about
right. The ends of the frame should come up even with the
top of the side planks, and be ripped off to give the
proper pitch. A cleat should be nailed on the end of the
hot-bed shown at C, in Picture1, to (told the sash from
slipping endwise. The frame should also have it stay across
the top about every six feet to prevent the sides from
springing out; shown at A, Fig 1. About the 1st to 15th of
March, according to the earliness of spring, preparations
should be made for the hot-bed. Select some sheltered spot
where there is plenty of sunshine and dig out a hole about
one foot larger than the frame on every side and about 2
1/2 feet deep. (Click on the “Image Gallery” to view this and any other illustrations for this story.)

Draw out a load or two of fermenting horse manure. If the
manure is heating evenly all through it may be put into
the pit at once, if not it should be shaken up thoroughly
and piled up in a close, compact pile arid left a few days.
If any portions of it are dry, it should be wet down. In
filling the pit, care should be taken to tread down the
manure firmly. The manure should extend beyond the frame on
all sides, one foot at least, then set on the frame and
bank it up on the outsides to the top of the frame with

Next put on six to eight inches of soil, put on the sash,
and let it sweat. By about the third or fourth day it will
do to sow to seed. Radishes, lettuce, and onion sets may be
put in along with cabbages, pepper and egg plants. The sash
should be raised a little everyday to give the plants fresh
air. When moisture begins to gather on the under side of
the glass you may know the temperature is running too high
and that, fresh air should be admitted. Care must be taken
not to allow cold wind to blow on the plants. In cold
nights the sash should be covered with straw matting or
burlaps, and in case of rain or snow it is well to have an improved hot-bed shutter, the same size as the top of the
hot-bed. This shutter saves time and labor. To make it get
strips of 3/8-inch thick lumber, nail these onto cleats 7/8
in.-by-2 in., at ends and middle, then take some building
paper and spread over the entire surface, then fill and
pack the spaces with rye straw. Cover again with building
paper and nail on the boards on the under side. This
shutter takes the place of the ordinary board shutter and
straw mats and saves time in handling. Two iron handles,
like door handles, screwed on near each end, midway, help
handle it. One can do quite a business with a few hot-beds
of this kind.

How to Plant Tomatoes

ByC. T. H.  Big Clear Creek, W. Va.

Dig holes two feet deep, three feet apart, in rows four
feet apart. Put a peck of manure in each hole, chopping a
little rich dirt into the manure with the spade; then fill
in eight inches on this with rich earth, so as to bring it
up nearly even with the surface of the ground. Set a small,
thrifty plant in each hole, hill up with the hoe every week
until you have ridges along the line of plants, knee high,
and the tops begin to fall over; then clean out between the
ridges, drawing all the looser dirt up to the tops of the
ridges, leaving clean, bare trenches between. Place fence
rails across from one ridge to another, under the vines,
and upon these lay poles lengthwise with the rows, making a
scaffold for the vines to spread out on. A dozen plants, so
treated, will furnish a supply of tomatoes for a large
family until frost comes. Try it.

How to Select Eggs for

By W. Hearn

It is a loss of time and eggs to set a hen unless some
attention is given the selection of the eggs for that
purpose. When a hen becomes broody some take eggs from the
egg basket and place them in the nest with no regard to
their shape or size. There is no method of knowing if an
egg is fertile until the hens has warmed it for three or
four days.

In selecting eggs use no small or large eggs, but take
those of normal size running about eight to a pound. The
weight varies with the different breeds, however. Brown
Leghorn eggs are some lighter. Eight weighing 15 ounces.
Care should be taken that each egg selected is perfect in
its drape. Double yolk eggs, small, irregular shapes and
those which have excrescences on the shells should be
avoided. Extra large eggs are from hens that are not in
proper condition, while very small eggs may come from
immature pullets. Secure eggs front your most prolific
hens. Attention to this matter may enable you to have a
better hatch.

Poultry Manure

Every farmer should save his poultry manure for the garden,
if for no other purpose. Compost it with rich, dry soil, or
vegetable mold; pulverize it and put it in the dry.
Properly saved, it has four times as much nitrogen, more
than twice as much potash, and over four times as much
phosphoric acid as horse manure. It can be used on all
garden crops, and will make a wonderful difference in the
yield and quality of many of them.

Carp Ponds

By A. Brenneman
,Morrow Co., O

Carp ponds ought to be so constructed as to allow the last
bucket of water to be drawn off. The dam should be made of
clay that is inclined to hold water. If the water is to be 4
or 5 feet deep, the dam must be 20 feet wide at the base, 8
feet at the top; if 10 feet deep, 30 feet wide at the base.
Where the dam is to stand, a ditch 4 feet wide must be dug
down to solid bottom, the dam 2 feet higher than the water
is to be. A collector near the dam in the lowest place, one
foot deeper than the rest of the pond, 10 feet wide, from
10 to 30 feet long, according to size of pond. Boards at the
sides and ends, held together by stakes, for a cheap
sluiceway box; use plank 10 inches wide. Cut 1/2 inch deep
and 1 inch wide in the two sides. Planks cut across. Within
1 1/2 inch, cut 1/2 inch deep in the bottom plank. Now
measure 1 inch toward the end of the box; take a chisel,
cut it out beveling; cut with 1 1/2 inch of the edges. Use
inch board for slide board, 1 1/2 inch hole toward the top
pull out the slide board with lever power. At the inner end
of the sluiceway box drive in solid 4 stakes, 2 feet apart;
fix a board in the bottom by nailing fast to stakes; slat the
sides and top, leaving a space between, every time, of
nearly 1/4 inch. This will let the water through, but not
the fish. For top outlet, cut a ditch somewhere in the
solid earth; across the ditch sink down a board, plank or
sill, nail on or frame in some posts to support the screen;
let the water run over the plank. Stones may be put in the
ditch. The more shallow the water the better. Plenty of
grass is what carp must have for spawning. At present we
have three ponds, the largest nearly four acres.

Cheap Rail Fence

C. A. P., of Blanchester, O., sends us a sketch and
description of a cheap rail fence he has in use. It is
shown in Image 2. He says: It can be made with about half
the rails required in an ordinary rail fence 9 rails high.
It is wind and stock proof, and no patent on it. I use
posts 5 feet long, set two feet, in ground. Place a ground
chunk close to the post. Let rails lap about one foot. Lay
first rail. Take a piece of oak 3 feet long, 1-by-2 inches
(split pieces;) set up close to the rail and wire it to
post; then lay up 4 or 5 rails high; then take pieces of
old rails, split out new ones 2 inches square and 5 1/2
feet long; set one on each side of fence so as to cross on one
side of the post; put a wire around here; put on top rails
and wire stakes and rails as shown.

Filling a Silo.

By C. W. F., Findlay, O.

Very important item in filling the silo is to have
something to put in it, and to have it close by. The
inexperienced will probably not recognize the importance of
raising his silo crop close to the silo until after he has
tried it. Without entering into details, to tell how much
longer it takes to travel over a long road than a short
one, where so many trips must be taken as is the case in
filling the silo, we would simply say, if you have a nice
piece of ground for the silage crop away out there on the
further corner of the farm, dont plant it there, even if
the ground and everything else is favorable. Plant
something else in it, and get your silage crop as close to
the silo as you can. Of course we can haul the silage crop
from a distance, but not unless we must.

Another pointer for the inexperienced is this: If you
calculate on using your long-coupled wagons and invite your
neighbors with their wagons to help you, then do not build
your silo in a corner where you cannot get to it. With our
short-turn tongueless trucks we can get into a corner and get out again, but the long-coupled wagon requires more
room. Besides, the engine and the cutter must also have
room and a place, and it may be that the mere mention of
this caution in the shape of a pointer to the beginner may
save him a lot of trouble, by getting his silo well located
so as to have it handy when he comes to fill it. Indeed,
this getting the silage in and out of the silo constitutes
a very important part of the whole ensilage business, and
unless there is ample provision made for getting the silage
in and out, there is danger of the extra labor consuming a
large part of the profit.

But it matters not how thorough and complete the
arrangements are, and how well the silo is located, and
all, unless we have something to put in it, all else avails
nothing. Corn is one of the surest crops we can raise, yet
even this sometimes fails, or nearly so, and our silomust
go scantily filled. Last year our silo was filled to
overflowing; this year it is less than half full, and I
dare say some of my less fortunate friends have none. To
provide against the danger of dry and wet weather, the
ground should be well tiled, then plowed when it is in
order, and early. Nothing will do more to pulverize the
ground and make it fine and nice than to plow deep, with a
good plow, when the ground is in condition. Don’t plow when
ground is hard; it will break up lumpy and stay lumpy all
season, and we shall have to be praying every day or two
for rain to keep our silo corn growing.

Few things are more detrimental to the silo crop than an
uneven stand. You can’t do anything with it all season, and
when you come to fill the silo, half the corn will be too
ripe and half too green. It is a partial failure, at least,
the whole way through. Good seed is a very important item,
as a starter, at least, toward filling the silo. We plant
our corn in hills, both ways. We can cut it better, and
stir the ground better, in a dry season or wet. We plant it
close, 2 ft. 9 in.; it grows finer and more feed.

We plant sweet corn — Scowell’s Evergreen, than which
there is no better thing grown for the silo and for cows.
Good for the silo because it stays longest green until its
food elements become thoroughly ripened and at all times it
has more sap in it to carry it through the heat of the
silo. It is good for the cow because it has more milk in it
and because she will not eat common corn if she can get
sweet corn.

We want our corn to stand in the stalk just as long as it
can before the blades and trucks begin to get dry; then we
want it cut and stored directly in the silo, with all its
sap to help keep it. Besides the loss to the corn while
wilting in the open air, it is risky business cutting down
a field of corn the day before we want to fill the silo.
What if there should be a break in the machinery, or there
should come a big rain, both of which have happened to me
in the last two years. Just last year we had to pull out
and quit for one whole week before we could get back into
the field. You can imagine what my silage corn would have
been lying on the ground all that time.

In many country neighborhoods it is sill customary for
farmers to help each other. Where such help may be secured,
we think better results may be obtained, because every man
does his best. In this section we must depend upon hired
help — take whom we can get, put up with ten hours for
a day, and pretty short hours, too, at that, and a very
moderate speed of labor besides, so that it is not
surprising if we fail to secure such results as some of my
fellows who are willing to work 14 or 15 hours in order to
get the silo filled in a day.

Most of the silos that we read of are filled, according to
accounts, in a day. Now we would like to hear from somebody
that filled his silo in a week; Then we would feel more
like telling how long it takes to fill ours. Large corn,
however, handles and fills faster, while sweet corn is soft,
packs tighter, and requires more of it to fill the same

Uses for Straw

By W. Jamison, Jeff. Co., Ind,

The many purposes for which straw can be used make it a
valuable article on the farm and one deserving more
attention than many farmers see fit to give it. Where stock
is kept in the stable, a large amount can be used for
bedding, which not only adds to the comfort of the
animals, but aids in saving the liquid manure, an item
which the farmer who has the welfare of his soil at heart
cannot overlook. It is also a source of pleasure, when one
is comfortably seated before the evening fire, to know that
the horse or cow in its stall can be comfortable on its bed
of straw.

With the use of a few rails or poles a good hog shelter can
be made with straw. The hog should be kept dry and warm in
bad weather and it takes but a few hours to make it so with
plenty of straw at hand. Many a hog has suffered through
the cold winter blasts, within a few feet of a straw stack,
just because its owner did not take time to make it
comfortable. Again, many a rude hen house could be fixed
with straw, paying for the work many times in the increase
of eggs, to say nothing about value of protection to the

Straw can also be used for feed to good advantage,
especially when cut fine and used in connection with bran,
shipstuff and ground feed.