« ZurückWeiter »
· wrath of heaven, as if the falling Aakes foreboded the last day. I found many plants only beginning to flower here, which I saw in seed below at Santander. I remember to have seen in Switzerland all the plants, but two, which grow in the mountains, hills, and plains, of Reynosa, a small yellow-flowered genistella, with an herbaceous, triangular jointed stem, and wild gooseberry bushes. The high moun. tains abound with oak, beech, birch, holly, and hazel.
The hills and plains are fine pasture. I never saw a meadow in any other part of Spain, nor cows and horses feed on hay. These mountains are formed of sand-stone, lime-stone, plaster-stone (talk), and emery-stone. The sand-stone is at the summit of the mountains and hills in some, and the lime-stone forms the body. You see the contrary in others, but the sand-stone abounds, and the plaster is always the lowest. As for example, the high mountain of Arandilla, which is about a small league north of the town, is all sandstone at the summit; its body is a mass of ash-coloured limestone, in which you find imprisoned petrified Cornua Ainmonis and scollop-shells, and beds of plaster-stone at its foot to. wards the plain, which join to strata of black marble, veined with white and yellow, which is no more than a purer limestone like all other marble; and you find great blocks of emery-stone in the plain, and on the hill to the east of Rey. nosa, of which I will say a word, because I think its nature is not truly known, at least that of emery, which the looking-glass grinders of the King's fabrick at St. Ildefonso say is the most biting emery they ever used,and I never saw any other in its native matrix. That iron has been, and is now, in a fluid state, percolating through the earth, and that it subsides, crystalises, or is precipitated to form different bodies, is demonstrated by the black and red bloodstone, (heinatites] by some beautiful stalactites which are almost pure iron, by the eagle-stone, by figured pyrites, by native vitriol, and by native crocus. When this Huid iron penetrates a rock of sand-stone and only stains the surface of each grain of a brownish, reddish, or yellow colour, it is only sand and croeus: but when this Auid iron, joined with the crystaline matter in a fluid state in the very act of the crystalization of each grain of sand, incorporates with it, increases its weight and hardness, it is emery. The earths of the mountains and hills are of the nature of the rock below. If it be Jime-stone, the soil cast into any acid liquor will boil up with a violent effervescence, and the acid will dissolve it. If the rock below be sand-stone, plaster-stone, or emery, the earths of the hill or mountain will remain quiet in the acid;
there is no effervescence nor dissolution. I often observed that when the rocks below are mixed, (calcarious and noncalcarious,) the soil of the surface is of a mixed nature too, and I always found the action of the acid to be weak or strong, upon these earths, in proportion to the stone that abounds. The farmers have found out by experience the genius of these two simple soils, as well as the inixed; they know that corn grows best in the sod that covers the limestone, that the mixed requires much manure, and that the deep, fat, clayey soil, which covers the sand-stone must have more ploughing, and other labour, than the farmer can afford,' and corn-land and calcarious or lime-stone land, are synonymous terms, in this country. These rocks and earths would be improperly mentioned in a letter upon wool, were it not that the sheep find out the nature of these three soils as sure as farmers and acids.
The first thing the shepherd does when the flock returns from the south to their summer downs, is to give them as much salt as they will eat; every owner allows his flock of a thousand sheep.100 aroves, or 25 quintals of salt, which the Hock eats in about five months; they eat none in their journey nor in their winter walk. This has ever been the custom, and it is the true reason why the Kings of Spain cannot raise the price of salt to the height it is in France, for it would tempt the shepherds to stint the sheep, which, it is believed, would weaken their constitutions and degrade the wool. The shepherd places fifty or sixty flat stones at about five steps distance from each other, he strews salt upon each stone, he leads the flock slowly through the stones, and every sheep eats to his liking. But then they never eat a grain of salt when they are feeding in linie-stone land, whether it be on the grass of the downs, or on the little plants of the corufields after harvest-home. The shepherd must not suffer them to stay too long without salt, he leads them into a spot of Cargillaceous) clayey soil, and in a quarter of an hour's fee iing they march to the stones and devour the salt. If they meet a spot of the mixed soil, which often happens, they eat salt in proportion. Ask the shepherd why the sheep eat no salt in lime-stone soil, and but little in the mixed' because, Sir, it is corn land. I know, and indeed, who does not know, that lime abounds in saline matter; but then the salt which chemists extract from it may not be the genuine salt of the lime-stone before calcination, for the fire may form new combinations. It may be sea salt, or at least the muriatic acid which rises in the vegetation of grass, and satisfies the sheep's taste for salt. The latter end of July the
rams are turned into the tribe of ewes, regulated at six or seven rams for every hundred; when the shepherd judges they are served, he collects the rams into a separate tribe to feed apart; but then there is another tribe of rams that feed apart too, and never serve the ewes, but which are merely for wool and for the butchery; for though the wool and flesh of wethers are finer and more delicate than those of rams, yet the fleece of a ram weighs more than the fleece of a wether, which is likewise shorter lived than the ram; this compensation is the reason there are so few tribes of we. thers in the royal flock of Spain. The fleeces of three rams generally weigh 25lbs. ; there must be the wool of four wethers and that of five ewes to weigh 25lbs. There is the same disproportion in their lives, which depend upon their teeth, for when they fail, they cannot bite the grass, and they are then condemned to the knife; the ewes' teeth, from their tender constitutions and the fatigue of breeding, begin to fail after five years of age; the wethers after six, and the robust ram not till towards eight. It is forbidden to expose rams' tesh to sale, but the law is eluded; they cut the old rams, and as soon as the incision is healed, they are sold to the butchers at a lower price than coarse-wooled wethers; that is the reason such bad mutton is generally eaten in Madrid, and that there are more rams sold and eaten every day in the year in Madrid, than in the rest of Europe. · At the latter end of September they put on the redding or ochre; it is a ponderous irony earth, common in Spain; the shepherd dissolves it in water, and daubs the sheep's backs with it from the neck to the rump. It is an old custom. Some say it mixes with the grease of the wool, and so becomes a varnish impenetrable to the rain and cold; others, that its weight keeps the wool down, so hinders it from growing long and coarse; and others, tbat it acts as an absorbent earth, receives part of the transpiration, which would foul the wool, and make it asperous.
The latter end of September the sheep begin their march towards the low plains; their itinerary is marked out by inmemorial custom, and by ordinances, and is as well regulated as the march of troops. They feed freely in all the wilds and commons they pass through; but as they must necessarily pass through many cultivated spots, the proprietors of them are obliged by law to leave a passage open for the sheep, through vineyards, oliveyards, corn-fields, and pasture land common to towns, and these
passages must be at least ninety yards wide, that they may not be too crowded
in a narrow lane. These passages are often so long that the poor creatures march six or seven leagues a-day to get into the open wilds, where the shepherd walks slow to let them feed at ease and rest; but they never stop, they bave no day of repose, they march at least two leagues a day, ever following the shepherd, always feeding or seeking with their heads towards the ground, till they get to their journey's end, which, from the Montana to Estramadura, is about 150 leagues, which they march in less than forty days. The chief shepherd's first care is to see that each tribe is conducted to the same district it fed in the year before, and where the sheep were yeaned, which they think prevents a variation in the wool, though this indeed requires but little care, for it is a notorious truth that the sheep would go to that very spot of their own accord. His next care is to fix the toils* where the sheep pass the night, lest they should stray, and fall into the jaws of wolves. Lastly, the shepherds make up their poor huts with stakes, branches and brambles; for which end, and for firing, they are allowed by the law to cut off one branch from every tree. I believe this to be the reason that all the forest-trees near the sheep walks in Spain are as hollow as willow-pollards. The roots of trees and the quantity of sap increase yearly with the branches; if you lop off these, all the sap that should go to the annual production, and to the nourishment of buds, stems, leaves, fowers, fruit, and growth of the branches, remains in the trunk; from hence stagnation, fermentation, and rottenness. Next comes the time when the ewes begin to drop their lambs, which is the most toilsome and most solicitous part of the pastoral life. The shepherds first cull out the barren from the pregnant ewes, which are conducted to the best shelter, and the others to the bleakest part of the district. As the lambs fall they are led apart with their dams to another comfortable spot. A third 'division is made of the last-yeaned lambs, for whom was allotted from the beginning the most fertile part, the best soil, and sweetest grass of the down, that they may grow as vigorous as the first-yeaned, for they must all march the same day towards their summer quarters. The shepherds perform four operations upon all the lambs about the same time in the month of March, but first they
* The toils are made of sparto, in meshes a foot wide, and the thickness yf a finger, so that toils serve instead of hurdles. The whole square toil is light. Sparto is a sort of rush which bears twisting into ropes for coasting vessels. Sparto swims, hemp sinks: it is called boss by the English sailors
pay the twentieth lamb; the other half tythe is paid in the winter walk. They cut off their tails five inches below the rump for cleanliness. They diark them on the nose with a hot iron, They saw off part of their horns that the rams may neither hurt one another nor the ewes. They render impotent the lambs doomed for docile bell wethers, to walk at the head of the tribe; they make no incision; the shepherd turns the testicles with his finger twenty times about in the scrotum, till he twists the spermatic vessels as a rope, and they wither away without any danger.
As soon as the month of April comes about, which is the time of their departure, the sheep express, by various uneasy mo, tions, a remarkable restlessness, and strong desire to go
off, The shepherds must exert all their vigilance lest they should escape, and it has often happened that a tribe has stolen a forced march of three or four leagues upon a sleepy shep herd; but he is sure to find them, for they return exactly the same way they came, and there are many examples of three or four strayed sheep walking a hundred leagues to the very place they fed in the year before. Thus they all go off towards their summer mountains in the same order they came, only with this difference, the flocks that go to Leon and Castile are shorn on the road, where we will stay a little to see the apparatus of this operation, whilst the other flocks march on to Molina Arragon. They begin to shear the first of May, provided the weather be fair, for if the wool were not quite dry, the fleeces which are close piled upon one another would ferment and rot; it is for this reason that the shearing-houses are so spacious. I saw some which can contain in bad weather 20,000 sheep, and cost above 5000l. sterling; besides, the ewes are creatures of such tender constitutions, that if they were exposed immediately after shearing to the air of a bleak night, they would all perish.
There are 125 shearmen employed to shear a flock of 10,000 sheep; a man shears twelve ewes a-day and but eight rams; the reason of this difference is, not only because the rams have larger bodies, stronger and more wool, but the shearmen dare not tie their feet as they do those of the unresisting ewes. Experience has taught, that the bold rebellious ram would struggle even to suffocation in captivity under the shears; they gently lay him down, they stroke his belly, they beguile him out of his fleece; a certain number of sheep are led into the great shelter-house, which is a parallelogram of 4 or 500 feet long, and 100 wide, where they remain all day; as many as they judge can be dispatched by the