Of their Corn, with their manner of Husbandry.
Having discoursed hitherto of the Countrey, method will require that I proceed now to the Products of it; Viz. their Fruits, Plants, Beasts, Birds, and other Creatures, Minerals, Commodities, &c. whereof I must declare once for all, That I do not pretend to write an Exact and Perfect Treatise, my time and leisure not permitting me so to do; but only to give a Relation of some of the chief of these things, and as it were a taste of them, according as they that occur to my Memory while I am writing. I shall first begin with their Corn, as being the Staff of their Country.
They have divers sorts of Corn, though all different from ours. And here I shall first speak of their Rice, the Choice and Flower of all their Corn, and then concerning the other inferior kinds among them.
Of Rice they have several sorts, and called by several names according to the different times of their ripening: However in tast little disagreeing from one another. Some will require seven Months before it come to maturity, called Mauvi; some six, Hauteal; others will ripen in five, Honorowal; others in four, Henit; and others in three, Aulfancol: The price of all these is one and the same. That which is soonest ripe, is most savoury to the tast; but yieldeth the least increase. It may be asked then, why any other sort of Rice is sown, but that which is longest a Ripening, seeing it brings in most Profit? In answer to this, you must know,That all these sorts of Rice do absolutely require Water to grow in, all the while they stand; so that the Inhabitants take great pains in procuring and saving water for their Grounds, and in making Conveyances of Water from their Rivers and Ponds into their Lands, which they are very ingenious in; also in levelling their Corn Lands, which must be as smooth as a Bowling-Green, that the Water may cover all over. Neither are their steep and Hilly Lands uncapable of being thus overflown with Water. For the doing of which they use this Art. They level these Hills into narrow Allies, some three; some eight foot wide one beneath another, according to the steepness of the Hills, working and digging them in that fashion that they lye smooth and flat, like so many Stairs up the Hills one above another. The Waters at the top of the Hills falling downwards are let into these Allies, and so successively by running out of one into another, water all; first the higher Lands, and then the lower. The highest Allies having such a quantity of Water as may suffice to cover them, the rest runs over unto the next, and that having its proportion, unto the next, and so by degrees it falls into all these hanging parcels of Ground. These Waters last sometimes a longer, and sometimes a shorter Season.Now the Rice they sow is according as they foresee their stock of Water will last.
It will sometimes last them two or three, or four or five Months, more or less; the Rice therefore they chuse to cast into the Ground, is of that sort that may answer the duration of the Water. For all their Crop would be spoilt if the Water should fail them before their Corn grew ripe. If they foresee their Water will hold out long, then they sow the best and most profitable Rice, viz. that which is longest a ripening; but if it will not, they must be content to sow of the worser sorts; that is, those that are sooner ripe. Again, they are forced sometimes to sow this younger Rice, for the preventing the damage it might otherwise meet with, if it should stand longer. For their Fields are all in common, which after they have sown, they enclose till Harvest; But as soon as the Corn first sown becomes ripe, when the Owner has reaped it, it is lawful for him to break down his Fences, and let in his Cattle for grazing; which would prove a great mischief to that Corn that required to stand a Month or two longer. Therefore if they are constrained to sow later than the rest, either through want or sloth, or some other Impediment, yet they make use of that kind of Rice that will become ripe, equal with that first sown. And so they all observe one time of reaping to prevent their Corn being trampled down or eaten up by the Cattle. Thus they time their Corn to their Harvest; some sowing sooner, some later, but all reaping together, unless they be Fields that are enclosed by themselves; and peculiar to one Man.
Where there are no Springs or Rivers to furnish them with Water, as it is in the Northern Parts, where there are but two or three Springs, they supply this defect by saving of rain Water; which they do, by casting up great Banks in convenient places to stop and contain the Rains that fall, and so save it till they have occasion to let it out into their Fields: They are made rounding like a C or Half-Moon, every Town has one of these Ponds, which if they can but get filled with Water, they count their Corn is as good as in the Barn. It was no small work to the ancient Inhabitants to make all these Banks, of which there is a great number, being some two, some three Fathoms in height, and in length some above a Mile, some less, not all of a size. They are now grown over with great Trees, and so seem natural Hills. When they would use the Water, they cut a gap in one end of the Bank, and so draw the Water by little and little, as they have occasion for the watering their Corn. These Ponds in dry weather dry up quite. If they should dig these Ponds deep, it would not be so convenient for them. It would indeed contain the Water well, but would not so well nor in such Plenty empty out it self into their Grounds. in these Ponds are Aligators which when the Water is dried up depart into the Woods, and down to the Rivers; and in the time of Rains come up again into the Ponds. They are but small, nor do use to catch People, nevertheless they stand in some fear of them. The Corn they sow in these Parts is of that sort that is soonest ripe, fearing lest their Waters should fail. As the Water dries out of these Ponds, they make use of them for Fields, treading the Mud with Buffeloes, and then sowing Rice thereon, and frequently casting up Water with Scoops on it. I have hitherto spoken of those Rices that require to grow in Water.
There is yet another sort of Rice, which will ripen tho’ it stand not alway in Water: and this sort of Corn serves for those places, where they cannot bring their Waters to overflow; this will grow with the Rains that fall; but is not esteemed equal with the others, and differs both in scent and taste from that which groweth in the watery Fields.
The ordinary Season of seed time, is in the Months of July and August, and their Harvest in or about February; but for Land that is well watered, they regard no Season; the Season is all the year long. When they Till their Grounds, or Reap their Corn, they do it by whole Towns generally, all helping each other for Attoms, as they call it; that is, that they may help them as much, or as many days again in their Fields, which accordingly they will do; They Plough only with a crooked piece of Wood, something like an Elbow, which roots up the Ground, as uneven as if it were done by Hogs, and then they overflow it with water.
But if any be so curious as to know more particularly how they order and prepare their Lands, and sow their Corn, take this account of it. But before we go to work, it will be convenient first to describe the Tools.To begin therefore with their Plough I said before it was a crooked piece of Wood, it is but little bigger than a Man’s Arm, one end whereof is to hold by, and the other to root up the Ground. In the hollow of this Plough is a piece of Wood fastned some three or four Inches thick, equal with the bredth of the Plough; and at the end of the Plough, is fixt an Iron Plate to keep the Wood from wearing. There is a Beam let in to that part of it that the Plough-man holds in his hand, to which they make their Buffaloes fast to drag it.
These Ploughs are proper for this Country, because they are lighter, and so may be the more easier for turning, the Fields being short, so that they could not turn with longer, and if heavier, they would sink and be unruly in the mud. These Ploughs bury not the grass as ours do, Page 10and there is no need they should. For their endeavour is only to root up the Ground, and so they overflow it with Water, and this rots the Grass.
They Plough twice before they sow. But before they begin the first time, they let in Water upon their Land, to make it more soft and pliable for the Plough. After it is once Ploughed, they make up their Banks. For if otherwise they should let it alone till after the second Ploughing, it would be mere Mud, and not hard enough to use for Banking. Now these Banks are greatly necessary, not only for Paths for the People to go upon through the Fields, who otherwise must go in the Mud, it may be knee deep; but chiefly to keep in and contain their Water, which by the help of these Banks they overflow their Grounds with. These Banks they make as smooth with the backside of their Houghs, as a Bricklayer can smooth a Wall with his Trowel. For in this they are very neat. These Banks are usually not above a Foot over.
After the Land is thus Ploughed and the Banks finished, it is laid under water again for some time, till they go to Ploughing the second time. Now it is exceeding muddy, so that the trampling of the Cattel that draws the Plough, does as much good as the Plough; for the more muddy the better. Sometimes they use no Plough this second time, but only drive their Cattel over to make the Ground the muddier.
Their Lands being thus ordered, they still keep them overflowed with Water, that the Weeds and Grass may rot. Then they take their Corn and lay it a soak in Water a whole night, and the next day take it out, and lay it in a heap, and cover it with green leaves, and so let it lye some five or six days to make it grow.Then they take and wet it again, and lay it in a heap covered over with leaves as before, and so it grows and shoots out with Blades and Roots. In the mean time while this is thus a growing, they prepare their Ground for sowing; which is thus: They have a Board about four foot long, which they drag over their Land by a yoke of Buffaloes, not flat ways, but upon the edge of it. The use of which is, that it jumbles the Earth and Weeds together, and also levels and makes the Grounds smooth and even, that so the Water (for the ground is all this while under water) may stand equal in all places. And wheresoever there is any little hummock standing out of the Water, which they may easily see by their eye, with the help of this Board they break and lay even. And so it stands overflown while their Seed is growing, and become fit to sow, which usually is eight days after they lay it in soak.
When the Seed is ready to sow, they drain out all the Water, and with little Boards of about a foot and a half long, fastned upon long Poles, they trim the Land over again, laying it very smooth, making small Furrows all along, that in case Rain or other Waters should come in, it might drain away; for more Water now would endanger rotting the Corn.And then they sow their Corn, which they do with very exact evenness, strewing it with their hands, just as we strew Salt upon Meat.
And thus it stands without any Water, till such time as the Corn be grown some three or four Inches above the Ground. There were certain gaps made in the Banks to let out the water, these are now stopped to keep it in. Which is not only to nourish the Corn, but to kill the weeds. For they keep their Fields as clean as a Garden without a weed. Then when the Corn is grown about a span high, the Women come and weed it, and pull it up where it grew too thick, and transplant it where it wants. And so it stands overflown till the Corn be ripe, when they let out the water again to make it dry for reaping. They never use any dung, but their manner of plowing and soaking of their Ground serves instead thereof.
At reaping they are excellent good, just after the English manner. The whole Town, as I said before, as they joyn together in Tilling, so in their Harvest also; For all fall in together in reaping one man’s Field, and so to the next, until every mans Corn be down. And the Custome is, that every man, during the reaping of his Corn, finds all the rest with Victuals. The womens work is to gather up the Corn after the Reapers, and carry it all together.
They use not Threshing, but tread out their Corn with Cattel, which is a far quicker and easier way. They may tread out in a day forty or fifty Bushels at least with the help of half a dozen Cattel.
When they are to tread their Corn they choose a convenient adjoyning place. Here they lay out a round piece Ground some twenty or five and twenty foot over. From which they cut away the upper Turf. Then certain Ceremonies are used. First, they adorn this place with ashes made into flowers and branches, and round circles. Then they take divers strange shells, and pieces of Iron, and some sorts of Wood, and a bunch of betel Nuts, (which are reserved for such purposes) and lay all these in the very middle of the Pit, and a large stone upon them. Then the women, whose proper work it is, bring each their burthen of reaped Corn upon their heads, and go round in the Pit three times, and then fling it down. And after this without any more ado, bring in the rest of the Corn as fast as they can. For this Labour, and that of weeding, the Women have a Fee due to them, which they call Warapol, that is as much Corn, as shall cover the Stone and the other Conjuration-Instruments at the bottom of the Pit.
They will frequently carry away their new reaped Corn into the Pit; and tread it out presently as soon as they have cut it down, to secure it from the Rains, which in some Parts are very great and often; and Barns they have none big enough, But in other places not so much given to Rains, they will sometimes set it up in a Cock, and let it stand some months.
They unshale their Rice from its outward husk by beating it in a Mortar, or on the Ground more often; but some of these sorts of Rice must first be boyled in the husk, otherwise in beating it will break to powder. The which Rice, as it is accounted, so I by experience have found, to be the wholsomest; This they beat again the second time to take off a Bran from it; and after that it becomes white. And thus much concerning Rice-Corn.
Besides this, though far inferior to it, there are divers other sorts of Corn, which serve the People for food in the absence of Rice, which will scarcely hold out with many of them above half the Year.There is Coraccan, which is a small seed like Mustard-seed, This they grind to meal or beat in a Mortar, and so make Cakes of it, baking it upon the Coals in a potsheard, or dress it otherwise. If they which are not used to it, eat it, it will gripe their Bellies; When they are minded to grind it, they have for their Mill two round stones, which they turn with their hands by the help of a stick: There are several sorts of this Corn. Some will ripen in three months, and some require four. If the Ground be good; it yields a great encrease; and grows both on the Hills and in the Plains. There is another Corn called Tanna; It is much eaten in the Northern Parts, in Conde Uda but little sown. It is as small as the former, but yieldeth a far greater encrease. From one grain may spring up two, three, four or five stalks, according as the ground is, on each stalk one ear, that contains thousands of grains. I think it gives the greatest encrease of any one feed in the World. Each Husbandman sowes not above a Pottle at a Seeds-time. It growes up two foot, or two foot and an half from the ground. The way of gathering it when ripe, is, that the Women (whose office it is) go and crop off the ears with their hands, and bring them home in baskets. They onely take off the ears of Coracan also, but they being tough, are cut off with knives. This Tanna must be parched in a Pan, and then is beaten in a Mortar to unhusk it. It will boyl like Rice, but swell far more; the tast not bad but very dry, and accounted wholsome; the fashion flattish, the colour yellow and very lovely to the Eye. It ripens in four months, some sorts of it in three. There are also divers other sorts, which grow on dry Land (as the former) and ripen with the Rain. As Moung, a Corn somewhat like Vetches, growing in a Cod. Omb a small seed, boyled and eaten as Rice. It has an operation pretty strange, which is, that when it is new it will make them that eat it like drunk, sick and spue; and this only when it is sown in some Grounds, for in all it will not have this effect: and being old, none will have it. Minere, a small seed. Boumas, we call them Garavances. Tolla, a seed used to make Oyl, with which they anoint themselves; and sometimes they will parch it and eat it with Jaggory, a kind of brown Sugar. And thus much of their Corn.