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A CALENDAR OF AGRICULTURAL OPERATIONS
By a more exact definition of the seasons, the year is divided into
eight parts, the first of forty-five days from the date of the rising
of the west wind (February 7) to the date of the vernal equinox (March
, the second of the ensuing forty-four days to the rising of the
Pleiades (May 7), the third of forty-eight days to the summer solstice
(June 24), the fourth of twenty-seven days to the rising of the Dog
Star (July 21), the fifth of sixty-seven days to the Autumn equinox
(September 26), the sixth of thirty-two days to the setting of the
Pleiades (October 28), the seventh of fifty-seven days to the winter
solstice (December 24), and the eighth of forty-five days to the
beginning of the first.
1° February 7-March 24
These are the things to be done during the first of the seasons
so enumerated: All kinds of nurseries should be set out, the vines
should be first pruned, then dug, and the roots which have protruded
from the ground should be cut out, the meadows should be cleaned,
willows planted and the corn hoed. We call that corn land (seges)
which has been ploughed and sowed as distinguished from plough land
(arva) which has been ploughed but not yet sowed, while that land
which was formerly sowed and lies awaiting a new ploughing is called
stubble (novalis). When land is ploughed for the first time it is
said to be broken up (proscindere), and at the second ploughing to
be broken down (offringere) because at the first ploughing large
clods are turned up and at the second ploughing these are reduced. The
third cultivation, after the seed has been sown, is called ridging
(lirare), that is, when by fastening mould boards on the plough, the
sown seed is covered up in ridges and at the same time furrows are
cut by means of which the surface water may drain off. Some farmers
who cultivate small farms, as in Apulia, are wont to harrow their land
after it is ridged, if perchance any large clods have been left in the
seed bed. The hollow channel left by the share of the plough is called
the furrow, the raised land between two furrows is called the ridge
(porca,) because there the seed is as it were laid upon an altar
(porricere) to secure a crop, for when the entrails are offered to
the gods this word porricere is used to describe the oblation.
2° March 24-May 7
These are the things to be done during the second season between
the vernal equinox and the rising of the Pleiades. Weed the corn land,
break up old sod, cut the willows, close the pastures (to the stock)
and complete any thing left undone in the preceding season. Plant
trees before the buds shoot and they begin to blossom, for deciduous
trees are not fit to transplant after they put forth leaves. Plant and
prune your olives.
3° May 7-June 24
These are the things to be done during the third season between
the rising of the Pleiades and the summer solstice. Dig the young
vines or plough them, and afterwards put the land in good order; that
is to say, fine the soil so that no clods shall remain. This is called
fining the soil (occare) because it breaks down (occidare) the
clods. Thin out the vines, but let it be done by one who knows
how, for this operation which is considered of great importance is
performed only on vines and not on the orchard. To thin a vine is to
select and reserve the one, two and some times even three best new
tendrils sprung from the stem of the vine, cutting off all the others,
lest the stem may be unable to furnish nourishment for those which
have been reserved. So in a nursery it is the custom to cut it back
at first so that the vine may grow with a stronger stem and may have
greater strength to produce fruitful tendrils: for a stem which grows
slender like a rush is sterile through weakness and cannot throw out
tendrils. Thus it is the custom to call a weak stem a flag, and
a strong stem, which bears grapes, a palm. The name flagellum,
indicating something as unstable as a breeze, is derived from
flatus, by the change of a letter, just as in the case of the word
flabellum, which means fly fan. The name palma, which is given
to those vine shoots which are fruitful in grapes, was it seems, at
first, parilema, derived from parire (to produce), whence by a
change of letters, such as we find in many instances, it came to be
From another part of the vine springs the capreolus, which is a
little spiral tendril, like a curled hair, by means of which the vine
holds on while it creeps towards the place of which it would take
possession, from which quality of taking hold of things (capere) it
is called capreolus.
All forage crops should be saved at this season; first, basil, then
mixed fodder (farrago) and vetch, and last of all the hay. Our
name for basil is ocinum, which is derived from the Greek word
[Greek: ocheos] and signifies that it comes quickly, like the pot herb
of the same name. It has this name also because it quickens the action
of the bowels of cattle and so is fed to them as a purgative. It is
cut green from a bean field before the pods are formed. On the other
hand that forage which is cut with a sickle from a field in which
barley and vetch and other legumes have been sown in mixture for
forage, is called farrago from the instrument (ferro) with which
it is cut, or perhaps because it was first sown in the stubble of a
field of corn (far). It is fed to horses and other cattle in the
spring to purge and to fatten them.
Vetch (vicia) is so called from its quality of conquering
(vincire) because this plant, like the vine, has tendrils by means
of which it creeps twisting upward on the stalks of lupines or other
plants where it clings until it over-tops its host.
If you have irrigated meadows, proceed to water them at this season,
as soon as you have saved the hay.
During droughts water your grafted fruit trees every evening. They
probably derive their name, (poma), from their appetite for drink
4° June 24-July 21
During the fourth season between the summer solstice and the
rising of the Dog Star most farmers make their harvest, because it is
claimed that to mature properly corn should be allowed fifteen days to
germinate and shoot, fifteen days to bloom and fifteen days to ripen.
Finish your ploughing: it will be more profitable in proportion as the
earth is ploughed warm, when the land is broken up, fine it, that is,
work it again in order that all the clods may be reduced, for at the
first ploughing large clods are always turned up. This is the time
also to sow vetch, lentils, the small variety of chick peas, pulse
(ervilia) and the other things which we call legumes, but which
others, as for example the Gauls, call legarica, both of which names
come from the practice of picking their fruit (legere) because they
are not cut but gathered.
Work the old vines a second time and the young ones thrice, especially
if there are any clods left.
5° July 21-September 26
During the fifth season between the rising of the Dog Star
and the autumn equinox thresh your straw and rick it, continue the
harrowing of your fallow land, prune your fruit trees, and mow your
irrigated meadow the second time.
6° September 26-October 28
The authorities advise you to begin to sow at the commencement
of the sixth season immediately after the autumn equinox and to keep
it up for the following 91 days, but not to attempt to sow any thing
after the winter solstice, unless it is absolutely necessary, because
seed sown before the winter solstice germinates in seven days, while
that sown later hardly ever sprouts for 40 days.
In like manner the authorities say that you should not begin your
sowing before the equinox, lest continued rains cause the seed to rot
in the ground. The best time to plant beans is at the setting of the
Pleiades, but gather the grapes and make the vintage between the
equinox and the setting of the Pleiades. Immediately afterward begin
to prune the vines, to propagate them and plant fruit trees, but in
those regions where the frost comes early it is better to postpone
these operations until the following spring.
7° October 28-December 24.
These are the things to do during the seventh season between
the setting of the Pleiades and the winter solstice. Plant lilies and
crocuses and propagate roses, which may be done by making cuttings
about three inches in length from a stem already rooted, set these out
and later, after they have formed their own roots, transplant them.
The cultivation of violets has no place on a farm because they require
elevated beds for which the soil is scraped up and these are damaged
or even washed away by heavy rains, thus wasting the fertility of the
land. At any time of the year between the rising of the west wind and
the rising of Arcturus (February-September) it is proper to transplant
from the seed beds thyme, an herb, which owes its name, serpyllum,
to its creeping habit (quod serpit). This is the season also to
dig new ditches, clean the old ones, and to prune the trees in the
arbustum and the vines which are married to them, but be careful that
you suspend most of your work during the fifteen days before and after
the winter solstice: it is fitting, however, to set out some trees
during this period, as, for example, elms.
8° December 24-February 7
These are the things to do during the eighth season between the
winter solstice and the rising of the west wind. Drain the fields, if
any water is standing on them, but if they are dry and the land is
friable, harrow them. Prune the vines and the orchard. When it is not
fitting to work in the fields then those things should be done which
can be done under cover during the winter twilight.
All these rules should be written out and posted in the farmstead and
the overseer especially should have them at the tip of his tongue.
Of the influence of the moon on agriculture
The lunar seasons also must be considered. They are divided
into two terms, that from the new moon to the full, and that from
the full moon to the next moon, or until that day which we call
intermenstruus, or the last and the first of a moon, whence at
Athens this day is called [Greek: henae kai nea] (the old and the
new), though the other Greeks call it [Greek: triakas] the thirtieth
day. Some agricultural operations may be undertaken with more
advantage during the increase of the moon, others during the
decrease, as, for example, the harvest or cutting of wood."
"I observe a practice which I learned from my father," said Agrasius,
"not only never to shear my sheep, but not even to have my own hair
cut on the decrease of the moon, for fear that I might become bald."
"What are the quarters of the moon," said Agrius, "and what bearing
have they on agriculture?"
"Have you never heard in the country," said Tremelius, "the lore about
the influence of Jana (Diana) on the eighth day before her waxing, and
again on the eighth day before her waning; how certain things which
ought to be done during the increase can be done to better advantage
in the second quarter than the first, and that what ever is fitting to
do on the wane of the moon can be better done when her light is less?
This is all I know about the effect of the four quarters of the moon