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Between the prevalence of the west winds and the vernal equinox, the fourteenth day before1 the calends of March, according to Cæsar, announces three days of changeable weather; the same is the case, too, with the eighth2 before the calends of March, at the first appearance of the swallow, Arcturus rising on the evening of the next day. Cæsar has observed, that the same takes place on the third3 before the nones of March, at the rising of Cancer; and most authorities say the same with reference to the emersion of the Vintager.4 On the eighth5 before the ides of March, the northern limb of Pisces6 rises, and on the next day Orion, at which period also, in Attica, the Kite is first seen. Cæsar has noted, too, the setting of Scorpio on the ides of March,7 a day that was so fatal to him; and on the fifteenth8 before the calends of April, the Kite appears in Italy. On the twelfth9 before the calends of April, the Horse sets in the morning.

This interval of time is a period of extreme activity for the agriculturist, and affords him a great number of occupations, in reference to which, however, he is extremely liable to be deceived. He is summoned to the commencement of these labours, not upon the day on which the west winds ought to begin, but upon the day on which they really do begin, to blow. This moment then must be looked for with the most careful attention, as it is a signal which the Deity has vouchsafed us in this month, attended with no doubts or equivocations, if only looked for with scrupulous care. We have already stated in the Second Book,10 the quarter in which this wind blows, and the exact point from which it comes, and before long we shall have occasion to speak of it again still more in detail.

In the mean time, however, setting out from the day, what- ever it may happen to be, on which the west winds begin to prevail (for it is not always on the seventh before the ides of February11 that they do begin), whether, in fact, they begin to blow before the usual time, as is the case with an early spring, or whether after, which generally happens when the winter is prolonged—there are subjects innumerable to engage the attention of the agriculturist, and those, of course, should be the first attended to, which will admit of no delay. Three month wheat must now be sown, the vine pruned in the way we have already12 described, the olive carefully attended to, fruit-trees put in and grafted, vineyards cleaned and hoed, seedlings laid out, and replaced in the nursery by others, the reed, the willow, and the broom planted and lopped, and the elm, the poplar, and the plane planted in manner already mentioned. At this period, also, the crops of corn ought to be weeded,13 and the winter kinds, spelt more particularly, well hoed. In doing this, there is a certain rule to be observed, the proper moment being when four blades have made their appearance, and with the bean this should never be done until three leaves have appeared above ground; even then, however, it is a better plan to clean them only with a slight hoeing, in preference to digging up the ground—but in no case should they ever be touched the first fifteen days of their blossom. Barley must never be hoed except when it is quite dry: take care, too, to have all the pruning done by the vernal equinox. Four men will be sufficient for pruning a jugerum of vineyard, and each hand will be able to train fifteen vines to their trees.14

At this period, too, attention should be paid to the gardens and rose-beds, subjects which will be separately treated of in succeeding Books; due care should be given to ornamental gardening as well. It is now, too, the very best time for making ditches. The ground should now be opened for future purposes, as we find recommended by Virgil15 in particular, in order that the sun may thoroughly warm the clods. It is a piece of even more sound advice, which recommends us to plough no lands in the middle of spring but those of middling quality; for if this is done with a rich soil, weeds will be sure to spring up in the furrows immediately; and if, on the other hand, it is a thin, meagre land, as soon as the heat comes on, it will be dried up, and so lose all the moisture which should be reserved to nourish the seed when sown. It is a much better plan, beyond a doubt, to plough such soils as these in autumn.

Cato16 lays down the following rules for the operations of spring. "Ditches," he says, "should be dug in the seed-plots, vines should be grafted, and the elm, the fig, the olive, and other fruit-trees planted in dense and humid soils. Such meadows17 as are not irrigated, must be manured in a dry moon, protected from the western blasts, and carefully cleaned; noxious weeds must be rooted up, fig-trees cleared, new seed-plots made, and the old ones dressed: all this should be done before you begin to hoe the vineyard. When the pear is in blossom, too, you should begin to plough, where it is a meagre, gravelly soil. When you have done all this, you may plough the more heavy, watery soils, doing this the last of all."

The proper time for ploughing, then,18 is denoted by these two signs, the earliest fruit of the lentisk19 making its appearance, and the blossoming of the pear. There is a third sign, however, as well, the flowering of the squill among the bulbous,20 and of the narcissus among the garland, plants. For both the squill and the narcissus, as well as the lentisk, flower three times, denoting by their first flowering the first period for ploughing, by the second flowering the second, and by the third flowering the last; in this way it is that one thing affords hints for another. There is one precaution, too, that is by no means the least important among them all, not to let ivy touch the bean while in blossom; for at this period the ivy is noxious21 to it, and most baneful in its effects. Some plants, again, afford certain signs which bear reference more particularly to themselves, the fig for instance; when a few leaves only are found shooting from the summit, like a cup in shape, then it is more particularly that the fig-tree should be planted.

1 Sixteenth of February.

2 Twenty-second of February.

3 Fifth of March.

4 On the fifth of March, Ovid says, Fasti, iii. 1. 407. Columella makes it rise on the sixth of the nones, or the second of March.

5 Eighth of March.

6 Or, more literally, the "Northern Fish."

7 Fifteenth of March, the day on which he was assassinated, in accordance, it is said, with the prophecy of a diviner, who had warned him to beware of the ides of March.

8 Eighteenth of March.

9 Twenty-first of March.

10 In c. 46 and c. 47.

11 Seventh of February.

12 In I. xvii. c. 35.

13 Fée approves of this method of weeding before the corn is in ear.

14 In a day, probably.

15 Georg. i. 63.

16 De Re Rust. 40.

17 See B. xvii. c. 8.

18 Alluding to his quotation from Cicero in c. 61.

19 Or mastich.

20 See c. 7 of this Book.

21 It is not known whence he derived this unfounded notion.

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