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ON THE CULTURE AND PREPARING THE HEMP IN RUSSIA, TRANSMITTED BY THE HON. J.Q. ADAMS, MINISTER AT ST. PETERSBURGH, MARCH, 1810.
Pubdate: January 18, 1828 Source: 20th Congress, 1st Session. Doc. No. 68. House of Reps. American water-rotted hemp, &c. &c. Reports from the Navy Department, in relation to experiments on American water-rotted hemp, when made into canvass, cables, and cordage Author: John Quincy Adams Pages: 11-12
In Russia, when the season is mild, the hemp seed is sown about the 1st June, old style. The richer the soil of the land employed for it, the better. A chetwirt of seed, (100 chetwirts are equal to 73 quarters, Winchester measure,) is sown on a piece of land of 80 fathoms (English feet) long, and 60 fathoms broad.
The land is first ploughed and harrowed, and, about 200 single horse loads of dung being spread upon it, it is left for six days, when it is again ploughed, and the seed sown and harrowed the same day. In about four months the seed becomes ripe, and the hemp is then pulled up with the roots; if it be allowed to remain too long in the ground, it is apt to become harsh. It is bound into heads or bunches of four handfuls each; these are hung upon sticks placed horizontally, thus, x-o-o-o-o-o-o-x and allowed to remain so for two days. It is then made into cut or thrashed hemp, as may be agreeable. The cut hemp is made by chopping off the heads containing the seed. These are put into the kiln, and, after remaining there for eighteen hours, the seed is beaten out.
If thrashed hemp is to be made, the heads or tops must not be cut off, but the bunches of hemp, placed entire in the kiln; and, if the weather be warm, it will be sufficiently dry in three days, when the seed must be thrashed out of the heads. In either case, three days after the seed is separated from it, the hemp must be put to steep or rot, either in a stream or a pond, and that the hemp may be entirely immersed, it is put under wooden frames upon which stones are placed, or, where they are not to be had, earth is substituted, after the frames are covered with planks.
The clearer and purer the water, the better will be the color of the hemp. Where the water is warm, three weeks steeping will be sufficient, but, if cold, as in rivers, springs, &c. five weeks or longer may be necessary. At the expiration of this period, a head of the hemp is taken out and dried; if, on beating and cleaning it, the husk comes off, the hemp may then be taken out of the water, but if the husk still adheres to it, it must be allowed to remain some time longer. This trial must be repeated from time to time, till the husk separates, when the hemp must be taken out of the water, and suspended to dry, as directed before, on its being taken off the ground.
The hemp is now made into the two sorts, distinguished by the names of Spring and Winter hemp; the former being dry and rather of a withered appearance, the latter more moist, and of a fine brownish green color, containing more of the vegetable oil, and, therefore, the most apt to heat, though, if not shipped at St. Petersburg or Riga, before September, there is not much risk of its heating any more on board the ships, especially on short voyages, as to England, and are the best fit for cables. If it be intended that the hemp should be early ready for market, it is made into Winter hemp by the following process: On being taken out of the water, it is left suspended in the open air for about a fortnight, when it is put into the kiln for twenty-four hours, after which it is broken by means of a hand-mill, and the husk is then beaten off by striking the heads obliquely with iron and wooden instruments, of the shape of a large two-edged knife; lastly, to unravel it, it is drawn through a wooden comb, or card, with one row of wide wooden teeth, fixed perpendicularly.
The hemp is then laid up or suspended in sheds, and is fit to be sorted, bound into bundles, and loaded into the barks.
The hemp, to be prepared as Spring hemp, is allowed to remain suspended, and exposed to the weather the whole Winter, until it be dried by the sun in the Spring, when it is broken and cleaned in the same manner as the Winter hemp.
As the greatest part of the Summer elapses before it can be made fit for the market, none of this hemp reaches St. Petersburg until the following Spring, that is, two years after it was sown.
The hemp is sown in the same manner as linseed, rye, or wheat; land, of a sandy soil, may also be employed for it, but it must be strongly manured, otherwise it will be too short, and a flat country should always be preferred.
One chetwirt of seed commonly yields 25 loads (upwards 36 pounds English) of hemp, and twelve chetwirts of hemp seed.