Thompson had gone for the cows. He left March 9, and returned with the beauties on Friday the 17th. They were all my fancy had painted them,—large, gentle-eyed, with black and white hair over soft butter-yellow skin, and all the points that distinguish these marvellous milk-machines. They were bestowed as needs must until the cow barn was completed. One of them had dropped a bull calf two days before leaving the home farm. The calf had been left, and the mother was in an uncomfortable condition, with a greatly distended udder and milk streaming from her four teats, though Thompson had relieved her thrice while en route.
I was greatly pleased with the cows, but must not spend time on them now, for things are happening in my factory faster than I can tell of them. Johnson had built some primitive hotbeds for early vegetables out of old lumber and oiled muslin. He had filled them with refuse from the horse stable and had sown his seeds.
THE FIRST HATCH
On February 3 the incubator lamps were lighted under the first invoice of one thousand eggs. The incubating cellar was to Sam’s liking, and he felt confident that three weeks of strict attention to temperature, moisture, and the turning of eggs, would bring results beyond my expectations.
After the seventh day, on which he had tested or candled the eggs, he was willing to promise almost anything in the way of a hatch, up to seventy-five or eighty per cent. In the intervals of attendance on the incubators he was hard at work on the brooder-house, which must be ready for its first occupants by the 25th. Everything went smoothly until the 18th. That morning Sam met me with a long face.
“Something went wrong with one of my lamps last night,” said he. “I looked at them at ten o’clock and they were all right, but at six this morning one of the thermometers was registering 122 deg., and the whole batch was cooked.”
“Not the whole thousand, Sam!”
“No, but 170 fertile eggs, and that spoils a twenty-dollar bill and a lot of good time. What in the name of the black man ever got into that lamp of mine is more than I know. It’s just my luck!”
“It’s everybody’s luck who tries to raise chickens by wholesale, and we must copper it. Don’t be downed by the first accident, Sam; keep fighting and you’ll win out.”
The brooder-house was ready when the first chicks picked the shells on the 24th, and within thirty-six hours we had 503 little white balls of fluff to transfer from the four incubators to the brooder-house. We put about a hundred together in each of five brooders, fed them cut oats and wheat with a little coarse corn meal and all the fresh milk they could drink, and they throve mightily.