GROWING SUGAR BEETS AND RABBITS IN FRANCE 319. A French farm village. — Jean Ribot is a French boy, fourteen years of age, who lives in a village near the Belgian boundary. His house is on the road from Calais, France, to Brussels, Belgium. In the village in which he lives there are only thirty houses. Two miles away across the level plain is another little village. Jean can see its church steeple from the village where he lives. On the level plain between the villages there is not a tree or a fence, but only the many little fields cultivated by the farmers who have their homes in the villages and who go back there when the day's work in the fields is done.
In France, as in nearly all parts of Europe, the farmers live in villages, with their houses and barns close together, and they have their farms on the land surround ing the villages. Jean's father, Pierre, is a farmer. His fifteen acres of land are a mile away from the village. He has two horses and three cows. He does not need two horses on his fifteen acres all the time, so he does the plowing for his neighbor, who has only five acres and no horses at all. He helps Pierre in return.
320. The French are five fields in Pierre's farm. In one he grows clover; in others, oats, wheat and potatoes; and in the last one of all he grows sugar beets. Each field grows a different crop each year. This is called rotation of crops. The horses and cows eat all of the clover and oats. Some of the wheat will be sold; some of it will be taken to the miller at the end of the vil lage near the church.
The miller will keep one-sixth of it for grinding it into flour.
Three acres planted with potatoes will, if the weather is good, produce six hundred bushels, nearly all of which will be sold.
Tending the sugar beets is the biggest task of all on the little farm. Pierre covers the field with manure, which he hauls out from the barn in the village. Then he plows the earth deeply and harrows it over and over again until it is almost as soft and fine as meal. Jean and his mother, and Sus anne, his sister, drop the seeds into the long, straight furrows that Pierre makes with the plow. This is very particular work, for the seeds must not be planted too thickly or too scantily. When the beet
seeds have sprouted, thousands of little weed seeds have sprouted, too; and the entire family must spend days, on hands and knees, picking out the little weeds and thinning out the beet plants with their fingers, for no machine can do this work. They take dinner along with them and stay all day in the field, the baby sleeping in the wagon most of the time. Several families eat lunch together and have a sociable time. • One day as Jean eats his sandwiches, he counts twenty five wagons standing about.
They belong to people from three different villages who grow their beets on this well tilled and densely peopled plain.
321. The rabbits.
evening the families get into their wagons and ride back to the village where they live. The Rihots take home a big basketful of the weeds and little beet plants for the rabbits to eat.
Jean and Susanne have some rabbit hutches in the shed against the side of the barn. Rabbits can live in small boxes or hutches. Jean and Susanne have four mother hares (big tame rabbits), each of which raised three families of children last year—fifty rabbits in all. Each rabbit weighed four pounds when it was sold. How many pounds would that be for all? Jean and Susanne had a snug sum of money, for they received twenty-five cents a pound for their rabbits. But that was all the money they had for a whole year; and they saved most of that, for every boy and girl in France is expected to have a bank account while still a child in school.
In the summer time the rabbits are fed on weeds from the garden, and grass, and on beet tops from the field, but in the winter the bunnies eat potato parings and the same kind of grain and hay that is fed to the horses and cows. There are rabbit hutches in nearly every back yard in the village, and in the next village, and in the next. Thousands of people in France and Belgium raise rabbits to eat and to sell, and thousands of tons are shipped across the English Channel every year. There they are bought and eaten by the people who work in the fac tories of England and Scotland.