THE SILK GROWERS 449. A tiny farm. — Shunzo Ito is a farmer who lives far away across the Pacific Ocean in Japan. You could walk entirely around his farm in a few minutes, for he has only an acre of ground. Ito's house has a framework of bamboo poles, a bamboo floor, and pa per walls. Japan has many earthquakes in which stone or brick houses would fall down like houses of blocks. But earthquakes do not hurt houses built of bam boo and paper.
450. The silkworm.— It is springtime, and Shunzo Ito's wife, Tami, is watching a bundle of straw, in which some moths have laid eggs. The eggs are beginning to hatch, and from them come tiny silkworms! Tami hurries to the gar den to get leaves from a mulberry tree. These she puts in the straw for the silk worms to eat. Every morning Tami, with the baby on her back, and the other children following, goes out to the mulberry trees, which cover a quarter of the little farm. They gather many leafy twigs from the trees. These leaves are carefully spread out on trays full of crawling silk worms. How those silk worms do eat and grow! Every little while they get too big for their skins and split them down the back. They crawl out through this slit and go on growing.
Each day the worms are put out in the sun, and each evening the - trays contain ing them are Courtesy of Belding Bros. & Co.
carried back Fig. 431. The finished cocoon, nat into the silk- ural size.
worm room and there kept just warm enough by a carefully-watched little fire.
Every morning the trays must be cleaned.
All the little twigs and cast off skins are taken back to the garden and put on the ground beneath the mulberry trees for fertilizer. Here Shunzo is busy spading, so that the trees will grow more leaves.
Shunzo has no horses. There is not room to grow horse feed on his tiny little farm.
451. The last the big, fat worms stop eating. They then stick their heads against a piece of straw, and when each pulls its head away, a tiny thread of silk, like a spider's web, is to be seen between the straw and the worm's head. With this tiny thread the worm begins to make a little web, and, working 'round and 'round, spins about itself a cocoon of pure white silk. Then it goes to sleep, entirely enclosed in silk. If Tami did not disturb the
cocoons, the little worms inside would change into moths and each would make a hole in its cocoon and escape, ready to fly around and lay eggs. But a hole in the cocoon means that the silk fiber is cut into many pieces, and what Tami wants is a long thread without a break. So the cocoons are put into a hot oven and left there until the worms are roasted dry and crisp. The co coons are next soaked in water until the threads come loose. Then Tami and her little girls each take four cocoons, find the ends of the threads, and carefully unwind them (Fig. 435), twisting the four fibers together so as to make one little, fine thread of silk. This thread is wound upon a reel. Each cocoon yields a thread about three hundred yards long.
452. Reeling days and days they work, reeling silk. At last they have a few pounds of raw silk, which the mer chant in the little village buys and sends away, down to the great city of Tokyo. Here it is put with many other parcels of silk into a big bale. From Tokyo the bale of silk rides with many other bales in a big steamer, across the Pacific Ocean. In two weeks, it reaches San Francisco. In another week, it has passed on an express train through Chicago to Paterson, New Jersey. There it is dyed, spun into thread, and woven into silk goods for the people of the United States.
453. Other silk centers.— Many, many thousands of Japanese farmers keep silk worms. Silk is also produced, you will remember, in the plains of Lombardy in north ern Italy, and in the valley of the Rhone in France. Mul berry trees will grow well in the United States, too, and sometimes people here raise a little silk. But wages are so much. higher in this country than in Japan that it does not pay us to grow silk. We send cotton to the Japanese, for we can raise that on our big farms, and with the cot ton we pay for the silk which has been grown in Japan by much hand labor. Shunzo Ito has a brother in America, where a man can earn more money than he can in Japan. One man in America with horses, plows, and other machines can produce several times as much as he can in Japan by hand labor only.