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HEMP, FLAX, AND TEASELS.

Hemp is one of the herbaceous plants, and grows to the height of five or six feet. It has a stiffish stalk, narrow finger-formed leaves, and inconsiderable flowers. It might easily be passed by, as a weed of worthless form, by uninformed persons. There is, however, scarcely a plant that grows, excepting those essential for food, which ranks with this for importance. It forms the harness of the blast which tugs our navies on to distant shores ; and its use in the unnumbered forms of thread, twine, ropes, canvass, sacking, and other cloths, is beyond estimation, or even the most general survey.

The principal country for hemp, as an article of commerce, is Russia ; few other coun

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HEMP.

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tries grow nearly enough for their own consumption. It is, indeed, cultivated in some parts of Britain ; particularly in Suffolk and Norfolk. The soil which suits it best is a moist loose sandy loam. It is sown in April or May, and the plants are ready for pulling up

in three or four months. That which is ready first, is called fimble ; the later karle, or seed hemp

As soon as the plant is pulled, it is tied in bundles, and set up to dry; at the end of about ten days, the bundles are loosened at the top, and the heads are held upon a hurdle by one person, whilst another threshes out the seed with a small flail.

The hemp is prepared for manufacture by being spread out on the field to dry, so that the weather may separate the fibres ; or else it is steeped some days in stagnant water. The next thing is to cleanse away the bark from the stalks. This is done either by the hand, or by machinery constructed for the purpose. It is afterwards beaten in mills, and then combed, or dressed, by drawing it through instruments called hackles, like those used by wool-combers and others.

The commodity is then easily enough spun into thread, twisted into ropes, or woven into cloth, according to the required purpose.

Of so great importance to our shipping were the growth and manufacture of hemp considered, about fifty years ago, that Parliament directed a bounty to be paid on its production.

Hemp-seed is used as food for poultry; and an oil, of some value, is obtained from it. The inner woody stalks (for it is the bark only which is manufactured) make excellent fuel, where enough of it can be obtained.

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