Curious Granaries

by Unknown

HEN the English farmer has cut his ripe corn, he gathers in the sheaves, and piles them up into neat corn-stacks. After a time he sends for a thrashing machine, with the help of which he is able quickly to separate the corn from the straw. The grain is placed in sacks, and these are put away in a dry barn, until the farmer can sell them to some miller or maltster, who will take the grain away, and make it into flour, horse-corn, or malt. The farmer must take care, however, that his corn does not get wet, for if it does it will turn mouldly and spoil; and he must also see that the rats and mice do not reach it, for if they do he is sure to lose some of his precious harvest.

If the English farmer, who has strong-walled and well-roofed barns, must take watchful care of his corn, the poor savage, who knows no better dwelling than a wooden or mud hut, can scarcely take sufficient care to save his little harvest from destruction almost as soon as it is reaped. He has far more enemies than the English farmer. In a wild, tropical country, rats, mice, and similar grain-eating animals are much more numerous, ants and weevils are terribly destructive, and enemies of the human kind frequently plunder the grain-stores. The tropical rain is heavy and often almost incessant, and the warm nights help on the growth of mildew, when once it has begun. In the tropical parts of Africa it is almost impossible to keep the grain from the harvest for more than a few months, and the natives save nothing from harvest to harvest, but eat it all up, rather than let it be consumed by the ants or spoiled by the rains. And thus, when the harvest fails, they are quickly reduced to starvation.

A Clay Grain Storehouse. A Clay Grain Storehouse.

It is interesting to see what clever attempts many savages make to save their little stores of corn from their enemies. The Kaffirs dig deep holes in their cattle enclosures, and plaster them very carefully with clay, which sets hard, and forms a good protection against insects. They leave an opening level with the ground, and when they have filled the hole with corn, this opening is covered over, and plastered up like the sides, and thus the grain is secured, as if it were in a sealed jar.

Grain Huts. Grain Huts.

Some tribes of North American Indians used to store their corn, and even their dried meat and pemmican, in similar underground holes, which the French backwoodsmen called caches. The holes were shaped liked a jug six or seven feet deep with a narrow mouth at the top, and this mouth was sealed up when the cache was filled. The corn and meat were packed round the side with prairie-grass, and, when the cache was properly sealed, they were quite safe from the effects of the weather.

It is a very common practice in hot countries to raise the corn-stores high above the ground, out of the way of mice and, to some extent, insects. In many parts of Africa the corn of the harvests is placed in closed baskets or wicker-work frames, and hung from the branches of trees. In some of the hilly districts of India we may see little grain-huts, the shape of bee-hives, which are raised upon posts. The natives of the Madi country, near the head of the Albert Nyanza, in Central Africa, make similar granaries of plastered wicker-work, which are supported upon four posts and have a thatched roof. The same people have also another kind of wicker-work granary, which looks like a huge cigar stuck point-downwards upon the top of a post four feet high. In reality the post is about twenty feet long, and extends through the whole length of the cigar-shaped body. About four feet from the ground a number of long reeds are bound upon the pole, so that they stand out somewhat like the spokes of a wheel. The ends of these reeds are bent upwards towards the pole, as if they were the ribs of a half-closed umbrella turned upside down, and wicker-work is woven in and out of them so as to form a basket. This is filled with corn, and by means of other reeds and wands the basket is extended upwards to within a few feet of the top of the post. When the whole of the basket thus formed is loaded with grain, a little roof or cap of reeds is made round the top of the pole, like the cover of an open umbrella held upright, and this roof is brought down until it meets the basket below, to which it is joined. In this manner the grain is enclosed in a cigar-shaped basket, which is raised a few feet from the ground.

The Nubians make little cylindrical grain-vessels of clay, which they seal up, and place upon the top of tall stones. Many of the tribes of Southern Africa build up clay store-vessels of various shapes, which they raise from the ground by means of posts. One tribe, the Golos, fashions its clay grain-holder in the shape of a drinking-cup. This is poised upon a central post, and kept in its place by means of wooden props. A pointed roof, which may be lifted off like a lid, is placed over it, in order to keep out the rain or any intruder from above.