August 17

Warm & fine, rather windy.

The barley from the 22-acre field is not stacked yet, but the wheat is stacked & makes two stacks measuring so far as I can judge it 30’ by 18’ x 24’ (high) & 18’ x 15’ x 20 (high). If these estimates are correct, this works out at 14, 040 cubic feet of stack for about 14 acres of ground. Allowing 1 ton per acre, it seems 1000 cubic feet of stack represent a ton of grain. NB. To check when the whole field is stacked.

Catmint, peppermint & tansies full out. Ragwort & willow-herb going to seed. A few ripe blackberries. Elder-berries beginning to turn purple.

Oak planks etc. made from the boughs instead of the trunk is known as bastard oak & is somewhat cheaper.

Disused railway sleepers here sold off at £1 = 1 = 0 10cwt. This probably works out at about 1/- each, ie. 2d a foot.


GREENHEART wood, probably the most durable timber in the world, is a member of the laurel family, and grows high on the slopes of the British Guiana Highlands. It is dark green in colour, is so heavy as to sink in water, and takes a high polish.

Its great elasticity makes it suitable for the construction of fishing-rods and the butt ends of billiard cues, yet it is listed A1 at Lloyd’s for shipbuilding, and serves us besides, as piles for piers, jetties, dock entrances and lock gates.

It withstands the attack of submarine borers such as the teredo worm, and is much less vulnerable than most timbers, even tropical hard-woods, to the land attack of the white ant.

Greenheart was largely used in making the Panama Canal. Piles made of the wood have, elsewhere, been taken up and found to be in excellent preservation after 80 years under water.

In a Glasgow museum are two pieces of planking from a wreck submerged on the west coast of Scotland for over 18 years: one, of teak, is almost entirely eaten away: the other, greenheart, is slightly pitted on the surface.

A log of greenheart measuring 45 feet by two feet by two feet weighs six tons. A.B.

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36 Responses to August 17

  1. Zamboge says:

    Is this wonderful research for Animal Farm? George seems very focused on the goings on of the countryside.

  2. hackpacker says:

    The tiny details are oddly fascinating. I had someone in a class I’m teaching say that they thought this would be good source material for a historical novel and sure enough George adds even more info.
    The berry fascination is interesting. Were berries more plentiful or has Eric Blair just spotted them more because he’s taking it easy in the country?
    The sleeper is a bargain!

  3. danielearwicker says:

    Ragwort indeed! These were barbaric times before the The Weeds Act of 1959, were they not?

  4. Stefan says:

    Assuming you have the original clipping – can’t you just show a (scanned) image of it? Would be preferred to a transcription.

    Otherwise excellent stuff so far. Getting better and better. Can’t wait for the war to break out.

  5. Kirsty Mills says:

    Could you please indicate what the day of the week of each entry is? And ideally, the full date? As in Wednesday, August 17, 1938.

  6. KB Player says:

    The picture of willowherb you link to in the main body of the text doesn’t look right. Willowherb is crimson, like this:-

    Very common on waste ground and grew all over London on bomb sites.

    This is a great blog – really enjoying it.

    On days when Orwell made no entry, could you post “[No entry]” under the date?

  7. Fearless Frank says:

    Cubit feet?
    Surely he meant cubic feet, cubit feet doesn’t make any sense (though it does have a rather biblical ring to it).
    Or maybe the person who did the transcript misread GO’s handwriting?

  8. Laurens says:

    @ Fearless Frank:

    1 cubit = 45.72 centimeters

  9. Laurens says:

    @ Fearless Frank: (from Wikipedia:)

    The Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, depicts nine historical units of measurement: the Yard, the Span, the Cubit, the Flemish Ell, the English Ell, the French Ell, the Fathom, the Hand , and the Foot. The Vitruvian man was drawn to scale, so the units depicted are displayed with their proper historical ratios.

  10. Professor Von W. says:


    What Frank is saying is that “cubit feet” is akin to saying “kilometers inches.” It makes neither grammatical nor mathematical sense.

  11. Fearless Frank says:

    @ Lauren :
    1 cubit = 45.72 centimeters

    I’m sure you’re right – but what, then, is a cubit foot?

    I reckon old Eric meant cubic foot, which after all is measure of volume.
    And my guess is that’s what he wrote – but maybe his hand-writing made it look like “cubit”
    Cubits go back to the ark (Noah used ’em) but cubit feet doesn’t make sense!

  12. Klank Kiki says:

    Please please please add imperial to metric units conversions in the post. It’s hard reading otherwise.

  13. sluggo says:

    I wonder if he’s getting adequate lumbar support from that pillow.

  14. danielearwicker says:

    @Zamboge, “Is this wonderful research for Animal Farm? George seems very focused on the goings on of the countryside.”

    He who controls the pasture controls the future.

  15. Ravenous, the ignorant locals began eating bushels of various berries by the handfuls, eyeballs darting randomly–on the lookout for “stinging” snakes.

    1 meter == 2.187 cubits
    1 cubit == 0.4572 meter == 2 spans == 6 handbreadths == 0.5 yard == 18 inches == fingertip to elbow

  16. Aaron says:

    I love how he observes the world in his writing. All his descriptions are scrupulously material, yet I can’t help but sense a real pleasure in the shape of things.

  17. billythepoet says:

    I am really enjoying how he seems so obsessed with what we see as small details of country life, the merest details of it. And our surprised reaction to it…He may have gone on to become a visionary political writer, but what would be the point of speaking against totalitarianism and fighting for humanity if not so that we are free to enjoy the simple beauty of things like the ripeness of the local blackberries?

    Read Coming Up For Air!

  18. Paul says:

    @ Kirsty Mills.
    17 Aug 1938 was a Wednesday, so count 3 days ahead of the current day. It took me quite a while to work that out, so it would be a nice idea to add this to the posts.

  19. Bonnie says:

    He who controls the pasture controls the future… :) danielearwicker – but tsk – some dedicated pessimist readers even seem to miss the humour in Animal Farm, says Bernard Crick

  20. Bonnie says:

    oh, btw Orwell did say ‘cubic’ and not ‘cubit’ it’s an Orwell Prize typo

  21. Fearless Frank says:

    @ Bonnie
    oh, btw Orwell did say ‘cubic’ and not ‘cubit’ it’s an Orwell Prize typo

    Well thank you Bonnie, I thought as much. How do you know this – have you seen the original ms?
    I’m interested i this sort of thing!

    Thanks for the Crick link, btw – a welcome bit of wit & insight.

    – FF——

  22. Pingback: Quantum Forest / George Orwell and wood durability

  23. Bonnie says:

    Fearless Frank – no such luck! Orwell’s domestic diary – and everything else that he wrote – was published in *The Complete Works of George Orwell*. It has been out for 10 years now and so it’s pretty easy to get hold of the various volumes – used, library, amazon, whatever.

  24. Bludger says:

    amazing the number of people posting comments such as:

    “Please please please add imperial to metric units conversions in the post. It’s hard reading otherwise.”

    Do you need someone to take you to the toilet as well?

  25. Kevin says:

    hey, you guys are screwing up the dates!

  26. George~~
    Have you ever seen Metropolis (1927)?

  27. Jason Anton says:

    This seems more like a agricultural journal rather than a diary of thoughts.

  28. Pingback: Responding to Orwell: August 18 : Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits

  29. Jerry says:

    The man certainly had a fascination with details. I wonder if everyone did back then, being that they a) weren’t overwhelmed with information, and b) had to rely on memory, instead of Google (humanity’s hive mind).

    I couldn’t tell you the difference between a … hell, I can’t even come up with a pair of plant names. But I can sure google a couple million of them.

  30. While I suppose it is possible that George is

    attempting to communicate a profundity via Secret Metaphorical Code using mundane minutiae as camouflage

    I remain skeptical.

  31. Some random guy says:

    To all those shocked at his attention to minutiae like the tons per acre of grain – he was farming: raw tons becomes his income, number of acres directly relates to outgoing expenditure and labour, combined they give a rough idea of productivity. And I can think of only two professions more obsessed with the weather than farmers – sailors, and meteorologists. “,)

  32. Jacob says:

    I feel like a complete blank, but what can I say?,

  33. Suzanna says:

    I’ve just been sitting around waiting for something to happen.,

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