Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 4
   August 2011
   What Is It?

What Is It?

This item, found at a tool fair in Biève, France, is very similar to a Kelly kettle, a portable camp kettle used to boil water outdoors. At first we thought that perhaps it was a French version of that item; rather, it is an historical agricultural tool that was used in French vineyards.

During the first half of the 19th century, infestation by pyralid moth larvae (family Pyralidae) devastated many vineyards in the Burgundy region. In fact, the destruction was so extensive, it was said the vineyards appeared to have been destroyed by fire. (The moth's name is thought to come from the Greek word pyr, meaning fire.)

Benoit Raclet (1780 - 1844), who lived in the region and was married to a vineyard owner's daughter, noticed healthy vines that just happened to be subject to twice-daily dousing by hot dishwater discarded from a nearby residence. After making the correlation, he started testing his theory using makeshift equipment. Accounts state that his experiments were the laughingstock of the region. Nonetheless, the vines on his test plot continued to flourish.

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