MAKING THE WILDERNESS BLOOM
BIBLE STUDENTS are more and more having proofs set before them of the fulfilment of the Scriptures. The promise has stood in the Bible for centuries, that God would ultimately turn away the curse from the earth and that, instead of thorns and thistles, it would yield blessings to mankind. This great change was to come at the close of the six great Days of a thousand years each-- the period of the reign of sin and death. The great Seventh Day, the Day of Christ--a thousand years--is to witness a wonderful transformation from darkness to light, from evil to good, from the curse to the blessing.
That thousand years of blessing is in the Bible styled "The Times [or years] of Restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:19-21.) Bible Students are calling the attention of each other and of the world to the fact that the six thousand years of the reign of sin and death are past, and that we are living in the dawn of Messiah's Day--the Millennium.
Blessings are coming to mankind from every quarter. But they are not coming as miraculously as many had expected. God's blessing is coming through human enlightenment. He is lifting the veil, and men of ordinary capacity are seeing things which their equally bright forefathers never dreamed of. Artesian wells are serving to irrigate certain sections and to make them very fruitful. The diverting of streams for irrigation purposes is rapidly making arid lands blossom as the rose.
Advancement along the lines of horticulture is improving our plants and flowers greatly. It is difficult to imagine how more beautiful bloom could ever have been seen in Eden of old, or how anything more nearly perfect and beautiful could ever be hoped for in the Paradise which by and by will be world-wide. Horticulture is receiving enlightenment and blessing from Heaven. Ideal apples, pears, plums, grapes, etc., are coming to us in the place of the poor stunted fruits of the past. We may well wonder how there could be much further improvement made in some directions. Yet the matter of improvement is about in its infancy.
We quote below an interesting item respecting a valuable work now being conducted by Mr. Burbank, of California, a man who has already given us some new varieties of fruit and done much to educate the world along horticultural lines. We quote:
"While the recognition of the value of Burbank's work by the Carnegie Institution and the appropriation of funds was helpful at a time most needed, it is not as important from a utilitarian standpoint as was the bill passed by Congress last August giving Mr. Burbank grants of lands for conducting his experiments regarding the spineless cacti. The bill provides for the placing of twelve sections of desert land at his disposal in locations to be selected by him in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, each section containing 640 acres of land.
"While the stories of the spineless cactus and its possibilities as an addition to the food and industrial resources of the country were ridiculed at the beginning, the demonstrations already given by Mr. Burbank are convincing proof of its practicability. About ten years ago he began to study the cactus with a view of making it useful to the human race, instead of the enemy it always has been regarded. He recognized its good qualities, namely, that it was hardy and would grow where nothing else would, in the blistering heat of the desert, and that it had much nutrition stored in its thick leaves and golden or crimson fruit. [R5262 : page 187]
"His first two objects were the removal of the sharp thorns covering the branches, leaves and fruit, and the removal of the woody, fibrous skeleton of the leaves, which made them indigestible. The cactus selected by Burbank for his experiments was the Opuntia species, native to Mexico and South America. Hundreds of thousands of seeds were planted and extensive crossings were made between the pollens of the flowers. In making the thornless cactus, Mr. Burbank recognized the fact that it took much of the vital force of the cacti to develop the powerful thorns and supply the leaves with fibers. In breeding these away he gave nature a chance to devote her energy to improving the fruit. He has accomplished this in a manner that seems absolutely marvelous.
"The fruit of the cactus is like a fat cucumber in appearance, slightly flattened at the ends. It is delicious for jelly and jams, and one variety has a pineapple flavor. The juice has been found invaluable for mixing paint, and [R5263 : page 187] the coloring of the red fruit is permanent and of great brilliance. Cactus fruit already is on sale in the Western States, and a large commercial company has been formed in California for its exploitation.
"At present Mr. Burbank is devoting his time chiefly to the selection of the sites of his experiment fields in the desert lands supplied him by the Government. If, as is generally believed, his claims can be demonstrated upon this large scale, he will add many millions of dollars to the resources of the world. There are billions of acres of desert ground in different parts of the world, and if these are all made productive, the benefit to all is apparent.
"It is claimed that an acre of cactus plants will produce 200 tons of food value. A corn production of a ton and a half is considered good, and a five-ton yield of alfalfa is exceptional. The leaves of the cactus may be used as forage as acceptably as alfalfa. If the produce is utilized for the manufacture of wood alcohol, the yield is estimated as amounting to $1,200 value per acre as against $35 for Indian corn. It must be considered that this cactus is to be produced entirely upon desert lands, which never before have been productive of anything of commercial value."