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I am reading a reprint of, "Caldwell’s Treatise On Hedging, History Of Hedging: Giving A Complete Theory Of Its Culture", written by Joseph A. Caldwell, and first published in 1870, in the USA.

I am doing so because I want to try planting my own historically accurate, livestock-containing, hedge of osage orange, and I have been unable to find very specific instructions online.

The author quotes a letter from another "hedge-raiser", Mr. Barick, who claims to have emigrated from Britain in 1855. In that letter, I've found a series of two paragraphs with several strange usages of the word, "line", and "resetting" that I have been unable to find appropriate modern definitions for.

I've tried to recreate the format of the text as faithfully as possible. Here, on pages 56 and 57, Mr. Barick appears to writing about about planting a row of osage orange trees in beside another, or planting saplings to replace trees that failed to germinate, but I am unsure.

 "Resetting the plants the first year.—There are many ways that the young plants may be reset in the hedge-row. the old English rule for setting is altogether owing to the kind of plant that is used. There are many plants from which hedges can be made. But the plants that are most generally used are the English Hawthorn and the Osage Orange. It is hardly worth while for me to give a history of the Hawthorn, for it is not so well adapted to this country as the Osage Orange. This plant is a native of this country. It is principally found in Arkansas and in many parts of Texas, where it grows to large trees. It is designated in those States as Bordark. The timber is used for many valuable purposes in the southern states.
 "Resetting the Osage Orange.—The ground should be prepared in the fall. In the spring it should be replowed, in order to get it in as good condition as possible. It should be plowed with a good subsoil plow to the depth of twelve or fifteen inches; it should then be thoroughly harrowed. Take from the line all sod that may arise in harrowing. Then take a line and stretch it along the line to be set in hedge. Take a steel dibble and set the plants on one side of the line. One hundred rods can be set in a day by this method.

What does Mr. Barick mean by "resetting" here, and what do all the usages of the word, "line" in the second paragraph mean?

Since the book is in the public domain, here's a link to a free pdf if you'd like to have a look. The letter itself starts on page 53.The quoted paragraphs start on page 56.

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    May we assume you're aware that hedgelaying is an ancient craft and practice, much as coppicing is? It's been around for thousands of years in the British Isles, notably annoying Julius Caesar during his invasions there. You'll have to learn about laying the hedge and when and why you might want to reset it every 10 to 15 years. It's something of a cottage industry, so to speak. :)
    – tchrist
    Jun 8 at 3:13
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    By the way, the referenced "Bordark" is a local corruption of what was once the French bois d’arc, meaning the type of wood you would use for making a bow out of.
    – tchrist
    Jun 8 at 3:19
  • @tchrist I've done some research on this subject beforehand. As I understand it, hedgelaying is not the planting of the hedge, but a way of extending it's lifespan, while keeping it capable of containing livestock. Jun 8 at 3:29
  • @tchrist I have also heard it called bodark or bodak. Jun 8 at 3:30
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    It looks to me as though "reset" means "transplant" in this context. "Line" seems to mean "swath" the first time, "twine" the second, and "hedge border" the third. The last one seems to be "twine" again. Jun 8 at 5:36

2 Answers 2

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The usage of line is mixed in this prose. The gardening line is described in another answer. The other occurrences may be understood as below.

Take from the line (the band of soil where the harrowing has been, the general direction of the hedge) all sod that may arise in harrowing. Then take a line (of thin cord or string) and stretch it along the line (the geometric line on which the hedge plants are desired to be set) to be set in hedge. Take a steel dibble and set (= plant) the plants on one side of the line (plant them adjacent to the stretched line of cord).

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A "line" in building or gardening is a string stretched taut. It is a practical way to get a long straight reference object. See for instance String Line And Plumb Bob for more information.

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    I agree. It is a little confusing when line occurs twice in a sentence, but it can be parsed as a string line overlaying the intended line of hedge: "Then take a [string] line and stretch it along the line to be set in hedge." Jun 8 at 14:49

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