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Q W E R T Y U I O P
A S D F G H J K L
Z X C V B N M
THE MODERN THEORY OF AGRICULTURE
Liebig and other chemists have, within the last twenty-five years, endeavored to establish a science of agriculture, based upon a knowledge of the constitution of plants and of soils, and their mutual relations. We propose to give a very condensed account of the general conclusions arrived at.
Food of Plants.
Plants derive their food from the air as well as from the earth; the former by their leaves, the latter by their roots. Elements most necessary to them are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, with various mineral substances present in the soil. Carbon is the most abundant. This is to a large extent extracted from the atmosphere by the leaves of plants, during the day-time. Hydrogen and oxygen are in the water contained in the earth and air, and oxygen is in the air mixed with nitrogen. Plants do not seem able, however, to separate much nitrogen from the air as such, but more readily obtain it by the decomposition of ammonia (composed of hydrogen and nitrogen), which is formed in the atmosphere, and washed down into the earth by rain-water, so as to reach the roots. All ordinary waters, it must be remembered, contain substances dissolved in them. Irrigation of land does not act only by the water itself, but by that which is dissolved or diffused in it. Davy calculated that, supposing one part of sulphate of lime to be contained in every two thousand of river water, and every square yard of dry meadow land to absorb eight gallons of water, then, by every flooding, more than one and a half hundred weight of gypsum per acre is diffused by the water - a quantity equal to that generally used in spreading gypsum as a manure or fertilizer; and so, if we allow only twenty-five parts of animal and vegetable remains to be present in a thousand parts of river water, we shall find that every soaking with such water will add to the meadow nearly two tons per acre of organic matter. The extraordinary fertility of the banks and delta of the river Nile is due to the natural annual overflow of the river, extended by artificial irrigation. In China also, the principle of irrigation is carried out very largely, and it is applicable, on a large or small scale, in any country. The water of lakes is usually charged with dissolved or suspended substances even more abundantly than that of rivers.
Soils contain a great amount of matter which results from the decay of vegetables and animals; to a compound of which with earthy material the name of humus is given. This was once incorrectly supposed to give the whole nutriment of the plant. Trees and plants, instead of abstracting carbon from the earth, really, by taking it from the air, and subsequently dying and decaying, annually by their leaves, and finally altogether, give carbon and other atmospheric elements to the soil. As above said, all plants by their leaves absorb carbonic acid from the air, and retain carbon, giving out oxygen. It is evident, therefore, that the leaves are of great importance to the plant. So are the roots, for their absorbing office. Thus it is true that the growth of a plant is always proportioned to the surface of its roots and leaves together. Vegetation, in its simplest form, consists in the abstraction of carbon from carbonic acid, and hydrogen from water; but the taking of nitrogen also, from ammonia especially, is important to them, and most of all, to those which are most nutritious, as the wheat, rye, barley, &c., whose seeds contain gluten and other nitrogenous principles of the greatest value for food. Plants will grow well in pure charcoal, if supplied with rain-water, for rain-water contains ammonia.
Animal substances, as they putrefy, always evolve ammonia, which plants need and absorb. Thus is explained one of the benefits of manuring, but not the only one as we shall see presently. Animal manure, however, acts chiefly by the formation of ammonia. The quantity of gluten in wheat, rye, and barley is very different; and they contain nitrogen in varying proportions. Even in samples of the same seed the quantity varies, and why? Evidently because one variety has been better fed with its own appropriate fertilizer than another which has been reared on a soil less accurately adapted by artificial means for its growth. French wheat contains 12 per cent. of gluten; Bavarian 24 per cent. Sir H. Davy obtained 19 per cent. from winter, and 24 from summer wheat; from Sicilian 21, from Barbary wheat 19 per cent. Such great differences must be owing to some cause, and this we find in the different methods of cultivation. An increase of animal manure gives rise not only to an increase in the number of seeds, but also to a remarkable difference in the proportion of gluten which those seeds contain. Among manures of animal origin there is great diversity. Cow dung contains but a small proportion of nitrogen. One hundred parts of wheat, grown on a soil to which this material was applied, afforded only 11 parts of gluten and 64 of starch; while the same quantity of wheat, grown on a soil fertilized with human urine, yielded 35 per cent. of gluten, and of course a smaller proportion of less valuable ingredients. During the putrefaction of urine, ammoniacal salts are formed in large quantity, it may be said, exclusively; for under the influence of warmth and moisture, the most prominent ingredient of urine is converted into carbonate of ammonia.
Guano consists of the excrements of sea-fowl collected during long periods on certain islands in the South Sea. A soil which is deficient in organic matter is made much more productive by the addition of this manure. It consists of ammonia, combined with uric, phosphoric, oxalic and carbonic acids, with some earthy salts and impurities.
The urine of men and animals living upon flesh contains a large quantity of nitrogen, partly in the form of urea. Human urine is the most powerful manure for all vegetables which contain nitrogen, that of horses and horned cattle contains less of this element, but much more than the solid excrements of these animals. In the face of such facts as these, is it not pitiable to observe how the urine of the stable or cow-shed is often permitted to run off, to sink uselessly into the earth, or to form a pool in the middle of a farm-yard, from which, as it putrefies, the ammonia formed in it rapidly escapes into the atmosphere?
Cultivated plants need more nitrogen than wild ones, being of a higher and more complex organization. The result of forest growth is chiefly the production of carbonaceous woody fibre; of garden or field culture, especially the addition of as much nitrogen as the plant can be made to take up.
The solid excrements of animals do not contain as much nitrogen as those which are voided in a liquid form, and do not constitute so powerful a fertilizing material. In urine, moreover, ammonia loses a good deal of its volatility by being combined and dissolved in the form of salts. In an analagous manner, one of the uses of sulphate of lime or gypsum, as a manure, is to fix the ammonia of the atmosphere. Charcoal and humus have a similar property.
Mineral Matter in Plants.
Besides the substances already mentioned others are needed by plants as part of their food, to form their structure. The firmness of straw for example, is due to the presence in it of silica, the principal constituent of sand and flints. Potassa, soda, lime, magnesia, and phosphoric acid are contained in plants, in different proportions. All of these they must obtain from the soil. The alkalies abovenamed (potassa and soda) appear to be essential to the perfect development of the higher vegetable forms. Some plants require them in one mode of combination, and some in another; and thus the soil that is very good for one, may be quite unfit for others. Firs and pines find enough to support them in barren, sandy soil.
The proportion of silicate of potash (necessary for the firmness of wheat straw) does not vary perceptibly in the soil of grain fields, because what is removed by the reaper, is again replaced in putrefying straw. But this is not the case with meadow-land. Hence we never find a luxuriant crop of grass on sandy and limestone soils which contain little potash, evidently because one of the constituents indispensable to the growth of the plants is wanting. If a meadow be well manured, we remove, with the increased crop of grass, a greater quantity of potash than can, by a repetition of the same manure, be restored to it. So grass-land manured with gypsum soon ceases to feel its agency. But if the meadow be strewed from time to time with wood ashes, or soap-boilers' lye made from wood ashes, then the grass thrives as luxuriantly as before. And why? The ashes are only a means of restoring the necessary potash for the grass stalks. So oats, barley, and rye may be made for once to grow upon a sandy heath, by mixing with the scanty soil the ashes of the heath-plants that grow upon it. Those ashes contain soda and potash, conveyed to the growing furze or gorse by rain-water. The soil of one district consists of sandstone; certain trees find in it a quantity of alkaline earths sufficient for their own sustenance. When felled, and burnt and sprinkled upon the soil, oats will grow and thrive that without such aid would not vegetate.
The most decisive proof of the absurdity of the indiscriminate use of any strong manure was obtained at Bingen, a town on the Rhine, where the produce and development of vines were highly increased by manuring them with animal matters such as shavings of horn. After some years, the formation of the wood and leaves decreased perceptibly. Such manure had too much hastened the growth of the vines: in two or three years they had exhausted the potash in the formation of their fruit leaves and wood; so that none remained for the future crops, as shavings of horn contain no potash. Cow-dung would have been better, and is known to be better.
Conditions of Vegetation.
The sun's heat and light, air, water, and the common elements of the earth are necessary to the existence of plants. But a greater or less abundance of certain elements, and their existence in more or less favorable states of combination, determines the magnitude and fertility or, in a word, the whole productiveness, of the vegetable growth.
The rules of agriculture should then, if rationally perfected, enable us to give to each plant what it requires for the attainment of the special object of its culture, namely, the increase of certain parts which are used as food for men and animals.
One instance may illustrate this idea. The means to be resorted to for the production of fine pliable straw for hats and bonnets are the very opposite to those which would tend to produce the greatest possible amount of seed or grain from the same plant.
Sand, clay, and lime, as has been said are the principal constituents of soils. Clay and marl always contain potash and soda. Pure sand, or pure limestone, would alone constitute absolutely barren soils. All arable land contains an admixture of clay, although an excess of it, in proportion, is of course disadvantageous.
Rotation of Crops.
The exhaustion of alkalies in a soil by successive crops is the true reason why practical farmers suppose themselves compelled to suffer land to lie fallow. It is the greatest possible mistake to think that the temporary diminution of fertility in a field is chiefly owing to the loss of the decaying vegetable matter it previously contained: it is principally the consequence of the exhaustion of potash and soda, which are restored by the slow process of the more complete disintegration of the materials of the soil. It is evident that the careful tilling of fallow land must accelerate and increase this further breaking up of its mineral ingredients. Nor is this repose of the soil always necessary. A field, which has become unfitted for a certain kind of produce, may not, on that account, be unsuitable for another; and upon this observation a system of agriculture has been gradually formed, the principal object of which is to obtain the greatest possible produce in a succession of years, with the least outlay for manure. Because plants require for their growth different constituents of soil, changing the crop from year to year will maintain the fertility of that soil (provided it be done with judgment) quite as well as leaving it at rest or fallow. In this we but imitate nature. The oak, after thriving for long generations on a particular spot, gradually sickens; its entire race dies out; other trees and shrubs succeed it, till, at length, the surface becomes so charged with an excess of dead vegetable matter, that the forest becomes a peat moss, or a surface upon which no large tree will grow. Generally long before this can occur, the operation of natural causes has gradually removed from the soil substances, essential to the growth of oak leaving others favorable and necessary to the growth of beech or pine. So, in practical farming, one crop, in artificial rotation with others, extracts from the soil a certain quantity of necessary materials; a second carries off, in preference, those which the former has left.
One hundred parts of wheat straw yield 15 1/2 of ashes; the same quantity of barley straw, 8 1/2; of oat straw, only 4; and the ashes of the three are chemically, of about the same composition. Upon the same field, which will yield only one harvest of wheat, two successive crops of barley may be raised, and three of oats. We have in these facts a clear proof of what is abstracted from the soil and the key to the rational mode of supplying the deficiency.
Since wheat consumes a large amount of silicate of potassa from the soil, the plants which should succeed or alternate with it must be such as require but little potassa, as potatoes or turnips. After three or four years the same lands may well bear wheat, because, during the interval, the soil will have been, by the action of the atmosphere, and the solution of vegetable and animal substances decaying upon or in it, again rendered capable of yielding what the wheat requires. Whether this process can be artificially anticipated, by supplying the exhausted ingredient to the soil, is a further and most interesting and important inquiry.
We could keep our fields in a constant state of fertility by replacing, every year, as much as is removed from them by their produce. An increase of fertility may be expected, of course, only when more is added of the proper material to the soil than is taken away. Any soil will partially regain its strength by lying fallow. But any soil, under cultivation, must at length (without help) lose those constituents which are removed in the seeds, roots and leaves of the plants raised upon it. To remedy this loss, and also increase the productiveness of the land, is the object of the use of proper manures.
Land, when not employed in raising food for animals or man, should, at least, be applied to the purpose of raising manure for itself; and this, to a certain extent, may be effected by means of green crops, which, by their decomposition, not only add to the amount of vegetable mould contained in the soil, but supply the alkalies that would be found in their ashes. That the soil should become richer by this burial of a crop, than it was before the seed of that crop was sown, will be understood by recollecting that three-fourths of the whole organic matter we bury has been derived from the air: that by this process of ploughing in, the vegetable matter is more equally diffused through the whole soil, and therefore more easily and rapidly decomposed; and that by its gradual decomposition, ammonia and nitric acid are certainty generated, though not so largely as when animal matters are employed. He who neglects the green sods, and crops of weeds that flourish by his hedgerows and ditches, overlooks an important natural means of wealth. Left to themselves, they ripen their seeds, exhausting the soil, and sowing them annually in his fields: collected in compost heaps, they add materially to his yearly crops of corn.
The following conclusions may be regarded as scientifically sustained; as well as confirmed by practical experience:
1. That fresh human urine yields nitrogen in greater abundance to vegetation than any other material of easy acquisition, and that the urine of animals is valuable for the same purpose, but not equally so.
2. That the mixed excrements of man and animals yield (if carefully preserved from further decomposition), not only nitrogen, but other invaluable saline and earthy matters that have been already extracted in food from the soil.
3. That animal substances which, like urine, flesh, and blood, decompose rapidly, are fitted to operate immediately and powerfully on vegetation.
4. That dry animal substances, as horn, hair, or woollen rags, decompose slowly, and (weight for weight) contain a greater quantity of organized as well as unorganized materials, manifesting their influence it may be for several seasons.
5. That bones, acting like horns, in so far as their animal matter is concerned, and like it for a number of seasons more or less, according as they have been more or less finely crushed, may ameliorate the soil by their earthy matter for a long period (even if the jelly they contain have been injuriously removed by the size maker), permanently improving the condition and adding to the natural capabilities of the land.
Uses of Guano.
This manure is a powerful stimulant to vegetable development generally; it is especially available in raising wheat, corn, potatoes, garden vegetables, and tobacco. If the land needs it, it may be put on as often as a crop is to be raised, though not, it is said, as a top dressing. For wheat, 150 to 200 pounds of guano may be used to the acre; for Indian corn, 300 to 400 pounds; unless it is put directly in the hills, when 100 pounds per acre will do. For potatoes, 300 to 400 pounds, in a drill, with bone dust. The addition of the latter makes the good effects of the guano more durable.
Simple lime, although an important constituent of plants, is rarely suitable as an application to them in its pure state. Carbonate of lime (represented by chalk, &c.) is a natural ingredient in very many soils. The sulphate of lime (gypsum, plaster of Paris) is often used for fertilizing purposes. It is less easily decomposed than the carbonate. The precise conditions which make it most advantageous, are not positively determined yet. Phosphate of lime is a very important constituent of plants; and, as it exists also in the bones of animals, a double relation follows: namely, that it should be abundant in soil on which plants are raised for food of men and animals; and, on the other hand, that animal bones contribute it to the soil when they decay upon it.
Wood ashes contain a large amount of carbonate of potassa, with also the sulphate and silicate of that alkali. Peat ashes vary in different regions, but always are found useful as manure. Kelp, or the ashes of sea-weeds, are often employed in the same way; they contain soda in considerable amount. Nitrate of potassa (nitre, or saltpetre) is said to quicken vegetable action when added to the soil, and to give the leaves a deeper green. A hundred pounds to the acre of grass or young corn, have been reported to produce a beneficial effect. In localities far inland, common salt, chloride of sodium, is indispensable to the soil, although a small amount of it will suffice. Animal manures contain it. An excess of salt will render land barren; as was well known to the ancients.
We may take it for granted that every thinking practical mind, will admit it as proved, that there must be an exact adaptation and fitness between the condition of any given soil and the plants intended to be raised upon it; and, further, that if this mutual fitness does not naturally exist, a knowledge of its requirements will enable us to supply it artificially. The great difficulty is, to obtain this knowledge fully and accurately. It must be confessed that, at present, much is wanting to render it complete and directly available. Industrious observation and experiment may, hereafter, make it so; and thus give us a system of truly scientific agriculture.
A few statements only remain to be added to what has been said. The best natural soils are those where the materials have been derived from the breaking up and decomposition, not of one stratum or layer, but of many divided minutely by air and water, and minutely blended together: and in improving soils by artificial additions, the farmer cannot do better than imitate the processes of nature.
We have spoken of soils as consisting mostly of sand, lime, and clay, with certain saline and organic substances in smaller and varying proportions; but the examination of the ashes of plants shows that a fertile soil must of necessity contain an appreciable quantity of at least eleven different substances, which in most cases exist in greater or less relative abundance in the ash of cultivated plants; and of these the proportions are not by any means immaterial. In general, the soils which are made up of the most various materials are called alluvial; having been formed from the depositions of floods and rivers. Many of them are extremely fertile. Soils consist of two parts; of an organic part, which can readily be burned away when the surface-soil is heated to redness; and of an inorganic part, which remains fixed in the fire, consisting of earthy and saline substances from which, if carbonic acid or any elastic gas be present, it may, however, be driven by the heat. The organic part of soils is derived chiefly from the remains of vegetables and animals which have lived and died in and upon the soil, which have been spread over it by rivers and rains, or which have been added by the industry of man for the purposes of increased fertility.
This organic part varies much in quantity, as well as quality, in different soils. In peaty soils it is very abundant, as well as in some rich, long cultivated lands. In general, it rarely amounts to one-fourth, or 25 per cent. even in our best arable lands. Good wheat soils contain often as little as eight parts in the hundred of organic animal or vegetable matter; oats and rye will grow in a soil containing only 1 1/2 per cent.; and barley when only two or three parts per cent. are present.
The inorganic portion of any given soil, again, is divisible into two portions; that part which is soluble in water, and thus easily taken up by plants, and a much more bulky portion which is insoluble.
Sir Humphrey Davy found the following to be the composition of a good productive soil. In every 9 parts, 8 consisted of siliceous sand; the remaining (one-ninth) part was composed, in 100 parts, as follows:
Carbonate of lime (chalk) 63 grains. Pure silex 15 grains. Pure alumina, or the earth of clay 11 grains. Oxide (rust) of iron 3 grains. Vegetable and other saline matter 5 grains. Moisture and loss 3 grains.
Thus the whole amount of organic matter in this instance is only 1 part in 200, or one-half of one per cent.; a fact which, in itself, would demonstrate the fallacy of supposing that decomposed animal and vegetable matter in the soil form the exclusive supply to growing plants.
In another instance, soil was taken from a field in Sussex, remarkable for its growth of flourishing oak trees. It consisted of 6 parts of sand, and 1 part of clay and finely-divided matter. One hundred grains of it yielded, in chemical language:-
Of silica (or silex) 54 grains. Of alumina 28 grains. Carbonate of lime 3 grains. Oxide of iron 5 grains. Vegetable matter in a state of decomposition 4 grains. Moisture and loss 6 grains.
To wheat soils, the attention of the practical farmer will be most strongly directed. An excellent wheat soil from West Drayton, in England, yielded 3 parts in 5 of silicious sand; and the remaining two parts consisted of carbonate of lime, silex, alumina, and a minute proportion of decomposing animal and vegetable remains.
Of these soils, the last was by far the most, and the first the least, coherent in texture. In all cases, the constituent parts of the soil which give tenacity and stiffness, are the finely-divided portions, and they possess this quality in proportion to the quantity of alumina (or earth of clay) they contain.
The varying power of soils to absorb and retain water from the air, is much connected with their fertility. This absorbent power is always greatest in the most fertile lands. Their productiveness is also much influenced by the nature of the subsoil on which they rest; for, when soils are situated immediately upon a bed of rook or stone, they dry sooner by the sun's agency than when the subsoil is clay or marl.
A great deal more might be said upon other kindred points. But, as has been already remarked, agricultural science is, as yet, imperfect. It is a mistake for the practical farmer to contemn "book farming," as if it were something visionary or useless; while, on the other hand, the agricultural chemist and vegetable physiologist must submit all their inductions and conclusions to the test of careful and repeated trials. The one can seldom analyze soils, and the other can rarely attend to raising crops; so they must help each other, and, together, aid in advancing the oldest of human arts, and one of the most beautiful of the sciences - that of the earth's culture.
Component parts of Soil.
The principal component parts of the soil, whatever may be the color, are clay, lime, sand, water and air. The primitive earths, argil, lime, and sand, contain each perhaps in nearly equal degrees, the food of plants, but in their union the purposes of vegetation are most completely answered. The precise quantities of each necessary to make this union perfect, and whether they ought to be equal, it is not very easy to ascertain since that point is best determined in practice, when the soil proves to be neither too stiff nor adhesive, from the superabundance of clay, nor of too loose and weak a texture, from an over quantity of sand in its composition. The medium is undoubtedly best; but an excess towards adhesion is obviously most safe. A stiff or strong soil holds the water which falls upon it for a long time, and, being capable of much ploughing, is naturally well qualified for carrying the most valuable arable crops. A light sod, or one of a texture feeble and easily broken, is, on the contrary, soon exhausted by aration, and requires renovation by grass; or otherwise it cannot be cultivated to advantage.
To distinguish Clayey Soils.
A clayey soil, though distinguished by the color which it bears, namely black, white, yellow and red, differs from all other soils, being tough, wet, and cold, and consequently requiring a good deal of labor from the husbandman before it can be sufficiently pulverized, or placed in a state for bearing artificial crops of corn or grass. Clay land is known by the following qualities, or properties.
It holds water like a cup, and once wetted does not soon dry. In like manner, when thoroughly dry, it is not soon wetted; if we except the varieties which have a thin surface, and are the worst of all to manage. In a dry summer, clay cracks and shows a surface full of small chinks, or openings. If ploughed in a wet state, it sticks to the plough like mortar, and in a dry summer, the plough turns it up in great clods, scarcely to be broken or separated by the heaviest roller.
To manage Sandy Soils.
Soils of this description are managed with infinitely less trouble, and at an expense greatly inferior to what clays require; but at the same time the crops produced from them are generally of smaller value. There are many varieties of sand, however, as well as of clay; and in some parts of the country, the surface is little better than a bare barren sand, wherein artificial plants will not take root unless a dose of clay or good earth is previously administered. This is not the soil meant by the farmer when be speaks of sands. To speak practically, the soil meant is one where sand is predominant, although there be several other earths in the mixture. From containing a great quantity of sand, these soils are all loose and crumbling, and never get into a clod, even in the driest weather. This is the great article of distinction betwixt sand and sandy loams. A sandy loam, owing to the clay that is in it, does not crumble down, or become loose like a real sand, but retains a degree of adhesion after wetness or drought, notwithstanding the quantity of sand that is mixed with it. Perhaps a true sandy loam incumbant upon a sound subsoil, is the most valuable of all soils. Upon such, every kind of grain may be raised with advantage, and no soil is better calculated for turnips and grass.
The real sands are not favorable to the growth of wheat, unless when preceded by clover, which binds the surface, and confers a temporary strength for sustaining that grain. Much of the county of Norfolk in England is of this description, and it is well known that few districts of the kingdom yield a greater quantity of produce. Till Norfolk however, was invigorated by clay and marl, nearly one-half of it was little better than waste; but by the success which accompanied the use of these auxiliaries, a new soil was in a manner created; which, by a continuation of judicious management, has given a degree of fame to the husbandry of that country, far surpassing that of other districts naturally more fertile.
The open porous nature of these soils disposes them to imbibe moisture, and to part with it with great facility: from the latter of which circumstances they are subject to burn, as it is termed, in dry reasons. The main difference between gravel and sand is, that the former is chiefly composed of small soft stones, though in some instances the stones are of a silicious or flinty nature, and, in others, of the calcareous or chalky. From these constitutional circumstances arises the propriety of deepening gravelly soils by coats of marl or earth, and of keeping them fresh by frequent returns of grass, and repeated applications of manure. Gravelly soils, from the lightness of their texture, are not expensive or difficult in the means of cultivation. All the necessary business required for gravels may be carried forward with ease and expedition; and such soils are, in general, soon brought into a proper state for the reception of crops.
The constitutional qualities of gravels point out the propriety of ploughing them deep, so that the surface soil may be augmented, and greater room given to the growth of the plants cultivated on them. A shallow-ploughed gravel can stand no excess of weather, however enriched by manure. It is burnt up by a day or two of drought, and it is almost equally injured by an excessive fall of rain unless the pan or firm bottom, which such soils easily gain, be frequently broken through by deep ploughing.
Uses of different Soils.
Clayey soils, when sufficiently enriched with manures, are naturally well qualified for carrying crops of wheat, oats, beans, and clover; but are not fitted for barley, turnips, potatoes, etc., or even for being kept under for grass longer than one year. Such soils ought to be regularly summer-fallowed once in six, or at least once in eight years, even when they are comparatively in a clean state, as they contract a sourness and adhesion from wet ploughing, only to be removed by exposure to the sun and wind during the dry months of summer. Soils of this kind receive little benefit from winter ploughing, unless so far as their surface is thereby presented to the frost, which mellows and reduces them in a manner infinitely superior to what could be accomplished by all the operations of man. Still they are not cleaned or made free of weeds by winter ploughing; and therefore this operation can only be considered as a good means for producing a seed-bed, in which the seeds of the future crop may be safely deposited. Hence the necessity of cleansing clay soils during the summer months, and of having always a large part of every clay farm under summer fallow. All clayey soils require great industry and care, as well as a considerable portion of knowledge in dressing or management to keep them in good condition; yet when their natural toughness is got the better of, they always yield the heaviest and most abundant crops. One thing requisite for a clayey soil, is to keep it rich and full of manure; a poor clay being the most ungrateful of all soils, and hardly capable of repaying the expense of labor, after being worn out and exhausted. A clayey soil also receives, comparatively, smell benefit from grass; and when once allowed to get into a sterile condition, the most active endeavors will with difficulty restore fertility to it after the lapse of many years.
Upon light soils the case is very different. These flourish under the grass husbandry; and bare summer fallow is rarely required, because they may be cleaned and cropped in the same year with that valuable esculent, turnip. Upon light soils, however, wheat can seldom be extensively cultivated; nor can a crop be obtained of equal value, either in respect to quantity or quality, as on clay sand loams. The best method of procuring wheat on light lands, is to sow upon a clover stubble, when the soil has got an artificial solidity of body and is thereby rendered capable of sustaining the grain till it arrives at maturity. The same observation applies to soils of a gravelly nature; and upon both barley is generally found of as great benefit as wheat.
Thin clays and peat earths are more friendly to the growth of oats than of other grains, though in favorable seasons a heavy crop of wheat may be obtained from a thin clayey soil, when it has been completely summer-fallowed and enriched with dung. A first application of calcareous manure is generally accompanied with great advantage upon these soils; but when once the effect of this application is over, it can hardly be repeated a second time, unless the land has been very cautiously managed after the first dressing. Neither of these soils is friendly to grass, yet there is a necessity of exercising this husbandry with them, because they are incapable of standing the plough more than a year or two in the course of a rotation.
Wheat ought to be the predominant crop upon all the rich clays and strong loams, and light soils of every kind are well qualified for turnips, barley, etc. Upon the thin and moorish soils, oats must necessarily preserve a prominent rank, and grass seeds may be cultivated upon every one of them, though with different degrees of advantage, according to the natural and artificial richness of each soil, or to the qualities which it possesses for encouraging the growth of clover, in the first instance, and preserving the roots of the plant afterwards.
Operation of Tillage.
Tillage is an operation whereby the soil is either cleared from noxious weeds, or prepared for receiving the seeds of plants cultivated by the husbandman. When this operation is neglected, or even partially executed. the soil becomes foul, barren, and unproductive; hence, upon arable farms, tillage forms the prominent branch of work; and, according to the perfection or imperfection with which it is executed, the crops of the husbandman, whether of corn or grass, are in a great measure regulated.
Tillage, in the early ages, was performed by hand labor; but, in modern times, the plough has been the universal instrument used for executing this necessary and important branch of rural work. In no other way can large fields be turned over because the expense of digging with the spade, the only other method of turning over the ground, would much exceed any profit that can be reaped.
Stones lying above or below the surface are the most formidable obstruction to perfect tillage. On stony ground, the work is not only imperfectly executed, but in many cases the implement is broken to pieces, and a considerable portion of time lost before it is repaired and put in order. The removal of stones, therefore, especially of such as are below the surface, ought to be a primary object with every agriculturist; because a neglect of this kind may afterwards occasion him considerable loss and inconvenience.
To drain the ground, in other words, to lay it dry, also facilitates tillage exceedingly; for ploughing cannot be performed with advantage where either the surface or subsoil is wet.
Best Mode of Tillage.
The only sure and certain way by which the soil is cleaned or rendered free of weeds, is by ploughing in the summer months, when the ground is dry, and when, by the influence of the sun and air, the weeds may be destroyed with facility. Seldom at any other period is the soil much benefitted by ploughing, unless so far as a seed-bed is thus procured for the succeeding crop; and though the situation or state of the ground, when these intermediate ploughings are bestowed, is of importance in judging of their utility, yet the radical process of summer fallow cannot, by any means, be altogether dispensed with. Though, if the winter and spring ploughings are executed under favorable circumstances, and plenty of manure is at hand, it may be delayed for a greater number of years than is otherwise practicable, if good husbandry is to be maintained.
Without summer fallow, or, which is the same thing, without working the ground in the summer months, perfect husbandry is unattainable on all heavy or cold soils, and upon every variety incumbent on a close or retentive bottom.
To keep his land clean will always be a principal object with every good farmer; for if this is neglected, in place of carrying rich crops of grain or grass, the ground will be exhausted by crops of weeds. Where land is foul, every operation of husbandry must be proportionately noneffective; and even the manures applied will, in a great measure, be lost.
The necessity of summer fallow depends greatly upon the nature and quality of the soil; as, upon some soils, a repetition of this practice is less frequently required than upon others. Wherever the soil is incumbent upon clay or till, it is more disposed to get foul, than when incumbent upon a dry gravelly bottom; besides, wet soils, from being ploughed in winter, contract a stiffness which lessens the pasture of artificial plants, and prevents them from receiving sufficient nourishment. When land of a dry gravelly bottom gets foul, it may easily be cleaned without a plain summer fallow; single crops, such as turnips, etc., may be substituted in its place, which, when drilled at proper intervals admit of being ploughed as often as necessary; whereas wet soils, which are naturally unfit for carrying such crops, must be cleaned and brought into good order by frequent ploughings and harrowings during the summer months.
To Conduct a Fallow.
Upon all clayey soils (and upon such only is a complete summer fallow necessary) the first ploughing ought to be given during the winter months, or as early in the spring as possible; which greatly promotes the rotting of the sward and stubble. This should be done by gathering up the ridge, which both lays the ground dry and rips up the furrows. As soon as seed-time is over, the ridge should be cloven down, preparatory to cross ploughing; and after lying a proper time, should be harrowed and rolled repeatedly, and every particle of quickens that the harrows have brought above, should be carefully picked off with the hand. It is then proper to ridge or gather it up immediately, which both lays the land in proper condition for meeting bad weather, and opens up any fast land that may have been missed in the furrows when the cross ploughing was given. After this harrow, roll, and gather the root weeds again; and continue so doing till the field is perfectly clean.
To Prepare the Ground.
The above object is most completely accomplished, when the ground is ploughed deep and equal, while the bottom of the furrow immediately above the subsoil is perfectly loosened and turned equally over with the part which constitutes the surface. In many places these properties are altogether neglected, the ground being ploughed in a shallow way, while the bottom of the ploughed land remains something like the teeth of a saw, having the under part of the furrow untouched, and consequently not removed by the action of the plough. While these things are suffered, the object of tillage is only partially gained. The food of plants can only be imperfectly procured; and the ground is drenched and injured by wetness; these ridges, or pieces of land, which are not cut, preventing a descent of the moisture from above to the open furrows left for carrying it off. Where the seedbed is prepared by one ploughing, the greatest care ought to be used in having it closely and equally performed. When two are given, they should be in opposite directions, so that any firm land left in the first may be cut up in the second ploughing. It is not profitable to plough twice one way, if it can be safely avoided.
Another important point towards procuring good tillage, is never to plough the land when in a wet state, because encouragement is thus given to the growth of weeds, while a sourness and adhesion is communicated to the ground, which is rarely got the better of till the operations of a summer fallow are again repeated.
All soils ought not to be wrought or ploughed in one manner. Each kind has its particular and appropriate qualities; and, therefore, each requires a particular and appropriate mode of tillage. Ploughing, which is the capital operation of husbandry, ought, on these accounts, to be administered according to the nature of the soil which is to be operated upon, and not executed agreeably to one fixed and determined principle. On strong clays and loams, and on rich gravels and deep sands, the plough ought to go as deep as the cattle are able to work it; whereas, on thin clays and barren sands the benefit of deep ploughing is very questionable; especially when such are incumbent on a till bottom, or where the subsoil is of a yellow-ochre nature; such, when turned up, being little better than poison to the surface, unless highly impregnated with alluvial compost, the effect of which expels the poisonous substance contained in this kind of subsoil, and gives a fertility to the whole mass, more decisively permanent than would follow a heavy application of the best rotten dung.
Two sets of Ploughs required for perfect Tillage.
On clayey soils, where the ridges are so that the ground may be preserved in something like a dry condition, the plough used for tillage ought to have a mould-board considerably wider set than is required for light soils, in order that the furrow may be close cut below, and only turned over. The method of constructing the plough necessarily makes a heavier draught than would be the case were the mould-board placed differently; though if good and sufficient work be wanted, the necessity of constructing the implement in the way mentioned, is absolute and indispensable. The plough to be used on light soils or on all soils that admit of what is technically called crown and furrow ploughing, may be made much straighter below, and yet be capable of executing the work in a perfect manner. On every farm, consisting of mixed soils, two sets of ploughs ought to be kept, otherwise proper work cannot be performed. All land ought to be ploughed with a shoulder, and the advantages of ploughing in this way are, that, if ploughed before winter, the surface is enabled to resist the winter rains, and afterwards present a face on which the harrows can make a proper impression, when the seed process is to be executed. This deserves particular attention when old grass fields are broken up; as, by neglecting it, the harrows are often unable to cover the seed. It is perfectly practicable to plough land with a tolerably broad furrow, say 10, 11, or 12 inches and yet to plough it clean, provided the implement used is properly constructed; but, then, care must be taken that the furrow be of proportionate deepness, otherwise it will be laid on its back, instead of being deposited at an angle proper for undergoing the harrowing process.
The use of subsoilers is now common, to turn up the depth of the soil. In sandy earth, beneath a ten-inch furrow, a subsoiler may go ten inches deeper; but this is not easy or possible in all soils.
Implements of Husbandry.
No country in the world is better provided with implements for executing rural labor than Great Britain; and to this superiority may, in some measure, be attributed the increased and increasing perfection of agriculture over the whole island. American ingenuity has gone still further in the same direction. We have ploughs of all the different kinds that ever were constructed: as for wheel carriages, the variety is immense; whilst harrows, and other common implements, of various constructions and dimensions, are equally numerous. But it is in the articles more properly allied to machinery that the superiority of American rural implements is most conspicuous. Drills for sowing grain and small seeds with regularity, have been constructed upon scientific principles; and machines for separating grain from straw, have been invented, and brought to a degree of perfection which few people expected when these machines were first introduced.
The double Michigan plough is an important improvement on the old plough. Instead of a coulter it has a small plough attached to the beam in front of the other, which takes a slice from the sod, and makes cleaner work for the plough. Steam ploughs have also been invented.
The universal Sowing Machine.
This machine, whether made to be worked by hand, drawn by a horse, or fixed to a plough, and used with it, is extremely simple in its construction, and not liable to be put out of order; as there is but one movement to direct the whole. It will sow wheat, barley, oats, rye, clover, cole seed, hemp, flax, canary, rape, turnip; besides a great variety of other kinds of grain and seeds, broadcast, with an accuracy hitherto unknown. It is equally useful when fixed to a plough; it will then drill a more extensive variety of grain, pulse, and seed (through every gradation, with regard to quality), and deliver each kind with greater regularity than any drill plough whatever.
Among many other valuable and peculiar properties, it will not only sow in the broadcast way with a most singular exactness, but save the expense of a seedsman; the seed being sown (either over or under furrow at pleasure), and the land ploughed at the same operation.
Another advantage attending the use of this machine is, that the wind can have no effect on the falling of the seed.
The machine, when made to be used without a plough, and to be drawn by a horse, may be of different lengths. The upper part contains the hoppers, from which the grain or seed descends into the spouts. The several spouts all rest upon a bar, which hangs and plays freely by two diagonal supporters; a trigger, fixed to this bar, bears a catch wheel: this being fixed on the axle, occasions a regular and continued motion, or jogging of the spouts, quicker or slower in proportion to the space the person sowing with it drives. At the bottom of the machine is placed an apron or shelf, in a sloping position, and the corn or seed, by falling thereon from the spouts above, is scattered about in every direction.
To sow the corn or seed in drills, there are movable spouts, which are fixed on or taken off at pleasure, to direct the seed from the upper spout to the bottom of the furrow.
These beneficial implements are of various sizes and dimensions; but the harrow most commonly used consists of four bulls, with cross-mortised sheaths, each bull containing five teeth, of from five to seven inches in length below the bulls, the longest being placed forwards. Harrows of this kind, drawn by one horse, are generally used on most farms for all purposes, though on others large brake-harrows, consisting of five bulls, each containing six teeth, and worked by two horses, are employed during the fallow process, and for reducing rough land. Some of these brake-harrows are constructed with joints, so as to bend and accommodate their shape to the curvature of ridges. A small harrow, with short teeth, is also used for covering grass seeds, though we have rarely seen any detriment from putting grass seeds as deep into the ground as the teeth of ordinary sized harrows are capable of going.
The best methods of Harrowing.
When employed to reduce a strong obdurate soil, not more than two harrows should be yoked together, because they are apt to ride and tumble upon each other, and thus impede the work, and execute it imperfectly. On rough soils, harrows ought to be driven as fast as the horses can walk; because their effect is in the direct proportion to the degree of velocity with which they are driven. In ordinary cases, and in every case where harrowing is meant for covering the seed, three harrows are the best yoke, because they fill up the ground more effectually and leave fewer vacancies, than when a smaller number is employed. The harrowman's attention, at the seed process, should be constantly directed to prevent these implements from riding upon each other, and to keep them clear of every impediment from stones, lumps of earth, or clods, and quickens or grass roots; for any of these prevents the implement from working with perfection, and causes a mark or trail upon the surface, always unpleasing to the eye, and generally detrimental to the vegetation of the seed. Harrowing is usually given in different directions, first in length, then across, and finally in length as at first. Careful husbandmen study, in the finishing part of the process, to have the harrows drawn in a straight line, without suffering the horses to go in a zigzag manner, and are also attentive that the horses enter fairly upon the ridge, without making a curve at the outset. In some instances, an excess of harrowing has been found very prejudicial to the succeeding crop; but it is always necessary to give so much as to break the furrow, and level the surface, otherwise the operation is imperfectly performed.
The roller is an implement frequently used for smoothing the surface of land when in tillage, especially when the processes of summer fallow are going forward. Several kinds of rollers are used in America. Some are of stone, others of wood or iron, according to the nature of the operation intended to be performed. The only material difference in rollers is their weight; but it should be attended to, when a roller is made of large diameter, that its weight ought to be the greater for in proportion to the largeness of its diameter will be the extent of surface upon which the roller rests. The weight of a roller ought therefore to be in proportion to its diameter, otherwise its effect will be proportionately diminished.
Rolling, however, is a modern improvement, and used for different purposes. In the first place, it is of great advantage to roll young grasses after the ground is stoned, because the scythe can then be placed nearer the surface, and the crop cut more equally than when the operation is neglected. 2dly. Land on which turnips are to be cultivated can rarely be made fine enough, without the repeated use of this implement. And 3dly. The process of summer fallow, upon strong soils, is much advanced by rolling, because without its aid the large and obdurate clods cannot be reduced or couch-grass eradicated. From these circumstances it will readily appear, that rollers of various sizes and dimensions are required on every farm, for accomplishing different purposes. Wooden rollers, drawn by one horse, answer very well for grass and turnip land; but massy stone rollers, drawn either by two or three horses, are absolutely necessary on clay soils.
It is obvious, that when a large field is to be rolled, a number of rollers ought at once to be set at work, otherwise an opportunity may be lost, never to be regained. The deficiency is most conspicuous when barley is taken after turnips in a dry season. From poaching the ground with carts, in order to carry off the crop, and even by the treading of sheep, a degree of stiffness is contracted, which requires the use of the roller before grass seeds can be sown.
On all occasions it is most beneficial to roll across, because, when going in length, the implement is of small benefit to the furrows, the slightest acclivation of the ridges preventing the work from being equally performed. The expedition which takes place when rollers are used, compared with the tedious and expensive process of breaking clods with malls, formerly the general custom, sufficiently proves the importance of these implements, though it deserves to be remarked, that, when rolling is bestowed upon a springsown field, harrowing it afterwards is of great advantage. By harrowing when the clods are reduced, the earth stands the effects of rain better afterwards, and does not consolidate so firmly as when that process is neglected.
Mowers and Reapers.
These machines are of great value, especially to those with large farms. One machine, the mower, can be made to perform duty both with grass and grain; but reapers are constructed especially for the latter. Weeders are also in use in some parts of the country, drawn by horse power.
The Thrashing Machine.
The thrashing machine is the most valuable implement in the farmer's possession, and one which adds more to the general produce of the country, than any invention hitherto devised. The saving of manual labor thereby obtained is almost incalculable; while the work is performed in a much more perfect manner than was formerly practicable, even when the utmost care and exertion were bestowed. In fact, had not the thrashing machine been invented, it is hardly possible to conceive what would have been the rate of expense of thrashing, or even whether a sufficient number of hands could, at any rate of expense, have been obtained for thrashing the grain of the country.
Since the invention of this machine, Mr. Meikle and others have progressively introduced a variety of improvements, all tending to simplify the labor, and to augment the quantity of the work performed. When first erected, though the grain was equally well separated from the straw, yet as the whole of the straw, chaff, and grain, was indiscriminately thrown into a confused heap, the work could only with propriety be considered as half executed. By the addition of rakes, or shakers, and two pairs of fanners, all driven by the same machinery, the different processes of thrashing, shaking, and winnowing are now all at once performed, and the grain immediately prepared for the public market. When it is added, that the quantity of grain gained from the superior powers of the machine is fully equal to a twentieth part of the crop, and that, in some cases, the expense of thrashing and cleaning the grain is considerably less than what was formerly paid for cleaning it alone, the immense saving arising from the invention will at once be seen.
The expense of horse labor, from the increased value of the animal and the charge of his keeping, being an object of great importance, it is recommended that, upon all sizable farms, that is to say, where two hundred acres, or upwards, of grain are sown, the machine should be worked by wind, unless where local circumstances afford the conveniency of water.
Where coals are plenty and cheap, steam may be advantageously used for working the machine.
Method of Treading Grain.
In some countries wheat is trodden out by horses, nearly in the same way as it was formerly done in Palestine by oxen.
The treading floors are generally from sixty to 100 feet in diameter; but the larger their diameter is, the easier is the work to the horses. The track, or path, on which the sheaves are laid, and on which the horses walk, is from twelve to twenty-four feet wide, or more. The floors are commonly enclosed by fences; and the horses are generally driven between them promiscuously and loose, each pressing to be foremost, so that fresh air may be obtained, - biting, jostling, and kicking each other with the greatest fury. The labor in this way is extremely severe. Upon some small floors a centre-stick is placed, to which hangs a rope, or a pole and swivel, and four or five horses being fastened together, travel round upon the sheaves with the utmost regularity. Previously to laying down the wheat sheaves, the state of the air, and the probability of its continuing dry through the day, is fully considered. If they resolve to tread, the morning is suffered to pass away till the dew is removed. A row of sheaves is first laid upon the floors with the heads and butts in a line across the track of it, as a bolster for receiving other sheaves; and these sheaves range with the path, or circle, the butts resting on the floor. Other sheaves are ranged in like manner, with the heads raised on the former, till the whole floor is filled, when it appears to be filled with nothing but ears of wheat, sloping a little upwards. Upon laying down each sheaf, the band thereof is cut with a knife. A west wind is always desirable while treading is going on, as when wind is from the eastward dampness generally prevails.
In some instances, twenty-four horses are formed at some distance from the floor into four ranks; and when the floor is ready laid, the word is given to advance. For the sake of order and regular work, a boy mounted on one of the foremost horses advances in a walk with the whole rank haltered or tied together, and enters upon the bed of wheat, walking the horses slowly over it; another rank is ordered to follow as soon as the first is supposed to have obtained a distance equal to a fourth part of the circumference of the bed, and in the same manner the other ranks proceed. They are forbidden to go past a walk, till they have proceeded five or six rounds, when the word is given to move at a sober trot, and to keep their ranks at a full distance from each other, regularity and deliberate movement being necessary for preventing confusion. The gentle trot is continued till it may be supposed the horses have travelled eight or nine miles, which is the extent of their first journey; they are then led off to be foddered and watered, when the trodden light straw is taken off as deep as the place where the sheaves lie close, and are but partially bruised.
As soon us this first straw is removed, one-third of the width of the bed it turned over on the other two thirds from the inner side or circle of the bed, which narrows the neck of the next journey. The horses are again led on, and trot out their second journey, till the straw be clear of wheat. The outer part of the bed is then turned upon the middle part, when the horses take another journey. The loose straw being then taken off, the whole remaining bed is turned up from the floor, and shaken with forks, and handles of rakes, after which the horses give another tread, which finishes the work. The grain is then shoved up from the floor with the heads of rakes turned downwards, and put into heaps of a conical form, in which situation it often remains exposed to the weather for several days. The correct American agriculturists, however, have houses adjoining the treading floor, where the grain is deposited till it is cleared from the chaff and offal; though as most of them continue treading, if the weather be favorable, till the whole crop is separated from the straw, it is pretty obvious that the grain stands a considerable chance of being damaged before the several processes are concluded.
If thrashing machines are of much advantage to the public, by separating grain completely from the straw, the introduction of fanners, or the machine by which grain is cleansed from chaff, and all sorts of offal, may, with justice, be considered as of equal benefit to the practical agriculturist.
Since thrashing machines were introduced, fanners almost in every case are annexed to them, and in some instances, where powerful machines are used, fitted internally with suitable riddles, it is perfectly practicable to measure and market the grain immediately as it comes from the machine.
The term manure is applied indiscriminately to all substances which are known from experience either to enrich the different soils, or contribute in any other way to render them more favorable to vegetation.
In an agricultural point of view, the subject of manures is of the first magnitude. To correct what is hurtful to vegetation in the different soils, and to restore what is lost by exhausting crops, are operations in agriculture which may be compared to the curing of diseases in the animal body, or supplying the waste occasioned by labor.
To manage Dung upon Light Lands.
For soils of this description, where turnips are taken as a first crop, dung can hardly be too well prepared; because the nature of the crop to which it is applied renders a complete incorporation with the ground absolutely necessary; without which the young plants might be starved at their very entrance into life. In the best farmed English counties, dung is often kept more than a year, in order that it may be perfectly rotted.
In general there is not much difficulty in preparing dung upon turnip farms; because, in the driest season, from the nature of the food used such a quantity of liquid passes from the animals, as to prevent burning, provincially firefanging, the greatest obstacle to the rotting of dung that can be experienced. If turnip dung is regularly removed, if it is properly mixed with the horse litter and other excrementitious matter accumulated upon the farm, it will be found an easy task to prepare all that is made by the middle of April, at which time the fold-yard should be cleared. What is produced after that time should be stored up separately, receive waterings if the weather is dry, and be reserved for clover-stubbles, or other fields that are to be dunged in autumn.
The middle of April is a good time for clearing the fold-yard, but this does not prevent the work from going partially forward through the winter, when suitable opportunities occur.
When driven out of the fold-yard, the dung should be laid up in a regular heap or pile not exceeding six quarters, or four feet and a half in height; and care should be taken not to put either horse or cart upon it, which is easily avoided by backing the cart to the pile, and laying the dung compactly together with a grape or fork. It is also useful to face up the extremities with earth, which keeps in the moisture, and prevents the sun and wind from doing injury. Perhaps a small quantity of earth strewed upon the top might also prove useful. Dung, when managed in this manner, generally ferments very rapidly; but if it is discovered to be in a backward state, a complete turn over, about the 1st of May, when the weather becomes warm, will quicken the process; and the better it is shaken asunder, the sooner will the object in view be accomplished.
A secluded spot of ground, not much exposed to wind, and perfectly secure from being floated with water, ought always to be chosen for the site of such piles or heaps. If the field to which it is to be applied is at hand, a little after-trouble may be saved by depositing it there in the first instance. But it is found most convenient to reserve a piece of ground adjacent to the homestead for this purpose. There it is always under the farmer's eye, and a greater quantity can be moved in a shorter time than when the situation is more distinct. Besides, in wet weather (and this is generally the time chosen for such an operation), the roads are not only cut up by driving to a distance, but the field on which the heap is made, may be poached and injured considerably.
Upon Heavy Lands.
Upon clay soils, where wheat forms a principal part of the crop, where great quantities of beans are cultivated, and few turnips sown, unless for the use of milch cows, the rotting of dung is not only a troublesome but an expensive affair. Independent of what is consumed by the ordinary farm stock, the overplus of the straw must, somehow or other, be rotted, by lean cattle kept in the fold-yard, who either receive the straw in racks, or have it thrown across the yard to be eaten and trodden down by them. According to this mode of consumption, it is evident that a still greater necessity arises for a frequent removal of this unmade dung; otherwise, from the trampling of beasts, and the usual want of moisture, it would compress so much as altogether to prevent putrefaction. To prepare dung sufficiently upon farms of this description is at all times an arduous task, but scarcely practicable in dry seasons; for if it once gets burnt (firefanged), it is almost physically impossible to bring it into a suitable state of preparation afterwards; and, at all events, its virtues are thereby considerably diminished.
Straw flung out in considerable portions to the foldyard, after being compressed by the trampling of cattle, becomes rather like a well-packed stack, than a mass of dung in a preparatory state. The small quantity of water and dung made by the animals is barely sufficient to cause a slight fermentation; and this slight fermentation, when the heap gets into a compressed state, is sure to bring on fire-fang, as already said, after which its original powers can rarely be restored. To prevent such an injury, no measure can be so successfully used as a frequent removal of this unmade dung, especially if the weather is wet at the time. If people can stand out to work, there cannot be too much wetness while executing this operation; for there is always such a quantity of the straw that has not passed through the entrails of the cattle, as renders it almost impossible to do injury, in the first instance, by an excess of moisture.
It is therefore recommended, upon every clay land farm, especially those of considerable size, that the foldyard be frequently cleared; and that the greatest care be taken to mix the stable or horse-dung in a regular way with what is gathered in the fold-yard, or made by other animals, in order that a gradual heat or fermentation may be speedily produced. Where the materials are of the sorts now described (that is, a small quantity of dung, or excrementitious matter, and a large store of unrotten straw, only partially moistened), no damage can ensue from putting horses and carts upon the heap; nay, a positive benefit will be gained from this slight compression.
The heap or pile, in the case of turnip dung, should be formed in a secluded spot, if such can be got at hand; because the less it is exposed to the influence of the sun and wind, the faster will fermentation proceed. It should be constructed on a broad basis, which lessens the bounds of the extremities, and separate heaps are necessary, so that too much may not be deposited at once. By shifting the scene frequently, and allowing each covering or coat to settle and ferment before laying on any more, the most happy effects will follow, and these heaps (at least all such as are completed before the first of May), may reasonably be expected to be in a fit condition for applying to the summerfallow fields, in the end of July, or first of August. If the external parts get dry at any time during the process, it will be proper to water them thoroughly, and in many cases to turn over the heap completely. It may be added, that much benefit has been experienced from laying a thick coating of snow upon such heaps, as by the gradual melting thereof, the whole moisture is absorbed, and a strong fermentation immediately follows.
Upon large farms, where the management of manure is sufficiently understood and practiced, it is an important matter to have dunghills of all ages, and ready for use whenever the situation of a field calls for a restorative. No method of application to clay soils, however, is so beneficial as during the year of summer fallow, though in such a situation a greater stock of manure is often gathered than is required for the fields under this process.
As to the proper quantity of dung to be used, no greater quantity ought to be given at one time than is sufficient to fructify the grounds; in other words, to render it capable of producing good crops, before the time arrives when a fresh dose can be administered.
The Spreading of Dung.
The increased attention now bestowed, in all the cultivated districts, to the spreading of dung, originated from the measure of limiting the quantity applied. When forty, fifty, nay even sixty double loads were applied to an acre, it was not very difficult to cover its surface, even with an imperfect separation, though it certainly was impractical to bury the big lumps with a furrow of ordinary size; but when the quantity was brought down to eighteen and twenty loads, and still more, when twelve or fourteen loads were thought sufficient, a different conduct became absolutely necessary. Another improvement also followed, viz., spreading dung when raw or green; that is, immediately after the carts; in which way, at least during summer, it will be seperated at one-half the expense, and to much better purpose, than when it is suffered to lie in the heap for a day or two. In short, it is a sure mark of a slovenly farmer to see dung remain unspread in a field, unless it be in the winter months, when it may happen that hands cannot be got for carrying on such operations with the usual regularity. At that time the injury sustained by losing a few days is not great, though as a general rule it will be found that the expense is always smallest when the carts are regularly followed up.
Application of Dung to Turnips.
When turnip husbandry forms the chief branch of fallow process, dung is naturally of a superior quality, and requires little artificial management for bringing it to a proper state of preparation. In the greater part of Scotland, and even in England, where the drill and horse-hoeing system is practised, the common, and undoubtedly the most approved way of applying dung to turnips, is by laying it in the intervals of the drills or small ridges, which are previously made up by a bout, or two furrows of the plough. These drills or ridges are formed at a distance of from twenty-four to thirty inches from the centre of each; and by driving the horses and cart along the middle one of the space intended to be manured, the dung is drawn out either by the carter, or by another man specially appointed for that purpose, in such proportions as the poverty of the soil, or the disposition of the occupier, may reckon r necessary. If the breadth of three drills is only taken at a time, the dung stands a better chance of being regularly administered; for it often happens, that when a greater number are included in one space, the two outside drills receive a less quantity than the intervening ones. Those, therefore, who limit themselves to three drills, generally divide the spreaders; as it requires six hands, women or boys, to follow up what is usually called a head of carts, the number of carts to a head being regulated by the distance of the dunghill, or the kind of road over which it is to be carried.
The quantity of dung usually given for turnips is from twelve to fifteen double cart loads, of one and a half cubic yards each, to a Scots acre. In some eases only ten loads are given: but the land ought to be in high condition where such a small quantity is bestowed. In fact, no soil can be made too rich for turnips or other green crops, peas excepted; but the object to be attended to in this, and every other care, is an allotment of the manure collected on the premises, in such a way as that the greatest possible return over the whole farm, not from a particular field, may be gained by the occupier.
Application of Dung to Potatoes.
The culture is in several respects similar to that of turnips, but in others it differs materially. Potatoes are planted earlier in the season than turnips: the ground rarely receives so much work; the soils upon which they are cultivated are more variable, and the dung considered to be most suitable for promoting their growth, does not require such high preparation. Many farmers, notwithstanding these circumstances, follow out the same process as described under the head of turnips. After the ground receives three, or at most four, ploughings, the drills are made up, dung deposited in the intervals, the seed planted above the dung, and the drills reversed; after which, say at the distance of two or three weeks, a slight harrowing is given. They avoid making up drills, but dung the ground in what may be called the broadcast way; and, entering the plough, the seed in every third furrow, into which only the dung is raked; and so on till the whole is finished. Before the young plants appear, or even after they are above the surface, a complete harrowing is given, which is considered as equal to a handhoeing; and from the dung being completely covered, scarce any of it is dragged up, while the seed, being undermost, none of it is disturbed by the operation. Some farmers do not dung their potato fields; but, reserving the manure till the crop is removed, find the remainder of the rotation greatly benefited. Potatoes scourge severely, and, in general cases, require a larger quantity of dung than turnips, but, as the extent of land under this culture is not great in common farming, few people grudge this extra quantity because, except in a few favored situations, a good crop cannot otherwise be reasonably expected.
To manure Clayey Soils.
Upon all soils incumbent on a wet or close bottom, whether characterized as clay, loam, or moor, it may be laid down as a primary principle, that dung cannot be so profitably applied, as while the ground is under the process of summer fallow.
When the ground is under the process of summer fallow, it is then the best and most appropriate time for applying manure to clayey soils. When under this process, the soil, comparatively speaking, is reduced into minute particles, which affords an opportunity of conveying the virtues of manure through the veins or pores of all its parts. The soil at that time, is also freed from its aboriginal inhabitants, quickens and other rootweeds, which claim a preferable right of support; hence the artificial plants, afterwards cultivated, possess, without a rival, such supplies as have been granted without any deduction whatever. In short, without laying any stress upon elementary effects during the process, it does not admit of a doubt, that the same quantity of manure bestowed upon the ground when summer-fallowed, will produce a greater return to the occupier, than if it had been applied at any other stage of the rotation.
Dung should not be laid upon fallows before they are completely cleaned; though, no doubt, in wet summers, that operation is not easily accomplished.
To make sure work, the fallows, if possible, should be early stirred, and no opportunity slipped of putting them forward with the utmost expedition, for it rarely happens that much good can be done towards the destruction of rootweeds after the month of July. Before that time a judicious farmer will have his fallow dressed up, and in a suitable state for receiving dung. It should be well harrowed, if the weather is favourable, previous to the dung being laid on; and if rolled, or made smooth, the spreaders will be enabled to perform their task with much more precision.
At the proper season every other operation ought to be laid aside, so that dung may be expeditiously spread out. To do it in wet weather is attended with pernicious effects; the horses are oppressed, a longer time is required, the land is poached, and in some measure deprived of all benefit from the previous fallow. These circumstances will be reflected upon by the attentive farmer; they will stimulate him not to lose a moment when the weather is favourable, and prevent him from forcing on the work, when injury, rather than benefit, may be expected. After all, seasons are so perverse as to render every rule nugatory. These must, however, be taken as they come, avoiding at such times to break the land down, acclivating the ridges sufficiently, and keeping the waterfurrows completely clear.
Quantity of Dung for Fallows.
The quantity of dung usually applied to fallows in ordinary condition is from fourteen to twenty double loads per acre; though often good crops are reaped when twelve loads only have been given. Much, however, depends upon the condition of the land, upon the quality of the dung, and the way in which the carts are loaded. A decent load may contain one cubic yard and three-fourths, and weigh a ton, or thereabouts. It also deserves notice, that less dung will serve some lands than others, especially if they have lately been ploughed from grass; but, at all events, sixteen such loads as are mentioned will answer for any sort of soil, unless it has been previously quite wrought out. Even if it were in this forlorn state, it is better management to dung upon the stubble of the first crop than to give an over-dose when under summer fallow.
Time of Spreading the Dung.
All dung laid upon summer fallow ought to be spread the moment it is pulled out of the cart. It can at no other time be done so well, or so cheaply, though on many farms, small ones especially, where a full supply of hands is wanting, this beneficial practice is much neglected. Four spreaders, boys or girls, with an attentive oversman to follow up and supply any omissions, are sufficient for one head of carts; the number included in a head being regulated by the distance of the field from the dunghill. Some farmers employ a person on whom they can depend to draw the dung from the cart, who has judgment to proportion it according to circumstances, and is responsible for any failure in the execution; but the carter is the person usually employed, though, unless a boy is given him to drive, a regular distribution can hardly be expected. To insure accuracy in laying down, fields are sometimes thrown into a dam-broad figure; and, a heap being drawn into each square, you could have nearly ascertained the quantity required for the whole. The great object, after a regular and economical distribution, is to shake and part the whole completely; as, by minute attention to this circumstance, a much greater effect is necessarily produced.
After the fallows are dunged, the remainder in hand is reserved for what may be called the intermediate dunging, generally bestowed either upon clover stubbles, upon wheat stubbles previously to taking beans, or upon bean stubbles before the seed furrow is given for wheat. It is obvious, that the farmer must be regulated, in this intermediate dunging, by the weather at the time, though it rarely happens but that dung may be got out upon clover stubbles at one time of the winter or other. When applied to beans, a beneficial practice, the dung, as we said above, is by some people laid upon the wheat stubble, and ploughed down before winter; hence it is in full action in the spring, when the seed furrow is given. Others make up drills at seed time, depositing the dung in the intervals, as for turnips or potatoes; but it seldom occurs that weather can then be got, at least on real bean soils, for executing this management.
Many arable farms, under the strictest economy, are unable to furnish supplies for an intermediate dunging, at least to its full extent; but persons so circumstanced have it always in their power to overcome the defect, and preserve a regular rotation, by keeping certain fields longer in grass, which of course will yield weightier crops when broken up, and stand less in need of manure during the after rotation. As, for instance, in a rotation of six, and it is here that the greatest shortcoming is felt, grass seeds to a certain extent, say a half, may be thrown in with the crop of wheat taken after fallow, which is the second year of the rotation; this part may be pastured for three years, and broken up in the sixth for oats, which concludes the course. Again, in a rotation of eight, grass seeds, in like manner, may be sown with a part of the fallow wheat, which part can be pastured for three years, then broken up for oats, succeeded by beans and wheat. By such arrangements, made according to circumstances, it is an easy matter to preserve a regular rotation, and to proportion the corn crops to the quantity of manure collected upon the premises.
To increase the Quantity of Dung by Soiling.
The practice of soiling or feeding horses or cattle in the house or farm yard, is eminently calculated to increase the quantity of manure upon every farm, and improve its quality.
The soiling of horses, in the summer months, on green clover and rye-grass, is a practice which prevails in many grain districts where farm labor is regularly executed. The utility of the practice does not need the support of argument, for it is not only economical to the farmer, but saves much fatigue to the poor animal; besides, the quantity of dung thereby gathered is considerable.
Oxen and cows of all sorts, might be supported and fed in like manner, daring the whole of the grass season. It is well known that milch-cows have, in several instances, been so kept, but it has rarely happened that other descriptions of cattle have been fed for the butcher according to this mode, though it is perfectly practicable.
The chief benefit of soiling may be considered as arising from the immense quantity of fine dung which would thus be accumulated, and which can be returned to the ground in the succeeding season, after being properly fermented and prepared. In all grain-farms, at least those of clayey soils, it is a work of great difficulty to rot the straw produced upon it; and much of it is misapplied, in consequence of such soils being naturally unfit for raising green winter-crops.
If a numerous stock of cattle were kept either in the house or in separate divisions of the fold yard, all the straw threshed in the summer months might be immediately converted into dung, the quality of which would be equal, if not superior to what is made from turnips consumed at the stake.
Dung is the mother of good crops; and it appears that no plan can be devised by which a large quantity can be so easily and cheaply gathered, or by which straw can be so effectually rotted and rendered beneficial to the occupier of a clay-land farm, as the soiling of grass in the summer season. In a word, the dung of animals fed upon green clover, may justly be reckoned the richest of all dung. It may, from the circumstances of the season, be rapidly prepared, and may be applied to the ground at a very early period, much earlier than any other sort of dung can be used with advantage.
To make Composts.
The use of manure, in the shape of compost, or ingredients of various qualities, mixed together in certain proportions, has long been a favorite practice with many farmers: though it is only in particular situations that the practice can be extensively or profitably executed. The ingredients used in these composts are chiefly earth and lime, sometimes dung, where the earth is poor; but lime may be regarded as the main agent of the process, acting as a stimulus for bringing the powers of the heap into action; lime, in this view, may be considered as a kind of yeast, operating upon a heap of earth as yeast does upon flour or meal. It is obvious, therefore, that unless a sufficient quantity is given, the heap may remain unfermented, in which case little benefit will be derived from it as a manure.
The best kind of earth for compost is that of the alluvial sort, which is always of a rich greasy susbstance, often mixed with marl, and in every respect calculated to enrich and invigorate barren soils, especially if they are of a light and open texture. Old yards, deep headlands, and scourings of ditches, offer themselves as the basis of compost-middens; but it is proper to summer-fallow them before hand, so that they may be entirely free of weeds. When the lime is mixed with the soil of these middens, repeated turnings are necessary, that the whole may be suitably fermented, and some care is required to apply the fermented mass at a proper time to the field on which it is to be used.
The benefit of such a compost in nourishing soils is even greater than what is gained by dressing them with dung.
Lord Meadowbank's Directions for making Composts of Peat-moss.
Let the peat-moss, of which compost is to be formed, be thrown out of the pit for some weeks, or months, in order to lose its redundant moisture. By this means, it is rendered the lighter to carry, and less compact and weighty when made up with fresh dung for fermentation; and, accordingly, less dung is required for the purpose, than if the preparation is made with peat taken recently from the pit. The peat taken from near the surface, or at a considerable depth, answers equally well.
Take the peat-moss to a dry spot convenient for constructing a dunghill to serve the field to be manured. Lay the cart-loads of it in two rows and of the dung in a row betwixt them. The dung thus lies nearly on an area of the future compost dunghill, and the rows of peat should be near enough each other, that workmen, in making up the compost, may be able to throw them together by the spade. In making up, let the workmen begin at one end, and, at the extremity of the row of dung (which should not extend quite so far at that end as the rows of peats on each side of it do), let them lay a bottom of peat, six inches deep and fifteen feet wide, if the grounds admit of it, then throw forward, and lay on, about ten inches of dung above the bottom of peat; then add from the side rows about six inches of peat, then four or five of dung, and then six more of peat; then another thin layer of dung; and then cover it over with peat at the end where it was begun, at the two sides, and above. The compost should not be raised above four feet, or four feet and a half high; otherwise it is apt to press too heavily on the under parts, and check the fermentation. When a beginning is thus made, the workmen will proceed working backwards, and adding to the columns of compost, as they are furnished with the three rows of materials directed to be laid down for them. They must take care not to tread on the compost, or render it too compact; and, in proportion as the peat is wet, it should be made up in lumps, and not much broken.
In mild weather, seven cart-loads of common farm-dung, tolerably fresh made, is sufficient for twenty-one cart-loads of peat-moss; but in cold weather, a larger proportion of dung is desirable. To every twenty-eight carts of the compost, when made up, it is of use to throw on, above it, a cartload of ashes, either made from coal, peat, or wood; half the quantity of slacked lime, the more finely powdered the better.
The compost, after it is made up, gets into general heat, sooner or later, according to the weather, and the condition of the dung. In summer, in ten days or sooner: in winter, not perhaps for many weeks, if the cold is severe. In the former season, a stick should be kept in it in different parts, to pull out and feel now and then; for if it approaches blood-heat, it should either be watered or turned over; and, on such an occasion, advantage may be taken to mix with it a little fresh moss. The heat subsides after a time, and with great variety, according to the weather, the dung, and the perfection of the compost; which should then be allowed to be untouched, till within three weeks of using, when it should be turned over upside down, and outside in, and all lumps broken: then it comes into a second heat, but soon cools, and should be taken out for use. In this state the whole, except bits of the old decayed wood, appears a black free mass, and spreads like garden mould. Use it weight for weight, as farmyard dung, and it will be found, in a course of cropping, fully to stand the comparison.
Peat, nearly as dry as garden-mould in seedtime, may be mixed with the dung, so as to double the volume. Workmen must begin with using layers; but, when accustomed to the just proportions, if they are furnished with peat moderately dry, and dung not lost in litter, they throw it up together as a mixed mass, and make a less proportion of dung serve for the preparation.
The rich coarse earth, which is frequently found on the surface of peat, is too heavy to be admitted into this compost; but it makes an excellent top-dressing, if previously mixed and turned over with lime.
Dr. Rennie's Method of Converting Moss into Manure.
The importance of moss as a manure is now generally admitted by all who have had an opportunity of making experiments on that subject. The Rev. Dr. Rennie, of Kilsyth, having proved the utility of filtration, has recommended, in private letters, to water the collected heap of moss for about ten days, once each day, very copiously; and when that is done, to trim it up to a compact body, allow it to dry, and to receive a gentle degree of heat. The degree of heat necessary for accomplishing that end, is sufficient, though not discoverable by the hand. If it only affects the thermometer a little, it is declared to be a manure. The doctor also declares, that moss can be converted by filtering steam through it, and more expeditiously still, by exposing it to a running stream of water. If the water penetrates the moss, it expels its poisonous qualities sooner and more effectually than any other mode ever devised. When it is sufficiently purified by any of these means, it must be laid up to dry, and is in a short time ready fur applying to the land.
Use of Lime as Manure.
This mineral, after undergoing the process of calcination, has long been applied by husbandmen as a stimulus to the soil, and, in consequence of such an application, luxuriant crops have been produced, even upon soils apparently of inferior quality, and which would have yielded crops of trifling value had this auxiliary been withheld. In fact, the majority of soils cannot be cultivated with advantage till they are dressed with lime; and whether this beneficial effect shall be considered as an alterative, or as a stimulant, or as a manure, it will be found to be the basis of good husbandry, and of more use than all other manures put together. Wherever lime has been properly applied, it has constantly been found to prove as much superior to dung, as dung is to the takings of roads, or the produce of peat-mire.
In respect of operation, it is immaterial whether lime be used upon grass land or summer-fallow. Upon old grass land, it is perhaps best to plough first, and to summerfallow in the second year when lime can be applied. On new and clean grass land, it may be limed at the outset, that is before the plough is admitted.
To lime moorish soils is a hazardous business, unless dung is likewise bestowed: but to repeat the application upon such soils, especially if they have been severely cropped, is almost a certain loss; a compost of lime and rich earth is, in such cases, the only substitute.
Strong loams and clays require a full dose to bring them into action; such soils being capable of absorbing a greater quantity of calcareous matter. Lighter soils, however, require less lime to stimulate them, and may be injured by administering a quantity that would prove moderately beneficial to those of a heavy nature.
Upon fresh land, or land in a proper state for a calcareous application, lime is much superior to dung. Its effects continue for a longer period; while the crops produced are of a superior kind and less susceptible of injury from the excesses of drought and moisture. Finally, the ground, particularly what is of a strong nature, is much easier wrought; and, in many instances, the saving of labor would almost tempt a judicious farmer to lime his land, were no greater benefit derived from the application than the opportunity thereby gained of working it in a perfect manner.
It may be added, that though strong soils require to be animated with a strong dose of lime, those of a light texture will do well with little more than half the quantity requisite on the others, especially if they are fresh, or have not already received an application of calcareous matter.
Application of Marl.
In many places the value of land has been much augmented by the application of marl. Treating of this article in a practical way, it may be divided into shell-marl and earth-marl. Shell-marl is composed of animal shells dissolved; earth-marl is also fossil. The color of the latter is various, its hardness being sometimes soft and ductile, like clay; sometimes hard and solid, like stone; and sometimes it is extended into thin beds, like slate. Shellmarl is easily distinguished by the shells, which always appear in it; but the similarity betwixt earth-marl and many other fossil substances, renders it difficult to distinguish them.
Shell-marl is very different in its nature from clayey and stone marls, and, from its effects upon the soil, is commonly classed among the animal manures: it does not dissolve with water as the other marls do. It sucks it up, and swells with it like a sponge. Dr. Home says, that it takes six times more of acids to saturate it than any of the other marls which he had met with. But the greatest difference betwixt the shell-marl and the other marls consists in this, the shell-marl contains oils.
This marl, it would seem from the qualities which it possesses, promotes vegetation in all the different ways. It increases the food of plants; it communicates to the soil a power of attracting this food from the air; it enlarges the pasture of plants; and it prepares the vegetable food for entering their roots.
The shelly sand, often found deposited in beds in the crevices and level parts of the sea-coasts, is another substance capable of being employed both as a manure and stimulant, not only on account of its containing calcareous matter, in greater or less proportions, but also from the mixture of animal and vegetable substances that are found in it. The portion of calcareous matter contained in these substances must vary according to circumstances; but, when the quantity is any way large, and in a reduced or attenuated state, the quality is so much the more valuable. On that account the quantity which ought to be applied to the soil, must be regulated by the extent of calcareous matter, supposed, or found, upon trial, to be contained in the article.
Clayey and Stone Marls.
The clayey and stone marls are distinguished by their colors, viz., white, black, blue, and red. The white, being of a soft, crumbly nature, is considered to be the best for pasture land; and the blue, which is more compact and firm, for grain land. In the districts where marl is much used, these distinctions of management are attended with advantage, if the following rules are adhered to:
If marl is of the blue kind, or of any kind that is compact or firm, lay it upon the land early in the season, so as the weather may mellow it down before the last plough; and, if on pasture land, let it also be early laid on, and spread very thin, breaking any lumps afterwards which are not completely separated by the first spreading. If marl is of the white, or any of the loose or crumbling sorts, it need not be laid on so early; because these varieties break and dissolve almost as soon as exposed to the weather.
Sea-weed is driven ashore after storms, and is found to be an excellent article for manuring light and dry soils, though of little advantage to those of a clayey description. This article may be applied on the proper soil with advantage to any crop, and its effects are immediate, though rarely of long continuance. As the coast-side lands of Great Britain are, in every case, of superior fertility to those that are inland, we may attribute this superior fertility to the great quantity of manure found upon their shores after every storm or high tide, whereby the resources of the ocean are in a manner brought forward for the enrichment of the lands locally situated for participating in such benefits. The utmost attention has long been paid to the gathering and laying on of this valuable manure.
Application of Sea-weed.
Sea-weed is applied at all seasons to the surface, and sometimes, though not so profitably, it is mixed with untrodden dung, that the process of putrefaction may be hastened. Generally speaking, it is at once applied to the soil which saves labor, and prevents that degree of waste which otherwise would necessarily happen. Sea-weed is, in one respect, preferable to the richest dung, because, it does not produce such a quantity of weeds. The salt contained in seaweed, and applied with it, is the real cause of the aftercleanliness. This may be inferred from the general state of coast-side lands, where sea-weed is used. These lands are almost constantly kept in tillage, and yet are cleaner and freer from weeds than those in the inland situations, where grain crops are not so often taken.
When a coast-side farm contains mixed soils, the best management is exercised, by applying sea-weed to dry, and dung to clay-land. In this way, the full advantage of manure may be obtained, and a form so circumstanced is of infinitely greater value, with respect to manuring and laboring, than the one which contains no such variety.
Burning the Surface.
The practice of burning the surface, and applying the ashes as manure to the soil that remains, has been long prevalent in Britain; and is considered as the most advantageous way of bringing in and improving all soils, where the surface carried a coarse sward, and was composed of peat-earth, or other inactive substances. The burning of this surface has been viewed as the best way of bringing such soils into action; the ashes, furnished by the burning, serving as a stimulant to raise up their dormant powers, thereby rendering them fertile and productive in a superior degree to what could otherwise be accomplished.
Mr. Curwen's Method of Burning Surface Soil and Clay.
Mounds of seven yards in length, and three and a half in breadth, are kindled with seventy-two Winchester bushels of lime. First, a layer of dry sods or parings, on which a quantity of lime is spread, mixing sods with it, then a covering of eight inches of sods, on which the other half of the lime is spread, and covered a foot thick, the height of the mound being about a yard.
In twenty-four hours it will take fire. The lime should be immediately from the kiln. It is better to suffer it to ignite itself, than to effect it by the operation of water. When the fire is fairly kindled, fresh sods must be applied. I should recommend obtaining a sufficient body of ashes before any clay is put on the mounds. The fire naturally rises to the top. It takes less time, and does more work to draw down the ashes from the top, and not to suffer it to rise above six feet. The former practice of burning in kilns was more expensive; did much less work; and, in many instances, calcined the ashes.
I think it may fairly be supposed that the lime adds full its worth to the quality of the ashes. Where limestone can be had, I should advise the burning of a small quantity in the mounds, which would be a great improvement to the ashes, and, at the same time, help to keep the fire in.
The general adopting of the system of surface and soil clay-burning, is likely to be an important discovery for the interests of agriculture.
To burn Moss with the Ashes.
The following directions for burning moss along with the ashes are of considerable importance: Begin the fire with dry faggots, furze, or straw, then put on dried moss finely minced and well beaten with a clapper; and when that is nearly burnt down, put on moss less dry, but well minced and clapped, making holes with a prong to carry on the fire, and so adding more moss till a hill of ashes, something of the size of a wagon load, is accumulated, which, when cold, carry to the bins, or store heaps, before the ashes get wet.
Mr. Roscoe's Method of Improving Moss Land.
The best method of improving moss land is by the application of a calcareous substance in a sufficient quantity to convert the moss into a soil, and by the occasional use of animal or other extraneous manures, such as the course of cultivation and the nature of the crops may be found to require.
After setting fire to the heap and herbage on the moss, and ploughing it down as far as practicable, Mr. Roscoe ploughs a thin sod or furrow with a very sharp horse plough, which he burns in small heaps and dissipates; considering it of little use but to destroy the tough woods of the ediophorus, nardus stricta, and other plants, whose matted roots are almost imperishable. The moss being thus brought to a tolerably dry and level substance, then plough it in a regular furrow six inches deep, and as soon as possible after it is turned up, set upon it the necessary quantity of marl, not less than 200 cubic yards to the acre. As the marl begins to crumble and fall with the sun or frost, it is spread over the land with considerable exactness, after which put in a crop as early as possible, sometimes by the plough, and at others with the horse-scuffle, or scarifier, according to the nature of the crop, a quantity of manure, setting on about twenty tons to the acre.
Moss-land, thus treated, may not only be advantageously cropped the first year with green crops, as potatoes, turnips, etc., but with any kind of grain.
Peat and Peat Ashes used as Manure.
In the county of Bedford, England, peat ashes are sold as manure, and are used as a top dressing for clovers, and sometimes for barley, at the rate of from forty to sixty bushels per acre. They are usually spread during the month of March, on clover, and on the surface of the barley-lands after the seed is sown. Peat ashes are also admirably useful as manure for turnips, and are easily drilled with or over the seed, by means of a drillbox connected with a loaded cart.
After the quantity required has been cast, a portion sufficient to kindle a large heap (suppose two cart-loads), is dried as much as it intended for winter's use. A conical pile is then built and fired, and as soon as the flame or smoke makes its appearance at any of the crevices, it is kept back by fresh peat, just sufficiently dry to be free from water; and thus the pile is continually increased until it has burnt thirty or forty loads, or as much more as may be required. The slower the process the better; but, in case of too languid a consumption, the heap should be stirred by a stick, when ever the danger of extinction seems probable.
In case of rain, the workmen should be prepared with some coarse thick turf, with which to cover the surface of the cone.
Coal Ashes used as Manure.
Coal ashes may likewise be made a most useful article of manure, by mixing with every cart-load of them one bushel of lime in its hottest state, covering it up in the middle of the heap for about twelve hours, till the lime be entirely slacked, and incorporating them well together; and, by turning the whole over two or three times, the cinders, or half-burnt parts of the coal, will be reduced to as fine a powder as the lime itself. The coal-ashes should, however, be carefully kept dry; this mixture will be found one of the best improvers of moorish and benty land.
Method of Burning Lime without Kilns.
The practice of lime-burners in Wales has formerly been to burn lime in broad shallow kilns, but lately they have begun to manufacture that article without any kiln at all.
They place the limestone in large bodies, which are called coaks, the stones not being broken small as in the ordinary method, and calcine these heaps in the way used for preparing charcoal. To prevent the flame from bursting out at the top and sides of these heaps, turfs and earth are placed against them, and the aperture partially closed; and the heat is regulated and transfused through the whole mass, that notwithstanding the increased size of the stones, the whole becomes thoroughly calcined. As a proof of the superior advantage that lime burnt in these clamps or coaks has over lime burnt in the old method, where farmers have an option of taking either lime at the same price, a preference is invariably given to that burned in heaps. This practice has long prevailed in Yorkshire and Shropshire, and is also familiar in Scotland.
Mr. Craig's Improved Method of Burning Clay.
Make an oblong enclosure, of the dimensions of a small house - say fifteen feet by ten - of green turf-seeds, raised to the height of three and a half or four feet. In the inside of this enclosure air pipes are drawn diagonally, which communicate with holes left at each corner of the exterior wall. These pipes are formed of sods put on edge, and the space between so wide only as another sod can easily cover. In each of the four spaces left between the airpipes and the outer wall, a fire is kindled with wood and dry turf, and then the whole of the inside of the enclosure or kiln filled with dry turf, which is very soon on fire; and, on the top of that, when well kindled, is thrown on the clay, in small quantities at a time, and repeated as often as necessary, which must be regulated by the intensity of the burning. The air-pipes are of use only at first, because if the fire burns with tolerable keenness, the sods forming the pipes will soon be reduced to ashes. The pipe on the weather side of the kiln only is left open, the mouths of the other three being stopped up, and not opened except the wind should veer about. As the inside of the enclosure or kiln begins to be filled up with clay, the outer wall must be raised in height, at least fifteen inches higher than the top of the clay, for the purpose of keeping the wind from acting on the fire. When the fire burns through the outer wall, which it often does, and particularly when the top is over-loaded with clay, the breach must be stopped up immediately, which can only be effectually done by building another sod wall from the foundation opposite to it, and the sods that formed that part of the first wall are soon reduced to ashes. The wall can be raised as high as may be convenient to throw on the clay, and the kiln may be increased to any size by forming a new wall when the previous one is burnt through.
The principal art in burning consists in having the outer wall made quite close and impervious to the external air, and taking care to have the top always lightly, but completely covered with clay; because if the external air should come in contact with the fire, either on the top of the kiln or by means of its bursting through the sides, the fire will be very soon extinguished. In short, the kilns require to be well attended, nearly as closely as charcoalpits. Clay is much easier burnt than either moss or loam - it does not undergo any alteration in its shape, and on that account allows the fire and smoke to get up easily between the lumps - whereas moss and loam, by crumbling down, are very apt to smother the fire, unless carefully attended to. No rule can be laid down for regulating the size of the lumps of clay thrown on the kiln, as that must depend on the state of the fire. After a kiln is fairly set going, no coal or wood, or any sort of combustible, is necessary, the wet clay burning of itself, and it can only be extinguished by intention, or the carelessness of the operator, the vicissitudes of the weather having hardly any effect on the fires, if properly attended to. When the kiln is burning with great keenness, a stranger to the operation may be apt to think that the fire is extinguished. If, therefore, any person, either through impatience or too great curiosity, should insist on looking into the interior of the kiln, he will certainly retard, and may possibly extinguish, the fire; the chief secret consisting, as before-mentioned, in keeping out the external air.
The above method of burning clay may be considered as an essential service rendered to agriculture; as it shows farmers how to convert, at a moderate expense, the most worthless barren sub-soil into excellent manure.
To decompose Green Vegetables for Manure.
The following process for the decomposition of green vegetables, for manure, has been practised with great success in the of counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, England:
Place a layer of vegetable matter a foot thick, then a thin layer of lime, alternately, in a few hours the decomposition will begin, and, unless prevented by sods, or a fork full of vegetables, will break out into a blaze; this must be guarded against; in twenty-four hours the process will be completed. Weeds of every description will answer for vegetables; two pounds worth of lime will produce manure for four acres. Use the vegetables as soon after cutting as possible, and the lime fresh from the kiln, as distance will allow.
Mills are constructed for the purpose of bruising (not pounding) bones, and the dust riddled therefrom is reckoned a still stronger manure. The same person selects the best bones, which are sawn into pieces, for button-moulds and knife-handles: and the saw-dust from this operation is particularly useful in gardens and hotbeds. It suits every vegetable, hot-house, or green-house plant.
Bone manure is best adapted for cold and light sandy land. The usual quantity per acre is seventy bushels, when used alone; but when mixed with ashes, or common manure of any sort, thirty bushels per acre is thought quite enough. It is applied at the same periods as other manure, and has been found in this way to remain seven years in the ground. The rough part of this manure, after being five years in the ground, has been gathered off one field and thrown upon another of a different soil, and has proved, even then, good manure.
The bones which are best filled with oil and marrow are certainly the best manure; and the parts generally used for buttons and knife-hafts are the thigh and shank bones. The powdered bones are dearer, and generally used for hotbeds in gardens, being too expensive for the field, and not so durable as bruised bones, yet, for a short time, more productive.
A dry, light, or gentle soil, is best adapted for the use of bone-manure; as it is supposed that, in land which retains wet, the nutritive part of the bone washes to the surface of it and does not incorporate sufficiently with the soil.
Bruised bones are better when mixed with ashes or any other manure, as the juice of the bone is then more equally spread over the field. Bone manure ought to be ploughed into the land in tillage. On the grass the powder should be sown in the hand.
Super-Phosphate of Lime.
To Liebig is due the greatest credit for the theory that the organic matter of plants is supplied abundantly by nature from air and water; that the ashes of plants exhibit the mineral matters most needed for a fertile soil; that the ashes of the most valuable parts, such as the husk of wheat, especially show what matters are required for the most abundant production of those parts; that soils are most frequently deficient in phosphoric acid, which should be supplied in the form of bones, guano, and more especially as a more or less soluble phosphate of lime. Long and extensive experience has proved the great value of a fertilizer which contains a portion of so-called super-phosphate of lime; that is, a bone-phosphate of lime, which is treated with sulphuric acid, so that more or less of the phosphate will dissolve in water. Of course a true chemical super-phosphate would wholly dissolve, but such a one is impracticable in use; moreover it is found by practice that a few per cent. of phosphoric acid in a fertilizer is sufficient to insure its promotion of fertility. Hence some fertilizers in commerce consist almost wholly of a phosphate of lime mixed with a little sulphate of lime (plaster), resulting from the action of the sulphuric acid, so that it contains 15 to 20 per cent. phosphoric acid, one-third or one-fourth of which readily dissolves in water. These fertilizers are found to yield excellent results when applied to the soil.
The superiority of these nitrogenous superphosphated fertilizers over all others may be summed up in a few words. They surpass stable manure in their extremely small bulk and weight for the same fertilizing effect, and consequently in the greater ease and less expense of their handling, hauling and spreading, and yet further in their never fouling land by the seeds of weeds and noxious plants. They excel bones and phosphatic guano in their more rapid action and their yielding a quicker return. They excel Peruvian guano in continuing their fertilizing effects for a longer period of time, in their being less violent at first and yet sufficiently energetic to yield a return the first season of their application. Most of our land is either poor by nature or through exhaustive cropping, and there is nothing that will more rapidly restore and increase their fertility than the ammoniated super-phosphates. It may be yet further observed, that there is scarcely any soil to which their application will not prove a decided benefit, and scarcely a crop which they will not improve, whether grain, vegetables, cotton, tobacco, fruits, etc.
Various Substances used as Manure.
J. B. Bailey, Esq., presented to the Agricultural Society of Manchester, the followings enumeration of substances which may be applied usefully as manures instead of stable dung, viz., mud, sweepings of the streets, and coalashes, night-soil, bones, refuse matters, as sweepings and rubbish of houses, etc., sea-weeds, sea-shells and seagravel, river-weeds, sweepings of roads, and spent tanner's bark to mix with lime. Peat or moss, decayed vegetables, putrid water, the ashes of weeds, etc., the refuse of bleacher's ashes, soap suds, or lye, peat ashes, water infloating, refuse salt.
The use of liquid manure, so long common in China and Japan, is gaining in favor with agriculturists everywhere. Peruvian guano is one of the important discoveries of modern times: with its use ground a most barren may be made productive; it is available for almost all kinds of crops.
Plaster of Paris used as Manure.
Plaster of Paris is used as a manure in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The best kind is imported from hills in the vicinity of Paris: it is brought down the Seine, and exported from Havre de Grace. The lumps composed of flat shining spicula are preferred to those which are formed of round particles like sand; the simple method of finding out the quality is to pulverize some, and put it dry into an iron pot over the fire, when that which is good, will soon boil, and great quantities of the fixed air escape by ebullition. It is pulverized by first putting it in a stamping-mill. The finer its pulverization the better, as it will thereby be more generally diffused.
It is best to sow it on a wet day. The most approved quantity for grass is six bushels per acre. No art is required in sowing it more than making the distribution as equal as possible on the sward of grass. It operates altogether as a top manure, and therefore should not be put on in the spring until the principal frosts are over and vegetation has begun. The general time for sowing in America is in April, May, June, July, August, and even as late as September. Its effects will generally appear in ten or fifteen days; after which the growth of the grass will be so great as to produce a large burden at the end of six weeks after sowing.
It must be sown on dry land, not subject to be overflown. It has been sown on sand, loam, and clay, and it is difficult to say on which it has best answered, although the effect is sooner visible on sand. It has been used as a manure in this state for twelve years; for, like other manure, its continuance very much depends on the nature of the soil on which it is placed.
Mode of Applying Blubber as a Manure.
This is a very rich ingredient, as well for arable as pasture lands, when mixed at the rate of one ton of blubber to twenty loads of mould, and one chaldron of lime, per acre. It must be turned over and pulverized; and when it has lain in this state three or four months, it will become fit for use, and may be put upon the land in such quantities as the quality of the land to be manured requires. It is a very strong manure, and very excellent.
Application of Manures to Land.
Early in autumn, after the hay crop is removed is the most convenient and least objectionable period for the purpose. The common practice is to apply manures during the frost, in the winter. But the elastic fluids being the greatest supports of vegetation, manures should be applied under circumstances that favor their generation. These will occur in spring, after the grass has, in some degree, covered the ground, the dung being then shaded from the sun. After a frost much of the virtues of the dung will be washed away by the thaw, find its soluble parts destroyed, and in a frosty state the ground is incapable of absorbing liquids.
Management of Arable Land.
Alternate husbandry, or the system of having leguminous and culmiferous crops to follow each other, with some modifications, is practicable on every soil. According to its rules, the land would rarely get into a foul and exhausted state; at least, if foul and exhausted under alternate husbandry, matters would be much worse were any other system followed. The rotation may be long or short, as is consistent with the richness of the soil, on which it is executed, and other local circumstances. The crops cultivated may be any of the varieties which compose either of the two tribes according to the nature of soil and climate of the district where the rotation is exercised, and where circumstances render ploughing not so advantageous as pasturing, the land may remain in grass, till those circumstances are obviated, care being always taken, when it is broken up, to follow alternate husbandry during the time it is under tillage.
In this way we think it perfectly practicable to follow the alternate system in every situation; nor do we consider the land being in grass for two, three, or four years, as a departure from that system, if called for by a scarcity of manure, poverty of soil, want of markets for corn, or other accidental circumstances. The basis of every rotation we hold to be either a bare summer fallow, or a fallow on which drill turnips are cultivated, and its conclusion to be with the crop taken in the year preceding a return of fallow or drilled turnips, when, of course, a new rotation commences.
First Rotation of Crops.
According to this rotation, wheat and drilled beans are the crops to be cultivated, though clover and rye-grass may be taken for one year, in place of beans, should such a variety be viewed as more eligible. The rotation begins with summer fallow, because it is only on strong deep lands that it can be profitably practised; and it may go on for any length of time, or so long as the land can be kept clean, though it ought to stop the moment that the land gets into a contrary condition. A considerable quantity of manure is required to go on successfully; dung should be given to each bean crop; and if this crop is drilled and attentively horse-hoed, the rotation may turn out to be one of the most profitable that can be exercised.
Upon loams and clays, where it may not be advisable to carry the first rotation into execution, a different one can be practised, according to which labor will be more divided, and the usual grains more generally cultivated, as, for instance:
1. Fallow, with dung. 2. Wheat. 3. Beans, drilled and horse-hoed. 4. Barley. 5. Clover and rye-grass. 6. Oats, or wheat. 7. Beans, drilled and horse-hoed. 8. Wheat
This rotation is excellently calculated to insure an abundant return through the whole of it, provided dung is administered upon the clover stubble. Without this supply the rotation would be crippled, and inferior crops of course produced in the concluding years.
This rotation is calculated for clays and loams of an inferior description to those already treated of:
1. Fallow, with dung. 2. Wheat. 3. Clover and ryegrass. 4. Oats. 5. Beans, drilled and horse-hoed. 6. Wheat.
According to this rotation, the rules of good husbandry are studiously practised, while the sequence is obviously calculated to keep the land in good order, and in such a condition as to insure crops of the greatest value. If manure is bestowed either upon the clover stubble or before the beans are sown, the rotation is one of the best that can be devised for the soils mentioned.
On thin clays gentle husbandry is indispensably necessary, otherwise the soil may be exhausted, and the produce unequal to the expense of cultivation. Soils of this description will not improve much while under grass, but unless an additional stock of manure can be procured, there is a necessity of refreshing them in that way, even though the produce should, in the meantime, be comparatively of small value. The following rotation is an excellent one:
1. Fallow, with dung. 2. Wheat. 3. Grass, pastured, but not too early eaten. 4. Grass. 5. Grass. 6. Oats.
This rotation may be shortened or lengthened, according to circumstances, but should never extend further in point of ploughing, than when dung can be given to the fallow break. This is the keystone of the whole, and if it is neglected the rotation is rendered useless.
Peat-earth soils are not friendly to wheat unless aided by a quantity of calcereous matter. Taking them in a general point of view, it is not advisable to cultivate wheat, but a crop of oats may almost be depended upon, provided the previous management has been judiciously executed. If the sub-soil of peat-earth lands be retentive of moisture, the process ought to commence with a bare summer fallow, but if such are incumbent on free and open bottoms, a crop of turnips may be substituted for fallow, according to which method the surface will get a body which naturally it did not possess. Grass, on such soils, must always occupy a great space of every rotation, because physical circumstances render regular cropping utterly impracticable.
1. Fallow, or turnips with dung. 2. Oats, of an early variety. 3. Clover, and a considerable quantity of perennial rye-grass. 4. Pasture for several years, till circumstances permit the land to be broken up, when oats are to be repeated.
Light soils are easily managed, though to procure a full return of the profits which they are capable of yielding, requires generally as much attention as is necessary in the management of those of a stronger description. Upon light soils a bare summer fallow is seldom called for, as cleanliness may be preserved by growing turnips and other leguminous articles. Grass also is of eminent advantage upon such soils, often yielding a greater profit than what is afforded by culmiferous crops.
1. Turnips. 2. Spring wheat, or barley. 3. Clover and rye-grass. 4. Oats, or wheat.
This rotation would be greatly improved, were it extended to eight years, whilst the ground by such an extension, would be kept fresh, and constantly in good condition. As for instance, were seeds for pasture sown in the second year, the ground kept three years under grass, then broken up for oats in the sixth year, drilled with beans and peas in the seventh, and sown with wheat in the eighth, the rotation would be complete; because it included every branch of husbandry, and admitted a variety in management generally agreeable to the soil, and always favorable to the interest of cultivators. The rotation may also consist of six crops, were the land kept only one year in grass, though few situations admit of so much cropping, unless additional manure is within reach.
Sandy soils, when properly manured, are well adapted to turnips, though it rarely happens that wheat can be cultivated on them with advantage, unless they are dressed with alluvial compost, marl, clay, or some such substance, as will give a body or strength to them which they do not naturally possess. Barley, oats, and rye, the latter especially, are, however, sure crops on sands; and, in favorable seasons, will return greater profit than can be obtained from wheat.
1. Turnips, consumed on the ground. 2. Barley. 3. Grass. 4. Rye or oats.
By keeping the land three years in grass, the rotations would be extended to six years, a measure highly advisable.
From what has been stated, every person capable of judging will at once perceive the facility of arranging husbandry upon correct principles, and of cropping the ground in such a way as to make it produce abundant returns to the occupier, whilst at the same time it is preserved in good condition, and never impoverished or exhausted. All these things are perfectly practicable under the alternate system, though it is doubtful whether they can be gained under any other.
It may be added, that winter-sown crops, or crops sown on the winter furrow, are most eligible on all clayey soils.
Ploughing, with a view to clean soils of the description under consideration, has little effect unless given in the summer months. This renders summer fallow indispensably necessary; and, without this radical process, none of the heavy and wet soils can be suitably managed, or preserved in a good condition.
To adopt a judicious rotation of chopping for every soil, requires a degree of judgment in the farmer, which can only be gathered from observation and experience. The old rotations were calculated to wear out the soil, and to render it unproductive; but the modern rotations, such as those which we have described, are founded on principles which insure a full return from the soil, without lessening its value or impoverishing its condition. Much depends, however, upon the manner in which the different processes are executed; for the best-arranged rotation may be of no avail, if the processes belonging to it are imperfectly and unreasonably executed.
TO CULTIVATE WHEAT.
On soils really calculated for wheat, though in different degrees, summer fallow is the first and leading step to gain a good crop or crops of that grain. The first furrow should be given before winter, or as early as the other operations of the farm will admit; and every attention should be used to go as deep as possible, for it rarely happens that any of the succeeding furrows exceed the first one in that respect. The number of afterploughings must be regulated by the condition of the ground and the state of the weather; but, in general, it may be observed, that ploughing in length and across, alternately, is the way by which the ground will be most completely cut, and the intention of fallowing accomplished.
Varieties of Seed.
Wheat may be classed under two principal divisions, though each of these admits of several subdivisions. The first is composed of all the varieties of red wheat. The second division comprehends the whole varieties of white wheat, which again may be arranged under two distinct heads, namely, thick-chaffed and thin-chaffed.
The thick-chaffed varieties were formerly in greatest repute, generally yielding the whitest and finest flour, and, in dry seasons, not inferior in produce to the other; but since 1799, when the disease called mildew, to which they are constitutionally predisposed, raged so extensively, they have gradually been going out of fashion.
The thin-chaffed wheats are a hardy class, and seldom mildewed, unless the weather be particularly inimical during the stages of blossoming, filling, and ripening, though some of them are rather better qualified to resist that destructive disorder than others. In 1799, thin-chaffed wheats were seriously injured; and instances were not wanting to show, that an acre of them, with respect to value, exceeded an acre of thick-chaffed wheat, quantity and quality considered, not less than fifty per cent. Since that time, therefore, their culture has rapidly increased; and to this circumstance may, in a great measure, be attributed the high character which thin-chaffed wheats now bear.
Method of Sowing.
Sowing in the broadcast way may be said to be the mode universally practiced. Upon well prepared lands, if the seed be distributed equally, it can scarcely be sown too thin; perhaps two bushels per acre are sufficient; for the heaviest crops at autumn are rarely those which show the most vigorous appearance through the winter months. Bean stubbles require more seed than summer fallows, because the roughness of their surface prevents such an equal distribution; and clover leas ought to be still thicker sown than bean stubbles. Thin sowing in spring ought not to be practiced, otherwise the crop will be late, and imperfectly ripened. No more harrowing should be given to fields that have been fallowed, than what is necessary to cover the seed, and level the surface sufficiently. Ground, which is to lie in a broken-down state through the winter, suffers severely when an excessive harrowing is given, especially if it is incumbent on a close bottom; though, as to the quantity necessary, none can give an opinion, except those who are personally present.
To sow Grain by Ribbing.
The ribbing of grain crops was introduced into Great Britain in the year 1810. The process is as follows: Suppose the land in fallow, or turnips eat off, let it be gathered into ridges of twelve feet each; then harrow it well, particularly the furrows of the ridges; after which take a narrow-bottomed swing plough, five inches and a half broad at the heel, with a narrow-winged sock, drawn by one horse; begin in the furrow, as if you intended to gather two ridges together, which will make a rib exactly in the middle of the furrow; then turn back up the same furrow you came down, keeping close to the rib made; pursue the same mode on the other side, and take a little of the soil which is thrown over by the mould-board from the back of each rib, and so on till you come near the furrow, when you must pursue the same mode as at first. In water furrowing you will then have a rib on each side of the furrow, distance between the rib, ten or twelve inches. The seed to be sown from the hand, and, from the narrowness or sharpness of the top of the ridges, the grain will fall regularly down, then put on a light harrow to cover the seed. In wet soils the ridges ought to be twice gathered, as ribbing reduces them.
It will answer all kinds of crops, but not all soils. Strong clayey soils cannot be pulverized sufficiently for that purpose; nor can it be effected in clover-lea, unless it be twice ploughed and well harrowed. Ribbing is here esteemed preferable to drilling, as you have the same opportunity of keeping the land clean, and the grain does not fall so close together as by drilling.
The farmer may hand or horse-hoe his crops, and also hoe in his clover-seed, which is considered very advantageous. It is more productive of grain, especially when it is apt to lodge, and, in all cases, of as much straw; and ribbing is often the means of preventing the corn lodging.
In a wet season ribbing is more favorable to harvesting, because the space between the ribs admits the air freely, and the corn dries much sooner. The reapers also, when accustomed to it cut more and take it up cleaner.
Improved Method of Drilling Wheat.
The drill contains three coulters, placed in a triangular form, and worked by brushes, with cast-iron nuts, sufficient for one horse to draw, and one man to attend to. It will drill three acres per day of wheat, barley or oats, at five inches asunder; and five acres per day of beans, peas, etc., at twelve inches asunder. The general practice is to drill crossways, and to set the rows five or six inches, and never exceeding seven inches, apart, it being found that if the distance is greater they are too long filling up in the spring, that they afford a greater breadth for the growth of weeds, are more expensive to hoe, and more liable to be laid in the summer. In drilling wheat never barrow after the drill if it can be avoided, the drill generally leaving the corn sufficiently covered; and by this plan the vegetation is quickened, and the ridges of soil between each two rows preserve the plants in winter, and render the oneration of harrowing in the spring much more efficacious. The spring harrowing is performed the contrary way to that of the drilling, as the harrow working upon the ridges does not pull up the plants, and leaves the ground mouldy for the hoe. This point should be particularly attended to. The harrowing after the drill evidently leaves the ground in a better state to the eye, but the advantages in the produce of the crop are decidedly in favor of the plan of leaving the land in the rough state already described, us the operation of the winter upon the clods causes them to pulverize, and furnishes an abundant nutrition to the plants in the spring; and followed by the hoe about the time the head or ear is forming, it makes the growth of the plant more vigorous, and greatly improves the size of the head or ear. The drilling for wheat should generally commence about the latter end of September, at which time the farmer may drill about two bushels per acre. As the season advances keep increasing the quantity to three bushels per acre, being guided by the quality of the soil and other circumstances. A great loss has frequently arisen through drilling too small a quantity of seed, as there can be none spared in that case for the rooks and grubs; and a thick, well-planted crop will always yield more abundantly than a thin stooling crop, and ripen sooner.
The drill system would have been in more general practice, if its friends had also recommended the use of a larger quantity of seed to the acre, and the rows to be planted nearer together. It is impossible to obtain so great a produce per acre by the broadcast system as by the drill system at the same expense, be the land ever so free from weeds. Fifty bushels per acre may be raised by the drill, but never more than forty bushels by sowing broadcast. The wheat crops should generally be top-dressed in winter with manure compost, or some other dressing in frost, or when you can cart upon the land, but if that operation is rendered impracticable, sooting in March, or any other dressing of that description, hoed in at the spring, is preferable to a dressing laid on in the autumn and ploughed in.
The advantages of the drill over the broadcast system are numerous and decisive, as it enables the farmer to grow corn without weeds, is sooner ready for stacking after the scythe or sickle, produces a cleaner and more regular sample for the market, and hence obtains a bettor price, leaves the land in a better state for a succeeding crop, and materially increases the quantity of food for human consumption.
To Pickle the Seed.
This process is indispensably necessary on every soil, otherwise smut, to a greater or less extent, will, in nine cases out of ten, assuredly follow. Stale urine may be considered as the safest and surest pickle, and where it can be obtained in a sufficient quantity, is commonly resorted to. The mode of using it does not however seem to be agreed upon, for while one party contends that the grain ought to be steeped in the urine, another party considers it sufficient to sprinkle the urine upon it. But whatever difference of opinion there may be as to the kind of pickle that ought to be used, and the mode of using it, all admit the utility of mixing the wetted seed with hot lime fresh slaked; and this, in one point of view, is absolutely necessary, so that the seed may be equally distributed. It may be remarked that experience justifies the utility of all these modes, provided they are attentively carried into execution. There is some danger from the first, for if the seed steeped in urine is not immediately sown, it will infallibly lose its vegetative power. The second, viz., sprinkling the urine on the seed, seems to be the safest if performed by an attentive hand, whilst the last may do equally well, if such a quantity of salt be incorporated with the water as to render it of sufficient strength. It may also be remarked, that this last mode is often accompanied with smut, owing no doubt to a deficiency of strength in the pickle; whereas a single head with smut is rarely discovered when urine has been used.
To cultivate Indian Corn.
The land should be a loamy sand, very rich. In April the grains should be set like hops, at three to four feet distance, three to six grains in a hill, each grain about an inch deep in the ground. The seed from New England is the best. In May the alleys should be hoed and the hills weeded and earthed up higher; many good farmers plough three times after planting. At the latter end of that month all the superfluous stalks should be taken away, and only three stems of corn left in each hill. By the middle of June, it will cover the alley. It grows much like bulrushes, the lower leaves being like broad flags, three or four inches wide, and as many feet in length; the stems shooting upwards, from seven to ten feet in height, with many joints, casting off flag-leaves at every joint. Under these leaves and close to the stem grows the corn, covered over by many coats of sedgy leaves, and so closed in by them to the stem, that it does not show itself easily till there bursts out at the end of the ear a number of strings that look like tufts of horsehair, at first of a beautiful green, and afterwards red or yellow, the stem ending in a flower. The corn will ripen in October or early November; but the sun at that season not having strength enough to dry it, it must be laid upon racks or thin open floors in dry rooms, and frequently turned, to avoid moulding; the grains are about as big as peas, and adhere in regular rows round a white pithy substance, which forms the ear. An ear contains from two to four hundred grains, and is from six to ten inches in length. They are of various colors, blue, red, white and yellow. The manner of gathering them is by cutting down the stems and breaking off the ears. The stems are as big us a man's wrist, and look like bamboo cane; the pith is full of a juice that tastes as sweet as sugar, and the joints are about a foot and a half distant. The increase is upwards of five hundred fold. Upon a large scale the seed may be drilled in alleys like peas, and to save digging, the ground may be ploughed and harrowed, which will answer very well. It will grow upon all kinds of land. The ears which grow upon dry sandy land are smaller, but harder and riper. The grain is taken from the husk by hand, and when ground upon stones, makes an excellent flour, of which it yields much more, with much less bran, than wheat does, and exceeds it in crust, pancakes, puddings, and all other uses except bread; but a sweetness peculiar to it, which in all other cases makes it agreeable, is here less so. It is excellent for feeding horses, poultry and hogs, and fattens them much better and sooner than peas or barley. The stems make better hedges for kitchen garden than reeds do. It clears the ground from weeds, and makes a good season for any other kind of grain. It was the only bread-grain known in America when first discovered by the Spaniards, and is there called maize.
This, also called Chinese sugar-cane, is now attracting attention, especially in the West. It may be cultivated almost precisely like maize, and is more profitable. It is cut off when it is ripe and beginning to fade slightly, or sometimes earlier than this. It may then be ground like sugar-cane. This is often done in a mill like a cider-press. The syrup is then boiled at once, in large shallow kettles. It is said that sorghum should be grown on a sandy soil, not too rich; if the earth is rich, it grows too strong and fibrous, with less sugar in the stem.
Diseases of Wheat.
Wheat is subject to more diseases than other grains, and, in some seasons, especially in wet ones, heavier losses are sustained from those diseases than are felt in the culture of any other culmiferous crop with which we are acquainted. Wheat may suffer from the attack of insects at the root; from blight, which primarily affects the leaf or straw, and ultimately deprives the grain of sufficient nourishment; from mildew on the ear, which operates thereon with the force of an apoplectic stroke; and from gum of different shades, which lodges on the chaff or cups in which the grain is deposited.
Blight originates from moist or foggy weather and from hoar-frost, the effects of which, when expelled by a hot sun, are first discernible on the straw, and afterwards on the ear, in a greater or less degree, according to local circumstances. Let a field be examined in a day or two after such weather, and a careful observer will soon be satisfied that the fibres and leaves of plants are contracted and enfeebled, in consequence of what may be called a stoppage of perspiration. This disorder may take place either earlier or later, but is most fatal when it appears at the time the grain is forming in the ear. It may appear at an earlier stage; and though the productive powers of the plant will thereby be lessened, yet, if circumstances are afterwards favorable, the quality of the grain produced may not be much impaired; or it may appear after the grain is fully formed, and then very little damage will be sustained, except by the straw.
Mildew may be ranked as a disease which affects the ear, and is brought on by causes somewhat similar to those which occasion blight, though at a more advanced period of the season. If this disorder comes on immediately after the first appearance of the ear the straw will also be affected, but if the grain is nearly or fully formed then injury on the straw is not much discernible. We have seen a crop that carried wheat that was mildewed where the straw was perfectly fresh, though, indeed, this rarely happens. A severe mildew, however, effectually prevents both grain and straw from making any further progress, the whole plant apparently going backward every day till existence in a manner ceases altogether. Something akin to mildew is the gum, which, in all warm moist seasons, attaches itself to the ear, and often occasions considerable damage. All these different disorders are generally accompanied by insects, and by minute parasitic vegetable growths, considered by many to be the authors of the mischief that follows. Their appearance, however, may justly be attributed to the diseased state of the plant; for wherever putrefaction takes place, either in animal or vegetable substances, the presence of these parasites will never be wanting.
Another disorder which affects wheat and is by several people denominated the real rust, is brought on by excessive heat, which occasions the plants to suffer from a privation of nourishment, and become sickly and feeble. In this atrophic state a kind of dust gathers on the stalks and leaves, which increases with the disease, till the plant is in a great measure worn out and exhausted. The only remedy in this case, and it is one that cannot easily be administered by the hand of man, is a plentiful supply of moisture, by which, if it is received before consumption is too far advanced, the crop is benefited in a degree proportional to the extent of nourishment received, and the stage at which the disease has arrived.
Impropriety of Sowing Mildewed Wheat.
Some people have recommended the sowing of blighted and mildewed wheat, because it will vegetate; though certainly the recommendation, if carried into practice, would be attended with imminent danger to those who attempted it. That light or defective wheat will vegetate and produce a plant we are not disposed to contradict, but that it will vegetate as briskly, or put out a stem of equal strength, and capable of withstanding the severe winter blasts as those produced from sound seed we must be excused for not believing. Let it only be considered that a plant of young wheat, unless when very early sown, lives three or four months, in a great measure, upon the nourishment which it derives from the parent seed; and that such nourishment can, in no view of the subject, be so great when the parent is lean and emaciated as when sound, healthy and vigorous. Let it also be remembered that a plant produced from the best and weightiest seed must, in every case, under a parity of other circumstances, have a stronger constitution at the outset, which necessarily qualifies it to push on with greater energy then the season of growth arrives. Indeed, the economy of nature would be overturned should any other result follow. A breeder of cattle or sheep would not act more foolishly, who trusted that a deformed diminutive bull or ram would produce him good stock, than the corn farmer does who uses unsound or imperfect seed.
To remove the Mildew on Wheat.
A solution of common salt in water, in the proportion of a pound to a gallon, is an excellent remedy for the mildew on grain. After sprinkling three or four days, the mildew will dissapear, leaving only a discoloration on the straw where it was destroyed. The best and most expeditious way of applying the mixture is with a flat brush such as is used by whitewashers. The operator having a pail of the mixture in one hand, with the other he dips the brush into it, and makes his regular casts as when sowing grain broadcast; in this way he will readily get over ten acres in the day, and with an assistant a great deal more. About two hogsheads of the mixture will suffice for an acre. Wherever the mixture touches the mildew immediately dies.
To prevent Mildew in Wheat.
Dissolve three ounces and two drachms of sulphate of copper, copperas, or blue vitriol, in three gallons and three quarts, wine measure, of cold water, for every three bushels of grain that is to be prepared. Into another vessel capable of containing from fifty-three to seventy-nine wine gallons, throw from three to four bushels of wheat, into which the prepared liquid is poured until it rises five or six inches above the grain. Stir it thoroughly, and carefully remove all that swims on the surface. After it has remained half an hour in the preparation, throw the wheat into a basket that will allow the water to escape, but not the grain. It ought then to be immediately washed in rain, or pure water, which will prevent any risk of its injuring the germ, and afterwards the seed ought to be dried before it is sown. It may be preserved in this shape for months. Another method, which has been tried in Russia, is to espose the seed for one or two weeks to a dry heat of about 80° or 90°.
To prevent the Smut in Wheat.
Liming the seed by immersion is recommended by a French writer, as the only preventive warranted by science and sanctioned by experience, and the following is given as the method in which the process is best performed:
To destroy the germs of the blight in four and a half bushels or 256 pounds of grain, about six or seven gallons of water must be used, as grain may be more or less dry, and from thirty-five to forty-two ounces avoirdupois of quicklime, according as it may be more or less caustic, and according as the seed may have more or less of the blight. Boil part of the water, black the lime with it, and then add the rest. When joined the heat of the water should be such that the hand can with difficulty bear it. Pour the lime water upon the corn placed in a tub, stirring it incessantly, first with a stick, and afterwards with a shovel. The liquid should, at first, cover the wheat, three or four fingers' breadth; it will soon be absorbed by the grain. In this state let it remain covered over for twenty-four hours, but turn it over five or six times during the day. Such parts of the liquor as will drain off may then be seperated, when the corn, after standing a few hours, in order that it may run freely out of the hand, may be sown. If not intended to be used immediately, the limed wheat should be put in a heap, and moved once or twice a day till dry. Experience has proved that limed grain germinates sooner than unlimed, and, as it carries with it moisture sufficient to develop the embryo, the seed will not suffer for want of rain; insects will not attack it, the acrid taste of the lime being offensive to them; and, as every grain germinates, a less quantity is requisite. In fact, the grain being swelled, the sower filling his hand as usual will, when he has sown sixty-five handsful of limed corn, have in reality only used fifty-two. As blighted grains preserve for a long time the power of germinating, the careful farmer, whose grain has been touched, should carefully sweep out the crevices in the walls and cracks in the floors of his barn, and take great pains to clean them thoroughly. Dry heat, as above spoken of, may be worth trying.
A tub is used that has a hole at bottom for a spigot and faucet, fixed in a wisp of straw, to prevent any small pieces of lime passing (as in brewing). To seventy gallons of water add a bushel of unslaked lime, stir it well till the whole is mixed, let it stand thirty hours, run it off into another tub (as practised in beer); add forty-two pounds of salt, which, with stirring, will soon dissolve; this is a proper pickle for brining and liming seed wheat without any obstacle, and greatly facilitates the drilling.
Steep the wheat in a broad-bottomed basket, twenty four inches in diameter and twenty inches deep running in the grain gradually in small quantities, from ten to twelve gallons; stirring the same. What floats skim off, and do not sow; then draw up the basket, to drain the pickle for a few minutes; this may be performed in half an hour, and when sufficiently pickled proceed as before. The wheat will be fit for sowing in twentyfour hours, if required; but for drilling two hours pickled will be best, and prepared four or five days before.
Mr. Henderson's Method of preventing Smut in Wheat.
Take of best soft green soap, made from fish-oil, one pound, and of scalding water four gallons. Put the soap into a glazed vessel with a small portion of the water; continue stirring it, and add the water as it dissolves, till the whole is a perfect lye. It should be used at about ninety degrees of Fahrenheit's thermometer or new-milk warm. Put the wheat into a tub, and pour on it a quantity of the liquor sufficient to cover it completely, and throw a blanket over it to preserve the heat. Stir it every ten minutes, and take off the scum. When it has remained in this manner for an hour, drain the liquor from the wheat through a sieve, or let the tub be furnished with a drain-bottom like a brewing vat. Let the liquor which was drawn off stand a few minutes to subside, and then pour it off the sediment. Repeat the operation till the whole quantity is steeped, only observe to add each time as much hot lye as was observed by the former steeping. Dry the wheat with quick-lime, and sow as soon as convenient. It will keep ten days after steeping; but should be spread thin on a dry floor.
If a tub with a drain-bottom is used, such as a hogshead with a spigot to draw off the lye, four ounces of soap and one gallon of water, scalding hot, will preserve a stock of warm lye sufficient for any quantity of wheat. The operation should be performed in a clean place, at a distance from barns and granaries, the roofs of which may be observed hanging full of smut. The refuse of smutted wheat should be buried deep in the earth, and not thrown to the dunghill, from which it would be conveyed to the field.
Advantages of Reaping Grain before being Perfectly Ripe.
M. Cadet de Vaux has recommended, as an important and useful innovation, the reaping of grain before it is perfectly ripe. This practice originated with M. Salles, of the Agricultural Society of Beziers: grain thus reaped (say eight days before it is ripe) is fuller, larger, and finer, and is never attacked by the weevil. This was proved by reaping one half of a field as recommended, and leaving the other till the usual time. The early-reaped portion gave a hectolitre (about three bushels) of grain more for an acre of land than the later-reaped. An equal quantity of flour from each was made into bread; that made from the grain reaped green gave seven pounds of bread more than the other in two bushels. The weevil attacked the ripe grain but not the green. The proper time for reaping is when the grain, pressed between the fingers, has a doughy appearance, like bread just hot from the oven when pressed in the same way.
To Manage the Wheat Harvest.
It is advantageous to cut wheat before it is fully ripe; but, in ascertaining the proper state, it is necessary to discriminate between the ripeness of the straw and the ripeness of the grain; for, in some seasons, the straw dies upwards, under which circumstance a field, to the eye, may appear to be completely fit for the sickle, when, in reality, the grain is imperfectly consolidated, and perhaps not much removed from a milky state. Though it is obvious that under such circumstances no further benefit can be conveyed from the root, and that nourishment is withheld the moment that the roots die, yet it does not follow that grain so circumstanced should be immediately cut, because after that operation is performed it is in a great measure necessarily deprived of every benefit from the sun and air, both of which have greater influence in bringing it to maturity so long as it remains on foot than when cut down, whether laid on the ground or bound up in sheaves. The state of weather at the time also deserves notice, for as in moist or even variable weather every kind of grain, when cut prematurely, is more exposed to damage than when completely ripened. All these things will be studied by the skilful husbandman, who will also take into consideration the dangers which may follow were he to permit his wheat crop to remain uncut till completely ripened. The danger from wind will not be lost sight of, especially if the season of the equinox approaches, even the quantity dropped in the field and in the stack-yard, when wheat is over ripe, is an object of consideration. Taking all these things into view, it seems prudent to have wheat cut before it is fully ripe, as less damage will be sustained from acting in this way than by adopting a contrary practice.
If the weather be dry and the straw clean, wheat may be carted to the stack-yard in a few days; indeed, if quite ripe it may be stacked immediately from the sickle, especially when not meant for early threshing. So long, however, as any moisture remains in the straw, the field will be found to be the best stack-yard; and where grass or weeds of any kind are mixed with the crop, patience must be exerted till they are decayed and dried, lest heating be occasioned.
Next to wheat the most valuable grain is barley, especially on light and sharp soils.
It is a tender grain and easily hurt in any of the stages of its growth, particularly at seed time; a heavy shower of rain will then almost ruin a crop on the best prepared land; and in all the after processes greater pains and attention are required to insure success than in the case of other grains. The harvest process is difficult, and often attended with danger; even the threshing of it is not easily executed with machines, because the awn generally adheres to the grain, and renders separation from the straw a troublesome task. Barley, in fact, is raised at greater expense than wheat, and generally speaking is a more hazardous crop. Except upon rich and genial soils, where climate will allow wheat to be perfectly reared, it ought not to be cultivated.
Varieties of Barley.
Barley may be divided into two sorts, fall and spring; to which may be added a bastard variety, called bear or bigg, which affords similar nutriment or substance, though of inferior quality. The spring is cultivated like oats; the fall, like fall wheat. Early barley, under various names, was formerly sown in Britian upon lands that had been previously summer-fallowed, or were in high condition.
The most proper seed season for spring barley is any time in March or April, though we have seen good crops produced, the seed of which was sown at a much later period.
To prepare the Ground.
Barley is chiefly taken after turnips, sometimes after peas and beans, but rarely by good farmers either after wheat or oats, unless under special circumstances. When sown after turnips it is generally taken with one furrow, which is given as fast as the turnips are consumed, the ground thus receiving much benefit from the spring frosts. But often two, or more furrows are necessary for the fields last consumed, because when a spring drought sets in, the surface, from being poached by the removal or consumption of the crop, gets so hardened as to render a greater quantity of ploughing, harrowing and rolling necessary than would otherwise be called for. When sown after beans and peas, one winter and one spring ploughing are usually bestowed: but when after wheat or oats, three ploughings are necessary, so that the ground may be put in proper condition. These operations are very ticklish in a wet and backward season, and rarely in that case is the grower paid for the expense of his labor. Where land is in such a situation as to require three ploughings before it can be seeded with barley, it is better to summer-fallow it at once than to run the risks which seldom fail to accompany a quantity of spring labor. If the weather be dry, moisture is lost during the different processes, and an imperfect braird necessarily follows; if it be wet the benefit of ploughing is lost, and all the evils of a wet seed time are sustained by the future crop.
Quantity of Seed.
The quantity sown is different in different cases, according to the quality of the soil and other circumstances. Upon very rich lands eight pecks per acre are sometimes sown; twelve is very common, and upon poor land more is sometimes given.
By good judges a quantity of seed is sown sufficient to insure a full crop, without depending on its sending out offsets; indeed, where that is done few offsets are produced, the crop grows and ripens equally, and the grain is uniformly good.
M'Cartney's Invention for Hummelling Barley.
This invention is extremely simple, and the cost small. It is a bit of notched stick or bar, lined on one side with a thin plate of iron, and just the length of the rollers, fixed by a screw-bolt at each end to the inside of the cover of the drum, about the middle of it, so that the edge of the said notched stick is about one-eighth of an inch from the arms of the drum as it goes round. Two minutes are sufficient to put it on, when its operation is wanted, which is when putting through the second time, and it is easily taken off. It rubs off the awns or spikes to admiration, and by putting the grain another time through the mill, it will rub the husk off the ends of the pickle so entirely, that it is unnecessary to sow it afterwards.
To harvest Barley.
More care is required in the harvesting of barley than of any of the other white crops, even in the best of seasons; and in bad years it is often found very difficult to save it. Owing to the brittleness of the straw after it has reached a certain period, it must be cut down, as when it is suffered to stand longer much loss is sustained by the breaking of the heads. On that account it is cut at a time when the grain is soft, and the straw retains a great proportion of its natural juices, consequently requires a long time in the field before either the grain is hardened or the straw sufficiently dry. When put into the stack too soon it is apt to heat, and much loss is frequently sustained. It is a custom with many farmers to have an opening in the middle of their barley stacks, from top to bottom. This opening is generally made by placing a large bundle of straw in the centre of the stack when the building commences, and in proportion as it rises, the straw is drawn upwards, leaving a hollow behind, which, if one or two openins are left in the side of the stack near the bottom, insures so complete a circulation of air as not only to prevent heating, but to preserve the grain from becoming musty.
Varieties of Oats.
Of this grain the varieties are more numerous than of any other of the culmiferous tribe. These varieties consist of what is called the common oat, the Angus oat, which is considered as an improved variety of the other, the Poland oat, the Friesland oat, the red oat, the dun oat, the Tartar or Siberian oat, and the potato oat. The Poland and potato varieties are best adapted to rich soils; the red oat for late climates; and the other varieties for the generality of soils of which the British isles are composed. The Tartar or Siberian kind, though very hardy and prolific, is much out of use, being of a course substance, and unproductive of meal. The dun out has never been much cultivated, and the use of Poland and Friesland is now much circumscribed, since potato oats were introduced; the latter being considered, by the most discerning agriculturalists, as of superior value in every respect where the soil is rich and properly cultivated.
To prepare the Ground.
Oats are chiefly sown after grass; sometimes upon land not rich enough for wheat, that has been previously summerfallowed, or has carried turnips; often after varley, and rarely after wheat, unless cross-cropping, from particular circumstances, becomes a necessary evil. One ploughing is generally given to the grass lands, usually in the month of January, so that the benefit of frost may be gained, and the land sufficiently mellowed for receiving the harrow. In some cases a spring furrow is given, when oats succeed wheat or barley, especially when grass seeds are to accompany the crop. The best oats, both in quantity and quality, are always those which succeed grass; indeed, no kind of grain seems better qualified by nature for foraging upon grass land than oats; as a full crop is usually obtained in the first instance, and the land let's in good order for succeeding crops.
Quantity of Seed.
From twelve to eighteen pecks of seed are generally allowed to the acre of ground, according to the richness of the soil and the variety that is cultivated. Here it may be remarked that land sown with potato oats requires much less seed, in point of measure, than when any of the other sorts are used; because potato oats both tiller well, much better that Poland, and have not an awn or tail like the ordinary varieties. On that account, a measure contains many more seeds of them than of any other kind. If land is equally well cultivated, there is little doubt but that the like quantity of seed given when barley is cultivated, may be safely trusted to when potato oats are to be used.
To harvest Oats.
Oats are a hardy grain, and rarely get much damage when under the harvest process, except from high winds or from shedding, when opened out after being thoroughly wetted. The early varieties are much more liable to these losses than the late ones, because the grain parts more easily from the straw, an evil to which the best of grain is at all times subject. Early oats, however, may be cut a little quick, which, to a certain extent lessens the danger to which they are exposed from high winds, and if the sheaves be made small the danger from shedding after rains is considerably lessened, because they are thus sooner ready for the stack. Under every management, however, a greater quantity of early oats will be lost during the harvest process than of late ones, because the latter adhere firmly to the straw, and consequently do not drop so easily as the former.
To cultivate Rye.
Rye ought never to be sown upon wet soils, nor even upon sandy soils where the subsoil is of a retentive nature. Upon downs, links, and all soft lands which have received manure, this grain thrives in perfection, and, if once covered in, will stand a drought afterwards that would consume any other of the culmiferous tribe. The several processes may be regarded as nearly the same with those recommended for wheat, with the single exception of pickling, which rye does bot require. Rye may be sown either in winter or spring, though the winter-seeding fields are generally bulkiest and most productive. It may succeed either summer fallow, clover or turnips; even after oats good crops have been raised, and where such crops are raised the land will always be found in good condition.
To cultivate Beans.
Beans naturally succeed a culmiferous crop, and we believe it is not of much importance which of the varieties is followed, provided the ground be in decent order, and not worn out by the previous crop. The furrow ought to be given early in winter, and as deep as possible, that the earth may be sufficiently loosened, and room afforded for the roots of the plant to search for the requisite nourishment. The first furrow is usually given across the field, which is the best method when only one spring furrow is intended; but as it is now ascertained that two spring furrows are highly advantageous, the one in winter ought to be given in length, which lays the ground in a better situation for resisting the rains, and renders it sooner dry in spring than can be the case when ploughed across. On the supposition that three furrows are to be given, one in winter and two in spring, the following is the most eligible preparation:
Approved Modes of Drilling.
The land being ploughed in length as early in winter as is practicable, and the gaw and headland furrows sufficiently digged out, take the second furrow across the first as soon as the ground is dry enough in spring to undergo the operation; water-furrow it immediately, and dig again the gaw and headland furrows, otherwise the benefit of the second furrow may be lost. This being done, leave the field for some days, till it is sufficiently dry, when a cast of the harrows becomes necessary, so that the surface may be levelled. Then enter with the ploughs and form the drills, which are generally made up with an internal of twenty-seven inches. In the hollow of this interval deposit the seed by a drill-barrow, and reverse or slit out the drills to cover the seed, which finishes the process for the time. In ten or twelve days afterwards, according to the state of the weather, cross-harrow the drills, thereby levelling the field for the hoeing process. Water-furrow the whole in a neat manner, and spade and shovel the gaw and the headland furrows, which concludes the whole process.
This is the most approved way of drilling beans. The next best is to give only one spring furrow, and to run the drill-barrow after every third plough, in which way the intervals are nearly of the same extent as already mentioned. Harrowing is afterwards required before the young plants reach the surface, and water-furrowing, etc., as above described.
Dung is often given to beans, especially when they succeed wheat which has not received manure. The best way is to apply the dung on the stubble before the winter furrow is given, which greatly facilitates the after process. Used in this way, a fore stock must be in hand; but where the farmer is not so well provided spring dunging becomes necessary, though evidently of less advantage. At that season it may either be put into the drills before the seed is sown or spread upon the surface and ploughed down, according to the nature of the drilling process which is meant to be adopted. Land dunged to beans, if duly hoed, is always in high order for carrying a crop of wheat in succession. Perhaps better wheat, both in respect to quantity and quality, may be cultivated in this way than in any other mode of sowing.
Different machines have been invented for drilling beans, but the most common and handy is one of the narrow form. This hand drill is pushed forward by a man or woman, and will, according as the brush or director is lowered or heightened, sow thicker or thinner, as may be expedient and necessary. Another machine; drawn by a horse, and sowing three drills at a time, has been constructed, and upon flat lands will certainly distribute the seed with the most minute exactness. Upon unequal fields, and even on those laid out in high ridges, the use of this machine is attended with a degree of inconvenience sufficient to balance its advantages. The hand-drill, therefore, in all probability, will be retained for general use, though the other is capable of performing the work with minuter regularity.
Quantity of Seed.
Less than four bushels ought not to be hazarded if a full crop is expected. We seldom have seen thin beans turn out well, unless the soil is particularly rich; nay, unless the rows close, weeds will get away after the cleaning process is finished, thereby disappointing the object of drilling and rendering the system of little avail towards keeping the ground in good condition.
Beans are cleaned in various ways: 1st. By the handhoe. 2nd. By the scraper, or Dutch hoe. 3d. By a plough of small domensions, but constructed upon the principles of the approved swing plough. Ploughs with double mould-boards are likewise used to earth them up, and with all good managers the weeds in the drills which cannot be touched by the hoe are pulled out by the hand; otherwise no field can be considered as fully cleaned.
In treating of the cleaning process we shall confine ourselves to the one most suited to the generality of bean soils. About ten or twelve days after the young plants have appeared above the surface, enter with the scraper, and loosen any weeds that may have vegetated. At this time the wings or cutters of the implement ought to be particularly sharp, so that the scraper may not run too deep and throw the earth upon the plants. In about ten days after the ground is scraped, according to the state of the weather, and other circumstances, use the small swing plough to lay the earth away from the sides of the rows, and in doing so go as near to the plants as possible, taking care at the same time not to loosen their roots. If any weeds stand in the rows pull them out with the hand, afterwards earth-up the plants with the small swing plough, or run the scraper in the intervals, as may seem expedient.
To manage the Harvest.
Before beans are cut the grain ought to be tolerably well ripened, otherwise the quality is impaired, whilst a long time is required to put the straw in such a condition as to be preserved in the stack. In an early harvest, or where the crop is not weighty, it is an easy matter to get beans sufficiently ripened: but, in a late harvest, and in every one where the crop takes on a second growth, it is scarcely practicable to get them thoroughly ripened for the sickle. Under these circumstances it is unnecessary to let beans stand uncut after the end of September or the first of October, because any benefit that can be gained afterwards is not to be compared with the disadvantages that accompany a late wheat seed time. Beans are usually cut with the sickle and tied in sheaves, either with straw ropes or with ropes made from peas sown along with them. It is proper to let the sheaves lie untied several days, so that the winding process may be hastened, and, when tied, to set them up on end, in order that full benefit from air may be obtained and the grain kept off the ground. In building bean stacks it is a useful measure for preserving both grain and straw from injury, to keep an opening in the centre, and to convey air from the extremity by a hole or funnel. Beans, on the whole, are a troublesome crop to the farmer, through of great utility in other respects. Without them heavy soils can scarcely be managed with advantage, unless summer fallow is resorted to once in four years; but by the aid derived from drilled beans summer fallow may be avoided for eight years, whilst the ground at that period will be found in equal, if not superior condition.
To cultivate Peas.
Peas are partially sown with beans to great advantage, and when cultivated in this way the same system of preparation, etc., described under the head of beans is to be adopted. Indeed, upon many soils not deep enough for beans, a mixture of peas to the extent of one-third of the seed sown proves highly advantageous. The beans serve as props to the peas, and the latter being thus kept off the ground and furnished with air and other atmospheric nutriment, blossom and pod with much greater effect than when sown according to the broadcast system.
Peas agree well with lime and other analogous stimulants, and can hardly be reaped in perfection where these are wanting. The varieties cultivated are numerous, but those adapted to field culture may be divided into two kinds, namely, early and late, though these branch out again into several varieties. We have white peas both early and late, and likewise gray peas, possessed of similar properties. The nomenclature is entirely arbitrary, and therefore not to be illustrated. As a general rule the best seed time for late peas is in the early spring, though early ones, such as the Extra Early and Bluo Imperial peas may be sown successfully later in the season.
Peas ought to be sown tolerably thick, so that the ground may be covered as early as possible.
To cultivate Tares.
The tare is a plant of a hardy growth, and when sown upon rich land will return a large supply of green fodder for the consumption of horses or for fattening cattle. When intended for this use, the seed ought to be sown tolerably thick, perhaps to the extent of four bushels per acre, though when intended to stand for seed a less quantity is required, because otherwise the thickness of the crop will prevent the plants from blossoming and podding in a sufficient way. When meant for seed early sowing ought to be studied, otherwise the return will be imperfect; but when for green food any time betwixt the first of April and the latter end of May will answer well, provided crops in succession from the first to the last mentioned period be regularly cultivated. Instances are not wanting of a full crop being obtained even when the seed was sown so late as the middle of June, though sowing so late is a practice not to be recommended. After the seed is sown and the land carefully harrowed, a light roller ought to be drawn across, so that the surface may be smoothed, and the scythe permitted to work without interruption. It is proper also to guard the field for several days against the depredations of pigeons, who are remarkably fond of tares, and will pick up a great part of the seed unless constantly watched.
Horses thrive very well upon tares, even better than they do upon clover and rye-grass; and the same remark is applicable to fattening cattle, who feed faster upon this article of green fodder than upon any kind of grass or esculent with which we are acquainted. Danger often arises from their eating too many, especially when podded; as colics and other stomach disorders are apt to be produced by the excessive loads which they devour.
Potatoes, as an article of human food, are, next to wheat, of the greatest importance in the eye of a political economist. From no other crop that can be cultivated will the public derive so much food as from this valuable esculent; and it admits of demonstration that an acre of potatoes will feed double the number of people that can be fed from an acre of wheat. Very good varieties are the Gleason, Calico, and Early Goodrich.
To prepare the Ground.
To reduce the ground till it is completely free from root-weeds, may be considered as a desiderutum in potato husbandry; though in many seasons these operations cannot be perfectly executed, without losing the proper time for planting, which never ought to be beyond the first of May, if circumstances do not absolutely interdict it. Three ploughings, with frequent harrowings and rollings, are necessary in most cases before the land is in suitable condition. When this is accomplished form the drills as if they were for turnips; cart the manure, which ought not to be sparingly applied, plant the seed above the manure, reverse the drills for covering it and the seed, then harrow the drills in length, which completes the preparation and seed process.
Quantity of Seed.
It is not advantageous to cut the seed into small slips, for the strength of the stem at the outset depends in direct proportion upon the vigor and power of the seed-plant. The seed plant, therefore, ought to be large, rarely smaller than the fourth-part of the potato; and if the seed is of small size, one-half of the potato may be profitably used. At all events, rather err in giving over large seed than in making it too small because, by the first error, no great loss can ever be sustained; whereas, by the other, feeble and late crop may be the consequence. When the seed is properly cut, it requires from ten to twelve hundredweight of potatoes to plant an acre of ground, where the rows are twenty seven inches apart; but this quantity depends greatly upon the size of the potatoes used; if they are large, a greater weight may be required, but the extra quantity will be abundantly repaid by the superiority of crop which large seed usually produces.
Advantageous Method of raising them.
The earth should be dug twelve inches deep, if the soil will allow it; after this, a hole should be opened about six inches deep, and horse-dung or long litter should be put therein, about three inches thick; this hole should not be more than twelve inches in diameter. Upon this dung or litter a potato should be planted whole, upon which a little more dung should be shaken, and then the earth should be put thereon. In like manner the whole plot of ground must be planted, taking care that the potatoes be at least sixteen inches apart. When the young shoots make their appearance they should have fresh mould drawn around them with a hoe; and if the tender shoots are covered, it will prevent the frost from injuring them; they should again be earthed when the shoots make a second appearance, but not covered, as in all probability the season will be less severe.
A plentiful supply of mould should be given them, and the person who performs this business should never tread upon the plant, or the hillock that is raised round it, as the lighter the earth is the more room the potato will have to expand.
A gentleman obtained from a single root, thus planted, very nearly forty pounds weight of large potatoes, and from almost every other root upon the same plot of ground from fifteen to twenty pounds weight; and, except the soil be stony or gravelly, ten pounds or half a peck of potatoes may generally be obtained from each root by pursuing the foregoing method.
But note - cuttings or small sets will not do for this purpose.
Mode of Taking up and Storing the Crop.
Potatoes are generally dug up with a three-prong grape or fork, but at other times, when the weather is dry, the plough is used, which is the most expeditious implement. After gathering the interval, the furrow taken by the plough is broken and separated, in which way the crop may be more completely gathered than when taken up by the grape. The potatoes are then stored up for winter and spring use; and as it is of importance to keep them as long through summer as possible, every endeavor ought to be made to preserve them from frost, and from sprouting in the spring months. The former is accomplished by covering them well with straw when lodged in a house, and by a thick coat of earth when deposited in a pit, and the latter, by picking them carefully at different times, when they begin to sprout, drying them sufficiently by exposure to the sun, or by a gentle toast of a kiln.
Method of Cultivating Potatoes in Ireland.
The drill system, in the cultivation of potatoes in Ireland, is particularly recommended by Lord Farnham, in a letter to Sir John Sinclair. The small farmers and laborers plant them in lazy-beds, eight feet wide. This mode is practised on account of the want of necessary implements for practicing the drill system, together with a want of horses for the same purpose.
They are cut into sets, three from a large potato; and each set to contain at least one eye. The sets are planted at the distance of seven inches asunder, six and a quarter cwt. are considered sufficient seed for an English acre. Lord Farnham recommends rotten dung in preference to any fresh dung. If not to be procured, horse-dung, hot from the dunghill. In any soil he would recommend the dung below the seed.
When the potatoes are vegetated ten inches above the surface, the scuffler must be introduced, and cast the mold from the potato. If any weeds are found in the drills they must be hand-hoed; in three days afterwards they must be moulded up by the double-breasted plough, as high as the neck of the potato. This mode must be practiced twice, or in some cases three times, particularly if the land is foul. I do not (says Lord Farnham) consider any mode so good as the drill system.
To prepare for the drill system either oat or wheat stubble, it should be ploughed in October or the beginning of November; to be ploughed deep and laid up for winter dry. In March let it be harrowed, and give it three clean earths. Be very particular to eradicate the couch grass. The drills to be three feet asunder; drill deep the first time that there is room in the bottom of the furrow to contain the dung. The best time to begin planting the potatoes is about the latter end of April by this system. It is as good a preparation for wheat as the best fallows.
Three feet and a half for drills are preferable to four feet. Mr. Curwen prefers four feet and a half. He says the produce is immense. Potatoes ought to be cut at least from two to three weeks before being planted; and if planted very early whole potatoes are preferable to cut ones, and dung under and over. Some agriculturists lately pay much attention to raising seedling potatoes, with the hope of renewing the vigor of the plant.
To produce early Potatoes in great Quantity.
Early potatoes may be produced in great quantity by resetting the plants, after taking off the ripe and large ones. A gentleman at Dumfries has replanted them six different times in one season, without any additional manure; and, instead of falling off in quantity, he gets a larger crop of ripe ones at every raising than the former ones. His plants have still on them three distinct crops, and he supposes they may still continue to vegetate and germinate until they are stopped by the frost. By this means he has a new crop every eight days, and has had so for a length of time.
To grow Potatoes constantly on the same piece of Ground.
Let the cuttings be made from the finest potatoes instead of the smallest and worst, usually employed for the purpose; and it will be found, contrary to what is supposed by farmers, that they will not degenerate. The same will happen with respect to the seeds of the watery squash, early peas, and several other kinds of vegetables.
To preserve Potatoes from Frost.
This is best done by filling completely the place where they are deposited, whether it be a house or a pit, and allowing the place to remain shut during the winter. But this cannot be done easily with a potato-house, as it cannot be completely packed or filled like a pit. Besides, some potatoes are generally wanted daily, and thus air is admitted and a greater vacuity constantly making, both very likely to be the means of proving injurious or destructive to what potatoes may be in the house when a severe frost sets in. There is no such thing in nature as a vacuum; therefore, if a place is not filled with some substance or other, it will be filled with air. For this reason, pits are better for preserving potatoes from frost than a house, because a pit can be more effectually filled: and, by opening a pit when potatoes are wanted, and removing the whole into some part of a house, and still keeping over them a covering of straw or turf, the potatoes are kept close. A potato-house, however, is very useful, and what every farmer ought to have, as in this house he may still keep a small quantity of his crop for daily use by emptying it occasionally, and keeping them always well covered with straw, as has been already mentioned.
The potato-house ought to be well plastered with clay, and perfectly dry before using it.
Potato-pits should be made upon ground that has a southern exposure, a deep soil, and declining to a considerable distance from the pit. In a deep soil the pits can be made sufficiently deep before reaching and cold bottom, and the declivity carries away water. When the pits have been fully finished and covered, a sod should be cut out all the way round the potatoes, and the cut contined a little way as the descent points out. A pit of about ten feet deep, six wide and ten long, will hold from four to six cart loads of potatoes. The covering should consist of strew, fern, rushes, etc. next the potato, then the whole of the earth dug out should be thrown upon the heap; and, last of all, a covering of earth, if done in the best way. This covering will be about two feet thick.
The best and easiest way of preserving potatoes is for the farmer to drive all his potatoes home, and to lay them upon dry ground without breaking the surface, and as near the stables as possible, putting them in heaps of about three or four carts, then covering them with straw, and above that with turf, where it can be commanded, or with a neat thatching of straw. Then let a quantity of stable dung, of the roughest kind and the newest, be laid upon each heap, to remain during the winter, but which must be removed in the spring. As the weather appears severe, the quantity of dung may be increased at pleasure. If this practice were adopted few or no potatoes would be penetrated by the frost, as none would be in hazard except one pit, or part of it, when it was removing or placed in the potato-house during the winter season.
To remove Frost from Potatoes.
The weather which soonest injures and destroys potatoes, is when the atmosphere is depressed with cold to such a degree that it congeals water; then potatoes, unless covered, will be frosted; and the cover proper to preserve them ought to be proportioned to the intenseness of the weather.
Potatoes, when slightly frosted, so as to have acquired a slight sweet taste only, are often found quite wet. When they are in this state, in order to recover them, and bring them to a proper taste, the whole quantity infected should be turned over, and a quantity of mill-seeds thrown among them as they are turned over; this both extracts and absorbs the injured moisture from the body of the potatoes infected. But there is still a more powerful remedy than simply mixing them with mill-seeds, and that is a small quantity of slaked lime, perfectly dry, mixed among the seeds to be used, which has a very wonderful effect in recovering potatoes that have been considerably injured by frost.
When frosted potatoes are to be used, either at the table, or given to horses, black cattle or swine, plunging them in cold water, about half a day before using them, is of great advantage; and if put into running water so much the better, as it has been proved to be more powerful in extracting the frost, on account of its alterative quality and superior purity.
Another way of removing frost from potatoes, when they are to be prepared for the table, is to strip them of their skins, and, if large, to cut them into two or more pieces; then to plunge them into cold water for a considerable time, with a handful of salt in the water; and, when put on to be boiled, put as much salt into the water as possible, not to make them too salt when boiled.
This is a powerful way of making the potato throw off the bad taste and spoiled quality lodged in its substance.
When prepared for horses, black cattle, and swine: Salt put among the potatoes and boiled together, will destroy any injurious quality which frost has lodged or brought on. Chaff or oats bruised in a mill, boiled with the frosted potatoes, when designed for horses or cattle, tend to destroy the bad effects of the frost.
Uses to which Frosted Potatoes may be beneficialy applied.
When potatoes have acquired a disagreeable taste by means of frost, they will make good and wholesome bread by boiling them, as has been mentioned, with salt, mashing or bruising them small, then kneading them together with oatmeal. Not less than two-thirds should consist of meal, which will destroy the sweet taste, and the dry and generous quality of the meal will effectually correct and destroy anything noxious in the injured roots.
Horses, swine, dogs, etc., may all be fed with potatoes, though frosted, by boiling them and mixing then with oats coarsely ground, or with oat-meal, always adding a good quantity of salt in the mixture. Poultry also may be fed with potatoes very much frosted, if mixed with oat-meal in about equal proportions, without salt, as this species of animal cannot admit of it.
Further uses of Frosted Potatoes.
Potatoes frosted, when three times distilled, produce a spirit from hydrometer proof to ten per cent. over proof; therefore a principal purpose and use to which they may be turned, is the making of alcohol, more particularly as that article is useful for many purposes where strength is its principal recommendation. The ordinary strength that spirits are run preparatory to converting them into alcohol, is from forty to fifty per cent. over proof, which, redistilled from calcined carbonate of potash, will produce alcohol at 825, water being 1000.
When potatoes are frosted to such a degree as to be useless for food from their sweet taste, they are very useful to weavers in dressing their yarn, and particularly cotton. They are prepared for this purpose by boiling them well, then mash or beat them small; then put them into a vessel, adding a little warm drippings of ale or porter barrels, allowing them to stand two or three months to ferment.
Shoemakers may use it also; only as their paste requires more solidity and greater strength, flour is generally mixed along with the fermented potatoes in about equal proportions.
Bookbinders also may use this paste, alum being mixed to assist the strength of the composition. And it may be beneficially used by paper stainers and upholsterers, when made up with a mixture of flour and alum.
When potatoes are so penetrated with frost that they have become quite soft, they are useless for man or beast, but make excellent manure for light, sharp soils, and for this purpose are worth about one-fifth or sixth of their original value. In places where it is a great object to get straw turned into dung, the value of the frosted potato is still greater, as it assists the farmer in that operation.
To make Starch from Frosted Potatoes.
Potatoes much frosted will make very good starch, though it is a shade darker in color. All coarse clothes requiring to be stiffened, where whiteness is no object, may be done with starch made from potatoes greatly penetrated with frost. The best method of making potatoes into starch is to grate them down into water, then to take out all the refuse with the hand, and next to strain the whole of the water in which the potatoes have been grated through a thin cloth, rather coarse, or fine sieve, and afterwards frequently putting on and pouring off water until it comes clear from the starch, which is always allowed to settle or fall to the bottom of the vessel in which the operation is performed. An experiment was tried with a few potatoes that were put out to frost. They were grated down and made into starch powder. The produce of the fresh potato weighed 876 grains, while that of the frosted was only 412, being less than half the quantity.
The refuse of the potato, when taken from the sieve, possesses the property of cleansing woollen cloths without hurting their colors, and the water decanted from the starch powder is excellent for cleansing silks without the smallest injury to their color. In making hair-powder it has long been used, and is therefore well known.
The benefits derived from turnip husbandry are of great magnitude; light soils are cultivated with profit and facility; abundance of food is provided for man and beast; the earth is turned to the uses for which it is physically calculated, and by being suitably cleaned with this preparatory crop, a bed is provided for grass seeds, wherein they flourish and prosper with greater vigor than after any other preparation.
To prepare the Ground.
The first ploughing is given immediately after harvest, or as soon as the wheat seed is finished, either in length or across the field, as circumstances may seem to require. In this state the ground remains till the oat seed is finished, when a second ploughing is given to it, usually in a contrary direction to the first. It is then repeatedly harrowed, often rolled between the harrowings and every particle of root-weeds carefully picked off with the hand; a third ploughing is then bestowed, and the other operations are repeated. In this stage, if the ground has not been very foul, the seed process generally commences, but often a fourth ploughing, sometimes a fifth is necessary before the ground is sufficiently clean. Less labor, however, is necessary now than in former times, when a more regular mode of cropping was commonly followed.
To sow the Seed.
The next part of the process is the sowing of the seed; this may be performed by drilling machines of different sizes and constructions, through all acting on the same principle. A machine drawn by a horse in a pair of shafts, sows two drills at a time and answers extremely well, where the ground is flat, and the drills properly made up. The weight of the machine insures a regularity of sowing hardly to be gained by those of a different size and construction. From two to three pounds of seed are sown upon the acre, though the smallest of these quantities will give many more plants in ordinary seasons than are necessary; but as the seed is not an expensive article the greater part of farmers incline to sow thick, which both provides against the danger of part of the seed perishing, and gives the young plants an advantage at the outset.
Turnips are sown from the beginning to the end of June, but the second and third weeks of the month are, by judicious farmers, accounted the most proper time. Some people have sown as early as May, and with advantage, but these early fields are apt to run to seed before winter, especially if the autumn be favorable to vegetation. As a general rule it may be laid down that the earliest sowings should be on the latest soils; plants on such soils are often long before they make any great progress, and, in the end, may be far behind those in other situations, which were much later sown. The turnip plant, indeed, does not thrive rapidly till its roots reach the dung, and the previous nourishment afforded them is often so scanty as to stunt them altogether before they get so far.
The first thing to be done in this process is to run a horse-hoe, called a scraper, along the intervals, keeping at such a distance from the young plants that they shall not be injured; this operation destroys all the annual weeds which have sprung up, and leaves the plants standing in regular stripes or rows. The hand hoeing then commences, by which the turnips are all singled out at a distance of from eight to twelve inches, and the redundant ones drawn into the spaces between the rows. The singling out of the young plants is an operation of great importance, for an error committed in this process can hardly be afterwards rectified. Boys and girls are always employed as hoers; but a steady and trusty man-servant is usually set over them to see that the work is properly executed.
In eight or ten days, or such a length of time as circumstances may require, a horse-hoe of a different construction from the scraper is used. This, in fact, is generally a small plough, of the same kind with that commonly wrought, but of smaller dimensions. By this implement, the earth is pared away from the sides of the drills, and a sort of new ridge formed in the middle of the former interval. The hand-hoers are again set to work, and every weed and superfluous turnip is cut up; afterwards the horse-hoe is employed to separate the earth, which it formerly threw into the furrows, and lay it back to the sides of the drills. On dry lands this is done by the scraper, but where the least tendency to moisture prevails, the small plough is used, in order that the furrows may be perfectly cleaned out. This latter mode, indeed, is very generally practiced.
To cultivate the Yellow Turnip.
This variety, as now cultivated in the field, is quite different from the yellow garden turnip, being larger in size, containing more juice, or nutritive substance, much easier cultivated, and preserving its power till the middle of May, when the grass-season may be expected. Upon ordinary soils it is superior to ruta baga, because it will grow to a considerable weight, where the other would be stunted or starved; and it stands the frost equally well. No farmer who keeps stock to any extent should be without it. The mode of culture required is in every respect similar to what is stated concerning common turnips, with these exceptions, that earlier sowing is necessary, and that the plants need not be set out so wide as they do not swell to such a size.
Ruta Baga or Swedish Turnip.
The process of management is precisely the same with that of turnips, with this addition, that more dung is required, and that seed-time ought to be three or four weeks earlier. Rich soil, however, is required for this article; for it will not grow to any size worthwhile, on soils of middling quality, whatever quality of dung may be required.
Ruta baga is of great advantage in the feeding of horses, either when given raw or boiled, or with broken corn. If a sufficient quality were cultivated a great deal of grain might be saved, while the health and condition of the working stock would be greatly invigorated and augmented. An evening feed of this nutritious article would be of incalculable benefit; most horses are fond even of the common turnip in a raw state; and it is a subject well worthy of every farmer's attention, whether it would not be for his interest to raise these esculents in such a quantity as to serve them during the long period when grass cannot be obtained. That the health of the animals would thereby be benefited is unquestionable, and the saving of grain would greatly exceed the trouble occasioned by furnishing a daily supply of these roots.
To destroy the Fly on Turnips.
Lime sown by the hand, or distributed by a machine, is an infallible protection to turnips against the ravages of the fly. It should be applied as soon as the turnips come up, and in the same daily rotation in which they were sown. The lime should be slaked immediately before it is used; if the air be not sufficiently moist to render that operation unnecessary.
Another Method. - Let the farmer carefully watch his turnips as they come up, and whenever the fly makes its appearance, take a certain quantity of brimstone, about two and a half or three pounds to an acre; put this into a kettle, and melt it in the turnip-field, in a situation the most eligible for the wind to carry the fume over the ground; then take any combustible matter calculated to make a considerable smoke, which, being dipped in the liquid brimstone, must be strewn all over the field in a state of ignition, and so close together that the fumes of the burning matter may completely cover every part of the ground. The decoction of the bitter almond is more fatal to the lives of insects and worms than almost any other vegetable or mineral poison. It is made by infusing the bitter almond powder (the ground cakes that remain after expressing the oil) in warm water for twenty-four hours; twenty-eight pounds will make forty gallons, a sufficient quantity for a large garden.
Remedy against the Bite of the Turnip Fly.
It is upon the principle of creating an offensive smell that turnip seed is recommended to be steeped in train oil before it is sown. This has been found to be a perfect security against the bite of the turnip fly.
To prevent the Fly in Turnips.
Sow good and fresh seed in well-manured and wellprepared ground.
To prevent the increase of Pismires in Grass Lands newly laid down.
Make a strong decoction of walnut-tree leaves, and after opening several of the pismire's sandy habitations, pour upon them a quantity of the liquor, just sufficient to fill the hollow of each heap; after the middle has been scooped, throw in the contents from the sides, and press down the whole mass with the foot, till it becomes level with the rest of the field. This, if not found effectual at first, must be repeated a second or a third time, where they will infallibly be destroyed.
To preserve Growing Crops from the Devastation of Vermin.
The good effects of elder in preserving plants from insects and flies are experienced in the following cases:-
1. For preventing cabbages and cauliflower plants from being devoured and damaged by caterpillars.
2. For preventing blights, and their effects on fruit trees.
3. For preserving corn from yellow flies and other insects.
4. For securing turnips from the ravages of flies.
The dwarf elder appears to exhale a much more fetid smell than the common elder, and therefore should be preferred.
To Check the Ravages of the Turnip Fly.
Suppose that the farmer had no objection to bestow five pounds of seed per acre, in order to secure his crop of turnips. If he sows broad cast, let him medicate one half of the seed, in the manner to be afterwards explained, leaving the other half unprepared. The latter may be sown one day, and the medicated a day or two after, so as to give a start to the other. The medicated will in that case, escape from the attacks of the fly or beetle. If the slug, however, does appear, rolling in the night is necessary. It the farmer drills his turnips after the land is prepared for the drill, two and a half pounds of the unmedicated seed should be sown broadcast, and a day or two afterwards the medicated seed sown in the drills. In this way a crop may be obtained, at least by the industrious farmer who does not grudge a little trouble to secure a good one. He will find that the plants sown broadcast will give full employment to the fly, till the less savory plants in the drill pass the moment of danger. As to preparing or medicating the seed, sulphur is so obnoxious to the whole insect tribe, and at the same time so favorable to vegetation, that it seems entitled to a preference. The turnip seed may be a little damped, and then mixed with the flour of sulphur, at the rate of two ounces of sulphur to one pound of seed; or let the seed he steeped in a liquor formed by boiling three parts of lime to one of sulphur, and 100 parts of water. This steep is much approved of for all such purposes. It is not improbable that the same liquid in which wheat is commonly pickled would prove a preservative against the fly. It may be proper to add, that when the season is very dry, it has been found a most useful practice to moisten the dung well before it is inserted into the drill, to spread the dung very rapidly in the rows, and instantly to sow, at the rate of four pounds of turnip seed per acre, upon the dung. The ground should then be gathered up into bouts twenty-seven inches wide, by the going and returning of the plough.
The seeds are thus put in contact with the wet dung. Many perish, but a sufficient number escape to produce a good crop. In this case, the sowing any unmedicated seed broadcast may be dispensed with.
To cultivate San-foin.
Chalky loams and gravelly soils on a calcareous bottom, are most proper for this grass. It is more adapted to hay than pasture, and much heavier crops of this grass are obtained from thin lands than when clover is sown. San-foin is a hardy kind of grass, well worth the attention of cultivators in upland districts where the soil is obdurate and shallow, and where clover and rye-grass can with difficulty be raised to such a height as to stand the scythe. When sown, fresh seed ought constantly to be used, as the vegetation of old seed cannot be depended upon. Four bushels may be used for an acre, and great care ought to be taken to cover the seed well, and to put it deeper into the ground than the seeds of other grasses.
To preserve Grain from Vermin.
To preserve rye and secure it from insects and rats, nothing more is necessary than not to winnow it after it is threshed, and to stow it in the granaries mixed with the chaff. In this state it has been kept for more than three years, without experiencing the smallest alteration, and even without the necessity of being turned to preserve it from humidity and fermentation. Rats and mice may be prevented from entering the barn by putting some wild vine or hedge plants upon the heaps; the smell of this wood is so offensive to these animals that they will not approach it.
To prevent the Destruction of Corn by Insects.
In laying the floors of a granary let Italian poplars be made use of for the timber. Many experiments show that granaries, after laying down this flooring, will no longer be infested with weevils, etc.
To destroy Slugs upon Wheat.
Collect a number of lean ducks, keep them all day without food, and turn them into the fields towards evening; each duck would devour the slugs much faster than a man could collect them and they would soon get very fat for market.
To prevent the Ravages of Mice in Corn Stacks.
The following simple remedy against the depredations of mice in corn stacks, has lately been recommended for its undoubted efficacy. Sprinkle from four to six bushels of dry white sand upon the root of the stack before the thatch is put on. The sand is no detriment to the corn, and stacks thus dressed have remained without injury. So very effective is the remedy, that nests of dead young mice have been found where the sand has been used, but not a live mouse could be seen.
To clear Barns and Out-houses from Mites and Weevils.
The following method is practiced in Germany for granaries infested with mites and weevils. Let the walls and rafters, above and below, of such granaries be covered completely with quick-lime slaked in water, in which trefoil, wormwood, and hyssop have been boiled. This composition should be applied as hot as possible. A farmer who had the granaries empty in June last, collected quantities of the largest sized ants in sacks, and scattered them about the places infested with weevils. The ants immediately fell upon and devoured them all.
To destroy Slugs on Land.
Procure some fresh lime, and after throwing as much water upon it as will reduce it to a powder, sow the lime in a hot state upon the land that is overrun with the vermin, at the rate of about twelve bushels to the acre. The lime should be sown towards the wind, and falling upon them in a fermented state, it will instantly kill them.
Usefulness of the Hedgehog.
This little animal, the object of persecution, not only to little boys but to the farmer and gamekeeper, on account of its supposed mischievous propensities, is in fact one which the agriculturist should endeavor to preserve, as it is the most effectual destroyer of snails, worms, and insects, on which it almost entirely subsists. A garden in which a hedgehog is kept, will, in the course of two or three nights, be entirely freed from slugs; and that enemy to fruit, the millepede, is a favorite food to him. The London gardeners are so aware of this, as often to purchase hedgehogs to put in their grounds. If it ever has been found eating poultry or fame, as has by some been asserted, they must previously have been killed by rats, weasels, or some more ferocious animal than the hedgehog, whose habits are those of gentleness and timidity, who is not formed for attack, and whose sole mode of defense is rolling itself up in a ball and opposing its strong prickles to the enemy. This statement is given in the hope of rescuing a harmless and useful creature from the general abhorrence in which it is held, and the unmerciful treatment it meets with.
Farmers should be friendly to birds, as they are of the greatest service in destroying worms and insects, and thus preserving the crops and fruits. The small amount of vegetable food they consume is thus much more than compensated for. Sparrows are especially useful in this way.
To destroy Weeds.
To clear the ground of weeds is an operation no less necessary in husbandry than the disposing it to produce vegetables of any kind in plenty.
Annual weeds, or such as spring from seed and die the same year, are most easily destroyed. For this purpose, it will be sufficient to let them spring up till near the time of ripening their seed, and then plough them down before it comes to maturity. It is also of service to destroy such weeds as grow in borders or neglected corners, and frequently scatter their seeds to a great distance, such as the thistle, dandelion, rag-weed, etc., for these propagate their species through a deal of ground, as their seeds are carried about with the wind to very considerable distances. A farmer ought also to take care that the small seeds of weeds, separated from corn in winnowing, be not sown again upon the ground; for this certainly happens when they are thrown upon a dunghill, because, being the natural offspring of the earth, they are not easily destroyed. The best method of preventing any mischief from this cause it to burn them.
Perennial Weeds are such as are propagated by the roots, and last for a number of years. They cannot be effectually destroyed but by removing the roots from the ground, which is often a matter of some difficulty. The only method that can be depended upon in this case is frequent ploughing to render the ground as tender as possible, and harrowing with a particular kind of harrow, in order to collect these pernicious roots. When collected, they ought to be dried and burnt, as the only effectual method of insuring their doing no farther mischief.
To destroy Broom, Furze, and Thorns.
Besides those kinds of weeds which are of an herbaceous nature, there are others which are woody, and grow to a very considerable size; such as broom, furze and thorns. The first may be destroyed by frequent ploughing and harrowing, in the same manner as other perennial weeds are. Another method of destroying broom is by pasturing the field where it grows with sheep.
The best method of extirpating furze is to set fire to it in frosty weather, for frost has the effect of withering and making them burn readily. The stumps must then be cut over with a hatchet, and when the ground is well softened by rain it may be ploughed up, and the roots taken out by a harrow adapted to that purpose. If the field is soon laid down to grass they will again spring up; in this case, pasturing with sheep is an effectual remedy. The thorn, or bramble, can only be extirpated by ploughing up the ground and collecting the roots.
Usefulness of Mowing Weeds.
In the month of June weeds are in their most succulent state, and in this condition, after they have lain a few hours to wither, hungry cattle will eat greedily almost every species. There is scarcely a hedge, border, or a nook, but what at that season is valuable; and it certainly must be good management to embrace the transient opportunity, for in a few weeks they will become nuisances.
To banish Crows from a Field.
Machinery of various kinds, such as wind-mills in miniature, horse rattles, etc., to be put in motion by the wind, are often employed to frighten crows; but with all of these they soon become familiar, when they cease to be of any use whatever.
The most effectual method of banishing them from a field,, as far as experience goes, is to combine with one or other of the scarecrows in vogue the frequent use of the musket. Nothing strikes such terror into these sagacious animals as the sight of a fowling-piece and the explosion of gun powder, which they have known so often to be fatal to their race. Such is their dread of a fowling-piece, that if one is placed upon a dyke or other eminence, it will for a long time prevent them from alighting on the adjacent grounds. Many persons now, however, believe that crows like most other birds, do more good by destroying insects and worms, etc., than harm by eating grain.
To cultivate Carrots.
To command crops of this root, manure the land with twenty-five or thirty loads of dung per acre, pretty rotten, plough it in, and then cover the seed by harrowing. The dung neither injures the taste of the carrot, makes them grow deformed, nor causes the canker. A farmer's object is to produce as great a quantity as possible from every acre, which must undoubtedly be accomplished by manure. In confirmation of this opinion the following statement is given:
sown March 31,
Ton. lbs. Roots 9 1918 per acre. Tops 4 336 do. manured after Potatoes,
sown April 7.
Roots 12 1582 per acre. Tops 5 994 do.
The soil in both was exactly the same, and the dung half rotten. The preceding crop had in both instances been potatoes, and the quality of the carrots was similar in both cases. An extensive collection of such well authenticated experiments is better calculated to extend the boundaries of agricultural knowledge than all the theories and mere reasonings upon them yet published.
Mode of Cultivating Parsnips in Guernsey.
Although this root is cultivated in almost all the soils of that island, that is esteemed the best which consists of a good light loam, the deeper the better. If the loamy soil is not deep, the under soil at least should be opened, to allow of the free penetration of the roots.
If the land is not perfectly clear from coach grass and other weeds, it is pared with the paring-plough in October, and harrowed to remove the weeds. About the middle of February the land is prepared for sowing by means of two ploughs. A small plough precedes and opens the furrow to the depth of four inches, and is followed by a large plough drawn by four or six oxen and as many horses, which deepens the furrow to ten or fourteen inches. As soon as the clods are capable of being broken the harrowing commences, and is repeated till the soil is pulverized, and reduced nearly to the state of garden mould. All of the processes are intended to loosen the soil to as great a depth as possible.
The seed should not be more than a year old, as it is uncertain when of a greater age. It is sown broadcast, and on a day just so windy as to insure its regular spreading over the surface. The seed is then covered by the harrow. The quantity sown is from two to four quarts.
As soon as the plants are sufficiently strong, they are hand-weeded and thinned, and this operation must be repeated at least three times during the summer. The distance between the plants is ultimately about nine inches; and to save a portion of the labor a harrowing is sometimes given between the first and second weedings.
The first weeding is performed about the middle of May, and repeated when necessary till the beginning of July.
The roots are dug up about the middle of August, when they are thought to be most nutritious, and to fatten animals better than after the leaves are decayed. The quantity dug up at this season is not more than is required for two or three days' consumption. It is only in October that the root is fully ripe, when it may be dug up with forks and preserved dry in sheds during the winter; but it is usually left in the ground in Guernsey, where frost is rare, and taken up as it is wanted.
The parsnip is considered by the Guernsey farmers to be the most nutritious root known, superior even to the carrot and the potato. When small it is given to the animals whole, but when large it is sliced longitudinally. Hogs prefer this root to all others, and it makes excellent pork. Horses are equally fond of the parsnip, although from eating it with too much avidity it sometimes sticks in the throat. But this may easily be prevented by cutting the roots into pieces before they are given.
To cultivate Hemp.
The soils most suited to the culture of this plant are those of the deep, black, putrid vegetable kind, that are low, and rather inclined to moisture, and those of the deep mellow, loamy, or sandy descriptions. The quantity of produce is generally much greater on the former than on the latter; but it is said to be greatly inferior in quality. It may, however, be grown with success on lands of a less rich and fertile kind by proper care and attention in their culture and preperation.
To prepare the Ground.
In order to render the grounds proper for the reception of the crop, they should be reduced into a fine mellow state of mould, and be perfectly cleared from weeds, by repeated ploughings. When it succeeds grain crops, the work is mostly accomplished by three ploughings, and as many harrowings: the first being given immediately after the preceding crop is removed, the second early in the spring, and the last, or seed earth, just before the seed is to be put in. In the last ploughing, well rotted manure, in the proportion of fifteen or twenty, or good compost, in the quantity of twenty-five or thirty-three horse-cart loads, should be turned into the land; as without this it is seldom that good crops can be produced. The surface of the ground being left perfectly flat, and as free from furrows as possible; as by these means the moisture is more effectually retained, and the growth of the plants more fully promoted.
Quantity of Seed, etc.
It is of much importance in the cultivation of hemp crops that the seed be new, and of a good quality, which may in some measure be known by its feeling heavy in the hand, and being of a bright shining color.
The proportion of seed that is most commonly employed, is from two to three bushels, according to the quality of the land; but, as the crops are greatly injured by the plants standing too closely together, two bushels, or two bushels and a half may be a more advantageous quantity.
As the hemp plant is extremely tender in its early growth, care should be taken not to put the seed into the ground at so early a period, as that it may be liable to be injured by the effects of frost; nor to protract the sowing to so late a season as that the quality of the produce may be effected. The best season, on the drier sorts of land in the southern districts, is as soon as possible after the frosts are over in April; and, on the same descriptions of soil, in the more northern ones, towards the close of the same month or early in the ensuing one.
Method of Sowing.
The most general method of putting crops of this sort into the soil is the broadcast, the seed being dispersed over the surface of the land in as even a manner as possible, and afterwards covered in by means of a very light harrowing. In many cases, however, especially when the crops are to stand for seed, the drill method in rows, at small distances, might be had recourse to with advantage; as, in this way, the early growth of the plants would be more effectually promoted, and the land be kept in a more clean and perfect state of mould, which are circumstances of importance in such crops. In whatever method the seed is put in, care must constantly be taken to keep the birds from it for some time afterwards.
This sort of crop is frequently cultivated on the same piece of ground for a great number of years, without any other kind intervening; but, in such cases, manure must be applied with almost every crop, in pretty large proportions, to prevent the exhaustion that must otherwise take place. It may be sown after most sorts of grain crops, especially where the land possesses sufficient fertility, and is in a proper state of tillage.
As hemp, from its tall growth and thick foliage, soon covers the surface of the land, and prevents the rising of weeds, little attention is necessary after the seed has been put into the ground, especially where the broadcast method of sowing is practised; but, when put in by the drill machine, a hoeing or two may be had recourse to with advantage in the early growth of the crop.
In the culture of this plant, it is particularly necessary that the same piece of land grows both male and female, or what is sometimes denominated simple hemp. The latter kind contains the seed.
When the grain is ripe (which is known by its becoming of a whitish-yellow color, and a few of the leaves beginning to drop from the stems); this happens commonly about thirteen or fourteen weeks from the period of its being sown, according as the season may be dry or wet (the first sort being mostly ripe some weeks before the latter), the next operation is that of taking it from the ground; which is effected by pulling it up by the roots, in small parcels at a time, by the hand, taking care to shake off the mould well from them before the handsful are laid down. In some districts, the whole crop is pulled together, without any distinction being made between the different kinds of hemp; while, in others, it is the practice to separate and pull them at different times, according to their ripeness. The latter is obviously the better practice; as by pulling a large proportion of the crop before it is in a proper state of maturity, the quantity of produce must not only be considerably lessened, but its quality greatly injured by being rendered less durable.
After being thus pulled, it is tied up in small parcels, or what are sometimes termed baits.
Where crops of this kind are intended for seeding, they should be suffered to stand till the seed becomes in a perfect state of maturity, which is easily known by the appearance of it on inspection. The stems are then pulled and bound up, as in the other case, the bundles being set up in the same manner as grain, until the seed becomes so dry and firm as to shed freely. It is then either immediately threshed out upon large cloths for the purpose in the field, or taken home to have the operation afterwards performed.
Process of Grassing Hemp.
The hemp, as soon as pulled, is tied up in small bundles, frequently at both ends.
It is then conveyed to pits, or ponds of stagnant water, about six or eight feet in depth, such as have a clayey soil being in general preferred, and deposited in beds, according to their size, and depth, the small bundles being laid both in a straight direction and crosswise of each other, so as to bind perfectly together; the whole, being loaded with timber, or other materials, so as to keep the beds of hemp just below the surface of the water.
It is not usual to water more than four or five times in the same pit, till it has been filled with water. Where the ponds are not sufficiently large to contain the whole of the produce at once, it is the practice to pull the hemp only as it can be admitted into them, it being thought disadvantageous to leave the hemp upon the ground after being pulled. It is left in these pits four, five, or six days, or even more, according to the warmth of the season and the judgment of the operator, on his examining whether the hempy material readily separates from the reed or stem; and then taken up and conveyed to a pasture field which is clean and even, the bundles being loosened and spread out thinly, stem by stem, turning it every second or third day, especially in damp weather, to prevent its being injured by worms or other insects. It should remain in this situation for two, three, four, or more weeks, according to circumstances, and be then collected together when in a perfectly dry state, tied up into large bundles, and placed in some secure building until an opportunity is afforded for breaking it, in order to separate the hemp. By this means the process of grassing is not only shortened, but the more expensive ones of breaking, scutching, and bleaching the yarn, rendered less violent and troublesome.
After the hemp has been removed from the field it is in a state to be broken and swingled, operations that are mostly performed by common laborers, by means of machinery for the purpose, the produce being tied up in stones. The refuse collected in the latter process is denominated sheaves, and is in some districts employed for the purposes of fuel. After having undergone these different operations, it is ready for the purposes of the manufacturer.
To cultivate Flax.
The soils most suitable for flax, besides the alluvial kind, are deep friable loams, and such as contain a large proportion of vegetable matter in their composition. Strong clays do not answer well, nor soils of a gravelly or dry sandy nature. But whatever be the kind of soil, it ought neither to be in too poor nor too rich a condition, because in the latter case the flax is apt to grow too luxuriant and produce a coarse sort, and in the former case, the plant, from growing weakly, affords only a small produce.
To prepare the Ground.
When grass land is intended for flax, it ought to be broken up as early in the season as possible, so that the soil may be duly mellowed by the winter frosts, and in good order for being reduced by the harrows, when the seed process is attempted. If flax is to succeed a corn crop, the like care is required to procure the aid of frost, without which the surface cannot be rendered fine enough for receiving the seed. Less frost, however, will do in the last than in the first case, therefore the grass land ought always to be earliest ploughed. At seed time, harrow the land well before the seed is distributed, then cover the seed to a sufficient depth by giving a close double time of the harrows. Waterfurrow the land, and remove any stones and roots that may remain on the surface, which finishes the seed process.
Quantity of Seed.
When a crop of seed is intended to be taken, thin sowing is preferable, in order that the plants may have room to fork or spread out their leaves and to obtain air for the blossoming and filling seasons. But it is a mistake to sow thin when flax is intended to be taken, for the crop then becomes coarse, and often unproductive. From eight to ten pecks per acre is a proper quantity in the last case; but when seed is the object, six pecks will do very well.
To save the Flax and Seed.
Flax should be pulled when the lower part of the plant begins to turn yellow, and when, on opening the pods, the most forward of the seeds are found in a soft state, and the middle of the seeds is green; while the seed is quite soft, the flax should be spread on the ground in bundles of about as much as a woman can grasp with both hands, and it should remain so till the upper part is dry; in fine weather it will be dry in twenty-four or forty-eight hours; the bundles should be then made up, with the dry part inside, and set up in stocks of ten bundles each, to stand on the ground till the whole is dry, pods and all; the seed will then be ripe and the flax in the best state, and may be stacked, housed or worked; great care should be taken to keep the root ends even.
Method of Watering.
When flax is pulled it ought to be immediately put into the water, so that it may part with the rind and be fit for the manufacturer. Standing pools, for many reasons, are most proper for the purpose, occasioning the flax to have a better color, to be sooner ready for the grass, and even to be of superior quality in every respect. When put into the water it is tied up in beets, or small sheaves, the smaller the better, because it is then most equally watered. These sheaves ought to he built in the pool, in a reclining upright posture, so that the weight placed above may keep the whole firmly down. In warm weather, ten days of the watering process are sufficient; but it is proper to examine the pools regularly after the seventh day, lest the flax should putrefy or rot, which sometimes happens in very warm weather. Twelve days will answer in any sort of weather; though it may be remarked, that it is better to give rather too little of the water than too much, as any deficiency may be easily made up by suffering it to lie longer on the grass, whereas an excess of water admits of no remedy. After lying on the grass for a due time, till any defect of the watering process is rectified, the flax is taken up, tied when dry in large sheaves, and carried to the mill to be switched and prepared for the hackle.
Dressing Flax. - Instructions for Using the Machinery.
The process is divided into two parts: the first part is intended for the farmer, or flax-grower, to bring the flax into a fit state for general or common purposes. This is performed by three machines: one for threshing out the seed, one for breaking and separating the wood from the fibre, and one for further separating the broken wood and matter from the fibre. In some cases the farmers will perhaps thrash out the seed in their own mill and therefore, in such cases, the first machine will be, of course, unnecessary.
The second part of the process is intended for the manufacturer to bring the flax into a state for the very finest purposes, such as lace, cambric, damask, and very fine linen. This second part is performed by the refining machine only.
The Threshing Machine.
Take the flax in small bundles, as it comes from the field or stack, and holding it in the left hand, put the seed end between the threshing machine and the bed or block against which the machine is to strike; then take the handle of the machine in the right hand, and move the machine backward and forward, to strike on the flax, until the seed is all threshed out.
The Breaking Machine.
Take the flax in small handsful in the left hand, spread it flat between the third and little finger, with the seed end downwards, and the root-end above, as near the hand as possible; then put it between the beater of the breaking machine, and beat it gently till the three or four inches, which have been under the operation of the machine, appear to be soft; then remove the flax a little higher in the hand, so as to let the soft part of the flax rest upon the little finger, and continue to beat it till all is soft, and the wool is separated from the fibre, keeping the left hand close to the block and the flax as flat upon the block as possible. The other end of the flax is then to be turned, and the end which has been beaten is to be wrapped round the little finger, the root end flat, and beaten in the machine till the wood is seperated, exactly in the same way as the other end was beaten.
The Cleansing Machine.
It is to be used in the same way, in all respects, as the breaking machine, first cleansing one end of the flax, and then turning the other, keeping the flax all the while flat in the hand.
A common hackle will be found useful in this stage for opening the ends, and may be placed for greater convenience at the side of the breaking and cleansing machine.
This concludes the first process of the machinery intended for the farmer or flax-grower. The second, or manufacturer's process, requires
The Refining Machine.
Take a small piece of flax as it comes from the breaking or cleansing machine, pass the seed end through the fluted rollers of the refining machine and bring it round, laying it flat on the root-end of the flax, forming it into a skein. A few fibres of the end brought round, and looped in the flax on which it is laid, will keep the skein together. It must be kept flat and even on the machine, which may continue to go round and work the flax till it is brought to any degree of fineness that may be required, and this will not require more than from two to six minutes.
Washing or Whitening.
The flax, when prepared by these machines, without having been water-steeped, or dew-rotted, may be washed in small quantities at a time, either in water only or with soap and water, without any other mixture, and brought by these simple means to the purest white. It is to be wrung several times in water till the water becomes no longer colored from the matter, and care is to be taken that the flax is laid flat like tape, and then spread upon the grass, but it is recommended that the flax should be spun in the yellow state, and then washed in warm water and soap, or boiled with care in water and soap from ten to fifteen minutes, so that, when dried, it will be perfectly white. If the weather should be favorable it would be well to have it dried on the grass.
As to the labor required, the machines are easily wrought by women or girls, and without any assistance from men.
As to the produce of different degrees of fineness from a given weight of the raw material, we subjoin the following statement: 112 lbs. of flax from the stack, after the seed was threshed out, produced 30 lbs. in the state No. 1, refined to No. 3 it produced 20 lbs. of flax and 3 lbs. of common tow; 20 lbs. of No. 3 produced 14 1/2 lbs. of No. 4. The loss in weight is caused by the discharge of matter; there is no loss of fibre.
An average crop will produce about two tons to the acre after the seed is threshed out. This will produce onefourth fibre, making ten cwt. to the acre No. 1.
To cultivate Hops. - The Soil, &c.
The hop is planted on various soils, and chiefly in valleys. Hops are generally of the best quality from strong clay land. The crop, however, is there very precarious. Those on peat are much more productive, but are liable to be affected by the mould in some seasons, which reduces their value considerably. The best plantations are on a deep, loamy soil, where the produce of the latter and the quality of the former are sometimes obtained. Those which are grown on sandy and gravelly lands are seldom remarkable for either great produce or superior quality.
The plant is extremely liable to disasters from its first putting up in the spring until the time of picking the crop, which is in September. Snails or slugs, ants and flies, are formidable enemies in the first instance. Frosts are inimical to its growth, and the vines are frequently blighted even after they have reached the top of the poles. Small green flies and other insects which make their appearance in the months of May and June, when the wind is about northeast, often greatly injure them, and they are subject to take damage by high winds from the southwest. The best situation for a plantation, therefore, is a southern aspect, well shaded on three sides either by hills or planting, which is supposed to be the chief protection that can be given them.
To plant Hops.
In the winter time provide the soil and manure for the hop-ground against the following spring. If the dung be rotten, mix it with two or three parts of common earth, and let it incorporate together till there is occasion to make use of it in making the hop-hills; but if it be new dung, then let it be mixed as before till the spring in the next year, for new dung is very injurious to hops. Hops require to be planted in a situation so open that the air may freely pass round and between them to dry up and dissipate the moisture, which often destroys the middle of large plantations, while the outsides remain unhurt.
The hills should be eight or nine feet asunder. If the ground be intended to be ploughed with horses between the hills, it will be best to plant them in squares, chequerwise; but if the ground is so small that it may be done with the breast-plough or spade, the holes should be ranged in a quincunx form. Which way soever is made use of, a stake should be stuck down at each of the places where the hills are to be made.
To choose Hops.
Be very particular in the choice of the plants as to kind, for if the hop-garden be planted with a mixture of several sorts of hops that ripen at several times, it will cause much trouble and great detriment.
The two best sorts are the white and the gray bind; the latter is a large, square hop, more hardy, bears more abundantly, but ripens later than the former. There is another sort of the white bind, which ripens a week or ten days before the common, but this is a tenderer and a less plentiful bearer, though it has this advantage, that it comes first to market. If there be a sort of hop you value, and would wish to increase, the superfluous binds may be laid down when the hops are tied, cutting off the tops and burying them in the hill, or when the hops are dressed all the cuttings may be saved, for almost every part will grow and become a good set the next spring.
Seasons of Planting.
English planters approve the months of October and March. The most usual time of procuring the cuttings is in March, when the hops are out and dressed. As to the manner of planting the sets, there should be five good sets planted in every hill, one in the middle, and the rest round about, sloping. Let them be pressed close with the hand and covered with fine earth; a stick should be placed on each side of the hill to secure it.
To form a New Plantation.
The best method is to have cuttings from approved stock, planted out the year before they are wanted, in the hop-ground; as the use of plants instead of cuttings not only gains a year, but the former are more certain to flourish. A small piece of land is sufficient to raise plants for many acres, and at little expense. If the ground be in grass, pare and dig in the pods; work the land with a spade, and set it out into ridges of three and a half yards wide, and two yards between each; having a strip of grass (called a pillar) next every ridge, and an open drain between every two pillars, the depth of which must vary according to the soil, some being less than one foot, and others nearly four foot in depth. Three rows of plants, or, as they are termed, hills, are made upon each ridge, which should intersect each other; they are generally two yards distant in the rows, so that about 1300 is the usual number of hills in a statute acre. Small sticks are proper to tie the binds up to the first year, then small poles for a year or two; the size of which should be gradually increased. Some set two poles to every hill, which is proper for ground producing luxuriant binds; but on clay land three poles are set in a triangular form to the hills on the two outside rows of each ridge, and only two in the middle row. Many additional poles, longer than the rest, called catch-poles, are also set to take the binds as they run beyond the lesser poles. Where the bind is weak, three heads are commonly trained up each pole; though two are better, if strong. It the ground intended for a new plantation is not clean from couch-grass, a complete fallow is essential, whether it be grass or stubble; and a crop of turnips may be taken to advantage, if the land is proper for their growth, and can be made clean, as hops are planted in March.
To make up Hop-Ground.
The following are termed the annual orders: - Digging the ground completely over; hoeing the earth from the hills, and cutting off the stock a little above the root, which are called pickling and cutting; poling, which is carrying the poles from the stacks, and setting them down to the hills with a round implement, shod with iron, and called a poy, having a crutch at the top, and a peg through the middle to tread upon; tying the binds round the poles with rushes, and pulling up the superfluous binds; hoeing the ground all over with a hoe of large dimensions; wheeling and laying manure upon every hill; covering the manure with the soil, which is done by scraping the ground over with a hoe, and is called hilling; and stacking, which is carrying and setting up the poles into heaps or stacks, after the crop has been taken.
As the preceding are termed the ordinary, so the following are called the extra-works, as not being included in the yearly bargain with the men by the generality of planters, and some of them are done only by the very best managers. On clayey ground, either the earth ought to be bared off the hills, and a covering of good manure applied to them previous to digging, which will require from twelve to fifteen tons per acre; or from twenty to twenty-five tons of manure, or a greater quantity of fresh earth (when the ground wants condition) should be wheeled and spread all over the ridges. It is not improper, in some cases, to pursue these methods alternately; but on boggy and very rich ground the earth only can be applied with advantage. The drains should be scoured out yearly on very wet ground; and what is thrown out is always intermixed with the soil in digging; on drier soils this is done every second or third year, and on very dry land it is scarcely necessary to do it at all. Recruiting the stock by planting, where any hills have failed, is done at little cost in well-managed plantations, as there are seldom many at once in those. If there is any couch-grass, it should be dug out with three-pronged forks in March, and carried off the ground. The renewal of poles requires from one to two hundred per acre every year. If, when the binds first appear, they are beaten by slugs, a handful of malt culm or saw-dust is sometimes laid round each hill, which they cannot travel over; and should flies or ants attack them, soot is the best preventive. The carrying in and setting catch-poles varies much as to number, as some set fewer than one hundred, and others five or six hundred per acre. Moving the drains and pillars is generally done once, but twice moving is better (whether the grass be made into fodder, or is suffered to fall into the drains for manure) as then no seeds scatter on the ground. Extra-hoe once before the hilling, and once after. After high winds many poles are broken down, which should be set up again soon.
Manure proper for Hop-Culture.
As to the manure most proper for the hop-culture, good stable dung is much used, and is preferred to the manure made by beasts at pasture, as the latter encourages ants on strong ground. Woollen rags are the best for forcing a luxuriant bind, and if used with judgment, are excellent for clayey ground; but they are apt to make the hops small, if too many are used. Malt culm and dove manure are excellent, and one complete dressing with lime is very serviceable for strong ground.
To pick Hops.
When the crop is ripe, a proper number of pickers is procured, for whom are provided light wooden frames, called binges; they are clothed with hop-bagging, into which the hops are picked off the poles by women and children, having them brought by men, who take them up by cutting the binds about a foot above the ground, and drawing up the poles by an instrument galled a dragon. Each binge has from four to six pickers, and a man attends to one or two binges, according to the crop; he strips the binds from the poles as they are picked, and lays them in heaps ready for stocking; he also carries the hops to the kilns, if near; or to a cart, as they are measured from the binge. The number of binges employed vary with the crop and kiln-room; about one to an acre is usual. The hops are taken out of the binge with a basket which holds six pecks.
The most convenient way of picking them is into a long square frame of wood, with a cloth hanging on tenter-hooks within it, to receive the hops as they are picked.
They must be picked very clean, free from leaves and stalks; and as there shall be occasion, two or three times in a day, the frame must be emptied into a hop-bag made of course linen cloth, and carried immediately to the oast or kiln in order to be dried: for if they should be too long in the bag, they will be apt to heat and be discolored. If the weather be hot, there should no more poles be drawn than can be picked in an hour, and they should be gathered in fair weather if it can be, and when the hops are dry; this will save some expense in firing, and preserve their color better when they are dried.
To dry Hops.
The best method of drying hops is with charcoal on an oast or kiln, covered with hair-cloth of the same form and fashion that is used for drying malt. The kiln ought to be square, and may be ten, twelve, fourteen, or sixteen feet across at the top, where the hops are laid, as the plantation requires, and the room will allow. There ought to be a due proportion between the height and breadth of the kiln and the steddle where the fire is kept, viz., if the kiln be twelve feet square on the top, it ought to be nine feet high from the fire, and the steddle ought to be six feet and a half square, and so proportionable in other dimensions.
The hops must be spread even upon the oast, a foot thick or more, if the depth of the curb will allow it, but care is to be taken not to overload the oast if the hops are green or wet. The oast ought to be first warmed with a fire before the hops are laid on, and then an even steady fire must be kept under them; it must not be too fierce at first lest it scorch them, nor must it be suffered to sink or slacken, but rather be increased, till the hops are nearly dried, lest the moisture or sweat which the fire has raised, fall back or discolor them.
When they have lain about nine hours they must be turned, and in two or three hours more they may be taken off. It may be known when they are well dried by the brittleness of the stalks and the easy falling off of the hop-leaves.
To bag Hops.
As soon as the hops are taken off the kiln, lay them in a room for three weeks or a month to cool, give, and toughen; for if they are bagged immediately they will powder, but if they lie awhile (and the longer they lie the better, provided they are covered close with blankets to secure them from the air), they may be bagged with more safety, as not being liable to be broken to powder in treading; and this will make them bear treading the better, and the harder they are trodden the better they will keep.
To dress Hops.
When the ground is dug in in January or February, the earth about the hills and very near them, should be taken away with the spade. About the end of February, if the hops were planted the spring before, or if the ground be weak, they ought to be dressed in dry weather; but if the ground be strong and in perfection, the middle of March will be a good time; and if it is apt to produce over-rank binds, the beginning of April may be soon enough. Then having with an iron picker cleared away all the earth out of the hill, so as to clean the stock to the principal roots, with a sharp knife cut off all the shoots which grew with the binds the last year; and also all the young suckers, that none may be left to run in the alley and weaken the hill. It will be proper to cut one part of the stock lower than the other, and also to cut that part low that was left highest the preceeding year. In dressing those hops that have been planted the year before, cut off both the dead tops and the young suckers which have sprung up from the sets, and also cover the stocks with fine earth, a finger's length in thickness.
To pole Hops.
About the middle of April the hops are to be poled; when the shoots begin to sprout up, the poles must be set to the hills deep in the ground, with a square iron picker or crow, that they may the better endure the wind; three poles are sufficient for one hill. These should be placed as near the hill as possible, with their bending tops turned outwards from the hill, to prevent the binds from entangling; and a space between two poles ought to be left open to the south, to admit the sun-beams.
To tie Hops.
The buds that do not clasp of themselves to the nearest pole when they are grown to three or four feet high, must be guided to it by the hand, turning them to the sun, whose course they will always follow. They must be bound with withered rushes, but not so close as to hinder them from climbing up the pole. This continue to do till all the poles are furnished with binds, of which two or three are enough for a pole; and all the sprouts and binds that there are no occasion for, are to be plucked up; but if the ground is young, then none of these useless binds should be plucked up, but should be wrapped up together in the middle of the hill.
To gather Hops.
About the beginning of July hops begin to blow, and will be ready for gathering the last of August. A judgment may be made of their ripeness by their strong scent, their hardness, and the brownish color of their seed. When by these tokens they appear to be ripe they must be picked with all the expedition possible, for if at this time a storm of wind should come, it would do them great damage, by breaking the branches and bruising and discoloring the hops; and it is very well known that hops, being picked green and bright, will sell for a third more than those which are discolored.
To cultivate the Madder Plant.
The ground is ploughed deep in autumn, and again in March, and then laid up in ridges eighteen inches asunder, and about a foot high. About the beginning of April the ground is opened where the old roots are planted, and the side shoots taken off, which are transplanted immediately upon the new ridges, at about a foot distance, where they remain two seasons; at Michaelmas, when the tops of the plants are decayed, the roots are taken up. This method of planting in ridges is only necessary in wet land. If all the horizontal roots are destroyed from time to time, it will cause the large downright roots to be much bigger, in which the goodness of this plant chiefly consists. After the roots, the only parts of the madder used by dyers, are taken up, they are kiln-dried, and then reduced to powder by a mill. Previously to the grinding they are carefully assorted.
The fine quality of madder is distinguished by its being of a bright, lively, light color, well ground, without any coarse parts proceeding from the peelings. Fresh is always more valuable than old madder. It should be kept close to prevent the access of air, as its virtue evaporates when exposed.
Madder is principally cultivated in Holland, Germany, and France, especially the former place, where it grows in greater abundance than in any other part of the world. The turkey madder root is principally cultivated about Smyrna. This plant may be propagated either by offsets or seeds. On a light thin soil the culture cannot be carried on to any profit; that soil in which the plant delights is a rich sandy loam, three feet or more in depth.
The ground being first made smooth, is divided into beds four feet wide, with alternate alleys half as broad again as the beds. In each alley is a shallow channel for irrigating the whole field, etc., that that part of the alley that is not otherwise engaged may be sown with legumes. The madder seed is sown broadcast in the proportion of from twentyfive to thirty pounds per acre about the end of April. In a fortnight or three weeks the young plants begin to appear, and from this time to the month of September care must be taken to keep the ground well watered and free from weeds. If the plants are examined in autumn they will be found to be surrounded with small yellow offsets at the depth of two inches, and early in September the earth from the alleys is to be dug out and laid over the plants of madder to the height of two or three feet. With this the first year's operation finishes.
The second year's work begins in May with giving the beds a thorough weeding, and care must be taken to supply them with plenty of water during summer. In September the first crop of seed will be ripe, at which time the stems of the plants may be mown down, and the roots covered a few inches with earth taken as before out of the alleys.
The weeding should take place as early as possible in the spring of the third year, and the crop, instead of being left for seeds, may be cut three times during summer for green fodder, all kinds of cattle being remarkably fond of it. In October the roots are taken up, the offsets are carefully separated, and immediately used to form a new plantation; and the roots, after being dried, are sold either without further preparation or ground to a coarse powder and sprinkled with an alkaline lye. The roots lose four-fifths of their weight in drying, and the produce of an acre is about 2000 pounds of dry salable madder.
Use Of Madder.
The principal use of madder is in dyeing. It gives out its color both to water and rectified spirits; the watery tincture is of a dark dull red, the spirituous of a deep bright one. It imparts to woollen cloth, prepared with alum and tartar, a very durable, though not a very beautiful red dye. As it is the cheapest of all red drugs that give a durable color, it is the principal one commonly made use of for ordinary stuffs. Sometimes its dye is heightened by the addition of Brazil-wood, and sometimes it is employed in conjunction with the dearer reds, as cochineal, for demiscarlets and demi-crimsons. Madder-root is sometimes employed in medicine as an emmenagogue. When the madder is given to animals with their food it produces a curious phenomenon, namely, tinging their hones with red. The bones of young pigeons will be thus tinged of a rose-color in twenty-four hours, and of a deep scarlet in three days; but the bones of adult animals will be a fortnight in acquiring a rosecolor.
Best Method of Hay-making.
Instead of allowing the hay to lie, as usual in most places, for some days in the swath after it is cut, never cut hay but when the grass is quite dry, and then make the gatherers follow close upon the cutters: put it up immediately into small cocks about three feet high each, and of as small a diameter as they can be made to stand with; always giving each of them a slight kind of thatching, by drawing a few handsful of the hay from the bottom of the cock all round and laying it lightly upon the top, with one of the ends hanging downwards. This is done with the utmost ease and expedition; and when once in that state the hay is, in a great measure, out of danger; for unless a violent wind should arise immediately after the cocks are put up, nothing else can hurt the hay; as no rain, however violent, can penetrate into these cocks but for a very little way; and if they are dry put up they never sit together so closely as to heat, although they acquire, in a day or two, such a degree of firmness as to be in no danger of being overturned by wind after that time, unless it blows a hurricane.
In these cocks allow the hay to remain until upon inspection, the farmer judges it will keep in pretty large tramp-cocks (which is usually in a week or two, according as the weather is more or less favorable), when two men, each with a long-pronged pitchfork, lift up one of these small cocks between them with the greatest ease, and carry them one after another to the place where the tramp cock is to be built, and in this manner proceed over the field till the whole is finished.
Mode of Hay-making in England.
The clover is cut, and after it has lain four or five days in the swath, till it is sufficiently dry, the haymaker, with a rake, rolls up a sufficient quantity to form a ripple, which is set up in the form of a cone. Taking a few of the longest straws he twists them round the top, which forms the point of the cone, keeps the ripple compact, and shoots off the rain. In taking up the clover from the swath and forming the ripple, it is necessary to keep the upper or dry part inwards: by that means it is much sooner dry, and in a fit state for the stack. It is generally necessary for clover to remain five or six days in the ripple before it is put into the stack, but that depends on the state of the weather. There is no occasion to untie the ripples. The method of rippling is not so expensive as cocking; it is much superior both in wet and dry seasons - not so liable to be injured by the wet - much sooner dry, and of course of a better quality and more nourishing for cattle. Each ripple will weigh, when dry, about four or five pounds. They should not be made too large. Except where meadow grass is very long it would not be practicable to ripple it. The practice of rippling is simple, attended with little trouble or expense, and whenever tried will recommend itself:
To manage Cut Grass for Hay.
Grass, when cut for hay, ought to be quickly raked, in order that its powers may neither be exhausted by the sun nor dissipated by the air. In the first stage small cocks are preferable, and on after days these may be gathered into large ones or hand-ricks, by which method the hay is equally made and properly sweetened. After standing eight or ten days in these ricks, according to the nature of the weather, hay may be carted home and built in stacks of sufficient size for standing through the winter months.
This thrives among mountains better than on lowlands. Sow in July. It grows ripe with frost; the seeds grow black after a frost.
Importance of Straw in Husbandry.
This is a subject that has not always been so much attended to as its importance deserves.
Though many useful observations on straw are occasionally introduced in agricultural writings, and though its value, as the basis of future crops, is fully admitted by every intelligent farmer, yet the subject has seldom been professedly treated of at any length: we shall endeavor, therefore, to compress the most important particulars connected with it under the following heads:
1. The weight of straw produced on an average of the different crops of grain and pulse per statute acre.
2. The value of the different kinds of straw, and
3. The various uses to which each kind of straw is applicable.
Weight of Straw produced by the different Crops.
The quantity of straw per acre differs according to a variety of circumstances; as, 1. The species of grain, whether wheat, barley, oats, etc. 2. The different kinds of the same grain. 3. The season, for in dry seasons the quantity is less than in moist. 4. The soil, for in fertile soils the straw is more abundant than in poor ones. 5. The season when the seed is sown, for spring-sown wheat has less straw than the winter-sown. And, 6. The manner in which the straw is cut, for an inch or two at the root-end of the straw makes a great addition to the dunghill.
From a statement by Mr. Young it would appear that the average produce in straw of all the different crops, stubble included, may be calculated at 1 ton, 7 cwt. per acre, but that is rejecting the weaker soils.
It is calculated by Mr. Brown, of Markle, that on an average of years, the produce of straw on good land and under tolerable management, will be nearly in the following proportion per acre:
lbs. Wheat, 2240 Beans and peas, 1820 Oats, 1820 Barley, 1400 Total, 7280
Or, at an average of these crops, 130 stone per acre, 22 lbs. avoirdupois per stone, in all 2860 lbs., or 1 ton, 5 cwt., 2 quarters and 4 lbs.
It may be safely estimated that on an average of years well cultivated and fertile soils, when the crop is carefully cut down, will annually produce, on the average of the crops above mentioned, 1 ton, 5 cwt. per acre.
Value of the different kinds of Straw.
The intrinsic value of straw must vary materially, according to its leading properties, the quantity of manure into which it may be converted by littering, or its fitness to be employed as thatch, these being the chief uses to which it is applicable; but in general its price depends on its vicinity to large towns. It is only in situations where foreign manure can be procured easily and at a cheaper rate than by converting the straw raised upon the farm into dung that the sale of straw is ever permitted. Two loads of wheatstraw per acre are reckoned a tolerable crop.
As straw is rarely permitted to be sold, being usually employed in maintaining winter stock, the real value of the article to the farmer is but inconsiderable, depending upon the quantity and quality of the dung it produces. So little is it thought necessary accurately to ascertain the value of straw, that in several cases it has been given by the outgoing to the incoming tenant as an equivalent for the expense of harvesting, threshing, and marketing the last crop. It is often thought insufficient to cover even that expense, and a further abatement is allowed on the price of the grain.
Various purposes to which Straw is applicable.
The subject of feeding with straw will be better understood by considering the specific properties of the different kinds of straw employed in feeding stock, and the rules that ought to be observed when stock are fed with that material.
This kind of straw, from its strength, is considered to be peculiarly calculated both for litter and threshing, and indeed wherever the practice of cutting straw into chaff for mixing with grain for horses prevails, wheat straw is preferred. When given to cattle or horses, it is sometimes cut into chaff, and either given raw in that state, or what is greatly preferred, steamed with other food, in particular with potatoes.
In order to improve wheat straw as fodder, it is the practice in some parts of England to cut the grain rather green, which preserves more of the natural juices, and consequently makes the fodder better. Some of the best farmers are accustomed to cut wheat much earlier than common in their respective districts. One of these was a miller in Norfolk, who occupied a large farm, where he always cut his wheat several days before any one else thought of beginning, well knowing the good consequences in the value of the grain. It must then be less apt to be injured by shaking or harvesting.
Among the culmiferous grains, the straw of the oat is considered to be the best fodder, when given uncut. It is well known, indeed, that oat straw, during the winter season, is almost universally given instead of hay, in all the best cultivated counties of Scotland during the winter months, though that of peas and beans is certainly preferred where both are grown
In some districts farmers cut oats in the straw into a species of fodder, which is called "cut meat." This is given not only to horses, but to cattle, especially fattening cattle. It is thought to give not only fatness but a fineness of skin to all sorts of stock.
If well harvested this straw forms a very hearty and nutritious kind of food for cattle in the winter season. Both oxen and horses, when duly supplied with oats in proportion to the work they have to execute, thrive well on it, and the reduced parts, or what is termed in England the coving-chaff, is found valuable as a manger food for the laboring teams; when blended with other substances it is probable that, in particular cases, the stems might be cut into chaff with advantage, but when made use of in these methods it should be used as fresh as possible after being threshed. A mixture of bean straw (which by itself is rather dry), and of peas-haum, which is sweet and nourishing, makes excellent fodder.
But though this straw, more especially when mixed with peas-haum, is of great value as fodder to the working stock of the farm, it does not suit well with riding-horses, as it is apt to hurt their wind. In some horses both bean-straw and peas-haum are apt to occasion colic pains, or the disease which is called botts, probably occasioned by flatulency. For this disease, about half an ounce or a tablespoonful of laudanum is found to be a good remedy.
In Scotland the haum of peas is used as fodder for working-horses instead of hay, and when well harvested forms a very excellent provender, insomuch that it is considered to be of almost equal value to the grain itself.
Tare-straw or Hay.
This is an article strongly recommended by some farmers; for when the land has been dunged and the seed good, the produce is considerable. The crop should be cut as soon as the blossoms begin to fall off or the pod to form, and the whole, converted into hay-tares, require a great deal of sun to cure, and rain is very injurious to them. It would be a good plan to mix them with try straw, which would improve both.
Rules regarding the consumption of Straw in feeding Cattle.
Straw is much used in the feeding of cattle in Scotland, and there can be no doubt that oxen will feed well on straw and turnips, if the straw be good. It is recommended in all cases that for a month or six weeks after a bullock is put to turnips, straw only should be given with them. But in the more advanced stages of fattening, hay is so much superior, that it should if possible be supplied. It is certain, at the same time, that hay is a very expensive food for stock, and ought to be saved as much as possible where it can prudently be done. It is well known that a full allowance of turnips and straw, during the winter months, will fatten better than a small allowance of hay in place of the straw. In the spring, hay which retains its nutritive juices longer than straw, is much more valuable, both for fattening stock and feeding horses, and it is therefore the practice to reserve hay for about three months' consumption of these kinds of stock, and for no others.
Rules for Feeding Horses with Straw.
In regard to horses, hay may very often be more or less scarce or dear; but with straw and the oats, which must always be given them whether they get straw or hay, they not only plough three-fourths of an acre per day, or work from seven to eight hours at other labor, but are actually full of flesh and vigor when sowing commences. They must, however, have hay instead of straw, when the severe labor of spring takes place.
When, therefore, farmers' horses are so much reduced in condition as to be unable to go through the severe labor of spring, it is owing to their not having got a sufficient quantity of oats or corn. Pea and bean straw certainly make the best fodder, when not injured by rain; but if that kind of straw is damaged in harvest, white straw is to be preferred.
Rules for Feeding Sheep with Straw.
There is no food of which sheep are fonder than peastraw. The soil of pastoral districts being rarely of a kind calculated for peas, any extensive cultivation of that grain is impracticable; but where circumstances are favorable to that crop, peas ought to be cultivated, were it merely for the straw, as it would enable the store-farmers to carry on their system of sheep-farming with much more advantage. Indeed, the same plan might be advisable in other districts. It might be proper to add, that for ewes at yeaning time, lentil-hay is better than tare-hay or even pea-haum.
Miscellaneous Rules and Observations regarding the Consumption of Straw.
On turnip farms it is the usual practice to feed horses till March, where the labor is not severe, and cows through the winter, with oat-straw, whilst the fattening and straw-yard cattle get the straw of wheat and barley. If any peas or beans be cultivated on the farm, that straw being given to the horses, a part of the oat-straw may be left for the fattening and straw-yard cattle. Upon turnip farms it is not thought profitable to cut the greater part of the clovers for hay. These are usually eaten by sheep and no more hay saved than what may serve the horses, cows, and fattening stock for eight or ten weeks, immediately before grass, with a small quantity occasionally given to the sheep fed on turnips.
The expense of feeding even the horses alone, for eight months, on hay, would be more than a farmer can well afford; at the same time it is a rule with the best farmers to give hay to their horses in the early part of winter; then peas or bean-straw till seed-time commences in the spring; and afterwards hay.
Straw keeps much better unthreshed, in a large stack, than in a barn. Straw in general, more especially white straw, is found to lose its value as fodder, in whatever way it may be kept, after the sharp dry breezes of the spring months have set in.
It is a general rule that straw, when intended to be used as food for stock, should be given as speedily as possible after it is threshed. The threshing separates and exposes it so much, that if kept long it is, comparatively speaking, of little value as fodder. Lisle, an intelligent writer on agriculture, and a practical farmer, states, that he found cows did not eat straw so well on a Monday morning as they did the rest of the week, because the straw was not fresh from the flail. Straw, therefore, should be constantly made use of, as soon after it is threshed as possible: for by keeping it becomes either musty or too dry, and cattle do not eat it, or thrive on it so well. It cannot be doubted that air has a very injurious effect upon all kinds of fodder, and the more it can be kept from the influence of the sun and the atmosphere, the better. It is seldom given as fodder, unless to straw-yard cattle, after the month of March.
When clover is sown with grain crops, the clover has often arrived at such a length as to mix with the straw in cutting the crop. This certainly improves the straw in good harvests; but as little clover as possible should be cut with the straw, as it makes it very difficult to secure the crop, unless it be left upon the ground for several days.
Straw as applicable to Litter.
Straw, when mixed with the dung and the urine of cattle, horses, etc. etc., is a rich and excellent manure; but even alone, when ploughed in, or decomposed by pure simple water, it is of use. All the various sorts of straw answer the purposes of litter. Some farmers contend that ryestraw is the best litter; others prefer the straw of wheat, which absorbs, it is said, so much urine and moisture, that a cart of wheat-straw is supposed equal in value to three carts of well-made dung. In England the straw of peas and beans is extremely valuable, forming, it is said when well broken by threshing, a desirable litter for working-horses, hogs, and other stock, but in Scotland it is never used as litter, unless it has been spoilt by bad management or a most unseasonable season in harvest, as its feeding properties there are so well known. Littering is of use, not only for converting straw into manure, but for keeping the animals warm and dry. In fact cattle cannot be soiled on clover, or fed on turnips, without abundance of litter.
There are four modes of converting straw into dung by littering stock:-1. In stalls or stables; 2. In hammels; 3. In fold-yards; and 4. In open folds, where sheep are littered with straw.
The quantity of dung produced from a given quantity of straw depends a good deal upon the kind of straw that is used (as some kinds absorb much more moisture than others), and upon the degree of care employed in preparing the dung. Speaking generally, the original weight of straw may be tripled, if the manufacturing process be properly conducted, and the dung applied to the ground before its powers are lessened or exhausted. The quantity of dung which may be made from an acre, especially if the dung arising from clover, turnips, and hay, consumed on a farm, is included in the general stock, will be something more than four tons; consequently any farm of decent soil may be manured at the rate of twelve tons per acre, every third year, from its own produce, provided the corn crops are cut with accuracy and the straw manufactured into dung in a husbandman-like manner.
Straw as applicable to Thatching.
For many ages straw was the common material for roofing farm-buildings and cottages, and was formerly made use of even in towns. The expense of a thatched roof is not great, in so far as respects labor; and the value of the straw is, to the grower either the price he could obtain for it, or that of the dung that could be made from it, as the kind used for thatch is seldom used as fodder. Where economy must be attended to in the building of cottages, straw is taken as the least costly material; but in these days, when manure is so extremely valuable, as little straw as possible should be spared for other purposes.
The durability of a thatched roof is likewise maintained. A good coat of thatch will need very little repair during an ordinary lease. But care must be taken that the straw is very clean threshed. If it is not, the grain left will soon spring, and introduce putrefaction and encourage vermin. The threshing-mill renders straw less fit for thatch than when it is threshed by the flail.
In Great Britain, wheat is seldom threshed with the straw, but the ears are cut off, and the straw bound in sheaves, and tied very light, is used for thatching.
Miscellaneous Uses of Straw.
It is well known that various articles are manufactured from straw, such as bonnets, and other ornaments for the ladies. Even in remote counties in England, the straw manufacture is carried on. The straw is prepared in London, and the plait is returned to that market. Straw-plaiting is the principal manufacture in Bedfordshire. The quantity thus used is very considerable, and it furnishes employment for numbers of persons who might otherwise with difficulty find the means of subsistence.
In some districts straw mixed with clay is used for building the walls of houses or gardens, and with the same mixture for the roofs of houses, instead of the common mode of thatching.
In districts on the sea shore, it is common for experienced farmers to keep in reserve a considerable proportion of their wheat or barley straw, and to make it into a dunghill, alternately with the sea-ware, stratum upon stratum, till both are exhausted. This is an excellent plan where the sea-weed cannot be immediately applied, but it is the best system to plough it in, when obtained
In some places great quantities of bean-haum, as well as common straw, are bought up at potash manufactories, and burnt for the ashes.
Straw is also used for stuffing beds. For this purpose the chaff of oats is found to be a material not much inferior to ordinary feathers; and being so much cheaper, chaff beds are almost universally used by the lower orders in Scotland.
Another purpose to which straw is applied, is that of packing; and it is proper to observe that the quantity used in packing china and stoneware, in the districts where these manufactories prevail, is found to be a serious injury to the farmer.
Rev. James Hall has ascertained that every bean-stalk, according to its size, contains from twenty to thirty-five filaments, which are of a nature among the strongest and most durable hitherto discovered. He calculates that on an average there are about 200 lbs. weight of such filaments on an acre. capable of being applied to various usefull purposes, where durability and strength, rather than fineness and delicacy, are required. A tolerable paper is now made of straw.
To under-drain Clay Lands.
This operation is always best performed in spring or summer, when the ground is dry. Main drains ought to be made in every part of the field where a cross-cut or open drain was formerly wanted; they ought to be cut four feet deep, upon an average. This completely secures them from the possibility of being damaged by the treading of horses or cattle, and being so far below the small drains, clears the water finely out of them. In every situation, pipe-turfs for the main drains, if they can be had, are preferable. If good stiff clay, a single row of pipe-turf; if sandy, a double row. When pipe-turf cannot be got conveniently, a good wedge drain may answer well, when the subsoil is a strong, stiff clay; but if the subsoil be only moderately so, a thorn drain, with couples below, will do still better; and if the subsoil is very sandy, except pipes can be had, it is in vain to attempt under-draining the field by any other method. It may be necessary to mention here that the size of the main drains ought to be regulated according to the length and declivity of the run, and the quantity of water to be carried off by them. It is always safe, however, to have the main drains large, and plenty of them; for economy here seldom turns out well.
Having finished the main drains, proceed next to make a small drain in every furrow of the field if the ridges formerly have not been less than fifteen feet wide. But if that should be the case, first level the ridges, and make the drains in the best direction, and at such a distance from each other as may be thought necessary. If the water rises well in the bottom of the drains, they ought to be cut three feet deep, and in this ease would dry the field sufficiently well, although they were from twenty-five to thirty feet asunder; but if the water does not draw well to the bottom of the drains, two feet will be a sufficient deepness for the pipe-drain, and two and a half feet for the wedge drain. In no case ought they to be shallower where the field has been previously levelled. In this instance, however, as the surface water is carried off chiefly by the water sinking immediately into the top of the drains, it will be necessary to have the drains much nearer each other - say from fifteen to twenty feet. If the ridges are more than fifteen feet wide, however broad and irregular they may be, follow invariably the line of the old furrows, as the best direction for the drains; and, where they are high-gathered ridges, from twenty to twenty-four inches will be a sufficient depth for the pipe-drain, and from twenty-four to thirty inches for the wedge-drain. Particular care should be taken in connecting the small and main drains together, so that the water may have a gentle declivity, with free access into the main drains.
When the drains are finished, the ridges are cleaved down upon the drains by the plough; and where they had been very high formerly, a second clearing may be given; but it is better not to level the ridges too much, for by allowing them to retain a little of their former shape, the ground being lowest immediately where the drains are, the surface water collects upon the top of the drains; and, by shrinking into them, gets freely away. After the field is thus finished, run the new ridges across the small drains, making them about nine or ten feet broad, and continue afterwards to plough the field in the same manner as dry land.
It is evident from the above method of draining that the expense will vary very much, according to the quantity of main drains necessary for the field, the distance of the small drains from each other, and the distance the turf is to be carried.
The advantage resulting from under-draining, is very great, for besides a considerable saving annually of water furrowing, cross cutting, etc., the land can often be ploughed and sown to advantage, both in the spring and in the fall of the year, when otherwise it would be found quite impracticable; every species of drilled crops, such as beans, potatoes, turnips, etc., can be cultivated successfully; and every species, both of green and white crops, is less apt to fail in wet and untoward seasons.
To drain Lands.
Wherever a burst of water appears in any particular spot, the sure and certain way of getting quit of such an evil is to dig hollow drains to such a depth below the surface as is required by the fall or level that can be gained, and by the quantity of water expected to proceed from the burst or spring. Having ascertained the extent of water to be carried off, taken the necessary levels, and cleared a mouth or loading passage for the water, begin the drain at the extremity next to that leader, and go on with the work till the top of the spring is touched, which probably will accomplish the intended object. But if it should not be completely accomplished, run off from the main drain with such a number of branches as may be required to intercept the water, and in this way disappointment will hardly be experienced. Drains, to be substantially useful, should seldom be less than three feet in depth, twenty or twentyfour inches thereof to be close packed with stones or wood, according to circumstances. The former are the best materials, but in many places are not to be got in sufficient quantities; recourse therefore, must often be made to the latter, though not so effectual or durable.
It is of vast importance to fill up drains as fast as they are dug out; because, if left open for any length of time, the earth is not only apt to fall in but the sides get into a broken, irregular state, which cannot afterwards be completely rectified. It also deserves attention, that a proper covering of straw or sod should be put upon the top of the materials, to keep the surface earth from mixing with them; and where wood is the material used for filling up, a double degree of attention is necessary, otherwise the proposed improvement may be effectually frustrated.
The pit method of draining is a very effectual one, if executed with judgment. When it is sufficiently ascertained where the bed of water is deposited, which can easily be done by boring with an auger, sink a pit into the place of a size which will allow a man freely to work within its bounds. Dig this pit of such a depth as to reach the bed of the water meant to be carried off; and when this depth is attained, which is easily discerned by the rising of the water, fill up the pit with great land-stones and carry off the water by a stout drain to some adjoining ditch or mouth, whence it may proceed to the nearest river.
Mr. Bayley's directions for Draining Land.
First make the main drains down the slope or fall of the field. When the land is very wet, or has not much fall, there should in general be two of these to a statute acre; for the shorter the narrow drains are, the less liable they are to accidents. The width of the trench for the main drains should be thirty inches at top, but the width at the bottom must be regulated by the nature and size of the materials to be used. If the drain is to be made of bricks ten inches long, three inches thick, and four inches in breadth, then the bottom of the drain must be twelve inches: but if the common sale bricks are used, then the bottom must be proportionably contracted. In both cases there must be an interstice of one inch between the bottom bricks and the sides of the trench, and the vacuity must be filled up with straw, rushes, or loose mould. For the purpose of making these drains the bricks should be moulded ten inches long, four broad and three thick, which dimensions always make the best drain.
To construct Main Drains.
When the ground is soft and springy the bottom of the drain is laid with bricks placed across. On these, on each side, two bricks are laid flat, one upon the other, forming a drain six inches high and four broad, which is covered with bricks laid flat. Where stones are used instead of bricks, the bottom of the drain should be about eight inches in width, and in all cases the bottom of main drains ought to be sunk four inches below the level of the narrow ones, whose contents they receive, even at the point where the latter fall into them.
The main drains should be kept open or uncovered till the narrow ones are begun from them, after which they may be finished; but before the earth is returned upon the stones or bricks, it is advisable to throw in straw, rushes or brushwood, to increase the freedom of the drain. The small narrow drains should be cut at the distance of sixteen or eighteen feet from each other, and should full into the main drain at very acute angles, to prevent any stoppage. At the point where they fall in, and eight or ten inches above it, they should be made firm with brick or stone. These drains should be eighteen inches wide at the top and sixteen at bottom.
To fill Drains.
The completest method yet known is to cut the strongest willows, or other aquatic brushwood, into lengths of about twenty inches, and place them alternately in the drain, with one end against one side of the bottom and the other leaning against the opposite side. Having placed the strong wood in this manner, fill up the space between them, on the upper side, with the small brushwood, upon which a few rushes or straw being laid, as before mentioned, the work is done. Willow, alder, asp or beach boughs, are exceedingly durable if put into the drain green, or before the sap is dried; but if they are suffered to become dry, and then laid under ground, a rapid decay is the consequence.
As in some situations it is an object of great importance to save the expense of materials commonly used in filling drains, a variety of devices have, with that view, been adopted. One of these is of the following nature: - A drain is first dug to the necessary depth, narrow at bottom. Into the trench is laid a smooth tree or cylindrical piece of wood, twelve feet long, six inches in diameter at the one end and five at the other, having a ring fastened into the thickest end. After strewing a little sand upon the upper side of the tree, the clay, or toughest part of the contents of the trench, is first thrown in upon it, and after that the remainder of the earth is fully trodden down. By means of the ring, the tree is then drawn out to within a foot or two of the smaller or hinder end; and the same operation is repeated till the whole drain is complete. Such a drain is said to have conducted a small run of water a considerable way under ground for more than twenty years without any sign of failure.
To water Meadows.
The water should be set on in the month of October, and also as early in that month as possible. The effects of this watering are very important in strengthening the roots and stalks of the plants, and preparing them for shooting up strong and vigorous next spring; and the blades that now rise form a rough coat against winter, protecting the vital powers of the plants from the severity of that season. It sometimes happens, also, that by delaying the watering process too long, early frosts supervene, and very much impede or prevent the operation. The floods of autumn are very enriching to meadows; but this benefit is lost sight of to a certain degree when the process of watering is delayed too long. Indeed, the latter pasturage of meadows may generally be consumed early in October; and what may then remain is of no importance compared with the advantages to be derived from early watering. Besides, if the meadow must be watered in separate divisions, and at different periods, it must happen, that by delaying the operation till November, some parts of the meadow may receive no water sooner than December or January; and if these months are very severe, it may be wholly impracticable to complete the process at that season.
If the land is fine and rich, it will generally be found that three weeks may be sufficient for the first turn; if sour and coarse, four weeks may be necessary. The verdure will then be fine, and the soil rich and yielding. If scum appear on the grass, the water must be instantly removed
Should the water not overflow properly, stops must be placed in the small feeders. These are either of stones or stakes, which are firm and durable. Sods rise and float away, and boards are seldom firm enough, though at times they may answer well. If the water, after all, does not flow properly over, notches must be out, in order to make passages for it.
Separate divisions of meadow occupy the water in succession throughout winter; during which they ought all to receive one turn of the water, as above recommended, if not given in later than autumn.
In severe frosts, it is not very safe to remove the water, as it operates so far to protect the grass; and if exposed wet to frost, it might be greatly injured. If it be necessary to alter the water in such weather, let it be done in the morning of a dry day.
In spring every division of the meadow requires to be again watered; and the fine rich verdure that appears, with the soft unctuous tread of the soil, are indications of advantage being obtained; but the appearance of a white scum warns the floater instantly to remove the water.
To form Inclosures.
Inclosures with some trifling exceptions, are formed in Great Britian by building stone walls, or planting thorn hedges. In this country rail fences are most used, but wire is becoming common. According to the first method, the walls are either of dry stone, or of stone and lime; and in the last instance lime is either used only in bedding the outer part of the wall, or applied to the whole of it, as circumstances may render necessary. These walls are either coped with sod, or have a cope which tapers to the top, closely built with stone and lime, or the coping is executed with large irregular stones, according to the taste and disposition of the persons by whom they are erected. A wall built with stone and lime is undoubtedly the preferable fence; but the expense far exceeds the value of the interest a tenant generally has in the premises. Such walls ought therefore, in every case, to be erected by the proprietor, who thus increases the value of his property, in a direct proportion with the increased value given to the land, by the erection of such fences.
To render a stone wall useful as a fence, its height ought never to be less than five feet three inches; otherwise it will not keep in many of the breeds of sheep which prevail in the country. In erecting the fence great care ought to be taken to build upon a solid foundation, otherwise the wall is apt to incline to a side, and gradually to fall down. The coping should be made close, for if the water gets down the inside of the wall, it will bulge out, and finally go to ruin.
To plant Thorn Hedges.
When a thorn hedge is to be planted, it is of advantage to fallow the ground a year beforehand; and if the soil is poor, to dress it with dung, so that the young plants may not be oppressed with weeds, or stunted for want of food, when weak and unable to send forth their fibres in search of nourishment. These things being attended to, and the hedge planted, an annual cleaning ought to be given; sometimes two cleanings are necessary before the hedge will thrive. It is also necessary to fence it at the back with paling, that beasts may be restrained from going over it, and to switch it over when two or three years of age, in order that it may be kept close at the bottom.
As the hedge grows up, repeated cuttings are necessary, so that a wide bottom may be gained, without which no hedge can be considered as a suitable fence; and some attention is required to give a proper shape to the top, which is a matter of much importance to the welfare of the hedge. When thorns are allowed to grow to unequal heights, the strong plants are sure to smother the weak ones, and when the hedge becomes broad at the top, it retains water and snow to the great injury of the plant. All these evils may be avoided by proper management: though twelve years must elapse before the best managed hedge can be considered as a sufficient fence.
To protect Young Thorn Hedges.
The expense of protecting young hedges from cattle, by paling and railing, have always appeered to be too great, and, at the same time, an unnecessary consumption of wood and nails. It occurred to Mr. Moore, steward to the Marquis of Bute, that a more economical protection might be effected by forming a small earthern dike upon the side of the ditch, opposite the line of thorns, sufficiently high to prevent cattle getting into the ditch. Accordingly, some years ago, he tried the experiment, and found it completely to answer his expectation.
The materials of this sort of a protection being always on the ground, it is attended with no expense but the workmanship, and the want of the use of the land occupied by this small ditch, for the time required will be much more than compensated by the saving of paling, railing, workmanship, and nails. Mr. Moore has also practiced with success, in parts where dead thorns, or brush for cocking, are scarce, of placing of stones across the top of the dike, instead of the usual cocking. These stones, after having served their purpose, will be useful for drains or dikes where improvements are carrying on.
To form a Plantation.
When a plantation of timber is to be formed, the first step necessary is to fence the ground that is to be planted, so that cattle of all kinds may be kept from making inroads. The ground to be planted ought to be completely fallowed the preceeding year, and, if in a rough or waste state, two years fallowing will be useful. If wet or boggy, open drains are to be dug through all the hollow places, so that superfluous moisture may be removed. These operations being performed, the planting may proceed, in executing which great care should be taken to make the pits of a proper size; and, in filling them up, that the best earth be returned nearest the roots. A mixture of timber, in the same plantation, is always advantageous, and thick planting is eligible for the purpose of affording shelter. As the plantation gets forward, attention must be paid to thinning and pruning the trees, removing always those first that are either sickly or debilitated; and, in this way, and by exercising constant attention in the management, timber trees will advance with much more rapidity, than when neglected and overlooked.
Much expense is often incurred in planting trees, which is afterwards lost by neglecting to train them up. Trees indeed are, in most cases, put into the earth, and then left to themselves to grow or die; whereas with them, as with all other plants, the fostering hand of man is indispensably called for in every stage of growth, otherwise they will rarely arrive at perfection, or make that return to the owner which may be reasonably expected when the several processes of planting, pruning, and thinning are duly exercised.
Planting trees in hedge-rows is not only prejudicial to fences, but of great detriment to grain crops cultivated in fields surrounded by these hedge rows, especially if the fields are of a small size. If shelter is wanted for a field, the best way of procuring it is to form belts, or strips of planting, from fifty to sixty feet wide; for timber trees thrive much better than when planted in rows, or narrow strips. All cold or moorish soils are greatly benefited by being inclosed in this way, though it may be remarked that small inclosures ought to be avoided, because they occasion a great waste of ground without affording a benefit in other respects proportioned to the heavy expense entailed upon the proprietor or tenant, for supporting such a number of unnecessary fences
The best method of raising Oaks.
The Dutchess of Rutland received the gold medal of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, for experiments in raising oaks. After five several experiments, her grace is of opinion that the best method is "to sow the acorns where they are to remain, and, after hoeing the rows two years, to plant potatoes, one row only between each row of oaks, for three years. The benefit to the oaks from planting potatoes is incalculable; for, from the said experiments and from others made at the same time, and with the same seedling oaks, planted with a mixture of larch, spruce, beech, birch, and other forest trees, and also with oaks only - in all cases she has found that potatoes between the rows are so superior to all other methods that the oaks will actually grow as much the first four years with them as in six without them. "It appears," she observes, "that the great secret in raising plantations of oaks is to get them to advance rapidly the first eight years from seed, or the first five years from planting, so that the heads of the trees are completely united, and become a smothering crop; after this is effected the trees will appear to strive to outgrow each other, and will advance in height rapidly; they will be clean straight trees, to any given height: experiments have proved the fact, which may be verified by viewing Belvoir."
The best climate for the sugar-cane is that of tropical or sub-tropical regions. Although sometimes grown in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky, it cannot be depended upon as a crop farther north than Louisiana. The principal varieties of the plant are the Creole, called also Malabar, the Otaheite, and the Batavian.
The plants are, in our Southern States, put in between January and March; October is the season for gathering the crop. At that time the slips or cuttings are selected for setting out, as the cane is never grown from seed. On general principles we venture to suggest that final deterioration is probable in any plant which is never renewed from seed.
For planting, after breaking up the land, furrows are run four, six or eight feet apart; in these the slips, each having several joints, are laid, from two to five feet apart, and covered not very deeply. The spaces between the rows are ploughed or hoed well. In Louisiana three crops will successively follow from a single planting; in the West Indies one laying will last from ten to twenty years. The yield of sugar to the acre is from 500 to 5000 or more lbs. to the acre; never more than 2000 in this country.
When ripe the canes are cut down close to the ground and stripped of the leaves, which are left to shelter the roots through the winter. This trash is now and then burned or ploughed under. The lowest part of the cane is richest in sugar. All parts of the plant make good fodder.
As soon as cut the canes should be taken to the mill, before fermentation sets in. There are many kinds of mills in use, from the simplest to the most powerful steam apparatus. In them all the canes are crushed repeatedly, so that the juice runs out below; but a great deal of sugar yet remains in the bagasse. The crude syrup contains various impurities, and should be at once strained through copper or iron wire into the clarifying vessels. Then it is boiled for concentration, lime being added in just sufficient quantity to neutralize the free acid, which is known by its no longer reddening litmus paper. The heat used should not be more than is necessary for boiling. In about twenty-four hours crystalization begins. The molasses is then drained out from hogsheads bored at the bottom. This process requires from three to six weeks before it is fit for shipping, but it continues to deposit or drip molasses for some time afterwards. Refining or whitening the sugar is performed in various ways, the most useful agent for the purpose being animal charcoal or bone-black.
This is obtained by tapping the sugar-maple tree in the spring, while the sap is ascending vigorously. The trees grow in groves or orchards in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Canada, as well as farther south. In February and March persons go to the maple groves and bore the trees with augers, two holes in each tree, near each other, two feet above the ground and only half an inch beyond the bark into the white wood. Tubes of split elder are then introduced, and the sap allowed to flow into troughs prepared for it. The sap is poured into kettles and boiled briskly, the scum being removed as it forms. When it becomes a thick syrup it is cooled and filtered through woollen cloth. After a second boiling it is left for granulation in moulds made of birch bark. Maple sugar may be refined so as to be perfectly white, but is generally eaten in the crude state. A good deal of it is sold in small cakes in the northern cities.
In France and Belgium this is quite largely manufactured. The fresh root of the sugar beet contains from five to twelve per cent. of sugar. The juice is obtained by pressure, after a kind of tearing or grating process has broken up the fibres and cells. The liqueur is then boiled with lime, filtered, concentrated by evaporation, and granulated much as cane-sugar.
COTTON AND TOBACCO
The tobacco plant will flourish as far north as Southern Ohio and Pennsylvania. Even in Connecticut large quantities of it are now raised for market. The most suitable soil for it is a light rich, sandy soil; the finest qualities grow on newly cleared land. Tobacco consumes the strength of the soil more than most crops. The best fertilizer for it is Peruvian guano.
Having selected a lot of newly cleared land, in the early part of March lay a large quantity of brush, leaves, etc., over the ground, and burn it thoroughly, then plough and pulverize the earth well, raking in as much ashes as possible. When the bed has been made smooth and firm, sow your seed about the middle of March, and then tramp it in, being careful to tramp the surface equally.
A few days before the plants are ready for transplanting, the ground should be thrown into ridges with the plough, by throwing two furrows together about two feet apart, and then raking down to from two to three inches above the general level of the surface. A time of wet weather is the best for transplanting. Set the plants about eighteen inches or two feet apart in the rows. This work is generally done from the middle of May to the middle of June.
Cultivate the plants as you would a corn crop, being careful to keep the ground well stoned and clean from weeds. The greatest enemy to contend with is the tobacco worm, which must be often and well looked for and destroyed. These worms will sometimes devour a large plant in a few hours. Some planters keep large flocks of turkeys, and train them to the tobacco field, in order that they may devour the worms; this answers well, and saves a good deal of manual labor.
When the plant makes buds for seed, they must be broken off, or it will make small leaves.
After the plant seems fully grown and assumes a yellowish cast, it is then ripe and fit for housing, which must be done by cutting it off at the ground and piercing with split sticks about four feet long, putting as many plants on each stick as it will hold without pressing them too closely together. If a free circulation of air be prevented the plants will mould. When thus done, hang them up in an airy house, made for the purpose, to dry. It is better to wilt the plants in the sun before housing, if it can be done.
When housed it requires nothing further until it has become seasoned. Then, in damp weather, while the leaves are pliable, strip them off, noting the different qualities as you proceed. Tobacco is generally, at this stage, divided into four qualities - the ground leaves, the bright red, the dull red and the tail ends, or top leaves. When there are large quantities to handle, it is best to have a stripper for each quality, the first taking off the ground leaves, then passing the plant to the next to take off the bright red, and so on until the leaves are all taken off. The stripper should hold them in his hand till he has as many as he can well carry; then he takes a leaf and ties around the stock ends of the bunch, and ties them fast. The bunches of leaves are then to be well packed in heaps, and to remain so until they begin to heat. Then they must be shaken out and again hung on the sticks and put up in the house as before. When the bunches are packed in bulk to heat, the pack must be examined every twelve hours, lest it get too hot and spoil.
After the bunches have undergone the fermenting process they are to be tightly packed by hand in hogsheads and powerfully pressed, putting from 800 to 1000 pounds in a hogshead. It is then ready for market.
The most suitable soil for the cotton plant is a rich loam. It cannot be too rich, and it is a poor crop on poor land. Cotton has been raised with success in Delaware, and even in Pennsylvania, but the finest long-staple cannot be produced so far north.
The seed are planted in hills, the rows three or three and a half feet asunder, and the plants about two feet apart in the row. After springing it should be thinned to one plant in a hill. The season for planting is as early in the spring as the ground can be prepared. The soil should be well cultivated and kept clean from weeds.
In the fall, when the pods open, it must be gathered every day and stowed away until there is a sufficiency to run through the cotton gin, which cleans it of seed. It is then packed in bales, when it is ready for market. The yield of cotton per acre is from 500 to 1000 pounds, according to soil, cultivation, season, etc.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE REARING OF SILK WORMS.
Procure eggs in February and March, and choose those of a pale slate or clay color; avoid all which are yellow, as they are imperfect. Keep them in a cold, dry place (where water will, however, not freeze,) until the leaf buds of the mulberry begin to swell. If the eggs be soiled, dip the paper or cloth to which they adhere in water once or twice, to wash off the coat with which they are covered, and which will impede the hatching of the worms. It is not necessary to scrape off the eggs from the paper or cloth on which they have been deposited. Dry them quickly in a draught of air, and put them in one or more shallow boxes lined with paper, which place, if possible, in a small room of the temperature of 64°, and keep it up to that degree for the first two days by means of a fire in the chimney, or, still better, in a brick, tile, or porcelain stove, or for want of these in a iron stove, and use tanners' waste-brok turf, or charcoal for fuel, to promote and keep up a regular heat day and night. The third day increase the heat to 66°, the fourth to 68°, the fifth to 71°, the sixth to 73°, the seventh to 75°, the eighth to 77°, the ninth to 80°, the tenth, eleventh and twelfth to 82°. It is impossible to expect regularity in hatching, if reliance be placed upon our variable weather, and it is the regularity of the worms coming forth which will ensure their uniform growth, save much trouble in feeding and attending those of various ages, and cause the whole, or the greater part, to form their cocoons at the same time, provided proper care be given during their progress.
When the eggs assume a whitish hue the worm is formed; cover the eggs with white paper (never use a newspaper,) pierced full of holes the size of a large knitting needle; the worms when hatched will creep through them; turn up the edges of the paper to prevent their crawling off. Lay twigs of the mulberry, having two or three dry and young leaves on the paper, to collect the worms, and more as they continue to mount. For want of mulberry leaves feed for a short time upon lettuce leaves, perfectly dry; if large they should be cut in strips and the mid rib thrown away, or, still better, feed with the twigs of the white mulberry tree cut up fine. The worms first hatched are the strongest; nevertheless, if only a few come out on the first day, give them away to save trouble, and depend upon those which appear on the second and third days. Give away also the produce of the fourth day, and then the whole stock will go on regularly. If it be wished to rear all that are hatched, endeavor to keep the produce of each day separate, by numbering the boxes and shelves. When the leaves on the twigs are loaded with worms, they are to be gently placed on clean, stout, white paper laid on frames with crossed rattans, giving them plenty of room. The shelves over which these frames should slide may be four feet square and fixed to upright posts; they may be multiplied as required. Whether a distinct building or apartment in a dwelling-house be devoted to a large parcel, it is absolutely necessary to secure the command of a gentle circulation of air by having ventilators in the windows, floors, and doors.
One or more tin circular ventilators in place of panes of glass would always ensure a regular circulation in the apartment; they may be stopped when their motion is not required. Red ants are deadly enemies to silk worms; to prevent their attacks the posts containing fixed shelves must not touch the ceiling, nor must the shelves reach the walls; the lower part of the posts should be smeared with thick molasses. If the worms are fed on tables or movable frames, their legs may also be smeared with molasses or put in a dish of water; guard also against cockroaches, mice, and other vermin.
The worms being all hatched, whether they are to remain in the first apartment or be removed to another room or distinct building, the heat must be reduced to 75°, for as the worms grow older they require less heat.
It is impossible to insure the regular hatching of the worms without the use of a thermometer.
First Age - that is, until the Worms have passed their First Moulting or changed their First Skin.
The apartment must be light, but the sun must not shine on the worms in any stage.
Feed the worms with the most tender leaves four times a day, allowing six hours between each meal; give the smallest quantity for the first feeding, and gradually increase it at each meal between the moultings.
In about an hour and a half, the silk-worms devour their portion of leaves, and then remain more or less quiet. Whenever food is given, widen the spaces for them; scattered food may be swept into its place.
Experiments may be made as to the comparable advantages of using chopped or whole young leaves. If chopped, a sharp knife must be used, to prevent the leaves from being bruised, and thereby causing the exudation of water from them, which would prove injurious. On the fourth day the skin becomes of a hazel color and looks shining, their heads enlarge and assume a silvery bright appearance; these are marks of their approaching first change. Their food on this day, therefore, may be diminished, or when these appearances take place, but not before. Enlarge the spaces as the worms increase in size. The leaves ought to be gathered a few hours before they are used, that they may lose their sharpness: they keep very well in a cool cellar three days. The leaves ought to be gathered over night for the morning's meal, to prevent the danger of collecting them in rainy weather. The leaves must be pulled carefully, and not bruised. On the fourth day the appetites of the worms begin to decrease, preparatory to their first moulting, and their food must be diminished in proportion as the previous meal has not been completely eaten. If the precarious heat of the weather has been' depended upon, the first change may not appear until the sixth or seventh day.
In the course of the fifth day all the worms become torpid; during this periods and in the subsequent moultings, they must on no account be disturbed. A few begin to revive at the close of the fifth day; some leaves may be then given. After the first moulting the worms are of a dark ash color.
As the worms are fond of the young twigs some of these should be spread over them with the leaves attached, upon which the worms will immediately fasten, and they may then be removed to a clean paper; or lay a strip of chopped leaves near the worms, and they will leave the old food.
The litter is to be taken away; but as some of the worms often remain among the old leaves, they ought to be examined. To this end the litter should be removed to another room, spread out on a table, and a few twigs placed over it, on which the worms, if any, will mount, when they may be added to the others. This rule must ho attended to after every moulting. Ten per cent. is generally allowed for loss of young worms. The first two meals of the first day should be less plentiful than the last two, and must consist of the most tender leaves; these must be continued for food until after the third moulting.
If between the moultings any worms should appear sick and cease to eat, they must be removed to another room, where the air is pure and a little warmer than that they have left, put on clean paper, and some fresh leaves, chopped fine, given to them; they will soon recover, and then may be added to the others.
On the third day the appetite of many worms will be visibly diminished, and in the course of it many will become torpid; the next day all are torpid; on the fifth day they will all have changed their skins and will be roused.
The color of the worms in the second age becomes a light grey, the muzzle is white, and the hair hardly to be seen.
It must never be forgotten, that during the time the worms are occupied in moulting the food should be greatly diminished, and no more given than will satisfy those which have not yet become torpid on the first day, or those which have changed their skins before the others.
During this age the thermometer must range between 71° and 73°. The revived worms are easily known by their new aspect. The latest worms should be placed apart, as their next moulting will be a day later also, or they may be put in the hottest part of the room to hasten their growth. This rule must be observed in the next moulting - increase the spaces.
The second day the first two meals are to be the least copious, the last two the greatest, because towards the close of the day the worms grow very hungry. The third day will require about the same quantity as the preceding last meals; but on the fourth day, as the appetites of the worms sensibly diminish, not more than half the former feed will be required. The first meal is to be the largest: feed those that will eat at any time of the day. The fifth day still less will suffice, as the greatest part are moulting; the sixth day they begin to rouse. Remove the litter, or even before they are moulted, if the worms are numerous.
The thermometer should range between 68° and 71°. If the weather be warm, and the glass rise several degrees higher, open the ventilators, exclude the sun, and make a slight blaze in the chimney, to cause a circulation of the air. Widen the spaces for the worms. The leaves must now be regularly chopped in a straw-cutting box, or with a choppingknife. The food is to be greatly increased on the second, third, and fourth days. On the fifth less will be required, as in the course of this day many become torpid; the first meal on this day should therefore be the largest. On the sixth they will want still less, as nearly the whole will be occupied in effecting their last change of skin. Renew the air in the apartment by burning straw or shavings in the chimney, and open the ventilators. It the evenings be cool, after a hot day, admit the external air for an hour. None but full grown leaves should be hereafter given to the worms, and they must be all chopped; avoid the fruit, as they would prove injurious, and add greatly to the litter. On the seventh day all the worms will have roused, and thus finish their fourth age. The litter must be again removed.
Fifth Age, or until the Worms prepare to Mount.
The thermometer should be about 68°. The constitution of the worms being now formed, they begin to elaborate the silk-vessels, and fill them with the silky material, which they decompose and form from the mulberry leaves. Give abundance of room: do not let the worms lie so close as to touch one another, for their respiration will be thereby impeded. Continue to feed regularly and fully, as the appetite of the worms now becomes voracious: give food rather five times a day than four; even six meals will not be too many. The last meal should be late at night, and the first the next day in the morning, at an early hour. The worms are not again to be moved, and the hurdles or feeding frames must be cleaned. On the seventh day of the fifth age they have attained their largest size, viz., three inches long and begin to grow shining and yellow. The appetites of some diminish, but that of others continues, and must be supplied, to hasten their maturity. The litters must be removed every two days during the fifth age, but not when the worms are moulting, unless it can be done without disturbing them.
The preservation of the proper temperature of the apartment at this stage cannot be too seriously impressed upon the cultivator. If sudden and great heat in the weather should take place, as often happens at this time, serious loss may be suffered, without proper precautions. The increased heat to which the worms are exposed causes them to cease eating, to leave their feeding shelves, and to wander about the room in order to find corners and places to form their cocoons in before the silk fluid has been fully elaborated or matured: thus defeating, in a great measure, all the care previously bestowed upon them. In the summer of the year 1825 vast numbers of worms were killed by hot weather in Mansfield, Connecticut. To guard against sudden heat in the weather, close the window shutters while the sun is beating on them, and keep the ventilators in the ceiling or other parts of the room open; and, if possible, tubs of ice should be brought into the apartment until the thermometer shows a diminution of temperature to the proper degree. The windows must also be kept open every evening, and until sunrise next morning, and water sprinkled on the floor to promote evaporation, and consequently a freshness in the air. It the worms should become diseased during the fourth or fifth ages, oak leaves may be given to them. These are stated to have been found very beneficial, but the species of oak is not mentioned. The white oak may be tried.
Of the rearing of Silk Worms in the last period of the Fifth Age; that is, until the Cocoon is Perfected.
The fifth age can only be looked on as terminated when the cocoon is perfect.
The cleanliness of the feeding frames in these last days of the fifth age requires great attention to preserve the health of the silk worms.
About the tenth day of the fifth age the worms attain perfection, which may be ascertained by the following indications:
1st. When on putting some leaves on the wickers, the insects get upon the leaves without eating them, and rear their heads as if in search of something else.
2d. When looking at them horizontally the light shines through them, and they appear of a whitish-yellow transparent color.
3d. When numbers of the worms which were fastened to the inside of the edges of the wickers and straightened, now get upon the edges and move slowly along, instinct urging them to seek change of place.
4th. When numbers of worms leave the centre of the wickers, and try to reach the edges and crawl upon them.
5th. When their rings draw in and their greenish color changes to a deep golden hue.
6th. When their skins become wrinkled about the neck, and their bodies have more softness to the touch than heretofore, and feel like soft dough.
7th. When in taking a silk worm in the hand, and looking through it, the whole body has assumed the transparency of a ripe yellow plum. When these signs appear in any of the insects, everything should be prepared for their rising, that those worms which are ready to rise may not lose their strength and silk in seeking fur the support they require. Handle the worms at this stage with the greatest gentleness, as the slightest pressure injures them. When moved, they should be left on the twigs or leaves to which they are fastened, to prevent their being hurt by tearing them off. A blunt hook should be used to take up those not adhering to leaves or twigs.
Preparatiou of the Hedge.
A week or ten days before the worms are ready to mount, bundles of twigs of chestnut, hickory, oak, or of the birch of which stable-brooms are made, must be procured, prepared, and arranged in bunches, so that the worms may easily climb up them to work their cocoons. As soon as it is observed that the worms want to rise, the bundles of twigs must be arranged in the feeding trays, leaving fifteen inches between them. The top branches should touch the lower part of the tray above that on which they are placed, so as to form an arch - and be placed a little aslant, that the worms, when climbing, may not fall off. The branches should be spread out like fans, that the air may penetrate through all parts and the worms work with ease. When the worms are too near one another they do not work so well, and form double cocoons, which are only worth half a single round cocoon. Leave openings at the tops of the curves for the worms to form their cocoons in.
As soon as the worms are prepared to rise, the feeding frames should be cleaned thoroughly and the apartment well ventilated. Put the worms which are ready to rise near the hedges, and give a few leaves to those that are still inclined to eat. After they have begun to rise, those that are weak and lazy do not eat, do not seem to be inclined to rise, and remain motionless on the leaves. These should be taken away, and put in a clean dry room of at least 76° of heat, where there are hurdles covered with paper, and the hedge prepared for them. The increased heat will cause them to rise directly. All the silk worms being off the hurdles, they should be immediately cleaned. The temperature of the room should be between 68° and 71°. When the worms are forming their cocoons the utmost silence must be preserved in the room as they are very sensible to noise, and, if disturbed, will for a moment cease to spin; thus the continuity of the thread will be interrupted, and the value of the cocoon diminished. When the cocoons have attained a certain consistency, the apartment may be left quite open.
Sixth Age, beginning in the Chrysalis State, and ending when the Moths Appear.
The following are the necessary things to be done:
I. To gather the cocoons.
II. To choose the cocoons which are to be preserved for the eggs.
III. Preservation of cocoons until the appearance of the moth.
I. Gathering of the Cocoons.
Strong, healthy, and well managed silk worms will complete their cocoons in three days and a half at farthest, reckoning from the moment when they first begin casting the floss. This period will be shorter if the silk worms spin the silk in a higher temperature than that which has been indicated, and in very dry air.
It will be better not to take off the cocoon before the eighth or ninth day, reckoning from the time when the silk-worm first rose. They may be taken off on the seventh, if the laboratories have been conducted with such regularity that the time may be known with certainty, when this may be done.
Begin on the lower tier of hurdles and take the cabins down gently, giving them to those who are to gather the cocoons; place a basket between two of the gatherers to receive the cocoons; another person should receive the stripped bushes, which may be laid by for another year. All the cocoons that want a certain consistency, and feel soft, should be laid aside, that they may not be mixed with the better. Empty the baskets upon hurdles or trays placed in rows, and spread the cocoons about four fingers deep, or nearly to the top of the feeding frame. When the cocoons are detached, the down or floss in which the silk-worms have formed the cocoon should be taken off. If the cocoons are for sale, weigh them and send them to the purchaser. The baskets, the floor and all things used, should be cleaned.
When gathering the cocoon, make four assortments: 1st. Those designed for breed. 2d. The dupions, or double ones. 3d. The firmest of those which are to be reeled. 4th. Those of a looser texture.
II. Choosing the Cocoons for the Production of Eggs.
About two ounces of eggs may be saved out of one pound and a half of male and female cocoons.
The small cocoons of a straw color, with hard ends, and fine webs, and which are a little depressed in the middle, as if tightened by a ring or circle, are to be preferred. There are no certain signs to distinguish the male from the female cocoons; the best known are the following:
The small cocoons sharper at one or both ends and depressed in the middle, generally produce the male. The round full cocoons without ring or depression in the middle, usually contain the female.
These may be distinguished from the dupions by the extra size, the clumsy shape, rather round than oval, of the latter. As however all marks may fail, an extra number may be kept, of the best of those which are spun double; and when the moths come out, the males and females being easily distinguished, an addition can be made from them to the defective side.
By shaking the cocoon close to the ear, we may generally ascertain whether the chrysalis be alive. If it be dead, and loosened from the cocoon, it yields a sharp sound. When dead it yields a muffled sound, more confined in the cocoon.
III. Preservation of Cocoons intended for Seed, or until the Appearance of the Moth.
Experience shows that where the temperature of the room is above 73° the transition of the chrysalis to the moth state will be too rapid, and the coupling will not be productive; if below 66° the development of the moth is tardy, which is also injurious. Damp air will change it into a weak and sickly moth; the apartment should, therefore, be kept in an even dry temperature, between 66° and 73°. When collected spread the cocoons on a dry floor, or on tables, and strip them clean of down or floss, to prevent the feet of the moth from being entangled in it when coming out. While cleaning them, all those that appear to have any defect should be laid aside; this is the time, also, to separate the male and female cocoons, as far as we can distinguish them.
Select an equal number of males and females, and keep the cocoons of the same day's mounting separate, that the moths may pierce them at the same time. If the good cocoons taken from the whole parcel, are all first mixed, and the selection for those intended for breeding be made from this general heap, many will be set aside,, which were formed by worms that had mounted upon different days, and which will be pierced by the moths unequally, and hence there will not be an equal number of males and females produced at the same time; this irregular appearance may cause the loss of a great many moths, or of several thousand eggs.
When the selection has been made, the sorted cocoons must be put on tables, in layers of about two inches, allowing the air to pass freely through them, that it may not be necessary to stir them frequently; but it is beneficial to stir them round once a day, if the air be moist. When the seed cocoons are not very numerous, they may be strung upon threads, and hung against a wall, or suspended from a beam. Just so much of the middle of the cocoon is to be pierced with a needle as is sufficient to attach it to the thread. The middle is chosen, because it cannot be ascertained at which end the moth will pierce the cocoon. Place a male and female cocoon alternately upon the thread, that they may be near each other when they come out.
If the heat of the apartment is above 73°, every method of diminishing the heat should be tried: such as keeping all the apertures to the sunny side carefully closed, to cause thorough drafts of air to dry the humidity that exhales from the chrysalides. Should the temperature rise to 78° or 82°, the cocoons must be put in a cooler place, as a dry cellar.
Seventh Age of the Silk Worm.
The seventh, and the last age of the silk worm, comprises the entire life of the moth.
The formation of the moth and its disposition to issue from the cocoon, may be ascertained when one of its extremities is perceived to be wet, which is the part occupied by the head of the moth. A few hours after, and sometimes in one hour after, the moth will pierce the cocoon and come out; occasionally the cocoon is so hard, and so wound in silk, that the moth in vain strives to comes forth, and dies in the cocoon. Sometimes the female deposits some eggs in the cocoon before she can get out, and often perishes in it; this circumstance has induced some to extract the chrysalis from the cocoon by cutting it, that the moth may have only to pierce its thin envelope; but the experienced Dandolo disapproves of the practice (although he has performed the operation with success) because it is tedious; and should the moth be put on a plain surface, five in a hundred will not be able to get out, but will drag the envelope along, and at last die, not being able to disencumber themselves. If the surface be not smooth, the moths will issue with greater ease; it is very favorable to the moths when they put forth their head and first legs, to find some substance to which they may fasten, and thus facilitate clearing out of the cocoon by the support. For this reason they should be spread out very thin on tables covered with a muslin or linen cloth. The life of the moth lasts, in Italy, ten, eleven, or twelve days, according to the strength of its constitution, and the mildness of the atmosphere. With Mr. Dusar, of Philadelphia, the moths lived from five to eight days; a hot temperature accelerates their operations and the drying which precedes their death.
Hatching of the Moths, and their Preservation.
Cocoons kept in a temperature of 66° begin to be hatched after fifteen days; those kept in a heat between 71° and 73°, begin to come forth after eleven or twelve days. The room in which the moths are produced should be dark, or at least there should be only sufficient light to distinguish objects. This is an important rule, and must be carefully attended to. The moths do not come forth in great numbers the first or the second day, but are chiefly hatched on the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh days, according to the degree of heat in which the cocoons have been kept. The hours when the moths burst the cocoons in the greatest numbers, are the three and four hours after sunrise, if the temperature is from 64° to 66°. The male moths, the very moment they come out, go eagerly in quest of the female; when they are united they must be placed on frames covered with linen, and made in such a manner as to allow the linen to be changed when soiled. Much care must be taken in raising the united moths; they must be held by the wings in order not to separate them. When one small table is filled with moths in a state of union, they are to be carried into a small room, sufficiently airy and fresh, and which can be made very dark. Having employed the first hours of the day in selecting and carrying the united moths, the males and females which are found separate on the tables are to be brought into contact, put on frames and carried into the dark room. It is easy to ascertain if there are more females than males. The body of the female is nearly double the size of that of the male; besides, the male which is single, beats about its wings at the least approach of light; the hour must be noted at which the tables containing the united moths are placed in the dark room.
If, after this operation is over, there still remain some moths of each sex, they are to be placed in a small box with a perforated cover, until the moment favorable for their union arrives. From time to time they must be looked at, to see if they separate, in order that they may be brought anew into contact.
When any thing is to be done in the dark chamber, as little light as possible must be admitted, only sufficient to distinguish objects. The more light there is the more the moths are disturbed and troubled in their operations, as light is too stimulating for them. The boxes are very convenient to keep quiet the males which remain, and thus prevent the fine powder adhering to their wings from flying about, and the destruction of their wings, and consequently their vital power. The cocoons must be removed as fast as they are pierced by the moth, for being moist they communicate their humidity to those which are still entire. The paper also on the trays, when soiled, is to be removed, and fresh supplied. Constant attention is required during the whole day, as there is a succession in the process of hatching, and union of the moths, which occasionally vary in relative proportion to one another. Instead of a frame paper may be used for receiving the eggs. A few good cocoons will not produce moths, owing to their hardness, which prevents the moth from making a hole by which to come forth.
Separation of the Moth and laying the Eggs.
If there be an excess of males they must be thrown away; if of females, males must be allotted to them, which have already been in a state of union. Great care must be taken when the couples are separated not to injure the males. The male ought not to remain united more than six hours; after the lapse of that time take the moths by the wings and body and separate them gently. All the males which are no longer in union must be placed upon a frame, the most vigorous afterwards selected and united with those females which have not yet had a mate. Other vigorous males must be preserved in a separate box, and kept in darkness. When there is a want of males let them remain united to the female the first time only five hours instead of six; the females are not injured by waiting for the male even many hours; the only loss sustained is that of some eggs, which are not impregnated. Before separating the two sexes prepare in a cool, dry, airy chamber the linen on which the moth is to deposit its eggs.
Six hours, as just said, is the usual time for the moths to remain united, for in that time the eggs of the female will be fully impregnated. It is also the general practice not to use the male for another female, but Mr. Delonchamps assures us that in the event of having more female than male moths, the latter may be again used to profit. In the year 1824 he raised many worms from eggs the produce of a sixth coupling, which were fully equal to those produced from those at the first; the union continued never less than from twenty to twenty-four hours; the male after a sixth union appeared as lively and as brisk as at first but he had no more females. The eggs from even a thirteenth union of the same male with different females had all the characters of those of the best quality. In these cases the disunion of the pair was, moreover, never spontaneous, but always required to be effected by the hands.
The following is the manner in which the cloth must be arranged:
At the bottom of a tressel or frame, which must be proportioned to the number of moths, place horizontally on each side of the length two boards, so arranged that one of their sides may be nailed to the tressel about five inches and a half high above the ground, and that the other side of the board shall be a little higher and project outwards. Upon the tressel lay a cloth, so that it may hang equally on each side. The ends of the cloth must cover the boards below, the more perpendicular the lateral parts of the tressel are the less soiled will be the cloth by the evacuation of the liquid from the moths. The moths which have been united six hours are then to be gently separated, the females placed on the frame and carried to the tressel and placed on the cloth one over another, beginning at the top and going downwards. Note the time at which the moths are placed on the cloth and keep those which are placed afterwards separate, to avoid confusion.
The females that have had a virgin male must be treated in the same manner as those which have been united with one that had been coupled previously five hours. The females should be left on the cloth thirty six or forty hours without being touched; at this time if it be observed that the linen has not been well stocked with eggs other females must be placed upon it, in order that the eggs may be equally distributed. When the heat of the room is 77° or 79°, or when at 63° or 65°, the eggs will be yellow, that is unimpregnated, or of a reddish color, that is imperfectly impregnated, and will not produce worms; the temperature of the room must therefore be kept between these extremes. Sometimes a female moth will escape from its mate before impregnation and produce many worthless eggs.
The female cocoons, as before noted, are generally larger than the males and not so much pointed as these are, and are without the ring or depression in the middle, which commonly distinguishes the cocoons containing the latter.
Eight or ten days after the deposition of the eggs the jonquil color peculiar to them will change to a reddish gray, and afterwards into a pale clayish hue; they are of a lenticular form, and on both surfaces there is a slight depression.
Preservation of the Eggs.
Collect the eggs which have fallen on the cloth covering the shelves of the tressel, when quite dry, and put them in a box, and, if numerous, in layers not more than half the breadth of the finger. The cloths raised from the tressel when quite dry are to be folded and placed in a dry room, the temperature of which does not exceed 65°, nor below the freezing point, 32°.
During the summer the cloths must be examined every month, to remove insects, and to prevent the cloths always in fresh air; if the quantity be large, place them on a frame of cord attached to the ceiling or a rafter. A barrel-hoop crossed with stout pack-thread will make a good frame. A small quantity may be kept in a tin case. If a board box be used the joints and edges of the top should be pasted with paper to exclude ants.
There exists a notion that every two or three years the eggs should be changed. It requires little to be said on this egregious error. To suppose that the good cocoons of a cultivator, after a few years, are no longer fit to produce seed, and yet that these cocoons can give good seed for the use of another, would be to admit a superstitious contradiction, which reason, practice, and science alike condemn. A change of seed can only be necessary when, from great neglect for a series of years of the worms, a diminutive race has been produced. Worms properly treated will never degenerate. On the subject of the degeneracy of silk-worms, in the United States, the most positive information can be given.
Mr. Samuel Alexander, of Philadelphia, says: "I am convinced that silk worms cultivated in Pennsylvania, instead of degenerating, improve; proof of which I possess in comparing the cocoons of four years since with those of the last year. I can say, with truth, the worms hatched from the eggs I brought from the south of Europe have produced annually better silk." The testimony of Mr. Sharrod M'Call, of Florida, is still more decisive.
A sample of beautiful sewing-silk, sent with his communication to the Secretary of the Treasury, was part of a parcel produced by worms, the stock of which he has had thirty years; and they were obtained from a maternal ancestor, who had possessed them many years before.
During all this long period no degeneracy has been observed. Let proper care be taken of silk-worms, and no deterioration will take place.
The time has passed when the idle reveries of Buffon, Robertson, De Pauw, and others, respecting the tendency of nature "to belittle" and degenerate everything foreign in the new world were received as truths. Facts, proud facts, demonstrate not only the absurdity of their positions but the superiority of many American animals and vegetables, when compared with similar productions in the old world.
To bake Cocoons.
Cocoons reel more readily, and yield silk of a superior quality, without killing the insect by either steam or hot water, or by baking them; but those who have not the means of reeling off their cocoons in two or three days after they are formed, or of selling them, must kill the insects they contain, or they will eat through, and spoil the cocoons by breaking the continuity of the thread. The easiest way to do this is to bake them in an oven, which must be about as hot as when bread has been taken out of it. After picking out all the spotted cocoons, put the rest in flat baskets, filling them within an inch of the top; cover them with paper, and a wrapper over it; put these baskets in the oven, and after an hour draw them out and cover them with a woollen rug, leaving the wrapper as it was. Let them stand five or six hours, to keep in the heat and stifle the chrysalis. Then spread them in thin layers on shelves, and move them every day (to prevent their becoming mouldy) until perfectly dry. It may be important to state that the birth of the moth may be prolonged a month, by keeping the cocoons in a very cold dry cellar. If the cocoons are kept over summer, they must be protected from ants, mice, and cockroaches.
On the Culture of the White Mulberry Tree.
The proper soils for this tree are dry, sandy, or stony; the more stony the better, provided the roots can penetrate them. The situation should be high: low, rich, and moist lands never produce nourishing leaves, however vigorously the trees may grow. They are always found to be too watery. The same remark may be made upon the leaves of young seedling plums, which will not produce good or abundant silk, and are only proper when the worms are young, say in their first two ages. It may be useful to have a parcel of them growing in a warm situation, that they may come forward before large trees, and serve for early food.
Mulberry trees may be propagated by - 1st, seed; 2d, grafting; 3d, budding; 4th, layers; 5th, cuttings; 6th, suckers.
The ripe fruit may be sown in drills, in ground previously prepared; or the seeds may be washed out of the pulp, and mixed with an equal quantity of sand or fine mould, and then sown. They should be covered about a quarter of an inch deep. The seeds will soon vegetate, if the ground be rich, and will live through the winter, unless the cold should be unusually severe. A quantity of plants from seeds thus treated lived through the coldest winters in the Middle Staes. In very cold weather the young plants may be covered with straw or long manure. The following spring thin the plants so that they may stand one foot apart at least. Seeds intended to be sown in the spring, or to be kept, should be washed out, as they are apt to heat or to mould, if permitted to remain in the fruit. Land destined for spring sowing should be dug or ploughed in the preceding autumn, left rough ail winter, and be harrowed or raked fine, as soon as the season will permit, and the seed sown in drills. The young plants must be watered in dry weather, and weeds carefully kept down. Weeds will not only stunt the growth of the plants, but cause disease in them, which may affect the future vigor and health of the tree. In the second year transplant them to two feet distance from one another, to give room for cleansing and dressing the land. When transplanting, cut off some of the roots, especially those that are ragged or decayed, and the tap-root, to force out lateral roots, and also the tops, at six or seven inches from the ground. When the plants in the nursery have sprung, strip off the side buds, and leave none but such as are necessary to form the head of the tree. The buds which are left should be opposite to one another. If the plants in the nursery do not shoot well the first year, in the month of March following cut them over, about seven inches from the ground, and they will grow briskly. They should be watered with diluted barn-yard water.
When the plants have grown to the size of one inch in diameter, plant them out in fields or places where they are to remain, and make the hole six feet square; trim the roots, and press the earth on the roots as the holes are filled. During the first year of planting out, leave all the buds which the young trees have pushed out on the top till the following spring, when none are to be left but three or four branches to form the head of the tree. The buds on those branches should be on the outside of them, that the shoots may describe a circle round the stem, and that the interior of the tree may be kept open; and as the buds come out rub off all those on the bodies of the trees. For several years after, every spring open the heads of the trees when too thick of wood, and cut off any branch which crosses or takes the lead of the rest, leaving two buds on the outside of every trimmed branch. Count Verri, of Italy, an experienced cultivator of the mulberry tree, recommends to leave only one bud at the end of every branch, preferring those which are outside and opposite to each other; and when three buds appear together to leave the middle one, which is always most vigorous, and to detach the two on each side of it. If the superior buds do not push well, the two next lower ones must be left. Every farmer knows the very great importance of dressing ground round young trees twice in the course of a year, and of securing them to stakes, to insure an upright, straight growth, and to prevent their being shaken by winds or levelled by storms. The trees may be planted at the usual distances of apple trees. The intervals may he cultivated in cabbages, turnips, or mangel wurtzel. The attendance necessary to Indian corn would endanger the young trees.
It is so much the practice in the United States to let trees take their chance for growing, after they have been planted, or sprung up from seeds or stones, that these particular directions may be disregarded. But let a comparative experiment be made with mulberry trees permitted to grow at will, and others treated as here directed, and the difference in their beauty and growth will be obvious. The advantage, in these respects, will be decidedly in favor of trees which have been attended to.
Without deciding upon the superiority of the various modes of propagating mulberry trees, it is thought proper to mention the great advantage of the mode of budding. In the year 1826, Mr Millington, of Missouri, "budded the white mulberry on stocks of native trees; and such as were done before July were forced out immediately by cutting off the stocks above the buds. Some of these buds made limbs more than two feet long by the 27th of October. The buds put in after the middle of July he did not intend to force out until the following spring. He thinks budding more expeditious and sure than engrafting, and when it fails does not injure the stock so much as this mode. Native stocks, to engraft or bud on, can be procured with ease; and the trees thus raised would not be liable to disease in their roots, like foreign trees: and these engrafted or budded trees would grow much faster, and furnish leaves much sooner, and of a larger size, and better quality. This will not be doubted by those who have observed how much faster an engrafted tree grows and how much larger its leaves are than those of a seedling tree."
Experience has fully shown that the leaves of the native mulberry tree produce good and strong silk; although not so fine as that from the white mulberry. Those, therefore, who have only the native tree, may begin their operations with it; and they will acquire a knowledge of the business of rearing silk worms, while the foreign species is growing.
It must be added that experience in the raising of the mulberry silk worm has led to much disappointment in this country. Recently, the ailanthus silk worm (bombyx or attacus cynthia) has been introduced, and affords promise of success. Dr. Stewardson, of Philadelphia, and Ref. Mr. Morris, of Baltimore, report very favorably of its hardiness and productiveness. Fabrics made of its silk are very durable. The U.S. Agricultural Department, at Washington, will furnish the eggs.
Q W E R T Y U I O P
A S D F G H J K L
Z X C V B N M