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has proceeded gradually, systematically, and according to the best digested principles of agriculture: not the immediate, but the ultimate object has been kept in view; and the expense, labour, perseverance, and industry lavished upon it have been rewarded by a success which has exceeded the expectation of the proprietor.
The farm is situated at the eastern extremity of the valley of the Tamar. Its surface is undulating; its highest ground consists of sandstone, limestone, and greenstone; the lower lands are composed of large marshes, and some fine alluvial tracts, through which winds Blackman's Creek, and the Macquarie river, both draining a greenstone range, distant about fifteen miles from the farm.
During the greatest portion of the year, and when water is most needed, these watercourses dry up, the range from which they come not being of sufficient height to feed rivers falling at a rate of ninety-three feet per mile.
This farm suffered, therefore, from two opposite evils: one part of it lay under marshy water, and was thus rendered sterile; the other consists of an arid soil, and therefore greatly suffered during the drought.
The improvements on it have been naturally directed to the best mode of draining the marshy tract, and of irrigating the whole.
By the friendly assistance of Captain Cotton, civil engineer, of the Madras presidency, and at that time in Van Diemen's Land, Mr. Kermode was enabled to proceed in his enterprise with the certainty of success. He dammed up Blackman's Creek ; and, finding at a distance of twelve miles from his farm, and at an elevation of 1200 feet above it, the basin of a former lake, to which one branch of the Macquarie river could be traced, he filled up the breach through which the waters of the lake had forced their way out, threw up embankments, erected sluices, and in one winter retained and secured, for the next summer season, 75,000,000 cubic feet of water.
The work at the outset was approved of by the Colonial Government, and, when completed, was personally inspected by the Governor (Sir John Franklin), who, foreseeing all the advantages which Avould hence accrue to the colony in general, and to those farmers in particular whose estates were below that of Mr. Kermode, acceded to his application, that the grounds of the reservoir should be exempted from public sale, and considered henceforth as a crown reserve.
The liberality of this enactment proved the care of the Colonial Government for the interests of the agriculturists. The latter, however, slaves of prejudice and custom in every country, and in every country most inimical to innovation or improvement, until the advantages of such are too palpable to be denied, refused for some time to take their share in the expense of embankment. But the five tons of hay per acre, which Mr. Kermode raised by means of irrigation, where not a blade of grass grew previously, was a reiult calculated to strike the eye of everybody: theirs had at length become opened, and the subscriptions raised by them in 1842 for improving the embankment and sluices, and for extending the irrigation, established for ever that most powerful agricultural agent in Van Diemen's Land.
The already-named Mr. Kermode produced, by draining and irrigating, from a sterile swamp of 500 acres, five tons of hay per acre. He moreover reclaimed, for meadows, more than 1000 acres; and raised from five to six tons of potatoes on an acre, on which, previously to irrigation, nothing was known to grow. Nor was the superfluous water lost sight of, being skilfully applied to turn a mill built on the farm, for
the purpose of performing the thrashing, winnowing, and grinding, and the use of which, in case of stabling or stall-feeding of milch cows, — a system which cannot be too much recommended, on account of the manure it produces, — may be still further extended to cutting the straw, &c.
As yet, that farm, with two exceptions, stands alone in point of agricultural improvement, produced by means of irrigation; but it is not so forward in respect to cropping and the mode of cultivation.
The farm of the Van Diemen's Land Company, and those of Norfolk Plains, are in that respect in a most advanced state: the rotation of crops, and mode of working the land practised there, being truly admirable. The farm of Circular Head, that of Mr. William Archer's, called Brickendon, those of Messrs. Thomas and Edward Archer, the estate of Cressi, and that of Quamby, belonging to Mr. R. Dry, may be ranked with the best farms of England.
Again, the farms situated on the Meander river, in what is commonly called Westbury district, those on the North Esk, which extend from Launceston down to Ben Lomond, with those of the district of Morven and of South Esk, embracing the Vale of Avoca and Break-o'-day, are all of a superior character.
In the valley of the Jordan, from its head down to Brighton, a distance of about thirty miles, there are also a series of very flourishing farms. In the great valley of the Derwent, the farms of Mr. Barker (Rose Garland,) of Mr. Jamieson, and Mr. M'Dowell, stand pre eminent among a good many others, the agricultural taste and industry displayed in which entitle them to praise and notice.
To the above general survey of the state of agriculture in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, I append a detailed examination of forty-one different soils, in different colonial farms, with the view not
only of illustrating still farther the subject under consideration, but also of contributing some fresh data to the important question relating to the causes of the fertility or sterility of soils in general.
Before this examination is entered upon, a few words are needed, to explain upon what plan it was conducted, and by what means facts were collected, results obtained, and conclusions arrived at.
In order to simplify and shorten the inquiry, and to combine the general with the specific object in view, only three kinds of soils were selected from each farm; viz.—1st, that which the farmer declared to be of the highest productive power; 2dly, that which he pointed out as being of the lowest; 3dly, and lastly, that which he characterised as "particular soil" that is, a soil which was either apparently fertile, yet produced nothing, or which was externally and in situation similar to other soils, but on which the crops more frequently suffered from frost and drought than on those in their immediate vicinity.
Each kind of soil was then examined with regard to the method under which it was cultivated, and also with regard to its external character; that is, to its colour, cohesion, divisibility, and porosity; likewise with regard to its position as connected with the subsoil and the slope of the country, its exposure to the sun and the prevailing winds, and its situation with reference to the prominent geological features of the farm.
Its physical character was next investigated;—1st, as respected its power of absorption of solar rays; 2dly, its power of terrestrial radiation, or emission of heat; and lastly, its power of absorbing atmospheric moisture.
The first of these points was deduced from the difference of temperature which existed between a thermometer covered by a soil one-twentieth part of an inch in thickness, and a naked reflecting one; both being exposed to the action of the sun at an equal degree of inclination; the degree of temperature shown by the reflecting thermometer being considered as zero, and the difference obtained, being registered with a sign of -f: thus, if the reflecting thermometer showed 70°, and the covered showed 78°; the kind of soil under experiment had + 8° of absorption.
The second point was deduced from the difference which existed between a thermometer covered by a soil one-twentieth of an inch in thickness, and exposed to radiation in a clear night, and a thermometer screened from such radiation, and placed in the immediate vicinity of the first; the degree of temperature shown by the screened thermometer being considered as zero, and the difference obtained being recorded with a sign of —: thus, if the one screened from radiation showed 60°, and the one covered, and exposed to the emission of heat, showed 55°, the kind of soil under experiment had — 5° of terrestrial radiation.
The third point was arrived at, by observing the difference which was found to exist between the weisrht of 100 parts of a soil deprived of its hygrometric water, and the weight of that same soil after it was exposed during twenty-four hours to the action of a saturated atmosphere: the increase of weight being expressed numerically, and recorded, under the head of capacity for moisture, with a sign of -|-.
Lastly, came the chemical examination of the soil, the analysis of which was twofold; one determining the quantity of soluble matter in 100 parts, the other determining the proximate constituents of the same.