Imagens das páginas
PDF

But introducing irrigation, raising pasture, stabling the cattle, obtaining manure, and manuring the soil,

farm-yard aroused themselves slowly and reluctantly, as though fettered and shackled in all their movements by the serappe or poncho that enveloped their persons. The nonchalance and indolence of the numerous in-door dependents contrasted singularly with the busy aspect of the fields. There the Indian, on whom the field labour devolves, had risen with the sun, and already animated every nook with the signs of active industry. The appearance of the fields struck me greatly; never before had I beheld a more smiling scene. The wheat, four months old, spread its brilliant verdure, like a rich velvet robe, over extensive tracts, lost to the eye in the windings of the valley. On the other side of the picture the gathering in of the maize harvest could be seen, an unusual sight in Spanish America — a multitude of women and children appeared busy at work in the midst!" This is indeed a rare sight,'' I observed to my host; "how have you been able to turn the services of women and children to account? You have worked a miracle, which is every where else in this country considered impracticable!" More pleased than mortified, he answered, "Undeceive yourself, —all the people here are gleaning for their own benefit, and by virtue of a right established for centuries. The reapers who work for me are aware that I respect this right, and never fail, whenever an opportunity presents, to increase the gains of their wives by purposely adding to the number of ears of corn left strewn on the field through negligence. They take a quarter of the whole, so that, including the other quarter which they cost me in wages, we may be said to go halves every harvest, if, as friend Gil Bias says, 'arithmetic is an exact science.' But God is good; they do not ruin me: the harvest increases yearly." The second farm, situated two leagues further off, and which we likewise visited, possesses the same kind of soil, and is under similar culture, if the word culture can be here properly applied. The plough, modelled upon that of the ancients, does but irregularly scrape up the earth; the grain committed to it, is rather dropped than sown; the harrow, a faggot of prickly branches, drawn by one horse, slightly scratches over the surface, and thus terminate the labours of seed time. The method of harvesting is not any more edifying. A small sickle, one third the size of those commonly used in Germany or England, cuts the wheat, only a little below the ear; the sheaves, when gathered and bound, are carried upon asses, mules, or horses to the appointed spot, a kind of Olympic circus, in which the gallop of the horses shakes out the grain from the ear. The operations of winnowing, sifting, &c. correspond. The management of the farm is carried on without calculation, combined plan, or control. Encumbered with a multitude of idle hangers-on, it presents in every department little order and still less economy. Thus it is that the current expences of cultivation absorb one half of the income. This result, however, startling though it be, is imperceptible. The proprietor himself was astonished, when I proved it to him by figures; for the amazing fertility of the soil helps to cover and to render less sensible

G G

are not sufficient to maintain its productiveness for the continuous growth of one plant.

all waste or deficit, which the defects in the mode of culture necessarily entail. The produce of 60 fanegas of wheat sown is 5000, that is to say, 80 for 1; 10 fanegas of maize yield 1800, or 180 for 1; and 10 of beans 400, or 40 for 1!

The wheat is sown in October, and, when reaped in May, is followed by maize or beans, which, when gathered in September, is again followed by wheat. Thus, the soil never rests; two harvests have been cut annually for twenty years, without any manuring having taken place.

The number of day labourers on the farm amounts to 100 men, who are Yakie and Pimas Indians. This number is increased by 30 during the two harvests. The families of these 130, scattered among the Ranchos which surround the farm, make altogether 500 souls, who all live by the privilege of gleaning, and other largesses which mark the benevolent character of the proprietor. I append the rate of wages, which is interesting, considered in connection with the low price of corn:—

The bailiff or superintendent of the farm
Ten sub-bailiffs ....

Fifty peons at 5^ in silver, and 2^ in wheat 1

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[table][ocr errors]

300

144

120

during two months of harvest

Total of wages, in wheat and in silver

9,650^

The farm is liable to no direct imposts, these having been redeemed, thirteen years ago, for 22,0C0^. Its present income, consisting of the produce of the sales of wheat, maize, and beans, amounts to 20,000.^, and its expenditure, in wages alone, to the exorbitant sum of 9650^.

The house of the proprietor is a substantial, massive structure, furnished similarly to town-houses, and abundantly stocked with every description of provisions, and foreign wines and liqueurs. The garden contains plantations of vines, citrons, oranges, quinces, peaches, and apricots, and a variety of European vegetables, all carefully and scientifically cultivated. Every where abundance is visible; every where are seen the signs of an open, generous hand. Avarice, penuriousness, want, and suffering seem to be unknown; health, peace, and content appear to reign in undisturbed possession of this region. It is on my host, however, that they lavish their brightest favours.

[graphic]

Whether it be owing to the excrementitious matter ejected by a plant, or to some other obscure cause, still to be explained, it is known by experience, that any one kind of cultivated plant intended for the use of man and animals soon impedes its own developement, if allowed to grow in a soil without alternating with another kind. It is further proved, that the longer the time which intervenes between each kind of crop, the greater the reproduction of the soil and the vitality of the plant; thence a system of regular and rational rotation, founded on a knowledge of the chemical character of the soil, and the plants which are about to be alternately produced by it, becomes indispensable in a well-managed farm.

In New South Wales and in Van Diemen's Land, the rotation which is in practice is as yet unconnected with the principles of the science of agriculture. In most cases, it is the mere consequence of an erroneous idea, which the vaunted capabilities of virgin soils have engendered. Thus, in the description of some of the colonial soils, the rotation which was recorded shows that wheat, tobacco, or maize, the most exhausting of all cultivated plants, were grown in succession, or alternated with each other, on the same, frequently unmanured soil.

Don Joaquim de Astiazaran is, in his physiognomy and manners, his thoughts and actions, a true picture of a kind-hearted country gentleman, in harmony with himself and with all about him. Far from the tumult of active life, — undisturbed by the thirst of fame or power, he tranquilly spins the thread of his days in the happy uniformity of pleasures which the cultivation of the soil affords, and of the domestic comforts which his fortune procures him. Undisputed sovereign upon his eight square leagues, what are to him the events that take place beyond? Ye crumbling empires of the world! ye revolutions which engulf both kings and people! ye federalists and centralists of Mexico! though ye should rise en masse, be it known to you beforehand, that if ever the echo of your tumults should resound so far as to be heard amid the quiet haunts of this peaceful farm, neither your objects would there awaken any interest, nor your disasters any sympathy, nor yet your triumphs any admiration.— MS. Journal of the Author.

Generally speaking, the Australian soils approximate very much in their character to those of the eastern part of Prussia, where the agricultural school of Mochlin, directed by the revered Thaer, has introduced a seven years' rotation, which, in its application, has proved of the greatest benefit to the country. In Australia, however, with the assistance of irrigation and manures, the rotation may be limited to five years, according to the following plan : —

[table]

In the arrangement of the above system of rotation, the necessity of alternating one plant with the other was combined with that object of not less value and importance, which consists in enriching the soil through the medium of the produce itself, independently of the manure which is given to it.

The Australian agriculturist, situated as he is in regard to the market to which he must bring the direct produce of the fields, in order to obtain a return for his labours and outlay, should be perfectly conscious of the position which such export of the crop places his farm in.

This important question, bearing upon all the highest principles in the political economy of a

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

country, did not escape the attention of the first, of agricultural and chemical philosophers. "Exporting grain from a country," says Sir Humphrey Davy, "which does not receive in exchange substances capable of giving a manure, must ultimately exhaust its soils."

In England, France, Germany, and Italy, the sending away of grain, straw, and hay from a farm, receives an equivalent in the imported bonedust, poudrette, guano, &c.

But the importing of manure would be too expensive for countries like New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land: science, however, offers to them more attainable and cheaper means of supplying the continual loss and subtraction of fertilising principles from a soil, and it requires but unprejudiced mrnds to check effectually a growing and threatening evil.

Vegetable life has been found to derive its substance, in some cases, entirely from water, in some, from the air, in some from the mineral constituents of the earth; in others, again, the combined agency and concurrence of air, earth, and water are required.

In all eases the plants are found to possess in common the four elements of organisation, and some of the earthy ingredients, differing only in the proportion in which these constituents are combined.

Nitrogen, that most energetic agent of production and of life, has been discovered to be present in considerable quantities in some of those plants, which are thought, with great probability, to need from the soil only its mechanical assistance, and to derive almost all the azote they contain from water and air.

To this kind of plant belong the faba and fabula, the feverolle, lupin, and lucerne.

Hence the cultivation of these plants on a farm, and the ploughing-in of their second crop, have proved, from the remotest antiquity, of wonderful

« AnteriorContinuar »