Imagens das páginas

In England, a large portion of the turnip crop is consumed on tne land where it grows. The sheep are fed out of doors all winter; and he saw many large flocks, thousands and millions of sheep, which were never housed. This was matter of surprise, especially considering the wetness of the climate; and these sheep were often exposed in fields where a dry spot could not he found for them to lie down upon. Sheep were often folded, in England, by wattled fences, or hurdles, temporarily erected in different parts of the field, and removed from place to place, as the portions of the crop were consumed'. In some cases they were folded, and the turnips dug and carried to them. In such case, they were always fed upon lands which were intended the next year to be, as far as practicable, brought under cultivation. He bad seen many laborers in fields, employed in drawing the turnips, splitting them, and scattering them over the land, for the use of the sheep, which was considered better, often, than to leave the sheep to dig for themselves. These laborers would be so employed all winter, and if the ground should become frozen, the turnips are taken up with a bar. Together with the turnips, it is thought important that sheep should have a small quantity of other food. Chopped hay, sometimes a little oil cake, or oats, is usually given. This is called trough food, as it is eaten in troughs, standing about in the field. In so moist a climate as that of England, some land is so wet, that, in the farmer's phrase, it will not carry sheep; that is, it is quite too wet for sheep to lie out upon it. In such cases, the turnips must be carried, that is, removed from the field, and fed out elsewhere. The last season was uncommonly wet, and for that reason, perhaps, he could not so well judge; but it appeared to him it would be an improvement in English husbandry, to furnish for sheep, oftener than is done, not only a tolerably dry ground to lie on, but some sort of shelter against the cold rains of winter. The turnips, doubtless, are more completely consumed, when dug, split, and fed out* The Swedish turnip, he had little doubt, was best suited to cold climates. It was scarcely injured by being frozen in the ground in the winter, as it would thaw again, and be still good in spring. In Scotland, in the Lothians, where cultivation is equal to that in any part of England, it is more the practice than farther south, to house turnips, or draw them, and cover them from frost. He had been greatly pleased with Scotch farming, and as the climate and soil of Scotland more resembled the soil and climate of Massachusetts, than those of England did, he hoped the. farmers of Massachusetts would acquaint themselves, as well as they could, with Scotch husbandry. He had had the pleasure of passing some time in Scotland, with persons engaged in these pursuits, and acknowledged himself much instructed by what he learned from them, and saw in their company. The great extent of the use of Vol. in. 52 ii

turnips, and other green crops, in Scotland, is evidence that such crops cannot be altogether unsuited to Massachusetts.

Mr. Webster proceeded to state, that one of the things which now attracted much attention among agriculturists in England, was the subject of tile-draining. This most efficient and successful mode of draining is getting into very extensive use. Much of the soil of England, as he had already stated, rested on a clayey and retentive subsoil. Excessive wetness is prejudicial and destructive to the crops. Marginal drains, or drains on the outside of the fields, do not produce the desired results. These tile-drains have effected most important improvements. The tile itself is made of clay, baked like bricks; about one foot in length, four inches in width, three fourths of an inch in thickness, and stands from six to eight inches in height, being hemispherical, or like the half of a cylinder, with its sides elongated. It resembles the Dutch tiles sometimes seen on the roofs of the old houses in Albany and New York. A ditch is sunk eighteen or twenty inches in depth, and these drains are multiplied, over a field, sometimes at a distance of only seven yards apart. The ditch, or drain, being dug, these tiles are laid down, with the hollow side at bottom, on the smooth clay, or any other firm subsoil, the sides placed near to each other, some little straw thrown over the joints to prevent the admission of dirt, and the whole covered up. This is not so expensive a mode of draining as might be supposed. The ditch, or drain, need only be narrow, and tiles are of much cheaper transportation than stone would be. But the result is so important as well to justify the expense. It is estimated that this thorough draining adds often twenty per cent, to the production of the wheat crop. A beautiful example came under his observation in Nottinghamshire, not long before he left England. A gentleman was showing him his grounds for next year's crop of wheat. On one side of the lane, where the land had been drained, the wheat was already up, and growing luxuriantly; on the other, where the land was subject to no other disadvantage than that it had not been drained, it was still too wet to be sowed at all. It may be thought singular enough, but it was doubtless true, that on stiff, clayey lands, thorough draining is as useful in dry, hot summers, as in cold and wet summers; for such land, if a wet winter or spring be suddenly followed by hot and dry weather, is apt to become hard and baked, so that the roots of plants cannot enter it. Thorough draining, by giving an opportunity to the water on the surface to be constantly escaping, corrects this evil. Draining can never be needed to so great an extent in Massachusetts, as in England and Scotland, from the different nature of the soil; but we have yet quantities of low meadow lands, producing wild, harsh, sour grasses, or producing nothing, which, there is little doubt, might be rendered most profitable hay-fields, by being well drained. When we understand better the importance of concentrating labor, instead of scattering it, -— when we shall come to estimate, duly, the superior profit of " a little farm well tilled," over a great farm, half cultivated and half manured, overrun with weeds, and scourged with exhausting crops, — we shall then fill our barns, and double the winter feed for our cattle and sheep by the products of these waste meadows.

There was in England another mode of improvement, most important, instances of which he had seen, and one of which he regarded as the most beautiful agricultural improvement which had ever come within his observation. He meant irrigation, or the making of what is called water meadows. He had first seen them in Wiltshire, and was much struck with them, not having before understood, from reading or conversation, exactly what they were. But he had afterwards an opportunity of examining a most signal and successful example of this mode of improvement, on the estates of the duke of Portland, in the north of England, on the borders of Sherwood forest. Indeed, it was part of the old forest. Sherwood forest, at least in its present state, is not like the pine forests of Maine, the heavy, hard wood forests of the unredeemed lands of New Hampshire and Vermont, or the still heavier timbered lands of the West. It embraces a large extent of country, with various soils, some of them thin and light, with beautiful and venerable oaks, of unknown age, much open ground between them and underneath their wide-spread branches, and this covered with heather, lichens, and fern. As a scene to the eye, and to the memory, by its long existence and its associations, it is beautiful and interesting. But in many parts, the soil is far enough from being rich. Upon the borders of this forest are the water meadows of which he was speaking. A little river ran through the forest in this part, at the bottom of a valley, with sides moderately sloping, and of considerable extent, between the river at the bottom and the common level of the surrounding country above. This little river, before reaching the place, ran through a small town, and gathered, doubtless, some refuse matter in its course. From this river, the water was taken, at the upper end of the valley, conducted alpng the edge, or bank, in a canal or carrier, and from this carrier, at proper times, suffered to flow out, very gently, spreading over and irrigating the whole surface, trickling and shining, when he saw it, (and it was then November,) among the light-green of the new-springing grass, and collected below in another canal, from which it was again let out, to flow in like manner over land lying still farther down towards the bottom of the valley. Ten years ago, this land, for production, was worth little or nothing. He was told that some of it had been let for no more than a shilling an acre. It has not been manured, and yet is now most extensively productive. It is not flooded; the water does not stand upon it; it flows gently over it, and is applied, several times in a year, to each part, say in March, May, July, and October. In November, when -he saw it, the farmers were taking off the third crop of hay cut this season, and that crop was certainly not less than two tons to the acre. This last crop was mostly used as green food for cattle. When he spoke of the quantity of tons, he meant tons of dried hay. After this crop was off, sheep were to be put on it, to have lambs at Christinas, so as to come into market in March, a time of year when they command a high price. Upon taking off the sheep, in March, the land would be watered, the process of watering lasting two or three days, or perhaps eight or ten days, according to circumstances, and repeated after the taking off of each successive crop. Although this water has, no doubt, considerable sediment in it, yet the general fact shows how important water is to the growth of plants, and how far, even, it may supply the place of other sources of sustenance. Now, we in Massachusetts have a more uneven surface, more valleys with sloping sides, by many times more streams, and such a climate that our farms suffer much oftener from drought than farms in England. May we not learn something useful, therefore, from the examples of irrigation in that country?

With respect to implements of husbandry, Mr. Webster was of opinion that the English, on the whole, had no advantage over us. Their wagons and carts were no better; their ploughs, he thought, were not better any where, and in some counties far inferior, because unnecessarily heavy. The subsoil plough, for which we have little use, was esteemed a useful invention, and the mole plough, which he had seen in operation, and the use of which was to make an underground drain, without disturbing the surface, was an ingenious contrivance, likely to be useful in clay soils, free from stone and gravel, but which could be little used in Massachusetts. In general, he thought the English utensils of husbandry were unnecessarily cumbrous and heavy. The ploughs, especially, required a great strength of draught. But as drill husbandry was extensively practised in England, and very little with us, the various implements, or machines, for drill sowing, in that country, quite surpass all we have. He did not remember to have seen the horse-rake used in England, although he had seen in operation implements for spreading hay, from the swath, to dry, or rather, perhaps, for turning it, drawn by horses.

There were other matters connected with English agriculture, upon which he might say a word or two. Crops were cultivated in England, of which we knew little. The common English field bean, a small brown bean, growing, not on a clinging vine, like some varieties of the taller bean, ran in what is called, with us, the bush form, like our common white bean, upon a slight, upright staJk, two or two and a half feet high, and producing from twenty to forty bushels to the acre. It is valuable as food for animals, especially for horses. This bean does not grow well in thin soils, or what is called a hot bottom. A strong, stiff, clayey land, well manured, suits it best. Vetches, or tares, a sort of pea, was very much cultivated in England, although almost unknown here, and is there either eaten green, by sheep, on the land, or cut and carried for green food.

The raising of sheep, in England, is an immense interest. England probably clips fifty millions of fleeces this year, lambs under a year old not being shorn. The average yield may be six or seven

e>unds to a fleece. There are two principal classes of sheep in ngland — the long wooled and the short wooled. Among these are many varieties, but this is the general division, or classification. The Leicester and the South Down belong, respectively, to these several families. The common clip of the former may be estimated from seven to eight pounds; and of the last, from three to three and a half, or four. Mr. Webster mentioned these particulars only as estimates; and much more accurate information might, doubtless, be obtained from many writers. In New England, we were just beginning to estimate rightly the importance of raising sheep. England had seen it much earlier, and was pursuing it with far more zeal and perseverance. Our climate, as already observed, differs from that of England; but the great inquiry, applicable in equal force to both countries, is, How can we manage our land in order to produce the largest crops, while, at the same time, we keep up the condition of the land, and place it, if possible, in a course of gradual improvement? The success of farming must depend, in a considerable degree, upon the animals produced and supported on the farm. The farmer may calculate, in respect to ammals, upon two grounds of profit—the natural growth of the animal, and the weight obtained by fattening. The skilful farmer, therefore, expects, where he gains one pound in the fattening of his animal, to gain an equal amount in the growth. The early maturity of stock is consequently a point of much importance.

Oxen are rarely reared in England for the yoke. In Devonshire and Cornwall, ox teams are employed; but in travelling one thousand miles in England, Mr. Webster saw only one ox team, and here they were driven one before the other, and in harnesses similar to the harnesses of horses. Bullocks are raised for the market. It is highly desirable, therefore, both in respect to neat cattle and sheep, that their growth should be rapid, and their fattening properties favorable, that they may be early disposed of, and consequently the expense of production lessened.

Is it practicable, on the soil and in the climate of Massachusetts, to pursue a succession of crops? He could not question it; and he had entire confidence in the improvements to our husbandry, and the great advantages which would accrue from judicious

« AnteriorContinuar »