« ÎnapoiContinuă »
member to have seen the horse-rake used in England, although I saw in operation implements for spreading hay from the swath to dry, or rather, perhaps, for turning it, drawn by horses.
There are other matters connected with English agriculture, upon which I might say a word or two. Crops are cultivated in England, of which we know little. The common English field bean, a small brown bean, growing not on a clinging vine, like some varieties of the taller bean, runs in what is called with us the bush form, like our common white bean, upon a slight, upright stalk, 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, are very much cultivated in England, although almost unknown here, and are 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 pounds to a fleece. There are two principal classes of sheep in England, 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. I mention these particulars only as estimates; and much more accurate information may doubtless be obtained from many writers. In New England, we are just beginning to estimate rightly the importance of raising sheep. England has seen it much earlier, and is 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 animals, 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, I saw only one ox team, and in that case they were driven one before the other, and in harnesses similar to those 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 the expense of production proportionably lessened.
Is it practicable, on the soil and in the climate of Massachusetts, to pursue a succession of crops ? I cannot question it; and I have entire confidence in the improvements to our hus. bandry, and the other great advantages, which would accrue from judicious rotation of products. The capacities of the soil of Massachusetts are undoubted. One hundred bushels of corn to an acre have been repeatedly produced, and other crops in like abundance. But this will not effect the proper ends of a judicious and profitable agriculture, unless we can so manage oúr husbandry that, by a judicious and proper succession of the crops, land will not only be restored after an exhausting crop, but gradually enriched by cultivation. It is of the highest importance that our farmers should increase their power of sustaining live stock, that they may obtain in that way the means of improving their farms.
The breed of cattle in England is greatly improved, and still improving. I have seen some of the best stocks, and many individual animals from others, and think them admirable. The short-horned cattle brought to this country are often very good specimens. I have seen the flocks from which some of them have been selected, and they are certainly among the best in England. But in every selection of stock, we are to regard our own climate, and our own circumstances. We raise oxen for work, as well as for beef; and I am of opinion that the Devonshire stock furnishes excellent animals for our use
We have suffered that old stock, brought hither by our ancestors, to run down, and be deteriorated. It has been kept up and greatly improved in England, and we may now usefully import from it. The Devonshire ox is a hardy animal, of size and make suited to the plough, and though certainly not the largest for beef, yet generally very well fattened. I think quite well, also, of the Ayrshire cows. They are good milkers, and, being a hardy race, are on that account well suited to a cold climate, and to the coarse and sometimes scanty pasturage of New England. After all, I think there can be no doubt that the improved breed of short horns are the finest cattle in the world, and should be preferred wherever plenty of good fodder and some mildness of climate invite them. They are well fitted to the Western States, where there is an overflowing abundance, both of winter and summer fodder, and where, as in Eng. land, bullocks are raised for beef only. I have no doubt, also, that they might be advantageously raised in the rich valleys of the Connecticut, and perhaps in some other favored parts of the State. But for myself, as a farmer on the thin lands of Plymouth County, and on the bleak shores of the sea, I do not feel that I could give to animals of this breed that entertainment which their merit deserves.
As to sheep, the Leicesters are like the short-horned cattle. They must be kept well; they should always be fat; and, pressed by good keeping to early maturity, they are found very profita. ble. “ Feed well,” was the maxim of the great Roman farmer, Cato; and that short sentence comprises much of all that belongs to the profitable economy of live stock. The South Downs are a good breed, both for wool and mutton. They crop the grass that grows on the thin soils, over beds of chalk, in Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Dorsetshire. They ought not to scorn the pastures of New England.
When we turn our thoughts to the condition of England, we must perceive of what immense importance is every, even the smallest, degree of improvement in its agricultural productions. Suppose that, by some new discovery, or some improved mode of culture, only one per cent could be added to the annual results of English cultivation; this, of itself, would materially affect the comfortable subsistence of millions of human beings. It is often said that England is a garden. This
is a strong metaphor. There is poor land and some poor cultivation in England. All people are not equally industrious, careful, and skilful. But, on the whole, England is a prodigy of agricultural wealth. Flanders may possibly surpass it. I have not seen Flanders; but England quite surpasses, in this respect, whatever I have seen. In associations for the improvement of agriculture we have been earlier than England. But such associations now exist there. I had the pleasure of attending the first meeting of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and I found it a very pleasant and interesting occasion. Persons of the highest distinction for rank, talents, and wealth were present, all zealously engaged in efforts for the promotion of the agricultural interest. No man in England is so high as to be independent of the success of this great interest; no man so low as not to be affected by its prosperity or its decline. The same is true, eminently and emphatically true, with us. Agriculture feeds us; to a great degree it clothes us; without it we could not have manufactures, and we should not have commerce. These all stand together, but they stand together like pillars in a cluster, the largest in the centre, and that largest is agriculture. Let us remember, too, that we live in a country of small farms and freehold tenements; a country in which men cultivate with their own hands their own feesimple acres, drawing not only their subsistence, but also their spirit of independence and manly freedom, from the ground they plough. They are at once its owners, its cultivators, and its defenders. And, whatever else may be undervalued or overlooked, let us never forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. Man may be civilized, in some degree, without great progress in manufactures and with little commerce with his distant neighbors. But without the cultivation of the earth, he is, in all countries, a savage. Until he gives up the chase, and fixes himself in some place and seeks a living from the earth, he is a roaming barbarian. When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.