|CHAPTER XIV. |
It is called in French, Sain Foin, i. e., Sanum Foentum, from its quality of wholesomeness, beyond the other artificial grassed, green and dry. it is also called Sanctum Foenum, Holy Hay.
It is a plant so generally known to every body (except a certain author, who confounds it with Medica) that there is no need to give any formal description of that part of it which appears above ground. It has many red flowers, sometimes leaving ears five or six inches long : I have measured stalks, and found them above five feet long, though they are commonly but about two feet.
The reason St.-Foin will, in poor ground, make a forty-times greater increase than the natural turf, is the prodigious length* of
* There is a vulgar opinion, that St.Foin will not succeed on any land where there is not an under stratum of stone or chalk, to stop the roots from running deep ; else, they say, the plants spend themselves in the roots only, and cannot thrive in those parts of them which are above the ground. I am almost ashamed to give an answer to this.
It is certain that every plant is nourished from its roots (as an animal is by its guts) and the more and larger roots it has, the more nourishment it receives, and prospers in proportion to it. St.-Foin always saucceeds where its rots run deep, and when it does not succeed, it never lives to have long roots ; neither can there ever be found a plant of it, that lives so long as to root deep in a soil that is improper for it. Therefore it is amazing to hear such reasoning from men.
An under stratum of very strong clay, or other earth which holds water, may make a soil improper for it ; because the water kills the root, and never suffers it to grow to perfection, or to attain to its natural bulk. The best St.Foin that ever I saw, had nothing in the soil to obstruct the roots, and it has been found to have roots of a prodigious dept.
If there be springs near, or within several feet of, the surface of the soil, St.-Foin will die therein in winter, even after it has been vigorous in the first summer, and also after it hath produced a great crop in the second summer.
it's perpendicular tap-root ; it is said to descend twenty or thirty feet. I have been informed by a person of undoubted credit, that he has broke off one of these rots in a pit, and measured the part broken off, and found it fourteen feet.
This tap-root has also a multitude of very long horizontal roots at the upper part thereof, which fill all the upper stratum, or staple of the ground ; and of thousands of St.-Foin roots I have seen taken up, I never found one that was without horizontal roots near the surface, after one summer's growth ; and do much wonder how Mr. Kerkham should be so mistaken, as to think they have none such.
Also these tap roots have the horizontal ones all the way down ; but as they descend, they are still shorter and shorter, as the uppermost are always the longest.
And dry ground may be made to produce this noble plant, be it never so poor ; but the richest soil will yield the most of it, and the best.
that if they lie much more than half an inch deep*, they are not able to rise through the incumbent mould ; or if they are not covered they will be malted**. A bushel to an acre is full twenty seeds to each square foot in all I tried ; but there is odds in the largeness of it, which makes some difference in the number.
The worst seasons to plant it are in the beginning of winter, and in the drought of summer : the best season is early in the spring.
* In very light land the seed will come up from a greater depth ;but the most secure way is, not to suffer it to be covered deep in any land.
I am told (but believe it may be my mistake, I never having seen Mr. Miller's book) that Mr. Miller in his Gardener's Dictionary affirms, that St.-Foin seed will come up when planted seven or eight inches deep. If any one has planted it with a gage at that depth, and seeing it come up, has taken it out of the ground, measured the neck between the husk and the two first leaves, and found it to be of the mentioned length, he must believe it ; but without such a trial, I own it is to me very incredible. It has indeed in very hollow, puffy, new-broke meadow-land, come up from something above two inches depth, its neck being of that length ; but here the mould was so exceeding light and hollow that it made very little resistance against the rising head : in common arable land I never saw a St.-Foin neck so long, and I have examined a multitude of them. I have also found many hundreds of them to miscarry by not being able to push their heads through the incumbent mould when covered but half an inch deep in the channels, when a sudden dash of rain has come upon white land immediately after drilling.
Perhaps some may imagine, that St.-Foin comes up from a great depth, when sown under furrow : but this is a mistake ; for it is only the seeds which lie shallow that come up, the deep are all buried. Of the great quantity they sow, there are always enough that lie shallow ; for the furrow in turning doth not throw the seeds all under it when the earth is fine, and the seeds (their husks making them of less specific gravity than the earth) rise upward when moved by the harrow-tines ; and the greatest part of such a large quantity of seeds being buried and dead is often a great advantage to the crop ; for should they all come up, the land might be unmeasurably overstocked with plants.
** We say it is malted when it lies above ground, and sends out its root, which is killed by the air. And whether we plant bad seed that does not grow, or good seek buried or malted, the consequence will be much the same, and the ground may be equally understocked with plants.
It is the stronger when planted alone, and when no other crop is sown with it*. If barley, oats, or other corn sown with St.-Foin do lodge, it will kill** the young St.-Foin that is under it ; but then so great a crop of corn will certainly answer the very little expense of drilling the St.-Foin again, either the next year, or as soon as the corn is off the ground.
St.-Foin, drilled betwixt rows of barley or oats, always is stronger than when drilled amongst corn that is sown at random ; and therefore is in less danger of being killed by the lodging of the
corn ; neither is the corn in rows so liable to fall as the other.
The quantity of seed to be drilled on an acre will depend in great measure upon the goodness of it ; for in some bad seed not more than one in ten will grow, and in good seed not one in twenty will miss ; which is best known by stripping off the husks of a certain number of seeds and planting the kernels in earth, in the manner directed for finding the proper depth to plant at, which in this case let be half an inch ; this being done, the quality of the seed will be
* The worst crop that can be sown amongst St.-Foin, is clover or rye-grass ; barley or oats continue but a little while to rob it, but the other artificial grassses rob it for a year or two, until the artificial pasture is near lost ; and then the St.-Foin never arrives to half the perfection as it will do when no other grass is sown amongst it.
The inury these hay-crops do to the St.-Foin is best seen where some parts of the same field have them, and the other parts are without them.
** When barley, among which the St.-Foin is planted in a dry summer is great, there are few farmers that know till the next spring whether the St.-Foin succeeds or not ; because the young plants are not then visible ; unless it be to those who are accustomed to observe them in all the degrees of their growth. I have seen a field of then acres of such, wherein, after the barley was carried off, nothing appeared like St.-Foin, but when by the print of the channels, I searched diligently, I found the small St.-Foin plants thick enough in the rows ; they had no leaves, they being cut off by the scythe, no part of them that was left had any green colour ; but from the plants there came out many springs like hog's bristles, or like the beard of barley ; this whole piece of St.-Foin succeeded so well, that the third year its crop was worth three pounds per acre, the land being good.
known ; but until frequent trials have furnished experience enough to the planter to know the difference, let him observe that the following are good signs, viz., the husk of a bright colour, the kernel plump, of a light grey or blue colour, or sometimes a shining black ; yet the seed may be good though the husk is of a dark colour, if that is caused by its receiving rain in the field, and not be heating in a heap, or in the mow ; and if you cut the kernel off in the middle, crosswise, and find the inside of a greenish fresh colour, it is surely good ; but if of a yellowish colour, and friable about the navel, and thin, or pitted, these are marks of bad seed.
The quantity, or rather number of seeds convenient to drill, ought to be computed by the number of plants* we propose to have for making the best, crop, allowing for casualties**.
* Not that we need to be so exact as to the number of plants, whether they be two, three, or four hundred upon a square perch. Neither is it possible to know beforehand the precise number of plants that may live, for sometimes the grub kills many by eating off the first two leaves.
** Many, even of the best seeds, both sown and drilled, are liable to casualties, but not equally ; for about twenty-eight years ago, my servants (being prime seedsmen) had a fancy in my absence to try an experiment of the difference betwixt sowing and and drilling of St.-Foin ; and in the middle of a large field of my best land they sowed a square piece of three acres, at the rate of one bushel to an acre, not doubting, but by their skill in sowing even, it would succeed as well as if drilled ; but it succeeded so much against their expectation, that the land all round it, which was drilled at the same time, with the same proportion of the same seed, brought extraordinary good crops of St.-Foin ; but the sowed part was so very thin, that though it layed still with the rest for eight years, it never was a crop, there not being above three or four upon a square perch, taking the three acres altogether ; not that it can be supposed that the sown would always meet with so many casualties as this did ; for then eight bushels sown to an acre might have been too thin, and much thinner than all the rest of the field was, though drilled with only one bushel to an acre ; and it is often seen, that when an acre is sown with seven bushels of seed, the St.-Foin is as much too thick, as that sown with one bushel was too thin.
I do not know, that of the many hundred acres of St.-Foin that have been drilled for me, ever one acre was too thin, except when planted with wheat the young plants were killed by the frost.
In drilling St.-Foin not to be hoed, and before the ploughs of my drill were so perfect in making narrow channels as they are now (for when the channels were open they had six times the breadth, wherein part of the seed was wasted), then my quantity was one one bushel to an acre, sometimes six gallons.
But a single acre (in the middle of a large field of St.-Foin) being drilled late in October, the frosty winter killed at least nineten of twenty parts* of that bushel. At first it made such a poor appearance, that it was by mere accident or it had been ploughed up for a fallow ; but missing of that, a few plants were perceived in the summer, which by their singleness grew so vigorous and so very large, that the second year of mowing it produced a crop double to the rest (but note, this acre was dunged and in better order than the rest,) of the same field which was drilled in the spring, with the same proportion of seed, and none of it killed ; though all this field was a much better crop than some that was sown in the common manner, with seven bushels to an acre. I have generally observed the thin** to make the best crop, after the first or second year.
* But I believe there might remain alive three or four plants to each square year, standing single, and at pretty equal distances.
** But notwithstanding I commend the planting of St.-Foin thin, that most of the roots may be single, yet I have fields that were drilled with but four gallons of seed to an acre ; and yet the rows being seven inches asunder, the roots are so thick in them that the crowund is covered with the St.-Foin plants, which seem to be as thick (in appearance) as most sown St.-Foin, whereon seven or eight bushels are sown on an acre. And I have other fields that were drilled with about two gallons of seed to an acre (which is five seeds to each square foot), the rows sixteen inches asunder, that produce better crops, though the ground be poorer. The drilled St.-Foin being regular is more single, though as thick as the sown, and for that reason always makes a better crop, and lasts longer than the sown that is of the same thickness but irregular.
I have also often observed in lands of St.-Foin, lying dispersed in a common field (but where there was not common for sheep), and where the ends of other lands kept in tillage, pointed against the pieces of St.-Foin, and the horses and ploughs turning out upon the St.-Foin, did plough and scratch out a multitude of its plants (this ploughing and scratching was a sort of hoeing which helped the St.-Foin by a small degree of pulverisation, as well as by making the plants thinner) ; so that it was thought to be spoiled, and law-suits were intended for recompense of the damage ; but afterwards this scratched part, supposed to be spoiled, became twice as good as the rest of the same pieces, where the plough did not come to tear up any plants.
The reason why the single St.-Foin plants made the greatest crops, is, that the quantity of the crop is always in proportion to the quantity of nourishment it receives from the earth, and those plants which run deepest will receive most, and such as are single will run deeper than those which are not single.
Also the single do send out all round them horizontal roots, proportionably stronger and larger, whereby they are better able to penetrate, and extract more nourishment from the staple or upper stratum, than the other can do (if there be a competent number, which is, when hoed, fewer than any body imagines). It is common to see a single St.Foin have a bigger tap-root than twenty thick ones ; their length is in proportion to their bigness, therefore that single plant may well be supposed to have times more depth of earth to supply it than all those twenty small roots can reach to. And though these under strata are not so rich as the upper, yet never having been drained by any vegetable, they do afford a very considerable quantity of nourishment to those roots which first enter them.
The small thick plants are so far from equalling the product of the single by their excess of number, that the more they are, the smaller, shorter, and weaker they become, less nourishment they have, and the less crop they produce ; and are soon starved, decay, and die, unless relieved by the expense of frequent manure, or that the soil be very rich.
Single plants exceed the other, by a multitude of degrees, more than a giant does a dwarf, in strength as well as stature ; and therefore when natural grass happens to come, are so much the better able to shift amongst it.
The single plants seem also to exceed the other in their longevity ; for it is observed, that all St.-Foin that has continued good for a great number of years, without manure, has been so single, that the owners have determined to plough it up at the beginning for the thinness of it.
How long this may last by culture I cannot tell, but undoubtedly much longer than without it ; and I can say, that I never knew a plant of St.-Foin die a natural death ; the most common end of it is starving. And when a hundred thick plants have not the nourishment which one single plant has, it is no wonder that these (in a crowd* thus besieged with hunger) should be starved before it.
Another advantage the single have, in respect of moisture, these reach to a depth where water is never wannting, even when the upper stratum or staple is parched up, as appears by the mint (G) in the glass and box, that if any root of a plant has moisture, than root will communicate a share to all the rest. Hence it is, that in the driest summer, these single plants make a great crop, when the other yield next to nothing. I remember I once saw a farmer
* Sown plants when too thick are crowded on every side, but those that are drilled, have always room enough on two sides of them ; unless the rows are too near together.
coming out of a ground with a load of St.-Foin hay, which he assured me was all he could find worth cutting out of forty acres, of this thick sort in full perfection, three years after sowing ; he valued his load at three pound, but withal said, it came off so much ground, that the expense of mowing, raking, &c., was more than the value. When in the very same dry summer, there was three ton of St.-Foin to an acre in a field, where it was drilled single and regularly.
This was on rich deep land in Oxfordshire ; and the other St.-Foin, which was so poor , was on thin sclate land near Causham in Wiltshire, in the Bath road. It is now about thirty years since.
And I have often observed, that where the plants are thin, the second crop of them springs again immediately after cutting ; when plants that stand thick in the same ground, spring not until rain comes ; and I have seen the thin grown high enough to cut the second time, before the other began to spring.
The best way to find what number of these plants is proper is have on a perch of ground, is to consider what quantity of hay one large plant will produce (for if cultivated they will be all such).
Without culture these plants never attain to a fourth part of the bulk they do with it, therefore very few have seen any one plant at its full bigness ; one plant well cultivated has in the same ground made a greater produce than one thousand small ones uncultivated.
But the hay of a large single-cultivated plant will weight more than half a pound ; and 112 plants upon a square perch, weighing but a quarter of a pound a-apiece one with another, amount to two ton to an acre.
If St.-Foin be planted on some sorts of land early in the spring and hoed, it may bring a crop the same summer ; for I once planted a few seeds of it on sandy ground in my garden at the end of February, which prodced large plants above two fet high, that went
into blossom the following June, though there was a severe frost in March, which killed abundance of wheat, yet did not urt these plants : this showsthat St.-Foin is a quicker grower, unless it be planted on poor, cold ground, or for want of culture.
And though the poor land and ill management, generally allotted to it, causes it to yield but one mowing crop a-year yet it has yielded two great ones on rich sandy land, even when sown in the common, ordinary manner.
Thin St.-Foin cannot be expected to cover all the ground at first, no more than an orchard of apple-trees will, when first planted, at thirty feet distance from each other every way ; yet this is reckoned a proper distance to made a good and lasting orchard. But if these should be planted at three feet distance as they stand in the nursery, it would not be more unreasonable than the common method of sowing St.-Foin is ; and there would be much the same consequence in both, from covering all the ground at first planting ; except that the St.-Foin being abundantly longer rooted downwards than apples-trees are, has the greater disadvantage, when by its thickness it is prevented from growing to its full bulk and length of roots*.
The difference is only this, people are accustomed to see apple-trees planted at their due distance, but few have seen St.-Foin planted and cultivated at the distance most proper to St.-Foin, or every considered about it so much as to make the necessary trials.
* Horizontal-rooted plants suffer no greater injury by their pastures being overstocked than cattle do ; because their pasture lying near the surface of the ground, they have it all amongst them ; but St.-Foin, and other long tap-rooted plants, suffer yet more because great part of their overstocked pasture is lost by them all, when they hinder one another from reaching down to it, by shortening one another's roots, which they do when they all become dwarfs by reason of their over-thickness.
I have constantly found, that upon doubling any number of narrow rows, having an equal number of plants in each row, the crops have been very much diminished ; and upon leaving out every other row, that is, lessening the number of rows to half, the crops are increased : and where two rows are wide asunder at one end of a piece, and near at the other end, the plants are gradually less and less, as the rows approach nearer together.
We ought never to expect a full crop of St.-Foin the first year, if we intend to have good crops afterwards ; and that it shall continue to produce such, for the same reasons that must be given for planting an orchard at other distances than a nursery.
But when it has been planted on rich sandy land and proper, it has produced very great crops the first year ; but then the summer wherein it grew amongst the barley must not be reckoned as the first year.
The common error proceeds from mistaking the cause of a great or small crop.
When the spaces betwixt rows are wide (if there be not too many plants in them) we always see the St.-Foin grow large, and make the greatest crop ; but when it is young, or after cutting, we see room (as we fancy) for more of such plants, to make a yet larger crop ; not considering that it is the wideness of those spaces, and less number of plants, that cause the crop to be so large, there being more pasture for those plants.
Where these spaces are narrower, and the rows of equal thickness, we see the plants less when grown, and that they made a less crop, and yet there seems to be room for more rows, which we fancy might make the crop larger, not considering that it is the narrowness of those spaces that cause the plants and crops to be less for want of sufficient pasture.
Thus fondly increasing the number of our rows and plants, we bring our crop (unless the soil be rich) to nothing, by too much
overstocking their pasture ; and if that pasture be overstocked, the crop will be diminished more than in proportion to that overcharge ; for perhaps it is not impossible to prove (if we would be curious) that plants by wanting a fourth part of their due quantum of nourishment, will be diminished to half* of their bulk they would have attained to, had they been supplied with the other fourth part.
I have observed hoed St.-Foin to grow more, and increase its bulk more in two weeks, than unhoed St.-Foin in the same ground (and without any other difference) have done in six weeks : and the quicker it grows by being better fed, the sweeter and richer food it will make for cattle, whether it be spent green or dry**.
At whatever distance the rows be set, if they have too many plants in them, the crop will be very much injured ; and the greater the excess is beyond the just number, the more void space there will be amongst them ; because the smaller the plants are, the less ground they cover.
First, for horse-hoeing ; I think it is best to drill double rows with eight-inch partitions, and thirty-inch intervals ; which need only be hoed alternately, leaving every other interval for making the hay thereon.
I have had the experience of drilling at all distances, from thirty-three inches to seven inches, betwixt the rows ; and recommend the following distances for the different methods of drilling ; whether the St.-Foin be designed for hoeing or not.
* When plants have not their due nourishment they suffer the more by cold and drought, so that want of nourishment diminishing their growth one-forth, cold or drought, or both may diminish it another fourth.
** Cattle are the best judges of the goodness of grass, and they always choose to feed on St.-Foin that is most vigorous, and refuse that which is poor and yellow. And the richest, sweetest grass will always make the best hay ; for the drying of it does not change the quality of the grass.
Indeed I have never yet had a whole field of hoed St-Foin ; but have enough to show, that horse-hoeing makes it strong upon very poor land, and causes it to produce two crops a-year upon indifferent land.
It is not necessary to hoe his every year ; but we may intermit the hoeing for three or four years together, or more if the land be good.
Secondly, for hand-hoeing, drill the rows sixteen inches asunder, and single out the plant so as to make them eight inches apart, at least, in the rows contriving rather to leave the master-plants, than to be exact in the distance. This must be done whilst they are very young, or in summer ; else they will come again that are cut off by the hoe.
Lastly, when St.-Foin is drilled without any intention of hoeing, the best way I think is to plant single rows at eight inches distance, with no greater quantity of seed than when the rows are at sixteen inches distance ; because, by this method, the same number of plants in the rows that are but eight inches apart, will be much more single, than in the rows at sixteen inches apart are, without being set out by the hoe.
Which of these methods soever is practised, the land should be made as clean from all grass, and as well pulverised as possible before drilling.
The tines of the drill-harrow must exactly follow the shares, which leaving the channels open, the tines cover the seed, some at bottom, and some on each side : so that it is covered very shallow, though it lies deep within the ground, where there is more moisture than nearer to the upper level surface ; this causes the seed to come up in dry weather, and yet it is not in danger of being
buried by a too great weight of mould incumbent on it.
But take heed that no other harrow come on it after it is drilled, for that might bury it. I never care to roll it at all, unless on account of the barley, and then only in very dry weatherk with a light roller, lengthwise of the rows immediately after it is drilled, or else stay three weeks afterwards before it be rolled, for fear of breaking off the heads of the young St.-Foin.
Be sure to suffer no cattle to come on to the young St.-Foin the first winter*, after the corn is cut that grows amongst it ; their very feet would injure it by treading the ground hard, as well as their mouths by cropping it : nor let any sheep come at it, even in the following summer and winter.
One acre of well-drilled St.-Foin considering the different goodness of the crops and the duration of it, is generally worth two acres of sown St.-Foin on the same land, though the expense of drilling be twenty times less than the expense of sowing it.
* The first winter is the time to lay on manure, after the crop of corn is off, such as peat-ashes or the like ; because there being no natural grass to partake of it, and the plants being less, less will supply them ; and because, when made strong in their youth, they will come to grater perfection but I never use any manure on my St.-Foin.
It was because mine generally had no occasion for manure before it was old ; and soot is seldom to be had of sufficient quantity in the country, and little coal is burnt hereabouts, except by the smiths, whose ashes are not good. The price and carriage of peat-ash will be ten shillings for an acre, which would yet be well bestowed in a place where hay is vendible : but by reason of the great quantity of watered meadows, and plenty of St.-Foin, clover, and hay, raised of late years by farmers for their own use, here are now few or no buyers of hay, especially these open winters : so that laying out money in that manner, would be in effect to buy what I cannot sell. I think it better to let a little more land lie still in St-Foin, than to be at the expense of manure ; but yet shall not neglect to use it, when I shall find it likely to be profitable to me.
One of the causes why St.-Foin that is properly drilled lasteth longer* without manure than the sown, is, that the former neither over nor under-stocks the pasture, and the latter commonly, if not always, doth one or the other, if not both ; viz., plants too thick in some places and too thin in others ; either it is not single but in bunches ; or if it be single it is too thin, it being next to impossible to have the plants come true and regular, or nearly so, by sowing at random. Plants too thick soon exhaust the pasture they reach, which never is more than a small part of that below the staple ; when the plants are too thin, the St.-Foin cannot be said to last at all, because it never is a crop.
They who sow eight or ten bushels of good seed on an acre in a good season among their corn, with intent that by its thickness it sould kill other grass, reduce their St.-Foin almost to that poor condition I have seen it in, where it grows naturally savage without sowing or tillage, upon the Calabrian hills near Croto. It makes there such a despicable appearance, that one would wonder how any body should have taken it in their head to propagate so unpromising a plant ; and yet there has scarce been an exotic brought to England in this or the last age, capable of making a greater or more general improvement, were it duly cultivated.
Some think the Cythisus would exceed it ; but I am afraid the labour of shearing those shrubs by the hands of English servants would cost too much of its profit.
Lucerne requiring more culture, and being much more difficult to be fitted with a proper soil, never can be so general as St.-Foin.
* I have now a great many single St.-Foin plants in my fields that are near thirty years of age, and yet seem as young and vigorous as ever ; and yet it is common for thick St.-Foin to wear out in nine or ten years, and in poor land much sooner, if not often manured by soot, peat-ash or coal-ash.
Mr Laurence, in his new System of Agriculture, page 400, is in hopes of succeeding in his project of cultivating assafoetida in England in lieu of St.-Foin, and that it may be a greater improvement than it or clover. But I must beg leave to suspect a little his sincerity, when he delivers his opinion, that sheep fatted with silphium or assa would make mutton of such a wonderful pleasant taste, as to be preferable and more delicate than that of Bagshot-Heath ; especially when he relates, that one drachm of it fresh from the roots, casts a stronger smell than one hundred pound of it sold by our druggists ; and how " the whole air of a place in infected with its noisome stench ; and that Ronodęus thinks the Indian palates are made of brass to endure it."
Upon the whole, this revered gentleman's meaning (for all good men mean well) seems to be for introducing silphium as an improvement of another kind than that of St.-Foin, viz., that if he could prevail with the English to plant assa all over the island as frequent as St.-Foin and clover are ; so that by assuetude, English noses might become as brazen as those of Ronodęus's Indians (for those of the London goldfinders would be a million of times too nice), then Mr. Laurence's project would be an extraordinary improvement, and save the immense charge of a fleet to defend us ; for though we had no other guard but only this general stench of assa, it would be as dangerous for any European army to approach England, as for serpents and toads to invade Ireland. When this contrivance succeeds, Mr. Laurence will deserve no less of his country, than St. Patrick did of his. But because it may probably be a long time before this contrivance be so fully effected, as to bring St.-Foin quite out of fashion, let us consider in the interim the best methods of ordering it for hay and for seed. The profit of St.-Foin fields arising from either of these ways, is a great advantage to their owner, above that of natural meadows ; for if meadow-hay cannot have good weather to be cut in its season, it can serve for little
other use than as dung, and yet the expense of mowing it and carrying it off must not be omitted. But if there be not weather to cut St.-Foin before blossoming, we may expect it till in flower, or may stay till the blossoms are off ; and if it still rain on, may stand for seed, and turn to as good account as any of the former ; so that it has four chances to one of the meadow.
The elevated but not mountainous situation of the dry land whereon St.-Foin is mostly planted, renders it so commodious for making of hay, that it escapes there the injury of weather, when hay in low meadows is utterly spoiled.
On the high ground the wind will dry more in an hour than on the meadows in a whole day. The sun too has a more benign influence above, and sends off the dew about two hours earlier in the morning, and holds it up as much longer in the evening. By these advantages the St.-Foin has the more time to dry, and is made with half the expense of meadow-hay.
But before the manner of making it be described, the proper time of cutting it ought to be determined ; and upon that depend the degrees of its excellence (besides the weather, which is not in our power); for though all sorts of this hay if well made be good, yet there is a vast difference and variety in them.
The several sorts may be principally distinguished by the following terms, viz., first, the virgin ; secondly, the blossomed ; thirdly, the full grown ; and fourthly, the thrashed hay.
The first of these is best of all beyond comparison, and (except lucerne) has not in the world its equal. This must be cut before the blossoms appear ; for when it stands until full blown, the most spirituous, volatile, and nourishing parts of its juices are spent on the next generation ; and this being done all at once, the sap is much depauperated, and the St.-Foin can never recover that richness it had in its virgin state. And though when it blossom it be literally in the flower of >its age, it is really in the declension of it.
Part of a drilled St.-Foin ground was cut the beginning of May, before blossoming*, and from the time of cutting, until it was set up in ricks, being about ten days, the sun never shone upon it, but the weather was misty ; at last it was forced to be carried together for fear of rain, so green that out of the largest stalks one might wring milky juice ; yet by making the hay up in several little ricks, and drawing up a great chaff basket in the middle of each, its firing was prevented : but it looked of a dark colour by heating ; and was the very best** hay that ever I had.
This was also an advantage to this hay ; for apothecaries find that herbs dried in the shade retain much more of their virtue than those dried in the sun ; but farmers not having any such conveniency of
** This hay, so cut before blossoming, has kept a team of working stone-horses, round the year, fat without corn, who, when tried with beans and oats mixed with chaff, refused it for hay. The same fatted some sheep in the winter, in a pen with only it and water ; they thrived faster than other sheep at the same time fed with pease and oats. The hay was weighed to them, and the clear profit amounted to four pounds per ton. They made no waste, though the stalks were of an extraordinary bigness, they would break off short, being very brittle ; this grew on rich ground, in Oxfordshire.
drying their hay in the shade with safety, must always choose to dry it by the sun ; because in cloudy weather there is danger of rain, and therefore such excellent hay must be had by chance ; for to be well made in the shade it must be in danger of being spoiled or damaged by rain.
The other part of the ground was afterwards cut in the prime of its flower, and made into hay by the heat of the sun, without rain or mist ; this came out of the ricks at winter with a much finer colour, and as fine a smell as the virgin hay, but did not come near it in fatting sheep, or keeping horses fat at hard work, without any corn, as the virgin hay did.
This superfine hay cannot well be had of poor uncultivated* St.-Foin ; because that may not be much above a handful high, when it is in condition to be so cut, and would then make a very light crop, and would be a great while ere it sprang up again ; but the rich will have two or three tons to an acre, and spring again immediately for a second crop ; so that little or nothing would be lost by so great an improvement of its quality. For hoed St.-Foin, upon a poor, chalky hill, cut at the same time with that uncultivated on a rich valley, does in dry weather grow again without delay, when the valley attends a month or more for a rain, to excite its vegetative motion.
This hay the owner (if he be wise) will not sell at any common price, but endeavour to have some of it every year if possible, for his own use.
The second sort of St.-Foin hay is that cut in the flower, and through much inferior to the virgin hay, it far exceeds any other kind, as yet commonly propagated in England ; and if it be a full crop, by good culture, may amount to above three tons on an acre. This is that St.-Foin which is most commonly made, and the larger it is, the more nourishing for horses. I have known farmers, after full
* I reckon manure of peat-ashes, soot, or the like, to be a culture.
experience, go three miles to fetch the largest stalky St.-foin, when they could have bought the same, fine, leafy sort of it, at home, for the same price by the ton.
The next and last sort of St.-Foin that is cut only for hay is the full grown, the blossoms being gone, or going off ; this also is good hay, though it fall short by many degrees of the other two sorts ; it makes a greater crop than either of them because it grows to its full bulk, and shrinks little in drying.
This gives the owner a third chance of having weather to made good hay, and spins out the hay-season till about Midsummer ; and then in about a fortnight or three weeks after they the is finished, the seed is ripe. But first of the manner of making St.-Foin hay.
In a day or two after St.-Foin is mowed, it will, in good weather, be dry on the upper side ; then turn the swarths, not singly, but two-and-two together ; for by thus turning them in pairs, there is a double space of ground betwixt pair and pair which needs but once raking ; whereas if the swarths were turned singly, that is, all the same way, suppose to the east or west, then all the ground will require to be twice raked, at lest more of it than the other way.
As soon as both sides of the swarths are dry from rain and dew, make them up into little cocks the same day they are turned, if conveniently you can ; for when it is in cock, a less part of it will be exposed to the injuries of the night than when in swarth.
Dew being of a nitrous, penetrating nature, enters the pores of those plants it reaches, and during the night possesses the room from whence some part of the juices is dried out ; thus it intimately mixes with the remaining sap, and when the dew is again exhaled, it carries up most of the vegetable spirits along with it, which might have been there fixed, had they not been taken away in that subtle vehicle.
If St.-Foin be spread very thin upon the ground, and so remain for a week in hot weather, the sun and dew will exhaust all its juices, and leave it no more virtue than is in straw.
Therefore it is best to keep as much of our hay as we can from being exposed to the dews, whilst it is making ; and we have a better opportunity of doing it in this than in natural hay ; because the bigger the cocks are, the less superficies (in proportion to the quantity they contain) will be exposed to the dew ; and St.-Foin may be safely made in much larger cocks than natural hay of equal dryness can, which sinking down closer excludes the air so necessary for keeping it sweet, that if the weather prevents its being frequently moved and opened, it will ferment, look yellow, and be spoiled ; against this misfortune there is no remedy, but to keep it in the lesser cocks until thoroughly dry. St.-Foin cocks, (twice as big as cocks of natural hay,) by the less flexibility of the stalks admitting the air, will remain longer without fermenting.
This being able to endure more days unmoved, is also an advantage upon another account besides the weather ; for though, in other countries, people are not prohibited using the necessary labour on all days for preserving their hay, even where the certainer weather makes it less necessary than here, yet it is otherwise in England ; where many a thousand load of natural hay is spoiled by that prohibition for want of being opened ; and often by the loss of one day's work the farmer loses his charges and year's rent, which shows that to make hay while the sun shines, is an exotic proverb against English laws, whereunto St.-Foin being in regard of Sundays and holidays more conformable, ought to be the hay as proper to England as those laws are.
But to return to our hay-makers. When the first cocks have stood one night, if nothing hinder, let them double, triple, or quadruple the cocks, according as all circumstances require, in this manner, viz., spread two, three, or more together in a fresh place ; and after an hour or two turn them, and make than number up into one cock ; but when the weather is doubtful, let not the cocks be thrown or spread, but enlarge them, by shaking several of them into one ; and thus hollowing them to let in the air, continue increasing their bulk, and diminishing their number daily, until they be sufficiently dry to be carried to the rick.
This I have found the most secure way, though it be something longer in making, there is much less danger than when a great quantity of hay is spread at once ; for then a sudden shower will do more harm to one acre of that, than to twenty acres in cock.
And the very best hay I ever knew in England was of St.-Foin made without ever spreading, or the sun's shining on it. This way, though it be longer ere finished, is done with less labour than the other.
Not only a little rain, but even a mist will turn clover-hay black : but St.-Foin will not with any weather turn black until it be almost rotten, its leaves being thinner than those of clover.
If St.-Foin be laid up pretty green it will take no damage, provided it be set in small round ricks, with a large basket drawn up the middle of each, to leave a vent-hole there through which the superfluous moisture of the hay transpires. But not to be afterwards made into large ones, as Equivocus directs.
As soon as its heating is over, these ricks ought to be thatched ; and all St.-Foin ricks, that are made when the hay is full dried in the cocks, ought to be thatched immediately after making them.
That which is laid up most dried, will come out of the rick of a green colour ; that which has been much heated in the rick will have a brown colour.
The seed is the forth chance the owner has to make profit of his St.-Foin. But this, if the hoeing husbandry were general, would not be vendible in great quantities for planting ; because an ordinary crop of an acre will produce seed enough to drill a hundred acres, which would not want replanting in a long time.
The other use then of this seed is for provender, and it has been affirmed by some who have made trails of it, that three bushels of good St.-Foin seed, given to horses, will nourish them as much as four bushels of oats. When well ordered, it is so sweet that most sorts of cattle are greedy for it. I never knew so much of it given to hogs as to make them become fat bacon ; but I have known hogs made very good pork with it, for an experiment ; and being valued at the beginning of their feeding, and the pork by the score when the hogs were killed, which, computed with the quantity of the seed they eat, did not amount to near the value of the same seed sold for sowing ; that being three shillings per bushel, and the profit made by giving it to the hogs was but two shillings a bushel.
The goodness of the seed, and of the hay out of which it is thrashed depends very much upon the manner of ordering them.
This thrashed hay, when not damaged by wet weather, has been found more nourishing to horses than coarse water-meadow hay ; and when it is cut small by an engine, is good food for cattle, and much better than chaff of corn.
It requires some experience in it, to know the most proper degree of ripeness at which the seeded St.-Foin ought to be cut ; for the seed is never all ripe together, some ears blossom before others ; every ear begins blossoming at the lower part of it, and so continues gradually to do upward, for many days : and before the flower is gone off the top, the bottom of the ear has almost filled the seeds
that grow there ; so that if we should defer cutting until the top seeds are quite ripe, the lower, which are the best, would shed and be lost.
The best time to cut, is when the greatest part of the seed is well filled ; the first blown ripe, and the last blown beginning to be full.
The natural colour of the kernel, which is the real seed, is grey or bluish, when ripe ; and the husk which contains the seed is, when ripe, of a brownish colour. Both husk and seed continue perfectly green for some time after full grown ; and if you open the husk, the seed will appear exactly like a green pea when gathered to boil, and will, like that, easily be split into two parts. Yet St.-Foin seed in this green plight will ripen after cutting, have as fine a colour, and be as good in all respects, as that which was ripe before cutting. Some, for want of observing this, have suffered their seed to stand so long till it was all ripe and lost in cutting.
St.-Foin seed should not be cut in the heat of the day, whilst the sun shines out ; for then much, even of the unripe seed, will shed in mowing. Therefore, in very hot weather, the mowers should begin to work very early in the morning, or rather in the night ; and when they perceive the seed to shatter, leave off, and rest till towards the evening.
After cutting we must observe the same rule as in mowing it, viz.,not to make this hay whilst the sun shines.
Sometimes it may, if the seed by pretty ripe, be cocked immediately, after the scythe ; or if the swarths must be turned, let it be done whilst they are moist ; not two together, as in the other hay aforementioned. If the swarths be turned with the rake's handle, it is best to raise up the ear-sides first, and let the sstub-side rest on the ground in turning ; but if it be done by the rake's teeth, then let them take hold on the stub-side, the ears bearing on the earth in turning over. But it is commonly rain that occasions the swarths to
If it be crooked at all**, the sooner it is made into cocks the better ; because if the swarths be dry, much of the seed will be lost in separating them, the ears being entangled together. When moist, the seed sticks fast to the ear, but when dry, will drop out while the lest touch or shaking.
There are two ways of thrashing it, the one in the filed, the other in the barn ; the first cannot be done but in very fine weather and whilst the sun shines, in the heat of the day ; the best manner of this is to have a large sheet pegged down to the ground, for two men with their flails to trash on ; two persons carry a small sheet by its corners, and lay it down close to a large cock and with two sticks thrust under the bottom of it, gently turn it over, or lift if up upon the sheet, and throw it on the great sheet to the thrashers ; but when the cocks are small, they carry several at once, thrown upon the little sheet carefully with the forks ; those which are near they carry to the thrashers with the forks only. As fast as it is thrashed, one person stands to take away the hay, and lay it into a heap ; and sometimes a boy stands upon it, to make into a small rick of about a load. As often as the great sheet is full, they riddle it through a large sieve to separate the seed and chaff from the broken stocks, and put it into sacks to be carried into the barn to be winnowed.
* If the swarths be not very great we never turn them at all ; because the sun or wind will quickly dry them.
** S ometimes when we design to thrash in the field we made no cocks at all, and but only just separate the swarths in the dew of the morning, dividing them into parts of about two feet in each part. By this means the St.-Foin is sooner dried than when it lies thicker, as it must do if made into cocks.
This being done in the dew, prevents the damage of rubbing out the seed, which would be unavoidable if the swarths should be separated when dry.
Two thrashers will employ two of these little sheets, and four persons in bringing to them ; and when the cocks are thrashed, which stand at a considerable distance all around them, they remove the thrashing-sheet to another place. There belong to a set for one thrashing-sheet seven or eight persons, but the number of sheets should be according to the quantity to be thus thrashed ; the sooner these thrashed cocks are removed and made into bigger ricks the better ; and unless they be thatched, the rain will run a great way into them and spoil the hay ; but they may be thatched with the hay itself, if there be not straw convenient for it.
But the chiefest care yet remains, and that is to cure the seed ; if that be neglected it will be of little or no value, and the better it has escaped the wet in the field, the sooner its own spirits will spoil it in the barn or granary. I have known it lie a fortnight in swarth, until the wet weather has turned the husks quite black ; this was thrashed in the field, and immediately put into large vessels holding about twenty bushels each. It had, by being often wet and often dry, been so exhausted of its firery spirits, that it remained cool in the vessels, without ever fermenting in the least, until the next spring, and then it grew as well as ever any did that was planted.
But there is yet another care to be taken of St.-Foin seed besides the curing it ; and this is, to keep it from rats and mice after it is cured, else, if their number be large, they will in a winter eat up all the seed of a considerable quantity, leaving only empty husks, which to the eye appear the same as when the seeds are int them. A man cannot without difficulty take a seed out of its husk ; but the vermin are so dexterous at it, that they will eat the seed almost as fast out of the husks, as if they were pulled out for them. I saw a rat killed as he was running from a heap of it, that had seven peeled seeds in his mouth not swallowed, which is a sign that he was not
long in taking them out. They take them out so cleverly, that the hole in the husk shuts itself up when the seed is out of it. But if you rub the husk between your finger and thumb, you will find it empty. Also a sackful of them is very light, yet there have been some so ignorant and incurious as to sow such empty husks for several years successively, and none coming up, they concluded their land to be improper for St.-Foin.
But of seed thrashed in the field without ever being wetted, if it be immediately winnowed, and a single bushel laid in a heap, or put into a sack, it will in a few days ferment to such a degree, that the greater part of it will lose its vegetative quality ; the larger the heap the worse ; during the fermentation it will be very hot and smell sour.
Many to prevent this spread it upon a malt-floor, turning it often ; or when the quantity is small, upon a barn-floor ; but still I find that this way a great deal of it is spoiled, for it will heat through it be spread but a handful thick, and they never spread it thinner ; besides they may miss some hours of the right times of turning it, for it must be done very often ; it should be stirred in the night as well as the day, until the heating be over ; and yet do what they can, it never will keep its colour so bright as that which is well housed, well dried, and thrashed in the winter ; for in the barn the stalks keep it hollow ; there are few ears or seeds that touch one another, and the spirits have room to fly off by degrees, the air entering the receive them.
The only way I have found to initiate and equal this, is to winnow it from the sheet, then lay a layer of wheat-straw (or if that be wanting, of very dry trashed hay), then spread thereon a think layer of seed, and thus stratum super stratum, six or seven feet high, and as much is breadth ; then begin another stack, let there be straw enough, and do not read on the stacks ; by this means the seed mixing with the straw, will be kept cool, and come out in the
spring with as green a colour as when it was put in, and not one seed of a thousand will fail to grow when planted. A little barn-room will contain a great quantity in this manner.
I have had above one hundred quarters of clean seed thus managed in one bay of a small barn. We do not stay to winnow it clean before we lay it up in the straw, but only pass it through a large sieve, and with the van blow out the chaff, and winnow it clean in the spring.
ear ; as it dries they thrash it out, and if they cure it well, have thus sometimes good seed, but generally the hay is spoiled.
into the hole in the board, and having an iron-gudgeon at the bottom, which went into a socket in the bottom of the wagon, would turn quite round ; the post of the crane was ten feet four inches long, its arm four feet eight inches long, braced, having a triple pulley at the end of it, and another to answer it will a hook.
About forty sheets were provided capable of holding each one hundred and fifty or two hundred pounds weight of it ; these had knots or buttons at the corners and middles, made by sewing up a little hay in these knots a big as apples into part of the sheet ; for it any buckle or other thing be sewed to a sheet plain, it will tear the sheet. Half these buttons have strings tied to them, these sheets are spread among the cocks, filled by two and tied up by two other persons ; there is also a light fir ladder wide at bottom, the top of it fastened by a piece of cord to the brace of the crane, they hitch the hook of the lower pulley to a filled sheet, and by a little horse at the end of the pulley-rope, draw it up sliding on the ladder ; it is up in a moment : then the man who is below, hitches the crook of the pully to the lower round of the ladder, and the loader above pulls up the ladder from the ground, till the wagon comes to another sheet. The wagons are lengthened by cart-ladders before and behind, for the more easy placing of the sheets. When about twelve or fifteen of them are loaded, they have a rope fixed to the forepart of each wagon, which they bring over the top of all the loaded sheets, and rest it at the tail, to hold on the sheets fast from falling off with jolting. Then the loader pulls out the crane, and puts it into the next wagon in the same manner. One wagon is loading whilst another is emptying in the barn by tripple pulleys likewise ; because it is inconvenient to take it out of the sheets by prongs, but the pulleys will easily draw off two or three sheets together. One wagon is always going to the field or coming home. This contrivance makes more expedition than one would imagine :
three loads have been loaded and sent off in the same time this way, that one load of hay has been loading, binding, and raking off the outsides of it, in the next ground, in the common way.
I will not relate the manner of making a rick of this seed in its hay or monstrous dimensions, by a sort of mast-pole forty-four feet high, with a ten-feet crane on the top, which made the same expedition ; because I think, that where such a quantity is, Dutch barns with moving roofs are better. Such a rick is troublesome to thatch, and the wind has more power to blow the thatch off so high in the air than if it were lower. Neither would I advice any one to reserve much more St.-Foin for thrashing, than this barn will contain ; because though sometimes it brings the greatest profit by thrashing, yet some years it is apt to be blighted.
I have been told by my neighbour, that he had a crop of five quarters of St.-Foin seed on an acre ; but the most profit that ever I took notice of, was on half an acre, which was drilled very thin, and had no crop of corn with it ; by which advantage it produced a good crop of seed the next year after it was planted, and the third year this half-acre produced (as was tried by a wager) within a trifle of two quarters of seed, which was sold for two pounds and ten shillings ; the trashed hay of it was sold in the place for one pound, and two quarters of chaff sold for twelve shillings ; in all four pounds and two shillings. There was also a very good aftermath, which was worth the charges of cutting and thrashing : so that the clear profit of the one year of this half-acre of ground, amounted to four pound two shillings ; and it was remarkable, that at the same time the rest of the same field, being in all ten acres, had a crop of barley sown on three ploughings, which ( the summer being dry) was offered to be sold at one pound per acre.
I believe the greatest part of the St.-Foin that is sown is spoiled by being indiscreetly fed by sheep*, which damage is occasioned merely by suffering them to continue feeding it too long at a time, especially in the spring, for then the sap moves quick, and must be depurated by the leaves ; and as the sun's nearer approach accelerates the motion or ferment of the juices, more pabulum is received by the roots ; but for want of leaves to discharge the recrements, and enliven the sap with nitro-aėrious particles (the sheep devouring the buds continually as fast as they appear), the St.-Foin's vital flame (if I may so call it) is extinguished ; the circulation ceasing, the sap stagnates, and then it ends in corruption**. But let the sheep eat it never so low in a sort time, without continuing thereon, or cropping the next buds which succeed those they have eaten, the plants will recover and grow again as vigorously as ever ; and if, with a spade in the winter, you cut off the St.-Foin heads an handful deep, and take them away, together with their upper earth, the wound in the remaining root will heal, and send out more heads as godo as those cut off, if those second heads be preserved from cattle, until they attain to a bigness competent to bear leaves
* I never suffer sheep to come upon St.-Foin, except betwixt mowing-time and All-Saints. And there is so much danger of spoiling St.-Foin by the fraud of shepherds, that I knew a gentleman that bound his tenant never to suffer any sheep to come thereon ; and by this means his St.-Foin continued in perfection much longer than is usual, where St.-Foin is suffered to be fed to sheep.
** N atural grass is not killed by constant feeding, because no sort of cattle can bite it so low as to deprive it of all its leaves ; and it is like eels, nore tenacious of life than the rest of its genus, and will send out leaves from the very roots when reversed, as is too often seen where turfy land is ploughed up in large furrows.
sufficient for the use of the reviving plants ; nay, I have see plants of St.-Foin cut off in the winter a foot deep, and the earth of that depth taken away, and the remaining root recovered and grew to an extraordinary bigness, but this was preserved from cattle at first.
I esteem St.-Foin to be much more profitable than clover, because St.-Foin is never known to do any perceivable damage to the corn amongst which it is planted, but clover often spoils a crop of barley ; and I have known that the crop of barley has been valued to have suffered four pounds per acre damage, by a crop of broad clover growing in it in a wet summer ; in a dry summer both sorts of clover are apt to miss growing, and if it does grow, and the next summer (wherein it ought to be a crop) prove very dry, it fails on most sorts of land, though it was vigorous enough to spoil the barley the year it was sown ; at best it is of but very short duration, and therefore is not to be depended on by the farmer, for maintaining his cattle, which the broad clover will also kill, sometimes by causing them to swell, unless great care be taken to prevent it. The broad clover is esteemed a foul feed for horses. The hop clover is gone out of the ground sooner than the broad clover ; I never knew it cut more than once : indeed cattle are never swollen by feeding on it : but then it affords but very little feeding for them, except the land whereon it grows be very rich.
But this damage may be prevented by drilling the clover after the barley is a handful high or more ; for then the barley will keep it under, and not suffer it to grow to any considerable bigness till after harvest, nor will this drill, being drawn by hand, do any damage to the barley.
St.-Foin is observed to enrich whatever ground it is planted on, though a crop be taken off it yearly.
Poor slate land*, when it has borne sown St.-Foin for six or seven years, being ploughed up and well tilled, produces three crops of corn, and then they sow it with St.-Foin again.
Rich arable land was planted with it, and mowed annually with very great crops (it was drilled in nine-inch rows, with six gallons of seed to an acre ; one crop of it was sold at four pounds per acre) ; this, after about seven years, and in full perfection, was ploughed up by a tenant, and continued for many years after so rich, that instead of dunging or fallowing it for wheat, they were forced to sow that upon barley-stubble, and to feed the wheat with sheep in the spring, to prevent its being too luxuriant.
But it is to be noted, that the land must be well tilled at the breaking up of old St.-Foin, or else the first crops of corn may be expected to fail. For I knew a tenant, who, the last year of his term, ploughed up a field of St.-Foin that would have yielded him three pounds per acre ; but thinking to make more profit of it by corn, he sowed it with white oats upon once ploughing, and it proving a dry summer, he lost his ploughing and seed ; for he had no crop of oats, and was forced to leave the land as a fallow to his successor.
Many more instances there are of this failure of the crop of corn after St.-Foin has been broke up, and not well tilled.
When St.-Foin is grown old and worn out, as it is said to be when the artificial pasture is gone, and the natural pasture is become insufficient for the
* The poverty of this sort of land, lying upon slate or stone, generally proceeds from the thinness of it, and if it were thicker it would be good land ; much of this earth being dispersed among the crannies or interstices of the slate and stone to a great depth, is reached by the tap-roots of the St.-Foin, but cannot be reached by the roots of corn ; and therefore when constantly kept in tillage is of small value, upon which account such land is greatly improvable by St.-Foin, even when sown in the common manner.
number of plants that are on it to be maintained, and is so poor that it produces no profitable crop, so that the ground is thought proper to be ploughed up and sown with corn, in order to be replanted* ; the most effectual way to bring it into tilth speedily, is to plough it up in the winter with a four-coultered plough, and make it fit for turnips by the following season ; and if the turnips be well hoed, and especially if spent by sheep on the ground, it will be in excellent order to be sown with barley the following spring, and then it may be drilled with St.-Foin amongst the barley
To return to the benefit land receives by having been planted some years with St.-Foin. All the experienced know that land is enriched by it, but they do not agree upon the reason why.
They agree as to the Òτι but not the διóτι.
Some are of opinion it is because the St.-Foin takes a different sort of nourishment to that of corn : but that I think is disproved in Chapter " Of Change of Species," where it is shown that all plants in the same soil must take the same food.
* Or if you perceive that there is a competent number of plants alive, and tolerably single, be they ever so poor, you may recover them to a flourishing condition in the following mannner, without replanting : Pulverise the whole field in intervals of about three feet each, leaving betwixt every two of them four feet breadth of ground unploughed, when the turf of these intervals being cut by the four-coultered plough is perfectly rotten. One furrow made by any sort of plough will hoe one of these intervals, by changing the whole surface of it. The poorer the land is the more hoeings will be required, and the oftener it is hoed, with proper intermissions the first year, the stronger the St.-Foin will become, and the more years it will continue good, without a repetition of hoeing.
The expense of this cannot be great ; because the plough, in hoeing an acre in this manner nine times, travels no further than it must to plough an acre once in the common manner.
I need not tell the owner that the earth of these intervals must be made level before the St.-Foin can be mowed.
Mr. Kirkham thinks St.-Foin has no collateral or horizontal roots in the upper part of the ground where the plough tills for corn, and therefore, has no nourishment from that part of the soil which feeds the corn. This would be a very account for it, where it not utterly contrary to matter of fact, as every one may see.
But so far it is right, that large* St.-Foin draws the greatest part of its nourishment from below the reach of the plough ; and what part it does receive from the staple is overbalanced by the second crop or after-lease, being spent by cattle on the ground ; different from corn, which is very near wholly maintained by the ploughed part of the earth, and is all carried off.
For though the under stratum of earth be much poorer than the upper, yet that never having being drained by any sort of vegetables, must afford considerable nourishment to the first that comes there.
And besides, in such land whose poverty proceeds from the rain carrying its riches too quickly down through the upper stratum, the under stratum must be the richer** for receiving what the upper stratum lets pass unarrested.
It is well known that many estates have been much improved by St.-Foin ; therefore there is no occasion to mention particulars.
* For large St.-Foin being single has large roots and very long, which probably descend twenty feet deep. Now if we allow four or five inches the depth of the staple, to afford a supply equal to two feet below it, taking the lower nineteen feet seven inches together, upon this computation, the part below the staple gives the St.-Foin about nine parts in ten of its sustenance.
** In light poor land, the water carrying some impregnated earth along with it down lower than it does in strong land, that is more tenacious of such impregnated particles, the under strata of strong land are likely to be poorer than those of light land.
Only I will take notice that the first in England was one of about one hundred and forty pounds per annum, sown with St.-Foin, and sold for fourteen thousand pounds ; and, as I hear, continues, by the same improvement, still of the same value. This is I suppose the same that Mr. Kirkham mentions in Oxfordshire.
Another farm of ten pounds per annum rent, which whilst in arable* was like to have undone the tenant, but being all planted with St.-Foin by the owner, was let at once hundred and ten pounds per annum, and proved a good bargain.
If it should be asked why St.-Foin is an improvement so much greater in England than in other countries ; it might be answered by showing the reason why English arable is of so much less value than foreign, where the land is of equal goodness, and the corn produced of equal price.
It is doubtless from the extraordinary price of English labour above that of other countries, occasioned by English statues being in this respect different from all other laws in the world.
* These estates consisted of thin slaty land ; which, before it was planted with St.-Foin, was valued at two shillings per acre, and some part of it at one shilling per acre (as I have been informed), and yet oxen are well fatted by the St.-Foin it produces.