P R E F A C E .
Connexion cannot be expected in a book composed of Notes written at different times, some in one year, some in others, as something new flowed from a diffluent practice from what was common. Besides, as I was by sickness incapable of assisting when it was transcribed for the press, when many notes were to be inserted, my scribe not understanding their marks, misplaced many of them, some in the text, some in the margin, some in the wrong Chapters, many he left out, and more being mislaid which he did not find ; among which last were the several weighings of my drilled crops and the neighbouring sown crops. As for these and much of the speculative part left out, if it had been more, it had been no great matter ; but as some of the Chapter of Wheat is omitted, I shall rather insert what of it is necessary into the Preface, than that the beginner shall want it.
Several things caused the want of method. My scribe was so little skilled in country affairs as sometimes to set the cart before the horse, as he does, when he places the hoeing to turnips before the planting of them : but I presume this mistake will not be followed by any practiser, and then nobody will be injured by it, or by any such like Hysteron-Proteron to be found in the Chapter of Wheat, or elsewhere in the book.
Some things may be properly repeated, where used in different places for different purposes ; but I doubt this will not excuse every repetition the reader will find.
I had no opportunity of correcting the sheets from the press, nor any friend to do it for me, which might have been some excuse for the faults of the Printer, had he not usurped a prerogative of coining of words. All he can pretend to say for his, and what I am sure I can truly say for my own faults (which perhaps may be more) is that none of them are wilful.
I beg pardon of the learned writers from whom I am forced to differ in opinion, as well as in learning ; I assure them it is unwillingly and with regret that I do. No canon having limited what we shall think in agriculture, nor condemned any of its tenets for heresy, every man is therein a Free-thinker, and must think according to the dictates of his own reason, whether he will or no. And such freedom is given now-a-days in speculations in natural philosophy, that it is common to see people even in print maintain that there are Antipodes, that the earth moves round the sun, and that he doth not set in the sea, without being censured for these and many other formerly heterodox opinions ; and any one may now upon solid arguments contradict Aristotle himself publicly any where, except in the schools. But that mine are such, which I bring for maintaining the principles I have advanced, I dare not affirm, being myself no competent judge of them, as the reader (especially the practising reader) is. To his decision must be left all that is disputable ; his partiality be left all that is disputable ; his partiality I have no reason to apprehend ; because it is in some degree the interest of every one who lives by bread, that true
more ; but of such of these as shall be adjudged to be of substance, no man shall be more willing than myself, to sign their condemnation ; and I believe the judicious reader will excuse such mistakes as are merely of form. His candour will be also necessary for explaining some things wherein a mistake may arise from their being improperly expressed, and such he will construe as near as he can according to their intended meaning, and when by that misfortune they seem to jar in one part, he will endeavour to reconcile them by some other part, or by the tenor of the whole.
Every man is best satisfied with experiments made by himself ; therefore I advise him who intends to practise, that he would repeat the trials of all mine before he relies upon them ; not that I have been unfaithful in the making or relating any of them (for I only made them in search of the truth for my own satisfaction) ; nor doubt I but that, if he follow the same process, his will succeed as mine did, and he may very likely draw many more inferences from them than I have.
The experiment of artificially pulverised earth seeming to confirm what I had writ of the pasture of plants, I could not forbear inserting it into my Chapter of Tillage as soon as I had read it ; but Mr. Evelyn takes no notice, that the surfaces of those fine parts, into which the earth is divided by such pulveration, is the vegetable pasture ; but runs into a simile which would better fit the climate of the Indian plants, than ours ; therefore I omit his theory, lest is should offend the modesty of the ladies produced in a chaster climate, if my book should chance to have the honour of their perusal.
The matters of fact I have related, are not like some stories told by travellers, hard to be disproved if they are wrong.
I am in some doubt concerning the height of the great mustard plant ; because I did not measure it, but by the idea I had of it four or five years after I saw it. It came accidentally on the side of a row of horse-hoed pease ; it was in moist land that had been well-tilled and dunged. This being the first of the species that I had seen in this country, and having formerly taken half a pint of seed from one single plant of it in Oxfordshire, which was less than one lateral branch of this, I designed to measure the seed it would produce ; but unluckily the people who cut the pease, chopped it to pieces with their hooks, because it spread very wide and stood in their
way ; the seed not being ripe I was disappointed in that ; I might indeed have laid its parts together and taken its height, if I had then had any thoughts of writing, as I had not.
This last summer I saw the produce of two St. Foin plants carefully weighed ; they grew both in the same ground, not far asunder, and of the same age (viz. seven years) ; the one stood single, and its product weighed thirty-seven ounces and a half; the other grew in a bunch among many neighbours, and was dug up, and its product, cut close to the root, weighed three grains, which is about a five thousandth part of the other. I think this proves that it is not extravagant to say, that one single (or thin) St. Foin Plant may produce as much grass or hay as a thousand thick ones. And I have seen much greater single St. Foin plants than this.
I have had great crops of turnips in rows three feet asunder, and much greater than I could ever obtain from rows thirty inches asunder ; but one reason why I like six feet rows better is, that the largest turnips are best for oxen, and are pulled up and loaded with the least expense ; for if they should be as small as the sown turnips hereabouts commonly are, that expense would go a great way into their value. I find that the least competent number will (cęteris paribus) always be the largest ; but heer is a great inconvenience happens to these, (especially when the own turnips generally fail, as they do this year,) viz., as soon as they begin to head, the lawless people begin upon the, and the roots being then covered in the ground, they cannot easily know which of them they like until they have pulled them up, and so perhaps spoil ten for one that they take ; but when the turnips have grown as big as apples, they make less waste, and carry away as many in a bag, as (if they were suffered to attain their full bigness) would load a wagon. Thus is the best crop soonest destroyed. I confess this is an objection, to which I can give no effectual answer, except this, that in a plentiful year, when the sown turnips stand, their slow growth renders them much sweeter for boiling than the drilled; which quality draws most of these customers to them, and when they are too thick, if they take them with discretion, they may rather mend than spoil the sown crop ; not that they will spare the drilled turnips for this last reason (for they care not what injury they do), but because they like not the taste of them so well as that of the sown.
The particular scheme of raising constant annual crops of wheat without dung or fallow, is as yet only upon probation ; but by the six crops I have had in that manner, I see nothing against their being continued. This, it is true, requires greater care in the management than any other branch of the husbandry ; but he who can do this without dung or fallow, may easily do it with one or both of them. And there may be such wet clayey land, which the plough cannot well pulverise without help of the ferment of dung ; and in any sort of land, when it is suspected that the earth of the partitions was not well ordered in the summer, the best remedy is to strew a small quantity of malt-dust, or other fine manure upon the rows about the month of February ; this will strengthen the plants and enable them to send their roots into the intervals the earlier in the spring.
Against the necessity of such wide intervals as I like best, my neighbour tells me, he has had five successive crops of wheat, and allows only four feet breadth to each row and its interval. His rows have been sometimes double and sometimes treble : but his ground is better than mine, and he bestows more hand-work upon it.
Many, it is like, will think this repetition of wheat-crops rather a curiosity than profitable, and in some circumstances it may be so.
For planting a single crop there are several methods. The narrowest interval wherein the hoe-plough can be profitably exercised among corn, is of thirty inches, and if this should be uneven by being the parting space, it could not be horse-hoed ;
I have had many of these single crops of wheat in double rows, and always observed it to be made very strong by the use of the hoe only ; but I choose to have the intervals fie or six inches wider.
There may be another way to have one crop of wheat, not yet mentioned, and this is to go with the treble drill twice instead of once upon each of the broad ridges, which will make sextuple rows with five partitions of seven inches each. I had an example of this the last year on one outside ridge. The first and sixth of these rows standing next to the hoed earth were strong, and so were the third and forth that stood on the top of the ridge ; but the second and fifth standing lower, fell vastly short of the rest ; yet if these last had had more fine mould under them, I do not doubt but they might have been equal, or nearly equal, to the other.
The worst error I apprehend the beginner will be liable to is, to expect the benefit of pulverisation where his land is not pulverised. I had this year, in the middle of a field of wheat, about two or three acres, the earth in the partitions of which missed one of the hoeings in the precedent summer ; the colour of this wheat was plainly distinguished from that of the wheat on both sides of it at half a mile's distance in the spring, and was not above half the crop at harvest ; but if the rest of the piece had not had a hoeing more than this had, the whole then being alike poor, it would not have so
But what I can hitherto observe in this husbandry, the best management always succeeds best, contrary to the proverb that says, that once in seven years, the worst husbands have the best corn ; which shows that sometimes, even to this day, Ceres prefers her Virgilians for their demerits.
Although wheat, as an exportable commodity, be the fittest for a general improvement, yet, in some particular places, other vegetables, such as rape, or woad, may be more profitable than any sort of corn ; and I have been told by one who has been long a dealer in rape, that he has made it larger and stronger in poor land by horse-hoeing, than he could ever make it in the richest land by the common method.
What pretenders or impostors have taught or said of this husbandry is unknown to me ; nor am I answerable for any follies they may have committed, since I gave sufficient cautions against them in my Preface to the Specimen published for that purpose almost two years ago. To magnify it above what is just may be as injurious, as ignorantly to undervalue it. If any have gone rashly into the practice of it, it is probable they may go as rashly out of it, before they rightly know what it is.
Some seem to have no other notion of it, but as of a trick to get money, and write to me to send them servants to instruct them in it, not considering how that master is likely to be taught, who must learn of his servant, or that the being his scholar might in one sense justify the practice, (which in now become customary,) of the ploughman's correcting his titular master.
It is the most formidable objection against our agriculture, that the defection of servants and labourers is such, that few gentlemen can keep their lands in their own hands, but rather than make nothing of them, they let them for a little to tenants, who can bear to be insulted, assaulted, kicked, cuffed, and bridewelled with more patience than gentlemen are endowed with.
The very different regard which every man naturally has to be interest of his heirs, from that of his successors, may be seen by the poverty and unimproved condition of St. Peter's patrimony compared with the hereditary states of Italy. And can we suppose than an English renter should have more honour in that respect than his Roman Holiness, who doth not fear being turned out by a successor in his lifetime, as the renter is sure to be when his lease is ended, if he has improved his farm and will not raise his rent ?
The disreputation that gentlemen's understandings lie under, of wanting capacity to manage their lands with profit, as well as the most ignorant of the people can, would appear very unjust, could gentlemen contrive automata to do the business appertaining to tillage without hands, at the price that is reasonable to be given to servants and labourers for the same : not that there is any want of hands to receive our money, to take away our goods, and to beat us ; but such are wanting as will work faithfully at reasonable wages. By the general complaint of their behavior, they more resemble French dragoons in time of persecution, than servants. It is not long since the public news gave an account of a noble lord's being insulted by footmen in the royal palace ; if thus be their manners when polished at court, what idea can be framed of their insolence whilst they follow the plough in the country ?
They who impute this misfortune of the land to the loss of the common law, which favoured agriculture, and was to our ancestors a better inheritance than that which came to them from their parents ; pretend to prove, that the Statute of Labourers hath turned more gentlemen out of their estates than the Norman Conquest did ; but their arguments being too numerous to be here recited,
This may perhaps serve for an answer to those who assert, that there can be no justice without juries ; but whatever becomes of our lands, I pray God to defend us against a French government in England.
I can hardly believe, that the enormous behaviour of servants &c., is so general as it is commonly reported to be. Sure the freeholders of counties would petition their respective representatives in parliament, in hopes that so public and heavy a grievance might be redressed ; for the same power which took away part of the common law can restore it in its pristine purity, and enable the owners of lands to occupy and improve them as freely, at least, as their ancestors might before 5 Eliz.
The hoeing practice would profitably employ many more hands than the common husbandry, and procure more bread for them. But if through the aforesaid unfortunate circumstances it cannot be frequent in South Britain, which seems to be the most proper climate in the world for it ; yet if it shall be useful to any other of his Majesty's dominions, I shall think my labour amply rewarded by
The drill may also be serviceable to the old husbandry, in some respects, as when land having been ploughed dry, and lain till the rain comes, its surface is grown so hard, that the seed-wheat cannot be covered by harrows or drags, then the drill will make channels, sow in the seed, and cover it effectually.
Another general and no inconsiderable advantage of its use is, that it can save more than half the seed that is sown, and plant the land better ; they may also hand-hoe between the nearest rows if they please, or pull out the weeds without treading on the corn ; but it saves more of some sorts of seed than of others.
The first occasion of making my drill for small seeds was this : It was very difficult to find a man who could sow clover tolerably ; they had a habit (from which they could not be driven) to throw it once with the hand to two large strides, and go twice on each cast ; thus with nine or ten pounds of seed to an acre, two thirds of the ground was unplanted, and on the rest it was so thick that it did not prosper. To remedy this, I made a hopper, to be drawn by a boy, that planted an acre sufficiently with six pounds of seed ; but when I added to this hopper an exceeding light plough, that made six channels eight inches asunder, into which two pound to an acre being drilled, the ground was as well planted. This drill was easily drawn by a man, and sometimes by a boy.