THE FARMER'S MAGAZINE, 1868
THE NEW FARM
VIGIL

For the life of me I cannot set hands upon the letter of old Bates regarding Shorthorns, that I promised to quote. Somewhere it is safely deposited, and will certainly turn up, unless our hopeful hath, in the absence of his fond parent, made spills thereof. This cannot be, though: the colt is better trained; so we will hope and proceed.

"Farming this land, sir," said an observant old neighbour to me lately, as we stood upon in arable slope of light brashy sandstone soil, "is like farming a sieve," strewn with some temporarily absorbent material. Just so long as you can secure the use of the layer in an inebriated state, you ensure a paying crop of grain; but then the virtue is so evanescent. There is a tide in the affairs of—soils, &c. Once let the occasion pass, and your seedbed is worthless as the vapid draught of a three hours' uncorked soda-water drink. So have ingenious spirits grown salad vegetables, such as mustard and cress, on the surface of moist flannel. The great secret of managing this soil is, soak it well and sow it soaked: certain then will be the remunerative return. Ah, bless them clay lands," he continued, "on which the clover thrives so bountifully; we can't get it no how on these rubbishy sidelands, leastways as a permanent resident, It's a hop-and-go-one plant with us at best—now here and now there a leaf. Dash these light soils! them quite beats me, they do." Dash them! we remark remonstratively, in regard to the increasing vehemence of his expressions—dash them! pray with what? "Dash, sir? why excuse me, but I meant it metaphorically. However, as you ask me the question, dash them, as the gardener does his young pear-tree stocks, to keep the sheep and rabbits off, with a coating of thick muck-mud, and in that plaister compound sow. It is in the production of this prolific compost that our heavy Cotswold flocks pay to fold, so much more than the sweet juicy Southdowns of which you are so fond."

I have been much interested lately in the study of an adjoining estate, which occupies, as it were, a peninsula of some miles in extent, all but surrounded by the winding of our wayward river. Raised from the bank on either side, it has for its highest part a ridge of sandy gravel, pounded pudding-stone, and the like; while in the very next field there is a wide bed of blue limestone marl, and just beyond, again, a red sandstone layer. This present height has clearly once been the bottom of an estuary, subsequently heaved up by volcanic action; and these so different soils are simply deposits made by the tide at different points of the shore. It is strange to think this now, as one stands, gun in hand after game, amidst a grand grove of old pines, like the wood of Ardennes, which stud the ridge as spines upon the back of a monster lizard species, and feel the cutting wind sweep off a landscape reaching away in view of a good fox-chase. Fortunate, however, is the proprietor, for he has there closely accumulated the materials of a rich soil, which only requires to be mixed by a master hand, as his is, to ensure success in the growth of a cereal abundance. By dint of carting the blue marl, during the slack season of the dark months, on to the gravelly tract, he has given it a fertile consistency that has this year enabled it to throw 44 1/2 bushels of wheat to the acre, and that in a district where we are thankful to obtain 33 as a rule. The money-value of this single crop was equal to forty years' purchase-money of the fee-simple of the ground itself, taking the rent as it stood when the farm came into the present cultivator's hands. The stubble is now being ploughed about ten inches deep, and will be again dressed with the marl; the consequence of which will be that, after the frosts have done their part, there will be a permanently established loam of value, within forty yards of the pit from which we neighbours haul a hungry, sparkling quartz gravel, to strew upon our garden-walks.

The burnt surface of an old, foul clover, or rather couch ley, which I had pared and just done brown (mind, the red-brick tint is a sign of lost strength, owing to the fires' having been too vehement), in large, slow fires, built on a pile of thorn-stumps that were excavated from a hedgerow which I have found it expedient to level, with a view to dividing the farm proportionately for rotation of crops, I find, as I had anticipated, does admirably under the fattening pigs, in a bay of a disused barn. There is already a thick floor of fat stuff, richly soaked as a Yorkshire pudding (for I had it hauled in during sunshine, in a thirsty state), which, pulverized, I shall drill in with the turnip-seed, thereby escaping the ruinous artificial-manure drain. One effect took me by surprise, although, of course, had one given the matter a thought, it was an effect simply to be expected; and that was that, whereas, before we used these ashes to strew the floor with, I found it impossible to approach the pig-lodge, much less to stay near it any time, owing to the pestilent effluvia that met one's nasal organ, why now the most delicate lady might stand by, and admire their sleeping highnesses, without the least offence whatever, this desirable result being due to the deodorising quality of the charcoal-dust pervading it, and which came of the thorn-stubs that I mentioned above as built in for fuel, to start and help the fire. You may really stand, now, right in the centre of the sties, and be as unaware of the vicinity of an animal whose only fault is his smell, as though you were in your "parlour, counting out your money."

I shall take the hint, and, for the future, use plentifully an agent so easily obtained, the value of which is so great, as I see by a little work on "Antiseptic Treatment," which I had recently forwarded to me, bearing on this very subject. A few remarks therefrom, which interested and taught me, I quote, in the hope that they way be equally serviceable to others: "Farm should never deeply cover up manure, so that the air cannot freely unite with it; for if the air have not a free circulation within the manure, it perishes, and produces more injury than advantage"(?). "Farmers should always mix burned earth, peat, or charcoal with their stable manure, as charcoal retains the essential properties contained therein, and prevents its escape until it is ready to be put on the land, when the sun will liberate it." "Charcoal put into a tank will purify the water. "Farmers who raise stock should mix charcoal plentifully with their food." "Charcoal strengthens and heals the mucous membrane throughout the alimentary canal, and increases the power of the digestive organs, healing any unhealthy condition existing there: it prevents worms generating in the stomach, and absorbs the putrescent gases by which they are generated, and they consequently die." "All kinds of stock will freely eat charcoal and salt mixed with their food, and they greatly increase in weight by the free use of charcoal." I have long known that it answers well to keep it heap of cinders in the corner of a sty. Pigs will crack them like nuts, and chew them "to their advantage," as Joseph Ady would say. Our author further recommends of potato and hop plantations with charcoal or peat ( charred I presume) as a preventive against blight and the fly. Charcoal put into a glass of water with an acorn or root will prevent the water from perishing or becoming putrid, as it would otherwise do, and the seem will grow therein and become a small oak. "Should a joint of meat smell when put in the pot to boil, if a piece of charcoal be put in the water the meat will become sweet." "A piece or two of fine charcoal put into a parcel of game will preserve it sweet." Should "a joint of most smell, rub fine charcoal on, and it will turn it sweet." "Again, florists and ladies who love beautiful flowers should always sprinkle charcoal on the soil, as it will create in the flowers the most delightful hues and brilliant colours."

The discovery "of the uses of charcoal in the various forms of disease our author disclaims, and attributes to Moses, who has "recorded its virtues in the scriptures;" inasmuch as he directed the Israelites to put on sackcloth and ashes when they had "brought themselves into an unholy, unhealthy state of body. The sackcloth was open coarse kind of linen, and the ashes were burned wood, commonly termed 'charcoal.' This had a healing and restorative effect on the unhealthy body, by changing its impure conditions." I remember Mr. Frank Buckland making a similar remark with respect to Mr. Moule's patented earth closets. Did not Moses send the Israelite with a spud out into the wilderness? And so there's nothing new under the sun.

The gardener has just shown me several pots of young pelargoniums, the result of our hybridising last summer. I wish I could just hook and haul in next June for an hour, that I might see whet sort of blooms will reward our labour; I should then ease it to its place again amidst the hot months, for there is much of winter enjoyment yet due that one were loath to spare; e.g., the Christmas parties, the gallops across country, and the afternoon saunter on our fresh-littered fold-yard. But by the powers! I must be off; for there is an uproar in the nursery: and when I get there I find the two youngest boys, despite the cold of this frosty night, larking about and playing like kittens, as naked as they were born; but at the sight of ourself there is a bound to the bedclothes and a dive into night-shirts and a plunge into sheet-lane, as though they were aware that therein lay their only chance of an effective rear-guard; and so we could not but laugh ("in'ardly, werry in'ardly, my lord"), and tuck them in, and return to our toil in the study.

"Good news from home!" the bailiff has just hurried up to say that at last, after much waiting, we have been rewarded by the birth of a heifer-calf from a valuable Towneley cow, which upon the spot we christen Lady Culshaw, in consideration of her belonging to the eminent Joseph's favourite Barmpton Rose tribe, and of her not exhibiting a black nose, a tint to which we always understood him to be averse until the recent turn of his Oxford studies.  VIGIL.