Markham’s Farewel to Husbandry (1668) p. 20-22

Garvase Markham

Of the ordering, Tilling, and Dressing of all rough barren Clayes, whether simple or compound, that are over-runne with Whinnes, or such like.

Whinns = Gorse

Next unto this barren Clay, which is over-run with Furse, Broom, and such like, I will place that barren and unfertile earth, being also a Clay, whether simple or compound, which is over-run onely with Whinns, and indeed bearing little or no other burthen, or if it do bear any other burthen as some little short mossie grass, yet is that grass so covered over with these sharp Whinns, that not any beast dare put his nose to the ground, or bite upon the same; and indeed this kind of earth is not any whit at all less barren than those of which I have already written, but rather more, in that the malignant qualities thereof are not so soon corrected, nor yet the vertues so soon restored.

Whinnes are a certain kind of rough dry weeds, which grow bushie and thick together, very short and close unto the ground, being of a dark brown colour, and of crooked growth, thick and confused, and full of knots, and those knots armed with hard, long sharp pricks like thorns or bryars, they have little brown leaves which shaddow the pricks, and do wind their branches so one into another, that they can hardly be separated, yet is not their growth at any time little more than a handfull above the earth, only they spread exceedingly, and will runn and cover over a whole field, choaking up all sorts of good plants whatsoever, and turning the best grass that is, to moss and filthiness: wherefore if at any time you be Master any such naughty and barren ground, and would have it reduced unto goodness and fertility, you shall first take a fine thinn paring shovel made of the best iron, and well steeled, and hardned round about the edges, according to the form of this figure following.

And with this paring-shovel, you shall first pare up all the upper swarth of the ground, about two inches, or an inch and a half thick at the least, and every paring would be some three foot in length at the least, and so broad as the shovel will conveniently give it leave, and this swarth thus pared up, you shall first turn the Whinny or Grass-side downward, and the earth side upward, and so let it lye two or three dayes in the Sunn to dry (for this work is intended to begin in the month of May) and when that side is well dryed, you shall turn the other side, and dry it also, then when all the swarth is dryed, you shall gather six or seven peeces together, and turning the Whinny or Grass-side inward, and the earth side outward, you shall make round hollow little hils thereof, much according to the fashion of this Figure following.

And the inward hollowness like unto the hollowness of an Oven, but much less in compass; which done, you shall fill the hollowness with dry chips, or small sticks, or Furse and Straw mixed together, which you shall put in at the vent-hole which shall be left on one side of the hill, and kindling it with fire, you shall burn all that swarth in such sort as you burnt the roots of your Furse and Broom before; for this is also called a burning of bait, as well as the former; for it is a most principal nourisher of the earth, and a very sudden destroyer of all malignant weeds whatsoever.

After the burning of your hills, as soon as the fire is utterly quenched and gone out, and no heat at all left in the hills; you shall then with clotting beetles beat them all down to dust, and then with shovels you shall spread the ashes quite over all the ground, as was before declared in the former Chapter: and herein is to be noted, that you must place these hills as thick and close together as by any means possibly you can, making your hills so much the less and lower, that they may stand thicker and nearer together, and so cover more ground, and thereby the heat and strength of the fire to disperse it self over all that peece of ground; for the fire burning upon the earth, doth as much good for the inriching of the earth, and destroying of the weeds, as the ashes doth which are spread upon the same.

Now after your bait is in this manner burned and spread, you shall then (as was before shewed) plow up your ground in good large furrows, than hack it very small, Sand it, Lime it, and manure it; and of all manures, there is not any better for this ground than Oxe-dung, and ashes well mixt together; of which ashes, those of bean-straw, Pease-straw, or any other straw are best; and those of Wood; or Fern next, & those of Sea-coal, or Pit-coal are the worst of all. Swines dung is not much amiss for this ground, for though it be a great breeder of weeds and thistles in good and fertile grounds, yet in this cold, hard, and barren earth it worketh no such effect, but is a great comforter and warm moistener of the same.