Farm drainage
by Henry Flagg French
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The size, No. 3, of this machine, such as we then saw in operation, and which is suitable for common use, costs at Bedford $88.50, with one set of dies; and the extra dies, for making three, four, and six-inch pipes, and other forms, if desired, with the horses, as they are called, for removing the tiles, cost about five dollars each.

This, like most other tile machines, is adapted to making tiles for roofs, much used in England instead of shingles or slates, as well as for draining purposes.

There are several machines now in use in England namely: Etheridge's, Clayton's, Scragg's, Whitehead's, and Garrett's—either of which would be satisfactory, according to the amount of work desired.

We have in America several patented machines for making tiles, of the comparative merits of which we are unable to give a satisfactory judgment. We will, however, allude to two or three, advising those who are desirous to purchase, to make personal examination for themselves. We are obliged to rely chiefly on the statements of the manufacturers for our opinions.

Daines' American Drain Tile Machine is manufactured at Birmingham, Michigan, by John Daines. This machine is in use in Exeter, N. H., close by the author's residence, and thus far proves satisfactory. The price of it is about $100, and the weight, about five hundred pounds. It occupies no more space than a common three-and-a-half foot table, and is worked by a man at a crank. It is capable of turning out, by man power, about two hundred and fifty two-inch tiles in an hour, after the clay is prepared in a pug mill. Horse or water power can be readily attached to it.

We give a drawing of it, not because we are sure it is the best, but because we are sure it is a good machine, and to illustrate the principle upon which all these machines are constructed.

Pratt's Tile Machine is manufactured at Canandaigua, New York, by Pratt & Brothers, and is in use in various places in that State as well as elsewhere. This machine differs from Daines' in this essential matter, that here the clay is pugged, or tempered, and formed into tiles at one operation, while with Daines' machine, the clay is first passed through a pug mill, as it is for making bricks in the common process.

Pratt's machine is worked by one or two horses, or by steam or water power, as is convenient. The price of the smaller size, worked by one horse, is $150, and the price of the larger size, worked by two horses, $200. Professor Mapes says he saw this machine in operation and considers it "perfect in all its parts." The patentees claim that they can make, with the one-horse machine, 5,000 large tiles a day. They state also that "two horses will make tiles about as cheap as bricks are usually made, and as fast, with the large-sized machine."

These somewhat indefinite statements are all that we can give, at present, of the capacity of the machines. We should have no hesitation in ordering a Pratt machine were we desirous of entering into an extensive business of Tile-making, and we should feel quite safe with a Daines' machine for a more limited manufacture.


S. C. Salisbury, at the Novelty Works, in the city of New York, is manufacturing a machine for making tiles and bricks, which exhibits some new and peculiar features, worthy of attention by those who propose to purchase tile machines. Prof. Mapes expresses the confident opinion that this machine excels all others, in its capacity to form tiles with rapidity and economy. We have examined only a working model. It is claimed that the large size, with horse-power, will make 20,000 two-inch tiles per day, and the hand-power machine 3,000 per day. We advise tile makers to examine all these machines in operation, before purchasing either.



Draining no more expensive than Fencing.—Engineering.—Guessing not accurate enough.—Slight Fall sufficient.—Instances.—Two Inches to One Thousand Feet.—Cost of Excavation and Filling.—Narrow Tools required.—Tables of Cubic contents of Drains.—Cost of Drains on our own Farm.—Cost of Tiles.—Weight and Freight of Tiles.—Cost of Outlets.—Cost of Collars.—Smaller Tiles used with Collars.—Number of Tiles to the Acre, with Tables.—Length of Tiles varies.—Number of Rods to the Acre at different Distances.—Final Estimate of Cost.—Comparative Cost of Tile-Drains and Stone-Drains.

A prudent man, intending to execute a work, whether it be "to build a tower," or drain a field, "sitteth down first and counteth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it." There is good sense and discretion in the inquisitiveness which suggests so often the inquiry, "How much does it cost to drain an acre?" or, "How much does it cost a rod to lay drains?" These questions cannot be answered so briefly as they are asked; yet much information can be given, which will aid one who will investigate the subject.

The process of drainage is expensive, as compared with the price of land in our new settlements; but its cost will not alarm those who have been accustomed to see the improvements made in New England upon well cultivated farms. Compared with the labor and cost of building and maintaining FENCES upon the highways, and in the subdivisions of lots, common in the Eastern States, the drainage of land is a small matter. We see in many places long stretches of faced walls, on the line of our roads near towns and villages, which cost from two to five dollars per rod. Our common "stone walls" in these States cost about one dollar per rod to build originally; and almost any kind of wooden fence costs as much. Upon fences, there is occasion for annual repairs, while drains properly laid, are permanent.

These suggestions are thrown out, that farmers may not be alarmed without cause, at the high cash estimates of the cost of drainage operations. Money comes slowly to farmers, and a cash estimate looks larger to them than an estimate in labor. The cost of fencing seems no great burden; though, estimated in cash, it would seem, as in fact it is, a severe charge.

Drainage can be performed principally by the same kind of labor as fencing, the cost of the tiles being a small item in the whole expense. The estimates of labor will be made at one dollar per day, in investigating this matter.

This would be the fair cash value of work by the day, perhaps; but it is far more than farmers, who have work in hand on their own farms, which may be executed in the leisure season after haying, and even into the Winter, when convenient, will really expend for such labor. Few farm operations would pay expenses, if every hour of superintendence, and every hour of labor by man and boy and beast, were set down at this high rate.

The cost of the tiles will, ordinarily, be a cash item, and the labor may be performed like that of planting, hoeing, haying, and harvesting, by such "help" hired by the mouth or day, or rendered by the family, as may be found convenient.

The cost of drainage may be considered conveniently, to borrow a clerical phrase, "under the following heads."

1. Laying out, or Engineering.—In arranging our Spring's work, we devote time and attention to laying it out, though this hardly forms an item in the expense of the crop. Most farmers may think themselves competent to lay out their drainage-works, without paying for the scientific skill of an engineer, or even of a surveyor.

It is believed, however, that generally, it will be found true economy, to procure the aid of an experienced engineer, if convenient, to lay out the work at the outset. Certainly, in most cases, some skill in the use of levelling instruments, at least, is absolutely essential to systematic work. No man, however experienced, can, by the eye, form any safe opinion of the fall of a given tract of land. Fields which appear perfectly level to the eye, will be found frequently to give fall enough for the deepest drainage. The writer recently had occasion to note this fact on his own land.

A low wet spot had many times been looked at, as a place which should be drained, both to improve its soil, and the appearance of the land about it; but to the eye, it seemed doubtful whether it was not about as low as the stream some forty rods off, into which it must be drained. Upon testing the matter carefully with levelling instruments, it was found that from the lowest spot in this little swamp, there was a fall of seven and a half feet to the river, at its ordinary height! Again, there are cases where it will be found upon accurate surveys, that the fall is very slight, so that great care will be requisite, to lay the drains in such a way that the descent may be continuous and uniform.

Without competent skill in laying out the work, land-owners will be liable not only to errors in the fall of the drains, but to very expensive mistakes in the location of them. A very few rods of drains, more than are necessary, would cost more than any charge of a competent person for laying them out properly.

Again, experience gives great facility in judging of the underground flow of water, of the permeability of soil, of the probability of finding ledges or other rock formation, and many other particulars which might not suggest themselves to a novice in the business.

The laying out of drains is important, not only with reference to the work in hand, but to additional work to be executed in future on adjoining land, so that the whole may be eventually brought into one cheap and efficient system with the smallest effective number of drains, both minors and mains, and the fewest outlets possible; with such wells, or other facilities for inspection, as may be necessary.

In the English tables of the cost of drainage by the Drainage Companies, an estimate of $1.25 per acre is usually put down for "superintendence," which includes the engineering and the supervision of the whole process of opening, laying and filling, securing outfalls, and every other process till the work is completed. The general estimate of the cost of drainage is about $25.00 per acre, and this item of $1.25 is but a small per centage on that amount. The point has been dwelt upon here, more for the purpose of impressing upon land-owners, the importance of employing competent skill in the laying out of their drainage works, than because the expense thus incurred, forms any considerable item of the cost of the whole work.

2. Excavation and Filling. The principal expense of drainage is incurred in the excavation of the ditch, whether it be for tiles or for stones. The labor of excavation depends much upon the nature of the soil to be moved.

"Draining on a sound clay," says the writer of a prize essay, "free from stones, may be executed at a cheaper rate per rod, in length, than on almost any other kind of soil, as, from the firmness of the clay, the work may be done with narrow spades, and but a small quantity of soil requires to be removed. The draining of wet sands or grounds, or clays in which veins of sand abound, is more expensive than on sound clays, because a broader spade has to be used, and consequently a larger amount of soil removed; and draining stony or rocky soils is still more expensive, because the pick has to be used. This adds considerably to the expense."

Great stress is laid, by all experienced persons, upon using narrow spades, and opening ditches as narrow as possible.

It is somewhat more convenient for unskillful laborers to work in a wide ditch than in a narrow one, and although the laborers frequently protest that they cannot work so rapidly in narrow ditches, yet it is found that, in contract work, by the rod, they usually open the ditches very narrow.

Indeed, it will be found that, generally, the cost of excavation bears a pretty constant proportion to the number of cubic feet of earth thrown out.

It will surprise those unaccustomed to these estimates, to observe how rapidly the quantity excavated, increases with the increased width of the ditch.

To enable the reader accurately to compute the measurement of drains of any dimensions likely to be adopted, a table and explanations, found in the Report of the Board of Health, already quoted, are given below. The dimensions, or contents of any drain, are found by multiplying together the length, depth, and mean width of the drain.

"Thus, if a drain is 300 yards long, and the cutting 3 feet deep, 20 inches wide at the top, and 4 inches wide at the bottom, the mean width would be 12 inches (or the half of the sum of 20 and 4), and if we multiply 300, the length, by 1, the depth in yards, and by 1/3, the mean width in yards, and the product would be 100 cubic yards. The following table will serve to facilitate such calculations.

Table showing the number of Cubic Yards of Earth in each Rod (5-1/2 Yards in length), in Drains or Ditches of various Dimensions.

================================================= DEPTH. MEAN WIDTH. - Inches. 7 In. 8 In. 9 In. 10 In. 11 In. 12 In. - 30 0.89 1.02 1.146 1.27 1.40 1.53 33 0.98 1.12 1.26 1.40 1.54 1.68 36 1.07 1.22 1.375 1.53 1.68 1.83 39 1.16 1.324 1.49 1.655 1.82 1.986 42 1.25 1.426 1.604 1.78 1.96 2.14 45 1.34 1.53 1.72 1.91 2.10 2.29 48 1.426 1.63 1.833 2.04 2.24 2.444 51 1.515 1.73 1.95 2.164 2.38 2.60 54 1.604 1.83 2.06 2.29 2.52 2.75 57 1.69 1.935 2.18 2.42 2.66 2.90 60 1.78 2.036 2.29 2.546 2.80 3.056 =================================================

================================================= DEPTH. MEAN WIDTH. - Inches. 13 In. 14 In. 15 In. 16 In. 17 In. 18 In. - 30 1.655 1.78 1.91 2.04 2.164 2.29 33 1.82 1.96 2.10 2.24 2.38 2.52 36 1.986 2.14 2.29 2.244 2.60 2.75 39 2.15 2.32 2.48 2.65 2.81 2.98 42 2.32 2.495 2.674 2.85 3.03 3.21 45 2.48 2.67 2.865 3.055 3.246 3.438 48 2.65 2.85 3.056 3.26 3.46 3.667 51 2.81 3.03 3.25 3.46 3.68 3.896 54 2.98 3.20 3.44 3.666 3.895 4.125 57 3.14 3.38 3.63 3.87 4.11 4.354 60 3.31 3.564 3.82 4.074 4.33 4.584 =================================================

"Along the top of the table is placed the mean widths in inches, and on the left-hand side the depths of the drains, extending from 30 inches to 5 feet. The numbers in the body of the table express cubic yards, and decimals of a yard. In making use of the table, it is necessary first to find the mean width of the drain, from the widths at the top and bottom. Thus, if a drain 3 feet deep were 16 inches wide at the top, and 4 inches at the bottom, the mean width would be half of 16 added to 4, or 10; then, by looking in the table for the column under 10 (width), and opposite 36 (inches of depth), we find the number of cubic yards in each rod of such a drain to be 1.53, or somewhat more than one and a half. If we compare this with another drain 20 inches wide at the top, 4 inches at the bottom, and 4-1/2 feet deep, we have the mean width 12, and looking at the table under 12 and opposite 54, we find 2.75 cubic yards, or two and three-quarters to the rod. In this case, the quantity of earth to be removed is nearly twice as much as in the other, and hence, as far as regards the digging, the cost of the labor will be nearly double. But in the case of deep drains, the cost increases slightly for another reason, namely, the increased labor of lifting the earth to the surface from a greater depth."

Under the title of the "Depth of Drains," other reasons are suggested why shallow drains are more easily wrought than deeper drains. The widths given in English treatises, and found perfectly practicable there, with proper drainage-tools, will seem to us exceedingly narrow. Mr. Parkes gives the width of the top of a four-foot drain 18 inches, of a three-and-a-half foot drain 16 inches, and of a three-foot drain 12 inches. He gives the width of drains for tiles, three inches at bottom, and those for stones, eight inches. Of the cost of excavating a given number of cubic yards of earth from drains, it is difficult to give reliable estimates. In the writer's own field, where a pick was used to loosen the lower two feet of earth, the labor of opening and filling drains 4 feet deep, and of the mean width of 14 inches, all by hand labor, has been, in a mile of drains, being our first experiments, about one day's labor to three rods in length. The excavated earth of such a drain, measures not quite three cubic yards. (Exactly, 2.85.)

In work subsequently executed, we have opened our drains of 4 foot depth, but 20 inches at top, and 4 inches at bottom, giving a mean width of 12 inches. In one instance, in the Summer of 1858, two men opened 14 rods of such drain in one day. In six days, the same two men opened, laid, and filled 947 feet, or about 57-1/2 rods of such drain. Their labor was worth $12.00, or 21 cents per rod. The actual cost of this job was as follows:

847 two-inch tiles, at $13 per 1,000 $11.01 100 three-inch " " for main 2.50 70 bushels of tan, to protect the joints .70 Horse to haul tiles and tan .50 Labor, 12 days, at $1 12.00 ———- Total $26.71

This is 46-1/2 cents per rod, besides our own time and skill in laying out and superintending the work. The work was principally done with Irish spades, and was in a sandy soil. In the same season, the same men opened, laid, and filled 70 rods of four-foot drain, of the same mean width of 12 inches, in the worst kind of clay soil, where the pick was constantly used. It cost 35 days' labor to complete the job, being 50 cents per rod for the labor alone. The least cost of the labor of draining 4 feet deep, on our own land, is thus shown to be 21 cents per rod, and the greatest cost 50 cents per rod, all the labor being by hand. One-half these amounts would have completed the drains at 3 feet depth, as has been already shown.

But the excavation here is much greater than is usual in England, Mr. Parkes giving the mean width of a four-foot drain but 10-1/2 inches, instead of 14 or 12, as just given. Mr. Denton gives estimates of the cost, in England, of cutting and filling four-foot drains, which vary from 12 cents per rod upwards, according to the prices of labor, and other circumstances.

In New England, where labor may be fairly rated at one dollar per day, the cost of excavating and filling four-foot drains by hand labor, must vary from 20 to 50 cents per rod, according to the soil, and half those amounts for drains of three-foot depth.

Of the aid which may be derived from the use of draining plows, or of the common plow, or subsoil plow, our views may be found expressed under the appropriate heads. That drains will long continue to be opened in this vast country by hand labor, is not to be supposed, but we give our estimates of the expenses, at this first stage of our education in drainage.

3. Cost of the Tiles. Under the title of "The Cost of Tiles," we have given such information as can be at present procured, touching that matter. It will be assumed, in these estimates, that no tiles of less than 1-1/2 inch bore will be used for any purpose, and for mains, usually those of three-inch bore are sufficient. The proportion of length of mains to that of minors is small, and, considering the probable reduction of prices, we will, for the present, assume $10 per 1,000 as the prices of such mixed sizes as may be used.

Add to this, the freight of them to a reasonable distance, and we have the cost of the tiles on the field. The weight of two-inch tiles is usually rated at about 3 lbs. each, though they fall short of this weight until wet.

4. Outlets. A small per-centage should be added to the items already noticed, for the cost of the general outfall, which should be secured with great care; although, from such examination as the writer has made in this country, and in England also, in the large majority of cases, drains are discharged with very little precaution to protect the outlets. Works completed under the charge of regular engineers, form an exception to this remark; and an item of 37 cents per acre, for iron outlets and masonry, is usually included in the estimated cost per acre of drainage.

5. Collars. It is not known to the author that collars have been at all used in America, except at the New York Central Park, in 1858; round pipes, upon which they are commonly used abroad, when used on any, not being yet much in use here.

In the estimates of Mr. Denton, in his tables, collars are set down at about half the cost of the mixed tiles. The bore of them being large enough to receive the end of the tile, increases the price in proportion to the increase in size. It is believed, however, that a smaller size of tiles may prudently be used with collars than without, because the collars keep the tiles perfectly in line, and freely admit water, while they exclude roots, sand, and other obstructions. A drain laid with one and a half inch tiles with collars is, no doubt, better in any soil than two-inch tiles without collars. Some compensation for the cost of collars may thus be found in the less price of the smaller tiles.

6. Laying. The cost of laying tiles is so trifling as hardly to be worth estimating, except to show its insignificance. The estimate, by English engineers, is two cents per rod for "pipe laying and finishing." What is included in "finishing," does not appear. From the personal observations of the writer, it is believed that an active man may lay from 60 to 100 rods of tiles per day, in ditches well prepared. Indeed, we have seen our man James, lay twelve rods of two-inch tiles, in a four-foot ditch, in forty-five minutes, when he was not aware that he was working against time. This is at the rate of sixteen rods an hour, which would give just 160 rods, or a half-mile, in a day of ten hours.

7. Number of Tiles to the Acre. The number of tiles used depends, of course, upon the distances apart of the drains, and upon the length of the tiles used.

The following table gives the number of tiles of various length, per acre, required at different intervals:

======================================================================== Intervals between Twelve inch Thirteen inch Fourteen inch Fifteen inch the Drains, Pipe. Pipe. Pipe. Pipe. in feet. - - - - 15 2904 2680 2489 2323 18 2420 2234 2074 1936 21 2074 1915 1778 1659 24 1815 1676 1555 1452 27 1613 1489 1383 1290 30 1452 1340 1244 1161 33 1320 1219 1131 1056 36 1210 1117 1037 968 39 1117 1031 957 893 42 1037 958 888 829 ========================================================================

The following table gives the number of rods per acre of drains at different distances:

===================================================================== Intervals between the Drains, in feet. Rods per acre. + 15 176 18 146-2/3 21 125-5/7 24 110 27 97-7/9 30 88 33 80 36 73-1/3 39 67-9/13 42 62-6/7 =====================================================================

It may be remarked here, that tiles, moulded of the same length, vary nearly two inches when burned, according to the severity of the heat. It may be suggested, too, that the length of the tile, in the use of any machine, is entirely at the option of the maker. It is not, perhaps, an insult to our common humanity, to suggest to buyers the propriety of measuring the length as well as calibre of tiles before purchasing. In the estimates which will be made in this detail, it will be assumed that tiles will lay one foot each, with allowance for imperfections and breakage. This is as near as possible to accuracy, according to our best observation; and, besides, there is convenience in this simple estimate of one tile to one foot, which is important in practice.

We have now the data from which we may make some tolerably safe estimates of the cost of drainage. With labor at one dollar per day, and tiles at $10 per 1,000, or one cent each, or one cent a foot, and ditches four feet deep, opened and filled at one-third of a day's labor to the rod, we may set down the principal items of the cost of drainage by the rod, as follows:

Cutting and filling per rod 33-1/3 cts. Tiles 16-2/3 " —— 50

This is putting the tiles at one cent a foot, and the labor at two cents a foot, or just twice as much as the cost of tiles, and it brings a total of half a dollar a rod, all of them numbers easily remembered, and convenient for calculation.

By reference to the table giving the number of rods to the acre, the cost of labor and tiles per acre may be at once found, by taking half the number of rods in dollars. At 42 feet distance, the cost will be $31.42 per acre; at 30 feet distance, $44; and at 60 feet, half that amount, or $22 per acre.

Our views as to the frequency of drains, may be found under the appropriate head.

Our estimate thus far, is of four-foot drains. We have shown, under the head of the "Depth of Drains," that the cost of cutting and filling a four-foot drain is double that of cutting and filling a three-foot drain. There is no doubt, that, after all the good advice we have given on this subject, many, who "grow wiser than their teachers are," will set aside the teachings of the best draining engineers in the world, and insist that three feet deep is enough, and persist in so laying their tiles.

This shallowness will reduce the cost of labor about one half, so that we shall have the cost of labor and tiles equal—one cent a foot, making 33? cents per rod, or one-third of a dollar, instead of one-half a dollar per rod. To the cost of labor and tiles, we should add a fair estimate of the cost of the other items of engineering and outlets. These are trifling matters, which English tables, as has been shown, estimate together, at about $1.67 per acre.

Briefly to recapitulate the elements of computation of the cost of drainage, we find them to be these: the price of labor, the price of tiles, and freight of them; the character of the soil, the depth of the drains, and their distance apart, with the incidental expense of engineering and of outfalls, and the large additional cost of collars, where they are deemed necessary.


It is not possible to answer, with precision, the question so often asked, as to the comparative cost of drainage with tiles and stones.

The estimates given of the cost of tile drains, are based upon the writer's own experience, upon his own farm mainly; and the mean width of four-foot tile drains, may be assumed to be 14 inches, instead of 10-1/2 inches, as actually practiced in England.

For a stone drain of almost any form, certainly for any regular water-course laid with stones, our ditch must be at least 21 inches wide from top to bottom. This is just 50 per cent, more than our own estimate, and 100 per cent., or double the English estimate for tile drains.

It will require at least two ox-cart loads of stones to the rod, to construct any sort of a stone drain, costing, perhaps, 25 cents a load for picking up and hauling. In most cases, where the stones are not on the farm, it will cost twice that sum. We will say 25 cents per rod for laying the stones, though this is a low estimate. We have, then, for cutting and filling the ditch, 50 cents per rod, 50 cents for hauling stone, and for laying, 25 cents per rod, making $1.25 a rod for a stone drain, against 50 cents per rod for tile drains.

Then we have a large surplus of earth, two cartloads to the rod, displaced by the two loads of stone, to be disposed of; and in case of the tiles, we have just earth enough. There are many other considerations in favor of tiles: such as the cutting up of the ground by teaming heavy loads of stones; the greater permanency of tiles; and the fact that they furnish no harbor for mice and other vermin, as the English call such small beasts. In favor of stones, is the fact, that often they are on the land, and must be moved, and it is convenient to dispose of them in the ditches.

Again, there are many parts of the country where tiles are not to be procured, without great cost of freight, and where labor is abundant at certain seasons, and money scarce at all seasons, so that the question is really between stone drains and no drains.

Stone drains, if laid very deep, are far more secure than when shallow; because, if shallow, they are usually ruined by the breaking in of water at the top, in the Spring time, by the action of frost, and by the mining of mice and moles. If laid four feet deep, and the earth rammed hard above the stones, and rounded on the surface to throw off surface water, they may be found efficient and permanent.

The conclusion, however, is, that where it can be procured, at any reasonable cost, drainage with tiles will generally cost less than one-half the expense of drainage with stones, and be incomparably more satisfactory in the end.



Unreasonable Expectations about Draining Tools.—Levelling Instruments; Guessing not Accurate.—Level by a Square.—Spirit Level.—Span, or A Level.—Grading by Lines.—Boning-rod.—Challoner's Drain Level.—Spades and Shovels.—Long-handled Shovel.—Irish Spade, Description and Cut.—Bottoming Tools.—Narrow Spades.—English Bottoming Tools.—Pipe-layer.—Pipe-laying Illustrated.—Pick-axes.—Drain Gauge.—Drain Plows, and Ditch-Diggers.—Fowler's Drain Plow.—Pratt's Ditch-Digger.—McEwan's Drain Plow.—Routt's Drain Plow.

It seems to be a characteristic of Americans, to be dissatisfied with every recent improvement in art or science, and the greater the step in advance of former times, the more captious and critical do we become. There is many a good lady, who cannot tolerate a sewing-machine, although she knows it will do the work of ten seamstresses, because it will not sew on buttons and work buttonholes! Most of us are very much out of temper with the magnetic telegraph, just now, because it does not bring us the Court news from England every morning before breakfast, though we have hourly dispatches from Washington, New Orleans, and St. Louis; and, returning to our moutons, everybody is finding fault with us just now, because we cannot tell them of some universal, all-penetrating, cheap, strong, simple, enduring little implement, by means of which any kind of a laborer, Scotch, Irish, or Yankee, may conveniently open all kinds of drains in all kinds of land, whether sand, hard-pan, gravel, or clay.

Having personally inquired and examined, touching draining tools in England, and having been solicited by an extensive agricultural implement house in Boston, to furnish them a list and description of a complete set of draining tools, and feeling the obligation which seemed to be imposed on us, to know all about this matter, we wrote to Mr. Denton, one of the first draining engineers in the world, to send us a list, with drawings and descriptions of such implements as he finds most useful, or, if more convenient the implements themselves.

Mr. Denton kindly replied to our inquiry, and his answer may be taken as the best evidence upon this point. He says:

"As to tools, it is the same with them as it is with the art of draining itself—too much rule and too much drawing upon paper; all very right to begin with, but very prejudicial to progress. I employ, as engineer to the General Land Drainage Company, and on my private account, during the drainage season, as many as 2,000 men, and it is an actual fact, that not one of them uses the set of tools figured in print. I have frequently purchased a number of sets of the Birmingham tools, and sent them down on extensive works. The laborers would purchase a few of the smaller tools, such as Nos. 290, 291, and 301, figured in Morton's excellent Cyclopaedia of Agriculture, and would try them, and then order others of the country blacksmith, differing in several respects; less weighty and much less costly, and, moreover, much better as working tools. All I require of the cutters, is, that the bottom of the drain should be evenly cut, to fit the size of the pipe. The rest of the work takes care of itself; for a good workman will economize his labor for his own sake, by moving as little earth as practicable; thus, for instance, a first-class cutter, in clays, will get down four feet with a twelve-inch opening, ordinarily; if he wishes to show off, he will sacrifice his own comfort to appearance, and will do it with a ten-inch opening."

Having thus "freed our mind" by way of preliminary, we propose to take up our subject, and pursue it as practically and quietly as possible to the end. It may be well, perhaps, first to suggest by way of explanation of Mr. Denton's letter, above quoted, that drains are usually opened in England by the yard, or rod, the laborer finding his own tools.

As has been intimated, the implements convenient for draining, depend on many circumstances. They depend upon the character of the earth to be moved. A sharp, light spade, which may work rapidly and well in a light loam or sand, may be entirely unfit to drive into a stiff clay; and the fancy bottoming tools which may cut out a soft clay or sand in nicely-measured slices, will be found quite too delicate for a hard-pan or gravel, where the pick-axe alone can open a passage.

The implements again must be suited to the workman who handles it. Henry Ward Beecher, in speaking of creeds, which he, on another occasion, had said were "the skins of religion set up and stuffed," remarked, that it was of more importance that a man should know how to make a practical use of his faith, than that he should subscribe to many articles; for, said he, "I have seen many a man who could do more at carpenter's work with one old jack-knife, than another could do with a whole chest of tools!"

What can an Irishman do with a chopping ax, and what cannot a Yankee do with it? Who ever saw a Scotchman or an Irishman who could not cut a straight ditch with a spade, and who ever saw a Yankee who could or would cut a ditch straight with any tool? One man works best with a long-handled spade, another prefers a short handle; one drives it into the earth with his right foot, another with his left. A laboring man, in general, works most easily with such tools as he is accustomed to handle; while theorizing implement-makers, working out their pattern by the light of reason, may produce such a tool as a man ought to work with, without adapting it at all to the capacity or taste of the laborer. A man should be measured for his tools, as much as for his garment, and not be expected to fit himself to another's notions more than to another's coat.

If the land-owner proposes to act as his own engineer, the first instrument he will want to use is a SPIRIT LEVEL, or some other contrivance by which he may ascertain the variations of the surface of his field. The natural way for a Yankee to get at the grades is to guess at them, and this, practically, is what is usually done. Ditches are opened where there appears to be a descent, and if there is water running, the rise is estimated by its current; and if there is no water rising in the drain, a bucketfull is occasionally poured in to guide the laborer in his work. No one who has not tested the accuracy, or, rather, inaccuracy, of his judgment, as to the levels of fields, can at all appreciate the deceitfulness of appearances on this point. The human eye will see straight; but it will not see level without a guide. It forms conclusions by comparison; and the lines of upland, of forest tops and of distant hills, all conspire to confuse the judgment, so that it is quite common for a brook to appear to the eye to run up hill, even when it has a quick current. A few trials with a spirit-level will cure any man of his conceit on this subject.

And so it is as to the regular inclination of the bottom of drains. It is desirable not only to have an inclination all the way, but a regular inclination, as nearly as possible, especially if the descent be small. Workmen are very apt to work at a uniform depth from the surface, and so give the bottom of the drain the same variations as the surface line; and thus at one point there may be a fall of one inch in a rod; at another, twice that fall; and at another, a dead level, or even a hollow. On our own farm, we have found, in twelve rods, a variation of a foot in the bottom line of a drain opened by skillful workmen on a nearly level field, where they had no water to guide them, and where they had supposed their fall was regular throughout.

The following sketch shows the difference between lines of tiles laid with and without instruments. Next to guessing at the fall in our field, may be placed a little contrivance, of which we have made use sufficiently to become satisfied of its want of practical accuracy. It is thus figured and described in the excellent treatise of Thomas, on Farm Implements.

"A is a common square, placed in a slit in the top of the stake B. By means of a plumb-line the square is brought to a level, when a thumbscrew, at C, fixes it fast. If the square is two feet long, and is so carefully adjusted as not to vary more than the twentieth of an inch from a true level, which is easily accomplished, then a twentieth of an inch in two feet will be one inch in forty feet—a sufficient degree of accuracy for many cases."

We do not so much object to the principle of the above level, as to its practical working. We find it difficult, without cross sights, to take an accurate level with any instrument. However, those who are used to rifle-shooting may hit tolerably near the mark with the square. Mr. Thomas only claims that it is accurate enough "for many cases."

A proper spirit-level, such as is used by engineers of railroads and canals, attached to a telescope, is the best of all instruments. "So great is the perfection of this instrument," says the writer just quoted, "that separate lines of levels have been run with it, for sixty miles, without varying two-thirds of an inch for the whole distance." A cheap and convenient spirit-level, for our purpose, is thus constructed.

It is furnished with eye sights, a b, and, when in use, is placed into a framing of brass which operates as a spring to adjust it to the level position, d, by the action of the large-headed brass screw, c. A stud is affixed to the framing, and pushed firmly into a gimlet-hole in the top of the short rod, which is pushed or driven into the ground at the spot from whence the level is desired to be ascertained. It need scarcely be mentioned, that the height of the eye sight, from the guard, is to be deducted from the height of observation, which quantity is easily obtained by having the rod marked off in inches and feet; but it may be mentioned, that this instrument should be used in all cases of draining on level ground, even when one is confident that he knows the fall of the ground; for the eye is a very deceitful monitor for informing you of the levelness of ground. It is so light as to admit of being carried in the pocket, whilst its rod may be used as a staff or cane.

A staff of ten feet in length, graduated in feet and inches, and held by an attendant at the various points of observation, is necessary in the use of the spirit-level in the field. A painted target, arranged with a slide to be moved up and down on this staff, and held by a thumbscrew, will be found useful.

We have made for our own use a level like the above, and find it sufficiently accurate for drainage purposes. Small spirit-levels set in iron can be had at the hardware shops for twenty cents each, and can be readily attached to wood by a screw, in constructing our implement; or a spirit-level set in mahogany, of suitable size, may be procured for a half dollar, and any person, handy with tools, can do the rest. The sights should be arranged both ways, with a slit cut with a chisel through the brass or tin, and an oblong opening at each end. The eye is placed at the slit, and sight is taken by a hair or fine thread, drawn across the opening at the other end. Then, by changing ends, and sighting through the other end at a given object, any error in the instrument may be detected. The hair or thread may be held in place by a little wax, and moved up or down till it is carefully adjusted. The instrument should turn upon the staff in all directions, so that the level of a whole field, so far as it is within range, may be taken from one position.

To maintain a uniform grade in the bottom of a drain so as to economize the fall, and distribute it equally through the whole length, several different instruments and means may be adopted. The first which we will figure, is what is called the Span, or A Level. Such a level may be easily constructed of common inch-board. If it be desired to note the fall in feet, the span may conveniently be ten feet. If a notation in rods be preferred, the span should be a rod, or half rod long.

The two feet being placed on a floor, and ascertained to be perfectly level by a spirit-level, the plumb-line will hang in the centre, where a distinct mark should be made on the cross-bar. Then place a block of wood, exactly an inch thick, under one leg, and mark the place where the line crosses the bar. Put another block an inch thick under the same leg, and again mark where the line crosses the bar, and so on as far as is thought necessary. Then put the blocks under the other leg in the same manner, and mark the cross-bar. If the span be ten feet, the plumb-line will indicate upon the bar, by the mark which it crosses, the rise or fall in inches, in ten feet. If the span be a rod, the line will indicate the number of inches per rod of the rise or fall.

This instrument is used thus: The fall of the ditch from end to end being ascertained by the spirit-level, and the length also, the fall per rod, or per one hundred feet, may be computed. The span is then placed in the bottom of the drain, from time to time, to guide the workman, or for accurate inspection of the finished cut. We have constructed and used this level, and found it very convenient to test the accuracy of the workmen, who had opened drains in our absence. A ten-foot span will be found as large as can be conveniently carried about the farm.

For the accurate grading of the bottom of drains, as the work proceeds, we have in practice found nothing so convenient and accurate as the arrangement which we are about to illustrate.

The object is simply to draw a line parallel with the proposed bottom of the drain, for the laborers to work under, so that they, as they proceed, may measure down from it, as a guide to depth. Having with the spirit-level, ascertained the fall from end to end of the drain, a short stake is set at each end, and a line is drawn from one to the other at the requisite height, and supported by the cross-pieces, at suitable distances, to prevent the sagging of the line.

Suppose the drain to be ten rods long, and that it is intended to cut it four feet deep, the natural fall being, from end to end, sufficient. We drive a stake at each end of the drain, high enough to attach to it a line three feet above the surface, which will be seven feet above the bottom of the finished drain—high enough to be above the heads of the cutters, when standing near the bottom.

Before drawing the line, the drain may be nearly completed. Then drive the intermediate stakes, with the projecting arms, which we will call squares, on one side of the drain, carefully sighting from one end of the stake to the other, at the point fixed for the line, and driving the squares till they are exactly even. Then attach a strong small cord, not larger than a chalk line, to one of the stakes, and draw it as tight as it will bear, and secure it at the other stake. The line is now directly over the middle of the drain, seven feet from the bottom. Give the cutters, then, a rod seven feet long, and let them cut just deep enough for the rod to stand on the bottom and touch the line. Practically, this has been found by the author, the most accurate and satisfactory method of bringing drains to a regular grade.

Instead of a line, after the end stakes have been placed, a boning rod, as it is called, may be used thus: A staff is used, with a cross-piece at the top, and long enough, when resting on the proper bottom of the drain, to reach to the level of the marks on the stakes, three feet above the surface. Cross-pieces nailed to the stakes are the most conspicuous marks. A person stands at one stake sighting along to the other; a second person then holds the rod upright in the ditch, just touching the bottom, and carries it thus along. If, while it is moved along, its top is always in a line with the cross-bars on the end stakes, the fall is uniform; if it rise above, the bottom of the drain must be lowered; if it fall below, the bottom of the drain must be raised. This may be convenient enough for mere inspection of works, but it requires two persons besides the cutters, to finish the drain by this mode; whereas, with the lines and squares, any laborer can complete the work with exactness.

Another mode of levelling, by means of a mammoth mason's level, with an improvement, was invented by Colonel Challoner, and published in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society. It may appear to some persons more simple than the span level. We give the cut and explanation.

"I first ascertain what amount of fall I can obtain, from the head of every drain to my outfall. Suppose the length of the drain to be 96 yards, and I find I have a fall of two feet, that gives me a fall of a quarter of an inch in every yard. I take a common bricklayer's level 12 feet long, to the bottom of which I attach, with screws, a piece of wood the whole length, one inch wider at one end than at the other, thereby throwing the level one inch out of the true horizontal line. When the drain has got to its proper depth at the outfall, I apply the broadest end of the level to the mouth; and when the plumb-bob indicates the level to be correct, the one-inch fall has been gained in the four yards, and so on. I keep testing the drain as it is dug, quite up to the head, when an unbroken, even, and continuous fall of two feet in the whole 96 yards has been obtained."


No peculiar tool is essential in opening that part of the drain which is more than a foot in width. Shovels and spades, of the forms usually found upon well-furnished farms, and adapted to its soil, will be found sufficient. A Boston agricultural house, a year or two since, sent out an order to London for a complete set of draining tools. In due season, they received, in compliance with their order, three spades of different width, like those represented in the cut.

These are understood to be the tools in common use in England and Scotland, for sod-draining, and for any other drains, indeed, except tiles. The widest is 12 inches wide, and is used to remove the first spit, of about one foot depth. The second is 12 inches wide at top, and 8 at the point, and the third, eight at top, and four at the point. The narrowest spade is usually made with a spur in front, or what the Irish call a treader, on which to place the foot in driving it into the earth.

For wedge drains, these spades are made narrower than those above represented, the finishing spade being but two and a half inches wide at the point. It will be recollected that this kind of drainage is only adapted to clay land. The shovels and spades which have been heretofore in most common use in New England are made with short handles, thus—

They are of cast-steel, and combine great strength and lightness. Long-handled shovels and spades are much preferred, usually, by Irish laborers, whose fancy is worth consulting in matters with which they have so much to do. We believe their notion is correct, that the long-handled tool is the easier to work with, at almost any job.

In our own draining, we find the common spade, with long or short handle, to be best in marking out the lines in turf; and either the spade or common shovel, according to the nature of the soil, most convenient in removing the first foot of earth.

After this, if the pick is used, a long-handled round-pointed shovel, now in common use on our farms, is found convenient, until the ditch is too narrow for its use. Then the same shovel, turned up at the sides so as to form a narrow scoop, will be found better than any tool we yet have to remove this loosened earth.

Of all the tools that we have ever seen in the hands of an Irishman, in ditching, nothing approximates to the true Irish spade. It is a very clumsy, ungainly-looking implement used in the old country both for ditching, and for ridging for potatoes, being varied somewhat in width, according to the intended use. For stony soil, it is made narrower and stronger, while for the bog it is broader and lighter. The Irish blacksmiths in this country usually know how to make them, and we have got up a pattern of them, which are manufactured by Laighton and Lufkin, edge-tool makers, of Auburn, N. H., which have been tested, and found to suit the ideas of the Irish workmen.

This is a correct portrait of an Irish spade of our own pattern, which has done more in opening two miles of drains on our own farm, than any other implement.

The spade of the Laighton and Lufkin pattern weighs 5 lbs., without the handle, and is eighteen inches long. It is of iron, except about eight inches of the blade, which is of cast steel, tempered and polished like a chopping axe. It is considerably curved, and the workmen suit their own taste as to the degree of curvature, by putting the tool under a log or rock, and bending it to suit themselves. It is a powerful, strong implement, and will cut off a root of an inch or two diameter as readily as an axe. The handle is of tough ash, and held in place by a wedge driven at the side of it, and can be knocked out readily when the spade needs new steel, or any repair. The length of the handle is three feet eight inches, and the diameter about one and one-fourth inches. The wedge projects, and forms a "treader," broad and firm, on which the foot comes down, to drive the spade into the ground.

We have endeavored to have the market supplied with the Irish spades, because, in the hands of such Irishmen as have used them "at home," we find them a most effective tool. We are met with all sorts of reasonable theoretical objections on the part of implement sellers, and of farmers, who never saw an Irish spade in use. "Would not the tool be better if it were wider and lighter," asks one. "I think it would be better if the spur, or "treader," were movable and of iron, so as to be put on the other side or in front," suggests another. "It seems as if it would work better, if it were straight," adds a third. "Would it not hold the dirt better if it were a little hollowing on the front," queries a fourth. "No doubt," we reply, "there might be a very good implement made, wider and lighter, without a wooden treader, and turned up at the sides, to hold the earth better, but it would not be an Irish spade when finished. Your theories may be all correct and demonstrable by the purest mathematics, but the question is, with what tool will Patrick do the most work? If he recognizes the Irish spade as an institution of his country, as a part of 'home,' you might as well attempt to reason him out of his faith in the Pope, as convince him that his spade is not perfect." Our man, James, believes in the infallibility of both. There is no digging on the farm that his spade is not adapted to. To mark out a drain in the turf by a line, he mounts his spade with one foot, and hops backward on the other, with a celerity surprising to behold. Then he cuts the sod in squares, and, with a sleight of hand, which does not come by nature, as Dogberry says reading and writing come, throws out the first spit. When he comes on to the gravel or hard clay, where another man would use a pick-axe, his heavy boot comes down upon the treader, and drives the spade a foot or more deep; and if a root is encountered, a blow or two easily severs it. The last foot at the bottom of the four-foot drain, is cut out for the sole-tile only four and a half inches wide, and the sides of the ditch are kept trimmed, even and straight, with the sharp steel edge. And it is pleasant to hear James express his satisfaction with his national implement. "And, sure, we could do nothing at this job, sir, without the Irish spade!" "And, sure, I should like to see a man that will spade this hard clay with anything else, sir!" On the whole, though the Irish spade does wonders on our farm, we recommend it only for Irishmen, who know how to handle it. In our own hands, it is as awkward a thing as we ever took hold of, and we never saw any man but an Irishman, who could use it gracefully and effectively.

Bottoming Tools.—The only tools which are wanted of peculiar form in draining, are such as are used in forming the narrow part of the trenches at the bottom. We can get down two feet, or even three, with the common spade and pick-axe, and in most kinds of drainage, except with tiles, it is necessary to have the bottom as wide, at least, as a spade. In tile-draining, the narrower the trench the better, and in laying cylindrical pipes without collars, the bottom of the drain should exactly fit the pipes, to hold them in line.

Although round pipes are generally used in England, we have known none used in America until the past season—the sole-pipe taking their place. As the sole-pipe has a flat bottom, a different tool is required to finish its resting-place, from that adapted to the round pipe. As we have not, however, arrived quite at the bottom, we will return to the tools for removing the last foot of earth.

And first, we give from Morton, the Birmingham spades referred to by Mr. Denton, in his letter, quoted in this chapter. They are the theoretically perfect tools for removing the last eighteen or twenty inches of soil in a four or five-foot drain. Mr. Gisborne says of the drain properly formed:

"It is wrought in the shape of a wedge, brought in the bottom to the narrowest limit which will admit the collar, by tools admirably adapted to that purpose. The foot of the operator is never within twenty inches of the floor of the drain; his tools are made of iron, plated on steel, and never lose their sharpness, even when worn to the stumps; because, as the softer material, the iron, wears away, the sharp steel edge is always prominent."

This poetical view of digging drains, meets us at every turn, and we are beset with inquiries for these wonderful implements. We do not intimate that Mr. Gisborne, and those who so often quote the above language, are not reliable. Mr. Gisborne "is an honorable man, so are they all honorable men;" but we must reform our tiles, and our land too, most of it, we fear, before we can open four-foot trenches, and lay pipes in them, without putting a foot "within twenty inches of the floor of the drain."

In the first place, we have great doubt whether pipes can be laid close enough to make the joints secure without collars, unless carefully laid by hand, or unless they are round pipes, rolled in the making, when half dried, and so made straight and even at the ends. In laying such sole-pipes as we have laid, it requires some care to adjust them, so as to make the joints close. Most of them are warped in drying or burning, so that spaces of half an inch will often be left at the top or side, where two are laid end to end. Now, if the foot never goes to the bottom of the drain, the pipes must be laid with a hook or pipe-layer, such as will be presently described, which may do well for pipes and collars, because the collar covers the joint, so that it is of no importance if it be somewhat open.

Again, we know of no method of working with a pick-axe, except by standing as low as the bottom of the work. No man can pick twenty inches, or indeed any inches, lower than he stands, because he must move forward in this work, and not backward. Each land-owner may judge for himself, whether his land requires the pick in its excavation.

In soft clays, no doubt, with suitable tools, the trench may be cut a foot, or more, lower than the feet of the workman. We have seen it done in our land, in a sandy soil, with the Irish spade, though, as we used sole-pipes, our "pipe-layer" was a live Irishman, who walked in the trench backwards, putting down the pipes with his hand.

We are satisfied, that the instances in which trenches may be opened a foot or two below the feet of the workmen, are the exceptions, and not the rule, and that in laying sole-tiles, the hand of a careful workman must adjust each tile in its position.

We have found a narrow spade, four inches wide, with a long handle, a convenient tool for finishing drains for sole-tiles.

We have thoroughly tested the matter; and in all kinds of soil, give a decided preference to spades as broad at the point as at the heel. We have used common long-handled spades, cut down with shears at a machine-shop, into these shapes.

The spade of equal width, works much more easily in the bottom of a trench, because its corners do not catch, as do those of the other. The pointed spade is apparently nearer the shape of the sloping ditch, but such tools cannot be used vertically, and when the heel of the pointed spade is lowered, it catches in the side of the trench, before the point reaches the bottom.

Very strong spades, of various width, from three to eight inches, and thick at the heel, to operate as a wedge, will be found most suitable for common use. The narrowest spades should have the spur, as shown in Fig. 64, because there is not room for the foot by the side of the handle.

The various tools for finishing the bottoms of drains, as figured in Morton, are the following:

The last implement, which is a scoop for the bottom of trenches for round pipes, is one of the tools mentioned in Mr. Denton's letter, as not being found to the taste of his workmen. For scooping out our flat-bottomed trenches, we use a tool like Fig. 77. For boggy land, soft clay, or, indeed, any land where water is running at the time of the excavation, scoops like the following will be found convenient for flat bottoms.

The pushing scoop (Fig. 81), as it is called, may be made of a common long-handled shovel, turned up at the sides by a blacksmith, leaving it of the desired width.

The pipe-layer, of which mention has so often been made, is a little implement invented by Mr. Parkes, for placing round pipes and collars in narrow trenches, without stepping into them.

The following sketch, by our friend Mr. Shedd, shows the pipe-layer in use. The cross section of the land, shown in front, represents it as having had the advantage of draining, by which the water-table is brought to a level with the bottom of the drain, as shown by the heavy shading. An "Irish spade" and a pipe-layer are shown lying on the ground.

The pick-axes commonly used in excavation of trenches, are in the following forms:

Pick-axes may be light or heavy, according to the nature of the soil. A chisel at one end, and point at the other, is found best in most cases.

A Drain-gauge is usually mentioned in a list of draining tools. It is used when ditches are designed for stone or other material than tiles, and where the width is important. In tile-draining the width is entirely immaterial. If opened by the rod, it is only important that they be of proper depth and inclination, with the bottom wide enough for the tile.

The above figure shows the usual form of the drain-gauge. Below, we give from Morton, drawings, and a description of Elkington's augers for boring in the bottoms of ditches.

"The cut annexed represents the auger employed by Elkington, where a b and c are different forms of the tool; d, a portion of the shaft: e, with the wedges, h h, the cross handle; and f and g additional pieces for grasping the shaft, and so enabling more than one person to work at it." The auger-hole ought to be a little at one side of the drain, as in Fig. 3, at page 35, so that the water may not rise at right angles to the flow of water in it, and obstruct its current.


The man who can invent and construct a machine that shall be capable of cutting four-foot ditches for pipe-drains, with facility, will deserve well of his country.

It is not essential that the drain be cut to its full depth at one operation. If worked by oxen or horses, it may go several times over the work, taking out a few inches at each time. If moved by a capstan, or other slowly-operating power, it must work more thoroughly, so as not to consume too much time.

With a lever, such as is used in Willis's Stump Puller, sufficient power for any purpose may be applied. An implement like a subsoil plow, constructed to run four feet deep, and merely doing the work of the pick, would be of great assistance. Prof. Mapes says he has made use of such an implement with great advantage. For tile-drains, the narrower the ditch the better, if it be only wide enough to receive the tiles. A mere slit, four inches wide, if straight and of even inclination at the bottom, would be the best kind of ditch, the pipes being laid in with a pipe-layer. But if the ditch is to be finished by the machine, it is essential that it be so contrived that it will grade the bottom, and not leave it undulating like the surface. Fowler's Drain Plow is said to be so arranged, by improvements since its first trials, as to attain this object.

Having thus briefly suggested some of the points to be kept in mind by inventors, we will proceed to give some account of such machines as come nearest to the wants of the community. Fowler's Draining-Plow would meet the largest wants of the public, were it cheap enough, and really reliable to perform what it is said to perform. The author saw this implement in England, but not in operation, and it seems impossible, from inspection of it, as well as from the theory of its operation, that it can succeed, if at all, in any but soft homogeneous clay. The idea is, however, so bold, and so much is claimed for the implement, that some description of it seems indispensable in a work like this.

The pipes, of common drain tiles, are strung on a rope, and this rope, with the pipes, is drawn through the ground, following a plug like the foot of a subsoil plow, leaving the pipes perfectly laid, and the drain completed at a single operation. (See Fig. 88.)

The work is commenced by opening a short piece of ditch by hand, and strings of pipes, each about 50 feet long, are added as the work proceeds; and when the ditch is completed, the rope is withdrawn. When the surface is uneven, the uniform slope is preserved by means of a wheel and screw, which governs the plug, or coulter, raising or lowering it at pleasure. A man upon the frame-work controls this wheel, guided by a sight on the frame, and a cross-staff at the end of the field.

Drains, 40 rods long, are finished at one operation. This plow has been carefully tested in England. Its work has been uncovered when completed, and found perfect in every respect. The great expense of the machine, and the fact that it is only adapted to clay land free from obstructions, has prevented its general use. We cannot help believing that, by the aid of steam, on our prairies, at least, some such machine may be found practicable and economical.


Patented by Pratt & Bro., of Canandaigua, is attracting much attention. We have not seen it in operation, nor have we seen statements which satisfy us that it is just what is demanded. It is stated, in the Country Gentleman, to be incapable of cutting a ditch more than two and a half feet deep. A machine that will do so much is not to be despised; but more than one half the digging remains of a four-foot ditch, after two and a half feet are opened, and we want an implement to do the lowest and worst half. It is stated that, in one instance, a ditch, 60 rods long, about two feet deep, in hard clay, was cut with this machine, worked by two horses, in five hours.

We trust that the enterprising inventors will perfect their implement, so that it will open drains four feet deep, and thus meet the great want of the public. It is not to be expected that any such implement can be made to operate in ground full of stones and roots; and inventors should not be discouraged by the continual croakings of those sinister birds, which see nothing but obstacles, and prophecy only failure.

The drain plow was first introduced into Scotland by M'Ewan. The soil in his district was mostly a strong unctuous clay, free from stones. He constructed an immense plow, worked by 12 or 16 horses, by means of which a furrow-slice, 16 inches in depth, was turned out; and, by a modification of the plow, a second slice was removed, to the depth, in all, of two feet. This plow is expensive and heavy, and incapable of working to sufficient depth.

Mr. Paul, of Norfolk Co., England, has lately invented an ingenious machine for cutting drains, of which we give an elevation.

It is worked by a chain and capstan, by horses, and, of course, may be operated by steam or lever power. It is drawn forward, and, as it moves, it acts as a slotting machine on the land, the tools on the circumference of the acting-wheel taking successive bites of the soil, each lifting a portion from the full depth to which it is desired that the trench should be cut, and laying the earth thus removed on the surface at either side. There is a lifting apparatus at the end of the machine, by which the cutting-wheel may be raised or lowered, according to the unevenness of the surface, in order to secure a uniform fall in the bottom of the drain. The whole process is carried on at the rate of about four feet per minute, and it results, on suitable soils, in cutting a drain from three to five feet deep, leaving it in a finished state, with a level bottom for the tiles to rest upon. We give the cut and statement from the Cyclopaedia of Agriculture, and if the machine shall prove what it is represented to be, we see but little more to be desired in a ditching machine. The principle of this implement appears to us to be the correct one, and we see no reason to doubt the statement of its performance.

Routt's drain plow is designed for surface-draining merely. We give, from the New England Farmer, a statement of its merits, as detailed by a correspondent who saw it at the exhibition of the U. S. Agricultural Society at Richmond, in 1858:

"One of the most attractive implements on the Fair ground, to the farmer, was A. P. Routt's patent drain plow. This implement makes a furrow a foot deep, two feet and a half wide at the top, and four inches wide at the bottom, the sides sloping at such an angle as to insure the drain from falling in by the frost, the whole being perfectly completed at one operation by this plow, or tool. Those who have tried it say it is the very thing for surface-draining, which, on wet lands, is certainly very beneficial where under-draining has not been done. The manufacturer resides in Somerset, Orange County, Va. The plow is so made that it opens a deep furrow, turning both to the right and left, and is followed by a heavy iron roller that hardens the earth, both on the sides and the bottom of the surface-drain, thus doing very handsome work. The price, as heretofore stated, is $25, and with it, a man can, with a good pair of team horses, surface-drain 60 acres of land a day."



Begin at the Outlet.—Use of Plows.—Levelling the Bottom.—Where to begin to lay Pipes.—Mode of Procedure.—Covering Pipes.—Securing Joints.—Filling.—Securing Outlets.—Plans.

In former chapters, we have spoken minutely of the arrangement, depth, distance, and width of drains; and in treating of tools for drainage, we have sufficiently described the use of levelling instruments and of the various digging tools.

We assume here, that the engineering has been already done, and that the whole system has been carefully staked out, so that every main, sub-main, and minor is distinctly located, and the fall accurately ascertained. Until so much has been accomplished, we are unprepared to put the first spade into the ground.

We propose to give our own experience as to the convenient method of procedure, with such suggestions as occur to us, for those who are differently situated from ourselves.

The work of excavation must begin at the outlet, so that whatever water is met with, may pass readily away; and the outlet must be kept always low enough for this purpose. If there is considerable fall, it may not be best to deepen the lower end of the main to its full extent, at first, because the main, though first opened, must be the last in which the pipes are laid, and may cave in, if unnecessarily deep at first. In many cases there is fall enough, so that the upper minors may be laid and find sufficient fall, before the lower end of the main is half opened.

With a garden line drawn straight, mark out the drain, with a sharp spade, on both sides, and remove the turf. If it is desired to use the turf for covering the pipes, or to replace it over the drains, when finished, it should at first be placed in heaps outside the line of the earth to be thrown out.

A plow is used sometimes to turn out the sod and soil; but we have few plowmen who can go straight enough; and in plowing, the soil is left too near to the ditch for convenience, and the turf is torn in pieces and buried, so as not to be fit for use. Usually, it will be found convenient to remove the turf, if there be any, with a spade, by a line. Then, a plow may be used for turning out the next spit, and the drain may be kept straight, which is indispensable to good work. A good ditching-machine is, of course, the thing needful; but we are endeavoring in these directions to do our best without it. We have opened our own trenches entirely by hand labor, finding laborers more convenient than oxen or horses, and no more expensive.

Many have used the plow in the first foot or two of the cutting, but it is not here "the first step which costs," but the later steps. After the first foot is removed, if the ground be hard, a pick or subsoil plow must be used. A subsoil plow, properly constructed, may be made very useful in breaking up the subsoil, though there is a difficulty in working cattle astride of a deep ditch, encumbered with banks of earth. A friend of ours used, in opening drains, a large bull in single harness, trained to walk in the ditch; but the width of a big bull is a somewhat larger pattern for a drain, than will be found economical.

The ingenuity of farmers in the use of a pair of heavy wheels, with a chain attached to the axle, so that the cattle may both walk on one side of the ditch, or by the use of long double-trees, so that horses may go outside the banks of earth, will generally be found sufficient to make the most of their means.

It will be found convenient to place the soil at one side, and the subsoil at the other, for convenience in returning both right side up to their places.

Having worked down to the depth of two feet or more, the ditch should be too narrow for the use of common spades, and the narrow tools already described will be found useful. The Irish spade, on our own fields, is in use from the first to the last of the excavation; and at three feet depth, we have our trench but about six inches in width, and at the bottom, at four feet depth, it is but four inches—just wide enough for the laborer to stand in it, with one foot before the other.

Having excavated to nearly our depth, we use the lines, as described in another place, for levelling, and the men working under them, grade the bottom as accurately as possible. If flat-bottomed tiles are used, the ditch is ready for them. If round pipes are used, a round bottoming tool must be used to form a semi-circular groove in which the pipes are to lie.

We have not forgotten that English drainers tell us of tools and their use, whereby drains may be open twenty inches lower than the feet of the workman; but we have never chanced to see that operation, and are skeptical as to the fact that work can thus be performed economically, except in very peculiar soils. That such a crack may be thus opened, is not doubted; but we conceive of no means by which earth, that requires the pick, can be moved to advantage, without the workman standing as low as his work.

Having opened the main, and finished, as we have described, the minor which enters the main at its highest point, we are ready to lay the tiles.

By first laying the upper drain, it will be seen that we may finish and secure our work to the junction of the first minor with its main.

Convey the pipes by wagon or otherwise, as is convenient, to the side of the ditch where the soil lies, and where there is least earth, and lay them close to the edge of the ditch, end to end the whole way, discarding all imperfect pieces. If it is designed to use gravel, turf, or other covering for the pipes, lay it also in heaps along the trench. Then place the first pipe at the upper end of the ditch, with a brick or stone against its upper end, to exclude earth. We have heretofore used sole-tiles, with flat bottoms, and have found that a thin chip of wood, not an eighth of an inch thick, and four by two inches in size, such as may be found at shoe shops in New England, assists very much in securing an even bearing for the tiles. It is placed so that the ends of two tiles rest on it, and serves to keep them in line till secured by the earth. A man walking backward in the ditch, takes the tiles from the bank, carefully adjusting them in line and so as to make good joints, and he can lay half a mile or more in a day, if the bottom is well graded. Another should follow on the bank, throwing in a shovel full of gravel or tan, if either is used, upon the joint.

If turf is to be used to secure the joint, pieces should be cut thin and narrow, and laid along the bank, and the man in the ditch must secure each joint as he proceeds. It will be found to cost twice the labor, at least, to use turf, as it is to use gravel or tan, if they are at hand.

If the soil be clay, we do not believe it is best to return it directly upon the tiles, because it is liable to puddle and stop the joint, and then to crack and admit silt at the joint, while gravel is not thus affected. We prefer to place the top soil of clay land, next the pipes, rather than the clay in the condition in which it is usually found.

As to small stones above the pipes, we should decidedly object to them. They are unnecessary to the operation of the drain, and they allow the water to come in, in currents, on to the top of the pipes, in heavy storms or showers, and so endanger their security. The practice of placing stones above the tiles is abandoned by all scientific drainers.

We have, in England, seen straw placed over the joints of pipes, but it seems an inconvenient and insecure practice. Long straw cannot be well placed in such narrow openings, and it is likely to sustain the earth enough, so that when thrown in, it will not settle equally around the pipes; whereas a shovelfull of gravel or other earth sifted in carefully, will at once fasten them in place.

Having laid and partially covered the first or upper drain, proceed with the next in the same way, laying and securing the main or sub-main, at the same time, to each intersection, thus carrying the work from the highest point down towards the outlet. After sufficient earth has been thrown in to make the work safe against accidents by rain, or caving in of earth, the filling may be completed at leisure. Mr. Johnston, of Geneva, uses for this purpose a plow, having a double-tree nine and a half feet long, to enable a horse to go on each side of the ditch.

We suggest that a side-hill plow might well enough be used with horses tandem, or with oxen and cart wheels and draughts.

The filling, however, will be found a small matter, compared with the digging. In laying pipes in narrow trenches, a tool called a pipe-layer is sometimes used, a cut of which, showing its mode of use, may be found in another place.

In filling drains where the soil is partly clay, and partly sand or gravel, we recommend that the clay be placed in the upper part of the drain, so as to prevent water from passing directly down upon the pipes, by which they are frequently displaced as soon as laid.

If the work is completed in Autumn, it is well to turn two or three furrows from each side on to the drains, so as to raise the surface there, and prevent water from cutting out the ditch, or standing above it. If the land is plowed in Autumn, it is best to back-furrow on to the drains, leaving dead furrows half way between them, the first season.

As to the importance of securing the outlets, and the manner of doing it, we have spoken particularly elsewhere.

And here, again, we will remind the beginner, of the necessity of making and preserving accurate plans of the work, so that every drain may be at any time found by measurement. After a single rotation, it is frequently utterly impossible to perceive upon the surface any indication of the line of the drains.

In this connection, it may be well perhaps to remind the reader, that whatever arrangements are made as to silt-basins, or peep-holes, must be included in the general plan, and executed as the work proceeds.



Drainage deepens the Soil, and gives the roots a larger pasture.—Cobbett's Lucerne 30 feet deep.—Mechi's Parsnips 13 feet long!—Drainage promotes Pulverization.—Prevents Surface-Washing.—Lengthens the Season.—Prevents Freezing out.—Dispenses with Open Ditches.—Saves 25 per cent. of Labor.—Promotes absorption of Fertilizing Substances from the Air.—Supplies Air to the Roots.—Drains run before Rain; so do some Springs.—Drainage warms the Soil.—Corn sprouts at 55 deg.; Rye on Ice.—Cold from Evaporation.—Heat will not pass downward in Water.—Count Rumford's Experiments with Hot Water on Ice.—Aeration of Soil by Drains.

The benefits which high-lands, as we ordinarily call them, in distinction from swamp or flowed lands, derive from drainage, may be arranged in two classes, mechanical and chemical; though it is not easy, nor, indeed, is it important, to maintain this distinction in all points. Among those which partake rather of the nature of mechanical changes, are the following:

Drainage deepens the soil. Every one who has attempted to raise deep-rooted vegetables upon half-drained swamp-land, has observed the utter impossibility of inducing them to extend downward their usual length. Parsnips and carrots, on such land, frequently grow large at the top, but divide into numerous small fibres just below the surface, and spread in all directions. No root, except those of aquatic plants, will grow in stagnant water. If, therefore, it is of any advantage to have a deep, rather than a shallow soil, it is manifestly necessary, from this consideration alone, to lower the line of standing water, at least, to the extent to which the roots of our cultivated crops descend. A deep soil is better than a shallow one, because it furnishes a more extensive feeding-ground for the roots. The elements of nutrition, which the plant finds in the soil, are not all upon the surface. Many of them are washed down by the rains into the subsoil, and some are found in the decomposing rocks themselves. These, the plants, by a sort of instinct, search out and find, as well in the depths of the earth as at its surface, if no obstacle opposes. By striking deep roots again, the plants stand more firmly in the earth, so that they are not so readily drawn out, or shaken by the winds. Indeed, every one knows that a soil two feet deep is better than one a foot deep; and market-gardeners and nursery-men show, by their practice, that they know, if others do not, that a trenched soil three feet deep is better than one of any less depth. We all know that Indian corn, in a dry soil, sends down its rootlets two feet or more, as well as most of the grasses. Cobbett says: "The lucerne will send its roots thirty feet into a dry bottom!" The Chinese yam, recently introduced, grows downward two or three feet. The digging of an acre of such a crop, by the way, on New England soil generally, would require a corps of sappers and miners, especially when we consider that the yam grows largest end downward. However, the yam may prove a valuable acquisition to the country. Every inch of additional soil gives 100 tons of active soil per acre.

Says Mr. Denton:

"I have evidence now before me, that the roots of the wheat plant, the mangold wurzel, the cabbage, and the white turnip, frequently descend into the soil to the depth of three feet. I have myself traced the roots of wheat nine feet deep. I have discovered the roots of perennial grasses in drains four feet deep; and I may refer to Mr. Mercer, of Newton, in Lancashire, who has traced the roots of rye grass running for many feet along a small pipe-drain, after descending four feet through the soil. Mr. Hetley, of Orton, assures me that he discovered the roots of the mangolds, in a recently made drain, five feet deep; and the late Sir John Conroy had many newly-made drains, four feet deep, stopped by the roots of the same plants."

Mr. Sheriff Mechi's parsnips, however, distance anything in the way of deep rooting that has yet been recorded. The Sheriff is a very deep drainer, and an enthusiast in agriculture, and Nature seems to delight to humor his tastes, by performing a great many experiments at his famous place called Tiptree Hall. He stated, at a public meeting, that, in his neighborhood, where a crop of parsnips was growing on the edge of a clay pit, the roots were observed to descend 13 feet 6 inches; in fact, the whole depth to which this pit had once been filled up!

Drainage assists pulverization. It was Tull's theory that, by the comminution, or minute division, of soils alone, without the application of any manures, their fertility might be permanently maintained; and he so far supported this theory as, by repeated plowings, to produce twelve successive crops of wheat on the same land, without manure. The theory has received support from the known fact, that most soils are benefitted by Summer fallowing. The experiments instituted for the purpose of establishing this theory, although they disproved it, showed the great value of thorough pulverization. It is manifest that a wet soil can never be pulverized. Plowing clayey, or even loamy soil, when wet, tends rather to press it together, and render it less pervious to air and water.

The first effect of under-draining is to dry the surface-soil, to draw out all the water that will run out of it, so that, in early Spring, or in Autumn, it may be worked with the plow as advantageously as undrained lands in mid-Summer.

Striking illustrations of the benefits of thorough pulverization will be found in the excellent remarks of Dr. Madden, given in a subsequent chapter.

Drainage prevents surface-washing. All land which is not level, and is not in grass, is liable to great loss by heavy rains in Spring and Autumn. If the land is already filled with water, or has not sufficient drainage, the rain cannot pass directly downward, but runs away upon the surface, carrying with it much of the soil, and washing out of what remains, of the valuable elements of fertility which have been applied with such expense. If the land be properly drained, the water falling from the clouds is at once absorbed, and passes downwards, saturating the soil in its descent, and carrying the soluble substances with it to the roots, and the surplus water runs away in the artificial channels provided by the draining process. So great is the absorbent power of drained land, that, after a protracted drought, all the water of a heavy rainstorm will be drunk up and held by the soil, so that, for a day or two, none will find its way to the drains, nor will it run upon the surface.

Drainage lengthens the season for labor and vegetation. In the colder latitudes of our country, where a long Winter is succeeded by a torrid Summer, with very little ceremony by way of an intervening Spring, farmers have need of all their energy to get their seed seasonably into the ground. Snow often covers the fields in New England into April; and the ground is so saturated with water, that the land designed for corn and potatoes, frequently cannot be plowed till late in May. The manure is to be hauled from the cellar or yard, over land lifted and softened by frost, and all the processes of preparing and planting, are necessarily hurried and imperfect. In the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Board of Agriculture, of the State of Maine, for 1856, a good illustration of this idea is given: "Mr. B. F. Nourse, of Orrington, plowed and planted with corn a piece of his drained and subsoiled land, in a drizzling rain, after a storm of two days. The corn came up and grew well; yet this was a clayey loam, formerly as wet as the adjoining grass-field, upon which oxen and carts could not pass, on the day of this planting, without cutting through the turf and miring deeply. The nearest neighbor said, if he had planted that day, it must have been from a raft." Probably two weeks would be gained in New England, in Spring, in which to prepare for planting, by thorough-drainage, a gain, which no one can appreciate but a New England man, who has been obliged often to plow his land when too wet, to cut it up and overwork his team, in hauling on his manure over soft ground, and finally to plant as late as the 6th of June, or leave his manure to waste, and lose the use of his field till another season; and all because of a surplus of cold water.

Mr. Yeomans, of New York, in a published statement of his experience in draining, says, that on his drained lands, "the ground becomes almost as dry in two or three days after the frost comes out in Spring, or after a heavy rain, as it would do in as many weeks, before draining." But the gain of time for labor is not all. We gain time also for vegetation, by thorough-drainage. Ten days, frequently, in New England, may be the security of our corn-crop against frost. In less than that time, a whole field passes from the milky stage, when a slight frost would ruin it, to the glazed stage, when it is safe from cold; and twice ten days of warm season are added by this removal of surplus water.

Drainage prevents freezing out. Mr. John Johnston, of Seneca County, New York, in 1851, had already made sixteen miles of tile drains. He had been experimenting with tiles from 1835, and had, on four acres of his drained clayey land, raised the largest crop of Indian corn ever produced in that county—eighty-three bushels of shelled corn to the acre.

He states, that on this clayey soil, when laid down to grass, "not one square foot of the clover froze out." Again he says, "Heretofore, many acres of wheat were lost on the upland by freezing out, and none would grow on the lowlands. Now there is no loss from that cause."

The growing of Winter wheat has been entirely abandoned in some localities on account of freezing out, or Winter-killing; and one of the worst obstacles in the way of getting our lands into grass, and keeping them so, is this very difficulty of freezing out. The operation seems to be merely this: The soil is pulverized only to the depth of the plow, some six or eight inches. Below this is a stratum of clay, nearly impervious to water. The Autumn rains saturate the surface soil, which absorbs water like a sponge. The ground is suddenly frozen; the water contained in it crystallizes into ice; and the soil is thrown up into spicules, or honey-combs; and the poor clover roots, or wheat plants, are drawn from their beds, and, by a few repetitions of the process, left dead on the field in Spring. Draining, followed by subsoiling, lets down the falling water at once through the soil, leaving the root bed of the plants so free from moisture, that the earth is not "heaved," as the term is, and the plants retain their natural position, and awaken refreshed in the Spring by their Winter's repose.

There are no open ditches on under-drained land. An open ditch in a tillage or mowing-field, is an abomination. It compels us, in plowing, to stop, perhaps midway in our field; to make short lands; to leave headlands inconvenient to cultivate; and so to waste our time and strength in turning the team, and treading up the ground, instead of profitably employing it in drawing a long and handsome furrow the whole length of the field, as we might do were there no ditch. Open ditches, as usually made, obstruct the movement of our teams as much as fences, and a farm cut into squares by ditches, is nearly as objectionable as a farm fenced off into half or quarter-acre fields.

In haying, we have the same inconvenience. We must turn the mowing-machine and horse-rake at the ditch, and finish by hand-labor, the work on its banks; we must construct bridges at frequent intervals, and then go out of our way to cross them with loads, cutting up the smooth fields with wheels and the feet of animals. Or, what is a familiar scene, when a shower is coming up, and the load is ready, Patrick concludes to drive straight to the barn, across the ditch, and gets his team mired, upsets his load, and perhaps breaks the leg of an animal, besides swearing more than half a mile of hard ditching will expiate. Such accidents are a great temptation to profanity, and under-draining might properly be reckoned a moral agent, to counteract such traps and pitfalls of the great adversary.

A moment's thought will satisfy any farmer who has the means, that true economy dictates a liberal expenditure of labor, at once, to obviate these difficulties, rather than be subject for a lifetime to the constant petty annoyances which have been named.

Open ditches, even when formed so skillfully that they may be conveniently crossed, or water-furrows which remain where land is laid into ridges by back-furrowing, as much of our flat land must be, if not under-drained, are serious obstructions, at the best.

They render the soil unequal in depth, taking it from one point where it is wanted, and heaping it upon another where it is not wanted, thus giving the crops an uneven growth. They render the soil also unequal in respect to moisture, because the back or top of the ridge must always be drier than the furrow.

Thorough-drained land may be laid perfectly flat, giving us, thus, the control of the whole field, to divide and cultivate according to convenience, and making it of uniform texture and temperature.

Attempts have been made, to estimate the saving in the number of horses and men by drainage, and it is thought to be a reasonable calculation to fix it at one in four, or twenty-five per cent. It probably will strike any farmer as a fair estimate, that, on land which needs drainage, it will require four horses and four men to perform the same amount of cultivation, that three men and three horses may perform on the same land well drained.

Drained land will not require re-planting. There is hardly a farmer in New England, who does not, each Spring, find himself compelled to re-plant some portion of his crop. He is obliged to hurry his seed into the ground, at the earliest day, because our season for planting is short at the best. If, after this, a long cold storm comes, on wet land, the seed rots in the ground, and he must plant again, often too late, incurring thus the loss of the seed, the labor of twice doing the same work, the interruption of his regular plan of business, and often the partial failure of his crop.

Upon thorough-drained land, this cost and labor could rarely be experienced, because nothing short of a small deluge could saturate well drained land, so as to cause the seed to fail, if sowed or planted with ordinary care and prudence, as to the season.

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