"15. In the interior and heated portions of manure-heaps, ammonia is given off; but, on passing into the external and cold layers of dung-heaps, the free ammonia is retained in the heap.
"16. Ammonia is not given off from the surface of well-compressed dung-heaps, but on turning manure-heaps, it is wasted in appreciable quantities. Dung-heaps, for this reason, should not be turned more frequently than absolutely necessary.
"17. No advantage appears to result from carrying on the fermentation of dung too far, but every disadvantage.
"18. Farm-yard manure becomes deteriorated in value, when kept in heaps exposed to the weather, the more the longer it is kept.
"19. The loss in manuring matters, which is incurred in keeping manure-heaps exposed to the weather, is not so much due to the volatilization of ammonia as to the removal of ammoniacal salts, soluble nitrogenized organic matters, and valuable mineral matters, by the rain which falls in the period during which the manure is kept.
"20. If rain is excluded from dung-heaps, or little rain falls at a time, the loss in ammonia is trifling, and no saline matters, of course, are removed; but, if much rain falls, especially if it descends in heavy showers upon the dung-heap, a serious loss in ammonia, soluble organic matter, phosphate of lime, and salts of potash is incurred, and the manure becomes rapidly deteriorated in value, whilst at the same time it is diminished in weight.
"21. Well-rotten dung is more readily affected by the deteriorating influence of rain than fresh manure.
"22. Practically speaking, all the essentially valuable manuring constituents are preserved by keeping farm-yard manure under cover.
"23. If the animals have been supplied with plenty of litter, fresh dung contains an insufficient quantity of water to induce an active fermentation. In this case, fresh dung can not be properly fermented under cover, except water or liquid manure is pumped over the heap from time to time.
"Where much straw is used in the manufacture of dung, and no provision is made to supply the manure in the pit at any time with the requisite amount of moisture, it may not be advisable to put up a roof over the dung-pit. On the other hand, on farms where there is a deficiency of straw, so that the moisture of the excrements of our domestic animals is barely absorbed by the litter, the advantage of erecting a roof over the dung-pit will be found very great.
"24. The worst method of making manure is to produce it by animals kept in open yards, since a large proportion of valuable fertilizing matters is wasted in a short time; and after a lapse of twelve months, at least two-thirds of the substance of the manure is wasted, and only one-third, inferior in quality to an equal weight of fresh dung, is left behind.
"25. The most rational plan of keeping manure in heaps appears to me that adopted by Mr. Lawrence, of Cirencester, and described by him at length in Morton's 'Cyclopaedia of Agriculture,' under the head of 'Manure.'"
AN ENGLISH PLAN OF KEEPING MANURE.
"I would like to know," said the Deacon, "how Mr. Lawrence manages his manure, especially as his method has received such high commendation."
Charley got the second volume of "Morton's Cyclopaedia of Agriculture," from the book shelves, and turned to the article on "Manure." He found that Mr. Lawrence adopted the "Box System" of feeding cattle, and used cut or chaffed straw for bedding. And Mr. Lawrence claims that by this plan "manure will have been made under the most perfect conditions." And "when the boxes are full at those periods of the year at which manure is required for the succeeding crops, it will be most advantageously disposed of by being transferred at once to the land, and covered in."
"Good," said the Deacon, "I think he is right there." Charley continued, and read as follows:
"But there will be accumulations of manure requiring removal from the homestead at other seasons, at which it cannot be so applied, and when it must be stored for future use. The following has been found an effectual and economical mode of accomplishing this; more particularly when cut litter is used, it saves the cost of repeated turnings, and effectually prevents the decomposition and waste of the most active and volatile principle.
"Some three or more spots are selected according to the size of the farm, in convenient positions for access to the land under tillage, and by the side of the farm roads. The sites fixed on are then excavated about two feet under the surrounding surface. In the bottom is laid some three or four inches of earth to absorb any moisture, on which the manure is emptied from the carts. This is evenly spread, and well trodden as the heap is forming. As soon as this is about a foot above the ground level, to allow for sinking, the heap is gradually gathered in, until it is completed in the form of an ordinary steep roof, slightly rounded at the top by the final treading. In the course of building this up, about a bushel of salt, to two cart-loads of dung is sprinkled amongst it. The base laid out at any one time should not exceed that required by the manure ready for the complete formation of the heap as far as it goes; and within a day or two after such portion is built up, and it has settled into shape, a thin coat of earth in a moist state is plastered entirely over the surface. Under these conditions decomposition does not take place, in consequence of the exclusion of the air; or at any rate to so limited an extent, that the ammonia is absorbed by the earth, for there is not a trace of it perceptible about the heap; though, when put together without such covering, this is perceptible enough to leeward at a hundred yards' distance.
"When heaps thus formed are resorted to in the autumn, either for the young seeds, or for plowing in on the stubbles after preparing for the succeeding root crop, the manure will be found undiminished in quantity and unimpaired in quality; in fact, simply consolidated. Decomposition then proceeds within the soil, where all its results are appropriated, and rendered available for the succeeding cereal as well as the root crop.
"It would be inconvenient to plaster the heap, were the ridge, when settled, above six or seven feet from the ground level; the base may be formed about ten to twelve feet wide, and the ridge about nine feet from the base, which settles down to about seven feet; this may be extended to any length as further supplies of manure require removal. One man is sufficient to form the heap, and it is expedient to employ the same man for this service, who soon gets into the way of performing the work neatly and quickly. It has been asked where a farmer is to get the earth to cover his heaps—it may be answered, keep your roads scraped when they get muddy on the surface during rainy weather—in itself good economy—and leave this in small heaps beyond the margin of your roads. This, in the course of the year, will be found an ample provision for the purpose, for it is unnecessary to lay on a coat more than one or two inches in thickness, which should be done when in a moist state. At any rate, there will always be found an accumulation on headlands that may be drawn upon if need be.
"Farmers who have not been in the habit of bestowing care on the manufacture and subsequent preservation of their manure, and watching results, have no conception of the importance of this. A barrowful of such manure as has been described, would produce a greater weight of roots and corn, than that so graphically described by the most talented and accomplished of our agricultural authors—as the contents of 'neighbour Drychaff's dung-cart, that creaking hearse, that is carrying to the field the dead body whose spirit has departed.'
"There is a source of valuable and extremely useful manure on every farm, of which very few farmers avail themselves—the gathering together in one spot of all combustible waste and rubbish, the clippings of hedges, scouring of ditches, grassy accumulation on the sides of roads and fences, etc., combined with a good deal of earth. If these are carted at leisure times into a large circle, or in two rows, to supply the fire kindled in the center, in a spot which is frequented by the laborers on the farm, with a three-pronged fork and a shovel attendant, and each passer-by is encouraged to add to the pile whenever he sees the smoke passing away so freely as to indicate rapid combustion, a very large quantity of valuable ashes are collected between March and October. In the latter month the fire should be allowed to go out; the ashes are then thrown into a long ridge, as high as they will stand, and thatched while dry. This will be found an invaluable store in April, May, and June, capable of supplying from twenty to forty bushels of ashes per acre, according to the care and industry of the collector, to drill with the seeds of the root crop."
The Deacon got sleepy before Charley finished reading. "We can not afford to be at so much trouble in this country," he said, and took up his hat and left.
The Deacon is not altogether wrong. Our climate is very different from that of England, and it is seldom that farmers need to draw out manure, and pile it in the field, except in winter, and then it is not necessary, I think, either to dig a pit or to cover the heap. Those who draw manure from the city in summer, may probably adopt some of Mr. Lawrence's suggestions with advantage.
The plan of collecting rubbish, brush, old wood, and sods, and converting them into ashes or charcoal, is one which we could often adopt with decided advantage. Our premises would be cleaner, and we should have less fungus to speck and crack our apples and pears, and, in addition, we should have a quantity of ashes or burnt earth, that is not only a manure itself, but is specially useful to mix with moist superphosphate and other artificial manures, to make them dry enough and bulky enough to be easily and evenly distributed by the drill. Artificial manures, so mixed with these ashes, or dry, charred earth, are less likely to injure the seed than when sown with the seed in the drill-rows, unmixed with some such material. Sifted coal ashes are also very useful for this purpose.
SOLUBLE PHOSPHATES IN FARMYARD MANURE.
There is one thing in these experiments of Dr. Voelcker's which deserves special attention, and that is the comparatively large amount of soluble phosphate of lime in the ash of farm-yard manure. I do not think the fact is generally known. In estimating the value of animal manures, as compared with artificial manures, it is usually assumed that the phosphates in the former are insoluble, and, therefore, of less value than the soluble phosphates in superphosphate of lime and other artificial manures.
Dr. Voelcker found in the ash of fresh farm-yard manure, phosphoric acid equal to 12.23 per cent of phosphate of lime, and of this 5.35 was soluble phosphate of lime.
In the ash of well-rotted manure, he found phosphoric acid equal to 12.11 per cent of phosphate of lime, and of this, 4.75 was soluble phosphate of lime.
"That is, indeed, an important fact," said the Doctor, "but I thought Professor Voelcker claimed that 'during the fermentation of dung, the phosphate of lime which it contains is rendered more soluble than in fresh manure.'"
"He did say so," I replied, "and it may be true, but the above figures do not seem to prove it. When he wrote the sentence you have quoted, he probably had reference to the fact that he found more soluble phosphate of lime in rotted manure than in fresh manure. Thus, he found in 5 tons of fresh and 5 tons of rotted, manure, the following ingredients:
SP: Soluble Phosphate of Lime. IP: Insoluble phosphates. TP: Total Phosphates. TSA: Total Soluble Ash. TIA: Total Insoluble Ash. TA: Total Ash.
- - - - - -+ - Potash 5 Tons. SP IP TP + TSA TIA TA (10,000 LBS.) Sol. Insol. - - - - - - Fresh manure 29.9 38.6 68.5 57.3 9.9 154 405 559 Rotted manure 38.2 57.3 95.5 44.6 4.5 147 658 805 - - - - - -
"It will be seen from the above figures that rotted manure contains more soluble phosphate of lime than fresh manure.
"But it does not follow from this fact that any of the insoluble phosphates in fresh manure have been rendered soluble during the fermentation of the manure.
"There are more insoluble phosphates in the rotted manure than in the fresh, but we do not conclude from this fact that any of the phosphates have been rendered insoluble during the process of fermentation—neither are we warranted in concluding that any of them have been rendered soluble, simply because we find more soluble phosphates in the rotted manure."
"Very true," said the Doctor, "but it has been shown that in the heap of manure, during fermentation, there was an actual increase of soluble mineral matter during the first six months, and, to say the least, it is highly probable that some of this increase of soluble mineral matter contained more or less soluble phosphates, and perhaps Dr. Voelcker had some facts to show that such was the case, although he may not have published them. At any rate, he evidently thinks that the phosphates in manure are rendered more soluble by fermentation."
"Perhaps," said I, "we can not do better than to let the matter rest in that form. I am merely anxious not to draw definite conclusions from the facts which the facts do not positively prove. I am strongly in favor of fermenting manure, and should be glad to have it shown that fermentation does actually convert insoluble phosphates into a soluble form."
There is one thing, however, that these experiments clearly prove, and that is, that there is a far larger quantity of soluble phosphates in manure than is generally supposed. Of the total phosphoric acid in the fresh manure, 43 per cent is in a soluble condition; and in the rotted manure, 40 per cent is soluble.
This is an important fact, and one which is generally overlooked. It enhances the value of farm-yard or stable manure, as compared with artificial manures. But of this we may have more to say when we come to that part of the subject. I want to make one remark. I think there can be little doubt that the proportion of soluble phosphates is greater in rich manure, made from grain-fed animals, than in poor manure made principally from straw. In other words, of 100 lbs. of total phosphoric acid, more of it would be in a soluble condition in the rich than in the poor manure.
HOW THE DEACON MAKES MANURE.
"I think," said the Deacon, "you are talking too much about the science of manure making. Science is all well enough, but practice is better."
"That depends," said I, "on the practice. Suppose you tell us how you manage your manure."
"Well," said the Deacon, "I do not know much about plant-food, and nitrogen, and phosphoric acid, but I think manure is a good thing, and the more you have of it the better. I do not believe in your practice of spreading manure on the land and letting it lie exposed to the sun and winds. I want to draw it out in the spring and plow it under for corn. I think this long, coarse manure loosens the soil and makes it light, and warm, and porous. And then my plan saves labor. More than half of my manure is handled but once. It is made in the yard and sheds, and lies there until it is drawn to the field in the spring. The manure from the cow and horse stables, and from the pig-pens, is thrown into the yard, and nothing is done to it except to level it down occasionally. In proportion to the stock kept, I think I make twice as much manure as you do."
"Yes," said I, "twice as much in bulk, but one load of my manure is worth four loads of your long, coarse manure, composed principally of corn-stalks, straw, and water. I think you are wise in not spending much time in piling and working over such manure."
The Deacon and I have a standing quarrel about manure. We differ on all points. He is a good man, but not what we call a good farmer. He cleared up his farm from the original forest, and he has always been content to receive what his land would give him. If he gets good crops, well, if not, his expenses are moderate, and he manages to make both ends meet. I tell him he could double his crops, and quadruple his profits, by better farming—but though he cannot disprove the facts, he is unwilling to make any change in his system of farming. And so he continues to make just as much manure as the crops he is obliged to feed out leave in his yards, and no more. He does not, in fact, make any manure. He takes what comes, and gets it on to his land with as little labor as possible.
It is no use arguing with such a man. And it certainly will not do to contend that his method of managing manure is all wrong. His error is in making such poor manure. But with such poor stuff as he has in his yard, I believe he is right to get rid of it with the least expense possible.
I presume, too, that the Deacon is not altogether wrong in regard to the good mechanical effects of manure on undrained and indifferently cultivated land. I have no doubt that he bases his opinion on experience. The good effects of such manure as he makes must be largely due to its mechanical action—it can do little towards supplying the more important and valuable elements of plant-food.
I commend the Deacon's system of managing manure to all such as make a similar article. But I think there is a more excellent way. Feed the stock better, make richer manure, and then it will pay to bestow a little labor in taking care of it.
HOW JOHN JOHNSTON MANAGES HIS MANURE.
One of the oldest and most successful farmers, in the State of New York, is John Johnston, of Geneva. He has a farm on the borders of Seneca Lake. It is high, rolling land, but needed underdraining. This has been thoroughly done—and done with great profit and advantage. The soil is a heavy clay loam. Mr. Johnston has been in the habit of summer-fallowing largely for wheat, generally plowing three, and sometimes four times. He has been a very successful wheat-grower, almost invariably obtaining large crops of wheat, both of grain and straw. The straw he feeds to sheep in winter, putting more straw in the racks than the sheep can eat up clean, and using what they leave for bedding. The sheep run in yards enclosed with tight board fences, and have sheds under the barn to lie in at pleasure.
Although the soil is rather heavy for Indian corn, Mr. Johnston succeeds in growing large crops of this great American cereal. Corn and stalks are both fed out on the farm. Mr. J. has not yet practised cutting up his straw and stalks into chaff.
The land is admirably adapted to the growth of red clover, and great crops of clover and timothy-hay are raised, and fed out on the farm. Gypsum, or plaster, is sown quite freely on the clover in the spring. Comparatively few roots are raised—not to exceed an acre—and these only quite recently. The main crops are winter wheat, spring barley, Indian corn, clover, and timothy-hay, and clover-seed.
The materials for making manure, then, are wheat and barley straw, Indian corn, corn-stalks, clover, and timothy-hay. These are all raised on the farm. But Mr. Johnston has for many years purchased linseed-oil cake, to feed to his sheep and cattle.
This last fact must not be overlooked. Mr. J. commenced to feed oil-cake when its value was little known here, and when he bought it for, I think, seven or eight dollars a ton. He continued to use it even when he had to pay fifty dollars per ton. Mr. J. has great faith in manure—and it is a faith resting on good evidence and long experience. If he had not fed out so much oil-cake and clover-hay, he would not have found his manure so valuable.
"How much oil-cake does he use?" asked the Deacon.
"He gives his sheep, on the average, about 1 lb. each per day."
If he feeds out a ton of clover-hay, two tons of straw, (for feed and bedding,) and one ton of oil-cake, the manure obtained from this quantity of food and litter, would be worth, according to Mr. Lawes' table, given on page 45, $34.72.
On the other hand, if he fed out one ton of corn, one ton of clover-hay, and two tons of straw, for feed and bedding, the manure would be worth $21.65.
If he fed one ton of corn, and three tons of straw, the manure would be worth only $14.69.
He would get as much manure from the three tons of straw and one ton of corn, as from the two tons of straw, one ton of clover-hay, and one ton of oil-cake, while, as before said, the manure in the one case would be worth $14.69, and in the other $34.72.
In other words, a load of the good manure would be worth, when spread out on the land in the field or garden, more than two loads of the straw and corn manure.
To get the same amount of nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash, you have to spend more than twice the labor in cleaning out the stables or yards, more than twice the labor of throwing or wheeling it to the manure pile, more than twice the labor of turning the manure in the pile, more than twice the labor of loading it on the carts or wagons, more than twice the labor of drawing it to the field, more than twice the labor of unloading it into heaps, and more than twice the labor of spreading it in the one case than in the other, and, after all, twenty tons of this poor manure would not produce as good an effect the first season as ten tons of the richer manure.
"Why so?" asked the Deacon.
"Simply because the poor manure is not so active as the richer manure. It will not decompose so readily. Its nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash, are not so available. The twenty tons, may, in the long run, do as much good as the ten tons, but I very much doubt it. At any rate, I would greatly prefer the ten tons of the good manure to twenty tons of the poor—even when spread out on the land, ready to plow under. What the difference would be in the value of the manure in the yard, you can figure for yourself. It would depend on the cost of handling, drawing, and spreading the extra ten tons."
The Deacon estimates the cost of loading, drawing, unloading, and spreading, at fifty cents a ton. This is probably not far out of the way, though much depends on the distance the manure has to be drawn, and also on the condition of the manure, etc.
The four tons of feed and bedding will make, at a rough estimate about ten tons of manure.
This ten tons of straw and corn manure, according to Mr. Lawes' estimate, is worth, in the field, $14.69. And if it costs fifty cents a load to get it on the land, its value, in the yard, would be $9.69—or nearly ninety-seven cents a ton.
The ten tons of good manure, according to the same estimate, is worth, in the field, $34.72, and, consequently, would be worth, in the yard, $29.72. In other words, a ton of poor manure is worth, in the yard, ninety-seven cents a ton, and the good manure $2.97.
And so in describing John Johnston's method of managing manure, this fact must be borne in mind. It might not pay the Deacon to spend much labor on manure worth only ninety-seven cents a ton, while it might pay John Johnston to bestow some considerable time and labor on manure worth $2.97 per ton.
"But is it really worth this sum?" asked the Deacon.
"In reply to that," said I, "all I claim is that the figures are comparative. If your manure, made as above described, is worth ninety-seven cents a ton in the yard, then John Johnston's manure, made as stated, is certainly worth, at least, $2.97 per ton in the yard."
Of this there can be no doubt.
"If you think," I continued, "your manure, so made, is worth only half as much as Mr. Lawes' estimate; in other words, if your ten tons of manure, instead of being worth $14.69 in the field, is worth only $7.35; then John Johnston's ten tons of manure, instead of being worth $34.72 in the field, is worth only $17.36."
"That looks a little more reasonable," said the Deacon, "John Johnston's manure, instead of being worth $2.97 per ton in the yard, is worth only $1.48 per ton, and mine, instead of being worth ninety-seven cents a ton, is worth forty-eight and a half cents a ton."
The Deacon sat for a few minutes looking at these figures. "They do not seem so extravagantly high as I thought them at first," he said, "and if you will reduce the figures in Mr. Lawes' table one-half all through, it will be much nearer the truth. I think my manure is worth forty-eight and a half cents a ton in the yard, and if your figures are correct, I suppose I must admit that John Johnston's manure is worth $1.48 per ton in the yard."
I was very glad to get such an admission from the Deacon. He did not see that he had made a mistake in the figures, and so I got him to go over the calculation again.
"You take a pencil, Deacon," said I, "and write down the figures:
Manure from a ton of oil-cake $19.72 Manure from a ton of clover-hay 9.64 Manure from two tons of straw 5.36 ———— $34.72
"This would make about ten tons of manure. We have agreed to reduce the estimate one-half, and consequently we have $17.36 as the value of the ten tons of manure.
"This is John Johnston's manure. It is worth $1.73 per ton in the field.
"It costs, we have estimated, 50 cents a ton to handle the manure, and consequently it is worth in the yard $1.23 per ton."
"This is less than we made it before," said the Deacon.
"Never mind that," said I, "the figures are correct. Now write down what your manure is worth:
Manure from 1 ton of corn $6.65 Manure from 3 tons of straw 8.04 ———— $14.69
"This will make about ten tons of manure. In this case, as in the other, we are to reduce the estimate one-half. Consequently, we have $7.35 as the value of this ten tons of manure in the field, or 73-1/2 cents a ton. It costs, we have estimated, 50 cents a ton to handle the manure, and, therefore, it is worth in the yard, 23-1/2 cents a ton."
"John Johnston's manure is worth in the yard, $1.23 per ton. The Deacon's manure is worth in the yard, 23-1/2 cents per ton."
"There is some mistake," exclaimed the Deacon, "you said, at first, that one load of John Johnston's manure was worth as much as two of my loads. Now you make one load of his manure worth more than five loads of my manure. This is absurd."
"Not at all, Deacon," said I, "you made the figures yourself. You thought Mr. Lawes' estimate too high. You reduced it one-half. The figures are correct, and you must accept the conclusion. If John Johnston's manure is only worth $1.23 per ton in the yard, yours, made from 1 ton of corn and 3 tons of straw, is only worth 23-1/2 cents per ton."
"And now, Deacon," I continued, "while you have a pencil in your hand, I want you to make one more calculation. Assuming that Mr. Lawes' estimate is too high, and we reduce it one-half, figure up what manure is worth when made from straw alone. You take 4 tons of wheat straw, feed out part, and use part for bedding. It will give you about 10 tons of manure. And this 10 tons cost you 50 cents a ton to load, draw out, and spread. Now figure:
"Four tons of straw is worth, for manure, according to Mr. Lawes' table, $2.68 per ton. We have agreed to reduce the figures one half, and so the
10 tons of manure from the 4 tons of straw is worth $5.36 Drawing out 10 tons of manure at 50 cents 5.00 ———— Value of 10 tons of straw-manure in yard $0.36
"In other words, if John Johnston's manure is worth only $1.23 per ton in the yard, the straw-made manure is worth only a little over 3-1/2 cents a ton in the yard."
"That is too absurd," said the Deacon.
"Very well," I replied, "for once I am glad to agree with you. But if this is absurd, then it follows that Mr. Lawes' estimate of the value of certain foods for manure is not so extravagant as you supposed—which is precisely what I wished to prove."
"You have not told us how Mr. Johnston manages his manure," said the Deacon.
"There is nothing very remarkable about it," I replied. "There are many farmers in this neighborhood who adopt the same method. I think, however, John Johnston was the first to recommend it, and subjected himself to some criticism from some of the so-called scientific writers at the time.
"His general plan is to leave the manure in the yards, basements, and sheds, under the sheep, until spring. He usually sells his fat sheep in March. As soon as the sheep are removed, the manure is either thrown up into loose heaps in the yard, or drawn directly to the field, where it is to be used, and made into a heap there. The manure is not spread on the land until the autumn. It remains in the heaps or piles all summer, being usually turned once, and sometimes twice. The manure becomes thoroughly rotted."
Mr. Johnston, like the Deacon, applies his manure to the corn crop. But the Deacon draws out his fresh green manure in the spring, on sod-land, and plows it under. Mr. Johnston, on the other hand, keeps his manure in a heap through the summer, spreads it on the sod in September, or the first week in October. Here it lies until next spring. The grass and clover grow up through manure, and the grass and manure are turned under next spring, and the land planted to corn.
Mr. Johnston is thoroughly convinced that he gets far more benefit from the manure when applied on the surface, and left exposed for several months, than if he plowed it under at once.
I like to write and talk about John Johnston. I like to visit him. He is so delightfully enthusiastic, believes so thoroughly in good farming, and has been so eminently successful, that a day spent in his company can not fail to encourage any farmer to renewed efforts in improving his soil. "You must drain," he wrote to me; "when I first commenced farming, I never made any money until I began to underdrain." But it is not underdraining alone that is the cause of his eminent success. When he bought his farm, "near Geneva," over fifty years ago, there was a pile of manure in the yard that had lain there year after year, until it was, as he said, "as black as my hat." The former owner regarded it as a nuisance, and a few months before young Johnston bought the farm, had given some darkies a cow on condition that they would draw out this manure. They drew out six loads, took the cow—and that was the last seen of them. Johnston drew out this manure, raised a good crop of wheat, and that gave him a start. He says he has been asked a great many times to what he owes his success as a farmer, and he has replied that he could not tell whether it was "dung or credit." It was probably neither. It was the man—his intelligence, industry, and good common sense. That heap of black mould was merely an instrument in his hands that he could turn to good account.
His first crop of wheat gave him "credit" and this also he used to advantage. He believed that good farming would pay, and it was this faith in a generous soil that made him willing to spend the money obtained from the first crop of wheat in enriching the land, and to avail himself of his credit. Had he lacked this faith—had he hoarded every sixpence he could have ground out of the soil, who would have ever heard of John Johnston? He has been liberal with his crops and his animals, and has ever found them grateful. This is the real lesson which his life teaches.
He once wrote me he had something to show me. He did not tell me what it was, and when I got there, he took me to a field of grass that was to be mown for hay. The field had been in winter wheat the year before. At the time of sowing the wheat, the whole field was seeded down with timothy. No clover was sown, either then or in the spring; but after the wheat was sown, he put on a slight dressing of manure on two portions of the field that he thought were poor. He told the man to spread it out of the wagon just as thin as he could distribute it evenly over the land. It was a very light manuring, but the manure was rich, and thoroughly rotted. I do not recollect whether the effect of the manure was particularly noticed on the wheat; but on the grass, the following spring, the effect was sufficiently striking. Those two portions of the field where the manure was spread were covered with a splendid crop of red clover. You could see the exact line, in both cases, where the manure reached. It looked quite curious. No clover-seed was sown, and yet there was as fine a crop of clover as one could desire.
On looking into the matter more closely, we found that there was more or less clover all over the field, but where the manure was not used, it could hardly be seen. The plants were small, and the timothy hid them from view. But where the manure was used, these plants of clover had been stimulated in their growth until they covered the ground. The leaves were broad and vigorous, while in the other case they were small, and almost dried up. This is probably the right explanation. The manure did not "bring in the clover;" it simply increased the growth of that already in the soil. It shows the value of manure for grass.
This is what Mr. Johnston wanted to show me. "I might have written and told you, but you would not have got a clear idea of the matter." This is true. One had to see the great luxuriance of that piece of clover to fully appreciate the effect of the manure. Mr. J. said the manure on that grass was worth $30 an acre—that is, on the three crops of grass, before the field is again plowed. I have no doubt that this is true, and that the future crops on the land will also be benefited—not directly from the manure, perhaps, but from the clover-roots in the soil. And if the field were pastured, the effect on future crops would be very decided.
MY OWN PLAN OF MANAGING MANURE.
One of the charms and the advantages of agriculture is that a farmer must think for himself. He should study principles, and apply them in practice, as best suits his circumstances.
My own method of managing manure gives me many of the advantages claimed for the Deacon's method, and John Johnston's, also.
"I do not understand what you mean," said the Deacon; "my method differs essentially from that of John Johnston."
"True," I replied, "you use your winter-made manure in the spring; while Mr. Johnston piles his, and gets it thoroughly fermented; but to do this, he has to keep it until the autumn, and it does not benefit his corn-crop before the next summer. He loses the use of his manure for a year."
I think my method secures both these advantages. I get my winter-made manure fermented and in good condition, and yet have it ready for spring crops.
In the first place, I should remark that my usual plan is to cut up all the fodder for horses, cows, and sheep. For horses, I sometimes use long straw for bedding, but, as a rule, I prefer to run everything through a feed-cutter. We do not steam the food, and we let the cows and sheep have a liberal supply of cut corn-stalks and straw, and what they do not eat is thrown out of the mangers and racks, and used for bedding.
I should state, too, that I keep a good many pigs, seldom having less than 50 breeding sows. My pigs are mostly sold at from two to four months old, but we probably average 150 head the year round. A good deal of my manure, therefore, comes from the pig-pens, and from two basement cellars, where my store hogs sleep in winter.
In addition to the pigs, we have on the farm from 150 to 200 Cotswold and grade sheep; 10 cows, and 8 horses. These are our manure makers.
The raw material from which the manure is manufactured consists of wheat, barley, rye, and oat-straw, corn-stalks, corn-fodder, clover and timothy-hay, clover seed-hay, bean-straw, pea-straw, potato-tops, mangel-wurzel, turnips, rape, and mustard. These are all raised on the farm; and, in addition to the home-grown oats, peas, and corn, we buy and feed out considerable quantities of bran, shorts, fine-middlings, malt-combs, corn-meal, and a little oil-cake. I sell wheat, rye, barley, and clover-seed, apples, and potatoes, and sometimes cabbages and turnips. Probably, on the average, for each $100 I receive from the sale of these crops, I purchase $25 worth of bran, malt-combs, corn-meal, and other feed for animals. My farm is now rapidly increasing in fertility and productiveness. The crops, on the average, are certainly at least double what they were when I bought the farm thirteen years ago; and much of this increase has taken place during the last five or six years, and I expect to see still greater improvement year by year.
"Never mind all that," said the Deacon; "we all know that manure will enrich land, and I will concede that your farm has greatly improved, and can not help but improve if you continue to make and use as much manure."
"I expect to make more and more manure every year," said I. "The larger the crops, the more manure we can make; and the more manure we make, the larger the crops."
The real point of difference between my plan of managing manure, and the plan adopted by the Deacon, is essentially this: I aim to keep all my manure in a compact pile, where it will slowly ferment all winter. The Deacon throws his horse-manure into a heap, just outside the stable door, and the cow-manure into another heap, and the pig-manure into another heap. These heaps are more or less scattered, and are exposed to the rain, and snow, and frost. The horse-manure is quite likely to ferment too rapidly, and if in a large heap, and the weather is warm, it not unlikely "fire-fangs" in the center of the heap. On the other hand, the cow-manure lies cold and dead, and during the winter freezes into solid lumps.
I wheel or cart all my manure into one central heap. The main object is to keep it as compact as possible. There are two advantages in this: 1st, the manure is less exposed to the rain, and (2d), when freezing weather sets in, only a few inches of the external portion of the heap is frozen. I have practised this plan for several years, and can keep my heap of manure slowly fermenting during the whole winter.
But in order to ensure this result, it is necessary to begin making the heap before winter sets in. The plan is this:
Having selected the spot in the yard most convenient for making the heap, collect all the manure that can be found in the sheepyards, sheds, cow and horse stables, pig-pens, and hen-house, together with leaves, weeds, and refuse from the garden, and wheel or cart it to the intended heap. If you set a farm-man to do the work, tell him you want to make a hot-bed about five feet high, six feet wide, and six feet long. I do not think I have ever seen a farm where enough material could not be found, say in November, to make such a heap. And this is all that is needed. If the manure is rich, if it is obtained from animals eating clover-hay, bran, grain, or other food rich in nitrogen, it will soon ferment. But if the manure is poor, consisting largely of straw, it will be very desirable to make it richer by mixing with it bone-dust, blood, hen-droppings, woollen rags, chamber-lye, and animal matter of any kind that you can find.
The richer you can make the manure, the more readily will it ferment. A good plan is to take the horse or sheep manure, a few weeks previous, and use it for bedding the pigs. It will absorb the liquid of the pigs, and make rich manure, which will soon ferment when placed in a heap.
If the manure in the heap is too dry, it is a good plan, when you are killing hogs, to throw on to the manure all the warm water, hair, blood, intestines, etc. You may think I am making too much of such a simple matter, but I have had letters from farmers who have tried this plan of managing manure, and they say that they can not keep it from freezing. One reason for this is, that they do not start the heap early enough, and do not take pains to get the manure into an active fermentation before winter sets in. Much depends on this. In starting a fire, you take pains to get a little fine, dry wood, that will burn readily, and when the fire is fairly going, put on larger sticks, and presently you have such a fire that you can burn wood, coal, stubble, sods, or anything you wish. And so it is with a manure-heap. Get the fire, or fermentation, or, more strictly speaking, putrefaction fairly started, and there will be little trouble, if the heap is large enough, and fresh material is added from time to time, of continuing the fermentation all winter.
Another point to be observed, and especially in cold weather, is to keep the sides of the heap straight, and the top level. You must expose the manure in the heap as little as possible to frost and cold winds. The rule should be to spread every wheel-barrowful of manure as soon as it is put on the heap. If left unspread on top of the heap, it will freeze; and if afterwards covered with other manure, it will require considerable heat to melt it, and thus reduce the temperature of the whole heap.
It is far less work to manage a heap of manure in this way than may be supposed from my description of the plan. The truth is, I find, in point of fact, that it is not an easy thing to manage manure in this way; and I fear not one farmer in ten will succeed the first winter he undertakes it, unless he gives it his personal attention. It is well worth trying, however, because if your heap should freeze up, it will be, at any rate, in no worse condition than if managed in the ordinary way; and if you do succeed, even in part, you will have manure in good condition for immediate use in the spring.
As I have said before, I keep a good many pigs. Now pigs, if fed on slops, void a large quantity of liquid manure, and it is not always easy to furnish straw enough to absorb it. When straw and stalks are cut into chaff, they will absorb much more liquid than when used whole. For this reason we usually cut all our straw and stalks. We also use the litter from the horse-stable for bedding the store hogs, and also sometimes, when comparatively dry, we use the refuse sheep bedding for the same purpose. Where the sheep barn is contiguous to the pig-pens, and when the sheep bedding can be thrown at once into the pig-pens or cellar, it is well to use bedding freely for the sheep and lambs, and remove it frequently, throwing it into the pig-pens. I do not want my sheep to be compelled to eat up the straw and corn-stalks too close. I want them to pick out what they like, and then throw away what they leave in the troughs for bedding. Sometimes we take out a five-bushel basketful of these direct from the troughs, for bedding young pigs, or sows and pigs in the pens, but as a rule, we use them first for bedding the sheep, and then afterwards use the sheep bedding in the fattening or store pig-pens.
"And sometimes," remarked the Deacon, "you use a little long straw for your young pigs to sleep on, so that they can bury themselves in the straw and keep warm."
"True," I replied, "and it is not a bad plan, but we are not now talking about the management of pigs, but how we treat our manure, and how we manage to have it ferment all winter."
A good deal of our pig-manure is, to borrow a phrase from the pomologists, "double-worked." It is horse or sheep-manure, used for bedding pigs and cows. It is saturated with urine, and is much richer in nitrogenous material than ordinary manure, and consequently will ferment or putrefy much more rapidly. Usually pig-manure is considered "cold," or sluggish, but this doubleworked pig-manure will ferment even more rapidly than sheep or horse-manure alone.
Unmixed cow-manure is heavy and cold, and when kept in a heap by itself out of doors, is almost certain to freeze up solid during the winter.
We usually wheel out our cow-dung every day, and spread on the manure heap.
This is one of the things that needs attention. There will be a constant tendency to put all the cow-dung together, instead of mixing it with the lighter and more active manure from the horses, sheep, and pigs. Spread it out and cover it with some of the more strawy manure, which is not so liable to freeze.
Should it so happen—as will most likely be the case—that on looking at your heap some morning when the thermometer is below zero, you find that several wheel-barrowfuls of manure that were put on the heap the day before, were not spread, and are now crusted over with ice, it will be well to break up the barrowfuls, even if necessary to use a crowbar, and place the frozen lumps of manure on the outside of the heap, rather than to let them lie in the center of the pile. Your aim should be always to keep the center of the heap warm and in a state of fermentation. You do not want the fire to go out, and it will not go out if the heap is properly managed, even should all the sides and top be crusted over with a layer of frozen manure.
During very severe weather, and when the top is frozen, it is a good plan, when you are about to wheel some fresh manure on to the heap, to remove a portion of the frozen crust on top of the heap, near the center, and make a hole for the fresh manure, which should be spread and covered up.
When the heap is high enough, say five feet, we commence another heap alongside. In doing this, our plan is to clean out some of the sheep-sheds or pig-pens, where the manure has accumulated for some time. This gives us much more than the daily supply. Place this manure on the outside of the new heap, and then take a quantity of hot, fermenting, manure from the middle of the old heap, and throw it into the center of the new heap, and then cover it up with the fresh manure. I would put in eight or ten bushels, or as much as will warm up the center of the new heap, and start fermentation. The colder the weather, the more of this hot manure should you take from the old heap—the more the better. Fresh manure should be added to the old heap to fill up the hole made by the removal of the hot manure.
"You draw out a great many loads of manure during the winter," said the Deacon, "and pile it in the field, and I have always thought it a good plan, as you do the work when there is little else to do, and when the ground is frozen."
Yes, this is an improvement on my old plan. I formerly used to turn over the heap of manure in the barn-yard in March, or as soon as fermentation had ceased.
The object of turning the heap is (1st,) to mix the manure and make it of uniform quality; (2d,) to break the lumps and make the manure fine; and (3d,) to lighten up the manure and make it loose, thus letting in the air and inducing a second fermentation. It is a good plan, and well repays for the labor. In doing the work, build up the end and sides of the new heap straight, and keep the top flat. Have an eye on the man doing the work, and see that he breaks up the manure and mixes it thoroughly, and that he goes to the bottom of the heap.
My new plan that the Deacon alludes to, is, instead of turning the heap in the yard, to draw the manure from the heap in the yard, and pile it up in another heap in the field where it is to be used. This has all the effects of turning, and at the same time saves a good deal of team-work in the spring.
The location of the manure-heap in the field deserves some consideration. If the manure is to be used for root-crops or potatoes, and if the land is to be ridged, and the manure put in the ridges, then it will be desirable to put the heap on the headland, or, better still, to make two heaps, one on the headland top of the field, and the other on the headland at the bottom of the field, as shown in the annexed engraving.
We draw the manure with a cart, the horse walking between two of the ridges (D), and the wheels of the cart going in C and E. The manure is pulled out at the back end of the cart into small heaps, about five paces apart.
"That is what I object to with you agricultural writers," said the Doctor; "you say 'about five paces,' and sometimes 'about five paces' would mean 4 yards, and sometimes 6 yards; and if you put 10 tons of manure per acre in the one case, you would put 15 tons in the other—which makes quite a difference in the dose."
The Doctor is right. Let us figure a little. If your cart holds 20 bushels, and if the manure weighs 75 lbs. to the bushel, and you wish to put on 10 tons of manure per acre, or 1,500 bushels, or 13-1/3 cart-loads, then, as there are 43,560 square feet in an acre, you want a bushel of manure to 29 square feet, or say a space 2 yards long, by nearly 5 feet wide.
Now, as our ridges are 2-1/2 feet apart, and as our usual plan is to manure 5 ridges at a time, or 12-1/2 feet wide, a load of 20 bushels of manure will go over a space 46-1/2 feet long, nearly, or say 15-1/2 yards; and so, a load would make 3 heaps, 15-1/2 feet apart, and there would be 6-2/3 bushels in each heap.
If the manure is to be spread on the surface of the land, there is no necessity for placing the heap on the headland. You can make the heap or heaps. —"Where most convenient," broke in the Deacon. —"No, not by any means," I replied; "for if that was the rule, the men would certainly put the heap just where it happened to be the least trouble for them to draw and throw off the loads."
The aim should be to put the heap just where it will require the least labor to draw the manure on to the land in the spring.
On what we call "rolling," or hilly land, I would put the heap on the highest land, so that in the spring the horses would be going down hill with the full carts or wagons. Of course, it would be very unwise to adopt this plan if the manure was not drawn from the yards until spring, when the land was soft; but I am now speaking of drawing out the manure in the winter, when there is sleighing, or when the ground is frozen. No farmer will object to a little extra labor for the teams in the winter, if it will save work and time in the spring.
If the land is level, then the heap or heaps should be placed where the least distance will have to be traveled in drawing the manure from the heap to the land. If there is only one heap, the best point would be in the center of the field. If two heaps, and the field is longer than it is broad, say 20 rods wide, and 40 rods long, then the heaps should be made as shown on the previous page.
If the field is square, say 40 x 40 rods, and we can have four heaps of manure, then, other things being equal, the best points for the heaps are shown in the annexed figure:
Having determined where to make the heaps, the next question is in regard to size. We make one about 8 feet wide and 6 feet high, the length being determined by the quantity of the manure we have to draw. In cold weather, it is well to finish the heap each day as far as you go, so that the sloping side at the end of the heap will not be frozen during the night. Build up the sides square, so that the top of the heap shall be as broad as the bottom. You will have to see that this is done, for the average farm-man, if left to himself, will certainly narrow up the heap like the roof of a house. The reason he does this is that he throws the manure from the load into the center of the heap, and he can not build up the sides straight and square without getting on to the heap occasionally, and placing a layer round the outsides. He should be instructed, too, to break up the lumps, and mix the manure, working it over until it is loose and fine. It there are any frozen masses of manure, place them on the east or south outside, and not in the middle of the heap.
If there is any manure in the sheds, or basements, or cellars, or pig-pens, clean it out, and draw it at once to the pile in the field, and mix it with the manure you are drawing from the heap in the yard.
We generally draw with two teams and three wagons. We have one man to fill the wagon in the yard, and two men to drive and unload. When the man comes back from the field, he places his empty wagon by the side of the heap in the yard, and takes off the horses and puts them to the loaded wagon, and drives to the heap in the field. If we have men and teams enough, we draw with three teams and three wagons. In this case, we put a reliable man at the heap, who helps the driver to unload, and sees that the heap is built properly. The driver helps the man in the yard to load up. In the former plan, we have two teams and three men; in the latter case, we have three teams and five men, and as we have two men loading and unloading, instead of one, we ought to draw out double the quantity of manure in a day. If the weather is cold and windy, we put the blankets on the horses under the harness, so that they will not be chilled while standing at the heap in the yard or field. They will trot back lively with the empty wagon or sleigh, and the work will proceed briskly, and the manure be less exposed to the cold.
"You do not," said the Doctor, "draw the manure on to the heap with a cart, and dump it, as I have seen it done in England?"
I did so a few years ago, and might do so again if I was piling manure in the spring, to be kept over summer for use in the fall. The compression caused by drawing the cart over the manure, has a tendency to exclude the air and thus retard fermentation. In the winter there is certainly no necessity for resorting to any means for checking fermentation. In the spring or summer it may be well to compress the heap a little, but not more, I think, than can be done by the trampling of the workman in spreading the manure on the heap.
"You do not," said the Doctor, "adopt the old-fashioned English plan of keeping your manure in a basin in the barn-yard, and yet I should think it has some advantages."
"I practised it here," said I, "for some years. I plowed and scraped a large hole or basin in the yard four or five feet deep, with a gradual slope at one end for convenience in drawing out the loads—the other sides being much steeper. I also made a tank at the bottom to hold the drainage, and had a pump in it to pump the liquid back on to the heap in dry weather. We threw or wheeled the manure from the stables and pig-pens into this basin, but I did not like the plan, for two reasons: (1,) the manure being spread over so large a surface froze during winter, and (2,) during the spring there was so much water in the basin that it checked fermentation."
Now, instead of spreading it all over the basin, we commenced a small heap on one of the sloping sides of the basin; with a horse and cart we drew to this heap, just as winter set in, every bit of manure that could be found on the premises, and everything that would make manure. When got all together, it made a heap seven or eight feet wide, twenty feet long, and three or four feet high. We then laid planks on the heap, and every day, as the pig-pens, cow and horse stables were cleaned out, the manure was wheeled on to the heap and shaken out and spread about. The heap soon commenced to ferment, and when the cold weather set in, although the sides and some parts of the top froze a little, the inside kept quite warm. Little chimneys were formed in the heap, where the heat and steam escaped. Other parts of the heap would be covered with a thin crust of frozen manure. By taking a few forkfuls of the latter, and placing them on the top of the "chimneys," they checked the escape of steam, and had a tendency to distribute the heat to other parts of the heap. In this way the fermentation became more general throughout all the mass, and not so violent at any one spot.
"But why be at all this trouble?" —For several reasons. First. It saves labor in the end. Two hours' work, in winter, will save three hours' work in the spring. And three hours' work in the spring is worth more than four hours' work in the winter. So that we save half the expense of handling the manure. 2d. When manure is allowed to lie scattered about over a large surface, it is liable to have much of its value washed out by the rain. In a compact heap of this kind, the rain or snow that falls on it is not more than the manure needs to keep it moist enough for fermentation. 3d. There is as much fascination in this fermenting heap of manure as there is in having money in a savings bank. One is continually trying to add to it. Many a cart-load or wheel-barrowful of material will be deposited that would otherwise be allowed to run to waste. 4th. The manure, if turned over in February or March, will be in capital order for applying to root crops; or if your hay and straw contains weed-seeds, the manure will be in good condition to spread as a top-dressing on grass-land early in the spring. This, I think, is better than keeping it in the yards all summer, and then drawing it out on the grass land in September. You gain six months' or a year's time. You get a splendid growth of rich grass, and the red-root seeds will germinate next September just as well as if the manure was drawn out at that time. If the manure is drawn out early in the spring, and spread out immediately, and then harrowed two or three times with a Thomas' smoothing-harrow, there is no danger of its imparting a rank flavor to the grass. I know from repeated trials that when part of a pasture is top-dressed, cows and sheep will keep it much more closely cropped down than the part which has not been manured. The idea to the contrary originated from not spreading the manure evenly.
"But why ferment the manure at all? Why not draw it out fresh from the yards? Does fermentation increase the amount of plant-food in the manure?" —No. But it renders the plant-food in the manure more immediately available. It makes it more soluble. We ferment manure for the same reason that we decompose bone-dust or mineral phosphates with sulphuric acid, and convert them into superphosphate, or for the same reason that we grind our corn and cook the meal. These processes add nothing to the amount of plant-food in the bones or the nutriment in the corn. They only increase its availability. So in fermenting manure. When the liquid and solid excrements from well-fed animals, with the straw necessary to absorb the liquid, are placed in a heap, fermentation sets in and soon effects very important changes in the nature and composition of the materials. The insoluble woody fibre of the straw is decomposed and converted into humic and ulmic acids. These are insoluble; and when manure consists almost wholly of straw or corn stalks, there would be little gained by fermenting it. But when there is a good proportion of manure from well fed animals in the heap, carbonate of ammonia is formed from the nitrogenous compounds in the manure, and this ammonia unites with the humic and ulmic acids and forms humate and ulmate of ammonia. These ammoniacal salts are soluble in water—as the brown color of the drainings of a manure heap sufficiently indicates.
Properly fermented manure, therefore, of good quality, is a much more active and immediately useful fertilizer than fresh, unfermented manure. There need be no loss of ammonia from evaporation, and the manure is far less bulky, and costs far less labor to draw out and spread. The only loss that is likely to occur is from leaching, and this must be specially guarded against.
THE MANAGEMENT OF MANURES.—Continued.
WHY DO WE FERMENT MANURE?
However much farmers may differ in regard to the advantages or disadvantages of fermenting manure, I have never met with one who contended that it was good, either in theory or practice, to leave manure for months, scattered over a barn-yard, exposed to the spring and autumn rains, and to the summer's sun and wind. All admit that, if it is necessary to leave manure in the yards, it should be either thrown into a basin, or put into a pile or heap, where it will be compact, and not much exposed.
We did not need the experiments of Dr. Voelcker to convince us that there was great waste in leaving manure exposed to the leaching action of our heavy rains. We did not know exactly how much we lost, but we knew it must be considerable. No one advocates the practice of exposing manure, and it is of no use to discuss the matter. All will admit that it is unwise and wasteful to allow manure to lie scattered and exposed over the barn-yards any longer than is absolutely necessary.
We should either draw it directly to the field and use it, or we should make it into a compact heap, where it will not receive more rain than is needed to keep it moist.
One reason for piling manure, therefore, is to preserve it from loss, until we wish to use it on the land.
"We all admit that," said the Deacon, "but is there anything actually gained by fermenting it in the heap?" —In one sense, no; but in another, and very important sense, yes. When we cook corn-meal for our little pigs, we add nothing to it. We have no more meal after it is cooked than before. There are no more starch, or oil, or nitrogenous matters in the meal, but we think the pigs can digest the food more readily. And so, in fermenting manure, we add nothing to it; there is no more actual nitrogen, or phosphoric acid, or potash, or any other ingredient after fermentation than there was before, but these ingredients are rendered more soluble, and can be more rapidly taken up by the plants. In this sense, therefore, there is a great gain.
One thing is certain, we do not, in many cases, get anything like as much benefit from our manure as the ingredients it contains would lead us to expect.
Mr. Lawes, on his clayey soil at Rothamsted, England, has grown over thirty crops of wheat, year after year, on the same land. One plot has received 14 tons of barn-yard manure per acre every year, and yet the produce from this plot is no larger, and, in fact, is frequently much less, than from a few hundred pounds of artificial manure containing far less nitrogen.
For nineteen years, 1852 to 1870, some of the plots have received the same manure year after year. The following shows the average yield for the nineteen years: Wheat Straw per acre. per acre. Plot 5.—Mixed mineral manure, alone 17 bus. 15 cwt. " 6.—Mixed mineral manure, and 200 lbs. ammoniacal salts 27 bus. 25 cwt. " 7.—Mixed mineral manure, and 400 lbs. ammoniacal salts 36 bus. 36 cwt. " 9.—Mixed mineral manure, and 550 lbs. nitrate of soda 37 bus. 41 cwt. " 2.—14 tons farm-yard dung 36 bus. 34 cwt.
The 14 tons (31,360 lbs.) of farm-yard manure contained about 8,540 lbs. organic matter, 868 lbs. mineral matter, and 200 lbs. nitrogen. The 400 lbs. of ammoniacal salts, and the 550 lbs. nitrate of soda, each contained 82 lbs. of nitrogen; and it will be seen that this 82 lbs. of nitrogen produced as great an effect as the 200 lbs. of nitrogen in barn-yard manure.
Similar experiments have been made on barley, with even more striking results. The plot dressed with 300 lbs. superphosphate of lime, and 200 lbs. ammoniacal salts per acre, produced as large a crop as 14 tons of farm-yard manure. The average yield of barley for nineteen crops grown on the same land each year was 48 bus. and 28 cwt. of straw per acre on both plots. In other words, 41 lbs. of nitrogen, in ammoniacal salts, produced as great an effect as 200 lbs. of nitrogen in farm-yard manure! During the nineteen years, one plot had received 162,260 lbs. of organic matter, 16,492 lbs. of mineral matter, and 3,800 lbs. of nitrogen; while the other had received only 5,700 lbs. mineral matter, and 779 lbs. of nitrogen—and yet one has produced as large a crop as the other.
Why this difference? It will not do to say that more nitrogen was applied in the farm-yard manure than was needed. Mr. Lawes says: "For some years, an amount of ammonia-salts, containing 82 lbs. of nitrogen, was applied to one series of plots (of barley), but this was found to be too much, the crop generally being too heavy and laid. Yet probably about 200 lbs. of nitrogen was annually supplied in the dung, but with it there was no over-luxuriance, and no more crop, than where 41 lbs. of nitrogen was supplied in the form of ammonia or nitric acid."
It would seem that there can be but one explanation of these accurately-ascertained facts. The nitrogenous matter in the manure is not in an available condition. It is in the manure, but the plants can not take it up until it is decomposed and rendered soluble. Dr. Voelcker analyzed "perfectly fresh horse-dung," and found that of free ammonia there was not more than one pound in 15 tons! And yet these 15 tons contained nitrogen enough to furnish 140 lbs. of ammonia.
"But," it may be asked, "will not this fresh manure decompose in the soil, and furnish ammonia?" In light, sandy soil, I presume it will do so to a considerable extent. We know that clay mixed with manure retards fermentation, but sand mixed with manure accelerates fermentation. This, at any rate, is the case when sand is added in small quantities to a heap of fermenting manure. But I do not suppose it would have the same effect when a small quantity of manure is mixed with a large amount of sand, as is the case when manure is applied to land, and plowed under. At any rate, practical farmers, with almost entire unanimity, think well-rotted manure is better for sandy land than fresh manure.
As to how rapidly, or rather how slowly, manure decomposes in a rather heavy loamy soil, the above experiments of Mr. Lawes afford very conclusive, but at the same time very discouraging evidence. During the 19 years, 3,800 lbs. of nitrogen, and 16,492 lbs. of mineral matter, in the form of farm-yard manure, were applied to an acre of land, and the 19 crops of barley in grain and straw removed only 3,724 lbs. of mineral matter, and 1,064 lbs. of nitrogen. The soil now contains, unless it has drained away, 1,736 lbs. more nitrogen per acre than it did when the experiments commenced. And yet 41 lbs. of nitrogen in an available condition is sufficient to produce a good large crop of barley, and 82 lbs. per acre furnished more than the plants could organize.
"Those are very interesting experiments," said the Doctor, "and show why it is that our farmers can afford to pay a higher price for nitrogen and phosphoric acid in superphosphate, and other artificial manures, than for the same amount of nitrogen and phosphoric acid in stable-manure."
We will not discuss this point at present. What I want to ascertain is, whether we can not find some method of making our farm-yard manure more readily available. Piling it up, and letting it ferment, is one method of doing this, though I think other methods will yet be discovered. Possibly it will be found that spreading well-rotted manure on the surface of the land will be one of the most practical and simplest methods of accomplishing this object.
"We pile the manure, therefore," said Charley, "first, because we do not wish it to lie exposed to the rain in the yards, and, second, because fermenting it in the heap renders it more soluble, and otherwise more available for the crops, when applied to the land."
That is it exactly, and another reason for piling manure is, that the fermentation greatly reduces its bulk, and we have less labor to perform in drawing it out and spreading it. Ellwanger & Barry, who draw several thousand loads of stable-manure every year, and pile it up to ferment, tell me that it takes three loads of fresh manure to make one load of rotted manure. This, of course, has reference to bulk, and not weight. Three tons of fresh barn-yard manure, according to the experiments of Dr. Voelcker, will make about two tons when well rotted. Even this is a great saving of labor, and the rotted manure can be more easily spread, and mixed more thoroughly with the soil—a point of great importance.
"Another reason for fermenting manure," said the Squire, "is the destruction of weed-seeds."
"That is true," said I, "and a very important reason; but I try not to think about this method of killing weed-seeds. It is a great deal better to kill the weeds. There can be no doubt that a fermenting manure-heap will kill many of the weed-seeds, but enough will usually escape to re-seed the land."
It is fortunate, however, that the best means to kill weed-seeds in the manure, are also the best for rendering the manure most efficient. I was talking to John Johnston on this subject a few days ago. He told me how he piled manure in his yards.
"I commence," he said, "where the heap is intended to be, and throw the manure on one side, until the bare ground is reached."
"What is the use of that?" I asked.
"If you do not do so," he replied, "there will be some portion of the manure under the heap that will be so compact that it will not ferment, and the weed-seeds will not be killed."
"You think," said I, "that weed-seeds can be killed in this way?"
"I know they can," he replied, "but the heap must be carefully made, so that it will ferment evenly, and when the pile is turned, the bottom and sides should be thrown into the center of the heap."
LOSS OF AMMONIA BY FERMENTING MANURE.
If you throw a quantity of fresh horse-manure into a loose heap, fermentation proceeds with great rapidity. Much heat is produced, and if the manure is under cover, or there is not rain enough to keep the heap moist, the manure will "fire-fang" and a large proportion of the carbonate of ammonia produced by the fermentation will escape into the atmosphere and be lost.
As I have said before, we use our horse-manure for bedding the store and fattening pigs. We throw the manure every morning and evening, when the stable is cleaned out, into an empty stall near the door of the stable, and there it remains until wanted to bed the pigs. We find it is necessary to remove it frequently, especially in the summer, as fermentation soon sets in, and the escape of the ammonia is detected by its well known pungent smell. Throw this manure into the pig-cellar and let the pigs trample it down, and there is no longer any escape of ammonia. At any rate, I have never perceived any. Litmus paper will detect ammonia in an atmosphere containing only one seventy-five thousandth part of it; and, as Prof. S. W. Johnson once remarked, "It is certain that a healthy nose is not far inferior in delicacy to litmus paper." I feel sure that no ammonia escapes from this horse-manure after it is trampled down by the pigs, although it contains an additional quantity of "potential ammonia" from the liquid and solid droppings of these animals.
Water has a strong attraction for ammonia. One gallon of ice-cold water will absorb 1,150 gallons of ammonia.
If the manure, therefore, is moderately moist, the ammonia is not likely to escape. Furthermore, as Dr. Voelcker has shown us, during the fermentation of the manure in a heap, ulmic and humic, crenic and apocrenic acids are produced, and these unite with the ammonia and "fix" it—in other words, they change it from a volatile gas into a non-volatile salt.
If the heap of manure, therefore, is moist enough and large enough, all the evidence goes to show, that there is little or no loss of ammonia. If the centre of the heap gets so hot and so dry that the ammonia is not retained, there is still no necessity for loss.
The sides of the heap are cool and moist, and will retain the carbonate of ammonia, the acids mentioned also coming into play.
The ammonia is much more likely to escape from the top of the heap than from the sides. The heat and steam form little chimneys, and when a fermenting manure-heap is covered with snow, these little chimneys are readily seen. If you think the manure is fermenting too rapidly, and that the ammonia is escaping, trample the manure down firmly about the chimneys, thus closing them up, and if need be, or if convenient, throw more manure on top, or throw on a few pailfuls of water.
It is a good plan, too, where convenient, to cover the heap with soil. I sometimes do this when piling manure in the field, not from fear of losing ammonia, but in order to retain moisture in the heap. With proper precautions, I think we may safely dismiss the idea of any serious loss of ammonia from fermenting manure.
THE WASTE OF MANURE FROM LEACHING.
As we have endeavored to show, there is little danger of losing ammonia by keeping and fermenting manure. But this is not the only question to be considered. We have seen that in 10,000 lbs. of fresh farm-yard manure, there is about 64 lbs. of nitrogen. Of this, about 15 lbs. are soluble, and 49 lbs. insoluble. Of mineral matter, we have in this quantity of manure, 559 lbs., of which 154 lbs. are soluble in water, and 405 lbs. insoluble. If we had a heap of five tons of fermenting manure in a stable, the escape of half an ounce of carbonate of ammonia would make a tremendous smell, and we should at once use means to check the escape of this precious substance. But it will be seen that we have in this five tons of fresh manure, nitrogenous matter, capable of forming over 180 lbs. of carbonate of ammonia, over 42 lbs. of which is in a soluble condition. This may be leached day after day, slowly and imperceptibly, with no heat, or smell, to attract attention.
How often do we see manure lying under the eaves of an unspouted shed or barn, where one of our heavy showers will saturate it in a few minutes, and yet where it will lie for hours, and days, and weeks, until it would seem that a large proportion of its soluble matter would be washed out of it! The loss is unquestionably very great, and would be greater if it were not for the coarse nature of the material, which allows the water to pass through it rapidly and without coming in direct contact with only the outside portions of the particles of hay, straw, etc., of which the manure is largely composed. If the manure was ground up very fine, as it would be when prepared for analysis, the loss of soluble matter would be still more serious. Or, if the manure was first fermented, so that the particles of matter would be more or less decomposed and broken up fine, the rain would wash out a large amount of soluble matter, and prove much more injurious than if the manure was fresh and unfermented.
"That is an argument," said the Deacon, "against your plan of piling and fermenting manure."
"Not at all," I replied; "it is a strong reason for not letting manure lie under the eaves of an unspouted building—especially good manure, that is made from rich food. The better the manure, the more it will lose from bad management. I have never recommended any one to pile their manure where it would receive from ten to twenty times as much water as would fall on the surface of the heap."
"But you do recommend piling manure and fermenting it in the open air and keeping the top flat, so that it will catch all the rain, and I think your heaps must sometimes get pretty well soaked."
"Soaking the heap of manure," I replied, "does not wash out any of its soluble matter, provided you carry the matter no further than the point of saturation. The water may, and doubtless does, wash out the soluble matter from some portions of the manure, but if the water does not filter through the heap, but is all absorbed by the manure, there is no loss. It is when the water passes through the heap that it runs away with our soluble nitrogenous and mineral matter, and with any ready formed ammonia it may find in the manure."
How to keep cows tied up in the barn, and at the same time save all the urine, is one of the most difficult problems I have to deal with in the management of manure on my farm. The best plan I have yet tried is, to throw horse-manure, or sheep-manure, back of the cows, where it will receive and absorb the urine. The plan works well, but it is a question of labor, and the answer will depend on the arrangement of the buildings. If the horses are kept near the cows, it will be little trouble to throw the horse-litter, every day, under or back of the cows.
In my own case, my cows are kept in a basement, with a tight barn-floor overhead. When this barn-floor is occupied with sheep, we keep them well-bedded with straw, and it is an easy matter to throw this soiled bedding down to the cow-stable below, where it is used to absorb the urine of the cows, and is then wheeled out to the manure-heap in the yard.
At other times, we use dry earth as an absorbent.
MANURE ON DAIRY-FARMS.
Farms devoted principally to dairying ought to be richer and more productive than farms largely devoted to the production of grain.
Nearly all the produce of the farm is used to feed the cows, and little is sold but milk, or cheese, or butter.
When butter alone is sold, there ought to be no loss of fertilizing matter—as pure butter or oil contains no nitrogen, phosphoric acid, or potash. It contains nothing but carbonaceous matter, which can be removed from the farm without detriment.
And even in the case of milk, or cheese, the advantage is all on the side of the dairyman, as compared with the grain-grower. A dollar's worth of milk or cheese removes far less nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash, than a dollar's worth of wheat or other grain. Five hundred lbs. of cheese contains about 25 lbs. of nitrogen, and 20 lbs. of mineral matter. A cow that would make this amount of cheese would eat not less than six tons of hay, or its equivalent in grass or grain, in a year. And this amount of food, supposing it to be half clover and half ordinary meadow-hay, would contain 240 lbs. of nitrogen and 810 lbs. of mineral matter. In other words, a cow eats 240 lbs. of nitrogen, and 25 lbs. are removed in the cheese, or not quite 10-1/2 per cent, and of mineral matter not quite 2-1/2 per cent is removed. If it takes three acres to produce this amount of food, there will be 8-1/3 lbs. of nitrogen removed by the cheese, per acre, while 30 bushels of wheat would remove in the grain 32 lbs. of nitrogen, and 10 to 15 lbs. in the straw. So that a crop of wheat removes from five to six times as much nitrogen per acre as a crop of cheese; and the removal of mineral matter in cheese is quite insignificant as compared with the amount removed in a crop of wheat or corn. If our grain-growing farmers can keep up the fertility of their land, as they undoubtedly can, the dairymen ought to be making theirs richer and more productive every year.
"All that is quite true," said the Doctor, "and yet from what I have seen and heard, the farms in the dairy districts, do not, as a rule, show any rapid improvement. In fact, we hear it often alleged that the soil is becoming exhausted of phosphates, and that the quantity and quality of the grass is deteriorating."
"There may be some truth in this," said I, "and yet I will hazard the prediction that in no other branch of agriculture shall we witness a more decided improvement during the next twenty-five years than on farms largely devoted to the dairy. Grain-growing farmers, like our friend the Deacon, here, who sells his grain and never brings home a load of manure, and rarely buys even a ton of bran to feed to stock, and who sells more or less hay, must certainly be impoverishing their soils of phosphates much more rapidly than the dairyman who consumes nearly all his produce on the farm, and sells little except milk, butter, cheese, young calves, and old cows."
"Bones had a wonderful effect," said the Doctor, "on the old pastures in the dairy district of Cheshire in England."
"Undoubtedly," I replied, "and so they will here, and so would well-rotted manure. There is nothing in this fact to prove that dairying specially robs the soil of phosphates. It is not phosphates that the dairyman needs so much as richer manure."
"What would you add to the manure to make it richer?" asked the Doctor.
"Nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash," I replied.
"But how?" asked the Deacon.
"I suppose," said the Doctor, "by buying guano and the German potash salts."
"That would be a good plan," said I; "but I would do it by buying bran, mill-feed, brewer's-grains, malt-combs, corn-meal, oil-cake, or whatever was best and cheapest in proportion to value. Bran or mill-feed can often be bought at a price at which it will pay to use it freely for manure. A few tons of bran worked into a pile of cow-dung would warm it up and add considerably to its value. It would supply the nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash, in which ordinary manure is deficient. In short, it would convert poor manure into rich manure."
"Well, well," exclaimed the Deacon, "I knew you talked of mixing dried-blood and bone-dust with your manure, but I did not think you would advocate anything quite so extravagant as taking good, wholesome bran and spout-feed and throwing it on to your manure-pile."
"Why, Deacon," said I, "we do it every day. I am putting about a ton of spout-feed, malt-combs and corn-meal each week into my manure-pile, and that is the reason why it ferments so readily even in the winter. It converts my poor manure into good, rich, well-decomposed dung, one load of which is worth three loads of your long, strawy manure."
"Do you not wet it and let it ferment before putting it in the pile?"
"No, Deacon," said I, "I feed the bran, malt-combs and corn-meal to the cows, pigs, and sheep, and let them do the mixing. They work it up fine, moisten it, break up the particles, take out the carbonaceous matter, which we do not need for manure, and the cows and sheep and horses mix it up thoroughly with the hay, straw, and corn-stalks, leaving the whole in just the right condition to put into a pile to ferment or to apply directly to the land."
"Oh! I see," said the Deacon, "I did not think you used bran for manure."
"Yes, I do, Deacon," said I, "but I use it for food first, and this is precisely what I would urge you and all others to do. I feel sure that our dairymen can well afford to buy more mill-feed, corn-meal, oil-cake, etc., and mix it with their cow-dung—or rather, let the cows do the mixing."
LETTER FROM THE HON. HARRIS LEWIS.
I wrote to the Hon. Harris Lewis, the well-known dairyman of Herkimer Co., N.Y., asking him some questions in regard to making and managing manure on dairy farms. The questions will be understood from the answers. He writes as follows:
"My Friend Harris.—This being the first leisure time I have had since the receipt of your last letter, I devote it to answering your questions:
"1st. I have no manure cellar.
"I bed my cows with dry basswood sawdust, saving all the liquid manure, keeping the cows clean, and the stable odors down to a tolerable degree. This bedding breaks up the tenacity of the cow-manure, rendering it as easy to pulverize and manage as clear horse-manure. I would say it is just lovely to bed cows with dry basswood sawdust. This manure, if left in a large pile, will ferment and burn like horse-manure in about 10 days. Hence I draw it out as made where I desire to use it, leaving it in small heaps, convenient to spread.
"My pigs and calves are bedded with straw, and this is piled and rotted before using.
"I use most of my manure on grass land, and mangels, some on corn and potatoes; but it pays me best, when in proper condition, to apply all I do not need for mangels, on meadow and pasture.
"Forty loads, or about 18 to 20 cords is a homoeopathic dose for an acre, and this quantity, or more, applied once in three years to grass land, agrees with it first rate.
"The land where I grow mangels gets about this dose every year.
"I would say that my up-land meadows have been mown twice each year for a great many years.
"I have been using refuse salt from Syracuse, on my mangels, at the rate of about six bushels per acre, applied broadcast in two applications. My hen-manure is pulverized, and sifted through a common coal sieve. The fine I use for dusting the mangels after they have been singled out, and the lumps, if any, are used to warm up the red peppers.
"I have sometimes mixed my hen-manure with dry muck, in the proportion of one bushel of hen-manure to 10 of muck, and received a profit from it too big to tell of, on corn, and on mangels.
"I have sprinkled the refuse salt on my cow-stable floors sometimes, but where all the liquid is saved, I think we have salt enough for most crops.
"I have abandoned the use of plaster on my pastures for the reason that milk produced on green-clover is not so good as that produced on the grasses proper. I use all the wood ashes I can get, on my mangels as a duster, and consider their value greater than the burners do who sell them to me for 15 cts. a bushel. I have never used much lime, and have not received the expected benefits from its use so far. But wood ashes agree with my land as well as manure does. The last question you ask, but one, is this: 'What is the usual plan of managing manure in the dairy districts?' The usual method is to cut holes in the sides of the stable, about every ten feet along the whole length of the barn behind the cows, and pitch the manure out through these holes, under the eaves of the barn, where it remains until too much in the way, when it is drawn out and commonly applied to grass land in lumps as big as your head. This practice is getting out of fashion a little now, but nearly one-half of all the cow-manure made in Herkimer Co. is lost, wasted.
"Your last question, 'What improvement would you suggest,' I answer by saying it is of no use to make any to these men, it would be wasted like their manure.
"The market value of manure in this county is 50 cts. per big load, or about one dollar per cord."
"That is a capital letter," said the Deacon. "It is right to the point, and no nonsense about it."
"He must make a good deal of manure," said the Doctor, "to be able to use 40 loads to the acre on his meadows and pastures once in three years, and the same quantity every year on his field of mangel-wurzel."
"That is precisely what I have been contending for," I replied; "the dairymen can make large quantities of manure if they make an effort to do it, and their farms ought to be constantly improving. Two crops of hay on the same meadow, each year, will enable a farmer to keep a large herd of cows, and make a great quantity of manure—and when you have once got the manure, there is no difficulty in keeping up and increasing the productiveness of the land."
HOW TO MAKE MORE AND BETTER MANURE ON DAIRY FARMS.
"You are right," said the Doctor, "in saying that there is no difficulty in keeping up and increasing the productiveness of our dairy farms, when you have once got plenty of manure—but the difficulty is to get a good supply of manure to start with."
This is true, and it is comparatively slow work to bring up a farm, unless you have plenty of capital and can buy all the artificial manure you want. By the free use of artificial manures, you could make a farm very productive in one or two years. But the slower and cheaper method will be the one adopted by most of our young and intelligent dairymen. Few of us are born with silver spoons in our mouths. We have to earn our money before we can spend it, and we are none the worse for the discipline.
Suppose a young man has a farm of 100 acres, devoted principally to dairying. Some of the land lies on a creek or river, while other portions are higher and drier. In the spring of the year, a stream of water runs through a part of the farm from the adjoining hills down to the creek or river. The farm now supports ten head of cows, three horses, half a dozen sheep, and a few pigs. The land is worth $75 per acre, but does not pay the interest on half that sum. It is getting worse instead of better. Weeds are multiplying, and the more valuable grasses are dying out. What is to be done?
In the first place, let it be distinctly understood that the land is not exhausted. As I have before said, the productiveness of a farm does not depend so much on the absolute amount of plant-food which the soil contains, as on the amount of plant-food which is immediately available for the use of the plants. An acre of land that produces half a ton of hay, may contain as much plant-food as an acre that produces three tons of hay. In the one case the plant-food is locked up in such a form that the crops cannot absorb it, while in the other it is in an available condition. I have no doubt there are fields on the farm I am alluding to, that contain 3,000 lbs. of nitrogen, and an equal amount of phosphoric acid, per acre, in the first six inches of the surface soil. This is as much nitrogen as is contained in 100 tons of meadow-hay, and more phosphoric acid than is contained in 350 tons of meadow-hay. These are the two ingredients on which the fertility of our farms mainly depend. And yet there are soils containing this quantity of plant-food that do not produce more than half a ton of hay per acre.
In some fields, or parts of fields, the land is wet and the plants cannot take up the food, even while an abundance of it is within reach. The remedy in this case is under-draining. On other fields, the plant-food is locked up in insoluble combinations. In this case we must plow up the soil, pulverize it, and expose it to the oxygen of the atmosphere. We must treat the soil as my mother used to tell me to treat my coffee, when I complained that it was not sweet enough. "I put plenty of sugar in," she said, "and if you will stir it up, the coffee will be sweeter." The sugar lay undissolved at the bottom of the cup; and so it is with many of our soils. There is plenty of plant-food in them, but it needs stirring up. They contain, it may be, 3,000 lbs. of nitrogen, and other plant-food in still greater proportion, and we are only getting a crop that contains 18 lbs. of nitrogen a year, and of this probably the rain supplies 9 lbs. Let us stir up the soil and see if we cannot set 100 lbs. of this 3,000 lbs. of nitrogen free, and get three tons of hay per acre instead of half a ton. There are men who own a large amount of valuable property in vacant city lots, who do not get enough from them to pay their taxes. If they would sell half of them, and put buildings on the other half, they might soon have a handsome income. And so it is with many farmers. They have the elements of 100 tons of hay lying dormant in every acre of their land, while they are content to receive half a ton a year. They have property enough, but it is unproductive, while they pay high taxes for the privilege of holding it, and high wages for the pleasure of boarding two or three hired men.
We have, say, 3,000 lbs. of nitrogen locked up in each acre of our soil, and we get 8 or 10 lbs. every year in rain and dew, and yet, practically, all that we want, to make our farms highly productive, is 100 lbs. of nitrogen per acre per annum. And furthermore, it should be remembered, that to keep our farms rich, after we have once got them rich, it is not necessary to develope this amount of nitrogen from the soil every year. In the case of clover-hay, the entire loss of nitrogen in the animal and in the milk would not exceed 15 per cent, so that, when we feed out 100 lbs. of nitrogen, we have 85 lbs. left in the manure. We want to develope 100 lbs. of nitrogen in the soil, to enable us to raise a good crop to start with, and when this is once done, an annual development of 15 lbs. per acre in addition to the manure, would keep up the productiveness of the soil. Is it not worth while, therefore, to make an earnest effort to get started?—to get 100 lbs. of nitrogen in the most available condition in the soil?
As I said before, this is practically all that is needed to give us large crops. This amount of nitrogen represents about twelve tons of average barn-yard manure—that is to say, twelve tons contains 100 lbs. of nitrogen. But in point of fact it is not in an immediately available condition. It would probably take at least two years before all the nitrogen it contains would be given up to the plants. We want, therefore, in order to give us a good start, 24 tons of barn-yard manure on every acre of land. How to get this is the great problem which our young dairy farmer has to solve. In the grain-growing districts we get it in part by summer-fallowing, and I believe the dairyman might often do the same thing with advantage. A thorough summer-fallow would not only clean the land, but would render some of the latent plant-food available. This will be organized in the next crop, and when the dairyman has once got the plant-food, he has decidedly the advantage over the grain-growing farmer in his ability to retain it. He need not lose over 16 per cent a year of nitrogen, and not one per cent of the other elements of plant-food.
The land lying on the borders of the creek could be greatly benefited by cutting surface ditches to let off the water; and later, probably it will be found that a few underdrains can be put in to advantage. These alluvial soils on the borders of creeks and rivers are grand sources of nitrogen and other plant-food. I do not know the fact, but it is quite probable that the meadows which Harris Lewis mows twice a year, are on the banks of the river, and are perhaps flooded in the spring. But, be this as it may, there is a field on the farm I am alluding to, lying on the creek, which now produces a bountiful growth of weeds, rushes, and coarse grasses, which I am sure could easily be made to produce great crops of hay. The creek overflows in the spring, and the water lies on some of the lower parts of the field until it is evaporated. A few ditches would allow all the water to pass off, and this alone would be a great improvement. If the field was flooded in May or June, and thoroughly cultivated and harrowed, the sod would be sufficiently rotted to plow again in August. Then a thorough harrowing, rolling, and cultivating, would make it as mellow as a garden, and it could be seeded down with timothy and other good grasses the last of August, or beginning of September, and produce a good crop of hay the next year. Or, if thought better, it might be sown to rye and seeded down with it. In either case the land would be greatly improved, and would be a productive meadow or pasture for years to come—or until our young dairyman could afford to give it one of Harris Lewis' "homoeopathic" doses of 40 loads of good manure per acre. He would then be able to cut two crops of hay a year—and such hay! But we are anticipating.
That stream which runs through the farm in the spring, and then dries up, could be made to irrigate several acres of the land adjoining. This would double, or treble, or quadruple, ("hold on," said the Deacon,) the crops of grass as far as the water reached. The Deacon does not seem to credit this statement; but I have seen wonderful effects produced by such a plan.
What I am endeavoring to show, is, that these and similar means will give us larger crops of hay and grass, and these in turn will enable us to keep more cows, and make more manure, and the manure will enable us to grow larger crops on other portions of the farm.
I am aware that many will object to plowing up old grass land, and I do not wish to be misunderstood on this point. If a farmer has a meadow that will produce two or three tons of hay, or support a cow, to the acre, it would be folly to break it up. It is already doing all, or nearly all, that can be asked or desired. But suppose you have a piece of naturally good land that does not produce a ton of hay per acre, or pasture a cow on three acres, if such land can be plowed without great difficulty, I would break it up as early in the fall as possible, and summer-fallow it thoroughly, and seed it down again, heavily, with grass seeds the next August. If the land does not need draining, it will not forget this treatment for many years, and it will be the farmer's own fault if it ever runs down again.
In this country, where wages are so high, we must raise large crops per acre, or not raise any. Where land is cheap, it may sometimes pay to compel a cow to travel over three or four acres to get her food, but we cannot afford to raise our hay in half ton crops; it costs too much to harvest them. High wages, high taxes, and high-priced land, necessitate high farming; and by high farming, I mean growing large crops every year, and on every portion of the farm; but high wages and low-priced land do not necessarily demand high farming. If the land is cheap we can suffer it to lie idle without much loss. But when we raise crops, whether on high-priced land or on low-priced land, we must raise good crops, or the expense of cultivating and harvesting them will eat up all the profits. In the dairy districts, I believe land, in proportion to its quality and nearness to market, commands a higher price than land in the grain-growing districts. Hence it follows that high farming should be the aim of the American dairyman.
I am told that there are farms in the dairy districts of this State worth from one hundred to one hundred and fifty dollars per acre, on which a cow to four acres for the year is considered a good average. At a meeting of the Little Falls Farmers' Club, the Hon. Josiah Shull, gave a statement of the receipts and expenses of his farm of 81-1/2 acres. The farm cost $130 per acre. He kept twenty cows, and fatted one for beef. The receipts were as follows:
Twenty cows yielding 8,337 lbs. of cheese, at about 14-1/4 cents per pound $1,186.33 Increase on beef cow 40.00 Calves 45.00 ————- Total receipts $1,271.33 Expenses. Boy, six months and board $180.00 Man by the year, and board 360.00 Carting milk and manufacturing cheese 215.00 ———- Total cost of labor $755.00 The Other Expenses Were: Fertilizers, plants, etc. $ 18.00 Horse-shoeing and other repairs of farming implements, (which is certainly pretty cheap,) 50.00 Wear and tear of implements 65.00 Average repairs of place and buildings 175.00 Average depreciation and interest on stock 180.00 Insurance 4.00 Incidentals, (also pretty low,) 50.00 ———- $620.00 Total receipts $1,271.33. Total expenses 1,375.00.