[From General View of Agriculture, 1794]
TILL within there few years, the instruments and geers used in agriculture were few in number, and badly constructed; of course their duration was short, and execution not complete; but of late, ploughs, &c. have been introduced from England and Scotland, which answer the purpose better, and by being more firmly made, and of seasoned timber, prove cheaper in the end.
The Ploughs used by the small farmers especially, are nearly on the same construction as those formerly in general use in Scotland and Ireland, but not so large or heavy; they do their work on lays or strong lands inferior to no plough; but the draught is greater than those with curved mouldboards. The common run of country horses being small, and depending chiefly on the field for subsistence in winter, are not strong, and require four at least to turn a furrow as many inches deep; but where better horses are kept, the two-horse plough is used, and can till considerably more land in the day. A few ploughs of the construction of Mr.Small, of Ford, in Scotland, have been procured, and much esteemed, being more simple, Strong, and mathematically made, than those got elsewhere; the draught is also observe to be less, though the plough is heavier. These ploughs, with their carriage to the island, cost about 21. 10s. and a country plough cannot be made under 1l 15s. In the shortest winter days, not more then half an acre is turned up; but more in proportion, as the days lengthen. The two-horse ploughs, without drivers, can do a quarter more work than the long teams.
Harrows of a good construction are used on most of the lowland farms; but the farmers of the higher grounds, and of little estates, contrive to get over their work with those of the old make, which are small and light, very inadequate to the purpose required, as they must be drawn very often over the land before the feed corn is properly covered. Small harrows cost about eight shillings, and the improved from eighteen to twenty-five.
On some farms the roller is used for smoothing and compressing the barley lands, particularly those where grass feeds are sown, and is esteemed a valuable implement, but seldom tried on lays, except when dressed with comport; it bruises the lumps, and being followed by a brush harrow of the same width, spreads the manure better over the surface of the land. They are generally made of wood, from four to fix feet long, and from nine to sixteen inches diameter, and from 500 to 1000 lb. weight; drawn either by one or two horses. There are a few stone rollers of a less size, but equally weighty. A mallet for breaking clods was formerly much in use, but is now only continued on the small farms, and by mechanics occupying patches of land, termed crofts.
Of Drilling and Hoeing Machines there are few; turnips only requiring machines for seeding in drills; the hoeing, except in one or two farms, being performed with light ploughs, the intervals of two feet betwixt potatoes, beans, turnips, and cabbage, allowing sufficient room.
WITHIN there last twenty years the carriages in this island are very much improved, which, with the alteration of the roads, have caused a remarkable difference in the face of the country. Lime and other manure being now portable to the upland farms, in carts, which could only be brought there on horses backs in double baskets made of straw, and in biding quantities. Sledges and cars of the construction common in Ireland, are now giving place to light single horse carts, called gigs, and large ones drawn by two or three horses; when corn, hay, or any bulky loads are carried handy rails are connected to the bodies of the carts. Gigs can draw from 500 to 1000lb weight; and of corn, twelve stooks or shocks of sheaves. Carts usually carry from 1500to 2500lb. and of corn from eighteen to thirty stooks. Gigs with four-feet wheels can be constructed for five pounds; and carts with wheels a foot higher, from eight to twelve; narrow wheels are universally used.
Dressing corn by means of fanners is now the general practice on most farms; formerly corn was kept for weeks in the chaff, before favourable wind and weather afforded an opportunity to winnow, and proved a great inconvenience, both with regard to the cattle fodder, and fate of the grain, besides being subject to vermin and other means of diminution; it now can be dressed after working hours by the servants, and greatly assist the men employed in threshing: with the carriage from England, they cost three or four pounds; and with three attendants can clean from eighteen to thirty Winchester bushels in an hour, with passing twice through the machine.
Threshing has been found the most vexatious work of husbandry; for when the people are employed by the day, their chief endeavour is to do as little as possible, both for the sake of laziness, as well as to insure indoor work in winter, which is a great disappointment to the ploughmen and carters, who by that means are cut out from jobs in wet weather. When threshing is let by the job, it requires particular attention, lest the straw be thrown out half threshed. The usual price by the job, is one shilling per boll of wheat, containing four Winchester bushels. Ten-pence in some places, but generally one shilling per boll of barley of six bushels; and ten-pence for oats, of the same measure as barley.
The expence and waste, attendant on the old mode of threshing, induced one farmer to go to Scotland, and minutely examine the construction of those lately invented machines for threshing; he has erected one which answers the purpose very well, though it does not thresh so much in the day as machines of less size. The draught proves more severe than was calculated, requiring four strong horses at least: when an extraordinary quantity is wished, an additional horse is used. The execution is according to the goodness of the corn. From twenty to thirty stooks of twelve sheaves each, can be managed in one hour, producing from eighteen to twenty-five bushels. The expence of its erection was fifty pounds. Threshing machines, when brought to perfection, appear to be one of the most useful inventions agriculture ever received.
THERE is sufficient manure made in the towns, for the land occupied by their inhabitants, but very little sold to the farmers, whose chief reliance is on farm yard dung. Near the shore of the south end of the island, the farmers receive great assistance from the quantity of wrack, or sea weeds, thrown on shore. This is either used immediately for corn or potatoes, or is a valuable part of a compost, as it impregnates it with strong salts, and preserves its moisture in the driest seasons. Plough oxen, steers, heifers, and dry cattle, consume the oat and barley straw, and usually pay from eighteen shillings to a guinea for their winter keep. The aged cattle are kept in houses, but the young in yards, or in the corners of dry pastures, with liberty of ranging the fields in the day time; the manure made by them is either used for potatoes, or laid by for mixing in a compost either for turnips, wheat, or top dressing lays.
Lime Stone is to be found in great abundance in quarries and on the shores of the south end of the island. The expence of raising it in the quarries is great, which, added to the advanced price of coals, makes lime an expensive manure: it cannot now be burnt under eighteen-pence per barrel of six bushels, and fifty barrels are reckoned a sufficient dressing for an acre. When used, uncompounded, it is spread on the surface generally two years before the land is broken up, by which time it incorporates with the soil, and produces very good crops. When ploughed soon after spreading, it sinks, and gets out of reach of the plough in a few years; but when used on the top, and not too frequently ploughed, the benefit of liming can be plainly observed for ten or twelve years. Land already spent by tillage feels little good from lime without the assistance of other manures,
On many farms, folding both sheep and neat cattle is still in practice, but not so much as formerly; this, as it is a manure collected in summer, is considered as an acquisition. The cattle must have remarkable good pasture through the day, or they must suffer from so long confinement without eating.
Clay Marl is in great abundance in the north end of the island, few farms being without it, and many having it in every field; it is mostly found near the surface, and deservedly may be considered the most valuable of manures. The customary way of using it, is to lay from three to four hundred loads, of ten cwt. each, to the acre. After it is dissolved by the winter rains and frosts, the land is ploughed and kept in tillage for a dozen years, and sometimes longer, as the crops continue good. After it is thoroughly exhausted, another dressing of marl brings it round again to as good condition as ever. There are many instances of twelve crops having been procured from one dressing of marl; it has been tried with success on meadows and pastures, but generally practised on tillage land.
EACH town has a market for provisions on Saturdays, where the country people bring their poultry, &c. to sell, and the butchers have their meat provided; but there is no such thing as a market for grain, the maltsters, millers, and bakers, contracting with the farmers, after harvest is over, for whatever grain they have to sell. As the quantity grown on the marled land of the north end of the island exceeds the consumption there, it is bought up and shipped for England, or for the other parts of the island which are more populous, and do not produce a sufficiency.
The fairs for the sale of horses, cattle, and wearing apparel, the manufactures of the island, are numerous, scarcely a week patting without one; their frequency causes many of them to be ill attended; there are six at which a good deal of business is done. Between two and three hundred head of oxen and heifers, and a few poneys, are bought up, and sent to England annually. Many of the horses exposed to sale at the fairs are imported from Ireland, of a larger breed than that of the country; but they are reckoned neither so hardy or active as the home bred, but by their size are better adapted for the purposes of labour.