[From T.Quayle Agriculture of IoM, 1812]
IT is still more to be regretted that this head also presents a blank, which the present generation seem little disposed to fill tip. The first impression made on the mind of a stranger, by the generally denuded state of the country, without planting and without hedge. rows, is indeed melancholy. It needs not the imagination of a Brown, or of a Ripley, to represent in idea the difference in scenery which this little isle would present, if the horizon were skirted by a fringe of wood, and the fore-ground ornamented by the waving-grove, occasionally concealing its mountain streams and clus-tered cottages. But it is not in point of ornament, or of shelter alone, that the deficiency is to be lamented great and serious evils to agriculture result from the great scarcity of timber, impeding improvement in its progress at every step. All is to be imported ; much must therefore he deficient. What the Manks farmer cannot supply by stone or by straw, remains often un done. For instance, there is not a stile in the island. Stone steps are built by the more opulent ; the poorer farmer substitutes a few rude slates, in an oblique row, projecting from his sod-fence, the fate of which may be easily anticipated. The ox is wrought not by the bow and yoke, but by a collar of oat-straw. The same material, twisted into rope, and then woven into a pair of wallets of a square form, is slung across the horse, and supplies the place of panniers ; these are called creels. The wheelwright's shop is deficient in a due assortment of timber for carrying on his indispensible art. In short, no man can walk a hundred yards without witnessing the inconveniences resulting from this lamentable deficiency. The peat-bogs disclose that this was not always the state of the island; occasionally timber of large dimensions,* and in a perfectly sound state is discovered, which is frequently at present wrought up in building. Unless the precaution be taken of shading it from the sun, when first taken up, and discharging the moisture with which it is loaded, it is subject to crack ; but if carefully covered, is as fit for use as any other timber.
Injurious to the islanders as their ancestors' neglect, or perhaps careless destruction of their growing timber proves, still greater blame attaches to themselves ; who now feeling the want, and possessing the ability to supply it, still omit planting. Some small attempts have been made. In the middle of the preceding century, a gentleman, then residing near the centre of the western coast, formed some plantations, of which twelve or fifteen acres remain, forming a kind of oasis in the desert. In the northern district, also, are several little plantations near the root of the mountain, which have prospered. It is to be regretted that the Scotch fir should have found a permanent place amongst them. The ash also appears too delicate a plant foy this stormy climate. In consequence, probably, of the indispensible utility of its timber, which is wanted for almost all the implements of a farmer, ash has been the favo rite tree. If planted at all, it should not have been ranged in single rows, or in a narrow belt, where the wind constantly affects its towering head, but should have been sheltered by numerous brethren in a grove, which should have been thinned off as their heads became capable of standing the pelting of the winds.
In a more recent plantation, near the town of Douglas, these errors have been avoided. The larch here predominates; and its growth already proves that the soil and situation are congenial to it. Fifteen or twenty acres have been planted contiguous to this residence. This plantation, and others around the houses of other gentlemen near that town, promise to confer on the valley of Douglas, the same superiority in embellishment, which it possesses in productiveness ; though neither in extent, in natural fertility, nor in beauty, is it equal to other valleys which the island comprizes.
Several spots in this island are not only fitted by nature for planting, but they seem it for nothing else ; their rocky and abrupt situation precluding the labor of the husbandman, and affording scanty pasture. What are at present objects of deformity, might speedily become, by means of planting, both profitable and ornamental. The pinaster possesses the valuable property of resisting; the sea-breezes, even with a western ex posure, and on the very margin of the ocean. A small island in the Bay of Kirkudbright, near St. Mary's Isle, the beautiful domain of the Earl of Selkirk, on the opposite coast of Scotland, is planted with this tree, which thrives where probably any other would have perished. It has prospered also when planted in this island, No tree properly adapted to the different soils has been tried, which has not succeeded; some promising to attain considerable magnitude if not early cut down, which is here too frequently practised. Too little care in thinning them, as their tops come into close contact, is every where observable.
The Board's injunctions to report the dimensions df any extraordinary trees are not in this district likely to impose much labor on a Reporter. It happens, however, that an arbutus, which stands in the plantation first alluded to, has attained a bulk said to be unusual except in its native soil. Its girth round the stem reaches five feet, within less than an inch, when it breaks out into seven large branches. The height of the single stem is but about two feet ; and as it is encompassed by forest-trees, it is not healthy, and likely soon to perish.
Near the same residence, the myrtle grows in the open air, not being housed throughout the winter.
*The trees found buried are oak and fir, separately, never intermixed; and occasionally hazle, birch, willow, and thorn. Their heads are usually found pointing to the S. E. This proves that the tempest by which they were leveled swept in an opposite direction. Sometimes when they are discovered in heaps, a few occasionally appear with their heads turned to other points of the compass; but this is accounted for by tfie supposition, that the larger trees in their fall, entangled by their boughs, and crushed the smaller, or turned them out of their direction. That of the larger is uniformly S. E.