« PředchozíPokračovat »
FORESTS OF SUGAR-MAPLE.
are now planted for the raising of sugar. Such groves, in the opinion of many, will yield more profit than any other use to which the land can be put, as beneath the trees an excellent pasture springs up.
The sugar maple, Acer saccharinum, forms extensive natural forests on fertile soils, and especially on those of the Niagara and other limestone formations of this region, though I am not aware that it particularly affects soils of a calcareous character. Into these forests, in spring, the sugar-makers plunge, carrying with them a huge pot, a few buckets and other utensils, their axes, and a supply of food. They erect a shanty in the neighbourhood of the most numerous maple-trees, make incisions into as many as they can visit twice a-day to collect the sap, boil it down to the crystallising point, and pour it into oblong brick-shaped moulds. In this way, in the valley of the Chaudière, from 3000 to 5000 lb. of sugar will sometimes be made by a single party of two or three
The day having cleared up, we were enabled to take a short drive over the domain, as far as the mountain of Beloeil a lofty isolated ridge, which springs up in the midst of the plain, at a distance of two or three miles from St Hilaire.
The soil which prevails in the valley of the Richelieu River, and over a large portion of this district, is a stiff, light-coloured clay, which used to be rich in the production of wheat, and was esteemed the garden of Canada. It gradually became impoverished however, till in 1835 the wheat-midge appeared, and almost banished the growth of wheat. In 1848 and 1849 the ravages of the insect a little abated, and small fields of wheat arrived at comparative perfection. Here, as in other provinces and States, it has been observed that latesown wheat is less injured by the midge than early sown-that which is put in during the third week of
PIGEON-WEED ON THE CLAY LAND.
May escaping, while that which is sown during the first week is destroyed.
The whole district, from its flatness and the tenacity of its soil, is a fit subject for thorough-drainage with tiles-for the manufacture of which the soil itself affords abundant material. Major Campbell has imported a tilemachine—the first, I believe, which has been seen in the province and placed it in the hands of a brickmaker near Montreal, who has already made and disposed of many thousands. On a portion of his own land, which he had dried by means of these tiles, Major Campbell showed me beautiful mangold-wurzel; while on the undrained land beside it, scarcely a plant had thriven. Richer clover also had come up on another drained spot, and less of the pigeon-weed, as it is here called, with which this clay land is infested.
There are few of the evils which afflict the practical farmer, in the management of his land and stock, which do not afford illustrations of the money-value of knowledge to himself-and of the economical importance to his country that he should possess it. I may advert for a moment to the lesson taught us by the weed of which I have just spoken.
The Lithospermum arvense, Corn-gromwell or stoneweed-called in North America by the various names of pigeon-weed, red-root, steen-crout, stony-seed, and wheat-thief is said to be a European importation, brought in probably with unclean seed-wheat from France, or Germany, or England. Thirty years ago, it was almost unknown; now in many places it usurps the ground, and especially overruns the districts which have been accustomed to the growth of wheat. But it is a punishment which has followed the practice of the ignorant and slovenly farmer, who has paid little attention either to cleaning his land at all, or to the right way of
MODE OF ITS GROWTH.
doing it, and who has continued for a series of years to take successive crops of wheat from the same exhausted fields.
The peculiarity of this weed consists in the hard covering with which its seed or nut is covered; in the time at which it comes up and ripens its seed; and in the superficial way in which its roots spread. The hardness of its covering is such that "neither the gizzard of a fowl nor the stomach of an ox can destroy it," and that it will lie for years in the ground without perishing, till the opportunity of germinating occurs. It grows up very little in spring, but it shoots up and ripens in autumn, and its roots spread through the surface-soil only, and exhaust the food by which the young wheat should be nourished. A knowledge of these facts teach - First, that unless care be taken to exclude the seed from the farm, it will remain a troublesome weed for many years, even to an industrious, careful, and intelligent cultivator. In the second place, that spring ploughing will do little good in the way of extirpating it, as at that season it has scarcely begun to grow. Thirdly, that raising wheat year after year allows it to grow and ripen with the wheat, and to seed the ground more thickly every successive crop. It is said that, when it has once got into the land, two or three successive crops of wheat will give the pigeonweed entire possession of the soil. It is not, therefore, the immediately exhausting effects of the successive crops of corn alone which has almost banished the wheatculture from a large part of North America, where this grain used to be produced in great abundance, but the indirect or after consequences of such a mode of culture in a considerable degree also.
In a previous chapter, when describing the geological structure and attendant agricultural character of western New York, I have described the Marcellus shales as forming the surface of the upland country, immediately behind the wheat-region properly so called. These
ITS SEED MIXED WITH AMERICAN OIL-CAKE. 307
dark-coloured shales form stiff soils, which produce good grass, but are difficult-naturally, or have become so by unskilful treatment — to retain profitably in arable culture. In Yates County, upon this formation, the pigeonweed has become in some places almost the lord of the soil. It was unknown there, as elsewhere, thirty years ago; now "hundreds of bushels of the seed are purchased at the Yates County oil-mill; and if it were worth 8s., instead of 1s. 6d. a bushel, these hundreds would be thousands!"
The reader will observe, in the concluding words of this quotation, how one evil leads to another. The purchase of this seed at the oil-mills can only be for the purpose of adulteration. I have examined samples of American linseed-cake in which seeds were to be recognised which I could not name. They might, I then supposed, be those of the dodder, a parasite which infests the flax plant in some localities; but they might also be other cheap seeds purposely mixed with the linseed. Those who are in the habit of buying cheap American cake may think this point deserving of their attention. As oil-cakes are chiefly bought by farmers, perhaps it is only a kind of retributive justice that a set of idle farmers in one country should thus be the means of punishing a less discerning set in another.
One purpose for which I have dwelt upon this weed is to show that a knowledge of the habits, or physiological history, of our common plants is as necessary to the improvement of the art of culture, of the condition of those who practise it, and of the agricultural productiveness of a country, as almost any other kind of knowledge. No one will readily accuse me of a wish to undervalue the usefulness of chemistry to agriculture, and yet I have often had occasion to regret the evil influence of opinions hastily expressed by ill-informed persons-as if this were the only branch of knowledge
OATS AND PIGS OF THE COUNTRY.
which was necessary to bring this most important art to speedy perfection. It may be partly conceit, but it is chiefly ignorance, which has led many young persons, slightly acquainted with chemistry, to propagate crude notions as to the omnipotence of chemistry, and of the researches of the laboratory, in determining all difficult, doubtful, or disputed questions in practical agriculture. The longer a cautious and safe man lives, the less will he value extemporaneous opinions on matters which fall within the range of what may properly be called scien
tific agriculture-and the wider will appear the range of knowledge, theoretical and practical, which is necessary to the accurate solution, even of what some look upon as simple and superficial questions.
Among the crops which, in Lower Canada, have taken the place of the formerly abundant wheat, the oat is one of the most important. I did not learn what weight they here average per bushel, but the price, during the last year, has never exceeded 14d. currency per bushel. The Canadian farmer is content to sell his oats for this price, and to buy a barrel of pork with the proceeds, rather than expend his surplus grain and time in feeding his own pig for his own family, and making manure for his farm at the same time.
I have spoken of the long-limbed pigs of the French settlers in Madawaska. The pigs of this district, like their masters, are full cousins-german to those which inhabit the Upper St John. The snout and the legs, as they say here, run a race for length. The native cattle are also poor, and the starvation-limit system of feeding, generally practised a century ago in Scotland, is still in full force in colder Canada. It is to be hoped that the cattle-shows, which are now promoted by local societies, and encouraged by legislative grants, may be the means of gradually introducing a better system of feeding, with more profitable breeds of stock.