Frederick Mortensen Hinch Edward Mills John.

The American quarterly journal of agriculture and science, Volume 2 online

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split open the back, when I stoop to tie my shoestrings.

In my perambulations, I have been not a little surprised to see
what a great uniformity there is in some sections of the country,
both in the general features presented, and in the properties of the
soil. Should you accompany me across the hills from Hudson river
to Hoosic mountain, you would see that here is a belt which forms
truly but one agricultural district, whose predominant character,
when products are spoken of, is to produce the grasses and cereals
in great perfection. This will be found to be true, whether you cross
just abore the Highlands, at Albany sixty or seventy miles north, or
at Whitehall. You every where find the north and south hills with
their gentle slopes, though they are really steepest upon their north-
western sides. This is owing to the underlying rock ; and no matter
what the rock is — whether a slate> a limestone, or a quartz rock—
its inclination is uniform, and the soft materials have nothing to do
with the arrangement, further than that they are spread oyer the
rocks whose inclined surfaces were previously determined.

There is a remarkable fact in regard to the highest grounds of
this belt of country, and it is one which I have had more than twenty
years experience in testing the truth of : it is that they nerer suffer
extremely from drought. At the present time, when the corn-leaves
at Albany and Newburgh are closely rolled up, in Berkshire they
are green and bright, and the hills and furrows are bringing forth
abundance of fruit. Showers occur here when they are denied every
where else, and the consequence is that this region presents its
green surface when the valley of the Hudson is parched with drought.

I may be a little •kore particular in my remarks upon this'regioui

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since I have incidentally brought up the subject. I have stated that
the hills run nearly north and south, and generally preserve moderate
slopes, though it is not uncommon to find them difficult to plough
on their northwestern slopes. The more elevated of these hills are
in the neighborhood of Williamstown and Adams, where the highest
rises 3400 feet above tide, and the main valley of the Hoosic about
700. Corn does not come to maturity here when planted a thousand
feet above the level of the valley, or fourteen or fifteen hundred feet
above tide at Albany. The predominating rock in this belt, which
is full forty miles wide, is slate. The first twenty miles east of the
Hudson is principally slate ; then a comparatively thin deposit of
sparry limestone ; then many a mountain of silvery gray slate, called
the Taconic range ; then the Stockbridge limestone at the eastern
base, and in the northern and southern vallies ; and finally a hard
quartz rock, resting against the gneiss of Hoosic mountain. This
whole belt is entirely covered over with drift, consisting of coarse
earth, with pebbles and cobblestones sometimes curiously piled up,
as at the base of the Hoosic mountain. We find, however, the loose
materials often apparently ploughed out, or rounded excavations
formed, in which peaty bogs are not unfrequent.

The Hudson river seems to divide regions which are somewhat
dissimilar, or which, though lying in close proximity, yet differ in
the age of their respective formations. The remains of the mammoth
have not yet been found east of the feeble barrier of this river ; and
it would seem, if a wider expanse of water had not existed in the
era of the mastodons, that they too would have lived eastward of the
Hudson, and their remains ere this have been discovered there.
I subscribe myself yours.

Letter H.

Hdd at Utiea, on the 15^ IB- 17 September, 1845.

My Dear Friend — I promised, at my last interview with you, to
give you an account of the State Fair. Had I known, however, at
the time, the difficulties I should meet with in fulfilling this promise,
I should by no means have made it to you : bu| as it is, I will say

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a few words, trusting that your good nature will excuse me from
attempting a task so great and perplexing, as a full report of the
proceedings of this great body, with all their traps, from a threshing
machine down to a corkscrew. The first thing in regard to this great
affair, and which made the strongest impression upon my mind, was
great multitude of folks which congregated at this place upon this
occasion. Of course it is impossible for me to tell how many were
present, but you can perhaps get some faint idea of their numbers,
when I state that the fair was held in a ten-acre lot, and that by
nine o'clock a. m. the people began to pour into it through a twelve*
foot gateway, until it was filled to overflowing. By eleven o'clock,
an equal flood of humanity began to pour outsat another place ; and
so they continued in a ceaseless flood until about five o'clock p. x.,
when the field appeared to be considerably thinned out, and by six
o'clock was emptied of all but a few cattle and their keepers. The
number and show of cattle was great. Of fourfooted beasts, there
were nearly 700 ; which may be classed into horn cattle 274, horses
114, sheep 257, swine 34. These were arranged in circles on the
outside of the field, with a carriage space between it and the fence,
in which gentlemen and ladies were favored with an opportunity of
seeing without damage to their persons. Several temporary build-
ings were erected near the entrance gate, for the accommodation of
household apparatus, mechanical inventions, products of the farm,
fancy articles, flowers (of which there were many of great beauty
and value), etc. etc. These buildings were tastefully decorated,
especially the temple erected to Ceres, which was designed by Mr.
J. R. Walker, one of the Floral Committee. A fine hall, for the
display of fruits and flowers, was designed by our mutual friend,
Dr. Thompson, of Aurora. The ladies also were provided with a
hall, which was appropriated for the exhibition of domestic fabrics.
Indeed I cannot speak of all the designs for the display of the
beauties of nature, of art, and of utility. Both Pomona and Flora
were remembered, and had their dedicated temples ; but far above
all the representatives of classic fable, were the living ones, the
wives and daughters of the farmers. I write for them.

The trial of plows, on Tuesday, I did not attend. The show of
horses was very good. The Durham cattle I could not see, but the
sleek ayrshires I was much pleased with, and Mr. Sotham's here-
fords were excellent* There were iaanj good sheep on the ground.

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'The poultry show was quite extensire and beautiful ; wfio it all
belonged to, I cannot now say.

I was pleased that so many strangers were present from distant
parts of the Union. Among them were several gentlemen from the
South. The assemblage of men from different parts of the State,
and of the Union, I consider as the great thing. It is necessary that
some show should be got up, in order to get men together ; and is
it not strange that some men will go farther to see a Durham bull,
than to see a clever Ukely man, a being endowed with reason and
intelligence ? So it is : but anything to induce our farmers to assem*
ble together ; to form an acquaintance, and make themselyes known
to their fellow-men.

In my next, I propose to give you some account of Onondaga
county, and of the farm management of a few of our friends there.
I subscribe myself yours.

Letter III.

CAMILLI78, September 20, 1845.
Mt Dear Friend — I proposed, in my last letter, to give some
account of my travels and acquaintances in Onondaga county ; and
now having set myself down to fulfil this promise, I feel at some
loss what to say, and what subjects will interest you most. But it
appears to me that the first thing which is inquired after, on going
into a county, is, what is its soil and productions ? So I shall, in the
first place, take up these subjects for consideration. Now Onondaga
county is in the heart of the State, and I have sometimes heard her
called the empire county, but on this point I have not made up my
mind. I do know, however, that there are many productive and pro-
fitable farms there ; and the county is especially favored with some
geological formations and deposits, which the eastern, northern and
southern counties are destitute of, and which certainly confer many
and great advantages. The limestone ranges formed of the Onon-
daga and Manlius waterlimes, are of great importance : they are
in contact here, and form a distinct belt through the county from
east to west. This belt borders the Erie canal, and rises in many
places directly from it in the form of a terrace or table. But the
most important formation is the limestone shale, below these water-

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limestondSy and which also form a lower and parallel belt. These
shales are remarkable for having at one time contained crystals of
salt ; and even now, in consequence of the rapid decomposition,
they form yarious saline bodies, and it is interesting to see how the
springs are charged with saline matter according to the level from
which they issue. Thus the lowest layers, including the hopper*
formed cavities and the gypsum beds, furnish springs highly charged
Wh saline matter, sulphate of soda, magnesia and lime. Above,
and in the next tier of strata, they are highly charged wiih carbonate
of lime, and from these immense deposits of tufa are formed. Even
the springs are petrifying, and wood immersed in them becomes
stone, or stony matter takes the place of the wood. The higher
shales, though they do not furnish soft water, yet it answers well
for drinking and cooking. I omitted to mention the fact, that the
lower layers of this limestone shale furnish, in a few instances, a
water which chars vegetable matter ; and I find, on examination,
that it is a weak sulphuric acid.

The limestone shale is the rock, or formation, which is specially
adapted to the production of wheat and corn. It has been stated by
most writers, and repeated by most farmers, that it is the limestone
above which gives character to the soil of this and some other coun*
ties, and especially renders them wheat-growing ; but this is not true.
Even the late esteemed Mr. Gaylorb seemed to have selected a
farm because it was based on limestone ; but it is the shaly mass
below, which imparts so much excellence to the whole belt of
country, and this runs through the middle of Onondaga, or a little
to the north of the middle. A black shale succeeds the Onondaga
limestone in the ascending order ; and this gradually passes into
gray or greenish siliceous shales and sandstones, still higher up.
Very little limestone is found south of the first belt of limestone
which I have mentioned above.

We have, then, in Onondaga county, two shaly formations, with
a thick mass of nearly pure limestone between ; and they form
terraces which rise one above the other, commencing on the level
with Oneida lake, and ascending step by step up to the hills of
Pompey. These several terraces di£fer much in their agricultural re-
lations. The new uncleared land on the lowest terrace, just above the
Cicero swamp, is worth 10- 12 dollars per acre ; the next terrace,
if dry and rolling, is worth 50 - 60 dollars per acre ; and the high

VOL. 11. — ^NO. II. P

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land of the black or Marcellus shales, is worth from 35-40 dollani
per acre. Many value their lands much higher ; but the prices al
which they are now estimated, are those which they would sell for
at a forced sale. I am sensible I have not given you a very scientific
account of the geology of this county ; but to supply those parts in
which I am deficient, I will refer you to the geological map, which
is very generally distributed, and is the most accurate one that has
been published in this country.

I assure you that I remain yours most sincerely.

Letter IV.

Camillus, September S3, 1845.
Mt Dear Friend — What I have said of the geology of Onondaga
county, was designed as preparatory to some statements in regard
to its productions-, an account of which I now propose to give you.
On referring to my former letter, you will perceive that I gave pre-
ference to a belt of country running through the county on the canaU
or that terrace which is entirely above the low marshy grounds
forming the swamps of Cicero. It passes, for example, through
Camillus, and a very good sample of it may be seen at Mr. Geddes's
farm. It is from one and a half to three miles wide, and is based
directly upon the green gypseous shales, or upon the Onondaga
salt group. It would be exceedingly interesting to know in what re*
spccts, if any, the wheat grown upon these shales differs from that
upon the black shales : it would be difficult, probably, to make a
comparison between the products of these shales and the limestones
immediately above, inasmuch as the soil of the shales has been
transported south so as to intermix with that of the pure limestone ;
but the higher portion, at least of the black shales, is nearly all
derived from their own decompo9ition. There is a recognized differ-
ence, I believe, aside from any change which can be effected by
climate. To show the excellence of some of this land, I will state
what was told me by a person who may be relied upon. A certain
field has been under cultivation for the last thirty years, and has
produced a Crop of wheat every alternate year, without a particle of
manure, and its yield has averaged twenty bushels to the acre.

It is the soil of the gjrpseous shales, and not of the limestone,
which has been supposed to form the basis of the wheat soil of the

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western counties. The opinion of fanners on this point, is founded
upon the distribution of the calcareous gravel. As far south, for in-
stance, as they find the limestone pebbles, they calculate upon getting
good crops of wheat, especially in the Tallies ; but when the lime-
stone disappears, they do not expect to get but two or three crops
of wheat. Now the reliance upon the limestone pebbles is very well*
as an indication for wheat land ; nevertheless it is not the presence
of limestone that makes these lands thus productive in wheat, but
the product of the shales below, which has been carried as far
south as these very limestone pebbles of which we are speaking.
The gypseous rocks continue from year to year to disintegrate and
decompose, and hence are continually furnishing fit matter for the
growth of wheat. But again, this soil is also very productive and
superior for indian corn, which grows large, and forms sound grains,
from the great abundance of magnesia which, I have no doubt, the
soil contains.

The soil of Onondaga does not pack : it contains, in some places,
many cobblestones from the Medina sandstone, interspersed with
short broken fragments of the shale which are frequently brought
up by the plow ; and thus the nature of the material is such that it
does not form a decidedly stiff clay, but merely an argillaceous soil.
In the lower vallies, a stream flows, which is more or less charged
with tufa and marl, and this is frequently overlaid with peat. But
the quantity of vegetable matter in the soil, in all the farms which
have been worked several years, is extremely smalL

There is a conclusion which I will state here, as it was derived
from Mr. Gbddes : it is this, that soil, which is ploughed and sowed
for many years, finally becomes so compact below as to require
draining. Mr. Geddss founds his opinion upon the fact, that if you
have a space of 5000 feet which you wish to fill with earth, it will
require. 6000 feet of soil to fill it ; or the same thing is seen in filling
post^hnffes, which receive not only all the earth thrown out, but also
the post itself. Stirring the soil, then, makes it lie in less space, or
more compactly ; and if there is a tendency originally to the accu-
mulation of water, it will require drainage after a time, in order to
be productive.

I shall proceed with this subject in my next.

Yours, &c.

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s94 qvaetielt lovbhai..

Lbttbr v.

Gamillui, September 95, 1845.
Mt Dear Sir — I closed my last letter, in speaking of the effect of
coltiration in increasing the compactness of soil ; and undoabtedly
*the conclusion there expressed is true, aside from the main fact
upon which Mr. Geddes founds his opinion. The same result had
been witnessed by myself; but I had attributed it to the loss, first,
of vegetable matter, which is always remored from a new soil in the
course of a few years cultiTation, unless indeed it is abundant as in
that of the Western States ; and, secondly, to the infiltration below
of the calcareous salts. Both these causes operate lo bring about
the result we are speaking of ; and when they are combined with
the one abore indicated by Mr. Geddes, a very decided change
must inevitably be produced in the texture of the soil.

On a little reflection, it occurs to me that this one fact will ex-
plain, or at least will go far to explain, some others. We know, for
instance, that in the early settlement of many parts of New- York
and New England, several kinds of fruit were cultivated with suc-
cess. Peaches, for example, grew well in Berkshire in Massachu-
setts ; and I am informed, also, that even in Pompey and Niles and
the towns in that range in this State, and farther south upon the
Hamilton and Chemung shales, they grew in great perfection. Now,
however, they are not and can not be raised, or at least not with the
success that attended their first cultivation. This fact may stand
connected with the very change above alluded to in the condition of
the soil. It is in that state which is usually termed cold : it is so
compact, that the water, though it by no means stands upon the sur-
face, yet does not pass off with sufficient rapidity, but is retained so
long, and so near the surface, that its evaporation keeps the tempe-
rature slightly below what it formerly was. If this theory is correct,
a general deep draining will remedy the difficulty, and bring the
soil back to the porous and warm condition it originally possessed.
This subject is one of great interest, and worthy of careful in*
vestigation. Against the opinion I have expressed in regard to the
cause of those changes which now prevent the cultivation of the
peach, it may be urged that the temperature is reduced by the clear-
ing of the country ; or rather that the destruction of the forests has
opened it to the inroads of bleak and cold winds, or removed those

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farmbr's miscbllavt. 295

trees which gave shelter to the more tender productions we are
speaking of. All these are undoubtedly to be considered ; yet it
seems to me that the first named is by far the most important. I
should like to hear your opinion upon it. The fiftct is clearly esta-
blished, and is known over a wide extent of country ; and if we can
but get at the cause, it is possible we may also find a remedy.

I intended here to have spoken of Mr. Gebdes'b farming opera-
tions, but I see that I had better delay it until my next, and so you
will not object to my closing this with,

Yours, &c.

Letter VI.

Ttlbe PomM>iTiCB, September 97, 1845.
Mt Dear Friend — I write you from the residence of my friend
Mr. GsDDES, who is a distinguished agriculturist ; and in looking
about his place, I am well satisfied that plans of houses, of yards
and bams, are of but little use, or perhaps I had better say they
are only generally useful. Now the location, the exposure, the posi-
tion of the farm-houses, barns, etc. must all be governed by circum-
stances ; and each farm has something mi generis^ which must
control the arrangements for its cultivation. Even the inside plan of
the house may be essentially modified by the relations of the spot
on which it stands. Leaving, however, this subject for conversation
when we meet, I propose to speak in this letter of Mi^ Geddbs's
farm management.

The farm contains 300 acres : it lies on both sides of the great
western turnpike leading from Syracuse to Auburn. The railway
skirts it on the north, and it is about one mile south of the canal.
Mr. G.'s management is this : He rents the greater part of the
farm to two tenants, who cultivate different parts as they may agree ;
but over the whole Mr. G. retains the entire power of directing, not
only what crops are to be raised, but how the land shall be culti-
vated. By this system, unity is preserved in the management, the
knd prevented from too close cultivation, and a system persevered
in which keeps it in excellent condition. To the tenants a house is
furnished, together with stables, garden, pasturing of cows, hogs
and teams, and one half of the seed-grain and grass-seed, and a

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threshing machine. The tenants do all the work, and deliver one
half to the landlord or in market.

Arrangements about the farm-house. It is impossible to give you
a very correct idea of these arrangements, without a plan ; but I
may state that the house is situated upon and near the brow of the
table land of the country, with a creek upon the south fifty-five feet
below the level of the basement story of the dwelling. This makes
a slope from the house to the creek, which is an unfailing stream.
This position of things determines many of the arrangements about
the premises. Along the brow of the slope to the creek, the bams
and sheds for cattle, sheep and hogs, are placed. The position
secures, in the first place, perfect drainage, which is indispensable
to comfort and health ; and yet it gives an opportunity to retain the
water for rotting manure, where it is the most convenient ; and the
creek supplies an unfailing source of water for cattle and other pur-
poses, both summer and winter.

As water is one of the most indispensable of all articles in hus-
bandry, Mr. Geddes has availed himself of his position to supply
himself in part from the creek. This is efiected by means of the
power of the waterfall, which sets and keeps in motion a water-
wheel, which moves a double acting forcing pump, which drives the
water through pipes to his house, for washing, bathing, etc ; to the
barn, for cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry, each kind being separate
and in their proper places ; and the waste water goes to the manure
heapf for assisting in the decomposition of straw and refuse matter,
which is received in an impervious basin upon the brow of the ra-
vine. Besides this, there is a sufficiency of water for the two tenants,
for which they pay him, and which really amounts to enough to
cover the whole expense of the watering establishment. The water-
wheel is a most excellent one, being ten feet in diameter, moving
with a slow steady motion, every revolution of which forces to the
top of the hill a gallon of water, which amounts to rather more
than six gallons per minute night and day. A good well of water,
near the stoop leading to the kitchen, supplies water for domestic

Mr. Gedbes, in his buildings, acts upon a very sound and useful
principle, one which combines economy and profit with convenience
(if the distinction is proper), namely, that each department of hus-
bandry shall have its house, where all that appertains to it shall be

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farmeb's miscellany. 297

conveniently placed and arranged. I say arranged, because that is
the true word, meaning that things are not only put in, but classi-
fied ; so that if you please, you may go in the dark and put your
hand upon any article that may be wanted. Thus there is the car-
riage house, with each harness upon its own peg ; there is the tool*
house, with each tool in the chest or upon its hook ; the poultry
being entirely excluded from these premises, which is not always
the case in other establishments : the grain-barn, the hay*barn, the
sheep, the cows, the hogs, etc. each occupying their own places.
The poultry have suitable couYeniences for laying and hatching.
The milk-room, in particular, is worthy of especial notice : it is a
beautiful little building, situated in a triangular place in the yard,
leaving space for driving a team with wood or any other load to the
door of the wood-house, and but a few feet froni the entrance door

Online LibraryFrederick Mortensen Hinch Edward Mills JohnThe American quarterly journal of agriculture and science, Volume 2 → online text (page 30 of 39)