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too much uncertainty, with too much luck,--to be satisfactory; yet, so long as the soil remains in its undrained condition, the element of luck will continue to play a very important part in its cultivation, and bad luck will often play sad havoc with the year's accounts.
Land of this character is usually kept in grass, as long as it will bring paying crops, and is, not unfrequently, only available for pasture; but, both for hay and for pasture, it is still subject to the drawback of the uncertainty of the seasons, and in the best seasons it produces far less than it might if well drained.
The effect of this condition of the soil on the health of animals living on it, and on the health of persons living near it, is extremely unfavorable; the discussion of this branch of the question, however, is postponed to a later chapter.
Thus far, there have been considered only the effects of the undue moisture in the soil. The manner in which these effects are produced will be examined, in connection with the manner in which draining overcomes them,-reducing to the lowest possible proportion, that uncertainty which always attaches to human enterprises, and which is falsely supposed to belong especially to the cultivation of the soil.
Why is it that the farmer believes, why should any one believe, in these modern days, when the advancement of science has so simplified the industrial processes of the world, and thrown its light into so many corners, that the word “mystery” is hardly to be applied to any operation of nature, save to that which depends on the always mysterious Principle of Life-when the effect of any combination of physical circumstances may be foretold, with almost unerring certainty, why should we believe that the success of farming must, after all, depend mainly on chance 2 That an intelligent man should submit the success of his own patient efforts to the operation of “luck;” that he should deliberately bet his capital, his toil, and his experience on having a good season, or a bad one, this is not the least of the remaining mysteries. Some chance there must be in all things, more in farming than in mechanics, no doubt; but it should be made to take the smallest possible place in our calculations, by a careful avoidance of every condition which may place our. crops at the mercy of that most uncertain of all things— the weather; and especially should this be the case, when the very means for lessening the element of chance in our calculations are the best means for increasing our crops, even in the most favorable weather.
HOW DRAINS ACT, AND HOW THEY AFFECT THE SOIL
For reasons which will appear, in the course of this work, the only sort of drain to which reference is here made is that which consists of a conduit of burned clay, (tile,) placed at a considerable depth in the subsoil, and enclosed in a compacted bed of the stiffest earth which can conveniently be found. Stone-drains, brush-drains, sod-drains, mole-plow tracks, and the various other devices for forming a conduit for the conveying away of the soakage-water of the land, are not without the support of such arguments as are based on the expediency of make-shifts, and are, perhaps, in rare cases, advisable to be used; but, for the purposes of permanent improvement, they are neither so good nor so economical as tile-drains. The arguments of this book have reference to the latter, (as the most perfect of all drains thus far invented,) though they will apply, in a modified degree, to all underground conduits, so long as they remain free from obstructions. Concerning stone-drains, attention may properly be called to the fact that, (contrary to the general opinion of farmers,) they are very much more expensive than tile-drains. So great is the cost of cutting the ditches to the much greater size required for stone than for tiles, of handling the stones, of placing them properly in the ditches, and of covering them, after they are laid, with a suitable barrier to the rattling down of loose earth among them, that, as a mere question of first cost, it is far cheaper to buy tiles than to use stones, although these may lie on the sur
face of the field, and only require to be placed in the trenches. In addition to this, the great liability of stonedrains to become obstructed in a few years, and the cer. tainty that tile-drains will, practically, last forever, are conclusive arguments in favor of the use of the latter. If the land is stony, it must be cleared; this is a proposition by itself, but if the sole object is to make drains, the best material should be used, and this material is not stone.
A well laid tile-drain has the following essential characteristics:–1. It has a free outlet for the discharge of all water which may run through it. 2. It has openings, at its joints, sufficient for the admission of all the water which may rise to the level of its floor. 3. Its floor is laid on a well regulated line of descent, so that its current may maintain a flow of uniform, or, at least, never decreasing rapidity, throughout its entire length.
Land which requires draining, is that which, at some time during the year, (either from an accumulation of the rains which fall upon it, from the lateral flow, or soakage, from adjoining land, from springs which open within it, or from a combination of two or all of these sources,) becomes filled with water, that does not readily find a natural outlet, but remains until removed by evaporation. Every considerable addition to its water wells up, and soaks its very surface; and that which is added after it is already brim full, must flow off over the surface, or lie in puddles upon it. Evaporation is a slow process, and it becomes more and more slow as the level of the water recedes from the surface, and is sheltered, by the overlying earth, from the action of sun and wind. Therefore, at least during the periods of spring and fall preparation of the land, during the early growth of plants, and often even in midsummer, the water-table, the top of the water of saturation,-is within a few inches of the surface, preventing the natural descent of roots, and, by reason of the small space to receive fresh rains, causing an interruption of work for some days after each storm.
If such land is properly furnished with tile-drains, (having a clear and sufficient outfall, offering sufficient means of entrance to the water which reaches them, and carrying it, by a uniform or increasing descent, to the outlet,) its water will be removed to nearly, or quite, the level of the floor of the drains, and its water-table will be at the distance of some feet from the surface, leaving the spaces between the particles of all of the soil above it filled with air instead of water. The water below the drains stands at a level, like any other water that is dammed up. Rain water falling on the soil will descend by its own weight to this level, and the water will rise into the drains, as it would flow over a dam, until the proper level is again attained. Spring water entering from below, and water oozing from the adjoining land, will be removed in like manner, and the usual condition of the soil, above the watertable, will be that represented in Fig. 3, the condition which is best adapted to the growth of useful plants.
In the heaviest storms, some water will flow over the surface of even the dryest beach-sand; but, in a well drained soil the water of ordinary rains will be at once absorbed, will slowly descend toward the water-table, and will be removed by the drains, so rapidly, even in heavy clays, as to leave the ground fit for cultivation, and in a condition for steady growth, within a short time after the rain ceases. It has been estimated that a drained soil has room between its particles for about one quarter of its bulk of water;-that is, four inches of drained soil contains free space enough to receive a rain-fall one inch in depth, and, by the same token, four feet of drained soil can receive twelve inches of rain,_more than is known to have ever fallen in twenty-four hours, since the deluge, and more than one quarter of the annual rain-fall in the United States.