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The practice of the useful arts necessarily precedes their theory by a great interval, for it alone can furnish reliable material whence principles may be deduced, and rules determined ; and there can never be a time when it shall cease to be the test to which all rules and theories must be subjected. This is pre-eminently true of agriculture, the oldest of the useful arts, through all its branches, and it is, therefore, in vain to look for a book on the culture of the earth which shall be altogether or mainly original ; all such books, resting on the experience of the past, must, of necessity, refer to the past, must recapitulate its discoveries and practice, in greater or less degree. Unless they be monographs of peculiar speciality, they must partake somewhat of the nature of a compilation borrowing from many sources. I wish to acknowledge the ideas, the words, the illustrations which I have borrowed; and if I have failed to do this in any instance, the omission is not intentional. In some cases the views of others are so incorporated with and modified by my own, that it is out of the question to preserve the distinction between them.
Stevens (Book of the Farm), McIntosh (Book of the Garden), Loudon, Price, Liebig, Way, Gisbourne (Essays), Paul, Johnston, Boussingault, the journals of various English agricultural societies, are the European sources to which I am mainly indebted ; whilst among American authorities I have principally referred to Dana, Browne's Muck Book, Text Book of Agriculture, McMahon, Hovey, Shedd, The Working Farmer, Fields Pear Culture, with some newspaper items. Of course there are many things within this wide range of which I have had small personal experience; in such cases I have relied entirely on the best authorities, applying them as my general experience dictates.
In the body of the work I have met some of the popular arguments against the course of adopting largely the English improved culture, but not so fully as to preclude a few general remarks in this preface. Without doubt our common practice is just where English agriculture was forty years ago. The descriptions of English farming, tools, buildings, crops, roads, etc., given by Young and other writers of that time, might be quoted word for word to-day, as descriptive of the mass of New England farms. And if English farmers followed this kind of farming forty years ago with profit, and have since improved their practice so much as to double and treble their profits, with no other change in the circumstances than an increased outlay of capital and intelligence, it seems to me that it logically follows that we can do the same.
The frequent discussions about high farming seldom lead to definite and satisfactory conclusions, for want of a precise and accepted definition of the term. High farming in this book is the name of that culture which provides for the thorough reclamation, drainage, and manuring of the land under treatment; so thorough a manuring that a single application will ensure ample food to all the crops of the sagaciously planned rotation ; which so arranges the rotation for each field that each crop comes at a time when the soil is in the best state to feed it, finds an excess of its favorite food, and yet leaves an excess of the food most appropriate for the next crop; which looks on