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or are brought to it by rains, or by water flowing over the surface from other land.
The mineral matters, which constitute the ashes of plants, when burned, are not mere accidental impurities which happen to be carried into their roots in solution in the water which supplies the sap, although they vary in character and proportion with each change in the mineral composition of the soil. It is proven by chemical analysis, that the composition of the ashes, not only of different species of plants, but of different parts of the same plant, have distinctive characters,—some being rich in phosphates, and others in silex; some in potash, and others in lime,—and that these characters are in a measure the same, in the same plants or parts of plants, without especial reference to the soil on which they grow. The minerals which form the ashes of plants, constitute but a very small part of the soil, and they are very sparsely distributed throughout the mass; existing in the interior of its particles, as well as upon their surfaces. As roots cannot penetrate to the interior of pebbles and compact par tides of earth, in search of the food which they require, but can only take that which is exposed on their surfaces, and, as the oxydizing effect of atmospheric air is useful in preparing the crude minerals for assimilation, as well as in decomposing the particles in which they are bound up,—a process which is allied to the rusting of metals,—the more freely atmospheric air is allowed, or induced, to circulate among the inner portions of the soil, the more readily are its fertilizing parts made available for the use of roots. By no other process, is air made to enter so deeply, nor to circulate so readily in the soil, as by under-draining, and the deep cultivation which under-draining facilitates.
Of the manures which are applied to the land, those of a mineral character are affected by draining, in the same manner as the minerals which are native to the soil
while organic, or animal and vegetable, manures, (especially when applied, as is usual, in an incompletely fermented condition,) absolutely require fresh supplies of atmospheric air, to continue the decomposition which alone can prepare them for their proper effect on vegetation.
If kept saturated with water, so that the air is excluded, animal manures lie nearly inert, and vegetable matters decompose but incompletely,—yielding acids which are injurious to vegetation, and which would not be formed in the presence of a sufficient supply of air. An instance is cited by H. Wauer where sheep dung was preserved, for five years, by excessive moisture, which kept it from the air. If the soil be saturated with water in the spring, and, in summer, (by the compacting of its surface, which is caused by evaporation,) be closed against the entrance of air, manures will be but slowly decomposed, and will act but imperfectly on the crop,—if, on the other hand, a complete system of drainage be adopted, manures, (and the roots which have been left in the ground by the previous crop,) will be readily decomposed, and will exercise their full influence on the soil, and on the plants growing in it
Again, manures are more or less effective, in proportion as they are more or less thoroughly mixed with the soil In an undrained, retentive soil, it is not often possible to attain that perfect tilth, which is best suited for a proper admixture, and which is easily given after thorough draining.
The soil must be regarded as the laboratory in which nature, during the season of growth, is carrying on those hidden, but indispensable chemical separations, combinations, and re-combinations, by which the earth is made to bear its fruits, and to sustain its myriad life. The chief demand of this laboratory is for free ventilation The raw material for the work is at hand,—as well in the wet soil as in the dry; but the door is sealed, the damper is closed, and only a stray whiff of air can, now and then, gain entrance,—only enough to commence an analysis, or a combination, which is choked off when half complete, leaving food for sorrel, but making none for grass. We must throw open door and window, draw away the water in which all is immersed, let in the air, with its all destroying, and, therefore, all re-creating oxygen, and leave the forces of nature's beneficent chemistry free play, deep down in the ground. Then may we hope for the full benefit of the fertilizing matters which our good soil contains, and for the full effect of the manures which we add.
With our land thoroughly improved, as has been described, we may carry on the operations of farming with as much certainty of success, and with as great immunity from the ill effects of unfavorable weather, as can be expected in any business, whose results depend on such a variety of circumstances. We shall have substituted certainty for chance, as far as it is in our power to do so, and ■hall have made farming an art, rather than a venture.
Note.—(Third edition.) As Indicated in the note to the third edition at the end of Chapter I, the expression above—"the forces of nature's beneficient chemistry—" should probably read—" the development of bacteria, nature's beneficent agent of final decomposition."
There is reason to suppose that bacterial action is much less energetic "deep down in the ground" than quite near Ihe surface. Certain it is that manuri.il matters to be subjected to the action of these organisms should not be placed so deep in the ground as to be out of the tolerably easy reach of atmospheric air.
HOW TO GO TO WORK TO LAY OUT A SYSTEM 01
How to lay out the drains; where to place the outlet; where to locate the main collecting lines; how to arrange the laterals which are to take the water from the soil and deliver it at the mains; how deep to go; at what intervals; what fall to give; and what sizes of tile to use,— these are all questions of great importance to one who is about to drain land.
On the pi-oper adjustment of thesp points, depend the economy and effectiveness of the work. Time and attention given to them, before commencing actual operations, will prevent waste and avoid failure. Any person of ordinary intelligence may qualify himself to lay out under-drains and to superintend their construction,—but the knowledge which is required does not come by nature. Those who have not the time for the necessary study and practice to make a plan for draining their land, will find it economical to employ an engineer for the purpose. In this era of railroad building, there is hardly a county in America which has not a practical surveyor, who may easily qualify himself, by a study of the principles and directions herein set forth, to lay out an economical plan for draining any ordinary agricultural land, to stake the lines, and to determine the grade of the drains, and the sizes of tile with which they should be furnished. 46
Oil this subject Mr. Gisborne says: "If we should give "a stimulus to amateur draining, we shall do a great deal "of harm. We wish we could publish a list of the moneys "which have been squandered in the last 40 years in amateur • draining, either ineffectually or with very imperfect effi"ciency. O ur o wn name would be inscribed in the list for a "very respectable sum. Every thoughtless squire supposes "that, with the aid of his ignorant bailiff, he can effect a peru feet drainage of his estate; but there is a worse man behind "the squire and the bailiff,—the draining conjuror. * * ««**** These fellows never go direct about their "work. If they attack a spring, they try to circumvent "it by some circuitous route. They never can learn that "nature shows you the weakest point, and that you should "assist her,—that hit him straight in the eye is as good a "maxim in draining as in pugilism. ****** "If you wish to drain, we recommend you to take advice. "We have disposed of the quack, but there is a faculty, "not numerous but extending, and whose extension ap"pears to ns to be indispensable to the satisfactory "progress rf improvements by draining,—a faculty of "draining engineers. If we wanted a profession for a lad "who showed any congenial talent, we would bring him "up to be 9. draining engineer." He then proceeds to speak of his own experience in the matter, and shows that, after more than thirty years of intelligent practice, he employed Mr. Josiah Parkes to lay out and superintend bis work, and thus effected a saving, (after paying all professional charges,) of fully twelve pel cent, on the cost of the draining, which was, at the same time, better executed than any that he had previously done.
It is probable that, in nearly all amateur draining, the unnecessary frequency of the lateral drains; the extravagant size of the pipes used; and the number of useless angles wh'ch result from an unskillful arrangement, would amount tf an expense equal to ten times the cost of the