Centreville, Wayne County, Indiana, December 24th, 1850.
Sir: In answer to the interrogatories contained in your Agricultural Circular, a copy of which I have received, I will endeavor to give the information required, so far as my limited means will permit. As the nature and quality of the soil is connected with agriculture, I will merely state that a tenacious clay soil prevails in our county, with a subsoil of the same, except our creek bottoms, which are a black loam. A large proportion of the timber is beech and sugar-maple, with hickory, oak, ash, poplar, walnut, and cherry. In agriculture, we are in what might be termed a transition state: done making farms and beginning to farm. Much interest is manifested by some in receiving and imparting knowledge on the subject and in procuring improved implements of husbandry. The result of this wholesome condition on the farming community was the organization of the Wayne County Agricultural Society.
Wheat.The white and red-chaff bearded are the kinds generally cultivated. The velvet and Mediterranean are sown, but not extensively. The velvet is much esteemed, and more of it will be sown than formerly. The Mediterranean yields more per acre and is least liable to casualties; but it has a soft straw, which renders it liable to lodge. Probable average yield per acre, 19 bushels. Time of seeding from the last of August to the 10th of October: from the 5th of the 15th September is preferred. Harvesting, the last week of June and the first week of July. Quantity sown per acre, 1 ¼ to 1 ½ bushel, the latter quantity to be preferred on strong land. One ploughing, from 4 to 5 inches deep is all the land usually gets. By means of a better method of farming, and our lands having been longer in cultivation, the quantity of straw is diminished, and that of grain increased, while the number of acres sown has increased threefold in consequence of the improvements in roads and the building of mills, which afford a ready cash market. We have no established system of rotation of crops, but are governed by circumstances or the nature of the soil. The practice of sowing wheat on the same field one, two, and three years in succession is finding favour with some. Many sow after corn; but we do not get so good a crop as on fallow ground or stubble. The difficulties that the wheat-grower here has to contend with are the Hessian-fly, freezing out, and rust. Manure is considered a good remedy against all of them. Sowing on sward is the best preventive against freezing out. Average price per acre for 1850, 60 cents per bushel.
Corn.This great staple of the farmer is a crop of the first importance with us, and, whatever mishaps befall other crops, this always comes forward and takes us through. It is planted from the 24th of April to the 1st of June. From the 1st to the 10th of May is best, 4 quarts of seed to the acre. We have a white gourd-seed corn, with a red cob, much esteemed in favour with some for feeding stock. Probable average product per acre, 40 bushels. It is difficult to make an accurate estimate of the cost per bushel for raising corn, for the difference in quality of the soil would make a difference of 10 per cent. in raising. The following is an estimate for a medium quality of land:--For ploughing, 75 cents per acre; harrowing, 35 cents; marking, planting, and seed 60 cents; one harrowing and three plantings, $1.50; interest for the land, $1.20; total cost for one acre, $4.40, or 11 cents per bushel. The great art of raising corn consists in keeping the ground free from weeds, and well pulverized about the roots while it is young, and stirring the soil deep.
Clover and Grasses.Our meadows will average one ton per acre. Timothy is best, though, on land somewhat worn, equal parts of clover and timothy are sown, say from 4 to 6 quarts to the acre. Cost growing hay, 2.60 per ton.
Dairy husbandry is not followed here as a business. Our surplus butter is sold in our towns at an average of 10 cents per pound.
Neat Cattle.Some attempts have been made to introduce the Durhams among us, and judging from the results produced by crossing them with our native stock, I feel assured that great good would result from having a full-blooded Durham bull in every neighborhood. As regards the cost of rearing until three years old, the best answer I can give is, that it is not worth the price they would dell for at that age, which is from $16 to $18 per head. Pasturage is worth 50 cents per month, and wintering on corn fodder and straw, about the same. Good cows sell from $14 to $16 each the year round.
Sheep and Wool.In a country like ours, where the land is nearly all adapted to agricultural purposes, the growing of wool cannot be profitable at present prices. The number of lambs annually raised is about two-thirds that of the ewes. Sheep do well here; and, if farmers would so arrange it as to have the lambs come in spring, there would be very few lost.
Hogs.What are the best breeds? This question reminds me of the farmer who was noted for good-looking porkers, and, on being asked of what breed they were, answered by pointing to his corn-crib. Notwithstanding the old farmers opinion of the potency of a large and well-filled corn-crib in making a good breed of hogs, there are some varieties that show fuller and more palpable evidence of the benefits of said crib than others. The Irish graziers are most esteemed here. While corn is so cheap and so easily raised as at present, feeding it to hogs in the ear is thought to be the best plan; and adding corn meal, is a method worthy the attention of farmers. Root crops are only raised for family use.
Fruit culture is receiving attention, but it is not much used as a food for stock.
Potatoes are considered preferable for that purpose. Orchards have suffered far more from th "fire-blight" during the past season than in any previous year, which has been attributed to an exceedingly dry season. Those on dry localities have suffered most. All attempts to raise peach-trees have proved unavailing for the last eight or ten years, in consequence of the "yellows."
Manure.When it accumulates about our barns and stables, so as to be in the way, we generally remove the nuisance to our fields, instead of pulling down our buildings. I am under obligations to you for a package of lucerne, or French clover seed. It came up, and grew well, but after it had attained 4 to 6 inches in height it was nearly destroyed by an insect at the root. The Germans say it will grow there. Oats not sown as much as formerly ; it is thought to be an exhausting crop. Average yield per acre, 25 bushels. Barley not much raised ; is not so hard on the soil as oats ; average per acre, 20 bushels. Rye, hardly any sown. Peas and beans raised only for family use