VII. PREPARATION OF THE LAND FOR TILLAGE OPERATIONS (cont.)
Land, when subjected to the plough for the first time, abounds not unfrequently with abrupt hollows and protuberances, which impede tillage operations. These can be readily leveled by means of a box shaped like a huge, dust-pan, the front part being shod with iron, and a pair of handles attached behind. This leveling-box is drawn by a pair of horse. Being directed against a prominent part, it scoops up its fill of soil, with which it slides along sledge-fashion to the place where it is to discharge its load, which it does by canting over, on the ploughman disengaging the handles.
In all parts of Great Britain, abundance of pasture land, and often tillage land, also, is to be met with lying in broad, highly raised, serpentine ridges. These seem to have originated when teams of six or eight bullocks were used in ploughing; and it has been suggested that this curvature of the ridges at first arose from its being easier to turn these long teams at the end of each land by sweeping round in a curve than by driving straight out. The very broad headlands found in connection with these curved ridges our peasantry, that "water runs better in a crooked furrow than in a straight one." And has probably been handed down since the discovered awkwardness of curved ridges was first seen to need some plausible apology. These immense, wave like ridges are certainly a great annoyance to the modern cultivator; but still the sudden leveling of them in accompanied with so much risk, that it is usually better to cut drains in the intervening hollows, and plough aslant them in straight lines, by which means a gradual approximation to a level surface is made. A field in our own occupation, which was leveled, by cleaving down the old crooked ridges, fifty years ago, still shows, by alternate curving bands of greater and less luxuriance, the exact site of the crowns and furrows of the ancient ridges.
But for its tediousness and costliness, trenching two or three spits deep by spade or fork is certainly the most effectual means for at once removing obstructions, leveling the surface, and perfecting the drainage by thoroughly loosening the subsoil. For the reasons mentioned, it is seldom resorted to on a large scale. But it is becoming a common practice, with careful farmers, to have those patches of grounds in the corners, and by the fences of fields, which are missed in ploughing, gone over with the trenching-fork. The additional crop thus obtained may fail to compensate for this hand-tillage, but it is vindicated on the ground that these corners and margins are the nurseries of weed which it is profitable to destroy.
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