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Farm Implements

A good workman, it is said, does not quarrel with his tools--which, if

true, I judge is due to the fact that he generally manages to have good

ones. To work hard throughout a long day under a burning sun, is

sufficiently trying, without rendering the labor doubly repugnant by the

use of ill-contrived, imperfect, inefficient implements.

The half-century which nearly bounds my recollection has witnessed great

> improvements in this respect. The Plow, mainly of wood, wherewith my

father broke up his stony, hide-bound acres of New-Hampshire pebbles and

gravel, in my early boyhood, would now be spurned if offered as a gift

to the poorest and most thriftless farmer among us; and the Hoes which

were allotted to us boys in those days, after the newer and better had

been assigned to the men, would be rejected with disdain by the

stupidest negro in Virginia. Though there is still room for improvement,

we use far better implements than our grandfathers did, with a

corresponding increase in the efficiency of our labor; but the

cultivators of Spain, Portugal, and the greater part of Europe, still

linger in the dark ages in this respect. Their plows are little better

than the forked sticks which served their barbarian ancestors, and their

implements generally are beneath contempt. With such implements, deep

and thorough culture is simply impossible, unless by the use of the

spade; and he must be a hard worker who produces a peck of Wheat or half

a bushel of Indian Corn per day by the exclusive use of this tool. The

soil of France is so cut up and subdivided into little strips of two or

three roods up to as many acres each--each strip forming the entire

patrimony of a family--that agricultural advancement or efficiency is,

with the great mass of French cultivators, out of the question. Hence, I

judge that, outside of Great Britain and Australia, there is no country

wherein an average year's work produces half so much grain as in our

own, in spite of our slovenly tillage, our neglect and waste of

fertilizers, and the frequent failures of our harvests. Belgium,

Holland, and northern France, can teach us neatness and thoroughness of

cultivation; the British isles may fairly boast of larger and surer

crops of Wheat, Oats, Potatoes, and Grass, than we are accustomed to

secure; but, in the selection of implements, and in the average

efficiency of labor, our best farmers are ahead of then all.

Bear with me, then, while I interpose a timid plea for our inventors and

patentees of implements, whose solicitations that a trial, or at least

an inspection, be accorded to their several contrivances, are too often

repelled with churlish rudeness. I realize that our thriving farmers

are generally absorbed in their own plans and efforts, and that the

agent or salesman who insists on an examination of his new harrow, or

pitchfork, or potato-digger, is often extravagant in his assumptions,

and sometimes a bore. Still, when I recollect how tedious and how

back-breaking were the methods of mowing Grass and reaping Grain with

the Scythe and Sickle, which held unchallenged sway in my early boyhood,

I entreat the farmer who is petitioned to accord ten or fifteen minutes

to the setting forth, by some errant stranger, of the merits of his new

horse-hoe or tedder, to give the time, if he can; and that without sour

looks or a mien of stolid incredulity. The Biblical monition that, in

evincing a generous hospitality, we may sometimes entertain angels

unawares, seems to me in point. A new implement may be defective and

worthless, and yet contain the germ or suggest the form of a thoroughly

good one. Give the inventor or his representative a courteous hearing if

you can, even though this should constrain you to make up the time so

lost after the day's work would otherwise have ended.

I suspect that the average farmer of our completely rural districts

would be surprised, if not instructed, by a day's careful scrutiny of

the contents of one of our great implement warehouses. So many and such

various and ingenious devices for pulverizing the earth applying

fertilizers to the soil, planting or sowing rapidly, eradicating weeds,

economizing labor in harvesting, etc., will probably transcend not

merely his experience, but his imagination; and every one of these

myriad implements is useful in its place, though no single farmer can

afford to buy all or half of them. It will yet, I think, be found

necessary by the farmers of a school-district, if not of a township, to

meet and agree among themselves that one will buy this implement,

another that, and so on, until twenty or thirty such devices as a Stump

or Rock-Puller, a Clod-Crusher, Thrashing-Machine, Fanning-Mill, etc.,

shall be owned in the neighborhood--each by a separate farmer, willing

to live and let live--with an understanding that each shall be used in

turn by him who needs it; and so every one shall be nearly as well

accommodated as though he owned them all.

For the number and variety of useful implements increase so rapidly,

while their usefulness is so palpable, that, though it is difficult to

farm efficiently without many if not most of them, it is impossible that

the young farmer of moderate means should buy and keep them all. True,

he might hire when he needed, if what he wanted were always at hand; but

this can only be assured by some such arrangement as I have suggested,

wherein each undertakes to provide and keep that which he will most

need; agreeing to lend it whenever it can be spared to any other member

of the combination, who undertakes to minister in like manner to his

need in return.

I think few will doubt that the inventions in aid of Agriculture during

the last forty years will be far surpassed by those of the forty years

just before us. The magnificent fortunes which, it is currently

understood, have rewarded the inventors of the more popular Mowers,

Reapers, etc., of our day, are sure to stimulate alike the ingenuity and

the avarice of clever men throughout the coming years, and to call into

existence ten thousand patents, whereof a hundred will be valuable, and

ten or twelve eminently useful. Plowing land free from stumps and stones

cannot long be the tedious, patience-trying process we have known it.

The machinery which will at once pulverize the soil to a depth of two

feet, fertilize and seed it, not requiring it to be trampled by the

hoofs of animals employed in subsoiling and harrowing, will soon be in

general use, especially on the spacious, deep, inviting prairies of the

Great West.--But I must defer what I have to say of Steam and its uses

in Agriculture to another chapter.