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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 47

Mode of clearing Land

Mode of clearing Land.

The immigrant is often attracted by a fern-covered prairie, or by "brush" land, covered only with alders, willows, &c.

The fern is troublesome, and is only entirely removed by successive cropping. It is cut year after year in early summer, and the land then ploughed and cross ploughed. Some use tiles for wet fern lands. In reclaiming "brush" land, one way is to make an open ditch, three feet wide, and as deep as the drainage will admit. Next summer the vegetable matter on the surface will burn, which kills the roots, and frequently lays the brush as though it had been "slashed;" burn again the following summer, and with a little labour the land will be ready for winter wheat. Another way which is adopted often on bottom land, timbered with maple, ash, and only a few firs, is to "slash" (cut small growth) all but the large growth, felling all one way as much as possible. The best time to do this is through the months of June or July, when the sap is at its highest. After the trees have lain one or two months fire is set to them in different places. When there is much small brush, it should be piled upon the larger growth. Care must be taken before fire is set that there is no brush or other inflammable substance near the dwelling or outbuildings. Some farmers cut the vine-maple off about six feet from the ground; take a yoke of cattle, "hitch on" to the top of these stubs, and "snake" them out. The soil being loose and the main roots near the top of the ground, it is not difficult to cut with an axe any root that may hold fast. I have seen patches of excellent wheat, the ground for which had never been ploughed up.

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The farmer stated that after "snaking" out the roots and sowing the wheat he took a yoke of cattle and dragged a large brush, made of branches, over the ground, to smooth it down and cover the wheat. The crop on one of the patches (a few acres) was a volunteer crop (second year without sowing), and promised to be good.

The large trees on a heavily wooded farm are usually felled in the following way:—Take a long shanked auger, and in a standing tree bore two holes, one above the other, at an angle, so that they will meet some distance inside. Introduce lighted pitch faggots into the upper hole. The flame draws air from the lower hole, and acts like a blow pipe. The inside of the tree beneath the sap burns quickly, and in a short time a huge furnace roars, which can often be heard at a considerable distance. The sappy outside does not burn, and thus a mere shell of the tree is left. This shell is chopped through on the side of the tree on which it is desired it should fall, and the tree comes down with a crash.

The usual price for "slashing" is from ten to twelve dollars (40s. to 48s. English) per acre, cutting all down (except the large growth) and piling it up ready for burning.

The best and cheapest team a farmer can have is a good yoke of cattle. They can make their own living, and it costs but little to rig them for work. They are the best adapted for the kind of work usually done on a new farm.