The following letter has been received from a tenant farmer, who has practised the Clifton Park system. The description of his method of taking turnips after lea will be found most valuable:
Dear Mr. Elliot,
I have much pleasure in giving you a few of my opinions as to what I have learned from your Clifton-on-Bowmont experiments, and the truths contained in your book, Agricultural Changes. From my own experience of the Clifton methods of rotation and seeding carried out during the last few years, I can speak with absolute certainty, and I am perfectly satisfied that much of the poorer land in the south of Scotland could be immensely improved by changes in the system of cropping such as you suggest. One only needs to consider the saving of manure bills, and the increase of crops by at least 20 to 40 per cent both of grain and roots grown from land that has been rested in good grass, and good grass means good live stock and more of it. It also means a less labour bill, or rather a better paying labour bill. It also means, and this is no small consideration, cleaner land, freer from weeds and couch -- so prevalent in the old four and five course rotations -- and thistles in particular, as this pest can only be eradicated by successive cultivation of the soil over a course of years, a fact patent to all visitors to Clifton-on-Bowmont. Four years ago I selected one of my best fields for experiment on Clifton lines, and I am pleased to say with extraordinary results. My first turnip crop, taken after good grass which had lain four years, produced over thirty tons per acre. A crop of Banner oats following thrashed out at eighty bushels per acre. The succeeding swede crop of 1906, on which the East of Scotland College Manure and Variety tests were made -- and a very indifferent turnip season at that -- averaged a little over twenty-nine tons. The last crop of the rotation has now (1907) been reaped, viz. barley, which is by far the best crop of that grain on the farm. The field is now sown down with selected seeds. of the best quality to lie in grass four, or more years. Now,'facts are chiels that winna ding', and it goes without saying that the excellent results obtained from the said field would also hold good on other fields and other farms.
I have often received enquiries as to the difficulty of taking turnips after old lea, and I admit that there are difficulties on certain soils, and under certain conditions, but I am convinced from my own experience that on moderately deep soils, heavy or light, there is, on the contrary, an immense saving of labour. My method is to plough early in November, if possible, using a wheeled plough fitted with the long Scotch type of mould and skim coulter. With such a plough a few inches of the grass rim is neatly turned into the bottom of the furrow forming a cushion which keeps the land dry, and open to the frost, at the same time thoroughly rotting what would otherwise be half-growing turf if ploughed in the ordinary way. The preparation of such land in the spring for the turnip crop is of the simplest and easiest possible, nothing more being required than a double run with the harrows or a run through with the cultivator, taking care not to disturb the buried turf, which by the month of May will be in a perfectly decomposed or rotted condition to feed the growing plants. The single operation of drilling up lightly with a ridging plough completes the operation, leaving the very finest seed bed possible, so necessary for a good braird of turnips. I have grown turnips year after year in that way and on all kinds of soil, and have never experienced the slightest difficulty, and invariably the crop has equalled if not surpassed the stubble break heavily dunged and manured and costing double the amount for labour. Now, sir, in a country such as this, where the breeding and feeding of sheep is so successfully carried on, and which is by far the best paying live stock on the farm, and likely to continue so for years to come, I think many farmers who raise and feed sheep will agree with me, that a good crop of turnips produced from the lea break on the above or any other method, is of immensely more value than a crop of oats, taking one year with another. I am sure you have proved conclusively by the object lesson of Clifton-on-Bowmont, that considerable changes in our system of cropping and seeding would be of immense advantage on most of the land in the south of Scotland at present starved for the want of better grasses, clover sick, and crop sick for the want of change. Everything must change, and, however well our old rotations have worked in the past under different conditions, I thoroughly agree with you that the time has come when new methods must be adopted. Science teaches us how to maintain the fertility of the soil, not by artificial manuring, but from Nature's own laboratory, free nitrogen from the air by the aid of deep-rooted plants and clovers. Let us take the best means, and every means to assist nature, and in the end she will prove no niggard in her gifts. I have not attempted to cover half the ground I might do in giving my experience of farming and crop growing by different methods. If you have any further enquiries to make in reference to the same I will only be too pleased to give you my experience.
I remain, yours respectfully,
(Signed) W. R. Murray.
Charterhouse, Kelso, N.B
28th October 1907.
Our system at Clifton-on-Bowmont is to plough the field first of all in the ordinary way, and afterwards to plough it diagonally. The field is afterwards harrowed, and the turf is then found to be divided into such small pieces that there is no difficulty in preparing the land for turnips. Mr. Murray's system is not suited to our Clifton-on-Bowmont farm, the soil of which is of uneven depth.
The Opinion of a Well-known Border Agriculturist about the Farming and Stocking of Clifton-on-Bowmont Farm
Linton Bankhead, Kelso,
25th September 1907.
In answer to yours of the 10th inst., regarding the farming and stocking of Clifton-on-Bowmont, I would like to say at the outset that I have had great pleasure in going there several times a year for the past nineteen years, and that I have not only admired the success of your various experiments with new grasses, but have also so much appreciated the same that I have adopted many of them for our regular five course rotation, and find great benefit from doing so.
Now, as to farming and stocking Clifton-on-Bowmont, as a tenant, I would assume it to carry about forty-five score of ewes with their hoggs (but numbers does not matter much as my arguments will apply in the same proportions to smaller numbers). I should still have kept at least three pairs of horses, and made from fifty to sixty acres of turnips every year, either from lea, old grass, or from oat stubble; thus, every year getting young grass from the crop sown with seeds after turnips, so very valuable for ewes and twin lambs. I look on Clifton-on-Bowmont as one of those farms that can be almost self-sustaining as regards stocking, and this leads me to that part of the subject. Now, assuming forty-five score ewes, I should have divided them into thirty score half-breds and fifteen score Cheviots, keeping the Cheviots on the west side of the farm and the half-breds on Shereburgh and Sunnyside, taking half-bred lambs of the Cheviot ewes of older ages if kept to five years old, and Cheviot lambs of the gimmers and young ewes, thus breeding on the farm ewe lambs to keep up the half-bred stock, possibly needing to replenish the Cheviot ewe stock by buying first-class Cheviot ewe lambs to make up what may be short. Then the half-bred ewes would have mated with halfbred rams, and being very careful in selecting the truest type of halfbred ewe lambs from the ewes and gimmers which I was sure were out of Cheviot ewes, so as not to get too far away from Cheviot blood, for hardiness, and nursing mothers. Thus, with fifty to sixty acres of turnips, and a fair, liberal allowance of other feeding stuffs at certain seasons to both ewes and hoggs, all the lambs and drafts for sale could, I think, be easily brought out in good condition. Also, having 100 acres or thereby of crop would have maintained a goodly number of best stirks, letting them run out during the day most of the winter, bringing them out for sale in early spring, the best of them in good condition ready to finish off on grass, and either sell the smaller and thinner sorts, or graze and sell them in autumn, buying in younger cattle then, according to crop and prospects of keep.
There is no need for me to go into detail as to what fields to crop because you have so much scope to select whatever the man on the spot in any given season should think would be most suitable, and I would not bind him down even to take a white crop after turnips in every year, as on some of the outlying land a crop of turnips eaten on the ground and then sown out with a suitable mixture of grasses, of which you are an acknowledged expert, might very well be the most profitable.
Such would have been my lines of farming when you entered, and I do not think that, for another period of fifteen to twenty years, it would need much, if any, variation.
We cannot get good sheep for fattening purposes -- half-bred, three-quarter-bred, Oxford, or any other cross -- without their mothers having a certain amount of turnips for their health's sake; and to keep up a good standard of half-bred ewes is for all this district the keystone of our business, so far as has yet been found out.
Hoping that I have answered your queries as desired,
W. G. Hogarth.
Robert H. Elliot, Esq.,
Clifton Park, Kelso, N.B.
Next: Appendix 8
Back to Contents
Back to Small Farms Library index
Community development | Rural development
City farms | Organic gardening | Composting | Small farms | Biofuel | Solar box cookers
Trees, soil and water | Seeds of the world | Appropriate technology | Project vehicles
Home | What people are saying about us | About Handmade Projects
Projects | Internet | Schools projects | Sitemap | Site Search | Donations | Contact us