THOSE WHO BEGIN to clear early in the summer, and are any way industrious, may easily have two or three acres ready for fall wheat, which is sown about the end of September or the beginning of October. The seed is steeped a short time in ley, and then rolled in lime or ashes. It is then sown at the rate of one bushel and a quarter to an acre, and is harrowed in with a triangular drag, or where oxen or horses cannot be had in new settlements, it is hoed in; new land needs no other preparation. After this, till spring commences, they should employ the most of their time in chopping land for spring crop. It can be burnt off in spring soon enough for planting. Except during a few very cold days, chopping wood is a comfortable employment in winter as the weather is always dry in that season.
A piece of new land, when ready for crop, is very different, both in its nature and appearance from the land in Britain. The first thing that strikes a person who looks over a new cleared field is the appearance and the number of the stumps. As it would cost too much labour and time to take out the trees by the roots at first when they are fresh, they are cut off about three feet from the ground, and the stumps are left standing till they rot. Hardwood stumps become so rotten in the course of seven or eight years, that they can easily be taken out, but the stumps of pines, hemlock, and all the other species of fir, stand quite fresh for thirty or forty years. The next thing that strikes the attention is the unevenness of the surface. There are, of course, natural inequalities in the surface, but the principal cause of it is the rooting up of trees by the wind, and which tear up a large hump of earth with them. Some of these trees have fallen such a long time ago, that they are entirely rotten away, not a vestige of them is to be seen, and nothing remains but a hillock of earth, and a hole by the side of it. The soil, of whatever kind it is, is covered with a stratum of rich black mould, four or five inches thick, composed of the decayed leaves and other parts of vegetables. This forms an excellent manure for the land, which needs no other for several years. From the number of roots which the ground contains, the distance they run in the ground, and their immensely numerous ramifications, the surface of the ground is completely matted like a turf; but after it has been once cultivated, it is entirely loosened. Rough as the ground at first seems, new settler are very glad to get it that length.
In the end of March and beginning of April the sap of the maple trees is in circulation, and all hands are employed in making sugar. Some who have provided troughs enough to collect the sap, make from 100 to 500 pounds weight. In cold or rainy weather, the trees do not run their sap freely; but, when there is a sharp frost in the night, and a warm sun during the day, the operation succeeds well.
The first thing is to make troughs, which are generally made of black ash, a sort of wood very soft, and easily worked, and of quite a different nature from the ash in Britain. A tree about a foot thick is cut into lengths of three feet. These pieces are split through the middle and the halves hollowed out with an adze, and the ends left about two inches, and the sides and bottom half an inch. A place containing a large proportion of maple trees, commonly called, a sugar bush, is then selected, and the trees are tapped. A hole, an inch and a half or two inches wide, is bored in the south side of the tree. Below this a little way a cut is made with a large gouge, and a spout of the same size and shape put into it; and a trough is then put under it to receive the sap. Some people have as many as two hundred trees running at once, and every tree will yield from two to three pounds of sugar in a season. It requires, in general, about six gallons of sap to make a pound of sugar. Some idea of the strength of the sap may be had from this circumstance that the sap in its natural state is just of a proper sweetness for making tea; but the oftener a tree is run, its sap grows the sweeter. Although the season for making sugar lasts little more than a month, there are often not more than half a dozen days very favourable to making it. A proper place having been selected in the centre of the sugar bush for boiling the sap, a shed is erected to serve as a shelter for those who attend it; a large fire is made, and the sugar kettles hung up: of these there ought always at least to be two; one to boil the sap into molasses, and into which the raw sap is to be put; the other to boil the molasses into sugar. When it is almost well enough boiled, a little milk is put into it, which throws up all the impurities contained in it, so that they can be skimmed off. When it is well enough boiled, (which is known by a little taken on the point of a knife growing hard when dipt in water,) it is poured into moulds, if intended to be kept in cakes; and if it is wished soft, it is stirred till cold, or poured into some vessel with small holes in the bottom of it, when the moist parts of it drain off in molasses, and leave the sugar dry and in a soft state. The trees run little or none during the night, but as the sap cannot be boiled up so quick during the day as it runs, those who are attending to it must boil both night and day; and every sugar-bush must have a reservoir to collect the sap into: this is a large log hollowed out, so that it will contain several hundred gallons. If care is taken in boiling the sugar not to burn it, it can be made in equal whiteness to thy West Indian sugar. It has rather a different taste; but it probably derives its peculiar taste from the sort of wood of which the troughs are made. It can be obtained during the season of making it, at fourpence a pound.
Good vinegar is also made with maple sap. It is boiled into about one sixth; some yeast is put into it to begin fermentation; it is exposed in a stout cask to the heat of the sun during summer, and by spring it is fit for use.
The end of the month of May, and part of June, is the usual seed time. Potatoes, Indian corn, wheat, rye, beans, pease, turnips, pumpkins, melons and cucumbers, are among the productions first reared upon new land. Many of those who settle there are at first poor families, but experience teaches them sometimes to their cost. The soil of Canada is as good as any of North America, and is capable of producing not only the necessaries of life, but many of its luxuries; but the fertility of the soil call do little without skill to manage it properly. Settlers ought always to make a garden, as its productions will greatly add to their comfort. Few kinds of garden stuffs will succeed the first year, as the ground is not sufficiently cultivated. Melons and cucumbers, however, will, and do come as a great perfection in this country as in any other part of the world. They are very refreshing during the great heats in summer, and ought to be attended to by all new settlers. The hoe is almost the only implement of husbandry employed on new land; the ground is so full of roots, that neither a spade nor plough could do anything in it.
Spring wheat and rye ought to be among the first things sown. Rye is sown upon poor land that will not bear wheat. They are reaped in the end of July or the beginning of August; three months being in general, sufficient time for bringing a crop of spring grain to maturity; and it is then secured in barns, this being the custom of the country.
Indian corn is planted in the last half of May. Drills are made about three or four feet separate, and the grains are dropped into these, about a foot from each other. When it is about a foot high, it is weeded and hoed; the suckers which grow out from the roots of the stalks are pulled. As soon as it begins to ripen, the tops are cut off the stalks that the ears of the corn may be more exposed to the sun, and ripen more quickly. When ripe, which is known by the husks that surround the ears turning quite dry, and of a yellow colour, the ears are pulled, the husks are taken off them, and they are either spread upon a floor, or tied in bunches and hung up to dry; after which the corn is rubbed off. The stalks are afterwards cut and secured.
The Indian corn being thinly planted in order admit air, pumpkins are planted here and there amongst it. These spread themselves all over the ground under the corn, and thus two crops are raised at the same time. The pumpkins are a very useful article in domestic cookery; and in feeding cattle they far surpass turnips. An acre cultivated in this manner will produce from thirty to forty bushels of corn, about a thousand pumpkins, averaging each from twelve to forty or fifty pounds weight, and the stalks, which will be about a ton of excellent fodder.
Potatoes are cultivated much in the same manner as Indian corn. A few are planted for early use as soon as possible in the spring, but, for a general crop,they are not planted till near the end of June. Those planted at this time will far surpass in size, quantity and quality, those planted two months earlier. They are generally covered so deep when planted, that they need nothing else done to them till they are taken up in October.
The Americans have another way of planting potatoes and Indian corn, in what they call hills. Four or five sets of potatoes, or grains of corn, are laid down together, and a hillock of earth is made over them about four inches deep and eighteen broad; and these are made about four feet from each other. They plead that this mode is more suited to the climate than the other. I have, however, for the sake of experiment, tried the two ways together, and have found that there is little or no difference, and if any, it is in favour of the drill husbandry. This method certainly has the advantage of the other, when ploughs are used.
Turnips are sown about the middle of July; and when it is a favourable season for them, they generally turn out well; but as they are sometimes rather a precarious crop, their place is much better supplied by pumpkins.
The frost is so intense in winter, that turnips, potatoes, pumpkins, and all kinds of crop that would be injured by it, have to be kept in cellars and root houses under ground.
Beans and pease succeed very well, but especially when cultivated in drills, and put pretty deep into the soil. French beans are more generally cultivated, and succeed better, than any other kind.
I shall not, however, enlarge upon the manner of cultivating every particular article, as it will be uninteresting to those who have no intention of visiting that country, and to those who do go thither, a single day spent where the various kinds of work are going forward will be of more value than a whole volume of written instructions.
As the land is not at first fit for the plough, on account of the roots of the trees, it is, in general, after one or two crops have been taken off it, laid down with grass, and new land is every year cleared for crop, till once there is as much cleared as is intended to be farmed. This affords an opportunity for rearing a large stock of cattle. A farmer may keep as many cattle as he can feed through the winter, for they cost him nothing in summer; they run in the woods, and feed on tender shoots of the young trees, all unenclosed lands being common. On this kind of feeding, the cows do not give so much milk as those in Britain, but it is of a better quality, and yields a great deal more butter. Cattle must have provender provided for them nearly one half of the year; but as settlers have but few at first, they may easily provide for them. In the woods there are numerous meadows, containing from three or four to fifty acres of land, covered with wild grass. On these new settlers can make as much hay in a few days, as their cattle will need through winter. These meadows are occasioned by the beavers, whose dams, on small rivers, cause the water to overflow the low lands in the spring, and prevent the growth of trees; and from this circumstance they are called beaver meadows. Besides this wild hay, the cattle feed a good deal during the winter, on small twigs of the trees that are cut down, and of which they are very fond. They ought now and then to get a little salt, or else they will not thrive; and being accustomed to getting it, they become excessively fond of it. And they ought to have sheds erected for them to lie in during the winter, and so placed as to shelter them from the north-west wind, which in that country is the coldest.
When fifty or sixty acres have been cleared upon a lot, the rest may be left for a sugar bush, for fire-wood, &c. By this time, the piece of land that was first cleared will be fit for the plough. The smaller stumps and the extended roots of the larger ones will now be very easily taken out, so that the plough, in the hands of one who is a little accustomed with this kind of work, will meet with but little obstruction. The plough at first used among the stumps is a kind called the hog plough. It is a very stout clumsy sort of implement, has no coulter, and is calculated for not going very deep.
The grass used in this country is a species called Timothy or fox-tail grass, a sort better adapted to the climate than any other. The rye-grass commonly used in Britain has not sufficient roots to draw up nourishment for itself during the hot season, and in consequence of this it is quite withered up. The Timothy, however, having tremendous roots, succeeds well in a hot climate.
If a person be any way industrious, he may raise as much provision the first year as to support his family, and have some over for sale; and the next year he may be able to sell a large quantity. There is always a little market for farming produce among newly come settlers, and some few who do not farm at all, so that money or other necessaries can be got in exchange for the surplus. In a few years he will have a number of sheep, the wool of which the female part of the family can manufacture into clothing.
The Americans and the Canadians, who have been a considerable time upon their land, make all their own clothing, from the wool of their sheep, and from flax and hemp, which there grow very well. They depend little or none at all upon the markets, making almost every article they use themselves, and in this our settlers must imitate them if they intend to succeed.
Emigrants generally form too high expectations of the country before they see it, because they are too apt to compare it with their own. The consequence is, when they see bad roads and bridges, miserable huts, and the hard labour in a new settlement, most of them become discontented and discouraged, and wish they had remained at home. But the first appearance of it is the worst; they soon become reconciled to their new situation, which every year improves in comfort, and they lay aside all thoughts of returning to their native country. Many of our settlers labour hard at their first settlement; but the prospect of freedom and independence adds oil to the wheels of exertion. The climate, generally speaking, agrees well with British constitutions, and many of the inhabitants live to a great age. Cases of fever and ague sometimes occur but they are, in most instances, among those who obstinately persist in using stagnant water during the hot season of the year. Those who take the trouble of digging a well, which in general may be easily done, obtain excellent water, which may be safely used, if not taken in too great quantities when a person is overheated. If settlers be contented, and get through their difficulties the first two or three years, there is little fear of them afterwards, for by this time they are acquainted with their new mode of living and working. They are getting into a stock of property of different kinds, which is always increasing; and their attachment to the land, which has been the scene of their labours, becomes every year stronger.
The winters in Canada are very severe, though not nearly so much so in the Upper as in the Lower province, the spring opening at least six weeks earlier in the former; but, from the constancy and serenity of the weather, they are upon the whole very pleasant. At first, while clearing land, this is the most suitable time for chopping the wood. A man at exercise of this sort, can keep himself very comfortable even in very cold weather. Afterwards, however, when the settlers have got their farms cleared, they are not so busy, having little to do besides cutting firewood, and taking care of their cattle.
Thus, in a few years, when settlers have got a good part of their farms cleared and brought under cultivation, they may live in a sort of independent state. Having no rents to pay, they may with ease, if they are industrious, raise enough for their support. Money to be sure is not very plentiful; but, as they do not live upon it, this is of no great moment when they have every thing else they need. All the necessaries of life, and many of its luxuries can be raised there; and, if people were contented, they live as comfortably in that country as in any other on the surface of the globe.
Printed by A. Balfour & Co.
Transcribed by Rupert Speyer