The Fat of the Land eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 282 pages of information about The Fat of the Land.

CHAPTER LVIII

BACTERIA

January, February, and March passed with more than the usual snow and rain,—­fully ten inches of precipitation; but the spring proved neither cold nor late.  During these three months we sold butter to the amount of $1283, and $747 worth of eggs; in all, $2030.

The ploughs were started in the highest land on the 11th of April, and were kept going steadily until they had turned over nearly 280 acres.

I decided to put the whole of the widow’s field into corn, lots 8, 12, and 15 (84 acres) into oats, and 50 acres of the orchards into roots and sweet fodder corn.  Number 13 was to be sown with buckwheat as soon as the rye was cut for green forage.  I decided to raise more alfalfa, for we could feed more to advantage, and it was fast gaining favor in my establishment.  It is so productive and so nutritious that I wonder it is not more generally used by farmers who make a specialty of feeding stock.  It contains as much protein as most grains, and is wholesome and highly palatable if properly cured.  It should be cut just as it is coming into flower, and should be cured in the windrow.  The leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant, and they are apt to fall off if the cutting be deferred, or if the curing be done carelessly.

Lot No. 9 was to be fitted for alfalfa as soon as the season would permit.  First, it must receive a heavy dressing of manure, to be ploughed under.  The ordinary plough was to be followed in this case by a subsoiler, to stir the earth as deep as possible.  When the seed was sown, the land was to receive five hundred pounds an acre of high-grade fertilizer, and one hundred pounds an acre of infected soil.

The peculiar bacterium that thrives on congenial alfalfa soil is essential to the highest development of the plant.  Without its presence the grass fails in its chief function—­the storing of nitrogen—­and makes but poor growth.  When the alfalfa bacteria are abundant, the plant flourishes and gathers nitrogen in knobs and bunches in its roots and in the joints of its stems.

I sent to a very successful alfalfa grower in Ohio for a thousand pounds of soil from one of his fields, to vaccinate my field with.  This is not always necessary,—­indeed, it rarely is, for alfalfa seed usually carry enough bacteria to inoculate favorable soils; but I wished to see if this infected soil would improve mine.  I have not been able to discover any marked advantage from its use; the reason being that my soil was so rich in humus and added manures that the colonies of bacteria on the seeds were quite sufficient to infect the whole mass.  Under less favorable conditions, artificial inoculation is of great advantage.

Wonderful are the secrets of nature.  The infinitely small things seem to work for us and the infinitely large ones appear suited to our use; and yet, perhaps, this is all “seeming” and “appearing.”  We may ourselves be simply more advanced bacteria, working blindly toward the solution of an infinite problem in which we are concerned only as means to an end.

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The Fat of the Land from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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