Original Document
Original Document
John Bordley, from Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs, 1801

On the turn of middle age and whilst gradually quitting public employments, the author sat down on a farm in Maryland, and became enthusiastically fond of husbandry. Farmers in the neighborhood informed him of their modes of practice; but they taught him nothing of the principles of the art. Whilst they knew how to practice in the manner common to the country, he knew neither principles nor practice; but began however with observing their practices, which he continued to imitate; until gaining information from a number of instructive experiments, he was encouraged to deviate from some of them; and became more and more assured that great improvements might be made by professed farmers, in this first of all employments, if they could be brought to relinquish the worst of their habits.

It was hoped the Society of Agriculture in Philadelphia would have induced farmers, in Pennsylvania at least, to seek improvement in better practices. Success was chiefly looked for from persons who becoming farmers had been of other professions (soldiers, sailors, &c.) and were never trained to follow mere habits, unexamined; and moreover whose support should not altogether depend on the produce of their farms; but who with minds unshackled, would practice upon well digested and approved principles tested by experiments.

Little essays have been occasionally written and dispersed amongst his friends ; which with others hitherto remaining in manuscript pertaining also to the concerns of husbandmen and country affairs, compose the present work. If fortunately they shall induce improvements and better attentions, for assuring competency with domestic and social comforts, his first wish will be accomplished....

"Crops expended in food to livestock"

"A Table of Food Expended on Live Stock" (To be included later)

...Dung yearly procured form the above stock of cattle, sheep and hogs, maybe; from the cattle 820 loads, the sheep, 180; the hogs 60: in all 1060 loads. At ten loads an acre, the 1060 loads, together with the other manure proposed, is dung enough for 100 acres. 20 loads of such rich dung, to an acre, would be a good manuring alone: but the 1060 loads, laid on one of the fields of 30 acres, give about 35 loads an acre; which are abundant. A variety of manures is desirable: gypsum, lime, raw lime stone and shells in dust, marl, clay, etc.

If no more livestock were kept, then should be necessary for labor and food on the farm, and all the crops were sold off, the income for a few years might, at the most, a little exceed what could be derived from a full stock of beasts kept on the farm, and fattened for the market. But how great the injustice to the soil! to what a heartless, unproductive state it would soon be reduced!-this it is which, with idle or wasteful habits, rivets on country families frequent want, poverty, and debts, oft times in the midst of a deceitful appearance of plenty?

It is presumed the soil of the farm under consideration is in good heart; and in a way of becoming better from a mode of farming far superior to what is seen in the countries, of America, south of Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania and the eastern states, quick renewals of clover, in entire fields, are coming into practice; and with various manures are seen to restore abused soil, and yearly improve it. But in the country of noted bad husbandry there is only seen, what is bragged of, here in there a lot, a patch of clover: a narrow aim at doing something. It feeds a favorite horse; but there is nothing done towards improving entire fields: no system of great object or design is in view. A third of the whole arable of farms sown with clover yearly upon small grain, and cut one season, then plowed in together with the remains of old stubble, might be expected gradually to improve soil from the small clover nibbles, to stout clover cut. Whilst this course of improvement is in practice, all sorts of manures are to be unceasingly added. Here let it be repeated that, it is not immediate income alone which the provident farmer aims at: for whilst he wishes to attain annual full crops, he knows it is necessary for the purpose, that the soil should be preserved in full vigor. His cares are therefore chiefly applied to the means of preserving and improving the productive powers of the earth: and he sees that no random pursuits can insure a succession of advantageous husbandry.

John Bordley, Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs (Philadelphia: Budd and Bartram, 1801) iv-v, 63-68.

Back to Top