The Practical Farmer
Containing many New Improvements in Husbandry.
By William Ellis
of Little Gaddesden in Hertfordshire
(5th Edition 1759)
The book begins with Ellis's methods of "mehorating the soil". Gaddesden farmers, he says, dress their soil with chalk, dung, horn shavings, coney clippings, rags and soot, which are "all great Mellowers of Earth". He recommends farmers to keep tame rabbits—"great improvers of a Farm. Their dung is sold here for sixpence a Bushel trod down."
Pigeon's dung fetches 10d, a bushel. And the best breeds are "Barbels, Jacks, Crappers, Carriers, Runts, Horsemen, Tumblers, and Great Reds". Forty pair of pigeons well looked after will maintain a single man.
Of seed wheat he says he sowed Old Red Lammas, Yellowlammas, and Dugdale. "But the most convenient for our Chiltern lands is Pirky Wheat."
He recommends the dressing of seeds. "Boil a Bushel of grain in 5 pails of water. Strain liquor, give grain to fowls. Add 3 lbs. of Nitre and 5 pails of Urine. Steep grain 24 hours. Dry grain, sifting lime over it. "Sow 1/3 less than usual and you will assuredly Benefit by Twenty Fold."
He is a great believer in urine as a plant dressing, saying: "I knew a Vine, at the Back Door of a Publick House that had a Little Bank raised above the Root, in this the Guests frequently piss'd, and it produced more Grapes, every year, than any one Vine in these Parts."
He gives much advice on the care of cows (though Kalm says he had but two). "Clover", he says, "will feed as many Cattle on one Acre as 3 Acres of grass will do. Eight Acres will feed twenty plough horses most Part of the Summer," He warns his reader to fill his cow well with hay, and then with grass, before turning her in to clover, so that having "glutted herself with two sorts of meat, she feeds leisurely and so escapes being burst with Wind which a hasty Bellyful of Clover generally occasions".
Should the cow, however, ignore your precautions and become "hove", you may try these remedies:
A quart of Buttermilk.
Urine, with a handful of salt.
An Eggshell full of Tar.
A Red Herring (the Head and Tail cut off) dip't in Tar.
"For a Cow that pisses Blood.
"Toast a piece of Bread, and cover it well with Tar and give it. It's occasioned, some say, by their brouzing on Oak leaves, etc. A Frog put down a Cow's Throat, and she immediately drove into Water, will directly piss clear. It's a present Cure."
For the Blain, you must first bleed your cow, then give a handful of salt in a pint of water, "then directly ram a whole Egg down her throat".
Part of a description of the book taken from Little Gaddesden by Vicars Bell, Faber & Faber, 1959
At the time this page was last updated new second hand copies could be ordered online, if you have circa £1700 to spare
Page updated April 2005