England - Fertile Fields In Kent
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In Kent, some of the fields remain marvelously fertile after long use. Once nearly all the land was in hops; now hops are grown more cheaply in Oregon and Washington, so many old hop-kilns are used for other things. I saw oats that made 90 bushels to the acre. The people conserve manures, but they do not do this more faithfully than some American farmers today. They use fertilizers more freely, though, and rotate their fields with care. Clovers come often in the rotation and alfalfa occasionally. Alfalfa grows well in many Kentish soils. All these old countries seem, however, full of bad weeds, as quack grass, Canada thistles and docks. Women cut the thistles, while men by hoeing turnips eradicate the quack grass fairly well. I am told that many tenant-farmers are so in debt that they can never repay their landlords, and yet they are not turned out of the farms where they have lived many years—perhaps all their lives. Confidentially, I feel sure that this condition arises from the fact that the farmers do not look intelligently and energetically after their affairs. With fat lambs selling at from $7.50 to $10 each, as has been current here, and other things (except grain) more or less in proportion, it would seem that farming should pay well.
I observed the most puzzling attitude toward the soil. Farmers argue with me that they do not care to own their land; that it does not pay to tie up capital ; that the thing to do is to rent land and put the capital into working it. Mr. Hickman thinks that one ought to have at least $40 per acre as working capital before one attempts to farm. I feel suie that we try in America to work with far too little financial capital. Were I in England, how-ever, I could not escape buying land; the American instinct sets strongly towards land-ownership. I learn that there are many farms for sale in Kent.
Early one Sunday morning I went into the cloyer meadows, where with sharp scythes the men were cutting enough clover for the work horses. I enjoyed helping them, for the scythe was sharp; then, after chatting pleasantly with them for a time, I went back to the house. On the hill a little way off was the old church, with a great tower, whence I think perhaps watchmen once espied to see if the French were coming. The chimes rang in the old tower. After listening a little while, I went to see the ringing, but reached there too late. Not long afterward, however, they rang again, and I ran to see the deed performed. I climbed the narrow, winding stone stairs up into the old tower, where there were six men, each one grimly grasping a • rope and looking with intentness at a board in front of him on which were chalked the directions for making the music. One by one, they swung their big bells; the stirring chimes, sadly sweet, swept out and over all the land. They curiously affected me; it was as a call from the best of the old past to the new and restless present and the uncertain future—a sort of pleading that we heed the spiritual things, recall our most precious memories and not forget. Several tunes were played; it was hard work. The ringers were brawny men; in full action they were in shirt sleeves and Sunday clothes. I was interested to know that they play several times each week; that they never expect or receive pay for this service. As a service of the true sort is its own reward, I think they come out all right, but where in America could we find a counterpart of this l I went then to church. There was an interesting boy choir, but neither vestment nor processional. Mr. Hickman told me that would be considered too "high church" for this parish.