France - The Use Of Chalk
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
I am certain that the Beauce has not what would in the United States be considered a very fertile soil. The small stones in it are of flint. Chalk underlies it, but sometimes it is deep down. Many years ago they mined the chalk out from under fifty feet of earth, as they would mine coal, to put on the. land. Now some of them have ceased to lime their land at all. The result is their alfalfa does not last long. Others still use chalk and have better results. Perhaps I should say that most of them still use chalk; one sees it in great heaps ready to lay on, or the land white with it where applied. Albert Royneau asked me if I knew why they did not raise Percherons, as was done near by, and then told me that it was because in La Perche there was much more lime and phosphorus in the soil. These materials entering the grass roots, build the bones and muscles of the colts for America. He feeds his small pastures, and raises Percherons for America; he applies basic slag in large amounts (getting lime and phosphorus thereby). He also feeds the colts and his lambs calcined bone (burned bones). Why did we never think of that l Burned bones are cheap, easily had and absolutely safe, as there can be no danger of communicating any infection from them. One can get them at a butcher's and easily burn them to whiteness. Nothing is lost but the nitrogen, which is of no use to the animal, and the fat, the lime and phosphorus remain and are more soluble than ever. He adds salt to the burned bone, which he pulverizes. This hint may be worth my trip to France. Henry Dudding used to lime his pastures, and he saw betterment in the lambs' bones.
I took especial pains to inquire of each man as to his neighbors—how they were thriving and so on. Never did I hear a disparaging word said, unless possibly it might be remarked that they did not keep any books and so did not know actually what it cost them to do this or the other thing.