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HEDGING AND DITCHING.
wood, made to turn and support a timber frame of great weight, which sometimes is further increased by laying upon it a heavy piece of timber, a waggon-wheel, or some such ponderous body. This machine presses the earth and roots close, and levels many little hillocks which would otherwise encounter the mower's scythe, and take off its edge.
During the winter season, when there may not be much else to employ the men, the repairs of hedges, ditches, and other improvements, are usually attended to; as also the cutting and faggoting of any underwood, roots, or logs, to which the farmer can lay claim.
The division of enclosures by hedges and ditches occupies more ground than other fences, it is true; but they are generally less expensive, and a hedge, unlike a wall, or a rail, naturally keeps itself in repair. Gaps and deficiencies are chiefly occasioned by cattle and wanton boys. When a new hedge and ditch are wanted, the ground is carefully marked out, and a line stretched along it, to guide the digger. He first pares off the turf, if any, and rolls it on one side. Then he proceeds to remove the earth, to the width, perhaps, of about five feet at top, and slopes the sides down, to the depth, it may be, of three feet, with a bottom of one foot wide, throwing the soil up on one side, ready to be formed into the bank. If the purpose be merely to divide land occupied by the same person,
may not signify on which side the embankment is made. But if it is to be a partition between my estate and my neighbour's, I must not, of course, intrude upon his ground at all, either for hedge or ditch. The boundary line therefore between us, I must make
HEDGING AND DITCHING.
the further side of my ditch; the earth I must lay on my own ground; so that hedge and ditch both belong to me. Persons are apt to think that the hedge and bank form the boundary line between estates; but this is a mistake. The side, or top edge, of the ditch furthest from the bank, must be the division of the property.
Good workmanship is very conspicuous in hedging and ditching performed by a competent hand. The sides, edges, and bottom, , are expected to be as true to their proper form, as if wrought in a brick mould. If they are not so, the water hangs, where it ought to run, the bank crumbles down, and the employer very justly complains. The bank is planted with young hedge-shrubs, or sown with furze or broom, or else furnished with a dead fence of bushes stuck in and wattled together.
Old hedges are much improved by thinning, topping, and laying. A quantity of the old wood is taken out. The younger branches are then chopped nearly off, close to the root, taking care always to leave a small width of the living bark. The branches are then laid down almost horizontally, and tied to stakes, or to each other. The consequence is, those branches, instead of growing, as before, to a useless height, and scanty at bottom, send forth a multitude of shoots, which thicken the lower part of the hedge ; nor does the wound inflicted by the hedge-hook make any material difference in the growth after the first season.
The wood thus taken out is either employed to stop gaps in other hedges, or faggoted for the oven.
As I have, in a former little work, “ THE FOREST,” explained most of the processes of wood-cutting, splitting, and tying,
DESTRUCTION OF VERMIN.
I shall not say any thing further here of those particulars of rural labour.
The winter is a convenient time also to mend roads, public and private ; but sometimes this must be done in the summer. The farmer is allowed, instead of paying money for that purpose, to employ his team and carts for the repair of those by-ways in his parish which are not provided for by toll-gates.
Winter, though not the season, generally, for military enterprise, is not a bad time for the farmer to proceed against very many of his enemies, with all the advantages of arms, engines, and generalship, which he may possess; and I am not sure that the destruction of our innumerable agricultural foes would not be a greater benefit than the most complete and splendid victory over our worst foreign enemies. The malignant and grievous hosts,