« PrejšnjaNaprej »
required for home consumption. Much of this grain is cut while green and made into hay.
Wild Oats—When California became first known to Americans the face of the country was nearly everywhere covered with wild oats. Though parched in the long summer, the grain held firmly in its capsule and supplied the most fattening pasture. It still prevails outside of cultivation, furnishing a large proportion of the hay in use in many localities. It differs from tame oats in being smaller, and in this peculiarity, that it has bearded projections, with bended joints, like the legs of the grasshopper. When the first rain comes it limbers out the joints, which being dried by the sun, after the rain, shrink, causing the berry to hop about, giving it a wide distribution over the land. The wild oat, though differing materially, is probably a climatic deterioration of the tame oats brought here by the Spanish missionaries some seventy years ago.
Barley—This grain being an almost certain crop, has heretofore been largely grown in California, the crop for 1867 being estimated at ten million bushels. It is here made to subserve nearly the same uses as oats and Indian corn in the Atlantic States, being the principal grain fed to cattle, horses and swine. Like wheat and oats, much is grown from volunteer crops, the yield being not only safer, but generally larger than that of those grains—averaging about thirty-two bushels to the acre. But comparatively little has heretofore been exported, though it is believed, from the superiority and cheapness of the barley grown here, in connection with the advantages that exist for manufacturing malt liquors, that this branch of business will, in a short time, be greatly expanded. Experiments recently made demonstrate that ale and porter can be made in San Francisco of a quality every way equal to the English article, while the coolness of the climate admits of brewing being carried on throughout the entire year.
Rice —There is a large consumption of rice here, by the fifty thousand Chinamen scattered throughout the State, the average annual consumption having exceeded twenty-three million pounds for several years past. Our large area of swamp and overflowed lands is well suited to rice, and the climate is equally so, but these lands cannot be used till guards are erected to regulate the water flow. No rice has yet been cultivated in California. There are many varieties of rice, and it is not always a water-plant. Many kinds are called hill rice, which produce a fine grain. With irrigation, it might be more profitable than wheat. But with irrigating canals all varieties could be cultivated, and this should be an inducement of some weight to urge their construction.
Rye, Buckwheat and Indian Corn are little cultivated. The latter can be grown to profit only in favored localities, on account of cool nights, late maturing, and an almost entire absence of summer rains.
There is little or no sod in California. In the Atlantic States and in Europe grass is killed by winter frosts, but the roots survive and make sod, which spring rains revive; but the long summer drought of this climate, with scarcely any rain from April to November, takes the life from the roots, and for hay or pasture it is necessary to renew sowing every year. The hay of California is mostly made from oats and barley, cut before ripening, and as it is cured without rain, it has a bright, light-green color—when not too excessively sun dried. It is very nutritious—oat hay being preferred to barley. In isolated localities there are moist valley spots amid the rolling hills where there is some summer verdure.
Bunch-grass is a peculiar herbage on many dry hill sides, and affords a perpetual pasture. It occurs always in detached bunches, sufficient in size to make a small mouthful, and seems to be proof against drought—but is not cultivated. Wherever the sage-brush is found, (popular emblem of complete barrenness,) cattle keep fat on this curious grass—which flourishes under the shelter of the brush. It is the first verdure that makes its appearance and gives pasture in the early spring.
Alfalfa is a species of clover which gives perennial pasture and makes excellent hay, when cultivated. Its roots go down to moisture at depths incredible, and they seem to travel till they reach it; but once fairly rooted, it is difficult to eradicate this grass; and as it attracts gophers, to the great annoyance of the farmer, it is not generally in great favor —but its cultivation is extending.
Burr clover differs from other varieties in having a peculiar seed, full of rich oil, enclosed in a prickly capsule. Cattle do not fancy it much until it is dead ripe and scattered over the ground, but during the entire summer, and when to our eyes invisible, it supplies a nourishing food to the lapping tongue of cattle.
Alfderilla has the appearance of the wild geranium but has not been cultivated. Wherever it grows it is the favorite pasture with cattle. It stands second to hone of the grasses in its endurance of drought, and flourishes on hill sides, where alfalfa grass fails for want of moisture. To the eye, alfilerilla is a flattened tuft. hugging the ground. It appears to give scarcely a fair hold to the bite of cattle, but, if lifted up, it shows a great mouthful. In cultivated ground, wherever it has an opportunity to gain an undisturbed growth, it gives proof that it would yield a heavy crop, of good height and of unsurpassed richness, for hay as well as pasture. Probably it would prove more valuable to cut and feed in the green state. It is deserving of more attention than it receives.
The Lupin, which is cultivated as a grass in France, grows wild among the sand hills of the Coast Range of California, and could be made profitable where little else will grow, by planting select varieties. There is a coarse joint-grass which runs like a vine over the sands bordering the sea, and which spreads with wonderful swiftness—every joint sending down roots. For sheep and goats it would furnish a neverdying supply of pasturage.
Timothy, Orchard, Herd and Red-Top, as well as other favorite grasses of the Atlantic States, are limited to a few places in this country, because they would furnish but one crop, and then die in the drought of summer. But, in time, these grasses will be cultivated in moist mountain dells and on improved swamp lands; in certain localities they are now doing well.
Natural meadows of great extent are found interspersed among the watery tale lands. They are very wet in winter, and their grass, though a sure crop and heavy, is wiry, coarse, and of inferior nourishment; yet, at times, it is of priceless value. The year 1864 was one of famine to cattle in this State; the rains were scant, and the usual feeding grounds were barren. Some enterprising men cut fifty thousand tons of this coarse grass in that year, and it proved the salvation of a large number of cattle, and a source of great profit to the adventurers. Among the recuperative resources of the State, this may be counted on hereafter as of great value.
Cotton encounters the same difficulty as corn, without irrigation; wherefore, it seems hardly deserving a place in the list of our agricultural staples. The time will come when irrigation, as a grand system, will be called for and adopted, rendering the more extensive culture of these articles probable.
The establishment of a mill in San Francisco, and also one in Sutter county, for the manufacture of linseed and other vegetable oils, has had the effect to encourage within the past year a more extensive culture of flax and the castor oil bean than before. Thus far the San Francisco mill, the other having been more recently built, has been obliged to rely chiefly upon foreign importations for its supplies of linseed; but a desire having been expressed to take seed of home growth to the amount of five hundred tons annually, our farmers are likely to engage in the culture of the plant more largely hereafter. Flax being native to California, growing wild in some portions of the State, can undoubtedly be successfully and profitably raised on a large scale. Indeed, the trials already made show that there is no trouble in making good crops—over fifteen hundred pounds of seed having been produced to the acre, the stalk of the plant being large and vigorous, and coated with a strong and abundant fibre. The total product of the State for 1867 was one hundred and fifty tons; though it is believed a home market could be had for four times that amount at , remunerative prices, the ruling rates heretofore having been four and a half cents per pound. Hitherto no fabric has been made here from this textile; but with such an extensive yearly demand for sacking, it seems highly probable that this plant will soon be made to contribute largely towards supplying this important and growing want of the State, this material having heretofore been wholly imported.
Although the sugar cane cannot be grown in California, more sugar may be made from the beet than in any other country. This vegetable grows to an enormous size here and is of easy cultivation. Experiments prove that it is much richer in sugar than the beet of France, ten per cent. against six per cent. It is well known that when the sugar beet is taken from the ground and stored for winter use, it undergoes a chemical change, to the loss of a notable per centage of its sugar. In California, beets remain in the soil unharmed by frost, and keep on growing through the winter, so that they need not be taken up till wanted for milling. This would prove a great saving of the saccharino matter, avoiding also the cost of storage and handling. A company has been formed in France and Germany, through Mr. George Gordon, of San Francisco, for the manufacture of beet sugar in this State. This company proposes to buy the beets and not to raise them. They offer to erect works in any locality, and to any number and extent required, wherever fifteen hundred acres may be devoted to beet culture. It is likely that many will avail themselves of this offer, and by engaging largely in the growing of this root, supply, at least in part, the consumption of sugar in California by an article of home production.
There is at the eastern base of the Alps much land subject to being destroyed by deep washings of sand, on which nothing will grow except melons, only two being allowed to mature on the single vine. As the melons are gathered, they are slashed open with a big knife, and a wooden scoop empties the pulp into a vessel where the juice is expressed. This is boiled rudely, and crystalized like maple sugar in the Atlantic States. The sugar sells at remunerative prices, is light colored and sweet. Red pulp melons give a darker sugar, white pulp is therefore preferred. We have in this State a great area of land similarly destroyed every year. This sugar-melon example is commended to poor men, who can get the free use of the space, and proceed on small capital.
This climate is peculiarly suited to hops. The vine grows and bears well wherever it has been planted. It does best on low poles or stakes and running on cords between, by which its roots get shelter from our long summer sun. The yield, while the vines are yet so young, is over eleven hundred pounds per acre; fifteen hundred pounds may be the yield per acre in 1868. The consumption is not yet sufficient for extended cultivation, but for reasons stated in speaking of barley, this will likely soon become one of our agricultural staples. In three years the hop vine gains maturity and weight of product equal to five or six years elsewhere. It yields an extraordinary proportion of the resinous lupuline that gives it value to the brewer, and its flavor cannot be excelled. The hop vine, once rooted, is profitable in other countries for seven years before it begins to fail, so that it needs small labor beyond annual trailing, cutting down, and gathering. In no other country are hops so easily harvested and cured as in California. In England they are almost always injured by mildew in the growth, and by rain fall in picking time. There the fruit never fully ripens for want of sunshine. It is greatly injured and discolored by the severe kiln-drying necessary to its preservation in packages. Here, untarnished by rain, or fog, or heavy dews, hops come to as full ripeness as it is convenient to permit with reference to the tenacity of the pollen or lupuline; so that the further curing requires very little artificial heat, and a very short exposure to it. They come from what can scarcely be called a kiln, holding that fresh green color that proves so desirable and makes them the admiration of the brewer. The crop of this State for 1867 amounted to about 425,000 pounds. At the French Exposition of 1867, a single bale of hops represented California in