Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/344

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

most numerous, and therefore there are many who till land for a share of the produce.

Land that is too sterile for profitable cultivation or for taxation sells for from six to sixty dollars an acre, while good farmland is valued at from three hundred to eight hundred dollars an acre. Rice-fields not in the vicinage of a city sell readily for six hundred dollars an acre, and are not always to be bought at that price, because those who own land find it the safest investment, and part with it only when under the stress of debt. The bursting of dikes, drought, and bad habits are the chief causes of the transfer of land, and the sale of a child often precedes that of the rice-field. Interest on money lent is from twelve to twenty per cent, according to agreement between lender and borrower.

The chief expense of tillage is in fertilizers, beans and sesamum-seeds from which the oil has been expressed being commonly used, at an outlay of from six to forty and an average of twenty-four dollars upon every acre of land. Besides this, potato-peelings, hair from shaven heads, and all other vegetable and animal refuse is carefully husbanded and methodically applied to the soil. The clods of the field are laid up into little ovens to retain and be enriched by the smoke of the stubble burned underneath them. Adobe houses, whose walls have for many years absorbed the fumes of a kitchen and the exhalations of human inmates, are pulverized and added to the ever-hungry earth. Each growing plant separately receives distinguished consideration, a scrap of tobacco-stalk being sometimes put beside its root to destroy underground grubs, while its leaves are frequently examined and sedulously freed from vermin. The rotation of crops is always practiced.

As no milk, butter, or cheese is used, the only quadruped seen on the farms is the water-buffalo, or the zebu, which assists in plowing and harrowing. Many farmers rear ducks, which are taken to the fields to devour the snails, crabs, and young frogs which thrive there at planting-time. Fowls often accompany the harvesters, picking up the last grains left among the stubble.

Few families are without the ubiquitous black hog, whose usual habitat is the door-step. Its food is the bran of the rice hulled and eaten in the house; its head is the chief offering set before the lares and penates, and its flesh is most highly esteemed among festive viands. It is reared at small expense, makes no disputed demand on space, furnishes the unctuous element in a satisfying bill of fare, and can always be sold at ten cents a pound.

The farming appliances are simple, and a complete outfit can be bought for forty dollars. A plow with two shares, a pair of harrows, and a fanning-mill each cost two dollars; a pump worked