Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/849

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
829
RICE AND ITS CULTURE.

from both, blissful ignorance and choice. Fish and game are plentiful, and in these regions a heavy diet is to be indulged in only at great risk. Free labor is found to be more remunerative than slave, inasmuch as the idle or inefficient can be dismissed; and the rice-planter of to-day has not necessarily the care of the sick nor the doctor's bills of the ante-bellum time, when the very best physicians were employed. Then, again, there is the wonderful relief from anxious care; and the providing in every way for the wants of a large plantation of negroes, great and small, was no sinecure.

The best rice-lands are on the banks of rivers, for the convenience of flooding by the opening of the tide-gates, and also of conveying the grain to the mills. They must be so situated as to escape the salt and brackish water, but be below the reach of freshets, which are often most disastrous. They are alluvial lands, composed principally of decomposed vegetable matter, and when dry have the appearance of soot. Good crops can be made on other low lands, if so lying that they may be drained and flooded at will. These plantations have been and still are valuable possessions. It costs no inconsiderable sum to get them in order for planting, though less than formerly, as the planter of to-day cultivates fewer acres. The land is regularly laid out by a complete system of embankments and ditches, forming independent fields—the size of the fields being limited by the number of hands that can finish one day's necessary work of cultivation in a day, usually from fourteen to twenty acres.

The plantations are surrounded by a dam or levee, with floodgates and trunks, through which they are irrigated from the river. They are divided in squares, banked in, with a large ditch near the banks, which receives the water from the trunks for irrigation through smaller ditches fifty feet apart, through which the fields are also drained at ebb-tide.

Rice Culture.—Early in the winter the water is all drawn off, that the banks may be strengthened, ditches mended, and the ground plowed or hoed. In warm changes the water is again turned on. In March drains are cleansed, ground kept dry, clods broken up, and all made smooth with harrow or hoe. In April, and until about the middle of May, the grain is sown in trenches, a four-inch trenching-hoe being used, running at right angles to the ditches, and about sixteen inches apart. By some the fields are cross-plowed, and the grain dropped at the intersections. The seed is very carefully selected, and sometimes, in order to secure only the fullest grains, the rice is thrashed by hand over a log or barrel. The seed, when sown, is lightly covered, and the water turned on and kept upon the field from four to six days, until the grain swells and begins to sprout. If the seed is not to