Carlow Agriculture

The soil is rich and generally of a calcareous nature, except in the more mountainous parts, and, even there, cultivation has been carried to a considerable height on the acclivities. Agriculture is in as highly improved a state here as in any other part of Ireland. So far back as 1779, the vicinity of Carlow town was noticed by Young as one of the few places in which green crops formed part of the system of rural economy, turnips being at that time extensively planted there; though it does not appear that they became a general farm crop till many years after. Since 1817, agriculture, as a system, has been extending its beneficial effects with rapid progress under the fostering care and spirited example of some of the resident gentry. Wheat of a superior quality is grown in every part, barley only on some of the most favoured soils, whilst oats and potatoes are universal; the barley has long been celebrated and in great demand, and large quantities are annually shipped to England; the potatoes also, particularly those grown on the calcareous soils, are much esteemed.

Turnips are every where cultivated with success by the gentry and large farmers; but the small farmers are generally averse to the culture of green crops, notwithstanding the inducement held out by several landlords of releasing them from the payment of rent for land tilled for turnips or mangel-wurzel. Clover seed is sometimes sown on the larger farms, and the sowing of grass seeds in laying down exhausted land is now pretty general, although the old and pernicious system of allowing the land to recover by a natural process is still too prevalent; flax, hemp, rape, vetches, &c, are occasionally sown. The pastures are remarkably good, and although the land is not so rich as in some parts of Tipperary and Limerick, the cattle attain a larger size here than in either of those counties.

Dairies are numerous, and the dairy farms extensive and profitable; butter, generally of very superior quality and much esteemed in the English and foreign markets, is the chief produce; cheese is made only for domestic consumption. The dairy farmers pay great attention to the selection and breed of milch cows. Limerick heifers were much in demand, but a cross between the Durham breed and the old country cow is now the favourite: some of the Durham breed are, nevertheless, highly prized for the dairy, but they neither fatten so soon nor weigh so profitably as those crossed with the Limerick, Devon, or Tees-water breeds. Sheep of the New Leicester breed have been introduced at considerable expense by some of the most spirited agriculturists, and are now become pretty general and in high repute; they appear to be well adapted to the soil and climate, and bear an excellent fleece. In the hilly districts the sheep are smaller; those in highest repute are a cross between the new Leicester and the Kerry. Pigs are not so generally kept here as in some of the adjoining counties, and are mostly of an inferior kind.

Draining has been introduced by some of the gentry, but irrigation is very little practised. The fences are far superior to those of the adjoining counties, though in many cases the large old ditches or mounds of earth, with a deep shough on one or both sides, are to be seen. A kind of fence common here is formed out of the blocks of white granite which lie scattered over a great part of the county or are procured from the quarries; these blocks being cloven with great regularity, the larger slabs are fixed upright in the ground, and the lighter and longer pieces ranged transversely along the top, in the manner of posts and rails, forming an unique and very durable fence.

Agricultural implements on the most approved principles are generally used in every part, except the hilly districts, where the old heavy implements may still be partially seen: the iron plough and light harrow have been in use some years by gentlemen, and are now in the possession of almost every farmer. The old heavy wooden car has given place generally to one of lighter form, with iron-bound spoke wheels, but having very short shafts. Carts nearly similar to those of England, with narrow wheels, are every where used by the wealthy farmers, but the old clumsy low-backed car is common upon the road.

The whole of the county, with the exception of the mountainous parts already noticed, is well wooded: trees thrive well, but not every species; an oak wood is rarely met with, although oaks flourish in the soil. The spruce and silver fir, after having been tried for some time, were extirpated on account of their unhealthy appearance; the soil was thought not suitable to them. The weeping, or Hertfordshire, elm is frequently to be seen: the elm in general germinates earlier here then elsewhere. But the most beautiful and ornamental trees are the sycamore, chestnut, lime, birch, and white thorn, the last of which attains a large size: the entire level part of the county presents much the appearance of some of the English counties. Lime is plentiful, and the facilities of its conveyance for agricultural purposes abundant.

Fuel is equally so: coal is brought from the collieries of Kilkenny and the Queen's county by land carriage, and turf is procured from the small bogs in this and the adjoining counties. Horticulture is in an advanced state; few farm-houses are without a vegetable garden, and the scarcer kind of esculents, and likewise flowers, are generally cultivated.

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