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The Devonshire tenant farmer, is at once a dairy farmer, a breeder or feeder of cattle, sheep, and pigs; and a grower of corn and cider; and this variety of occupation, arising naturally from the character of the climate and soil of the county, has given him a tone of intelligence and activity which is looked for in vain in other parts of the kingdom, where a monotonous routine narrows the intellect of the dairyman.
Farms here are generally of moderate size; for although some farmers hold 700 or 800 acres in several separate farms, the great majority run from 50 or 60 to 200 or 300 acres. Farm buildings are often found collected in a village; the housing of four adjoining farms being sometimes inconveniently placed at their point of junction. The buildings are of every variety of character, from the antique and dilapidated, to the more modern and convenient. On badly managed estates, the farmer is often bound to uphold in wooden thatched houses, at a cost to himself of 10 per cent. on the rental of a small farm.
The better class of farm buildings are generally in the form of a square, close all round, and entered on the south side through a large arched door, under the granary. Immediately opposite is the barn, cider cellar, &c., which usually occupy one side of the square, having the corn rick yard behind. Two sides are for the accommodation of cattle, the back walls being built close up to the eaves; but the front is in two stories, supported on strong posts, and open from the ground to the eaves; the lower story occupied by cattle; the upper kept as a store for their provender. The cows are usually kept in loose boxes; the fattening cattle generally tied by the neck. The fourth side of the square embraces the farm stable and waggon shed. The houses are generally conveniently situated outside the square; and many of them, on the estates of the Duke of Bedford, and other wealthy and liberal landowners, have lately been rebuilt, or enlarged and improved.
The larger farm-houses, mainly of which are fine old mansions, formerly occupied by the lords of the manors, are provincially called Bartons. The soil is of various character; good turnip and barley land, of deep friable texture, are met with in continuous succession, and from these the cultivator reaps the best returns. The system of husbandry followed is the alternate one, varied by allowing the land to rest one or more years in grass, as many be thought best by the farmer. There is nothing particular in the management of the arable land of this large county, but it is generally well and deeply tilled, not very heavily manured, but managed, on the whole, where the tenants have sufficient capital, with much skill and sagacity. Two-horse ploughs are universal, and light carts and waggons. Oxen are occasionally used in the plough, two young ones and two old ones being yoked together. They are fed very cheaply, and will plough an acre per day. Sixteen to twenty-four bushels of wheat per acre may be reckoned an average produce for North Devon, and thirty-two bushels of barley.
Stubble turnips are occasionally taken; but the general practice is a bare winter fallow in preparation for a root crop. In many districts of South Devon, the soil and climate are admirably suited for crop of early potatoes to be followed by turnips; or for producing crops of rye, winter vetches, &c., for spring feed.
The dairy management in Devonshire is justly celebrated; the perfect cleanliness and freshness of the dairies forming a marked contrast with those of many other counties. Fresh butter, clouted cream, and junkets, are the products of the dairies, and great quantities of these delicious luxuries are sent to all the towns and bathing places of the county, and to London and other distant markets.