On Wednesday, July 15th, 1863, I left London with the hope that I might be able to accomplish the northern half of my proposed "Walk from Land's End to John O'Groat's."  I had been practically prostrated by a serious indisposition for nearly two months, and was just able to walk one or two miles at a time about the city.  Believing that country air and exercise would soon enable me to be longer on my feet, I concluded to set out as I was, without waiting for additional strength, so slow and difficult to attain in the smoky atmosphere and hot streets of London.

Few reading farmers in America there are who are not familiar with the name and fame of Alderman Mechi, as an agriculturist of that new and scientific school that is making such a revolution in the great primeval industry of mankind.  His experiments on his Tiptree Farm have attained a world-wide publicity, and have given that homestead an interest that, perhaps, never attached to the same number of acres in any country or age.  Thinking that this famous establishment would be a good starting point for my pedestrian tour, I concluded to proceed thither first by railway, and thence to walk northward, by easy stages, through the fertile and rural county of Essex.  Taking an afternoon train, I reached Kelvedon about 5 p.m., - the station for Tiptree, and a good specimen of an English village, at two hours' ride from London.  Calling at the residence of a Friend, or Quaker, to inquire the way to the Alderman's farm, he invited me to take tea with him, and be his guest for the night, - a hospitality which I very gladly accepted, as it was a longer walk than I had anticipated.  After tea, my host, who was a farmer as well as miller, took me over his fields, and showed me his live stock, his crops of wheat, barley, oats, beans, and roots, which were all large and luxuriant, and looked a tableau vivant of plenty within the green hedges that enclosed and adorned them.

The next morning, after breakfast, my kind host set me on the way to Tiptree by a footpath through alternating fields of wheat, barley, oats, beans, and turnips, into which an English farm is generally divided.  These footpaths are among the vested interests of the walking public throughout the United Kingdom.  Most of them are centuries old.  The footsteps of a dozen generations have given them the force and sanctity of a popular right.  A farmer might as well undertake to barricade the turnpike road as to close one of these old paths across his best fields.  So far from obstructing them, he finds it good policy to straighten and round them up, and supply them with convenient gates or stiles, so that no one shall have an excuse for trampling on his crops, or for diverging into the open field for a shorter cut to the main road.  Blessings on the man who invented them!  It was done when land was cheap, and public roads were few; before four wheels were first geared together for business or pleasure.  They were the doing of another age; this would not have produced them.  They run through all the prose, poetry, and romance of the rural life of England, permeating the history of green hedges, thatched cottages, morning songs of the lark, moonlight walks, meetings at the stile, harvest homes of long ago, and many a romantic narrative of human experience widely read in both hemispheres.  They will run on for ever, carrying with them the same associations.  They are the inheritance of landless millions, who have trodden them in ages past at dawn, noon, and night, to and from their labor; and in ages to come the mowers and reapers shall tread them to the morning music of the lark, and through Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, they shall show the fresh checker-work of the ploughman's hob-nailed shoe.  The surreptitious innovations of utilitarian science shall not poach upon these sacred preserves of the people, whatever revolutions they may produce in the machinery and speed of turnpike locomotion.  These pleasant and peaceful paths through park, and pasture, meandering through the beautiful and sweet-breathing artistry of English agriculture, are guaranteed to future generations by an authority which no legislation can annul.

A walk of a few miles brought me in sight of Tiptree Hall; and its first aspect relieved my mind of an impression which, in common with thousands better informed, I had entertained in reference to the establishment.  An idea has generally prevailed among English farmers, and agriculturists of other countries who have heard of Alderman Mechi's experiments, that they were impracticable and almost valueless, because they would not pay; that the balance-sheet of his operations did and must ever show such ruinous discrepancy between income and expenditure as must deter any man, of less capital and reckless enthusiasm, from following his lead into such unconsidered ventures.  In short, he has been widely regarded at home and abroad as a bold and dashing novice in agricultural experience, ready to lavish upon his own hasty inventions a fortune acquired in his London warehouse; and all this to make himself famous as a great light in the agricultural world, which light, after all, was a mere will-o'-the-wisp sort of affair, leading its dupes into the veriest bog of bankruptcy.  In common with all those bold, self-reliant spirits that have ventured to break away from the antecedents of public opinion and custom, he has been the subject of many ungenerous innuendoes and criticisms.  All kinds of ambitions and motives have been ascribed to him.  Many a burly, red-faced farmer, who boasts of an unbroken agricultural lineage reaching back into the reign of Good Queen Bess, will tell you over his beer that the Alderman's doings are all gammon; that they are all to advertise his cutlery business in Leadenhall Street, Barnum fashion; to inveigle down to Tiptree Hall noblemen, foreign ambassadors, and great people of different countries, and bribe "an honourable mention" out of them with champagne treats and oyster suppers.  Indeed, my Quaker host largely participated in this opinion, and took no pains to conceal it when speaking of his enterprising neighbor.

From what I had read and heard of the Tiptree Hall estate, I expected to see a grand, old, baronial mansion, surrounded with elegant and costly buildings for housing horses, cattle, sheep, and other live stock, all erected on a scale which no bona fide farmer could adopt or approximately imitate.  In a word, I fancied his barns and stables would even surpass in this respect the establishments of some of those most wealthy New York or Boston merchants, who think they are stimulating country farmers to healthy emulation by lavishing from thirty to forty thousand dollars on a barn and its appurtenant out-houses.  With these preconceived ideas, it was an unexpected satisfaction to see quite a simple-looking, unassuming establishment, which any well-to-do farmer might make and own.  The house is rather a large and solid-looking building, erected by Mr. Mechi himself, but not at all ostentatious of wealth or architectural taste.  The barns and "steddings," or what we call cowhouses in America, are of a very ordinary cast, or such as any country-bred farmer would call economical and simple.  The homestead occupies no picturesque site, and commands no interesting scenery.  The farm consists of about 170 acres, which, in England, is regarded as a rather small holding.  The land is naturally sterile and hard of cultivation, most of it apparently being heavily mixed with ferruginous matter.  When ploughed deeply, the clods turned up look frequently like compact masses of iron ore.  Every experienced farmer knows the natural poverty of such a soil, and the hard labor to man and beast it costs to till it.

To my great regret, Mr. Mechi was not at home, though he passes most of his time in Summer at Tiptree.  But his foreman, who enters into all the experiments and operations which have made the establishment so famous, with almost equal interest and enthusiasm, took me through the farm buildings, and all the fields, and showed me the whole process and machinery employed.  Any English or American agriculturist who has read of Alderman Mechi's operations, would be inclined to ask, on looking, for the first time, at his buildings and the fields surrounding them, what is the great distinguishing speciality of his enterprise.  His land is poor; his housings are simple; there is no outside show of uncommon taste or genius.  Every acre is tile-drained, to be sure.  But that is nothing new nor uncommon.  Drainage is the order of the day.  Any tenant farmer in England can have his land drained by the Government by paying six per cent. annually on the cost of the job.  His expenditure for artificial manure does not exceed that of hundreds of good farmers.  He carries out the deep tillage system most liberally.  So do other scientific agriculturalists in Europe and America.  Of course, a few hours' observation would not suffice for a full and correct conclusion on this point, but it gave me the impression that the great operation which has won for the Tiptree Farm its special distinction is its irrigation with liquid manure.  In this respect it stands unrivalled, and, perhaps, unimitated.  And this, probably, is the head and front of his offending to those who criticise his economy and decry his experiments.

This irrigation is performed through the medium of a small steam engine and sixteen hydrants, so posted and supplied with hose as to reach every square foot of the 170 acres.  The water used for this purpose is mostly, if not entirely, supplied from the draining pipes, even in the dryest season.  The manure thus liquified is made by a comparatively small number of animals.  Calves to the value of £50 are bought, and fat stock to that of £500 are sold annually.  They are all stabled throughout the year, except in harvest time, when they are turned out for a few weeks to rowen feed.  The calves are housed until a year old in a large stedding by themselves.  They are then transferred to another building, and put upon "the boards;" that is in a long stable or cowhouse, with a flooring of slats, through which the manure drops into a cellar below, made water-tight.  Here the busiest little engine in the world is brought to bear upon it, with all its faculties of suction and propulsion.  Through one pipe it forces fresh water in upon this mass of manure, which, when liquified, runs down into a subterranean cistern or reservoir capable of holding over 100,000 gallons.  From this it is propelled into any field to be irrigated.  To prevent any sediment in the great reservoir, or to make an even mixture of the liquified manure, a hose is attached to the engine, and the other end dropped into the mass.  Through this a constant volume of air is propelled with such force as to set the whole boiling and foaming like a little cataract.  One man at the engine and two at the hose in the distant field perform the whole operation.  The chapped and "baky" surface of the farm is thus softened and enriched at will, and rendered productive.

Now, this operation seems to constitute the present distinctive speciality of Alderman Mechi's Tiptree Farm.  Will it pay? ask a thousand voices.  In how many years will he get his money back?  Give us the balance sheet of the experiment.  A New Englander, favorably impressed with the process, would be likely to answer these questions by another, and ask, will drainage pay?  Not in one year, assuredly, nor in five; not in ten, perhaps.  The British Government assumes that all the expenditure upon under-drainage will be paid back in fifteen or twenty years at the farthest.  It lends money to the land-owner on this basis; and the land-owner stipulates with his tenant that he shall reimburse him by annual instalments of six or seven per cent. until the whole cost of the operation is liquidated.  Thus the tenant-farmer is willing to pay six, sometimes seven per cent. annually, for twenty years, for the increased capacity of production which drainage gives to the farm he cultivates.  At the end of that period the Government is paid by the landlord, and the landlord by the tenant, and the tenant by his augmented crops for the whole original outlay upon the land.  For aught either of the three parties to the operation knows to the contrary, it must all be done over again at the end of twenty years.  The system is too young yet, even in England, for any one to say how long a course of tubing will last, or how often it must be relaid.

One point, therefore, has been gained.  No intelligent English farmer, who has tried the system, now asks if under-drainage will pay; nor does he expect that it will pay back the whole expenditure in less than twelve or fifteen years.  Here is a generous faith in the operation on the side of all the parties concerned.  Then why should not Alderman Mechi's irrigation system be put on the same footing, in the matter of public confidence?  It is nothing very uncommon even for a two-hundred-acre farmer in England to have a small stationary or locomotive steam-engine, and to find plenty of work for it, too, in threshing his grain, grinding his fodder, pulping his roots, cutting his hay and straw, and for other purposes.  Mr. Mechi would doubtless have one for these objects alone.  So its cost must not be charged to the account of irrigation.  A single course of iron tubing, a third of a mile long, reaching to the centre of his farthest field, cannot cost more, with all the hose employed, than the drainage of that field, while it would be fair to assume that the iron pipes will last twice as long as those of burnt clay.  They might fairly be expected to hold good for forty years.  If, then, for this period, or less, the process yields ten per cent. of increased production annually, over and above the effect of all other means employed, it is quite evident that it will pay as well as drainage.

But does it augment the yearly production of the farm by this amount?  To say that it is the only process by which the baky and chappy soil of Tiptree can be thoroughly fertilised, would not suffice to prove its necessity or value to other soils of different composition.  One fact, however, may be sufficient to determine its virtue.  The fields of clover, and Italian rye-grass, etc., are mown three and even four times in one season, and afterwards fed with sheep.  Certainly, no other system could produce all this cropping.  The distinctive difference it makes in other crops cannot, perhaps, be made so palpable.  The wheat looked strong and heavy, with a fair promise of forty-five bushels to an acre.  The oats, beans, and roots showed equally well.

The irrigation and deep tillage systems were going on simultaneously in the same field, affording me a good opportunity of seeing the operation of both.  Two men were plying the hose upon a portion of the field which had already been mowed three times.  Two teams were at work turning up the other, which had already been cropped once or twice.  One of two horses went first, and, with a common English plough, turned an ordinary furrow.  Then the other followed, of twice the force of the first, in the same furrow, with a subsoil plough held to the work beam-deep.  The iron-stones and ferruginous clods turned up by this "deep tillage" would make a prairie farmer of Illinois wonder, if not shudder, at the plucky and ingenious industry which competes with his easy toil and cheap land in providing bread for the landless millions of Great Britain.

The only exceptional feature or arrangement, besides the irrigating machinery and process, that I noticed, was an iron hurdling for folding sheep.  This, at first sight, might look to a practical farmer a little extravagant, indicating a city origin, or the notion of an amateur agriculturist, more ambitious of the new than of the necessary.  Each length of this iron fencing is apparently about a rod, and cost £1, or nearly five dollars.  It is fitted to low wheels, or rollers, on an axle two or three feet in length, so that it can be moved easily and quickly in any direction.  It would cost over fifty pounds, or two hundred and fifty dollars, to enclose an acre entirely with this kind of hurdling.  Still, Mr. Mechi would doubtless be able to show that this large expenditure is a good investment, and pays well in the long run.  The folding of sheep for twenty-four or forty-eight hours on small patches of clover, trefoil, or turnips, is a very important department of English farming, both for fattening them for the market and for putting the land in better heart than any other fertilising process could effect.  Now, a man with this iron fencing on wheels must be able to make in two hours an enclosure that would cost him a day or more of busy labor with the old wooden hurdles.

On the whole, a practical farmer, who has no other source of income than the single occupation of agriculture, would be likely to ask, what is the realised value of Alderman Mechi's operations to the common grain and stock-growers of the world?  They have excited more attention or curiosity than any other experiments of the present day; but what is the real resume of their results?  What new principles has he laid down; what new economy has he reduced to a science that may be profitably utilised by the million who get their living by farming?  What has he actually done that anybody else has adopted or imitated to any tangible advantage?  These are important questions; and this is the way he undertakes to answer them, beginning with the last.

About twenty years ago, he inaugurated the system of under-draining the heavy tile-clay lands in Essex.  Up to his experiment, the process was deemed impracticable and worthless by the most intelligent farmers of the county.  It was more confidently decried than his present irrigation system.  The water would never find its way down into the drain-pipes through such clay.  It stood to reason that it would do no such thing.  Did not the water stand in the track of the horse's hoof in such rich clay until evaporated by the sun?  It might as well leak through an earthenware basin.  It was all nonsense to bury a man's money in that style.  He never would see a shilling of it back again.  In the face of these opinions, Mr. Mechi went on, training his pipes through field after field, deep below the surface.  And the water percolated through the clay into them, until all these long veins formed a continuous and rushing stream into the main artery that now furnishes an ample supply for his stabled cattle, for his steam engine, and for all the barn-yard wants.  His tile-draining of clay-lands was a capital success; and those who derided and opposed it have now adopted it to their great advantage, and to the vast augmentation of the value and production of the county.  Here, then, is one thing in which he has led, and others have followed to a great practical result.

His next leading was in the way of agricultural machinery.  He first introduced a steam engine for farming purposes in a district containing a million of acres.  That, too, at the outset, was a fantastic vagary in the opinion of thousands of solid and respectable farmers.  They insisted the Iron Horse would be as dangerous in the barn-yard or rick-yard as the very dragon in Scripture; that he would set everything on fire; kill the men who had care of him; burst and blow up himself and all the buildings into the air; that all the horses, cows, and sheep would be frightened to death at the very sight of the monster, and never could be brought to lie down in peace and safety by his side, even when his blood was cold, and when he was fast asleep.  To think of it! to have a tall chimney towering up over a barn-gable or barn-yard, and puffing out black coal smoke, cotton-factory-wise!  Pretty talk! pretty terms to train an honest and virtuous farmer to mouth!  Wouldn't it be edifying to hear him string the yarn of these new words! to hear him tell of his engineer and ploughman; of his pokers and pitchforks; of six-horse power, valves, revolutions, stopcocks, twenty pounds of steam, etc.; mixing up all this ridiculous stuff with yearling-calves, turnips, horse-carts, oil-cake, wool, bullocks, beans, and sheep, and other vital things and interests, which forty centuries have looked upon with reverence!  To plough, thresh, cut turnips, grind corn, and pump water for cattle by steam!  What next?

Why, next, the farmers of the region round about

     "First pitied, then embraced"

this new and powerful auxiliary to agricultural industry, after having watched its working and its worth.  And now, thanks to such bold and spirited novices as Mr. Mechi - men who had the pluck to work steadily on under the pattering rain of derisive epithets - there are already nearly as many steam engines working at farm labor between Land's End and John O'Groat's as there are employed in the manufacture of cotton in Great Britain.

His irrigation system will doubtless be followed in the same order and interval by those who have pooh-poohed it with the same derision and incredulity as the other innovations they have already adopted.  The utilising of the sewage of large towns, especially of London, has now become a prominent idea and movement.  Mr. Mechi's machinery and process are admirably adapted to the work of distributing a river of this fertilising material over any farm to which it may be conducted.  Thus, there is good reason to believe that the very process he originated for softening and enriching the hard and sterile acres of his small farm in Essex will be adopted for saturating millions of acres in Great Britain with the millions of tons of manurial matter that have hitherto blackened and poisoned the rivers of the country on their wasteful way to the sea.  This will be only an additional work for the farm engines now in operation, accomplished with but little increased expense.  A single fact may illustrate the irrigating capacity of Mr. Mechi's machinery.  It throws upon a field a quantity of the fertilising fluid equal to one inch of rainfall at a time, or 100 tons per imperial acre.  And, as a proof of how deep it penetrates, the drains run freely with it, thus showing conclusively that the subsoil has been well saturated, a point of vital importance to the crop.

Deep tillage is another speciality that distinguished the Tiptree Farm regime at the beginning, in which Mr. Mechi led, and in which he has been followed by the farmers of the country, although few have come up abreast of him as yet in the system.

Here, then, are four specific departments of improvement in agricultural industry which the Alderman has introduced.  Every one of them has been ridiculed as an impracticable and useless innovation in its turn.  Three of them have already been adopted, and virtually incorporated with agricultural science and economy; and the fourth, or irrigation by steam power, bids fair to find as much favor, and as many adherents in the end as the others have done.

He has not only originated these improvements, or been the first to give them practical experiment, but he has laid down certain principles which will doubtless exercise much influence in shaping the industrial economy of agriculture hereafter in different countries.  One of the best of these principles he puts in the form of a mathematical proposition.  Thus: - As the meat is to the manure, so is the crop to the land.  Tell me, he says, how much meat you make, and I will tell you how much corn you make, to the acre.  Meat, then, is the starting point with him; the basis of his annual production, to which he looks for a satisfactory decision of his balance-sheet.  To show the value he attaches to this element, the fact will suffice that he usually keeps 65 bullocks, cows, and calves, 100 sheep, and a number of pigs, besides his horses, making one head to every acre of his farm.  With this amount of live stock he makes from £4 to £5 worth of meat per acre annually.  Perhaps it would be safe to say that no other 170 acres of land in the world make more meat, manure, and grain in the year than the Tiptree Farm.  In these results Mr. Mechi thinks his experiments and improvements have proved

     Quod es demonstrandum.

Having gone over the farm pretty thoroughly, and noticed all the leading features of the establishment, I was requested by the foreman to enter my name in the visitor's book kept in his neat cottage parlor.  It is a large volume, with the ruling running across both the wide pages; the left apportioned to name, town, country, and profession; the right to remarks of the visitor.  It is truly a remarkable book of interesting autographs and observations, which the philologist as well as agriculturist might pore over with lively satisfaction.  It not only contains the names and comments of many of the most distinguished personages in Great Britain, but those of all other countries of Europe, even of Asia and Africa, as well as America.  Foreign ambassadors, Continental savans, men of fame in the literary, scientific, and political world have here recorded their names and impressions in the most unique succession and blending.  Here, under one date, is a party of Italian gentlemen, leaving their autographs and their observations in the softest syllables of their language.  Then several German connoisseurs follow in their peculiar script, with comments worded heavily with hard-mouthed consonants.  Then comes, perhaps, a single Russian nobleman, who expresses his profound satisfaction in the politest French.  Next succeed three or four Spanish Dons, with a long fence of names attached to each, who give their views of the establishment in the grave, sonorous words of their language.  Here, now, an American puts in his autograph, with his sharp, curt notion of the matter, as "first-rate."  Very likely a turbaned Mufti or Singh of the Oriental world follows the New England farmer.  Danish and Swedish knights prolong the procession, mingling with Australian wool-growers, Members of the French Royal Academy, Canadian timber-merchants, Dutch Mynheers, Brazilian coffee-planters, Belgian lace-makers, and the representatives of all other countries and professions in Christendom.  An autograph-monger, with the mania strong upon him, of unscrupulous curiosity, armed furtively with a keen pair of scissors would be a dangerous person to admit to the presence of that big book without a policeman at his elbow.

Tiptree Hall has its own literature also, in two or three volumes, written by Mr. Mechi himself, and describing fully his agricultural experience and experiments, and giving facts and arguments which every English and American farmer might study with profit.