Farm buildings: a practical treatise/Preface

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When, at the suggestion and request of the publishers of Weale's Rudimentary Series, the preparation of the present volumes on Farm Engineering was undertaken, it was thought that Mr. Andrews' work on "Agricultural Engineering" — dealing with buildings, barn implements, and field implements, and published in this series thirty years ago — would require to be only partly rewritten to make up this and the two succeeding volumes of the present series of Farm Engineering Textbooks. It was soon found, however, that the task of adapting that once valuable work to the wants of modern agriculture involved something more than the preparation of a new edition. Although Mr. Andrews' volumes were amply illustrated, and his plans and designs of farm buildings were well ahead of the times in 1852, not one of the old blocks has been deemed suitable for reproduction in the present volume, and only two or three pages of the original text have been allowed to stand. Practically, therefore, the present is a new work.

In preparing it the aim has been to produce a book which will be serviceable to agriculturists and agricultural students rather than to professional architects and builders, to the latter of whom, no doubt, the work must appear incomplete and faulty. It is not, however, recommended to agriculturists to become their own architects and builders; therefore to those professionals the elaboration of many technical details which are here purposely omitted or curtailed is left.

The current talk now, as when Andrews wrote, is of antiquated farm buildings, unfit for their purpose, and of insufficient accommodation for live-stock. That deficiencies exist in these respects, though more in some districts than in others, is generally admitted. And no farmer now-a-days needs to be told that animals exposed to cold eat more and thrive worse than if better housed and kept warmer: in other words, that shelter and warmth economise food, and are equivalent to an actual shortening of winter.

But, while the accommodation for stock is admittedly inadequate, it is notorious that, even in many such cases, there has already been incurred a building outlay of from £6 to £10 an acre. Now this represents 5s. to 10s. per acre of rent-charge, and under the present conditions of British agriculture few, if any, farms in the country will support the expenditure.

If, then, increased building accommodation and improved buildings are to be provided, the solution of the difficulty would appear to lie in a better arrangement of buildings and in the adoption of cheaper methods and materials of construction.

The larger choice of building materials now available is a great help towards cheaper construction. Instead of walls and pillars being restricted to stone, brick, or woodwork, other materials such as iron and concrete are now, in many cases, found admirable substitutes, alike in point of fitness, durability, and economy; and the costly and cumbersome roofing tiles, slates, and shingles are now often advantageously superseded by the cheaper and lighter covering of galvanised corrugated sheets, asphalte roofing-felt, rubber roofing, or even the Willesden roofing-paper. And the really great saving in the use of these materials is not so much in their greater cheapness as in their lightness of weight, thus requiring so much less roof-framing, both in weight and quantity.

The requirements as to farm buildings are also very different to-day from what they were only a few years ago. These new requirements have arisen from improvements in farm machinery and in preparing food for stock, from altered systems of husbandry, and the larger numbers of stock fed; these and other influences all tending to necessitate more or less change in building-plans and arrangements.

In many districts the sheaf-barn and threshing-barn is falling into disuse, even when completely fitted with threshing apparatus, it being, as a rule, found advantageous to thresh in the field or direct from the stack, with a portable engine and threshing-machine. On the other hand, more attention is being paid to the construction of sheds for securing hay and grain crops, and to silos for preserving green fodder. Another modern necessity is the provision of larger accommodation and better arrangements for preparing and mixing food for cattle. The substitution of covered for open yards also progresses, surely if slowly. And in the changes which are going on, matters affecting the ventilation, lighting, paving, and draining of farm buildings are meeting with the full share of attention which they deserve.

Of farmhouses there is nothing particular to note. Underground stories—except for cool cellarage—and high upper stories are, however, to be avoided in such buildings. These are necessary evils in crowded cities, but are inexcusable in country houses.

The condition of farm-cottages has improved wonderfully of late years, especially on the larger estates, both in England and in Scotland, and that not merely in the matter of accommodation, but also in their sanitary surroundings. Still, in neither of these respects are workmen's cottages in the country all that could be desired. Hence, diphtheria and typhoid fever are still too often harboured amid scenes where they really ought never to exist.