Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/267

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255
THE BAY OF FUNDY TIDES AND MARSHES.

stone grits" of an earlier formation. In this region the marshes situated well up toward the head of the tide, where the red soil of the uplands has been mingled with the gray tidal mud, are good, while those lower down are of inferior quality and less enduring. Efforts are being made to renew and improve these inferior tracts by admitting the tide upon them.

In general, however, the necessity for periodic inundations by the muddy waters of the bay in order to maintain the productiveness of the marshes, as implied in the passage from Evangeline—

"Dikes that the hand of the farmer had raised with labor incessant,
Shut out the turbulent tides; but at stated seasons the flood-gates
Opened and welcomed the sea to wander at will o'er the meadows"—

not only does not exist, but, on the contrary, some two or three years are required for the grass roots to recover from the injury done them by the salt water, when, as occasionally happens, an accident to the protecting dikes admits the uniwelcome flood.

The exceedingly fine texture of the soil, and its consequent compactness and retentiveness of moisture, render it for the most part quite unsuitable for the production of root crops, and at the same time adapt it admirably for the growth of hay and of cereals, especially oats, barley, and wheat. As a rule, however, the succession of grass crops is interrupted only at intervals of from five to ten or more years by a single crop of grain. The reproductive power of the grass roots declines perceptibly with long-continued cropping, so that a renewal of the stock by reseeding is occasionally necessary. For this purpose the marsh is plowed in the autumn or spring and new seed sown; but to avoid the loss of a season, since grass does not mature for harvesting the first year, grain is also sown and a large yield usually obtained. This plowing and reseeding at intervals often of many years is the only cultivation the soil receives or requires. There is no reason to suppose that abundant harvests of grain might not be obtained annually for an indefinite period, but, as this would involve annual tilling, the hay crop is more profitable.

Along the river estuaries the encroachment of the land upon the sea is in continual progress, so that there are always considerable areas of unreclaimed salt marsh, the lower portions of which are flooded every day, while the higher portions are covered only by the highest tides. The reclamation of such new marsh is effected by building around its seaward margin a wall or dike of mud to prevent all tidal overflow. After two or three years the salt will have sufficiently disappeared to permit the growth of a crop of wheat, and in a year or two more the best quality of English grass will grow.

At the head of Cumberland Basin an interesting experiment in