John Vonderlin: 1871 Pacific Rural Press: George Carter’s “Notes on Half Moon Bay”

Story by John Vonderlin

Email John: [email protected]

Hi June,

This is from the June 24th, 1871, issue of the “Pacific Rural Press,” The author is George Carter, (G.W.T.C.) who was a regular correspondent from the Coastside for the paper. There is some great stuff, not all of it agricultural-oriented, coming up, just from what I collected today. Meg forwarded the “Suspension Chute” story to some Pigeon Point docents, who were very excited by its contents. Who knows, it might be found on an exhibit there soon. I’ve got to go back over it, while looking at the few pictures that I have of the chute, to get it all straight in my mind. A California invention?, no less. Enjoy. John
Notes on Half Moon Bay.—No. 2.
Editors Press:—ln the valleys, water is obtained from the streams for stock and household purposes, it being in some cases raised by hydraulic rams. On the hills, springs abound in such profusion that a farm of almost any size can be had with plenty of water. Artesian well boring has been tried in several localities, but without success. A heavy growth of timber, principally redwood, covers the coast range, and extends well down some of the ridges and valleys, furnishing an abundance of lumber, fencing and wood. Lumber sells at the mills from $14 to $20 per M., according to the proximity of the mill to the settlement. Split redwood pickets, six feet long, of which most of the fencing is made, sell at from $10 to $15 per M., according to locality. We have four sawmills and one grist-mill. A large double circular sawmill has just been put in operation on the Purrissima, by Messrs. Borden and Hatch, to take the place of their old water mill that has been in use since 1853, but which is too slow for these times. A great many changes have taken place here since that old mill first started, which can only be realized by those residing here at that time. With the exception of the Denniston and the Johnston ranches, and a very few small tracts, the entire country has changed hands, most of it twice and three times. Some who lusted for the flesh-pots of other lands departed, but were well satisfied to find themselves back into the fog again.
Cultivation of Oats.
The natural production of this coast is oats, which will stand more exposure, more wet or dry, and more miserable, slipshod farming than anything else that grows, except weeds. They seem bound to make a crop, no matter how mean it looks, as late as June. They have been sown on the tops of the hills, past the middle of April, and without a drop of rain have turned out over,  four tons of hay to the acre; the ordinary yield is about 60 bushels; although a yield of 75 or 80 bushels is not unusual. I had a field of over 100 acres that averaged 100 bushels per acre some years ago. Four-fifths of the grain raised is oats. The large white English oats were tried to a considerable extent, but were not found to answer, on account of the straw falling so badly, making it too expensive in harvesting. The Norway oats are being tried by a number this year, and in such different localities and soils as will prove their profit and adaptibility to this climate. They are making big, rank straw, very deep green and healthy-looking, and they look as though they would fall down upon small provocation; but as we are told that they do not lodge, we hope such is not the case. After harvest I will send you the results. [We shall look with interest for the fulfillment of the promise.—Eds. Press.]
Cultivation of Barley.
Barley is a grain that demands better culture than oats to insure a crop. As a crop it has not been very successful here, nor much of a favorite. Barley fields began to be scarce; but as its cultivation is being better understood, it will be raised more extensively. The yield has usually been light, although a crop now and then yielded so enormously as to stagger belief; but went to show that our climate was not in fault; that the trouble was in the cultivation. A field near Spanishtown, some years ago, yielded 150 bushels per acre of common barley! Last year a field of 50 acres of Chevelier barley yielded 66 tons of hay, besides 2,340 bushels of grain. On the John Pitcher farm, last year, 76 sacks of Chevelier barley, weighing 109 pounds each, were taken from one acre. Mr. P. admits having made a pet of it; but it shows how well land likes to be petted.
Benefit of Rotation of Crops.
These yields were by many attributed to chance; but the condition of the soil had the most to do with it. The fields were miles apart, and the land not above the average. The first-named was preceded by a crop of beans, the next by a crop of English mustard, and the last by potatoes; in each case the soil was left in fine condition. The showing of the barley fields this year promise two sacks of grain on every acre sowed, following the above named crops to one on land sowed last year to grain! There are a few exceptions to this, but very few indeed.
A close observation of the fields this season will satisfy any farmer that if he wants a heavy orop of barley he must sow upon land not in grain the previous year; and if not able to do this, to plow twice or three times. If he cannot do this, he had better let it alone and sow oats.
The Cultivation of Wheat
Has also been on the decrease for some years, for the reason that it did not do well generally, and that a heavy crop of oats could be taken off where only a light yield of wheat could be had. I have heard farmers say they could raise oats enough on one acre to buy the product of two in wheat. This was true enough so far as they were concerned; but the trouble is the same as with the barley, the plant not taking kindly to the climate. It requires better culture than oats, and does not get it. The finest piece of wheat in this valley, and the only real heavy piece that such soil as ours should produce, is in a field now under cultivation for fifteen years, till the crops began to look shabby for the want of rotation. Last year this field was sowed late for English mustard, but failing to come well, the field was plowed up, put in order and left to produce the handsomest field of grain in the valley this year. G.W.T.C..