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SEASONABLE TOPICS. (From the "Mark Lane Express.") WAR AGAINST RATS. Respective generations of humanity have tried tried their best to keep down rats, but the never-ending warfare is now being made a public matter, and we read in the daily Press what a national danger the rodents are be- coming, and the consequent necessity of exter- mination. Just so; and as farmers we hold no plea for rats; in fact, we could very well dis- pense with their unwelcome company, but we know something of the pests, and extermination is by no means an easy matter. This view is shared by Mr. W. Andrews, who in his pro- fessional capacity has been fighting rats for nearly thirty years in the service of the Royal Albert and Victoria Docks, and his contention is that all we can hope to do is to keep them < under. This, we know, is all that farmers have been able to do up to now, and the) would gladly welcome any effective mode 01 extermination, if such a thing is possible. For our own part we think the rat plague might be reduced considerably if more combined efforts were made in the shape of organised clubs such as exist in some villages, which give payment and prizes to their members at perio- dical meetings for rats' tails presented on the above occasions. Under the auspices of these clubs .thousands of rats are destroyed every year, and if there were more of them the num- ber would be considerably increased and the plague would be reduced in proportion. THE POTATO TRADE. The sharp frosts experienced of late have had their effect on the supply of potatoes in the markets, and with smaller quantities on hand the prices have shown a marked upward ten- dency. Indeed, we may look upon potatoes as being amongst the good things in the crops of last year. Compared to 190<5, the quantity grown was considerably less than in the pre- vious season, and the average yield per acre somewhat smaller, while in 1906 the area under potatoes was greater than last year, according to the returns of the Board of Agriculture. Nothing, however, gives an impetus to the planting of potatoes like a good market, and it is quite likely that the acreage will be in- creased again next season. As for prices, well, potatoes have been a good trade ever since the crops were lifted, and not a long spell of frost would be needed to make them very dear. What the price will be later on-say, in May- remains to be seen, but everything points in the direction of something high; and in an- ticipation of this there is no anxiety on the part of growers to dispose of their stocks. As for seed potatoes for planting purposes, the rank and file of growers do not make many inquiries about these until the back of the winter is broken- and the chances of sharp frosts are reduced, but there is every probability of planters having to pay more for seed than they did last year. ENGINES ON FARMS. Not so long ago it was only on large, well- equipped farms that one saw an engine for such work as grinding, cutting chaff, etc., and cumbersome and costly contrivances they were, but the modern engineer has anticipated the requirements of the farmer in this direction, and there are now quite a number of handy little oil engines in the market that are mo- derate in price, reliable, easy to manipulate, and economical in the way of saving labour. It is in the implement yards at the shows where the engineer brings his wares before the notice of the farmer, and it is through seeing beautifully made engines at shows doing their work so easily and simply that men are in- duced to invest in one of these contrivances. Rarely do they repent it, and never if the farm is one where there is a good deal of power wanted for cutting and grinding, and the sight of a horse going round and round in a kind of circus ring and working the chaff-cutting inside the building is gradually growing less com- mon. One thing, of course, is essential with an engine-namely, to understand it and know how to work it. This does not require any great fund of engineering skill, for in the con- trivances of to-day simplicity is a feature, but it is when its working parts are neglected or allowed to get dirty that the farm engine begins to give some trouble. FARMERS AS POULTRY KEEPERS. "Farmers do not shine as bright lights in the poultry world." This, by the way, is an opin- ion expressed by a correspondent in these col- umns recently, and without any wish to hurt the feelings of any enthusiastic farmer poultry- keepers, we must say that there is a good deal of truth in the remark. As a matter of fact farmers, perhaps the majority of the fraternity, do not take their poultry keeping seriously enough. In other words, the returns from the poultry is looked upon as being something of a by-product, very much the same as the fruit from the orchard, and fowls are kept more as a matter of course rather than an essential part of the concern. Whether the poultry really pays or not is more than many a farmer could tell you, because no accounts are kept, and the mixed, mongrel nature of scores of farm- yard flocks is proof sufficient that not much attention is paid to breeds and strains. But if poultry on the farm is to be really profitable- and there are no conditions more suitable r it-it must be treated as a branch of the whole concern, like the stock, horses, sheep, and pigs. There is poultry keeping and poultry keeping, but there is a great difference between them. In one case the poultry is kept, or cultivated if you like, on the best lines with a view to profit, and in the other the fowls are merely kept-nothing more. CULTIVATION AND MANURE. Time is moving slowly along, every day is a little longer than its predecessor, and we feel that the sun gets warmer, if only just a little up to the present. The outlook is hopeful, and the higher prices obtained of late for farm produce acts as an incentive for us to spare no efforts in order to get as much from the gro ind as possible. To do this the farmer needs the aid of manure, part of which he produces < the place and the other part he gets in cca- centrated form from the artificial manure mer- chant. The latter costs money, but it is all essential commodity and cannot be dispensed with in the farming of to-day. Just so; t t manure is not everything, and cultivation stands for a great deal. Indeed, the word manure is derived from "manoeuvre," which means to till by hand, i.e., cultivation. How much manure is wasted through faultiness in cultural operations, and what part does good cultivation, deep tilth, and a fine seed-bed play in the successful growth of farm crops? Cul- tivation alone is not enough, neither is manure, but when the forces of both are brought to play in conjunction the best results are ob- tained. A Pennsylvania man has devised a machine to date hen's eggs, so that the purchaser may ascertain their age at a glance. His scheme is to provide a nest to which is attached a rubber chute, which conveys the egg to the dating appliances. The chute is arranged Vith rubber stops to lessen the speed of the egg as it rolls merrily on its way. The dating attachment is operated by clockwork, and one grinding will .keep it running a year, As the egg reaches the dater it is caught in a clutch and held in place While the stamp fs applied. The egg then runs into a basket.