field pattern

Geographers use field pattern to describe how the countryside is divided up into allotments for cultivation or grazing, reflecting the history of ownership and administration. The term may also refer to the way in which individual fields are plowed. The typical field pattern in New England is a crazy quilt of small, irregular parcels, their boundaries influenced by the contours of the land. Along rivers in Louisiana and the Southwest, fields are often laid out according to the old French and Spanish system of narrow long lots running at right angles to the watercourse. Meanwhile, in the Midwest the dominant pattern, dictated by the Land Ordinance of 1785, is a checkerboard of mile-square sections, their sides running due north-south or east-west, without regard to hills, streams, or other natural features. A corrugated field is one in which neighboring strips are plowed in opposite directions, thus creating distinct ridges and troughs, to reduce erosion or guide irrigation water. An envelope field, which suggests the merging of the triangle folds on the reverse of an envelope, is a type of corrugated field.

Scott Russell Sanders