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Ten Acres Enough
Chapter XVI.—Close of my First Year—Its Loss and Gain


It was now the dead of winter. Everything was frozen up; but though cheerless without, it was far from being so within. My little library, well supplied with books and the literature of the day, afforded me an intellectual banquet which never palled upon the appetite. Here my desk was ever open; here pen, and ink, and diary were constantly at hand, for entering down my expenditures and receipts, with facts and observations for future use. Thus conveniently provided, and all my life accustomed to accounts, I found no difficulty at the year's end in ascertaining to a dollar whether my first season's experience had been one of loss or gain. I give the particulars in full—

Cost of stable manure and ashes................$348.00
Plaster and guano, not all used.................. 20.00
Ploughing, harrowing, and digging up the garden 30.00
Cabbage and tomato plants...................... 30.00
Loss on my first cow............................ 7.00
Garden seeds................................... 8.00
Cost of six pigs................................. 12.00
Corn-meal and bran..,.......................... 28.00
Dick's wages for six months..................... 72.00
Total
$455.00

Here was an outlay of $455, all of which was likely to occur every year, except the two items of loss on cow, and cost of buying cabbages and tomato-plants, which have subsequently been raised in a hotbed at home, without costing a dollar. The great item is in manure, amounting to $268; and this must be kept at the same figure, if not increased, unless an equal quantity can, by some process, be manufactured at home.

Then there was the following permanent outlay made in stocking the farm with fruit:

Strawberries for six acres................... $120.00
Raspberries for two acres................... 34.00
804 Peach-trees, and planting them.......... 72.36
Total $226.36

This constituted a permanent investment of capital, and would not have to be repeated, so that the actual cost the first year was, as stated, $455. My own time and labor are not charged, because that item is adjusted in the grand result of whether the farm supported me or not. There was also the cost of horse and cow, ploughs, and other tools; but these, too, were investments, not expenses. They could be resold for money, no doubt, at some loss. A portion of that capital could therefore be recovered. So, also, with the large item of $226.36, invested in standard fruits; as, if the farm were sold its being stocked with them would insure its bringing a higher price in consequence, probably enough to refund the capital thus invested.

It is fair, therefore, to charge the current expenses only against the current receipts. The latter were as follows:

Sales of blackberry plants................ $460.00
" cabbages.......................... 82.00
" tomatoes ........................ 120.00
" garden products.................. 80.00
" pork.............................. 49.00
Total $791.00

Current expenses, as stated............... 455.00

Profit................. $336.00

This was about $1.25 per day for the two hundred and seventy-five days we had been in the country, from April 1st to January 1st, and, when added to our copious supplies of vegetables, fruit, pork, and milk, it kept the family in abundance. I proved this by a very simple formula. I knew exactly how much cash I had on hand when I began in April, and from that amount deducted the cost of all my permanent investments in standard fruits, stock, and implements, and found that the remainder came within a few cents of the balance on hand in January. I did not owe a dollar, and had food enough to keep my stock till spring. The season had been a good one for me, and we felt the greatest encouragement to persevere, as the first difficulties had been overcome, and the second season promised to be much more profitable. I considered the problem as very nearly solved.

It will be noted that no cash was received for strawberries, and herein is involved a fact important to be known and acted on by the growers of this fruit. Most men, when planting them, say in March or April, are impatient for a crop in June. But this should never be allowed. As soon as the blossoms appear, they should be removed. The newly transplanted vine has work enough thrown upon its roots in repairing the damage it has suffered in being removed from one location to another, without being compelled, in addition, to mature a crop of fruit. To require it to do both is imposing on the roots a task they are many times unable to perform. The draft upon them by the ripening fruit is more than they can bear. I have known large fields of newly-planted vines perish in a dry season from this cause alone. The writers on strawberry culture sometimes recommend removing the blossoms the first year, but not with sufficient urgency. I lay it down as absolutely indispensable to the establishment of a robust growth. Thus believing, my blossoms were all clipped off with scissors; and hence, though stronger plants were thus produced, yet there was no fruit to sell.

It must also be remembered that my entire profit consisted of the single item of sales of plants; hence, if there had been no demand for Lawtons, or if I had happened to have none for sale, there would have been an actual loss. My having them was a mere accident, and my luck in this respect was quite exceptional. Unless others happen to be equally lucky, they may set down their first year as very certain to yield no profit. With persons as inexperienced as I was when beginning, no other result should be expected.

Winter is proverbially the farmer's holiday. But it was no idle time with me. I had too long been trained to habits of industry, to lounge about the house simply because no weeds could be found to kill. The careful man will find a world of fixing up to do for winter. As it came on slowly through a gorgeous Indian summer, I set myself to cleaning up the litter round the premises, and put the garden into the best condition for the coming season. The verbenas had gone from the borders; the petunias had withered on the little mound whereon their red and white had flashed so gayly in captivating contrast during the summer; the delicate cypress-vine had blackened at the touch of a single frosty night; the lady-slipper hung her flowery head; all the family of roses had faded; the morning-glory had withered; even the hardy honeysuckle had been frozen crisp. From the fruit-trees a crowd of leaves had fallen upon every garden-walk. Plants that needed housing were carefully potted, and taken under cover. The walks were cleared of leaves by transferring them to the barnyard. Bushes, trees, and vines were trimmed. Every remnant of decay was removed. The December sunshine fell upon a garden so trim and neat, that even in the bleakest day it was not unpleasant to wander through its alleys, and observe those wintry visitants, the snow-birds, gathering from the bushes their scanty store of favorite seeds. The asparagus was covered deeply with its favorite manure, and heavily salted. Tender roses were banked up with barnyard scrapings, and every delicate plant protected for its long season of hybernation.

Dick had his share of exemption from excessive labor. But I kept him tolerably busy for weeks in gathering up the cloud of leaves which fell throughout the neighborhood from roadsides lined with trees. No manure is so well worth saving in October and November as the falling leaves. They contain nearly three times as much nitrogen as ordinary barnyard manure; and every gardener who has strewn and covered them in his trenches late in the fall or in December, must have noticed the next season how black and moist the soil is that adheres to the thrifty young beets he pulls. No vegetable substance yields its woody fibre and becomes soluble quicker than leaves; and, from this very cause, they are soon dried up, scattered to the winds, and wasted, if not now gathered and trenched in, or composted, before the advent of severe winter.

My horse, and cow, and pigs, all slept in leaves. Their beds were warm and easy, and the saving of straw for litter was an item. As they were abundant, and very convenient, Dick carted to the barnyard an enormous quantity. Placing enough of them under cover, he littered all the stock with them until spring. The remainder was composted with the contents of the barnyard, and thus made a very important addition to my stock of manure. Thus the leaf-harvest is one of importance to the farmer, if he will but avail himself of it. A calm day or two spent in this business will enable him to get together a large pile of these fallen leaves; and if stowed in a dry place, he will experience the good effects of them in the improved condition of his stock, compared with those which are suffered to lie down, and perhaps be frozen down, in their own filth. The fertilizing material of leaves also adds essentially to the enriching qualities of the manure-heap. Gardeners prize highly a compost made in part of decomposed leaves. The leaf-harvest is the last harvest of the year, and should he thoroughly attended to at the proper time.

The leisure of the season gave us greater opportu­nity for intercourse, both at home and abroad. The city was comparatively at our door, as accessible as ever—we were really mere suburbans. "We ran down in an hour to be spectators of any unusual sight, and frequently attended the evening lectures of distinguished men. It was impossible for the world to sweep on, leaving us to stagnate. How different this winter seemed to me from any preceding one! Formerly, this long season had been one of constant toiling; now, it was one of almost uninterrupted recreation. How different the path I travelled from that in which ambition hurries forward—too narrow for friendship, too crooked for love, too rugged for honesty, and too dark for science! Thus, if we choose, we may sandwich in the poetry with the prose of life. Thus, many a dainty happiness and relishing enjoyment may come between the slices of every-day work, if we only so determine.


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