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Ten Acres Enough
Chapter XVIII.—Raspberries—The Lawtons


To strawberries succeeded raspberries. My stock of boxes was thus useful a second time. But raspberries are not always reliable for a full crop the first season after planting, and so it turned out with mine. They bore only moderately; but by exercising the same care in rejecting all inferior specimens, the first commanded twenty-five cents a quart in market; gradually declining to twelve, below which none were sold. I marketed only 242 quarts from the whole, netting an average of 16 cents a quart, or $38.72. In price they were thus, equal to strawberries. In addition to this, we consumed in the family as much as all desired, and that was not small. I had heard of others doing considerably better than this, but had no disposition to be dissatisfied.

The trade in raspberries is increasing rapidly in the neighborhood of all our large cities, stimulated by the establishment of steamboats and railroads, on which they go so quickly and cheaply to market. It is probably greater in New York State than elsewhere. The citizens of Marlborough, in Ulster county, have a steamboat regularly employed for almost the sole business of transporting their raspberries to New York. In a single season their sales of this fruit amount to nearly $90,000. The demand is inexhaustible, and the cultivation consequently increases. In the immediate vicinity of Milton, in the same county, there are over 100 acres of them, and new plantations are being annually established. The pickers are on the ground as soon as the dew is off, as the berries do not keep so well when gathered wet. I have there seen fifty pickers at work at the same time, men, women, and children, some of them astonishingly expert, earning as much as $2 in a day. Several persons were constantly employed in packing the neat little baskets into crates, the baskets holding nearly a pint. By six o'clock the crates were put on board the steamboat, and by sunrise next morning they were in Washington market. As many as 80,000 baskets are carried at a single trip. The retail price averages ten cents a basket, one boat thus carrying $800 worth in a single day. All this cultivation being conducted in a large way, the yield per acre is consequently less than from small patches thoroughly attended to. There are repeated instances of $400 and even $600 being made clear from a single acre of raspberries.

The culture in Ulster county, though at first view appearing small, yet gives employment to, and distributes its gains among thousands of persons. The mere culture requires the services of a large number of people. The pickers there, as well as in New Jersey, constitute a small army, there being five or more required for each acre, and the moneys thus earned by these industrious people go far towards making entire families comfortable during some months of the year. The season for raspberries continues about six weeks. Many of the baskets which are used about New York are imported from France, Frequently the supply is unequal to the demand. If the chip boxes were introduced, as suggested in the last chapter, the whole of this outlay to foreign countries could be stopped. It is strange, indeed, that any portion of our people should be compelled to depend on France for baskets in which to convey their berries to market.

As my raspberries disappeared, so in regular succession came the Lawton blackberries. I had cut off the tip of every cane the preceding July. This, by stopping the upward growth, drove the whole energy of the plant into the formation of branches. These had in turn been shortened to a foot in length at the close of last season. This process, by limiting the quantity of fruit to be produced, increased the size of the berries. I am certain of this fact, by long experience with this plant. It also prevented the ends of the branches resting on the ground, when all fruit there produced would otherwise be ruined by being covered with dust or mud. Besides, this was their first bearing year, and as they had not had time to acquire a full supply of roots, it would be unwise to let them overbear themselves. Some few which had grown to a great height were staked up with pickets four and a half feet long, and tied, the pickets costing $11 per thousand at the lumber-yard. But the majority did not need this staking up the first season; but many of the canes sent up this year, for bearers the next, it was necessary to support with stakes.

The crop was excellent in quality, but not large. I began picking July 20, and thus had the third use of my stock of boxes. I practised the same care in assorting these berries for market which had been observed with the others, keeping the larger ones separate from the smallest ones. Thus a chest of the selected berries, when exposed to view, presented a truly magnificent sight. Up to this time they had never been seen by fifty frequenters of the Philadelphia markets. But when this rare display was first opened in two of the principal markets, it produced a great sensation. None had been picked until perfectly ripe, hence the rare and melting flavor peculiar to the Lawton prevaded every berry. They sold rapidly and netted me thirty cents a quart, the smaller ones twenty-five cents. There appeared to be no limit to the demand at these prices. Buyers cheerfully gave them, though they could get the common wild blackberry in the same market at ten cents. Now, it cost me no more to raise the Lawtons than it would have done to raise the common article. But this is merely another illustration of the folly of raising the poorest fruit to sell at the lowest prices, instead of the best to sell at the highest.

The crop of Lawtons amounted to five hundred and ninety-two quarts, and netted me $159.84, an average of twenty-seven cents a quart. My family did not fail to eat even more than a usual allowance. As soon as the picking was done, while the plants were yet covered with leaves, Dick cut off at the ground all the canes which had just fruited, using a strong pair of snip-shears, which cut them through without any labor. These canes having done their duty would die in the autumn, could now be more easily cut than when grown hard after death, and if removed at once, would be out of the way of the new canes of this year's growth.

The latter could then be trimmed and staked up for the coming year, the removal of all which superfluous foliage would let in the sun and air more freely to the cabbages between the rows. The old wood being thus cut out, was gathered in a heap, and when dry enough was burned, the ashes being collected and scattered around the peach-trees. After this the limbs were all shortened in to a foot. They were very strong and vigorous, as in July the tops of the canes had all been taken off, leaving no cane more than four feet high. The branches were consequently very strong, giving promise of a fine crop another season. After this, such as needed it were staked up and tied, as the autumn and winter winds so blow and twist them about that otherwise they would be broken off. But subsequent practice has induced me to cut down to only three feet high; and this being done in July, when the plant is in full growth, the cane becomes so stiff and stocky before losing its leaves as to require no staking, and will support itself under any ordinary storm. I have seen growers of this fruit who neglected for two or three years, either from laziness or carelessness, to remove the old wood; but it made terrible work for the pickers, as in order to get at one year's fruit they were compelled to contend with three years' briers. Only a sloven will thus fail to remove the old wood annually. I prefer removing it in the autumn, as soon as picking is over, for reasons above given, and also because at that time there is less to do than in the spring.

In the meantime the fame of the Lawton black­berry had greatly extended and the demand increased, but the propagation had also been stimulated. A class of growers had omitted tilling their grounds, so as to promote the growth of suckers, caring more for the sale of plants than for that of fruit. Hence the quantity to meet the demand was so large as to reduce the price, but I sold of this year's growth enough plants to produce me $213.50. Of this I laid out $54 in marl, which I devoted exclusively to the blackberries. I had been advised by a friend that marl was the specific manure for this plant, as of his own knowledge he knew it to be so. A half-peck was spread round each hill, and the remainder scattered over the ground. A single row was left unmarled. It showed the power of this fertilizer the next season, as the rows thus manured were surprisingly better filled with fruit than that which received none. Since that I have continued to use this fertilizer on my blackberries, and can from experience recommend its use to all who may cultivate them.

With the sale of pork, amounting to $58, the receipts of my second year terminated. My cash-book showed the following as the total of receipts and expenditures:

Paid for stable manure........................ $200.00
Ashes, and Baugh's rawbone superphosphate.. 92.00
Marl...................................... 54.00
Dick's wages................................ 144.00
Occasional help............................... 94.00
Feed for stock............................... 79.30
Pigs bought.................................. 12.00
Garden and other seeds....................... 13.00
Lumber, nails, and sundries.................. 14.50
Stakes and twine............................. 7.00
Total $709.80

The credit side of the account was much better than last year, and was as follows :

From strawberries, 6 acres................ $857.60
" Lawton blackberries, 1 acre......... 159.84
" Lawton plants...................... 213.50
" raspberries, 2 acres ................. 38.72
" tomatoes, 1 acre..................... 190.00
" cabbages............................ 70.20
" garden.............................. 63.00
" peaches, 10 trees in garden.......... 58.00
" potatoes............................. 24.00
" pork................................. 58.00
" calf................................. 2.00
Total $1,734.86

The reader will not fail to bear in mind that in addition to this cash receipt towards the support of a family, we had not laid out a dollar for fruits or vegetables during the entire year. Having all of them in unstinted abundance, with a most noble cow, the cash outlay for the family was necessarily very small; for no one knows, until he has all these things without paying for them in money, how very far they go towards making up the sum total of the cost of keeping a family of ten persons. In addition to this, we had a full six months' supply of pork on hand.

The reader will also be struck with the enormous difference in favor of the second year. But on dissecting the two accounts he will see good reason for this difference. In the first place, some improvement was natural, as the result of my increase of knowledge,—I was expected to be all the time growing wiser in my new calling. In the second place, some expenses incident to the initiatory year were lopped off; and third, three of my standard fruits had come into bearing. The increase of receipts was apparently sudden, but it was exactly what was to be expected. I used manure more freely, and on my acre of clover was particular to spread a good dressing of solid or liquid manure immediately after each mowing, so as to thus restore to it a full equivalent for the food taken away. This dressing was sometimes ashes, sometimes plaster, or bone-phosphate, or liquid, and in the fall a good topping from the barnyard. In return for this, the yield of clover was probably four times what it would have been had the lot been pastured and left unmanured. In fact, it became evident to me that the more manure I was able to apply on any crop, the more satisfactory were my returns. Hence, the soiling system was persevered in, and we had now become so accustomed to it that we considered it as no extra trouble.

The result of this year's operations was apparently conclusive. My expenses for the farm had been $709.80, while my receipts had been $1,734.86, leaving a surplus of $1,025.06 for the support of my family. But more than half of their support had been drawn from the products of the farm; and, at the year's end, when every account had been settled up, and every bill at the stores paid off, I found that of this $1,025.06 I had $567 in cash on hand,—proving that it had required only $458.06 in money, in addition to what we consumed from the farm, to keep us all with far more comfort than we had ever known in the city. Thus, after setting aside $356.06 for the purchase of manure, there was a clear surplus of $200 for investment.

I had never done better than this in the city. There, the year's end never found me with accounts squared up, and a clear cash balance on hand. Few occupations can be carried on in the city after so snug a fashion. Credit is there the rule, and cash the exception,—at least it was ten years ago. But in the apparently humbler trade of trucking and fruit-growing everything is cash. Manure, the great staple article to be bought, can be had on credit; but all you grow from it is cash. Food must be paid for on delivery, and he who produces it will have no bad debts at the year's end but such as may exist from his own carelessness or neglect. Thus, what a farmer earns he gets. He loses none of his gains, if he attends to his business. They may be smaller, on paper, than those realized by dashing operators in the city, but they are infinitely more tangible; and if, as in my case, they should prove to be enough, what matters it as to the amount? The producers of food, therefore, possess this preponderating advantage over all other classes of business men: they go into a market where cash without limit is always ready to be paid down for whatever they bring to it. A business which is notoriously profitable, thus kept up at the cash level, and consequently free from the hazard of bad debts, cannot fail to enrich those who pursue it exten­sively, and with proper intelligence and industry. I could name various men who, beginning on less than a hundred dollars, and on rented land, have in a few years become its owners, and in the end arrived at great wealth, solely from the business of raising fruit and truck.


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