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Ten Acres Enough
Chapter XX.—My Third Year—Liquid Manure-Three Years' Results

As usual with me at the opening of spring, the garden received our first attention. Dick covered it heavily with manure, cleared it up and made all ready for wife and daughter. This year we had no seeds to purchase, having carefully laid them aside from the last. In order to try for myself the value of liquid manuring, I mounted a barrel on a wheel­barrow, so that it could be turned in any direction, and the liquor be discharged through a sprinkler with the greatest convenience. Dick attended faithfully to this department. As early as January he had begun to sprinkle the asparagus; indeed he deluged it, putting on not less than twenty barrels of liquor before it was forked up. It had received its full share of rich manure in the autumn: the result of both applications being a more luxuriant growth of this delightful vegetable than perhaps even the Philadelphia market had ever exhibited. The shoots came up more numerously than before, were whiter, thicker, and tenderer, and commanded five cents a bunch more than any other. As the bed was a large one, and the yield great, we sold to the amount of $21. I certainly never tasted so luscious and tender an article. Its superiority was justly traceable, to some extent, to the liquid manure.

The same stimulant was freely administered all over the garden, and with marked results. It was never used in dry weather, nor when a hot sun was shining. We contrived to get it on at the beginning of a rain, or during drizzly weather, so that it should be immediately diluted and then carried down to the roots. I have no doubt it promoted the growth of weeds, as there was certainly more of them to kill this season than ever before. But we had all become reconciled to the sight of weeds—expected them as a matter of course—and my wife and Kate became thorough converts to Dick's heresy as to the impos­sibility of ever getting rid of them. I was pained to hear of this declension from what I regarded as the only true faith; but when I saw the terrible armies which came up in the garden just as regularly as Dick distributed his liquor, I confess they had abundant reason for the faith that was in them.

But the barnyard fluid was a good thing, notwithstanding. It brought the early beets into market ten days ahead of all competitors, thus securing the best prices. It was the same with radishes and salad. The latter is scarcely ever to be had in small country towns, and then only at high rates. But whether it was owing to the liquor or not, I will not say, but it came early into market in the best possible condition; and as there happened to be plenty of it, we sold to the amount of $19 of the very early, and then, as prices lowered, continued to send it to the store as long as it commanded two cents a head, after which the cow and pigs became exclusive customers. The fall vegetables, such as white onions, carrots and parsnips, having had more of the liquor, did even better, for they grew to very large size. It was the same thing with currants and gooseberries. The whole together produced $83; to which must be added the ten peach-trees, all which I had thinned out when the fruit was the size of hickory nuts, and with the same success as the previous year. This was in 1857, that time of panic, suspension, and insolvency. That year had been noted, even from its opening, as one of great scarcity of money in the cities, when all unlucky enough to need, it were compelled to pay the highest rates for its use. But we in the country, being out of the ring, gave way to no panic, felt no scarcity, experienced no insolvency. Peaches brought as high a price as ever; as, let times in the city be black as they may, there is always money enough in somebody's hands to exchange for all the choice fruit that goes to market. The fruit from the ten trees produced me $69, making the whole product of the garden $152. I thought this was not doing well enough, and resolved to do better another year.

At the usual season for the weeds to show themselves on the nine acres, it very soon became evident that two years' warfare had resulted in a comparative conquest. It may be safely said that there was not half the usual number, and so it continued throughout the season. But no exertion was spared to keep them under, none being allowed to go to seed. This watchfulness being continued from that day to this, the mastery has been complete. We still have weeds, but are no longer troubled with them as at the beginning. The secret lies in a nut­shell—let none go to seed. Nor let any cultivator be discouraged, no matter how formidable the host he may have to attack at the beginning. But if he will procure the proper labor-saving tools, and drive them with a determined perseverance, success is sure.

As usual, the strawberries came first into market, and were prepared and sent off with even more care than formerly. The money pressure in the cities caused no reduction in price, and my net receipts were $903. An experienced grower near me, with only four acres, cleared $1,200 the same season. His crop was much heavier than mine. If he had practised the same care in assorting his fruit for market, he would have realized several hundred dollars more. But his effort was for quantity, not quality.

A portion of the raspberries had been thoroughly watered with the liquid manure, all through the colder spring months. It was too great a labor, with a single wheelbarrow, to supply the whole two acres, or it would have been similarly treated. But the portion thus supplied was certainly three times as productive as the portion not supplied. My whole net receipts from raspberries amounted to $267. The plants were now well rooted, and were in prime bearing condition. Since this, I have quadrupled my facilities for applying the liquid manure. A large hogshead has been mounted on low wheels, the rims of which are four inches wide, so as to prevent them sinking into the ground, the whole being constructed to weigh as little as possible. The sprinkling apparatus will drench one or two rows at a time, as may be desired. The driver rides on the cart, and by raising or lowering a valve, lets on or shuts off the flow of liquor at his pleasure. Having been based on the raspberries for several years, I can testify to the extraordinary value of this mode of applying manure. It stimulates an astonishing growth of canes, increases the quantity of fruit, while it secures the grand desideratum, a prodigious enlargement in the size of the berries. I find by inquiry among my neighbors that none of them get so high prices as myself. Every crop has been growing more profitable than the preceding one; and it may be set down that an acre of raspberries, treated and attended to as they ought to be, will realize a net profit of $200 annually. The Lawtons were this year to come into stronger bearing. Parties in New York and Philadelphia had agreed to take all my crop, and guarantee me twenty-five cents a quart. One speculator came to my house and offered $200 for the crop, before the berries were ripe. I should have accepted the offer, thinking that was money enough to make from one acre, had not my obligation to send the fruit to other parties interfered with a sale. But I made out a trifle better, as the quantity marketed amounted to 896 quarts, which netted me $206.08. In addition to this, the sales of plants amounted to $101. As the market price for plants was falling, I was not anxious to multiply them to the injury of the fruit; hence many suckers were cut down outside of the rows, so as to throw the whole energy of the roots into the berries; and I think the result justified this course. The demand for the fruit was so great, that I could have readily sold four times as much at the same price. As the season for the blackberries closed, all the stray fruit was gathered and converted into an admirable wine. Some seventy bottles were made for home use; and when a year old, I discovered that it was of ready sale at half a dollar per bottle. Since then we have made a barrel of wine annually; and when old enough, all not needed for domestic purposes is sold at $2 per gallon. It is a small item of our general income, but quite sufficient to show that vast profit may be made by any person going largely into the business of manufacturing blackberry-wine.

We raised nothing of value among the blackberries this year. The growth of new wood had been so luxuriant, that the ground between the rows was too much shaded to permit other plants to mature. In some places, the huge canes, throwing out branches six to seven feet long, had interlocked with each other from row to row, and were cut away, to enable the cultivator and weeder to pass along between them, and thenceforward this acre was given up entirely to the blackberries. As the roots wandered away for twenty or thirty feet in search of nourishment, they acquired new power to force up stronger and more numerous canes. Many of these came up profusely in a direct line with the original plants. When not standing too close together, they were carefully preserved, when of vigorous growth; but the feeble ones were taken up and sold. Thus, in a few years, a row which had been originally set with plants eight feet apart became a compact hedge, and an acre supporting full six times as many bearing canes as when first planted. Hence the crop of fruit should increase annually. It will continue to do so, if not more than three vigorous canes are allowed to grow in one cluster; if the canes are cut down in July to three or four feet high; if the branches are cut back to a foot in length; if the growth of all suckers between the rows is thoroughly stopped by treating them the same as weeds; if the old-bearing wood is nicely taken out at the close of every season; and, finally, if the plants are bountifully supplied with manure. From long experience with this admirable fruit, I lay it down as a rule that every single condition above stated must be complied with, if the grower expects abundant crops of the very finest fruit. Observe them, and the result is certain; neglect them, and the reward will be inferior fruit, to sell at inferior prices.

To the Lawtons succeeded the peaches, now their first bearing year. We had protected them for three seasons from the fly by keeping the butts well tarred, and they were now about to give some return for this careful but unexpensive oversight. Some few of them produced no fruit whatever, but the majority made a respectable show. I went over the orchard myself, examining each tree with the utmost care, and removed every peach of inferior size, as well as thinning out even good ones which happened to be too much crowded together. Being of the earlier sorts, they came into market in advance of a glut; and though the money-pressure in the cities was now about culminating in the memorable explosion of September, yet there was still money enough left in the pockets of the multitude to pay good prices for peaches. It is with fruit as it is with rum—men are never too poor to buy both. My 804 trees produced me $208 clear of expenses, with a pretty sure prospect of doing much better hereafter. I had learned from experience that a shrewd grower need not be apprehensive of a glut; and that if panics palsied, or a general insolvency desolated the cities, they still contrived to hold as much money as before. Credit might disappear, but the money remained; and the industrious tiller of the soil was sure to get his full share of the general fund which survives even the worst convulsion.

My acre of tomatoes netted me this year $192, my pork $61, my potatoes $40, and the calf $3. Thus, as my grounds became charged with manure,—as I restored to it the waste occasioned by the crops that were removed from it, and even more than that waste,—so my crops increased in value. It was thus demonstrable that manuring would pay. On the clover-field the most signal evidence of this was apparent. After each cutting of clover had been taken to the barnyard, the liquor-cart distributed over the newly mown sod a copious supply of liquid manure, thus regularly restoring to the earth an equivalent for the crop removed. It was most instructive to see how immediately after each application the well-rooted clover shot up into luxuriant growth. I have thus mowed it three times in a season, and can readily believe that in the moister climate of England and Flanders as many as six crops are annually taken from grass lands thus treated with liquid manure. Indeed, I am inclined to believe that there is no reasonable limit to the yield of an acre of ground which is constantly and heavily manured, and cultivated by one who thoroughly understands his art.

Three years' experience of profit and loss is quite sufficient for the purpose of this volume. It has satisfied me, as it should satisfy others, that Ten Acres are Enough I give the following recapitula­tion for convenience of reference:



This result may surprise many not conversant with the profits which are constantly being realized from small farms. But rejecting the income from the sale of plants, the pigs, and the calf, as exceptional things, and the profit of the nine acres for the first year will be found to be nothing per acre, for the second year, $83.50, and for the third, $129.10. But there are obvious reasons why this should be so. The ground was crowded to its utmost capacity with those plants only which yielded the very highest rate of profit, and for which there was an unfailing demand. In addition to this, it was cultivated with the most unflagging industry and care. Besides using the contents of more than one barnyard upon it, I literally manured it with brains. My whole mind and energies were devoted to improving and attending to it. No city business was ever more industriously or intelligently supervised than this. But if the reward was ample, it was no greater than others all around me were annually realizing, the only difference being that they cultivated more ground. While they diffused their labor over twenty acres, I concentrated mine on ten. Yet, having only half as much ground to work over, I realized as large a profit as the average of them all. Concentrated labor and manuring thus brought the return which is always realized from them when intelligently combined.

For six years since 1857 I have continued to cultivate this little farm. Sometimes an unpropitious season has cut down my profits to a low figure, but I have never lost money on the year's business. Now and then a crop or two has utterly failed, as some seasons are too dry, and others are too wet. But among the variety cultivated some are sure to succeed. Only once or twice have I failed to invest a few hundred dollars at the year's end. All other business has been studiously avoided. I have spent considerable money in adding to the convenience of my dwelling, and the extent of my outbuildings; among the latter is a little shop furnished with more tools than are generally to be found upon a farm, which save me many dollars in a year, and many errands to the carpenter and wheelwright. The marriage of my daughter Kate called for a genteel outfit, which she received without occasioning me any inconvenience. I buy nothing on credit, and for more than ten years have had no occasion to give a note. If at the year's end we are found to owe anything at the stores, it is promptly paid. As means increased, my family has lived more expensively though I think not any more comfortably.

I do not deserve more than others, but thankful that God has given me more. I rise in the morning with an appetite for labor as keen as that for breakfast. But others can succeed as well as myself. Capital or no capital, the proper industry and determination will certainly be rewarded by success.

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