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Ten Acres Enough
Chapter XXI.—A Barnyard Manufactory—Land Enough—Faith in Manure


As previously stated, there is no successful farming without a liberal expenditure for manure. I had proved that high manuring would pay, and while anxious to increase the quantity, was desirous of reducing the money-cost. I continued every season to scour the neighborhood for leaves, and to gather up every available material for the barnyard. But in addition to all this, in October and November of my fourth year I purchased twenty heifers which would calve in the spring, intending to feed them through the winter, and then sell as soon as they had calved. My idea was, that they could be sold for a profit large enough to cover the cost of keeping them, thus having the manure all clear. I consulted many persons versed in this business, farmers, butchers, and others, before venturing on it, as it was a good deal out of my usual line of operations. I also consulted all my files of agricultural papers, where I found set forth a multitude of experiences on the subject, the most of which led me to conclude that it would be safe to try the experiment. There seemed to be but little danger of loss, even if nothing were made, while it was quite certain a good deal of knowledge would be gained.

I accordingly had a rough shed built, large enough to contain twenty cows, with an entry in front of them and a large feed-room at one end. Then mangers were provided, and a plank gutter laid just back of where the cows would stand, into which all the droppings would fall, and down which the water would run into a wide earthen pipe which emptied into the cistern in the barnyard. Here the cows stood in a row, never being allowed to go out, except an hour or two at noon when the weather was fine. I agreed with Dick to take entire charge of the feeding and watering them, for the consideration of $30 extra. I bought the cornstalks from some twenty acres near me, at $3 an acre, and these were delivered from time to time as they were needed, there not being room on the premises for so large a quantity at once. I had provided a superior cutter, with which Dick cut up the stalks and blades, reducing them to pieces a half-inch long, and he then put them into a hogshead of water, where they remained a day and night to soak. Thence they were transferred to a steaming apparatus, constructed expressly for this purpose, where they were made perfectly soft. Corn meal, bran, and various kinds of ground feed were mixed in and steamed with the cut stalks, a sprinkling of salt being added. A day's feed for the whole twenty was cooked at one operation. This preparation came out soft and palatable, and the cows took to it greedily. The ground feed was varied during the season, and occasionally a few turnips, parsnips, and cabbages were cooked up to increase the variety. I had no hay to give them, and they got none.

But on the other hand, Dick gave them four good strong messes every day, that at night being a very heavy one. He said they throve as well as any cattle he had ever seen. The gutter behind them was cleaned out twice a day and sprinkled with plaster, thus keeping the place always clean and sweet. In fact, I made cleanliness the order of the day throughout the entire barnyard. The manure was thrown directly from the gutter into a wheelbarrow having a thick layer of leaves spread over its bottom, and then emptied in a heap under the manure shed. As the cows were also littered with leaves, these, when too foul for longer use, were taken to the same heap. Others were added, with cornstalks in occasional layers; and as each layer was deposited, the whole heap was saturated with liquor from the cistern. I do not think a better lot of common barnyard manure has ever been manufactured. Dick entered into the spirit of the experiment, and carried it through without once faltering.

As soon as the cows began dropping their calves in the spring, I advertised them, and plenty of purchasers appeared, as a choice out of twenty was of some value. They had cost me $22 each. I had kept them an average of one hundred and forty days for each cow, at a cost of six cents per day for each, or $8.40, making with the first cost $30.40 per cow, or $608 for the whole. To this was added $60 for cornstalks and $40 for Dick, making a grand total of $708. I sold them at an average of $35.50, and thus realized $710, or a cash profit of $2. Instead of paying Dick $30 for his trouble, I told the fellow that as he had performed his duty so satisfactorily, he should have $40. This little voluntary contribution so gratified him, that I feel assured its value has been refunded to me fourfold, by his subsequent attention as a professor of the art and mystery of manufacturing manure.

Thus I made $2 in cash by the operation, besides having a great quantity of cornstalks left over, and a pile of manure certainly as ample as any for which I had paid $250. Moreover, it was on my own premises; it had been most carefully attended to during the whole process of manufacture; I knew what it was composed of, and that the seeds of noxious weeds could not have been added to it. All these facts gave it value over the chance lots which farmers are often compelled to purchase, and from which their fields are many times sowed with thousands of weeds. Here was a clear saving of $250 added to my profits.

The result was so encouraging, that I have continued the practice of thus feeding cattle during the winter from that day to this, increasing the number, however, to twenty-five. I find no difficulty in making sales in the spring. Sometimes I have lost a few dollars on a winter's operations, sometimes made a little profit, and sometimes come out just even. On the run of four years there has been no profit beyond the manure; but that much is all clear. Thus the winter, instead of being a season of suspended profits as formerly, is now one of positive gain. The operation of thus feeding cattle is certainly attended with trouble. But once provided with all the conveniences for carrying it on, it is not only simple and easy, but becomes even interesting. No one who has not tried it in a careful, methodical way, can have any idea of the rapidity with which the manure heaps grow, nor the size to which they ultimately attain. My neighbors having long since ceased to be amused at what they facetiously called the novelty of my operations, did not venture to ridicule even this. On the contrary, they rather approved of it, though not one of them could tell how much it cost to keep a cow per week. But I impute part of my success to their approval. The practice is intrinsically a good one, and only needs being carried on properly to make it pay.

Let me add, that there is a very cheap and convenient mode of covering manure from the weather, which I have constantly practised, thus avoiding the cost of building sheds. I took inch boards which were sixteen feet long, and sawed them in half, making two lengths, each eight feet. The boards were as wide as could be had, say twenty inches. Battens were then nailed across each end and the centre, to prevent warping. Then to each end a board of equal width, and five feet long; was secured by strap hinges. The manure heap was then built up, say five feet high, and eight wide at the top. When thus finished, one of the boards was placed across the top; the ends being hinged, fell down over the sides of the heap, and touched the ground. Beginning at one end of the heap, the hinged boards were laid on until they reached to the other end. Thus the entire heap, except the ends, was com­pletely protected from the weather. The ends were covered with loose boards. Whenever rain was coming on, and it was thought the heap needed water to prevent fire-fanging, this portable shed was lifted off in five minutes. After receiving a good soaking, the shed was in five more minutes replaced on the heap; and when no composting was going on, the boards were simply stowed away in some by-place until again wanted. To those who believe in the value of housing manure, but who cannot afford to erect buildings for the purpose, these portable sheds will be found, for $10, to be as effectual as a building costing $60, while at the same time they do not occupy any useful ground.

I will not say that ten acres in New Jersey can be made to produce more money than ten acres located elsewhere, within reach of the great city markets. Without doubt, the productiveness of either tract will be in exact proportion to the care and skill of cultivation, and the thoroughness of manuring. In either case, it is utter folly for a man to attempt the cultivation of more land than he can manage thoroughly. The chances are then invariably against him. I consider the real office of the ground to be merely that of holding a plant in an erect position, while you feed the roots. But it is nevertheless remarkable that the census tables show that the product of New Jersey per acre, when the whole area of the State is taken into account, is considerably greater than in any of the adjoining States. The product per acre, in some of the fruit-growing counties nearest the two great cities, is even more remarkable. The average cash value of the products of all our market gardens is $20 annually, while that of the gardens in New York and Pennsylvania is only $5 each. Of our orchards it is $25, while in New York it is only $10, and in Pennsylvania only $5. The value of agricultural implements and machinery is relatively far greater than in either of these empire States. Nothing short of a superior productiveness for truck and fruit, in the soil of New Jersey, can account for such results.

A farmer in my neighborhood sold from forty early apple-trees, occupying about one acre of land, 400 baskets of fruit, which yielded, after deducting expenses, and ten per cent, commission for selling, $241.50. I have known pears to be sold at from $3 to $5 per basket, and in smaller quantities at $2 a half-peck; and three cherry-trees, of the early Richmond variety, yielded $30 worth of fruit. Peach-trees, when protected from the worm, will bear luxuriantly for twenty years.

I know a small farmer, with six acres of rhubarb, who has realized $600 dollars annually from it. Another has twenty acres of asparagus, from which he realizes $600 per week during the season for cutting. Besides, it grows an acre of common gooseberries, from which his annual profit is $200. I have known another to sell $500 worth of tomatoes from a single acre, besides having many bushels for the hog-pen. I could name owners of very small tracts who are doing well in the same business. Asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, grapes, and gooseberries, grow to perfection, and yield enormous returns when properly attended to, far surpassing anything ever obtained from the heavier stable crops, such as grain, grass, and stock.

But it is to be noticed that the greater profit per acre is almost invariably realized by those who have very small farms. The less they have, the more thoroughly it is cultivated; while the few who have sufficient faith in manure, and who thus convert their entire holding into a garden, realize twice or thrice as much per annum as they had paid for the land. I knew a striking illustration of the value of this faith in manure. It is in the person of a Jerseyman who began, twenty-five years ago, upon a single acre of rented land, with a capital of only $50, borrowed from a sister who had saved it from her earnings as a dairymaid. This man regarded the earth as of no practical use except to receive and hold manure; and his idea was, that if he crowded it full enough, every rain would extract from it, and convey directly to the roots of the plants, the liquid nutriment which gives to all vegetation such amazing vigor. Thus, the solids, if in sufficient supply, would be sure to furnish the liquids, on which he knew he could rely. Though full of original and practical ideas, this was his absorbing one; and he pursued it with an energy of purpose and a liberality of expenditure that surprised the population of an entire township.

In spite of the disadvantages attendant on a neglected education, the force of this man's strong natural sense carried him forward with astonishing rapidity. True to his faith in manure, he bought and manufactured to an extent far exceeding all his neighbors. He soon obtained possession of a small farm, with ample time allowed for payment; for his industry and skill established a character, and character served for capital. In a few years he monopolized the contents of all the pig-pens in the city near which he resided, all that was produced by the slaughter-houses, all the lime from the gas-works, all the spent bark from the tanneries, and every tub of night-soil which came from the water-closets of a large population. He created a demand for manure so general, that the streets were traversed by men and boys with carts and handbarrows, who daily picked up the droppings from the numerous live-stock which passed over the roads, and piled them snugly in fence-corners, composting them with leaves and rubbish, knowing that the great manure king would take them all. The quantity thus collected by these industrious scavengers was very large. In addition to all this, he purchased cargoes of marl, charcoal cinders from the pines, guano, and sloop-loads of manures from the city, The world within his reach seemed unable to supply his vast demand.

His cash outlay for these fertilizers was of course enormous, and has amounted to thousands of dollars per annum. It has been constantly increasing, and grows even as I write. But his faith in manure was accompanied by works. What he thus collected at so great a cost, was applied with singular shrewdness to the production of fruits and vegetables for the great city markets. His fields rewarded him in proportion as he enriched them. His neighbors, who, for miles around, had been astonished and incredulous at his unprecedented outlay for manure, were in turn astonished at the extraordinary quantities of fruit and truck which he dispatched to market. As he went early and largely into the growing of rhubarb, when all others were too timid even to touch it, so for years he was the only man who sent tons of it to market during a long period in which it paid extravagant profits. By skilfully regulating his crops, he secured an uninterrupted succession during the entire season; so that from the earliest to the latest period of the year he was constantly receiving large cash returns. His wagons have sometimes loaded an entire steamboat, sometimes an entire train upon the railroad. By growing asparagus, he has realized great profits. For years he commanded the Baltimore markets with his strawberries, while various other large towns depended on him for their supplies. I have been upon his thirty acres of this fruit during the height of the season, when fifty pickers were at work on ground which wore a tinge of luscious scarlet under the astonishing profusion of the crop; while thousands of quarts, under adjacent sheds, were in process of being boxed for market. Of this fruit he has sent ninety bushels to market in a single day, distributed $300 in a week among his pickers, while in the boxes to contain them his investment is $1,500. On strawberries alone this man could have grown rich.

But they are scarcely a tithe of what he has produced. Raspberries, blackberries, and all the smaller fruits have been cultivated quite as extensively. The same courageous intelligence which led him to outstrip all competitors in the application of manure, kept him awake to every improvement in fruit or vegetable as it came before the public. He not only procured the best of every kind, but bought them early, no matter how extravagant the price. Thus keeping in advance of all others, so his profits have exceeded theirs. More than once he has been cheated by the purchase of novelties of this kind, besides losing time and money in cultivating them long enough to prove the cheat; but these losses have been but as dust in the great balance of his profit.

As may be supposed, such a man could not fail to become rich. From his humble beginning of a single acre he has gone on adding farm to farm, house to house, and lot to lot, and is ever on hand to purchase more. His passion is to own land. But even so thorough a farmer as he may in the end acquire too much to be profitable.

The example thus set has had a marked influence on the population of entire townships. Men who at first, and who even for years, were incredulous of the propriety of using such vast quantities of manure, at length became converts to the example. High farming thus came extensively into vogue. Meantime the facilities for getting to market were being constantly multiplied. New fertilizers were introduced and kept for sale in all the country towns, the facility for obtaining them thus inducing a general consump­tion. As crops increased, so the great cities grew in size, the number of mouths to be fed enlarging with the supply of food. Under the pressure of all these several inducements, fruit and truck have been produced in quantities that cannot be estimated.

The first great impulse to its enlarged production in the neighborhood where the enterprising consumer of manure resided, to whom reference has been made, was the result of his example. His great success removed all doubt and disarmed all opposition. But even his was not achieved without unremitting industry and intelligent application of the mind. Neither his hands nor the manure did everything. But manure lay at the foundation of the edifice: without it he would have toiled in vain to build up an ample fortune from the humblest of beginnings. As he succeeded, so let others take counsel, and have faith in manure.


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