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Ten Acres Enough
By Edmund Morris (1905)



What Jethro Tull did to improve tillage, the author of "Ten Acres Enough" did to prove that intensified agriculture on small areas could be made not only to support a family, but to yield a hand­some profit, and health, freedom and happiness as well. It has taken two centuries for the most ad­vanced farmers to appreciate Tull and his teachings. It has taken nearly half a century in this progres­sive age to appreciate and to put in practice, in a feeble way, the fundamental principles which under­lie all our dealings with Mother Earth as set forth in this modest volume of two hundred pages.

If one totally ignorant of the principles and prac­tices of the various operations necessary to bring to perfection the many plants with which Agriculture has to do, were limited to two publications, I would advise him to purchase "Horse-Hoeing Husbandry" and "Ten Acres Enough."

"The mistaken ambition for owning twice (often ten times) as much land as one can thoroughly manure or profitably cultivate, is the great agricul­tural sin of this country," says the author. In California where this is being written, this mistaken ambition prevails to an alarming extent. Too often, farmers have become soil robbers. This state ap­pears to excel all others in its haste to filch from the land every valuable timber tree, every pound of ni­trogen, every vestige of humus that can be extracted at a present profit however small, with apparently no thought of the future productivity of the land, the future welfare of the farmer, or the permanent pros­perity of the community.

I have made a careful study of the conditions of agriculture in the Santa Clara, San Jose and Sacra­mento Valleys, and I am irresistibly led to the con­clusion that the great ranches must be broken up into small holdings before permanent prosperity can come to the farmers of the Pacific Coast. On a re­cent visit to a ranch of several thousand acres, where things appeared prosperous and the cattle looked well bred and well fed, I could not refrain from asking the impolite question, "Does it pay?" The reply was: "We have been here ten years; have put in — dollars, gotten up at two in the morn­ing to get the milk delivery wagon started in time, have four hundred head of cattle and thirty horses, and if I should sell out to-day, I would not have a iollar clear profit."

A few days after, I called on my college graduate Mend. He has just ten acres all in fruit—peaches, apricots and prunes—all of which he will dry, as transportation is uncertain and expensive and the eastern market for undried fruit precarious. Again i asked, "Does it pay?" He replied: "Well, we have three children, my wife and I have worked hard except in the six weeks harvesting time, we have a comfortable living, some spare time, and on an average secure a profit of about three hundred a year after allowing a modest interest on the invest­ment. The orchard is not yet in full bearing and we should do somewhat better in the future and vastly better when the well is bored and a pump provided for irrigating once or twice yearly." In this locality, land suitable for fruit is held at one hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars per acre. Where the planted orchard has been in bearing for two or three years, that is, produces two-thirds of a crop, it sells at eight to nine hundred dollars per acre. If well and pump are added, the value is in­creased to one thousand or eleven hundred dollars per acre.

These two cases are typical, not exceptional. After becoming acquainted with the inner life of the owners of these holdings—for there are really only two kinds, small fruit and vegetable holdings, and large cattle, sheep, grain and hay ranches—one does not hesitate to choose between them.

It all amounts to this : No one should control more arable land than he can maintain in a high state of productivity, the four great factors of which are, good seed, suitable moisture, abundant available plant food, and rational tillage. In a large majority of cases where failure, or partial failure of an abun­dant crop is observed the meagre results are due to a partial lack of one of these fundamentals. The vicissitudes of weather have little effect, if varieties and species of plants adapted to the locality are selected, if the plants are neither hungry nor thirsty, and if they are comfortably grounded in old Mother Earth.

Then the joy of seeing happy plants and animals grow strong and produce "some fifty, some an hundred fold! "—"Twere worth ten years of city life, one look at their array!"

Again and again the author of "Ten Acres Enough" recounts the happiness of observing Nature's modes of action at first hand, the pleasure of discovering now one, now another secret of soil or plant. How he revels in plain food and peaceful slumber after a day of intelligent effort in God's first Temple under the open sky! He consulted with his neighbors often. Sometimes he "went by the field of the slothful and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding," and, lo! he "saw it was all overgrown with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof and the stone wall thereof was broken down." Then "he saw and considered it well and looked upon it and received instruction."

It did not take long for him to discover that sloth-fulness and ignorance were the cause of the untidy condition and meagre results of these plantations which were duplicates of the one described by Solo­mon. So he piled his table high with the best agri­cultural literature and spent his evenings at home reading it. For years he and his wife and daughter were close students. When it could no longer be said that they were ignorant; they all put on plain clothes and worked—worked as only an intelligent servant works for a kind master—and the Master gave ample reward when the harvest time came. Reader, go and do likewise!


Emeritus Professor of Agriculture, Late Dean and Director of the College of Agriculture, of Cornell University; Author of "The Farm­stead," "The Farmer's Business Handbook,'' etc.


The man who feeds his cattle on a thousand hills may possibly see the title of this little volume pa­raded through the newspapers; but the chances are that he will never think it worth while to look into the volume itself. The owner of a hundred acres will scarcely step out of his way to purchase or to borrow it, while the lord of every smaller farm will be sure it is not intended for him. Few persons belonging to these several classes have been educated to believe Ten Acres Enough. Born to greater am­bition, they have aimed higher and grasped at more, sometimes wisely, sometimes not. Many of these are now owning or cultivating more land than their heads or purses enable them to manage properly. Had their ambition been moderate, and their ideas more practical, their labor would be better rewarded, and this book, without doubt, would have found more readers.

The mistaken ambition for owning twice as much land as one can thoroughly manure or profitably cultivate, is the great agricultural sin of this country. Those who commit it, by beginning wrong, too frequently continue wrong. Owning many acres is the sole idea. High cultivation of a small tract, is one of which they have little knowledge. Too many in these several classes think they know enough. They measure a man's knowledge by the number of his acres. Hence, in their eyes the owner of a plot so humble as mine must know so little as to be un­able to teach them anything new.

Happily, it is not for these that I write, and hence it would be unreasonable to expect them to become readers. I write more particularly for those who have not been brought up as farmers—for that nu­merous body of patient toilers in city, town, and village, who, like myself, have struggled on from year to year, anxious to break away from the bondage of the desk, the counter, or the workshop, to realize in the country even a moderate income, so that it be a sure one. Many such are constantly looking round in this direction for something which, with less mental toil and anxiety, will provide a maintenance for a growing family, and afford a refuge for advancing age—some safe and quiet harbor, sheltered from the constantly recurring monetary and political convulsions which in this country so suddenly reduce men to poverty. But these inquirers find no experienced pioneers to lead the way, and they turn back upon themselves, too fearful to go forward alone. Books of personal experience like this are rare. This is written for the information of the class referred to, for men not only willing, but anxious to learn. Once in the same predicament myself, I know their longings, their deficiencies, and the steps they ought to take. Hence, in seeking to make myself fully un­derstood, some may think that I have been unneces­sarily minute. But in setting forth my own crudi­ties, I do but save others from repeating them. Yet with all this amplification, my little contribution will occasion no crowding even upon a book-shelf which may be already filled.

I am too new a farmer to be the originator of all the ideas which are here set forth. Some, which seemed to be appropriate to the topic in hand, have been incorporated with the argument as it progressed; while in some instances, even the language of writers, whose names were unknown to me, has also been adopted.

  • Chapter I.—City Experiences—Moderate Expectations
  • Chapter II—Practical Views—Safety of Investments in Land
  • Chapter III.—Resolved to go—Escape from Business—Choosing a Location
  • Chapter IV.—Buying a Farm—Anxiety to sell—Forced to quit
  • Chapter V.—Making a Purchase—First Impressions
  • Chapter VI.—Planting a Peach-orchard—How to preserve Peach-trees
  • Chapter VII.—Planting Raspberries and Strawberries—Tricks of the Nursery
  • Chapter VIII.—Blackberries—A Remarkable Coincidence
  • Chapter IX.—The Garden—Female Management-Comforts and Profits
  • Chapter X.—Cheated in a Cow—A Good and a Bad One—The Saint of the Barnyard
  • Chapter XI.—A Cloud of Weeds—Great Sales of Plants
  • Chapter XII.—Pigs and Poultry—Luck and Ill Luck
  • Chapter XIII.—City and Country Life contrasted
  • Chapter XIV.—Two Acres in Truck—Revolution in Agriculture
  • Chapter XV.—Birds, and the Services they Render
  • Chapter XVI.—Close of my First Year—Its Loss and Gain
  • Chapter XVII.—My Second Year—Trenching the Garden—Strawberry Profits
  • Chapter XVIII.—Raspberries—The Lawtons
  • Chapter XIX.—Liquid Manures—Illustration
  • Chapter XX.—My Third Year—Liquid Manure-Three Years' Results
  • Chapter XXI.—A Barnyard Manufactory—Land Enough—Faith in Manure
  • Chapter XXII.—Profits of Fruit-growing—The Trade in Berries
  • Chapter XXIII.—Gentleman-farming—Establishing a Home
  • Chapter XXIV.—Unsuccessful Men—Rebellion not Ruinous to Northern Agriculture
  • Chapter XXV.—Where to Locate—East or West