We saw a striking illustration of this lately, in the case of two neighbors, - both planting extensive orchards, and requiring, therefore, a good deal of extra labor. One of them had all the holes for his trees dug by contract, of good size, and two spades deep, for six cents per hole. The other had it executed by the day, and by the same class of labor, - foreigners, newly arrived. We had the curiosity to ask a few questions, to ascertain the difference of cost in the two cases; and found, as we expected, that the cost in the day's work system was about ten cents per hole, or more than a third beyond what it cost by the job.
* This situation also has changed since 1849. - F. A. W.
Now, whether a country place is large or small, there is always, in the course of the season, more or less extra work to be performed. The regular gardener, or workman, must generally be hired by the day or month; though we know instances of everything being done by contract. But all this extra work can in almost all cases, be done by contract, at a price greatly below what it would otherwise cost. Trenching, subsoiling, preparing the ground for orchards or kitchen gardens, or even ploughing, and gathering crops, may be done very much cheaper by contract than by day's labor.
In Germany, the whole family, including women and children, work in the gardens and vineyards; and they always do the same here when they have land in their own possession. Now in every garden, vineyard, or orchard, there is a great deal of light work, that may be as well performed by the younger members of such a family as by any others. Hence, we learn that the Germans, in the large vineyards now growing on the Ohio, are able to cultivate the grape more profitably than other persons; and hence, German families, accustomed to this kind of labor, may be employed by contract in doing certain kinds of horticultural labors, at a great saving to the employer.
Another mode of economizing, in this kind of expenditure, is by the use of all possible labor saving machines. One of our correspondents - a practical gardener - recommended, in our last number, that the kitchen garden, in this country, in places of any importance, should always be placed near the stables, to save trouble and time in carting manure; and should be so arranged as to allow the plough and cultivator to be used, instead of the spade and hoe. This is excellent and judicious advice, and exactly adapted to this country. In parts of Europe where garden labor can be had for 20 cents a day, the kitchen garden may properly be treated with such nicety that not only good vegetables, but something ornamental shall be attained by it. But here, where the pay is as much for one man's labor as that of five men's labor is worth in Germany, it is far better to cheapen the cost of vegetables, and pay for ornamental work where it is more needed.
So, too, with regard to every instance, where the more cheap and rapid working of an improved machine, or implement, may be substituted for manual labor. In several of the largest country seats on the Hudson, where there is so great an extent of walks and carriage road, that several men would be employed almost constantly in keeping them in order, they are all cleaned of weeds in a day by the aid of the horse hoe for gravel walks. In all such cases as these, the proprietor not only gets rid of the trouble and care of employing a large number of workmen, but of the annoyance of paying more than their labor is fairly worth for the purpose in question.
There are many modes of economizing in the expenditures of a country place, which time, and the ingenuity of our countrymen will suggest, with more experience. But there is one which has frequently occurred to us, and which is so obvious that we are surprised that no one has adopted it. We mean the substitution, in country places of tolerable size, of fine sheep, for the scythe, in keeping the lawn in order.*
No one now thinks of considering his place in any way ornamental, who does not keep his lawn well mown, - not once or twice a year, for grass, but once or twice a month, for "velvet." This, to be sure, costs something; but, for general effect, the beauty of a good lawn and trees is so much greater than that of mere flowers, that no one, who values them rightly, would even think of paying dearly for the latter, and neglecting the former.
Now, half a dozen or more sheep, of some breed serviceable and ornamental, might be kept on a place properly arranged, so as to do the work of two mowers, always keeping the lawn close and short, and not only without expense, but possibly with some profit. No grass surface, except a short lawn, is neater than one cropped by sheep; and, for a certain kind of country residence, where the picturesque or pastoral, rather than the studiously elegant, is desired, sheep would heighten the interest and beauty of the scene.
* A suggestion quite as timely after the lapse of 70 years. - F. A. W.
In order to use sheep in this way, the place should be so arranged that the flower garden and shrubbery shall be distinct from the lawn. In many cases in England, a small portion, directly round the house, is inclosed with a wire fence, woven in a pretty pattern (worth three or four shillings a yard). This contains the flowers and shrubs, on the parlor side of the house, with a small portion of lawn dressed by the scythe. All the rest is fed by the sheep, which are folded regularly every night, to prevent accident from dogs. In this way, a beautiful lawn-like surface is maintained without the least annual outlay. We commend the practice for imitation in this country.