This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
FOR any useful purpose, the old books on fanning are rarely resorted to; new theories, new modes, and new machines, are the order of the day; and yet, there is an amount of carious information, and facts incidental to all human labor, in some of the older writers, that should not be lost sight of. The very best book on the subject of farming in America, was published in 1825, after the death of the author, Mr. John Lorain, who occupied a farm only a few miles from our own residence. He was an enthusiast, and sufficiently scientific to master all the theories then in vogue, some of which he was instrumental in disproving. His chapters on "Gentleman Farming" are so quaint, apt, and amusing, that we propose to devote a short space to a brief notice of his own experience. Poets, with other writers, attribute to rural pursuits all the rational pleasures which constitute the chief happiness of man; but they appear to have forgotten that these beautiful scenes which they so elegantly describe, are the effect of immense labor and fatigue: -
"The bard who wrote The silly, trash of brushing dew away To see the sun rise, hardly knew, I fancy, What dew was made of, or the vile effect That frequent soaking hath upon shoe leather".
These city gentlemen forget that agriculture, when properly pursued, under the most favorable circumstances, requires very great attention, both early and late, and that there are very few employments which have more crosses, losses, and disappointments, necessarily attached to them. An epidemic sometimes sweeps off live stock, as with the besom of destruction 5 mildew, smut, with numerous blights, excessive rains, storms, a scorching sun, drought, untimely nipping frosts, and insects as destructive as an invading army, destroy the farmers' most flattering expectations.
The gentleman commences his occupation with the information, perhaps obtained from books, that full-bred farmers do not generally manage their agricultural concerns anything like so advantageously as might be done 5 the farm is bought without duly observing that the different opinions of authors give contradictory theories; he has to learn, from his own practice, which is right, or whether the whole of them may not be essentially wrong. What that experience usually is, Mr. Lorain tells us some of the incidents.
The fish-pond and the icehouse have been constructed after all the details of the alterations and enlargements of house and barn are complete; the garden is greatly added to; exotic trees are introduced; the gravel is hauled six or eight miles; besides the pleasure of seeing, displaying, and using, the tare products of nature, it is probable that the gentleman has been led to believe, from observing that the nurserymen obtain very high prices, that his gardener and market man may readily dispose of the increase arising from the original stock to considerable advantage.
Let us see him, now, with his summer-houses built, his lawn nicely sodded, the old orchard that used to supply his predecessor, uprooted, and planted with new fruit-trees, and every new implement of husbandry procured; these his workmen do not, probably, know how to use, and having a mortal enmity to novel implements, too often purposely break and destroy; he has purchased plenty of working horses and oxen, of the best quality, and most exorbitant price; he is determined to excel in the first cattle show, and cost is no consideration. How he will rejoice to see his name in the Report, as having carried off the first premiums! But his fine, stately cows are carelessly milked, and become dry before the time of the Fair; he has the mortification, instead of Belling butter and cheese, of depending on the plain, practical farmers around him, for more than half the year, and his cheese, if any happen to be made, is never fit to appear at his own table.
Manure, he knows, is an important element, and his carts are employed in bringing large quantities from the city, where he pays a high price - -for straw 1 His manure, owing to his own ignorance, costs him twice that of the practical farmer, who purchases it himself. When riding from a city, and we ask whose is that cart filled with long straw dung, we generally find.it belongs to some "gentleman farmer".
All the alterations are completed; the army of masons, carpenters, painters, plumbers, and all who have waited on them, are dismissed; the gardeners, temporarily employed, are gone also, after the vast number of trees, shrubs, bushes, vines, flowers, and small fruits, are in the ground; the fence-makers, blasters, ditchers, ploughmen, carters, and laborers, necessary to get the place in elegant condition for the wife to see and admire, with their wanton waste, depredation, and idleness, that usually take place on such occasions, are gone. The family is moved from town, and a short scene of rural delight really ensues. Tom has a pony, and Louisa a cob; father and mother live over their bright expectations, till Tom is thrown and breaks a leg, and Louisa declares she never will mount a horse again. These two grain-eaters are to be sold, but will not bring half price 1 How odd 1 The owner begins to suspect he has expended, in useless brick and useless mortar, in ornamental buildings, and animals, an amount that was scarcely justifiable. But he says nothing of this to his wife.
She, poor lady, finds the neighbors have little sympathy for her ways, and she begins to think that all the useless toys, only fit to divert little minds, have been collected at too great a cost; but she says nothing of this to her husband.
The gentleman farmer now believes it is time to get some returns for his vast outlay. He has known, from experience, that country products command high prices, especially when they consist of an early supply of such articles as the seasons, with good management, produce; that many living in the vicinity of cities had, from small beginnings, amassed considerable estates in that way. Expensive preparations ace made for marketing, but, unfortunately, he forgets that people who got rich in this mode, go with these articles to market themselves; are acquainted with the "business, and, if anything 10 left after the usual hour of sale, they know the dealer it will suit, and how to obtain the best price for it. The farmer returns to his work as soon as market is over; his wife and children are busily employed in the gardens, or field, and their presence and example keep his laborers at work while he is from home. The gentleman is very differently situated; everything is hired, and the examples set by one or another are exactly calculated to promote idleness, chicanery, and fraud.