11 November 2011

A Shaker's Advice on Farming


This barn is in Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. It was built in 1826 and is a well-preserved agrarian treasure.

Richard Van Deusen, of Enfield, Ct., entertained the Institute most of the forenoon by reading a paper in which he made many shrewd and quaint comments. He said that the Shakers require all that join them to be fair and square with God and man as far as possible; so the first step for any farmer who wishes to start right is to find out where he stands. He counseled his brother farmers to look after their wood-piles in the leisure months and see that there was a good supply cut and housed for the rest of the year. The manure heaps should receive attention and not be allowed to waste under the eaves of the barn. As a rule the dealers in commercial fertilizers are growing rich, and the farmers who use them are growing poor. The cows should be kept in thrifty condition. A poor cow gives poor milk. Shaker cows get roots, meal and good hay daily, and they show it in their looks and products. A peck of yellow globe turnips, from their bin of 1,800 bushels, is given each animal daily, with four quarts of a mixture of meal and wheat shorts. He thought sheep raising was one of the best branches of farming for the hill-towns. Sheep give two returns of profit a year. He had known lambs in Lebanon, N.Y., sell for six dollars a head, and the dams shear from three to eight pounds of wool each. It is difficult to raise lambs from feeble sheep. He said the winter is a good time to put farm tools in order. One of the first spring exercises with some farmers is sowing oats, He would get a good kind, sow three bushels to an acre, and cover them two and a half inches deep with a seed drill. He had ploughed them in. They yield better when well covered. Oats that weigh 32 to 35 pounds to the bushel are alone fit to sow or feed, and the yield should not be less than 50 bushels an acre.

Potatoes should be planted early in order to get the benefit of the spring rains and a good market price. Turf land gives the best results, and he would plow the fall before. As soon as the tops show signs of decay, which is often early in July, he digs, barrels and covers them in his barns. The Blush variety had tops as large as a four-quart measure last year when the frost came, and though they were badly cut, he dug about 300 bushels an acre. Of corn, he would not raise less than 50 to 75 bushels an acre. We have not the 300-acre fields of corn found in Ohio, but in our little way we can raise more bushels to an acre and a better quality than they can in the west. All things considered, he thought hay was the most profitable crop, and with machinery he could cut, cure and cart it for $2 a ton. He would plow some grass lands, once in three or four years, put on 15 to 20 cart-loads of manure, or some phosphate, and seed with half a bushel of Timothy to the acre, harrowed and rolled in. In this way he expects three tons of hay from an acre, taking both crops. He once cut 22 tons of hay on six acres and sold it at $40 a ton. He would not pasture his meadows any more than he would run in debt. He thought that tools might be kept to let like horses in a livery-stable. Few farmers can afford to keep all the machinery they need. Labor is an important factor in farming, and hired help should receive fair wages when due; but too many give their help the cream, and consequently the farmer and his family have to put up with the skim-milk. Parents were exhorted to make home pleasant, and speak gently to the members of the family. Find out what the boys are adapted to before you overload them, and when they get into trouble help them out. A scar is not easily healed on man or a tree. He has a favorite horse that he speaks as gently to as to his mother or sister, and the horse knows it.
[Leavitt’s Farmer's Almanac]

A view inside the round barn at Hancock Shaker Village. Click Here to learn a little more about the barn.


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Deborah said...

"Find out what the boys are adapted to before you overload them, and when they get into trouble help them out. A scar is not easily healed on man or a tree."

I really liked this part. Raising a son, I need all the help I can get!

Anonymous said...

Hi Herrick,
I have been wondering what the old timers fed their dogs, have you come across anything in your reading that would shed some light on that question?
PS I really enjoy your blog and website-you have really put words to feelings I have had for years.