The Home Acre by Edward Payson Roe


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Page 1



Land hunger is so general that it may be regarded as a natural
craving. Artificial modes of life, it is true, can destroy it, but
it is apt to reassert itself in later generations. To tens of
thousands of bread-winners in cities a country home is the dream
of the future, the crown and reward of their life-toil. Increasing
numbers are taking what would seem to be the wiser course, and are
combining rural pleasures and advantages with their business. As
the questions of rapid transit are solved, the welfare of children
will turn the scale more and more often against the conventional
city house or flat. A home CAN be created in rented dwellings and
apartments; but a home for which we have the deed, a cottage
surrounded by trees, flowers, lawn, and garden, is the refuge
which best satisfies the heart. By means of such a suburban nook
we can keep up our relations with Nature and all her varied and
health-giving life. The tired man returning from business finds
that his excited brain will not cease to act. He can enjoy
restoring rest in the complete diversion of his thoughts; he can
think of this tree or that plant, and how he can fill to advantage
unoccupied spaces with other trees, flowers, and vegetables. If
there is a Jersey cow to welcome him with her placid trust, a good
roadster to whinny for an airing, and a flock of chickens to
clamor about his feet for their supper, his jangling nerves will
be quieted, in spite of all the bulls and bears of Wall Street.
Best of all, he will see that his children have air and space in
which to grow naturally, healthfully. His fruit-trees will testify
to his wisdom in providing a country home. For instance, he will
observe that if sound plums are left in contact with stung and
decaying specimens, they too will be infected; he will see that
too close crowding renders the prospect for good fruit doubtful;
and, by natural transition of thought, will be glad that his boys
and girls are not shut in to the fortuitous associations of hall-
way and street. The area of land purchased will depend largely on
the desires and purse of the buyer; but about one acre appears to
satisfy the majority of people. This amount is not so great that
the business man is burdened with care, nor is its limit so small
that he is cramped and thwarted by line fences. If he can give to
his bit of Eden but little thought and money, he will find that an
acre can be so laid out as to entail comparatively small expense
in either the one or the other; if he has the time and taste to
make the land his play-ground as well as that of his children,
scope is afforded for an almost infinite variety of pleasing
labors and interesting experiments. When we come to co-work with
Nature, all we do has some of the characteristics of an
experiment. The labor of the year is a game of skill, into which
also enter the fascinating elements of apparent chance. What a
tree, a flower, or vegetable bed will give, depends chiefly upon
us; yet all the vicissitudes of dew, rain, frost, and sun, have
their part in the result. We play the game with Nature, and she
will usually let us win if we are not careless, ignorant, or
stupid. She keeps up our zest by never permitting the game to be
played twice under the same conditions. We can no more carry on
our garden this season precisely as we did last year than a
captain can sail his ship exactly as he did on the preceding
voyage. A country home makes even the weather interesting; and the
rise and fall of the mercury is watched with scarcely less
solicitude than the mutations of the market.

In this chapter and in those which may ensue I merely hope to make
some useful suggestions and give practical advice--the result of
experience, my own and others'--which the reader may carry out and
modify according to his judgment.

We will suppose that an acre has been bought; that it is
comparatively level, with nothing of especial value upon it--in
brief, that the home and its surroundings are still to be created.

It is not within my design to treat of the dwelling, its
architecture, etc., but we shall have something to say further on
in regard to its location. Before purchasing, the most careful
investigations should be made as to the healthfulness of the
region and the opportunities for thorough drainage. Having bought
the acre, the question of removing all undue accumulations of
water on or beneath the surface should be attended to at first.
The dry appearance of the soil during much of the year may be
misleading. It should be remembered that there are equinoctial
storms and melting snows. Superabundant moisture at every period
should have channels of immediate escape, for moisture in excess
is an injury to plant as well as to family life; while thoroughly
and quickly drained land endures drought far better than that
which is rendered heavy and sour by water stagnating beneath the
surface. Tile-drains are usually the cheapest and most effective;
but if there are stones and rocks upon the place, they can be
utilized and disposed of at the same time by their burial in
ditches--and they should be covered so deeply that a plow,
although sunk to the beam, can pass over them. Tiles or the top of
a stone drain should be at least two feet below the surface. If
the ground of the acre is underlaid with a porous subsoil, there
is usually an adequate natural drainage.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Thu 21st Feb 2019, 1:59