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CHANGING OWNERSHIP OF FARMS
ON many of the roads out of Boston, especially south and southwest, one sometimes sees stately old dwellings with pigs running about the door, and every evidence of decline. This decline, however, relates merely to the farm buildings. The farm itself has been sold to immigrants who are thinking exclusively of the commercial side. They are keeping up the fertility of the acres or restoring them but they have no appreciation for the beautiful. We hear indignation expressed about this state of affairs but if the owners died, or living, had not the pride or energy to keep up their places someone must own them. Certainly unless a critic himself has redeemed some such country place his mouth is stopped.
THE ELEAZER ARNOLD HOUSE
This changing condition of ownership is so general, especially in eastern Massachusetts, that we would say the majority of the old families have left their places. Either they lie in the churchyard or have gone to town or to the West. There are districts where a generally shabby condition continues on long stretches of road. Where, as in the case of Millis, Dover and other towns, land values become high, there is likely to be a shifting back of many of these old places into the hands of Americans who are able to restore them to their pristine attractions. But it is wonderful how the immigrant will stick in some instances even when his land values become very high, and there are spots which are likely to be eyesores for a long time until his children or children's children shall catch the better American spirit of improvement. We are free to say that the native American had allowed the process of deterioration to begin, but he drew a line at pigs on the porch.
A PLYMOUTH GARDEN HOUSE
A CORNER OF PLEASANT BAY
A DENNIS LILY POOL
It will be feasible for a long time for many who are totally blind to the esthetic to retain extensive acreage because nearness to a great city will give high values to the land for market gardening. We remember an instance where a malodorous garden of this sort extended to the very windows of a wonderful old mansion. A young scion of the family married and returned to the house and purchased back enough of the family acres to free him of the offensive intrusion.
So far as Italians are buying these lands there is hope that their artistic strain may crop out and that they will seek for beauty about their homesteads. But however much we may admire the Italian art temperament, there is no nation consisting to any large extent of artists. It would be invidious to mention some of the other nationalities that have purchased old Massachusetts homesteads. One or two nationalities very thrifty, but devoted to the compost heap and accustomed in the old world to pile it near their front doors, may take long to get better ideas. The conservatism of some foreign farmers is only equalled by some of our own.
We remember instances where farms in the center or western part of the state have been purchased by the Hebrews and become centers around which gather innumerable decrepit automobiles or carts or rubbish until we conclude that a cyclone must have swept through. The Hebrew begins by cultivating the soil ostensibly, but he invariably ends by being a cattle trader or a trader in something, and it is very seldom that one sees him striking his hoe into the soil.
Perhaps we ought to be glad that anybody wants our country acres. We are in a state of flux at present and the future of farms fifty years hence will be very different. The specializing process will have proceeded farther and there will be more attention to neatness and, indeed, to beauty on the part of those who are now just getting their start.
We may forget that an old farm is bought under a heavy mortgage and that the buyers are busily engaged in clearing off the mortgage. Some Americans would buy and borrow on a mortgage to improve the buildings. The foreign buyer is wiser. He wishes to own his acres and to proceed on a safer line.
Meantime the state must suffer the dilapidation incident to poverty or lack of taste. The influence of example, however, is universal and an attractive farm place never exists long without imitators. We have noticed many instances where a door head or a form of gable was copied for miles around. This imitative spirit will come in good stead as time goes on and the daughters of aliens become thoroughly American and will desire homes as well kept as their neighbors.
The writer has a great respect for the diligence and capacity of most of the immigrant buyers of eastern farms. They at least look the world frankly in the face and expect to get their living out of the soil. In this they are succeeding far more often than the American farmer of the old stock.
We remember seeing a great many years ago a cartoon showing the forebears of the Knickerbocker families disembarking from a Dutch ship at Manhattan. Certainly as to cleanliness and education and property they had very little to recommend them. The glamour of tradition happily cast about our ancestors some attractive traits which they may not have possessed. At least they knew how to dig and they came here to dig and they are now well entrenched. We are very hopeful of improved countrysides in Massachusetts into whosesoever hands they may now have fallen.
THE NASHUA RIVER
THE Nashua River in its Massachusetts course passes through some of the most beautiful intervale towns anywhere to be found. Taking its rise in the hills of Worcester county and gathering to the great Clinton reservoir, it flows through Lancaster in a course of exquisite beauty amidst splendid trees. It meets at South Lancaster the North Nashua River and moves on into Harvard. A branch in that town called Still River, on a perfectly level plain, is full of fascination from its fine foliage banks.
THE BEST OF THE BIRCHES - LENOX-STOCKBRIDGE
MOUNTING THE MOHAWK TRAIL
At Shirley it meanders by the base of fine hills and flowing, in the main, nearly north, passes through Groton with many a curve of beauty. Then at Pepperell, although the river has passed its youth, it has not lost its beauty. We lose it to New Hampshire among the Nissitissit Hills. If one is looking for splendid trees and fine meadows, on a stream, we would say he should seek no farther than the valley of the Nashua. The soil in the bottom lands of this stream seems to be perfectly adapted for great tree growths. The elm, in particular, seems to reach a climax of superabundant life in this neighborhood, and our pictures of The Seven Bridge Road and of The Nashua Asleep, and other scenes along the stream, record certain of its aspects.
If one were transported blindfold to Lancaster or Harvard he might almost mistake his surroundings for an old world country, since there is such a number of culture features, which have taken advantage of the waters.
THE western branch of the Westfield River as one comes down from the heights of the Berkshires in Washington between Middlefield and Becket to Chester, and meeting there with Walker Brook, and going on through Chester to Westfield, by the Jacob's Ladder trail, shows a great deal of variety in its course. In its upper waters it is a rapidly rushing torrent, with here and there a lucid interval, by a mill dam or a small meadow. By the time it reaches Westfield, however, it becomes more sedate, mature with broadening and ripening charms.
The Sudbury and the Assabet, meeting to form the Concord, each has many alluring curves with finely draped foliage banks.
It is, however, the smaller streams feeding these rivers that provide the more cosey and hidden nooks and banks of beauty.
A WEYMOUTH HOMESTEAD
In the northwest of the state the Hoosic River, while marred by lines of railways, here and there escapes contamination, and wanders to a silent and secluded shrine, where it communes with the grasses and woodlands. It moves between noble hills which afford some of the most beautiful scenes in Massachusetts.
THE OLD STAGE DRIVER
THIS picturesque figure is lost to us, but in his day he was an institution not so reserved and haughty as his great-coated English cousin. The Yankee stage driver descended to common things and did not hold himself above the upper middle class! In the informal American life he could often descend to joke with his passengers. Asked what the fare was he might reply, "Wal, I charge homely girls seventy-five cents, but girls as good lookin' as you are ought not to pay over half a dollar."
A FERN PATH - PITTSFIELD
A LINKS POOL - NORTH ADAMS
A BERKSHIRE MEADOW - PITTSFIELD
He was a resourceful character, he knew everybody, did errands for the housewives along the route, and was a connecting link for the neighborhood. We will not say that he did not relish imparting the news. In fact, he was somewhat of an artist in this matter, and could, on occasion, throw in a touch of embellishment which gave a certain finish and interest to his tale. As his vehicle was too jolty to permit reading, he became the natural partner in conversations on the long road, and while he would not often grudgingly admit the things he knew, he did not hesitate to take for granted, to some degree, things that he did not know.
He was an intense local patriot. There was no country as good as this through which he drove, and no town equal to that in which he was at present. To be sure the roads could be better, but he believed in fighting it out on that line. He grew old in his service, and his whimsies came to be understood by dwellers on his route. Happily, however, there were enough strangers, especially in the summer, to laugh afresh at his old saws and modern instances. In fact, if a summer guest came to abide in the hill town, it was necessary to run the gauntlet of the stage driver's questions. He sought indirectly, and then if his quest did not bring the desired information, by the most direct methods, the origin, age, family connections, profession, financial standing and any other unconsidered trifles relating to the traveler. It was a kind of moral obligation, an eleventh commandment so to speak, which touched his professional pride, to say that he was "posted" as to the new comer at Taylor's boarding house.
We began to make pictures while he was still on his route. He eyed with much curiosity the square boxes connected with the picture processes. The tripod might have been a surveyor's. "Makin' pictures? What do you do with them? Would anybody want a picture of that brook? Well, the fools ain't all dead yet. How long are you goin' to stay? How much can you git for them? Yer don't say! What will you charge to make a picture of my pair?"
It was then our turn. "Do you think your pair are an art subject?" "Wal, I don't know about that, but they have hauled a great many big men, some of them bigger than you be, I reckon."
Another driver was a good deal bothered to make us out. Finally he was in such obvious distress that we volunteered the information that we got our living largely out of apple trees. "Oh," said he, "You are in the nursery business." "No." He looked a little thrown off but came back with the reply, "Oh yes, I see, you buy apples." "No." "Look here, you ain't one of them men that buy up old orchards to make tool handles, are ye?" "No." The poor fellow was at the end of his invention and relapsed into a distressed silence. It was too bad to keep him in suspense further, so we informed him that our business in the apple trees had to do with the blossoms. This completely passed the realm of his experience, and it took him all summer to get over it. Pictures of blossoms! Wal, they are kind of pretty now you come to think of it. Where do the pictures go? Often to the South and West where people think they are peach blooms, but some people never believe it when we tell them they are apple blossoms. They say no apple tree ever grew as large as that. "Huh! You tell them Colorado fellows to come up here to the old Orcutt place, and I will show 'em apple tree trunks three foot through."
WE are off for a little country village in an intervale between the higher hills. We must be there professionally for some months and are recommended to Aunt Mary's. As the deacon said in the prayer meeting, we have passed through seens and unseens, in the way of boarding houses, and we received with some skepticism the recommendations about Aunt Mary's.
We are met by a little woman in black. She is made even smaller by stooped shoulders. Her eyes, however, are full of sparkling intelligence and kindliness. She shows us to a great square chamber as neat as the most fastidious could wish. It is, in fact, as neat as a dear old maid can make it. There are four windows, there is a quaint old fireplace, there are old steel engravings and old time prints. The paper is covered with little posies, and the furniture, happily, was made before the worst period when men, seeking after originality, produced the most ugly shapes imaginable.
BLACK AND WHITE - SWAMPSCOTT
DOWN THE ORCHARD ROAD - NEAR MONSON
BIRCH WRAITHS - NORTHFIELD
BLOSSOM ARCH - LITTLETON
Left to ourselves we sit by a window on the side of the house and peer out into the garden and the orchard, an advance guard of which stands sociably near. Ah, yes, he reaches out an arm with a large cluster of August fruit, taking on fine colors in the splashes of sunlight that shoot through the waving bough. We advance a hand to meet this friendly overture and can actually touch the ripening fruit. We find out later from Aunt Mary that if we are here a month it will be ripe for us to pluck, and that is the special perquisite of the occupants of that room. There is another branch above us arching the window, and when the breeze takes the bough a gentle and friendly brushing against the clapboards occurs.
We are the first of Aunt Mary's boarders for the season. She has a fine spirited girl who goes to school at the academy, and helps Aunt Mary at table. How delectable was that picked-up chicken! Did ever a dish of apple dowdy go to the spot like that? And the blueberry muffins are beyond praise. We dream of them yet.
As boarders come, now one, now another, from the great city we find them all a picked company, who are there because they love Aunt Mary and her ways and works. It appears later that she was induced to part with her little old wood stove and get a modern range, but in a few days out it went and back came the companion of her youth whose ways she knew.
Of course, a company like this must go rowing on the river one day, and down to the pond another day. Two or three young men make up a party to climb the heights and remain over night. A maiden of rather mature charms, or at least what she would have thought to be charms, has from year to year set her cap for the new bachelor boarders but so far in vain. Hope, however, springs eternal in the human breast. She can hardly understand how any one should prefer to tramp along the brooks after trout, rather than read with her in the afternoons from the romances of Wilkie Collins. Aunt Mary assumes a motherly direction over all her charges. They are not merely boarders. They are her own family, and she privately warns them of the snares set. The two high school girls are her special anxiety lest any cynical city youth should make an impression upon them. The two school teachers, however, who have imbibed modern notions, Aunt Mary feels are old enough to take care of themselves, and her sympathies are on the side of the bachelors in that case.
THE TALL PINES OF LENOX
WHITE STUDDED CURVES - LENOX
WHITE CLUSTERS - LENOX
It is an interesting little world. A good boarding house is the next thing to a home. Sweet airs blow through. If ever an odor is noticed from the kitchen it is of that delectable sort just sufficient to whet our appetites for the coming feast.
The old parlor with its hair cloth sofa, is the room where culprits or suspects meet Aunt Mary; also, if they need a confidant, they may depend upon her. Sitting with her on the sofa we are aware of her tender concern, her unshaken righteousness and her wisdom. It is safe to tell Aunt Mary what is in your mind. Not only so, but it is not safe to do anything else. From many a danger she frees us, and causes us to walk in the way of the just — if she can.
Aunt Mary could live the year around, outside of the summer time, a welcome guest in town, with the various persons whom she has cared for at her old homestead. No one ever forgets her nor does she forget any. All who ever enter her doors become her correspondents, and it is not well for them if they allow too long an interval to elapse without suggestions from her wisdom.
She is getting very old now and a little more stooped. Her fine black hair one no longer finds, but a cap covers the few stray gray locks. Blessed be the day that we found Aunt Mary's. Like the Being whom she worships, she is good to all and her tender mercies are over all her works. For so little a woman what a heart she has! The sorrows and joys of multitudes are shared there. The secret griefs, woes and even sins of many are there buried. She is a second mother to many a man now himself getting gray. She is better than her dear old home and its orchard; better than her fair village. She is really the heart of life. She inherits the best of everything and is the fountain of good.
We dread for ourselves but hope for her the word that she is no longer with us. She will give up her cares unwillingly or would do so, did she not feel sure that a kind Over-soul will give her other responsibilities. For Aunt Mary would be miserable without much to do and many to love. One begins by bargaining with her for board, and one ends by wishing he could give her more than money. That person is a cheat who doesn't share with Aunt Mary the best of his thoughts and the truest of his affections.
ON THE CONCORD-ACTON ROAD
BUYING AN OLD FARM
WE actually did buy an old farm and the experiences related below are a few of those that came to us.
One is not long in possession of an old country place before suggestions begin to come in from the neighbors of what to do with it. A lady suggested that we take out the big old chimney and put in a smaller one, as it would give more room, and "lots of people were having their houses fixed that way." As we had purchased the house largely because it had a fine old stone chimney the advice came as a shock. The additional room was not needed. The house was of two stories, and had a quaint entry with the stairs running up on the front face of the chimney. It is not a modern stair, indeed, but we are convinced from large experience that the way to ruin any house is to try to make it a different style than it was intended. A house should be restored according to its period, or let severely alone.
AS IT WAS IN 1700 - BILLERICA
ONOTA LAKE - PITTSFIELD
A BERKSHIRE FLUME
A PEMBROKE GARDEN
All that had saved this old chimney in the past, when an L was built, was the insistence of the aged mother that the chimney be left as an "anchor." So far as we can learn the thought was that a huge old chimney prevented the possibility of wreckage by wind storm. We see many a solid ancient chimney standing after the dwelling of which it formed the core has gone.
On our first Sunday at church we found a preacher whose weekday business was the sale of spectacles. It was appropriate enough. He tried to get the people to see clearly the truth of the spirit on Sundays. He was paid five dollars and drove into town and out again. A cobweb was suspended from the preacher's desk and a window was full of hornets. There was a suggestion of the wiles of sin and the snares set for souls in the cobweb, and the hornets might have answered as an illustration, but the sermon had been prepared beforehand, — a long time!
We were asked if we sang, and were handed the hymn book opened at the Doxology. The elderly dame who did this courtesy was informed that we had been officers in a church. "Oh, well," said she, "I suppose you know the Doxology. I do."
On investigating a church fund for the support of preaching it appears that an endowment had been furnishing the five dollars a week aforesaid, on condition that four sermons a year be preached on Foreordination. No collection was taken. Probably the endowment has demoralized the entire neighborhood. A people who do not carry their own church have no religion worth speaking about.
In trying to bring the old house back to its original condition we tear down a useless partition. We have been saying that it is a pre-Revolutionary house. As the debris between the plaster drops, out comes a beautiful skeleton. "Ah," says the housewife, "a pre-Revolutionary rat!"
The old tall clock looks well but is somewhat uncertain in its movements. Happily we hit upon a way of setting it without asking any questions. After inquiring the time for some days, we find that the carpenter sneezes regularly at 1:20 P.M. We throw this out as a suggestion. Perhaps it may not be as reliable as the Washington Observatory, but we never know it to fail.
The previous owner had a highly decorated stove instead of a fireplace. He was in the habit of placing his feet on the fender, wrapping himself in a bed quilt and, seated in a Boston rocker, spending the night there. He said it saved the trouble of undressing and dressing. We are learning fast.
The night that the cows we had purchased come home finds us in a dilemma. We have cows but no milk pail. We are obliged to milk in a tin dipper. It takes one member of the party to hold the dipper and another to do the milking. We hear of another city farmer who had a like experience, and also forgot his milk pans.
The question of country help enlivens but does not always delight us. Our maid of all work we find one day has been short of a belt, and has discovered in the waste basket an old typewriter ribbon wherewith she has girded herself. The color on the shirt waist is quite effective.
Our first churning is enlivening. We stir the cream. The cream is too cold and we bring it to the stove. The husband, the wife, the niece and a hired man assist by turns. But these come in the form of relays or advisers. At first one person is supposed to be enough. We discover at last that the cream is now too warm, and it is removed to sulk for a day in the distant pantry. Four churners, four hours. When the battle is over the entire pantry is streaked with spatters of cream but the butter has come. Our niece has pearls of cream beautifully distributed in her hair.
HAPPY VALLEY ROAD - BUCKLAND
TRAILSIDE BLOOMS - ERVING
There is a cat that comes with the farm. She is somewhat of an institution, and is commended affectionately to our care. Her upkeep is less than that of an ordinary cat because she lacks a tail. In process of time there is an addition to the family and after a few months we smile to find ourselves sitting about the fireplace one evening with a cat or a kitten on the lap of every member of the family. A truly domestic scene.
When the old house is restored to its original condition so far as we can do so, it is time to consider the grounds. A fine clump of locusts borders one corner of the lot; several pines at another angle shield us from the down valley winds. Then comes a row of maples and outside the lot, bordering the street, a row of elms. There is a definite slope in all directions to the brook, which is rather bushy and inclined to be swampy, but it is so far below the house that we find it feasible to throw a dam across a narrow glen, and provide ourselves with a mere. Please note this word. No man going into the country and building a dam forms a pond thereby. It is always a mere or a lake or lakelet or a pool or something of that kind. And also, a city man should not refer to his farm but to his country estate. Has it not gate posts? Is there not a drive nearly a hundred feet long? And has it not a name?
From time immemorial the district has been called Poverty. Perhaps the name is prophetic. We try out several names. One is Leaky Gables. Its fits but is a trifle personal. A friend of ours suggests the name Weedy-lawn. If we spend as much energy in devising the rotation of crops as we do in the naming of that place the exchequer will balance better. The neighbors call it Robert's Folly. Rambling Roofs might have done, but, if you love alliteration, Mossy Mound or Locust Lodge would not be so bad.
The exterior of our house we find to be merely clapboarded on the studding and not boarded at all, an ancient fashion in some parts of the country. For increased warmth and economy we place tar paper outside the clapboards and run laths up and down to hold the paper in place and put another set of clapboards on outside the laths. We secure, thus, a very warm house and the effect is good because the window sash projects sufficiently to permit this treatment. Of course we are sorry to lose the effect of the wide projection.
We point up the old stone chimney, with its cornice. We use white paint on the house. Red would have been better, though a red painted house is warmer in summer. We repair the old wall, that borders the road, and is very effective. An old open shed is closed in and becomes a hen house, and the square formed by this, with a tool and cart shed, and a barn, is put in decent order and painted red.
The farm land is much of a puzzle. There is plenty of wood in the decayed trees by the roadsides and in the old orchards. We set out a considerable orchard. In the spring many of the trees have been banded by mice and others have disappeared. The orchard is over the hill where we can not see what is happening, but it is obvious that others also wish to go into orcharding.
The slopes, here and there, of the pasture, are decorated with fine spindling cedars like those one sees in Italy. We are so unwise as to remove a portion of these, with the idea of clearing up the pastures. We lose more than we gain.
Cabbages appeal very strongly to the new farmer. It is easy to see that at three cents a pound, one hundred thousand will bring in a sufficient income. We go in for cabbages. In the autumn we sell them for fifty cents a barrel, we paying for the barrels and the freight and the gathering. The total loss is not more than a couple of thousand dollars. Nevertheless, the lesson is well learned, and it is that the farmer should never confine himself to a single crop, or indeed to two. In the long run, if he has a variety of crops, one will bring a good price if another sells low. We are helped out a little by potatoes, which are fine, large and productive, and bring a round figure.
The woodlot supplies fence posts for sale and furnishes a fund large enough to pay the taxes.
The garden is our delight. It is highly successful.
Our conclusion, after seven years, is that a farmer must be trained, and that he must himself work constantly in the field. He cannot gain anything on the wages of employees. They all cost more than they produce. At present the little, one man farm, is the only safe one, unless, in a very big way, one specializes on blooded stock of the highest strains, or secures, through years of effort and advertising, a special market.
A NOOK BESIDE MOHAWK TRAIL
A MASSACHUSETTS ROAD IN MAY - ENFIELD
THE RIVER - NORTH ADAMS
But a farm for one who has been a city dweller does much to take the conceit out of him, and to give him back health. He sleeps well and inevitably becomes bucolic.
The flings made at the farmer for not reading more, fail to take account of the circumstances. At the end of a long day he is inevitably drowsy. He must rise early. His evenings are short, but at that he is as well read as the average mechanic, perhaps.
At least we make our premises alluring to the eye and, when the object of the country sojourn is achieved, it is easy to dispose of our holdings.
We have a dear memory; but it is heartbreaking to leave such a heavenly environment. The waters are soft and beautiful at twilight. The tree toads answer one another, and the evening songsters call from the grove. The bleat of the lamb and the deeper toned answer of the mother is borne to us. The great vase elms are outlined against the evening sky in a vague and protective canopy. The evening star begins to twinkle over the tall pine.
A sweet, almost sacred, stillness falls. We are enfolded in the kindly curtain of the night. The embers glow in the waning light and the dancing shadows liven all the great room with odd figures. Bobby, the kitten, goes to sleep curled up in a big cap that we have dropped in a chair. We need little and we have much. Is there not a book shelf, even a repetition of them, each five feet long? Is there not good cream rising in the pantry? There will be blackberries enough to go with it for breakfast. The garden has some good things for us, and today's eggs are in the old wooden tray. The wood pile is ample and the old apple logs give us abundant heat. We do not lock the doors. It is time to put out the cat, wind the tall clock, cover the embers and go up the old winding stairs to the square chamber.
COOPER-AUSTIN HOUSE - CAMBRIDGE
A look before retiring discloses from our windows a world of sweetness and beauty. There can be nothing better anywhere. Love, health, comfort, beauty, warmth and sleep! The lore of the past to divert our leisure, the joy of battling the winter's storm, the joy of gathering autumn fruit, the joys of the fold and the fireside are all ours. All that we want and more than we need are ours. There are enough good neighbors to keep up our faith in the inherent nobility of human nature. They are kind to one another in times of trouble. Their innocent gossip is diverting. Within a few miles by charming drives we may reach centers of human activity. Whoever wants more than these things should keep away from the country, for his soul must be dull to its beauty and its joy.
TAIL RACE AND BRIDGE - SUDBURY
A TREE OF LIFE BEDSPREAD
HOW TO SELECT A FARM PLACE
1st. Do not despise small buildings. It is easy to spend and sometimes one begins too large. A little cottage doubled is far more artistic than a big square house.
2nd. Avoid clay soil for your residence. It is damp most of the year and the cellar is always so. Seek clay soils for at least a portion of your land. Clay is the foundation of agriculture. Soils are divided into clay, clay loam (three-quarters clay, one-quarter sand), loam (half and half), sandy loam (three-quarters sand, one-quarter clay), and sand. Sand is valueless, sandy loam requires much feeding, but is quick and good for a garden. Loam is good crop land. Clay loam is good crop and farm land, but clay is very stiff and hard to handle, though perfect for grass sod that is not often to be turned over, and is the strongest soil in the world.
3rd. Avoid rocky fields. It never pays to clear stones. It takes generations and then they are not cleared. Such fields may be turned into pastures if there is a moderate amount left of easily arable soil. Occasional small stones do no harm, but ledgy fields or fields with numerous small stones are vexing and profitless.
4th. In ledgy or stony ground an orchard may be set, as such soil is often well fitted for fruit and sheep. Sheep may be turned to graze in this pasture if the trees are protected by wires. The orchard should be in sight of the house on account of the sheep as well as the fruit.
5th. Find a country place with possible spring sources to feed the house, by gravity. This is highly desirable, as constant pumping even by machinery is a perpetual nuisance and expense.
6th. Seek first for a farm off the road, approached by its own little side road. Such places are not liked by native country people, and are sold low, whereas the best taste marks such places as altogether more valuable. If an estate effect, seclusion and removal from possible unpleasant bounds, is sought, such a place is worth at least twice as much as one on the main road.
7th. Avoid buildings where the barns are so placed as to interfere with the outlook. If barns or out buildings are very numerous it is far better to remove the poorer ones. There are almost always too many and the upkeep of many buildings is very expensive.
8th. The intimate view is more important than the distant view. If there are good trees, gentle slopes, or a near-by brook, these are the things with which one lives. The distant view is to be desired but is not at all of the first importance, and if an elevation means wind and bareness it is better avoided. The ideal location is a high slope, not too steep, and one that is sufficiently wooded.
9th. Bury your telephone wires or bring them in from the rear. It is almost better not to live in the country if there are to be poles on your road. If electric lighting is not supplied there are modern systems now of great efficiency, and some degree of economy, that are quite satisfactory.
10th. A tractor capable of cutting the old wood around the farm, as well as ploughing and hauling, is now of the first importance, and will save its cost several times over in a short time.
11th. Do not go into any kind of farming that leaves you stranded in the case of failure of help. A farmer can himself feed a number of sheep and young stock, but if he has more than one or two cows his labors become onerous in case farm hands desert him. That is to say, no milk farm should be undertaken, except the farmer is absolutely sure of his men, through long knowledge of them, and an agreement covering a term of years.
12th. Make all arrangements so that you will be as independent as possible of outside connections of men, animals, machines or power.
A CONCORD WAYSIDE
THE VALLEY OF NORTH ADAMS
A RICHMOND ELM SYMPHONY
THE CONNECTICUT TRAIL - WAYLAND
13th. Farm lands should contain fields, pastures and wood land, whatever else they may lack. Good orchards can seldom be bought. The pasture is important because it affords the most natural, most economical and least troublous method of summer feeding. Many old fields ought never to have been taken out of the pasture. A wood lot is important for the sense of independence it gives, for its esthetic advantage, and also and perhaps principally as an investment. Almost any good wood lot, if properly bought, will "clear up" more than it cost. We know of several instances where wood has been sold, so that the farm place then stood the buyer less than nothing. The wood develops quietly over in the remote corner of the farm and its progress is often unnoticed. The joy of having a supply of old knotty pieces for the fireplace is great, and costs only the labor.
14th. Do not bother to drain swampy lands unless the soil is imperatively required. Coarse grass has its uses, and in a dry season it is often a resource.
15th. Small fruits carefully attended are a pretty sure source of some profit. High bush berries should not be neglected.
16th. Not more than one horse should be kept on a farm and that number is often one too many. Horses are the most expensive features of the farm. Land that cannot be ploughed by a tractor had better not be ploughed. If a horse is to be kept it should be for the love of it only, or for a few rough odd jobs.
17th. In dressing lands, do not be misled by the notion that artificial manures are sufficient. The enthusiast, who in a meeting of farmers, stated as his climax that the time would come when all the fertilizer required for a farm could be carried in the vest pocket, was interrupted by a farmer in the back of the room, "Yes, and the crop in the other pocket." The value of artificial fertilizers is very great, but in a supplementary way, either as top dressing or as added for crop foods in ploughed land. Absolutely necessary humus must be supplied from the barn yard or through the ploughing under of nitrogen crops.
18th. Do not fall into the error of building a lot of fences. The cost is vast and the advantage is often nil. Nothing but the pasture should be fenced, and that with smooth wire mesh, if the old fence requires any improvement.
A WESTON HOMESTEAD
19th. When installing plumbing, pay no attention to the statements of the plumber that it won't freeze. Let no pipes run up on the outside walls or anywhere near them. Provide heating facilities one half larger than your heating engineer specifies. The feeding of the fires will cost no more, as they will be run lower.
THE PIONEER HOMESTEAD - CONCORD
20th. The drainage about the farm buildings aside from the sewer should be natural. Lacking a proper porous soil or a proper slope nothing can be done that is satisfactory. These imperative features should be sought in the first place, and all will come right.
21st. In obtaining a country place inevitable disappointment will follow if financial profit is the first consideration, because no man will make enough to satisfy him, if that is his aim. The first and last and constant feeling should be the joy in the occupations connected with developing and carrying on the farm place. It must be considered as an end worth while in itself, and not as a means to something. If it is not good in itself it is not good at all. If one does not enjoy living it and doing it, one will never get enough out of it. In other words one must carry to the country the mind and heart that will find in the country something to fill both.
THE first revenue derived from a farm was the sum received for an old mowing machine sold for junk. It afterward developed that the machine belonged to a neighbor who had stored it in our barn. Revenue sometimes arises from the least expected quarters and is as often lacking from those quarters which were supposed likely to produce it. Potatoes are a mainstay to keep or to sell. Sweet corn is a delusion without a prearranged market. Sometimes it can be sold to a cannery on a contract. Seed raised for nurseries is sometimes a source of revenue, but it cannot do well except in very clean fields, quite free from weeds. At least this applies to grain. It is often possible by careful selection and sorting to secure moderate quantities of seed that is salable in the spring. It is much better to raise most of one's seed, because then one is sure of its freshness. Hay is a bad revenue producer, because it saps the life of the farm to sell it. It should all be fed out on the place. Grains, of course, can never be raised for sale, to advantage, in New England. Eggs from early pullets are profitable, and so are chickens raised very early. Garden products started in a hothouse may often be disposed of to advantage, as such things are rare in the country and there is a considerable number of summer residents who will take them.
Main crops are not for the eastern farmer. He derives his revenue from a great many things; the garden, hennery, orchard, wood lot, a little here and a little there. The exceptions to this statement have mostly been noted above.
ELM BY THE RIBBON ROAD - ROYALSTON
A HATFIELD DOOR
A HINGHAM LANE
WHEN we visited the William Cullen Bryant place, in Cummington, the day was bright and sweet with sunshine, and the air crisp with the first touch of autumn. The homestead which he loved so much is now vacant. The view from it is very extensive, sweeping for many leagues over the Berkshire hills. The location must be lofty. Back of the dwelling, really coming up to it, in an intimate way, was a splendid wood of pines. Just beyond the farm buildings one entered under the dappled maple shadows (p. 107). About the lawn were fine elms. We could easily understand Bryant's love of trees, and how it continually crept into his poems. We sat down, in a row, at the edge of the porch, and read two or three of his finest appreciations of the natural world. The silence and absence of any living thing about us added much to the effectiveness of the occasion. We knew that the spirit which loved these surroundings was in harmony with our own.
On "A Norfolk Farm Lane" (p. 136) we found a most unusual place. It exemplified the attraction of an independent enterprise, in the old days, which had everything under its own roof. It appears that an early settler had understood vineyarding, and had arranged his basement in a fashion found in some quarters of France. There was a sub-cellar. A huge wine press, worked by a horse going around and around, was installed there, and the great depth and massive stone work showed a feeling for permanency. How little we know what is within doors as we pass by these old dwellings. The rooms of the house were paneled in an interesting way and the location was in every way attractive.
In Ashfield there is an old embankment, like a moraine, which impounds the lake shown on page 144. A path is worn in the center of the embankment, and on each side are wonderfully beautiful birches with their salmon-colored bark, and lusty large growth. It is a spot much to be sought for on summer days, because a gentle breeze almost always moves across here and the outlook feeds the imagination.
We love the old roadside watering places where drives were arranged so that one passed over little fords, by the sides of the main road (p. 175), for watering the horses. In the early days a long continued "dry spell" was bad for wheels as their spokes tended to rattle. It was bad for the horses' feet, as they became too dry and hard. Travelers were always glad to drive into a brook and wait for a few moments, while the horses drank their fill and wheel and hoof were well soaked. There was even an opportunity to eat luncheon, or, as they used to say, "take a snack."
"The Lynn Marshes" as seen on page 180, remind one of the days of the "Saugus Navy Yard." In the earlier days it was of the utmost importance to work sloops up stream as far as possible, because, in the absence of railroads, and even of roads worthy the name, there was a tendency to form a market at the height of tidewater. It is said that sloops were built at main points where now a row boat would hardly pass, owing to the silting up of old water ways. Laden sloops were taken up at high tide and allowed to strand at low tide. The effect on some of the north sea marshes must have been equal to the effect in Holland where one sees vessels apparently in the midst of the land. On the Saugus River it is said that there was a dam as early as 1629 and a fishway for alewives has been maintained there ever since. Possibly this is the oldest water power in America.
A SOUTH SHORE DOOR
The Aberjona River in Winchester (p. 72) is one of the streams approachable like English rivers. The bushy banks of most of our streams prevent our getting comfortably near them, and we are, therefore, the more delighted when we find grassy banks and an open growth of shade trees. The region all about Winchester is very attractive. A vision up the stream at Winchester which shows the stone church (p. 276), has all the charm of mellowness and age that we associate with English village scenes.
"OLD ENGLAND" - WINCHESTER
WATER LIGHTS - ADAMS
There is a very ancient dwelling on the old road from Lexington to Concord (p. 263), which probably shows a condition common to many an early house. The somewhat flat roof, which almost never appeared in the earliest period, generally indicates that the roof lines were carried up by raising the side walls, and at the same time the effect was to flatten the roof. Second story rooms were obtained in this manner, but picturesqueness was lost. This house has wonderful old panels, and that very obvious appearance of never having been dealt with, in its larger rooms, that always appeal to the collector. The overarching elm is rendered more beautiful by a series of small burls, like knobs, covering the main trunk, and many branches. These burls were much used, when on maple and oak trees, for the forming of bowls. The grain of the wood was very beautiful, but the object of the settlers in using it was to obtain material that would not split. This tree is a fine sample of what is often called the rooftree, by confounding this term with the ridgepole, which is the true rooftree.
On page 264 is a bit of the old Connecticut trail running from Weston through Wayland. The residence is the summer home of an artist who has allowed the house to blend itself with the foliage in a subtle fashion.
There is evidently a rabbit trade on between the children sitting on hutches (p. 268). The little girl at the center obviously has the prize animal, and she is the cynosure of neighboring eyes. It would almost seem as if the rabbit was especially created for the delectation of children. Its docility and adaptability make it a pet, better even than a dog, in some particulars. Of course no dog lover would admit for a moment that the finer intelligence and affection of his dog would place it in the same class with any other pet whatsoever.