The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Ten Acres Enough

Ten Acres EnoughTen Acres Enough was originally published in 1864, but the farming memoir stands the test of time extremely well.  I picked up the Norton Creek Press edition, which includes Robert Plamondon's occasional footnotes and careful calculations of what the original dollar amounts would come to in today's terms.  If you don't mind foregoing those small conveniences, though, you can read the book online for free.

Those of you who were struck by the careful use of organic matter in Farmers of Forty Centuries will be intrigued by Edmund Morris's fascination with manure.  His first year on the farm, he spent $248 on manure ($5,700 in today's dollars), and when he had more money on hand, he was happy to part with $358 ($8,228 today) for manure during his third year.  He chose to keep his livestock completely confined and cut clover from his field to feed them as a way of maximizing his homegrown manure production, and he also collected tree leaves from the wild to add to the compost pile.  All told, perhaps a third of Ten Acres Enough is devoted to discussions of organic matter.

Horse cultivatorThe larger theme, though, is how to make a simple but dependable living on a ten acre farm.  I doubt that an American farmer could follow Morris's lead today due to competition with factory farms, but some of his points are just as valid now as they were a century and a half ago.  Morris believed strongly that debt is the downfall of many a businessman (since he struggled against the problem for the first many years of his life).  He was also keen on focusing on a quality product (unique if possible) marketed to a wealthy urban clientele.

In the introduction, Robert Plamondon describes this classic text as follows:  "Ten years after Henry David Thoreau learned how to be a poor farmer, Edmund Morris learned how to be a good one."  I totally agree.  If you're interested in a glimpse into American small farm life in the 1850s, this quick and fun read is the book for you.

Treat your hard-working hens to a POOP-free chicken waterer.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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So glad to see your review of the book "Ten Acres Enough". I found it years ago and it is one of my all-time favorites. I knew when I found it that I had a treasure.
Comment by Nancy Mon Sep 10 09:38:07 2012
Nancy --- I agree! Definitely one of the under-appreciated classics.
Comment by anna Mon Sep 10 18:11:28 2012
I really enjoyed this book. Glad to see your review.
Comment by Jeremy LeRay Wed Sep 12 15:11:10 2012
Jeremy --- Glad to hear another vote for this inspiring book!
Comment by anna Wed Sep 12 16:19:02 2012

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