« PreviousContinue »
ridemur.” We are able when we have faith in our ability. If farmers generally consider their calling ignoble and low, that it is mere bodily toil, a sullen contest of animal strength with inert matter, that they are but hewers of wood and drawers of water, so will it be and such will they become. But if, on the other hand, they have just and true ideas of themselves and their vocation, that it is elevated and ennobling, that not only are they with strong hands to wage successful war against brute forces, but that ripe with intelligence they are to share in the triumphs of mind over matter, then will they and all things around them be transformed. They will walk the earth with a more elastic step. The very grass beneath their feet will wear a livelier green. The blue sky above their heads will bend more brightly. The summer breezes will whisper new hopes. The winter storms will inspire fresh courage. Thinking, reasoning, as well as working men, with cultivated minds and aspiring souls, they will respect themselves and be respected of others, they will dignify and adorn labor, they will feel and know, and the world will see how enviable and exalted is their position, and that with the farmer's lot there is none which can compare for real happiness and solid good.
Having started, then, to become a farmer, not with a sort of floating idea that such may possibly be his permanent business, but, in the first place, with a fixed and well-defined purpose, and, in the second place, with a correct idea of the nature and importance of the business, and what it imperatively demands for full success—the young farmer is ready to go to work, or rather he is ready to learn how to work, to serve his apprenticeship, to fit himself for the duties of life. In truth, this preparation is to last his whole life-time. Whoever has to deal with nature and her processes, is a perpetual learner. He studies in a school whose lessons are never completed, whose teachings have no end. The great forces and the very elements are his instructors. Each rolling year, each passing season, unfold new problems to be solved, new mysteries to be fathomed, and the scholar, as he grows wise, grows humble, for
he realizes how infinite is the wisdom of the Creator, how wondrous are his ways. And when death ends his labors, and he goes down to rest in the bosom of the earth he has lived upon and loved so long, it is with the humility and yet with the faith of a child, that in another state of being, where the vision will be clearer and the soul unfettered, he will pursue his studies and gain truer views, as he basks in the light of infinite knowledge.
But how shall the young farmer prosecute his work? Of course industry is to be inculcated, unfailing, never-tiring, which finds for every hour some work to do, and without which nothing can be accomplished. Economy, too,—which allows no waste or extravagance, which saves the little here and the little there, which accumulates, earns, produces, before it spends and consumes, which is the handmaid of industry and the foundation of wealth. Habits of order, also, should be impressed, which for every labor has its time,—which never puts off till to-morrow what can as well be done to-day,— which has a place for everything and keeps everything in its place,--that order or system, which although it may seem more natural to some than to others, is yet the result of discipline, and can be cultivated and acquired by all,—which is as necessary upon the farm as in the office or work-shop, and the practice or neglect of which may be, and often is, the turning point between success and failure.
In this connection, a word upon the keeping of accounts would not seem to be out of place. I do not speak now of farm accounts, technically so-called,--the account which every farmer should keep with every department of his farm, without which it is impossible to calculate the most beneficial mode of its management, and the improvements of which it is susceptible, and which is just as important to him as to the merchant or manufacturer are their complicated books. And yet, if there were time, it would be a profitable theme. For illustration, suppose a farmer should say to his son who is training to succeed him, “Here, take this lot of land, cultivate it, ex
periment upon it, do with it and what you get from it as you please, but keep a strict account with it, and from year to year, see not only what you have learned of farming, but how stands the matter of profit and loss. To say nothing of what an incentive this would be to effort, what a spur to youthful ambition, how better could the young man be taught prudence and thrift, while at the same time he was gaining golden knowledge of his art? And thus from this one lot let the same system be applied to all, to the whole farm, whenever he comes to have one of his own. But I was referring to the subject in a more limited view, to the accounts which a farmer should keep of his pecuniary transactions—of his bargains, and purchases, and sales, his dealings with the world. I feel that I have a right to speak of this with some degree of confidence, because it is a matter with which my own professional experience has made me somewhat familiar. I have known instances, and they have not been infrequent, where a farmer, forced to go into court, has been unable to prove an honest demand, simply from his inability to produce an account-book which would meet the casy requirements of the law, and who, besides losing his case, and having to pay a heavy bill of costs to his fraudulent debtor, has gone home mortified at the thought that his neighbors would believe he was in the wrong and his opponent in the right. The looseness which prevails in this matter strikes every lawyer with astonishment. The usual apology made is, that a farmer's dealings are mainly cash, and that he has little occasion to be particular about his accounts. This is comparatively true. But while a farmer is to be encouraged in never buying but for cash, there are times when in selling he must accommodate his neighbor with credit. And so, in this and other ways, it happens that there is not a week, hardly a day in the year, in which there should not be some memorandum made, some charge, some credit, something in the end involving dollars and cents. It is no book-keeping by double entry, no complicated system of accounts that is required. The law in this respect is liberal. An old barn door,
with its chalk scores, unhung and brought into court, would be allowed to justify a suppletory oath. But barn doors and kitchen ceilings are unsafe and clumsy journals. Paper and pen and ink are much more trustworthy and quite as convenient. All that is wanted is ordinary penmanship, a knowledge of the simplest rules of arithmetic, and that habit of punctuality which will record the transaction at the time of its occurrence. If the farmer is advanced in years, and his hands cramped by toil, let him use the nimbler fingers of his wife or daughter, only let him have the account kept. But let his son, when he begins farming, start fair in this respect, and accustom himself to keep his accounts regularly and correctly. It will not only save him money, it will save him much annoyance, vexation and strife. It may be said that this is a small matter. Be it
“ Take care of the little things, and the large ones will take care of themselves,”—or, as the tradesman has it, and he knows the value of poor Richard's maxim, “ Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves.” It has been said by good authority, “More profit is made on a farm from trifles than from the large crops.” The sooner the young man learns this invaluable lesson, the better will be his chances of success. The Dutch have a proverb, “No one is ever ruined who keeps good accounts.” They will not only enable a man to understand his whole affairs, and avoid being cheated, but their moral effect is important;—they prevent habits of irregularity, procrastination and indolence; they induce habits of order, promptness and industry.
Among those things which attract the attention of an outside observer, there is no one which so excites his surprise as the indifference manifested by farmers in availing themselves of the aids furnished to successful culture by improved instruments of labor and by modern scientific research. Although as to the former, there has, of late years, been a great and growing change, and men who but recently looked with distrust and aversion upon what they called new-fangled inventions, will now cheerfully use, and, if they cannot afford to buy, will hire
one and another of those valuable labor-saving implements, which are doing so much to facilitate the operations of the farm, yet there is still room for progress. In this matter the young farmer should begin with the right ideas. While he listens to the advice of his elders, and pays due respect to their example as well as precept, he should guard against becoming the slave of old prejudices, and should observe, and judge, and act for himself. To say that because his father before him managed to cut and cure and get in his hay with a scythe and fork and hand-rake, therefore there is no need of his using a mowing-machine, a tedder, or a horse-rake, is just as absurd as it would be for him never to ride in a rail-car, wear a cloth coat, or eat flour bread, because his grandfather jogged along on horseback, was comfortable in linsey-woolsey, and didn't starve on rye and Indian. Of course he must exercise prudence and caution, and neither go beyond his means nor lightly adopt every new contrivance, simply because it is new. But on the other hand, let him studiously avoid that spirit of distrust which looks with suspicion upon every departure from old usage. Let him, with eyes wide open to see, and mind open to conviction, carefully observe and narrowly watch, and then adopt whatever full experiment by individuals or associations has proved to be advantageous and profitable.
I spoke of scientific research. I have no disposition at this late stage to exhaust your kind patience with a disquisition on scientific farming. But let me say, that we lookers-on cannot understand this prejudice which exists among farmers against the application of science to agriculture. Why, what is agriculture but a science, both a science and an art, whose birth was coeval with the birth of man, whose growth has been measured by the progress of civilization, and whose perfection will not be attained till the race shall have reached its millenial state. Every manufactory has its chemist, every art and trade modifies and adapts its operations to come within the sphere of new discoveries and fresh developments. If a shipwright builds a vessel, if a carpenter frames a house, if a miner embowels the