"A sower went out to sow and he sowed
that which was in his heart
--for what can a man sow else!"


Or, as the Vulgate has it,--
"Exitt qui seminat seminare semen suum."


All rights reserved.

Copyright 1907 and 1918

Set up and electrotyped. Published March, 1907.
Reprinted April, July, 1907; March, 1908; June,
September, 1910; April, 1912; April 1914.

New edition, revised February, 1918.

A Simple Mansion At Free Acres

    The original edition has occasional footnotes that servemore as parenthetical remarks than what the scholar would call citations. Becausereading on a video monitor does not readily lend itself to "pages" with"bottoms" where footnotes might belong, these remarks have been relocated,put immediately after text they attach to, and reformatted as parentheses.
    The new, revised edition of February, 1918 had considerableappendages prompted by war patriotism that were not in the earlier editions. Muchof this material has not been reproduced in this world wide web version.


    We are not tied to a desk or to a bench; we stay there onlybecause we think we are tied.

    In Montana I had a horse, which was hobbled every night tokeep him from wandering; that is, straps joined by a short chain were put aroundhis forefeet, so that he could only hop. The hobbles were taken off in the morning,but he would still hop until he saw his mate trotting off.

    This book is intended to show how any one can trot off ifhe will.

    It is not a textbook; there are plenty of good textbooks,which are referred to herein. Intensive cultivation cannot be comprised in any onebook.

    It shows what is needed for a city man or woman to supporta family on the proceeds of a little bit of land; it shows how in truth, as the oldBook prophesied, the earth brings forth abundantly after its kind to satisfy thedesire of every living thing. It is not necessary to bury oneself in the country,nor, with the new facilities of transportation, need we, unless we wish to, pay theextravagant rents and enormous cost of living in the city. A little bit of land nearthe town or the city can be rented or bought on easy terms; and merchandising willbring one to the city often enough. Neither is hard labor needed; but it is to workalone that the earth yields her increase, and if, although unskilled, we would succeedin gardening, we must attend constantly and intelligently to the home acres.

    Every chapter of this book has been revised by a specialist,and the authors wish to express their appreciation of the aid given them, particularlyby Mr. E. H. Moore, Arboriculturist in the Brooklyn Department of Parks; Mr. Collingwoodof the Rural New Yorker and Mr. George T. Powell; and to thank Mrs. Mabel OsgoodWright, and also Mr. Joseph Morwitz, for many valuable suggestions; also all thosefrom whom we have quoted directly or in substance.

    We have endeavored in the text to give full acknowledgmentto all, but in some cases it has been impossible to credit to the originator everyparagraph or thought, since these have been selected and placed as needed, believingthat all true teachers and gardeners are more anxious to have their message sentthan to be seen delivering it.

    In truth, teaching is but another department of gardening.

    Practical points and criticisms from practical men and women,especially from those experiences in trying to get to the land, will be welcomedby the authors. Address in care of the publishers.

    The Report of the Country Life Commission, with Special Messagefrom the President of the United States, is especially important as showing the connectionof Intensive Cultivation with Thrift for war time.

    It tells us that:

    "The handicaps (on getting out of town) that we nowhave specially in mind may be stated under four heads: Speculative holding of lands;monopolistic control of streams; wastage and monopolistic control of forests; restraintof trade.

    "Certain landowners procure large areas of agriculturalland in the most available location, sometimes by questionable methods, and holdit for speculative purposes. This not only withdraws the land itself from settlement,but in many cases prevents the development of an agricultural community. The smallerlandowners are isolated and unable to establish their necessary institutions or toreach the market. The holding of large areas by one party tends to develop a systemof tenantry and absentee farming. The whole development may be in the direction ofsocial and economic ineffectiveness.

    " A similar problem arises in the utilization of swamplands. According to the reports of the Geological Survey, there are more than 75,000,000acres of swamp land in this country, the greater part of which are capable of reclamationat probably a nominal cost as compared to their value. It is important to the developmentof the best type of country life that the reclamation proceed under conditions insuringsubdivision into small farms and settlement by men who would both own them and tillthem.

    "Some of these lands are near the centers of population.They become a menace to health, and they often prevent the development of good socialconditions in very large areas. As a rule they are extremely fertile. They are capableof sustaining an agricultural population numbering many millions, and the conditionsunder which these millions must live are a matter of national concern. The FederalGovernment should act to the fullest extent of its constitutional powers in the reclamationof these lands under proper safeguards against speculative holding and landlordism.

    "The rivers are valuable to the farmers as drainagelines, as irrigation supply, as carriers and equalizers of transportation rates,as a readily available power resource, and for raising food fish. The wise developmentof these and other uses is important to both agricultural and other interests; theirprotection from monopoly is one of the first responsibilities of government. Thestreams belong to the people; under a proper system of development their resourceswould remain an estate of all the people, and become available as needed.

    "River transportation is not usually antagonistic torailway interests. Population and production are increasing rapidly, with correspondingincrease in the demands made on transportation facilities. It may be reasonably expectedthat the river will eventually carry a large part of the freight that does not requireprompt delivery, while the railway will carry that requiring expedition. This isalready foreseen by leading railway men; and its importance to the farmer is suchthat he should encourage and aid, by every means in his power, the large use of therivers. The country will produce enough business to tax both streams and railroadsto their utmost.

    "In many regions the streams afford facilities for power,which, since the inauguration of electrical transmission, is available for localrail lines and offers the best solution of local transportation problems. In manyparts of the country local and interurban lines are providing transportation to farmareas, thereby increasing facilities for moving crops and adding to the profit andconvenience of farm life. However, there seems to be a very general lack of appreciationof the possibilities of this water-power resource as governing transportation costs.

    "The streams may be also used as small water power onthousands of farms. This is particularly true of small streams. Much of the laborabout the house and barn can be performed by transmission of power from small waterwheels running on the farms themselves or in the neighborhood. This power could beused for electric lighting and for small manufacture. It is more important that smallpower be developed on the farms of the United States than that we harness Niagara.

    "Unfortunately, the tendency of the present laws isto encourage the acquisition of these resources on easy terms, or on their own terms,by the first applicants, and the power of the streams is rapidly being acquired underconditions that lead to the concentration of ownership in the hands of the monopolies.This constitutes a real and immediate danger, not to the country-life interests alone,but to the entire nation, and it is time that the whole people become aroused toit.

    "The forests have been exploited for private gain notonly until the timber has been seriously reduced, but until streams have been ruinedfor navigation, power, irrigation, and common water supplies, and whole regions havebeen exposed to floods and disastrous soil erosion. Probably there has never occurreda more reckless destruction of property that of right should belong to all the people.

    "The wood-lot property of the country needs to be savedand increased. Wood-lot yield is one of the most important crops of the farms, andis of great value to the public in con trolling streams, saving the run-off, checkingwinds, and adding to the attractiveness of the region. [Taken up in a special chapterof this book.]

    " In many regions where poor and hilly lands prevail,the town or county could well afford to purchase forest land, expecting thereby toadd to the value of the property and to make the forests a source of revenue. Suchcommunal forests in Europe yield revenue to the cities and towns by which they areowned and managed."

    These revenues would furnish good roads even in the poorestand most sparsely settled districts.

    There are a number of other reasons why people do not liketo live outside of cities--or do not succeed in farm work. There is the difficultyof finding help. This, how. ever, rejoices the heart of the modern sociologist. Consider--wefirst teach our children independence and train them for everything but farm helpor household services. Then we degrade the "help" below a mill "hand"so that people will not even sit at table with them at an hotel. Next we fix a theoryof conduct for them that keeps them constantly under orders and pay them wages thatmake it hardly possible for them to rise above the station to which we have appointedthem.

    Finally, when we move away from the haunts of men out toSandtown-by-the-Puddle we blame them that they do not rush to join us. Most of themwould be happier in penal servitude than in the country. The work is as hard andrequires as much skill as a mechanic's work, besides personal qualities that aredemanded of no mechanic, and commands half its wages.

    Those who, like Henry Ford, can afford to pay mechanics'wages for help can get all they want.

    Many people go to the country without plan, preparation,or vocation, to make a living. They usually start to build a bungalow but seldomget further than the bungle. Don't build anything without plan. Get a comfortablehouse proof against cold and heat as soon as possible and, above all, well ventilated.At present the air in the country is good, because the farmers shut all the bad airup in their bedrooms.

    They say

    "The farmer works from sun to sun
    For the summer's work is never done."

    We might add, it's never even half done--naturally. A donkeyengine can work like that, but then it hasn't any brains. No man can work from sunto sun all summer and think at all or be good for anything at the end of it.

    Above all things don't work long hours, even in learning,with the idea of saving that way. All up-to-date employers are agreed that an eight-hourday produces more and better results than a ten-hour day and that a twelve-hour daybrings sheriffs and suicides instead of profits.

    That's just as true of the individual worker as it is ofthe factory "hand." Yet most men and a few women proudly say that they"work like a horse" (it's usually not true). They don't; a horse won'twork and can't work over eight hours a day steadily. Neither can you: you may keepbuzzing around much longer--but the best work requires the best conditions and thebest hours. You think, or you flatter yourself that you think, that it is necessary;but nothing is necessary that is stupid and wrong. It is hardly too much to say thatwhen we are tired out or ill either we have been doing the wrong thing or doing itwrong.

    There is besides, as an anti-rusticant, railroad discriminationin favor of long hauls, but the main reason that the small farms of the Eastern Coastare less settled than those farther west is the great difficulty in getting farmloans or loans on farm buildings. New York companies and others in the great citieswill loan on farms west of the Alleghenies, but even the otherwise excellent easternBuilding Loan Associations usually restrict themselves to places within twenty-fivemiles of a city. The Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society will help approvedJewish farmers to buy and build: and there is a Federal Land Bank in Springfield,Mass., which lends to some Farmers' Associations, of which some four thousand arealready formed. It is hoped that the State Land Bank of New York City may improvethe situation in New York for Farmers' Organizations, but "generally nearlyall available funds of the local banks seem to be drawn off for investments in WallStreet."

    However, it is not to be forgotten that this difficulty isreflected in the lower prices of eastern Land.

    One more thing that keeps many people from the country anddrives some people back to the city is the mosquito (of course there are mosquitoesin town, but we are not out as much, so we notice them less). Mosquitoes breed orrather we breed them, in still water in which there are no fish, in pools, hollowsin trees, wells, etc., and above all in old tin cans. They can no more breed withoutwater than sharks could.

    Mosquitoes do not breed in grass, but rank growths of weedsor grass may conceal small breeding puddles, and form a favorite nursery for MammaSkeet. A teacupful of water standing ten days is enough for 250 wrigglers; theirneeds are modest.

    Different species of mosquitoes have as well-defined habitsas other birds and are classified as follows: Domestic, Migratory, and Woodland.

    The common domestic or pet species breed in fresh water,usually in the house yard, fly comparatively short distances, and habitually enterhouses. They winter in cellars, barns, and outhouses. Some of them are conveyorsof malaria.

    The Migratory Species breed on the salt marshes, fly longdistances, do not habitually enter houses, and are not carriers of diseases so faras known.

    Certain varieties of Woodland Mosquitoes breed only in woodlandpools, appearing in the early spring, and travel a greater distance than the domesticspecies. They are not usually troublesome indoors.

    It has been proved that malaria is transmitted only by certainspecies of Anopheles, one of which is the domestic mosquito. Eliminate this one speciesof mosquito and the disease will disappear as a direct consequence. So if you hearthat pretty little song in the house, don't swear, thank the Lord that effects alwaysfollow causes. You need never be without a bite in the house if you have a nice cesspoolhandy for Sis Mosquito, for each one will have a first-class feed with you everysecond or third day.

    They are needless and dangerous pests or pets. Their propagationcan be prevented by draining or filling wet areas, by emptying or screening waterreceptacles, and by spraying with oil where better measures are not available. Oilshould be sprinkled in any cesspools, sewers, and catch basins, rain barrels, watertroughs, roof gutters, marshes, swamps, and puddles that cannot be done away with.All ponds and large bodies of water should have clean sharp edges, because in shallow,grassy edges larvae of the malarial species are commonly found. Large ponds withclean edges, inhabited by fish or predatory insects, are safe; smaller ponds, ifwind swept, and all ponds in the "ripple area" are safe. All rain pools,stagnant gutters, overgrown edges of large ponds, and all receptacles holding waternot constantly renewed, are dangerous. You raise most of your own mosquitoes.

    Now a word specially concerning this revised edition.

    The farm papers are supported mainly by men with large acreage,it is the rise in value of these acres more than the rise in farm products that haspulled the land-owning farmers out of the hole that they were in up to about theyear 1900. Farmers' knowledge, liking, and equipment was for big fields, half cultivated,and at first they did not like to hear that they had been wasting so much of thelabor that had bent their backs. Nor did they want to hear that it would have beenfar more profitable to them to have cultivated a few acres and left the goats andhogs or sheep to attend to the rest as wild land until the long-expected settlerscame along to buy the land at dreamland prices.

    Consequently, all the faults in the book there were, andsome more besides, have been picked out by these critics. It is surprising as wellas a notable compliment to the agricultural experts who revised the first editionthat, with one exception, no material error or omission has been pointed out.

    The more so because there is absolutely no limit to the advancesin methods and results in doing things, and in growing things, all born of intelligenttoil. Your suggestions may help the world to better and bigger things. If you willlisten at the 'phone you may sometime hear a conversation like this:

    "Hello, this is Mrs. Wise, send me two strawberries,please." "You'd better take three, Madam, I've none larger than peachesto-day." "All right; good-bye."

    You may sometime see that kind of strawberry in New Jerseyat Kevitt's Athenia, or Henry Joralamon's, or in the berry known by various names,such as Giant and different Joe's. But lots of people have failed in their war gardenwork even on common things; lots more ought to have failed but haven't--yet. Yearsago, we, the book and its helpers, started the forward-to-the-land movement whichhas resulted in probably two million extra garden patches this war year. I have hadcarloads of letters, at least hand carloads, about the book, but not one worker whoeven tried to follow its counsels has reported failure.

    So don't let us have a wail from you because your "gardenstuff never comes up." Of course it doesn't; you have to bring it up, just likea baby. That's what I've been crying for long years in the wilderness ever sincethe first edition of this book. The Three Acres may be bought on credit but eternalvigilance is the price of Liberty and crops. To raise good crops costs time and attentionand sweat of body and of brains.

    Here is a chunk of wisdom out of the excellent Garden Primer(which you can get free by asking me for it):

    "One hour a day spent in a garden ten yards long byseven wide will supply vegetables enough for a family of six"; but the valueof this remark lies in the application of it. If you figure a bit on that you willfind that ten minutes a day will provide enough for one person, but six hours oncea week won't do. Six hours a day will bring up a baby; but two days a week is criminalneglect for the other five days. If you once let the weeds get a good start, sayafter a rain, they will make even the angels swear. It's regular attention that thebaby and the garden and your education and your best girl will require.

    If you want more minute instructions about how to grow eachvegetable, put in words that anybody can understand without getting a headache ora dictionary, look up "The Garden Yard" by the Author. It is in nearlyall libraries now, and it is the only book that makes perfectly plain everythingthat a plain man needs to know about growing plain things

    So there is little to add in this new edition except to reinforcewhat was not strong enough. In the present jumping market to revise the prices quotedwould be absurd, but it may be noted that, as in the prices of 'cowers, the minimumprices are still about correct, but the maximum prices have jumped almost out ofsight. Every year there are more and more very wealthy people who will pay nearlyany price for the very best. The world seems to be dividing into those who have tocount their pennies and those who couldn't count their thousands. Of course, wherewar has prohibited the importation of the strong bulbs and roots needed for forcingflowers, the prices are about what any one who has any chooses to ask. Monopoly canalways get its own price.

    This New Edition does not attempt to bring prices quotedup to date. In these times not even a stock exchange telegraph ticker can do that.Prices of goods in general have advanced at least 80 per cent. By the day that thisbook is off the press they may have decreased, or more likely advanced some more.The next day they may slump. Prices of labor advance more slowly and do not slumpso fast. Wages of men gardeners have risen perhaps 50 per cent in the last ten years,but women and children have learned to do much of the work. They do the work cheaperbecause most of them have some one on whom they can partly depend for support.

    Similarly, when an example of total product given in theearlier edition is still typical and has stood investigation, it is not discardedin favor of a more modern instance.

    It would have been easy to have revised all the figures,but of little advantage to our readers. For example, it is encouraging to the citizento know that the average wheat yield per acre has increased more than two bushelssince the first edition of this book, but it would not help the garden maker. Theincrease of possible products tends to counterbalance the increased cost of labor.So only the musty parts have been cut out of the book, which is more needed now thanever.


Chapter I: Making a Living--Where and How
Chapter II: Present Conditions
Chapter III: How To Buy The Farm
Chapter IV: Vacant City Lot Cultivation
Chapter V: Results To Be Expected
Chapter VI: What An Acre May Produce
Chapter VII: Some Methods
Chapter VIII: The Kitchen Garden
Chapter IX: Tools And Equipment
Chapter X: Advantages From Capital
Chapter XI: Hotbeds And Greenhouses
Chapter XII: Other Uses Of Land
Chapter XIII: Fruits
Chapter XIV: Flowers
Chapter XV: Drug Plants
Chapter XVI: Novel Live Stock
Chapter XVII: Where To Go
Chapter XVIII: Clearing The Land
Chapter XIX: How To Build
Chapter XX: Back To The Land
Chapter XXI: Coming Profession For Boys
Chapter XXII: The Wood Lot
Chapter XXIII: Some Practical Experiments

These chapters have not been included:

Chapter XXIV: Some Experimental Foods
Chapter XXV: Dried Truck
Chapter XXVI: Home Cold Pack Canning
Chapter XXVII: Retail Cooperation
Chapter XXVIII: Summer Colonies For City People