You may say that few persons have the time, inclination, taste, or money to carry out such an experiment; that the average farmer must make each year pay, and that the exploiting of this matter is therefore of interest to a very limited number. Admitting much of this, I still claim that there is a lesson to every struggling farmer in this narrative. It should teach the value of brain work on the farm, and the importance of intelligent cultivation; also the advantages of good seed, good tilth, good specimens of well-bred stock, good food, and good care. Feed the land liberally, and it will return you much. Permit no waste in space, product, time, tools, or strength. Do in a small way, if need be, what I have done on a large scale, and you will quickly commence to get good dividends. I have spent much more money than was really necessary on the place, and in the ornamentation of Four Oaks. This, however, was part of the experiment. I asked the land not only to supply immediate necessities, but to minister to my every want, to gratify the eye, and please the senses by a harmonious fusion of utility and beauty. I wanted a fine country home and a profitable investment within the same ring fence.
Will you follow me through the search for the land, the purchase, and the tremendous house-cleaning of the first year? After that we will take up the years as they come, finding something of special interest attaching naturally to each. I shall have to deal much with figures and statistics, in a small way, and my pages may look like a school book, but I cannot avoid this, for in these figures and statistics lies the practical lesson. Theory alone is of no value. Practical application of the theory is the test. I am not imaginative. I could not write a romance if I tried. My strength lies in special detail, and I am willing to spend a lot of time in working out a problem. I do not claim to have spent this time and money without making serious mistakes; I have made many, and I am willing to admit them, as you will see in the following pages. I do claim, however, that, in spite of mistakes, I have solved the problem, and have proved that an intelligent farmer can live in luxury on the fat of the land.
THE HUNTING OF THE LAND
The location of the farm for this experiment was of the utmost importance. The land must be within reasonable distance of the city and near a railroad, consequently within easy touch of the market; and if possible it must be near a thriving village, to insure good train service. As to size, I was somewhat uncertain; my minimum limit was 150 acres and 400 the maximum. The land must be fertile, or capable of being made so.