THE FIRST VISIT TO THE FARM
It was the 8th of July, 1895, when I contracted for the farm; possession was to be given August 1st. On July 9th, Polly and I boarded an early train for Exeter, intending to make a day of it in every sense. We wished to go over the property thoroughly, and to decide on a general outline of treatment. Polly was as enthusiastic over the experiment as I, and she is energetic, quick to see, and prompt to perform. She was to have the planning of the home grounds—the house and the gardens; and not only the planning, but also the full control.
A ride of forty-five minutes brought us to Exeter. The service of this railroad, by the way, is of the best; there is hardly a half-hour in the day when one cannot make the trip either way, and the fare is moderate: $8.75 for twenty-five rides,—thirty-five cents a ride. We hired an open carriage and started for the farm. The first half-mile was over a well-kept macadam road through that part of the village which lies west of the railway. The homes bordering this street are of fine proportions, and beautifully kept. They are the country places of well-to-do people who love to get away from the noise and dirt of the city. Some of them have ten or fifteen acres of ground, but this land is for breathing space and beauty—not for serious cultivation. Beyond these homes we followed a well-gravelled road leading directly west. This road is bordered by small farms, most of them given over to dairying interests.
Presently I called Polly’s attention to the fact that the few apple trees we saw were healthy and well grown, though quite independent of the farmer’s or the pruner’s care. This thrifty condition of unkept apple orchards delighted me. I intended to make apple-growing a prominent feature in my experiment, and I reasoned that if these trees did fairly well without cultivation or care, others would do excellently well with both.
As we approached the second section line and climbed a rather steep hill, we got the first glimpse of our possession. At the bottom of the western slope of this hill we could see the crossing of the north-and-south road, which we knew to be the east boundary of our land; while, stretching straight away before us until lost in the distant wood, lay the well-kept road which for a good mile was our southern boundary. Descending the hill, we stopped at the crossing of the roads to take in the outline of the farm from this southeast corner. The north-and-south road ran level for 150 yards, gradually rose for the next 250, and then continued nearly level for a mile or more. We saw what Jane Austen calls “a happy fall of land,” with a southern exposure, which included about two-thirds of the southeast forty, and high land beyond for the balance of this forty and the forty lying north of it. There was an irregular fringe of forest trees on this southern slope, especially well defined along the eastern border. I saw that Polly was pleased with the view.