DISCOUNTING THE MARKET
We broke ground for the house late in May, and Nelson said that we should be in it by Thanksgiving Day. Soon after the plans were settled Polly informed me that she should not spend much money on the stable.
“Can’t do it,” she said, “and do what I ought to on the house. I will give you room for six horses; the rest, if you have more, must go to the farm barn. I cannot spend more than $1100 or $1200 on the barn.”
Polly was boss of this department, and I was content to let her have her way. She had already mulcted me to the extent of $436 for trees, plants, and shrubs which were even then grouped on the lawn after a fashion that pleased her. I need not go into the details of the lawn planting, the flower garden, the pergola, and so forth. I have a suspicion that Polly has in mind a full account of the “fight for the home forty,” in a form greatly better than I could give it, and it is only fair that she should tell her own story. I am not the only one who admires her landscape, her flower gardens, and her woodcraft. Many others do honor to her tastes and to the evidence of thought which the home lot shows. She disclaims great credit, for she says, “One has only to live with a place to find out what it needs.”
As I look back to the beginning of my experiment, I see only one bit of good luck that attended it. Building material was cheap during the months in which I had to build so much. Nothing else specially favored me, while in one respect my experiment was poorly timed. The price of pork was unusually low. For three years, from 1896, the price of hogs never reached $5 per hundred pounds in our market,—a thing unprecedented for thirty years. I never sold below three and a half cents, but the showing would have been wonderfully bettered could I have added another cent or two per pound for all the pork I fattened. The average price for the past twenty-five years is well above five cents a pound for choice lots. Corn and all other foods were also cheap; but this made little difference with me, because I was not a seller of grain.
In 1896 I was, however, a buyer of both corn and oats. In September of that year corn sold on ’Change at 19-1/2 cents a bushel, and oats at 14-3/4. These prices were so much below the food value of these grains that I was tempted to buy. I sent a cash order to a commission house for five thousand bushels of each. I stored this grain in my granary, against the time of need, at a total expense of $1850,—21 cents a bushel for corn and 16 for oats. I had storage room and to spare, and I knew that I could get more than a third of a cent out of each pound of corn, and more than half a cent out of each pound of oats. I recalled the story of a man named Joseph who did some corn business in Egypt a good many years ago, much in this line, and who did well in the transaction. There was no dream of fat kine in my case; but I knew something of the values of grains, and it did not take a reader of riddles to show me that when I could buy cheaper than I could raise, it was a good time to purchase.