Other uses of land[edit | edit source]
We had intended to write an interesting chapter on the use of a few acres of land for poultry, and another on raising a vast drove of rabbits, both from practical men, but a good average man, just such as this book is written for, sent the following:
"I am very sorry that I cannot comply with your request to write a chapter on poultry for your new book. It is true that I am physically and mentally capable of performing that feat, and it would be possible for me to prepare an essay that might entertain the reader, and even make him believe that there is money in commercial poultry. I prefer, however, to leave that sort of romancing to the poultry journals who, by much practice, are adepts in the art. The fact is, I did not make poultry raising pay, and had I remained on my chicken ranch, I would have gone broke. I do not mean to say, however, that there is no money in poultry, but merely that I could not get it out. Perhaps others who are better equipped for the work can make a success of such an undertaking, but I could not. The numerous poultry journals are filled with instructions how to do it and with letters from people who assert that they have done well with poultry; but, really, during the four years that I was in the business I cannot recall a single case of success, and, on the other hand, I learned of failures without end. I had the reputation of having the best planned and most completely equipped in this part of Washington, and perhaps in the entire state. My stock was thoroughbred and healthy, and they seemed to attend to business strictly. I devoted about all my waking hours to them, did everything that seemed necessary that was suggested by my own success, and yet I could not make it go, am glad I am clear of it,and have no desire to try it again. I am perfectly willing to admit my possible unfitness for the business, but I am also compelled to admit that I could not succeed and that no advice of mine could help others."
Although many, either under exceptional circumstances or because of exceptional ability, have made a success of wholesale poultry raising, it seems on reflection that Mr. Wolf 's ideas are in the main correct.
The price of chickens is fixed, like all other prices, by supply and demand, and toward the supply every farmer contributes his chickens and their eggs which cost him practically nothing; at least he counts that they cost him nothing.
Now it is clear that if you considerably increase the supply at any place, the price will fall, and the farmer, whose chickens and eggs cost him almost nothing in money, will sell them low enough to command a market and will continue to raise them, however little he gets for them.
So you are against inexhaustible competitors who can neither be driven out nor combined with. It is worse than competing with bankrupt dealers. To make much money you must have at least some monopoly, and even a little bit of the earth that is well suited to your purpose where there is no unreasonable and unreasoning competition, will give you a chance.
But while it is true that the farmer's subsidized hens have a very disastrous effect at times upon the market, the fact is that,notwithstanding the tariff, we import millions of dozens of eggs laid each year by the pauper hens of Canada and often of Denmark.
Another fact to be considered is, that it is when eggs are most plentiful that the farmers depress the market. With their ways of handling their poultry, their hens lay only when conditions are most favorable, and in the winter when eggs are as high as fifty cents a dozen in cities, they have no eggs to market. Like the market gardener, to be timely in market is to succeed. A week may mean an annihilation of profits.
It is a different proposition to raise a few chickens as a side line as the farmers do.
A workman at the Connecticut place of one of the experts who has revised this book had a bit of land not more than l00 X 200 feet,and for several years cleared $100 a year by raising eggs and broilers, doing the work together with that of a little garden of small fruits before and after working hours The chickens fed largely on green food in summer.
In selling your surplus at a profit, the same principles apply as in raising a surplus to sell at a profit.
While poultry and egg raising does not require that you must be first, it does require that you market your produce at a time when the prices are highest.
You must hatch at a time which will allow the young hens to begin laying as winter approaches; the food must keep up animal heat and the house must be warm enough to make the hens comfortable, and the conditions must be such as to keep them laying.
As an experiment, we once raised six pullets. They were hatched in May, and in December they began laying. All during the winter they laid never less than four and some times six eggs a day, and kept this up until spring.
They were fed on wheat and corn and plenty of meat scraps and green food. They were kept in what was practically a glass house,receiving the benefit of the sun during the day, and were protected from the winds. The effect was to bring as near as possible the condition of the warm months; these paid very well.
Ducks are less frequently raised than chickens and often realize good returns.
The popular fallacy that ducks require a stream or pond is gradually passing away. There was a time when nearly all ducks were raised in this way, feeding on fish as the principal diet, but experience has proved that ducks raised without a stream or pond tend to put on flesh instead of feathers, and they have not the oily, fishy flavor of those raised on the water. Nearly all of the successful duck raisers now use this method.
This is bringing the duck more into prominence as an article of food; as James Rankin says in "Duck Culture," "People do not care to eat fish and flesh combined. They would rather eat them separate."
The white pekins are the popular birds, because they are larger,have white meat, and are splendid layers. They lay from 100 to 165 eggs in a season and are the easiest to raise. They can do entirely without water; and Rankin tells of selling a flock to a wealthy man,who afterwards wrote asking him to take them back, because he had bought them for an artificial lake in front of his house, so that his wife and children could watch them disporting in the water. He complained that they would not go into the water unless he drove them in and would remain only so long as he stood over them.
Ducks are easier to raise than any other fowl and are freer from disease. They are ready for market when eight weeks old.
The industry is assuming large proportions, and ranches are now raising ducks by the tens of thousands and are finding better markets each year.
In starting any poultry business, it is better to begin with twenty-five fowls and master details with those, then double the number as fast as they have been made to return profits.
The Atlantic Squab Company, of Hammonton, N. J., says "it is a simple matter for the beginner to figure out on paper net profits of four or five dollars per year from each pair of breeders, but we doubt if it can be made. It is, however, 'pigeon nature' to lay ten or eleven times a year, but hardly natural to presume that each and every egg will ultimately mean a Jumbo squab in the commission man's hands.
"A loft [that is, a pair] of high-class Homers, properly mated,should average six pair of squabs per year. For one year our squabs averaged us a fraction over 60 cent per pair; say $3.60 has been the returns from each pair of breeders. It has cost us 90 cent per pair to feed for twelve months; remember, we buy in large quantities; it would cost the small breeder $1 a year per pair to feed. It would be well to allow 60 cent a pair for labor and supplies, such as grit, charcoal, tobacco stems, etc., although the bird manure, which we find ready sale for at 55 cent. per bushel,has covered these incidental expenses for us. The inexperienced beginner, with good management and close attention to details,should clear $2 a year from each pair of birds, provided he starts with well-mated pure Homer stock." Pigeons are particular about their mates, and will rather go single than take a disagreeable partner.
Raising Belgian hares at one time promised to be a most profitable industry. The Belgian hare is a distant relation of the ordinary rabbit. Its flesh is white, close-grained, and tender, resembling the legs of the frog, and has a very savory flavor. It is considered by many superior to poultry, and the rapidity with which they breed gave promise of fortunes. The doe brings forth a litter of about eleven every sixty days, and with prices ranging from $1.50 to $2.50, as they were about the year 1900, with the cost of raising from thirty to forty cents, the reason for this promise is evident.
In Southern California thousands turned their attention to it, and some firms entered the business with equipment to the value of fifty thousand dollars.
Besides the ordinary market prices realized for the hares, some went extensively into breeding fancy stock, and realized from $50 to $250 apiece for them.
This industry had indications of becoming extensive and enduring,but by 1900 so many went into the business that the markets became glutted and prices fell with disastrous effect.
Whether it will pay you depends largely on the attitude of your customers toward the hare as a food product.
Bee-keeping offers an interesting and remunerative field of employment. More than the average living awaits those only who will make a careful and intelligent study of bees and their habits and will give them the proper care and attention.
One need not be a practical bee-keeper to enter this field. He can purchase even one hive and, while increasing from this, he can gain an experience that he could get in no other way.
How shall one start bee-keeping?
Get one hive or a few hives. If you have no room in the yard, put them upon the roof. One man in Cincinnati, Ohio, makes his living from bees kept on the roof of his house.
Wm. A. Selzer, a large dealer in bee-keepers' supplies, in Philadelphia, established many colonies on the roof of his place right in the heart of the business district, where it would seem impossible for bees to find a living.
Very little space is required for bee-keeping; hives can be set two feet apart in rows, and the rows six to ten feet apart. No pasture need be provided for them. There are always fields of flowers to supply the nectar.
White clover produces a large yield of nectar of very fine flavor.
The basswood or linden tree blossom produces a fine nectar which some consider better than white clover. Buckwheat also gives a good yield of nectar, but it is dark in color and brings a lower price for that reason. There are other plants which yield large quantities of nectar, and it would be necessary to know the locality to say what would be the best plants; but as white clover is found almost everywhere in the northern states, it is safe to say this will be the best producer in the spring, and goldenrod, where found, the best for the fall supply.
Frank Benton, in United States Department of Agriculture Bulletin 59, says: "It may be safely said that any place where farming,gardening, or fruit raising can be successfully followed is adapted to the profitable keeping of bees."
There is always a farmer here and there who keeps a few hives of bees. These often can be purchased at a very reasonable price, but unless they are Italian bees and are in improved hives, it would be better to purchase from some dealer. He may sell you a very weak colony, but after the first year these ought to be as strong as any.
Start in the spring; when you have your bees, read good literature on the subject. A. I. Root's "A B C of Bee Culture" is good for beginners; subscribe for the _American Bee Journal, _of Chicago, or _Gleanings in Bee Culture, _Medina, Ohio. They are full of the latest ideas on the subject.
A yield of fifty pounds of honey in a season can be obtained from one hive of bees in almost any locality. In fact, this is often done where bees are kept in built up cities. One hundred pounds would be considered a very small yield by many apiarists, and twice this amount is often gathered in favored localities where up-to-date methods are followed.
One man can take care of two hundred hives or colonies, as they are termed, if he is working for comb honey, and perhaps twice that number if for extracted honey.
Comb honey is stored usually in one-pound boxes set in a super or small box over the main hive body, which is itself a box about seventeen inches long, eleven inches wide, and ten inches deep into which frames of comb are slid side by side. These combs are accessible and can be lifted out, exposing to view the inner workings of the hive. It is in these combs that the queen lays as many as three thousand eggs some days, and in which the young bees are hatched. They are also used for storing honey for winter use.
The extractor has been invented to remove this honey without damaging the comb. The economy of this can readily be seen, as ten pounds of honey can be stored while one pound of comb is being built.
This leaves the bees free to gather honey instead of using a portion of their force to build comb, as is necessary when comb honey is desired.
The extractor is a round tin can on a central pivot with a revolving mechanism. Into this the full combs of honey are placed and are whirled around, throwing the honey out into the can by centrifugal force. It is then run out at the bottom into bottles or barrels, and the empty combs are replaced in the hive for the bees to fill again.
Twice as many pounds of honey can be produced by this method; but the price of extracted honey is much less than that of comb honey.
Adulteration of extracted honey with glucose is becoming so prevalent that it threatens to ruin this branch of the industry. But there will always be a good market for honey sold direct by the producer to residents, or even through storekeepers, in medium size towns, where customers can be sure that the honey is pure.
The average wholesale prices of honey are about fifteen cents a pound for extracted and twenty cents for fancy comb, so if the apiarist with two hundred hives produces the small average of fifty pounds of comb honey and sells it at fifteen cents a pound, he will receive $1500 for his season's work. If he goes in for extracted honey and produces one hundred pounds per hive, he will receive even more. Of course, expenses will have to come out of this.
That this has been done over and over again is proved by men who started in with only a few hives and have accumulated considerable property from the business.
But no one need expect to do this unless he is willing to give the bees the attention which they will require. To neglect them once means often a total loss. Most of the work will have to be done during the swarming season in May, June, and July. There has been so much written on the subject and so many inventions and improvements made in the hives that bee-keeping more than any other branch of similar employment has been reduced to a science, and any one can thoroughly master it in two or three years. It is because its possibilities are not generally recognized that so few are now engaged in it.
The fear of stings will always deter many from entering this business and so check competition from forcing prices down.
The price of honey makes it a luxury, and there will be an unlimited opportunity in the crop as long as the price does not get near the cost of producing, which is far below the present prices.
To use land directly is to open almost infinite opportunities.
Department of Agriculture, Farmers' Bulletin 204, says: "In the United States the term 'mushroom' refers commercially to but a single species _(Agaricus Campestris) _of the fleshly fungi, a plant common throughout most of the temperate regions of the world, and one everywhere recognized as edible."
It is unfortunate that the commercial use of the term "mushroom" restricts it to a single species. There are about twenty-five common varieties of edible fungi in the Northern states.
The successful cultivation of mushrooms in America has not been so general as in most European countries. It is in France and in England that the mushroom industry has been best developed. France is the home of the industry. Unusual interest has been shown in the United States in the growth of mushrooms within the past few years,and it is to be hoped and expected that within the next ten years the industry will develop to the fullest limit of the market demands. The demand will, of course, be stimulated by the increasing popular appreciation of this product. In some cities and towns there is already a good market for mushrooms, while in others they may be sold directly to special customers. This should be borne in mind by prospective growers.
While many American growers have been successful, a much larger number have failed. In most cases their failures have been due to one or more of the following causes:
(1) Poor spawn, or spawn which has been killed by improper storage.
(2) Spawning at a temperature injuriously high.
(3) Too much water either at the time of spawning or later.
(4) Unfavorable temperature during the growing period. It is therefore important to the prospective grower that careful attention be given to the general discussion of conditions which follow.
Mushrooms may be grown in any place where the conditions of temperature and moisture are favorable. A shed, cellar, cave, or vacant space in a greenhouse may be utilized to advantage for this purpose. The most essential factor, perhaps, is that of temperature.
The proper temperature ranges from 53 degree to 60 degree F., with the best from 55 degree to 58 degree F. It is unsafe to attempt to grow mushrooms on a commercial basis, according to our present knowledge of the subject, in a temperature much less than 50 degree or greater than 63 degree F.
Any severe changes of temperature would entirely destroy the profits of the mushroom crop. From this it is evident that in many places mushrooms may not be grown as a summer crop. With artificial heat they may be grown almost anywhere throughout the winter. Moreover, it is very probable that in this country open-air culture must be limited to a few sections.
A second important factor is moisture. The place should not be very damp, or constantly dripping with water. Under such conditions successful commercial work is not possible. A place where it is possible to maintain a fairly moist condition of the atmosphere, and having such capability for ventilation as will cause at least a gradual evaporation, is necessary. With too rapid ventilation and the consequent necessity of repeated applications of water to the mushroom bed, no mushroom crop will attain the highest perfection.
Even a little iron rust in the soil is reported as fatal to the Campestris, the only fungus so far successfully propagated.
If other fungi than the Campestris come up wild, don't throw them away as worthless. Many are better eating than the one you seek, and you can avoid the risk of poisonous ones by learning to recognize the dangerous family--send for the Agricultural Department's Bulletin No. 204. Meanwhile, (1) all mushrooms with pink gills, (2) all coral-like fungi, (3) all that grow on wood, and (4) all puffballs, are good to eat if they are young and tender--only don't mistake an unspread Aminita for a puffball.
An ingenious person may find other sources of income in the country.
A young hotel porter in Ulster County, New York, bought seventy acres of mountain woodland four miles from the railroad for two hundred and fifty dollars, and puts in his winters cutting barrel hoops, at which he makes two dollars a day. Meanwhile the land is maturing timber. That is hard work, but to gather wild mushrooms or to cut willows, or sweet pine needles to make cushions, or to catch young squirrels for sale, is lighter, if less steady employment.
And with all our uses of land, we must not forget a little corner for the hammock and the croquet hoops for the wife and the children.
In the Province of Quebec, where the land is held in great tracts under the Seigniors, I have seen croquet grounds no bigger than a bed quilt in front of the little one-room cottages.
The Frenchman knows the importance of such things as that, has meals out of doors in fine weather, goes on little picnics, and keeps madame contented in the country.
A swing, or a seesaw, and a tether ball (a ball swinging from the top of a pole eight feet high) for the children will help to keep the family peace.