Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Tag: primitive farming


If there be any who still hold that this country must ultimately rival that magnificent Turnip-culture which has so largely transformed the agricultural industry of England and Scotland, while signally and beneficently increasing its annual product, I judge that time will prove them mistaken.

The striking diversity of climate between the opposite coasts of the Atlantic forbids the realization of their hopes. The British Isles, with a considerable portion of the adjacent coast of Continental Europe, have a climate so modified by the Gulf Stream and the ocean that their Summers are usually moist and cool, their Autumns still more so, and their Winters rarely so cold as to freeze the earth considerably; while our Summers and Autumns, are comparatively hot and dry; our Winters in part intensely cold, so as to freeze the earth solid for a foot or more.

Hence, every variety of turnip is exposed here in its tenderer stages to the ravages of every devouring insect; while the 1st of December often finds the soil of all but our Southern and Pacific States so frozen that cannon-wheels would hardly track it, and roots not previously dug up must remain fast in the earth for weeks and often for months.

Old style potato farming

In no other form can so large an amount and value of human food be obtained from an acre of ground as in that of edible roots or tubers; and of these the Potato is by far the most acceptable, and in most general use. Our ancestors, it is settled, were destitute and ignorant of the Potato prior to the discovery of America, though Europe would now find it difficult to subsist her teeming millions without it. In travelling pretty widely over that continent, I cannot remember that I found, any considerable district in which the Potato was not cultivated, though Ireland, western England, and northern Switzerland, with a small portion of northern Italy, are impressed on my mind as the most addicted to the growth of this esculent.

Other roots are eaten occasionally, by way of variety, or as giving a relish to ordinary food; but the Potato alone forms part of the every day diet alike of prince and peasant. It is an almost indispensable ingredient of the feasts of Dives, while it is the cheapest and commonest resort for satiating or moderating the hunger of Lazarus. I recollect hearing my parents, fifty years ago, relate how, in their childhood and youth, the poor of New-England, when the grain-crop of that region was cut short, as it often was, were obliged to subsist through the following Winter mainly on Potatoes and Milk; and I then accorded to those unfortunates of the preceding generation a sympathy which I should now considerably abate, provided the Potatoes were of good quality.

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