Clearing Land – the Old Fashioned Way

from “The Farmer’s and Emigrant’s Handbook”, by Josiah T. Marshall, 1852:

1.  Cut trees down to the ground.
2.  Clear brush.
3.  Fence in land.
4.  Sow wheat in Fall, leaving stumps where they are.
5.  Sow grass in Spring.
6.  Burn stumps in 2nd year to hasten decay.
7.  Leave stumps to rot away over 5 years.

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7 Responses to Clearing Land – the Old Fashioned Way

  1. jhaselbarth says:

    OK, I’ll be the first city boy to ask. Why the fence? Why the wheat? Why the grass?

  2. wmclaa says:

    In short, they didn’t clear the land…they just started farming it. All the craziness of clearing land is caused by our desire to farm huge fields with huge machines.

  3. jhaselbarth says:


  4. davidmeyer75 says:

    If the land will be reaped by a hand scythe, then this makes perfect sense. The stumps could stay there for quite a while and not really matter much.

    Mr. Combine wouldnt like those stumps too much though!

    • wmclaa says:

      Well, that turns out to be what the real issue is–the modern perfectionist farmer who wants all or nothing. Even if you just grew the wheat for a supply of straw on the farm and cut it with a brush hog…the land would be doing something for you…Goats and sheep, even cows, wouldn’t mind grazing around stumps for 4-5 years…and you’d have $30,000 you didn’t spend on having the land cleared. PATIENCE.

  5. tbmichaud says:

    Not to mention the $20,000 or more you could save on a large tractor.

    To answer jhaselbarth as best I can:

    Wheat – winter feed for the chickens, not to mention the obvious (bread flour) you could have used corn, rye, or barley just as well.

    Grass – to provide pasture land for any larger livestock (cow, horse, goat, sheep, geese, even pigs) this would allow all that natural fertilizer to build up and, once the stumps were rotted enough, would provide for a great crop of whatever they might plant in rows (potatoes, beets, turnips, more wheat, all of the above)

    Fence – to keep the neighbor’s pigs from eating your crop and/or to keep your larger animals from wandering all over the county. Remember, oftentimes 200 years ago (even less than 100 years ago) crops were fenced and all animals were allowed to free range, unless they were draft stock, or animals used for milk.

    • wmclaa says:

      Thanks. People always forget the value of STRAW!! I’d grow wheat just for straw–it’s invaluable for stall bedding and the donkeys can eat it instead of the good horse/cow hay.

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