Tag Archives: Marcus Porcius Cato

Cato’s PASTURE & lIVESTOCK

Pastures:

Manure the pasture in early spring in the dark of the moon, when the west wind begins to blow. When you close your pastures (to the stock) clean them and root out all the weeds.

(this is what i’m doing with my total grazing scheme – it is very much easier to snip out those little tree sprouts once the grass around them is fully grazed down. Treat the stump with a bit of Tordon RTU and slowly one can regain clean and productive grass pastures.)

Feeding Livestock:

  1. as long as available, feed green leaves of elm, poplar, oak, and fig to cattle and sheep
  2. Store leaves (before withered) to feed sheep (maybe ensilage?)
  3. Store up dry fodder for winter
  4. Build feed racks in such manner to avoid wastage
  5. Feed a measure of soaked grains or grape husks (preserved in jars) each night along with 25 lbs of hay. Offer higher quality and quantity to those steers which are being prepared to work fields.
  6. Nothing is more profitable than to take good care of your cattle.
  7. Keep flocks and herds well supplied with litter to keep their feet clean. Watch for scab which comes from hunger and exposure to rain.
  8. Anoint oxen feed with liquid pepper before driving them on high road
  9. Health stock depend on sweet and fresh water in the summer
  10. Prevent scab in sheep with an equal measure of well strained amurca (dregs of olive oil), water steeped in lupine, and lees (leftover yeast) of good wine. After shearing, anoint the flock with the mixture and allow them to sweat profusely 2-3 days, then dip them in the sea (or a mixture of salt water). Doing this they will suffer no scab. (this amurca, lupine water, and wine was also recommended as a moth proofing, relish for cattle, fertilizer, and for use as weevil kill on the threshing floor)
  11. Ox being sick – give him 1 raw egg and make him swallow. Next day make him drink from a wooden bowl a measure of wine in which has been scraped the head of an onion. Bothe ox and his attendant should do these things fasting and standing upright.
  12. There are additional crazy cures for dislocated bones, serpent bites, and such that i’ll just skip.

The END!

Check out the little book and a myriad of other Forgotten Books.

Cato’s Land and Soil Management

More on Cato’s Farm Management from Forgotten Books. Remember, these are thoughts and teachings from the Cato the Elder circa 160 bc. He was not a good or kind person and purportedly treated his wife as poorly and with little difference than his slaves.

Later on, better management skills were implemented which can alleviate or even eliminate that eventual souring of the land. Sadly, those skills have been left in the dustbin of history and we now ‘farm the govt’ regardless that it is poor practice for leaving the land in good shape for subsequent generations. Very sad, but here we are.

Of Draining (the land)

Drain wet land with trough shaped ditches dug three feet wide at the surface and one foot at the bottom and four feet deep. Blind these ditches with rock. If you have no rock then fill them with green willow poles braced crosswise. If you have no poles, fill then with faggots. Then dig lateral trenches three feet deep and four feet wide in such way that the water will flow from the trenches into the ditches.

In winter surface water should be drained off the fields. Keep hillsides clear so water will run off and during rainy season, have the hands with picks and shovels, clear out the drains so water will flow off the land and into roads so crops are protected.

Of Preparing the Seed Bed

What is the first principle of good agriculture? To plow well. What is the second? To plow again; and the third is to manure. When you plow corn land, plow well and in good weather, let you turn a cloddy furrow. The other things of good agriculture are to sow good seed plentifully, to thin the young sprouts, and to hill up the roots with earth.

  1. Never plow rotten land nor drive flocks or carts across it. If care is not taken about this, the land so abused will be barren for three years.

Of Manure:

Plan to have a big compost heap and take the best of care of the manure. When it is hauled out see that is well rotted and spread. Autumn is the time to do this.

Fold your sheep on the land which you are about to seed and there feed them leaves.

Of Soil Improvement:

The things which are harmful to corn land are to plow the ground when it is rotten and to plant chick peas which are harvested with the straw and are salt. Barley, fenugreek, and pulse all exhaust corn land, as well as all other things which are harvested with the straw. Do not plant nut trees in the corn land. On the other hand, lupines, field beans, and vetch manure corn land.

Cato – Duties of the Hands

Customary Allowances for food

For the hands, four pecks of meal for winter, four and one-half pecks for summer

For the overseer, housekeeper, wagoner, shepherd – three pecks each

For the slaves, four pounds of bread for winter, but when vine cultivating begins, increase to five pounds until figs are ripe, the return to four pounds.

Wine allowances:

Each hand receives a yearly supply of eight quadrantals (or Amphora), but add in the proportion of work they do. Ten quadrantals is not too much

Olives and salt allowances:

Save the wind fall olives as much as possible for relishes for the hands. When olives are all eaten, give them fish pickles and vinegar. One peck of salt per year is enough for each hand.

Clothing allowances:

Allow each hand a smock and a cloak every other year. As often as you give out a smock or cloak to any one take up the old one, so that caps can be made out of it. A pair of heavy wooden shoes should be allowed every other year.

As per Cato’s Farm Management book published by Forgotten Books.

Duties Of The Housekeeper – Cato

Part 4 of my sharing a summation of thoughts and ideas of managing a profitable farm by Marcius Cato and published by Forgotten Books.

The overseer should be responsible for the duties of the house keeper. If the master has given her to you for a wife, you should be satisfied with her, and she should respect you.

She should:

  1. not be given to wasteful habits
  2. no gossiping
  3. don’t receive visitors in the kitchen or her quarters
  4. don’t attend parties
  5. no gadding about
  6. practice religion with the permission of the master or mistress
  7. be neat in appearance
  8. keep the house ‘swept and garnished’
  9. every night the hearth is swept and clean
  10. prepare food for overseer and hands
  11. have plenty of chickens and an abundance of eggs
  12. diligently put up all kinds of preserves every year

CATO – Duties of the Overseer

My part 3 of Marcus Porcius Cato, who died 149 BC and had great thoughts on establishing and running a successful farm or ranch as recorded in Forgotten Books.

Duties of Overseer:

  1. maintain discipline
  2. observe feast days
  3. respect the rights of others and uphold his own
  4. settle all quarrels/administer punishment
  5. make sure no one is in want to easily prevent picking and stealing

The overseer should not permit wrong-doing by others and show appreciation for courtesy. He should not be given to conviviality, but should always be sober. He should keep his hands busy and see that the master’s bidding is done and not think he knows more than the master. The master’s friends should be his friends and give heed to those whom the master has recommended. He should confine his religious practices to Sunday or to his own house.

Lend money to no man unbidden by the master, but what the master has lent he should collect. Never lend any seed reserved for sowing, feed, corn, wine, or oil, but should have relations with other farms to make exchanges in emergencies. His accounts should be discussed frequently with his master.

He should not keep any hired men or day hands longer than is necessary. He should not sell anything without the knowledge of the master nor conceal anything from the master.

He should have no hangers-on, nor consult any soothsayer, fortune teller, necromancer, or astrologer. He should not spare seed in sowing for that is bad economy. He should strive to be expert in all kinds of farm work, and, without exhausting himself, often lend a hand. He will better understand the work and sleep more refreshingly.

First up in the morning, he should be the last to go to bed at ngiths; and before he does, he should see that the farm gates are closed, and the each of the hands is in his own bed, that the stock have been fed. He should pay the highest compliments to the teamsters who keep their oxen in best condition. Make certain that plows and plow shares are kept in good repair, planning ample time for for farm work so nothing is done late.

During rainy times, find something to do rather than remain idle. Clean up.

“Remember that while work may stop, expenses still go on.”

Cato on “Laying Out and Stocking the Farm”

The continuing saga of Cato’s Farm Management book published by Forgotten Books.

Cato suggested the following ‘disposition’ of your estate. First assuming a spread of 100 jugera (about 66 acres).

  1. a vineyard
  2. irrigated garden
  3. an osier bed (a bed of willow trees)
  4. an olive yard
  5. a meadow
  6. a corn field
  7. a wood lot
  8. a cultivated orchard
  9. a mast grove ( grove of nut/acorn producing trees)

“In his youth, the farmer ought, diligently to plant his land, but he should ponder before he builds. Planting does not require reflection, but demands action. It is time enough to build when you have reached your thirty-sixth year, if you have farmed your land well meanwhile. When you do build, let your buildings be proportioned to your estate, and your estate to your buildings. It is fitting that the farm buildings should be well constructed, that you should have ample oil cellars and wine vats, and a good supply of casks, so that you can wait for high prices, something which will redound to your honour, your profit and your self-respect.”

** sure i’d like to paraphrase Cato’s words and writings, but he is very much succinct and to the point – quite certain i cannot improve. I will press his point above as to buildings be proportioned to your estate. Too many people today (and apparently in Cato’s day) overbuild! For example, a ranch does not need barns! Yet, most farms and ranches today are covered up with outbuilding and barns which only cost money in initial build, depreciation, and maintenance. The farmer who surrounds himself deliberately with stuff and work, has little regard for family time.

What about your dwelling house? Cato admonishes to “Build your dwelling house in accordance with your means. If you build well in a good situation and on a good property, and furnish the house suitably for country life, you will come there more often and more willingly. The farm will then be better, fewer mistakes will be made, and you will get larger crops. The face of the master is good for the land.

(as an interesting aside, Pliny quotes Cato as advising to buy what others have built rather than build oneself, and thus, as he says, enjoy the fruits of another’s folly. Cacoethes edificandi is a familiar disease among country gentlemen.)

My take on cacoethes edficandi is a given in human nature and if you have the opportunity to take advantage, go for it. However, a couple of drawbacks to that are 1) often the estate being sold is priced to include an overbuild, so it can’t be afforded anyway – a lot of ranch and farm land falls in that category now with only the very, very wealthy able to afford such properties which are impossible to run at a profit for cropping or livestock. 2) in our area, anyway, there are next to no nice homes, so building is a must to have something safe and worthwhile in which to live – yet the admonishing is twice listed here – a) build within your means, and b) avoid folly.

More layout tips:

Plant elm trees along the roads and fence rows, so that you may have the leaves to feed the sheep and cattle, and the timber will be available if you need it. If any where there are banks of streams or wet places, there plant reeds, and surround them with willows that the osiers may serve to tie the vines.

My commentary on the above is that we would never plant trees (and not elm – they are highly diseased in our area now) in a fence row – as the trees grow, they’ll knock over the fence, branches will fall out and smash the fence, and eventually grow around the barbed wire which will make the tree unsafe for use in a sawmill (wire in a log is a dangerous situation for the sawyer. Note Cato does not recommend trees along stream banks or wet places. Many people think trees stop erosion in these areas, but this is entirely untrue. Deep rooted reeds and grasses will hold the banks against fast moving water much better. Livestock can also ‘walk down’ any steep banks allowing these deep roots to take hold. Stream banks with wider more gentle slopes encourage water to slow down and not allow erosion. Trees simply fall over as water erodes the soil out from under them, then logs and branches become unusable and tend to clog up ditches allowing deep wallows and stagnant pools.

Cato goes on:

Set out the land nearest the house as an orchard, whence fire wood and faggots may be sold and the supply of the master obtained. In this enclosure should be planted everything fitting to the land and vines should be married to the trees.

Near the house lay out also a garden with garland flowers and vegetables of all kinds, set it about with myrtle hedges, both white and black, as well as Delphic and Cyprian laurel.

STOCKING THE FARM

As an example, Cato sets forth an “olive farm of two hundred and forty jugera (160 acres) ought to be stocked as follows: an overseer, a house keeper, five laborers, three ox drivers, one swineherd, one ass driver, one shepherd; in all thirteen hands: three pair of oxen, three asses with pack saddles, to haul out the manure, one other ass, and one hundred sheep.”

Comments included are that as labor becomes more expensive, the slow, but steady oxen should be replaced with faster working, yet more costly, teams of horses. And in more modern times, we now use tractors which don’t even require drivers because labor cost is becoming more and more prohibitive.

Well, i hope you are enjoying the wisdom of Cato’s thoughts on farming, homesteading, ranching. Although he lived 2000 years ago, the concepts, precepts, and business acumen he shares is still spot on. I plan to share more of this clever book in upcoming blog entries. Check out the numerous classic reprints from Forgotten Books.

Cheers!

CaTO’s Farm Management – Farm Buying Tips

Okay, for a bit of old, interesting yet wise counsel, i’m going to share some bits from a reprinted book of 1910 translated by a Virginia Farmer from the Latin Eclogues from the De Re Rustica of M. Porcius Cato of Roman times.

The reprint is a tiny portion of the Eclogues and is entitled ‘Cato’s Farm Management‘ with an ISBN 978-1-330-56017-4. I think i purchased mine through Amazon, but can be found at Forgotten Books.

It is noted in the intro “Cato practised and taught intense cultivation, the use of leguminous plants for soil improvement, the importance of live stock in a system of general farming, and the effective preservation of manure.” Bearing in mind that Cato died 149 years before the Christian era.

This is the ‘new’ revelation and movement now coined as ‘regenerative farming’, with the same principles laid out over 2000 years ago. As the Scriptures say, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ Ecclesiastes 1:9.

Cato on Buying a Farm

  1. Give heed to the appearance of the neighborhood – a flourishing country should show its prosperity

2 Take care that you choose a good climate, not subject to destructive storms, and a soil that is naturally strong.

3) If possible, your farm should be at the foot of a mountain looking to the West, in a healthy situation, where labor and cattle can be had, well watered, near a good sized town, and either on the sea or navigable river, or else on a good and much frequented road.

4) Chose a place which has not often changed ownership, one which is sold unwillingly, that has buildings in good repair.

5) When you inspect the farm, look to see how many wine presses and storage vats there are; where there are none of these you can judge what the harvest is. On the other hand, it is not the number of farming implements, but what is done with them that counts. Where you find few tools, it is not an expensive farm to operate.

More to come!