My wife Kate and I stumbled on the most delightful rural companion last week, while innocently searching the internet for octagonal chicken house designs. This new friend comes in the form of a book … or series of books more like, that were compiled and to a large extent written by agricultural author and magazine editor John J. Thomas. Kate and I found ourselves so captivated with Thomas’s advice and prose that we stopped all searching and read aloud to one another from the pages of The Illustrated Annual Register of Rural Affairs and Cultivator Almanac for the Year 1855. The book’s subtitle pretty much sums up its purpose: Brief and Practical Suggestions for the Consideration of the Farmer and Horticulturist.
What struck us most about the 1855 work (and subsequent editions) is that it really contains some wonderfully practical advice, that can be put to direct use today and it reminded us of the meaning of husbandry … as in animal husbandry. It seems in 1863, that it was still considered prudent, modern practice to think about an animal’s habits when undertaking its care … not just matters of short-term production efficiency. For example, with regard to fowl, Thomas recommended that we take their comfort and habits into account before embarking on a house-building project. He also asks the reader to consider seriously, the responsibility of feeding and nurturing all living things.
If I haven’t convinced you to take a look at one or more of the different volumes of this great work, the excerpts in the gallery might.