Our Farm of Four Acres, and the Money we Made by it was written by “Miss Coulton” and published by Chapman and Hall in 1859. It relates the experiences of a family’s move to a farmhouse near Esher, and building up a successful small farm from scratch. Their first major purchase was a cow (at a cost of ten pounds), but they soon found that it would not produce sufficient milk for their needs, so they invested in another, bigger cow (fifteen pounds). However, they were worried to find that it appeared to be unwell after just one week.
We went into the meadow, and saw the poor creature looking certainly as we had been told, “very bad.” We asked our factotum what was the matter with her. To this he replied, that he did not know, but that he had sent for a man who was ” very clever in cows.”
In a short time this clever man arrived, bringing with him a friend, likewise learned in cattle. He went to see the patient, and returned to us looking very profound.
” A bad job! ” said he, with a shake of the head worthy of Sheridan’s Lord Burleigh. “A sad job, indeed! and you only bought her last market-day. Well, it can’t be helped.”
” But what ails her?” said I.
” What ails her! why, she’s got the lung disease.”
” But what is that ?” said I.
” What’s that! why, it’s what kills lots of cows; takes ’em off in two or three days. You must sell her for what she’ll fetch. Perhaps you may get a couple of pounds for her. I’ll get rid of her for you.”
” But,” said H., “if she has the ‘lung disease’ you talk of, you tell us she must die.”
” Yes; she’ll die, sure enough.”
” Well, then, who will buy a cow that is sure to be dead to-morrow or next day?”
” Oh, that’s no concern of yours! You get rid of her, that’s all.”
To this dictum we rather demurred, and resolved to send for a “cow-doctor,” and see if she could be cured; if not, to take care she was not converted after her death into “country sausages” for the benefit of London consumers of those dainties. Our friendly counsellor was very indignant at our perversity in not getting rid of a cow with “the lung disease,” and stamped out of the yard in a fit of virtuous indignation. With proper treatment the cow soon got well.
It was lucky that the family did not fall for the con trick! They went on the establish a successful farm and eventually bought a third cow, selling the surplus butter they made from the milk.