Wednesday, October 16, 2019

What's this "west 40" thing, anyway?

When I talk about cutting the grass, I often refer to sections of the yard as the north, south, or west 40. Some of you, especially those who aren't American, may wonder what the heck I'm talking about. Here's a quote from Wikipedia:
South 40 is an American colloquialism with its origins in the Homestead Act of 1862. Adult heads of families were given 160 acres (0.65 km2) of public land provided they could "prove" (improve) the land by constructing a dwelling of some sort on the land and cultivating the land in some manner. After five years of residence, the deed was transferred to the homesteader. The homesteads, being 160 acres (0.65 km2), were easily divisible into quarters of 40 acres (160,000 m2) each. The south 40 would therefore refer to the south 40 acres (160,000 m2).
So, our property (which is only 1/2 acre, or about 2,000 m2), is easily divided into three sections because of the way it's laid out. I jokingly refer to these sections as the north, south, and west 40s. I don't have an east 40.

The south 40 includes a strip about a meter wide outside the hedges. I also cut a meter-wide strip outside the fence on the north edge of the property.

I made this illustration many years ago using Powerpoint. It's not to scale, but generally shows where things are in the yard. I updated it for today's post. We've lost a few trees and made some improvements over the years, so I tried to show that here.


  1. Congratulations on the 14 years of blogging!
    And, surely, the East 40 is the homestead....

    1. LPdlF, You beat me to it, East 40 must be the homestead! In France our house had an upstair terrace/Conservatory it was know to all as the West Wing.

  2. Good to see the layout instead of imagining.

  3. Being a non native American, I didn't have the slightest idea what you were talking about. I had a hunch it had to do with portions of the lawn, but didn't know why it was 40. Now I know, thank you.

    Love the "State of yard 2019". You should frame it!

  4. Like CHM, I didn't have a clue where South 40 etc. came from. I thought it was something you'd made up yourself to refer to certain parts of your garden, but wondered about the 40 as well. :)) I love learning these things, so thank you! And the garden plan is great: you have so many different types of trees!

  5. I agree with chm. This should be framed.

  6. Just like everyone else's comments here, I had heard terms like your "west 40" many times, but now I really understand the meaning! Merci, Walt! I hadn't realized you had so many filbert (we tend to call them hazelnuts here!) trees. Yes, by all means that diagram would look nice up on the wall!

  7. Beautiful map of your homestead!

  8. tim, thanks. And, I never thought of it that way!

    potty, lol!

    andrew, good!

    chm, or, as a former Parisian native... ;)

    judy, maybe I should have been a cartographer...

    elgee, I make up a lot of things, but not that. :)

    thickethouse, hehe.

    mary, we don't get many nuts from those trees. The weevils get to them before we do.

    evelyn, thanks!

  9. Ooh, this illustration makes my day. I love these kinds of things. I don't think I knew what those "40s" were until I heard Ode to Billy Joe. "There's five more acres in the lower forty I've got to plow."


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