Australian enquiry book of household and general information/Farming
THE YOUNG FARMER.
AGREAT many young men who have been farm hands at Home, when they come to this country, having a little ready money, buy or rent land, and become farmers on their own account, forgetting that their knowledge gained in England or Ireland, as the case may be, is of very little use to them here in the colonies. The man who comes with a little money will do well to put that money into the Savings Bank, and hire himself as a labourer on a farm, where he will very soon pick up the knowledge he requires of the different seasons, the different crops grown, and many other details which he will be the better for knowing before risking his money in a venture on his own responsibility. While he is gaining experience his money is increasing, and he is becoming accustomed to the country, learning the manners, customs, and ways of working.
A year so spent under a good practical farmer will be worth a good £100 to a man when he does start on his own place.
If he is wise he will be on the look-out for a cheap investment in the shape of a small farm. So many young fellows upon their arrival rush into land speculation, buying almost any that is offered, even in some instances without going to inspect. They are so anxious to become the owners of a plot of ground, and the said plot being exceeding cheap in their eyes, that they clinch the bargain on the spur of the moment, and ten chances to one to find out when they do go to visit it, that they have bought a piece of a swamp, or the side of a mountain. It is only natural that emigrants should fall into such a mistake, for the simple reason that they think all land of value. In England, or wherever they have come from, the possession of a piece of land is a certain income however small, for all the land there has a value, and most of it is cultivated. The new chum stares aghast when told that a squatter possesses hundreds of miles without anything but the native grasses and trees upon it. He cannot understand why we do not cultivate more, and very often he thinks to himself "Oh, well, I'll buy it and I'll cultivate. I'll show the poor Colonials the way to farm. And very likely he does buy a piece of land, tries to show us how to cultivate, and more often than not breaks his heart in the effort. But if a man does as I suggest, by the time his year is up he has added to his previous knowledge of Home-farming a knowledge of Australian also, and the two combined must prove of untold value to a shrewd man just starting life on his own account.
Well, we will now suppose a man has served his twelve months with a farmer and has selected 160 acres of agricultural land at a rental of 6d. an acre per year. This is a better plan than purchasing outright, as it gives him the means to stock with the money he has saved. His cows will almost pay the rent, and at the end of five years the farm will be his own when he pays the 10s. for deed fees.
The first thing to do is to fence the selection, this he can do himself, having learnt to split and fence while on the farm, but it will be slow work for one pair of hands, and he must have someone to help him cross-cut the logs for posts and rails, and also he knows that the quicker this is done the sooner will he be receiving some return, for directly his fence is up he can put his cows in, and if close to town, as he may possibly be, he can sell his milk. He can live in a tent while all this is doing, and by and bye when his cows are in and growing he can build the house.
It is far better to have a good man who understands his work at 25s. per week, than it is to engage an emigrant like himself or a boy at 15s. or £1, who knows no more, perhaps not as much, as himself. If he has a good man with him for a few weeks he can gain experience from him, and in fact learn more than the worth of the wages he has to pay him. But to proceed. Now posts and rails have to be cut, and for this purpose he must have a cross-cut saw, he will have to pay about 25s. for it, unless he happens upon a bargain, second hand, but I would advise "new chum" to take "old chum" with him when he goes to see it, or he may be taken in. The wedges for splitting will be 6d. per pound as they are in sets, seven to each set. He must have the seven and two maul rings, which are also sold by the pound. The mauls he must make of hard wood. A good axe will be about 6/6 or 7/6, an adze 5/6, mortising axe 4/6, pick axe 3/6, spade 6/6. These are the tools he cannot do without; I have mentioned them elsewhere in the building of the house, but it is as well to have them here again. He is almost certain to have timber fit for fencing upon his own land—iron bark, gum, bloodwood, any of them will do. Now suppose the trees to be felled. Lengths of six feet six must be sawn off for splitting into posts, which will give two feet in the ground and four feet six out. For rails the lengths sawn off must be nine feet.
I do not think I need say any more about fencing, as we are presuming that my imaginary young farmer has been a whole year on a farm in the country gaining experience, and so would have seen some fencing done even if he has not assisted with it himself. Before leaving the subject, in case I am writing for those who have neither seen nor done fencing, a word about mortising the posts. Measure six inches from the top of the post and chalk a line, and five inches below that mark another, those two lines represent the top and bottom of your mortise. Now fourteen inches from the bottom mark make the second mortise, then set to work with the mortising axe and make the holes for the rails between the two chalk lines, they must be two and a half inches wide. The posts should be eight feet apart, the rails being nine feet long, thus allowing six inches at each end to go through the mortised holes, For the opening or entrance to his paddock he can have slip rails to begin with, by and bye when he has more time he can make a gate.
Having fenced in his selection his next move should be to purchase a few head of cows, five or six will be a good number to start with and give him a small return, so that he may have something coming in from his land. If possible he should try to buy a couple of cows from his old master, cows that he knows and has had the handling of. They will be invaluable to him when breaking in his young herd. He may have to pay pretty high for old milkers if they are good, possibly as high as £8 or £9 if he lives in New South Wales or Victoria, less in Queensland, but the money is well laid out if they are good and know him. In buying these cows, unless he is a good judge, or, as they say "has a good eye for a cow," he will do well to take some old farm hand with him. He does not require a well bred cow, or one perfect in form and point. She may be the meanest looking old scare crow imaginable and yet an invaluable old lady in the yard with young and flighty mothers. It is not her personal appearance she rules them by, but her moral influence, her gentleness, good temper, and general amiability. And none but an "old hand" with cows will recognise such a one. If he is not in a position to buy such cows, he may have a friend or neighbour who will lend him a couple of old milkers to help him in breaking in his young stock, such things are done in the bush among neighbours. Prices in cattle vary very much, his best plan if he is a judge of cows is to frequent the sale yards, where he may often pick up cheap heifers and break them in, but wherever he buys, if he is no judge himself, he should take a friend with him who is. He must not be too "wise in his own conceit," for are so many things to be taken into consideration in a milker. I imagine I am writing this to and for "new chums," and though they may have been familiar with cattle all their lives in the old country, I would not trust their judgment in this. It may be said "a cow is a cow all the world over," just so, but the cows that are to be seen on so-called dairy farms in some parts of this country would not be looked at at "Home," their poor appearance and condition would condemn them at once in the opinion of a dairyman from the old world. There the cows are stalled and fed on all sorts of milk producing food. Here, well one has only to look at them to see how very little attention they get. By and bye, when we are older and wiser, we too will stall, feed, and attend to our cows, as doubtless we will to many other things, but at present we are getting along anyhow. I have said there are so many things to consider in a milker. First and foremost is temper and general disposition. A bad tempered cow will never make a good milker. If she does happen to give plenty of milk she is a nuisance in the yard, worrying the other cows, restless, pushing, irritable. She will be a mistake in the yard, just as much so as a bad tempered man. A bad tempered man will never succeed in the milking yard. In breaking in to the bail the greatest patience is necessary, as well as gentleness. You require to make the cow familiar with your voice, and even to the touch of your hand. Speak to her, encourage her as you would a child, do not hurry or frighten her. A nervous cow's milk will not be good, and there is no doubt that numbers of young cows are utterly ruined every year by the foolishness of those who first handle them. Most cows will make good milkers if properly broken in. A man needs to be in sympathy with the animal he handles, be it horse, cow, dog, or any other creature. I once heard it said of an unfortunate half witted lad, "He is splendid with the cows and horses, can do anything with them. If they are ever so wild and rowdy with the others, and Carl goes into the yard, they'll quieten down." I was curious about the matter, because I hold the idea that great intelligence is requisite to manage animals, and that no man or woman of weak intellect should have anything to do with them. So I rose betimes one morning and visited the cow yard while Carl was milking, Long before I reached it I could hear his voice positively chatting—I can use no other term—to the yardful of cows. I kept out of sight, for I knew he would cease talking if he saw me, but I was greatly amused and gained much food for thought by my visit that morning. The way he stroked and petted the cows was marvellous. One had a sore udder, which he bathed with some of her own milk and dressed most tenderly, talking about it all the time, and I am sure feeling every flinch of that cow as much as she did herself. It was the same in the horse yard and stable. Carl would go in and handle animals the other men could not get near. His patience had a lot to do with it I believe, for he would spend hours coaxing and trying to make friends with a wild bad tempered colt. So my young farmer must bear this in mind, and endeavour to make pets of his cows, so that at the sound of his voice they will come to him, instead of running away.
In choosing heifers it is advisable, if possible, to get them a couple of months before calving, as then they will get attached to the paddock if their calf is in it.
If my young farmer has the means and can afford to ignore the sale yards, his best plan will be to select his heifers from some station herd he has heard spoken of, then of course he can start with well bred animals, but very, very few are able to do this at first, though by degrees they can work into the better class. The custom of the country is to save all the calves, and no doubt with a man in the position I am supposing, he would be foolish to do away with any live stock likely to be profitable bye and bye. The question he must decide is which will pay him best in the present. On the whole I think he had better keep his calves, the females will become milkers bye and bye, and the males will sell to the butchers in three years for a few pounds.
Having bought his cows he must put up a good strong bail, and that is something I cannot teach any old farm hand to do, he knows all about it. I would merely impress upon him the advisability of making it as comfortable as possible. Elsewhere I have given details for a cow bail, but most farmers have their own ideas and fancies in this matter.
Once everything is ready for working he must bespeak a few customers for his milk, he will not want many, only just a few so that he will have no excuse for lying in bed and neglecting to milk on a Sunday morning, regularity is the great thing in all matters, and cows especially, they mast be milked regularly to improve and also to give them the habit of coming to the yards for the purpose. There is one thing I have forgotten, and that is a good rope for breaking in the young cows. Most of them will require roping at first,and the rope should be used for nothing else, and always kept handy.
A man coming here fresh from the "Home farm" is always greatly surprised at the slip shod manner of working in this country. On very many of the large farms where thousands of gallons of milk are got yearly, the cow bails are merely put up in a row at one side of the yard without either flooring or roofing to keep off sun or rain. I do not say that all are conducted in this way, but a great many are, and the reason I think is because most of those who sell milk start on so little capital. Not long ago a man who has made a big fortune by selling milk told me that he began with three cows and a bucket, not another thing—not even a foot of land of his own, he simply let his cows run on the town reserves. Here is a case which may be an encouragement to others left in the same position:—A woman living near me was left a widow quite unexpectedly, and with two young children, the youngest three weeks old. She was utterly destitute, so much so that her neighbours had even to feed her and her children. After discussing all kinds of ways and means by which she might earn a living, I suggested a couple of cows, and having a good many squatting friends I wrote to them on her behalf, stating her position, &c. The result was that among them I succeeded in getting the loan (which I suggested would be better than giving outright, as I have a great idea that everyone should be independent if they can) of three cows. And with these she made a start, supplying a few of her neighbours with milk. Fortunately, she was a hard working, energetic little woman, and after she had delivered her milk in the mornings she used to dig a bit in the garden, there being a good sized piece of ground to the house she rented (indeed one could hardly call it a house, a shed I should have written). She grew a few sticks of sugar cane, with which she fed her cows while milking them. She also grew a little patch of corn giving the stalks to the cows afterwards. I started her with a few fowls, every egg from which she set for the first season, and she was one of the first I ever saw give sunflower seeds to the fowls as food, though I had heard of them being grown for that purpose. From this very humble beginning this woman has now developed a fairly large farm. When I last heard of her she was milking 14 cows (all her own), and was dealing in most other farm produce, being one of the very few whites selling vegetables in that part. This instance, the truth of which I can vouch for may be an encouragement to other women left upon their own resources. I do not think her case is singular, for I have known of several women who have done much the same. One, indeed, a domestic servant who, finding service too hard work, saved her money and bought two cows as a beginning, and did very well; but she had been used to the care of cows and dairy work at home. I have written down these cases in the vague hope of their being useful to some enterprising woman or other left unprovided for, for what one woman can do another can.
The climate in many parts of Australia favours the slip-shod style of farming that prevails so often among those who could afford to do otherwise. However, I would advise my "young farmer" to make his creatures as comfortable as possible, no matter in what part of Australia he lives, they will yield him a better return for it. Therefore, have your bail covered, and for this nothing is better or less expensive than a thatch roof, and almost all farm hands know how to thatch, if not, they can soon learn. The floor can be slabbed, some of the rails left over from the fence, if cut and properly dressed with the adze, will answer the purpose, but they must be securely fastened. A good plan is to raise the floor a few inches by laying three or four sleepers under, then the slabs can be nailed to them, and the approach into the bail must be, as it were, sloped off so that the cow has not to step up on to it. The calf pen is the next thing, and it must be made as near as possible to the bail, and it, too, must be made as comfortable as possible, the health and future welfare of his cows depend upon this. In the first place do not let the pen be too small, allow each calf sufficient room to move about. When it is securely fenced, mark off a portion for the shed, and the size of this depends upon the number of calves. Let it be at the most sheltered end or side, and if he cannot make it away from the wind, he must thatch or otherwise protect it. Now lay down sleepers (as in the bail) and nail slabs over them making a good firm floor. A few months ago I saw a calf pen cemented with ant-bed and sand, and made on a slight slope so that it drained to one side; but I do not like the idea, for though it might do well enough in the hot climate of Queensland in the summer, I think would be too cold elsewhere, and possibly would engender rheumatism in young or delicate calves. It should be cleaner than slabs. However, judgment must be used in the matter, and I have given full directions for making a cement floor from the common ant-bed, among the farm recipes. Do all you can towards the comfort of the calves, and by-and-bye they will repay it ten-fold.
All vessels used for holding milk must be kept scrupulously clean, so our young farmer whom I have located under canvas for the present, must thoroughly scald out his buckets and cans in which he carries his milk. His best plan is to clean them all directly he returns from delivering his milk, and then hang them up ready for use next morning. In cleaning milk-vessels always rinse out first with cold water, then scald with soap and soda. It will be best for him to milk only once a day at first, as twice will take him too much away from his other work, besides, cows with calves to support do not require it. If he can sell his milk at a fair price to some milkman who would take it regularly and call for it, it would pay him best at first, and then he would have to milk whichever time suited his buyer best. It would most likely be in the evening.
If he takes much milk from the calves, or if they look poor, it will pay him to buy a bag of bran and make a sort of gruel for them occasionally (too often it may not agree with them). A pint of bran put into a bucket and a quart of boiling water poured over it, with a handful of coarse salt stirred in, will make enough for one calf. Let it stand till cool then add more water, warm if in cold weather, cold otherwise. As a rule, when they get used to this they will take it eagerly and fatten on it. But kindly treatment, patience and gentleness will make the greatest difference in cow yard and calf pen. The man who carries a stick to drive the calves to bed, or to bail up his cows, should be banished from among them. Treat all animals as friends and reasonable creatures and they will obey your voice and do your bidding carefully.
Having started my young farmer on his own land with a few cows bringing in a small return, I must now shew him how to earn something more from his land, while he is preparing it to make his fortune. We are supposing that he is near or within reasonable distance of a town. Well, his land has to be cleared and stumped for cultivation. Let him cut and stack all the wood he can, it will be best for him to hire a man to help him, or may be he can get a strong boy, able to use the cross cut with him, at 10s. or 15s. per week and his tucker. Often such a man as our young farmer can get a man or boy from the depôt; there is great sympathy between new arrivals, and if he can get into conversation with some one from his own country town, or even country, the chances are that he will be able to make a bargain beneficial to both. Many a new chum would rather work for nothing with a man from his own country than for high wages with a stranger who knows nothing of him or his country. He might even invite a few of the young men from his own country to stop with him till they can suit themselves with situations, get used to the country or recover from the sea voyage. The despised Chinese do this a great deal, and I really think many a white man might benefit in a like manner. Fellows won't mind roughing it in a tent if they are with a friend who can "can shew the ropes," to use a slang term, and talk to them of the far off home now and then. A Chinaman will often take five or six of his countrymen out to see his market garden, he says to them—"You can stop here for 'so long' till you get work, and you can work in my garden in return for your food." In this way many of these Chinese gardeners get their work done at very little expense. A white man, if he has many of these visitors, would find himself out of pocket, for white men cannot or will not live as Chinamen do. So I only make the suggestion to our young farmer, who will know whether he can afford it or not.
There are several ways of selling the wood, he can either cut and stack it in cords,—a cord of wood being eight feet long, four feet wide, and four feet high—and sell it on the ground by the cord; or he can make an arrangement with some wood seller to send his own cutters and carts and merely pay him so much for what he takes. Or, if he is very enterprising and has the money to spare for the outlay, he can buy a cart and horse, or a couple of horses, and cut billet wood and sell it in the town. His milk customers might take wood from him, or recommend others to him. This plan will need some outlay and possibly the engagement of an additional man if the work of clearing and getting the farm in order is to go on. He must weigh all these plans well in his own mind before going into them. The horses will be useful to him hereafter, in fact he will have to have a couple of horses very soon for hauling his fencing stuff, &c., but if he decides to sell firewood himself, that is retail it in the town, he will want more than two horses to do all the work, and his wood will only fetch from six to eight shillings per load. Of course, if he is close to the town and has two carts going he might sell four loads a day while his wood lasts, if he sells the wood on the ground he will have no trouble, unless he thinks it worth his while to keep a man to cut and do nothing else. The best arrangement I think for his future prospects is that by which he can just sell the wood he has cut down to some carter, who will send his own men to cut it into billets and take it away, paying him for the right to remove it. When he makes this arrangement he should insist that the cutters cut up and stack all the small stuff and branches, ready for burning when dry. Of course, if he has the money to lay out in carts and horses he will do well to sell his wood himself, as it is a very profitable industry selling wood. But then if my young farmer has sufficient money to spend on carts and horses he will be able to start his farming venture in a very different way to this. I am writing for and to an imaginary young farmer whose means are of the smallest. Many of my economies would be unnecessary to a man who has money to spend.
Clearing and stumping is the most tiresome work of all to be done on new ground, so if our man can manage to get land already cleared and stumped he will be wise to do so. He should look out for a selection that has been forfeited, there are often such to be got, many of them partially improved even to the extent of being fenced. But I am surmising that my young farmer has to go through all the difficulties and hardships of the pioneer, and there-fore I give all plans, ways and means of working through them.
One way of getting rid of stumps is by burning, piling up small wood round each and making the fire at the roots after digging well round and under them, but this is a slow process, and it is almost better to cut them out with pick and axe. I have seen them very successfully burnt out by covering entirely with clay (a sort of oven in fact) then lighting the wood low down so that the fire will burn under the clay till every particle of stump is consumed. There are ways, too, of blowing them or bursting them up with dynamite or gunpowder, but they should not be attempted by an inexperienced hand. There are also stump extractors, machines made for the purpose, and in some districts they go round with them clearing land at so much per acre.
When the land is cleared it is ready for ploughing if our young farmer has a plough or can get the loan of one. If he can do neither at present, I would suggest his getting one crop off the land in the meantime. Maize is the best crop to grow on unbroken land, and to plant it he will have to hoe patches here and there all over the ground, keeping them as well as he can in line, make them raised somewhat like little hillocks, and plant three or four grains in each, this crop will loosen the ground for the plough. And while it is growing he may as well build his fowl house. Poultry will do no harm to the corn once it is well above ground, and by the time he has other crops in he must have a closer fence to keep out other animals than fowls, if his farm is to be for general stock. As time is money to a man beginning as I am describing, his fowl house should be on a plan quickly built, by and bye when he has things in full swing he can build a large house, and the old one will come in for a turkey house. If my young farmer lives in New South Wales or Victoria, where there is a fair proportion of very cold weather every year, he must make his fowl house close instead of open. And if he has plenty of small saplings he cannot do better than utilize them for his walls. First he must put up eight or ten posts to form a circle, as this shape is best for a small house. In the centre have a post at least three or four feet higher than the others (see diagram next page). Fix the wall plates on to the posts, and from each post to the middle post fix smaller saplings, or battens if he has them, to form the roof, and nail all securely. To make the walls of the building dig a small trench round the outside, and having prepared the saplings by cutting off all twigs, and cutting them all the same length so that they will reach to the wall plate easily. Now put the one end (the thickest) into the trench, jambing them as close together as possible, and at the top nail each sapling to the wall plate (see diagram). Leave a space for the door in the usual way, and having got the walls up, put a good thatch roof on. If there is no material handy for thatch he might buy a few Hobart town palings for the purpose, as they make a very good roof, and are frequently used in the bush for more important buildings than the fowl house. I had a kitchen, store room, and dairy roofed with them for years. He can also make his door from them. Inside, the roosts can either be right across the house or at one side, nailed to two sloping saplings, something like a very wide ladder, but he must be careful that one perch is not directly over the other, or the hens will get each other's droppings. For nests,
old boxes will do very well for a time, and they can be arranged any way, so long as the hens can get into them. I do not advocate having the nests in the fowl house, if it is avoidable—(see poultry) but under the circumstances of our young farmer during his early struggles he must do what is convenient for himself, not the hens. The door must be secure, that is, it must act as a protection against dingoes, &c., and he had better be able to lock it when he is away. A square hole can be cut at the bottom of the door to allow the fowls to go in and out safely, and to prevent dogs, pigs, &c., from getting in. But now if our young farmer lives in Queensland or in the warmer districts of the other colonies, I would advise quite a different style of fowl house—one I have found far more healthy than the closed in places. It can be any shape, according to the fancy of the builder, though the round house is most convenient for all purposes.
Proceed as I have directed for the other, leaving out the walls of saplings, and instead have wire netting to the depth of two or three feet, nailed round the top, from the wall plate. Then, when the roof is thatched or paled, you have a fowl house open all round the sides. Now place all the roosts right up in the top or roof, having a "hen's" ladder, as I've heard it called, for them, to reach them.
This is one of the best designs for a fowl house I know of, being cool, healthy, and easily cleaned, and I quite think it would answer for all climates, even the coldest, if the roof was made high enough to allow of all the birds roosting up under it.
When his fowl house is finished our young farmer cannot do better than whitewash it at once, inside and out, nests, roosts, walls, and all. The following is one of the best washes I know of for the purpose, he can substitute white ashes for lime if he has no lime by him, and does not mind the trouble of sifting the ashes:—Slake half a bushel of lime (or ashes) with as much boiling water as will make it of the consistency of ordinary paint, melt one pound of glue in water over the fire,and mix with the lime. Give three coats of this to the building, letting one dry before the other is applied. While the last is still damp, dust fine sand over the building, either throw it lightly with the hand or else dredge it from a common flour dredger. One lady to whom I gave this recipe improved upon my plan by substituting for sand the small shells and sand found in quantities near the sea shore. The effect was very good.
Having built his fowl house, the next thing is to get some fowls. This he can easily do, no matter what colony or part of it he is in. As he wants quick returns let him buy three or four young hens and a rooster, and if he has the chance a hen with a clutch of young chickens, no matter what the breed, by and bye when he is in a better position he can afford to choose some special breed. Now it may happen that he is short of money and cannot afford to pay cash for fowls, then there are such transactions as exchange and barter. Let him look round and see what he has, that he can exchange with someone for hens. He has wood perhaps, or if not he can easily collect a load outside his own land, and a load of wood should be equal to four fowls, or more if it is a big load. He has milk, let him offer to supply it for a month—a quart per day, in exchange for half a dozen hens.
These are little ways and means that appear too trivial to publish, yet many would not think of them unless they were suggested. There is hardly anything in this book, possible for a woman, that I have not done, for which reason I know it is possible. I have exchanged my fowls for all sorts of things. Once I gave a pair of pure bred birds for a roll of navy canvass ; another time, for a set of books and mechanical instruments ; and upon a third occasion I received, in return for a hen and chickens, a fortnight's labour. These were my own transactions and, as I said before, what one can do, another can.
When his hens begin to lay he can collect all his eggs and set them, buying or exchanging broody hens for the purpose, as his own will not be ready till they have laid all their eggs. By doing this he increases his stock more rapidly than if he sold his eggs and waited for his own hens to set.
As I have devoted a chapter to poultry I need not go into further particulars here but will go on at once to the next work to be done before the corn requires attention. A pig-sty is not difficult to make with so much timber lying on the ground. It can be made of logs, laid one on top of the other in a square. Like the calf pen, part of it must be slabbed for sleeping on, and the roof can be thatched, shingled, or paled. Troughs for feeding and drinking are easily made. Cut down a piped tree, split the pipe not exactly in half (unless it is a very large tree), about a quarter taken out will leave a good deep trough, cross cut to the lengths required, and then with the adze trim the centre if it requires it, very often the insides of these pipes are ragged and splintery (if I can use such a word). When this is done and it feels and looks fairly smooth, nail pieces of wood at each end, or better still make them fit tightly as if dovetailed and nail securely. If properly done they should be water tight. I have known troughs like these last for years. A pig will require two, one for food, the other for water. The food must be put in over the top, by-and-bye a better and more comfortable sty can be built. For food for his pigs he may have to buy at first,and his best plan will be to get the waste and scraps from one or two hotels if he is not too far from them; if he is, he will have to let his pigs run, in any event it will be best for him to do this unless his neighbours object. If near a Chinaman's garden he can, for about sixpence per week, get enough green food for a couple of pigs, then if he has any spare milk, which is hardly likely. However, until he sees a prospect of being able to keep a pig he must not get one, as it will not pay him to buy food. If he planted pumpkins among his corn by-and-bye they would help to feed his pigs.
A shed or storeroom of some sort will be the next thing to build, as he will require some place to store his corn, pumpkins, &c., &c., besides a room of some kind is almost a necessity for the safety of tools and many things which otherwise will be left lying about, liable to the weather or thieves. A room twelve by twelve (12 x 12), will be large enough for this purpose, built with slabs and roofed with bark, he need not floor this room, but he can make a kind of loft in the roof by laying slabs across, no matter how roughly, it, will answer for storing his pumpkins if there is no room below and he wants to keep them. While this work is progressing the burning of refuse timber should also be going on and the fires kept alight, fresh ones lighted and the wood heaped together, this he can do every night before turning in, it won't take him long to go round to each fire and look to it; and the sooner his land is properly cleared the sooner will he begin to reap some substantial benefit from it.
Directly the corn is from eight inches to a foot high it must all be gone over and "hilled up," that is the earth banked up to the roots, and where there are three or more plants growing together pull out all but one or two, provided they are not quite close together. If he starts his clearing in July or August he can buy some good melon and pumpkin seed and plant them among his corn. He must be careful that he does not put them at all near each other. Pumpkins should be at one side of the paddock or clearing, and melons at the other. If near each other the bees and other insects will fertilize the pumpkins with melon pollen, and vice versa, and the result will be unhappy. If there are bees, and few insects, when the vines flower he must go among them every two or three mornings, before the dew is off them, and fertilize the female flowers with the pollen from the male; if he does this the yield from the vines will be greatly increased, and it will take very little time. All that is needed is to pick a male flower that has plenty of pollen and shake it over the female flowers. He must learn which is which, or he may make the mistake of picking his female flowers instead of the male. The male flower has a single pistil and it is covered with pollen (a yellow dust), the female has a different pistil, very much shorter and without the pollen. Another distinction is that under the female flower is the tiny formation that eventually becomes the pumpkin, if not fertilized it withers and drops off after a few days. Twice or even once a week will suffice to go round the vines if he cannot spare the time oftener. There is always a market for both pumpkins and melons, but if he cannot get a fair price for them it will pay him best to keep them to feed his cows and pigs.
I have not mentioned any particular size for the cultivation paddock, it all depends on his capability for managing. A small patch of ground well kept will return more than a large one ill kept and badley farmed. Unless he employs outside labour now and then, about five acres will be as much as he can manage at first. A great deal depends on the ground and what it is fit for. If he has a patch of good rich soil fit for lucerne, he cannot do better than sow four or five acres of it, as lucerne is easily kept in order— the first trouble being the last, one may say, till it is ready to mow. But he must be sure his soil is fit for this fodder plant, as it requires very good ground and good depth of soil. As a rule it grows best on the river banks and on land liable to be flooded. Unless lucerne grows well it is no use as a poor crop will not pay, and everything our young farmer plants must be with an eye to a good and a quick return. He cannot afford to experiment at the outset of his undertaking. The reason I give so many injunctions about lucerne is because I have tried it and seen it tried on so many different places without success. On some it grows in patches, on others it becomes woody, and unless you really get a good crop, it pays worse than oats, barley, or almost any crop. On the other hand if it grows well it is a certain income, and being so little trouble is a better crop than any to grow. Five acres well fenced, cleared and under the plough, will give ample room to grow all he will have time to attend to for some time to come.
When his corn has been gathered (he can give the cows the stalks, they will relish them if it has been a poor season) he had better see about ploughing the cleared land, and if he cannot go to the expense of a plough and horses, he should make some arrangement with a neighbour to plough and harrow it for him. If he has his own plough he cannot do better than plough, cross plough, and plough again, the more be stirs up the earth the better return will he get. If he has not had a very good crop of corn he must not grumble or be disheartened. It is not to be expected there would be much of a crop grown in that way on unworked soil; provided he gets enough to feed his poultry, and give a little to the pigs, he may think he has done very well. The corn should be shelled by-and-bye, he will not need to buy a corn sheller for this small quantity, he can most likely do some of it himself during the evenings or he may be able to get some children to shell it for a few pence each. That for the pigs can be left on the cobs, they will prefer to shell it themselves. When shelled it should be spread out on a sheet, a blanket, anything, to dry in the sun before being put into bags. The finest cobs must be saved for seed and hung up in a dry place.
The pumpkins as they ripen must be brought in and stored, and, so long as they are not bruised or broken, they will keep many months, not so the melons which must be sold for what they will fetch, and I would advise that they should be sold on the ground to some fruiterer who will come and take them as he wants them. The great thing in growing melons, or indeed any farm or garden produce, is to be first in the market. To plant, the instant the season begins, particularly is this the case with melons, the first of the season always command a good price and thus several pounds can be made. One season I remember a neighbour of mine had made £42 before any one else had made a shilling. He had planted very early and looked well after them and directly they were ripe he sent his man into town with a dray load to retail from door to door. Some days he would sell two dray loads, and not one under 1s. 6d., many of them as high as 4s. and 5s. They were certainly very fine melons and he deserved his good fortune for his enterprise. Let my young farmer try the same thing. There is one thing I have omitted to mention, viz. : that if his ground is very hard, as it may be, it will require to be broken first by bullock plough, and this will have to be done by contract. It will be an expense, but it is best to do it or he may run the risk of breaking his lighter horse plough. I would advise him to get a plough and horse if he possibly can, as then when he has the time he can by degrees take in more and more land for cultivation purposes. Another thing he is more independent if ho has a plough of his own; it will not cost very much. The horse will be the heaviest expense. There is no use in my putting down any price or a limit even, as the price of a good horse depends more on the market, the supply and demand, than on the animal itself. However, I should think from £12 to £18 should get a very good horse of the kind required. If he is really unable to buy then he must just do as I have suggested, depend upon his neighbours. On no account should he go into debt for them.
Having all the enclosed land now ready for seed, I am presuming that it has been ploughed, harrowed and rolled,—the last can be done with a bush roller, made of a round log drawn by a horse. Any bushman will show him how to make one better than my pen can describe. He can go over the field and divide it off into sections for the different crops. For instance, one long strip will be for oats, another potatoes, another barley, another he should devote to vegetables of all kinds, and so on till he has marked it all off. I would advise him to put in as many fruit trees as he can. As a beginning he might plant them round the boundry of his fence, and later on he can, perhaps, take in a fresh piece specially for an orchard. No doubt, fruit growing is fast becoming an acknowledged industry in the colonies, so our young farmer must bear it in mind when planting. It will be best to have the fruit trees near or round his house, so when he has decided where he intends to build he can begin and plant them about that portion of his land, always, of course, arranging them in order and line. He will be able to beg a few trees from his neighbours. Mulberries as a rule are very plentiful, also peach, orange, and in Queensland quavas, mangos, &c., &c. Let him put in all and every variety of fruit bearing tree, he can "beg, borrow or steal" to use a common saying—while he working and planning they will be growing and preparing to give him a return for his care and attention.
He should also put in slips and flower seed. Most people who possess gardens are good natured enough to give anything they can spare in the shape of roots and slips, and as he will have bees by-an-bye the flowers will be useful. Indeed, I would advise his getting a hive of bees as soon as he can, and from his flowers he can make a few pence if they grow well. I would have him try to make money out of any and every thing he possibly can; wallaby and opossum skins will sell too, and if there are many upon his selection he might shoot them and make a profit thereby.
I have now brought my young farmer through his first difficulties, he must endeavour to surmount the rest without my aid. Following this he will find information Italic textre building a four or five-roomed house; and elsewhere almost every other subject he can want to know about is touched upon.