« AnteriorContinuar »
most fertile soil,
over millions of acres of the available for immediate use without any expenditure of money, affords, and doubtless will for many years continue to afford, a stimulus to the enterprise and energy of the colonist. Scarcely any branch of industry has been attempted which did not afford a return more or less ample, according to the diligence and attention bestowed.
Although all the instances of successful adventure to which allusion has as yet been made, took place in Melbourne, and although many others might be enumerated both there and in the other towns of the district, it admits of no doubt that greater gains, with more certainty and less speculation, are to be obtained in the rural pursuits of the settlers. A considerable amount of agriculture exists: in the year 1848, the last in which we have been able to obtain a distinct return, 37,500 acres were under cultivation, or, as nearly as may be, one acre for each individual in the district. Great promises of advantage are held out from the cultivation of the vine, the olive, and other gifts of
To the pastoral resources of the colony, how
ever, must be assigned the first place as the cause and foundation of the prosperity above described. Of the exports, according to the official returns. for 1848, out of a total of £668,511, £654,938 were strictly the produce of the flocks. Due importance must therefore be ascribed to the energy of the squatters, and to the nature of their pursuits, which enables them at once, without expense, to make the land available for man.
In this body may be found men of a description little to be expected from the barbarous appellation of "Squatter," adopted by them from the Americans, who used it to designate a very different class Among them may be met men retired from their professions, whether clerical, military, naval, legal, or medical, younger sons of good, even of noble families, who prefer seeking an active independence to pursuing the lounging life of drones in the mother country. Rough, no doubt, was at first their mode of living, and many were the privations of the earlier settlers; but a great change in their condition has taken place, partly from the increase of their means, partly from the improved tenure of land which has been lately granted to them by the Government. Formerly all Crown
A SQUATTER'S FARM, OR STATION. 15
lands were held by annual licence, the charge for which rested with the Governor. These, by usage, were renewable and transferable, but were liable to, and sometimes were the subject of, arbitrary decision. At present the country is leased for terms of one, eight, or fourteen years; compensation for improvements is secured to the tenant, the right of preemption is granted to him, and his rent is ascertained. In consequence, not only the comforts but the luxuries of life have in a great measure found their way into the wilds of the interior; and, in many instances, establishments on which thousands of pounds have been spent are to be found. A life such as theirs, so different from what is to be met with elsewhere, may merit a brief sketch.
Let our readers picture to themselves a cottage -stone, brick, or wooden, with a garden, stables, offices, stock, and farm-yards, out of all proportion to what is requisite according to English ideas; a grass paddock, of 500 or 1,000 acres, and two or three smaller paddocks for wheat, oats, or hay, all enclosed with a split-stuff post and rail fence, as it is termed; in the distance a shed for shearing and storing the wool-a huge, shapeless, hideous building, 100 or 200
A SQUATTER'S FARM, OR STATION.
feet in length. Such is the home of the squatter, who perhaps holds 5,000, or it may be 200,000 acres, for which he pays rent to the Government at the rate of £2. 10s. per annum for every 1,000 sheep the land is assessed as capable of feeding; consisting sometimes of lightly timbered open forest land; sometimes of plains, bounded only by the horizon; sometimes of thickly wooded hilly ranges; or more generally of a mixture of all of these. Over this "run,' or "station," station," as it is termed, he depastures sheep, in flocks of from 1,500 to 3,000.
To each flock one shepherd is allotted, who feeds it for two or three miles around an station," possibly at a distance of 10 or 15 miles from his master, who, if very diligent, may perhaps visit him once a week or month. Two flocks run from each station, where the watchman lives who guards them from the wild dogs at night, shifts the folds daily, and cooks for the shepherds. On another part of the "run" may be found a herd of cattle depasturing, 1,000 or 2,000 head of which are under the charge of a stockman, who is perpetually on horseback riding round his herd and collecting the stragglers. Nearer to the homestead we may meet with 50
or 100 horses, old and young, some belonging to the squatter himself, some to his men, for few of them have not out of their savings purchased a brood mare, while some of them possess several. Most probably with this "mob" of horses there will be a dozen strangers, which may have been for years on the "run," unclaimed and unmolested. Here, in a state of abundance and leisure for the greater part of the year, dwells the squatter, who never need want the fullest occupation, if of an active disposition; but who too generally leaves the control of all details to the care of an overseer.
That the squatter's is a life free from care cannot be affirmed; on the contrary, a shepherd may abscond, or, in colonial language, "bolt," leaving his flock in the hurdles when none can be found to take charge of them; or perhaps, not having had the consideration even to bring them back to their fold, he may have left them in the bush, or wild dogs may have "rushed" a flock, of whom 1,000 cannot be found for several days by five or six mounted men; and when a scarcity of labour has made an employer dependant on his men, of which circumstance they are not slow to take advantage, and, in con