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the farmer, to the miner, the merchant, and the retail-dealer, did an increasing and highlylucrative trade, and many realised respectable competences.
At the period of agricultural depression, in 1844, Mr. Ridley, an intelligent South Australian colonist, produced his admirable reaping and threshing machine, which may be said to have saved the whole agricultural interest from ruin. The body of the machine is about 4 feet 6 inches broad, covered in, built
upon wheels like a cart, but much stronger, and driven forward through the standing corn by two horses or bullocks.
Two sets of cogs are fixed to the inside of the wheels near the felloes, which drive two small pinions. At the ends of the rod on which the pinions are fixed, are two wheels about 2 feet in diameter; these drive the drum, or beaters, which make 600 revolutions per minute. At the fore-end of the machine, in front of the beaters, is a metallic comb, the teeth of which are about 18 inches long and 1 inch broad; and so
placed, that as the machine is pushed forward, all the ears within the entire width of the wheel tracks are caught up by it—the straw only suffered to pass out, and the heads or wheat-ears guided to the lower cylinder, where they are received by the beaters, and the grain threshed out, and thrown up a curve, whence it falls into the receiving-box at the bottom of the cart, which in general will hold about 9 bushels, and the chaff flies off through a kind of flue at the back end of the cart. With this machine it is usual to reap and thresh from 8 to 10 acres of wheat per day. The crop must be thoroughly ripe, and perfectly dry when the operation is performed, otherwise the beaters, instead of threshing out the grain, will drive the ears back whole to the end of the machine.
In 1846, the farms that had been laying idle were occupied, the lands broken up, and the eye gladdened with the sight of waving corn in every direction. The re-cultivation of these lands, choked up as they were with young wattle-trees, wild oats, drake, silvergrass, and other rubbish, all useless as food for cattle, was a labour great indeed. In South Australia you cannot, as in Britain, lay your lands out in grass; neither climate nor soil favour the growth of clover, lucern, or other English pasture herbage: and if land that has been tilled is left untouched for a year or two, it gets quite choked up with vile weeds and young trees.
All the colonial hay is either oats, barley, or wheat, commonly cut green, when the ear is full, and before it begins to ripen : cattle like it and thrive on it.
Cultivation commenced along the foot of the hills eastward of Adelaide ; then spread westward towards the sea; and in a short time rapidly extended southward and northward. The early agriculturists found the sirocco a devastating enemy, scorching up acre after acre of fine wheat, when just ready for the sickle ; the corn-fields on the plains to the north of Adelaide suffered most, although those to the
siroccos are less hot, less frequent, and less protracted than they were ten years ago ; indeed, it is the unanimous opinion of the established settlers, that the annual temperature of the colony is gradually decreasing; but whether this change should be attributed, as some suppose, to the breaking up of the land, and the less frequent occurrence of those extensive forest conflagrations, “ bush-fires ;” or, as others assert, to a diminution of terrestrial heat, caused by the extinction of subterraneous fires combined with other influences, is a problem too difficult to be satisfactorily solved by the colonists.
When the Para and Gawler plains on the northward of Adelaide, and the Willunga district in the south, were first brought under cultivation, they seldom averaged a crop of more than 12 bushels of wheat per acre. This was also very generally the average of the crops on the Adelaide plains, and no one dared to manure the land, as the hot winds then would be sure to blight the grain just as it was ripening. So particular were the farmers in this respect, that they would not allow live stock of any kind to camp even for one night on the land they intended to cultivate.
Ten years has, however, brought about a most favourable change in the fecundity of the agricultural districts throughout the province. Para, Gawler, and Willunga, now produce crops of from 20 to 25 bushels to the acre of the finest wheat in the world. This increase of fruitfulness must not be attributed to high farming, nor to ten years' cultivation ; for last year's land in these districts, that had never before been broken up, produced without manuring splendid crops of wheat, averaging from 22 to 25 bushels to the acre.
There is little doubt that the immediate cause of the change is, as the colonists averthe reduced temperature of the climate, and more especially the diminished torridity of the