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CHAPTER XIV.

Sheep Farms— Life in the Bush -Boiling down of

Stock-Religious Denominations—The PopulationRevenue.

Previous to the gold discoveries, New South Wales was essentially a pastoral country. Henceforth, gold will, as a staple export, probably exceed that of wool ; but the pastoral interests, although for a period deranged, must, after the subsidence of the gold mania, again flourish and advance: therefore, the present is a favourable time to commence sheepfarming. The rush to the diggings has induced a scarcity of labour, and so depressed the value

in

of stock, that £500 well laid out in sheep or cattle, would in a few years return a fortune to the possessor.

The profits on sheep-farming, average from 20 to 30 per cent. The occupation is precarious—and except that of gold digging, requires more skill, toil, attention and good luck, than any other colonial pursuit. The fleece of an Australian sheep averages weight from 24 lbs. to 4 lbs., but much depends on the pasture. Sheep depastured on a soil too rich, or too sandy, have their teeth quickly worn away, and if not then consigned to the butcher, die of inanition. The large Leicestershire breed of sheep in Australia yield a clip of 6 lbs. or 7 lbs. of wool, but the finest wool is obtained from the small Saxony breed.

The wool growers' greatest enemies are the catarrah; the scab; the foot-rot, caused by marshy runs; the native dog, and bad servants. Cattle and horse breeding is a less speculative, and, therefore, in the aggregate, a more profitable occupation than that of sheep-farming. Pigs

and goats are also sources of considerable profit. I, however, have not the space to dilate on these matters, which indeed have already been graphically detailed in numerous works on the Australian colonies.

The wild life of a bushman presents few charms to tempt the cockney, dwelling amongst and enjoying the luxuries of civilization, to desert the quill and the ledger for the shepherd's crook. True, the wealthy squatter, who, unable to procure shepherds and stockmen to tend his fast increasing flocks and herds, and which, for want of a better paying beef and mutton market, are consigned by hundreds to the melting-pot, may, for the best of breechespocket reasons, indite flaming epistles to his friends in Britain, describing the Australian bush as a terrestrial paradise, where only pleasure and plenty hold their court. But let this same individual be, as is the case with his shepherd, confined to the bush for a twelvemonth round, and, during that time, see scarcely a person but his chum, the hut-keeper; let him go the same eternal round, day after . day, all weathers and seasons, live on nothing but damper-flour and water baked in wood embers—mutton, tea, and tobacco smoke, sleep at night in a hut alive with fleas, and neither wind nor water tight ; and withal, be tempted too often successfully, to spend all his earnings at the pot-house during his sojourns in town. Such individuals would probably then paint life in the bush in colours more true, but less glowing. Bush cuisine he might thus describe :

You may talk of the dishes of Paris renown,
Or for plenty through London may range,
If variety's pleasing, oh, leave either town,
And come to the bush for a change.

On Monday we've mutton, with damper and tea;
On Tuesday, tea, damper and mutton,
Such dishes I'm certain all men must agree
Are fit for peer, peasant, or glutton.

On Wednesday we've damper, with mutton and tea ;
On Thursday tea, mutton and damper,
On Friday we've mutton, tea, damper, while we
With our flocks over hill and dale scamper.

Our Saturday feast may seem rather strange,
'Tis of damper with tea and fine mutton;
Now surely I've shown you that plenty of change
In the bush, is the friendly board put on.

But no, rest assured that another fine treat
Is ready for all men on one day,
For every bushman is sure that he'll meet
With the whole of the dishes on Sunday.

Nevertheless, bush life has its charms, especially to the hope-blighted citizen, the hater of etiquette, and the hollow conventionalisms of civilization, and the Mr. Skimpole, whose highest ambition is to live a free, independent, lazy life.

In the bush there are no roads, no villages, no shops, schools, nor churches; no ministers of the gospel ; no law, except that of might, and very few women and children. The sabbath is rarely observed. Individuals are born and buried like heathens, without the aid and the consolation of doctors and parsons. The rude dwellings are akin to the huts of savages, and in fact it would be difficult to devise a more effectual mode of uncivilizing individuals than that of isolating them in the bush. To the needy Australian settler, the bush is a dernier

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