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Voices from Auckland, New Zealand.

Experience of a Working Settler

Experience of a Working Settler.

To the Editor of the New Zealander.

Sir,—Ex uno discant omnes—What one man has done hundreds of others may do again. Many newly arrived immigrants when they first land, unused to the ways of the country, perhaps experiencing some little difficulty in selecting or getting upon their land, and depressed by the croakings of those who seem to make it their business, instead of affording useful information and assistance, to discourage him as much as possible—give way in despair, and taking ship for Sydney or Melbourne in all probability travel farther and fare worse. When first I landed in Auckland, a little more than three page 107years ago, I met with exactly the same disheartening accounts which are, with varying effects, used to the present time. I was advised to give up the idea of attempting to farm, and to turn to anything else in preference.

I listened to all, considered that these were at best but empty words, that I had a more reliable source from whence to obtain information, and in the course of a few days during which I was detained in Auckland, I took long walks into the neighbourhood and arrived at conclusions which I have as yet seen no cause to retract. For miles away I saw homesteads which an English farmer might have envied, I listened to the accounts of the privations which early settlers, who had made these farms what they now are, had been compelled to undergo. I found everywhere men in comparative affluence, who ten or twelve years back were literally pennyless, obliged to leave their farms more than once to earn the means to return and improve them; and what was still more to the point—that in those days, these farms which are now almost suburban, were considered out of the way—and the same difficulties and objections which are now urged against blocks of land up the country, were used in reference to these districts, which are now only a pleasant drive from town. I had made up my mind to become a farmer. I knew that the colony of Victoria, from whence I had come, was, on account of the climate, incapable of ever becoming an agricultural country, at least for those productions to which the English farmer is accustomed, and I decided (as I now think wisely) upon making the attempt in New Zealand, trusting to my own energy, and allowing neither one nor the other to turn me aside from my purpose when once settled upon. I was not one of those fortunate individuals whom the Government have presented with free grants, and therefore did not consider myself so well entitled to "look a gift horse in the mouth," and rail at the difficulties winch every new settler must look for, and grumble at the absence of a turnpike road to the very edge of my allotment, but contented myself with purchasing some 220 acres for 10s. per acre, at a distance of more than twenty miles from Auckland, to which there was what I considered tolerable access, feeling confident that as the country became located, roads would be opened up and bridges constructed—nor was I wrong in my calculations.

A party with whom I had been connected on the golddiggings having joined me from Victoria, we entered at once into partnership, and between us, after the first cost of the land had been defrayed, mustered a capital of exactly £100. Our first step was the erection of a hut, and as it was out of our power to build a good house, and we had not an acre of bush upon the farm we cast about for the best and cheapest page 108substitute. Six hundred of palings delivered upon the ground cost us £3; the round stuff for the upright posts, rafters, wall plates, &c., we cut in a neighbouring Government bush, and then cost us £1 for cartage, the nails may have cost us another ten shillings, and a few boards for doors, &c., about as much more. This, besides our own labour in putting it up, was the sole expense. The palings for the roof were sawn in half lengths, and split again. The sides were built of a double course of paling nailed upright. We had a wind and weather tight hut of fourteen feet square, which now that we have built a substantial wooden house and taken unto ourselves wives, still serves the purpose of store and wash-house. Our next purchase was that of a bullock, a plough, and then of two unbroken two year old steers. As these would not make a team, it became necessary to look out for one, and accordingly I entered into an arrangement with a neighbouring settler to work, week and week about, for the use of four broken-in bullocks. We had never been used to bullocks, nevertheless we managed to yoke up the two steers, and (I had held the plough for about a fortnight once before) broke them in, and that summer broke up sixteen acres of land. I may mention by way that we commenced operations in November. By the following June we had, with the assistance of a hired man, fenced in seventeen acres, under-drained seven, and cross-ploughed ten of them and sown them with wheat and oats. The exchequer was by this time run low, and it became necessary that one of us must look out for something to do to replenish it, and keep things going. An offer to make bricks turning up, my partner, who, bye the bye, knew no more than the man in the moon about the work, undertook to learn, turned out in less than a week a first rate moulder, and engaged himself at a high rate of wages for the ensuing season. It was well he did so. The first year's crop was not worth the reaping, the wheat turned out at the rate of two bushels to the acre, the oats about four—a small piece of ground of about one sixth of an acre gave, however, about twenty-three hundred weight of potatoes. The next year we were unable to obtain the four bullocks upon the same terms, and having but three, were glad to take advantage of another neighbour being in the same case—three bullocks each, made a team of six, and we broke up another five acres, working week about on either farm, cross-ploughed the newly broken land, and ploughed up the last year's stubbles. Our neighbour now procured three other bullocks of his own, and we were left to our own resources. We then commenced ploughing with a pair of bullocks, the land was light, and we found them more than equal to the work: the whole of the crop page 109(some seventeen acres) this second year were put in with a single span or yoke of oxen. This year we again attempted to grow wheat and oats, and there was a marked improvement in the crop. One piece of land one and three quarter acres which had been manured from the straw of the preceding year and about three cwt. of guano, gave over £40 worth of potatoes, and another portiqn manured with guano produced an excellent crop of turnips. From this we concluded that this description of soil, which is naturally a poor one, was even when manured more adapted for the growth of root crop than of cereals; on this supposition our crops this present harvest consist of about three and a half acres of wheat, five acres of potatoes, two of turnips, two of grass, and the remainder (some twelve or fourteen acres) of oats, a portion remaining uncropped, lying fallow, to sweeten for the succeeding year. The soil is a peaty black loam, in many places three, four, and even five feet, overlying a white clay; it requires underdraining, and if cropped the first year, requires manure to carry a crop. Towards the end of the second year we were enabled to make up our team by the purchase of a fourth bullock, as well as to invest a further sum in the purchase of several head of young breeding stock. This year we have used bonedust as a manure for both potatoes and turnips, and are quite satisfied as to its superiority over either guano or pig and cattle manure.

Numbers of intending settlers are met with the same discouraging information that we were, that the soil would grow nothing, that unless we had heaps of money that it would be useless to attempt farming, and that because we were unaccustomed to farm work, that we should never be able to carry on operations, and a great many other particulars which we have found to be equally false. We have in our own experience given the lie to these foolish—I had almost said wicked—discouragements. It is with the hope that some who read this account may be led to put less faith in the grumblings of those worthless loungers about town, who, themselves too idle to live by their own exertions, would fain bring others to their own level, that I have thus intruded our own particular experience, as an example of what may be done with small means, backed by hard work, hard living, and perseverance. Difficulties we have had to encounter—for nine weeks, during which we were engaged in the hardest and most exhausting work, underdraining, we were compulsory vegetarians—our cattle, few as they were, have all had to be dragged out of waterholes, our garden broken into and pillaged by stray cattle, for nine weeks was one of us laid on a bed of sickness, we have had our share of disagreeables, but page 110the end for which we were striving has been gained. We have established our position, passed beyond the land of difficulties into one of independence, and would beckon on those who are afraid to pursue the same track.

Scores who read this will at once recognize the farm, nevertheless, though not without thanking you for your staunch advocacy of the cause of Auckland farming, and the earnest and consistent position which your journal has taken in advancing the colonization of the province, I shall, from a natural bashfulness, entrench myself behind the anonymous signature of

An Auckland Farmer.

Jan. 23rd, 1861.