HOW TO SETTLE ON A BUSH FARM.
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HOW TO SETTLE ON A BUSH FARM.
By A. MCEWIN.
In writing this little work for the guidance of newly-arrived immigrants, with limited means, who intend to make this province their adopted home, I may simply state that I am determined to bring forward nothing that is calculated to mislead, but only that which has come under my own personal experience and observation.
With regard to the seasons I have quoted for sowing all kinds of seeds and plants, they are the same as I have adopted for my own use, after six years' practical experience in the province of Auckland. I have also been for many years residing in the Australian
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colonies; and, being at present in communication with many private friends there, from what I can learn I am of opinion that New Zealand is the more preferable colony of the two for those who are industrious and intend to follow agricultural pursuits.
Having arrived in Auckland and taken a temporary residence for the family, look round you for a few days to get all the information you can. Pay no attention to grumblers; make up your mind to persevere; you will not regret it in the end. Hundreds have done well before you, and there is room for thousands more to do the same. Go to the Land-office and learn where there are any blocks of land open for selection, and whether the track to them is by land or water. Water carriage is best, except in cases where the roads are improved to the settlement out from Auckland. Do not be in too great a hurry in choosing your land. Perhaps you may have an opportunity of visiting more than one district. If possible, choose a piece both bush and fern land, not too swampy or mountainous; look about for fresh water springs or creeks, which there are almost sure to be on every selection if you select any distance inland. In the absence of a navigable river or creek look for the best road in the first place.
I shall now suppose that you have made your selection, and there is no time to be lost in getting on to the land. The first business is the erection of a habitation. The list of tools you require for all works will be as follows:--
Two American axes, grindstone, five or six feet crosscut saw, files, set of wedges, maul rings, handsaw and file, hammer, gimblets, pretty strong and different sizes, strong spokeshave, tomahawk, or small bench axe, 1 1/2 in. auger, smoothing plane, foot rule, strong line, garden spades, grubbing hoes, flat hoes, Dutch hoe, dung fork, strong iron rake six teeth at three inches apart, billhooks, fern-hook, scythe and stone, sickles, wooden rakes, hay fork. In the event of your having working bullocks, you will require bows, yokes, chains, plough, and harrows.
Commence by selecting a pretty level spot for your house, sheltered, if possible, from the southerly winds; and, if your land is near a navigable bay, river, or creek,
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erect your house near the best landing-place. There are many different ways of building houses in the bush, but the one I shall recommend to you is made of either raupo, nikau, or toitoi, it being easily constructed, and very warm and comfortable when well finished; the materials are also plentiful.
Proceed to cut straight posts of hard wood, not less than six inches in diameter and eight feet long; saw them level at the top ends, that the wall-plate may rest on each of them. Mark out the size of your house according to your family; twelve feet by twenty will make two good-sized rooms, twelve by thirty will make three rooms. After squaring off the ground plan, dig the corner holes first, making them all two feet deep; put in the posts, fill in a little earth to steady them upright; fix a line pretty tight from the top of one post to another, by which means you will see if they are pretty near level and on the square; the line will also be a guide to put in the remainder of the posts. Leave two feet of space between each post, and wider spaces for the door and windows, and a still larger space for the chimney. Ram all the posts well. The posts for the centre of the end and partition walls must be fourteen feet long, which will give a good pitch to the roof, and also answer to rest the ridge pole on. Cut long straight pieces for wall plates, square them with the axe to make them lie solid on the top of the posts, and fasten them on with four inch nails. By searching the bush a little you may find a straight tree, between 2 and 3 inches in diameter, that will answer for a ridge pole; fasten it on with a few nails to steady it. The rafters must be straight, and about three inches in diameter and fitted on at two feet apart, and made to rest evenly on the wall-plate and ridge-pole. Fasten to the wall-plate with 3m. nails; but smaller nails will answer to fasten the top ends. Battens are the next thing in order. Straight ti-tree poles are very plentiful, and those about two and a half inches in diameter are easily split, and make very good battens. Nail them on the walls and roof at about ten inches apart. This done, the place is now ready for the raupo, nikau, or toitoi, which is fastened on to the battens with flax, or small cord--like roots, which creep along the bush ground, and which, by in-
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quiring of some of the older residents, you will be shown how to fasten on. The chimney is made of posts, in the same manner as the house, and should be in size about six feet wide by four feet deep. Let the wall-plates be eighteen inches lower than those of the house. Battens are nailed on the posts, inside and outside, at four inches apart, and filled in between with mortar, made of clay and grass, chopped up and mixed amongst it, to make it hang together. When the mortar gets dry, remove a few of the lower inside battens and build in more mortar to keep the fire from the wood-work. Finish up by plastering inside and outside, until all the battens are covered. The stalk of the chimney is drawn in to the usual width at the top by means of four straight poles, about three inches in diameter, extending from the wall-plate to about eighteen inches above the ridge. Fasten them well to the wall-plate also at the the top, with four cross pieces to steady them. The stalk is covered outside with some material, in the manner of weather-boarding. Fix some kind of spouting between the thatch of the house and the stalk of the chimney to throw the wet off. The chimney is best in the side of the house. Dig a small drain round the outside of the house to keep the damp from the floor. The above description of house will last five years, with very little repair.
The next important thing is the selection of a piece of your best bush ground for a garden. Let it be some way from the house, for you will possibly keep fowls. As the garden is the first thing you will begin to profit by, you must be particular in selecting the site. The situation should be well sheltered and open to the sun, sloping gently to the north-east and north-west. A deep hazely loam, not too retentive, is a good garden soil; deep sandy loams, not too light, are also good. The soil is generally good along the margin of creeks, where there must be a quantity of decomposed vegetable matter and alluvial deposits. For a garden at least avoid stiff clay soil, and after selecting a place as near as possible to the foregoing description, commence by clearing away with a billhook all the supplejacks and underwood; next cut the larger trees, and lop the branches and trunks well up, so that the fire, when set in, may make a clean burn.
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Bush clearing should be performed in winter, and burnt off in the following February and March. When you are ready to set fire to the lumber, wait for a high wind from the direction of your house. I may add that if you are in the neighbourhood of a place where coasting vessels trade, while you are clearing you can split up the timber that is available for posts, rails, and firewood, and make sale of them; they will possibly pay the expense of clearing, bearing in mind to reserve stuff for fencing in your own garden. In clearing bush on a more extensive scale, for grass land, you should leave clumps or belts of trees wherever you think them most required for shelter, and should also leave clumps of trees round the principal springs, as experience has taught me that they will dry up when all the bush is cleared away. Grass seeds should be sown after burning off, as soon as the ashes are cool, at the rate of one bushel per acre, and left to spring away with the first rains. Winter wheat should not be sown until May, at the rate of one and a half bushel per acre. Pickle the seed wheat with blue-stone, to prevent smut; it will also protect it from the ravages of rats and mice. After sowing, chip with hoes the surface of the ground among the stumps, to cover the seed. I have seen fair crops of wheat without the chipping, but only in cases where the land was very good and well burnt off. Having now given you a pretty good idea how to proceed with the first work to be done on your new place, I shall arrange the remainder of garden and field operations for the whole year in a kind calendar, commencing with the month of
I shall now suppose that your garden ground is well burnt off. Commence at once to break up the land with grubbing hoes, from four to six inches deep. If your hoes are strong and well-tempered, they will cut nearly all the roots you require to remove for the first year, with the exception of a few large ones, for which use the axe. Throw the roots into heaps on to the broken up ground to be burnt off when dry. After breaking up a quantity, look after the erection of your fence. The first broken up ground should be reserved for onions,
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potatoes, and a few vegetables; that broken up later, for pumpkins, maize, &c. Clear and level a piece of the first broken up ground and plant cabbages, savoys, &c., for winter use, in rows at two feet apart each way. Sow turnips in drills, at twenty inches apart; when the plants have reached to four leaves, thin them out to ten inches apart in rows. Turnips are an excellent vegetable on the table with salt meat; they are also good to fatten pigs, when boiled and mixed with bran, &c. This is a good time to burn off part of your fern land, as a great deal of herbage will spring up during the autumn and winter months which will be good picking for a cow; and the young fern will come up in October, which is also good feed for cattle. Fern land, intended for grass, should be ploughed up in November and December and left fallow until this month and next, and sown with one bushel of grass seed and one hundredweight of guano per acre. Beware not to cross-harrow the land for grass, or you tear up the furrows and cover the seed too deep. When the grass begins to stool, roll it over in order to level the ground for mowing. I have most excellent grass, on average fern land, with the same treatment as described.
Finish burning off all fallen bush that is dry, sow grass seeds when the ashes are cool. Burn off the roots on the first broken up ground, as they will now be getting dry. Make good fires, at twelve feet apart, on your pumpkin ground; when the fires are burnt out, mark the places with stakes, as they are the spots where the pumpkin seeds must be sown afterwards. Plant cabbage and sow turnips, if not done last month. Continue to break up more ground, burn off roots; make small drains wherever you think them required, to prevent the winter rains from souring your garden ground.
Commence the erection of an outhouse, for storing your produce when grown. It may be made in the same manner as the dwelling-house; but without windows and chimney. If you intend keeping pigs and fowls, make houses for them also, and keep them well bedded with
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raupo or rushes, to make manure, until you have straw of your own growing. If you keep a cow make a stock-yard and bed it also. Save all the manure you can, it is valuable for the garden. Continue to break up ground; you will find that ground which is broken up in the dry weather will grow the best crops. Burn off roots as they get dry.
Continue to break up new ground and burn off roots. Sow Windsor and long-pod beans, in drills three feet apart and four inches apart in the drills, cover them two inches deep; when about eight inches high, earth them up. Sow a small bed of cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli seeds at the end of this month, for your own use. Sow winter wheat on bush land, as directed before.
It is now time to prepare ground for onions. See that the ground is not too wet; rather wait a few days than work it wet. Proceed to rake the ground over with a strong, coarse-toothed rake, so as to make a good level bed for the seed; mark off the beds four feet wide, set the line, and mark the paths by walking along with one foot on each side of the line. Sow the seed at the rate of about one ounce to three rods of ground, and take about two inches of soil from the paths with a spade, and scatter it evenly over the beds; finish by raking the beds lightly. In cases where there are many stumps on the ground, you may dispense with the beds, only rake a little deeper after sowing. Keep them free from weeds, and when about four inches high, thin them out to about five or six inches apart. Sow dwarf peas in drills eighteen inches apart; taller kinds at thirty inches apart, as they require staking. Sow broad beans, if not done last month. It is now time to transplant fruit trees. Procure a few of each of the best varieties of apple, pear, peach, plum, and cherry, from some experienced nurseryman. Make for each tree a circular hole or pit, a little larger than will contain the roots, and having, with a sharp knife, made a clean cut at the extreme points of the roots, set the tree into the centre of the hole, and
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with the hand, spread and regulate the roots and fibres, at the same time filling in some well pulverised soil until the roots are covered, finish by levelling in the hole, and firm the soil by treading gently round the tree. Be careful not to plant too deep; six inches is a good average for the roots to be below the surface. Prune the trees by cutting the leading shoots well down, and thin out some of the laterals, especially of peaches. The trees may be planted in the onion ground, at twenty-five feet apart each way. Plant out a few gooseberry bushes at eight feet apart; they bear most abundantly in this Province. Strawberries are also very fruitful here; it is now time to plant a few of them. Continue to break up ground; it will be in good time for late crops of maize. Sow oats on fern land which has lain fallow, at the rate of two bushels of seed and one hundredweight of guano per acre. Give the ground one stroke of the harrow before sowing, and harrow in the guano with the seed. Draw water furrow's where required. Roll the oats when about three inches high. In sowing skinless oats, one bushel per acre will be sufficient seed. Turn cattle into bush grass where it is too rank. Make drains round the paddocks, if required.
Continue to sow onions and peas; plant fruit trees and gooseberry bushes, if not done last month. Towards the end of the month, plant a few potatoes in light dry soil, in drills twenty inches apart and ten inches between the sets, cover three inches deep; when about four inches high, earth them up. Finish sowing oats on fern land this month. Commence clearing bush land to burn off in the autumn.
Finish sowing onions early this month. Plant out cabbages, &c., in rows, at two feet apart each way; earth up when pretty well grown. Plant potatoes in dry soils. Sow carrots in dry free soils, in drills at fifteen inches apart; thin them to eight inches apart. Keep the weeds down in all the garden. Sow spring wheat at the rate of two bushels per acre, same as directed before for bush and fern land.
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This is the month for planting the general crop of potatoes. If the ground is very rough and uneven, drag the coarse rake over it; set the line, and with the hoe draw drills, at two feet apart, from four to five inches deep; plant the sets at ten inches apart in the drills and cover them. You will have an extra fine crop by sowing about three-quarters of a hundredweight of guano per acre in the drills with the potatoes. In case there are many stumps on the ground, scrape holes with the hoe, about four inches deep and fifteen inches apart; drop the sets in and cover them up. When the potatoes are grown about six inches high, earth them up. This is on the bush land; but for potatoes new fern land should have lain fallow since summer; it should be well torn about with the harrow, and rolled, to level it, before planting. Plant the potatoes behind the plough in every third furrow. Sow guano in same furrow as potatoes, at the rate of two hundredweight per acre. Harrow them over lightly, and when about six inches high, mould them up. It is not desirable to plant potatoes in new fern land, except it be of first quality. Commence to sow maize towards the end of this month. Sow in holes four feet apart each way; scrape holes with the flat hoe, about an inch deep and eight inches in diameter, drop in from five to six seeds, cover them, and firm the earth on them with the back of the hoe. When about eight inches high, pull up the weakest plants, leaving three of the strongest in each hole, and draw the earth well up round them with the hoe. Those that you pull out will be good feed for the cow or pig. Turn cattle out of and close grass paddocks intended for seed this month.
This is the proper month for sowing tobacco seed. To commence on a quarter of an acre, procure four strong boxes about two feet square, and twelve inches deep; have them filled to within an inch of the top with light rich sandy loam, and make the surface perfectly level and smooth; then take a little seed between the finger and thumb, and sprinkle it evenly over the surface; be careful not to sow too great a quantity in a box, the seeds are so small that about an eight part of an ounce will grow a
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sufficient quantity of plants for an acre. After sowing the seed, sift some fine earth over the top until the seed is covered to the depth of nearly a quarter of an inch; place the boxes in a warm, sheltered situation, and water them over with a watering-pot; the watering must be continued at intervals to keep the soil moist in the boxes, if the plants appear too close set in the boxes, they must be thinned to about an inch apart; when the leaves of the young plants have attained the size of a half-crown, they are ready for transplanting; the land intended for the plantation should be rich, deep worked, and well pulverised; the plants should be three feet apart, and the planting should be performed in the morning or evening; water the plants well before removing them from the boxes; with a sharp-pointed trowel proceed to take up the plants, singly, into a shallow box or tin dish, leaving a little soil on the roots of each, the line being set and the ground marked at the given distance; with the trowel make holes large enough to receive the plants, and set them in carefully so as not to remove the soil that was taken up with the roots; use the trowel to smooth and level the surface round the stem of each plant; this done, the plants must be well watered and shaded; in about four days, roots will be sufficiently established to remove the shades; those plants that have missed can be filled up from those that remain in the boxes; the principal labour now is to keep the surface well stirred among the plants, and also to keep them free from slugs and caterpillars; a little hot lime dusted round the plants in the evening will settle the slugs; caterpillars must be handpicked; the proper time for topping the plants is indicated by the blossom making its appearance; remove all decayed and ragged leaves from the bottom of the stem, and with the finger and thumb nail pinch the top of each plant, leaving only from seven to nine of the best leaves on each plant which are intended for the crop. All sprouts that appear must be removed, as the future quality of the manufactured article depends greatly on the full development of the leaves, the variety best adapted for manufacturing purposes is the Virginian.
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Finish planting potatoes this month. Continue to sow maize as directed for last month. If the weather is fine and warm, commence to sow pumpkins in places where the fires were burnt, as directed before. Prepare the ground by mixing the ashes well with the soil for about ten feet in circumference, as deep as possible, and without bringing up too much subsoil. Rake the surface over fine and deep, scrape holes with the handle about six inches in diameter and one inch deep. On the centre of the places so prepared, drop in five or six seeds and cover them firm and smooth. When the plants have grown to have four leaves, pull up all except three of the strongest and healthiest, and when the plants have got from five to six leaves and are pretty strong, the top of the leading shoot of each plant must be pinched off with the finger and thumb, which has the effect of producing a greater number of runners and making the plants more fruitful. This must be done before the plants send out runners. Some sow a row of maize in the centre of the ground, between the pumpkin holes. Sow water melons, rock melons, and cucumbers, same as directed for pumpkins, only give them less room and sow in rich soil and sheltered situations, where they will get all the day's sun if possible. Sow dwarf kidney beans in drills twenty inches apart and two inches deep, drop the seeds at four inches apart in the drills. When the beans are from three to four inches high earth them up. Sow runner beans in double drills three feet apart. Set a line and draw a drill along each side of the line about two and a half inches deep and drop the seeds at six inches apart in the drills. When the beans are up fix a row of stakes up the centre of the double rows; the stakes may be about seven feet long, fixed firmly in the ground at about ten inches apart. Plant out cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli; sow carrots and turnips as directed before. Keep the weeds down in all the garden.
Finish sowing maize, melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins this month. Prepare a piece of ground for transplanting onions into by digging it over a second time.
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Rake it fine and level, and mark it off into four feet beds. When thinning onions to be transplanted, they must be prized out with a chisel, or some other such shaped instrument, to prevent their being broken or bruised. With a sharp knife cut the roots off to about an inch; with a small wooden dibble, dib them into the beds at once, at about six inches apart; choose showery weather if possible. Hoe the surface of the ground amongst the young crops, especially those of drill culture. Prepare fern land to lie fallow for grass and oats. First mow and burn off the fern, plough the land four inches deep, and lay it up in eight or ten yard ridges.
Sow cabbage, broccoli, and Savoy seeds. As the weather is now warm and dry, they must be kept well watered. By sowing now and at the end of May, you may have cabbage for use all the year round. Grass seeds will now be getting ripe and ready to cut. Where growing on bush land, you must use the sickle, as you could not use a scythe amongst the stumps, Tie the grass up in sheaves, and set these up in double rows to dry until stacked or threshed. Grass seeds on fern land may be mowed with the scythe, and when dry, raked up and stacked until threshed.
Grain harvest will now have commenced. If the wheat is pretty rank on bush land, when reaping leave a good high stubble. After clearing the wheat off the ground and the stubble is dry, set fire, and you will burn out a great many stumps and surface roots. A great many of the farmers in this district burn their grass stubble also. In the event of your burning stubble, be careful and have the ground well cleared around your buildings and stacks. During this and next month, potatoes and onions will be getting ripe. Onions are known to be ripe when the tops are withered. They must be taken up carefully; if bruised or cut, they will keep no time. Commence at one end of the bed with the spade, by forcing it in a slanting direction well under the onions; shake the soil from the roots, and lay them behind you, thinly on the
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beds, to dry for a day or two. When the roots come off easily with the finger and thumb, get them stored at once, until picked over for the market. Potatoes should be stored at once after digging. An excellent plan of keeping and preserving potatoes from the worm in New Zealand is by sprinkling dry ashes over them. Put down on the floor a layer of potatoes, about a foot in depth, and with the shovel scatter the ashes well over them, until you think the spaces between the potatoes are well filled up; then another layer of potatoes, then more ashes, and so on. Pumpkins and maize will be ripe in March and April. Pumpkins are ripe when the leaves and runners begin to wither. They will keep a long time lying outside; but they had better be gathered in when ripe, as you will begin to turn over the ground for another crop of some sort. Hoe the ground a little deeper the second time. Maize is known to be ripe when the leaves or husks which cover the corn are withered and dry. Strip the husks all off, except three or four, which will answer to fasten as many heads of corn together. Fix up beams in the store, and hang the corn across them. Whenever you can spare time, clear away all rubbish to the manure heap from ground that has been cropped, and break up as much as you can in dry weather.
Look about your farm, and clear away the fern or scrub from any hidden creeks or holes where cattle may get bogged.
Be careful in selecting your seeds of all kinds. Those of colonial growth are to be preferred, if grown by an experienced person. English seeds often do not grow, to the great loss and disappointment of the settler.
Thresh out your wheat, oat, and grass seed as soon as possible. The rats and mice make sad havoc amongst them if left standing long in the stack, except you fall upon some plan of erecting foundations to prevent the vermin from getting at the grain. Keep two good cats about your place, and the rats and mice will disappear as your farm gets opened up.
Fix up a steel mill in your outhouse, to grind your wheat, maize, and skinless oats,
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Plant out a few fruit trees every year, in the season, and procure good varieties from a practical nurseryman.
In this fine climate good sorts are as easily grown as bad ones. Plant the trees at twenty-five feet apart in the garden; they will not interfere with the cropping of the ground for the first three or four years. The New Zealand settlers can boast of more luxuries in the way of fruit than many gentlemen in England, as a great many of the tropical fruits grow here luxuriantly in the open air. Most kinds of stone fruit begin to bear well the fourth year after planting.
Sow and plant all your crops in dry weather. Rather wait a few days than put anything in when the ground is wet.
A fishing net is invaluable to settlers living on rivers and near the sea, as fish are very plentiful and good on the New Zealand coast. The net should be set at high water, across the mouths of creeks and narrow inlets, and left until the tide ebbs. It may also be hauled in places where fish frequent, if the bottom be clear of rocks and the water not too deep for the net. A two-inch mesh is the best size for general use. With a twenty-five fathom net, two other settlers and myself have taken as many as two hundred fish at one haul.
If there are wild pigs in your neighbourhood, keep a good pig dog, One day in a month is not often lost in pig hunting.