Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed.
Glenora Single Malt Whisky

Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.
Scottish Review

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Our Australian Cousins
Chapter IX

Natural wealth of Australia—Neglect of agriculture—Proposals to establish experimental farms—Apathy, indolence, and ignorance prevalent—My own experiments with Indian seeds—Indian products for Australia—Resume of the salient points of indigo culture—Probable result of its introduction into Australia- Mustard and rape seeds—How grown—Linseed—Sesamum— Castor plant—Hemp—Safflower—Millets—General remarks.

It is not only in the direction of stock-breeding, however, that a mighty future lies before the Austratralian colonies. Gifted by nature with every variety of climate, with a rich, inexhaustible soil in places, with unlimited capacity for., the growth of products be­longing to every land, it is marvellous that more specific and practical efforts have not been made to spread abroad a knowledge of practical farming and modern agricultural processes amongst the rising generation of colonists. It is true that there are several magnificent botanical gardens in many of the Australian towns. These are fully equal, in one or two instances, to .anything of the kind we have even in Europe, so far as beauty of situation, excellence of management, and diversity of specimens are concerned. But where .are our experimental farms? What are our agricultural and horticultural societies about? Horticulture indeed, owing to the self-denying, persistent effort of a few enthusiasts, is making rapid progress, but agriculture really seems at M standstill.

Would it be believed that, although the Agricultural Society of New South Wales, the representative society of the oldest Australian colony, received a grant of a fine farm near Paramatta from government, they have seemingly never been able to utilize it, to put it to any practical use whatever, have not conducted any expe­riments on it, or have tried to acclimatize no new and foreign agricultural products? The farm at Paramatta lies untilled, unused, uncared for, a grim satire on the mismanagement and internal divisions of the society who ostensibly are its possessors, and a sad evidence of the little esteem in which the culture of the soil is held amongst a growing nation of centaurs, shepherds, butchers, cattle-salesmen, shopkeepers, civil servants, politicians, bankers, land-jobbers, lawyers, speculators —anything and everything but yeoman farmers and surdy tillers of the soil.

Amid all the shibboleths of parties, politics, and polemics, Speed the Plough is the one grand old rallying cry that is never heard in New South Wales. Let me identify myself with my adopted country, and speak as an Antipodean Welchman.

Considering the wonderful diversity of our climate in New South Wales, the excellence of our soil, and the rapid communication that now exists between the different parts of our great empire, it is amazing that more vigorous attempts have not been made to acclima­tize some of the more important vegetable productions of other lands in which we are deficient. What has been done in this direction has mostly resulted from the efforts of private individuals, and as far as conser­vation of forests, irrigation, experimental gardening, model farming, and feting tlie capabilities of our soil for new plants of commercial importance goes, we are far behind many newer colonies, and lag immeasurably in the rear of continental countries. In our gardens, thanks to the enterprise of seedsmen, and thanks partly to the influence of our Botanical Gardens,, to which I have referred already, we have added to the list of o.ur ornamental shrubs and flowers. The loquat and the plantain have become domesticated, and English bushes, trees, and shrubs, as was but natural in an English-speaking colony, have been introduced success­fully. There are, however, thousands of foreign plants and products that might be cultivated in this land with every prospect of a remunerative return, but our governments and agricultural societies seem to be strangely apathetic in the matter. Our farmers have no recorded results of experimental farming to guide them. They plough, sow, and garner in the old beaten track. Maize is about the only cereal foreign to English farming which is grown in any quantity, and great tracts of the most productive land in the colony, once under cultivation, are allowed to relapse into worse than fallow, because it has been found im­possible, from rust, blight, and other untoward cir­cumstances, to profitably cultivate wheat.

Some attention has been paid, in the interest of the stock-breeders principally, to the introduction and propagation of foreign grasses, but even in this direc­tion the experiments have been halting, unmethodical, and ofttimes purposeless. Some enthusiastic agricul­turists have raised their voices at times in favour of the establishment of a government model or experi­mental farm, which might be made entirely self-sup­porting, where experiments with promising foreign seeds might be made, and the results accurately recorded; where all the most modern improvements in husbandry, and in farming processes, and machinery might be tested; and which would become a practical school for our farmers, and be productive of a manifest impetus and practical encouragement to agricultural science generally. Considering the climatic conditions we enjoy, the fecund soil we possess, and the unlimited extent of ground which could be made available for cultivation, New South Wales is about the most backward country, in an agricultural point of view, of any dependency of the Imperial Crown of Britain. Kitchen-gardening in many districts is left to China­men. Husbandry seems to find no favour with us as a rising nation, and the question may well be asked, What sort of a nation are we likely to become?

We cannot all be government or bank clerks, mechanics, speculators, publicans, or land-jobbers. Our wealth must be drawn from the soil, either in roots, seeds, fibres, minerals, or animal products. Already the cry is raised that there is no market for our surplus flocks and herds. It seems hopeless to compete with America in the export of meat, and the grim, ghastly dernier ressort of "boiling down" again seems looming in the gloomy distance. What encouragement are we giving to entice an agricultural community to rise amongst us? Practically none. The farmer is hampered with restrictions on every hand.

It is not my intent in this chapter to go into the labyrinthine subtleties and perplexities of our land laios, but surely it behoves all interested in the future welfare of our adopted country, all who love the grand old primal industry, that of tilling the soil, to band themselves together, and agitate for increased attention being shown to agricultural experiment, more facilities afforded for demonstrating the principles of modern farming, and a greater recognition being given to the paramount importance of so tilling the land that it will yield its best increase, and build up a prosperous and progressive nation.

Trade and commerce ever hang on the heels of agriculture. The farmer is the true pioneer and founder of a nation's growth. For farming science we have hitherto done little or nothing. Other colonies , and countries have their departments and ministers of agriculture. Meteorologists record their minute obser­vations, measure the rainfall, classify the winds of heaven, map the variations of temperature, and collate facts, phenomena, and theories, to help the farmer to arrive at the truths which nature teaches us, and to expend his energy and skill to the best advantage in garnering the fruits of the earth. Chemists in the laboratory, by patient research and experiment, labour to aid the farmer in bringing together the substances that will the most readily assimilate in the great crucible of nature, and hasten the formation of those compounds which swell our granaries and fill our wine and oil presses. But in Sydney, as I have just stated, even our own Agricultural Society, beyond a praise­worthy attention to the improvement of stock, and the introduction of labour-saving machinery, do little or nothing to assist the practical farmer.

There are hundreds of valuable products admirably suited for our soil, climate, and natural conditions otherwise that have never been noticed at all. Had we but experimental farms, a department of agricul­ture, interchange of seed and products with other lands, a sympathy with farming pursuits on the part of government, a due appreciation of the fact, that, come what may, this country must eventually stand or fall by its agriculture, must of necessity be a farming and grazing community; then we would see a more enlightened regard given to farming pursuits in the directions I have indicated, and at least a portion of the money, the price of the soil, expended in training up an agricultural body of practical farmers.

At one exhibition, held under the auspices of this National Agricultural Society, I was in many instances amazed at the ignorance displayed by good, hard­working, reputable, practical farmers when I quitted the well-worn tracks of ordinary English farming, or got away from the familiar topics of wheat, barley, potatoes, Lucerne, and Indian corn. I say nothing of the strides which sugar-growing has made, or of the narrow-minded obstructions that have often been thrown in its way; but when I came to question the Grafton, the Clarence, the Hunter River, or Shoal- haven farmers about linseed, rape-seed, saffron, vetches, millet, indigo, and other eastern products, they stared at me. Some sneered at the idea of growing anything but the good old crops that their fathers had grown before them. Others, principally the young ones, said it was a shame government did not make experiments with such crops; they them­selves were too poor to experiment with crops they had never tried ; they could not get seeds, and so on. And others again confessed frankly that they had never heard of such products, and had never even thought of the possibility of the land growing any­thing but the good old stock roots and seeds.

I consider that the government of New South "Wales is deplorably short-sighted in this matter of attention to agriculture. It is more than culpable neglect, it is suicidal folly. The expenses of experimental farms would, I feel certain, under proper management, be covered by the receipts. The model farms on the continent, and in most instances in India, are self- supporting. The good effect they have on farming, the immense practical good they achieve, the advance­ment and improvement they initiate and foster are in­calculable. In Queensland, South Australia, and notably in New Zealand, progress is far more rapid than with us, and these colonies will doubtless reap the results of their enlightenment and enterprise, and we must see trade pass from our doors, and their markets take precedence of ours.

Shortly after I settled down in Sydney, in 1878, I got down from India, at my own expense, numerous kinds of seeds of commercial value. I made trial sowings on the grounds of Mr. D. Nichol, at Strath- field, Redmyre, near Sydney, a favourite suburban retreat, about eight miles from the coast. Although the rainfall was scanty, the soil full of iron-stone, and the influence of the sea breezes to a certain extent inimical, all the seeds I sowed germinated quickly, grew strongly and well, and, with the single exception of the indigo, gave most favourable results. In the case of the indigo, the contiguity of the sea was, in my opinion, the true cause of the partial failure, because, up on Mount Wilson, among the Blue Moun­tains, I afterwards found the most magnificent growth of a wild kind of indigo, and I am certain that with proper care and abundant labour, the dye could be largely manufactured in Australia.

Mr. Charles More, the talented, and in every way admirable Director of the Sydney Botanical Gardens, took charge of the surplus seeds I got down from India, and distributed them to various, parts of the country. I have received proofs "from various parts that, with' ordinary care, and under existing condi­tions, these products can be easily raised in the colony. The seeds that I tried were all sent to me from the north-west provinces of India. In climate this portion of our Indian territory is very like that of New South Wales. In summer they have fierce, hot west winds. They get the monsoons or rainy season, and they have four or five months of a cold season, during which the frosts are often as sharp as what are experienced occasionally in the colony under notice.

Indigo is largely grown in Oudh and the north-west provinces of India, although it is principally cultivated in Behar and Bengal. In this country, New South Wales, I have great hopes that it might become a valu­able crop. In its early stages it is rather delicate, but once it grows to an inch or so in height, it is one of the hardiest plants known in India. It is there grown in many places almost without any preparation of the soil at all. The ground is scratched, and the seed scattered broadcast. On the sand-banks by the rivers it grows splendidly, and, owing to its bitter­ness, no oanimal will touch it. If the weeds attain any rankness the sheep are frequently driven into the indigo in Purneah, Bhaugulpore, and Jessore, to graze down the weeds, and they do not touch the indigo. I think it would grow well in Australia. It does not require much care, and it might yield three cuttings. Small vats, and all the apparatus, need not cost much, but if attempted on a large scale, if the results of the trial sowing would warrant it, I am sure it might be made a magnificent industry.

"With good cultivation, careful weeding, drill sow­ings, and good machinery for the manufacture, indigo farming is one of the most money-making industries in the world. A succession of favourable seasons is a fortune, but in India seasons are precarious, and the price of both land and labour has been doubled if not trebled since the Mutiny; and I believe, under proper management, indigo might be made a most profit­able colonial crop, and with our cheap land, use of machinery, successive cuttings, and good communica­tions, we might successfully compete with even the cheap labour of India. For seed we would.have to depend on Queensland, for the frosts here would kill the crop during the seed-time, which takes place in the cold weather. The plant is an annual, but will afford cuttings in succession for years, if not allowed to run to seed. It becomes ready for the first cutting in about four months. Sown in July, manufacturing could commence here in November. Under favouring conditions of moisture and heat, the second growth from the stumps or stubble is very rapid and luxu­riant, and yields good produce. Three cuttings might be had before the cold weather again set in. A succession crop of mustard, rape, linseed, vetches, wheat, barley, or oats, millet, sesamum, or other cold weather crops, is frequently taken from the indigo lands in India. Although, as a rule, if the three cuttings be taken from the land during the year, the culti­vators consider they have done well.

So far as indigo is concerned I am confident that, were it properly tried, it might become a very great industry. On the Bellinger, for instance, and the northern rivers, and in many other remote agri­cultural areas, where communications will for years be difficult, the great obstacle the farmer has to contend with is the wholly disproportionate charge he has to pay on the transit of his produce to the value of the product itself. The cost of transmission to market of wheat, maize, potatoes, and similar crops, eats np all the profit, and for practical purposes he might leave farming alone. "Were, however, products to be raised that could be manufactured on the farm, and trans­ported in the manufactured instead of the crude state, transit charges would be immensely reduced; and all the oil seeds, the safflower, the dyes, and other Indian products I want to see introduced, fulfil this condition. "Were a few cheap oil-mills to be established on the remote farms, were indigo vats to be built, these pro­ducts would well repay cultivation, always supposing that they can be suitably grown, and to find out this experiment is necessary.

In India, where the best farming under European supervision prevails, the indigo is generally sown by drills, is carefully weeded and tended, and the fields are as well tilled as any in Strathmore or Midlothian. It would be a warm weather crop here, and might be sown about the beginning and all through August. Sown upon good moisture it would take a good start, and its growth'is very rapid. In the north-west of India it is often sown broadcast upon irrigated lands. In Oudh, Bengal, and other places, it is scattered on sandbanks, in the rice-fields after the rice has been cut and the ground merely tickled with the hoe. In Bhaugulpore and Purneah the cultivators scratch the ground with their wooden ploughs, and amid the grass jungles in the newly-cleared forest lands, the hollows and margins by lakes and water­courses, its vivid green contrasts beautifully with the arid, withered, burnt-up aspect of the surrounding country.

As already stated, it is so bitter that no animal, not even a goat, will touch it, and where the weeds, favoured by the shelter of the indigo crops, attain a dangerous rankness, the village sheep and goats are sent in to brouse down the unwanted weeds, and the field thus supplies fodder as well as a valuable crop. The plant, if it once gains a footing, is of vigorous growth. It has a deep tap-root which descends straight down. It would thus be unsuitable to stiff clays, or land with a marly or shaly bottom. I have known it successfully resist blight, caterpillars, ten months' drought, and winter frost, and on getting rain, though not a leaf had been visible before, it sprouted up with amazing vigour and quickness.

It would be ready to cut, in from three and a half to four months. In this country with occasional rains, in probably less than that time. The dye which the plant contains is extracted from the leaf. The plant is grown for leaf alone, and a thick sowing, for this purpose is desirable.

The mode of manufacture, stated very shortly, is this. The plant is first steeped in steeping-vats, for about ten to twelve hours. The plant is placed in layers and battened down. When the vat is ready to open, it is run into a lower vat called the beating-vat. It runs out as a yellowish green liquor, which, on exposure to the air, becomes of an intense blue. This is due to oxygenation. Here it is now beaten violently for from two to three hours. This process is now done by machinery, a revolving wheel with small discs at the ends is put in motion by the engine, and it churns and smashes up the liquor, exposing every particle to the action of the air, till the vat assumes a deep intense indigo blue colour, beautifully flecked with foam, and is one of the prettiest sights in all the range of the manufacturing industries of the world. Two processes go on simultaneously during the beat­ing. The one, as I have stated, is chemical, namely oxydation, the other is mechanical, an aggregation of the particles into what is technically termed "grain." As the beating process progresses, the liquor gets seemingly filled with flecks, or starchy-looking little flakes. These get bigger and bigger, till at length the beating is completed. The vat is ripe and this flakey fecula, floating in the contained mass gradually subsides to the bottom as a pulpy sediment of an intensely deep blue.

The waste liquor, of a dark sherry colour, is now run off. The indigo remaining in the bottom of the vat, is strained, boiled, strained again on a large cool­ing table, put into presses, pressed through cloths, cut into cakes, marked, dried, and finally boxed up and sent to market. My readers will see it is a long and troublesome and costly process, but these elements are more or less inseparable from all manufacturing industries, and in indigo the results are fully com­mensurate with the time, trouble, and cost.

After the first cutting, the field is ploughed to loosen the soil, keep down weeds, and let the air into the roots. In a short time shoots sprout out from the stubble, and by another month or six weeks a second cutting is ready for the vats. With favourable mois­ture, or if the approach of cold do not check the shooting of a fresh growth, a third cutting is frequently obtainable.

In the winter, if these remaining stumps be lightly ploughed, a crop of rape, mustard, linseed, barley, oats, or any other cereal, could be taken from the ground, and in localities where there was little frost, the "khoontees" or stubble would yield a second year's crop, and X have taken in Oudh three years' cuttings from the one sowing. As a rule, in the best indigo districts in India, annual sowings are followed. The plant from which the seed is obtained is sown at the end of the manufacturing season, and ripens in the cold weather. Indigo-growing for seed forms a very profitable industry in the northern parts of India, and immense quantities of seed are sent down to the planters in Behar and Bengal. In Queensland, there­fore, we would require to have our seedrgrowers, and there I am desirous that seed-growing experiments should be made. There need not be costly vats and premises built, and, indeed, capitalists might here meet the requirements of the small selector and poor farmer, much in the same way as is done with the sugar-cane, and start a factory, paying the farmer for the green indigo, as is very commonly done in India. Many a cultivator in India grows his patch of indigo, and when ripe, cuts and sends it in to the factory, where it is weighed, and paid at so much per bundle.

Roughly speaking, and in the absence of all data from experiment, I would calculate the yield in this country to be fully up to the Indian yield, because the soil is virgin here, and has been worked for centuries there without ever being manured. I would imagine that an acre of good crop in this country would yield enough, from, say two cuttings, to fill six or eight vats of 2000 cubic feet each. Each vat yields on an average 30 lbs. of manufactured indigo. The average price of this at the port of shipment, is about ten shillings per lb. It would fetch more in England or the Continent. At six vats to the acre this would yield 901, per acre, with eight vats 1201; this seems a large return, but, of course, until practical experiments be made, I can only state what I believe would be the case. With three cuttings in the one season, I do not think my estimate over-sanguine.

My agricultural friends in the colony will clearly understand that I am writing mainly to promote a spirit of inquiry, and a desire for intelligent experi­ment. It would be very easy to find out what a given weight of green indigo will yield. The question, first of all, is to find out what weight will the land bring forth; how many cuttings are procurable; and then the proportion the cost of production will bear to the value and amount of the article produced. By all means let us be sure of our ground first, and not rush blindly into foolish visionary schemes. But to sum up what I have said on indigo, we have here a plant that is of immense commercial value, which is most profitably grown in India, which is hardy, quick of growth, and does not require immoderate care, or the best soil. It is strong to resist long drought and extreme heat. Quick to recover scorching, blight, or caterpillars which sometimes attack it in its early stages. It will not succumb to slight frosts. It is unpalatable enough to enjoy immunity from even the greedy kangaroo or omnivorous goat. It is said to be a wonderful agent in destroying miasma, and lastly it needs not to be transported in bulk, but can be manufactured where it is grown, and always commands a sale, whilst it retains its "pride of place" as the only "fast" vegetable blue the world contains, and wool-dyeing, calico-printing, potteries, and other arts and industries demand its aid.

So much for indigo. I have proved by actual experi­ment that it can be successfully grown in New South Wales, and I am collecting the seed which is ripening in the garden as I write, and will continue the experi­ment yet another year.

We come now to a class of crop which is a very common one in India, one that yields a good return, does not require a very extraordinary amount of care in its cultivation, is hardy and prolific, and which I think would be admirably suited to the climate and soil of Australia. I have, indeed, proved that it is so. I refer to the oil seeds.

Perhaps the most productive of the group is the sarsoiu or mustard, with its kindred rival the toree or black rape.

The mustard is the beautiful golden yellow variety, from which the mustard oil is expressed, while the brown rape yields the valuable rape oil of commerce. In India these are usually sown broadcast at the beginning of the cold weather. They could very readily be sown here, after the indigo had yielded its third cutting. A field of rape or mustard in full bloom is a very lovely sight indeed. It reminds one at a distance of the golden furze or broom of the old country. For leagues upon leagues in Bengal, Behar, Oudh, and the north-west, during the cold weather, this golden carpet is spread over the land. In January and February the richly-tinted expanse suggests poetic fancies, and reminds one of a vast "field of the cloth of gold." When it is little more than an inch or two inches in height the rape begins to put forth its blossoms. As the stalk emerges further and further from the ground fresh successions of beautiful golden blossoms open their tiny petals, and the pods take their places on the stalk below. Innumerable tiny branchlets shoot off, each bearing its crowns of bloom and wealth of pods beneath, until at length the last little yellow petals pale and drop off, as the pod asserts itself; and then, as the stalk begins to get dry and withered, the pods swell and the seed inside begins to rattle—the weighted stalk droops its head and bends.

The natives pluck the stalks up by the roots, and gather the crop ere it be perfectly ripe. This is to let it ripen on the threshing-floor. When perfectly ripe the pods open, and were it allowed to ripen in the field much of the seed would be lost.

The stalks are not good for much beyond fuel, but the beautiful seed forms a valuable freight to Europe, and the mustard oil is used by every native in Hin- dostan as a relish to curry and rice, a medicament, an unguent, and in other different ways. It possesses valuable medicinal properties, is a first-rate article of diet for those who can get over the rather assertive smell, and is of course most valuable in all the uses and purposes to which vegetable oils can be applied. There is always a ready sale for the seed. The refuse makes grand feed for cattle, and every village in Bengal possesses its two or three rude oil-mills, and. the taelees or oil-merchants are generally among the most intelligent and thriving class of the community.

Rape and mustard seem to thrive on any soil. Among the newly cleared tracts of the forest country, on the high bare uplands and sandy undulations of Goruckpore and North Bhaugulpore, it thrives luxu­riantly. Its golden sheen covers the arid slopes of Shahabad, and drapes the flat fertile reaches of Patna with its magnificent mantle of yellow. It is, indeed, a beautiful sight to see leagues of this gorgeous blossom.

There are three kinds: the sarsow, or large yellow rape; the toree, a smaller brown seed, not unlike turnip seed, but a little larger; and the rye, or true mustard. "When in full bloom the plant is not unlike a "shot" turnip, that is, a turnip gone to seed. The seed pods form much in the same way as turnip or radish pods form. It is very productive, and as it ripens early, the natives often sow it sparsely with their barley or wheat, and pluck it just as these crops are about coming into ear. It does not require weeding, and would, I believe, make a most suitable crop for rough ground here, or newly reclaimed land, where it might not pay to grow wheat, barley, or oats.

The linseed which the natives call teesee is another favourite cold-weather crop. It is frequently sown along with the toree or barley, but most commonly is scattered over the early rice stubble, which has previously had a perfunctory scrape with a wooden plough. The linseed has an exceedingly pretty pale- blue blossom. This contrasts beautifully with the golden yellow of the toree; and at such a time, when the weather is cool and bracing, the rice crop gar­nered, and there are prospects of good moisture for the indigo, cane, tobacco, or maize, the Indian farmer's life is not at all an unenviable one.

There exists a large and a small kind of linseed. Its uses are too familiar to my readers to require elucidation here, but I am certain that if experiments were made on the scale I have suggested with all these oil-seeds, that on such places as the Belliuger, the Tweed, the Richmond, Hunter, and Clarence, the finest riverine districts of New South Wales, the oil- mill would become as necessary and common an adjunct to the selector's farm as the barn and threshing-mill are to the Scotch and English farms at home.

The til or sesamum is another crop, cultivated in high sandy uplands, in many places near the Nepaulese boundary. It yields a delicious aromatic oil, which could be used in a thousand ways in the arts, but it is more of a specialty than the rape or linseed, and I daresay would not be so valuable as a farming crop.

I can scarcely estimate the yield that might be ex­pected from these oil seeds, as all my calculations are based on the Indian figures, but from one "beegah" in Chumparum, I have raised thirty-four "maunds" of mustard seed, and this was sown amongst a field of sugar-cane which I had planted as feed for my plough bullocks. Now-a "beegah" is some 1240 square yards. An acre is 4840—ergo, a "beegah" is somewhat more than a quarter of an acre. It will be practically near enough, allowing for better farming and a richer soil, if we say a quarter of an acre. A "maund" is eighty lbs. avoirdupois, this would make the yield of an acre, roughly, 10,880 lbs., or say ninety- six cwt. The average price in Calcutta for the seed is two rupees eight annas, to three rupees, or say five shillings to six shillings. This would make about 241 an acre.

I must say that thirty-four "maunds" to a "beegah" is an exceptionally good crop; still I am sanguine that such would be no uncommon yield in the Australian colonies, and were the oil expressed, it would fetch more than the seed. The residue forms castor-oil and hemp are splendid fattening feed for stock, and the product is not bulky, but readily transportable. Linseed fetches a higher price, but for both products there is a-con­stant and steady demand. Linseed is generally credited by the Indian farmer with being an exhaustive crop ; indeed, all oil seeds seem to be more or less exhaustive, but I have never yet seen land so utterly poor as not to be capable of producing a pretty fair growth of rape. It seems to grow readily anywhere in India. On this account the natives generally sow it in their worst lands, but where it gets a rich soil, the vigour of its growth ig amazing. In rich factory lands I have often seen it " laid" in the same way as rank wheat —lying in tangled masses on the humid soil, quite un­able to support its wealthy weight of well-filled seed pods.

Of the castor-oil plant, what shall I say? Nearly all my readers are acquainted with the peculiar pro­perties of the oil itself, I have little doubt. The plant grows like a weed, but with proper treatment it is ca­pable of forming a most valuable crop. In India it is generally planted on the head ridges of the fields, or on the banks and along the sides of ditches. The women pluck the berries, or bunches of prickly-looking nuts, or pods, or whatever they are called. These are dried, husked in a mortar by a wooden pestle, and then put through the oil mill. When the bushes are freely nipped and pruned, and the plant kept down like a shrub, and not allowed to straggle, its producing power is much augmented. I do not know, however, what amount per "beegah" it would produce, as I only. grew enough along the banks to yield oil for the press- house, screws, and machinery about the factory.

Sunn-sunnai, or hemp, is another common crop with the Indian farmers. It is sown very thickly, has a large beautiful bell-shaped yellow flower, grows to a height of from six to eight feet, and each farmer grows just enough to afford him material to make his cordage for the year, and yield. enough tow to put round the axles of his old patched-up bullock cart. It could, I daresay, be easily grown in Australia, and is certainly worthy of experimental trial.

Let me say a few words now of the safflower, I have already seen some very fine samples grown from the seed which I have imported from India. In India it is generally planted in rows round the edges of the poppy fields. The seeds are put in at about a foot apart. The plant is hardy, and of quick growth, The produce is contained in the flower. The safflower is not unlike a thistle-head in bloom, or- perhaps an artichoke is a better illustration. When the pretty yellow flower has fully opened, the women and children, with tucked up clothes, go into the field, and pick the flowers, much as cotton is picked, and these are then spread out on bamboo mats, and put on the roof of the hut to dry.

As it dries, it assumes a deep orange hue : a deep, dark, intensely vivid orange, This is quite a feature in Indian villages, The lovely touches of colour give quite an air of beauty, which lights up the otherwise rather unlovely surroundings of the ordinary Indian hut or village, with quite an artistic and charming effect. On every thatched roof in the early mornings of February, one may see the deep crimson of the capsicums, contrasting beautifully with the brilliant orange of the koosoom, or safflower, and the snowy white of the newly washed puggree or saree spread along the lowly eaves to dry; or maybe flutteringgaily in the wind, a party-coloured flag of quaint device erected on a high bamboo, and sacred to one or other of the multitudinous array of Hindoo mythological creations.

The dried flower is valuable. In the Indian bazaars it is sold by the ounce—and at times a rupee will only buy its own weight of the precious dye. It is used also as a drug, and I have proved it might be culti­vated successfully here in patches. It would form a valuable cottage industry, but perhaps is scarcely suitable for a farming crop on a large scale.

Besides these there are Jowar, Bajra, Murrowah gennara, and a host of other kinds of grain, which form valuable food staples, and which are perfectly adapted, I am sure, for this country, i. e. New South Wales. These I have just named belong to the millet family; and, apart from their grain-producing quali­fications, they are most valuable as being all of them excellent fodder plants. Indeed, the Indian gennara is, next to sugar-cane, the great stand-by of the Indigo planter for fodder to his large staff of draught cattle, which he has to keep well fed, if he wants his indigo lands kept at the proper standard of cultivation.

Then, again, there are the valuable legumes, such as the dall, mussooree, muttur, channa, lombeea, and a host of others. The channa is the well-known gram, than which there is probably no better horse-feed in the world. Surely they are all worthy of a trial! But how is the struggling farmer to try them ? which brings me back to my former complaint once more.

That agriculture has not received the attention its vast importance merits is undeniable ! Perhaps these few short, hurried notes may lead some of my farming Australian readers to think. If thinking will but lead to action, and a fair trial be given to suck of our Indian seeds as may seem most promising, certain I am that the available crops of the Australian farmer can be increased many-fold. Certain am I, too, that more suitable products for his soil and climate than those he now cultivates with such an often times precarious return, can be readily obtained; and that it behoves our farmers and our government to mutually aid each other to make the fecund earth yield her best and fittest increase, and make this magnificent country indeed a land of corn, and wine, and oil.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus