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A First Year in Canterbury Settlement by Samuel Butler

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out at; these, however, were as nothing in comparison with the river
itself, which we all had feared more than we cared to say, and which, in
good truth, was not altogether unworthy of fear.

By and by we turned up the shingly river-bed which leads to the spot on
which my hut is built. The river is called Forest Creek, and, though
usually nothing but a large brook, it was now high, and unpleasant from
its rapidity and the large boulders over which it flows. Little by
little, night and heavy rain came on, and right glad were we when we saw
the twinkling light on the terrace where the hut was, and were thus
assured that the Irishman, who had been left alone and without meat for
the last ten days, was still in the land of the living. Two or three
coo-eys soon made him aware that we were coming, and I believe he was
almost as pleased to see us as Robinson Crusoe was to see the Spaniard
who was brought over by the cannibals to be killed and eaten. What the
old Irishman had been about during our absence I cannot say. He could
not have spent much time in eating, for there was wonderfully little
besides flour, tea, and sugar for him to eat. There was no grog upon
the establishment, so he could not have been drinking. He had
distinctly seen my ghost two nights before. I had been coherently
drowned in the Rangitata; and when he heard us coo-eying he was almost
certain that it was the ghost again.

I had left the V hut warm and comfortable, and on my return found it
very different. I fear we had not put enough thatch upon it, and the
ten days' rain had proved too much for it. It was now neither air-tight
nor water-tight; the floor, or rather the ground, was soaked and soppy
with mud; the nice warm snow-grass on which I had lain so comfortably
the night before I left, was muddy and wet; altogether, there being no
fire inside, the place was as revolting-looking an affair as one would
wish to see: coming wet and cold off a journey, we had hoped for better
things. There was nothing for it but to make the best of it, so we had
tea, and fried some of the beef--the smell of which was anything but
agreeable, for it had been lying ten days on the ground on the other
side the Rangitata, and was, to say the least, somewhat high--and then
we sat in our great-coats on four stones round the fire, and smoked;
then I baked, and one of the cadets washed up; and then we arranged our
blankets as best we could, and were soon asleep, alike unconscious of
the dripping rain, which came through the roof of the hut, and of the
cold, raw atmosphere which was insinuating itself through the numerous
crevices of the thatch.

I had brought up a tin kettle with me. This was a great comfort and
acquisition, for before we had nothing larger than pint pannikins to
fetch up water in from the creek; this was all very well by daylight,
but in the dark the hundred yards from the hut to the creek were no easy
travelling with a pannikin in each hand. The ground was very stony, and
covered with burnt Irishman scrub, against which (the Irishman being
black and charred, and consequently invisible in the dark) I was
continually stumbling and spilling half the water. There was a terrace,
too, so that we seldom arrived with much more than half a pannikin, and
the kettle was an immense step in advance. The Irishman called it very
"beneficial," as he called everything that pleased him. He was a great
character: he used to "destroy" his food, not eat it. If I asked him
to have any more bread or meat, he would say, with perfect seriousness,
that he had "destroyed enough this time." He had many other quaint
expressions of this sort, but they did not serve to make the hut water-
tight, and I was half regretfully obliged to send him away a short time

The winter's experience satisfied me that the country that H-- and I had
found would not do for sheep, unless worked in connection with more that
was clear of snow throughout the year. As soon, therefore, as I was
convinced that the adjacent country was safe, I bought it, and settled
upon it in good earnest, abandoning the V hut. I did so with some
regret, for we had good fare enough in it, and I rather liked it; we had
only stones for seats, but we made splendid fires, and got fresh and
clean snow-grass to lie on, and dried the floor with wood-ashes. Then
we confined the snow-grass within certain limits by means of a couple of
poles laid upon the ground and fixed into their places with pegs; then
we put up several slings to hang our saddle-bags, tea, sugar, salt,
bundles, etc.; then we made a horse for the saddles--four riding-saddles
and a pack-saddle--and underneath this went our tools at one end and our
culinary utensils, limited but very effective, at the other. Having
made it neat we kept it so, and of a night it wore an aspect of comfort
quite domestic, even to the cat, which would come in through a hole left
in the thatched door for her especial benefit, and purr a regular
hurricane. We blessed her both by day and by night, for we saw no rats
after she came; and great excitement prevailed when, three weeks after
her arrival, she added a litter of kittens to our establishment.


Loading Dray--Bullocks--Want of Roads--Banks Peninsula--Front and Back
Ranges of Mountains--River-beds--Origin of the Plains--Terraces--Tutu--
Fords--Floods--Lost Bullocks--Scarcity of Features on the Plains--
Terraces--Crossing the Ashburton--Change of Weather--Roofless Hut--

I completed the loading of my dray on a Tuesday afternoon in the early
part of October, 1860, and determined on making Main's accommodation-
house that night. Of the contents of the dray I need hardly speak,
though perhaps a full enumeration of them might afford no bad index to
the requirements of a station; they are more numerous than might at
first be supposed--rigidly useful and rarely if ever ornamental.

Flour, tea, sugar, tools, household utensils few and rough, a plough and
harrows, doors, windows, oats and potatoes for seed, and all the usual
denizens of a kitchen garden; these, with a few private effects, formed
the main bulk of the contents, amounting to about a ton and a half in
weight. I had only six bullocks, but these were good ones, and worth
many a team of eight; a team of eight will draw from two to three tons
along a pretty good road. Bullocks are very scarce here; none are to be
got under twenty pounds, while thirty pounds is no unusual price for a
good harness bullock. They can do much more in harness than in bows and
yokes, but the expense of harness and the constant disorder into which
it gets, render it cheaper to use more bullocks in the simpler tackle.
Each bullock has its name, and knows it as well as a dog does his.
There is generally a tinge of the comic in the names given to them.
Many stations have a small mob of cattle from whence to draw their
working bullocks, so that a few more or a few less makes little or no
difference. They are not fed with corn at accommodation-houses, as
horses are; when their work is done, they are turned out to feed till
dark, or till eight or nine o'clock. A bullock fills himself, if on
pretty good feed, in about three or three and a half hours; he then lies
down till very early morning, at which time the chances are ten to one
that, awakening refreshed and strengthened, he commences to stray back
along the way he came, or in some other direction; accordingly, it is a
common custom, about eight or nine o'clock, to yard one's team, and turn
them out with the first daylight for another three or four hours' feed.
Yarding bullocks is, however, a bad plan. They do their day's work of
from fifteen to twenty miles, or sometimes more, at one spell, and
travel at the rate of from two and a half to three miles an hour.

The road from Christ Church to Main's is metalled for about four and a
half miles; there are fences and fields on both sides, either laid down
in English grass or sown with grain; the fences are chiefly low ditch
and bank planted with gorse, rarely with quick, the scarcity of which
detracts from the resemblance to English scenery which would otherwise
prevail. The copy, however, is slatternly compared with the original;
the scarcity of timber, the high price of labour, and the pressing
urgency of more important claims upon the time of the small
agriculturist, prevent him, for the most part, from attaining the spick-
and-span neatness of an English homestead. Many makeshifts are
necessary; a broken rail or gate is mended with a piece of flax, so,
occasionally, are the roads. I have seen the Government roads
themselves being repaired with no other material than stiff tussocks of
grass, flax, and rushes: this is bad, but to a certain extent
necessary, where there is so much to be done and so few hands and so
little money with which to do it.

After getting off the completed portion of the road, the track commences
along the plains unassisted by the hand of man. Before one, and behind
one, and on either hand, waves the yellow tussock upon the stony plain,
interminably monotonous. On the left, as you go southward, lies Banks
Peninsula, a system of submarine volcanoes culminating in a flattened
dome, little more than 3000 feet high. Cook called it Banks Island,
either because it was an island in his day, or because no one, to look
at it, would imagine that it was anything else. Most probably the
latter is the true reason; though, as the land is being raised by
earthquakes, it is just possible that the peninsula may have been an
island in Cook's days, for the foot of the peninsula is very little
above the sea-level. It is indeed true that the harbour of Wellington
has been raised some feet since the foundation of the settlement, but
the opinion here is general that it must have been many centuries since
the peninsula was an island.

On the right, at a considerable distance, rises the long range of
mountains which the inhabitants of Christ Church suppose to be the
backbone of the island, and which they call the Snowy Range. The real
axis of the island, however, lies much farther back, and between it and
the range now in sight the land has no rest, but is continually steep up
and steep down, as if Nature had determined to try how much mountain she
could place upon a given space; she had, however, still some regard for
utility, for the mountains are rarely precipitous--very steep, often
rocky and shingly when they have attained a great elevation, but seldom,
if ever, until in immediate proximity to the West Coast range, abrupt
like the descent from the top of Snowdon towards Capel Curig or the
precipices of Clogwyn du'r arddu. The great range is truly Alpine, and
the front range occasionally reaches an altitude of nearly 7000 feet.

The result of this absence of precipice is, that there are no waterfalls
in the front ranges and few in the back, and these few very
insignificant as regards the volume of the water. In Switzerland one
has the falls of the Rhine, of the Aar, the Giesbach, the Staubbach, and
cataracts great and small innumerable; here there is nothing of the
kind, quite as many large rivers, but few waterfalls, to make up for
which the rivers run with an almost incredible fall. Mount Peel is
twenty-five miles from the sea, and the river-bed of the Rangitata
underneath that mountain is 800 feet above the sea line, the river
running in a straight course though winding about in its wasteful river-
bed. To all appearance it is running through a level plain. Of the
remarkable gorges through which each river finds its way out of the
mountains into the plains I must speak when I take my dray through the
gorge of the Ashburton, though this is the least remarkable of them all;
in the meantime I must return to the dray on its way to Main's, although
I see another digression awaiting me as soon as I have got it two miles
ahead of its present position.

It is tedious work keeping constant company with the bullocks; they
travel so slowly. Let us linger behind and sun ourselves upon a tussock
or a flax bush, and let them travel on until we catch them up again.

They are now going down into an old river-bed formerly tenanted by the
Waimakiriri, which then flowed into Lake Ellesmere, ten or a dozen miles
south of Christ Church, and which now enters the sea at Kaiapoi, twelve
miles north of it; besides this old channel, it has others which it has
discarded with fickle caprice for the one in which it happens to be
flowing at present, and which there appears some reason for thinking it
is soon going to tire of. If it eats about a hundred yards more of its
gravelly bank in one place, the river will find an old bed several feet
lower than its present; this bed will conduct it into Christ Church.
Government had put up a wooden defence, at a cost of something like 2000
pounds, but there was no getting any firm starting-ground, and a few
freshes carried embankment, piles, and all away, and ate a large slice
off the bank into the bargain; there is nothing for it but to let the
river have its own way. Every fresh changes every ford, and to a
certain extent alters every channel; after any fresh the river may shift
its course directly on to the opposite side of its bed, and leave Christ
Church in undisturbed security for centuries; or, again, any fresh may
render such a shift in the highest degree improbable, and sooner or
later seal the fate of our metropolis. At present no one troubles his
head much about it, although a few years ago there was a regular panic
upon the subject.

These old river channels, or at any rate channels where portions of the
rivers have at one time come down, are everywhere about the plains, but
the nearer you get to a river the more you see of them; on either side
the Rakaia, after it has got clear of the gorge, you find channel after
channel, now completely grassed over for some miles, betraying the
action of river water as plainly as possible. The rivers after leaving
their several gorges lie, as it were, on the highest part of a huge
fanlike delta, which radiates from the gorge down to the sea; the plains
are almost entirely, for many miles on either side the rivers, composed
of nothing but stones, all betraying the action of water. These stones
are so closely packed, that at times one wonders how the tussocks and
fine, sweet undergrowth can force their way up through them, and even
where the ground is free from stones at the surface I am sure that at a
little distance below stones would be found packed in the same way. One
cannot take one's horse out of a walk in many parts of the plains when
off the track--I mean, one cannot without doing violence to old-world
notions concerning horses' feet.

I said the rivers lie on the highest part of the delta; not always the
highest, but seldom the lowest. There is reason to believe that in the
course of centuries they oscillate from side to side. For instance,
four miles north of the Rakaia there is a terrace some twelve or
fourteen feet high; the water in the river is nine feet above the top of
this terrace. To the eye of the casual observer there is no perceptible
difference between the levels, still the difference exists and has been
measured. I am no geologist myself, but have been informed of this by
one who is in the Government Survey Office, and upon whose authority I
can rely.

The general opinion is that the Rakaia is now tending rather to the
northern side. A fresh comes down upon a crumbling bank of sand and
loose shingle with incredible force, tearing it away hour by hour in
ravenous bites. In fording the river one crosses now a considerable
stream on the northern side, where four months ago there was hardly any;
while after one has done with the water part of the story, there remains
a large extent of river-bed, in the process of gradually being covered
with cabbage-trees, flax, tussock, Irishman, and other plants and
evergreens; yet after one is once clear of the blankets (so to speak) of
the river-bed, the traces of the river are no fresher on the southern
than on the northern side, even if so fresh.

The plains, at first sight, would appear to have been brought down by
the rivers from the mountains. The stones upon them are all water-worn,
and they are traversed by a great number of old water-courses, all
tending more or less from the mountains to the sea. How, then, are we
to account for the deep and very wide channels cut by the rivers?--for
channels, it may be, more than a mile broad, and flanked on either side
by steep terraces, which, near the mountains, are several feet high? If
the rivers cut these terraces, and made these deep channels, the plains
must have been there already for the rivers to cut them. It must be
remembered that I write without any scientific knowledge.

How, again, are we to account for the repetition of the phenomenon
exhibited by the larger rivers, in every tributary, small or great, from
the glaciers to the sea? They are all as like as pea to pea in
principle, though of course varying in detail. Yet every trifling
watercourse, as it emerges from mountainous to level ground, presents
the same phenomenon, namely, a large gully, far too large for the water
which could ever have come down it, gradually widening out, and then
disappearing. The general opinion here among the reputed cognoscenti
is, that all these gullies were formed in the process of the gradual
upheaval of the island from the sea, and that the plains were originally
sea-bottoms, slowly raised, and still slowly raising themselves.
Doubtless, the rivers brought the stones down, but they were deposited
in the sea.

The terraces, which are so abundant all over the back country, and which
rise, one behind another, to the number, it may be, of twenty or thirty,
with the most unpicturesque regularity (on my run there are fully
twenty), are supposed to be elevated sea-beaches. They are to be seen
even as high as four or five thousand feet above the level of the sea,
and I doubt not that a geologist might find traces of them higher still.

Therefore, though, when first looking at the plains and river-bed flats
which are so abundant in the back country, one might be inclined to
think that no other agent than the rivers themselves had been at work,
and though, when one sees the delta below, and the empty gully above,
like a minute-glass after the egg has been boiled--the top glass empty
of the sand, and the bottom glass full of it--one is tempted to rest
satisfied; yet when we look closer, we shall find that more is wanted in
order to account for the phenomena exhibited, and the geologists of the
island supply that more, by means of upheaval.

I pay the tribute of a humble salaam to science, and return to my

We crossed the old river-bed of the Waimakiriri, and crawled slowly on
to Main's, through the descending twilight. One sees Main's about six
miles off, and it appears to be about six hours before one reaches it.
A little hump for the house, and a longer hump for the stables.

The tutu not having yet begun to spring, I yarded my bullocks at Main's.
This demands explanation. Tutu is a plant which dies away in the
winter, and shoots up anew from the old roots in spring, growing from
six inches to two or three feet in height, sometimes even to five or
six. It is of a rich green colour, and presents, at a little distance,
something the appearance of myrtle. On its first coming above the
ground it resembles asparagus. I have seen three varieties of it,
though I am not sure whether two of them may not be the same, varied
somewhat by soil and position. The third grows only in high situations,
and is unknown upon the plains; it has leaves very minutely subdivided,
and looks like a fern, but the blossom and seed are nearly identical
with the other varieties. The peculiar property of the plant is, that,
though highly nutritious both for sheep and cattle when eaten upon a
tolerably full stomach, it is very fatal upon an empty one. Sheep and
cattle eat it to any extent, and with perfect safety, when running loose
on their pasture, because they are then always pretty full; but take the
same sheep and yard them for some few hours, or drive them so that they
cannot feed, then turn them into tutu, and the result is that they are
immediately attacked with apoplectic symptoms, and die unless promptly
bled. Nor does bleeding by any means always save them. The worst of it
is, that when empty they are keenest after it, and nab it in spite of
one's most frantic appeals, both verbal and flagellatory. Some say that
tutu acts like clover, and blows out the stomach, so that death ensues.
The seed-stones, however, contained in the dark pulpy berry, are
poisonous to man, and superinduce apoplectic symptoms. The berry (about
the size of a small currant) is rather good, though (like all the New
Zealand berries) insipid, and is quite harmless if the stones are not
swallowed. Tutu grows chiefly on and in the neighbourhood of sandy
river-beds, but occurs more or less all over the settlement, and causes
considerable damage every year. Horses won't touch it.

As, then, my bullocks could not get tuted on being turned out empty, I
yarded them. The next day we made thirteen miles over the plains to the
Waikitty (written Waikirikiri) or Selwyn. Still the same monotonous
plains, the same interminable tussock, dotted with the same cabbage-

On the morrow, ten more monotonous miles to the banks of the Rakaia.
This river is one of the largest in the province, second only to the
Waitaki. It contains about as much water as the Rhone above Martigny,
perhaps even more, but it rather resembles an Italian than a Swiss
river. With due care, it is fordable in many places, though very rarely
so when occupying a single channel. It is, however, seldom found in one
stream, but flows, like the rest of these rivers, with alternate periods
of rapid and comparatively smooth water every few yards. The place to
look for a ford is just above a spit where the river forks into two or
more branches; there is generally here a bar of shingle with shallow
water, while immediately below, in each stream, there is a dangerous
rapid. A very little practice and knowledge of each river will enable a
man to detect a ford at a glance. These fords shift every fresh. In
the Waimakiriri or Rangitata, they occur every quarter of a mile or
less; in the Rakaia, you may go three or four miles for a good one.
During a fresh, the Rakaia is not fordable, at any rate, no one ought to
ford it; but the two first-named rivers may be crossed, with great care,
in pretty heavy freshes, without the water going higher than the knees
of the rider. It is always, however, an unpleasant task to cross a
river when full without a thorough previous acquaintance with it; then,
a glance at the colour and consistency of the water will give a good
idea whether the fresh is coming down, at its height, or falling. When
the ordinary volume of the stream is known, the height of the water can
be estimated at a spot never before seen with wonderful correctness.
The Rakaia sometimes comes down with a run--a wall of water two feet
high, rolling over and over, rushes down with irresistible force. I
know a gentleman who had been looking at some sheep upon an island in
the Rakaia, and, after finishing his survey, was riding leisurely to the
bank on which his house was situated. Suddenly, he saw the river coming
down upon him in the manner I have described, and not more than two or
three hundred yards off. By a forcible application of the spur, he was
enabled to reach terra firma, just in time to see the water sweeping
with an awful roar over the spot that he had been traversing not a
second previously. This is not frequent: a fresh generally takes four
or five hours to come down, and from two days to a week, ten days, or a
fortnight, to subside again.

If I were to speak of the rise of the Rakaia, or rather of the numerous
branches which form it; of their vast and wasteful beds; the glaciers
that they spring from, one of which comes down half-way across the
river-bed (thus tending to prove that the glaciers are descending, for
the river-bed is both ABOVE and BELOW the glacier); of the wonderful
gorge with its terraces rising shelf upon shelf, like fortifications,
many hundred feet above the river; the crystals found there, and the
wild pigs--I should weary the reader too much, and fill half a volume:
the bullocks must again claim our attention, and I unwillingly revert to
my subject.

On the night of our arrival at the Rakaia I did not yard the bullocks,
as they seemed inclined to stay quietly with some others that were about
the place; next morning they were gone. Were they up the river, or down
the river, across the river, or gone back? You are at Cambridge, and
have lost your bullocks. They were bred in Yorkshire, but have been
used a good deal in the neighbourhood of Dorchester, and may have
consequently made in either direction; they may, however, have worked
down the Cam, and be in full feed for Lynn; or, again, they may be
snugly stowed away in a gully half-way between the Fitzwilliam Museum
and Trumpington. You saw a mob of cattle feeding quietly about
Madingley on the preceding evening, and they may have joined in with
these; or were they attracted by the fine feed in the neighbourhood of
Cherryhinton? Where shall you go to look for them?

Matters in reality, however, are not so bad as this. A bullock cannot
walk without leaving a track, if the ground he travels on is capable of
receiving one. Again, if he does not know the country in advance of
him, the chances are strong that he has gone back the way he came; he
will travel in a track if he happens to light on one; he finds it easier
going. Animals are cautious in proceeding onwards when they don't know
the ground. They have ever a lion in their path until they know it, and
have found it free from beasts of prey. If, however, they have been
seen heading decidedly in any direction over-night, in that direction
they will most likely be found sooner or later. Bullocks cannot go long
without water. They will travel to a river, then they will eat, drink,
and be merry, and during that period of fatal security they will be

Ours had gone back ten miles, to the Waikitty; we soon obtained clues as
to their whereabouts, and had them back again in time to proceed on our
journey. The river being very low, we did not unload the dray and put
the contents across in the boat, but drove the bullocks straight
through. Eighteen weary monotonous miles over the same plains, covered
with the same tussock grass, and dotted with the same cabbage-trees.
The mountains, however, grew gradually nearer, and Banks Peninsula
dwindled perceptibly. That night we made Mr. M-'s station, and were

Again we did not yard the bullocks, and again we lost them. They were
only five miles off, but we did not find them till afternoon, and lost a
day. As they had travelled in all nearly forty miles, I had had mercy
upon them, intending that they should fill themselves well during the
night, and be ready for a long pull next day. Even the merciful man
himself, however, would except a working bullock from the beasts who
have any claim upon his good feeling. Let him go straining his eyes
examining every dark spot in a circumference many long miles in extent.
Let him gallop a couple of miles in this direction and the other, and
discover that he has only been lessening the distance between himself
and a group of cabbage-trees; let him feel the word "bullock" eating
itself in indelible characters into his heart, and he will refrain from
mercy to working bullocks as long as he lives. But as there are few
positive pleasures equal in intensity to the negative one of release
from pain, so it is when at last a group of six oblong objects, five
dark and one white, appears in remote distance, distinct and
unmistakable. Yes, they are our bullocks; a sigh of relief follows, and
we drive them sharply home, gloating over their distended tongues and
slobbering mouths. If there is one thing a bullock hates worse than
another it is being driven too fast. His heavy lumbering carcase is
mated with a no less lumbering soul. He is a good, slow, steady,
patient slave if you let him take his own time about it; but don't hurry
him. He has played a very important part in the advancement of
civilisation and the development of the resources of the world, a part
which the more fiery horse could not have played; let us then bear with
his heavy trailing gait and uncouth movements; only next time we will
keep him tight, even though he starve for it. If bullocks be invariably
driven sharply back to the dray, whenever they have strayed from it,
they will soon learn not to go far off, and will be cured even of the
most inveterate vagrant habits.

Now we follow up one branch of the Ashburton, and commence making
straight for the mountains; still, however, we are on the same
monotonous plains, and crawl our twenty miles with very few objects that
can possibly serve as landmarks. It is wonderful how small an object
gets a name in the great dearth of features. Cabbage-tree hill, half-
way between Main's and the Waikitty, is an almost imperceptible rise
some ten yards across and two or three feet high: the cabbage-trees
have disappeared. Between the Rakaia and Mr. M-'s station is a place
they call the half-way gully, but it is neither a gully nor half-way,
being only a grip in the earth, causing no perceptible difference in the
level of the track, and extending but a few yards on either side of it.
So between Mr. M-'s and the next halting-place (save two sheep-stations)
I remember nothing but a rather curiously shaped gowai-tree, and a dead
bullock, that can form milestones, as it were, to mark progress. Each
person, however, for himself makes innumerable ones, such as where one
peak in the mountain range goes behind another, and so on.

In the small River Ashburton, or rather in one of its most trivial
branches, we had a little misunderstanding with the bullocks; the
leaders, for some reason best known to themselves, slewed sharply round,
and tied themselves into an inextricable knot with the polars, while the
body bullocks, by a manoeuvre not unfrequent, shifted, or as it is
technically termed slipped, the yoke under their necks, and the bows
over; the off bullock turning upon the near side and the near bullock
upon the off. By what means they do this I cannot explain, but believe
it would make a conjuror's fortune in England. How they got the chains
between their legs and how they kicked to liberate themselves, how we
abused them, and, finally, unchaining them, set them right, I need not
here particularise; we finally triumphed, but this delay caused us not
to reach our destination till after dark.

Here the good woman of the house took us into her confidence in the
matter of her corns, from the irritated condition of which she argued
that bad weather was about to ensue. The next morning, however, we
started anew, and, after about three or four miles, entered the valley
of the south and larger Ashburton, bidding adieu to the plains

And now that I approach the description of the gorge, I feel utterly
unequal to the task, not because the scene is awful or beautiful, for in
this respect the gorge of the Ashburton is less remarkable than most,
but because the subject of gorges is replete with difficulty, and I have
never heard a satisfactory explanation of the phenomena they exhibit.
It is not, however, my province to attempt this. I must content myself
with narrating what I see.

First, there is the river, flowing very rapidly upon a bed of large
shingle, with alternate rapids and smooth places, constantly forking and
constantly reuniting itself like tangled skeins of silver ribbon
surrounding lozenge-shaped islets of sand and gravel. On either side is
a long flat composed of shingle similar to the bed of the river itself,
but covered with vegetation, tussock, and scrub, with fine feed for
sheep or cattle among the burnt Irishman thickets. The flat is some
half-mile broad on each side the river, narrowing as the mountains draw
in closer upon the stream. It is terminated by a steep terrace. Twenty
or thirty feet above this terrace is another flat, we will say
semicircular, for I am generalising, which again is surrounded by a
steeply sloping terrace like an amphitheatre; above this another flat,
receding still farther back, perhaps half a mile in places, perhaps
almost close above the one below it; above this another flat, receding
farther, and so on, until the level of the plain proper, or highest
flat, is several hundred feet above the river. I have not seen a single
river in Canterbury which is not more or less terraced even below the
gorge. The angle of the terrace is always very steep: I seldom see one
less than 45 degrees. One always has to get off and lead one's horse
down, except when an artificial cutting has been made, or advantage can
be taken of some gully that descends into the flat below. Tributary
streams are terraced in like manner on a small scale, while even the
mountain creeks repeat the phenomena in miniature: the terraces being
always highest where the river emerges from its gorge, and slowly
dwindling down as it approaches the sea, till finally, instead of the
river being many hundred feet below the level of the plains, as is the
case at the foot of the mountains, the plains near the sea are
considerably below the water in the river, as on the north side of the
Rakaia, before described.

Our road lay up the Ashburton, which we had repeatedly to cross and

A dray going through a river is a pretty sight enough when you are
utterly unconcerned in the contents thereof; the rushing water stemmed
by the bullocks and the dray, the energetic appeals of the driver to
Tommy or Nobbler to lift the dray over the large stones in the river,
the creaking dray, the cracking whip, form a tout ensemble rather
agreeable than otherwise. But when the bullocks, having pulled the dray
into the middle of the river, refuse entirely to pull it out again; when
the leaders turn sharp round and look at you, or stick their heads under
the bellies of the polars; when the gentle pats on the forehead with the
stock of the whip prove unavailing, and you are obliged to have recourse
to strong measures, it is less agreeable: especially if the animals
turn just after having got your dray half-way up the bank, and, twisting
it round upon a steeply inclined surface, throw the centre of gravity
far beyond the base: over goes the dray into the water. Alas, my
sugar! my tea! my flour! my crockery! It is all over--drop the curtain.

I beg to state my dray did not upset this time, though the centre of
gravity fell far without the base: what Newton says on that subject is
erroneous; so are those illustrations of natural philosophy, in which a
loaded dray is represented as necessarily about to fall, because a
dotted line from the centre of gravity falls outside the wheels. It
takes a great deal more to upset a well-loaded dray than one would have
imagined, although sometimes the most unforeseen trifle will effect it.
Possibly the value of the contents may have something to do with it; but
my ideas are not yet fully formed upon the subject.

We made about seventeen miles and crossed the river ten times, so that
the bullocks, which had never before been accustomed to river-work,
became quite used to it, and manageable, and have continued so ever

We halted for the night at a shepherd's hut: awakening out of slumber I
heard the fitful gusts of violent wind come puff, puff, buffet, and die
away again; nor'-wester all over. I went out and saw the unmistakable
north-west clouds tearing away in front of the moon. I remembered Mrs.
W-'s corns, and anathematised them in my heart.

It may be imagined that I turned out of a comfortable bed, slipped on my
boots, and then went out; no such thing: we were all lying in our
clothes with one blanket between us and the bare floor--our heads
pillowed on our saddle-bags.

The next day we made only three miles to Mr. P-'s station. There we
unloaded the dray, greased it, and restored half the load, intending to
make another journey for the remainder, as the road was very bad.

One dray had been over the ground before us. That took four days to do
the first ten miles, and then was delayed several weeks on the bank of
the Rangitata by a series of very heavy freshes, so we determined on
trying a different route: we got farther on our first day than our
predecessor had done in two, and then Possum, one of the bullocks, lay
down (I am afraid he had had an awful hammering in a swampy creek where
he had stuck for two hours), and would not stir an inch; so we turned
them all adrift with their yokes on (had we taken them off we could not
have yoked them up again), whereat Possum began feeding in a manner
which plainly showed that there had not been much amiss with him. But
during the interval that elapsed between our getting into the swampy
creek and getting out of it a great change had come over the weather.
While poor Possum was being chastised I had been reclining on the bank
hard by, and occasionally interceding for the unhappy animal, the men
were all at him (but what is one to do if one's dray is buried nearly to
the axle in a bog, and Possum won't pull?); so I was taking it easy,
without coat or waistcoat, and even then feeling as if no place could be
too cool to please me, for the nor'-wester was still blowing strong and
intensely hot, when suddenly I felt a chill, and looking at the lake
below saw that the white-headed waves had changed their direction, and
that the wind had chopped round to sou'-west.

We left the dray and went on some two or three miles on foot for the
purpose of camping where there was firewood. There was a hut, too, in
the place for which we were making. It was not yet roofed, and had
neither door nor window; but as it was near firewood and water we made
for it, had supper, and turned in.

In the middle of the night someone, poking his nose out of his blanket,
informed us that it was snowing, and in the morning we found it
continuing to do so, with a good sprinkling on the ground. We thought
nothing of it, and, returning to the dray, found the bullocks, put them
to, and started on our way; but when we came above the gully, at the
bottom of which the hut lay, we were obliged to give in. There was a
very bad creek, which we tried in vain for an hour or so to cross. The
snow was falling very thickly, and driving right into the bullocks'
faces. We were all very cold and weary, and determined to go down to
the hut again, expecting fine weather in the morning. We carried down a
kettle, a camp oven, some flour, tea, sugar, and salt beef; also a novel
or two, and the future towels of the establishment, which wanted
hemming; also the two cats. Thus equipped we went down the gulley, and
got back to the hut about three o'clock in the afternoon. The gulley
sheltered us, and there the snow was kind and warm, though bitterly cold
on the terrace. We threw a few burnt Irishman sticks across the top of
the walls, and put a couple of counterpanes over them, thus obtaining a
little shelter near the fire. The snow inside the hut was about six
inches deep, and soon became sloppy, so that at night we preferred to
make a hole in the snow and sleep outside.

The fall continued all that night, and in the morning we found ourselves
thickly covered. It was still snowing hard, so there was no stirring.
We read the novels, hemmed the towels, smoked, and took it
philosophically. There was plenty of firewood to keep us warm. By
night the snow was fully two feet thick everywhere, and in the drifts
five and six feet. I determined that we would have some grog, and had
no sooner hinted the bright idea than two volunteers undertook the
rather difficult task of getting it. The terrace must have been 150
feet above the hut; it was very steep, intersected by numerous gullies
filled with deeply drifted snow; from the top it was yet a full quarter
of a mile to the place where we had left the dray. Still the brave
fellows, inspired with hope, started in full confidence, while we put
our kettle on the fire and joyfully awaited their return. They had been
gone at least two hours, and we were getting fearful that they had
broached the cask and helped themselves too liberally on the way, when
they returned in triumph with the two-gallon keg, vowing that never in
their lives before had they worked so hard. How unjustly we had
suspected them will appear in the sequel.

Great excitement prevailed over drawing the cork. It was fast; it broke
the point of someone's knife. "Shove it in," said I, breathless with
impatience; no--no--it yielded, and shortly afterwards, giving up all
opposition, came quickly out. A tin pannikin was produced. With a
gurgling sound out flowed the precious liquid. "Halloa!" said one;
"it's not brandy, it's port wine." "Port wine!" cried another; "it
smells more like rum." I voted for its being claret; another moment,
however, settled the question, and established the contents of the cask
as being excellent vinegar. The two unfortunate men had brought the
vinegar keg instead of the brandy.

The rest may be imagined. That night, however, two of us were attacked
with diarrhoea, and the vinegar proved of great service, for vinegar and
water is an admirable remedy for this complaint.

The snow continued till afternoon the next day. It then sulkily ceased,
and commenced thawing. At night it froze very hard indeed, and the next
day a nor'-wester sprang up which made the snow disappear with the most
astonishing rapidity. Not having then learnt that no amount of melting
snow will produce any important effect upon the river, and, fearing that
it might rise, we determined to push on: but this was as yet
impossible. Next morning, however, we made an early start, and got
triumphantly to our journey's end at about half-past ten o'clock. My
own country, which lay considerably lower, was entirely free of snow,
while we learnt afterwards that it had never been deeper than four


Taking up the Run--Hut within the Boundary--Land Regulations--Race to
Christ Church--Contest for Priority of Application--Successful issue--
Winds and their Effects--Their conflicting Currents--Sheep crossing the

There was a little hut on my run built by another person, and tenanted
by his shepherd. G- had an application for 5,000 acres in the same
block of country with mine, and as the boundaries were uncertain until
the whole was surveyed, and the runs definitely marked out on the
Government maps, he had placed his hut upon a spot that turned out
eventually not to belong to him. I had waited to see how the land was
allotted before I took it up. Knowing the country well, and finding it
allotted to my satisfaction, I made my bargain on the same day that the
question was settled. I took a tracing from the Government map up with
me, and we arrived on the run about a fortnight after the allotment. It
was necessary for me to wait for this, or I might have made the same
mistake which G- had done. His hut was placed where it was now of no
use to him whatever, but on the very site on which I had myself intended
to build. It is beyond all possibility of doubt upon my run; but G- is
a very difficult man to deal with, and I have had a hard task to get rid
of him. To allow him to remain where he was was not to be thought of:
but I was perfectly ready to pay him for his hut (such as it is) and his
yard. Knowing him to be at P-'s, I set the men to their contract, and
went down next day to see him and to offer him any compensation for the
loss of his hut which a third party might arrange. I could do nothing
with him; he threatened fiercely, and would hear no reason. My only
remedy was to go down to Christ Church at once and buy the freehold of
the site from the Government.

The Canterbury regulations concerning the purchase of waste lands from
the Crown are among the very best existing. They are all free to any
purchaser with the exception of a few Government reserves for certain
public purposes, as railway-township reserves, and so forth. Every run-
holder has a pre-emptive right over 250 acres round his homestead, and
50 acres round any other buildings he may have upon his run. He must
register this right, or it is of no avail. By this means he is secured
from an enemy buying up his homestead without his previous knowledge.
Whoever wishes to purchase a sheep farmer's homestead must first give
him a considerable notice, and then can only buy if the occupant refuses
to do so at the price of 2 pounds an acre. Of course the occupant would
NOT refuse, and the thing is consequently never attempted. All the
rest, however, of any man's run is open to purchase at the rate of 2
pounds per acre. This price is sufficient to prevent monopoly, and yet
not high enough to interfere with the small capitalist. The sheep
farmer cannot buy up his run and stand in the way of the development of
the country, and at the same time he is secured from the loss of it
through others buying, because the price is too high to make it worth a
man's while to do so when so much better investments are still open. On
the plains, however, many run-holders are becoming seriously uneasy even
at the present price, and blocks of 1000 acres are frequently bought
with a view to their being fenced in and laid down in English grasses.
In the back country this has not yet commenced, nor is it likely to do
so for many years.

But to return. Firstly, G- had not registered any pre-emptive right,
and, secondly, if he had it would have been worthless, because his hut
was situated on my run and not on his own. I was sure that he had not
bought the freehold; I was also certain that he meant to buy it. So,
well knowing there was not a moment to lose, I went towards Christ
Church the same afternoon, and supped at a shepherd's hut three miles
lower down, and intended to travel quietly all night.

The Ashburton, however, was heavily freshed, and the night was pitch
dark. After crossing and re-crossing it four times I was afraid to go
on, and camping down, waited for daylight. Resuming my journey with
early dawn, I had not gone far when, happening to turn round, I saw a
man on horseback about a quarter of a mile behind me. I knew at once
that this was G-, and letting him come up with me, we rode for some
miles together, each of us of course well aware of the other's
intentions, but too politic to squabble about them when squabbling was
no manner of use. It was then early on the Wednesday morning, and the
Board sat on the following day. A book is kept at the Land-Office
called the application-book, in which anyone who has business with the
Board enters his name, and his case is attended to in the order in which
his name stands. The race between G- and myself was as to who should
first get his name down in this book, and secure the ownership of the
hut by purchasing the freehold of twenty acres round it. We had nearly
a hundred miles to ride; the office closed at four in the afternoon, and
I knew that G- could not possibly be in time for that day; I had
therefore till ten o'clock on the following morning; that is to say,
about twenty-four hours from the time we parted company. Knowing that I
could be in town by that time, I took it easily, and halted for
breakfast at the first station we came to. G- went on, and I saw him no

I feared that our applications would be simultaneous, or that we should
have an indecorous scuffle for the book in the Land Office itself. In
this case, there would only have remained the unsatisfactory alternative
of drawing lots for precedence. There was nothing for it but to go on,
and see how matters would turn up. Before midday, and whilst still
sixty miles from town, my horse knocked-up completely, and would not go
another step. G-'s horse, only two months before, had gone a hundred
miles in less than fifteen hours, and was now pitted against mine, which
was thoroughly done-up. Rather anticipating this, I had determined on
keeping the tracks, thus passing stations where I might have a chance of
getting a fresh mount. G- took a short cut, saving fully ten miles in
distance, but travelling over a very stony country, with no track. A
track is a great comfort to a horse.

I shall never forget my relief when, at a station where I had already
received great kindness, I obtained the loan of a horse that had been
taken up that morning from a three-months' spell. No greater service
could, at the time, have been rendered me, and I felt that I had indeed
met with a friend in need.

The prospect was now brilliant, save that the Rakaia was said to be very
heavily freshed. Fearing I might have to swim for it, I left my watch
at M-'s, and went on with the satisfactory reflection that, at any rate,
if I could not cross, G- could not do so either. To my delight,
however, the river was very low, and I forded it without the smallest
difficulty a little before sunset. A few hours afterwards, down it
came. I heard that G- was an hour ahead of me, but this was of no
consequence. Riding ten miles farther, and now only twenty-five miles
from Christ Church, I called at an accommodation-house, and heard that
G- was within, so went on, and determined to camp and rest my horse.
The night was again intensely dark, and it soon came on to rain so
heavily that there was nothing for it but to start again for the next
accommodation-house, twelve miles from town. I slept there a few hours,
and by seven o'clock next morning was in Christ Church. So was G-. We
could neither of us do anything till the Land Office opened at ten
o'clock. At twenty minutes before ten I repaired thither, expecting to
find G- in waiting, and anticipating a row. If it came to fists, I
should get the worst of it--that was a moral certainty--and I really
half-feared something of the kind. To my surprise, the office-doors
were open--all the rooms were open--and on reaching that in which the
application-book was kept, I found it already upon the table. I opened
it with trembling fingers, and saw my adversary's name written in bold
handwriting, defying me, as it were, to do my worst.

The clock, as the clerk was ready to witness, was twenty minutes before
ten. I learnt from him also that G- had written his name down about
half an hour. This was all right. My course was to wait till after
ten, write my name, and oppose G-'s application as having been entered
unduly, and before office-hours. I have no doubt that I should have
succeeded in gaining my point in this way, but a much easier victory was
in store for me.

Running my eye through the list of names, to my great surprise I saw my
own among them. It had been entered by my solicitor, on another matter
of business, the previous day, but it stood next BELOW G-'s. G-'s name,
then, had clearly been inserted unfairly, out of due order. The whole
thing was made clear to the Commissioners of the Waste Lands, and I need
not say that I effected my purchase without difficulty. A few weeks
afterwards, allowing him for his hut and yard, I bought G- out entirely.
I will now return to the Rangitata.

There is a large flat on either side of it, sloping very gently down to
the river-bed proper, which is from one to two miles across. The one
flat belongs to me, and that on the north bank to another. The river is
very easily crossed, as it flows in a great many channels; in a fresh,
therefore, it is still often fordable. We found it exceedingly low, as
the preceding cold had frozen up the sources, whilst the nor'-wester
that followed was of short duration, and unaccompanied with the hot
tropical rain which causes the freshes. The nor'-westers are vulgarly
supposed to cause freshes simply by melting the snow upon the back
ranges. We, however, and all who live near the great range, and see the
nor'-wester while still among the snowy ranges, know for certain that
the river does not rise more than two or three inches, nor lose its
beautiful milky blue colour, unless the wind be accompanied with rain
upon the great range--rain extending sometimes as low down as the
commencement of the plains. These rains are warm and heavy, and make
the feed beautifully green.

The nor'-westers are a very remarkable feature in the climate of this
settlement. They are excessively violent, sometimes shaking the very
house; hot, dry, from having already poured out their moisture, and
enervating like the Italian sirocco. The fact seems to be, that the
nor'-west winds come heated from the tropics, and charged with moisture
from the ocean, and this is precipitated by the ice-fields of the
mountains in deluges of rain, chiefly on the western side, but
occasionally extending some distance to the east. They blow from two or
three hours to as many days, and if they last any length of time, are
generally succeeded by a sudden change to sou'-west--the cold, rainy, or
snowy wind. We catch the nor'-west in full force, but are sheltered
from the sou'-west, which, with us, is a quiet wind, accompanied with
gentle drizzling but cold rain, and, in the winter, snow.

The nor'-wester is first descried on the river-bed. Through the door of
my hut, from which the snowy range is visible, at our early breakfast, I
see a lovely summer's morning, breathlessly quiet, and intensely hot.
Suddenly a little cloud of dust is driven down the river-bed a mile and
a half off; it increases, till one would think the river was on fire,
and that the opposite mountains were obscured by volumes of smoke.
Still it is calm with us. By and by, as the day increases, the wind
gathers strength, and, extending beyond the river-bed, gives the flats
on either side a benefit; then it catches the downs, and generally blows
hard till four or five o'clock, when it calms down, and is followed by a
cool and tranquil night, delightful to every sense. If, however, the
wind does not cease, and it has been raining up the gorges, there will
be a fresh; and, if the rain has come down any distance from the main
range, it will be a heavy fresh; while if there has been a clap or two
of thunder (a very rare occurrence), it will be a fresh in which the
river will not be fordable. The floods come and go with great rapidity.
The river will begin to rise a very few hours after the rain commences,
and will generally have subsided to its former level about forty-eight
hours after the rain has ceased.

As we generally come in for the tail-end of the nor'-western rains, so
we sometimes, though less frequently, get that of the sou'-west winds
also. The sou'-west rain comes to us up the river through the lower
gorge, and is consequently sou'-east rain with us, owing to the
direction of the valley. But it is always called sou'-west if it comes
from the southward at all. In fact, there are only three recognised
winds, the north-west, the north-east, and the south-west, and I never
recollect perceiving the wind to be in any other quarter, saving from
local causes. The north-east is most prevalent in summer, and blows
with delightful freshness during the greater part of the day, often
rendering the hottest weather very pleasant.

It is curious to watch the battle between the north-west and south-east
wind, as we often see it. For some days, perhaps, the upper gorges may
have been obscured with dark and surging clouds, and the snowy ranges
hidden from view. Suddenly the mountains at the lower end of the valley
become banked-up with clouds, and the sand begins to blow up the river-
bed some miles below, while it is still blowing down with us. The
southerly "burster," as it is called, gradually creeps up, and at last
drives the other off the field. A few chilly puffs, then a great one,
and in a minute or two the air becomes cold, even in the height of
summer. Indeed, I have seen snow fall on the 12th of January. It was
not much, but the air was as cold as in mid-winter.

The force of the south-west wind is here broken by the front ranges, and
on these it often leaves its rain or snow, while we are quite exempt
from either. We frequently hear both of more rain and of more snow on
the plains than we have had, though my hut is at an elevation of 1840
feet above the level of the sea. On the plains, it will often blow for
forty-eight hours, accompanied by torrents of pelting, pitiless rain,
and is sometimes so violent, that there is hardly any possibility of
making headway against it. Sheep race before it as hard as they can go
helter-skelter, leaving their lambs behind them to shift for themselves.
There is no shelter on the plains, and, unless stopped by the shepherds,
they will drive from one river to the next. The shepherds, therefore,
have a hard time of it, for they must be out till the wind goes down;
and the worse the weather the more absolutely necessary it is that they
should be with the sheep. Different flocks not unfrequently join during
these gales, and the nuisance to both the owners is very great.

In the back country, sheep can always find shelter in the gullies, or
under the lee of the mountain.

We have here been singularly favoured with regard to snow this last
winter, for whereas I was absolutely detained by the snow upon the
plains on my way from Christ Church, because my horse would have had
nothing to eat had I gone on, when I arrived at home I found they had
been all astonishment as to what could possibly have been keeping me so
long away.

The nor'-westers sometimes blow even in mid-winter, but are most
frequent in spring and summer, sometimes continuing for a fortnight

During a nor'-wester, the sand on the river-bed is blinding, filling
eyes, nose, and ears, and stinging sharply every exposed part. I lately
had the felicity of getting a small mob of sheep into the river-bed
(with a view of crossing them on to my own country) whilst this wind was
blowing. There were only between seven and eight hundred, and as we
were three, with two dogs, we expected to be able to put them through
ourselves. We did so through the two first considerable streams, and
then could not get them to move on any farther. As they paused, I will
take the opportunity to digress and describe the process of putting
sheep across a river.

The first thing is to carefully secure a spot fitted for the purpose,
for which the principal requisites are: first, that the current set for
the opposite bank, so that the sheep will be carried towards it. Sheep
cannot swim against a strong current, and if the stream be flowing
evenly down mid-channel, they will be carried down a long way before
they land; if, however, it sets at all towards the side from which they
started, they will probably be landed by the stream on that same side.
Therefore the current should flow towards the opposite bank. Secondly,
there must be a good landing-place for the sheep. A spot must not be
selected where the current sweeps underneath a hollow bank of gravel or
a perpendicular wall of shingle; the bank on to which the sheep are to
land must shelve, no matter how steeply, provided it does not rise
perpendicularly out of the water. Thirdly, a good place must be chosen
for putting them in; the water must not become deep all at once, or the
sheep won't face it. It must be shallow at the commencement, so that
they may have got too far to recede before they find their mistake.
Fourthly, there should be no tutu in the immediate vicinity of either
the place where the sheep are put into the river or that on to which
they are to come out; for, in spite of your most frantic endeavours, you
will be very liable to get some sheep tuted. These requisites being
secured, the depth of the water is, of course, a matter of no moment;
the narrowness of the stream being a point of far greater importance.
These rivers abound in places combining every requisite.

The sheep being mobbed up together near the spot where they are intended
to enter the water, the best plan is to split off a small number, say a
hundred or hundred and fifty (a larger mob would be less easily
managed), dog them, bark at them yourself furiously, beat them, spread
out arms and legs to prevent their escaping, and raise all the
unpleasant din about their ears that you possibly can. In spite of all
that you can do they will very likely break through you and make back;
if so, persevere as before, and in about ten minutes a single sheep will
be seen eyeing the opposite bank, and evidently meditating an attempt to
gain it. Pause a moment that you interrupt not a consummation so
devoutly to be wished; the sheep bounds forward with three or four jumps
into midstream, is carried down, and thence on to the opposite bank;
immediately that one sheep has entered, let one man get into the river
below them, and splash water up at them to keep them from working lower
and lower down the stream and getting into a bad place; let another be
bringing up the remainder of the mob, so that they may have come up
before the whole of the leading body are over; if this be done they will
cross in a string of their own accord, and there will be no more trouble
from the moment when the first sheep entered the water.

If the sheep are obstinate and will not take the water, it is a good
plan to haul one or two over first, pulling them through by the near
hind leg; these will often entice the others, or a few lambs will
encourage their mothers to come over to them, unless indeed they
immediately swim back to their mothers: the first was the plan we

As I said, our sheep were got across the first two streams without much
difficulty; then they became completely silly. The awful wind, so high
that we could scarcely hear ourselves talk, the blinding sand, the cold
glacier water, rendered more chilling by the strong wind, which,
contrary to custom, was very cold, all combined to make them quite
stupid; the little lambs stuck up their backs and shut their eyes and
looked very shaky on their legs, while the bigger ones and the ewes
would do nothing but turn round and stare at us. Our dogs knocked-up
completely, and we ourselves were somewhat tired and hungry, partly from
night-watching and partly from having fasted since early dawn, whereas
it was now four o'clock. Still we must get the sheep over somehow, for
a heavy fresh was evidently about to come down; the river was yet low,
and could we get them over before dark they would be at home. I rode
home to fetch assistance and food; these arriving, by our united efforts
we got them over every stream, save the last, before eight o'clock, and
then it became quite dark, and we left them. The wind changed from very
cold to very hot--it literally blew hot and cold in the same breath.
Rain came down in torrents, six claps of thunder (thunder is very rare
here) followed in succession about midnight, and very uneasy we all
were. Next morning, before daybreak, we were by the river side; the
fresh had come down, and we crossed over to the sheep with difficulty,
finding them up to their bellies in water huddled up in a mob together.
We shifted them on to one of the numerous islands, where they were
secure, and had plenty of feed, and with great difficulty recrossed, the
river having greatly risen since we had got upon its bed. In two days'
time it had gone down sufficiently to allow of our getting the sheep
over, and we did so without the loss of a single one.

I hardly know why I have introduced this into an account of a trip with
a bullock dray; it is, however, a colonial incident, such as might
happen any day. In a life of continual excitement one thinks very
little of these things. They may, however, serve to give English
readers a glimpse of some of the numerous incidents which, constantly
occurring in one shape or other, render the life of a colonist not only
endurable, but actually pleasant.


Plants of Canterbury--Turnip--Tutu--Ferns--Ti Palm--Birds--Paradise
Duck--Tern--Quail--Wood Hen--Robin--Linnet--Pigeon--Moa--New Parroquet--

The flora of this province is very disappointing, and the absence of
beautiful flowers adds to the uninteresting character which too
generally pervades the scenery, save among the great Southern Alps
themselves. There is no burst of bloom as there is in Switzerland and
Italy, and the trees being, with few insignificant exceptions, all
evergreen, the difference between winter and summer is chiefly
perceptible by the state of the grass and the temperature. I do not
know one really pretty flower which belongs to the plains; I believe
there are one or two, but they are rare, and form no feature in the
landscape. I never yet saw a blue flower growing wild here, nor indeed
one of any other colour but white or yellow; if there are such they do
not prevail, and their absence is sensibly felt. We have no soldanellas
and auriculas, and Alpine cowslips, no brilliant gentians and anemones.
We have one very stupid white gentian; but it is, to say the least of
it, uninteresting to a casual observer. We have violets, very like
those at home, but they are small and white, and have no scent. We have
also a daisy, very like the English, but not nearly so pretty; we have a
great ugly sort of Michaelmas daisy too, and any amount of spaniard. I
do not say but that by hunting on the peninsula, one might find one or
two beautiful species, but simply that on the whole the flowers are few
and ugly. The only plant good to eat is Maori cabbage, and that is
swede turnip gone wild, from seed left by Captain Cook. Some say it is
indigenous, but I do not believe it. The Maoris carry the seed about
with them, and sow it wherever they camp. I should rather write, USED
to sow it where they CAMPED, for the Maoris in this island are almost a
thing of the past.

The root of the spaniard, it should be added, will support life for some
little time.

Tutu (pronounced toot) is a plant which abounds upon the plains for some
few miles near the river-beds; it is at first sight not much unlike
myrtle, but is in reality a wholly different sort of plant; it dies down
in the winter, and springs up again from its old roots. These roots are
sometimes used for firewood, and are very tough, so much so as not
unfrequently to break ploughs. It is poisonous for sheep and cattle if
eaten on an empty stomach.

New Zealand is rich in ferns. We have a tree-fern which grows as high
as twenty feet. We have also some of the English species; among them I
believe the Hymenophyllum Tunbridgense, with many of the same tribe. I
see a little fern which, to my eyes, is our English Asplenium
Trichomanes. Every English fern which I know has a variety something
like it here, though seldom identical. We have one to correspond with
the adder's tongue and moonwort, with the Adiantum nigrum and Capillus
Veneris, with the Blechnum boreale, with the Ceterach and Ruta muraria,
and with the Cystopterids. I never saw a Woodsia here; but I think that
every other English family is represented, and that we have many more
besides. On the whole, the British character of many of the ferns is
rather striking, as indeed is the case with our birds and insects; but,
with a few conspicuous exceptions, the old country has greatly the
advantage over us.

The cabbage-tree or ti palm is not a true palm, though it looks like
one. It has not the least resemblance to a cabbage. It has a tuft of
green leaves, which are rather palmy-looking at a distance, and which
springs from the top of a pithy, worthless stem, varying from one to
twenty or thirty feet in height. Sometimes the stem is branched at the
top, and each branch ends in a tuft. The flax and the cabbage-tree and
the tussock-grass are the great botanical features of the country. Add
fern and tutu, and for the back country, spear-grass and Irishman, and
we have summed up such prevalent plants as strike the eye.

As for the birds, they appear at first sight very few indeed. On the
plains one sees a little lark with two white feathers in the tail, and
in other respects exactly like the English skylark, save that he does
not soar, and has only a little chirrup instead of song. There are also
paradise ducks, hawks, terns, red-bills, and sand-pipers, seagulls, and
occasionally, though very rarely, a quail.

The paradise duck is a very beautiful bird. The male appears black,
with white on the wing, when flying: when on the ground, however, he
shows some dark greys and glossy greens and russets, which make him very
handsome. He is truly a goose, and not a duck. He says "whiz" through
his throat, and dwells a long time upon the "z." He is about the size
of a farmyard duck. The plumage of the female is really gorgeous. Her
head is pure white, and her body beautifully coloured with greens and
russets and white. She screams, and does not say "whiz." Her mate is
much fonder of her than she is of him, for if she is wounded he will
come to see what is the matter, whereas if he is hurt his base partner
flies instantly off and seeks new wedlock, affording a fresh example of
the superior fidelity of the male to the female sex. When they have
young, they feign lameness, like the plover. I have several times been
thus tricked by them. One soon, however, becomes an old bird oneself,
and is not to be caught with such chaff any more. We look about for the
young ones, clip off the top joint of one wing, and leave them; thus, in
a few months' time, we can get prime young ducks for the running after
them. The old birds are very bad eating. I rather believe they are
aware of this, for they are very bold, and come very close to us. There
are two that constantly come within ten yards of my hut, and I hope mean
to build in the neighbourhood, for the eggs are excellent. Being geese,
and not ducks, they eat grass. The young birds are called flappers till
they can fly, and can be run down easily.

The hawk is simply a large hawk, and to the unscientific nothing more.
There is a small sparrow-hawk, too, which is very bold, and which will
attack a man if he goes near its nest.

The tern is a beautiful little bird about twice as big as a swallow, and
somewhat resembling it in its flight, but much more graceful. It has a
black satin head, and lavender satin and white over the rest of its
body. It has an orange bill and feet; and is not seen 4 in the back
country during the winter.

The red-bill is, I believe, identical with the oyster-catcher of the
Cornish coast. It has a long orange bill, and orange feet, and is black
and white over the body.

The sand-piper is very like the lark in plumage.

The quail is nearly exterminated. It is exactly like a small partridge,
and is most excellent eating. Ten years ago it was very abundant, but
now it is very rarely seen. The poor little thing is entirely
defenceless; it cannot take more than three flights, and then it is done
up. Some say the fires have destroyed them; some say the sheep have
trod on their eggs; some that they have all been hunted down: my own
opinion is that the wild cats, which have increased so as to be very
numerous, have driven the little creatures nearly off the face of the

There are wood hens also on the plains; but, though very abundant, they
are not much seen. The wood hen is a bird rather resembling the
pheasant tribe in plumage, but not so handsome. It has a long, sharp
bill and long feet. It is about the size of a hen. It cannot fly, but
sticks its little bob-tail up and down whenever it walks, and has a
curious Paul-Pry-like gait, which is rather amusing. It is exceedingly
bold, and will come sometimes right into a house. It is an arrant
thief, moreover, and will steal anything. I know of a case in which one
was seen to take up a gold watch, and run off with it, and of another in
which a number of men, who were camping out, left their pannikins at the
camp, and on their return found them all gone, and only recovered them
by hearing the wood hens tapping their bills against them. Anything
bright excites their greed; anything red, their indignation. They are
reckoned good eating by some; but most people think them exceedingly
rank and unpleasant. From fat wood hens a good deal of oil can be got,
and this oil is very valuable for almost anything where oil is wanted.
It is sovereign for rheumatics, and wounds or bruises; item for
softening one's boots, and so forth. The egg is about the size of a
guinea fowl's, dirtily streaked, and spotted with a dusky purple; it is
one of the best eating eggs I have ever tasted.

I must not omit to mention the white crane, a very beautiful bird, with
immense wings, of the purest white; and the swamp hen, with a tail which
it is constantly bobbing up and down like the wood hen; it has a good
deal of bluish purple about it, and is very handsome.

There are other birds on the plains, especially about the river-beds,
but not many worthy of notice.

In the back country, however, we have a considerable variety. I have
mentioned the kaka and the parroquet.

The robin is a pretty little fellow, in build and manners very like our
English robin, but tamer. His plumage, however, is different, for he
has a dusky black tail coat and a pale canary-coloured waistcoat. When
one is camping out, no sooner has one lit one's fire than several robins
make their appearance, prying into one's whole proceedings with true
robin-like impudence. They have never probably seen a fire before, and
are rather puzzled by it. I heard of one which first lighted on the
embers, which were covered with ashes; finding this unpleasant, he
hopped on to a burning twig; this was worse, so the third time he
lighted on a red-hot coal; whereat, much disgusted, he took himself off,
I hope escaping with nothing but a blistered toe. They frequently come
into my hut. I watched one hop in a few mornings ago, when the
breakfast things were set. First he tried the bread--that was good;
then he tried the sugar--that was good also; then he tried the salt,
which he instantly rejected; and, lastly, he tried a cup of hot tea, on
which he flew away. I have seen them light on a candle (not a lighted
one) and peck the tallow. I fear, however, that these tame ones are too
often killed by the cats. The tomtit is like its English namesake in
shape, but smaller, and with a glossy black head and bright yellow

The wren is a beautiful little bird, much smaller than the English one,
and with green about its plumage.

The tui or parson-bird is a starling, and has a small tuft of white
cravat-like feathers growing from his throat. True to his starling
nature, he has a delicious voice.

We have a thrush, but it is rather rare. It is just like the English,
save that it has some red feathers in its tail.

Our teal is, if not the same as the English teal, so like it, that the
difference is not noticeable.

Our linnet is a little larger than the English, with a clear, bell-like
voice, as of a blacksmith's hammer on an anvil. Indeed, we might call
him the harmonious blacksmith.

The pigeon is larger than the English, and far handsomer. He has much
white and glossy green shot with purple about him, and is one of the
most beautiful birds I ever saw. He is very foolish, and can be noosed
with ease. Tie a string with a noose at the end of it to a long stick,
and you may put it round his neck and catch him. The kakas, too, will
let you do this, and in a few days become quite tame.

Besides these, there is an owl or two. These are heard occasionally,
but not seen. Often at night one hears a solemn cry of "More pork! more
pork! more pork!" I have heard people talk, too, of a laughing jackass
(not the Australian bird of that name), but no one has ever seen it.

Occasionally we hear rumours of the footprint of a moa, and the Nelson
surveyors found fresh foot-tracks of a bird, which were measured for
fourteen inches. Of this there can be little doubt; but since a wood
hen's foot measures four inches, and a wood hen does not stand higher
than a hen, fourteen inches is hardly long enough for the track of a
moa, the largest kind of which stood fifteen feet high. We often find
some of their bones lying in a heap upon the ground, but never a perfect
skeleton. Little heaps of their gizzard stones, too, are constantly
found. They consist of very smooth and polished flints and cornelians,
with sometimes quartz. The bird generally chose rather pretty stones.
I do not remember finding a single sandstone specimen of a moa gizzard
stone. Those heaps are easily distinguished, and very common. Few
people believe in the existence of a moa. If one or two be yet living,
they will probably be found on the West Coast, that yet unexplored
region of forest which may contain sleeping princesses and gold in ton
blocks, and all sorts of good things. A gentleman who lives at the
Kiakoras possesses a moa's egg; it is ten inches by seven. It was
discovered in a Maori grave, and must have been considered precious at
the time it was buried, for the Maoris were accustomed to bury a man's
valuables with him.

I really know of few other birds to tell you about. There is a good
sprinkling more, but they form no feature in the country, and are only
interesting to the naturalist. There is the kiwi, or apteryx, which is
about as large as a turkey, but only found on the West Coast. There is
a green ground parrot too, called the kakapo, a night bird, and hardly
ever found on the eastern side of the island. There is also a very rare
and as yet unnamed kind of kaka, much larger and handsomer than the kaka
itself, of which I and another shot one of the first, if not the very
first, observed specimen. Being hungry, far from home, and without
meat, we ate the interesting creature, but made a note of it for the
benefit of science. Since then it has found its way into more worthy
hands, and was, a few months ago, sent home to be named. Altogether, I
am acquainted with about seventy species of birds belonging to the
Canterbury settlement, and I do not think that there are many more. Two
albatrosses came to my wool-shed about seven months ago, and a dead one
was found at Mount Peel not long since. I did not see the former
myself, but my cook, who was a sailor, watched them for some time, and
his word may be taken. I believe, however, that their coming so far
inland is a very rare occurrence here.

As for the quadrupeds of New Zealand, they are easily disposed of.
There are but two, a kind of rat, which is now banished by the Norway
rat, and an animal of either the otter or beaver species, which is known
rather by rumour than by actual certainty.

The fishes, too, will give us little trouble. There are only a sort of
minnow and an eel. This last grows to a great size, and is abundant
even in the clear, rapid, snow-fed rivers. In every creek one may catch
eels, and they are excellent eating, if they be cooked in such a manner
as to get rid of the oil.

Try them spitchcocked or stewed,
They're too oily when fried,

as Barham says, with his usual good sense. I am told that the other
night a great noise was heard in the kitchen of a gentleman with whom I
have the honour to be acquainted, and that the servants, getting up,
found an eel chasing a cat round about the room. I believe this story.
The eel was in a bucket of water, and doomed to die upon the morrow.
Doubtless the cat had attempted to take liberties with him; on which a
sudden thought struck the eel that he might as well eat the cat as the
cat eat him; and he was preparing to suit the action to the word when he
was discovered.

The insects are insignificant and ugly, and, like the plants, devoid of
general interest. There is one rather pretty butterfly, like our
English tortoiseshell. There is a sprinkling of beetles, a few ants,
and a detestable sandfly, that, on quiet, cloudy mornings, especially
near water, is more irritating than can be described. This little beast
is rather venomous; and, for the first fortnight or so that I was bitten
by it, every bite swelled up to a little hard button. Soon, however,
one becomes case-hardened, and only suffers the immediate annoyance
consequent upon its tickling and pricking. There is also a large
assortment of spiders. We have, too, one of the ugliest-looking
creatures that I have ever seen. It is called "weta," and is of tawny
scorpion-like colour with long antennae and great eyes, and nasty
squashy-looking body, with (I think) six legs. It is a kind of animal
which no one would wish to touch: if touched, it will bite sharply,
some say venomously. It is very common, but not often seen, and lives
chiefly among dead wood and under stones. In the North Island, I am
told that it grows to the length of three or four inches. Here I never
saw it longer than an inch and a half. The principal reptile is an
almost ubiquitous lizard.

Summing up, then, the whole of the vegetable and animal productions of
this settlement, I think that it is not too much to say that they are
decidedly inferior in beauty and interest to those of the old world.
You will think that I have a prejudice against the natural history of
Canterbury. I assure you I have no such thing; and I believe that
anyone, on arriving here, would receive a similar impression with


Choice of a Run--Boundaries--Maoris--Wages--Servants--Drunkenness--
Cooking--Wethers--Choice of Homestead--Watchfulness required--Burning
the Country--Yards for Sheep--Ewes and Lambs--Lambing Season--Wool
Sheds--Sheep Washing--Putting up a Hut--Gardens--Farewell.

In looking for a run, some distance must be traversed; the country near
Christ Church is already stocked. The waste lands are, indeed, said to
be wholly taken up throughout the colony, wherever they are capable of
supporting sheep. It may, however, be a matter of some satisfaction to
a new settler to examine this point for himself, and to consider what he
requires in the probable event of having to purchase the goodwill of a
run, with the improvements upon it, which can hardly be obtained under
150 pounds per 1000 acres.

A river boundary is most desirable; the point above or below the
confluence of two rivers is still better, as there are then only two
sides to guard. Stony ground must not be considered as an impediment;
grass grows between the stones, and a dray can travel upon it. England
must have been a most impracticable country to traverse before metalled
roads were made. Here the surface is almost everywhere a compact mass
of shingle; it is for the most part only near the sea that the shingle
is covered with soil. Forest and swamp are much greater impediments to
a journey than a far greater distance of hard ground would prove. A
river such as the Cam or Ouse would be far more difficult to cross
without bridges than the Rakaia or Rangitata, notwithstanding their
volume and rapidity; the former are deep in mud, and rarely have
convenient places at which to get in or out; while the latter abound in
them, and have a stony bed on which the wheels of your dray make no
impression. The stony ground will carry a sheep to each acre and a half
or two acres. Such diseases as foot-rot are unknown, owing probably to
the generally dry surface of the land.

There are few Maoris here; they inhabit the north island, and are only
in small numbers, and degenerate in this, so may be passed over
unnoticed. The only effectual policy in dealing with them is to show a
bold front, and, at the same time, do them a good turn whenever you can
be quite certain that your kindness will not be misunderstood as a
symptom of fear. There are no wild animals that will molest your sheep.
In Australia they have to watch the flocks night and day because of the
wild dogs. The yards, of course, are not proof against dogs, and the
Australian shepherd's hut is built close against the yard; here this is

Having settled that you will take up your country or purchase the lease
of it, you must consider next how to get a dray on to it. Horses are
not to be thought of except for riding; you must buy a dray and
bullocks. The rivers here are not navigable.

Wages are high. People do not leave England and go to live at the
antipodes to work for the same wages which they had at home. They want
to better themselves as well as you do, and, the supply being limited,
they will ask and get from 1 pound to 30s. a week besides their board
and billet.

You must remember you will have a rough life at first; there will be a
good deal of cold and exposure; a good deal of tent work; possibly a
fever or two; to say nothing of the seeds of rheumatism which will give
you something to meditate upon hereafter.

You and your men will have to be on rather a different footing from that
on which you stood in England. There, if your servant were in any
respect what you did not wish, you were certain of getting plenty of
others to take his place. Here, if a man does not find you quite what
he wishes, he is certain of getting plenty of others to employ him. In
fact, he is at a premium, and soon finds this out. On really good men
this produces no other effect than a demand for high wages. They will
be respectful and civil, though there will be a slight but quite
unobjectionable difference in their manner toward you. Bad men assume
an air of defiance which renders their immediate dismissal a matter of
necessity. When you have good men, however, you must recognise the
different position in which you stand toward them as compared with that
which subsisted at home. The fact is, they are more your equals and
more independent of you, and, this being the case, you must treat them
accordingly. I do not advise you for one moment to submit to
disrespect; this would be a fatal error. A man whose conduct does not
satisfy you must be sent about his business as certainly as in England;
but when you have men who DO suit you, you must, besides paying them
handsomely, expect them to treat you rather as an English yeoman would
speak to the squire of his parish than as an English labourer would
speak to him. The labour markets will not be so bad but that good men
can be had, and as long as you put up with bad men it serves you right
to be the loser by your weakness.

Some good hands are very improvident, and will for the most part spend
their money in drinking, a very short time after they have earned it.
They will come back possibly with a DEAD HORSE TO WORK OFF--that is, a
debt at the accommodation house--and will work hard for another year to
have another drinking bout at the end of it. This is a thing fatally
common here. Such men are often first-rate hands and thoroughly good
fellows when away from drink; but, on the whole, saving men are perhaps
the best. Commend yourself to a good screw for a shepherd; if he knows
the value of money he knows the value of lambs, and if he has contracted
the habit of being careful with his own money he will be apt to be so
with yours also. But in justice to the improvident, it must be owned
they are often admirable men save in the one point of sobriety.

Their political knowledge is absolutely nil, and, were the colony to
give them political power, it might as well give gunpowder to children.

How many hands shall you want?

We will say a couple of good bush hands, who will put up your hut and
yards and wool-shed. If you are in a hurry and have plenty of money you
can have more. Besides these you will want a bullock driver and
shepherd, unless you are shepherd yourself. You must manage the cooking
among you as best you can, and must be content to wash up yourself,
taking your full part in the culinary processes, or you will soon find
disaffection in the camp; but if you can afford to have a cook, have one
by all means. It is a great nuisance to come in from a long round after
sheep and find the fire out and no hot water to make tea, and to have to
set to work immediately to get your men's supper; for they cannot earn
their supper and cook it at the same time. The difficulty is that good
boys are hard to get, and a man that is worth anything at all will
hardly take to cooking as a profession. Hence it comes to pass that the
cooks are generally indolent and dirty fellows, who don't like hard
work. Your college education, if you have had one, will doubtless have
made you familiar with the art of making bread; you will now proceed to
discover the mysteries of boiling potatoes. The uses of dripping will
begin to dawn upon you, and you will soon become expert in the
manufacture of tallow candles. You will wash your own clothes, and will
learn that you must not boil flannel shirts, and experience will teach
you that you must eschew the promiscuous use of washing soda, tempting
though indeed it be if you are in a hurry. If you use collars, I can
inform you that Glenfield starch is the only starch used in the
laundries of our most gracious Sovereign; I tell you this in confidence,
as it is not generally advertised.

To return to the culinary department. Your natural poetry of palate
will teach you the proper treatment of the onion, and you will ere long
be able to handle that inestimable vegetable with the breadth yet
delicacy which it requires. Many other things you will learn, which for
your sake as well as my own I will not enumerate here. Let the above
suffice for examples.

At first your wethers will run with your ewes, and you will only want
one shepherd; but as soon as the mob gets up to two or three thousand
the wethers should be kept separate; you will then want another
shepherd. As soon as you have secured your run you must buy sheep;
otherwise you lose time, as the run is only valuable for the sheep it
carries. Bring sheep, shepherd, men, stores, all at one and the same
time. Some wethers must be included in your purchase, otherwise you
will run short of meat, as none of your own breeding will be ready for
the knife for a year and a half, to say the least of it. No wether
should be killed till it is two years old, and then it is murder to kill
an animal which brings you in such good interest by its wool, and would
even be better if suffered to live three years longer, when you will
have had its value in its successive fleeces. It will, however, pay you
better to invest nearly all your money in ewes, and to kill your own
young stock, than to sink more capital than is absolutely necessary in

Start your dray, then, from town and join it with your sheep on the way
up. Your sheep will not travel more than ten miles a day if you are to
do them justice; so your dray must keep pace with them. You will
generally find plenty of firewood on the track. You can camp under the
dray at night. In about a week you will get on to your run, and very
glad you will feel when you are safely come to the end of your journey.
See the horses properly looked to at once; then set up the tent, make a
good fire, put the kettle on, out with the frying-pan and get your
supper, smoke the calumet of peace, and go to bed.

The first question is, Where shall you place your homestead? You must
put it in such a situation as will be most convenient for working the
sheep. These are the real masters of the place--the run is theirs, not
yours: you cannot bear this in mind too diligently. All considerations
of pleasantness of site must succumb to this. You must fix on such a
situation as not to cut up the run, by splitting off a little corner too
small to give the sheep free scope and room. They will fight rather shy
of your homestead, you may be certain; so the homestead must be out of
their way. You MUST, however, have water and firewood at hand, which is
a great convenience, to say nothing of the saving of labour and expense.
Therefore, if you can find a bush near a stream, make your homestead on
the lee side of it. A stream is a boundary, and your hut, if built in
such a position, will interfere with your sheep as little as possible.

The sheep will make for rising ground and hill-side to camp at night,
and generally feed with their heads up the wind, if it is not too
violent. As your mob increases, you can put an out-station on the other
side the run.

In order to prevent the sheep straying beyond your boundaries, keep ever
hovering at a distance round them, so far off that they shall not be
disturbed by your presence, and even be ignorant that you are looking at
them. Sheep cannot be too closely watched, or too much left to
themselves. You must remember they are your masters, and not you
theirs; you exist for them, not they for you. If you bear this well in
mind, you will be able to turn the tables on them effectually at
shearing-time. But if you once begin to make the sheep suit their
feeding-hours to your convenience, you may as well give up sheep-farming
at once. You will soon find the mob begin to look poor, your percentage
of lambs will fall off, and in fact you will have to pay very heavily
for saving your own trouble, as indeed would be the case in every
occupation or profession you might adopt.

Of course you will have to turn your sheep back when they approach the
boundary of your neighbour. Be ready, then, at the boundary. You have
been watching them creeping up in a large semicircle toward the
forbidden ground. As long as they are on their own run let them alone,
give them not a moment's anxiety of mind; but directly they reach the
boundary, show yourself with your dog in your most terrific aspect.
Startle them, frighten them, disturb their peace; do so again and again,
at the same spot, from the very first day. Let them always have peace
on their own run, and none anywhere off it. In a month or two you will
find the sheep begin to understand your meaning, and it will then be
very easy work to keep them within bounds. If, however, you suffer them
to have half an hour now and then on the forbidden territory, they will
be constantly making for it. The chances are that the feed is good on
or about the boundary, and they will be seduced by this to cross, and go
on and on till they are quite beyond your control.

You will have burnt a large patch of feed on the outset. Burn it in
early spring, on a day when rain appears to be at hand. It is dangerous
to burn too much at once: a large fire may run farther than you wish,
and, being no respecter of imaginary boundaries, will cross on to your
neighbour's run without compunction and without regard to his sheep, and
then heavy damages will be brought against you. Burn, however, you
must; so do it carefully. Light one strip first, and keep putting it
out by beating it with leafy branches, This will form a fireproof
boundary between you and your neighbour.

Burnt feed means contented and well-conditioned sheep. The delicately
green and juicy grass which springs up after burning is far better for
sheep than the rank and dry growth of summer after it has been withered
by the winter's frosts. Your sheep will not ramble, for if they have
plenty of burnt pasture they are contented where they are. They feed in
the morning, bunch themselves together in clusters during the heat of
the day, and feed again at night.

Moreover, on burnt pasture, no fire can come down upon you from your
neighbour so as to hurt your sheep.

The day will come when you will have no more occasion for burning, when
your run will be fully stocked, and the sheep will keep your feed so
closely cropped that it will do without it. It is certainly a
mortification to see volumes of smoke rising into the air, and to know
that all that smoke might have been wool, and might have been sold by
you for 2s. a pound in England. You will think it great waste, and
regret that you have not more sheep to eat it. However, that will come
to pass in time; and meanwhile, if you have not mouths enough upon your
run to make wool of it, you must burn it off and make smoke of it
instead. There is sure to be a good deal of rough scrub and brushwood
on the run, which is better destroyed, and which sheep would not touch;
therefore, for the ultimate value of your run, it is as well or better
that it should be fired than fed off.

The very first work to be done after your arrival will be to make a yard
for your sheep. Make this large enough to hold five or six times as
many sheep as you possess at first. It may be square in shape. Place
two good large gates at the middle of either of the two opposite sides.
This will be sufficient at first, but, as your flocks increase, a
somewhat more complicated arrangement will be desirable.

The sheep, we will suppose, are to be thoroughly overhauled. You wish,
for some reason, to inspect their case fully yourself, or you must tail
your lambs, in which case every lamb has to be caught, and you will cut
its tail off, and ear-mark it with your own earmark; or, again, you will
see fit to draft out all the lambs that are ready for weaning; or you
may wish to cull the mob, and sell off the worst-woolled sheep; or your
neighbour's sheep may have joined with yours; or for many other reasons
it is necessary that your flock should be closely examined. Without
good yards it is impossible to do this well--they are an essential of
the highest importance.

Select, then, a site as dry and stony as possible (for your sheep will
have to be put into the yard over night), and at daylight in the morning
set to work.

| | D _________| |
| | _____/ | |
| |/ | | |
| |\_____| | |
| | \_________| |
| | E | |

Fill the yard B with sheep from the big yard A. The yard B we will
suppose to hold about 600. Fill C from B: C shall hold about 100.
When the sheep are in that small yard C (which is called the drafting-
yard), you can overhaul them, and your men can catch the lambs and hold
them up to you over the rail of the yard to ear-mark and tail. There
being but 100 sheep in the yard, you can easily run your eye over them.
Should you be drafting out sheep or taking your rams out, let the sheep
which you are taking out be let into the yards D and E. Or, it may be,
you are drafting two different sorts of sheep at once; then there will
be two yards in which to put them. When you have done with the small
mob, let it out into the yard F, taking the tally of the sheep as they
pass through the gate. This gate, therefore, must be a small one, so as
not to admit more than one or two at a time. It would be tedious work
filling the small yard C from the big one A; for in that large space the
sheep will run about, and it will take you some few minutes every time.
From the smaller yard B, however, C will easily be filled. Among the
other great advantages of good yards, there is none greater than the
time saved. This is of the highest importance, for the ewes will be
hungry, and their lambs will have sucked them dry; and then, as soon as
they are turned out of the yards, the mothers will race off after feed,
and the lambs, being weak, will lag behind; and the Merino ewe being a
bad mother, the two may never meet again, and the lamb will die.
Therefore it is essential to begin work of this sort early in the
morning, and to have yards so constructed as to cause as little loss of
time as possible. I will not say that the plan given above is the very
best that could be devised, but it is common out here, and answers all
practical purposes. The weakest point is in the approach to B from A.

As soon as you have done with the mob, let them out. They will race off
helter-skelter to feed, and soon be spread out in an ever-widening fan-
like shape. Therefore have someone stationed a good way off to check
their first burst, and stay them from going too far and leaving their
lambs; after a while, as you sit, telescope in hand, you will see the
ewes come bleating back to the yards for their lambs. They have
satisfied the first cravings of their hunger, and their motherly
feelings are beginning to return. Now, if the sheep have not been kept
a little together, the lambs may have gone off after the ewes, and some
few will then be pretty certain never to find their mothers again. It
is rather a pretty sight to sit on a bank and watch the ewes coming
back. There is sure to be a mob of a good many lambs sticking near the
yards, and ewe after ewe will come back and rush up affectionately to
one lamb after another. A good few will try to palm themselves off upon
her. If she is young and foolish, she will be for a short time in
doubt; if she is older and wiser, she will butt away the little
impostors with her head; but they are very importunate, and will stick
to her for a long while. At last, however, she finds her true child,
and is comforted. She kisses its nose and tail with the most
affectionate fondness, and soon the lost lamb is seen helping himself
lustily, and frolicking with his tail in the height of his contentment.
I have known, however, many cunning lambs make a practice of thieving
from the more inexperienced ewes, though they have mothers of their own;
and I remember one very beautiful and favourite lamb of mine, who, to my
great sorrow, lost its mother, but kept itself alive in this manner, and
throve and grew up to be a splendid sheep by mere roguery. Such a case
is an exception, not a rule.

You may perhaps wonder how you are to know that your sheep are all
right, and that none get away. You cannot be QUITE CERTAIN of this.
You may be pretty sure, however, for you will soon have a large number
of sheep with whom you are personally acquainted, and who have, from
time to time, forced themselves upon your attention either by peculiar
beauty or peculiar ugliness, or by having certain marks upon them. You
will have a black sheep or two, and probably a long-tailed one or two,
and a sheep with only one eye, and another with a wart on its nose, and
so forth. These will be your marked sheep, and if you find all of them
you may be satisfied that the rest are safe also. Your eye will soon
become very accurate in telling you the number of a mob of sheep.

When the sheep are lambing they should not be disturbed. You cannot
meddle with a mob of lambing ewes without doing them mischief. Some one
or two lambs, or perhaps many more, will be lost every time you disturb
the flock. The young sheep, until they have had their lambs a few days,
and learnt their value, will leave them upon the slightest provocation.
Then there is a serious moral injury inflicted upon the ewe: she
becomes familiar with the crime of infanticide, and will be apt to leave
her next lamb as carelessly as her first. If, however, she has once
reared a lamb, she will be fond of the next, and, when old, will face
anything, even a dog, for the sake of her child.

When, therefore, the sheep are lambing, you must ride or walk farther
round, and notice any tracks you may see: anything rather than disturb
the sheep. They must always lamb on burnt or green feed, and against
the best boundary you have, and then there will be the less occasion to
touch them.

Besides the yards above described, you will want one or two smaller ones
for getting the sheep into the wool-shed at shearing-time, and you will
also want a small yard for branding. The wool-shed is a roomy covered
building, with a large central space, and an aisle-like partition on
each side. These last will be for holding the sheep during the night.
The shearers will want to begin with daylight, and the dew will not yet
be off the wool if the sheep are exposed. If wool is packed damp it
will heat and spoil; therefore a sufficient number of sheep must be left
under cover through the night to last the shearers till the dew is off.
In a wool-shed the aisles would be called skilions (whence the name is
derived I know not, nor whether it has two l's in it or one). All the
sheep go into the skilions. The shearers shear in the centre, which is
large enough to leave room for the wool to be stowed away at one end.
The shearers pull the sheep out of the skilions as they want them. Each
picks the worst sheep, i.e. that with the least wool upon it, that
happens to be at hand at the time, trying to put the best-woolled sheep,
which are consequently the hardest to shear, upon someone else; and so
the heaviest-woolled and largest sheep get shorn the last.

A good man will shear 100 sheep in a day, some even more; but 100 is
reckoned good work. I have known 195 sheep to be shorn by one man in a
day; but I fancy these must have been from an old and bare mob, and that
this number of well-woolled sheep would be quite beyond one man's power.
Sheep are not shorn so neatly as at home. But supposing a man has a mob
of 20,000, he must get the wool off their backs as best he can without
carping at an occasional snip from a sheep's carcass. If the wool is
taken close off, and only now and then a sheep snipped, there will be no
cause to complain.

Then follows the draying of the wool to port, and the bullocks come in
for their full share of work. It is a pleasant sight to see the first
load of wool start down, but a far pleasanter to see the dray returning
from its last trip.

Shearing well over will be a weight off your mind. This is your most
especially busy and anxious time of year, and when the wool is safely
down you will be glad indeed.

It may have been a matter of question with you, Shall I wash my sheep
before shearing or not? If you wash them at all, you should do it
thoroughly, and take considerable pains to have them clean; otherwise
you had better shear in the grease, i.e. not wash. Wool in the grease
weighs about one-third heavier, and consequently fetches a lower price
in the market. When wool falls, moreover, the fall tells first upon
greasy wool. Still many shear in the grease, and some consider it pays
them better to do so. It is a mooted point, but the general opinion is
in favour of washing.

As soon as you have put up one yard, you may set to work upon a hut for
yourself and men. This you will make of split wooden slabs set upright
in the ground, and nailed on to a wall-plate. You will first plant
large posts at each of the corners, and one at either side every door,
and four for the chimney. At the top of these you will set your wall-
plates; to the wall-plates you will nail your slabs; on the inside of
the slabs you will nail light rods of wood, and plaster them over with
mud, having first, however, put up the roof and thatched it. Three or
four men will have split the stuff and put up the hut in a fortnight.
We will suppose it to be about 18 feet by 12.

By and by, as you grow richer, you may burn bricks at your leisure, and
eventually build a brick house. At first, however, you must rough it.

You will set about a garden at once. You will bring up fowls at once.
Pigs may wait till you have time to put up a regular stye, and to have
grown potatoes enough to feed them. Two fat and well-tended pigs are
worth half a dozen half-starved wretches. Such neglected brutes make a
place look very untidy, and their existence will be a burden to
themselves, and an eyesore to you.

In a year or two you will find yourself very comfortable. You will get
a little fruit from your garden in summer, and will have a prospect of
much more. You will have cows, and plenty of butter and milk and eggs;
you will have pigs, and, if you choose it, bees, plenty of vegetables,
and, in fact, may live upon the fat of the land, with very little
trouble, and almost as little expense. If you grudge this, your fare
will be rather unvaried, and will consist solely of tea, mutton, bread,
and possibly potatoes. For the first year, these are all you must
expect; the second will improve matters; and the third should see you
surrounded with luxuries.

If you are your own shepherd, which at first is more than probable, you
will find that shepherding is one of the most prosaic professions you
could have adopted. Sheep will be the one idea in your mind; and as for
poetry, nothing will be farther from your thoughts. Your eye will ever
be straining after a distant sheep--your ears listening for a bleat--in
fact, your whole attention will be directed, the whole day long, to
nothing but your flock. Were you to shepherd too long your wits would
certainly go wool-gathering, even if you were not tempted to bleat. It
is, however, a gloriously healthy employment.

And now, gentle reader, I wish you luck with your run. If you have
tolerably good fortune, in a very short time you will be a rich man.
Hoping that this may be the case, there remains nothing for me but to
wish you heartily farewell.

Crossing the Rangitata

Suppose you were to ask your way from Mr. Phillips's station to mine, I
should direct you thus: "Work your way towards yonder mountain; pass
underneath it between it and the lake, having the mountain on your right
hand and the lake on your left; if you come upon any swamps, go round
them or, if you think you can, go through them; if you get stuck up by
any creeks--a creek is the colonial term for a stream--you'll very
likely see cattle marks, by following the creek up and down; but there
is nothing there that ought to stick you up if you keep out of the big
swamp at the bottom of the valley; after passing that mountain follow
the lake till it ends, keeping well on the hill-side above it, and make
the end of the valley, where you will come upon a high terrace above a
large gully, with a very strong creek at the bottom of it; get down the
terrace, where you'll see a patch of burnt ground, and follow the river-
bed till it opens on to a flat; turn to your left and keep down the
mountain sides that run along the Rangitata; keep well near them and so
avoid the swamps; cross the Rangitata opposite where you see a large
river-bed coming into it from the other side, and follow this river-bed
till you see my hut some eight miles up it." Perhaps I have thus been
better able to describe the nature of the travelling than by any other.
If one can get anything that can be manufactured into a feature and be
dignified with a name once in five or six miles, one is very lucky.

Well, we had followed these directions for some way, as far in fact as
the terrace, when, the river coming into full view, I saw that the
Rangitata was very high. Worse than that, I saw Mr. Phillips and a
party of men who were taking a dray over to a run just on the other side
of the river, and who had been prevented from crossing for ten days by
the state of the water. Among them, to my horror, I recognised my
cadet, whom I had left behind me with beef which he was to have taken
over to my place a week and more back; whereon my mind misgave me that a
poor Irishman who had been left alone at my place might be in a sore
plight, having been left with no meat and no human being within reach
for a period of ten days. I don't think I should have attempted
crossing the river but for this. Under the circumstances, however, I
determined at once on making a push for it, and accordingly taking my
two cadets with me and the unfortunate beef that was already putrescent-
-it had lain on the ground in a sack all the time--we started along
under the hills and got opposite the place where I intended crossing by
about three o'clock. I had climbed the mountain side and surveyed the
river from thence before approaching the river itself. At last we were
by the water's edge. Of course, I led the way, being as it were
patronus of the expedition, and having been out some four months longer
than either of my companions; still, having never crossed any of the
rivers on horseback in a fresh, having never seen the Rangitata in a
fresh, and being utterly unable to guess how deep any stream would take
me, it may be imagined that I felt a certain amount of caution to be
necessary, and accordingly, folding my watch in my pocket-handkerchief
and tying it round my neck in case of having to swim for it
unexpectedly, I strictly forbade the other two to stir from the bank
until they saw me safely on the other side. Not that I intended to let
my horse swim, in fact I had made up my mind to let my old Irishman wait
a little longer rather than deliberately swim for it. My two companions
were worse mounted than I was, and the rushing water might only too
probably affect their heads. Mine had already become quite indifferent
to it, though it had not been so at first. These two men, however, had
been only a week in the settlement, and I should have deemed myself
highly culpable had I allowed them to swim a river on horseback, though
I am sure both would have been ready enough to do so if occasion

As I said before, at last we were on the water's edge; a rushing stream
some sixty yards wide was the first instalment of our passage. It was
about the colour and consistency of cream and soot, and how deep? I had
not the remotest idea; the only thing for it was to go in and see. So
choosing a spot just above a spit and a rapid--at such spots there is
sure to be a ford, if there is a ford anywhere--I walked my mare quickly
into it, having perfect confidence in her, and, I believe, she having
more confidence in me than some who have known me in England might
suppose. In we went; in the middle of the stream the water was only a
little over her belly (she is sixteen hands high); a little farther, by
sitting back on my saddle and lifting my feet up I might have avoided
getting them wet, had I cared to do so, but I was more intent on having
the mare well in hand, and on studying the appearance of the remainder
of the stream than on thinking of my own feet just then; after that the
water grew shallower rapidly, and I soon had the felicity of landing my
mare on the shelving shingle of the opposite bank. So far so good; I
beckoned to my companions, who speedily followed, and we all then
proceeded down the spit in search of a good crossing place over the next
stream. We were soon beside it, and very ugly it looked. It must have
been at least a hundred yards broad--I think more, but water is so
deceptive that I dare not affix any certain width. I was soon in it,
advancing very slowly above a slightly darker line in the water, which
assured me of its being shallow for some little way; this failing, I
soon found myself descending into deeper water, first over my boots for
some yards, then over the top of my gaiters for some yards more. This
continued so long that I was in hopes of being able to get entirely
over, when suddenly the knee against which the stream came was entirely
wet, and the water was rushing so furiously past me that my poor mare
was leaning over tremendously. Already she had begun to snort, as
horses do when they are swimming, and I knew well that my companions
would have to swim for it even though I myself might have got through.
So I very gently turned her head round down stream and quietly made back
again for the bank which I had left. She had got nearly to the shore,
and I could again detect a darker line in the water, which was now not
over her knees, when all of a sudden down she went up to her belly in a
quicksand, in which she began floundering about in fine style. I was
off her back and into the water that she had left in less time than it
takes to write this. I should not have thought of leaving her back
unless sure of my ground, for it is a canon in river crossing to stick
to your horse. I pulled her gently out, and followed up the dark line
to the shore where my two friends were only too glad to receive me. By
the way, all this time I had had a companion in the shape of a cat in a
bag, which I was taking over to my place as an antidote to the rats,
which were most unpleasantly abundant there. I nursed her on the pommel
of my saddle all through this last stream, and save in the episode of
the quicksand she had not been in the least wet. Then, however, she did
drop in for a sousing, and mewed in a manner that went to my heart. I
am very fond of cats, and this one is a particularly favourable
specimen. It was with great pleasure that I heard her purring through
the bag, as soon as I was again mounted and had her in front of me as

So I failed to cross this stream there, but, determined if possible to
get across the river and see whether the Irishman was alive or dead, we
turned higher up the stream and by and by found a place where it
divided. By carefully selecting a spot I was able to cross the first
stream without the waters getting higher than my saddle-flaps, and the
second scarcely over the horse's belly. After that there were two
streams somewhat similar to the first, and then the dangers of the
passage of the river might be considered as accomplished--the dangers,
but not the difficulties. These consisted in the sluggish creeks and
swampy ground thickly overgrown with Irishman, snow-grass, and spaniard,
which extend on either side the river for half a mile and more. But to
cut a long story short we got over these too, and then we were on the
shingly river-bed which leads up to the spot on which my hut is made and
my house making. This river was now a brawling torrent, hardly less
dangerous to cross than the Rangitata itself, though containing not a
tithe of the water, the boulders are so large and the water so powerful.
In its ordinary condition it is little more than a large brook; now,
though not absolutely fresh, it was as unpleasant a place to put a horse
into as one need wish. There was nothing for it, however, and we
crossed and recrossed it four times without misadventure, and finally
with great pleasure I perceived a twinkling light on the terrace where
the hut was, which assured me at once that the old Irishman was still in
the land of the living. Two or three vigorous "coo-eys" brought him
down to the side of the creek which bounds my run upon one side.


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