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CHAPTER XXIX.

OUT IN THE CAMP.'

Plains immense
Lie stretch'd around, interminable meads,
And vast savannahs, where the wandering eye,
Unfixt, is in a verdant ocean lost.'--Thomson's 'Summer.'

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THERE seems a natural and very general tendency among men to find out the shortest possible names for things and persons familiar to them, and to adopt these in preference to longer and more correct terms. In harmony with this tendency is the practice among Europeans, at least among Englishmen, in Buenos Ayres and Monte Video, to speak of all outside the cities, not as 'the country,' but, by an abbreviation of the Spanish word *campo,' as 'the camp.'

This camp' fifteen years ago was the El Dorado of most European emigrants to 'the Plate' (another somewhat undignified abbreviation), for it was there that were made the large and rapid fortunes in sheep-farming which drew such numbers to the same pursuit, and which, by the law of reaction, produced a subsequent and still existing failure of that interest, from the simple fact of its being overdone. With the extension of sheepfarming, and the suddenly increased demand for peons and gauchos to tend the sheep, the price of land and of labour went up rapidly ; nor, though the value of sheep has diminished within the last twelve years almost as much as it increased before, have these items of ex

A MODEL 'ESTANCIA.'

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penditure dimininished in proportion. But sheep-farming still continues, nay, increases, though it is not at present remunerative ; and a visit to the 'camp' is interesting, both from the peculiar interest of the country itself, and from the residence in it of many Englishmen engaged in this sheep-farming life.

As a rule, the best farms in the Buenos Ayrean province are those within a moderate distance of the city. We will take the best first, and go out for a short visit to one often spoken of in the city as 'a model estancia,' some thirty-five miles out on the southern line of railway. It is owned and managed by a German gentleman, and is supposed to carry out the idea of an estancia to a very perfect point, albeit that point is not a paying one.

It consists of land to the extent of two square leagues, all enclosed by wire fencing, a good farm-house and garden, extensive stables, shearing-houses, barns, and other farm buildings.

Of this land, 2,000 acres are this year under wheat and maize; fifteen flocks of sheep, each flock containing from 1,200 to 1,500 sheep, wander over the remainder of the pampa; a fine lot of horses, including some thoroughbreds from the Trachenian stock belonging to the King of Prussia, fill up the complement of live-stock.

Among the flocks of sheep is one of thoroughbred Negrettis, the young rams of which, six years ago, sold at an average of thirty pounds each : now they only fetch five pounds each—such is the depreciation here in sheep of all kinds. A steam thrashing-machine, a

A number of reaping-machines, and ploughs of the most approved style, are used for the agricultural work of the farm. In spite, however, or perhaps partly by

. reason of, the money laid out in bringing this farm to perfection, the owner freely confesses that it does not

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pay, and even declares that if he could get back half the capital sunk in it he would leave at once and return to the Fatherland.

At the time of our visit the land is very dry and parched by reason of the 'seca,' which has now continued for several months: and one effect of this is that in some parts of the estancia' there are swarms of young locusts, which fly up in thousands from the grass and nettles as we ride by. Our host, however, anticipates rain within two or three weeks, which will destroy or scatter them before they become harmful to the ripening wheat.

A day or two afterwards we mentally congratulate him, as we watch in Buenos Ayres the approach from the west of a great black wall of dust, which, sweeping over the city, and darkening it for a few moments as with a mantle of fog, is followed by a tremendous downpour of rain. This rain continues for upwards of half an hour, at the end of which time the roofs and pavements are clean and bright, the air is cooled and freshened, the gutters are full to the brim, and one or two streets in the low parts of the town are three feet deep in turbid water.

But alas for the uncertain hopes of a farmer! The storm partially avoids the locust-haunted estancia: the seca' continues, and the following is the description of the ravages committed there by the locusts three weeks later, contributed to the ‘Buenos Ayrean Standard' by an eye-witness. The wheat crop, covering 1,500 acres, was in magnificent condition at sunset on Saturday, the 10th inst. (December 1870). As early as six o'clock on Sunday morning the locusts commenced to swarm, and were so thick at eight o'clock that it was impossible to walk outside. By two P.m. one field of 160 acres, in which the wheat was till then four feet high, was cut

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A PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS.

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down to six inches, and not a head of corn left. In two hours more the whole wheat crop of 1,500 acres was gone, except patches here and there, which may yield 300 or 400 'fanegas' out of an estimate of 5,000. There was also a maize crop of nearly 1,000 acres, which had come up healthy and strong, to a height of three feet : on Monday morning you could not even point out the place where it had been. The locusts were so numerous that they even invaded the houses, eating up the curtains, clothes, &c. ... On the 12th their numbers were sensibly less, but they returned in awful numbers on the 14th, and consumed the little they had left before.' Such is an instance of the ruinous locust-plagues to which farmers in South America are occasionally exposed. A wheat farmer, migrating from England to Buenos Ayres, may escape ten years of mildew in his crops, but a day's visit of a few myriads of these

, destroying insects may bring as much loss to him as a hundred days of the pests of damper climates."

Model'estancias' are rare in South America, and to see sheep-farming and agriculture as it is usually carried on in the Buenos Ayrean province we must go further than thirty-five miles from the city, get beyond the present limits of the railway, and penetrate into the wild expanses of the Pampas. Going out on the western line of railway, we stay for a night at a well-known

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1 We are sorry to hear that such was the result in this case. The loss occasioned by this locust plague to the German owner of the model estancia' was so great that the property was shortly afterwards sold.

As to the seca,' it continued so long that the price of all green food rose to double its nominal amount: many cattle and horses in the neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres died, or dwindled almost to skeletons : and when finally rain came, grass sprang up so rankly and rapidly that many more died from over-feeding on the herbage for which they had so long hungered.

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'estancia,' eight leagues from the city, corresponding perhaps more than any other in the neighbourhood to the English idea of a dairy-farm. There is a look of 'home' in the pleasant cottage, with its well-kept garden in front, and its plantation of tall poplars hard by. Behind the cottage are several 'ombu' trees, of older date than the estancia,' reminding one, with their sturdy trunks and full round head of foliage, of the oaks on some village green in Kent or Surrey. These ‘ombus' seem to be almost the only trees which are natives of the well-nigh treeless Pampas, though many foreign trees, especially willows, poplars, and gumtrees, thrive well when planted in the rich alluvial

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A few hundred yards from the 'ombus' is the dairy, whence about seventy pounds of butter are sent weekly to the Buenos Ayrean market, yielding a good profit to the sellers; for in this country, with its millions of cows, good milk is a rarity, and butter is worth two shillings a pound. A fine herd of cattle, with English ‘short-horn' blood plainly traceable in their form and markings, are grazing not far from the dairy-sheds; a flock of 'mestizo sheep,' half Lincoln half the native merino, are out on the open camp; ' a a caballada,' or troop of horses, 'coralled' near the farm buildings, completes the pastoral scene.

We stay but one night at Merlo, and early next morning are seated in the train going further westward. Four hours' travelling bring us to Chivilcoy, the present terminus of the western line, a hundred miles from Buenos Ayres—a village fast increasing into a town. The country on either side of the line is of course flat, and so far monotonous; but there are changes and varieties in the crops and natural herbage covering the ground,

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