Ruse In The Top Paddock

TO refresh my memory, I was doing some crisis management research yesterday into the near-starvation of the earliest European Australians in 1788. I was mainly interested in the details of how Governor Phillip managed the situation and how one would categorise his strategy, philosophically. I had read enough Keith Hancock and N.G. Butlin to know economics in Australia had a dirigiste tilt from the start. During the initial years of an era Butlin described as the “bridgehead economy,” the Commissariat oversaw and supplied all necessities. Simple markets, private ownership, self-improvement and industry were by no means discouraged but it would be fair to say they had a secondary – even novel – status in the scheme of things, tiny though the scheme was in those days. Ignorance of Australian conditions, lack of foresight and bad luck eventually led to a collapse in livestock production and agriculture. Many seeds brought from England were lifeless when the colonists planted them and transported provisions generally had run down to desperation levels by September 1788. Enter the cargo cult. Phillip dispatched the Sirius to the Cape where extra supplies were purchased – four months’ worth – but this was no long-term solution. Michael Crowley continues:

Governor Phillip then conducted an experiment – he wanted to see how long it would take a man to become self-sufficient. He had an acre-and-a-half cleared for James Ruse, and promised that if he could feed himself, he would be rewarded with a land grant of 30 acres. It was generally thought impossible for a man to live off the land but Ruse accomplished it. He is known as the continent’s first settled self-sufficient farmer, and today there is a James Ruse High School.

Captain Watkin Tench devotes a page to the ‘humble adventurer’, much of it in Ruse’s own words:

‘I was bred a husbandman, near Launcester in Cornwall. I cleared my land as well as I could with the help afforded me. I have now an acre and a half in bearded wheat, half an acre in maize and a small kitchen garden…’

 
It would have been a psychological turning point in the colony and gradually more convicts became settlers following in Ruse’s path.

 
It occurred to me that following the present pandemic – when thousands will be looking for opportunities and the nation should be looking to imbue itself with a new, vigorous self-sufficiency – perhaps we could revive the Phillips/Ruse experiment. What if parcels of land currently lying fallow and useless in ‘our’ national parks were granted to young settlers on the understanding that they could stay – and own – if they made it work? True, the skillset necessary would mean only experienced graziers and farmers would meet the selection criteria but the employment opportunities for others would still be substantial. The plan would also improve land management across vast swathes of the country, protecting communities from the ravages of neglect-fuelled bushfires. As for the question of Phillips’ economic philosophy – back where I started – was his experiment ‘mutual obligation’ welfarism or primitive capitalism? Was it both? It did the trick either way.

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32 Responses to Ruse In The Top Paddock

  1. notafan

    I have no doubt that is possible CL.

    Nursery centres are out of vegetable seedlings around here and I think the enforced homestay will see lots of baking and craft skills acquired or renewed.

    I have one son and one Sil who would love a farming life.

  2. Nob

    Inspired by this thread, I looked up wiki to see when Australia’s national parks were designated as such.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_parks_of_Australia

    An incredible number of them were only designated in the last thirty years.

    Wtf happened in NSW in 1999?

  3. Entropy

    Good luck with that idea. I doubt it would be tolerated in Glebe, Carlton or St Lucia.

  4. Nob

    This gushing history says the million hectares locked up in national parks “sounds a lot but is only 3-4% of the country”
    https://australianhiker.com.au/advice/the-history-of-australian-national-parks/

    Given that the arable land in Australia is only 5-6% of the country, 3-4% *is* a lot.

    (This is a comparison. I’m not trying to say that national parks are on arable land. Nor an I saying that they’re not on arable land)

  5. Good sentiments CL, but I’m afraid the environazees would harass and harm any couple who “dared” to turn their beloved National Parks into dirty carbon spewing farms.
    Crops would be damaged, stock killed or harassed and on and on it would go.
    They would even poison the water. In that I have no doubt.

    It was WWF environazees who ran indians out of their Amazon homes so those parts of the forest could be reserved for a carbon sink. REDD was the scheme and it was worth $10 billion.

  6. Nob

    USA by comparison has 16% of its area arable land and about the same as Australia in national parks – 3-4%.

    None of this counts state parks.

  7. Nob

    You don’t need the NGOs to harass people humbug.

    Your government will do it.

    http://www.environment.gov.au/land/nrs/about-nrs/australias-protected-areas

  8. Shy Ted

    I have now an acre and a half in bearded wheat, half an acre in maize and a small kitchen garden…
    In 2020 this would be soy, avocado and cannabis.

  9. Nob

    Shy Ted
    #3379544, posted on March 27, 2020 at 6:11 pm
    I have now an acre and a half in bearded wheat, half an acre in maize and a small kitchen garden…
    In 2020 this would be soy, avocado and cannabis

    And in 2021 it would be abandoned.

  10. miltonf

    The James Ruse story is wonderful. I used to live near Experiment Farm Cottage and loved to take my dog there after work and contemplate his achievement. Hambledon Cottage is nearby too with two oaks planted by John MacArthur. Lots of ghosts. Nice ghosts.

  11. miltonf

    Great article CL. Thanks.

  12. mundi

    When Ruse declared himself self sufficient he was producing 1/3rd of the entire colonies output.
    He had a family of just 3 with two assigned convicts.

    So his output with 5 people was 50% of the the state farm that had over 180 convicts on assignment.

  13. Bruce of Newcastle

    What if parcels of land currently lying fallow and useless in ‘our’ national parks were granted to young settlers on the understanding that they could stay – and own – if they made it work?

    Well, seeing that even the Libs are showing a decidedly dirigiste tilt lately we could give the settlers a few Greens as indentured labourers to help them grow good solid non-organic food. They should be able to construct some suitably efficient whips with the materials found upon their selection.

    Green Activism Puts $65 Billion Of Investment At Risk (6 Mar)

    I’m sure there’re enough Greens around that their productive and valuable labour could pay back to Australia the cost their religion has caused in, oh, say about 200 years or so.

  14. miltonf

    Agriculture, manufacturing and mining are great industries that produce real wealth and give people, especially young men, purpose. No wonder the left hates them.

  15. Tel

    … the nation should be looking to imbue itself with a new, vigorous self-sufficiency …

    We have a nation of people who get angry at you for buying a bit extra food in advance and call you “hoarder” so this nation is actively hateful of the very idea of self-sufficiency.

  16. Lee

    Good sentiments CL, but I’m afraid the environazees would harass and harm any couple who “dared” to turn their beloved National Parks into dirty carbon spewing farms.

    Cut off their fortnightly Centrelink payments.
    Then they would really have something to protest and whinge about!

  17. Boambee John

    Nob at 1748

    Wtf happened in NSW in 1999?

    Boob Carr made a “gift to the people of NSW”. They have been paying for said gift ever since.

  18. Behind Enemy Lines

    Thanks, CL. Looking forward is the right approach.

    Although our institutions are pretty rubbish and constantly in the way, our people are sound at heart and the opportunities limitless.

    Agriculture’s important, but we could spin this concept out in a thousand different ways. Key message: government gets out of the way, perhaps allows a modest degree of sensible resourcing (or relief from regulatory expenses), and gives enterprising people permission to Let Her Rip without having some public servant constantly checking the prostate.

    Never a better opportunity.

  19. Roger

    Given that the arable land in Australia is only 5-6% of the country, 3-4% *is* a lot.

    If the land is arable.

    The soil on this continent is notoriously poor; most of the arable portion has long since been given over to agriculture but is now being subdivided due to artificial population expansion now extending into the regions. That is the greater concern.

  20. P

    It would have been a psychological turning point in the colony and gradually more convicts became settlers following in Ruse’s path.

    There were no shops at Sydney or Parramatta in those first years. The First Fleet brought provisions which were estimated to last two years. These were flour, rice, salt, pork, salt beef, ‘pease’ and butter.
    For two and a half years after the arrival of the First Fleet, not one ship arrived from England to bring further stores – the ship ‘Sirius’ returned from the Cape of Good Hope in May 1789, but only with flour, seed wheat and barley.
    The necessity of growing vegetables and grain crops to augment the basic rations can readily be understood.

    By 1791 James Ruse had proved that agriculture was possible in the Parramatta area, and the Governor called together the Colony’s time expired convicts and informed them that “such of them as wished to become settlers should receive every encouragement”.
    Of those who wished to stay, the Governor granted a number of them modest areas of land at the Field of Mars, Prospect, and North Parramatta.
    These little settlements were the beginning of farming in NSW.

  21. Bad Samaritan

    Tel (7.25pm). Had these dickheads bought a few extras each week over the previous 6 months….or simply had some stock on hand, the stupidity would never have occured. It’s stupidity…but hardly a crime…

    Meanwhile, at my local Woolies the retreat to sense is on already. They have signs announcing that refunds will only be given for faulty items, and when I asked a mate IGA what the Woolies signs were all about, he informed me that they (IGA) had been having loads of dickheads now trying to get their money back for all that overbought stock…so maybe Woolies was having the same problem. Ah well…cornering the market ain’t so easy as the Hunt Brothers thought. Also

    Rather silly to describe buying 5 years supply of toilet paper as a little extra food, I can just imagine the reaction in my neck of the woods if some dickhead decided to bring his own petrol tanker to drain the lone local service station of all it’s fuel, and half it’s in-store confectionary and then someone like you standing there saying “what’s wrong with buying a few extra mars bars from the servo”.

    Are you George Soros?

  22. Squirrel

    This excellent idea should be put forward again when the inevitable calls rev up for a “Green New Deal” as a response to the ongoing job losses from the virus shutdowns – at least this one wouldn’t add to the almighty levels of government debt we’ll be dealing with by that time.

  23. duncanm

    Ruse truly was a miracle worker, he had an acre and a half in bearded wheat, half an acre in maize on one and a half acres of land.

    Nob
    #3379467, posted on March 27, 2020 at 5:48 pm

    An incredible number of them were only designated in the last thirty years.

    Wtf happened in NSW in 1999?

    Bob Fucking Carr, that’s what happened.

  24. Tel

    Rather silly to describe buying 5 years supply of toilet paper as a little extra food …

    Did I say that? Oh I see, you are making shit up.

    Well thanks, but please make shit up about someone else if that’s ok? That’d be great 🙂

  25. A Lurker

    Perhaps backyard pools will be in-filled with soil and rose bushes uprooted to create kitchen gardens, and garden pergolas transformed into chicken coops?

  26. John A

    Entropy #3379485, posted on March 27, 2020, at 5:53 pm

    Good luck with that idea. I doubt it would be tolerated in Glebe, Carlton or St Lucia.

    I think the appropriate response to them would be: “let them eat cake!”

  27. NoFixedAddress

    CL

    If you want arable land then bulldoze the capital city CBD’s into the sea.

    The rubble would provide excellent fish breeding and catching areas and expose the best soils where settlement originally occurred.

    And I agree that settling, developing and exploiting unnatural parks is the best way of expanding and enhancing our flora and fauna.

  28. yarpos

    Grew up in Sydney. One of the routine primary school excursions was a trip to James Ruse Cottage in Parramatta. I guess it really must be “in” Parramatta these days it must have grown immensely. We left Sydney for saner parts in the early 80s.

  29. miltonf

    Yeah I went there when I was in primary school too. Parramatta has been wrecked in many ways but some of lovely bits have survived. Rather wonderful.

  30. miltonf

    e.g. Elizabeth Farm, Experiment Farm Cottage, Old Government House, Hambledon Cottage

  31. Sound similar to the soldier settler scheme after the Great War.

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