Report from the Murrumbidgee

The Sydney Morning Herald

29 January 1845

January 25, 1845

The weather since my last has undergone a most delightful change, and is cool to an unprecedented degree for this season of the year. No rain has fallen, and we are sadly in want thereof.

The prevailing winds here at this period of the year are generally from the W.N.W., and are arid and parching but they have blown incessantly both day and night latterly from the eastward and south-ward, and are mild, cool, and invigorating in their influence.

The wind at south-east has been in fact the prevailing current all this summer, which is a very extraordinary thing, and unaccountable to me, seeing that we are at such a distance from the sea as to be beyond the effect of its grateful breezes, and I imagine it must be caused by uncommon pressure on the atmosphere to the south and south east, probably unseasonable falls of snow upon the Maneroo Alps.

I remember some years ago that the same peculiarity was observable throughout the summer, and all were at a loss to account for the cause, when it was ascertained that several large icebergs were in the neighbourhood of the coast.

Now if the cold winds at present prevailing here are caused by unthawed bodies of snow, at this advanced period of the summer, or by snow storms, and the next winter should be a severely cold one, it will behove all parties on the Murrumbidgee to be well prepared against the spring for the thawing of the snow, for assuredly we shall have another flood, and most likely of a far more serious character for although the last inundation was so extensive, there are unequivocal marks upon the trees of a previous flood at least seven feet higher: and I would recommend every stockholder to supply his establishment with a good boat.

The innumerable lagoons and natural reservoirs dependant on an occasional overflow of the Murrumbidgee for their supply of water, are now all full, and in the event of another flood, the river will exert a considerably greater power over the country in consequence.

The boiling down establishment of Mr. Tooth, at Tarrabundarra, is in active operation, and the following is a statement of the results from the rendering of two lots of cattle belonging to graziers in the vicinity:-

25 bullocks, 4170lbs tallow, average 167 lbs each; 13 bullocks, 3668lbs Tallow, average 236 lbs each. Total= 38 bullocks, 7243lbs tallow, joint average 191lbs each. Proceeds 7243 lbs. tallow, at 3d per lb, 90 10s 9d; 38 hides, at Tarrabundarra, 4s. 7 12s 0d; Total = 98 2s 9d.

Less expenses of boiling down casks and carriage to Sydney, per Mr. Tooth's teams, at per beast, 16s 6d. 30 8s 0d. Nett proceeds of 38 bullocks 67 14s 2d. Or an average per beast of 1 15s 8d.

The above is a very satisfactory result, and is of course quite independent of all return, save from the tallow and hides; the rounds, tongues, &c, which are cured at Tarrabundarra in excellent style, at proper seasons would (had it been performed with these two lots) have raised the average considerably as it is, the draft of thirteen head, which yielded 3068 lbs tallow, returns to the proprietor a nett value of 2 15s per head; and the joint average, though only 1 15s 8d , is more by 9s or 10s than the unfortunate grazier can obtain in Sydney for his best cattle, after the expense and risk of their journey. Such a result as that now before us, although it must have been produced from excellent cattle, is highly creditable to the Tarrabundarra boiling down establishment. The weight of casks and increased expense of carriage, in consequence of their use, is a most serious item to the proprietor, particularly he who boils his stock in the interior.

Two pounds for casks, and six pounds for carriage, or eight pounds (nearly) off the value of every ton of tallow, is a frightful sum; and some expedient should be resorted to effect a saving therein by constructing bags for the fat. When an aboriginal requires a bag of any size he takes off the skin of the first kangaroo he is fortunate to secure, in a very scientific way, by cutting it all round the neck, and drawing the pelt off entire over the heels; the skin which embraced the arms and hocks being then tied tight with the sinews of the defunct, and the hide reversed, a beautiful bag is at once formed without sewing. Now, why might not sheep be skinned in the same way?

The skin of one sheep would hold the fat of six, and would be besides saleable in the, market' and worth as much as though it had not been used at all. Thus the grazer might pay the expenses of the carrage by the sale of the packages, and the tallow would be preserved equally as though in casks.

Could not India rubber bags be formed - or leather bags - or something that would save the dreadful outlay in casks? I fancy if the Sydney boilers could succeed I in skinning a portion of their sheep to form bags they would meet a ready sale for them amongst the graziers who boil down for themselves: at any rate it is worth a trial I should say.

There is a very fine description of oak indigenous to the Murrumbidgee banks, which I am convinced would make excellent casks for tallow by proper seasoning, and this is the opinion of many mechanics who have worked it.

A person occupying Crown lands in a neighbouring district, in a densely stocked locality, but who holds no license (having been incapacitated from obtaining one in consequence of a murder committed in his house), his a considerable number of cattle that depasture thereon by sufferance, and with the full knowledge of the Commissioner.

These cattle broke into a large and promising crop of wheat, encircled by a first rate fence, in good order, and destroyed thirty acres totally. The proprietor will not reap a straw. He complains to the Commissioner, and is told that the only redress he can afford (if redress it can be called) is to fine the owner of the cattle thirty pounds, which fine our chief financier the Governor must receive, to swell the "pet fund." There is more in the sequel of this matter than is evident, by the relation of the abstract fact; and as the loss of the wheat is a very serious matter to the late proprietor, he is anxious to know if he has no redress by law in a civil action for damages in the Supreme Court.

Two or three cases in which a number of sheep have been poisoned by eating the castor oil plant, or a plant of that order, have occurred hereabouts latterly. The plant has shot up in vast quantities in places where masses of deposit have been lodged by the flood, and although no animal will touch it when it attains a moderate size, yet sheep and pigs will partake of it with avidity, when very young. Fowls will also eat the leaves.

I never saw anything of the kind before, but it has occurred on two or three establishments; one person having lost forty sheep, which were fine healthy animals before entering the swamp, but all dead in an hour afterwards. The plant is only found in hollow places, and beds of lagoons, where the deposit is lodged. It is quite unlike the castor oil plant found near the coast.

The two men who robbed Mr Andrews have been fully committed to take their trials by the Tumut Bench. Nearly all the wool shorn in this district has left for Sydney.

That admirable ruse, "the rate of exchange" has altered the expectations of many who anticipated a good Sydney price for their clip, and the honest merchants and brokers of our metropolis have given another strong proof of their devotion to the interests of the unfortunate graziers.