ONCE A RHODESIAN ALWAYS A RHODESIAN

Published in Chambers circa 1930s.

Perhaps the witchery lies in Rhodesia‘s sunshine, tempered as it is with cool winds from a myriad of hills. It may be the call of the Wild or the lure of pioneering; perhaps it is largely due to the easiness of life in a most hospitable land. Whatever the causes, few ever come to Southern Rhodesia and leave without regret or intentions of returning.

There are many thousands of Britons either in the homeland or in the Empire’s Possessions who are seeking a kindly land in which to find homes for themselves and their children. To those who have lived in the East, Rhodesia presents unequalled advantages for her climate is superb, native labour is cheap and plentiful, and there is an abundance of social life such as appeals to those accustomed to the Straits, Burma and India.

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But to those who have never been out of Britain before, Rhodesia can also offer whatever they crave for in a life of the open. Mines to discover, big game to hunt, farms, plantations, ranches and industries to develop. The Colony is twice the size of Great Britain yet her white population is hardly that of a small English town. She has millions of acres of rich unsettled soil and only 3000 farmers and ranchers.

These few thousand men possess almost a million cattle, 85 000 sheep, 24 000 pigs and a quarter of a million head of poultry. They are developing half a million acres of agricultural and several million acres of ranching land.

It has been stated that Rhodesia will stand or fall on the success of her tobacco. Such has been said at various times of her mining, cattle and maize industries. Experience has proved that Rhodesia will never be dependant on one support. Her diversity of climate, altitude and soils, her mineral resources and the surrounding markets in which live 50 million potential cash customers, place the colony in a unique position.

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Breaking up the stubborn but remarkably fertile soil of Rhodesia.

Almost every known agricultural product can be grown on a commercial scale. This is amply borne out by the crops produced by 3000 scattered farmers. For 1929 the year of the Rhodesian tobacco slump the Government returns show 1 826 345 bags of 200 lbs of maize; 361 173 lbs of cotton delivered to ginneries, 18 830 bags of potatoes, 4 986 tons of onions, 12 901 bags of wheat, 7 143 tons of edible beans, 567 tons of oats sold by farmers. Many other crops also feature in the list wattle bark, coffee, tea, lucerne hay, fruit and almost 30 000 tons of ensilage amongst them.

The previous year 1928, Virginian tobacco had boomed and no less than 45 711 acres were planted to the crop. In consequence of the slump resulting from overproduction, the acreage was immediately reduced by 29 000 and the yield consequently fell from
24 491 464 lbs to 6 704 986 lbs. Increased plantings of Turkish tobacco were made but owing to a poor season the crop yielded only 337 479 lbs in 1929 as against 451 580 lbs in 1928.

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The last two years have not seen much development in agricultural activity owing to the prevailing depression in Rhodesia’s chief markets. Farmers have been more or less marking time as regards production, endeavouring to improve their farms and to hold their own until the clouds of financial stringency pass.

Rhodesia is fortunately in a remarkably good position. Her 1931 Budget showed only a £25 000 deficit on the previous year’s working. Government and people have co-operated loyally to solve the problems forced on various industries. None of the problems has proved insoluble and the result is that today Rhodesians are facing the future waiting eagerly to launch Rhodesian products on the world’s markets.

50%of the United kingdom’s tobacco requirements can be supplied by Rhodesia. Tea is proving a satisfactory and payable crop, large acreages can grow excellent coffee, wattle bark is an easily grown and very saleable commodity, rice growing offers many opportunities and the possibilities of fruit growing are undoubted, especially in view of the increasing markets opening in the mineralized belts of Northern Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo.

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The Settler can choose his home among the wild Inyanga and Umtali mountains and grow apples, cherries, plums and pears in the terraces made by forgotten race who left Rhodesia one of the most wonderful irrigation schemes in the world. Whilst irrigating his orchards from aqueducts thousands of years old the Rhodesian may watch the flocks of merino sheep dotting the hillside, see his dairy cows dripping milk as they walk byrewards, rejoice over the rapid growth of wattle plantations and gloat on the fatness of his beef herds.

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He has Chipinga to pick a farm in and there grow tea or coffee, produce the best of citrus fruits, devote himself to pineapple or banana growing, or combine any one or all with wool and mutton, beef and cream production on as large a scale as his finances allow.

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In other districts, there are great belts of a level country along the railways where maize fields are reckoned by 1000 acre standards – there are wide and fruitful valleys running for a hundred miles and more where maize and cotton yield the heaviest of crops.

Much of Rhodesia is sandsoil and here tobacco can be grown equal to any produced by Virginia and the Carolinas. Immense yields of groundnuts also given by the sand and to those direct from European latitudes but the scenery and climatic conditions always make an irresistible appeal for these are more densely settled areas. there is no malaria and the amenities of civilized life are always at hand.

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Ranching country and its conditions must be known to be appreciated. In rearing beef cattle Rhodesians usually allowed 20 acres per beast, so ranches run from 20 000 to
2 500 000 acres in area. One white rancher with native assistance is supposed to be able to manage 5000 head of cattle so naturally cattlemen lead Robinson Crusoe existences.  To rear beef cheaply, land must be cheap and such is not found close to settled areas. Cattlemen go further afield and their lives are such that only the young and adventurous you are not encumbered with dependants are usually fitted for the loneliness and strain of ranching.

Mining and trading or other activities which one wonders so few newcomers ever attempt to engage in. Rhodesian Government Departments are filled with men who know the country, who absolutely trustworthy advisors and who are always anxious to assist whoever comes to them.

There are wonderful opportunities in the mining industry for level-headed men possessed of small capital and the Government offers not only advice practical and financial assistance. There are literally hundreds of abandoned gold mines scattered about Southern Rhodesia which are worth doing further prospecting work on. Many were abandoned in days when working costs and machinery were far higher than they are today.

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Most whilst not offering any attractions to companies yet afford possibilities for small syndicates or single owners. In many cases, former owners tried to make the mines pay their own development work and gave up immediately serious obstacles presented themselves.

Mine owning is naturally no occupation for those who know nothing about mining but its science and art can be learnt equally as easily as those of farming and ranching. There is no more reason to fear losing money in developing a promising gold reef than there is in farming. True a reef might pinch, values go out, ore become refractory or one of a dozen other mights occur but with farming bad seasons, flooded markets, disease and many other enemies may rob a farmer of all he has worked for. But as the tobacco farmer turns to cotton or maize when his tobacco fails so the disappointed miner goes looking for chrome, asbestos, mica or a new gold reef. A knowledge of prospecting and mining is a most useful asset to anyone settling in a country like Southern Rhodesia.

Most of the maize belt lies in a gold-bearing country and many a farm has a little two to five stamp battery pounding away on a small mine which is often the property of the farmer. In the granite, there is a good deal of corundum and in some districts, the country is full of chrome. The romance of Rhodesia’s mineral deposits has yet to be written but few imaginations could yield the material which the Umvukwes, Hartley, Gwelo and other districts offer the writer.

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Native trading offers perhaps a greatest of all opportunities to energetic business men. The native responds readily to any real interest shown in his welfare and though thousands of native stores are established throughout Rhodesia few traders really trouble to study the natives growing wants. As a general rule, the trader is simply out to make as much money as he possibly can in the shortest possible time. His stock is limited to what he considers will yield him immediate profits and his trading principles are usually those of pioneer days.

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But African natives today travel throughout the Continent, education is causing them to develop new wants and to appreciate good value for their money; quite a number are beginning to use C.O.D. system and import goods from Britain or the South African Union. So there is little doubt but that well-stocked shops offering attractive goods would soon take away the customers of the old-fashioned trading stores with their uninteresting shelves.

Business opportunities are unlimited in Rhodesia. One is apt to consider the country solely from the viewpoint of a settler who wishes to take up farming, to think of mining and trading as being prerogatives of people born in mining camps or trading stores, to overlook the possibilities of exploiting knowledge gained in one’s past.

Homilies are seldom appreciated but when a man’s life is spent rushing about a country settling men of all trades, professions and occupations into a life they have chosen without any experience of it; it may be permissible to express a candid opinion. A hairdresser well on in years arrived in a district which was rapidly filling. With the savings of many years, he bought a small farm and through a slump lost all he possessed. Had he started a hairdressing establishment when you arrived, the probabilities were that within twelve months he would have doubled his little capital and gained sufficient knowledge of the district to pick up a choice little farming investment.

Another an auctioneer by profession had this same experience and the same opportunities. Others again would have saved the loss of time and money by availing themselves of the many openings awaiting at every turn, yet as men are obsessed in a gold rush so settlers coming to Rhodesia seem obsessed with the idea of farming and farming only.

Any gold or diamond digger will vouch for the fact that there is more money in running a business on the diggings than there is in digging. A few diggers are lucky just as a few farmers are lucky, but generally speaking, it is more profitable to be a lawyer, a dentist, a butcher or hotelkeeper when in a community which is spending cash freely. In Rhodesia, a man can pursue any occupation without loss of social status. As long as he is making good and pulling his weight with his neighbours his business is purely a matter for his own concern.

On the surface, there is much of the Gertrude Page atmosphere about Rhodesian life. Underneath there is always steady progress being made. Year after year more country is being settled, new industries are established and old ones are developed. The great concessions being granted mining countries will certainly lead to increased spending powers amongst the native population, and to more marketing available to farmers and business people.

Rhodesia surrounded by countries which will buy largely from her as they develop.  Bechuanaland, Angola, Portuguese East Africa and the vast Northern territories will look likely to Rhodesia for many products which it is hardly likely they themselves will produce commercially for a long time to come.

The late D.M. Stanley one of the Rhodesia’s pioneers describes most eloquently the Eastern districts to which he and a score of other gallant frontiersmen devoted their lives.

“North and Mid Melsetter are the Highlands of the district and Highlands of a perfect kind. To the east, the towering Chimanimani marks the boundary. These run to the Lucetti River, there cutting into Portuguese East Africa, to reappear as the Sitatunga Mountains. These Highlands are watered by what is almost as a superfluity of perennial streams. Riding over the mountains, one off-saddles for a rest. Listen and you can hear the muted roar of some distant cascade;  as the wind rises or falls the sound reaches you in varying cadence. Then comes the realisation of the meaning of Tennyson‘s words: ‘The beauty born of murmuring sound.’ “

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The ever-changing panorama of the hills, the changing colour of the mountains, the vivid green of hilltops and valleys are bound to hold in a lasting thrall the minds of all who know it. The numerous cascades have not only a beauty for the lover of nature and the artist but also for the agriculturist, who dreams of the wastewater turned into irrigation channels and fertilising hundreds of acres of the richest soil in Rhodesia.

Again it has its beauty for the industrialist. He sees the many thousands of horsepower running to waste and dreams of the time when such, harnessed by modern methods shall be able to work, at a minimum cost, half the manufactures of South Africa.

There is another vision that may strike him who rides down our larger valleys. He sees kloof after kloof, valley after valley, unfolding as the turned leaves of some vast book. One out of three of such hold permanent water, and the imagination runs riot as to the possibilities for the establishment of smallholders – men who would own their little farms and be the forefathers of a race of small yeoman farmers. That would be the most valuable asset Melsetter could give to the Colony of Southern Rhodesia.

 

By
B. M. Leffler
Formerly: Tobacco Adviser Southern Rhodesia (Govt)
Contributor to S.A. Farmer’s Weekly, Farmers Advocate, Argus Newspapers, Feedstuffs U.S.A., Textile Weekly etc.etc.

How A Farmer’s Wife Built Up A Poultry Business by Margaret Leffler 1938

After a desperate attempt to make Flower Growing and Market Gardening pay, I decided that poultry offered infinitely better opportunities. Unfortunately, there was no capital available to start. A friend let me have ten third-year Leghorns and a rooster on credit and in August 1933 I began.

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Leghorns proved splendid layers and yielded not only all the eggs needed for the household but one and a half to two dozen a week for sale. In March 1934 with my egg money, I began to buy Light Sussex eggs, secured a fifty egg incubator on credit and started incubating my Leghorn and then bought Sussex eggs. 

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Results were disastrous a few chicks were hatched out and half a dozen reared. Attempt after attempt failed to give anything but the poorest results but by borrowing a few broody hens I managed to raise fifty Sussex and Leghorn fowls. A friend also gave me eight Rhode Island Red hens and a rooster. I fattened and sold twenty-five cockerels and four of my old Leghorn hens at Christmas and with the money bought netting wire and was lent four old pig huts.

This was the turning point. In 1935 I still had four of my original Leghorns, six Rhodes with twenty-five Sussex and Leghorn pullets laying. I borrowed two, two hundred and fifty egg incubators but having no suitable incubating house the results were very poor; still with what I did hatch out from the incubators and broody fowls I was able to start the 1936 season with 188 Leghorns, Rhodes and Sussex laying hens and pullets.

I returned the borrowed incubators after one season’s use and bought two of the most reliable make but lack of proper accommodation again proved a stumbling block so I turned to turkeys as incubators.

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At last, I have solved my problem. Two Turkey hens I found equalled a one hundred egg incubator. Since a turkey hen could be induced with the aid of a little port wine to sit on and hatch two consecutive settings. Two Turkeys would lay and sit on a number of eggs each but whilst one had fourteen the other only had seven. I, therefore, gave the seven to the bird with fourteen and gave thirty fowls’ eggs to the other.

When the turkey hatched out her turkey eggs I removed the chicks and put thirty fowl eggs under her when turkey number two’s eggs began pecking I removed them to my kitchen stove and gave the turkey a spoonful of port wine and another thirty fowl eggs. On Turkey number one’s eggs beginning to peck I treated her as I had number two.

Turkey incubation proved so successful that I bought a whole flock to use for hatching duck as well as fowl eggs. Generally speaking, I am very well satisfied. Snakes have killed a number of turkeys on their nests, sometimes a bird would persistent in leaving her eggs and sitting with another endeavouring to share her nest, sometimes the birds would kill the chickens and ducklings if they hatched out before I had noticed pecking had begun.

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Still, I’ve found that my turkeys sitting on thirty fowl eggs give me fifteen to twenty healthy chicks and on twenty duck eggs fourteen to seventeen strong ducklings. Much of the loss is due to the turkey cracking eggs through her weight when getting off and on the nest.

In 1936 I added ducks as well as turkeys to my business and began supplying older fowls and ducklings as well as really nice lots of eggs to merchants which gave me a steady income sufficient to pay my poultry feed, to buy iron, wood and netting wire to get good roosters and to begin laying out a modern poultry Farm.

1937 proved rather a miserable breeding year. Hundreds of beautiful eggs were ruined by attempting to incubate in unsuitable housing cats continually got into my kitchen and destroyed dozens of newly hatched ducklings and chicks, heavy rain and shortage of proper accommodation killed mature as well as young stock especially turkeys, snakes worked havoc with birds on nests yet at Christmas I was able to deliver dressed sixty-eight perfect table chickens, sixty-two ducklings and six turkeys whilst my egg sales are approximately fifty dozen a week.

So in 1938 after four and a half years building I have an excellent business yielding a steady and ever-increasing profit. After heavy culling of old and unsatisfactory birds, 1938 sees me with three hundred really profit earning fowls and a hundred and fifty fattening fowls for killing, the duck section supplying a dozen dressed ducklings a week and some sixty turkeys getting ready for the fattening pens.

I have now started barrel feeding. All culled birds and cockerels are put into three section coops on stands. Here they are quickly fattened at a minimum of cost and trouble.

Now, what has the four and a half years of struggling taught me?

Let me imagine now that I have been asked to broadcast my opinion so that others may avoid the pitfalls into which I fell.

I began poultry raising as a wife begins rearing her first baby. I knew nothing at all about the business. Books helped me little for they all presupposed that I had proper housing, proper food, proper fowls. I had none. Sellers sold me pullet eggs – I even tried to incubate eggs bought on the market – wonderful eggs but as I know today obviously unfertile.

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Starting today under the same conditions and same money I’d buy a couple of turkey hens, a bottle of port wine and five dozen really exceptionally good eggs of table and egg production breeds. I would get one or two dozen eggs from two or three really first class poultry farms and put them under the turkeys. Probably the results would be two dozen good fowls born and reared under my supervision free of all disease.

Of these fowls a dozen at least should be females; out of the other dozen I would select four of the best roosters not to mate with the females hatched with them but for future use. When my dozen females were ready for mating I would buy for them two fairly elderly roosters known and proven. My own cockerels I would use on fairly elderly hens of good laying reputation bought from really good poultry farms.

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Until I could afford to build a proper incubating room I’d use turkey hens and my own broody fowls for hatching and when you eventually I got my incubating room only a brand new incubator of an absolutely proven make would satisfy me.

But before beginning incubation on any scale, I would insist on a proper brooder house for my expected chickens. For years my poultry boy and self have rushed frantically out to catch and put scores and even hundreds of chicks and ducklings into boxes when rain has threatened.

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Often the threat never materialized and chicks had to be brought back to their runs. Even now I have a nightly task of gathering and boxing some three hundred ducklings and chicks a job sometimes repeated once or twice a day when bad weather threatens.

Proper housing and runs are essential to successful poultry farming, drastic culling of unsuitable females and the use of only first-class males are vital in building up a really strong healthy flock. Free-ranging means a great loss of eggs and every detail of poultry management must definitely be under one’s own personal supervision. I’ve had splendid natives but no native can ever grasp the enormous importance of scrupulous care in the weighing and mixing of food, of the essential difference between laying and fattening foods. To a native’s mind, a few handfuls of mealies are all a fowl requires.

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Poultry to pay must have proper food. A bird has no teeth, therefore, it must have grit to masticate the swallowed food. the veld and sand are full of ticks, lice and fleas and a bird supporting insect life cannot give her owner the eggs or flesh a clean bird can.

In selling eggs or table birds absolutely scrupulous honesty must be one’s rule. Sell pullet eggs as such, don’t mix them with full-sized eggs. Never attempt to incubate immature eggs and never give an old fowl spoonful of vinegar, kill it and place it amongst first-class table birds. Sell your dressed culls as ordinary fowls bought by the consumer as such. Even if short of a bird to make up an order carry the loss and sell chickens as chickens without a cull amongst them.

Remember always that for one table bird producer there are one thousand egg producers. The bulk of poultry sold for the table are the culls of egg-producing farms. It is a slow process building up a table poultry business it is the most difficult section of poultry farming but once built up it is by far and away the steadiest and most remunerative.

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Two and a half to three pound Sussex, Rhode or other table chickens, ducklings and small compact turkeys are always in demand, eggs are not. With a table poultry business, there are enough eggs to not only pay expenses but to show profits – and there are the tender-fleshed, toothsome young cockerels simply pure clean money. What first class dealer can afford to allow a really choice table bird to be passed over? None.

Margaret Leffler
Valley Farm
P.O.Brooklyn
Pretoria
28/01/1938

FARM MANAGEMENT 1930s South Africa

Two essentials to successful farm management are trustworthiness and organising ability. It is easy to select and train a Native to become an excellent foreman but can one rely absolutely on any statement he makes? No! And in consequence, nobody would employ a native as a manager even if he possessed the intellectual ability.

Unless a farm manager is able to visualise all his work all the time he is quite useless. Unless he possesses organising ability both his own and his employer’s time is being wasted. Always a manager must be asking himself – can I do with less or with cheaper labour on this, that or the other job? Can it be done better another way or with other implements? If it were my farm would I consider this worth the trouble or that worth the expense? 

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A Manager’s job is to extract the maximum of efficiency at the minimum of cost from every employee, animal, land or implement. Unless he soaks himself in an atmosphere of trying to obtain efficiency he is certainly little good to his job.

Early rising is a necessary portion of any farmer’s job. If he is the last to come on the scene of farm labour and the first to leave it is obvious that his employees won’t do their full share unless he possesses more than ordinary powers of handling labour.

Any intelligent native can carry out an ordinary farm job if shown how to do it. The white man’s task is to see that every job is done and done properly.

Excuses are never convincing and are usually irritating. Lies defeat the very object for which they’re used. Once a superior catches a junior in a falsehood it’s a good policy for that junior to look for another job – he’s lost the confidence of the man under whom he is working.

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So to gain the reputation of a good farm manager a man must needs:

(1) Be absolutely honest

(2) Be interested in his work 

(3) Be able to get satisfactory results from it.

(4) Be able to win and hold his employee’s respect regarding
            a.  his character
            b.  his personality
            c.  see his devotion to his job
d.  his results

Nothing is more irritating than working with a man in whom one hasn’t confidence. Inspire that feeling of confidence and it is amazing how quickly ones’ troubles disappear.

B.M.Leffler
Valley Farm
Pretoria
South Africa
Circa 1930s