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The Khedive's Country   By: (1831-1909)

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The Khedive's Country, by George Manville Fenn.



Man's oldest pursuit was undoubtedly the tilling of the soil. He may in his earliest beginnings have combined therewith a certain amount of hunting while he was waiting for his crops to grow, and was forced into seeking wild fruits and turning up and experimenting on the various forms of root, learning, too, doubtless with plenty of bitter punishment, to distinguish between the good and nutritious and the poisonous and bad.

As a matter of course, a certain amount of fighting would ensue. Wild animals would be encountered, or fellow savages would resent his intrusion upon lands where the acorns were most plentiful, or some tasty form of fungus grew. But whether from natural bent or necessity, as well as from his beginnings recorded in the ancient Book, he was a gardener, and the natural outcome of gardening was, as ideas expanded, his becoming a farmer.

The world has gone rolling on, and many changes have taken place, but these pursuits remain unaltered. The love of a garden seems to be inborn; and though probably there are children who have never longed to have one of their own, they are rarities, for of whichever sex they be, the love of this form of nature still remains.

There are those who garden or farm for pleasure, and there are those, of course, who, either on a large or small scale, cultivate the soil for profit, while the grades between are innumerable. But here in England, towards the end of such a season as we have had one that may be surely termed a record one is tempted to say, Where does the pleasure or the profit come in?

Certainly during the present period, or cycle, or whatever it may be termed, the English climate is deteriorating. Joined to that assertion is the patent fact that the produce of the garden and farm has largely gone down in price through the cheapness of the foreign imports thrown upon the market, and the man with small or large capital who looks forward to making a modest living out of the land, without any dreams of fortune, may well pause before proceeding to invest his bawbees, and ask himself, Where shall I go?

Thousands have debated this question for generations, with the result that the Antipodes have been turned into Anglo Saxon farms; Van Diemen's Land has become another England, with its meadows, hedgerows, and orchards; New Zealand, the habitat of tree fern and pine, has been transformed. Even the very surface has changed, and the land that in the past hardly boasted a four footed animal is now rich in its cattle; while Australia, the dry and shadowless, the country of downs, has been made alive with flocks, its produce mainly tallow and wool till modern enterprise and chemistry rendered it possible for the frozen mutton to reach England untainted after its long voyage across the tropics to our homes.

To keep to the temperate or cold regions, the name of Canada or the great North West springs up as does the corn which fills our granaries; while the more enterprising cultivators of the soil, who have had souls above the ordinary plodding of the farmer's life the fancy tillers, so to speak with the tendency towards gardening, produced our sugar from the West Indies and British Guiana, and tobacco and cotton from the Southern States, long ere the Stars and Stripes waved overhead; while, to journey eastward, the gardens have flourished in India and Ceylon with indigo, spices, and coffee; and later on, wherever suitable slopes and terraces were found, the Briton has planted the attractive glossy leaved tea shrub, until the trade with China for its fragrant popular produce has waned.

There are plenty of lands of promise for the cultivator, unfortunately too often speculative and burdened by doubt. They are frequently handicapped by distance, extremes of climate, and unsuitability to the British constitution... Continue reading book >>

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