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The health of the prospector, especially in a new country, depends largely on his housing--in which particular many men are foolishly careless, for although they are aware that they will be camped out for long periods, yet all the shelter they rely on is a miserable calico tent, often without a "fly," while in some cases they sometimes even sleep on the wet, or dusty, ground. Such persons fully deserve the ill health which sooner or later overtakes them. A little forethought and very moderate ingenuity would render their camp comparatively healthy and comfortable.
In summer the tent is the hottest, and in winter the coldest of domiciles. The "pizie" or "adobie" hut, or, where practicable, the "dugout," are much to be preferred, especially the latter. "Pizie" or "adobie" is simply surface soil kneaded with water and either moulded between boards like concrete, to construct the walls, or made into large sun-dried bricks. Salt water should not be used, as it causes the wall to be affected by every change of weather. A properly constructed house of this material, where the walls are protected by overhanging eaves, are practically everlasting, and the former have been standing for centuries. There are buildings of pizie or adobie in Mexico, California and Australia which are as good as new, although the latter were built nearly a century ago.
Adobie dwellings are warm in winter and cool in summer, and can be kept clean and healthy by occasional coatings of lime whitewash.
The dugout is even more simple in construction. A cutting, say ten feet wide, is put into the base of a hill for say twelve feet until the back wall is, say, ten feet high, the sides starting from nothing to that height. The front and such portion as is required of the side walls are next constructed of pizie or rough stone, with mud mortar, and the roof either gabled or skillion of bough, grass, or reed thatch, and covered with pizie, over which is sometimes put another thin layer of thatch to prevent the pizie being washed away by heavy rain. Nothing can be more snug and comfortable than such a house, unless the cows, as Mark Twain narrates, make things "monotonous" by persistently tumbling down the chimney.
When the Burra copper mines were in full work in Australia, the banks of the Burra Creek were honeycombed like a rabbit warren with the "dugout homes" of the Cornish miners. The ruins of these old dugouts now extend for miles, and look something like an uncovered Pompeii.
When water is scarce and the tent has to be retained, much can be done to make the camp snug. I occupied a very comfortable camp once, of which my then partner, a Dane, was the architect. We called it "The Bungalow," and it was constructed as follows: First we set up our tent, 10 ft. by 8 ft., formed of calico, but lined with green baize, and covered with a well set fly.
Next we put in four substantial forked posts about 10 ft. high and 15 ft. apart, with securely fixed cross pieces, and on the top was laid a rough flat roof of brush thatch; the sides were then treated in the same way, but not so thickly, being merely intended as a breakwind.
The tent with its two comfortable bunks was placed a little to one side, the remaining space being used as a dining and sitting room all through the summer. Except in occasional seasons of heavy rain, when we were saved the trouble of washing our dishes, the tent was only used for sleeping purposes, and as a storehouse for clothes and perishable provisions. I have "dwelt in marble halls" since then, but never was food sweeter or sleep sounder than in the old bush bungalow.
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