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Showing posts from April, 2017

Udders and unders

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
Udderwise The cows were milked morning and night but before milking their udders were washed. Once the cow was penned in the milking shed a clean pail of warm water and a cloth was used to wipe over the udders before the suction cups of the milking machine were applied. Cows would usually stand contentedly but occasionally a cantankerous beast might try to kick. If there was very little milk to be had, or when the herd was small, a cow was sometimes milked by hand. I remember trying this once or twice but never successfully.

We always had fresh milk, in fact the fridge was often overflowing with milk so milk puddings and custards were frequently on our menu. At school when the free milk in little bottles was delivered many of us disliked it, it was not the day fresh milk we were accustomed to.

Cream, yes lovely thick cream, separated from that milk over in the milking shed, there was plenty of that so …

Tennis, tin-kettling and a telephone

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Tennis Anyone for tennis? 
My father, his brother Joe and sister Mary had all played tennis in their youth in the 1920s. There are several mentions of the matches they played, won and lost in the newspapers of the time.

When we moved into our new farmhouse in the late 1950s a tennis court was constructed along one side of the house.

Sunday afternoons when the weather was clear, it was time for tennis. Uncle Joe, though of short stature at about 4 ft 11 inches, had a very mean slice and backhand. He made up for his lack of speed around the court by excellent ball placement. Games played were usually doubles to cater for a number of players. Often Joe would be at one end and Dad at the other with one or other of my siblings pairing with them. Some of my siblings also played in the local town tennis teams during summer.

Our racquets had heavy wooden frames with gut strings and were kept in screw down fram…

Sheep, sewing and saving

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Sheep Sheep were raised for the wool clip and were also sold to the abattoir at Pooraka, Gepps Cross on the northern outskirts of Adelaide. On the farm, the sheep were shifted between paddocks as they grazed and when little grass was about, they were fed with bales of hay. From a young age, we all learned to steer the truck while hay was forked from the tray.

During lambing season there would often be weak newborn or orphan lambs that we cared for at the house. As children, we loved having pet lambs and fed them from bottles. It was always surprising to return home one day later in the season and find that the pet lamb, now well grown, had been returned to the flock. Each Sunday Dad liked to go for an afternoon drive around the paddocks to check on the sheep, I always enjoyed these drives. Apart from milking cows morning and night that was usually the only farm work done on a Sunday. Sometimes the ful…

Rabbits and the rain gauge

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Rabbits Rabbits are a serious pest in Australia. They were brought to Australia as early as 1788 in the First Fleet and the first record of them appearing in South Australia is in 1840 when the ship Courier set sail from England for Port Adelaide with “a number of hares and rabbits…. to be turned out on their arrival in the colony.” 1

They were protected by legislation for gentlemen’s sport until 1864. It appears that the rabbits on Mr Dutton’s Anlaby station near Kapunda were turned loose at Julia Creek. Rabbits eat crops, dig burrows and destroy the arable land. By 1867 farmers were allowed to destroy them but they had spread far and wide. 2

On the farm, we used several methods to try to get rid of rabbits. The most exciting for a youngster was to go spotlighting. After dark Dad would drive into a paddock in the car and use a spotlight to focus on the rabbit. Once framed in the light it would be shot…

Quinces and the Queen

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
Quinces Quinces were the one fruit we never took from the tree. A raw quince is dry tasting and has an unpleasant furry skin. When they ripen however they can be used to make a variety of dishes. Mum made quince jelly which was a jam strained of fruit until only the clear liquid remained.

The cleaned and chopped quinces were boiled with a little lemon juice for about one and a half hours. When the fruit had cooled the juice was strained through a muslin cloth then boiled with added sugar. The scum was skimmed from the top before pouring into jars for sealing and labelling.

The left over quinces were somewhat dry but leaving nothing to waste, Mum would then make a cake-top pudding from the remaindered fruit. We also had stewed quinces with cream for a sweets course when our tree had plenty of fruit. Nearby neighbours had more quince trees so it was not unusual to process a large bucketful of quinces for…

Plenty of peas

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
Pigs, pine trees, pens, penfriends, practice, plums, peaches and peas. So many Ps, a plenitude of choices. We had peas in a paddock, pigs in pens, pine trees along the driveway with plums, peaches and pears in the orchard. Photos were taken but the film was expensive and one would sometimes wait months before the roll was finished and sent for processing.
Pigs My brother received two mated sows for his sixteenth birthday. Imagine our excitement when large litters were born. The pigs were “large whites” and sometimes had up to thirteen piglets in a litter. It was difficult to prevent the sows from rolling onto and squashing one of their litter. Clean straw had to be added to the pens regularly, cleaning out the pen before adding fresh straw was a really smelly job. Thank goodness I never had to do it. Once the pigs started to grow the pen could be opened into the small paddock where they often proceeded…

Oranges in the orchard and some offal

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A-Z challenge – My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Oranges “I’m just testing the oranges to see if they are ready.” I often heard my mother say this with a smile as she peeled another freshly picked orange.

We had a wonderful collection of fruit and nut trees in the orchard planted between the house and the milking shed. There were navel and Valencia oranges, mandarins and lemons. Stone fruits included apricots, several varieties of peaches and nectarines and a least three varieties of plums. My favourites were the delicious dark satsuma plums. A pear tree bore plentiful fruit alongside a quince, fig, almond and walnut trees. There were at least two apple trees.

Fruit was eaten fresh, stewed, made into jam and marmalade, bottled and preserved so that we had it throughout the year. In winter there were fruit crumbles – stewed fruit with a crumble topping made of flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon, fruit tarts in pastry cases and fruit puddings – stewed fr…

Nettles, nasties and netball

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Nettles Remember those stinging nettles? Just when we thought to find a fine place to play in the grass, the sting stung, painfully and irritatingly. Often when climbing through a fence, concentrating carefully on avoiding the strand of barbed wire that ran across the top, I stepped straight into a patch of those nettles. A pain for the child and a pest to the farmer.

The cure-all in our house for stings, rashes and mosquito bites was calamine lotion. It came in a large brown glass bottle. This had to be shaken and agitated before opening otherwise a thin watery pink trickle was all that appeared. It dried hard and crusty on the skin but I remember well many days covered in blotches of pink calamine lotion.
Never have I tried nettle soup. Nettle anyone?
Nasty visitors No, not the human kind. The mean, munch through anything mice, the silent slithery snakes.

Just picture that horrible grey mass of mice…

Making merry, mud and other muck

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
Making merry Celebrations played a central role in my childhood. The obvious birthdays, Christmas and Easter were pivotal points in the calendar. We had family birthdays to be celebrated in January, April, May, July and August. There were two in September and one each in November and December. Our bachelor uncle lived nearby and as he shared many meals with us, his birthday in April was also cause for celebration. That was a lot of birthday cakes each year. Mum made these, usually a double layer sponge filled with homemade jam and delicious whipped cream. This was served as the sweet course after the main meal at night. The birthday candles were recycled until they were too short to light again.
Celebrations were the only time that we had fizzy drinks. The choice was often lemonade or creaming soda. Adults might drink beer on a special occasion but my father’s favourite tipple was a small glass of port…

Love, learning, luck and a little licorice

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
My childhood was filled with love and I suspect quite a bit of luck. I was the youngest of seven children otherwise known as the lucky last. My mother was 38 and my father 42 by the time I was born and by then, well experienced with child rearing. I was also nurtured and cared for by older siblings and had plenty of ready-made playmates. Farm income was so dependent on the seasons but I was never short of clothing, food or love.
Luck and learning I was lucky that government regulations for school buses changed when I was in grade four so then I could travel to the Riverton Convent for the last three years of primary school. Previously regulations only entitled school buses to carry government school children. In Riverton, the nuns carefully coached their charges and at the end of year seven, I was lucky enough to secure a scholarship to a boarding school in Adelaide. I suspect the nuns played a role in…

Knitting, kneeling and killing

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Knitting Winters were cold in South Australia and knitted woollen jumpers were well valued. I learnt to knit with scraps of wool and probably first knitted squares or a scarf. I also knitted small vests for dolls. Mum’s motto that idle hands make for the devil’s work, meant that it was always wise to have something on the go. New wool was expensive to purchase so I do remember much unravelling of previously knitted garments to be rolled into tight balls before the wool was reused for a new jumper.

New wool came in skeins rather than balls, so several hours involving two people would be spent rolling the skeins into balls. Many women took their knitting everywhere they went. In the waiting rooms for doctors and dentists, it was not uncommon to see all the women knitting. I appreciated having learnt how to knit especially once I was at boarding school. Knitting filled in many long hours chatting with fri…

Jelly jests

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Jelly Jolly jelly everywhere. Jelly with fruit, fruit in jelly, jelly and trifle, jelly in trifle, jelly and cream.

These were some of our regular desserts served after the main meal. Jelly was quick and easy to make and came in a wide variety of colours and flavours. I guess it was also a way of stretching the meal as cooking for seven hungry children can not have been simple. Jelly cakes – now these were delicious and made for special occasions. A current recipe reveals they are still popular.

Port wine jelly was a reddish colour so plums, nectarines and occasionally cherries found their way here. Orange jelly went well with apricots. Green lime coola, well I guess it was just another colour for variety. Other varieties were raspberry and strawberry.


Lemon jelly was my favourite. We often needed two packets of crystals to make enough jelly to feed the family. First, the kettle was boiled and the jell…

Instruments and implements

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
Instruments The piano was in the lounge room. In her youth, Mum had sometimes played piano at dances and was keen for her girls to learn. At least three of us played regularly and I had lessons through both primary and secondary school years. One of my sisters was accomplished at playing by ear and could pick out almost any tune. Another sister went on to become a music teacher. 
As children, we were often expected to play in front of visitors so easy duets were popular pieces to cover this duty. The piano was a great source of in-house entertainment too as we often gathered around and sang along to popular songs of the day, hymns or old favourite songs we had learnt from Mum. A violin rested on top of the piano but I don’t remember it being played very often. One of my sisters played a piano accordion too. Implements Plough, binder, harvester, elevator, cultivator, seeder, baler, slasher, combine, str…

Harvest, hay and a Hills hoist

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Harvest time The weather dictated harvest time. Too damp, no reaping. The crop must be dry. The very long days on the tractor meant my father and later my brother were gone for hours. In early days my father and Uncle Joe bagged the wheat. The bags had to be sewn up before they were moved so for many long hours they would stand out in the height of the summer heat. They stitched up the tops with the curved bag needles that were threaded with thick twine. The bags were branded for delivery and others were stored in the barn for livestock food.

Sometimes harvest was finished by Christmas but it often went on well into January. In those days the crops were mostly wheat, barley and oats. A paddock of peas would be sown to enrich the soil and they also provided peas for home consumption.



Hay At the end of harvest, the remaining crops grown specifically for hay and were slashed then rowed ready for gathering…

Gates and grates

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Gates and grates A farm is a place with a myriad of gates. Gates on paddocks, sheds and yards all for a variety of purposes and all differently constructed. Close the gate after you is still as relevant today was it was then.

Gates kept animals in paddocks and sheds and children out of danger. There were high gates on the old farmhouse backyard. The house was next to a creek, unsafe for small children. Along the edge of the creek, the washing line was strung above the grey wormwood bushes. I have very early memories of standing at the gate straining to watch as Mum hung out the clothes. In my early years, there was a gate leading to the driveway out to the road seen in the photo above.

The top gate was at the entrance to the property and after some years was replaced with a cattle grate. This saved a lot of getting in and out of vehicles to open and close gates. The paddock gates were usually made out …

Feathered foes and furry friends

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A-Z challenge – My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Fowls and Turkeys The fowl shed was - yes you guessed it  - sometimes foul. To collect the eggs was usually not a trial unless a hen had “gone broody” and wanted to retain the eggs for hatching. Generally one could put one’s hand underneath a sitting hen and safely retrieve the eggs but sometimes they pecked. We had about a hundred hens, so collecting eggs was a daily chore. Once a week we cleaned and packed the eggs into crates for the market.

Then there was the not so delightful job of shovelling out the hen house once the litter became too deep. When it had dried out it was used as fertiliser around all the fruit trees. Fresh straw was forked across the floor of the hen house much to their delight, they would scratch and scrabble around in it. Sometimes we would catch or tame a hen and tuck it under one arm to carry around. The flock were happy to be hunted back inside the shed for the night.

Turkey…

Early childhood and Easter

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A-Z challenge – My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
Early childhood In our backyard at the old farm house, Dad had erected an old wagon wheel on a pole, it was our hurdy-gurdy. We had a lot of fun spinning each other around. There was no such thing as a comfortable seat, just sit on a spoke or the metal ring, grab hold and make sure one's legs were not touching the ground. We also had a home-made swing under the pepper trees. It was a straight, hard piece of wood attached by chains to an upper tree branch.
 As I was the youngest of seven children most of my memories involve trailing around with others and playing whatever games were on the go. Once all my siblings were at school, I had the solitary pleasure of sitting in front of the large cabinet radio and listening to Kindergarten of the Air.  This 25-minute program aimed at children from 3-6 years of age was broadcast Monday to Saturday at 9 am. This was before television and was my experience of…

Drat that darn dog

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Darning Farm work was tough on clothes. There was always mending and darning to be done. Socks were darned and re-darned to make them last. Men’s work trousers were patched over and over.

When the sheets wore thin they were cut down the middle then the sides resewn together. Knitted jumpers were darned where holes had appeared. I’m grateful I no longer feel the need to darn anything!

The skill did come in handy at boarding school in the sixties, those 30 denier stockings were liable to hole. When a dab of nail polish would not suffice to stop a run, that darn skill was useful.

Dogs Dogs were essential for working with sheep. Flossie was treasured and she worked hard. Sometimes, of course, the dog would run contrary to orders and try to anticipate where the sheep were to go. In such a case my father in retelling the story would  refer to ‘that darn dog.’ He was a very mild-mannered man and I never heard …

Cars for carting

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Cars and utes How many could fit in a sedan of the times?

Squashed in the front of the EH Holden my father drove, my brother sat next to him, Mum on the left passenger side and me jammed in between. In the back seat my five sisters were seated one back, one forward, one back, one forward and one more back.

That’s how we travelled to Mass each Sunday and no complaints were to be tolerated. No seat belts then, just packed in like sardines. That car was more spacious than the earlier green and white FC Holden we’d previously owned.
Teenagers and cars I learnt to drive in the paddocks. Perhaps it was first steering the tractor or truck as it slowly progressed in a straight line while hay was distributed to sheep from the back. I then progressed to the family sedan learning to change gears along the way. I remember well the kangaroo hops made before getting those gears to change smoothly.

One sister acquire…

Bulls in the paddock, baking and bicycling

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties Bull Was it fearsome? Probably not.

Each day we walked about 300 metres out to a main road to catch the school bus. Often there was a bull in the paddock next to the dirt track. I remember always being frightened that he would charge.There was a fence between us and the bull, so my fears were probably unfounded but I always walked along the other side of the track, preferably with a sibling between me and the bull. If he was grazing near the fence, we ran to get past him as quickly as possible.
Biscuits One of the first things I learnt to cook was a batch of biscuits. My mother baked both cakes and biscuits weekly to cater for school lunches, for morning and afternoon teas, for paddock work and to have a supply on hand for any visitors. Chocolate Crackles and Honey cornflake crackles were easy to make for a beginner. Shearing time meant increased baking to feed the extra men on site. Cakes and biscuits…

Apricots and almonds–all whistle now

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A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
This is the first in a series of 26 posts, each day in April except Sundays, one letter of the alphabet.

My father planted a wide variety of fruit trees between the farm house and the cowshed. These trees were our source of fresh fruit and the excess each season was stewed, made into jam or bottled and preserved for consumption during winter months.
Apricots  Fresh from the tree these were delicious. Mum often served apricots cut in half and sprinkled with a little coconut. Fresh cream on the table completed the treat. My father was quite a champion of piling copious quantities of jam and lovely thick cream onto a single slice of bread. He then cut it neatly into four quarters and we watched with anticipation to see if it would reach his mouth without jam or cream sliding off that tiny quarter.

Apricots ripen in the hottest weather and as the season wore on and the ripening quickened, some became soft …