While we had been working on the fence line, I had been considering how to split the property into smaller paddocks, knowing that it would involve a lot more-hard work, and as we packed up after completing the last of the southern fence, I turned to Archie.
“We have over 20,700 acres of land on this big block. How do you think we should split it up into manageable paddocks?” I asked my brother.
“Does it involve building more fences?” Archie asked me.
“I am afraid so. It has to be done, or else we can’t keep track of the sheep,” I replied.
“What about the gaps in the rails?” Archie asked me.
“Already worked that out. We will have to invest in some plain fencing wire, and put one strand between the lower rail and the ground and another between the two rails,” I explained, which made Archie groan.
“Let’s just divide up half of the land first, and worry about the rest later,” Archie suggested.
“Ok, so how do we divide 10,350 acres then?” I asked him.
“As big as possible,” Archie replied with a smug grin on his face, which made me laugh.
“If we divide it into quarters, do you think 2,550 acres is going to be too big?” I asked Archie.
“How do you mean?” Archie asked.
“Well, we will have to make some sheep yards and bring them in at least twice a year for shearing and checking on them, and we also have to find a place to dig wells to provide them with water,” I explained.
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that,” Archie replied, as the three of us climbed onto the wagon and headed home.
“You are very quiet about all of this Simeon. What do you think?Do you understand what we were discussing?” I asked our youngest brother.
“I understand it. I just don’t quite get an understanding about the sizes that you are saying,” Simeon replied.
“Hmm. Yes, a good point. Ok, we have made all of the stock paddocks so far 20 acres in area, and the two vegetable paddocks are 5 acres in area. How about tomorrow morning, you have a wander around some of the paddocks, and you will get a better understanding,” I suggested.
“Ok,” Simeon replied simply.
“Now that we have finished the southern boundary, you can go back to having morning school lessons, and we will have a break from fencing, and do some more work with the corn crop, so we have some to take into town with us next time,” I announced, and I could see that Archie was happy to have a change of jobs for a while, as fencing was not one of his favourites.
With only a few days left till Christmas, we kept close to the homestead with our daily work, as it was now getting increasingly hotter, making it difficult to work. The oats crop had now matured, and was ready for harvesting, so Florence and I used the scythe tools to cut the oat hay, while Archie and Simeon gathered it into heaps and loaded it into the buggy, where the younger boys thrashed the heads of the oats, and scooped the seed into the hessian bags. The straw was dropped over one side of the buggy to be collected later for straw hay.
After three days of this, we had only about a quarter of the crop gathered, but we would have to wait till the day after as the next daywould be Christmas Day, and I wanted everyone to enjoy it as much as possible. Everyone knew that there would be no presents to give or receive, but instead we would have a big Christmas feast at lunch time, followed by some singing of carols.
This would be a totally different Christmas for us Cameron boys, as we would be away from the rest of the family in England, as well as it being in the middle of summer. For the Applegate family, it would be a sad Christmas for them because they had lost two sisters and their father in the short period of a few months.
Florence had a number of Christmas tunes on the rolls of her Pianola, and that would make it a happier time for all of is, as we sang along to the music. Christmas day was as cheerful as we could make it, and I think the younger ones had a good day. We sent them to bed after a light dinner on Christmas night, and Archie stayed up with Florence and I to discuss plans for the next few days.
“We need to get that oat crop in as soon as possible and the wheat will be fully ripe soon after that is done. We will have to get the little ones to pick the corn crop and to start the de-husking, so we can get it ready to take into town,” I said.
“So much to do, and so little time to do it,” Florence commented.
“It’s the life we choose, so I guess we just have to do the best we can to be able to survive in this harsh land. I just wish it wasn’t so hot all the time,” I responded, and both Archie and Florence nodded their heads in agreement.
I was up at dawn the next day, and I had the fire going in the stove when I heard a horse and buggy pull up near the house.
“Hello in there. Anybody home,” a male voice called out. I went out the front door to see who it was that hadarrived.
“The name is Shamus O’Grady. I have the 5,200 acres in the middle and next door to the Applegate farm, but I can’t seem to find a home on the farm,” the man said when I appeared.
“Good day to you, sir. My name is Edwin Cameron. My two brothers and I own this farm, and the Applegate Family no longer live on that farm,” I replied.
“I see. By the way, a Merry Christmas to you all. I hope that you had a joyous Christmas day yesterday,” Mr O’Grady said.
“It was fair considering the heat and flies that are around at this time of the year,” I replied, as I watched Mr O’Grady look around the farm.
“You have quite a set up here, Mr Campbell, for such a young man like yourself. A hug vegetable patch, crops, sheep, dairy cattle and horses from what I see,” Mr O’Grady commented.
“Yes, that is right. We brought the livestock with us from England, and we have been working on crops to keep us fed. How may I assist you Mr O’Grady?” I replied.
“Well, my family and I have only been on our farm, since the start of spring now. All we have at the moment is a little one room shack, a dairy cow and some chickens, and when we saw your impressive post and rail fence along our adjoining boundary, we thought we maybe able to do some trading with ye,” Mr O’Grady said.
“I see. So how many are there in your family?” I asked.
“Well, there is me self, my lovely wife Helena, my oldest Patrick - he is 15 - and our daughter Margaret is 12,” Mr O’Grady replied.
“Very well, be here at 6am tomorrow, and we will give you some produce, milk, butter and relish, in return for a good day’s work from you and your son,” I said.
“That is a fair trade, Mr Cameron. We will be here as you say tomorrow. A good day to you,” Mr O’Grady said and he climbed back into his buggy and headed back the way he had come, on the main access track. I headed back indoors, where Florence was busy preparing breakfast.
“Did you hear that?” I asked Florence, as I accepted a cup of tea from her.
“I did indeed. It means we can get these crops in a lot faster than we had hoped, and all in time before the next trip into town,” Florence replied smiling.
“Can you please put together some produce, milk and butter from our store room, and maybe a few jars of your fabulous relishes? There should be plenty of packing crates around to use,” I asked.
“Certainly. Just make sure that they work for it. I can’t stand people that don’t work for their keep,” Florence said.
Once everyone had eaten breakfast, and the animals had been fed, eggs collected and the milking done, we set off to the fields once more to harvest the oat crop, and by the end of the day, we had managed to get a good amount of crop cut and thrashed, and the seed collected into the bags.
James, Adam and Mark were pleased when they learnt that they would not be helping with the oat crop, but doing their usual chores, some education studies and helping with de-husking the corn, which is done indoors, where it is much cooler.
The following morning came around with an early start, as I had warned everyone during dinner. Florence was already in the kitchen when I arrived shortly after daybreak, which was around 5am. Once everyone had eaten, the younger three boys got to work feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, and starting on picking the corn from the storks, and carrying the full crates inside.
Meanwhile Archie and Simeon fed and watered the horses and dairy cows and did the milking, while I made a start with the cutting of the hay. When I saw the neighbour’s buggy arrive, it had the whole family onboard, and I wondered why.
“Good morning to ye, Mr Cameron,” Mr O’Grady said as I approached them.
“Good morning, Mr O’Grady,” I replied, and shook his hand.
“This is my wife Helena, my son Patrick and my daughter Margaret. Family, this is Mr Edwin Campbell,” Mr O’Grady said making the introductions.
“I was only expecting the men, but if you ladies want to work too, you are most welcome to do so,” I said to the neighbours.
“We are here to work, Mr Campbell, so just show us what to do, and we shall do it,” Mrs O’Grady stated firmly.
Well I know who the boss is in that family, I thought to myself, as I lead the way to the oat crop with a small grin on my face. With the Clydesdales already harnessed to the wagon, and waiting patiently to do some work, Mr O’Grady and I got to work cutting the hay, while Mrs O’Grady collected it and tossed it onto the back of the wagon, and their children swatted the oats, to collect the seed and scoop it all into the hessian bags and tossthe straw back over the side.
When Archie and Simeon had finished their jobs, and seeing that we had everything under control in the oatcrop, they continued picking the corn, and carrying it indoors, so it could be de-husked, which Florence was keeping a close watch on, while she cleaned and prepared the midday meal for everyone, which today was oats and vegetable soup and bread, with sweet biscuits for after, as a treat.
“This looks like a wonderful meal, thankyou,” Mrs O’Grady said as they entered the dining room to eat.
“This is my housekeeper, Mrs Florence Applegate,” I said making the introduction.
“Are you related to the Applegate family, who own the farm down yonder?” Margaret asked.
“Yes, dear, that is us that owns the farm, but I lost my husband and daughter due to illness, and Mr Cameron hasbeen kind enough to take us in,” Florence replied.
“We are so sorry to hear that Mrs Applegate. Thank heavens you have a kind neighbour to help you in time of sorrow and need,” Mrs O’Grady said.
“Thankyou for your kind words. My children have already eaten, so there is room for all of you to take a seat,” Florence said to everyone.
“So, how long have you been on this farm then? May I call you, Edwin?” Mr O’Grady asked.
“Yes, that is fine. Archie and I arrived in early February this year, with some stock, and supplies, and our youngest brother, Simeon, arrived here just a month ago in late November,” I replied.
“You have done all of this in just ten short months?” Mrs O’Grady asked.
“Yes, that is right. A lot of hard work and long hours. Florence’s older two boys came to stay when the illness began, and they have been a great help with building the yards and planting crops,” Archie replied.
“Well you have certainly achieved a lot. Do you have family where you come from?” Mr O’Grady asked.
“Yes, we are from Plymouth, England, and our parents still live there along with our three younger sisters,” I replied.
“Well, quite a large family you have,” Mrs O’Grady stated.
“Yes, and we do miss them, but for now it is best that they stay there, until we have the farm properly set up. We still have lots of fences to build, and new vegetable crops to harvest and plant,” I said.
Copyright Preston Wigglesworth January 2019 All Rights Are Reserved