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Aussie Pioneers - 13. AP Chapter 13

“I have tried planting vegetables from seed, but I am not getting a very good germination from them,” Mrs O’Grady stated.

“We use a lot of animal dung as fertiliser, and it does wonders for the growth rate of our vegetables,” Florence said, which caused Mrs O’Grady to screw up her nose at the thought of using animal dung, which made me laugh.

“I am sorry, Mrs O’Grady, but when you are living and working on the land, and especially when we are so remote, as we are, you have to use what is available to get good crops,” I stated, and Mr O’Grady nodded his head in agreement at my statement as we began to eat our meal.

“We will have enough work for two of you for at least 3 weeks, as we also have the wheat crop to harvest, plus a lot of fencing to be done, if you and Patrick are happy to continue,” I said after eating half of my meal.

“That is very kind of you, Edwin, and we will accept any work on offer, until we get ourselves properly set up, and we will accept any payment that you offer as well,” Mr O’Grady responded.

“Would you be happy with a box of vegetables, a dozen eggs, 6 quarts of milk and some butter for a day’s work from both of you, and since Mrs O’Grady and Margaret helped today, I can also give you six 9 - week old chickens,” I offered.

“That is more than generous, and we thank you for that,” Mrs O’Grady replied.

“Good. Then it is settled. 6am start each day, half an hour for a midday meal which is included, and finish the day an hour before sunset,” I said.

“Agreed, with our humble thanks,” Mr O’Grady said and we shook hands to secure the agreement.

In just four days, we had all of the oat crop harvested, thrashed and the seed bagged and stored away, while the oat straw was gathered into bundles and heaped up against some trees near the house.

“I think we need to build some proper stables and a storage shed, and I think we could use 1/3rd of the original stock yard to do it, since the walls are already there,” I said to Archie as we sat down for dinner, after the workers had gone home to their farm.

“Yes, I agree with you, Brother. Lets see if we can spend a day building a dividing wall, so we have a small yard, with the stables leading off it, and from the house side the barn next to it, for storing all of the hay and bags of seed,” Archie replied.

The next morning soon after dawn, Archie and I were up and collecting more limestone rocks, and we started to build the two walls, one making the yard half its size, and the other to turn the new area into stables and a storage barn. Florence called us in for breakfast at a quarter to six, and we had just finished when Shamus and Patrick arrived for work.

“What have ye here now?” Shamus said as he looked at what we had been doing earlier.

“We have decided that we urgently need a storage barn and stables, so we are using the existing stock yard, since it makes it easier to continue building using the walls already here,” Archie said.

“We are getting low on wood. We will need to make another trip to get some logs and do some splitting,” I said to Archie.

“How about Shamus and I go and do that, while you and Patrick keep working on the wall?” Archie suggested.

“Very good. Take the Clydesdales and the large wagon. That way you can bring back a lot more wood. And get Florence to make a packed lunch for you both,” I suggested.

Once Shamus and Archie had set off to get some more wood for the roof and doors, I showed Patrick the heap of clay that we had dug up when digging the well. We gathered some buckets of the clay and began to fill in the gaps in the stone wall of the yard, that was to become the stables and barn, to make the walls more solid. We had most of the existing wall patched up with clay by lunch time, and continued to build the back dividing wall, straight after lunch, filling up the gaps with clay as we went along.

By the time that Shamus and Archie returned with a huge load of wood in the late afternoon, the back wall of the stables and barn was at the same height as the side and front walls, and we had removed part of the wall at the front to make way for a doorway for the storage barn. A doorway would be placed between the barn and the stables to get access to the stables, with another doorway at the back of the stables, for access to the smaller yard. There would be enough room for five horse pens and a tack room in the stables.

The following day, while Shamus was splitting the logs, Patrick, Archie and I continued with building walls -the dividing wall between the stables and the barn, plus the half walls for each of the horse pens and the tack room for the saddles and harnesses. At the end of the day, as Shamus and Patrick were preparing to leave, I invited his family to join us for a New Years Day picnic, as it was New Years’ eve that evening.

I said that we would work for half a day only on New Year’s day, followed by a picnic, and that the O’Grady family were welcome to join us. I was a little surprised that Shamus declined the invitation, and said they would be back in the morning as usual. They headed off back to their farm.

The next morning, work began on harvesting the wheat, with Shamus and I doing the cutting, while my two brothers did the thrashing of the grain, scooping the seed into hessian bags and throwing the straw over the side, where Florence and her boys gathered the straw, and put it into heaps, ready to be stored away.

By lunch time, we had achieved quite a lot, which pleased me, and while Shamus and Patrick headed home, we sat down for a New Years day feast. After a siesta, we got back to work, building the door frames and doors for the stables and barn, which we managed to complete before sunset. With just a few feet left of external walls to complete, we would soon have a roof built over the barn and stables, and be able store away all of the hay and grain.

During dinner, Archie suggested that we build a high shelf to keep the bags of grain off the ground, to keep it dry and away from rodents, which I agreed on. So, we decided that was the first job to do in the morning, as we had 23 bags of oats and probably would have the same amount of wheat.

All the corn that had been harvested, was being stored in the main storeroom in the house. A week later we had the barn and stables completed, and the wheat crop harvested. With it being time for another trip into town, I suggested to Archie that he make the trip this time, and Florence asked if she could also go, as she had decided to sell her farm, as she was very happy living and working on Plymouth Farm.

Florence decided that she would take her youngest son, Mark, along with her, to help Archie with off-loading the big wagon of all the bags of corn and the few bags of oats and most of the bags of wheat that we would be selling. We kept aside enough bags of wheat for cropping seed and chicken feed, and enough oat seed forcropping, and feeding the horses.

Florence was also taking potatoes, onions, carrots, pumpkins, runner beans, cabbages, 2 dozen jars of relish, milk, butter, goats cheese, plus 42 balls of spun wool and 20 of the ram lambs, that we wanted to sell, while we kept all of the ewe lambs for breeding. Using large branches and thin rope, I was able to build a kind of fence, that was placed at the back of the large wagon, to accommodate the lambs, for the journey into town.

While Florence, Mark and Archie were making the trip into town, Shamus, Patrick and I finished gathering all of the stacks of hay and stored them in the barn. Then we began work on building the western boundary fence of the property. We managed to complete 1 ½ miles of the fence, and make the front gates, by the time that they had returned.

I had given Archie all the money that I had saved over the past six months and told him to open a bank account in town, and put the money into the account, adding any left over from the sales of this trip after purchases of supplies had been made.

When they returned, Archie had another box of books to add to our collection, along with all the basic foods that we needed. He also brought 12 long coils of plain wire and fence staples for the fence, and some new boots, trousers and shirts for Simeon as he was growing so fast now.

Once washed, the clothes that he was growing out of would be handed down to Florence’s younger boys to wear. With no major expensive purchases to make this time, Archie was able to bank a large amount of money that they had earned from the sale of the goods and lambs, keeping some money aside to pay Florence for her share of the earnings from the wool, which was quickly bought by the ladies in town, with requests for more when it became available.

Florence was able to sell the land that her husband had bought to take up farming, and while dealing with the transaction, she learnt that another family had bought the western block of land, on the other side of the O’Grady family, and that the family name was Barrington.

While Shamus and Patrick were now working on the farm, Helena and Margret had been travelling with them each day, so that Margaret could join in the school lessons that Florence was doing each day for her three boys and Simeon, making five students in total.

One evening during dinner Florence suggested that we build a school house so as to be able to teach the children away from the distractions of her housework. I said that we would do just that once the western boundary was completed in three weeks’ time.

Although only half a mile away from the front gate of the farm, Florence also suggested putting the school house just inside the front gate, so it was more central for the other children attending, with Margaret and possibly more children from the neighbouring farm. Reluctantly I agreed to her suggestion for the location of the school.

When we did finish the western boundary, Shamus said that he wanted to spend some time on his own farm, and that he would send Patrick to continue working and Margaret to attend school. I asked him to assist with building the school house before he went on with his own farm work, and reluctantly he agreed.

With it now being early February, the temperatures during the day were quite hot, and so I had been agreeing to a three-hour rest break in the middle of the day, from 11am to 2pm, to keep out of the sun.

For the first few days of planning for the school house, we spent some time looking for a suitable location, as right at the front gate was very flat and sandy, and not suitable. Eventually we agreed on an area on a slight rise, 150 yards in from the main gate, and 20 yards off the main access track to our homestead.

The location had plenty of shady trees scattered around, and one group of Eucalypt trees gave an indication of water close to the surface. Our first chore was to dig a well for water and clay to help with building. As we had hoped, we did find water. We lined the well with logs, and made a cover over it, so no one or thing would fall into it.

With the clay that we had retrieved from digging the well, and the rocks that we gathered from around the area, we first dug some deep holes to put in support posts for the roof, before starting to build the walls. We had agreed on a rectangular shaped school room, with three ¾ high walls, with lift up shutters, to allow for plenty of ventilation during the summer, but still keep the rain out.

We would also have a wide roof, that would go out 5 yards past the wall, to provide an outdoor undercover verandah, that would have wooden flooring as would the school house, which would be 20 yards long and 12 yards wide, with the front of the school house being along one side, which would be the only wall that would be full height to the roof.

Copyright Preston Wigglesworth January 2019 All Rights Are Reserved

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