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Aussie Pioneers - 2. AP Chapter 2

While Archie was doing that, I had a looked around and saw that we had a plentiful supply of limestone rocks, so I began to collect them and put them in small piles, away from the top of the hill, where there were a good number of trees and shrubs to provide plenty of shade during the summer months. After two hours, and having swapped jobs twice, Archie and I stopped work, and decided to call it a day, as we had travelled a long way from Ceduna, and done plenty of hard work since we had arrived.

Once we had a good fire going, and the billy was heating up, Archie and I sat down on the ground and watched the flames of our fire dance around. Then we heard this screeching sound, and a flash of pink and white fly by us quickly. We followed it as it landed on a distant tree.

I was reading about the birdlife here. I think they call those Cockatoos. They are native birds to this country,” Archie informed me.

“I am glad that you are keeping up with your reading, Brother, since you have missed half a year of your schooling,” I responded.

“Do you think we will find water here? It looks very dry and it worries me that we wont be able to find any,” Archie said to me in a worried tone.

“I am sure that we will be able to find water. It just may take us a while, but we have enough water for us and the animals for at least 3 weeks, if we conserve it,” I replied.

“The soil at the top of the hole is fairly loose soil, but as we go deeper, it seems to be almost like clay,” Archie commented to me.

“Oh really. That is good to hear. We can use it as we build our cottage, to fill in all the gaps, and help to keep it all together. How do you think we should make it? As one big room, or should we have separate bedrooms?” I asked.

“If we have enough rocks, how about if we make two buildings, one with a kitchen, store room and dining room, and another with two bedrooms, and another store room, with a breezeway between. That way it should keep the building cooler in the summer time,” Archie suggested.

“That’s a good idea, and we will need to build a shed for storing our grains and supplies, and maybe include some stables for the dairy cows and Honey,” I added, and Archie nodded in agreement.

When we bedded down for the night, after five days of long travels, I felt happy that we had finally arrived on the property, and although we had a lot of hard work ahead of us, I was hoping that we would be able to stay here for the rest of our lives.

The next morning, Archie and I were up at the crack of dawn, and after a quick breakfast, we fed and watered all of the stock, before starting work on the water well and the rock gathering for the house. Most of the rocks had been cleared away from the top of the hill, which had a mostly flat area, and using the adze, I cleared away any small shrubs that were there, and tried to level off the ground as best as I could, before starting to dig shallow trenches for the foundation of the main house.

I made it a rectangle shape, with it being 18 feet wide and 46 feet long. Once I had done that, I walked down to where Archie was digging the hole.

“Well, you have been quite busy in there,” I said to my brother, when I looked into the hole.

“We will need to work together soon, as we will need a rope and bucket to start to remove the dirt out of the hole,” Archie replied.

“Do you think it would be better to have a narrower well, so we are not digging so much out?” I asked my brother.

“No, because we may have to use stones or branches to stop the walls from collapsing in,” Archie replied.

“Ok, sounds good. Do you want me to start making a ladder so you can get out of there?” I asked.

“Yes, that would be good. And bring the rope and bucket, so we can start lifting the dirt out, as it is getting too hard, doing it like this,” Archie said to me.

Using the butchering knife, I cut down two large, long branches, and trimmed off the small branches from them, then I cut another two branches and cut them into 1-foot lengths. I trimmed each end, so it was pointed. Once I had done that, I made deep indents in the two large branches at 1- foot intervals, and laid it all out.

Having done that, I cut 2 ¼ foot lengths of rope, and untwisted them, so I had six thin lengths of rope, with one length. I folded it in half and tied the two ends together, before doing the same with the other small lengths of rope. When this was completed, I cut down another branch and cut it into 2-foot lengths, and now I was ready to assemble the new ladder.

Firstly, making sure all the 1-foot long ladder rungs, were in place, I put one of the ropes between the 1st and 2ndrung, and using a 2-foot length of branch I twisted the rope around so it tightened, pulling it all together, and straightened the stick, so it was against the two rungs to keep it tight.

When I had repeated the process three more times, I had a solid 12-foot long ladder. I carried it down the hill to the well.

“Here you go, Brother, a ladder for you to climb out of the well,” I said as I began to slowly lower the ladder down.

“Wow, this looks great. Well done,” Archie said as he looked at the ladder closely, before climbing up. We walked up to where the house was going to be built.

“You know, I think we may get some rain any day now. We better make sure that all of the wheat, corn and oats don’t get spoiled, before we are ready to plant it,” I commented.

“How about we spend half a day with the well and half a day clearing some land for crops?” Archie suggested.

“I think that would be a good idea, especially if we are going to get some rain. If we go without our canvas ground covers, we could make two water troughs to capture rain for the stock. Then we won’t have to worry so much about the stock going thirsty,” I added.

We checked on all of the stock, and handed out some hay for all of them, and some wheat for the chickens, before we got a fire going and heated up some water for a cup of tea.

“I think I better start making some damper, or we will be eating grass and shrubs along with our stock,” Archie stated which made me chuckle, and I nodded in agreement.

Archie soon had the cooking pot out, and all the ingredients to make the damper, with fresh milk from the cows, which for the past few days had been enjoyed by the stock, instead of drinking fresh water, which was a blessing in a way. With the fire built up and the billy now boiled, Archie let the dough rest while we waited for the fire to die down a little, so there were plenty of coals.

While we waited, Archie and I looked at the narrow trenches that I had dug for the foundations of the house.

“Are we going to have a stone fire place and chimney?” Archie asked me.

“Yes, at one end will be the kitchen, with a big fireplace covering most of the end wall, so it can keep us warm in the winter, and cook our meals. At the other end we will build a table and chairs, if we can find some decent wood to build it with,” I replied.

“The well is getting quite cool down there. I hope we can get some water soon. Hey, can you do the same as you did with the ladder? Make a series of panels to help keep the walls from collapsing. We could use bark of branches to fill in between the rungs, to keep it all in place,” Archie suggested.

“Yes, I can do that, but what about helping with the digging of the well?” I replied.

I think we better take care of the walls before we go any deeper,” Archie said and after some thought I agreed with him.

Once the dough was in the pot and covered over, Archie placed it on the coals of the fire, and we got to work to start making panels for the walls of the well.

By the end of the day, we had made a total of eight panels. We weaved branches between the rungs, and we carefully put them into place, and used more branches, to secure them. I had made the panels a lot longer than the ladder, to allow for the panels to drop down, as the well got deeper.

Pleased with what we had achieved, we finished work early, and after feeding and watering all of the stock, we checked on our damper. We had removed the coals about half an hour after it had been placed there.

Archie tapped the top of the damper, which sounded hollow, which was perfect. He tipped it out onto the skillet, to let it cool down.

“We need to start organising some yards for the stock, so they have some room to move around. Do you think we will have enough rocks to build a low wall? That should be enough to keep the sheep in, and also the chickens. Then we can keep the cows and Honey on run lines until we can build stables for them,” I said to my brother.

“Lets’ worry about that in the morning,” Archie suggested, as he used the knife to cut open the damper. It looked nice and fluffy inside. We enjoyed a meal of damper, milk and dried meat for dinner, the most that we had eaten for one meal in many weeks, since leaving Plymouth, which seemed so long ago now. The next morning, after a light breakfast, we fed and watered the stock, before looking around the area, to find a suitable location for yards for the stock.

We found another outcrop of limestone, so we decided that we had enough for the house and the yards, and we decided that the yards were more important for now, so we got to work gathering rocks, and started to build a dry stonewall, to become the main yards for the stock.

When the middle of the day arrived, we stopped to have some tea and damper, and check on the stock, and after lunch, using one of the steel buckets, we began digging the well deeper. We stock piled the dirt, away from the well, using different piles, for different types of soil. Archie was right, the soil was getting close to being clay, which would be ideal for building the house, when we had time to build it.

This became our routine for the next seven days, with half a day building the dry stonewall for the yards, and a half day of digging the well. We noticed that the temperatures were starting to get cooler, both during the day and at night, so we used one of our canvas ground sheets to make a water trough just below ground, inside where the yard was to be, while the other ground sheet was being kept to cover the seed, to protect it from any rain.

At the end of the week, we had the well a depth of 18 feet, and we had a stonewall for the stock yards that was120 feet long, and 60 feet wide, 1-foot thick and 2-foot high, with a branch gate at one end. Although it wasn’t very high, it was enough to keep the sheep in the yard, and with Honey and the dairy cows hobbled, they too were now staying in the new yard, with room to move around.

Eventually, we would make the wall taller, so as to let the cows and Honey roam around the yard freely, but for now we needed to start clearing space for some crops, and also continue digging the well. For better protection from the rain, we emptied the two trunks and placed the bags of corn, wheat and oats into them, and we put our duffle bags on top to keep them off the ground, with the canvas over the top and sides, as the clouds started to look more threatening with rain.

Not long after we had settled down for the night, it began to rain, and luckily with the buggy being under a tree, and with some shrubs nearby, in spite of the driving heavy rain, we were able to stay dry, as it rained for most of the night. It stopped sometime in the early hours just before dawn.

Although all the stock were drenched from the rain, they didn’t seem to mind, and we were pleased to see that our homemade water trough now had a good amount of fresh rainwater in it. Archie gave up trying to start a fire as we had not put together any fire wood undercover to keep it dry, so we just had water and some damper for breakfast.

Once we had eaten and fed the stock with fresh hay and feed grain, we walked around the stockyard fence to see that it was still all in one piece, before we began to clear away some land ready to plant some crops, now that we had had some rain to quench the thirst of the dry land around us.

When it came to the middle of the day, we stopped work and headed over to the wagon to have some lunch, and hopefully have a warm fire, as it had been a bit chilly that morning.

“Hey, Brother, come and check this out,” I heard Archie call out, and I saw him standing near the well peering downwards.

Copyright Preston Wigglesworth January 2019 All Rights Are Reserved

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They sure as hell are very handy and excellent workers. Good on them and good on their Parents!

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