When I peered down the well, I was shocked to see that we had some water in the bottom.
“How deep is the water do you think?” Archie asked me.
“Pull up the ladder and check the bottom of the ladder. That should be a good indicator,” I replied, and I watched as my brother pulled the ladder up, and laid it down on the ground. “About two feet, I would say, but who knows if it will stay that way. It may just seep into the ground. Let’s bucket some of it up, and we can fill up the animal trough with it,” I said.
Once the water trough was full, we got to work to clear as much land as we could, so as to start planting some crops, with me clearing away the shrubs and rocks, while Archie began to dig up the soil, to get it loose enough to allow crops to grow. I had decided to let the chickens out into the yards, as they had started to lay eggs, and with the few wooden packing crates that we had with us, plus some straw hay, we made up two nesting boxes for them, and they quickly settled into their new home.
By the time our third week in South Australia had arrived, we had cleared a total of 20 acres of land, and we had planted 5 acres of corn, 5 acres of oats and ten acres of wheat. The water in the well had dropped down a little bit, but with the occasional rain every few days, it was staying at a steady level, so we had a good supply of water for now.
“Hey, Archie, I know it can’t be the limited feed that they are having, but does it look like our father has given us pregnant sheep and cattle?If so, then we should have some lambs dropping in about 6 to 8 weeks’ time,” I said to my brother.
“That would be fantastic,Brother. Our first lot on our new farm,” Archie replied happily.
“And we may have some calves drop in about 10 weeks’ time if they were mated at the right time,” I added.
With the crops now planted, and with water in the well, we decided to get started on the house, and using some of the heavier soil dug out from the well, we commenced to lay the foundations for the house, with the walls to be at least 1-foot thick to provide some insulation from the heat in summer and cold in the winter. I decided that the fireplace and chimney were the most important part of the house to be built first, so as to make cooking a little easier.
I made a bendable panel out of branches, to assist with creating the arch for the front of the fireplace, and in just two days, we had completed the fireplace and a 4-foot high chimney, that opened on the back at the top, to stop rain from coming inside. With that completed, we moved all of our cooking and eating supplies into the kitchen area, and began building the walls, from the kitchen end first, stopping the wall before half way on one side, to make way for a wide doorway, which I wanted to make four feet wide.
I was not sure what to do for a door frame or for windows, and decided on concentrating on the bottom half of the walls all the way around first. With the house going up very well, we decided to spend a couple of hours each afternoon, adding to the wall of the stock yards.
We soon had it up to the same height as the house, at 3 feet from the ground, which was now plenty high enough to keep all the stock secured, without them being hobbled, even though Honey stood nearly 6 feet tall, from front hoof to the top of her head.
With the yards, we had cut thick branch posts, and added them into the wall, as we were building it, so that they stuck two feet higher than the wall, and we bound thick branches along the top of those branch posts, to create a higher barrier, to stop them from jumping out.
There were two trees in the yard and quite a few around the outside of the yard. We put the chickens nesting boxes, in the very low branches of the two trees, about 5 feet off the ground, hopefully high enough to stay out of reach of foxes, which was a worry for us, although we were unsure if they were causing a problem to other graziers in the region.
With the regular rain that we had been getting, the ground was now nice and moist, and the first of the corn seeds were now starting to sprout. Archie had found some packets of dried seeds, in amongst our belongings, with our mother’s hand writing informing us what kind of seeds they were - pumpkins, tomatoes, onions, garlic, runner beans, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and parsnips. Archie had been busy planting as many of the seeds as possible, once I had cleared away another area for a vegetable patch.
For sometime now I had been trying to figure out what to do about doors and windows, plus the roof, and so one morning, leaving Archie to keep an eye on everything, I jumped onto Honey’s bare back, with just a halter and short reins, and we went searching for any suitable building materials. After a few hours, I was starting to get a little disheartened with not finding anything, and I was thinking of heading back home, when I spotted some trees in the distance that looked a little different.
The closer I got to the grove of trees, the happier I became. They were big strong eucalypts, and there were lots of them. Looking at my pocket watch, which read 11.20am, I headed back to the homestead, which was south east of where I was.
As I was heading back, I realised that I also needed to start making a boundary fence of some kind to indicate where our land was. Knowing that we were the most northern property in the region, I felt that the southern boundary was the most important.
Arriving back at the homestead, I found Archie in the kitchen busy cooking another damper, which was our main food at the moment, until we got some vegetables growing. As we sat down and ate our lunch of salted meat and damper, washed down with some billy tea, I discussed the plans with my brother.
Using the buggy, we could cut down a number of trees with the log saw, and split the logs with the axe, and loaded them onto the buggy so Honey could cart them back to the homestead. The only problem was that I had never tried splitting logs before. I had seen it being done at shows in England, but this was different, and I really needed to have more tools.
“If you use the heavy hammer, to hit in both axes to split the logs, it maybe a matter of trial and error, but I am sure you can do it,Brother,” Archie said to me, and I smiled.
“You know that might just work. Let’s give it a go and see how it turns out,” I replied with enthusiasm.
With no rain in the distance, we untied the buggy and pulled it away, and swung it around, so we could attach it to Honey’s straps, and with the two axes and the saw, some hay and water, we set off in the direction that I located the trees. Just over an hour later we arrived at the location.
“I think these will be perfect for our home, Edwin. Lets’ get to work, so we can start working on the house some more,” Archie said excitedly, and with Honey released from the buggy and hobbled to allow her to graze, we got to work to select the best trees. We cut down five tall ones, and after measuring them, we cut them into 20-foot lengths. Some others we cut into 7-foot lengths, with some 2-foot lengths that would be perfect for the windows.
With the correct size lengths now done, we decided to try splitting some of the logs, starting off with some of the shorter lengths. After a bit of fiddling around, we managed to get one short log turned into five planks, each one being about two inches thick. We tried it again, this time with the next length up, and again we managed to get 5 planks of wood, with each one also being about 2 inches thick.
We now had enough planks to make the door and window frames for the house, but I had no nails to join them together.
“Maybe we could dig out small holes in the wood, and make wooden nails,” Archie suggested.
“I am not sure. Let me think about it. We may be able to make a join of some kind,” I replied, as I thought back to when I learnt carpentry in high school. I just wished I had thought of getting nails from the blacksmith while I was in town.
Once we had Honey hitched up to the buggy again, we loaded up the wooden logs and tied them down to stop them from rolling off, then we added the planks that we had already split, and we began the long journey back home, which took us nearly two hours because of the heavy load that Honey was pulling.
Once the wagon had been unloaded, we unhitched Honey and lead her back into the yard, where we had a good long drink. We gave out some hay for all the stock to eat, along with some wheat.
“I think one of us, may have to go into town and get some more supplies. We are going to run out of hay and wheat soon, if we don’t go,” I commented to my brother, as we watched the sheep, horse, cows and chickens happily eating together.
“I think that would be a good idea, but before you go can we build some shelters for the stock in each corner of the yard, with planks of wood over each corner,” Archie suggested.
“That would be a great idea. It will give them shade in the summer time too. How about we get half of the house completed, so we have a little bit of shelter from the rain, then the animal shelters, before one of us goes to town,” I said.
“You better go. You can navigate a lot better than I can. I am bound to get lost,” Archie said to me.
“Yes, that can be very easily done with all these shrubs and trees around us. I don’t want to lose my little brother, after everything we have been through these past few months,” I said.
After a short break, we got to work again, continuing to split the wood into planks, with the longer logs being harder to split that the others.
“Maybe you can start marking our boundary with fence posts. Just cut down some thin trees that are no more than ½ a foot thick and about 8-feet long, and dig a hole at least two feet deep. Put the post in and fill in the hole. Make sure you stomp down on the ground around the hole to make sure the post doesn’t move around too much, and that the fence line is fairly straight.I suggest maybe putting each hole about 4 feet to the west, of the survey marker. That way you will know it is a straight line,” I suggested to my brother.
“I think I can handle that,” Archie replied confidently.
“If you start from the south-east corner, which is the closest to the homestead and work west from there, you should get a good amount of the fence done during the one week that I am away,” I said.
“One week!Is that how long it will take you?” Archie said sounding shocked.
“Actually, it will be more like six days, as I won’t have sheep and cattle slowing me down. Do you think you will be ok during that time?” I responded,starting to wonder if it was a good idea to leave.
“No problems,Brother. I will be fine,” Archie said to me smiling.
In the next week we cut down another six trees and split them into planks, so we had a good stockpile, and in the cooler parts of the morning and afternoon we would work on building the external walls of the house, leaving spaces for where the windows and the door would be located.
With one half of the house almost completed, we secured three planks in between the top layer of rocks, which the roof would be attached too, but for now we just lay the planks across the top of the wall to provide a basic cover, to allow us a partial dry space for sleeping, cooking and eating.
When the day came for me to start the journey to town, Archie was very quiet, and I nearly decided not to go, but he insisted that we needed to get building supplies and food for the stock and ourselves.
With enough water for both Honey and myself, hay and oats for Honey and two damper loaves for myself, I set off at day break. For the first part of the journey, I pulled out my old red shirt, that I had added to my travel pack, and began tearing it into long strips.
When we arrived at our southern boundary, just a few hundred feet from the south-east corner, I stopped and let Honey rest, while I went to the tree nearest to the corner boundary and tied a strip of red cloth to a thin branch, before continuing west, following the boundary line, tying strips of material to trees along the way, till I ran out of red material.
Copyright Preston Wigglesworth January 2019 All Rights Are Reserved