Friday, March 27, 2015

Life on the farm

 "I loved driving the tractor"  Mavis Pilgrim

"We had a great farm at Winiam, with sheep, cows, horses, chooks, dogs and cats.

We had 8 to 10 cows to milk morning and night then separate the milk to get the cream for Mum to make butter and for us to put cream in the sponges, which we made to take to dances etc.and also to have for weekends as there was always lots of people at our place.   Dad used to bring in the travellers for a meal,  and we had lots of swaggies call in for a place to sleep (Dad would put them in a shed) and Mum would always give them a meal and sandwiches to take on their way as well as a big billy of tea.   We never had them inside tho......
        
Dorrie didn't like farm life much.  she couldn't wait to marry Bert Ridgewell so she could live in Nhill; but I loved it, especially helping with the cropping and harvesting then turning the sheaves of hay for the men to make the stack.  I loved driving the tractor,  and would go home when my shift finished about 2 hours, and Mum would have a lovely hot dinner waiting for me and BOY I was always hungry.

Fred used to think up good ideas and when Mum and Dad went to Nhill shopping every Friday (which was always the day for the country people to do the weekly shopping) and was 9 miles from our place; he would get in the blacksmith shop and make things.    Dad used to go off crook about the horses leaning on the fence to get grass from the other side;  so Fred and with my little bit of help made an electric fence and put it along the top of the fence, connected it up to a battery and we sat and waited for the horses, but they were slow so we went and got a sheaf of hay and dropped bits all the way down to the fence and threw the rest over,   that soon brought the horses and they leaned over to get the hay and Fred pulled a lever which gave them an electric shock;  they nearly knocked the fence right down but never had any trouble with them again.  We had to hurry and try and fix the fence before Dad got home,  and he always wondered why the horses didn't go near the fence again.   

Winiam
Dad used to ask me to go and help him when he had to use the red hot coals for making the shoes for the horses,  my job was to pump the bellows;  a long handle which I pumped up and down while he held the iron horse shoes in the coals till they got red, then he would shape them with a big iron hammer on the anvil.

We had an old cow shed and where we milked it was under cover but the yard was about 6 inches in mud in the winter;  old thatched roof of hay and Fred used to go sparrow hunting in the roof for their eggs as we would blow them and we also had a bird trap and would get the spriggies as we called them ; and ring their necks,  thread them on a wire and take them as well as the eggs into Nhill to the council to sell.  Good pocket money.  Also if we caught a fox, would sell its head too.     Uncle Ned had visitors from Melbourne staying there, they came to visit us one day and the kids wanted to see us milking as they had never been on a farm before; so they watched then asked if they could have a go so we said "Yes if you can get that one in the bail"   (It was the bull) well we all tried so hard but to no avail.   We did let them have a go at one of the quiet cows tho.   I think when the visitors told Mum we couldn't get the one in the bail to milk, and when she found out it was the bull.  it's the nearest we ever got to getting a belting.   Fred and I got the idea that it would be quicker if we got one each side of the cow to milk it and the poor thing was nearly dragged down with us milking it.  That didn't last long either as Mum saw us and that ended that idea.

When we had separated the milk ( by standing turning the handle of the separator) we had to feed the calves from a bucket, first put our finger in their mouths till they drank properly and gee they used to bite too;  then another brain wave on our part was to try and ride the calves before we would let them have their milk,  this we had to get Dorrie to help as she would not ride them she had to stand watching to see Mum or Dad wasn't around, didn't last long as we got caught out again.

Dad had a huge flower garden and vegie plot as well as fruit trees,  it was lovely and he had roses climbing all over little sheds but Mum told Marge( my cousin) and I not to go in the little shed as there could be snakes but we used to sneak in until Myrtle was in the garden and saw us coming so she popped in there and waited till we got near then made a hissing sound and we fell over each other getting away,  never went near there again.  Always wondered why Mum and Myrtle was laughing so much when we went and told them there was a snake we heard hissing in the shed.

Winiam
Uncle Stanley (Mum's brother) and Auntie Molly lived about a mile away and I used to walk thro the paddocks to play with Marge,  as there was a big dam I had to pass Mum always told me not to go near it as there were big bull frogs and would pull me in if there were no grown-ups with me;  she was always afraid we would fall in it.  I used to take a big circle around it going and coming home, walked twice as far I think.   There were yabbies in it to and we all liked to go yabbying,  but I don't like them to eat.  Mum would have a bucket of water on the stove boiling and they would throw the yabbies in until they turned red then everyone would sit around the table shelling them ready to eat with salt, pepper and vinegar and bread and butter.   I wouldn't touch them tho.   At the dam sometimes we would sit with our feet in the edge of the water and when they would start to nibble our toes we would put the net under and pull our feet up and get them that way.

Uncle Stanley had 2 grey horses which they rode and Rita (Marge's sister who was the oldest) and Marge would ride to our top gate as we called it; then Dorrie and I would walk up our lane and Rita would get the horse near a post and we would get on and the 4 of us go to school like that.   Uncle Stanley said to just walk the horse but when we got over the hill Rita would make him canter.  Sometimes they would ride the other horse which was a bit more sprightly and Marge was always on the back and would put her toes under its flank and it would buck;   but thankfully we didn't fall off.  I sat in front of Rita, Dorrie behind her and Marge on the rump.

Winiam
Those days the toilets were away up the back yard so it was my job to take Grandma by the hand to the toilet as she couldn't walk too good, but silly young me would always let her stand outside while I sat on, telling her I was just seeing if there were any spiders?  She thought I was good and always called me her little "ray of sunshine" as I would go and pick her a bunch of violets and minuette to put in her bedroom.  She would sit by our big open fire in the lounge and clean our boots after school as we had to walk before we got bikes etc and in the winter it was very muddy and we had 2 miles to go to school.

One day Mum wanted a chook to cook for tea but as the men had gone out in the paddocks, she didn't know what to do so I told her I would chop its head off, and as the axe was too heavy for me to hold by one hand I put the handle between my knees and held the blade part with the other hand,  BANG but not a clean cut and the chook squawked and I got a fright and away went the chook with its head half off spurting blood everywhere it went, with me chasing it hoping Mum didn't see as I thought she would be so cross,  however it ran out of blood I think and stopped so I was able to take it and finish the job and hang it to drain;  not that it needed draining much;  when I got inside Mum and Dorrie were in fits laughing as had been watching me through the window trying to catch the darn thing.   All was well and we had a nice tea.

Memories by my Great Aunty Mavis 

This post was inspired by Sepia Saturday.Click for more posts.

25 comments:

  1. Wonderful entertaining and informative read. What great lives kids on the farms had...running free, making discoveries, using their imaginations, taking risks. Quite a difference from today's over-protected children. Well done.

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    1. That is for sure!

      It seems the Winiam children had a lot of fun!

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  2. Interesting story. I would be too squeamish to kill the "spriggies" and "chooks" ( I never even saw those words or "yabbies" before).

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  3. Wonderful childhood memories of life of the farm from Great Aunty Mavis, and lovely that you shared them here. Kids made their own fun back in those days, that's for sure!

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    1. She has written more for me but I tried to keep it relevant to the farm theme.

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  4. Your Great Aunty Mavis was quite a girl! I loved the story and the photographs but felt very sorry for the poor nearly headless chicken. :-)

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    1. She writes in a way that you can picture it!

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  5. Oh Sharon, what a wonderful treasure you have in Aunty Mavis's first-hand account of life on the farm. These stories were so fun to read -- heartwarming and funny both. I bet she was indeed a "ray of sunshine."

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    1. Aunty Mavis has always been a character! I remember when I was in High School and the boy next door was giving us a hard time over the fence. Aunty Mavis was staying and she heard him giving us heaps! She cleverly and with humour put him right back in his place and he left us alone from that day on! I was full of admiration!

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  6. An incredible piece of history and family history you have there.

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    1. I have a picture of all the kids on the horse, she wrote about, but have shown it previously so went with different photos.

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  7. I can only echo earlier comments on the wonderful post you have given us in sharing aunt Mavis's memories of farming life. I know how much I value the personal accounts my father wrote of his boyhood and wartime experiences.

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    1. Thank you Sue.

      I am very fortunate to have many memories written down for me.

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  8. Dear, dear Aunt Mavis. A story that rolled Dad and Dave and The Sentimental Bloke and Banjo Paterson and ......... all in together. Just wonderful.

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    1. Yes, she writes so well and finds the humourous side of things!

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  9. What a fun post, Sharon. Your Aunt Mavis sounds like a character. She seems to have had an adventurous and independent spirit.

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  10. How wonderful Great Aunty Mavis wrote those great memories down for future generations to read and truly understand how life was back then.

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    1. Yes I am very grateful and appreciative to her and my grandmother too!

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  11. Mavis' memories are a real treasure. And the first photo is outstanding. You're lucky to have both. Did you ever meet her?

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    1. Yes Lorraine. She is in her 90s now. About time that I go and see her again!

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  12. Absolutely perfect post for a tractor theme! Great stories and the first photo is wonderful farmer's contraption.

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