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Pioneering the Pumice

Chapter XIII: The Work

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Chapter XIII: The Work

They were employed in that work night and day”—I Chronicles ix, 33.

Though i have in sundry places in previous chapters somewhat anticipated the course of events, I invite you now, dear reader, to accompany me on a few of my number-less battles and through the deadly dullness of “The daily round: the common task!.”

The vast and untamed wilderness possesses an appalling power of resistance: a frightful vis inertiae to defeat the attempts of those endeavouring to make “a country fit for heroes to live in.” Believe me it takes a more steadfast courage to carry slasher and firestick into the desert; everlastingly to push the plough through land untouched since the Creation; with final perseverance to beat back the golden standard of the ragwort, the fruitful blackberry, the persistent second-growth, the host of animals totally uneducated in modern methods of birth control — rabbits, hares, deer, wild pigs, white butterflies, &c; unremittingly to meet and defeat interest on loans, rates, taxes, governments, and other pests that seek to overwhelm the pioneer, than it does to “Seek the bubble reputation at the cannon's mouth.” The markets move adversely and the farmer is crushed between the upper millstone of high costs and the lower millstone of low prices.

My fifty-three thousand acres was vast enough to carry terror to the heart of the stoutest. Like him who first braved the waves I felt the need of oak and triple brass around my breast.

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All this huge area was absolutely in its primeval rough state — just as God had left it: and the general opinion was that He had left it rather in a hurry before making a finish.

At the outset perplexing problems of all kinds beset me. How to get on to the land: where to place the homestead: on what lines to lay out the fencing: where to secure one's supplies and how to get them on to the country. Want of knowledge of the country and want of knowledge of all the thousand and one ancient arts and modern sciences necessary to success in the venture seemed to crush me down. I began to doubt whether I should break the land in, or it would break me.

Folk who have not experienced it can have no idea of the difficulties and drawbacks inherent in the desert. The loneliness is terrible. The absolute lack of human help within reach fearful. And yet the presence of it may give one a shock. One day I was riding across country solus. Imagining that I was at least twenty miles away from any other human being, I was in the midst of thinking how a man would fare if an accident should befall him in such a place, when someone close behind hailed me. I nearly jumped out of the saddle. The other wanderer was looking for a horse which he had lost.

And, yet all the time I bore in mind Franklin's retort to the Englishman's remark that the United States was “So far away”: “Far away from where?” said he. Consequently I never weakened in my contention that where I was for the time being was the centre of civilization. Other places might be distant but, as for me, I was right here on the spot. And in my constant endeavour to develop resources within myself for defeating the desolation about me I had at my command the support and comfort of the greatest minds of all the ages patiently awaiting me upon my bookshelves. Thus it came to pass that the two doctors never had their anticipated opportunity of consigning me to the mental hospital.

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I found the land cut off from any road access by no less an obstacle than the Waikato River, but this difficulty was in part overcome by the purchase of a right-of-way across a corner of Mr. Butcher's land. In this a fresh difficulty was encountered. On searching the title and measuring off the correct location I found that this right-of-way did not reach the main road, but ended at a recreation reserve for the benefit of the town of Mihi which — like many another paper “township” in New Zealand — was absolutely destitute of inhabitants. However, the Commissioner of Crown Lands treated me very well and granted me right of road. This roadway is now dedicated.

Having now acquired legal access the way was open for improvements. Not a hand's turn had ever been done on the land. Heretofore cattle and wild horse hunters and flax-cutters had been the only disturbers of the deathly silence of the desert.

At once I fell to work constructing bridges, laying off roads (the traffic made many of them almost costlessly without the help of social credit), erecting buildings, setting out a plan of subdivision and putting up fences, and so on. An urgent procession of theorems and of problems pressed upon me for solution and execution — for design and finance and work. Many things had to be created out of the nothingness in a never-ending succession. It needed a stout heart and a long purse. The time of the signing of cheques was come and remained with me, culminating in one of the finest collections of butts of cheque books in New Zealand. What a blessing banks are! Just sign your name on a slip of paper and you have “manufactured” money! And you don't even need to be polite. You don't say: “Would you please pay” but simply order your humble banker: “Pay Bill Jones one thousand pounds.” How anyone can fail to love bankers — and even say nasty things about them — I cannot understand. My bankers have always been most obliging and courteous, though upon occasion their available funds have page 200 been insufficient for my purposes! How this could be is hard to understand when the learned and gallant Major Douglas, as well as many of his distinguished disciples in our Parliament, repeatedly assure us that all banks do to create money is to write a few cabalistic figures in their magic books whereby “purchasing power” is extracted from the stratosphere or the magma — I know not which. Neither do they.

From June 1907 to December 1908 I worked the place from Auckland with a manager on the spot and rather disastrous results. Consequently at the later date I sold out of a very profitable business to “go on the land.” I had anticipated considerable reduction in income, but was not prepared for it to disappear altogether. Henceforth I was to find that I had given up work to carry bricks — or pumice stones — and my utmost efforts were to be expended not in the making of money but in the avoidance of losses. Profit, provided my books were kept correctly, I soon realised was “beyond the dreams of avarice.”

It will be remembered that in Tutira Mr. Guthrie-Smith tells us how he made one entry in his books and then “never no more.” I was at the other extreme. Throughout I kept a set of double-entry books, and found the application of strict double-entry to farming operations both difficult and laborious — and very unsatisfactory. It shows in a lurid light the folly of farming as a business enterprise. These mere figures written in books make one continually unhappy — and yet professional men can make your balance sheet add up the same on both Dr. and Cr. sides whether you are prospering or perishing. These good gentlemen are called accountants. Most farmers keep no books and “Dunno where they are” until “The Company” stops their credit. Meanwhile they are happy in the hope that springs eternal in the human breast. Anyhow here I was and having decided to stake my money and my life on the venture, I was not going to turn back, books or no books.

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And if I had lost my income, I had also greatly reduced my personal expenses. One can live on a farm — especially a remote farm — very much more cheaply than one can in town, in the matter of shelter: a very humble house will suffice at the beginning. In the matter of clothes: one need not throw them away as soon as they have become comfortable. In the matter of food: one kills his own mutton, catches his own fish, shoots his own rabbits and ducks (in season), and grows all his vegetables in his back yard. In the matter of pocket-money a perfectly beneficent miracle is experienced. In town one puts a pound in his pocket in the morning, and in the evening he fails in a search for a threepenny bit to pay his tram fare. Nor has he the remotest idea whither the good money has flown. Even if he holds a careful inquest he fails to discover the cause of the loss of the dear departed. But in a place like Broadlands the pound is still there at the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of the month. So it came about that I never carried money. You could hold me upside down and shake me and gain not a penny.

For nearly two years more I kept managers on the place; but, having come to realize that I had made an inadequate study of the Holy Scriptures on the subject of sheep-farming (readers will remember the fundamental distinction therein drawn between the methods of the shepherd whose own the sheep are and those of the shepherd whose own the sheep are not), I decided to take the mismanagement of the place into my own hands. Many mistakes I made, but really I am of opinion that they were no worse than those of my neighbours! Though I could not claim, in common with those seeking employment as managers, to have “Been among sheep all my life,” I contrived to clear myself and keep out of debt.

During this early period I frequently sympathized with the pioneer settler in Canterbury who reflected “If there had been page 202 even a few Picts and Scots in this country to leave some stone bridges behind them what a blessing!” Enormous difficulties confront those tackling country straight from the hand of God where no man had wrought before. The real pioneer starts from scratch — he inherits nothing.

As regards knowledge: in the backblocks it is eminently true that there is no knowledge which is not useful. Everything that came my way had to be tackled and all difficulties faced and overcome without help of any kind. There were practically no neighbours and no Government ever did a hand's turn to help me. If a road had to be made; if a drain had to be levelled; if a shed had to be built; if fences had to be erected or land cleared and ploughed, I had to design and supervise the work. If a window were broken I had to glaze it; if an implement were damaged I must repair it; if a water pipe burst I must do the plumbing; if a horse got the gripes or a cow the staggers or any emergency whatever occurred, if I couldn't put matters right they had to stay wrong. Thus I acquired many trades. I performed many operations on animals, and the patient always survived! So that I felt that I ought to be awarded the degree of M.R.C.V.S. However, it may be that my friends were right in suggesting that all it amounted to was that the animals successfully resisted the treatment.

The principal case I remember was that of a valuable mare which, as a consequence of having been gored by a cow, had part of her internal organism protruding. Having led her on to clean grass I had her thrown, and then scrupulously cleansed the intestines and forced them back through the gash, taking great care not to fracture the peritoneum. Notwithstanding the creature's vigorous protests I sewed up the wound and then put a strong and tight band round her to keep everything in place. This was quite successful. And so in medical treatment I was called to a horse bleeding through the nose at a ghastly rate page 203 while ail hands looked on. I ordered cold water to be thrown over the patient, and the bleeding ceased.

But my practice as physician and surgeon was not confined to the lower animals. Ordinary ailments in humans I treated with the help of a homoeopathic treatise; and so when young Dick contracted measks I put him to bed and treated him according to the book. However, when his skin started to peel off I recognized his ailment as having been similar to that of Peter's wife's mother — he had lain sick of a fever and that no less than scarlet fever! Subsequently I allowed no one but myself to enter his room. I brought in a large bath and with a weak mixture of lysol and warm water washed him down. Then I burned everything in the room and gave him a new outfit. Dick made a good recovery and I wasn't even prosecuted by the B.M.A. On another occasion having come in earlier than usual I saw — and heard— the “married woman” attached by her hand to the washhouse door. Rushing to her assistance, I found a thin nail through her wedding ring. Some careless person had driven it into the door and the good woman flinging her hands around to rid them of soapsuds had got this nail between her ring and her finger and then slipped off the step. It took me no time to fetch a hammer and pull the nail out: but the lady would not let me take the ring off. That would be most unlucky. However, anticipated swelling supervened, and then the severance of the woman from her wedding ring became necessary and most difficult. However, it was accomplished.

Then there was the other married woman who paid for the carelessness of one of the boys in hanging his minnow in the meat-safe. For those who do not know what a minnow is I may explain that it is an imitation fish in metal furnished with several barbarous hooks wherewith to catch the toothsome trout. Putting her hand into the safe for a mutton chop she grasped the minnow and thrust a barb into her finger. So she danced page 204 around the kitchen singing not “The Blue Danube,” but Blue Murder. Somewhat calming the lady I contrived to separate the hook from the minnow, but she would not tolerate extraction of the hook from her finger. When her husband came in I obtained his consent and concealed a small pair of tweezers in my hand. With this, upon a further examination of the seat of trouble, I suddenly seized the hook and yanked it out before the woman could say “squeak” — but she said it a good many times subsequently!

After these little preliminary excitements let us get right to work.

Having now made the essential advance of obtaining legal access by the means which I have described, there remained another important work — the making of practicable access. The right-of-way crossed two considerable rivers — the Waiotapu and the Torepatutahi. Across the first there was a flimsy structure locally called a bridge. (The sort of thing at which you asked a blessing before attempting a crossing, and after crossing returned thanks.) Across the second we had to swim on to my land. Naturally my first work was to construct a bridge across this same Torepatutahi, a river with a capacity of at least a hundred million gallons a day. To this end I procured from a bush about twerity-five miles distant four stringers each thirty-five feet long and eighteen by eight inches. Getting these great baulks out over winding tracks and no roads was a great piece of work. This was in the middle of winter. The men lived in tents. The horses were tethered in the scrub. Stores and horse-feed were covered with a few loose sheets of iron. Yet the men were “as happy as Larry” — the difference between those really wanting work for the support of themselves and their families and those who condescend to do a tap or two so as to qualify for some pension whereby they may live upon the labour of others.

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The piles were driven, the sills laid and fastened, the stringers placed and bolted, the deck spiked on, the rails built, the approaches graded. Hurrah! The bridge is open. It has since carried an immense amount of traffic and that without the help of any political harangue.

The bridge being up we could now start improvements. The first thing was choosing a site for the homestead. In this a very serious error was made — though of course, at the time the reasons seemed convincing. Then came making a road from the bridge to the house site — about three and a-half miles. This cost next to nothing. Wagons and other vehicles crushed down the scrub and made a good enough road. There was only one small cutting. Subsequently some work had to be done to patch up soft spots which developed, and finally the Public Works Department made quite a good “dirt” road at the cost of a few hundred pounds. Needless to say they did not do this for me but for the settlers on the thousand acres which I gave.

Followed the general roads and bridges policy. The country had to be carefully inspected to find the best routes, to the end that the “Crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain” thereby providing easy access to all parts. If the road were not an important one it was merely marked out and the traffic of wagons and other vehicles made a road costlessly, good enough for the purpose; indeed in this country there is some advantage in not breaking the surface where the traffic is light. If the road were important it was first cleared and then carefully lined up the centre and the heavy double-furrow plough sent along three times each way. This made a track twelve feet to fourteen feet wide with a fair crown. It was then well disced and harrowed. If further crowning were desired it could be effected with a piece of heavy timber with an arm on it sloped well backwards. Then followed the roller, and finally a mob of sheep. This made a road good for all but very heavy traffic, at a page 206 cost of £5 per mile — which gives the lordly Public Works Department the cold shivers. The rare cuttings required and the culverts and bridges were extra. It is quite a science to fix the proper place to commence work on a high bank so as to finish with an even slope of say one in fourteen. I myself designed all the bridges, and all stood up to the work splendidly. Cost of heavy bridges to carry loads of five tons plus weight of truck (with a big “safety factor”) was about £2 per running foot — which again would give the P. W. D. a bad headache.

The road in, the next job was building. I had been engineer for the roads and bridges, and must now become architect and builder.

After much delay, including the annoyance of having the weatherboards delivered before the frame timber, a plain, square (at least it was very nearly square!) four-roomed house was erected. There was no passage and no verandah and at first no porch, though we soon had to provide one to prevent our being blown out of the front door when we opened the back door. This latter looked straight into the south-west and there wasn't a tree or a shrub or a hedge to afford any shelter.

And now the best lines for fences must be located so as to enclose shapely paddocks, each with a sufficient water supply. Crossing awkward gullies, swamps and other obstacles must be avoided. The fences and gates must be designed; the materials calculated, bought and laid on the line; and a contract let to trustworthy fencers for the erection.

I surveyed all the paddocks with only a chain and a two-foot rule with a level and compass on it. When professionally surveyed later on the error disclosed averaged not as much as one per cent. A survey is most useful, enabling accuracy in ordering seeds and manures, and in timing the work. It is highly advisable to have as many right angles as possible. These I laid out with the chain and the assistance of theorem No. 47 of the page 207 first book of wonderful old Euclid. When the Maoris saw me doing this they exclaimed: “That the way our grandfather.” Fancy the ancient Maori being aware that in a right-angled triangle the square of the hypoteneuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides!

I may here remark that before my arrival fencing was erected at three shillings per chain, the owner laying the line. I raised this to three shillings and sixpence, and gradually advanced the price to six shillings and sixpence. I have, however, of late heard of cases when as much as twelve shillings has been paid. Materials also were very cheap in those days. I let a contract for cutting posts out of my own bush and laying them on the back line at £3 10s. per hundred. Seems impossible nowadays! And you should just have seen the country over which those Maoris had to drive their loaded wagons! Good heart totara posts were delivered on the place at £4 per hundred: strainers four shillings each: battens twelve shillings per hundred. Johnson's plain No. 8 galvanized wire cost £13 15s. in Auckland, and barbed No. 12½ with six-inch points £16 per ton. Freight from Auckland to the homestead cost about £4. But I bought one large lot (through friends in the trade in England) at £9 9s. for plain and £12 4s. for barbed. Buyer's commission, freight to Auckland, and landing cost £1 17s. 3d. per ton in addition—fourteen thousand miles for less than half local freight for two hundred miles! Still in considering prices it must be remembered that the paper money we now handle is itself worth only one-third of the good gold money of the good old days.

Now shelter belts must be designed throughout the estate, fenced, and planted with quick-growing, hardy and branchy trees. The sooner the trees are planted the sooner will your stock derive benefit from them.

Next come drains. Guess work will not do. The fall must be ascertained to within a quarter of an inch to the chain. The best page 208 route (giving proper consideration to cost) must be laid off, a plan drawn showing the spoil to be excavated, and a contract let. In the pumice country drains may be deepened cheaply by scarifying the bottom when the drain is running full. In draining a swamp it is necessary to survey the bottom as well as the surface—so as to enable location of the level of the surface when the water has been drained out of the sponge. Neglect of this elementary precaution has caused disastrous consequences in many important swamps. After the pasture has been laid down very useful work can be done with a single-furrow plough after heavy rain. It is then easy to follow the natural fall and to run off the top six inches of water—and that is what covers the big areas; but don't undertake this work if you're afraid of getting your feet wet!

Now comes breaking-in the land. I do not believe in burying sticks. For immediate work the scrub must be felled and burned and the heavier stumps grubbed out. Big pumice must be dug out and carted away. Steep banks I caused to be thrown down and holes filled up. With a single-furrow plough, a scoop, a pair of steady horses, spades, shovels, and perspiration, wonders can be wrought—and that without a bulldozer. Then in comes your heavy double-furrow colonial plough.

I did not use tractors, but stuck to good old dobbin. Many friends put hundreds of pounds into tractors and then left them to rust in the paddocks. There are many advantages in the use of horses. For one thing if you get into difficulties a good roar will at least double your horse-power for five minutes to pull out. But you can say what you like to a tractor: it does not resent your language, but simply does a sit-down strike and defies you. The great disadvantage in horses is that they must be fed. In the earliest times at Broadlands before we had any engine we cut chaff for all the horses by hand. We assembled in the stable before breakfast and wooed an appetite for ourselves page break
The House Just Built December 1907

The House Just Built December 1907

The House has Developed a Porch The Garden Grows

The House has Developed a Porch
The Garden Grows

The House Develops a Lean-to on Eastern Side the Pumice Chimney

The House Develops a Lean-to on Eastern Side
the Pumice Chimney

The House Develops Another Lean-to on Western Side

The House Develops Another Lean-to on Western Side

Metamorphoses of the House
The House as Finished Note Young Trees in Front

The House as Finished
Note Young Trees in Front

The House From Across the Backwater

The House From Across the Backwater

Erecting a Range of Outbuildings 1909

Erecting a Range of Outbuildings 1909

The Woolshed

The Woolshed

House Completed: Other Buildings Appear page break page 209 by taking ten-minute spells at the chaff-cutter handle to cut feed for the horses. The wasting of any of this chaff was a high crime and misdemeanour.

Having harnessed to our heavy double-furrow colonial plough four smart-moving and fairly hefty horses in blocks and chains pulling from Brown springs (so as to minimize shocks), we rushed the work and turned over two and a-half to three acres a day in a first ploughing.

In ploughing swamps for the first time it was not unusual for the team to be bogged. Experienced horses just rested until pulled out: but fresh horses would sometimes struggle violently and injure themselves. I made a long rope of three No. 8 fencing wires twisted together so that the rescue horses could stand afar off on firm ground. A wool-bale was then passed round the bogged horse and the strain put on. In this process we never lost a horse.

If there be time, much money is saved by burning the scrub about three years in advance. First the heavy manuka is cut three or four feet above the ground. Tall stumps rot much more quickly than those cut close to the ground and are more easily taken out owing to the leverage available. Finally they make splendid firewood. A fire-break having been ploughed round the country to be burned and round any shelter to be saved, the fire is put in. In the majority of cases it is best to start the fire to leeward and let it burn back against the wind. This is safer, more thorough and does not create so fierce a heat. Any small patches left unburned can be attacked with a kerosene burner or a flame-thrower. Now cast a sprinkling of rough grasses, principally danthonia pilosa, lotus major, yorkshire fog and suckling clover. In about three years go over the ground with a heavy girder harrow. This will knock down the dead scrub, tear out the heavy stumps and loosen any surface pumice. Large stones and stumps must be carted off. The plough will bury the page 210 rest with advatage to the soil. Discing, harrowing and rolling follow.

It is highly advisable to break in pumice land with a crop of turnips—soft, yellow-fleshed or swedes according to the texture of the soil. I used twelve ounces of seed, and at first two, but latterly three, hundredweight of manure (one hundredweight blood and bone and two hundredweight superphosphate) to the acre. I always rolled again after sowing. It is usually difficult to sow turnips shallow enough, as the soft soil allows the wheels of the drill to sink in.

After the turnips had been fed off I put part of the land down to oats for my teams and laid the rest down to permanent pasture; and, with very little encouragement, much of this has stood for twenty-five years. Grasses suitable to the particular soil must be sown. For example sowing perennial rye or meadow foxtail in light soil will prove a failure. The grass must be of a sort to be at home in its surroundings. Timothy and lotus major flourish remarkably even on the light dry land. Clovers do wonderfully well. Red clover persists for surprisingly long periods, and top-dressing will revive old clover plants in a wonderful manner.

Ordinary pumice land should never be fallowed. It is already too much disintegrated; moreover the best of the topsoil seems to wash down into the loose subsoil. The thing is to get a soil covering as quickly as possible and then to tread it hard.

And now we are ready to put stock on our country and chance a profit. Provision of feed should always precede stocking.

In the waybacks hardy sheep usually are the precursors, and they yield a double return: wool and meat. Work among the sheep is very popular, especially with the boys. Working dogs, yelling at the top of their voices, riding out to muster, pushing the sheep about in shed, yards and dip—all this seems to give them great joy.

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In breaking-in country it is necessary to sacrifice some animals, but good work will greatly reduce the loss. Sheep bogged in swamps and creeks may often be saved by hauling them out, squeezing the water out of their fleece, chafing their limbs and standing them up till they “find their feet.” Cast sheep must be lifted up and tended till they get on an even keel. All this is “quite all right” but plucking the wool from dead bodies is a job not much sought after. One must stand to windward and not be too particular about one's hands—or one's nose. It is well to carry a supply of lysol and water. The wool rammed into a bag and tied in front of the saddle emits an aroma not by any means of a sweet-smelling savour. “Lambing down” is a job requiring judgment and patience. A horse galloped, or a dog barked, may cause infinite injury; and interference with lambing ewes which are not really in trouble may occasion much mischief. On the other hand, if a ewe needing help is neglected, the loss of both ewe and lamb may ensue. It is wonderful what a ewe will endure in the practice of obstetrics, and the whole effect on my mind of caring for lambing ewes is approval of the Jewish ritual of the boys standing up in the house and praising God that they were not born females.

Cattle also are most useful for breaking-in country, especially in conjunction with sheep. The drawback to them is that no profit can be made out of cattle used for breaking land in. It is a common mistake to have too big a proportion of sheep for the sake of the extra profit.

Galloping after cattle, cracking whips, and roaring at dogs is another great sport for boys; but at first when they are told to jump down into the yards among the great half-wild and terror-stricken beasts surging about, they are not so eager. However, if armed with a stout manuka stick, a man takes little risk. Only once have I been seriously rushed. Docking, castrating, branding and dehorning are cruel operations—necessary, however, if page 212 we are to enjoy eating the mortal remains of our fellow creatures.

The Jews have a strict rule, claimed to be benevolent in its conception, not to eat butter with meat. I suppose this is to show the cruelty of killing the cow you have just milked—or perhaps to illustrate the difficulty of milking the cow you have just killed.

The first pigs I kept lived solitary lives in Dennis Castle, which occupied a picturesque site at the homestead. Dennis ate what the folk couldn't or wouldn't and in the end was himself eaten by the folk—a double purpose and achievement in life and death. But pig-keeping on a large scale is ancillary to dairying. The pig is a beast much given to disease. The modern “layout” instead of the closed sty is undoubtedly a great improvement, but still pigs need a great deal of care.

Horses and dogs are the friends and allies of man to the end that his food animals may be successfully reared.

But the food animals themselves do their best to beat their owners. They have invented five hundred different ways of anticipating the butcher by dying a natural death quite regardless of the fact that they have cost a lot of money. Among other means sheep and cattle keep no less than four stomachs (each) in which to harbour all kinds of worms. Of these the smallest and most pestilential are strongylus contortus and s. cerviocornis. One of the stomachs being called the bible it might be supposed that it would kill these little devils—but it doesn't. Besides stomach worms, sheep harbour lung worm, liver fluke, brain maggot, hydatids, cysts, and the like, and are also subject to being “struck” by flies which deposit maggots in the wool. Here they develop and in their thousands eat into the living flesh of the unfortunate sheep. To name the remaining diseases of sheep would be too tedious. As to cures: such often cost more than the value of the animal.

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To give particulars of what disease can do and a farmer can suffer, I will here relate the greatest setback I ever suffered at Broadlands. For the first few years my lambs improved every year until I bred nine hundred and fifty-one lambs and at nine months of age had nine hundred and fifteen splendid hoggets. Meanwhile, encouraged by this success, I had put one thousand five hundred ewes to the ram. In September the hoggets seemed to lose their appetite. They got worse. They put in most of their time looking at the scenery. I moved them on to swedes but they liked them even less than grass. They started to die and persevered in dying. Meanwhile the ewes had produced one thousand three hundred and thirty bonny lambs: but about Christmas they developed a filthy green scour and died by hundreds. Subsequently I reduced the sheep and increased the cattle. This and other changes in management greatly reduced the losses: yet there was every year a dreadful “tail” to the lambs. The top half of the mob consisted of as fine lambs as one could wish for: the remainder were from poor to bad. Eventually I developed a lick which cured the trouble: and, the year before I left the place, I bred the finest lot of lambs I have ever seen anywhere.

Early spring is the season for cattle committing suicide in the swamps. They are hungry and cannot resist the fresh green feed round the edges. Cows in calf are the greatest sufferers. To haul them out, the same process was used as already described in the case of bogged horses; but if a beast has been in the swamp overnight it may as well be left there. Its legs get numbed; it emits a low, despairing moan; it has lost heart; when pulled out it will not make the least effort to stand up. The only thing to do—if the beast is worth it—is to load it into a dray and bring it home and sling it. You may ask how the beast is elevated into the dray: but the trick is not done that way. The dray is lowered to the beast. Cuts are made in the ground and page 214 the wheels of the dray let down until the floor is on a level with the ground. But should the rescued animal be fresh, just look out for yourself. A cattle beast's idea of thanks is to rush you and toss you into the air. Another beastly trick they have is to jump back into the very hole from which they have just been extracted. Horses are even worse at this than are cattle.

Loading our beast into the dray reminds me of my first use of this expedient whereby I gained an undeserved reputation for great physical strength. An outsize in pumice stones had been dodged though the paddock had been ploughed twice. However one day I dug it out and left it ready for removal. Shortly after I took on a new man very boastful of his strength. After one of his recitals I said:

“Charlie you're the very man I want. Do you think you could put a big pumice stone in the dray and bring it up to the house?”

He assured me that he could handle any pumice stone that God ever made.

“Right,” I said, “go down to No. 9A and bring up a stone from about the middle of the paddock.” Two other men had tried it and they grinned.

At lunch Charlie looked crest-fallen when I enquired where he had put the stone.

“Expect a bloodstained man to lift a stone like that!”

“Oh, well: I suppose I'll have to go for it myself.” So I had them put a good horse in the dray which I drove to the paddock and there backed into the hole made by the excavation of the stone, let down the tailboard, and with the leverage afforded by the spade contrived to work the huge stone into the dray. It was easy then to pull out of the hole and cover up my wheel-tracks.

“Well, boss, where did you put the stone?” greeted me as soon as the men came in to their evening meal.

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“Just behind the washhouse,” I replied; and there it was and no mistake. The general opinion was that the boss must be vastly stronger than he looked—a very useful reputation.

In the rearing of animals much cruelty seems inevitable, but it is wicked as well as foolish to treat them with avoidable harshness. Savage dogs urged on to bark and bite, whips cracking, harsh voices roaring, frighten the lower animals and cause them to become silly and obstinate. When my men have lost their tempers with the animals they were handling I have pointed out to them that if animals were not stupider than men we should not be eating them, but they would be eating us. And so in the great struggle for existence my quarrel is not with the folk who are stupider than I—I can make a living out of them—but with those who have more brains than I and so beat me in the battle of life.

In taking up new and absolutely untried land a great deal of experimental work has necessarily to be done to discover in what way the land can best be broken in; what crops will grow and produce a profit; what grasses and other pasture plants will flourish in the different classes of soil; the proper kinds and quantities of manures; what breeds of stock suit the country best; the best methods of suppressing rabbits, weeds and other pests.

I have already described my methods of clearing. Ploughing I found quite necessary to bring the land into good pasture. Surface-sowing would give a bite for run stock, but was no use for dairying. Disc ploughs I found useless—the draught is heavy and the land left very rough. I found a heavy double-furrow colonial plough the best; for sowing, a disc drill: before and after sowing a heavy roller. Manure for crops, two-thirds superphosphate, one-third blood and bone, sometimes at two hundred-weight to the acre, sometimes three hundredweight. For top-dressing, a bag of slag and a bag of superphosphate (to be page 216 mixed in the box of the distributor) to the acre. Many things I tried. Turnips always necessary and always a success. The best sorts proved to be: on moist and heavy land, swedes—crimson king; on medium soil, Aberdeen—green top; on light soil, soft turnips—purple top mammoth. One trial of mangolds was a great success, but the labour too great as compared with swedes. Sugar beet proved a moderate success, but again swedes were more profitable. Carrots gave good crops, wheat a fair crop but no market. Oats, quite successful—for our own use as well as for sale. Duns did well, but sparrow bills yielded much more heavily and proved most suitable to our conditions. In pasture plants—on the better and well-worked soil the best English grasses and clovers (especially timothy and cow grass and white clover) yielded truly wonderful results. We did not start saving hay on any considerable scale until 1916. Our crops were so heavy as to be difficult to cut, and difficult to dry, the swathes being so thick. By experiment I soon discovered that salt at the rate of about twenty-eight pounds to the ton saved the hay from either greenness or crispness and rendered it more palatable. Ryecorn sown with autumn grass proved very valuable as a winter feed. I also tried sheep's burnett with considerable success. Serradella and chicory did not throw much feed. For rough breaking-in, danthonia pilosa and lotus major stand out supreme. Yorkshire fog, brown top, and suckling clover are also very useful. Rabbits are a terrible obstacle to the establishment of surface grass: they eat off all seed-heads and graze so closely as to kill out multitudes of plants. For improvement of soil I found yellow lupin very useful. The growing of seeds should be most profitable in the pumice country if an outfit for treatment were available. Both cow grass and white clover give wonderful crops—and so do timothy, ryegrass, cocksfoot and danthonia. This last I saved on a considerable scale for my own use—and with my own guarantee that it was fresh and page 217 free from weed seeds! The cost of saving the seed was under twopence per pound—a mere fraction of the price charged by merchants. I also saved a considerable amount of cocksfoot at a cost of sevenpence per pound, and some white clover at a cost of one shilling per pound.

Unfortunately one's men are always opposed to any experimental work. They know everything and consequently have nothing to learn. The boss is full of fads and fancies even if, by the grace of God, he is not quite mad.

In June 1909 I added to my labours by opening a store where everything was stocked “from a needle to an anchor.” The turnover was never great, but I called the establishment a warehouse. Vulgar people called it a shop. But the difference is that a warehouse has no display of goods in windows to intrigue buyers. It relies on the excellence of its wares and the reputation of its salesmen. Never did the Broadlands warehouse descend to alluring the passing throng with lifelike images of the female form divine only slightly obscured from view by an irreducible minimum of clothes. (The resemblance of these garments to the Sibylline books is remarkable—the less you get, the more you pay.) A store provides the only certain profit on a station. A reel of cotton is bought for threepence and sold for fourpence. Charging up such things as rent or wages is unheard of: so a penny has been made—if you get paid. This I would call thirty-three and one-third per cent. profit, but a celebrated up-country storekeeper who systematically charged double the cost of his goods claimed that his profit was one per cent.

The only time I made any money worth having was during the War at the time of the sugar shortage. This essential was one of the few things strictly rationed. Quantities quite beyond the capacity of my modest business began to arrive. I asked the merchants what they meant by it. They replied: “Mum's the word.” My warehouse became the sweetest place on earth, page 218 stacked with sugar from floor to ceiling. It would appear that the controller had seen my store in solitary grandeur serving quite an expanse of the map and doubtless imagined he was cutting me to the bone. Soon the sweet savour of that sugar spread throughout the earth and I had customers arrive from places as remote as Tauranga and Te Kuiti.

It was not long after my going to reside on Broadlands that I started in to startle the agricultural world by taking the leading prizes at the leading shows, with exhibits grown on the “worthless” pumice, and I can honestly say that none of these exhibits had any special treatment. All were pulled out of the ordinary crops. Most had two hundredweight of manure to the acre: some had three hundredweight. Here follows a list of my prizes.

1910 Palmerston North: Second, soft turnips. Hamilton: First, heaviest swedes; First, Aberdeen turnips; Third, best swedes. Auckland: Second, best swedes. Rotorua: First, best swedes.
1911 Hamilton: First, heaviest turnips; Second, heaviest swedes; Second, heaviest turnips; Second, best white fleshed turnips. Auckland: First, yellow fleshed turnips. Matamata: First, oat sheaf. Rotorua: First, turnips; Second, oat sheaf.
1912 Hamilton: First, best yellow fleshed turnips; Second, heaviest swedes. Rotorua: First, oat sheaf.
1913 Hamilton: Second, heavy swedes.
1914 Palmerston North: V.H.C., green top turnips and carrots.
1915 Palmerston North: First, yellow fleshed turnips. Hamilton: First, green top turnips; another First, record of class lost.
1916 Hamilton: First, heaviest turnips. Rotorua: First, swedes; First, turnips; First, oat sheaf.page 219
1917 Hamilton: First and Second, best swedes; First and Second, best yellow fleshed turnips. Rotorua: First, oat sheaf; First, swedes.
1918 Palmerston North: First, swedes of best feeding value; First, meadow hay (with special commendation from judges): Special, for yellow fleshed turnips; First, swedes (another class); Second, clover hay.
This year I tied for most points prize—and should have won it outright but that my case of yellow turnips was used as a leg for the committee table. As it was I tossed—and lost. As the French proverb has it Les absents sont toujours torts (the absent are always wrong).
Hamilton: Second, best swedes (out of a bench of thirty-one entries); First, best yellow fleshed turnips; First, meadow hay; Second, clover hay.
1919 Palmerston North: First, carrots. Rotorua: First, carrots; Third, soft turnips (nothing sent to Hamilton).
1920 Palmerston North: First, yellow fleshed turnips; Third, carrots. Rotorua: First, oat sheaf; Third, carrots. Hamilton: Twenty-five Guinea Cup, for best turnips; Two Firsts, for carrots; First and Second, yellow fleshed turnips.
1921 Rotorua: First, oat sheaf; First, cocksfoot seed.
1922 Auckland: First, sugar beet; First, clover hay; First, pie melon; Second, carrots; Second, potatoes; Second, parsnips. Rotorua: First, oat sheaf; First, clover hay; First, cocksfoot seed; First, parsnips.
1923 Auckland: First, clover hay; First, yellow fleshed turnips; First, parsnips; Second, cocksfoot seed; Second, long red beet. Rotorua: First, vegetable marrow; Second, oat sheaf; Second, cocksfoot seed.
1924 Auckland: Special, vegetable marrow; Second, cocksfoot seed. Rotorua: First and Third, cocksfoot seed; First, carrots; First, dessert apples; Second, clover seed;page 220
Second, swedes; Second, oat sheaf; Third, parsnips; Second, fat lambs; Third, rhubarb; V. H. C., parsnips.
1925 Rotorua: Second, cooking apples; H. C., carrots.
1927 Rotorua: First, meadow hay; Second, yellow fleshed turnips.
1930 Rotorua: First, chaff; First, oat sheaf; First, parsnips.
1931 Rotorua: First, oat sheaf; First, pie melon; Second, onions; Second, parsnips; Second, brussels sprouts; Third, carrots.
1935 Auckland: First, sugar beet; Third, onions; Third, parsnips.

Besides the above I have undated prize tickets: five firsts, four seconds, one third, three very highly commendeds, and from some shows I failed to rescue the prize tickets.

I may add that in the district court competitions at the Auckland Winter Shows the Rotorua Court (containing among others a great number of exhibits from Broadlands) took first prize in 1924 against Raglan, Whangarei, Onehunga, and Northern Wairoa and Kaipara. In 1923 it had taken second prize against the same competitors.

Other notable achievements have been: Broadlands wool topping the Auckland sale in March, 1915; and again very nearly reaching top price in February, 1924, with wool at twenty-three and three-quarter pence per pound. On 1st September, 1920, a fat cow from Broadlands topped the Westfield market at £17 7s. 6d., and again on 15th July, 1925, another Broadlands cow topped the market at £11 12s. 6d. out of an entry of five hundred and fifty-one head.

In giving evidence before a Parliamentary Committee the late Mr. W. C. Kensington, I. S. O., said he was “Perfectly astonished at the size of swedes grown on Mr. Vaile's property,” and I may add that the Governor-General used almost identical words in opening the show at which they were exhibited.

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I think I can safely claim that enough has now been related to show that the despised pumice land can, after all, “hold its end up” against all comers. It will be observed that latterly I got rather tired of the great work, high freights, and small prize-money resulting from show exhibits.

In 1918 I had a note from my brother remarking that he had made £2,000 commission on the sale of Queen Street property that week. I replied: “I also have met with success this week. I swept the board at Palmerston North Show which is much more difficult to do than selling property on Queen Street, and I received twenty-five shillings in prize money.”

One result of taking all these prizes was that many, unaware of the essential virtue of pumice soil, thought that I had some secret process, and wrote me for information; and an old friend whenever he saw me in town greeted me as “Turnips.” One day when I was talking to the chairman of the Bank of New Zealand in Queen Street he blew up with his cheery:

“Hullo Turnips.” But I replied:

“Look here Stuart, old chap, it's far better to grow turnips in your paddocks than on your shoulders.” Shaking his fist at me in the friendliest way he exclaimed:

“I'll get even with you before long.”

Another anecdote in this connection is worth recounting. Mr. Butcher brought a Canterbury friend to Broadlands just after I had picked swedes for the Waikato Winter Show. The rejects had been dibbled into the garden for kitchen use. What wonderful swedes exclaimed the Canterbury man, and then burst out laughing:

“Of course I knew you grew your prize turnips in the garden. But how do you get them so even?”

“Quite simple,” I said, “you dig a hole, fill it with manure, put a seed and a little earth on top and away she goes.”

“But wouldn't that burn the seed?”

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“Well” I answered, “if you don't believe it pull one up and have a look.” With that he gave a great heave at one of the huge roots. It was, of course, just sitting on the top of the soil and in a second our friend was just lying on top of the soil with the heavy root on his chest and the dirt from it assembled in his mouth and eyes. On rising he seemed to be possessed of a great desire to punch my head. However I did not retire, but remarked:

“Serves you—well right!”

In 1916 I built a new woolshed which I aimed at making the best in New Zealand, and I succeeded. Of course there are many larger sheds, but I have never seen another shed into which it was so easy to drive the sheep, and so well lighted, so well ventilated, and so conveniently arranged. There were five stands of machines, though we used only four, and we could put seven hundred sheep under shelter overnight. Drip from the roof was completely eliminated. On 11th August of that year the shed was opened with a dance and great éclat. After supper a haka was suggested, and the Maori guests got to it with a will. As they warmed up the old folk (who could remember real haka) threw off garment after garment, till you could have imagined yourself on a European beach in the bathing season.

This building almost completed the main street of Broadlands. On the left side as one entered there were chaff house, manure shed, woolshed, shearers' dining room, implement shed, stable, garage, benzine store, blacksmith's shop, carpenter's shop, general store, washhouse, and woodshed. On the right hand side were boys' quarters, timber yards, boardinghouse and fowlhouse and yard.

In prosecuting all these works I had soon realized that in my little kingdom I had to be not only my own Prime Minister but also Minister of Public Works, Chief Engineer, Contractor, page 223 often enough labourer, and always Paymaster-Oenerai of the forces.

As to success of my “Continuous Ministry” let me refer you to the list of prizes taken at shows, and further quote from a report of a visit to Broadlands by my attorney in Auckland while I was in England. Under date 31st December, 1928, he writes:

“The seventy-five acres (new paddock) is waist deep in clover and so are plenty of the other paddocks. There are seven hundred cattle on the place, all in splendid condition, and there is no hope of their keeping the feed down although three hundred tons of hay is to be saved. The place will easily carry one thousand head. The neighbours are agreed you should go in for dairying.” I may here state that the cattle were gradually increased to one thousand one hundred.

In June, 1930, having sold a considerable number of my dry cattle, I decided to devote a portion of the farm to dairying, and started in to build the necessary dwelling, cowshed, pigsties, outbuildings, and the like; to plant shelter trees; to more closely subdivide the paddocks. That same year we began our supply.

At the time the price of butterfat was one shilling and four-pence per pound. It had come down from two shillings and sixpence per pound, and “couldn't possibly go lower”: but, as soon as those rascals in Tooley Street heard I was going to put butterfat on the market they cut the price back to tenpence: and the next year to eightpence. Tenpence was the highest price I ever got. At that time I estimated the cost of production at one shilling per pound. What it is now, when the fanner gets so little work done for such high wages, I cannot tell. But if “labour” be not employed the price is not bad. Again: the exports of New Zealand are produced by the unpaid labour of the farmer's wife and children.

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And now let us turn to the most important and, too often the most neglected, part of the farm — the homestead — the particular spot whereon the farmer lives and moves and has his being.

At the very beginning this should be protected by carefully chosen, useful, and handsome trees. One thing that is often forgotten is that the tiny seedling which is being planted will become the mighty tree, and that allowance should be made for the shade it will cast, for the spread of its branches and of its roots, for the fall of its leaves, and for the possibility of its falling on to buildings during gales.

A shrubbery adorned with graceful, flowering bushes and a garden well-stocked with bright blossoms should follow as soon as possible, while the less conspicuous parts, may be made a source of health and profit by the abundance of the fruits of the earth.

The farmer is entitled to the best that the earth will yield in response to his toil — repose and enjoyment and healthful food. The home garden is undoubtedly the most profitable portion of the farm.

In the garden I had marvellous success. At first I had a taiapa erected for shelter. Inside I planted eleagnus and flax and was well derided. Eleagnus would not stand the frosts, and flax would not grow on dry pumice soil. However, both plants flourished and quickly provided good shelter. When I planted a palm tree everyone roared, but ere long I established an avenue of palm trees. I succeeded, however, with only one variety — chamaerops excelsis. Though only a quarter of an acre was devoted to flowers and vegetables I grew enough right round the year to adorn the premises and to feed a family of never less than seven, and often ten or a dozen. The potatoes were grown outside the garden proper and some onions were bought. Carrots, parsnips, onions, beans, peas, cabbages, cauliflowers, page break
The Garden from Front Verandah 1932

The Garden from Front Verandah 1932

The Kitchen Garden Cabbages Over Two Feet Spread

The Kitchen Garden Cabbages
Over Two Feet Spread

Vegetable Marrows (The Support on Left is a Butter Box)

Vegetable Marrows
(The Support on Left is a Butter Box)

Apples in Broadlands Orchard

Apples in Broadlands Orchard

Broadlands Garden. An Oasis
Outside of Aputahou Bush

Outside of Aputahou Bush

Inside Aputahou Bush

Inside Aputahou Bush

One of the Great Totaras

One of the Great Totaras

Outside of Eucalyptus Plantation Twenty-eight Years Old

Outside of Eucalyptus Plantation Twenty-eight Years Old

The Bush: A Gift of Nature page break page 225 brussels sprouts, lettuce, silver beet, red beet, tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins, vegetable marrows and rock melons yielded abundantly every year. The native spinach, once established, thereafter came up wild. Besides the vegetables I grew great quantities of currants and gooseberries in the garden. I used very little manure, but dug in all weeds, hedge clippings, house refuse, and the like. Pumice soil is delightful for working, and no time need be wasted. If one does not mind getting wet the soil may be worked in a rain storm. In the flower garden hollyhocks, asters, marigolds, geums, antirrhinums, pansies, salvias, daffodils — indeed all flowers made a brilliant display.

My garden was admired by all beholders. It was indeed a delightful surprise coming out of the wild scrub country into Broadlands garden. In 1936 exhibits from Broadlands garden won the most points prize at the local show. Ail these results were achieved by patient trial and experiment — mostly successful, but some failures had, of course, to come my way.

It may perhaps be of interest to my friends to learn how I personally “put in my time.”

In the well-known Australian work We of the Never-Never the outback is repeatedly called “The land of plenty of time” but my experience was quite contrary to this theory.

Rather did it resemble:

The life on the ocean wave
The life on the rolling deep
Where you never have time to shave
And seldom have time to sleep.

Never did I have opportunity for contemplation during the day time or for consideration during the night time. I always had on hand at least ten jobs which ought to be done at once. The great trouble was to know which one to tackle and which nine to leave till tomorrow's more ample hours. I had fondly imagined when giving up business that I should have abundant page 226 opportunity on the farm for reading: but there was a great disappointment.

In reading the following it must be borne in mind that on Broadlands the clock was kept half-an-hour ahead in the winter, and a full hour in summer. Therefore if you want to observe the time by the sun you must make the necessary adjustments.

Well then, here is my daily round: Rise 5.30 a.m., see that the mail is quite ready; do little jobs about the house or perhaps work for a few minutes in the garden; breakfast at 7 o'clock; attend to all requirements in the store; set out the work and give each farmhand his orders for the day; go out to my own particular job among the stock, building, draining, haymaking, harvesting, mixing manure or grass seed, surface sowing grass, carpentering, repairing the frequent damage to implements, and the like. One of my jobs was to make all the gates. I must have built well over a hundred. Hanging gates is quite an art. If my work lay far from the homestead I took some lunch: if near at hand, in to lunch, noon to 1 p.m.; back to my job: home about 5.30 p.m., work around store or garden; dinner 6.30 p.m.; read letters on arriving by mail, and newspapers till 8 or 8.30 p.m.; retire to study, write up books and records and answer letters; and “so to bed” between 10.30 p.m. and 11 p.m. This works out, I fear, at rather more than the statutory forty hours a week and almost reminds me of a stock agent who told me that he worked twenty hours a day and during the other four he merely answered the telephone!

Attendance on visitors sometimes necessitated reduction of the hours of sleep. One visitor remarked:

“Do you ever go to bed before midnight? It seems to me that you never get to sleep till tomorrow!” To this I retorted:

“As tomorrow never comes it follows that I never go td sleep.” The longest day's work I ever did at Broadlands was: rose page 227 2.30 a.m., had “a cup of tea” and put up a bit of lunch; saddled up horses kept in overnight and off to muster about one thousand five hundred sheep off about twelve thousand acres of rough country. It was freezing hard and as we pushed our way through the scrub, the icicles fell off and settled in a frozen lump on the tops of our boots. The extremities are not warmed thereby and the boys would have liked to put their feet in their pockets, had they not been already filled with their hands.

Before dawn we were at the back boundary so as to be behind the sheep before they should break camp. In the early days I had merinos. They are easy to muster. Provided you have a good fence or other impassable barrier you make a noise behind them and they run for their lives until they come to the barrier. There they assemble and meet together and you pick them up and, with the invaluable assistance of your faithful hounds, you get them home. But by this time I had changed over to Romney Marsh, and these creatures towards midday and early afternoon will hide in the scrub and stand “stock” still while you pass within a few yards of them. When you are well ahead the brutes will come out and show themselves in open patches of feed. Back you go and get them. So all day we toiled and by nightfall had our mob mustered up, but absolute darkness prevented our getting them home. So we let them settle down and camp and arrived back at the station at about 8 p.m. From 2.30 a.m. to 8 p.m. I had been battling through scrub and over hills and gullies, roaring unprintable orders to dogs and had not been out of the saddle for five minutes. Next morning we had to be up again before daylight to get behind the sheep before they should move. This was the hardest frost I ever experienced at Broadlands. The ground was hard and slippery, all shallow pools frozen, and when I reached the homestead the men all roared. I looked like Peary at the Pole with icicles hanging down to where my waist ought to be — and then was.

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One difficulty in mustering my country was the presence here and there of large white pumice stones. At a distance these look very much like sheep and at times you fancy that you see them move! I have known a shepherd get very angry with his dog because of its failure to shift such sheep.

Another job entailing long hours was shearing. I always dreaded it. Shearing starts at 5 a.m. and, as I was of necessity my own “expert,” I had to be in the shed between 4 and 4.30 a.m. to go through the sheep to see that none were down, attend to oiling the machines, start the engine up, sharpen combs and cutters, see that bales and bags were properly placed, and everything in order. Then, when all was running satisfactorily, to help with drafting, classing the fleeces, counting out and keeping the tallies of mobs and of shearers, times of hands, and so forth. At shearing everything is done at top speed and with a swing and a system. If any department is slack — penning, shearing, sweeping, throwing, skirting, sorting, baling, branding — it blocks everyone. Outside there is mustering, drafting, shedding, branding of shorn sheep and putting them back on their country. When shearing was at the rate of twenty shillings per hundred and shed hands got from six shillings to ten shillings a day all were merry and contented; but when wages rose to thirty-five shillings for shearers and a minimum of fourteen shillings and sixpence for shed hands any hitch meant murmurings and threats of strikes. I suppose the workers counted up their loss from any stoppage at the higher rates! Only once did I encounter an actual strike. It started with the engine stopping and spread to the men who complained of the consequent loss of time. However, I went over to the store and came back with a twelve-pound tin of lollies and distributed them among the dosen or two Maori children (who always infested the shed, distributing peanut shells, bits of string and such like benefits through the wool), spoke a few cheerful words page break
Eucalypts Surface Sown Twenty Years Ago

Eucalypts Surface Sown Twenty Years Ago

In the Arboretum. Cedar: Silver Beeches Note the Mess of Grass

In the Arboretum. Cedar: Silver Beeches
Note the Mess of Grass

Inside a Eucalyptus Plantation Twenty Years Old

Inside a Eucalyptus Plantation Twenty Years Old

Eucalyptus Macarthuri Eight Years Old and Over Fifty Feet High

Eucalyptus Macarthuri Eight Years Old and Over Fifty Feet High

Remarkable Tree Growth
A Scrub Fire Dies Down

A Scrub Fire Dies Down

Burned Manuka Scrub The Red Slave has Done His Work

Burned Manuka Scrub
The Red Slave has Done His Work

Land Oeared for First Ploughing

Land Oeared for First Ploughing

Sowing Grass before I had a Distributor

Sowing Grass before I had a Distributor

Improvement Begins the Work page break page 229 to the hands in their own tongue, and they were workers again. At shearing there are four intervals — two of an hour each for meals, and two of twenty minutes each for smoke-oh. Knock off is at 5 p.m. All sheep on “the board” must be finished but no fresh ones taken; floor swept; fleeces binned; ports, windows and doors cloesd. Then requirements of all hands at the store had to be satisfied. Returning to the yards, my shepherd and helpers would have next day's sheep partly ready and I would give a hand with drafting and shedding and penning. Seldom or never did I reach the house before 6.30 o'clock. After tea there was the usual book-keeping and correspondence. No forty-hour nonsense about this! But this is how the wealth of New Zealand is created and provision made not only for meeting our overseas liabilities but also for the payment of wages (at more than double the rate that can possibly be wrung from the soil of New Zealand) on absurdly unprofitable and useless undertakings which are really relief works and mostly situated in the retrograde South Island.

I may here remark that the old idea of dividing the fleeces into numerous classes has been abandoned. Latterly I had only three classes — fine, medium and coarse. Even this simple method meant eight sorts of wool — the three classes of fleece and in addition cots, dingy, pieces, bellies and locks.

Dipping was a job I rather enjoyed — after I had built a walkin dip with fifty-five foot swim; yards to hold two thousand sheep at a time and draining pens to hold three hundred. It is true that we have risen early and put seven hundred sheep through before breakfast, but dipping must finish early — not later than 3 p.m. and the work in a dip such as mine is not hard provided the sheep are not dogged or bullied. Once sheep get frightened they become obstinate and hard to handle. Prior to the construction of this dip we used a small iron dip into which every sheep had to be lifted — great exercise, but no sport.

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Two of our busiest years were:

That ending 31st March, 1910, when we broke in one hundred and twenty-seven acres of new land; laid down to permanent pasture fifty acres: sowed one hundred and eleven acres turnips and sixteen acres oats; completed outbuildings; added two lean-to rooms to house; constructed a small bridge and some culverts; erected eight miles of fence; dug fifty-two and a-quarter chains of drain; netted one and a-half miles of fence; erected shearing machines; opened a general store, and so on.

And again, that ending 31st March, 1927, when we broke up one hundred and seventeen acres new land; laid one hundred acres in permanent pasture; sowed one hundred and fifteen acres turnips; cut one hundred and fifty tons hay; planted out eight thousand five hundred and fifty trees; dug half a mile of drain; erected six and a-half miles of fences; improved surroundings of homestead, and so on.

The greatest area of new land broken up in one year was in 1930-1931 (our year ending 31st March), one hundred and forty acres; the greatest length of fencing was in 19094910, eight miles; of drains in 1915-1916, two miles six chains; the greatest amount of grass-seed sown was six tons four hundredweight; in 1914–1915 and again in 1916–1917 we sowed five tons.

In the end I had erected fifty-five and a-half miles of fencing, mostly eight wires — none less than seven; all best English wire and all best heart totara timber; dug twelve and a-half miles of drains; formed ten and a-half miles of roads, besides odd bits of road and lengthy tracks everywhere (for mustering); erected six large and three small traffic bridges, and two foot-bridges, besides numberless culverts — many of them substantially built like small bridges; broken up two thousand acres of virgin land, ploughed at least twice and some few paddocks which were relaid as many as five times; erected substantial buildings nearly all of heart totara — house eight rooms, bathroom and porch; page 231 washhouse with fixed tubs and copper boiler; store; carpenter's shop; blacksmith's shop; garage; benzine shed; smithy; stable; implement shed; manure, seed and chaff shed; the best woolshed in New Zealand; yards for drafting two thousand sheep at a time; dip with yards to handle two thousand sheep; cattle yards to handle one hundred and fifty cattle with drafting face and dehorning bail; two workmen's cottages; and at the Dairy Farm a house of six rooms and another of three rooms; wash-house; milking shed with appurtenances; ten pig sties; chaff shed; sunk three wells; planted one hundred and eighty thousand trees: formed garden and ornamental grounds, established a telephone service, and so on, and on.

It will be observed that my fences, placed end to end, if started at Auckland city would have passed on through Pukekohe and Pokeno and Mercer and on to Rangiriri to the south: or through Helensville and Kaukapakapa and on to Ahuroa in the north.

And how did these achievements compare with those in other countries? There ia very little really first-class fool-proof land in New Zealand. Our best farms are man-made. Practically every productive acre in the North Island has been covered first by an axe or a slasher and afterwards by a plough, and a manure and seed distributor. Nearly all early books on New Zealand comment on the hopelessness of the task and compare our little country with Australia to our great disadvantage, pointing out the limitless areas of level country of the richest description in Australia, much of it covered with costless pasture of native grasses, and all supplemented by the great advantage of cheap convict labour. However, the wonderful climate of New Zealand — and particularly the northern part of — it combined with the unpaid toil of the farmers' family have so far pulled us through. I have been comparatively successful and have “carried my bat out.”

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Besides work on the station itself, I had to take a large part in the public affairs of the district.

First there was the formation of an Agricultural and Pastoral Association for Rotorua, and the starting of local Winter Shows. A meeting was held in Rotorua on the 14th August, 1909, at which Messrs. Martin, Raw, Sloane, Harp, Thompson, Warburton and myself were appointed a committee for finalising the business and carrying out the necessary arrangements; These shows have never looked back and have always been a credit to the district.

My next effort was to get live-stock sales established in the Rotorua district. Many unsuccessful attempts had been made; but I managed to interest the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company in the project, with the result that Mr. Bodle from Auckland, Mr. Sare from Hamilton and Mr. Brown from Tauranga met me in Rotorua on the 9th July, 1911. They were accompanied also by Mr. Richard Reynolds, always helpful in new enterprises, and a good friend. We held meetings at various places, and the end that crowned our work was the starting of regular stock sales at Ngongotaha — a tremendous advantage to the whole district.

It was when showing the Loan and Mercantile representatives round the district that the first motor-car was taken through Strathmore (part of which is now named Reporoa).

In 1912 we contrived to get a post office established at Whare-papa some three miles nearer than Waiotapu, and on the 6th March, 1913, a telephone office and bureau was opened there. The first postmaster was Mr. J. E. Zimmerman. However, confusion with Wharepapa near Helensville constantly arose, and the name of our office was soon changed to Wharepaina — truly a painful word. The settlers provided the building. Ere long the Government line was extended to Reporoa and our layout much altered. Mr. Butcher and I — and it may be some page 233 others — joined in a small guarantee to ensure having an independent officer instead of the post office being kept in the store. As for myself I secured a private bag, the service of which took fourteen miles riding on each of three days every week, until the establishment of a regular cream delivery. It was a satisfaction to know that my mail bag and my telephone were a great convenience to all neighbours.

In 1917 a public hall was built from funds provided mainly by Mr. Stead, Mr. Butcher and myself. Subsequently we gave the building to the returned soldiers and they moved it to Reporoa.

In 1918 after several preliminary meetings, Messrs. Butcher, R. Handcock and I succeeded in arranging with the Rotorua Co-operative Dairy Company for it to buy all cream produced in the Waiotapu District and take delivery in the district. Those signing the deed were E. E. Vaile (one hundred cows); W. G. Butcher (sixty cows); Richard Handcock (thirty cows); G. A. Handcock (twenty cows); W. G. Mayes (twenty cows). This agreement was not “implemented” the business being postponed pending the settlement of Reporoa. As illustrating the great progress since made in dairyfarming I may say that, in this deed, a “cow” was defined as one hundred and thirty pounds butterfat in the season.

The advance made by farming in the Rotorua area is also strikingly shown by the output of the district butter factory. Production was started in the 1911–1912 season, when forty-five tons were manufactured. By 1915 this had rather more than doubled at ninety-three tons; the 1920 figures were one hundred and sixteen tons; 1925, three hundred and fifty-five tons; 1930, three hundred and forty-seven tons; 1935, eight hundred and forty-five tons; 1939, one thousand three hundred and fifty tons — or just thirty times the production at the time the factory was established. This is more than six times the average rate of page 234 increase in the Dominion. It is well to explain that these figures are local production and exclude cream which was received from Putaruru for a while. About 1923 a Mr. Roper came into the district and started an opposition factory, but he did not meet with much success. Then the Waikato Valley and Te Aroha factories drew some supplies — probably equal to about seventy tons of butter — from the Rotorua area for some years. In 1929 the supply from the Waiotapu District alone was worth about £26,000. I have no more recent figures. The factory at Ngongotaha was erected, and until 1927 conducted by, the Rotorua Co-operative Dairy Company. Before the commencement of operations of the 1927–1928 season the undertaking was sold to the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company.

At first, we at Waiotapu experienced the greatest difficulty in getting our cream carted on any conditions, but now a great lorry with double deck sixteen by eight feet is loaded to capacity every day in the season.

At a meeting held in January 1919 the Waiotapu Settlers' Association was formed with twentyone members and I was elected president, a position which necessitated much travelling about. By 1921 our Association had grown to fifty-five members mainly by accession of new settlers on Reporoa.

Then after protracted negotiations, culminating on the 31st March, 1919, I negotiated the sale to the Government of the Reporoa estate for settlement of returned soldiers. I cannot say that I have been fascinated by the results, but still understand that Reporoa has been the most successful of all the soldier settlements. I had urged upon Mr. Massey the establishment on Crown Lands of a large farm where applicants for land could be trained and tried out. Only those approved by the super-intendent, and themselves wishing to continue after actual experience of the conditions then ruling, to be awarded sections.

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Such a scheme would have saved this country many millions: but Mr. Massey went off to Europe and his subordinates failed to carry out the idea.

To celebrate this important event of the subdivision and settlement as dairy farms of about ten thousand acres of first-class land I gave a dinner in the Waiotapu Hotel. Several important men came up from Auckland and a car-load of invited guests from Rotorua. It went off with a swing and a presentation was made to The New Zealand Herald in acknowledgment of the encouragement it had always given to our district in face of all the discouragement poured on us from other sources.

On the 26th May, 1920, the first farm sections in Reporoa were balloted, the successful applicants being Messrs. H. C. Batcheldor, A. Cameron, Peter Carswell, H. G. Cherry, H. Coote, D. K. Dunbar, R. W. Dunbar, A. E. Flaxman, B. W. Friis, A. B. Guthrie, J. E. Hird, James Jickell, T. H. Lewis, J. McRobert, J. M. Steedman. Of these rather more than half are still on their land which is, I believe, a record superior to that of any other soldier settlement.

The farming sections having by now been mostly taken up, on the 20th July, 1921, the township sections were put up for sale by auction. There was a large attendance, amongst them some Hindus. When these chipped into the bidding I decided to run them out, and a section was knocked down to me. I then discovered that I had to make a declaration that I did not own more than five thousand acres of land. So I was out and the Hindus got in. Better an Asiatic than a waster who has brought thousands of acres of waste land into use!

Soon a district school was established, but it was many years before a schoolmaster's residence was added. This took away a portion of the school grounds. Consequently I bought and presented to the school a further area which afforded the children a better playground; provided the materials for a carpenter's page 236 workshop; and presented a number of books as the nucleus of a school library.

Recently I did much the same for Broadlands School.

I had published several pamphlets on pumice land development, on soldier settlement, on railway mismanagement, on extending the railway from Rotorua to Taupo, when in 1931 I committed the outstanding folly of standing for Parliament. For months I rushed round the gigantic constituency of Rotorua which was one hundred and thirty miles long and about eighty miles wide, preaching to hundreds, preaching to tens, preaching to individuals the doctrine of sound finance, saying unto them: “The basis of all sound finance is the fact that there are twenty shillings in a pound, and when you have spent them there is nothing left”; shouting my slogan: “It is more important to the individual, and vastly more important to the State, that the citizen should have regular work and be able to buy his requirements cheaply than that he should have high wages by the hour or by the day”; not flinching from my advocacy of free trade — the policy of courage, of friendliness and of plenty as opposed to protection, the policy of cowardice of enmity and of scarcity; proclaiming the virtues of hard work and of competition — the soul of sound business. All of my meetings were successful — perhaps especially that at Arapuni, the nest of socialists and communists. At question time, six or more would rise at a time. The chairman nominated the man to proceed. When he got in his question cheers were given indicating that the audience believed: “That'll fix the blighter.” But when they saw that I easily answered the questions and proved the questioners wrong the cheers began to come with the answers. I was congratulated on all sides: my friends were delighted and predicted an easy victory. But did the crowd vote for me? Not much! They reflected “That fellow has fifty thousand acres; he must be a thief; he is far too clever for us; we want one of our page break
Grass being Saved for Hay. To be Cut about a Month Later.

Grass being Saved for Hay. To be Cut about a Month Later.

The Cutting Note Stacks in Distance

The Cutting
Note Stacks in Distance

Raking into Windrows

Raking into Windrows

The Hay Cocked

The Hay Cocked

Feed in Plenty
Prejudice Receives a Shock Swedes from Broadlands at Auckland Winter Show 1910

Prejudice Receives a Shock
Swedes from Broadlands at Auckland Winter Show 1910

Broadlands Swedes 1917 A Great Crop

Broadlands Swedes 1917
A Great Crop

Swedes, Broadlands 1918 Looking Across the Drills

Swedes, Broadlands 1918
Looking Across the Drills

Swedes, Broadlands 1922 Success Every Time

Swedes, Broadlands 1922
Success Every Time

The Wilderness Blossoms as the Rirnip page break page 237 own sort.” And they got him! It is a lamentable fact that in New Zealand today the fact of having achieved a position in private life goes against a man at elections; and that a candidate who stands on the platform and talks sense and speaks the truth has no more chance of entering the kingdom of parliament than he has of ascending to Heaven in a chariot of fire. The electors desire delusion by such promises as “Sir Joseph Ward, world-famed financier, proposed to raise £70,000,000 without one penny additional taxation, direct or indirect. It will not cost you a single sixpence”; or by the promise of a national social dividend without any toil being done for it; or the allurement of a policy whereunder he shall spend his whole earnings and at the end of an inglorious career of self-indulgence end his days as a State pauper-voter under social security!

So in the end I was well defeated and repeatedly had to apologize to enquiring friends for the stupidity of the electors of Rotorua! Joking apart, the causes I have stated have resulted in the dreadful fact that today there is no one in Parliament on either side of the House in whose ability to effect “A happy issue out of all our afflictions” the public has any confidence. The fault is not with the Government — they are having the time of their lives — but with the electors. It is the crash of Democracy.

In 1933 the acute depression having continued for some three years, I decided that a man having so much land should render some help, and offered to give one thousand acres for the settlement of the unemployed. This offer was accepted and nine farms have been established upon the land. The great bulk of the area was really first-class soil, level and abundantly watered: I had built a bridge and made a road into the block; dug over three miles of drains; erected about the same length of fence; cleared and surface-sown the greater part of the land. I am glad to say that the settlement has been a great success. I have heard senior officers of the Department say that these are the best small page 238 farms they have on their books anywhere. But from the point of view of the settlers, the position is not so satisfactory. Though the land was an absolutely free gift and was considerably improved when I presented it, the Government charges a ground rent for the land which I gave. To cause the initial rent to be light and not raise a howl, my gift, worth at the lowest £3,500, was “valued” at about £900 on an unimproved basis — or say one-third of its true value. The settlers will get a rude shock when it comes to be revalued in terms of their leases.