I can remember my father calling at the water stand pipe in Epping on his way home from work, almost daily, to fill milk cans with water for the garden. On his arrival home it was ‘all hands on deck’, to bucket the water from the milk cans to the various parts of the garden, with the vegetable patch being the main priority. However, when the dam water had dried up, we also had to put water in the trough for the house cow.
In later years, I would be sent off by train to my Uncle's properties in the Mallee area of the state to assist with the harvest. This was usually at the height of summer. The main duties were to assist with the loading of the grain from the headers into the trucks. At this time, about 1962, there was a transition from bag to bulk delivery of grain to the silos. The old headers that were still in use could only unload into bags. These were stacked in central area with easy access from the road. The trucks were fitted with what was known as a G-well hoist. This hoist was driven by hydraulics and lifted the open bags from the ground up above the sides of the bulk body on the truck. The grain would run out of the bag into the bulk bin, and two small hooks on the cradle would catch the bottom of the empty bag and return it in the loader cradle to the ground. The system worked fine until the bulk load level got up to a certain height, when the partially emptied bag would contact the top of the load and the bag would be pushed upwards and off the two retaining hooks. The solution was to empty the bag manually on top of the load, and drop it back to the ground. This needed to be done with some degree of urgency, as my Uncle’s would take great delight in loading the next bag quickly, and if I was not fast enough getting the first bag emptied, I would have two bags to deal with.
The days during harvest were long, weather permitting. However, I do remember one year in the middle of harvest, where there were a series of days in excess of 40 deg. C. On these days my Uncles would not even start machinery for fear that it would start a fire, and given the considerable distances between farms and the local town based fire brigade, it was a very wise move. Although the original homestead was built with veranda’s all around, there was no form of cooling. The only way that we could escape the midday heat, was to open the front and back doors to allow any breeze through the house and to all lay down in the central hallway.
I also recall playing tennis on days when the asphalt courts would start to melt and stick to our tennis shoes. The days when fires would start, and as volunteers, we headed off to fight the fire without fire proof personal protective clothing, or heat shielding on the fire trucks.
The summer season has most certainly provided some long lasting memories.
18th February 2023