On Phillip Island we changed our sheep flock from crossbreds to plain bodied merinos. As its heavy carrying country we graze four to six sheep to the acre. We have other paddocks leased across the Island and it’s my job to drive the sheep to their current pastures and keep an eye on them.
Spring arrives later down on the coast than to inland Australia. It brings sunshine, less wind and a sparkling blue sea. In the paddocks bees buzz around at ankle height pollinating strawberry clover flowers. Yellow flowers bloom on gorse bush hedges. Horses and cattle are losing their rough winter coats. A light breeze blows across the land, rustling through the tops of the tall rye grass that is coming to seed in the paddocks that have been locked up to be cut for hay.
Shearing and hay time always seem to coincide for us and it’s the busiest time of the year. I bring the sheep from the paddocks to the shearing shed. The bleating of sheep and the frantic rattle of their cloven hoofs on the wooden slats of the floor as they are forced into the catching pen, blend with the thump of the generator and the whine of the shearing machine as the shearers push the combs and cutters through the thick fleeces. The smell of wool grease permeates the air.
My sister is doing the picking up; gathering the fleece and throwing it on the wool table and carefully skirting it of any stained or coarser wool. Father works on the wool press and Mother runs a tight ship at the nerve centre, the farm kitchen, preparing baskets of morning and afternoon tea for the wool shed and the hay crew out in the paddock and cooking the midday dinner for the shearers.
I am also on the hay crew and drive the tractor pulling the ancient hay rake. It’s the harvest, and for me, watching the swathe of rye grass and thick mat of clover curl away from the tynes of the rake is almost spiritual. There is nothing like the sweet smell of perfectly cured hay. The sun seems to be smiling on us and we hope it will continue to do so until the baled hay is safely in the shelter of the hayshed.
Stud Poll Herefords have been added to the farm menagerie. They are a delight; except for Brewarrina Cora who is bloody minded at the best of times.
We have a great crop of young bulls to prepare for the Stud Bull sales. Cora’s life never goes smoothly; her calf has a black patch on his neck! He will not make a stud bull. Brother John and I train the surrounding hair towards the patch to make it look a bit smaller. This bull is sold separately at the Dandenong sale for unregistered bulls. John leads him around the sale ring and he brings a good price. But Dad looking down from the stand can see what we have done and is irate and in front of the other cattle breeders he accuses us of being crooks! Regardless, “Black Patch” is voted best beef sire in the Mildura district for several successive years.
The Ventnor Park Poll Hereford show team is proudly added to the horse truck for the Gippsland shows and wins many Championships in individual classes and beef cattle groups and a senior champion bull at Melbourne Royal Show.
At Korumburra Show, a tall thin old man sits on a rail fence nearby watching our cattle being prepared for the show ring. The washing of white tails and white legs, oiling hoofs, grooming and putting rows of curls in their thick red coats. When I finish he says, “I love to watch you working with the cattle. Are you coming to Mirboo North Show next week? If you do you’ll win. You have the best cattle and I’m judging.” We find that he is also the judge that day at Korumburra!
With John home from school we need more acres and Father has always wanted to get back over the Great Dividing Range, “One mouthful of grass there is worth more in stock feed than four in Gippsland,” he always says. The search for land brings us to Borambola in Goomalibee. It’s fathers dream that we will all live there together, but fate always has other plans.
In a café in Melbourne, a young woman I have never seen before sits down at the table beside me and says, “Your name is Beverley, isn’t it?”
I’m surprised! “How do you know that?” She says “I’m guessing. Have you ever thought about going nursing? I tell her that I will think about it. Although farming will always hold a piece of my heart, times are changing and I know it’s time for me to move on.