Water on the farm
It will not surprise you to know that having water available was essential to success on the farm.
For personal use, we caught rainwater that fell onto the roof of the house; and for the dairy, we used the rain that fell onto the dairy shed. Most years, we had reasonably rainfall, and we were very sparing with the rainwater we collected. I don’t remember a time when we actually ran out of water supply to the homestead.
We had a deep creek that ran through the southern end of the property. After heavy rainfall, usually every 2 or 3 years, it would flood, and fill the two deep water-holes within the farm. Even after the shallow reaches of the creek dried up, the water in those deep holes kept the farm supplied for many months. We pumped the water through a series of pipes, to sites nearer the homestead, and stored it in a huge tank, which fed troughs to water the animals. More was stored in a smaller tank set on high blocks, so there was enough pressure to force water through hoses to water Mum’s vegetable garden.
But the creek ran between the house and the main road. For several years, Dad parked his car on the ‘wrong’ side of the creek, and chained it to the base of a big gum trees – to prevent an unexpected flood washing it away. Then he and Mum walked across the dry bed of the creek, and the half-mile to the house, carrying two small children, and the shopping. If there was water in the creek, then they walked across a makeshift bridge – a fallen log, with a ‘handrail’ of fencing wire at waist height. Dad carried my newborn baby sister across that log. At least once Mum slipped off into the water below.
We needed a bridge, and were lucky to have a bridge-builder in the family. Mum’s father was a carpenter who had been employed building timber bridges in NSW around 1900. Now in 1935, he supervised the construction of our own bridge. The girders were cut from huge gum trees growing on our own farm, some 11 metres long. We were so proud of that bridge.
I remember a particular drought in 1951. We used our best efforts to ration the water we pumped for the big waterholes in the creek. But eventually there was no water left. For several weeks, we brought water to the farm in trucks, to provide for dairy cows. We walked our bullocks to remaining waterholes in another creek, every couple of days.
As we did that, a drilling plant was creating a bore on the farm. Luckily for us, it reached a good supply of water, and we did not have to worry about running short of water for the stock again.
Eventually, that drought broke, and our bridge was again covered by flood water. I had to cross the water in a rowing boat to get to school!