On this day in 1985 I was staying with friends of friends of friends on a farm in Dannivirke, NZ.
I had just finished my last nanny job in Wellington, four weeks living in a five bedroom house in Khandallah, looking after two year old Samantha and eleven year old Innes while their parents went on a fifty thousand dollar world tour, first class air travel, Rolls Royce car transfers.
When Innes had friends round they played Pac-man on the Atari. TV shows I watched included Different Strokes, Hill Street Blues and Dynasty.
My flight was booked back to Australia for early August, the limit of my six month NZ visa. I had a few weeks to travel and see more of the North Island, before I left.
I was such a city girl. These few days on a farm were fascinating.
I was welcomed into the family, enjoyed home cooked roast dinner, pavlova with kiwi fruit.
I travelled around the thousand acres on the back of a bike with a sheep dog up on the handlebars. Bill had four thousand sheep and one hundred cattle on his farm, with the land varying from flat pasture, rolling hills to a few steep fields. The Manuwatu River formed part of his boundary, so the family swim in the river.
Bill and his dog, Fly, checked on the sheep, expertly moving one flock through a gate, into the next paddock. An amazingly quick and easy task for them. At that time of year, they moved the sheep every couple of days, depending how good the grass was in each paddock.
I learnt a lot about sheep farming. One ram serviced one hundred ewes. The ewes lamb in August and September, with the lambs kept until they were twelve weeks old, then sold to the meat works. The reality of where our food comes from. A few ewes had lambed early and there were two lambs in the paddock next to the house. I learned about dagging (cleaning a sheeps rear end) and shearing the undersides of the ewes so the lambs could get milk from their mothers easily.
The main shearing was in November and December, after which the sheep were dipped. The lambs had to be treated for worms when they were a month old. The wool was sold and used in carpets as it was rough textured wool. They had a large shearing shed with ten stalls, shears installed. There were some open bales of wool. The texture of raw honey wool and black wool was different to anything I’d seen before. I could understand the need for blending, carding and spinning to make the wool suitable for weaving or knitting.
The ewes lamb each year, usually having single or twin lambs. So each year brings five thousand or more lambs.
Bill had three working sheep dogs. Fly was the older dog, getting a bit deaf now. So a new puppy was in training and the third was an established young adult working dog.
The cattle were reared for meat too. There were also chickens, goats, a few pigs, a horse that the kids rode and a “house cow” which provided fresh milk each day for the family.
I had a wonderful time on the farm.
13th July 1985 was also the day of Live Aid, the dual venue concert in London, UK and Philadelphia, USA.