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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

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Land history

Roly: My Dad, Arthur, (this is back in 1929) – the original home he put up was a single bedroom home, lounge-room, kitchen, bathroom, veranda, and it cost him 300 pounds in those days to put up the whole dwelling. So you can imagine what money bought in those days.

Anyway, I lived in that home down there where the dairy is now up till the age of 14. That’s when we bought the property off the old Grandad and moved up into this home cottage up here where Fiona is now, back on the Tuntable Creek Road. We worked that dairy until ’56, and we moved, shifted the dairy from there down to where the existing dairy is today.

Fay: We moved down in February ’57.

Roly: Yes, 5 February I think it was that we milked the first cows down there in the new dairy. We bought the adjoining property down – it belonged to Nappers.

Fay: That’s the ten acres that Andrews have got.

Roly: Yes, that’s right. Yes, that’s well down. We sold that 10 acres that the Andrews have there. We sub-divided that. They came up from Newcastle in ’74, and they came up at the height of the big flood that we’d had, and they didn’t know what the hell they’d come to when that happened. Andrews are still living in that home today. We’ve got Grant and his mother Val, and Grant’s wife and kiddies. They’re still living in the home that they bought back in ’74.  Poor old Frank, he passed on some time ago.

We sold another portion of the farm over here to Geoff Campbell. There was 27 acres there that was sub-divided off our property.

Fay: The home and 10 acres we sold for $15,000 back in ’74. That was considered a good price. They’d come up from down South and offered us the money. Well, we’d been offered $6,000, not that. They were working on Newcastle prices, not our prices. And it was considered a really good sale at the time, but today – I don’t know what it would be worth today, probably more like $300,000 or $400,000.

Roly: Then you’ve got Gillian Delaney. She’s still there. She’s across from the dairy, Pinetrees and that there, that property. Back before she bought in, it belonged to Beppi Bressen. No, you can just see the corner of the bananas. He had the ground planted between the two roads, between the Tuntable Creek Road and the road opposite the dairy.  He had bananas planted on that hill there, and it’s all bananas. In fact, if you go around and have a look at my other farm up around there, you can see the bananas and everything growing on that hill.

On the hill above where the dairy is now?

Roly: Yes, straight across, right up to the front. If you go round the Tuntable Creek Road, there’s a very steep bank there and you look down over the property. I don’t think there’s ever been a vehicle go over there, but back in the early days when Beppi grew the bananas, we used to burn the hill every year, and there was a landslide that came down the hill, and we used to put the firebreak down that landslide to stop the fire from going right round. Yes, and then that property was worked as a dairy. Alex Falls owned that property. I was only, not very old, when the home was built.

Anyway, to get enough acreage to work it as a dairy, he rented the land portion of the farm that we had off the old Grandad. He used to travel his dairy herd down onto that portion of the farm to make it big enough to work as a viable property. Originally the old Grandad, he worked his dairy on the top side of the range, that’s Tuntable Creek Road. He had 300 acres there. He had 200 acres of his own. He rented the 100 acres that now belongs to Nowlands, and he worked his dairy off that 200 acres there.

Fay: His brother actually owned that, didn’t he?

Roly: Yes, that’s right. Then over where the dairy is now, that was all still standing timber in those days. There’s a photo of a big old teak tree. When it was cleared, they left this big old teak tree. I’ve got photos of it there I could show you, standing behind where the home is now. I know old Mum, she was always terribly worried because it would have hit the house if it had come down. It fell naturally. It was such a beautiful stick of timber.

From the stump, the tree when it did fall, the head of it almost landed where the dairy is there now, so that will give you some idea of the size of the tree.

The school was blown off its blocks when we had that cyclonic blow that came through and wrecked a couple of houses, and it blew one sheet of tin off our home, off the existing home that’s there now, and travelled across the paddock and hit a barbed wire fence and split an 8ft sheet of tin into three, where it hit the barbed wire.

Fay: From the force the sheet of roofing iron was travelling at, to do that.

Roly: Yes, just split it in half.

When was that?

Fay: It was in the 1940s. I was only about 11 or 12.

Roly: Yes, us kids had only got home from school when it came through.

Fay: Our home – I find this hard to believe – we had a row of coral trees, which would have been at least 30ft high, and we had one of those old cream sheds that you were supposed to put your cream in to keep it cool.  Well, it lifted the cream house off the cement foundation, took it up over the top of those 30ft trees, and took it way down the hill and stood it on the flat down at Big Creek – and it never damaged it. They went down there with the draught horses and the slide, strapped it to the slide, brought it back home and put it back on its foundations.

Roly: So that’s the force of the damage.

Fay: That’s just the force – they’re like a tornado, those storms, like a big whirly-whirly, and it just whirled it off. It did a lot of damage in the district.

Roly: Yes, some dairies, it blew the roof off the dairy, and it sucked all the cream out of the cans, just left an empty can there.

Fay: Yes, full cans of cream, took all the cream up, out of the cans. That storm went through down Knott Road, it happened. It went through and caught the farm at Nimbin, went through in a straight line and caught our property at Clunes. They say now that, no, you get something like that, it’s because of climate change. I wonder what caused it back then, because there were very few cars around then. There was very little carbon pollution, so what caused them then?

How did you manage with things like lantana and other weeds? What was happening on the property from the point of view of—-

Roly: Well, that was what you used to concentrate on during the winter months. While the dairy herd was dry, you’d spend two or three months, if you had no cattle to milk – you’d probably try to get a house cow to go through so you’d still have milk for the house, but you wouldn’t have enough milk to be worth separating or sending the cream to Norco, so it was the usual trend in those days that you’d have to go round digging out any foreign weeds in the pasture, making sure that they didn’t take over the property.

And when did your father go into bananas?

Roly:  In the ‘20s. He had the plantation from before he married my mother in 1929. Then he worked bananas, then he eventually bought the cream run off Arnie Walker, picked up the cream from the dairies. Quite a number of dairies were functioning in that area. He bought the cream run off Arnie Walker, and he worked that for 11 years until he sold out to Jack Nugent. That run was in existence up until the time, while the dairies were still functioning, up until the time we changed over from the cream to bulk milk.

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