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Dharmananda: land history
Dudley and Carol bought this place pre Aquarius, they bought in ’72. Basically there were two drivers. One was the fact that agriculture – well there was a lot of these old dairy farms had gone, people had put beef on it, the fences had fallen down, there were weeds everywhere. The Weed Authority were fining people who didn’t look after their groundsel bush and things like that. The land became a liability and all these young idealistic people from the cities, you know that was the ethos of the time, back to the land, earth garden, come up here and buying it for next to nothing. At first they didn’t know what they were getting into. But you know a lot of those people are still here, a lot of those people are still here, yeah. And they’ve made some accommodation with the land – but not many of them farming to the extent that we are.
What you know of the history of this block of land and the surrounding land?
Well going right back to 1904, that’s when it was selected by James Tainsh and his family. I met his daughter at the opening of this book by Pauline Barret, called Around the Channon, it’s basically a history of the early days since white settlement and at the opening, down at The Channon, somebody introduced me to her. Would have been in about 1999 and she said ‘Yeah Dad got the land cleared within twenty years,’ which would be 1920s.
And they were dairying, not sure how many cows they ran but we can see evidence of the damage that the cows had done just bringing them down to the bales every day. They would have had to put them up in the high paddocks and bring them down the hill and a cow will wear a track and then we get this incredibly heavy rain. I mean the most rain we’ve ever had in one day since I’ve been here, in the 1989 flood, after a week of pretty steady rain we got seventeen inches in one day! And so that sort of rain creates erosion gullies and there’s one up there that I’ve since filled in that was ten feet deep.
And so it must have been very hard work and I think one of the things they used to do was lease out north facing slopes to banana growers. And so a lot of the earth works that I find, as I’m peeling back the lantana in the bush regeneration activities as I’m now doing, you see these roads and tracks that the banana growers put in, probably along the contour there’ll be a track and then there’ll be one going up. As I understand it they’d often have a horse with a sled and they’d put the bunches on the sled and they’d pull it up to the top of the hill to the packing shed there and put them in wooden boxes and then they’d send it down a wire like, almost some of them 700 metres long, down the hill to the bottom. Very incredible bush engineering, these guys were really pretty resourceful. I can show you where those things were.