The Wool Wagon

Bullock Team and Wool Wagon, Cheviot. Nelson Province, Hon. W. Robinson‘s Station.

C_wool wagon

This photograph represents one of the methods by which wool is conveyed from the wool sheds on the Cheviot Station to Port Robinson in Gore Bay, a distance of about nine miles. The land is very undulating as far as “First Beach,” after which the track lies through shingle and sandhills until the pass of “Cathedral Cutting” is reached, where the numerous steep zigzags put the strength and temper of the bullocks to the severest test.

Bullock wagon pulling a wagon of wool bales. Image from Te Papa collection.

Port Robinson is afterwards gained by a steep descent. There a large woolshed has been erected, also a wharf running directly into the bay. The wool is placed in an iron pontoon, 70 or 80 bales at a time, then run down the inclined plane of the wharf by a wire rope worked by a stationary engine, until the pontoon reaches deep water, when it is hauled alongside a steamer moored a short distance away.

C_ship

 ‘The Wool Season’ by John Gibb, 1885.

It is said that two or three days only are required to ship wool from this station, the value of which may reach £30,000.
Messrs. F. Bradley & Co., Photographic Publishers, Christchurch. c. 1880s.

(‘Station’, in this case, refers to what Americans would call a ranch)

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Living history

V_thresherHarvest has been a season for rejoicing from the remotest ages. There is every cause for rejoicing at harvest time where the marvellous machine shown is used; it cuts the crop, threshes, bags the grain, and ejects the straw – a little different to the sickle and flail, man’s first harvesting tools. The International Harvester Thresher shown is drawn by a tractor, which also supplies driving power to the machine.
This Mechanized Age. Godfrey Phillips Ltd, 1936.

The present generation, brought up with giant combine harvesters with air-conditioned cabs, would find it difficult to believe that, eighty years ago, this represented the latest technology in agricultural machinery. Thankfully, enthusiasts in many parts of the world are dedicated to preserving these “marvels” in working order, keeping history alive so we can have some idea of what life on the farm was like in the Old Days.

Restored 1929 Fordson tractor at a vintage machinery display.

This 1929 Fordson tractor looks similar to the one in the first image. It was rescued from a children’s playground and restored to its original condition.

All of these photographs were taken at a popular two-day vintage machinery show last weekend.

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There were tractors of almost every make and model in various stages of repair but this one was unique.

Old rusting tractor with seat replaced by an arm chair.

Some people take their restoration projects less seriously than others.

The need for speed

Excerpts from an essay, ‘The Countryside’, by Lord Ernle (1851-1937)

My own recollections date back to 1855 – a Golden Age of agriculture for squires and farmers, when the land not only supplied bread to 17,000,000, and meat to the whole, of the existing population, but employed nearly 1,100,000 rural workers. Men ploughed, sowed, reaped, and threshed almost as they had done in Biblical days….

Vintage postcard of haymaking in the English countryside.

Preparations for the coming annihilation of time and distance had hardly begun. Few railways had been built; the mercantile fleet mainly consisted of sailing ships, small in number and carrying capacity; except for short distances no submarine cables had been laid; roads were still barred by turnpike gates, and, off the railways, horses or “hiking” were the only means of land locomotion or conveyance….

Life travels faster than it did. Its pace is no longer set by ploughmen behind their horses in the furrows. But rich in advantages though the change is, those who live by the land – tenant-farmers, landlords, workers, parsons, or tradesmen who depend on their custom – have not found speed an unmixed blessing. With one hand it brings the farmer help, with the other disaster. Speed saves his time, cheapens his production, checks the caprice of climate; but it is also speed that ruins his market by bringing perishable products from the ends of the earth. By innumerable means it has made life easier in the countryside; for all who live by the land it has made it harder to live. But speed clashes with the dominant force of the countryside. Nature refuses to be hustled by mechanics.

However much the handling of her products may be accelerated, her own processes of production remain unhurried. It is from her deliberate methods that rural life derives the air of repose, or, if you will, stagnation, which gives it dignity and independence. If its special needs are wholly sacrificed to urban interests, the country becomes only a poor relation of the town. Road authorities might save expenditure if they more often remembered that cattle can shift their quarters without a Rolls-Royce, and that horses cannot keep their feet on skating rinks.
‘Fifty Years, Memories and Contrasts’. Thornton Butterworth Limited, London. 1932.

Surplus to requirements

An old abandoned farm cottage, South Island, New Zealand.

If you drive far enough on New Zealand’s country roads you’ll stumble on a sight similar to this. You might assume it’s a sad reminder of rural depression, economic failure and abandonment. Somebody gave up and walked off the land. That scenario, while not impossible, is very unlikely.

Look around and you’ll notice the old house is sitting in a quiet corner of a working farm. It’s a sign of progress and changes in agricultural practice. Perhaps farm amalgamation or the introduction of modern machinery made the farm worker redundant. He would have moved on to another farm or a nearby town for work. If the cottage is old enough, and this one might be, it was the first house on the farm, with fruit trees planted in the front garden (this one is a pear), while the land was being “broken in”. As the years passed the owner moved up to a bigger and better home for his growing family. But if it has a roof, it has a purpose, so this old house has followed a familiar life cycle of home, storage shed, hay barn, and animal shelter before settling down as a picturesque ruin. The history of rural life in four walls.