50 to 50 #3: Mount Compass dairy farm

My father hated working for other people. He always wanted to be his own man. So some time in 1962, when I was about two years old, he took me and my mother to live on a dairy farm at Mount Compass.

Sure, as I mentioned last time, in 1961 we lived on a farm near Kersbrook. But dad was just a labourer there, living in a worker’s cottage. His dream was to create a home for his wife and family. So to Mount Compass it was, and a 120-acre dairy farm on Lanacoona Road, Pages Flat, where we lived until 1971.

The boundary of the farm is still the same today. It’s even marked in Google Maps so, as usual, there’s a map over the jump.

The photo above was taken some time around 1962 or 1963. That’s Fern, one of the cows. I’ve marked the spot on the map where this photo was taken from.

Yes, the farm was so small that each cow was known by name. There were 25 to 30 cows “in milk” at any one time, plus perhaps four to six heifers, half a dozen calves and a bull. Plus two dogs and four cats.

Every cow gets pregnant every year — that’s how come they’re always lactating. But why aren’t there as many calves as cows? Well, some of the the female calves are kept, to grow into milking cows. Others are sold to other farmers. But you really only need one or two bulls to keep all the cows pregnant — yeah, dairy bulls have a pretty good life. So the other male calves are what we call “veal”.

The farmhouse is barely visible between the trees immediate above the cow’s head. I’ll post some more photos of that soon. Then from right to left we’ve got: a small shed where we kept the car; a high-roofed sideless shed where we kept the tractor and stored hay; the milking shed immediately above the cow’s tail; and finally a small run-down structure which was “dad’s shed”, full of tools and scraps of wood and a workbench where he was always at work on something that was probably never going to be finished.

I must say, I’m a little overwhelmed looking at the map and the photos and trying to decide what to write about.

Maybe I should tell you how my parents were ripped off by a con artist. What it was like growing up on that farm. The hard work by everyone. The fun of working with the dogs. The sense of open space and the freedom to have my own imaginary world. The fear of snakes. The dangerous stunts… ah so much!

But I’ve got a few years to cover in a few posts, so no hurry yet. Just seeing the farm again is enough for now.

However I will mention that I’ve posted a couple of photos here and here of me and dad in our Sunday Best for Mother’s Day, 13 May 1962. Enjoy.

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The map shows a golf course. I’m pretty damn sure that wasn’t there in my day!

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  1. yewenyi’s avatar

    and it had, by looks of the map, a permanent water supply…

  2. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @yewenyi: Well kinda. Remember, South Australia is a lot drier than Sydney. I’ve added a few features to the map showing the farm’s water resources.

    In the northern part of the farm, there’s a watercourse which starts on the top right, as it were, then runs down through the two dams and eventually out through the south-west corner of the property. Those dams never ran completely dry, and were the main supply of drinking water for the livestock.

    This watercourse is the very beginning of what eventually becomes the Myponga Creek. The creek was finally dammed in 1962 to form the Myponga Reservoir, which now provides 5% of Adelaide’s water. Our dams therefore had to be kept scrupulously clean. Cow poo was OK, because that would biodegrade, but chemical fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides were forbidden.

    This carried a bonus. Blackberries are classified as a noxious weed, and elsewhere have to be poisoned, but we were allowed to leave them run rampant in that watercourse. Picking blackberries while avoiding the plants’ vicious thorns was an annual game. Bread with fresh blackberry jam and cream made from that day’s fresh milk is still one of the most memorable flavours of my childhood.

    Our own drinking water came from a bore to the east of the farm buildings. An electric pump sent it to the milking shed and the farmhouse, and later to a 12,000-gallon (45,500 litre) concrete storage tank.

    I don’t recall us ever running short of water. However the only hot water was generated by a small boiler in the milking shed. If we wanted hot water in the house, it had to be carried 50 metres in steel buckets, or boiled in an electric jug.

    There were yabbies (freshwater crayfish) in our dams. They’re yummy.

  3. Sean the Blogonaut’s avatar

    I am living in an old farmhouse on the Yorke Peninsula and can understand the fear of snakes having had to chase a brown snake away from my cat yesterday.

    The one thing I love about South Australia is the ruined farmhouses, and old buildings. Living in the NT previously there’s not much left that’s over 60 years old.

    Thankfully though we have a hot water system and huge rainwater tanks, oh and an inside loo 🙂

  4. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Sean the Blogonaut: Oh t’was a 100% outside loo for us. A classic dunny about 20 meters out from the back door, a wooden bench seat with a hole cut in it over a long drop, a bucket of lime as disinfectant and squares of newspaper on a loop of string. At night, take a torch for lighting and check for spiders before sitting down. And, yes, snakes too.

  5. Sean the Blogonaut’s avatar

    My mother used to tell us about having to cut squares of old newspaper for the loo. They hung it on a nail though and had a nightman come and collect the thunderbox.

    Note we also have a plumbed outside loo.

  6. Yewenyi’s avatar

    Well I lived for a while on my grandfather’s farm, 100km upstream of Albury near Jingellic, with frontage to the Murray. He pumped its water over 1km to the tank on Tank Hill. This gravity-fed most of the water troughs on the farm and the farmhouse. The farm was a square mile in area. The water tanks were huge, two tanks over 40,000 gallons each.

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