I’m unreasonably excited that we’ve been able to make use of an old gate that has been sitting down near the woolshed for nearly fifty years.
When Mum bought the farm Adnamira in January 1967, there were strange items lying all over the place. The previous owner was a bit of a jackdaw who loved to go to auctions and buy the “job lots” at the end, the ones where they piled up everything that didn’t sell and persuaded someone to take it away.
There were three or four fridges, more stoves, a shopping trolley, a twisted no-parking sign and much much more.
Even the buildings were second hand auction items. The woolshed was the Poultry Judging shed from the old Canberra Show, when it was at Hall. The supposed “homestead” was a sagging recycled ward from the original Canberra Hospital, a weatherboard construction with rows of rotting french doors and almost no straight timbers.
Dad put all the kitchen equipment and also much of the old horse-drawn farm machinery into some heavily eroded gullies. As he said “If anyone wants them, all they have to do is dig them up”. They’re now under several metres of dirt.
The gates were one of the few things that didn’t get buried, probably because they were too heavy to move. Instead they were left near the creek with some piles of pipes and fencing gear. They’ve gained some more rust and many liverworts, mosses and lichen, but still seemed heavy and solid.
Since they were second-hand before 1967, they could have been twenty or thirty years old then, or more. I find their shape much more interesting than most of the things that are available now.
A horrible combination of sheep mesh, old planks and regular farm gates in different sizes was cobbled together to keep the animals from chewing on the hay.
In front of that was a pile of rubbish that no-one seemed to take responsibility for. This seems to be a phenomenon of sheds, that they collect all sorts of things around them. When I finally started to clean it up, it turned out to be mostly building rubbish from when the Adnamira homestead (the new manager’s house from the 1970s) was renovated. But there were also lots of contaminated containers of herbicides and footrot medicine. A few dozen old tyres and chunks of sheep mesh too twisted to use, paint cans and broken glass filled out the mess. Mum and I filled two truckloads and still didn’t get all the tyres, let alone the 44 gallon oil drums.
The wonderful Andrew Kilby has been doing fences for us this year, especially the new fence for the Box Gum woodland that’s been funded by Local Land Services. That fence, like many around here, covers a lot of steep rocky ground where we had to pick a line carefully between solid stone and vertical grass.
Very reasonably, he said he couldn’t do anything about the hay shed until we took the rubbish away.
Fair enough. So after we’d cleaned up he used some of the roofing iron from when the woolshed roof was replaced to close in the side properly, and swung the gates across the main opening. I think they look great, even when there was a gap where the old gates didn’t quite meet in the middle. Reminds me of trying on jeans in the wrong size…
But Andrew worked out that he could re-use two other pieces of old material – some side panels from a long-gone stock grid. He welded them together to make a sturdy and symmetrical set of gates.
He had to weld on a smaller than normal gudgeon pin ( gudgeon is my new word of the week) to support the lower edge of the gates, because the iron they’re made of is so much thicker than anything made these days.
While levelling out the ground so the gates would swing open, however, he found a whole lot more concrete blocks and other rubbish that had been more deeply buried in the long grass. So there’s still another load to go to the Murrumbateman dump.
Meanwhile I found the original hayshed gates in a pile out the back of the shed. They’re in worse shape than the much older ones we used, with lots of torn or missing wire mesh. They’ll have to wait for another project. Not fifty years, I hope.