I spent many summers as a child at my grandparents’ dairy farm in Seadown, Timaru. My grandfather had died aged 53, shortly after my birth. I was his eldest grandchild, born in Woodville in the North Island. My grandmother, a widow at 49, still had adult children living at home. Who would run the farm? Uncle Kevin, who had just started at Lincoln College had to abandon his studies to help his two brothers, Brian and Michael. My Aunt Noelene left behind her dream of being a school dental nurse to stay home and help her mother look after “the boys.”
When we were considered old enough to travel on our own, two or even three of us would fly from Palmerston North to Timaru on a DC-3, a fixed-wing propeller plane. We loved coming to stay with Nana and Noelene and our young uncles. The farm house was large and comfortable with the bonus of being close to the cowshed. We were awakened every morning by the hum of its generator switching on. This was the cue for us “townies” to head for the sheds and maybe get a squirt of milk straight from the udder into our mouths.
After milking was breakfast, the best meal of what was an ongoing parade of fine cooking; porridge (the best Southern oats of course), thick yellow cream — as much as you wanted, although too much sugar was discouraged by my aunt — bacon, eggs and toast. At mid-morning, if it was hay making time, it was our job to take baskets of warm scones, pikelets, tins of cakes and biscuits, and thermoses of tea to the workers. If we were lucky, we were allowed to ‘drive’ the tractor between the straight rows of bales while the uncles heaved them onto the trailer. This was strictly illegal for children under twelve, so we were sworn to secrecy. How important we felt doing real work, even though the tractor had its throttle jammed so that we could not travel more than a couple of miles an hour.