The above firm was recognised as New Zealand's leading farm implement manufacturers.
Chats with farmers -
Stack building Timaru Herald 3 Feb, 1873
The Harvest 1873 Otago Witness, 11 February 1887, Page 6
W. J. Clarke and his thirteen threshing mills in 2003
Courier Nov. 2010
Reaping what was sown — threshing done at frantic pace
The revolution in farm machinery ensured that the wealth of the land was fully exploited, though these advances were not always welcomed by farm labourers, as the need for labour was obviously reduced. The first steam threshing mills arrived in Canterbury in 1865, but did not get as far as South Canterbury, so several reaping machines were made locally by the Atlas foundry in 1868. The first steam threshing machine was introduced in 1868, and by 1869 there were three. On January 16, 1870, 19 of Robinson and Company’s reaping machines were landed in Timaru, and altogether almost 30 were bought by district farmers. They must have been a success, as by 1886 there were scores of them around Timaru, and Bill Clarke was thought to have had the biggest collection of mills in the Southern Hemisphere. By 1880, Clydesdales and traction engines were being used for a variety of jobs, often replacing bullock teams for long, rough hauls. For heavier ploughing in larger areas, the traction engines could replace 25 horses, but they were best known for pulling and driving threshing mills, chaffcutters and hay presses. They transformed harvesting; an elevator and combine unit required 12 men but they could thresh 2500 bushels a day. First the six-horsepower steam engine and combine was imported, then a 10-horsepower engine with a Hornsby combine which reduced the cost of threshing from ninepence a bushel to sixpence, and twice as many bushels could be threshed in a day. The steam threshing mill and chaff cutter made up the largest and most expensive machinery on the farm. The mills were picturesque creations and their arrival was the highlight of the year for farm children. Throughout autumn and into winter the powerful engines puffed their way along country roads, pulling the huge combine as well as drays carrying the galley — combined cookhouse and dining-room on wheels — and the men’s bunkhouse, or ‘‘stinkie’’. Often the first straw that came through the mill was for the men’s bedding.
Travelling ahead of this impressive parade would be a horse-drawn water cart, a 900- or 1300-litre iron tank on wheels, for on many farms there was no handy water supply, and the water cart would have to go back and forth from the nearest dam or stream. The cart was drawn by a Clydesdale and driven by the ‘‘water joey’’, who had the job of feeding the boilers and keeping up a good supply of water for cooking, washing and drinking. He had to start work hours before the rest of the gang to make sure everything was ready for the mill’s arrival. The water had to be hand-pumped into the tank several times a day — not a popular job. The engine driver, often the mill owner, was the boss, while his assistant was the feeder or ‘‘band-cutter’’, who cut the ties on the sheaves and fed them evenly into the mill. He set the pace — a hot one — for the whole operation. Three men fed the sheaves up to him on his platform about 3m up, and three men sewed and humped the bags at the end of the mill. The cook needed to work full-time to keep supplies up to the workers and woe betide if he got behind in his responsibilities. The men had to work at a frantic pace and had to work as a tight team; weaklings were quickly weeded out. One old farmer remembers the early days of reaping and binding: ‘‘If there was a nor’wester blowing when you were cutting a crop there was always the risk of the seed shaking out and it had to be carefully stooked. One brand of wheat, Buck-Tuscan, was the nearest thing to gorse I have ever met. Its beards were so tough they would wear out a pair of trousers in one day. We would cut it into sheaves and then the men would pick up a sheaf under each arm and, facing north and south, put the two sheaves down with a bang with the heads ups and the butts down. Another two and another two until there were five or six stacked like tents in a row. The sun would move right round the tops and the wind would blow through the stooks to dry the wheat and firm the grain.’’
Timaru Herald, 17 February 1883, Page 3 FAIRLIE CREEK.
After several days of unusually hot and sultry weather, rain set m about midnight on Wednesday, and continued falling steadily for twenty-four hours. The bulk of the grain in this district is in stook, but will not receive much damage if we get no more rain. In fact, it is the general opinion that the rain will do much more good than harm, if fine weather sets in to dry the corn. Unfortunately the weather is looking very threatening, as if there is more rain to follow. The country hereabouts has not looked so dry and parched for years as it has appeared lately, and were it not for the grain, we could appreciate a week's steady rain to give the soil a thorough soaking, which it much requires in order to throw up plenty of autumn feed. For every acre of grain in this district there are ten acres of English grass and turnips, and what alight harm the rain may do to the former will be more than balanced by its beneficial effects on the latter. The rain falling on the heated ground, has made it like a hotbed, and if fallen stooks are not immediately set up the grain will sprout in a very short time. The hot north-wester of Tuesday last is said to have shaken some patches of over-ripe oats, but not to any serious extent.
Otago Witness, 11 February 1882, Page 13
Rambles in the Interior. A RIDE THROUGH THE HARVEST FIELDS.
Otaio and Makikihi.
The soil is good, the climate unsurpassed, communication with railway
and markets excellent, and water supply plentiful. The first farm we
came to was Bellview, be longing to Messrs
Bell and Moorhead. There we found 300 acres of wheat out of a total of
671 acres and about 50 acres of oats. After lunch we rode across to
Hillborough, the property of Mr W. Sugden Armitage. Here we were quiet astonished at what we saw, when we were told that it had been settled on not quite a year. The dwellinghouse, of good design, large and commodious, with a verandah running all round, faces the hills, and the back is towards the sea. In front there is a pretty lawn, suitable for tennis, with handsome flower plots round. Behind are the stables, well fitted up and looked after, and close to them are the dog kennels, with, a concrete floor, for here is the nucleus of a pack that is intended soon to hunt the Otaio district. To the left is a large kitchen garden, abundantly stocked with all sorts of vegetables, and close by it a large enclosure for fowls. Altogether it is a great proof of what money and taste can do, even in a very short time. After a little whisky, Mr Armitage rode round his paddocks with us, and gave us information required. The farm consists of 511 acres, all improved, of which 416 acre in wheat and 25 in oats. There were four self-binders going three Osbornes and one M'Cormick. With regard to the relative merits of these rival machines Mr Armitage's opinion was strongly in favour of the former, asserting that the cut of the Osborne was a foot broader than the McCormick, whilst its draught was lighter. At all events there was doubt that on such land - downs - the Osborne is the more serviceable machine.
Hafton, belonging to Messrs Burnley and Brown, was our next stopping place. The house they have built is in exceedingly nice one - too good for two young bachelors and in course of time the place will doubtless be as pretty as any in that neighbourhood. As we got nearer the bills we found no deterioration in the soil, the whole of the downs seeming to be as good in quality as that nearer the sea.. There being nothing to see farther on in this direction, we turned our horses heads homewards, and on the way stopped at
Springbank, the property of H. B. Johnston, Esq., of Christchurch, but under the management of Mr Lindsay. This farm, of 1200 acres, about the best situation of any we visited, lying on what must have been the bank and the bed of a large watercourse of bygone days. Not much of this farm is in crop, the most of it being kept for sheep grazing. A new feature here is one that might be followed in other places with advantage - the planting of belts of trees to afford a protection from wind, as well as to be an ornament to the property. About 30 acres had been planted in belts with English tress of all descriptions, besides 2000 walnut tress, which will soon have a commercial value of their own. To be continued.
Otago Witness, 29 October 1891, Page 20
The Makikihi correspondent of the Waimate Times writes- "The crops in this district are looking splendid, the late rain having made a wonderful difference in them. Even the winter wheat, that many of the farmers were pulling woeful faces about on account of the grubs making such havoc with it, is fast recovering in vigour, and as a consequence the farmers faces are beginning to carry a broad smile. The large blocks on the Otaio estate are looking grand. Mr B. Schlaepfer, Clayton, has some 400 acres of wheat and about 200 of oats, all looking well indeed. In fact all the grain right down to Makikihi is looking better than it has done for some years. There is a very large acreage, principally wheat, on the Sherwood estate. Mr Wm. Quinn has 300 acres of wheat on the east of the Makikihi railway station that has all the appearance of being a remarkably heavy crop. On the west side Mr Thomas' wheat is looking well, although the birds have been very severe on his late spring wheat. In fact look where you will, you cannot see a bad field of grain, and the knowing ones predict more grain here this season than there has been for the last nine or ten years.
Star 18 January 1899, Page 4
The "Temuka Leader " says : — The fertility of the soil in this district can be inferred from the fact that one of our farmers has just finished cutting a splendid crop of self-sown oats. The nor'-westers of last year shook the oats considerably, and the seed remained in the ground through the winter. This is all the seed that was put in, and the crop is a splendid one. There is splendid growth of cocksfoot this year in the Geraldine district. The other day we were shown a bundle of it cut by Messrs Batty and O'Neill in the Geraldine bush. In height the stalks were between five and six feet, and the heads were phenomenally heavy. Messrs Batty and O'Neill have had considerable experience in cutting cocksfoot, and they inform us that the sample referred to is the biggest they have ever seen."
Otago Witness, 13 February 1901, Page 5
Most of the grain in the paddocks alongside the Timaru Point road, and as far on as the Cave, is now in stook, and the remainder is being cut or is nearly fit for cutting. Where the reaper has been the stooke are nearly everywhere gratifyingly thick upon the ground. A few stacks have been put together on the Plains side of the road. — Timaru Herald.
Grey River Argus, 4 November 1907, Page 2
The Temuka Leader reports that already there are new potatoes in the Temuka district. The editor has been shown a good sample of these grown, by Mr. G. McAuliffe, of Arowhenua. This should augur a good crop of potatoes in the district this year.
Ashburton Guardian, 12 May 1911, Page 1
A splendid yield of clover is reported from Milford. Mr S. J. Douglas shelled a paddock of 3¼ acres of clover for Mr Robert Hawke, the yield being no less than twelve bags. A paddock of nine acres on the same farm also yielded twelve bags, thus making an average of two bags to the acre for the twelve acres. The shelling occupied 18¾ hours, says the " Temuka Leader."
8 June 1912, Page 12
Pleasant Point farmers are talking just now of a big return from a potato patch (says the Timaru Post). The potatoes were sown on Mrs. Nelligan's land, from seed brought into the district from Southland by Mr. A. C. Rayner. Men have just completed the digging, and the return is 270 sacks from land a trifle less than an acre in area — more than 24 tons to the acre — or, as our informant added, "a marvellous crop." The variety of potato sown was the "Gamekeeper," which out of 160 varieties tested has shown itself to be almost immune to blight and other potato pests. It is also a prime table potato. The land at the Point was in no way specially prepared, and the season has been rather a bad one for growers generally.
Strawberries at Waimate
Waimate Daily Advertiser, 10 December 1898, Page 3
We have, received from Major Steward a long correspondence, in connection with his efforts to obtain special arrangements for the Carriage of strawberries from Waimate to Christchurch and Dunedin. On receipt of a memorial from the Waimate strawberry growers, Major Steward during last session, from his place in the House, asked the Minister of Railways if he would arrange, for cool vans for the conveyance of fruit from Waimate to Christchurch and Dunedin. Mr Cadman replied that, on account of expense, special vans could not be constructed, but cool vans would be, provided as far as available.
North Otago Times, 22 December 1898, Page 3
During the season, which is now practically over, from four to six tons of strawberries have been daily leaving Waimate for Dunedin and Christchurch. There are now some 200 acres under strawberries in and around Waimate, and the business is capable of farther extension.
Waimate Daily Advertiser, 23 December 1899, Page 2
Probably the best yield of strawberries in Waimate this season is that of a ten acre patch owned by Mr B. J. Atwill, and situated on the continuation of Parsonage Road. From this patch 600 cases of 421bs have been taken already, and the plants (two year-old) are still bearing very heavy. A box of 32 berries, which Mr Atwill showed us yesterday, weighed exactly two pounds. Mr Atwill will have strawberries for a week or two yet.
Waimate Daily Advertiser, 20 November 1900, Page 2
Mr George Hilton, fruiterer, had ripe strawberries in his shop window for sale on Saturday. These are the first of the season so far as Timaru is concerned, and it should be added that they were locally grown. - Post.
Taranaki Herald, 17 December 1909, Page 2
PERISHABLE GOODS. Complaint is frequently made of the refusal of the Railway, Department to carry perishable goods, such as fresh fruit, fish, and vegetables by the express trains. A strawberry grower at Waimate, Canterbury, has pointed out that trains are frequently delayed by the handling of large quantities of commercial travellers' hampers and boxes, which block the space in the vans on all fast trains, while strawberries have never caused delay when it was the practice of the department to carry them by the expresses. Presumably the regulation has been made to avoid delay caused by handling goods traffic on mail trains, but it seems to us that an exception might be made in the case of perishable stuffs, such as those mentioned. Strawberries carried by slow trains are so knocked about that they are only fit for jam-making after a long journey, while fish must be carried quickly or not at all, and vegetables soon deteriorate in quality when packed in hampers.
Hawera & Normanby Star, 5 January 1899, Page 4
Of course stack building is such a common subject and every farmer has a more or less knowledge, that I may be looked upon as trying to "teach grandmother to suck eggs." Nevertheless, actuated by the desire to awaken farmers to some sense of the importance of having stacks built, instead of having ungainly piles of sheaves studded about the paddocks, such as are too often seen. Farmers nowadays do not put the same careful work into building a stack as was the case years ago when threshing machines were not so numerous, as in recent years, and crops had to wait their turn for the mill — and sometimes it was a long time in coming round. Thus maybe a month or two would elapse before the combine would arrive, and in the meantime heavy rains might have fallen. During later years, however, a fortnight or less is all that I the farmer has to wait until the mill is on the ground. In fact, so numerous are the mills that stacks needn't be built at all, and if the weather holds fine the crops may be threshed out of - the stook. A hazardous proceeding thus assuredly is, and one that has in several seasons proved a heavy loss to farmers, and threshing out of the stook cannot be advocated in Taranaki. But to return to stacking: I will try to give your readers an account of my first lesson in building a stack, my instructor being an old Scotch farmer well qualified to put a new hand up to all the points to be observed. It was in Canterbury away back in the early seventies that the writer was employed harvesting. At that time ] there was no through railway, and : cropping was pretty extensive, though there was a good distance between each cropper's land. Thus it took a longish time for the threshing machine to get round, so the stacks had to be well built. Another point, and this was that the wheat was allowed to sweat, plenty of time being given in stack. Now for my first lesson in stack I building. I was "the crow"— that is, I had to fork the sheaves to the stacker, and he put them in their places. In those days care was taken that the heart was never allowed to become low ; if it were, the main point in stack-building would be lest. And we went on building, always keeping the centre well above the outside, until the stack was finished. I've built a good many stacks since then, and my early lessons have stood me in good stead. It is just as easy to build a good stacks as a bad one, and a man needn't know algebra or be versed in the dead languages to qualify him to built a stack as it should be built. And yet what a bungle some men calling themselves experienced stack- builders make, simply because they were never shown the proper way to go about about the work. As to the "pitch " there should be in a stack in course of building, it is just as easy to have too much as too little. If there be too much -and short stuff such as barley is being stacked, there is a danger of the stack slipping. It is better, however, to have a stack slip outwards through having a high heart than to have it cave in like a burst g bladder through having no heart at all. And this is just where many stack- builders are at fault. They build away, keeping the whole stack on a perfectly level surface, until it comes to the last few sheaves, when some sort of a slip-shod top is put on. In & a week the stack has "sagged " in the middle, and the heads of the sheaves are leaning downwards, and the stack catches every drop of rain that falls as surely as if it were an open umbrella held upside down. Some stacks could not be trusted half an hour without " thatch or a tarpaulin covering, whilst others could safely remain uncovered for a month without damage. I have seen stacks built where the inner rows were q forked in, no caution being exercised as to the absolute necessity of " hearting up " properly, and seeing that the - sheaves are securely and tightly packed. If half of the stack builders had only had the opportunity of seeing a practical man at work, or if they have had this privilege, if they had a grain or two of in the power of observation about them, I'm perfectly satisfied there would be less heard about the damage to grain whilst in stack.
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