I have been remembering holidays spent with a favourite Aunt & Uncle. They moved about with their work on farms, before they got their own farm.
One house they lived in was situated above a wide river flat. There were Poplar trees down on the grassy flats, & in the spring, when they were budding with leaves, we would sometimes see deer come down to drink from the river, & graze on the lush green grass. They looked beautiful in the misty morning light, & would quite often return in the evening, for another graze.
If they got startled they would flee like lightning, & disappear into the bush above the river flats.
In the deer hunting season, my Uncle would go deer stalking with friends. I never really thought a great deal about it, it was something the men did in those days, but now, I would not approve at all. I can still see the antlers hanging in my Uncle's shed.
The farm was a sheep farm, & shearing time was always a busy time. The dogs would all be excited, & the sheep would be mustered & brought into the yards, ready to be shorn.
I loved the smell of the fleeces, & didnt particularly mind the smell of sheep manure either. The shearing shed was almost magical, with the smells & the shiny wood from all the lanolin of the fleeces. The sheep would all wait under the shearing shed, & then be chased up the races to the shearing posts. As the shearers finished their sheep, they would release them, & grab the next one. It was fast & furious, hot sweaty work, usually in hot weather, & the shearers usually wore black woollen singlets, & old lanolin coated pants, & sugar bag 'shoes' they made themselves, by sewing hessian sacking with twine, into mocassin type shoes.
The fleeco's would collect the fleeces & throw them onto a table, where they would take all the dirty & ragged edges from them & pass them on to be packed in the huge bales, where they would be pressed. It was amazing how many fleece it took to fill a bale. The fleeco's were often girls, & they were very skilled & quick at their job. When I was young I used to think I would like to be a fleeco, but I doubt I would have had the stamina!
The shearers lived in quarters on the farm, & had their own cook, for breakfast & tea, but usually it fell to the farmer's wife to provide 'smoko', which meant plenty of scone cooking & baking to be done. I cant recall, but I think the tea they drank at smoko time was brewed at the shed.
We were not encouraged to hang about the shearing sheds too much when we were young- partly so we didnt get underfoot & become nuisances, & partly because of the colourful language I suppose.
I used to have a friend who came to stay, & we would spend hours down at the creek, which ran quite close to the shearing sheds. We would build dams in the creek, & smear ourselves all over in mud, to try to deter the sandflies from biting us!
I remember one of the old Maori men who worked for my Uncle, was always amused to see L & I smeared black with mud, L, with her almost white hair, & me with blonde hair. I wonder if he thought we were aiming to look like Maori children.
We loved the smell of that creek, & the 'clean' running water it contained. It ran into the large river on the flat, & it was a very clear, shallow, wide river, with beautiful rounded river stones, & it made a lovely gurgling, almost chuckling, sound as it ran over the stones. I can still see the little trails of the green moss like growths on the stones, reaching out like green hair, or little feelers, as the current waved them to & fro, & streamed them out from the stones.
When my father was away at war, my mother & I lived with my Grandparents for a while, & they lived in a steep gorge, carved by a wide & sometimes swift river. The steep hills on the other side of the river, were bush covered & very forbidding looking. I was never allowed to go near the rive alone, but sometimes my Grandmother, or Grandfather would take me down to get some water. I was always enthralled by the river, & the wonderful stones, & the smell of it, which is so unique.
I think a river running gently over stones is one of the most relaxing of all sounds, & I defy anyone to remain tense in those surroundings. I also think the smell is a contributing factor in the relaxation & it seems sad to think so many rivers & streams are now so polluted.
Of course the rivers in flood were a different scene altogether, & the river below my Aunt & Uncle's house could flood when the rain was heavy, so much so, that it would cut access to the roads out, & they would be stranded for days sometimes. And all the grassy flats would be underwater.
That farm was magical to kids. It had trellises, covered in Kiwi fruit- which were known as Chinese Gooseberries in those days. There were lemon & orange trees which would be laden with fruit, & a wonderful Christmas Plum, from which we would pick buckets of plums for jam & preserving. And there was what had been a 'formal garden' planted by a former farmer's wife. It had gone to rack & riot, & there were thickets of bamboo, which were so much fun to play hide & seek amongst. And unruly Japonica- to be avoided, as the thorns were so vicious!
Looking back I know I had some wonderful times. Why do sad times leave such deep footprints in our hearts.
It is very odd, as I was writing this, I forgot where I was, & I felt transported back to the shearing shed, & the river flats. They were wonderful holidays.