July—August 2006

Volume 5 Issue 30

The Avondale Historical Journal
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Incorporated

A Needle in a Haystack
Inside this issue: A Needle in a Haystack Trees 1- 4 4

by Ivan Whyle
A few old photos are worth another thousand words. My first serious holiday job was at the end of my first year at university. It was the first time I did not holiday at Coromandel. This time I would earn a wage. An older friend Norman Parker from the Bible Training Institute was going to work during his holiday at Awhitu, north of Waiuku. He had done it previously, knew the area, and got me a job too, nearby. I was to work on a farm for about two months: December 1940-January 1941. I simply rode my bicycle with a pack on my back, followed the road signs, and found Stuart Urwin’s farm. I was given a room, dropped my gear, had a short rest and then was taken by truck to the most northern farm, Champion’s, that included the signal station. It was a magnificent view. We inspected the bay paddock and set the gear out. Next day we erected the mast for the hoist and began the haystack. The point of this story is to record for family a piece of farm history that finished very shortly

Next meeting of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society:

Saturday, 5 August 2006, 2.30 pm This will be our AGM
Lion’s Hall, corner Blockhouse Bay Road and Great North Road Please contact the Society for details.

Sadly, we must note the passing in May 2006 of two people who meant a lot to this Society and its members. Society founding member Edward (Bob) Browne died on 23 May aged 78 and Vera Crawford (widow of Jim Crawford, of Morrison & Crawford’s garage) died on 19 May aged 98. They will both be missed.

The Avondale Historical Journal

Volume 5 Issue 30 Page 2
maximum use from one investment in the hoist, a hoist that everyone got benefit from. Some years ago I saw hoist gear in the “museum” at Mystery Creek at Hamilton along with other historical equipment. It was just one of the inventions that served its purpose and had its day. Technology changed. The hay paddock is closed off, the grass grows, the grass is cut (mechanically by mower), the grass dries and becomes hay. Weather is the key. The hay has to be turned (by fork) and raised into windrows to dry better, especially after rain. A sweep is used to push the windrows into large heaps and to sweep it to the place where the haystack is being built.

after the war. Haystacks were then replaced by hay bales and sheds for bales. Later on the rectangular bales were replaced by large rolls with a plastic cover that

All photographs from Ivan Whyle’s collection, Awhitu 1940. (Above). Horse-drawn mower, cutting the hay paddock.

kept the water out and required no shed. Tractors and rolls removed most of the physical work too. It happened everywhere. In Italy almost every farm we went to had its stable and its haystacks. New Zealand had much bigger haystacks – and much bigger herds. At Awhitu I started from scratch. All my farming experience – cows and milking machine – was at Tuateawa and there they did not make any hay. At Awahitu the farming was a more business-like system and certainly far more organised and profitable, using machinery.

The hay fork was the basic tool. It has two long prongs and a long handle. The builder estimates the area needed for the amount of hay. The stack was rectangular and could be very high. But only a hoist enabled it to go very high. A lower stack can be achieved by using a platform. In that case the base is built, then a platform provides the step to go higher. That means the hay has

Stuart was milking 80 cows and had a sideline as a contractor with a hoist and truck. He also had a mower, horsedrawn, and with his gear he could do a series of haystacks for the local farmers, and with their input on their own farms. It was a simple and (Above) Tarpaulin top on the finished stack, presumably. Truck with fork sweep that rotates 90 economical way of getting degrees. Horse pulls the hoist.

The Avondale Historical Journal

Volume 5 Issue 30 Page 3

to be pitched first onto the platform, transferred and pitched higher. The hoist can get the hay much higher still. The sweep brings in the hay. A large metal grab picks up a pile and a horse or a vehicle pulls the wire rope in its pulley lifting the bundle to the stackers up top. The stackers have worked their way up in stages – literally from the ground up. The outside edges are given special care and made as firm as possible. A platform may follow, then the hoist is used. The outside edges are always the part to concentrate on. Once they are secure the centre is easy. In comes the grab and the controller at the base swings the grab 90 degrees to dump the hay on the top. Then the stackers fork it into position and stamp it firm. The stack should be a little wider than the base as it rises, then topped off by making a gable shape roof that will shed the rain. There could be problems with haystacks if the hay was not perfectly dry and ready. A damp or green patch could start to heat up and cause the stack to smoulder.
(Above) A grab load being raised. Stack, feeder pile and renewer pile.

The only remedy then was to break into the stack and get that part out again. The cattle loved it but it was a loss to the farmer. The man on the pull had a tedious but important job. And as the stack rises so the distance out increased at each stage. Out, in, out, in. Up, down, up, down. Sweep, grap, hoist, lower, grab, hoist, lower. On and on. The pitch forkers are hard at it, steady, systematic and hard at it. Break for morning tea, break for lunch. It was hot and exhausting work all round, even for the women baking, packing, brewing, serving. But a great social event too. A happy time if the weather is right. A worrying time if there is rain threatening. There was a lot of skill in the estimating, judging the weather, adapting to what it turned out to be, estimating the size of stack from the amount of hay, and getting the job done in the hours available. All the time the job has to be completed and the milking has to be done at the end of the day. In the winter when the grass is not growing, the hay will provide feed. The same if there is a drought and the grass is not growing. The number in the herd has to be matched to the amount of feed. In extremity the farmer has to buy hay from other farmers or other districts. It was the backbone of New Zealand they used to say.
continued next page (Left) The stack is clearly very high – not one to fall off. Was the hoist used to get the men down? Estimated height of stack is 8 metres. Clearly only possible with a hoist.

Volume 5 Issue 30 Page 4
continued from previous page

And the backbone is still there. Hay could be cut with a hay knife. That was not an easy job and I was not involved in that myself. I saw it in the winter in Italy as haystacks were the food store for the cattle in their stalls. The hay also was the bedding for the soldier. The stable was often the bedroom – with or without the cattle. And in Italy barns often were used instead of stacks. In Italy too the haystacks were small and often built around a pole, the top again being wider than the base to shed the snow or rain. Only a couple of years after the war the haystack disappeared from New Zealand farming. In Italy too the stacks have gone. Gone forever. That’s life, that’s progress. That’s memories and history. Farmers keep old machines and love bringing them out en masse for special occasions. But all the hoists got dumped just as surely as a worn out Hill’s Hoist gets dumped. And if you want to see a “line”, a “clothesline” you have to turn to photographs.

Trees, Ancient and Modern
by Rich Afford
I have earlier mentioned the little dell of tangled growth that the family in the 20s and 30s transformed into the busy pleasance it is today. And so we can reflect on those who in times past either from caprice or with deliberate intent planted trees many of which survive today and may yet do so only with precarious tenacity. The hand of the developer’s relentless encroachment is at last held in check by society’s vigilance and we do well to be alert to the welfare of our arboreal friends. They stand rooted firmly to the spot defying the passing vicissitudes of storm and tempest, frain and drought and above all providing food and shelter for our feathered friends, and otherwise the sheer joy of their presence. We may change abode from place to place, travel the world and return and our friend the tree remains steadfast to its roots and so deserves our respect and protection. If trees could talk what tales could they tell; the changing scene from scrubland to pasture to suburbia, from horse and cart to car and bus. The trees planted today and gracing the berms of our roads will be the very trees that in years to come make our district one in which to live. Much of our history survives only in finding photographs and fading memories, the old hotel and post office, Atkinson’s drapery and the little bootmaker’s shop next door but we should cherish what is left which includes our staunch and venerable trees for those which are planted today will be of historical importance tomorrow.

The Society and AHJ editorial staff thank

Avondale Business Association
for their continued support and sponsorship of this publication. The Avondale Historical Journal Published by: the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Inc. Editor: Lisa J. Truttman Society contact: 19 Methuen Road, Avondale, Auckland Phone: (09) 828-8494, 027 4040 804 Fax: (09) 828-8497, email: historian@avondale.org.nz Website: http://www.geocities.com/avondalehistory/index Society information: Subscriptions: $10 individual $15 couple/family $30 corporate We meet once every two months, first Saturday of the month: February, April, June, August, October, December. The Journal and our Newsletter are published in those months.

Printed by

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Avondale Photo Centre, 1962 Great North Road, Avondale, Phone/Fax: 09-820 6030

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