Milking was a task I enjoyed, even though the buckets were heavy. I loved being near the animals and outdoors.
Joyce Martin, Canowindra
I was the third youngest of eight children, my name was Joyce. I had three sisters and four brothers: Jim, Nita, Bill, Topsy, Marge, me, Colin and Lindsay. We were like any other family – we laughed and fought, worked hard and helped out in running the home, property and stock. We all shared in the household duties and chores, doing them well.
Our home was a large weatherboard house surrounded by a bull-nose verandah, with an iron roof and floor boards extended throughout. Even though it was a large house it didn’t have the luxury of many bedrooms so we had to share. Our home was clean and safe and we were never hungry or cold and certainly never lonely.
In the summer when the nights were hot some of us slept on the verandah. I loved it there, as I lay down before going to sleep I’d look toward the night sky watching the most magnificent diamond display ever designed.
When morning came I’d often be woken by a snort of warm air or a slurp across my flesh by a rough broad tongue. I’d open my eyes to be met by two brown sparkling saucers belonging to one of our milking cows, looking at me, waiting to be milked.
Every morning the girls dressed in one of their two serviceable shift dresses and the boys donned their knee length shorts with braces loyally attached and collared shirts. There was no great need of many clothes, and even if there were we certainly couldn’t afford any more. We lined up in a gaggled row to the wash basin and filed into the huge kitchen where the aroma of freshly buttered toast and eggs met us.
When the luxury of jam was available we had a choice of bread with butter or jam but never both and only a light spreading of jam was permitted because it was so expensive, especially when there were so many mouths to feed.
Either side of the table were two long wooden benches where we randomly sat for our meals. Mum and the eldest of the family were responsible for preparing breakfast; my task came later, helping with the washing up.
One of the chores I had to do was the soap making. I don’t recall the ingredients but I remember the heat and the continual stirring of the massive pot in the open yard. There weren’t any trees to shelter under because the leaves and sap might fall into the soap and spoil it.
Milking was a task I enjoyed, even though the buckets were heavy. I loved being near the animals and outdoors. I liked helping Mum with the separating of milk and cream, then the making of butter and butter milk.
Bill was in The Light Horse Brigade and he was a fantastic horseman. When he came home he paid me sixpence to clean and polish his leathers and brass. I buffed his boots until they shone, his saddle was in perfect condition and the brass sparkled like a mirror.
Our school days weren’t like most children’s because we were isolated on the property and unable to access the town schools so Mum taught us. We were provided with correspondence work and Mum always made sure we completed our tasks. We spent a normal 9am–3.30pm school day, five days a week, just like the other kids. We never dared to misbehave or be lazy because mum was so very strict.
On the stroke of 9 every morning Jackoe our pet Magpie perched upon the post outside and recited his morning ritual, “School time, kids, school time.”
This is my mother Joyce Martin’s story by Deborah Rutter 2009, Canowindra
By Deborah Rutter