Peninsula Farmer Reminiscent
'Who are you? You are a naughty boy! You're no good.'
Clearly enunciated the overwhelming denunciation reached mY ears as I was passing through John's road, Prospect, one day this week.
'Such unpardonable impertinence called for further investigation. Gripping my walking stick firmly I pushed open the gate on the nearest suburban home. 'Go and get the cows,' said the voice. 'Ha! ha! ha!'
Then I spotted the culprit— a perky, bright-eyed Australian magpie. The owner, Mr. William Hall, a retired farmer from Yorke's Peninsula, appeared, and explained that Maggie was three years old, and had been taught an extensive vocabulary at Port Victoria. 'He is a product of the mallee, and I am proud of him,' continued Mr. Hall, 'for I have spent the best part of a lifetime in converting a mallee scrub farm into productive wheat land.'
Lived at Mount Pleasant
Mr. Hall was born at the Black Lion Hotel, Hindmarah, 68 years ago, but five years afterwards his father the late Mr. Isaac Hall, left there and took up agricultural pursuits at Cumberland Park, Mount Pleasant. It was here that young Hall gained his first experience of farming, diversifying i with many shooting excursions. The farm was in the South Rhine district, seven miles from the present township of Mount Pleasant. When seven years old the lad began his schooling at a private school conducted in the locality by Miss Baker, subsequently attending in turn Mr. W. Ellisis school it Tungkillo, Mount Pleasant, and Angaston, finishing up at Whinham College in Korth Adelaide. Schoolfellows in the latter institution included Messrs. J. H. Sinclair, S.M., and the late W. Hall Henderson (afterwards secretary to the late Sir Edwin Smith).
At 16 Mr. Hall Btarted serious life on the farm, and for four years he stuck to bis task. Hunting interludes varied the _ serious work, and ^annual shooting camps near Bellring Flat, ibout eight miles from Mannum, or in the South Rhine district, are among his fondest remembrances of old-time sporting. Such parties included Mr. James, Trom the old Norfolk Anns; Mr. Blinman, From the old Plough and Harrow; Messrs. Giles, H. H. Giles, and R. Godfree, from Mount Pleasant; and others. The late Mr. C. Pearce, butcher, of Kent Town, used to send up hah! a dozen dogs for stirring up kangaroos and other game. It was on one of these excursions that Mr. Hall shot his first wild turkey, a bird weighing 18 1b. In later years this expert shot brought down birds on Yorke's Peninsula weighing up to 28 lb.
A Scrub Selection.
In 1876 Mr. Hall took up a scrub mallee block three miles east ot Urania, in the Hundred of Wauraltee. driving from Point Pleasant in a wagon drawn by a team of siv horses. The Maitiand district bad been settled for some years, but sduth of the Yorke Valley there was little clearing, and the country was eo thick with mallee, teatree, and patches of a species of acacia that it rau only through following the surveyors' tracks that the new selection was finally reached. To have cut a direct road from Urania on the Yorketown road, a distance of about three miles, would have occupied two days. A tent provided temporary quarters, and this was warmer than the wood and tin shanty which subsequently replaced it until a house could be built. Some land bearing heavy mallee and lighter wattle scrub, with teatree patches, was hand grubbed at a cost of £2 per acre, and the lirst year 12 acres was sown with wheat. Kangaroos were thick, and mobs of 12 to 14 used to break in from the scrub, even in the middle of the day, but were too elusive for the gun. Finally the horses had to be turned into the crop, or no return would have been gained. At this time the method of cultivation was primitive. The first ploughing was made with a single-furrow plough, which required two men to hold the bandies and eight horses to draw it, on account of the tufts of 'black grass' and the stickiness of the soil when wet. Eighty acres were seeded the second season, but frost and smut reduced the yield to 3 bushels per acre. Three good, years followed, 150 acres averaging 12 bushels annually.
Breaking Down the Scrub.
'I reckon I was the first in that part of the peninsula to do a bit of mullenizing in the thick, low mallee,' said Mr. Hall. 'We had heard something of the process when passing through Grace Plains on the way round. Half an acre of mallee was chopped down, burned in heaps, and the land harrowed and sown. We got a nice lot of fodder for the stock off it. Five to six years later I went in for the system more thoroughly, and this enabled me to clear the bulk of the block, and induced others to penetrate still further into the scrub. Af first I used the wagon with one shaft detached with a roller at the rear. One half the wagon bent down the trees and the roller finished the job. Later the timber was burnt as it lay and the first crop off 160 acres returned six bushels to the-acre. Some of the land was broken up with a two-furrow stumpjump plough, known as 'the grasshopper,' made by Smith, of Ardrossan, and the rest with the post cultivator, a contrivance with coulters about 4 ft. long, placed vertically through 4-in. posts 6 ft. long dragged horizontally, and to which cultivator tines were attached. When the coulter struck a stump the tine was jerked up in the air and escaped jarring and damage. However, it made a good seedbed.
Fat Years and Lean Years.
'Yes,' continued Mr. Hall reminiscently, 'we had our ups and downs — our fat years and lean years. Before the introduction of super I could always reckon on an average of eight bushels to the acre, except in occasional droughty years, or when red rust was prevalent. I remember two bad years in succession when no hay at all was cut and the grain yields were respectively 65 bags from 300 acres, and the same quantity from 200 acres. One rusty year the harvest, which had looked good enough to produce 1,600 bags, only realized £90, the good grain coming from fallowed land which had been sown dry and early. In another 'rusty' reason the saleable grain only brought £60, and so light were the other bass of pinched grain that the we could throw a four-bushel bag from the ground right over the frame of the wagon. In such years mortality among stock was heavy, and in one season the whole of the stock on the farm was reduced to six head of horses. In the big drought year, when many farmers were obliged to get advances from the Government for seed wheat, one paddock of 100 acres returned only 29 bags, 110 acres yielded 120 bags, and one paddock, early sown, on light sandy soil, gave three baps to the acre. With fallow, super, and improved farming methods the lowest average since has been 18 bushels to the acre, with a general average of 23 bushels using 1 cwt. of super and 1.5 bushels of seed wheat to the acre. In the case of Gluyas wheat 1.5 bushels was sown.
A Poor Water Supply.
'Our worst trouble in dry years was the inadequate water supply. I had not a good water-run and have had to cart 20 miles from Duncan's Well, near Minlaton, and also from Point Pearce, when supplies at Mount Rat, 11 miles away, gave out. You could not get good water by sinking, but at Mount Rat, one of the highest points on the peninsula, there were sweet springs, which later on were tapped with a bore by Mr. Charles Giersch, who retailed the water to needy neighbours at from 7/ to 9/ per 1,000 gallons. Another difficulty was that cement tanks or stonewall tanks, pugged around with a clay core, would leak after they had stood dry and empty for three months or so.
Lessons from Fallowing.
When fallowing was first adopted the results were not outstanding compared with the returns from stubble land. We were ploughing four inches deep then and found it did not provide an ideal seedbed on our selection. Later we discovered that ploughing 2 in. deep, following with seven or eight cultivations after rain, and running sheep over it occasionally, was desirable. One year a neighbour who had ploughed four to five inches deep did not get one-quarter of his seed to germinate, owing to the grain malting with the insufficient moisture, whereas practically all my feet came up. The deeper ploughing also seemed to encourage 'take all,' and it was found that a remedy was to vary the rotation with fallow, wheat, and then oats. Later we discovered that malting barley was just as good a preventive as oats in the rotation, but that Cape barley was a robber, and that 'takeall' followed its cultivation.'
Sport on the Peninsula.
For a number of years Mr. Hall was one of the leading shots in tha Port Victoria Rifle Club, and in the early days of the mallee occupation he found plenty of sport to his hand. At first there were only an odd rabbit or two, but kangaroos and emus were abundant. 'I have seen as manay as 80 wild turkeys in a flock.' said Mr. Hall, 'and used to average from 20 to 30 a season for the table. The last one I bagged was about 14 years ago. With the advent of the fox they have practically all disappeared. They are protected now, and I believe a number have domiciled at Wardang Island, off Port Victoria, to escape those pests. Kangaroos in the early years did much damage, and it was no uncommon thing to catch or shoot 40 in a month. One tough old battler. I remember, was called 'King of Them All.' He had many narrow escapes before he provided kangaroo rump steak and soup for our table. Standing erect he towered breast high above the rump of Bomba, a 16-hand high horse. His skin weighed over 6 lb. Before he was captured he had ripped open several of our dogs.
Supporter of Coursing.
When hares became plentiful Mr. Hall kept a large string of greyhounds, such clever performers as Urania, Nigger, Freda, Enah, Ike Squaw, With Justice, Leap Year, and Australian Laddie being reared on his farm. He maintains his interest in the sport, and to-day is still one of the stanchest supporters of the Adelaide Plumpton Coursing Club.