Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to do is to be a farmer just like my father and my grandfather, great grandfather, and great-great grandfather before me. My name is Lewis Grantham, and we have a farming property on the west coast of Australia, about an hour and a half north of the Capital of Perth.
Our nearest town is known as Kilburn, a sleepy little town that was originally a small fishing and holiday community, mainly because it was so close to Perth, now the town of Kilburn is mostly a holiday and retiring community, established after the second world war. Now Kilburn has a small general store, a service station, two churches, a large tourist caravan park, a sports club with bowling greens, tennis courts and a cricket pitch/ oval and community hall.
Our farm is on the south-eastern edge of the town, with 6 kilometres of near beach frontage, and 4 kilometres of river frontage, with a total of 4100 acres of land, most of it sandy loam country, with reasonable pastures most of the year round.
The property has a total of 12 paddocks that are around 280 acres in area each, 6 paddocks each along the northern and southern boundaries, 4 paddocks of 160 acres, central with two on the eastern side and two on the western side, plus 2 paddocks of 50 acres, which are in the centre of the property from west to east. Each of the 12 larger paddocks has a 50,000-litre water tank and a stock drinking trough in each paddock.
Each of the 4 middle size paddocks has two 20,000 litres water tanks and a well with a windmill, to pump water to all the tanks, a paddock in the centre of the property is the location of our home and other farm buildings.
Our home is the fourth house to be built on the property, the first house built by great-great-great grandfather Francis, when he was 25 years old and a new immigrant to Australia, was just a basic two - bedroom cottage made of local limestone rock and timber, it still stands but had not been used since 1965, exactly 100 years after it was built.
The second house was a large timber house, which was built just before my great-great grandparents – Edward & Sara married in 1865 and had five children, but it burnt down in 1919, and this house was replaced by a large two-level stone and timber house with wide verandas, a few years before great grandfather Lewis was married, while being built the three-generation family lived in the original cottage. When Lewis married, his parents remained in the cottage to look after their parents & for the remainder of their retiring years.
The house that I was brought up in was built in 1974, as my parents wanted a modern home to live in, and the old stone family homestead had no electricity, relying on kerosene lanterns for light, a wood burning stove and oven and kerosene fridge for refrigeration of food, which my grandparents and great grandparents are happy to continue to live in.
When I was 11 years old my great grandparents passed away within a week of each other, at the age of 89 years, and like all the other family members, they were buried in the family graveyard on the property.
A limestone cave well - hidden and only known by a few, is the site of the resting place of all my ancestors, which now totals 18. Four of those, have lost their lives when killed in action, while serving in the Australian Army, killed during the First World War, the second world war, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
The cave has holes carved into that walls where the caskets have been placed and sealed off with a limestone tablets that have a plaque attached to them.
A week after my great grandparent’s funeral, Mum and Dad announced that Mum was pregnant and expecting twins, this was a bit of a shock, but also a happy time for the family, and just over 7 months later, Edward and Samuel were born. I was away at boarding school, so in a way I was lucky enough not to have to put up with the late-night crying, except when home for holidays.
Having attended boarding school for three years, I was transferred to an agriculture college, after many months of pressure on my part, to convince my parents that I wanted to learn as much as possible about farming, and the only way of doing that was through agriculture college.
Since the age of twelve, I have been spending all my spare time working on the farm, doing any odd jobs that are needed. Checking the stock and water supplies, check the fencing for any breaks and fixing them, and I was always keen to help when it was time to move the cattle to another paddock.
The hours were long, but I enjoyed every moment of it, my mum came out to help sometimes when extra help was needed, but my four young siblings were not interested or too young to know.
Gertrude is only 9 years and Nicholas is only 7 years, and they are more interested in their toys and hanging out with their friends, than spending time out in the paddocks, where it is sometimes wet and windy, or dry and hot. My first year at college, studying year 10, our studies were mostly like school, but our extra subjects were more farm connected.
I chose mechanics, carpentry and animal husbandry as my three extra subjects, and I put these new skills that I was learning to practice, when I came home for the holidays. My dad gave me an old VW beach buggy to tinker around with, and I used the money I earned from working, to get any extra parts that I needed.
In September, when it came to calving time, I was always with my dad when it came to check all the cows and assisting with the calving if there were any difficulties, I just wanted to learn as much as I could, I even got up extra early when my dad was heading to the sale yards to buy some more young steers, that he would fatten up and sell at a good price.
The following year at college, I was enrolled to do Diploma in Agriculture, a two-year course that would get all and skills and knowledge, I needed to take on the farm when the time came for my dad to retire, which will be some time away, as even grandfather Marcus still spends time working on the farm, and he is aged 67 now.
When it is quiet on the farm, I put my carpentry skills to work, as I have begun to restore the old stone cottage, firstly replacing a lot of the floorboards, and fixing the windows and furniture. When I was at boarding school, I didn’t try to make too many friends, as I liked to keep to myself most of the time, I would hang out with a small group of guys at social events, and sporting events but that is all.
At college I was trying to do the same, I was too busy with wanting to learn instead of social or sporting events, and I didn’t get hassled about it at all, as I was able to stand up to anyone who tried to bully me, like I did when at boarding school.
When I came home for the mid - year holidays, I could see that there are some hard times ahead, there had been virtually no rain during the autumn and the early winter months, so I told my dad not to worry about paying me for the work I do on the farm, and I suggested that we sit down as a family and work out a plan to deal with this situation.
The following day my grandparents, parents and I sat down for a serious planning meeting to get us by this dry spell. I had seen on the trip up to the day before, that there are a lot of properties with little or no feed, we had done well with our last lot of feedlot steers, and it was suggested that we do it again this year and sell any excess non-breeding cattle now while the price is reasonable, to save what pasture we still have.
This year we had reduced our cropping from 900 acres to 600 acres of crops for hay, as we still have plenty of left over hay from last year, I also suggested that we begin a new system of grazing, where the paddocks are reduced in size and the cattle are rotated more often, which allows for better pasture development.
Once the stock agent had been called and a time for him to come and check the cattle we wanted to sell was arranged, we ordered some more fencing material, and began installing more fences, splitting each large paddock into half its current size.
By the time the school holidays were over, we had completed two large paddocks on the southern boundary, so we now have four paddocks that are approximately 140 acres in size, each one differs slightly.
When the 3rd term holidays arrived in September, in between all the calving season and checking the water supplies, grandfather Marcus and I were working on new fencing on the 3rd paddock on the southern boundary, to make six 140-acre paddocks in total.
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