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When John and I arrived in Esperance we'd been married for three weeks. John came from a dairy farm at Swan Reach in Victoria and I'd trained as a Home Economics teacher.
Location 1504 Esperance had been allocated to John's father in 1959. The first 500 acres of land had been developed by contract, which John had financed from the proceeds of pigs.
The first job was to fence the cleared area of land so that we could purchase sheep. With very little money, we bought 707 sheep on a Wesfarmers stock account. The sheep arrived from South Australia by train.
For the first five years, we lived in a little pink cottage, (23 feet x 13 feet), built by John's parents. We had no shearing shed and I remember John crutching in the corner of the paddock. We had to drive the sheep to a neighbouring farm for shearing.
By 1969 we had children there. In the same year we also had a telephone connected. Not long after, we received a Commonwealth Development Loan to build our own house and shearing shed. My Father, who was a builder, travelled over to help. We built our house using local cement bricks.
We increased our sheep numbers to 10,000, largely by breeding our own. We also had 200 cattle for a while. By 1975 we were able to purchase ‘Meringo’ Esperance Location 1514 (at $23.00 per acre) which was half cleared. We didn’t finish clearing this farm until 1980.
By 1971, cropping was increasing so we reduced our sheep numbers. I remember John using a home-made boom sprayer to put in a barley crop. Sand blasting had been a big problem, so this was the start of no-till farming.
There were many new varieties of clover being developed and Esperance was producing one-third of Western Australia's seed. John bought a clover harvester which was the means to clear our Wesfarmers Stock account and set us free.
Over the 50 years of farming until John died we never had a complete failure of a year. There were difficult years - mainly the very wet ones - but then there was feed and the sheep carried us through. We later bought ‘Strathdaly’ (Esperance location 1505) and ‘Kentmont’ (Esperance Locations 1520 and 1523) which the family are farming now.
It was a good move to come to Esperance and it has been a unique experience to have been part of the development of the area, a very progressive and productive one. I have to give credit the Lance Shearer for my comfortable retirement as he set up our Self Managed Super fund back in the 1980’s. I'm just sorry that John is not here to enjoy all the fruits of his hard work and hardships of those early years.
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