Taplan is a small farming community about 30km south east of Loxton in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia. The town was established in the early 1900s and was the result of clearing much of the mallee (eucalyptus) scrub over many years of hard work. These days the area is mainly a cereal growing area – wheat, barley, canola and some oats. Some sheep and cattle are also kept by local farmers.
I grew up in this town in the 1950s and 60s. Over recent days on this site I have written about school life and other aspects of life in this small community. Today the town is a mere shadow of its former self. Many houses are now empty, including the one shown in today’s photos, the Institute Hall and the primary school are now private residences, the post office and store have closed and the only church (Lutheran) often has only half a dozen people attending. The railway ceased operating some years ago too.
My parents moved to this district when they married in the late 1920s. My father farmed the family land, initially about 600 acres but later over 1000 acres as he bought adjoining properties. My brother bought another farm a few miles to the north when he married. Later, when another brother married he bought the original farm from my father. Both of these properties have since been bought by my nephew who has expanded even further with several more properties bought in recent years. It seems quite likely that one or more of his three sons will soon be working these properties with their father.
The old homestead shown in today’s photos is where I grew up from 1947 until my parents and I moved to Loxton in 1965. During those years I enjoyed a wonderful childhood playing around the house and helping my mother in the garden. Our extensive garden included many fruit trees, such as:
In the vegetable garden we grew:
- and probably quite few I have forgotten.
We had a small herd of cows but I never had the job of milking them. My job was to take the milk, pour it into a separator and turn the handle until the cream was separated from the milk. Sometimes I helped my mother make homemade butter. Any leftover milk was given to the small herd of pigs which were also our source of meat. Very rarely did we eat our own ham or bacon. More often it was either poultry – such as chicken or duck – or mutton from sheep which my father would butcher. Any excess cream was sold, the large cans of cream being transported to Murray Bridge (where I now live) by train in refrigerated vans.
The chickens – we always called them “chooks” – were largely my responsibility. While I did provide them with some wheat or other grain to eat, most of the time the chooks foraged in the garden, around the sheds or even out in the nearby paddocks. We invented “free range eggs” before it was fashionable.
My job every evening was to “look for the eggs”. I didn’t just have to gather the eggs from the laying boxes in their shed, I actually had to actively search out where they were laying. This could be anywhere in the implement sheds, in farm machinery, behind boxes, under bushes – I had to use my keenly developed eyesight to watch where the hens were so I could find their eggs.
I was not always as alert as the hens were cunning. They would lay their eggs in a secret place until they had ten or fifteen, and then they would go “broody”. I quickly learned that the peck of a broody hen hurt, so often I would leave them be. A few weeks later a new batch of fluffy chickens would grace our farm yard. In this way we replenished those we had eaten. Of course we always had far too many eggs and no matter how many wonderful cakes and biscuits mum made, there was always an excess, and these I had to wipe clean with a damp cloth before packing them in specially designed crates. These crates were taken to the nearby railway station and transported off to markets in Adelaide.
The area immediately surrounding the house and sheds of our homestead consisted of a large patch of native mallee (eucalyptus) scrub. I am much younger than my three brothers who were never much interested in playing with me when I was growing up, except when I was a baby. During my school days I had to entertain myself during school holidays and on weekends. The nearby scrub kept me very entertained as I explored it, developing a love of the environment which persists to this day. I now own a little patch of mallee scrub where I now live in Murray Bridge. You can see photos of birds seen around my home on Trevor’s Birding.
The last photo I will share today is another view of the house on the farm where I grew up. It is now a ruin; my brother built a new house just a few metres north of this one a few years after he married. It is sad to see so many similar old homes like this one going to ruin, but that is just the way things are; there is no use bemoaning the fact that maintenance on old houses is expensive, and there is just not the concentration of population in rural Australia to keep houses like this occupied.