Big day brings back times past

It was a noisy event - tractors roared, mowers mowed, harvesters and balers cut and gathered while shearers clipped wool from sometimes uncooperative sheep and women folk spun, sewed, crocheted and tatted.

Blessed with a fine summer's day many patrons of Dargaville's Harvest festival held at Harding Park, took the opportunity to exchange tales and reminisce as they enjoyed the live demonstrations. Others browsed the exhibits or enjoyed the variety of food and drinks on offer including camp oven stew and billy tea.

Once, not too many years ago, the summer harvest was essential for survival - not only for animals but to the pioneering families, who often lived in isolation and had little but themselves and their neighbours to rely on for basic necessities.

Menfolk gathered to share the labour, while the womenfolk busied themselves supplying the food and refreshments needed to get the "harvest in." It was also a time when the summer shear was done and the longer daylight hours were used to bottle and preserve vegetables and fruit.

Kaipara Vintage Machinery Club spokesperson Bruce Galloway said it was surprising even in a rural area how many people had not seen these basic farming activities performed.

A 1920s haystacker, donated to the club by the Schick family was in action for the first time in many years. Powered by a tractor rather than the traditional horse, the stacker had been in use up until the 1970s.

"It's a pretty unique piece of equipment which I'm sure a lot of people found interesting,"says Mr Galloway.

Balers from the 1950s, side mounted sickle mowers and other now outdated machinery were all fired especially for the day and where in operation alongside the latest in farm equipment, courtesy of David Wordsworth contractors.

Visitors were able to get up close with the shearers who demonstrated shearing tools from hand-held blades, to bike-power shearing through to today's powered clippers.

Shearer Russell Knight from Apiti in Manawatu says he has been blade shearing for about four years. He says while blade shearing doesn't change the quality of the clip it does leave more wool on the sheep. That's why up to 500,000 sheep in the Canterbury high country are blade shorn.

The sheep are machine crutched, including their bellies about six to eight weeks before the winter shear in June and July. This means their coats are thick enough for the coldest months, but not heavy enough to cause problems with lambing or becoming cast.

Classic American and vintage cars were on display along with the tractors of many shapes, sizes and colours, farm implements, cowshed and dairy equipment, corn shellers, timber and logging machinery and horse and bullock harnesses.

- Northern Advocate

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