Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

The return of the hungry horses

By Viv Forbes - posted Thursday, 11 April 2024

When I was young (many decades ago) we lived on a small family farm at Wheatvale near Warwick on the Darling Downs in Queensland, Australia.

Our lifestyle was close to the organic self-sufficient nirvana that today's green zealots babble on about – we produced much of what we needed and needed most of what we produced, using mainly solar power plus a bit of hydrocarbon and wind energy.

But life was no picnic.


Our farm supported our family of four, 30 dairy cows, one bull, eight draught horses, two stock horses, a cattle dog, two cats, two ponies, plus a few pigs, calves and chooks and, at times, a returned service Uncle recovering from the malaria he caught during the war in Papua New Guinea. We sometimes had a farm hand – farmers got "trusties" from the Palen Creek Prison Farm. They were a bit like the horses – ate a lot, worked as little as possible and sometimes stole things. So Dad stopped the trusties and all the work fell back on the family.

Foxes killed hens occasionally and crows stole eggs. The farm grew weeds, burrs, native pasture, wheat, oats, sorghum, corn and lucerne. The lucerne was used to make hay which was collected on a wagon, carted to the hay shed and unloaded with pitch forks. Most of the farm produce was used to feed us, plus the horses, cows, pigs and chooks. Horses are not ruminants and do not use hay and grass as efficiently as cattle. We learned the truth of the saying "Eats like a horse". Our farm produced little surplus for others - we sold milk/cream regularly and occasionally some grain, pigs and calves.

Green energy powered most activities on the farm. Dad and Mum and my big sister milked the cows by hand twice a day, seven days per week and we all cut weeds with hoes, picked corn by hand and used pitch-forks to stack hay. Mum knitted woollen jumpers for winter. There were no old people's homes – grandparents rotated around their kids' homes (my mother had eight brothers and sisters).

We had tanks catching rainwater from all roofs, plus a windmill which pumped stock water from a small dam (when the wind blew). Our heavy horses were used to pull a plough, a sundercut, a planter-cultivator, a set of harrows, harvester, mower, hay-rake, wagon, dray and slide. Kids walked to school or rode ponies or bikes. We had an old reaper/binder in the shed and there were still some sulkies being used. There were even some huge wood-burning steam-powered traction engines that drove stationary threshers used to separate grain from chaff.

We had no electricity, no phones and just one battery-powered radio. We listened to Russ Tyson and the news on the ABC after the milking (7am), "Blue Hills" and the Country Hour at lunch time (we called it "dinner"), and a serial story after "tea" at night.

Our emissions from hydro-carbon fuels were very low. We used a bit of kerosene in lamps for the house and lanterns for the dairy, and a few gallons of petrol for the old farm ute which we drove to town every fortnight to buy bread, groceries, boots, work clothes and unmentionables. We used no coal-powered electricity, no phones and had no diesel or petrol-driven machinery such as tractors, trucks, generators, pumps, chain saws or quad bikes.


But we had lots of breathing, belching, farting farm animals eating the crops and emitting large quantities of the "greenhouse gases", carbon dioxide and methane. However, the climate was much the same as now. We still had destructive weather events – droughts and floods, storms, crop-killing frosts and desiccating heat waves. We hated winter as little vegetation grew, cows were hungry and produced less milk; and there was frost on the grass when we yarded the cows before sunrise.

Most people lived and worked on farms - labour was abundant and cheap, food was expensive, and towns were much smaller. The local town had a bacon factory, a butter factory and a flour mill. Our life was one of continual repetitive manual labour which produced minimal surplus for landless labourers who sometimes struggled to afford food. We had not much money, they had not much food.

This all changed after WW2, when a revolution in food production was triggered by two brilliant Americans: Henry Ford who flooded the world with cars, trucks, utilities and Fordson tractors; and John D Rockefeller whose Standard Oil flooded the world with kerosene, petrol, diesel and lubricants for all those engines.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

8 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Viv Forbes is a geologist and farmer who lives on a farm on the Bremer River.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Viv Forbes

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 8 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy