Category Archives: history

Neereman farm

On Sunday I intended to go to a heritage event at Anderson’s Mill in Smeaton, on the way dropping in at Castlemaine and Maldon. But I didn’t get there.

The first part of the day went to plan with a last visit to Threadbear in Castlemaine and some time at the Maldon Cemetery. It is not far from here to Neereman and the farm on the Loddon River established in the 1860s by my great great great grandparents. It was easy to find as I had been there as a child when my mother was first researching her family history. I have some small black and white photos from that time and wanted to replace them with colour images. So this was to be a quick call to see if I could do that some time in the future.

When I got to the farm I was made to feel most welcome. Albums of photos and documents came out, including the family tree book my mother had written listing the descendants of settlers who had a farm on the other side of the river. Their son had married a daughter from this farm.

So an hour or two passed very pleasantly with Steven and Margie. The farm has been in his family from the early 1920’s and so he knew all about the alterations and when they happened and Margie had also been gathering information on the early history of the property.

Most of the original outbuilding still stand built mainly from local sandstone, although the cheese room has now collapsed due to white ants working there way through the supporting timbers. The house is brick and was originally three rooms, the rear one the dirt floored kitchen. This is as it was in about 1920 and so how it was in my family’s time.

Ely Farm

In the 1940s a whole new section was built parallel to the original so the external doors now open to a passage. The roof pitch was lowered and the attic window is now in the bathroom at the rear. A new wide window replaced the bar door at the front and a return verandah was added to update the whole look of the building. Steve has done a great job inside, restoring timber ceilings, refurbishing the original doors and taking away some earlier ‘improvements’. He obviously loves the old place.

Thanks to a successful court case at the time, a goldmine on the land had to pay substantial annual compensation to my ancestor so there were funds to establish extensive gardens and orchards. Apparently the gardens drew visitors from as far as Bendigo. An ancient olive tree is still productive, the Bunya Pine fruited this year and the Norfolk Pine is enormous. The farm was also famous for its cheese and being on a Cobb and Co route it was a staging post, also the Neereman Post Office, the Exploration Reef Hotel and depot for paying rates and voting at council elections.

Even better, Steve’s family also bought what was May Farm in Baringhup West so I got to see and copy a 1920s photo of that farm too. I think this building dates from 1878 as a tender was called for such a construction on the farm in that year. The roof is looking quite new in the photo and I hope that there were verandahs all around that were just awaiting replacement.

The Loddon River between the two farms is still a place of beauty. The magnificent River Red Gums in the picnic area near the ford would have been witness to many social occasions in the past.

Why violet?

Mystery, week 4:  Now this is just too easy. Tri Recs were covered in week 2, but then again it doesn’t hurt to practise some more. This time it is with the dark purple and neutrals, so I am using my six dark violets from week 3 and the dark greys that have not been used since week 1.

Even though there are only 40 blocks to make, it has taken me most of Sunday because I have been distracted. First by the anticipation of the CFA Santa Run, an annual tradition among volunteer fire brigades in rural and urban fringe communities in Victoria and my second distraction stemmed from this, we will come to it later.

All morning the bells and sirens of fire trucks and support vehicles echoed around the neighbourhood, sometimes coming closer, then further away. Finally Santa arrived, distributing good cheer and bags of snacks, much to the satisfaction of my very grown up daughter, who had come to visit specially with my equally excited teenage granddaughter.

I had hoped in this week the mystery would have moved on to the yellow fabric, because then I could have used the bag of twisties as my colour photo. This was not to be, and in truth the snacks were not this type, but something quite inedible; the snack food photo is from my archive taken after the 2012 Santa run.

But this got me thinking about snacks and this became my other not sewing distraction.

One of my favourite snacks when I was about the age of my granddaughter, was a Violet Crumble, some kids referred to them as ‘violent rumbles’. It is a chocolate coated honeycomb bar, invented as I discovered, in Melbourne. Until today I had never been curious about the name, but violet has been on my mind. The bar is packaged in a deep purple metallic wrapper, but it is not a Cadbury product. I had to check all this with a quick trip to the shops followed by a little nibble. I can confirm that they still taste good, not sickly sweet like the competition.img_4411After much research – ok Wikipedia – I learned that Abel Hoadley, who had previously been in preserves and jam making, established a confectionery business in 1913 and one of his early popular assortments contained honeycomb. In order to stop these bars sticking together he had them chocolate dipped. He called them a Crumble, but couldn’t register that as a name, so he added Violet, after his wife’s favourite flower and wrapped them in purple, her favourite colour.

Over 100 years later, and after the business going through several takeovers, Violet Crumble is still being made in Melbourne, under the Nestlé brand. For those now feeling nostalgic, Lyn Walsh has written an excellent potted history with illustrations from the National Library of Australia collection.

Finally I got on with sewing, and completed the required units including this one using my new elephant fabric. Then I rewarded myself with the rest of the Violet Crumble.img_4412

Here is the link to Bonnie Hunter’s En Provence Mystery Monday Linkup part 4 – the design of this quilt remains quite a mystery.





Spent my first afternoon as a volunteer at the Public Records Office of Victoria in North Melbourne. It is the most amazing place, the archive for all government and semi-government records going back to the 1830’s. I found out about the program when doing some family history research there at the beginning of the year.

case book

While new volunteers were offered a choice of projects, the volunteer coordinator was keen that I worked on the Inquest files. This is a new project, indexing all the records so they can be searched online. It involved some basic entry in a spreadsheet; file box number, file number, name, date and place of inquest – all easy to find on the back sheet. Then came the tricky bit, the cause of death was generally added to the typed pro forma by hand. Sometimes very curly hand even though it was 1938. And I was suppose to put it in plain English. Fortunately there was no need to go into the file and read all the witness statements, although I did have to sometimes to make sense of the coroners’  finding.

Obviously this is the sort of stuff I like doing, as time flew and I was kicked out by the last staff member to leave!

Back to Colac

I lived in Colac over half a century ago, when bold young women (no such thing as teenagers) wore the a new garment called pedal pushers and my Grade 3 teacher lived by herself and drove a Morris Mini. A bit much for this conservative western district city – just proclaimed in 1960 perhaps due to my family’s arrival.

On my recent visit for the Colac Quilt Show I was surprised at how familiar the centre of town remained, although I was a bit thrown when the Baptist Church which was my navigation reference was no longer there. My father was the minister and we lived in the manse just around the corner. The house is still there but with a caravan parked out front I couldn’t get a picture, I found out later that the church is to be rebuilt. So thanks to Mr Google here is how they appeared not long ago.

It looked like the owners were at home, so with nothing to loose rang the bell. Ian and Judy have lived in what is now a beautifully restored late Victorian home for over 30 years. They love it and have made all sorts of improvements since I lived there. Hot running water, lino lifted and stunning floorboards revealed, efficient heating and cooling and plenty of living space added to the back. My enclosed verandah bedroom has become the laundry and toilet. The garden is now a delight; it was quite nice at the front and practical at the back in my time  and I remember a beautiful  lilac at the side. This had been there until it recently when it did not come back from a heavy prune.

Other than a change of colour the front is still the same, the iron lace and elegant front door survived the years of neglect from when the church sold the property not long after we left, until the current owners took possession in the early 80s.

As for those young people, not a bouffant hairstyle in sight, just as it should be.

Another very important building has also gone, the Municipal Library, my favourite place. It has been replaced by a cultural centre, but it’s not the same. Fortunately there is a picture of the old Arts and Crafts building in the archive of the State Library. This picture is dated 1908, but I think it is the same building, I remember it being in a park setting, and having to cross the road to be on the other side from the hotel on the walk down Gellibrand Street. Also a large, perhaps octagonal reading room, the lantern on the roof hints that there is something like this below.



The more recent photo from the National Trust shows a bland paint treatment concealing many of the original features, and looking a bit more how I remember it.