Memories of a rural childhood – P is for pipes and purple ink



Shifting the pipes was a regular task on hot summer days as all the vegetable crops needed copious amounts of water to grow well. Dad used his tractor and carryall to move the many long aluminium pipes and sprinklers from paddock to paddock. We kids were all drafted in to help carry them into the crop and connect them together securely. Sometimes the connections were not brilliant, and after the pump was started there was a rush to fix the line before a blowout destroyed a section of the crop. Once this first section was watered thoroughly, the row of pipes needed to be moved further down the hill. As much as possible this was accomplished in large sections. At a signal from Dad, we each picked up a sprinkler, making sure that the pipe latches remained in place, then walked in a line to where they needed to go. As the potato crops grew, it became more and more of a challenge to walk along and step over the rows whilst moving the pipes and sprinklers in unison, especially for the younger members of the family! Carrots were a bit easier as their tops were much smaller. In hot weather, this entire process was repeated several times each day.

Purple Ink

For many years, potatoes were dug by machine then “picked up” by hand. They were then stored in large heavy hessian bags in the shed until sold to greengrocers and fish and chips shops from all over Melbourne.  The bags were stenciled with Dad’s name and address. The stencil was a large sheet of metal with the letters cut out. To mark the bags, we dampened a block of purple dye/ink with water and then rubbed it over the stencil. It was fun at first but like all repetitive tasks became very tiring after a while. One of my brothers still has the stencil.

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