Monday, February 22, 2010

Great-grandfather's Diary

Over the years that I've been researching and writing, I've been fortunate enough to have access to extracts from the diaries of several generations of the men who farmed the valley that my Waituhi Valley is based on; portions that have survived, at least in transcript, within the extended family. But recently I was given a great gift: the 1910 diary of my husband's great-grandfather.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This week in New Zealand history: first shipment of frozen export produce

Frozen meat had been successfully exported from Australia in 1879, and a few years later New Zealand had its own first shipment.

On the 15th of February 1882, the Dunedin sailed from Port Chalmers for London. The Dunedin was a sailing ship, but a steam-powered freezing plant had been installed on board, and thousands of sheep carcasses frozen for shipping. The exporters must have been delighted with the outcome; a carcass that would have fetched 13 shillings in New Zealand returned over 22 shillings on the London market.

That first shipment carried butter as well as meat, and marked the beginning of a true export market for New Zealand's dairy produce. No longer were farmers limited to selling what butter they could persuade the local storekeeper to take, often in exchange for goods rather than for cash. Herd numbers expanded, more butter factories opened, and the co-operative system of factory ownership blossomed.

In Mud and Gold, Frank first gets the idea of trying to set up one such co-operative in Ruatane, although he will face some scepticism from the older farmers.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why I Write

The Editor Unleashed site is currently running an essay competition on the topic "Why I Write". This moved me to ponder my own reasons and rewards for spending so much of my time shaping thoughts into words. Here's the result.

(If anyone would like to vote for my entry, it can be found here)