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THIS book of my husband's is the natural outcome of the results of "The Keyline Plan", published in 1954. So much has happened since then, both in public response and practical results, that he has been frequently asked when his next book will be published. His familiarity with Keyline makes it so simple to him that difficulty is experienced in realising this is not always so to others; now he is trying to remedy that in this book.
It is a narrative of practical experiments and experiences in a comprehensive approach to the planned use of land. He feels that no complete plan has been produced before and Keyline has got the merit of having been tried and proved successful.
Although this book, then, is chiefly for farmers and graziers, we both hope it will also assist to further enlighten public opinion to the extent of widely realising that when our land folk are enjoying a substantial measure of prosperity from high production, then many of our major national problems are on the way to being solved.
The interest shown in his efforts over the last four years has been outstanding, and visitors from all over the world have continued to visit our places.
His Keyline Plan has been admired, condemned, criticised, accepted in part and even pirated in part. Many have tried out sections of his plan on various types of properties and farms, and where faithfully carried out, has yielded results that have been more than satisfactory.
My experiences in the matter, too, have been interesting, sometimes exasperating, and often amusing. There was the woman who arrogantly demanded to be shown through the "Nevallan" home and became quite indignant when politely told it was private property. A charming old lady in her eighties tramped around the paddocks and her interest and enthusiasm were infectious. Another, a woman doctor, became so keen during a visit that she vowed on her return to the country practice her land-owning patients should receive large doses of Keyline with her course of treatment whenever she visited them. Others arrive for a quick inspection, checking their watches on arrival and allotting perhaps a fifteen-minutes "stay". These people usually are on their way from the city to their inland properties and the visit to our place is to be "just a passing look". They generally remain for hours. One couple had four young children and a long journey ahead of them. They arrived about lunch time, but it was dark before the husband finally agreed to leave. His wife had my sympathy that day.
Together with our loyal staff we have shared interviews, lecture tours and the making of moving pictures. These pictures were shown in theatres and lecture halls, and "Nevallan" has been seen on television both here and in London. So Keyline is steadily progressing.
On one occasion a 1600-miles Keyline lecture tour of Victoria in a period of ten days was undertaken. I generally go with my husband, and when given the itinerary which some of our staff executives had worked out I doubted our ability to cope. It was certainly a full programme, consisting of visits to one or two properties in the morning, then lunch, and an average drive of one hundred miles in the afternoon, dinner, and a lecture talk at night with Keyline films. My husband, whose speeches are impromptu, remarked that he had to speak on a different aspect of Keyline each time, if only to keep me from falling asleep.
Regretfully, we can no longer be available on Sunday afternoons at "Nevallan", as we have found ourselves unable to attend to this with the pressure of other events. However, "Nevallan" is now in the capable hands of our properties manager and his wife, who are carrying on our work there very successfully.
We go when possible to our properties, "Kencarley", at Orange, the Campbelltown Place, and "Pakby", at Bathurst. Here the work can proceed much faster, as all those trial-and-error experiments of "Nevallan" and "Yobarnie" are eliminated and only normal problems can temporarily delay progress.
On first inspecting "Kencarley" as prospective buyers the weather was hot, the country dry, and the area altogether extremely discouraging and uninviting. I looked at its rundown, neglected appearance, heavily covered with scrub and trees, the barren soil, and broken fences--even the house was uninhabitable. My husband said to me, "Well, what do you think of it?" and my answer was, "If it wasn't for Keyline and tractors I wouldn't want to touch it." We know that many landholders and others considered the purchase a mistake, but so did several people when we first bought "Nevallan". The story there, of course, is different now and we expect similar results at these new areas, with the same increase in soil fertility and success that Keyline brought to "NevalIan".
The first year at "Kencarley" was unsatisfactory. Equipment and plant were constantly held up owing to bad weather, and consequently it would have to be transferred elsewhere and then brought back again. We had to content ourselves mainly with boundary fencing and line marking, and whenever a visit was made a feeling of disappointment pervaded us.
The second year was different. The drought began and, although this did not help with soil improvement, it did make possible the speeding up of the major development work, which now became fascinating to watch. I have stood with others and surveyed a scene I had never before witnessed. The timbered country, already marked according to Keyline, now showed rapid changes. One could see a strip of timber falling before the bulldozers, with a line of trees about thirty yards wide left standing. Next would be seen another strip with fallen timber already burning in heaps, while a fourth one was being chisel plowed and seeded down. The whole process, from virgin timber to cultivation strips sown with pasture seed, taking place in the one area, not just a few acres, but hundreds of them changing before our eyes.
This type of work, of course, is something made possible by the coming of the bulldozer era, and with Keyline as the guide, no qualms are aroused that such large projects may be a mistake.
With the clearing, commenced also the water storage section of the plan. Dam building started, and one farm dam, "Kencarley Basin", we believe is the largest in the Commonwealth, covering forty acres of pasture-sown paddock and capable of holding over a hundred million gallons of water. Five dams are now completed here, with others still to follow. Water will be brought to them by carefully planned drains and released again via suitably large pipes through the wall to irrigate hundreds of acres below the walls on the Keyline flow pattern. When the rains come, it is gratifying to watch the water under man's control flowing along the drains to its allotted place. During the building of the largest dam, located in a wet, swampy valley, a sense of urgency had developed. "Would it rain before it was finished?" Many were the anxious queries as to the weather. The rain did not come, however, and many months were to pass before the drought eventually broke.
The scene is changing constantly and we have to show people other areas not yet started to convince them of what has already happened.
As a contrast there is "Pakby", a 2,000-acre property nine miles from, Bathurst, on the Mid-Western Highway, where the soil is granite. Here the land has been subjected to the thoughtless tree destruction of earlier days and consequently suffers from strong winds. Like "Yobarnie", it endured the fate of a bushfire in our first year of occupancy, eight hundred acres of grass were burnt and minor buildings damaged. "Pakby" is badly eroded, too, in parts with huge erosion gullies, caused by road water, beginning at the boundary fence. Development work has now diverted the water to new irrigation dams, cultivation for soil improvement continues and strips of land are prepared for tree planting.
Occasionally we are asked why our properties are all westward of Sydney. Why not north or south, perhaps even some other region? Proximity to each other and to large centres we find is time saving both for ourselves and our staff. There have been such comments as "Aren't you lucky, they are all in the one direction when you want to go visiting." Time generally becomes such an important factor to us, that, when looking for land to buy, and being aware also of the fact that the city of Sydney is our main headquarters, travelling time and suitable access roads play an important part in our decisions.
To some the work may seem a major undertaking, and consequently beyond their consideration, yet they will find it just as possible on a small scale, the pattern is the same, and in the development of a property there is pleasure and satisfaction watching the plan unfold. One day recently I stopped the car to enjoy a view of "Yobarnie". How very different it was to the old days! Now I saw good green pastures on the gently sloping hills and valleys, dams of water correctly located and stock grazing contentedly. I don't think I have seen anywhere a view more beautiful. I know I felt very happy about it.
Finally, I would like to say that after four more years of observations, study and investigations, and having been given active support from scientists and many others, men whose main thought in the matter is the welfare of their nation and who are able to weigh the evidence of Keyline clearly with an unbiassed mind, my husband is more convinced than ever in the soundness of the theory and practices of Keyline. However, this book will help elucidate his ideas and beliefs and perhaps be of some value to our nation as a whole. I know that we are both hoping that it will be so.
Sydney, April 1958