Mrs. Gordon dressed carefully. It had been a long journey up from Damaru, first on the little coastal steamer, and then by train to Taupiri where they had stayed last night. Joe Radford, the head waggoner of Woodlands, had met them there, and today she would drive out to the new home. As she smoothed the silk of her travelling gown, she felt that as the wife of the manager of an estate that covered, 86,502 acres, she really was importsnt, and she knew that she and her husband would be able to make a contribution to this part of the colony. John Gordon himself, with his top hat and smart cut-away jacket, certainly looked a man of the world as he took his place in the waggon.
Everyone knew the Woodlands waggon of course, and at the few houses they passed, the settlers came out to wave to the new manager and his wife. As she waved cheerfully back, Mrs. Gordon remarked, "You know, I rather miss the deference paid to the family of the laird by the workers on the estate near Glasgow, but the New Zealand attitude is much more friendly.
John had been in New Zealand for eight years, and was beginning to appreciate the colonial attitude too. "If you treat the men right, they work much better than they do in Scotland." he said.
But when the waggon rolled past a group of Maori whares, and the men, women and children came out to watch, Mrs. Gordon, who had not seen a Maori before, felt a little afraid. She took his hand as John Gordon lifted his hat gravely to them.
"It's the King. It's the Pakeha King.", someone whispered. And it was this courtesy and his fair dealings with the Maori people that was one of the big influences in the harmonious development in Hukanui.
Mrs. Gordon was not surprised to find that the two little maids were daughters of workers on Woodlands, and even before breakfast was finished on that first morning, she felt she would work happily with the housekeeper and the cook. "I hope the other servants are as good as the inside ones." she thought as she stood on the verandah in the early morning sunshine.
The gardener had come to show them round his domain. "I can hear water," remarked Mr. Gordon, "is there a stream near?"
"Not really." replied the man, "We had tc get enough fall to drive the water-wheel, so we had to a mill-race drain, and I've been able to divert enough of the water to have a little waterfall. It sounds pretty, doesn't it?"
Mr. and Mrs.Gordon admired the waterfall, and as they walked round the garden, Mrs. Gordon began to dream of improvements she could make.
'I'll need a lot more lavender." she thought, "I must have enough of that to keep the sheets and pillow cases smelling sweet. And there's hardly any rosemary. I must have that for my hair." But they admired the camelias and passion flower tree, and the laurel grove and oak trees were already nearly 12 feet high, though they were only about 5 years old. Beyond them, a belt of pinus insignus had made even better use of their time and were already a shelter for the horse paddock.
"We picked several baskets of Christmas plums this year," boasted Fred Forest, "and the apples are starting to fruit too."
Pears and quinces were growing well, and a little walnut stood proudly in one corner of the orchard. "Gooseberries do well," said Fred in answer to a question from Mr. Gordon, "We also have red currants and black currants too, But of course, most of our time is spent in the vegetable garden."
Before they finished the tour of inspection, he took them to the apple loft, where, on racks of bracken, sweet smelling apples were stored.
Mr. Gordon gravely lifted his top hat to greet the ragged Maori folk who came to watch him pass.
"We grow a lot of fruit and vegetables." commented Fred. "But storing them takes a lot of time too. We dry apples, and put green beans in a crock with salt, but the little, white harricot beans will keep in an air-tight jar. Kumaras are in a pit, but I don't find they keep well, and of course, there are always plenty of potatoes in the bin in the shed. Potatoes grow well on Woodlands, and they keep well too, as long as we can store therri away from the rats."
Mrs. Gordon shuddered to think of rats, and she refused to go near the slaughter yards, though she knew that a butcher was a very necessary employee on a big station.
"Our home is the headquarters of a working estate." commented John Gordon, as they went down to watch the water-wheel turning round as the wheat was ground into flour. Coming from the drier South Island, the new manager inspected the Waikato wheat critically.
"No, it does not make white bread." the baker told them. "I try to get South Island flour to mix with it for the bread I send up to your table. But the men don't complain because most of the families round grind their flour in a hand mill and it isn't nearly as fine as ours. Woodlands grows the best wheat round here because we can afford to use more fertilizer with it."
Mr. Gleeson, who came a little later, was really an artist with dough. Each day delicious bread or buns, and sometimes tarts and other pastries came out of the big oven.
They peeped into the carpenter's shop, and then inspected the stables. This was a part of the work they both loved, and no money would be spared on improvements here. Just before lunch, they looked in at the cool, sweet-smelling dairy where, on a bench, were five wide pans of milk with the golden cream floating on top, ready to be churned.
"The cow-man usually milks the cows." said one of the maids cheerfully. "We set the milk in a pan for 2 or 3 days. I churn butter nearly every day, and then Tom takes the skim milk for the calf. Last year we salted a lot of butter for the winter time, but there is enough grass near the homestead to keep a couple of cows milking all the time if we can give them some hay too."
John Gordon would not go near the bees, and both he and his wife oecided that the shop which was kept for the benefit of the workers on the estate, needed considerable improvement.
Mrs. Gordon soon realized the truth of the statement, "We're the headquarters of a working estate."
Soap had to be made; bars of coarse, golden-brown soap for washing and scrubbing, and a softer, smoother one for use in the bathroom. Like most housewives of the time, she had her own well loved recipes and supervised the work carefully. Days in Autumn were spent making candles; a smelly, tedious job, though at Woodlands the butcher rendered down the fat for them, and there were candle molds to help take a lot of difficulties from the task.
Feathers from the poultry killed, were made into pillows and mattresses; herbs were grown and preserved; sheep skins were made into rugs for the floor, and out in the stables, the men took pride in making the leather for bridles and reins. There were many tasks to do, but there were many hands to do them and a willingness to work and to pull together for work and fun.
Rushes ‘an Raupo, To cows an’ Clover by Edith Williamson