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TAS Country : September 9th 2010
16 Friday, Septem Farm Feature ROTHERWOOD Home is where the heart is, and Home Hill is the heart of Bernard and Margaret Brains 1000ha Victoria Valley property on the Ouse River. Pictures: ROGER LOVELL and JENNIFER CRAWLEY land THIS Jennifer Crawley Victory in valley of variety HOME is where the heart is, and Home Hill is the heart of Bernard and Margaret Brain's 1000ha Victoria Valley property on the Ouse River. Trappers returning from the Highlands gave Home Hill its name. ''When they saw this little outcrop here they knew they were almost home,'' Bernard Brain said. Margaret Brain migrated from Ireland and retains a strong Irish brogue. She met Bernard at the Ouse hospital where she worked as a midwife. ''It was really busy then because we had the Hydro, we'd have a baby a night, sometimes three,'' Margaret said. ''It was nothing to work three days and nights straight.'' Bernard, a volunteer ambulance driver for 20 years, asked Margaret out on a date after a late night dash into Hobart with a young woman in premature labour. ''We were just so exhausted,'' Margaret said. ''It was such a terrible trip, I think inhibitions went out the window. We thought,'ah the hell with it, let's go out'.'' Bernard's ancestor was a convict who got his ticket of leave and settled the property of Daisy Banks at Richmond. The family lost the farm initially in the bank crash of the 1890s, then again when his grandfather became ill with turberculosis in the 1910s. Bernard's grandmother became Post Mistress at Kempton to support the family. Bernard's father Brian was a respected agricultural pioneer in the Ouse district who managed the Lawrenny estate when he returned from World War II. Brian Brain commanded a Tasmanian salvage unit made up of farmers who retrieved and repaired machinery left behind by enemy troops in the Middle East. Rotherwood is a long narrow property three paddocks wide and eight kilometres long. The original 1822 title showed four 200ha blocks that started at the river, were 800m wide and extended west. Bernard was ploughing a paddock a few years ago and ploughed up bits of sandstone that were part of an original boundary fence. Brian Brain used irrigation to transform the rundown soldier settlement farm of Rotherwood into an agricultural showpiece. Bernard's brothers John and Graeme ran the property with their father for many years. Bernard came home after finishing a Bachelor of Rural Science degree at the University of New England in the 70s. His brothers have retired and the property is run by Bernard and Margaret with John's daughter Helen and Craig Harrison. And the Brain family continue to use irrigation to turn their land into an arable paradise. ''Dad designed irrigation schemes and could read pump charts,'' Bernard said. ''He went round with a precision instrument called a theodolite measuring levels for irrigation channels on ours and neighbouring properties.'' Mr Brain senior was one of the first producers in Australia to record performance of livestock with an Angus herd and he was the first Tasmanian to grow peppermint for essential oil commercially. Bernard is an Ouse River irrigator and has been negotiating water rights with Hydro for more than three years. Previous legislation gave water rights to Ouse River farmers when Hydro took the river water to power the Poatina tailrace. Farmers could pump to supply all reasonable irrigation. ''Historically people weren't sure which was the main river and which was the tributary, the Derwent or the Ouse,'' Bernard said. Aborigines from the Big River tribe called the Ouse the ''Big River'' he said. ''I've got a photo from the mid sixties where it looked just like the Derwent, now you can barely see the river because of the willows.'' Bernard and Margaret have done
September 2nd 2010
September 16th 2010