Story: Farm buildings

Page 4. Farm housing

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The homestead

The farmer’s home is usually near the rest of the farm buildings, but far enough from the sheep yards or cowshed to avoid the noise, dust and smell.

On large properties the main house is known as the homestead; on small family farms it is often just called the farmhouse. At the back door there is usually a verandah or porch to hang wet-weather gear to dry, and a woodshed nearby. In the past there was usually also a large vegetable garden and a fowl house, often tended by wives. However, women now increasingly work away from the farm, and no longer have time to maintain these.

At the farm gate there may be a large mailbox. Some are big enough to hold several bags of seed or other bulky items that a passing stock agent or transport firm might drop off. The mailbag is hung here for the rural postie to pick up.

There might also be one or more houses for married staff such as sharemilkers, and other permanent staff.

Home, sweet home

In the 19th century, the standard of accommodation for working men varied enormously. Some station owners provided workers with clean, comfortable quarters which had piped water, and good mattresses and pillows. Others housed shearers in huts that were used at other times for storage or as animal shelters, with a nearby creek providing the only water for washing and drinking.

Men’s and shearers’ quarters

Bigger properties that employed a lot of permanent and seasonal labour needed men’s quarters and a cookshop. Often the quarters were a line of bunkrooms opening onto a long verandah, where boots and coats could be hung to dry. The cookshop, a combined kitchen and dining room, was at one end of the building. In the early 2000s, few places employed large numbers of staff. Some farms had a hut or small house, often called the whare, which could house one or two workers. They either cooked for themselves, or ate at the homestead with the family.

Remote properties need accommodation for shearers. In the past, some stations expected shearers to share the men’s quarters, and others had separate shearers’ quarters – often with a layout similar to the men’s quarters.

Mustering huts

Most big stations needed mustering huts at various sites for men working away from the homestead. These were very basic – usually made of corrugated iron, with a corrugated-iron chimney at one end for the open fire. The old ones had dirt floors, and the bunks were sacks stretched across poles cut from nearby bush. When a gang of musterers were in residence there was very little room to move about.

Newer huts have concrete floors and bunks with mattresses.

How to cite this page:

Robert Peden, 'Farm buildings - Farm housing', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 April 2024)

Story by Robert Peden, published 24 Nov 2008