Harvesting the crops

James Lerk | Bendigo Weekly | 27-Jul-2017

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Mention has been made about the many different varieties of fruit and vegetables that were grown by Herbert Keck on a commercial basis.

Keck grew melons in profusion as he did the Turk Caps or squashes, however the pumpkins were only for weightlifters to harvest as most weighed in at over 30 kilograms each. 

Then there was the rhubarb, the stems were the thickness of a man’s wrist, undoubtedly it grew so well because of the provision of plenty of manure and regular use of irrigation water.

Keck’s property was described as being snugly situated beneath the foothills of One Tree Hill. 

A writer continued to note that the property was one of the best fruit plantations in the state. 

It was also observed that the orchard and vegetables were intelligently and systematically cultivated. 

The nursery and orchard being in such close proximity to the urban part of Bendigo was considered to be a distinct advantage for Keck, allowing him to let the fruit ripen on the trees before picking, thus ensuring that their flavour would be at its optimum.

The eulogistic description of Keck’s property went further to say that he had a perfectly kept orchard that was regarded by those that knew as one of the “show places of the district”. 

Considering what the land was like at the time of Keck’s purchase, one could only be full of admiration for his persistence in bringing it to such high standards.

A small dairy was constructed not far from the Keck’s home, this building had been partially sunk into the ground to help to keep the stored products cool. 

Annie Keck and later Margaret also used this facility, which had bush poles for the roof – these had been covered with sheets of bark over which a good layer of clay was deposited.

Home-made preserves and bottled fruit were kept in the dairy as its temperature was always cool.

One local shop keeper who took advantage of Keck’s fresh fruit and vegetables as well as flowers was William J Kendall.

Kendall had a shop in Hargreaves Street and apart from the previously mentioned produce he also had a variety of confectionary for sale. 

Many flowers were required by Kendall for the making of wreaths. 

Pot plants were another specialty of Herbert Keck and when he had an oversupply, he took a cart load of them to JH Curnow’s auction rooms on the corner of Queen and Mitchell streets. 

When his son was of a sufficient age he was taken into the business and the orchard and nursery was then called Keck and Son.

With the son helping to run the business it gave Herbert a little more time to pursue other interests.

On one occasion early in the 20th century Herbert Keck attended the St Patrick Day Sports in central Bendigo. 

A temporary grandstand had been erected to enable some of the spectators to gain a better view of the various events.

Some children had crawled underneath the stand to position themselves near the front. 

Unfortunately the weight of the spectators was too great and the structure collapsed with a mighty crash.

There was pandemonium with the collapse of the grandstand, many people believed that the children who were underneath the stand would be crushed.

Hundreds of people helped to lift the tangle of timber away, miraculously there were no life threatening injuries. 

Keck, who had been on the stand when the whole structure tumbled down only received minor abrasions and bruising.

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