"Best we have a Clearing Sale," I'd said, quite nonchalantly. "Our 'trash'...hmm-mm...someone else's 'treasure'?" Seemed simple enough...as a concept - an answer to the looming problem of Moving Day, and the items that would be unwanted on the new farm - the new focus - the new plans.
"I was just thinking the same thing," said the man of the house. "There's a heap of things we really don't need anymore. Pretty dumb to pay good money to cart them to the new place...different needs now, you know?"
SO true. When we'd started our farming endeavour as share-farmers, we'd had next to nothing of farm equipment - and had haunted other farm clearing sales to gather together our 'stash' of bargains. Money was pretty thin on the ground in those early days - and we were the ones 'treasuring' other farmers' so-called 'trash'. And now, here it was - our turn. And the decision-making began, as we started the long and wearisome job of sorting out what we would no longer need in our new enterprise.
Somehow, nothing had prepared us for the degree of attachment we had developed for impossibly ugly and worn farm 'stuff'. Memories all but overwhelmed us and filled our minds and hearts as we picked up one item, ran hands over another, and found ourselves looking way past the item - back to a time long gone. Maybe it had been an event that touched or terrified; inspired or irritated; alarmed or angered...whatever...these feelings were innumerable, but so very real. "Do you remember....?" became the most often used words in our vocabulary - making the chore of choosing 'rejects' impossibly slow, and often quite painful, given the trials and tribulations; the tragedies and triumphs; in fact, the whole gamut of Life...as we had lived it for 16 years.
Every single item required at least some cleaning - many required much attention and sprucing up - and there were some that simply demanded a complete paint job, in order to present them in their best light. We had often been the happy purchasers of bargains - specifically because they were grubby and grotty, neglected and in need of much TLC. 'Ours' would not go down this particular path.
At last, it was time to call in the Auctioneer - for his advice, opinions, and suggestions on various aspects of the sale. He looked at the items we had chosen - added a few more, and then, together, we planned the advertisement for local papers - noting the 'order' that the sale would follow. He was the expert on the wording of the advert., the timing and date of the sale (some weeks hence), and how to list enough items to grab interest and hold onto it.
And he would check for us as to who might wish to cater for the teas and lunch....maybe Red Cross, or Flying Doctor, or local CWA (Country Women's Assoc.)...perhaps the local Lions Club, or bowling club. He would check and book and work out with these 'caterers' an estimate of the food/drink requirements.
Now there was just the simple matter of whether we wished to put 'reserve prices' on the larger or more valuable items (This means placing a 'lowest' price we would accept, at which point we would be given the choice not to sell - or to signify willingness to negotiate an acceptable price with the highest bidder, privately, after the sale). Thankfully, this was one thing we didn't have to decide just then. We had until just a few days before the sale to make this particular decision.
Did we sign some type of Auction Agreement at this time? Maybe...I guess so. Was he as exhausted as us by the end of this amazingly detailed 'executive' decision-making exercise? I think 'yes'. Were we stressed and emotionally drained...whilst simultaneously feeling relieved that we had finally 'bitten the bullet' and committed to selling these once essential elements of our farming livelihood? Most definitely!
Now it was time for the truly physical workload - moving items into logical groups - and then choosing which could be outside, impervious to weathering for the short time ahead - and these must be placed in rows a certain distance apart. This was required firstly to allow the anticipated crowd of bidders to gather closely to the item under the auctioneer's scrutiny, and later, to allow vehicle access on one side or the other for pick-up and removal.
Uh-oh...we nearly forgot - one clean paddock (rocks, branches, logs...and of course, cow-pats removed), with a road gate - or at least close to the main farm gate - would be required for vehicle parking. And yet another sign - simply declaring 'Parking'. The road edges both sides would soon fill with an amazing number and variety of vehicles. Fascinating to see the neat, politely and thoughtfully distanced rows of cars, leaving ample space for arrival and departure of others, and allowing comfortable manoeuvrability for those towing trailers.
The setting up continued inside appropriately sized sheds with the items that were not weatherproof - and of course, household items. Once again, all in rows, with countless boxes of all manner of things lined up on tables and makeshift trestles, sometimes on wooden pallets - low down, but at least, off the floor. And our 'old faithful' truck trailer was laden high with boxes of those famous 'Sundries', to be spread out on more trestles outside, on the day. The local supermarkets had seen it all before - this sudden, urgent and tremendous demand for cardboard boxes of all sizes and shapes. They understood.
It seemed we had finally accepted that we had more 'stuff' than we needed (how come it's always 'a flood or a famine' in this area?) - and it was our turn to provide 'treasure' to someone else. Old sheets emerged, to cover and screen off items that were NOT for sale in the sheds, with a few large signs pinned on declaring 'NFS'. And countless tarpaulins were used in the 'great outdoors', to protect items for sale (that couldn't be stored inside the now-bulging sheds).
And still we had to find areas suitable for the Agent/Auctioneer's temporary 'office' for all sales to be recorded, written out and totalled for the buyers when their day's purchasing was completed. AND never forget - an area for the 'catering corps'. Oh wow! Where would it ever end, we wondered. Another visit or two from the Auctioneer found his suggestions and approval most welcome and reassuring. We were actually 'on track'.
At last, Clearing Sale Eve arrived - after our last days had been spent frantically organising all those pesky last minute details. I seem to remember the need for a few stiff drinks before bed to 'dumb-down' the jitters, and ensure at least a few hours of rest before 'THE DAY' dawned. (A dawn we would no doubt be featuring in largely...as we prepared the final presentation of a major period of our farming years).
© 2011 Christine Larsen All Rights Reserved Worldwide
If this story has whet your appetite for more information and atmosphere of the Farm Clearing Sale, please enjoy my other articles starting with the prefix - 'Going, Going...Gone - '
And if you want to get the true 'flavour and atmosphere' of the whole Farm Clearing Sale picture, have a look at my Squidoo lens - The Farmer Needs a Wife
I particularly love the fantastic YouTube video of an auction in the USA - not Australian - but so true to reality...just listen to that auctioneer! I have also written a section about the long-suffering Farmer's Wife's extra duties involved in these sales - whether 'Home or Away'. Enjoy!