HISTORY OF PATOKA STATION DURING ITS OCCUPANCY BY T.E. & H.E. CROSSE
The property was managed by me from 1922 to 1935 on behalf of my father, and since then, as proprietor.
This property was purchased in 1902 and was then approximately 10,800 acres; of this 6,800 acres on the eastern side of the Napier Puketitiri road is mainly easy rolling country carrying a considerable overlay of volcanic pumiceous dust. The balance of approximately 4000 acres on the western side of the Napier-Puketitiri road is very much more solid country without volcanic overlay. This absence of volcanic overlay is probably due to the fact that this block is very much steeper than the country across the road, and it would seem the volcanic showers were blown off and washed off. The whole country is very subject to high winds and has an annual rainfall of 58 inches.
The whole block was originally a fern country, very much cut up by stock proof gorges. The farming policy up to 1900 was breaking in by firing successive blocks and sowing a certain amount of danthonia and then crushing with heavy mobs of dry sheep. Manuka was already a threat wherever the fern was crushed out. At that time danthonia was the only grass that could be expected to persist, suckling clover was a boon in the spring and early summer, while the young fern gave an enormous quantity of feed between October and February. Cocksfoot grew well but could not persist on account of the fact that the staple feeds were all summer growths and stock were on very short rations over the late winter and early spring periods. This meant that the cocksfoot plants were eaten out.
To overcome this starvation period and bring the country into higher productivity, ploughing was undertaken on a fairly large scale. A crop of swedes would be grown and eaten off in the winter. The paddock then lay fallow during the summer, worked up again and laid down in the Autumn. English grasses were sown but very little grass fertilising was done, and after a very few years the English grasses failed and the pasture was predominantly danthonia with a sprinkling of white clover and good growth of suckling clover in the spring and early summer.
It became quite apparent that English grasses were a failure under the existing conditions. Nevertheless the necessity of growing winter feed and the early promise usually given by the young grass induced us to continue the practice.
By 1917 practically all the land within easy reach of the homestead had been ploughed and second ploughing was going on. Grass did no better and the swede crops tended to fail. By 1922, swedes, except in virgin land, had become a very risky crop. Aphis had increased enormously, bitter pit was quite common and the weight of crop had dwindled very largely.
We stopped ploughing for two years, reduced the ewe flock and slightly increased wethers. However the difficulty of wintering hoggets