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Tales from the Farm

The Day Dad Blew up the Cowshed

  • $18.55

NZ author Jenny Sommervell, illustrations by Jenny's sister, Margery Fern

Like many 'rehab farmers', Grandpa had put the explosives skills he used at Gallipolli to good use on the farm, blowing out tree stumps and removing unwanted rocks. Blowing up the cowshed was the same idea - just on a bigger scale!

Dad was a farmer who liked trying out new ideas. In the 1970s he read about a new turnstyle rotary milking shed and it caught his interest. At that time milking sheds were either back-breaking, traditional walk-through sheds, which were being phased out (what Dad had), or the upgraded herringbone, where milkers stood in a rectangular pit and worked the cows on either side. The rotary shed moved the cows round on a rotating turn-style while they were being milked and then they backed off.

The Dairy Board finally gave the rotary cowshed full approval in the early seventies and farmers started to build them. Dad had a look at the prototype in operation and decided to build the first rotary shed in Hawkes Bay. But to put in the new cowshed the old shed with its thick concrete floor, walls and foundations had to be removed...!

Dramatic and hilarious, this true Kiwi story comes with an educational section about the ground-breaking invention of the first rotary cowshed in New Zealand by a Taranaki dairy farmer.

‘This is a true NZ down-on-the-farm story written in catchy rhyme which will make you shake your head and laugh out loud.’ - Sue Hoyle, Top Title in Upstart magazine


Soft cover

Size: 210mm X 277mm

44 pages, colour illustrations

Purple Dragonfly Book Awards 2016
First Place: Picture Book 6 & Older
First Place: Historical Fiction
First Place: Best Cover Design



"When Margery and I went to a school, the other children had no idea what a rotary cowshed was. Neither did we, until Dad heard about a new rotary shed that had been invented by Eltham man Merv Hicks in the late 1960s and decided he wanted one. 

It would be the rotary shed for milking cows in Hawke's Bay. But first, Dad had to get rid of the old cowshed. Luckily Dad had learned about blowing up things from his father, our granddad, who was taught how to use explosives as a soldier at Gallipoli in World War I.

So naturally, Dad thought it made sense to blow up the old cowshed. As chidlren, it was very funny watching this drama unfold.

The windows of our home were taped up and Margery and I were sent to stand on a nearby hill, so we wouldn't get blown up as well.

The story is hilarious, particularly when retold by our Dad. So my sister and I thought it was just kind of a drama that kids would love. It sparks their imagination. That's how The Day my Dad blew up the Cowshed was born."

Jenny Sommervell