On a rise overlooking earthmovers building a new road into Bobbaduck Valley east of Bungendore, grazier Rob Gordon has a flashback, as he prepares to sell off slices of the district's pastoral history.
He remembers he and his brother, Tom, riding their bikes – or sometimes their horses – from home to a flat paddock and railway line, where a steam train paused while the driver reached down, plucked them from the ground and took them off to school. Sometimes they toasted sandwiches over glowing coals, or took turns at driving the powerful, hissing engine.
"Bungendore Public School had 25 children back then; now 500 go to that school," Mr Gordon said.
More families are settling in Palerang Shire, and land is being carved off farms from Bywong to Burra to accommodate Canberrans hankering for a bush retreat.
Bobbaduck Valley is part of the once vast Birkenburn pastoral holding, which has been in Mr Gordon's family for more than 130 years. After selling two blocks five years ago, he is putting another six on the market, five 40-hectare lots, being the minimum size required for a home, and a 274-hectare block.
The land is coming on to the market at a time of prosperity for wool, sheep meat and beef farmers.
"A Bunsen burner has been lit under all three for the first time. A lot of smart money is being invested in agriculture, a lot from overseas," Mr Gordon said.
This long-term farmer has no children to whom to hand his land, and said he was selling down a few sections at a time, because he was not getting any younger.
"I will continue to live here and farm until I drop," he said.
The subdivision has been awaiting approvals with planning agencies, including the Sydney Catchment Authority, for about five years. It offers views across undulating country, thick stands of gum trees and surrounding national parks in the pale purple distance.
Mr Gordon said while power from the grid was accessible, more people were adopting solar technology in rural subdivisions.
Selling agent John Brady said few 40-hectare lots were available.
He expects these ones to sell for about $400,000 each.
Ray White Bungendore agent Doug Merriman said elsewhere in the district, families were dividing off pieces of unproductive land to put on the market for residential development.
"I think the attraction is not only space, but also the promise of lifestyle living in a village, living somewhere where the people know the names of your children," he said.
Although land values had continued to rise, they changed from quarter to quarter because of the dominance of Canberra buyers, who were subject to the uncertainty over public-sector jobs, Mr Merriman said.
"It is fair to say the [Palerang] council has an in-fill policy that most people in the property sector are aware of, and I think it is a responsible thing to do," he said. "But there is no denying these other subdivisions on the fringes of town will be substantial and there will be opportunities, as well as challenges."
Palerang mayor Pete Harrison said the shire's healthy growth would build sufficient critical mass to secure its financial future. Consequently, Palerang was not in favour of merging with Queanbeyan, although the state government's latest local government reforms were encouraging rural shires to merge.