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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #039

Editorial

We're very happy living on the road, but it's nice to have a piece of land to call one's own, and we're also happy to sit on said piece of land for a while.

Which is exactly what we are doing at present, we're not settling down, just resting, so don't think that we've deserted the nomadic lifestyle.

In fact we have a huge trip in the planning, and part of the reason for staying on the block is to prepare the Cruiser for that, but more about that some other time.

Meanwhile we're happy to veg out and smell the roses, after all we have just held jobs for six months, that takes a bit of getting over.

 

Mon 19 Dec 2005

We move out to block today, but first I'm taking the truck into Bundaberg Truck Align to check out the springs. We've developed a list to starboard which I'd like to get fixed.

I was blaming the front springs, but when we get the truck on level ground and have a good look we realise that it is in fact one of the rear spring packs that has sagged.

There's no way to get anything done this close to Christmas, so I book it in for the new year.

Our first night on the block. Boy it's good to be in the bush again, and to hear nothing but the insects and birds.


Sunset from the top of our hill

We spend quite some time sitting in the dark just watching the antics of the insects on the rear window, under the deck light.

Then we notice a flashing light, it's moving at about the same speed, and flashing at about the same frequency, as an aeroplane at 30,000 feet. Trouble is it's in the lounge room.

I get up to investigate and find a tiny insect with a luminous bum which it is turning on and off, like a glow worm except it looks more like a beetle. It's actually a firefly. We've never seen them before and it's fascinating to watch it. Occasionally we also see them in the bush outside.

Wed 21 Dec

Except for the occasional inoculation and whatever I haven't been to a doctor since I was asked to leave school (true genius is always misunderstood), over 30 years ago, and I'm happy to keep it that way really. However "they" are constantly saying on the TV that over 50s should be checked for diabetes, prostate, blood pressure etc, so the other day I let them suck a few millilitres of blood from my arm to be tested.

Today I get the results.

I'm happy to report that, with the single exception of a slightly high cholesterol level, everything is normal.

The doctor says I have to cut down on fat, "But I don't eat any" I reply. He doesn't seem that interested, and launches into the standard spiel...

"Cut the fat off meat"
"I do"
"Don't eat the skin on chicken"
"I don't"
"Stay away from fast food"
"Never touch the stuff"

Eventually he shoves an "Eat well" booklet into my hand, thus signaling the end of my audience, and tells me to make another appointment in three months.

Pig's arse! I won't be back. He obviously has no ideas, just knows how to bill the government for my visit and hand out brochures.

Thu 22 Dec

We've decided to paint the container green so it blends a little better with its surroundings. I originally planned to use a brush, but when you can buy an airless spray gun for about $40 why muck around doing things the old-fashioned way?

I have painted only a square metre or so of the container's side when the paint bowl falls off. It hits the ground and its contents explode upwards, all over me, including into my eyes.

Maybe I should have spent $50.

With tightly closed eyes I replace the bowl while Chris runs for some water and a towel. It's not long though before the worst of the stinging abates and I can gingerly open one eye.

I walk up to the truck and look in a mirror to see my face covered in green paint as if I had applied full camo makeup. I would not look out of place on an SAS mission.


Some bugs that I was able to get close to, must have been the green camouflaged face, they didn't see me

Fri 23 Dec

We've been parking at the top of the drive since we got here, but the best spot is near the container, it just needs a little work first. After removing the rocks and pruning some trees we move the truck to its new home.

Now we have a great view through the rear window. Chris is chuffed and actually sits on the deck, for the first time I think. It must be good to prize her from the recliner. We have a few drinks while the sun sets, yep, we could live here. We don't plan to, at least not for many years, but when/if the time comes to settle, we would be happy here.


Some interesting foliage.


A crown spider.

Sat 24 Dec

I ride into town to buy a newspaper, just before I reach the intersection with the highway I encounter a police breathalyzer. I blow into the tube, no problems, and he doesn't even worry about me not having my licence on me, or the fact that the bike is not sporting its registration sticker.

There's two roads leading to our block, one is short and bitumen, but very steep, the other is longer, dirt and not so steep.

We've taken to coming and going via the longer road. It's a very pleasant as it winds along the creek bed and over some low hills. There's a couple of houses, a horse, a donkey, and a derelict shed, the whole feeling is that of a quaint country lane, which I suppose is exactly what it is.

On my return from buying the paper I decide to say g'day to the fellow living in the shed. We've waved a few times and he seems pleasant enough.

Two hours, and a couple of beers, later Bob and I are still chatting. I'm just starting to think that Chris will be wondering about my whereabouts, when we hear the Cruiser approaching.

We stay a little longer, but my stomach is rumbling, it's after three, and I really have to eat some lunch.

With most of the day gone I decide to do a simple job, jerry rig one of the new solar panels to the Cruiser. We are running a fridge in the car constantly, and because we're not driving it much, the battery is going flat and the fridge is getting warm.

We recently purchased two 120-watt panels for this purpose, they are supposed to be mounted on the roof, but for the time being we'll just prop one up on the ground with a stick.

While reading the TV times Chris starts laughing. She has just read the description of "The Grinch", one of the movies airing tonight. As I still haven't been able to get all the green paint out of my beard, she sees a similarity between me and the movie's main character, "A green, hairy, Christmas-hating creature".

Sun 25 Dec

Bah humbug.

I'm not a big fan of Christmas, my family has never had the big Christmas dinners, with all the relatives dropping in, dozens of kids playing with their new toys, 1000 cards on the mantle, etc.

I was more likely to grab a sandwich on my way to the beach. But let it not be said that I am totally devoid of Christmas spirit, I've always liked the idea of receiving presents.

We spend the day clearing a small area next to the container. This area will be eventually have a roof and be used as a workshop. As to when we get around to doing the roof I'm not sure, but for the time being we stretch a tarp between some trees.

At around 4 Bob drives up, he's installing a pump into his bore, but at 18 metres long it's a bit of a handful for one person. Can we lend a hand? We are about to explore some of the nearby bush trails on the motorbike, so I say we'll be down soon.

Half an hour later we ride through his gate. The assembly that is to be lowered into the bore consists of a one-metre long brass tube (the actual pump) connected to 18 meters of PVC pipe. Down the centre of the pipe is a length of steel rod which will be used to activate the pump's piston.

After much ado we get the pump and the pipe into the bore. The steel rod stands proud of the pipe, normally this would be connected to a windmill, but Bob plans to build a simple lever, a la the old-fashioned town water pump.

For the moment however I am keen to see if it works.

I grab the steel rod and start pulling it up and pushing it down. With each cycle the pipe is primed with another couple of litres of water, and the load gets heavier. After a minute or so Bob joins in. I had placed myself on the side opposite to the outlet spout, so when Bob takes a position the crouch-height outlet spout is facing him.

A few more cycles and the water gushes from the spout, all over Bob. It doesn't matter though, it's 37 degrees here today, getting wet is not a problem.

I must say that this simple act of getting water from the ground is extremely satisfying. With a hole in the ground, and a piece of 18th-century technology, Bob is now completely independent of outsiders for his water supply.

In the evening we sit on the deck, there's a storm brewing but we ignore it for the moment. We've taken to eating dinner out here and watching some TV before it gets too cold, at about 27 degrees we normally move indoors.

This we do tonight, but the storm drives us indoors a bit earlier than usual.

Chris has been drinking Tawny Port of late, and tonight she's had quite a few, in fact she's quite...how should I put this...pissed, yep that's the word.

She goes to bed early but I stay up to watch some TV. Of course being Christmas night there's nothing but unmitigated crap on the box, so my attention is drawn to the sky.

The storm is still here, and the lightning is illuminating the entire landscape, it looks fantastic, I kill the TV, don a jumper, and move back out onto the deck.

For over an hour I sit watching the display. There are no spectacular claps of thunder or forks of jagged lightning, it's more subtle than that. The thunder is a constant rumble that surrounds and resonates right through me. The lightning has no obvious source, it just seems to come from everywhere, and illuminate everything. It also is constant, to the point that if there are no flashes for a second or two I wonder what's wrong.

Wed 28 Dec


A Little Red Frog sitting on one of our plastic chairs

Thu 29 Dec

At 7:30 we drive down to Bundaberg to buy some materials for the jobs at hand. We need steel, shelf brackets, timber, deep cycle batteries, jerry cans, 12-volt plugs and sockets, and a thousand other things. After a full day we have most of the items, however many shops are still closed, so we may have to come back next week.

We don't get home until about 5 o'clock, and after the hustle and bustle of the "city" it's very relaxing to sit on the deck and watch the sunset.

Fri 30 Dec

I spent most of the day adding two solar panels to the Cruiser. I actually started the job a couple of days ago but seem to have got sidetracked.

The panels are now mounted to the roof, tomorrow I'll do the wiring, or maybe put up some shelves in the container.

Graham is back. Who's Graham? If you've been paying attention you will know that Graham is a gecko that hitched a ride south with us a few weeks ago.

We haven't seen him for ages, and thought he may have perished, or walked back to Dimbulah. But tonight we see him hunting on the inside of the shutter.

I turn my reading light on to attract some bugs for him.

Sat 31 Dec

I've completed most of the wiring for the solar panels, we can now use the Cruiser-mounted panels to help charge the motorhome house batteries. Because the new panels are 120 watts each, and the existing ones are only 64 watts, with the addition of just two panels we get about 50% extra power in theory, in practice we seem to be getting almost double the power.

While sitting on the deck we notice a wasp drinking from Chris's mug. Every few minutes it returns, so, to allow Chris to also get a drink we fill a glass and place it on the floor.


Wasps getting water from a mug and a crystal glass.

We later find out it is in fact several wasps, and for days they drink from the glass. Presumably they are building a nest somewhere close by.


Unidentified plant

Sun 1 Jan

We got the extra solar panels working just in time, because today I'm putting up some shelves in the container.

What's the connection? I hear you ask. I don't want to breach the container side with screws or bolts, so I plan to weld the shelf brackets to the inside walls. Plus I have to cut some steel to make a mezzanine floor to store the larger items.

Welding and cutting metal uses a lot of power, and normally we could not do that much work without running the generator for ages or doing nothing for a couple of days to let the batteries recover.

NOTE: We only have a small generator (1000 watts), it is not powerful enough to run large tools. The inverter can supply a constant 3300 watts and surge to 8000. Thus I normally work off the inverter, then recharge the batteries with the generator.

With the new panels however we are getting about 30 amps (at 24v) into our batteries. After a full day of drawing large amounts of current from the truck's power system we still have fully charged batteries.

A couple of years ago these 120-watt panels cost over $1200, we just bought them for $975. The technology is both changing and getting cheaper.

And speaking of changing technology, when we hit the road four years ago there was no way to MIG weld directly from 12-volt batteries. Hence I have been carting my 240-volt welder all over Australia. About a year ago I saw an advertisement for a tiny MIG welder that connected to a battery. And today I've ordered one. If it works as claimed I'll be a very happy chappy.

Sat 7 Jan

Late in the afternoon it became obvious that we were in for some weather. We batten down the hatches and watch the show.


Amazing light just before the storm.


Lighting and our new TV aerial

Wed 11 Jan

Tomorrow the truck is booked into Bundaberg Truck Align to have the left-hand rear spring pack reset. The truck has to be at the workshop first thing in the morning so, rather than be up at the crack of dawn, we drive it down to Bundy this afternoon and camp on a grassy area about 100m from the workshop.


Procession caterpillars on the march.

Thu 12 Jan

While the springs are being reset we head into town to buy some more bits for the Cruiser.

By late afternoon the truck is ready, we pick it up and return to last night's camp site.

Sat 14 Jan

We go for a walk around the block, looking for insects.


Various insects found on the walk.

Sun 15 Jan

We go for another walk looking for insects.


A plant hopper, cocoon, and two praying mantises.


Unidentified berries.


A ridge backed grasshopper.


Shields bug and a lynx spider.


A huge stick insect.


A huge mushroom.


Another stick insect.


Native cotton seed pod.

Tue 17 Jan

We go for yet another walk looking for bugs. I'm enjoying myself, I hope it's not too boring for you.


A robber fly and a built-like-a-tank beetle.


Plant hopper.


Shield bug on a dead leaf.


Various flowers.

Wed 18 Jan

Chris is going away for a couple of weeks to visit friends, and she wants some photos of the block to show them. So we go for another walk, but this time I try to ignore the bugs and just photograph the scenery.


The truck parked at the top of the ridge.


The driveway.


One of the steep ravines.


Looking from the top of the hill.

Thu 19 Jan

For some time now Chris has been hankering to go and visit Tom and Nick, the two boys we looked after at the Tyrconnell mine. They're holidaying near Adelaide at present, so tomorrow she is flying out of Brisbane to stay with them for a while.

It's an early flight and we don't trust ourselves to wake up in time, so today we drive down to Sandgate, a suburb just north of the city and very close to the airport.

We find a park and camp for the night.

Fri 20 Jan

After seeing Chris off I head to Steve and Madeleine's, old friends of mine who moved from Canberra a couple of years ago. They are working today but if I get there before they leave I can get a key to the house.

I had planned to spend some time in one of the nearby parks, but the weather is terrible, so instead I drive over the Brisbane's largest camera store, Photo Continental.

Talk about a kid in a candy store, trouble is the kid has no money. Still I do get to play with some nice equipment and there are a few things here I can afford, like that nice Gitzo tripod for example.

Sat 21 Jan

Steve is an old photo crony of mine from Canberra, and Gary, another old photographer mate, is flying up today to stay here as well.

Unlike me, these guys can afford the latest camera gear, and it's great to catch up on recent photo goss about new lenses and bodies.

The three of us also know the owner of the Tweed Heads Fletchers Photographics shop (another Canberra expat), so we drive down to see him. While in the shop I spot a panoramic head, now there's something else I could possibly afford, and it would look so good on the new Gitzo tripod I haven't bought yet.

I'll be back.

Mon 23 Jan

I drive back to Bundaberg, it takes me all day to do the 350k trip, but I do stop off at my favourite duck pond at Gympie.


Up close to a swan.


The geese start fighting.


Then have a bath

I'm giving a talk at the local camera club tonight, and I have nothing else to do beforehand, so there was no hurry to get into town.

The meeting doesn't finish until after 10PM so I camp overnight in a park. It's a spot we've used before, out of the way and nice and quiet.

Tue 24 Jan

Nice and quiet on the days when the council is NOT slashing the grass that is.

I have an early breakfast then notice a gazillion ants at my feet. Closer inspection reveals that it's time for the queens and males to take flight and start new colonies.


Queen ants fight for the best take off positions on the top of anything higher than the surroundings

I plan to have morning tea with some of my Dad's friends (who I also know pretty well) and they usually meet after the computer club meeting. That's not until about 10, so I hang out at the rock pool killing time.


This seed pod really hurt when I stood on it with bare feet

Having spent a couple of hours chatting with my friends I finally head back to the block, stopping for a brief chat with Bob, one of our neighbours. He has had an immature butcher bird take up residence in his tree.


Immature butcher bird

Wed 25 Jan

I go on another bug hunt, with some success.


Golden orb spider.


Unidentified grubs.


Camel backed spiders share a web.


Dragon fly up close.


Insect eats an aphid.


How cute is this jumping spider?

Thu 26 Jan

While sitting in my recliner, working on the computer, I happen to look up and through the rear window, something I do quite regularly because the view is great. This time however the view is a little different.

Imagine my surprise to be staring straight at a snake, about to enter the lounge room through the half-open window.

I'm sure you will agree that one's first reaction, when confronted with a snake in one's lounge room, is to grab a camera. This of course is what I do.

I get a quick photo, but as I move in for a closer shot it retreats and disappears below the window.

I quickly move out onto the deck, this should be great, I have a captive subject. Oops, not quite, I forgot about the hole in the rear wall.

In the couple of seconds it takes me to get onto the deck the snake has found the hole and has started to disappear into it.

There's only about two feet of tail protruding when I arrive on the scene. What to do? I really don't want a snake living in the wall, from there it could get anywhere in the truck.

I decide what on an action plan with one foot of tail left. I grab the tail and pull.

There's a lot of resistance, but I'm stronger than my reptilian stowaway, and out it comes. As its head emerges from the hole I fling it overboard in one sweeping movement, so centrifugal force will keep it from striking back at me.

The snake flies through the air, lands on the ground, and scurries away unharmed.

Well, that was fun, but I only got a single, photo, and not a very good one at that.


Snake under glass

I think it was a harmless green tree snake.

I have a lot of work to do on the Cruiser, so spend the afternoon tinkering with the old Toyota.


Working on the Cruiser

Fri 27 Jan

It's raining so I can't really do any work, what a shame, still there's plenty to photograph.


Ants and plants hoppers.


Plant hoppers share a leaf.


Another cute jumping spider

Sat 28 Jan

Some of my new photography mates from Bundaberg are coming out to the block today. We'll chew the fat, take a few photos, it should be fun.


Caterpillars in a huddle.


Jumping spider.


Crane fly caught in a spider's web

Mon 30 Jan

Tomorrow I drive back to Brisbane to pick up Chris at the airport, meanwhile I thought I'd go for a wander and see what I can see.


Shield bug eating a wild cotton seed.


Courting grasshoppers.


I have no idea what this is, some sort of cross between a caterpillar and a fancy dessert I think

 

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