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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #051

Editorial

I don't know what to do with myself now, so I'm doing nothing, well almost nothing. We are titivating the block by removing some weeds (mostly lantana but also some rats tail grass) and doing a few small jobs around the place, but mostly our day goes something like this...

  • Sleep in 'till about 8 or 9
  • Have a coffee then quickly eat some breakfast or it will be too late and we'll have to have morning tea instead
  • Chris reads while I tinker with the computer or wander around with my camera looking for bugs
  • Lunch on the deck
  • Chris reads while I tinker with the computer or wander around with my camera looking for bugs
  • Afternoon tea on the deck
  • At around 4 when it's getting cooler I put a beer in the freezer and we head out on lantana patrol
  • Returning at 5:30 or thereabouts we wash in a tub of recently collected rainwater
  • My beer is now nice and cold and we settle on the deck to watch the world (and the wallabies) go by
  • Dinner
  • Watch some TV
  • Chris goes to bed and I tinker with the computer until about 1AM
  • Naturally I'm exhausted after such a strenuous day and I sleep well

So what's next? It's hard to say, every second day we look at the maps and come up with a plan, so far no two plans have been the same, but in general we're keen to get back up north.

Meanwhile we're happy just doin' what we're doin'.

 

Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

Wed 11 Feb 2009

What a couple of slackoes we are, we've been on the block for about two weeks now and have done almost nothing. Good isn't it?

I did bite the bullet and buy that new laptop, and what a weapon it is to. After all my fears about moving to a new operating system I have to report that I am very happy with Vista.

So far just about everything has run perfectly. I was worried that I have too many old programs to make the change but after having a critical look at what I really used — as opposed to what was loaded on the system — I realised that there weren't that many programs to migrate after all.

My VB-based applications that I use to organise my photos and this web site worked after a little tweaking, and they're twice as fast. The only real problem is the program I use to analyse changes in the site and synchronize what I have on the laptop with the version on the server. This program uses FTP to do the synchronising but for some reason it cannot get a connection. So I'll have to make some changes to the way I work there.

For that reason the updates may be a bit sparse for a while until I write some new uploading code.

I've also been backing up all my photo CDs/DVDs and found that just about all of them had errors. Fortunately I have backups of my backups, but I still lost a few original RAW files. I now have all my photos on an external 1TB drive (that's 1024 gigabytes) and it's nearly full. That's a lot of DVDs. And now I suppose I should create new DVD backups in case the external drive dies.

Welcome to the world of digital photography.

Sun 15 Feb 2009

Mostly we have been watching the birds and wandering around our land. 25 acres isn't a huge area but our land is steep and densely timbered so we've been finding all sorts of nooks and crannies to explore.

One such cranny is a small ravine, it has extremely steep sides which partly explains why we haven't been down there before. At the bottom there's a couple of tiny waterfalls and pools, it's a lovely spot but there's some lantana around which clogs it up a bit.

In most of Australia lantana is considered a noxious weed that must be removed. The local authorities don't seem that worried about it but I don't want it taking over as it is wont to do, so while I'm down in the ravine I pull some of the plants out by the roots.

Mon 16 Feb 2009

I think I've started something now because we're in "get rid of the lantana" mode. Lantana is actually quite a nice-looking bush with lovely flowers, but it can entirely take over an area and then be a bugger to get rid of. It also happens to like the very ravines and gullies that I want to be able to wander freely in, so the stuff has to go.

It will be a while before we leave here I think (mostly because the north of the state is flooded and that's where we want to go) so we'll spend an hour or so each day removing lantana.

I've been cutting the larger plants off near the ground which does the trick for now but I'm sure it will re grow. We really should poison the stumps immediately after cutting but we don't have the chemicals. So I'm fairly certain that much of what we're doing will have to be done again when we return in a couple of years time, but at least we will have set the weed back some. If we do nothing now it may be totally out of control by the time we get back here.

Fortunately it's been raining a lot lately and the ground is quite soft, this means that I can pull the smaller plants out by the roots so at least they won't re grow.

Sun 22 Feb 2009

For a while now I've been saying that we want to head north, up through Queensland and into Northern Territory. But if we are to do so we really should go soon as it's normal to arrive in the Territory in about May for the start of the dry season, and we travel so slow that we'd like 2-3 months to get there.

Trouble is the entire state of Queensland seems to be under water, so we decide to get on the web and see what roads are closed. Here's the map from the RACQ website.

Note that the symbols mean that there are problems in the area.

 

They have divided Queensland into sixteen areas and as I'm sure you've noticed every one of them have closed roads and other issues relating to the flooding.

So I guess we'll just sit here for a while.

Fri 20 Feb 2009

I've finally managed to implement a new FTP upload procedure so I should be able to post updates easier from now on.

I've kept my VB program as it does most of the hard work, I just couldn't get it to FTP under Vista so now it simply creates a file of FTP commands. This file is then read by a PHP program that can perform the upload actions.

It's not a fantastic system but it seems to be working.

You may be asking "Why bother when all web site authoring programs will sync the local and remote sites anyway?".

That's true, but firstly they do it by scanning the remote site and comparing file date stamps with the corresponding local file. With something like 16,000 files on this site that would take a lifetime and use bandwidth I'm paying for.

Secondly, I've used three authoring packages over the years (Dreamweaver, GoLive, and Frontpage) and in all cases the sync results were inaccurate, they flagged files to upload that hadn't changed, and missed files that had.

So, as usual I have to write my own software. What on earth most professional developers do I cannot imagine as this would be a nightmare.

Actually I know what some professional developers do because I've asked a couple. They say that they just write down the names of the files they edit then manually upload them.

I guess I'm too lazy for that, but it would have to be very error prone.




Some macro shots taken over the last few days.

Mon 23 Feb 2009

We drive into Bundaberg today. Chris is on a mission to buy a new brushcutter, the long grass has finally got to her. You see we only planned to stay here a week or two then head off, so we figured we would just put up with the unkempt look of the place.

But we've been here nearly a month now and might stay for some time yet, so Chris wants to get back into some tidying up and that means we need a new brushcutter.

We return to our favourite Stihl shop and select the FS90, it's a slightly larger version of the one we used to have and it's also a four stroke so it should have more power.

While here I get a new chainsaw, there are a lot of fallen trees around and I'd like to be able to clear them as well.

Now brushcutters and chainsaws are not the normal tools of trade for travelling motorhomers as I'm sure you can appreciate. They are more the tools required by people not travelling and sitting on 25 acres.

I'm sure you can see the trend here. We still may go north as we have an iron in that fire, but if that doesn't work out I think we'll stay here for a few months.

Sat 28 Feb 2009

While driving back from town after buying our weekly newspaper there is an almighty noise from the rear of the Cruiser and instantly it starts careering all over the place.

For several hundred metres we fishtail down the road, on two occasions I think we might roll as 4x4s are top heavy and very prone to doing that. However I manage to keep things under control by turning into the sideways slides as they start and not over reacting. I even manage to park on the side of the road, the opposite side that is.

We are very lucky though because for several seconds we were all over the road, if a logging truck had been coming the other way it may have been a very different story. Maybe not, I used all the road because it was free, possibly I may have kept control and stayed on my side, but I wouldn't put money on that.

We get out to check the damage, the rear tyre is totally shredded. I've pretty much stripped the car of tools because we're about to sell it but at least I still have a jack and a spare, but no blocks of wood and the axle is so close to the ground that I can't get my jack under the spring properly, yet without blocks the jack won't reach the axle.

I place the jack in a quite unsafe location along the spring pack, jack up as far as I can, then put a spare starter motor under the spring U-bolt with a view to lowering onto that then going up in stages. This is why you need some wooden blocks or preferably a second jack.

We're wandering around looking for some logs when a neighbour emerges from his drive. He has a jack so we very smartly have the spare fitted.

Tue 3 Mar 2009

We just love walking around our land but it's very steep in places so we spend more time looking at our feet than the scenery, so for some time now I've had in mind to build a series of walking tracks.

I reckon that I can get 2-3 kilometres of track if I'm clever with the route and this will make for a very pleasant walk — or indeed a run — as a good way to keep fit. I used to run along a track beside the Murrumbidgee river every day after work and do miss it a bit. I was never interested in running around town on pavements, too boring, but I do get into running on bush tracks where you have jump over obstacles and generally concentrate on not twisting an ankle.

So for a couple of days we've been cutting a track in the gully below the truck's parking spot. It's coming along well and the recently acquired chainsaw is helping with the logs, not only can I clear them from the new path but the off cuts can be used to bridge small washouts.

It's while constructing such a bridge that I hear Chris scream. My first thought is that she's been bitten by a snake as we've seen plenty around. In fact the other day we helped a neighbour try to evict a brown snake from his shed (Pete lives in the shed and is scared to sleep there now he knows he has a lodger).

Anyway getting back to Chris, I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that she hasn't been bitten by a snake. The bad news is that she has broken her arm.

She slipped on the slope while clearing some grass, came down on her arm and felt something break.

I help her back to the truck then into the car and we drive down to Gin Gin.

While we didn't choose to buy land here specifically because it was close to a small town (15k to Gin Gin) and fairly close to a large town (65k to Bundaberg) that was certainly considered a plus point to this particular area. In the last year or so the Gin Gin hospital has been expanded and it's at times like this you really want medical facilities within reach. So I guess we're going to have the opportunity to check out the hospital's new features, I hope they now have an x-ray machine.

So to cut a longish story short, after a couple of hours we emerge from the hospital. Chris has been x-rayed and has a single break near the right wrist. They have put a half cast on her arm and in a week when the swelling subsides we have to go into the Bundaberg base hospital's fracture unit for an appraisal and full cast.

The full cast will have to be on for about six weeks which is a real drag as it pretty much precludes her from important tasks like cooking, washing, and brushcutting.

So my question is, who the hell is going to do those chores?

Sat 7 Mar 2009

Hands up all those who said it's Rob who's going to be doing all the chores. Well done, go to the top of the class.

The other day, while at the hospital, we were given a disc with the x-rays which we are supposed to take into the fracture unit at Bundaberg. I asked if I could view the images but was told that they are in a "special" format.

So today I decide to see just what this special format is. As it happens the format is so special that Windows recognizes it immediately and boots a viewer. Yep, that's a pretty special format alright.

So, just to show that Chris isn't faking and that this isn't a cunning plan to get me to do more around the house, here's the x-ray.


The overall x-ray of Chris's wrist, and what a dainty wrist it is too.


And here's a closeup, the fracture is circled.

While preparing dinner I'm slicing some silverbeet when I also slice the end off my left thumb. Ouch.

We patch it up with a band aid—an exercise in itself with me only having the use of my right hand and Chris her left—then continue with the food preparation.

I have to hold my left arm in the air to keep the blood away from my hand and the food, and Chris is holding her right arm up because any other position hurts.

What a carry on, like an episode of Laurel and Hardy, with one of us holding, say, the pan steady while the other stirs the contents. Still we have quite a few laughs.

Sun 8 Mar 2009

I honestly don't know how people do this domestic crap every day. I remember a few years ago when we were working at the Old Tyrconnell gold mine, we were cleaning cabins and after about three days I'd had a gut full. If I do a job I expect it to stay done, but with this cleaning lark you clean one day and come right back the next day and do it all over again. I find this very frustrating, I just don't have the cleaning gene.

Let's take this afternoon for example. I have to wash the dishes which takes forever because they seem to have piled up beyond belief. Then under Chris's tuition I prepare some food for tonight's meal, a process that involves squishing all sorts of yucky stuff between my fingers which is bad enough, but with every ingredient the pile of dirty plates and containers get higher.

And now I have to wash the dishes again.

Then we eat and guess what, there's another pile of dishes. I swear I don't know where they all come from. I can go bushwalking for days, even weeks, with a spoon, a cup, and a bowl. That's it. With three items I can do all my cooking, eating, and drinking.

Now I can hear you saying that Chris does this every day and that's true. But she actually enjoys it. Me, I'd rather chew my arm off, but then I'd have no usable hands.

Fri 13 Mar 2009

We did another 30-odd metres of walking track this morning, a good hour or so's hard labour which hopefully is reducing my waistline a tad.

Later we're sitting on the deck when we notice birds cavorting in the trees. There are a dozen Noisy Friarbirds, one of which is being chased around in circles by a Spangled Drongo. Meanwhile two Magpies are foraging along the newly cut track, and a couple of Crows are following them wondering why the pickings are slim (here's a hint fellas, go in front of the Magpies). As if this isn't enough entertainment a flock of Rainbow Lorakeets descends on a tree just two metres from the truck. They fight over who knows what then fly to another tree where they are joined by some of the Friarbirds

Then two bright red and green King Parrots zoom past, loop around the truck and head back from whence they came.

Hovering just inches from the ground are hundreds of yellow butterflies, while at the other extreme two huge Wedge-tailed eagles circle high above us on the thermals.

For over an hour we watch the antics of the wildlife with a backdrop of hills receding into the light misty rain.

Just the other day we saw an echidna and before that our resident goanna, then this morning eight pretty-faced wallabies wandered past and preceded in single file down our new walking track and a family of Choughs (large birds, pron. "chuffs") walk past the truck hunting in the grass.

So what's all this leading to? Weeeeeell...we might just stick around for a while.

Thu 19 Mar 2009

We drive into Bundaberg today.

We need a cart of some kind to carry tools and material around the block, so after looking at a couple of different types we settle on a cute little four-wheel cart with drop sides.


How cute is this, our new garden cart

Of course the main feature of this cart is that it only requires one hand to operate, so Chris can help with the clearing work :-)

But that's not the only thing we've bought that's small and cute and has four wheels.

After a lifetime of counseling against buying new cars because of the depreciation and locked-in service schedules, guess what we've bought.

Yep, a new car.

A Suzuki Jimny JX to be precise. The JX is the base model with no fancy gadgets that will break, like electric windows, engine immobiliser, central locking etc. It is also devoid of any power steering which is something I would have liked but I guess we'll cope.

So what's with the car? We had decided to live with just the motorbike after we sell the Cruiser, after all we did just fine without a car for six years on the road. And a car can be a pain in the arse with extra maintenance, rego, insurance etc.

I think Chris's accident the other day has had something to do with the decision. Because we had the Cruiser it was easy for me to drive her down to the hospital. Even then it was quite painful for her bouncing around in the car, imagine if she had been on the back of a trail bike. Also Chris doesn't ride, so what if it had been me with a broken arm? It was only 15 kilometres of bitumen into town this time, but what if it had been 150 kilometres of rough dirt track?

So we've bought the thing and I'm happy with the purchase. No photos yet because it has to be delivered from who knows where and it's not ready, but here's one I prepared earlier.


A Suzuki Jimny exactly the same as ours except it's different, being blue instead of white and an older model.

We didn't go straight to a new Suzi though. We've been trawling the web for a couple of weeks looking for a near new one, and there are a few around but not in this area which makes it hard to check them out. Then we spot a 10-year old unit in a Bundaberg dealer's yard, but it has a whine in the transmission and tends to wander at about 90kph.

The salesman is all over us though, pointing out that they have reduced the car by over $5000. Pigs arse, the so-called reduction is from some hugely inflated price that has no bearing on reality, it's just a number he's written on a notepad. We say we want to get some lunch and think about it so he drops the old salesman's classic, "There's someone coming up from Hervey Bay to look at the car at 1:30. It's the right vehicle and the right price, if you can leave a deposit it's yours". Well maybe, but that's the wrong technique. "That's good" says Chris, "I believe in fate, if we are meant to have it then we are meant to have it. We'll come back at 2". We hate being pressured and anyway I'm starving.

The reason salesmen won't let you leave is that it's usual to change your mind once you sit down and have a think about things. Which is exactly what happens now.

Because we plan to keep any vehicle we get for many years we don't want to start with something that possibly has problems to begin with.

We've been talking to another salesman from the same dealership but another yard, he has a new Jimny to look at so we have a feed and drive up to see it. We take it for a drive and the difference is amazing. So we ask for their best price.

"$17,990..." he says. Hmm, that's not too bad I think, "...plus on road costs". Well how much can that be?

There's much tapping of calculator keys. He writes a figure on his pad and turns it around for us to read.

$21,128

Whoa, no way. So what's our top price he asks, Chris replies that the original figure of about $18,000 sounds right. He says he'll see what he can do and leaves the office to consult his boss.

The boss comes in, "Good news" he says, to which I think they've come down to $18,000. He's holding the notebook close to his chest. He puts it on the table and turns it around with much flourish. On the page, in large letters, double underlined and boxed with biro is the good news.

$19,995

We say no. So what's the best you can do we are asked yet again. $18,000 we reply. He asks if we have any flexibility on the $18,000. "Yes we can go down to $15,000" Chris replies.

For two hours this continues. Chris does the bartering as I never haggle over price. Something is either worth the amount to me and I buy it, or it's not and I walk out, which I go to do several times, but each time I stand up they say they'll ring the owner of the dealership and see what he can do. And each time the answer is still way above $18,000 and we go to leave again.

Eventually we settle on $18,250 after Chris offers to quit smoking to pay for the extra $250.

Now we are bombarded with the second round of salesmanship—extras. A woman comes in and proceeds to tell us how we can have fabric protection, tinted windows, some protective coating on the paint so it will be easier to wash (like I've ever washed a car in my life), this thing, that thing, and something else.

How much is all this?

She writes a an astronomical figure on a notepad. That's what it would "normally" cost. But she immediately crosses the figure out, writes another slightly less astronomical figure and turns the pad around for us to read. Wow, it's gone down from a falsely inflated $X to a falsely inflated $X minus about 3%.

What's with these people and their notepads and ridiculous false prices? I tell her that there's no way in hell we're spending that much on useless stuff and she leaves.

The another woman comes in. She's not trying to sell us anything, she just wants our money. So we provide certain details and a 10% deposit and we're done. The car should be here in a week or two.

Fri 20 Mar 2009

So now we've bought a car maybe I should try to justify the expense. We got on just fine for years with just the motorbike, but then it has been useful having the Cruiser (which has to go by the way, it's too old, too large, and too expensive to run). Here are a few rationales...

Emergencies As mentioned before, if one of us breaks an arm or worse we need a vehicle that both of us can drive, possibly for a long distance. Chris can't drive either the truck or bike.

Breakdowns If say for example, we have another gearbox failure and we're in the middle of nowhere it's feasible for me to drop the box out and transport it to the nearest town. Or if we have three flat tyres (as a friend did on the way to Birdsville once) I can go and get another, even if I have to hire a trailer to bring it back. Or if I have to spend a week driving to the nearest city for a part I can with a car.

Bushwalking I plan to get back into some serious bushwalking and this will often mean leaving from trail heads that are difficult or impossible to get to with the truck and Chris can't ferry me on the bike. I could of course just ride myself, but often I'm not happy leaving a vehicle unattended for days, and also sometimes a walk finishes at a different location.

Photography It's a given that the best landscape photos are usually taken in the worst weather and/or around sunrise/sunset. I don't mind walking in the rain with camera gear and I don't mind driving, but a motorbike is not really on. Also, in the pre-dawn chill walking and driving are OK, but riding is not, especially if I have no predetermined subject. Often I just like to drive around and see what happens. In good weather the bike is actually better for this and can get more places, but in bad weather I know that I just won't go.

Independence With no car Chris can't go anywhere without me (as if she'd want to) unless she walks, but more importantly if she wants to go anywhere I have to go as well. Mostly I don't mind of course but I'd rather crawl across broken glass than enter a supermarket and Chris hates me being there anyway because she feels pressured to get the shopping done quickly. With a car maybe she can go by herself :-)

Most of the above scenarios are possible on a bike but they are either too dangerous, too inconvenient, or just too damn cold.

I know from experience that if it's -2 outside and I'm faced with the choice of riding 10k to get a good photo or staying in my nice warm bed then the bed will win.

So there. Convinced? Well I am.

So how are we going to get the car around the country? A-framing is the obvious choice I suppose, but then we don't drive far at any one time so it's feasible for Chris to just drive the Suzi, we did that with the Cruiser and it worked fine.

Driving separately has some advantages, the biggest of which is the car can act as an early warning system. Some of the development roads up north are very narrow and we found it was good for Chris to drive ahead by 2-3k and warn me of oncoming road trains. It's much better to have a few minutes advanced knowledge that one of these huge trucks with four trailers is coming than a few seconds.

Also, towards the end of the day Chris used to scout for a camping spot and warn me so I could slow down in time and not shoot past.

Naturally if we drive separately there's extra fuel and wear on the car. Also without co-pilot I have no way of getting a drink or checking that the fridge door hasn't opened.

A-framing solves the fuel and co-pilot problems and some of the wear issue. If I implement an A-frame of course we can disconnect when required and have the best of both worlds.

However there's no obvious place to build a tow hitch on the truck and I've had enough of that type of work for the moment, so we'll see how it goes.

Tue 24 Mar 2009

Ok, here's a joke, "How do you know when there's going to be a cock up?" Answer, "When you're dealing with just about anybody in the commercial world". You're right, it's not that funny, but it does seem to be typical.

They can't get the right car. It seems that the only white JX Jimny in Australia has an '08 compliance plate. Well it's the same car, just a different plate, but it makes a difference when you come to sell it.

But they have a solution, we can have the '08 car for the same price as the '09 one we ordered.

Eh?

Or we can wait two months for one to come from Japan.

Or we can have an '09 car that's black. I don't think so, black is the worst possible colour to keep clean and cool. Would we take any other colour? "Yes" I say, "any light colour as long as it's the same price". Other colours normally cost more and the salesman doesn't seem to think they'll come at that, but he'll see what's available.

I hang up and go back to what I'm doing. Before long the phone rings again, good, hopefully they've found a car.

"Is that Rob?", I answer in the affirmative because, after all that is my name, "Wayne here from Darwin, we'd like to offer you the job".

What job! Ooooh that's right.

Let me go back a few weeks.

In February Chris was reading the Weekend Australian and noticed a position for an Instrument Technician. Now that in itself didn't seem all that interesting but some of the criteria did. For example...

  • Bush skills, ability and aptitude to work in remote locations in challenging physical environments for several weeks at a time, strong swimmer, able to obtain a NT drivers license and firearms license.
  • Swift water boat handling, quad bike and 4WD skills.
  • Crocodile wrestling experience looked upon favourably.

Alright I made up the bit about crocodiles, but this was starting to sound interesting, so I rang the contact. Next thing I know I'm updating my resume and writing an application. A couple of weeks go by when I get a phone call, I'm on the short list and there will be an interview via conference call on the following Monday.

Sounds good, now I'm starting to get a bit excited.

I go through the interview and feel I've done OK but could have answered many questions a lot better, isn't it always the case? Anyway I'm told that they should decide in the same week or maybe early the following week.

The week comes and goes with no call, oh well it's not looking good.

The next week comes and goes with no call, that's probably that then.

Yet another week comes and goes with no call, I reason that there's no way the decision could take this long if I'd been selected and I mentally write off the whole affair.

On Tuesday morning of the fourth week after the interview (this morning) I decide to chalk the Darwin job down to experience and take a different path in life, a path that still sees me being paid but that is a lot more flexible.

THEN I get the bloody call.

Too late, the die is cast, but it's nice to know that the old dog (that's me in case you are wondering) is still employable in a real job.

Wed 25 Mar 2009

Yay they've found the right car. Now the cynic in me would think that it was available all the time but they have an '08 model they need to off load on someone. Still that's just me.

Hopefully it will be delivered next week or early the week after, meanwhile we're doing a bit more on the walking track.


Some shots of the new track. Note that I've highlighted the track in the two horizontal photos to make it easier to see.

I think you can see how we plan to get 2-3 kilometres of track on just 25 acres, with all those switchbacks I can double or triple the length of the track in the steep areas, which is most of the block.

Thu 26 Mar 2009

This is certainly a time of new toys. With a view to getting back into landscape photography with a vengeance I've spent the last few months looking around for a digital equivalent to my old Tachihara 5x4" field camera.

Large-format cameras like this allow the film and lens to be moved independently of each other. This is a very useful feature for those photographing landscapes and architecture as it allows you to keep verticals vertical (not leaning backwards as happens with most cameras) and obtain that impossibly sharp focus you see in those great landscape calendars.

The other thing I love about these cameras is that, until recently anyway, they were immune to the technology race. The basic design hasn't changed in over 150 years and it works just as well now as the day it was invented. What has changed is the recording media, few people use film any more and that's the problem.

Unfortunately there is just nothing that works the same in the digital world or that is even remotely affordable by my standards. I still have the Tachihara and love it to death but it's a film camera that costs a lot to feed, around $20 per colour photo. It is possible to get digital backs but they are not really suitable for moving subjects — eg trees in the wind — and cost a fortune.

Then on the 18th of February this year Canon announced two new T&S lenses. The T&S stands for tilt and shift, which means that the lens can be moved relative to the body in much the same way as a field camera. It's nowhere near as versatile but for most work it's more than enough. There are 17mm and 24mm versions of which the 24 sounds about right to me.

I've been thinking about switching from Canon to either Nikon or Olympus but I've had pro Canon gear for over 30 years now and am very reluctant to change. Anyway it would cost me too much and these new lenses have certainly knocked the idea on the head, no other manufacturer has anything as good.

The lens isn't available yet but I will need a "landscape" camera to put it on when it is. My current camera, a 1D Mk2 N, is super fast and good quality but tuned for wildlife work. It's twin brother, the 1Ds has super quality with twice as many pixels and is therefore usually considered more a landscape camera.

It's also twice the price, the current 1Ds model is the Mk3 but at about $11,000 I won't be getting one of those any time soon. So I've been looking for a good second hand Mk2. I tried eBay and all the online stores and did find a few, but they're all overseas and I'm very reluctant to send money to someone in the hope that I get something in return.

For some reason I didn't even think of ringing the local (ie Australian) camera stores until the other day. So when I do guess what, I find two cameras.

One is in Melbourne and being sold for $4400 but it sounds like it has had a lot of work as there are some wear marks around the shutter release button. In the old days this was called "brassing" because the paint had worn through to reveal the brass body underneath. These days I guess it's called "polycarbonating", but either way, when the paint has worn off due to the constant rubbing of a finger then the camera has done a LOT of work.

The other one is at Teds in Brisbane. At $3700 and only six months old it sounds much better. But I need to know how many shutter actuations it's performed. The shop can't tell me but I know how to find out so I ask them to send me a photo taken with the camera. This will also allow me to see if the sensor is clean, after the recent mould issue with my current camera I'm a bit wary of these things.

They email me a photo, I run a program recently downloaded from the web and it tells me that the camera has done 28,506 clicks. As these shutters are rated for 200,000 that's pretty low mileage and they assure me that the body is in good nick so I buy it.

First though the photo revealed a large blob on the sensor, so they send the camera to Canon to be cleaned, then forward it to me.

And today it arrives, and what a weapon it is too.

I also get a phone call from the Melbourne store, they've figured out how many shots their camera has taken, over 200,000 and they still want $700 more than the one I bought.

I think I done good.

And the moral of this story, if possible don't buy new digital cameras, they depreciate too fast.

Remember that 12 months ago last year's models were the ducks guts, the best thing ever. They are still just as good, it's just that most people want the latest. The new versions may be better, but if the old ones are good enough what does it matter? I just saved about $7000 by waiting a couple of years. It's different with lenses, good glass is forever.

Of course the same logic applies to cars, but we won't talk about that.

Sat 27 Mar 2009

And speaking of doing good.

Our neighbour (Bob) asks if I could help him set up his new satellite TV as he's having trouble getting it to work, so I go down to help. Before long I spot the problem, he's mounted the LNB incorrectly. We remount it then spend some time tuning things and he's off and running.

Bob used to live in his shed but he was busted by the council and has spent the last couple of years building a house. While living in the shed he used one of those new-fangled eco composting toilets, but with the new house the toilet is surplus to his requirements and a year ago I was considering offering him some money for it.

How much? Well I usually work on about 50% of the new price for second hand items, although given what this item is likely to be full of maybe a little less would be in order. I knew Bob paid about $2000 and so was prepared to spend around $1000, but we were working on the truck at the time and anyway I figured as time goes by I'd get it for less.

So today I ask if he wants to get rid of it.

"Aw yeah"

And what does he want for it?

"Fifty bucks?"

Sold.

And for that he'll clean and deliver it as well.


Our new eco dunny. Hours of fun for the whole family.

Talk about a throne, the thing is enormous but it's just lacking that certain something. I know, a pair of golden rampant lions and maybe some red cushions. Note there's a foot stool included because without one your feet won't reach the ground. I'm not sure where we'll install it, whatever we do it can't be permanent because we'll be leaving soon.

So that's pretty good news, but the even gooder news is that these dunnies now cost $2500 new.

Thu 21 Apr 2009

We decide to tot up the number of wildlife species we've seen lately while sitting on the deck, and we come up with a pretty fair list. This is a list of the those we can remember...
  • Australian raven
  • Black cockatoo
  • Black-faced cuckoo shrike
  • Black-faced woodswallow
  • Brown thornbill
  • Brush cuckoo
  • Double-barred finch
  • Emu
  • Fairy martin
  • Fan-tailed cuckoo
  • Figbird
  • Forest kingfisher
  • Galahs
  • Golden whistler
  • Grey-backed butcher bird
  • Grey shrike-thrush
  • Grey fantail
  • King parrot
  • Kookaburra (laughing kingfisher)
  • Little friarbird
  • Little woodswallow
  • Magpie
  • Magpie lark
  • Masked lapwing
  • Masked woodswallow
  • Noisy friarbird
  • Olive-backed oriole
  • Pale yellow robin
  • Pacific baza (type of hawk)
  • Pale-headed rosella
  • Peaceful dove
  • Pheasant coucal
  • Pied butcher bird
  • Pied currawong
  • Rainbow lorikeet
  • Red-backed fairy wren
  • Red-browed finch
  • Restless flycatcher
  • Rufus whistler
  • Satin flycatcher
  • Scarlet honey eater
  • Scaly-breasted lorikeet
  • Scrub turkey
  • Spangled drongo
  • Striated pardelote
  • Tawny frogmouth owl
  • Tree martin
  • Varied sittella
  • Wedge-tailed eagle
  • Weebill
  • Willie wagtail
  • White-bellied cuckoo shrike
  • White-throated honeyeater
  • White-throated treecreeper
  • White-winged chough
  • Unidentified hawk or kite
  • Unidentified grouse
  • Unidenditied owl.
  • Still some more we've seen but haven't identified

That's at least 58 species of birds, but there's a lot of other wildlife as well, for example...

  • Pretty-faced wallabies
  • Swamp wallabies
  • Black wallaby
  • Grey kangaroo
  • Echidna (spiny ant eater)
  • Goanna (huge monitor lizard)
  • Bearded dragons
  • Bandicoots (cute little marsupials)
  • Rufus bettong

And more bugs than you can poke a macro lens at, is it any wonder we like sitting here?

Fri 3 Apr 2009

There has been some concern out there in the world that we are getting just a little too comfortable here on our land and may actually settle down.

It's true that there are times when I think I could just sit here forever and after two years of work and drama building the new Wothahellizat we just wanted to sit tight and smell the roses, which is what we've been doing now for about two months.

But there's hardly a day goes past that we don't talk about where we're going and when, and we have pretty much decided on that. Our current plan is to slowly head south in August with a view to being in Kosciuszko in the spring followed by summer in Tasmania.

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile we have to do as little as possible. As you know we've made a few purchases lately, those purchasing decisions have been based on getting a certain amount of cash from my superannuation, however the money was transferred yesterday and the amount was somewhat less than expected.

Hopefully it's a cock up by my superannuation company (who cannot be identified at this point, so I'll just call them MLC) that will be rectified, but knowing our luck it will be due to a fee that was described in paragraph 23b(ii) on the reverse of a form I filled in twenty years ago. Something like...

23b(ii) The superannuant (hereinafter referred to as "Muggins") agrees that should he or she wish to withdraw a sum or sums of money from their hard-earned superannuation savings said superannuant agrees to any fee or fees that may or may not apply and that may or may not be levied against Muggins by the holder of said hard-earned savings (hereinafter "the Arseholes") and that said fee or levy shall be either the sum of $1 or any amount envisaged by the Arseholes multiplied by the last three digits of the Arsehole's phone number, whichever is the larger, Muggins further agrees that for any amount of said savings to be released the conditions itemised in paragraph 21 subsections (i) and (ii) must be fulfilled, failing which paragraph 45 clause (iv) will be invoked in which the Arseholes may multiply any fee or levy as determined in paragraph 23b(ii) by the last two digits of any phone number chosen at random from a phone book of the Arsehole's choice.

Furthermore, it should be noted that olore suscipit, at in feugait odio at zzril blandit. Lobortis lorem, feugiat erat feugait ut vel nonummy luptatum accumsan velit ipsum in accumsan, nisl ullamcorper sit amet at, wisi duis ad. Et, ut duis minim tation eum esse dolor ea ut elit elit wisi et eum nostrud vulputate illum nulla exerci nisl in.

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Nulla te ullamcorper erat tincidunt minim wisi dolore lobortis blandit esse ullamcorper duis magna vel odio dolore ipsum. Facilisis at dolore et eros aliquip ex delenit illum, luptatum, ex feugiat, in nostrud eu amet augue accumsan feugiat qui iusto. Facilisi duis vel feugiat augue duis, vero adipiscing suscipit, at in feugait odio at zzril blandit, eum lorem, feugiat erat feugait.

Vel velit dignissim ea velit suscipit eu lobortis, diam, aliquip iriure et veniam, nulla lobortis magna et et. Duis, euismod eros adipiscing sed dolor autem, odio duis te, commodo. Et accumsan vulputate te laoreet molestie, iriure ut commodo duis dolore vel nulla nostrud tation, blandit enim dolore. Qui tation hendrerit et eu in esse laoreet exerci consectetuer delenit sit vero wisi dolore praesent. Luptatum vero facilisis facilisis sed nulla dolor, hendrerit autem ea quis aliquip delenit te dignissim enim qui delenit nibh luptatum autem vel ut.

23b(iii) It should also be noted that most of the previous clause, specifically an amount less than 100% but greater than 99%, is total bullshit and further that some 90% of said clause is fake Latin generated by one of the many fake Latin generating web sites that can be found by Googleing "fake latin".

The upshot of this is that we have about $1000 to last us three months, which is not a problem but there won't be any new toys purchased in that time, we'll just have to occupy ourselves with free activities, like weeding and clearing.


Burning some of the grass and wood we've cleared with uncut grass in the background. In some areas the grass is taller than me.


Many of the larger logs are chainsawed into lengths for our firewood pile.

Mon 6 Apr 2009

The Jimny will be ready for delivery tomorrow so I've been stripping the Cruiser of anything that could conceivably be useful in the future.

As the Cruiser is unregisterable these days, due mostly to some welding repairs I made on the chassis, we won't be trading it in but have found a fellow who buys old Cruisers and rebuilds them. He offered to buy the car several months ago and fortunately he still wants it, mostly I think because it has power steering, something that is very rare on these old 4x4s.

If we keep the Cruiser in our name we can reregister it for ever, but it cannot be registered in a new name because it would have to undergo a road worthy inspection and the welded chassis won't pass. Modifying or repairing a vehicle's chassis is very much frowned upon by the authorities unless you're a qualified chassis repair guy, which of course I'm not.


The Cruiser is stripped ready to hand over.

Note the bag of Lucerne chaff in the back of the Cruiser, that's for our new $50 eco-loo and it's huge, I don't know how we'll transport such things with the Jimny, probably when we settle down we'll buy a trailer.

Tue 7 Apr 2009

Off to town first thing after confirming that the Jimny is indeed ready to collect.

Surprisingly there are no stuff ups and within 10 minutes of arriving at the dealer the car is ours. We park in a vacant lot next door, transfer some stuff from the Cruiser, then ring Robert (the guy buying it) to come and collect.

When he arrives I follow him to his house in the Cruiser then he drops me back to where Chris is waiting in the Jimny.

That's it then, the end of an era. The Cruiser has been a great vehicle and I'm sorry to see it go. It had a few problems early on, but since then it's taken us to some of Australia's most rugged and remote places and never failed to the point that we couldn't proceed. Not bad for a 25-year old car, one wonders if the Jimny will still be as capable in 25 years.

Anyway the Cruiser is now history, it's Jimny time.


The new Jimny.

Wed 8 Apr 2009

More tyre problems, this time our new garden trolley has a leaking tube. The trolley is quite low, luckily we have one of those low-profile 10-tonne jacks that will fit under its axle.

Mon 13 Apr 2009

The weather is a bit ordinary today, but that is a good thing in many ways. Normally the birds disappear at about 8 in the morning because it's getting too hot, but on overcast days like today they stay out to play. This keeps us entertained for hours and we have also added a few species to the list I posted the other day. (we have now sighted 52+ bird species)


From the deck looking out into the rain.


Ooh what a lovely car, how did that get in the shot?

Later in the afternoon we try to go for a walk around the block but the rain increases, it's really pissisting it down so we beat a retreat to the truck and once again sit on the deck. The birds have gone, I guess it's too much for them as well, but the good news is that our tanks are now full again. We've been living here for two months and we still have full water tanks, the rainwater collection was certainly a good idea.

Tue 14 Apr 2009

Another dull day, weather wise that is, but in other ways this day is something of a milestone. You see "our" pretty-faced wallabies seem to be finally accepting us. Whereas they used to run a mile on sight of their co-habiting humans, this morning several of them just hang out in front of the truck.

For six hours Chris watches them (somewhat less time for me as I'm a sleep-in kind of guy). Even one of the large males lay down and appears to nod off, normally they are very alert and don't let their guard down at all.

So hopefully they are finally realising that it's safe to be around us. When wild animals do this I always find it a huge privilege.


Here's the man of the house having a groom...


...before lying down for a nap.


While his girlfriends chat and eat the new green grass.


Now where did I put that?

Just thought I'd have some fun with one of the wallaby shots.

Wed 15 Apr 2009

Chris goes back into the hospital today to have her cast removed. Her arm is still very sore and I can't help but wonder if thing's are OK, I've known people with broken limbs before and after a while they suffer no pain at all, just the inconvenience of the cast.

After much head scratching and consulting with others the doctor says she may have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, a name that's actually longer than the broken arm, so we like to call it Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome.

He gives her a referral for the physio upstairs saying that she needs a splint followed by a course of physio. After some searching through the rabbit warren that is the Bundaberg Base Hospital we find the Physio section, but it's the wrong one, we need the Occupational Therapy (or OT, see I'm learning the jargon) people, and they're on the next floor up.

More wandering through corridors brings us to Occupational Therep...sorry OT but they can't do anything until next week.

All in all a pretty frustrating day.

Fri 17 Apr 2009

We've done some research on this Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome thing and it seems that it can be a real pain (literally) and last for months or even years.

This could very much hobble our plans as Chris can't drive, which makes the acquisition of a new car something of an issue.

She's determined that this will only be a temporary setback though and messages of sympathy will be gratefully received. To help I've prepared a short pro forma document...

Hi Rob,

Sorry to hear of your troubles and our best wishes are with you in this time of need. I can only hope that you find the strength to overcome this adversity and the fortitude to persevere through these hard times as you are forced to wash the dishes on a daily basis.

Regards
[your name here]

BTW how's Chris's arm?

Just cut and paste it into your email program, include a $5 note, and send it to .

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PO Box 450, Gin Gin, QLD, Australia.
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