GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #073



This month is something of a milestone, twenty years ago in July I started writing this blog, yes I have had some long periods with no posts, and even when I do have the muse I don't write every day. But never the less the first entry was in July 1997 and now it's July 2017. Even with my failing cognizance that's twenty years, a bloody long time and almost 1/3rd of my life.

So I thought I'd take a small trip down memory lane, here's an excerpt from the first entry.

It all started around June '97. Chris and I are camping at Fraser Island and Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland. Several days of sitting around watching the kangaroos, shooing away the possums, bushwalking, a little photography and plenty of cider. Life could be a lot worse.

Fig 1. The troopie (75 series Landscruiser) at Carnarvon Gorge.

Chris says, "Why don't we retire"

That was the fateful comment that started us off on two decades (and counting) of alternate living. I was 43 at the time, Chris was a year older (she still is) and we had both had enough of running on the treadmill.

There followed a brief search for a vehicle to turn into a motorhome, and then three years of construction diaries for Wothahellizat Mk1

Then in the October edition of "Deals on Wheels" I saw it.

What a beauty. I can't believe my luck, it's in Marulan, only an hour or so from Canberra. Better still, it's owned by a fire brigade. Many of these old trucks have been hammered around farms etc. This one has spent much of it's life being pampered by fire brigade blokes who not only have time to keep the truck in good condition but also have the incentive. When you're fighting a fire you simply cannot afford to have an unreliable vehicle.

It's November now, will it still be available after being advertised for nearly a month? I ring the fire brigade and am told that the truck is still there but another person is interested. He's coming up from Wollongong this afternoon.

"I'll be there in an hour" I said and threw the phone to it's cradle as I raced out the door.

Seventy minutes later (I lied, there's no way to make Marulan in an hour) we pull up at the Marulan Country Fire Brigade shed to find that they have had a callout to an accident on the highway. We wait.

Eventually they return and the roller door opens to reveal the orangest thing I have ever seen.

... we say yes on the spot.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Did we do the right thing? Heck yeah.

I do occasionally look at the prices of real estate in the area we used to live and wonder what if we had kept our three houses and maybe even bought more? What if we had stayed at work earning the big bucks? What if we'd done all that and now had a million bucks in the bank? What if, what if?

But what if I'd worked another 20 years and dropped dead from a heart attack before retiring? It happens you know, it happens a lot.

Better the what ifs I'm asking myself now than being 85 and asking the big one..."What if I'd got a life?"


Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

Mon 19 Jun 2017

I've been working on a camper trailer for a neighbour, got to the stage of adding some windows and they have radiused corners.

I started doing the corners as I've always done, IE drill a 100 holes, break out the pieces and smooth over with a grinder.

 Cutting my old way, straight cuts with the grinder then muck around drilling holes.

But while finishing off with the grinder I had an epiphany, if I angle the grinder I can make a circular cut.

 The new way, just use the grinder.

How many years have I been doing this sort of work? And I only just figured this out?

After that's done I Sikaflex the window in. I use paper towel to clean up and the result looks like a rest area on the highway.

 What a mess, looks like toilet paper.

If you've ever spent much time in these rest areas you'll know what I mean.

Here's a video demonstrating my curved-cut technique.

Tue 27 Jun 2017

I've been cleaning out the C3 container with a view to getting things organized. I found four NIB (New In Box) external double power points I didn't know I had, I was about to buy some.

 A heap of junk on the ground, most will go back into the container but we need to purge as well.

This is only half the junk, the rest is under cover elsewhere.

I've nearly finished a set of shelves and after a cull much of this will go back, hopefully in a manner that will allow me to find stuff.

Thu 13 Jul 2017

More shelves. This time I've added some next to the lathe, in time they will be just for machining tools and stock etc, but for now I'm putting anything on them in an attempt to get things tidied up in the workshop.

 New shelves.

Wed 19 jul 2017

I have a room for reloading and it too is full of junk. The other day I moved one of the shelving units over the the C3 container and this freed up some space for another bench (left in this photo).

 The new workbench in the BCF room.

This bench will be for general-purpose use but mostly for cleaning and tinkering with guns.

I'm in the process of clearing out the other shelves as well and in time this room will be for Backpacks, Cameras and Firearms...or my take on the BCF acronym (for my non-Aussie readers BCF is a large outdoor goods chain here in Oz, they reckon it stands for Boating Camping and Fishing, but what do they know.

Another project I have on the go right now is the building of a new gun safe.

 The basic box for my new gun safe.

It's all 3mm steel which is not a requirement in Queensland at present but it may be one day so I may as well use thick steel now eh?

Sun 23 Jul 2017

And now for something completely different. My Ugg boots have been yawning since last winter and I've pretty much just ignored the problem. But today they caused me to trip on a step and cut half a toe off on the steel grating.

Time to break out the Speedy Stitcher.

 Using the Speedy Stitcher.

This is a great little tool that allows you to do really heavy-duty stitching of leather and other materials, in this case leather and half an inch of whatever rubber-like substance the boot's souls are made of.

Is it worth buying a $30 tool and spending an hour fixing some boots that I could probably replace for $20. Well actually yes I think it is, firstly it makes me just that little bit more independent, secondly the nearest Ugg boot shop is a two-hour round trip from here, and thirdly it's that throw-away attitude that's half the problem with the western world today.

Fixing my Ugg boots will not save the planet, but I still think that reducing your reliance on the system is a worthy goal to aspire to.

Sun 30 Jul 2017

I'm out hunting with some friends this weekend, the plan being to help a farmer eradicate some feral pigs and dogs.

 Our camp site.

Unfortunately, despite seeing a huge amount of sign we don't see the animals, well there was a brief sighting of the arse end of two pigs as they scooted into the bush.

No matter, a few bad days in the bush is better than a few good days in town.

Thu 3 Aug 2017

I'm finally getting onto building the roof for the workshop extension that will house my blacksmithing gear.

 The steel work for the new roof takes shape.

Thu 17 Aug 2017

Workshop extension roofing all done, plus I've used some scrap ply to infill a lot of the pallet wall so you can't see through it.

 Roof finished and the pallet wall has been mostly infilled.

I still have to do the shutters and a couple of large gates, but we're getting there. Meanwhile the garden is doing well.

 The Wallaby Ridge garden is thriving.

We are actually getting part of every night's dinner from it.

Fri 18 Aug 2017

We've been given a huge roast.

 Several kilos of beef.

I don't know when we'll ever have enough people around to justify cooking it, but we'll figure something out.

I've also added a wall to the workshop extension. It's clad with scrap flashing strips I got for free from a neighbour.

 The new workshop wall.

When he saw the result he said that would cost a fortune to have done on a new house, and we did it for free.

Slowly but surely the workshop is reaching lockup stage.

Sun 20 Aug 2017

I managed to score two guns off a friend for $50 total, this made me think about the size of the new gun safe...thinks, it's not big enough.

So I'm adding some "hungry boards".

 Hungry boards being added to the gun safe.

Fri 25 Aug 2017

Still working on the safe, it's all but finished now, well at least the basic secure box is. I still have to add the slide-out drawers, but i's all mounted inside and quite functional with the new padlock tabs.

 One of the padlock tabs.

I was going to make all sorts of clever hidden hinges and locking mechanisms, but in the end I couldn't be bothered and just settled for simple slotted tabs for padlocks.

As for the slot, I started using my old method, ie drill a lot of holes, then spend hours filing them out by hand. But there's been something of a paradigm shift here lately, caused by the arrival of a lathe with a milling attachment. So this time I milled the slot and just spent 5 minutes squaring it off with a file. Man I love having the right tools for a job.

Fri 1 Sep 2017

I got the bugger!

For months now we've had a large python hanging around, I call him Sir Percival, in general I don't mind having him around as pythons are useful animals and they have a right to live here as well. But, this one has eaten at least one of my possums (probably more) and that I will not tolerate.

So he has to go, trouble is I've only seen him a few times and it's always been in a location where it would be too hard to grab him.

That all changed today.

I went into the motorhome and bugger me if he's not stretched out on plain view along the floor. Despite this I am too slow and although I do grab him it's not until he has a good part of his body inside some paneling and once that happens you have no chance to extract them.

He did feel a little strange though, as though his skin was loose or something, maybe he's thinning down with lack of food over the winter.

Later I go back to the truck to have another look for him. I find a snake skin on the floor and it leads into a part of the paneling that I can easily remove. Hmmm, I wonder.

I remove the panel and sure enough there he is, all curled up in his new clothes, and not inclined to move it seems.

I hasten to find a sack and get Chris to work as my offsider to hold it open for me. We return to the truck and the snake is still in place.

Because he's all curled up I can't tell which end is which, and I don't want to grab the wrong end, so I poke him a few times until he is agitated enough to raise his head.

Got him, well at least one end of him.

He puts up a bit of a fight but not as much as I expected and very soon he's in the sack. Tomorrow I'll take him for a drive.

Sat 2 Sep 2017

Sir Percival gets released into the wild today.


Sorry about the crap audio and jerky vision, I spend more time fighting with my cheap equipment than I do with the snake. I may have to ditch this video lark until some distant point in the future when I can afford half-decent gear.

Tue 19 Sep 2017

The composting dunny has been a worry for some time now, it's full of soldier fly larvae and in general I think that's a good thing. But they have got out of hand now and are making a break for it out any crack they can find, leaving brown trails and dead grubs all over the floor.

They have also blocked up the wee pipe and the end result is a God-awful mess oozing out the loo and all over the floor.

So today I roll my sleeves up (literally) and get to fixing things, starting by trying to remove as much of the I can to make the dunny lighter and therefore easier to remove.

 The first of about 12 little buckets of joy.

I use the fire shovel to do this, unfortunately it has a short handle and it's a long dunny (refer to my previous comment about rolled up sleeves).

Several hours later I'm covered in you-know-what and have removed the loo.

 The eco loo gets transported to our washdown facility, IE anywhere far away from the house.

Now I get out the pressure washer and get started on cleaning it. The drum is still partly full and that needs emptying before I can clean it properly.

 I still need to finish emptying the drum.

All done, I'll leave it to dry out until tomorrow.

 The loo pieces are all shite and briney after a clean.

Meanwhile we need another facility for #2s, I know, I'll get that portable dunny seat we found years ago up in the Kimberley.

 The temporary outside loo.

Wed 20 Sep 2017

The dunny has been reinstalled, with the addition of a nice new grate under it. This will help ventilate the area but also, when we get a return of the soldier fly grub invasion, they will fall straight through the grill.

 The dunny on top of the new grate.

A long-time friend of mine recently sold his large-format camera, that got me thinking, maybe I should sell mine to finance a newer (and smaller and lighter) camera.

But after getting the gear out and blowing the cobwebs off...

 My old large-format camera and other gear.

...I just can't stomach the idea of selling it, that camera and I shared a lot of experiences. By and large I'm not worried by such things, an item is either useful or it's not, and if not and it's worth a few bob then why not sell it? But OTOH I suck at selling anything and would probably end up getting about $38 for the lot, and anyway Chris said "No way, that cost you a fortune".

I'll probably set it up in the living room as a reminder of some good times.


Date  ::   14 Jul 2017
Name  ::   Cees
Location  ::   Dronten
Comment  ::   Yes times fly
We doing our 5th tour of North of europe since we met Rob
We getting old
Still dreaming of round trip China and Australia
Meaby some day
Date  ::   16 Jul 2017
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   I always wanted to go overland to Europe, it'll never happen now. We will do more traveling in Oz though.
Date  ::   23 Aug 2017
Name  ::   Tony G.
Location  ::   Liverpool Nsw
Comment  ::   Greetings Rob. I hope Chris and yourself are doing well.
But what are you doing today? Its great to see/read you sharing again. You might think not much is happening for you atm to warrant a post or video, but I for one enjoy following all your projects big and small. You are a wealth of knowledge and experience and it seems I learn something new, whether a new skill, or approach, or perspective almost every time I check in on you (or trawl through past chronicles). Case in point, the angle grinding of the curved corners on your neighbours trailer. I always used the same aproach as you originally did, only problem is that I recently tried but could not visualize what holding the angle grinder the right way was. My results left alot to be desired (with a 4" grinder). A video of you in action on this job would have been most helpful. In the spirit of you welding up the hotplate vid. Another video I would like to see is one on your home brew process, procedures and experiences, especially addressing how you managed to do it all while on the road, pythons optional. At any rate thank you for sharing, past, present and future.
Tony. G.
Sydney Australia.
Date  ::   28 Aug 2017
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Tony,

Thanks for your comments. I confess I'm not convinced that my videos are all that watch-worthy, but thanks for your encouragement and because of that I did just make one showing the round grinder cut, I will post it sometime tonight both here and on my YT channel.

I suppose what we do is not exactly earth-shattering but OTOH it's different to the standard 9-5 grind and as such worth documenting I think, if for no other reason than it gives us a good record of what we have done.

As for a home brew vid, that's a possibility, I'll put that on the list.
Date  ::   29 Aug 2017
Name  ::   Tony G
Location  ::   Liverpool N.S.W.
Comment  ::   Hi Rob.
Thankyou for the prompt post of your 'Making a round cut with a grinder' Youtube video.
It was well presented, good production, and content wise spot on for showing me what a dill I am. About the only angle of attack I didn't use when trying this was the one that you used.
Even allowing for clean up, the time and frustration saved with your approach is just short of immeasurable for a backyarder like me.
Thankyou again for sharing your knowledge and experience. I look forward to your future content.
Tony G
Sydney, Australia.
Date  ::   04 Sep 2017
Name  ::   Jim
Location  ::   Arlington VA
Comment  ::   Hey Rob - hope you and Chris are well.

Good vid on the round cut with grinder - thanks. Good to see you posting again, too - I was a regular follower when you were on the road.

I'll have to look around the blog to see about the container house.
Date  ::   05 Sep 2017
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Thanks for saying g'day Jim, and thanks for still being here after my long dry spells
Date  ::   12 Oct 2017
Name  ::   Kevin
Location  ::   Canada
Comment  ::   Hi Rob! I do remember the finding of that "treasure" dunny seat in the Kimberley. So glad you found a use for it after all these years.
Enjoying the updates on the block. Thanks Mate.
Date  ::   18 Oct 2017
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Kevin,

Long time no see eh? How are things over in Canada?

Date  ::   26 Nov 2017
Name  ::   Cejay
Location  ::   Gulnare
Comment  ::   Hi Rob, I am sure I have emailed you in the past, I reckon you have to be my soul mate, look forward to catching up in person soon. If you would like to know more about us try here when you have a couple of work rain... have not updated for a while but like you I get sidetracked..
Date  ::   26 Nov 2017
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Cejay,

Man I thought I was bad with blog updates but you beat me hands down
(Note to self, time for another one).

I love the uses you found for the bus seats, a lot of your blog takes me back to the early days as well.

Date  ::   26 Nov 2017
Name  ::   Cejay
Location  ::   Gulnare
Comment  ::   Hi Rob
Thanks for reading, it has inspired me to start catching it up with so much to add it will take some time but I have started.

Date  ::   30 Dec 2017
Name  ::   Cees
Location  ::   Dronten Netherlands
Comment  ::   Hi Rob
My doughter bougjt a Unimog and want to build IT as a camper to travel the World
So i guess we gone ask you some advice from you in the futures at least if you want to help me with this one
Hope you have a good and health end of the year you Both
Greetings from Ada and Cees

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