GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #083



You just never know when things could go wrong. One day you're happily working on your homesteading, the next you're killed in a gas explosion.

No that hasn't happened, but I did have a near miss, see below.

While having coffee with a neighbour the other day it became clear to me that his get up and go has got up and gone. He just seems to have no interest in getting things done, saying that the place he lives in, despite being an unorganised mess, will do. He needs a workbench but why bother because it will just get covered in crap like all the other flat surfaces. Etcetera etcetera.

I commented that there must come a time in everyone's life where you realise that all you've done is all you're ever gonna do.

Despite being 66 years old I'm not even close to being at that point in life, he's just one year older but I suspect he is.

I think he is turning into an "old" man, no matter how many years I get under my belt I hope I never do.


Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

Wed 9 Jul 2020

My website has been around for over 22 years, since early 1998 in fact.

It's been through several makeovers in that time and I'm doing one now as it happens. During the course of this makeover work I was reminded that back in 2004 the site was archived by the Australian National Gallery as a "Publication of national significance".

The Gallery takes snapshots of "significant" Australian publications and preserves them on servers that are compatible with the hardware and software contemporary with the publication, so said publication can be viewed for all eternity by the public.

They must have set a low bar to include but hey, I'll take what I can get.

I had a look around the 16-year-old version of my site, bit of a trip down memory lane that's for sure. But I don't think that version would work very well on a smart phone, times have changed, and 16 calendar years is about 300 internet-technology years.

Here's the landing page on the 16th of September 2004.

As fun as this is it highlights an important fact of our current digital life. How are you going to view all those family photos and videos in 50 years time when nobody has even heard of Youtube or Twitter?

It's one reason I no longer embed my videos into my online diary, they don't print if you decide to make a hard copy for posterity.

Further along this train of thought are my photos. When I'm sitting in a nursing home with nothing but my memories and an incontinence diaper for company how am I going to view these photos? Did they ever get converted to a format that is usable in 2050?

Do you know what format WILL be usable in 30 years time?

Hardcopy that's what. Has been for 100s of years already and will be for 100s more.

And with the ease of making a book these days I suggest that we should all do so for our significant images, diaries, etc. Not 99% of the dross we post on social media, but at least the important images.

All your pithy Farcebook posts and memes will be lost in the years to come, heck it's hard enough to find something from a week ago. Whereas I have 20 years of diaries online that I can easily search and read whenever I like. Still reliant on today's technology though, they need to be printed.

Mon 14 Jul 2020

I'm now officialy retired and all of a sudden I don't seem to have much energy to do stuff. For example today I didn't even leave the house. Well to be fair the weather is terrible, but that doesn't usually worry me, I'm just being slack.

What I have done though is spend several hours working on the design of the camper van, and I think it's coming along nicely.

Fri 17 Jul 2020

Today I spent half the day on the computer, and yesterday I spent nearly all my time on it.

Doing what? You might ask.

Well we're both feeling the wanderlust a little of late so we might just be going to (finally) build a camper on the Landcruiser. This has been the idea right from the day we bought it all those years ago but a combination of travel burnout and just being happy faffing around here on the block meant that it never got a start.

But most things are done here now and if I don't think of something I'll actually run out of projects and that will never do.

So for the last couple of days (and nights) I've been designing the camper, and the design has morphed from a simple false floor under the existing fibreglass canopy to a hard-sided pop top.

Here's a drawing of the current design.

Will it ever get built? Who knows?

Some time ago, maybe even 3-4 years, I bought some expanded metal sheet with a view to making a shutter, the idea being to provide some shade over the house's one and only window but also to make the window more secure.

So for the past few days I've been working on the shutter. It's not that big a job but I've had a day or two off as well.


Tue 21 Jul 2020

Remember that stand I made for the mag drill ages ago. All it needed was a couple of nuts welded on to clamp down the vice and a coat of paint to finish it off. That happened today.


Wed 22 Jul 2020

I've finally made the new door for the hole that leads into the laundry/outside shower area. I've used the other half of the expanded-metal sheet I used for the window shutter.


All in all I have about 6 square inches of waste from the sheet. You can't do much better than that.

Thu 23 Jul 2020

There's an area outside the workshop doors that I call the "forecourt". Like the rest of the workshop it used to be quite a steep slope but over time I've used rocks and dirt from other projects to firstly make the workshop floor level and then the forecourt.

The level part has slowly been growing but it was never formalised, IE it just kind of morphed into the old slope. So I've started adding a retaining wall (well a single-height plank) to delimit the forecourt from the natural ground.


As I'll be getting more dirt from this work I can use that to extend the level area even further. But first I fill as much as possible with rocks I scavenge from the immediate surrounds.


Mon 27 Jul 2020

Three planks almost in and Mr T (the site foreman) comes to inspect the work.


Despite all the digging he does around here he's been absolutely of no use on this project.

Thu 30 Jul 2020

Four planks in.


That's the extent of the planks and I still need to do more fill as the area is not completely level yet, but that's all I can do for now until I get more rocks and dirt. At present the downhill side is about 500mm above the natural level and its "wall" consists of just large rocks stacked at an reasonable angle of repose. I would like to formalise that as well by erecting a proper retaining wall to kind of square everything off and satisfy my need for order.

I tell myself not to bother, form should follow function, and there's no advantage to building the wall.

But I just know I'll do it one day.

Fri 31 Jul 2020

Once again we are out of firewood, this JIT (Just In Time) system really sucks and it's one of the major problems we have as a society I think. But no matter, I have to get some today or we'll be cold tonight.

Fortunately I dropped a large dead tree the other day so for now all I have to do is buck some of it into rounds for splitting.

The tree forked into co-dominant trunks a few meters up and it landed on one of the trunks. So I dice up the upper most of the trunks until just before the fork. I need to stop the tree from rolling before I cut much more and the easiest way to do that is to jam a branch into the fork and if I cut much more off I won't have a fork to use.



With that in place I can make a cut on the bottom trunk.


At this point, if I didn't have that stick jammed there the rest of the tree would have taken off down the hill.


It wouldn't have gone far to be fair but it's real steep here and I still have to carry this lot back up the hill so the less distance I carry the better.

NOTE: Later when I cut off the round at the near end of the log it did roll down into the gully, it went for miles.

Mon 3 Aug 2020

I want to build a "wash bay" on the outside of the workshop, somewhere to wash hands, paint brushes, etc. but also maybe to have an eye wash facility. To do this I need to get water across the workshop floor so I cut a trench and run a 1" poly line.


Then I do a temporary termination that I will connect later when I make a frame for the sink.


For ages now I've been using these stainless steel clips for poly pipe. They are a bit hard to snap on (I use farrier's hoof trimmer/nippers) but they are much neater than hose clamps and I have never had one leak yet.


Tue 4 Aug 2020

A year or so back I bought a secondhand horizontal band saw for cutting steel. It worked OK but the band was stuffed and even though I did buy a new band ages ago I never got around to fitting it and so far I haven't used the saw.

The reason I did use it today is that I have a project that requires cutting a 40x40mm solid axle and while I can do that with a grinder this is really what a band saw lives for.

The axle is very heavy so I have to bodge up a support for it.


If this all works out I'll make the arrangement more permanent.

Then I start the cut. In theory these saws can run unattended and stop when the cut is finished but for now I'll just hang around I think, until I'm comfortable that it all works.


Wow what a great cut. Smooth as a baby's bottom and hardly even warm. I think this will become my goto cutting tool from now on.

Anyway the reason I want to cut the axle is to square off the end so I can weld a plate onto it to make a poor man's Whacker Packer, IE something to compact dirt.


Normally I use the knob end of a crow bar and this works well in a confined hole, such as packing the dirt around a post. But I find that in a more open situation the knob is too small and it just creates craters and explodes half the dirt outwards. With a larger plate I reasoned that it will do a better compaction job and that does indeed seem to be the case.


Tue 11 Aug 2020

You come home after a day shopping in town, stop to deal with the gate and when you open the car door the switch for the interior light connects and creates a small spark. This is normal and it never matters at all, but on this day it does because ten minutes ago something bumped the valve on the full gas bottle in the back of the vehicle and LPG has been leaking for all that time.

So today that little spark does matter. There's a massive explosion and that's the end of your homesteading venture.

No this hasn't happened to me, but it nearly did. The first part of the above did occur, fortunately the "back of the vehicle" is separate from the cab with my style of vehicle (a ute or pickup) and secondly I never have the interior light switch on.

What did happen though is that when I alight the vehicle to open the gate I smell gas immediately and then see it spewing out of the canopy.


The escaping gas has frozen the top of the adjacent oxy bottle and also the blanket I used to cushion the LPG bottle.


And yes I did have the bung in, it probably reduced the flow but certainly didn't stop it. Are they supposed to seal the opening entirely? I don't know but I would have thought so or there's not much point in having them is there?

Thu 13 Aug 2020

A simple fabrication job this afternoon, making a prototype bench clamp, AKA a hold down.

These are inserted into dog holes in a bench and, assuming you have enough dog holes, allow the clamping of a work piece anywhere on the bench.

So why not just clamp the piece around the edge of the bench with a normal clamp?

Because when fabricating you often need to apply clamps in all sorts of places and many of said places will be in the middle of the bench, well out of reach of any clamp on the edge.

You can buy these of course, they cost at least $20 for something you still have to modify yourself, but more likely $30 or even $100 for a name brand that's designed for this application and ready to use.

Or you can make them for almost nothing from scrap you have lying around and I could really do with four but eight or ten would be better, you do the math.

I chose the second option.

Not that it's free if you count the tools required, for example

1. Mag drill and annular cutters to make the 16mm holes in the thick steel bench.
2. Oxy/LPG set to bend the 16mm round bar.
3. Lathe to turn the 16mm round bar down just a tad because it doesn't fit into the 16mm hole.
4. Welder to glue it all together.
5. Assorted grinders, files etc etc.

But of course I don't have all that gear just to make these clamps.

It all seems to work so the next job is to drill the 30+ dog holes in the bench (this one was just a test) and make more clamps.


This is why you need such a tool. It's quite common to have a need to clamp part of the job at a position that's well out of reach of a clamp at table's edge so you wind up bodging up something like this.





Date  ::   03 Oct 2020
Name  ::   Geoff
Location  ::   Melbourne
Comment  ::   Hi Rob,

17 years ago we had a coffee in Wot 1 while you were waiting to board the Tassy ferry. I won't expect you to remember, see Blog 21, 20 Oct 2003.

Every now and again I think "I wonder what Rob Gray is up to these days", relocate your website and catch up. Often its a few months I have to catch up, sometimes its been a couple of years. It must have been quite a while this time because this time I've gone back and read a lot of earlier stuff too to refresh my memory of the who, what, when, where and why of life in the Gray household. Fascinating as it always has been. Glad to see you and Chris are still on the right side of the grass and living life on your own terms.

I'm curious as to how you get away with your off grid but permanent arrangements there at Wallaby Ridge. I would have thought the council or some other authority would have requisitioned a ton of bricks with which to come down on you long before now.

Anyway, keep smiling. Stuck here in Virus Central, aka Melbourne, I'm right up to date with the blog and an now working my way through your Youtube stuff. I'll get to the end before long so keep them coming.

All the best,

Date  ::   04 Oct 2020
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Yeah I remember. Man that seems like a lifetime ago, well I guess it was really.

So in my diary I say you were going to head off yourself in 5 years. Did that ever happen?

Thankfully the council here don't much care about how people live on bush blocks. I would bet that a 3rd of people here are living in sheds and shacks and caravans and whatever.

You won't see the truck on the road again any time soon, it's been mothballed for a few years now although I have spent the last 3 weeks or so fixing it up. That's got me a bit nostalgic about living on the road in it, but that chapter of our life has closed I think.
Date  ::   04 Oct 2020
Name  ::   Geoff
Location  ::   Melbourne
Comment  ::   No, hitting the road like you never happened. Life took another turn but I have no complaints.

We've done a lot of travelling since retirement ten years ago though, both here and overseas. This included a ritual caravan lap of the country in 2014. I had done this before in 1983 and things had certainly changed in the 30 years in between.

Date  ::   02 Nov 2020
Name  ::   Sheridan
Location  ::   Wandiligong
Comment  ::   I'm just commenting so I can say that I have work archived in the Australian National Gallery. If they continue to archive it!!! Great to catch up on what you both are up to.
Date  ::   03 Nov 2020
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Sheridan,

You gotta wonder how long they can keep the old tech going to support the archived stuff eh? What do yo have archived?

We're just keeping on keeping on as usual
Date  ::   07 Nov 2020
Name  ::   Sheridan
Location  ::   Wandiligong
Comment  ::   Hi Rob, good point I only archive photos and emails. The website is a cracker and I went back through the build diaries this year. Great way to waste some time and good to see you are running some updates. Hope there will be a 3rd build diary. I reckon we will see one in the next two years.

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