Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Highs and lows of tyre purchasing ...

It's a sad fact that I am shrinking as I age. I've lost several centimetres - and now Elmer is set to gain some extra height (on top of his 2 inch lift).   Soon I'll need a step ladder to get in!

We had a lot of trouble with tyres last time we were up at Yowah, so wanted to ensure we are well set-up before our next visit (in early 2014).  Nick has been researching tyres and prices for a number of weeks, comparing brands and deals for new and used tyres - trying to get the best possible value for our dollars.  We wanted six tyres in total, so as to have a matching set and two spares for Elmer.  (The two purchased at Cunnamulla will be put on the trailer, and best one remaining will be the trailer spare). 

Depending on size and brand, a new set of six would cost between $1,240.00 and $2,300.00.  Given our aim of maximising holiday funds for our trip next year, buying second-hand was a better option, though the desired size was difficult to source - particularly when trying to find six that matched. 

Nick did fantastic work though.  We won an eBay auction yesterday and collected our purchase last night. The tyres were only used three to four months and all have 90-95% tread remaining.  The seller had paid $359.00 for each one.  We paid $999.00 for six!  We can have them fitted to Elmer (and the trailer wheels) for $20.00 a tyre and will pay $45.00 for a wheel alignment also.  Even so, we have saved around $1,000 on the new price.  Gotta be happy with that!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Elmer's wish-list ...

As Christmas approaches, Hamby Home(in)stead has been a hive of activity.  I've been sewing and crafting, shopping from the storage container as much as possible. 

Nick has been playing mechanic, preparing Elmer Fudd for our time away next year.

I asked Nick to write about his work.  He did.  In point form.

Some work was planned - and some was not.  Nick started to replace the shock absorber bushes, to prepare for other repairs. The bottom of one shock was so worn that it broke. Both shock absorbers were therefore replaced.  While the shock absorbers were out, Nick was able to bounce Elmer along the grass quite spectacularly! 

Elmer has had a diff oil leak for some time.

Prior to relocation our then local mechanic quoted the repair at $1,600.00.

Nick did a lot of online research and decided to do the work himself, after buying appropriate tools.

This is what he did.

(In point form)!

"I took the front wheels off.  Took the brake callipers off.  Undid the wheel bearings and took the hubs off.  Took the top and bottom knuckle bearings out.  Replaced the drive shaft seals that sit in the diff housing.  Put the whole lot back together with new bearings and seals.  Works great now.  Cost about $600 including new tools to get the job done.  Saved $1000".

Gotta be happy with those savings, particularly when there is more work to be done - and other improvements on the wishlist!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Rolling out (the awning) ...

In early October we took advantage of a 4WD Supa Centre sale and purchased an awning for Elmer Fudd. (It was a pleasant drive to Lilydale and we enjoyed a picnic at Maroondah dam afterward).

Our bargain purchase has been stored since, waiting for Nick to ponder the best method of attaching it to Elmer's roof-rack.  Yesterday was the day of doing - and the Fudd Truck now has a fully functioning awning.  Of course, we needed to test it out right away, so had a quick fruit break picnic to celebrate Elmer's new accessory!

Monday, 18 November 2013

A box of trix!

It's no secret that we like picnics. We have a healthy collection of picnic gear to cover most al fresco dining events.

Even so we are sometimes caught out - and pick up provisions for an impromptu picnic while on the road. Occasionally, we buy disposable items - which is a pain.

Quite a while back I started to keep a small selection of plastic cutlery, straws and cups in each glove-box.  (As an aside, prior to relocation someone stole one set of plastic cutlery from our unlocked car)!

I decided recently to include plates in addition to the cups and cutlery, so created an "emergency picnic kit" for each vehicle.  The red "Trix" case was bought from an op-shop for $3.00.  It just holds the items in the photo - four small plates, some plastic cups and an assortment of plastic cutlery.  There is also a sharp knife housed in a former toothbrush container.  Most importantly, there is a tablecloth.  As much as I like dining outdoors, I struggle with putting my picnic upon grubby, graffiti-ed tables.  A tablecloth fixes that!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Kyneton Mineral Spring

When Erin was in primary school, it was a special treat to order lunch from the canteen. Her drink of choice was an Apple & Raspberry Kyneton Springs Mineral Water.

Given that history, we called into the Kyneton Mineral Spring when out and about sight-seeing with Kerry.  

Of course, we should have paid more attention to the bracketed Boggy Creek naming!

It's fair to say the water from the actual spring tastes absolutely nothing like the bottled variety - and we do wonder what magic processing occurs in the factory!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Ten Plus Nine = Two?!

Yep, that's right - nothing wrong with our addition! 

You might recall a few weeks ago we purchased an Oztrail Tourer 9?  It was an eBay find and we were very chuffed with our bargain-hunting. 

Nick's been on the hunt since for an Oztrail Ten Plus - at the best possible price.  He spotted one last week (again on eBay) and we were the excited auction winners on Wednesday night.   Although the seller very kindly offered to meet us in Melbourne for the changeover, we were keen to explore a bit further from home so drove down to Gippsland today to finalise the sale.  It was a lovely day out, driving through some beautiful countryside - and chatting about camping/4WDing at the handover.

Once home again, Nick and Vaughan set up the brand new tent.  Lucky for us, it had never been taken out of its box because the seller preferred to sleep in his swag!  The roof frame was a bit of a fiddle but will remain in place as we have decided to use the square-fold method of storing the tent. 

Erin has always slept on a stretcher but our tent upgrades have prompted us to rethink our sleeping arrangements also.  Nick and I bought a new/never-used stretcher for Vaughan a week or so ago.  It was a bargain $25 (whereas the retail price is closer to $80).  We've since tried out a double stretcher but decided two singles placed side by side would work just as well.  I was shopping at Aldi on Wednesday and they had some on sale for just under $40 each, so I brought two home.  Hopefully they prove just as reliable as our other Aldi purchases.

As you can see in the pic above, the four stretchers fit into the Ten Plus fairly easily - and there will be plenty of room for our gear on longer stays, when Erin sleeps in her smaller tent.  (One of our local camping shops currently has a sale on self-inflating camping mats, so we are planning to layby some before the promotion ends - to increase our sleeping comfort).

Today's tent was purchased for a bargain $356 (around $100 less than the best new price we could find online).  Effectively we purchased it and the Tourer 9 for less than the cost of buying the Ten Plus from a retail outlet.  We're very happy campers indeed!

Monday, 28 October 2013


I'm not sure where I first read about the Cob-Bra, a canvas skirt windshield for the Cobb Cooker. 

They seemed a great idea, so I bought two last week. As the business is local-ish, I picked up the Cob-Bras, so met Lynn briefly (and was envious of her cutting table)!

Infront Camping Gear make a huge range of canvas products - and we may well purchase other items in time.  I don't fancy a shower-hat style thermal cover for the Cobbs but there are plenty of other temptations. The product list includes miscellaneous camping items, roof-rack covers and canvas bags to suit just about everything. Something for everyone, for sure!

At this stage I've used a "bra" around the outside of one cooker but I might try to fit it inside instead to maintain the look of the stainless steel mesh.  Aesthetics are important, after all!

Light my fire(s)!

I've been trying some new methods of lighting the Cobb Cookers. 

The instructions say to use three firelighters in the fire chamber and place the fire basket on top of them, before adding the heat beads.  The older booklet actually says:-

"Relax.  Do some breathing exercises.  It takes 20 to 25 minutes for the fuel to be ready for cooking."  OK.  I haven't been relaxing.  Or doing breathing exercises.  Instead, I've been looking for ways to hasten the lighting process!

There was a suggestion on a camping/caravanning forum to light the beads over a gas hotplate - and do away with using heat beads.  I did try that.  One basket worked well and the other didn't but praps I was (again) too impatient!

I googled further and found some instructions from the manufacturer, specifically for lighting heat beads in a Cobb Cooker.  As there was a tin of the right size awaiting recycling, I cut the end off and put it into service as a "mini chimney starter".  It worked well and I've adopted that lighting method since.  Of course the tin no longer looks as bright and shiny as in the pics above!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Following Burke and Wills ...

Ever since our Melbourne arrival, we've been meaning to stop and look at the Burke and Wills memorial in Royal Park. We surpassed that aim today.  I packed "provisions" and we set off on an "expedition" to follow the first steps of the explorers' journey.

In preparation for our adventuring we watched two DVDs last night.  Les Hiddins, the Bush Tucker Man, presented an episode about the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition. He tells a good story and although we had seen it before, we all enjoyed the revision.  In 2010, a 4WD tour organiser led a tour to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the expedition's departure.  They followed the tracks of the original expedition as closely as they could - and we watched some of that too. 

Today's itinerary was based on the information held within "Following Burke & Wills Across Victoria" and the geocaches listed by Geocaching Australia in conjunction with the State Library of Victoria.

We started at the Melbourne General Cemetery to view the graves of the explorers.  There is a huge memorial to Burke, Wills and Gray.  The sole survivor of the expedition, King, died about ten years after his return to Melbourne and has a much smaller grave elsewhere in the cemetery.

From there we visited the Royal Park memorial, the starting point of the expedition.  Due to a late and disorganised start, they only managed to travel to Moonee Ponds on their first night - which was our lunch stop. 

Isn't the internet a wonderful thing?!  There's just so much information available.  I loved the fact that not only had the lists of provisions been transcribed but that I could view the original scanned documents, on the Burke & Wills Web online digital archive. 

Based on the list we took some beef jerky, dried apple, dates, currants, raisins, water crackers and lime juice with us today.  We had corned beef sandwiches for lunch - and yes, the beef jerky and lime juice were sampled, with very mixed reactions!

We travelled as far as Bolinda this afternoon, before calling quits and heading home.  It was a fun day and prompted lots of discussion - so I expect we'll undertake further expeditioning when time allows. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

An axe to grind ...

As much as we were enjoying the Lancefield Show (on the right day!), we left in the early afternoon to ensure we would be on time for a tour of the Mount William Archaeological Area, a short drive out of town. 

We now know that the site is only open to the public once a year, so are even more pleased we made the effort to go.  We arrived at least 20 minutes prior to the advertised tour departure time, which was just as well because very soon after our arrival, the tour started early!  

We hastily packed away our interrupted lunch and wandered up the hill to listen to a short history of the site.  As we stood in the sunshine, a wedge-tailed eagle flew overhead - which was very auspicious, representing a welcome by Bunjil the Creator Spirit of the area.

Wurundjeri elder Annette Xiberras also made us feel very welcome.  As well as speaking of the production of the greenstone axe-heads, she spoke of how the families would have lived at the site. Given my interest in open-fire cooking, I was intrigued by her description of clay balls used to prolong the heat of a fire for extended, "slow-cooker" meals!

At the end of the talk, we were given permission to wander over the site and explore a little for ourselves. Typically, Vaughan was keen to find the wombat burrow that Anne had briefly mentioned!

We thoroughly enjoyed the tour, which was a highlight of our day - $20 very well spent, indeed!

Weir are you going?!

From Seymour, we headed north-ish. 

Nick had travelled as far as Murchison back in August but the countryside was new for everyone else. 

It was a much hotter day and we spotted four snakes on the road, along the way.

Two were still alive, the others hadn't survived the high-speed traffic. I also saw a tortoise. Often we stop to escort them across the road but in this case we were on a motorway.  He/she seemed fairly safe though, on the water-side of the road and presumably headed to a huge body of water. We decided we wanted to go there, too!

"There" was Goulburn Weir - a lovely spot with grassed area for picnics/BBQs and games, lots of trees and masses of beautiful flowers.  Nick and I walked out along the dam wall, while Vaughan played on the equipment and Erin collected flower seeds. 

I'm not generally good with heights, or raised mesh walkways.  I surprised myself though and managed to walk across as far as I did.  I even went out on the landing area where the man is standing in the pic above, though wasn't at all comfortable. 

One of the highlights of the visit was watching a tortoise body-surfing in the current!  Well, I like to think he/she was enjoying playing in the white-water and not just stuck in an endless loop!

See more ...

A funny thing happened on the way to Lancefield Show on Saturday. 

After wondering at the lack of activity in the town we double-checked the date - and realised we were a day early!  Hah!

It seemed a shame to waste our picnic, so we headed out of town and made a stop at Broadford to show Erin and Vaughan the straw boiler.  We also inspected a monument and signage across the road, which commemorated the early explorers Hume and Hovell.

Given we were in the mood for more exploring, we headed out of town toward Seymour.  It was picnic time when we arrived and this tank caught our eye, so we lunched in the park beside it.  There were magpies and wattle birds nearby - and we enjoyed watching the world go by for a bit.  I've done a bit of research and it seems there is a fair bit to see at Seymour, so we'll have to make another visit.  Praps we could picnic next to the steam train next time?!

Cobb Cooker: Pizza!

Some weeks I really look forward to Friday, not because anything dreadful has happened during the week or anything wonderful is planned for the weekend - just that I like the feeling of  Friday afternoon!

Last Friday, I packed a picnic afternoon tea and collected Vaughan from school.  He, Erin and I spent a lovely hour in the sunshine feeding some local ducks and geese.  On the way home we bought a few extra pizza ingredients, then made pizza on the Cobb cooker for dinner.  We didn't eat till late, partly cos of the laid-back vibe and partly cos the process was slower using the Cobb.

I made four pizzas, using our deep-dish enamel camping plates.  They fitted well onto the trivets (atop the Cobb grill plates).  I used both ovens, each with eight heat beads.  The pizza bases were crisper than necessary in an attempt to brown the cheese on top - probably 30 minutes each time, perhaps longer.  Further experimentation is definitely warranted but as a first effort, I was well pleased!   

(Vaughan and I have previously made camp oven pizza with excellent results, so we can always use that method using the Cobb Cooker as the heat source - if necessary).

I've watched a couple of YouTube videos about Cobb cooked pizza.  Both made the pizza directly onto the frypan plate.  The cheese on top was melted, not browned.  I'm pondering that.  I've also been watching The Hairy Bikers on DVD.  They often use Cobb cookers/charcoal ovens.  I was interested to see one of them use a small blow-torch to brown the top of a soufflé made in the cooker.  Now, that might be a gadget worth getting!

Friday, 18 October 2013

The egg came first!

You know the age-old question - which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Well, last night it was the egg by a long shot!  We had been tantalised by the smell of roasting chicken but opted for ham omelette and roast vegies when hunger overtook patience at around 8:30pm!

Plan B was definitely appreciated by the hungry hordes.  The roast vegies were quite well done.  Vaughan raved about the potatoes and insisted everyone try them first.  He was right, they were awesome!  (Nice to get something right)!

It was 10pm by the time the chook was deemed done - five hours after it went in (though it would have suffered heat loss at various checks throughout the intervening period).  It could easily have had another hour without any burning or deterioration.

Notes for next time - the chicken needs to start around 1:00pm to ensure dining at a civilised hour.  Although I topped up the moat liquid an hour after starting, it had well and truly evaporated by the end of the cooking period - which makes for more cleaning effort. 

On the bright side the vegie size and cooking time were perfect!  I had mixed them in a bowl with some olive oil to coat lightly - and that seemed to work wonderfully. Hooray!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Cobb Cooker: Cookin' the chook!

I collected a parcel from the post office today.  It contained my Cobb Cooker griddle plate, dome extension ring (and chicken roaster). 

I was expecting the items, so had bought a chicken while out grocery shopping to trial the new upright roasting rack cooking method.

I'm using both cookers tonight.  I started eight heat beads in the first one at around 4:30pm.  I also made a liquid mix for the moat using water, crushed garlic, lemon juice (and the remainder lemon) with some rosemary sprigs.  After fiddling with the chicken roasting gadget for a little while, I located it onto the grill plate.  I then sprayed the chicken with olive oil and dusted it with some mixed herbs.  It went onto the Cobb, with extension ring and lid, at 5:00pm. 

I started six heat beads in the firebox of the second cooker at 5:30pm or so.  At 6:00pm I put carrot, pumpkin and sweet potato in around the chicken.  (I topped up the moat and checked on the heat beads just prior to adding the vegetables).  I used the fenced rack on the second cooker's grill plate to hold potato pieces and a few onion wedges - which were also started around 6:00pm.

It's 7:00pm now and all smells wonderful but I expect it will be another hour or so before we eat - sadly!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Tent upgrade ...

We've been planning to upgrade our tents for a while now.  In January 2009 we bought our first tent, an Oztrail Sportiva Lodge Combo tent (on special).  It's seen a lot of use and still functions well but is a lot larger than we really need - and takes more energy to set up than we want to expend. 

Even though we had heaps of room in the main tent, Erin (and Keegan) preferred some space of their own, so always used an additional smaller tent. Over time, that tent developed leaks so needs to be set up under one of our gazebos.

We've done a lot of research.  As much as the 30-second and Turbo tents appeal, they are out of our price range.  After much deliberation we settled on the tourer tent style.  Several manufacturers made this style but the Oztrail version fits our budget best.  The plan was to purchase two - a smaller 9 for Erin (and Keegan) to use and a larger 10-plus for Nick, Vaughan and I.  If we doing an overnight stay en route, Erin can bunk in with the rest of us. 

Yesterday Nick spotted an Oztrail Tourer 9 on eBay at a buy it now price of $170.00, which represented just half of the best new price he could find - and that was considerably less than the RRP on the manufacturer's site.  (The seller had used the tent once, then stored it under her bed)!  We collected our "new" acquisition today and did a test set-up in the backyard.  So quick and easy - fantastic!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Life doesn't always go to plan - and neither do Cobb cooker experiments! 

It's been a big day here. We arrived home about 30 minutes before school pick-up time. 

I did a couple of quick missions and then drove out to collect Vaughan. 

Once home, I had another small window of around 45 minutes before needing to head out again. I started eight heat beads in the Cobb fire-box a little after 4:00pm. They were ready to use about 20 minutes later.

I decided to use some fluid in the moat, while our dinner was roasting - a mix of water, crushed garlic, Worcestershire sauce, mixed herbs and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. I put the liquid in after the beads had started to grey. (Next time I will pour it in while the beads are still cold)!

I used the new Cobb tonight so placed the meat, potatoes and pumpkin on the fenced roasting rack.  I sprayed everything with olive oil and sprinkled mixed herbs and a few rosemary leaves over the meat, as well as seasoning it with salt and pepper.  At 4:25pm I put the grill plate and full roasting rack on the Cobb, covered with it's lid and then headed out.

We returned home at 6:30pm, very hungry. Erin had stayed home and commented about all the lovely smells that had been wafting during our absence. Dinner was served al fresco at 7:00pm. We were well and truly ready for it but sadly, it wasn't quite ready for us!

The potatoes and pumpkin were firmer than we would have liked and the meat was far more rare. The eight heat beads were just about dust, so I added an extra five - and returned the meat to the Cobb (after cutting the edges off for our meal). At 9:30pm I removed the meat. It was very well cooked and declared quite tasty by all the samplers. It probably had 4-5 hours of cooking in total.

I've learned a few lessons tonight. The liquid in the moat probably needs to be checked/replenished during the cooking process. Regardless of the recipe notes I'll need to allow a much longer cooking time for us, so the number of beads used initially will increase. I think the size of the potatoes and pumpkin will be fine for several hours of cooking.

The verdict overall - the flavour is great, just some tweaking to timing/method and so on. All of which would have been easier had I been at home supervising the cooking process. Tis a learning curve, for sure but the cost of tonight's experimentation was only $1.30 - gotta be happy with that!

As I've been typing this, I heard some noises outside.  The sandy fox was just outside our front door, obviously attracted by the lingering smell of our roast dinner!

Cobb Cooker: Bolognaise and butterscotch ...

I used to Cobb cooker again last night with the Crofton cast iron pot, to cook a simple bolognaise sauce. My recipe varies depending on what ingredients are available at home but the method remains constant.

I often use one of my thermal cookers but the cast iron pot is quicker if I start cooking later in the day. I used our kitchen gas hotplate as my initial heat source, while preparing the six heat beads inside the Cobb's fire-box. I then placed the pot directly on the fire-box, in the same way as I had for the previous night's beef casserole. The Cobb was set up outside and Erin commented that the delicious smell wafted everywhere!  (The sauce was done about 45 minutes later, reduced and nicely thickened).

So why is there a photo of butterscotch self-saucing pudding?!  I made that after the bolognaise was done, using the residual heat of the beads to slowly cook a (very late) dessert.  It sat on the grill plate for about two hours in total.  I checked it from time to time.  The beads had reduced to a small crumbling pile when I removed the pudding. They had lasted around three and a half hours - a cost of 60c, or 17c per hour of cooking time. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Cobb Cooker: Cake - take two ...

There was still life in my heat beads after last night's casserole was cooked, so I made a double batch of cake mixture.

The full cake tin took about an hour and a half to cook, perhaps more. 

This cake had a bit more "colour" than my first effort.  It wasn't burnt but it was good that I removed it from the heat source when I did.  I again used two layers of baking paper inside the cake tin.  I knew the cooking time would be longer, so also improvised two trivets underneath.  I had hoped the trivets would stack but instead they slotted together.  Not to worry.  I'll check what other options may be possible with either equipment on hand - or picked up cheaply.

As you can see, the cake was a little higher on one side than the other.  The Cobb cooker itself was level, thanks to Nick's morning efforts.  Keeping the trivet(s) level is tricky.  I'll have to work on that!

Costing the Cobb ...

Erin gifted Nick a compact, portable BBQ for Fathers Day - together with a bag of Heat Beads. 

The bag was bought from a small mini-market, so the price was higher than it may have been at a larger retailer. 

I counted the remaining beads this morning and worked out the cost per bead (taking into consideration those already used).  Given the initial bag price, these beads are around 10c each.  Bunnings stock a 16kg pack for $21.44, which would drop the bead price to just 4c - so we'll buy them next time!

Yesterday I made one casserole, an impossible pie and two cakes (or one and a half when volume is considered).  I used just 10 beads for over 7 hours of cooking time - great value for $1.00.  I'm very happy with that - and will be even happier when the same energy costs only 40c!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Crofton meets Cobb!

I was on a roll today with my Cobb cooking trials. 

While I was waiting for the impossible pie to finish, I decided on a beef casserole for dinner. 

After checking the instructions, it seemed I could put my Crofton/Aldi cast-iron cooking pot directly upon the fire basket of the Cobb - and the contents were soon bubbling away nicely.  There wasn't a recipe as such.  I started out to make my usual beef stew and realised I didn't have one of the ingredients, so improvised.  As luck would have it the end result far surpassed my expectations and now I'm trying to remember what I did! 

It's impossible (pie)!

After my vanilla cake was cooked, the three heat beads I used were still largely intact.

I decided a second experiment was in order.  The small recipe book that came with our $5.00 cooker included a recipe for impossible pie, so I put that together quickly. 

I poured the mixture into one of our deeper camping dishes, which I sometimes use for cooking pies.  There was batter left over though so another round cake tin was a better option.  Hopefully it is possible for me to successfully cook impossible pie!

A few hours later:-  there were some hiccups in cooking the impossible pie. 

The recipe suggested three heat beads and I used those that remained after cooking my vanilla cake. 

In hindsight, it may have been better to add an extra bead before attempting the impossible (pie)!   Not to worry.   It seems a very forgiving recipe and coped with standing aside while photos were taken and more heat beats added.   It would probably work well to cook after a main meal, just slowly doing it's thing until it was time for dessert.

Cobb Cooker: Cake!

I've been doing some research about Cobb Cooker cooking. 

I particularly wanted to cook cakes and found some very good instructions at a camper trailer discussion forum.

The author stressed that the cooker should be level, so Nick did his best!

The trivet rack itself isn't level, and locating it within the holes of the grill plate is a bit of a fiddle.  Hence the cake tin isn't level - but we tried!

I made one quantity of a basic vanilla cake recipe that I use fairly often. 

The ratio is a cup of flour and a cup of sugar to half a cup of milk, with two eggs.  I always reduce the sugar and used some of our chookies' eggs. 

The cake tin was about half-full and took the suggested hour to cook. 

Next time I will make a double quantity of cake mixture and test the cooking time again.  I didn't use a second trivet today but may do that when cooking a full cake. 

The verdict?  An excellent first attempt.  Vaughan ate several pieces (and isn't generally keen on non-chocolate cake)!  Erin and I have taste-tested also, though are resisting further samples so Nick can try some when he wakes up again.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

And then there were two!

It's a good thing we tested our new Cobb Cooker last night. 

Eagle-eyed Erin spotted this bag and contents at the dump shop today and swooped upon them.  She called out to me and I hurried over.

We checked the bag - one intact cooker!

A small recipe book was included, with recommendations for the number of heat beads needed to cook effectively.  There was also a couple of typed pages with other recipes (and heat bead suggestions). Very handy!

The cooker seems the same model as ours though perhaps an earlier edition.  It's been well-used but should scrub up very well and will be a welcome addition to our camping kit, providing extra cooking area at the right price. 

How much was this splendid bounty?  $5.00!  And we thought our brand-new cooker with all its attachments was a bargain! 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Just like a bought one!

I've been interested in Cobb Cookers for quite a while and over the past few weeks have had several second-hand offerings on our eBay watchlist. 

Sadly I missed the end of one auction - and the cooker sold for less than I was going to bid.  As a result of my disappointment, Nick researched prices and found a great deal at BCF.  During the week, we visited our local store, specifically to look at these cookers.  We happened to be there on the last day of a short 3-day camping equipment sale - so received 25% off the cost of our Cobb Cooker and various accessories.  What a fantastic bargain! 

Funny story - we returned home and didn't check our boxes of goodies till just before Nick was leaving for work, at a little before 5:00pm.  It was then that we realised we hadn't bought a Cobb Cooker but an empty Cobb Cooker box!  I immediately rang the store and we exchanged the empty box for a full one the next day, amid much light-hearted banter from the staff!

We decided to test the Cobb Cooker tonight, just using the basic frying plate to cook eight lamb chops.  I was side-tracked by other missions and remembered to turn them after about 45 minutes.  I was very relieved to see steam rising through the lid!  The chops were on the hotplate for a bit over an hour in total but could have come off earlier.  There was still plenty of heat left in the eight heat beads, so we put on some sausages as a second experiment - and were very pleased with those results also!  Hooray!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Pipe Down!

We've been meaning to visit the Organ Pipes National Park for a while now. It's only about 30km from home and we've driven past a number of times - even made it into the driveway once but closing time was only a few minutes away, so we drove out again!

School holidays started at 2:30pm on Friday and happily Nick has a few days off also, so we roused ourselves yesterday for a short adventure.  We took a roundabout route to the park, enjoying the bright yellow fields of canola along the way.  All the recent rain has stimulated mass daisy flowerings also.  (We thought we had a lot at home, until we saw paddocks full of them - the sight was just amazing, we've never seen so many daisies)!

After parking the car, we headed off down the sealed track.  There was another picnic area at the bottom, so we may actually drive down to that on another occasion - when we are prepared enough to pack a picnic! 

There were many Superb Fairy Wrens flitting about beside the path and lots of small skinks scuttling in the leaf litter also.  The path adjacent the small river, leading to the various formations, was quite flat and an easy, pleasant walk.   There were many boxes in the trees, as housing for small bats and possums.  (Seemingly eight bat species have been recorded in the park).

We enjoyed seeing the few rock formations, then hiked back up the hill via a very steep track.  I took some photos along the way - as an excuse to catch my breath! 

Typically we read the information boards at the end, rather than the beginning of our walk - call us keen!  There are good explanations of the rock formations though as well as some history of the area.  I'm sure it won't be our only visit!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Blast from the past: Ford-ing!

I culled some paperwork this morning and found two photos that were MIA. This is "Tuffy" the F100, fording a river some-where in the Northern Territory.

Unlike Elmer, "Tuffy" didn't have a reserve fuel tank.  He had a 44-gallon drum mounted within the rear canopy area. 

My father rigged some kind of system to siphon the fuel.  I'm not sure how it worked, though my brother and I used to ride in the rear with the drum - with seating provided by a former bus seat, screwed to the floor!  Obviously life was very different back in the 70s!  (The mini-bike on the bull-bar was powered by an old lawnmower motor, so worked on a pull-start cord - when it worked).

Monday, 26 August 2013

Blast from the past: The Rig!

A few posts back I mentioned the F100 and 25-foot caravan my parents purchased for our extended around-Australia adventure.

While looking for something else today, I found this pic taken at Kempsey in 1978.  I don't recall whether it was my brother or myself who took the photo.   I do remember our Box Brownie camera  -  gifted to us by a great-uncle who was a keen photographer.  You can sort-of make out "Tuffy" our F100 and the full rig.  I've been trying to find another photo, which is a front-view showing the mini-bike that used to travel on Tuffy's bull-bar!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Fireside lunch ...

From Broadford, Nick and I made our way across to Tooborac.  We had spotted the hotel on our last visit to the area but on that occasion we ate our picnic lunch beside the Tooborac Hall (venue for the annual Rabbit Ramble Cook-Off)!

We were picnic-less today and the weather wasn't great for dining al fresco, so we enjoyed a fireside lunch instead.  My pie was lovely and we were well looked after.  Nick sampled one of the hand-crafted beers, made on the premises.  No doubt the Woodcutters Amber appealed to his inner lumberjack! 

Broad(ford)ly speaking ...

Nick had driven through Broadford, en route to Murchison a couple of weeks ago. 

He thought it was worth a better look, so we drove there today and poked around a bit.  The Broadford & District Historical Society  maintains a number of buildings on the site.

We were most intrigued by the giant silver ball! And now that we know what it is, we want to know more about how it worked!

The silver ball is a "straw boiler digester"!
"The silver ball is a straw boiler digester. One of 12, it was operating in the town’s paper mill from the 1890s to make paper from straw and other materials.

These materials included the sails and rigging from the sailing ships that brought people and goods to booming Melbourne town and the Victorian goldfields."  How about that?!  The signage inside the fence had a diagram to explain the process but I wasn't able to get a clear shot through the wire.

Seemingly the museum is housed in the Broadford Courier building and is open to the public on Wednesdays.  We might have to go back for another look!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Schemes and Dreams!

The Happy Hamby Campers' camp is even happier now that Nick's leave has been approved for 2014!

There was already some anticipation but now we officially going back to Yowah - for nine weeks!

By the time we get there it will have been around three years since our last visit, when we enjoyed a month-long stay over December/January 2010/11, following the success of our July 2010 stay.  We had so many adventures on those trips, definitely the stuff of family legend.

Yowah has long been entrenched in my history.  As a child, my family would holiday there annually for 3-4 weeks over winter.    In those days a block of school holidays fell during July/August but we stayed longer, so my brother and I had school work to complete as well. 

I'm sure I wasn't at school for our earliest visit.  We stayed in a converted bus and I became ill enough to warrant a call to the Flying Doctor.  I have vague memories of eating baby food when I was long-past the age of needing it.  On future visits we rented a basic holiday cabin, before my parents bought a shack of their own.

When I was around 8, my parents sold their holiday accommodation business on the NSW South Coast and bought an F100 and 25-foot caravan.  We were set for a round-Australia adventure!  First stop was Yowah where we stayed for a long time, arranging the sale of the shack and mining lease. 

In my memory we lived there for nearly a year (my brother and I doing school work via correspondence) - and I definitely remember celebrating my 9th birthday on the field, where I received a princess crown birthday card and insisted on wearing the attached golden crown most of the day.  In those days my hair was blonde and reached well-below my waist, mostly tied back in a ponytail but worn loose on special occasions, such as princess birthdays!

I made a trip back to Yowah with my father and brother when I was a teenager.  It was nearly 20 years before I returned in October 2000, for a week-long visit with a fellow I was dating at the time.  (He was from England originally and had never been to the Outback but loved the experience). 

Although I always intended to take my girls to Yowah, it was tricky to organise around a shared custody arrangement - so it wasn't till July 2010 that I was able to introduce them, Nick and Vaughan to the place where I had spent significant periods of my childhood.  I wasn't sure how they would cope but they all loved it too - so much that we returned for a month over Christmas that same year.

(While my family had spent time opal fossicking/mining at Yowah, Nick's family had made trips to Lightning Ridge - so he considered himself a "digger" of long-standing)!

When Nick first voiced his wish for 9-10 weeks away, I was hesitant to agree.  Of course, I liked the thought of an extended adventure but the logistics of organising care for one cow, four chooks and one aged/ill cat seemed a bit daunting - not to mention school for Vaughan, accommodation and a budget for everything!  In the space of a few short days, all potential problems have been sorted - and we have bargain accommodation organised also, in Louie's shack where we stayed previously (two doors down from my sometimes childhood home)!

So, now the scheming begins!  There are vague plans to visit Broken Hill along the way and hopefully some short trips radiating from Yowah.  No doubt Quilpie will warrant a return visit and I am definitely keen for another soak at the Eulo Math Baths!

Elmer requires some necessary maintenance - and some desired modifications.  There is other equipment on the wishlist.   I'll put an extra tab on my spreadsheet and jig the budget to maximise our discretionary spending.  Just as well we thrive on challenge (and adventure)!

In funny Universal synchronicity, I realised during the week that Vaughan will be celebrating his 9th birthday at Yowah also - though sans golden princess crown!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Living Legends

Living Legends is located within Woodlands Historic Park, a place for retired champion racehorses to rest on their laurels and enjoy visits from their adoring public!

We've often driven past but decided to visit on Nissa's last morning with us, en route to the airport (just six minutes away).  It was very pleasant, wandering about in the sunshine for about an hour.  We are not racing followers but very much enjoyed meeting so many beautiful horses (and smooching with some too)!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

To Tooborac!

The countryside changes markedly as we drive around our local(ish) area.  The variations found within short distances is really very interesting - and continues to amaze us.

Although we have visited Lancefield quite a few times recently, we hadn't ventured any further North - so were delighted by the huge boulders!
Geocaching led us along some lesser-used back roads, where we admired the creativity (and engineering) of some locals, who built their private Stonhenge-like structure!  Wow!  Of course, the boulders in their natural state were equally impressive.  We had a good look at some that were just beside the road.  Elmer looked  small in comparison!
We made a quick stop at the former Emu Flat Public School, which still had wooden shingles visible beneath the corrugated iron roof of the entry area!

I've done some quick research this morning and the school was built in 1875, then moved by 22 horses to it's current site in 1902.  It operated from then until 1943. 

You can read more of the school's history (and that of the neighbouring Uniting Church) here, from page 4 onwards.

Friday, 26 July 2013

BBQ at Hanging Rock!

Nick and I made a brief visit to Hanging Rock back in April.

It was a cold, wet day and Nick was working that afternoon, so we vetoed walking in favour of sitting in the café for a little while - enjoying their fire - before heading home again.

It is rare for us to go out without provisions for (at least) tea/coffee making and in spite of the café fire, we were sorry to have left our beverage case and thermos behind that day!

Another (longer) visit had been on the agenda, so we scheduled it for after our gravitational anomaly experiment.  En route, we picked up fresh bread from the Woodend Bakery and collected some gold coins for the BBQ.

Soon after arrival, Erin and Nissa cooked our Diamond Creek sausages, purchased on the way home from Maroondah Reservoir the previous day. We had yumions, too!  We enjoyed a lovely lunch and as we were eating many crimson rosellas visited. One very cheeky fellow sat at the end of the table to eye off our fruit!  There were kookaburras also, who appreciated a few sausage tidbits.

(Since our visits to Maroondah and Hanging Rock, I've purchased some wild bird seed and packed two small containers to carry in the cars). 

After lunch, we spent some time looking at the static displays in the Discovery Centre and then headed off for the Summit Walk. 

To say it was steep is an understatement. We could have used the help of a gravitational anomaly for sure!

We made it though - just - and the views were wonderful, even on a cold, cloudy day.  No doubt there will be other BBQs, though I'm not sure how often we will exert ourselves for the full bushwalk afterwards!  

Gravitational Stupid Thing!

You don't need to spend a lot of money to have fun!

I've been hanging out to visit Straws Lane, near Woodend since one of the mothers mentioned it at a school excursion.

Cars rolling uphill?! We had to try that!

There is a reference to the spot (near Hanging Rock) in this article - as well as similar places around the world.  Very interesting!

We decided to save the experiment till Nissa's visit.  It is fair to say she was quite sceptical when I mentioned the outing!  I did some YouTube research and with Nick's assistance, we entered the co-ordinates into the GPS, then set off.

What a hoot!  Elmer Fudd, all two-tonne of him, very definitely rolled uphill - three times!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Hot water on tap!

Maroondah Reservoir was recommended to me as a place where there were lots of wild birds, used to being hand-fed. 

We called in for a picnic with Nissa, after visiting the nearby Healesville Sanctuary (courtesy of our Zoos Victoria memberships).

Not long after arrival, Vaughan was very happily sitting with a small group of crimson rosellas.  He seemed oblivious to the cold but the rest of us were definitely aware of the icy wind - and very appreciative of our hot beverages! We are well-equipped for picnicking and didn't really need to avail ourselves of the free hot water on site but we did, cos it was novel!

It was a pretty spot and definitely warrants further exploration - on a warmer day!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Duck, duck, goose!

We are still settling into Hamby Home(in)stead, doing local-ish day-trips due to time constraints of feeding our calf, Tea. 

As much as we particularly enjoy more bushland environments, this lovely little spot fairly close to home deserves a mention. 

We've visited several times and were greeted noisily by the resident ducks and geese on each occasion.  Their antics cause much amusement and spending time with them while enjoying some morning or afternoon tea is a pleasant interlude.  It was one of the first places we took Nissa when she visited!

I wondered who Walter J Smith was.  It seems he founded the local fire brigade in 1904.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Gluten-free Date Cake (thermal cooked)

It's another (not) fine day for thermal cooking experiments.  We have guests arriving later in the day and as they are a gluten-free family, I'm trying some more experimentation.

I've previously adapted a few of my favourite recipes by substituting Aldi's gluten-free flour, so am doing that today with this recipe.  I've actually made a few substitutions.  We don't have walnuts and I'm saving the last of the macadamia nuts for something else.  I only have self-raising gluten-free flour, so used two cups of that rather than one of SR and one of plain.  We have run out of butter and olive oil spread, so I used a tablespoon of olive oil.  What else?!  I added two teaspoons of ginger.

The mixture was less dense than yesterday's carrot cake, so I used one of my weights to ensure the cake tin was touching the trivet inside the large pot. Once I transferred the large inner pot to the insulated outer pot, I swapped the 500g weight for the smaller weights - so I could close the lid(s) properly!

Update:  According to the recipe, the cake should have been done after two hours of thermal cooking. 

Sadly, it wasn't ready then, nor after an extra half an hour but we sampled it anyway - tasting the cooked parts.  The flavour was lovely but the gluten-free texture detracted from our overall enjoyment.  I think another attempt with normal flour is definitely warranted - stay tuned!