Sunday, 29 November 2015

Putting some Christmas!

It's very nearly three months since we left our former home.  At that stage we hadn't given much thought to Christmas.  We packed Vaughan's small fibre-optic tree and only a few other decorations, though didn't really expect to use them.

The Reject Shop had a family and friends sale this week and we took advantage of the extra discounts to buy some solar and battery lights as well as some window decals, tinsel and other bits.

Nick strung the solar lights along the side of the van yesterday.

Earlier in the day, I put two Christmas tree solar lights near the front door.

(Those solar tree lights were bought for our 2010 Yowah Christmas and are still working well).

The battery lights are strung inside many of the van windows - and a few loops are visible inside too.

One permanent resident across from us has a strand of tinsel in his front window. At this stage there isn't much other Christmas decorating and I expect our site looks a bit Griswald-ish by comparison!  It's pretty though and I do like spending some time at the end of the day admiring our efforts.

It may be that we are house-sitting for a week over Christmas but we'll probably be in the van the rest of the festive season.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Princess bed ...

In a few days we'll be moving from our current caravan park, so we've started to pack the van and prepare the tent for removal.

Raising the bed has greatly improved the storage potential.

There is a large clear area beneath - with 540mm clearance between the floor and the bed slats.

The stretchers were lower, only just clearing the plastic boxes and needed more space for their centre legs (not viewable in pics).

As well as the area under the bed, there is a narrow space at the end, between the wall and foot-board.

The two stretchers we were using are now in their storage bags.  They are at the end of the bed, together with a spare that was in the tent.

There's a spare chair on top of them and the tarp that used to cover our clothes-line.  In time it may become a van cover to prevent leaks.

My roller will sit on top of those items, ready to use each night.  What else?  A box of stuff that missed being packed into the shipping container and probably a spotted bag of spare linen.  There are two umbrellas and our tarp bed-cover!  The plan is to use the area under the bed for easier access to stuff that may be needed more regularly.

At this stage, there's a fair some space still available at the end of the bed and a heap more underneath - which is a good thing!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Boiling the billy at Burrumbeet!

We had a day out yesterday.  It was raining when we set off, so we headed in a westward direction and ended up past Ballarat.

After driving along Ballarat's impressive Avenue of Honour, we could see a huge lake ahead of us.

It seemed a good place for a picnic but we didn't see any signs to indicate how to get there, so continued on to Beaufort, where we spent several hours happily exploring Camp Hill Reserve.  It wasn't till much later in the afternoon (when heading home) that we found our way to Lake Burrumbeet.

There is a caravan park beside the lake but no picnic facilities.  We set our dual fuel stove beside a huge rock (which made a great windbreak).  Our new beverage case rested on top of the rock and we enjoyed a late afternoon tea watching pelicans and other water birds in the distance. Lovely!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Making our bed - up!

We've been using a mattress on top of our camp stretchers in the caravan.  It works well enough but Nick has been scheming for an improved system.

For the past several weeks we've both been searching eBay and Gumtree for a double bed frame.  It needed to be wood, so Nick could raise the mattress height.

We had looked in some op-shops and our favourite tip shop.  No joy.

Of course there were beds available but not at the price we wanted to pay.  It seemed the plan may not go ahead.

Yesterday we made an impromptu visit to an op-shop.  Nick went in.  I waited in the car.

Nick was soon back to show me a bed that would work.  It had a few marks and needed minor repair but was pretty much what we wanted - and even better, was only $15.00!

On the way home, we collected two wood pieces from a local tip shop. They were free!

Nick worked on the bed during the afternoon.  He shortened the legs of the bed-end and lengthened those of the bed-head.

Later that evening, Nick removed the camp stretchers.  He re-assembled the bed in the space at the end of the van.

The mattress was put back in place and we made the "princess bed" ready to use last night.  It's a lot taller than previously (about level with my hip), so there is plenty of room for the plastic tubs beneath.  I'll start organising them over the next few days.  Aside from the increased storage potential, the bed is now a lot more comfortable than when the mattress was supported by the camp stretchers.  Hooray!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Best yet!

While we were in Daylesford, Erin visited the tourist information centre and collected a map of the mineral springs in the area.

She directed us to the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve.

Once there we set up for a BBQ lunch, where we very much enjoyed the spotless hotplates and super-clean tables (though we still used a table-cloth)!

We went for a walk after lunch, to try a few of the springs in the area.  Erin was still not overly keen but Nick and I felt the Hepburn spring water was definitely better than the many others we'd tasted!

There were several large rocks featured in the grounds.  We read each of them.

They had been cut to create a flat top, then polished and lastly engraved - with quotes about the area.  Interesting!

The public area was quiet but there were quite a few cars in the carpark for the kiosk/bath-house.

Take a gander at Wombat Flat!

From Sailors Falls we made our way to Daylesford.  We stopped at Wombat Flat for a second spring water taste test.  As you can see, it was on a par with our first sampling!

There were many birds.  Some geese had goslings. We also saw two fluffy moorhen chicks.

Fall down, spring up?!

There was no real plan for today's outing.  As we left home Nick checked the weather - and we did our best to head out of the rain.

We made a quick stop at Sailors Falls, lured by the camera icon on the tourist information sign.

Sadly the path to the falls was closed indefinitely, so we retrieved a cup from Elmer Fudd and sampled the mineral spring water instead.  It wasn't the worst we'd tried but it certainly wasn't the best either!  Onward!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Picnic provisions ...

We do a lot of picnics and BBQs, so are well equipped for both.  As well as my newly-updated beverage case, we have a larger picnic case, fully stocked with melamine plates and cups as well as a cheery apple tablecloth. We even have two emergency picnic kits - one in each car  Yep, call us keen!

My family would probably argue that I am the keen one, dragging them out in all kinds of (wild) weather for al fresco dining!

As well as the usual plates etc, I nearly always pack a tablecloth to cover dirty and/or graffiti-ed tables.

More often than not public BBQs are left uncleaned.  We take a pack of BBQ wipes and a roll of paper towel with us.  Nick cleans the hotplate before use - and again afterwards.  I generally clean the bench surround as well.

We carry a few plastic grocery bags with us and use one for rubbish.  (Since relocating to Victoria, we've noticed many parks have a "take your rubbish home" policy). Dirty plates, cups, cutlery and utensils etc are brought home for washing - in another plastic bag.

You beauty, another beverage case!

Nick and I recently celebrated 12 years of togetherness. (Hooray for us)!

On one of our early outings, I collected an eBay win - a small vintage picnic suitcase, intended for two people.  It included a thermos, cutlery and mustard yellow plates, cups and saucers.

I sold the thermos as I preferred to use mine.  Over time, I added extra thermal cups and the case was used for our hot beverages.  It's seen a lot of action and been many places.

Sadly the case is deterioring.  The zip jams.  It's breaking away from the sides. The vinyl-covered cardboard is loose and becoming more difficult to clean.

A bit over two years ago I bought a beauty case from an op-shop.  It was a $10.00 bargain and is now getting a lot of use in the caravan park when I trek to (and from) the amenities block.

We visited our favourite tip shop today. I spotted another beauty case (with key!) and decided it might be a good replacement for my beverage case.  This make-up case was an even bigger bargain - only $5.00!  Like the first, it was in excellent condition and only required light cleaning.  The usual beverage case contents fit easily and I'll be able to include extra thermal cups for the times when we have more picnickers.

You can see our thermal cups very clearly here.  They were another fantastic bargain and were well worth our small investment!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

All white!

Elmer had a new extractor fitted yesterday. It's a more extensive thing than I first thought - so we got even better value for our money!

Nick put the new white wheels on the caravan, too.  They look pretty schmick!

He also checked the wheel bearings - all good there.  Great!

Friday, 6 November 2015

Two (or three) tyred ...

We are planning a long haul for our Fudd truck and the caravan, so there are various preparations taking place.  Elmer spent a couple of days at a local 4WD workshop the week before last.  He'll have a new extractor fitted tomorrow.

There is other work that Nick will do - including fitting some much better towing mirrors.

I've been organising the inside of the van, partly to increase our comfort while stationary but also to streamline our touring ability.

Nick checked the van tyres last week. They were well and truly past their use-by date.  We ordered two new wheels with new tyres - and had a new tyre put on one of the existing rims.  The tyre salesman offered a choice of colours for the rims.  I explained that it was an old caravan and we weren't all that fashion conscious.  Of course, once fitted the white wheels will be the newest part of the caravan and the contrast between them and the rest of the van will be stunning!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Stretching the storage!

When we bought our caravan, it came with a double bed ensemble.  Nick and I used it for our first trips.  The mattress initially seemed OK but after some very uncomfortable nights, we replaced it with one that we had in storage.

As our Hamby Home(in)stead exit date approached, we packed our usual queen bed into our shipping container - and started to use the caravan mattress on top of our camping stretchers.  The make-do bed worked well enough and we decided to cull the wheeled base from the van and use the stretchers instead.

The benefit of the stretchers is that there is now quite a lot of storage area under the bed.  (You can see photos of the stretchers here).  In our last days at Hamby Home(in)stead I'd packed a number of our existing tubs quickly to stow beneath the bed.  I'm now starting to organise them better, to best utilise the available space - and free up the caravan floor area.  I can see some slow improvement - hooray!

Nick planned to build a bed-base in the caravan, where the mattress platform raises to allow access to the storage area beneath.  That plan is on hold but so far our interim system is working.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Drip-dry doona cover?!

After much research, Nick started to seal the caravan roof earlier this year.

He thoroughly prepped one roof edge before applying liquid rubber.

Nick wasn't entirely satisfied with the end result, so the project stalled - and then stopped when we received a Notice the Vacate our then home. All efforts were directed to culling, packing and preparing to move.  It was just as well we had the "garden tablecover" because the roof still leaked, though now the issue was more toward the pillow-end of our bed (the unsealed roof edge).

I threw the flimsy plastic cover out earlier this week.  It had split in numerous places and wasn't much use.  We've had some rain the past few days.  It doesn't always cause issues but did the other morning, so I bought a cheap tarp today.  It just covers the bed.  I'm not sure we'll always sleep under it but we'll definitely keep it handy for wet weather protection.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

More stashing ...

Following on from my Aldi "savvy storage" purchases, Erin and I stashed a lot of stuff under her bed yesterday.  We did good work and I'm pleased to see more clear space in the tent as a result.

I had packed the area prior to leaving our former home but it was a quick effort and we've accessed some of the bags since, as well as culling further.  I've tried to keep a few bits (Christmas lights, cool ties and hand-held fans) close to the top for easy retrieval, should the need arise - and as it seems we probably will be spending Christmas in the van, I've started pondering how that might work!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Malmsbury Reservoir

We'd passed signs for Malmsbury Reservoir as we drove into town, so decided to have a quick look on the way out.  (The signs were right on this occasion).

It was an interesting place and we spent a while wandering about. Nick and Vaughan took Bandit with them.

Vaughan spotted an echidna and was able to catch him (or her) but Nick didn't have his phone to take any photos - sadly!

Erin and I walked down to see the start of the aqueduct. A white-faced heron was happily fishing - and caught several while we watched.

We didn't have access to his area but Erin enjoyed racing leaves and twigs into the aqueduct to check the water flow.

A couple (of people!) had been fishing in the dam. They were pleased with their catch of three bigger fish, though the lady said she came out to enjoy the fresh air.

Malmsbury Viaduct

On the way home from the Garfield Water Wheel, we stopped in at Malmsbury Botanic Gardens for a very late afternoon tea.  It was a pretty spot with young families of geese and ducks.

When we set off again, we saw a sign for the Malmsbury Viaduct.  Although we traveled in the direction indicated, there were no further signs and we made our way home.

I had the terms aqueduct and viaduct confused, so was looking for a water-way rather than a rail-line - plus we were too busy admiring the gardens to look behind us!  

Today's trip was far more successful cos we ignored the signage.  Our research got us where we wanted to be - and as we were admiring the great viaduct, we saw that Malmsbury has an aqueduct as well!

You can read about the viaduct here and the history of it and the aqueduct, here.

Amazing work!

Blackwood Mineral Springs

We were taking a roundabout route to Malmsbury when we spotted signage for Blackwood Mineral Springs, so we detoured.

Given our previous (and very recent) mineral spring water samplings, Nick wasn't overly keen for more taste-testing!

The three other mineral springs we've visited have all been free.   There is a small entry fee to the Blackwood Mineral Springs Reserve to fund the upkeep of the site.

As we were cashless, we called in at the caravan park kiosk and arranged to pay next time.  The reserve was lovely, so a return picnic is quite on the cards.

There are two springs at the reserve - one mineral and one soda.  We'd been told that the mineral spring was the better one, which was true.

Erin offered Bandit a bowl of the soda spring water.  Our smart dog walked away after two licks!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Stowing (some of) the stuff!

Aldi had a "Savvy Storage" sale today. I bought one each of their hanging shoe and clothes storage units - and two of the three-drawer storage boxes.

The dimensions weren't advertised on the website and I couldn't find our tape measure, so I decided to bring all three units back for testing. 

There were only two of the drawer boxes left in red, so Erin and I excavated both - which was good thinking!

My original thought was to have the wider hanging clothes organiser in Erin's skinny top wardrobe.  She preferred the drawer boxes though and it happened that both sets fit.  The narrow shoe organiser hangs in the larger wardrobe, which leaves the other hanging unit currently without a home.  I'm sure we'll think of a way to use it.

Earlier this year I packed one wardrobe drawer with a few clothes, intended to stay in the van for our short breaks.  That system isn't workable now that we're living in the van and I've adjusted my thinking.

Nick and I still have a drawer each for small items.  His socks are in the green bag hanging with the oven mitts beside the wardrobe.  His work clothes are hanging in the wardrobe along with some of Vaughan's school uniform.  We all have clothes in the tent - and I'm still working on better organisation there!

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Caravanning Life ...

When we bought our caravan, it was to be used for holidays and weekend trips - not as temporary accommodation.

Times change though and for the moment we are staying in the van (in a caravan park) and doing our best to adapt to such confined quarters.

Although I packed some stuff under Erin's bed prior to leaving Hamby Home(in)stead, most of our efforts were directed to culling, packing the storage container and leaving the house.  As much as we'd culled, there was overflow which needed to be housed when the container was collected earlier than planned.

That overflow went into the van, our cars and the trailer.  We've culled further since, particularly after selling the trailer.  Four or five more boxes have gone to the op-shop.  Luckily we have our larger tent set up beside the van.  It houses the Engels, our food, clothes and various other stuff.  I've re-arranged it several times, trying for better organisation - and to lighten the load still further.

We can stay at a caravan park for about eight weeks before being required to apply for permanent residency.  Our current park does not allow permanent residents to have pets, so we'll move before then.  Of course, the better organised we are, the easier it will be to leave.  That's the plan!

We've made good use of the park's BBQ and I've been using an electric frypan to cook our meals outside.  I packed our $1.00 hotplates, which have proved useful as have my thermal cookers.  (The Cobb cookers are in the van also but yet to be put into service).  The past two days have been quite cold, so I cooked inside the van - that was a definite challenge given the cramped space and I was glad of better weather today!

It's just over three weeks that we've been living in the van (after our lovely house-sitting position ended).  We moved sites about two weeks ago and our current spot gives a good view of the main gates, so we get to see many arrivals and departures.  Our set-up is quite modest, particularly when contrasted against much schmicker (and larger) outfits, that often are used for just two people.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Ballan Mineral Spring

We were enjoying an afternoon drive when we spotted the sign for Ballan Mineral Spring and detoured to check it out. We were not expecting much given our previous experience of mineral springs!

It's good that we didn't have high expectations, though of the several sites sampled it's water was probably the least unpleasant!

Erin tasted some from the initial pumping, whereas Nick and I waiting till more water had cleared the pipe.  A wise decision!

As we were getting ready to leave a family rocked up with about 20 two-litre PET bottles and two large 15-litre containers.

They travel out from Melbourne to stock up for a couple of months!  At their last visit, the pump was dry and they thought they'd need to find a new spring to use, so were very happy to see this one back in action.  (Yes, we thought them very keen)!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Where's Garfield?!

My thoughts were definitely on the fat orange lasagne-scoffing cat when I spotted a sign for the Garfield Water-wheel!

Nick turned around and we headed along a dirt road, not sure where we'd end up - or what connection there was between the cartoon cat and turning water.

As it happened, the site wasn't far from the turn-off and (not surprisingly) had nothing to do with Garfield the Cat!

We were super impressed by the remains of the wheel - which had been known as the largest of it's kind in the Southern hemi-sphere, back in 1887.

You can read about it, here and here.

There was an information board at the site, which detailed the history of the wheel and the mine.

"Water from the Expedition Pass reservoir passed along a race and, for the final 240 metres, along a sapling­ supported flume to the top edge of the wheel. After falling to the bottom of the wheel, the water continued down the hill to power the quartz-crushing battery of the nearby Manchester mine."

It was neat to see the old photos and try to imagine the wheel as it had been.  We were all happy exploring for some time. As impromptu detours go, this one was well worth making - even if Garfield didn't make an appearance!

The end of the tale/tail?!

Last year we went to Castlemaine with our lapidary club.  It was a fantastic excursion!

At the time Vaughan insisted on bringing a scorpion home for Erin, who was very excited to receive it.

The female scorpion later gave birth to many small white babies.  Erin has enjoyed looking all of them but decided the offspring were now old enough to be returned to the wild with their mother.

As an aside, did you know that scorpions glow under a black light?  It's very nifty to see them!

We drove along for a little while before establishing where we had parked the previous year.  It was a short scramble through the bush to the original scorpion site.  The mother scorpion quickly found shelter beneath a rock and her 20-plus babies buried into the loose soil nearby.  Success!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Happy trails, trailer!

We were so excited when we won our eBay auction trailer in late 2009!  It meant the end of our two-car convoy camping trips and we could go so much further.

It was first towed by the blue commodore (including our July 2010 Yowah trip) and later behind Elmer Fudd, which resulted in the trailer height being increased.  (In 2011 the trailer was given Landcruiser wheels also, in preparation for our lightning trip to the Ridge).

That trailer enabled some wonderful camping adventures.  It carted belongings down to Victoria and assisted in firewood collection and general household missions also.  We've well and truly had our money's worth from our trailer - and were pleased to farewell it to a new home, where it is set for more happy trails.