Monday, 26 January 2015

Bags this chair!

I've mentioned my large fabric stash at different times. It came in handy this weekend when I decided to make a strap-on pocket for my camping chair. 

When I googled for inspiration, I found this tutorial. I didn't follow the method but I was interested to see how to attach the bag to the chair.

The stash yielded some op-shopped denim, a piece of wildflower print gifted by Erin, another sample of my Mum's machine embroidery as well as ANZAC ribbon and buttons. 

I started putting the bag together last night and finished it off this evening - after several interruptions (and some thinking time).  As you can see, it's a simple tote bag.  I didn't bother making a lining.  The front wildflower print was doubled and joined into the bag at the seams. I divided it to form two smaller outside pockets.

It was a source of considerable amusement that I needed to make buttonholes.  The only time I can remember making them previously was for a sample when doing a sewing course at TAFE, while pregnant with Erin!  Some effort was expended in finding my buttonhole foot and then the sewing machine manual (for instructions on how to make buttonholes).  The actual buttonhole making didn't take long after my few "revision" attempts! 

I'm hoping the buttons prove strong enough to hold the bag and contents.  The rest of the bag is quite sturdy.  All seams are double-stitched and over-locked. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

By gumi, we're good!

While we were at Sheepyard Flat I saw a few campers had rigged their shower bags to provide solar hot water for various uses - washing up and so on.

I suggested we dig our shower-bag out and do the same. 

We found it the other day, half-filled it with water and noticed a sizeable hole!  Drat!

Rather than dash out and purchase a new bag, Nick did some research and found instructions to make a Portable Solar Water Heater

We already had gumis from our wonderful Wagga Wagga trip last year.

Yesterday Nick sought to use other materials on hand to create his version of the solar heater linked above.

Plan A didn't quite work, so we headed into Bunnings this morning.  They didn't have quite what we wanted but Masters did.

What did we get? Four metres of clear hose ($4.80), one t-connector ($0.70), one valve ($2.75) and 6 hose clamps ($8.10).  The gumis were free and Nick already had the adhesive at home.  Total cost - $16.35, which is a bit cheaper than a new bag with probably at least twice the capacity (and we've had the fun of putting it together).

The gumis are set up on Elmer's bonnet and heating nicely.  We tested the water temperature after an hour or so and it was noticeably warmer than when filling the tubes.  Another hour afterwards and the water was pleasantly warm, though no-one was keen to set up the ensuite and have the first gumi-wash!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Daleks are cool!

Earlier this month we took advantage of one of Aldi's sales and bought a 7.6litre Coolibah cooler jug for $14.99. Bargain!

The description stated it has a cold storage time of approx 48 hours.

Nick commented at the time of purchase that the lid wasn't insulated and my plan was to make a cover, in line with the covers we use for our other thermoses.

(Even our Engel fridges have extra insulation in their purchased covers).

We took the jug with us last weekend.  It worked well but I still wanted to make an insulated cover. 

While we were at our favourite tip-shop today, Nick spotted a new car-shade.  I've fiddled with it this afternoon, to make a two-part cooler jug cover.  The larger wrap-around section was fairly easy.  It just needs some Velcro - and when I find that MIA haberdashery, I finish the job! 

The lid section was much harder to make.  It's definitely not perfect but I'm hoping it's serviceable - and performs as expected!  I might try to hold it better in place with some buttons and elastic but am conscious the silver-backed foam isn't a great medium for sewing projects - and we'll need to treat the lid cover gently, so that it doesn't tear along the seams.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Picnic finale!

Packing up the van is a pretty laid-back exercise, far simpler than dismantling our tent(s), beds and bedding. I made our bed and recovered it in the plastic cover.

The floor was swept, washing sorted, washing-up packed to take home and various items were stacked in neatly.

Vaughan played a last Magic game with the boys next door, while we chatted to their parents and some other people who were checking out the campground.

We departed around 12:30 - and had enjoyed a sleep-in, pikelet brekkie and some socialising around the packing.

There had been a music party in the forest overnight, starting in the early evening and continuing till about 4:00am, so our sleep-in was definitely appreciated.

We drove the short distance to Trentham where we bought two lovely loaves of sour-dough bread from the local wood-fired bakery.  The Quarry Street Reserve in town is very pretty, so we enjoyed a picnic lunch of fresh bread, home-cooked corned beef and home-made tomato relish - while watching the antics of ducks, geese, coots and other waterbirds. A very pleasant finale to our weekend away!

Banana pikelets!

Pikelets have always featured regularly on our weekend and holiday breakfast menus.  When at home I've made them in many shapes, including smiley-faces, Easter bunnies, hearts, ghosts, letters, words and numbers!

I've cooked them over the coals at Yowah and even successfully flash-frozen pre-cooked pikelets to reheat in the cabin microwave for one of our wonderful Ironfest adventures. Often I pack ingredients for cooking on site but this trip I tried a different approach.  I measured the dry ingredients into a recycled screw-top jar. 

2 cups self-raising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup full-cream milk powder

When I wanted to mix the batter I added two cups of water, 2 eggs and I tablespoon of golden syrup.  I know you can buy pancake batter in a shake bottle but it doesn't compare to this mixture!

Generally our pikelets are free from additives but we had bananas with us, so I made several large banana pikelets for Erin, Nick and I.  Vaughan preferred his pikelet in the usual form, then rolled with chocolate spread.  Bandit was very keen to share any sort of pikelet with anyone but missed out!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Fine dining

Dinner was fairly simple - a seasoned lamb chop each, sausages, fried onion, packet pasta and our version of Aldi's crunchy salad.

Everything was cooked, with some shuffling, on the dual-fuel stove.

The corn wouldn't fit on the stove and I hadn't brought any foil, so we BBQ-ed the cobs in their husks by the fire. I wasn't sure they would cook properly but most kernels were nicely done and only a small area was super-charred!

Lake Leech?!

Vaughan and the boys next door spent some time together at the little lake. Another group of campers shared their yabby net and the boys brought back their catch to show us. They managed to net a number of small yabbies and then raced them back into the water!

Vaughan stayed by the water even when the other boys tired of the activity.  Nick and I walked down to find him studying the longest, fattest leech we've seen! 

The leech was returned to the water and swam off.  We didn't see any others but definitely weren't tempted to go swimming!

"Flames" and fireside scenes ...

We took it easy on Saturday. Vaughan rode his bike and spent time with the boys from the tent near us. They played in the forest, hit some cricket, caught yabbies and just generally mucked about happily.

Erin knitted by the fire.  While I was napping, Nick and the others collected fire wood. 

There were wrens and other small birds flitting about.  Some were too quick for identification but the flame robin posed nicely!

While Nick was watching one bird another flew right past his face - so close that it's wings brushed Nick's hat!

Morning manoeuvres ...

Our first mission of the morning is often to make hot drinks.

When Vaughan later emerged from the van, he was very keen to start a fire.

It had rained overnight (though the van stayed dry), so the existing fireplace was very wet.  Nick and Vaughan made a new fire-ring on a dryer patch.

I was cooking our breakfast on the other side of the van and couldn't see what they were doing but heard them chatting to the campervan men.

When packing, we'd remembered the Cobb cookers and all their accessories but hadn't thought of having a fire and using it for cooking - hence our fire-frame (and camp ovens) stayed at home.  I used the Cobb wok and solid plate on the dual-fuel stove to chef brekkie.  It worked well, though I needed to do the eggs in batches.

We discovered during one of our earliest camping trips that eggs don't travel well in their cardboard cartons.  The hard plastic carriers work well - if you have small eggs! Our chookies had been nicely productive, though I had to pick through our supply for the right-sized eggs!  Erin discovered one ripe tomato prior to leaving, so that was shared at breakfast also - home produce!

When I took breakfast around to Nick and Vaughan, they were watching our neighbours dismantle their campervan.  A winding cable had broken during their journey to camp, so they had rigged a supporting pole to hold the roof up.  The two of them then needed to lower the roof evenly for pack-up.  It was an interesting exercise and Nick offered some assistance when he finished eating. 

While chatting to them, they commented that they'd been retired for 25-years and came away camping to give their wives a break!  The oldest of the two was 82, which gave us hope that we have many more years of adventuring ahead of us!

After the campervan departed, Nick connected our van and reshuffled it into a parallel position further away from our other neighbours' car.  We faced the caravan door to the forest and Elmer parked behind (at a right angle) so we could use his tray and portable LED light-bar for cooking. 

Friday, 16 January 2015

First camp at Firth ...

The end of the last year was busy with various social and school activities.

Although Nick, Vaughan and I had driven out near Trentham to look at a free camping area fairly close to home, it was another month or so before we were organised to stay there.

It was a fair while after filling the water tank before we left home.  Some co-ordinates were given to the GPS and we set off.  (I should note the entered co-ordinates were not exact, which led to later difficulties)!

We remembered the Pig & Whistle Hotel from our previous trip but it is on a crossroads and we weren't entirely sure which road we travelled on at the time.  As it happened it was not the same road we used on this occasion!  Anyway.  After some discussion, wrong turns and corrections - along with Vaughan's negative commentary - we finally rolled into camp around 9:00pm.

On arrival we did a lap of the campground to choose the best available space, which happened to be near the horse corrals.  There was already a camper van set up, parallel to the bollards - and we orientated ourselves at a right angle to it, more or less evenly spaced between that party and a car belonging to another group of campers.  Once we were in place, a lady walked over to access her car and complimented us on our good work in the dark!

We sorted ourselves out fairly quickly - and I was very pleased of a fully cooked dinner of rice and Mexican-ish beef in the thermal cooker!

Water on tap!

Since returning from our Sheepyard Flat weekend, Nick has set himself the task of achieving one modification or repair to our van - prior to each trip.

His first mission was to have the water tank fit for use.  The hose from tank to tap was replaced and the tank cleaned

During the week a new filler inlet hatch arrived.  While out and about today, I returned to Masters and bought a new hose to run from the inlet to the tank. 

Once home again, I showed Nick the purchase.  We'd already planned to head off to try a free camping area fairly close to home but Nick was keen to fit the hose before leaving.  It was a struggle because the hose was slightly smaller than the connecting points - so hot water and lots of oomph were necessary!  Once the inlet was affixed and the new hose in place, Nick filled the tank.  Erin was called upon to hold the funnel steady. 

Our home tank holds a mix of rain and bore water.  Currently the ratio of bore water is high.  It is not pleasant-tasting and we don't drink it.  The caravan tank water is intended for washing up and similar uses.  We will still take a separate supply of drinking water.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Spouting off!

Nick re-fitted the caravan water tank this morning.  That is, it's back in place under the van but there's a bit more work to be done. 

A 2-litre PET bottle was used to test the pump-tap and we were pleased to see it operational.  It can now be connected to the tank, using the new water hose.

We'll need to go back to Masters (or Bunnings) and buy a replacement water filling hose.  Nick inspected it more closely today.  He had thought it was a black hose but it's a clear hose filled with muck.  Eeeww!

We've ordered a new water filler inlet hatch.  As you can see, the existing one is quite cracked.  

The replacement filler inlet should arrive on Thursday and then can be fitted, with a new hose to ensure our clean water remains uncontaminated on it's way to the tank. 

We may have water on tap for our next trip!  How civilised!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Signs of ingenuity?!

We made a most excellent find at the dump shop today - four very large vinyl banner signs for $25.00!

Half of one sign is already in use, creating a larger sheltered area outside our front door.  A fantastic improvement for just under $11.00!

Although we assumed that we had purchased two different sizes, it now seems the four signs are all roughly 3 by 9 metres.

As I looked at the half-sign remaining from our first mission, I wondered if it might be put into service as a caravan cover.  I suggested the idea to Nick and so various measurements were made.  It could work!  We'd already purchased two packets of grommets from Bunnings today, on the way home from the dump shop.  (The grommets were intended for a couple of other sign projects but I expect we can use some to create a tie-down cover).

Just before Christmas I bought a $10.00 caravan cover, also from the dump shop.  It's in very good condition but not really suitable for our need to waterproof the van against a leaking roof.  Around the same time I also bought an outdoor furniture cover to waterproof our bed.  It does work but is made of fairly thin plastic, so will have a limited life-span.  I'm wondering if part of another sign could become a bed cover!

Flushed with success?!

We went to Masters yesterday (as a change of scene from Bunnings). 

Our main mission was to purchase a replacement hose for the caravan.  We actually bought about three metres, which is enough for two lengths.  One to link the water tank to the sink tap - and the other to connect onto the tap and direct water outside the van if desired.

Nick re-fitted the pump tap inside the van today, attached to the new hose.

After discussion we decided to clean the water tank before it was re-fitted under the caravan. 

I'd done some online research and explained a carb soda cleaning method to Nick.  As it was an ingredient on hand, he decided to use that.  The water tank has now been flushed and with luck will be re-fitted under the van tomorrow.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Packing pride?!

Since returning from our recent weekend away, I've been pondering how best to streamline our packing for future breaks.

I decided I could keep a few clothes in the van, so as I've been washing I set aside a small pile - which happens to be co-ordinated!

There are two drawers under what was once a wardrobe - and I've claimed one.  It's not huge (560 x360 x90mm) and I was a bit doubtful that I'd fit everything I wanted but I managed.   I expect we'll generally head off for a weekend and therefore won't need too much, though the Victorian weather is variable! 

I've included socks, underwear, a pair each of jeans and long shorts, a light jumper, polar-fleece vest and sloppy-joe, jamies, sarong, two singlet tops and a long-sleeved cotton shirt to wear as sun protection.  (I'm fair-skinned, burn easily and don't particularly like being coated in sunscreen, so have a couple of men's cotton business shirts that are very handy when out in the sun - especially in the really hot places we go).

I reckon the leopard-print hat, purchased at Charleville, will be fine to wear swimming but I'll probably store that separately in a bag with our swimmers and beach towels.  (We tend to keep our wet weather gear in a plastic tub and I think I'll put a set of thermals in there).

Vaughan was watching me fiddling to trim the poster and asked what I was doing.  I said I was lining the drawer - and then laughed hugely when I realised I was also lion-ing the drawer!!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015


At this stage we are treating the caravan like a tent on wheels.

We haven't really taken advantage of the cupboard space - or the on-board water tank. As you can see, we still took water with us on this recent trip, stored in large containers.

Nick disconnected the caravan water tank yesterday.  It's far more modern than the caravan, not unlike the one here.  The plan is to clean it, after doing some Google research - and replace the disturbingly green water line.  Hopefully the pump tap works but if not, a new one doesn't seem too expensive. There is talk of installing an outside tap but we're not sure how feasible that will be.

Over the weekend, Nick and I used the dual-fuel stove to boil water for washing up.  I noticed several other campers had rigged their solar showers in accessible positions, so as to use sun-heated water for dishwashing etc. I can only remember using our black-bag once or twice (for showers) but rather liked the idea of low-effort hot water on tap, so will try to locate our bag and stash it in the van ready for our next trip!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Murchison Gap Lookout

We'd seen the signs for the Murchison Gap Lookout on Friday evening but hadn't been able to stop at that time.

We were better prepared on Sunday afternoon, so called in to view the amazing "Valley of 1000 Hills".

It was definitely worth the slight detour!  (Nick is indicating the general direction of our camping area, near Mt Buller).

It hadn't been all that long since our ice-cream stop at Yea, so we didn't linger but I've noted the tables for our next visit. I expect we could enjoy a very memorable picnic there!

Yay for Yea!

We'd stopped at Yea on Friday evening, to refuel and buy ice-creams.

We'd admired the hay-bale bees, so kept looking for them on the way home. Eventually they were spotted at the gate to the Yea Wetlands.

We continued driving into town, where we saw the newly painted frog in front of the information centre! (He/she had just been a plain hay-bale on Friday).  Vaughan was keen for another ice-cream Yea break, so we purchased some and then enjoyed them at a picnic table in the Wetlands area, not far from the bees.

Heading home ...

We finished packing up and started heading home around 1:00pm.

Nick needed to work on Monday and we weren't sure what the traffic would be like heading back toward Melbourne.

Although Bandit is sitting upright in the photo, he spent a lot of the homeward trip dozing!

For a dog who was originally scared of Elmer Fudd and the caravan, he has adapted very well to camping life.  He was well-behaved while away and only barked a few times - either in response to other dogs or if he deemed someone had encroached on our space.

Bandit has a chair in the lounge-room at home and another in his sleeping area, so there are plans to convert one of older camping chairs for his use when we are away. I'm hoping he might prefer to sleep on the chair, rather than shuffling from bottom bunk to floor throughout the night!

Keeping dry - and getting wet ...

The rain had started at some late hour soon after we went to bed, when Nick and I finally finished our Super Scrabble game. (As usual, Nick won but there were only eight points between us)! 

Anyway, I digress ...

Given our caravan leaked at home we were very thankful it hadn't leaked during the night - and extra appreciative that the rain stopped before we got up (later) in the morning!

Vaughan would have stayed in bed even later but one of his new friends had ridden up, seeking to make good on his promise to play Magic cards.  The boys played their game and rode their bikes together, before the other family departed for home.  It was around mid-morning when we made our way down to the river for a last swim.  Vaughan had found another spot, a little higher up-river and we all tested the water. 

After a while, Bandit and Nick walked back to our campsite but Vaughan and I stayed a bit longer.  We returned to our "foot fountain" spot and enjoyed the natural spa as our Howqua River finale.  We got out reluctantly.

Vaughan spotted this lizard and tried to catch her.  She eluded him despite his best efforts, so he wasn't impressed to leave the river bank!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Can he do it?!

We've now been geocaching for more than four years. 

In January 2012, we found a trig point geocache - and rewarded ourselves with a picnic after the huge hike! 

At that cache, Vaughan was delighted to take ownership of a pocket-knife.  He whittles with it at times but has recently become more interested in the other implements.  Nick identified one as a can opener, so our boy was in charge of opening a tin of peaches after dinner! 

I'd made jelly before leaving home.  It travelled in a 500ml lidded plastic container, so dessert was a fairly flash effort of peaches, jelly and UHT custard!

Royal visit!

We arrived at camp around 5:00pm.  Vaughan was keen for another swim, so he and I walked down to the river.  Nick and Bandit stayed behind.

During our outing, we found a boogie board beside the road.  On the way back, Nick stopped so the board could be salvaged - and Vaughan had a lot of fun using it.

When Vaughan tired of surfing the current, he and I wedged ourselves between the rocks and made splendid "foot fountains"!

After about an hour, we re-joined Nick - who was visited by a King Parrot during our absence!

Looking over Lake Eildon ...

"A regular stopping point for travellers between Eildon and Jamieson, this lookout has magnificent views down the Goulburn Arm of Lake Eildon"

After paddling in the Delatite River, we drove to Mansfield for an ice cream and then headed around Lake Eildon. 

We had originally thought we could return to camp from another direction but the road seemed closed. 

When we saw signs for a lookout, we followed them - and took the opportunity to log our 415th geocache find!

We enjoyed the view, too!

All right, Delatite!

We went exploring after lunch. Mt Buller wasn't far away and though we originally had plans of driving up for a closer look, dogs are not allowed in the resort area.

Plan B was to spend some time paddling in the Delatite River, which was lovely. 

I was quite envious of the couple who had parked their beach chairs in the water and were reading in comfort!

Vaughan was happy collecting "heart stones" and skipping other pebbles into the river. 

He found a funny jelly-blob creature on a larger rock, so carefully put it back!

How(qua) civilised!

At lunchtime on Saturday, we'd been quite taken with the site of a grocery truck doing the rounds of the campsite! At that stage we assumed it sold mainly ice, bread and milk.

When Vaughan and I were walking back from the river, we saw the truck again.  I spoke briefly to the driver, to indicate I'd like him to stop near our van (as I didn't have money with me).   I bought milk and a chocolate bar, then stood with Vaughan who was busy checking the truck contents.  As well as bread, milk and ice there were newspapers, magazines, biscuits, chocolates, toiletries - even a dog toy!

I chatted to the driver about the business.  He used to supply the town with ice and had been asked to deliver two pallets to a gathering of the Mountain Cattlemen.  On the off-chance, he had also taken bread and milk - and the business had grown from there.  He had a permit from Parks Victoria to operate but also was a long-time employee of the Mount Buller chair lift.  (The grocery truck only services the campgrounds during the busier November to April period).


Playing with the cricket-like visitor had distracted Vaughan from an injury to his hand.

After lunch, he complained of the cuts hurting and Nick retrieved our first aid kit.  As usual, amputation was discussed but quickly deemed unnecessary!

Lunchtime plate-crasher!

I heard Vaughan's call of "awesome" when I was getting lunch items from the caravan.  This fabulous cricket-like fellow had run up onto Vaughan's chair, surprising all of us! 

He/she was very speedy and it was hard to capture good shots.  After racing around the table a few times, our lunchtime guest found shelter under one of our plates - and seemed happy to stay there until being returned to ground level.  (I haven't yet sought to identify the interloper but if I work out his/her proper name, I'll include it here).

How(qua)'s that?!

Madame Dragonfly aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my dip in the Howqua River.

I wedged myself between some rocks and sat in the fast-flowing water, to take advantage of the natural spa.

By lifting my toes against the strong water flow, I was able to create very nifty "foot fountains", which greatly impressed Vaughan (and me)!  I would have stayed longer but I was conscious of not becoming sunburned.  After an hour or so, we made our way back to the campsite.

She's got legs (and eggs)!

It was a day for observing smaller wildlife.  Our camp site was a short walk from the Howqua River and we wandered down after breakfast, hoping for a mid-morning swim. 

Of course, Vaughan was particularly keen to get wet!

The water sparkled in the sunshine and looked very inviting, so I perched on a rock and paddled my feet.  I had my back to Nick, so heard rather than saw him being pulled over by Bandit (the dog). 

In the confusion, I left my thongs too close to the water's edge and watched one sailing past as I checked on Nick's well-being. 

Once equilibrium (and thong!) was restored, we all enjoyed sitting by the river. 

In admiring my surroundings, I noticed this dragonfly, mainly because her wings were shimmering with water droplets. 

As I inspected her more closely, I could see she was busy laying eggs - hundreds of them!

How neat is that?! It was a highlight of our day and has prompted some discussion since.