Sunday, 11 December 2016

750km Sunday Silo Sojourn!

We loved the Brim Silos earlier this year.  They were absolutely awesome!

My images from the trip have featured on our 2016 Christmas cards as well as in our 2017 calendar and photo diaries - because you can't have too much of a good thing!

Since we visited Brim in April, two more sites have been added to the Silo Art Trail - one at Patchewollock and another at Sheep Hills. (I've kept track of their progress via Facebook).

Nick works shift-work and we try to make the most of his rostered days off.

He and I were planning activities for his next break when he commented that we should do a day-trip to see the silos. (The round trip would be close to 750 kilometres).

Due to school term, we planned for Sunday departure - which meant leaving shortly after Nick returned from a full 12-hour night-shift.

Erin and I shared the day's driving between us.  We left at 7:42 am and didn't return till 10:52 pm, so it was a huge day!  Was it worth all the effort?! Yep, it was brilliant!

We stopped for breakfast at Beaufort.  From there we drove to Ararat, detouring into Green Hill Lake cos I could see water sparkling from the highway!  The lake had been very dry during our stay in 2014 and then completely dry in April - so it was wonderful to see it really full!

The Sheep Hills silos had only just been completed the week before we visited. Such amazing detail. Just beautiful! There is a story here and you can Google Adnate to see more of his work.

We stopped quickly at the Brim Silos for a few more photos (and admiration) before driving to the Brim Weir Pool for a BBQ lunch.

Erin did some great sausage sizzling and we were quite impressed that the town had provided paper towels as well as scrapers to aid clean-up!

Patchewollock was close to 90 km away from Brim.  I drove while Nick and Erin dozed.  Vaughan looked up from his book when I queried the type of the bird on the yellow signs but didn't recognise the picture.

Further along we saw more signs that identified the bird silhouette as a mallee fowl - warning us to be careful as the birds made their mound nests in the area and were oblivious to traffic!  I was a bit sorry we didn't see any - though we did like the huge corrugated iron sculptures near the silos.  (As Nick walked behind one a fast pigeon flew out from the tail end, which was funny)!

The silo at Patchewollock was the second to be completed but furthest away from us, so we viewed it as a finale (of the three sites but not our day).  You can read about the work here, which gives the story of the farmer and the artist.

We made our way home from Patchewollock, following the same route we had come - with a few detours.  I checked my map at Hopetoun where there were signs indicating "Lake" without any distance noted.  As it happened, Lake Lascelles was only a short distance down the turn-off and we spent some very pleasant time by the water.  Vaughan paddled, we watched ski boats doing laps and basically enjoyed our late afternoon tea while sitting quietly.

The sun was low by the time we reached Ararat.  We managed to order takeaway just before our chosen shop shut for the night - and then ate our hamburgers, fish and chips on top of the One Tree Hill lookout as the sun set - which was an experience on my wish list.  Serendipity!

The Wimmera region was experiencing a bumper harvest and we saw lots of farming activity during the day.  Huge hay bales were being stacked in massive groups, non-painted silos were being filled and there were grain bins and other machinery on the roads.  So much to see!

We were tired but very happy campers by the time we finally arrived home - 15 hours and 10 minutes after we'd set off!  Nick had been up since 3:30 pm the previous day, so slept magnificently.  The rest of us were pleased of our beds also. What a magic day!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Shy Platypi

We have driven through Skipton on a few occasions lately and I'd seen signs at one of the parks featuring a platypus.  Even so, we didn't stop to look and therefore only realised the town was home to platypus several days later (when I did some internet research)!

Of course, our next mission was to head over to Skipton one evening in the hope of spotting platypus. We chose a lovely night and the observation deck was a pretty place for viewing the little creek. As we stood, we saw a family of ducks, some movement among the reeds and bubbles in the water.  We like to think the ripples and moving reeds were possibly caused by a platypus - and who's to say we were wrong?!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Chance Outing!

Some of our day adventures are planned - and others are not. Since being based at Ballan (and nearby) there have been quite a few days when we've headed out in search of sunshine, not really caring when we ended up!

Friends recently celebrated an important birthday with the aid of a left/right rock and a time limit for driving.  I was telling Nick and Erin about the rock when walking Bandit.  It didn't seem they liked the rock idea, so I continued packing up once back at the van.

We had already planned to go out, though hadn't really chosen a direction or destination.  Once in the car and ready to depart, I was asked where the left/right rock was!  I quickly scrawled on a box and throughout the day there were calls to consult or ignore the box!

Where did we end up?  Some very interesting places!

Given our later start, we stopped for lunch at Mount Greenock (an extinct volcano) Geological Reserve, site of the former Union Hill mine and somewhere that Major Mitchell had visited in 1836.

From there we visited the Avoca Chinese Gardens, created as a result of the town receiving a $350,000 grant. The garden "represents the important contribution the Chinese people made in the early settlement of Avoca and in particular on the gold fields".  It was a lovely area, built on what had been the sale yards!

We explored some of the tracks within the Percydale Historic Area, a goldfield with evidence of old (and newer) mines. There were many pretty wildflowers as well as lots of quartz.

Daly's Cottage was beautiful in the afternoon sunshine - with it's front fence covered in pink roses.  We couldn't see much through the bushes but the cottage is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database and is significant due to being relatively intact.

The dwelling was constructed of axe-hewn red gum slabs and still has remnants of the original bark roof.

We returned to Avoca for a very late afternoon tea by the river - not far from the Chinese Gardens.  One of Elmer's tyres was looking flat, so Nick and Vaughan deposited some picnic gear and drove off to find a service station.

Erin had recent instruction in lighting the dual fuel stove, so our hot beverages were prepared while Nick was away.

We sat for quite some time, enjoying the peace - before heading home.

Handy overhaul ...

A friend recently asked whether we had any qualms using public BBQs - and if we had ever considered using a BBQ liner.

It's true that not everyone cleans up after themselves but we generally carry some cleaning supplies with us, to clean the hotplate before use - and again when we are finished.

I showed some of our centre console supplies in a much earlier post.  I'm not sure what happened to Granny's small hand-towel but I revamped a replacement recently - because (paper) hand-towels aren't always provided in public toilets.  Neither is soap, for that matter.

One of my RedBubble shirts came in the re-usable ziplock bag, so it's currently doing duty to hold soap, a tiny bottle of hand sanitiser and my new hand-towel.  Elmer has a grab rail over his glove box, which is a good spot for my hat - and to hang the towel to dry during longer outings.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Boden's Water Race

I'd spotted signs for Boden's Water Race on several occasions, when returning from other adventures. As we had an afternoon free, we headed out to investigate.

On the way to the site, we rescued a couple of young guys who had mis-judged the depth of a "puddle".  They were very happy to be assisted (and even gave us some ice-cream money)!

Rescues aside, my plan was to have a quick look at the water race, find a geocache and then praps have lunch.  I definitely wasn't dressed for a 4.5 kilometre walk in strong sunshine but Nick set off and the rest of us followed!

As I trudged along in my fitflops (yep, my poor feet were blistered by the end of the walk), I had lots of opportunity to admire Thomas Boden's handiwork.

He and his cronies hand-dug the races in the 1860s, to direct water to various mining sites - all during summer months.  As much as I wasn't greatly comfortable, I was very glad not to be digging trenches!

There were beautiful wildflowers along the path, plenty of birds and little lizards.  When nearly back to the car (and thinking about snakes) I surprised two blue-tongue lizards engaged in a serious wrestle by the path.

At first I thought they were a snake, so was relieved to identify them otherwise!

One lizard had his mouth clamped around the other's front leg - and there was blood from that and another injury.

Nick aided the loser out of range and we continued on our way, hoping the battle was over.  Soon after the lizard encounter we met Vaughan walking back to us, bearing a large bottle of icy cold water and a cup.  What an absolutely marvelous lad!

We finally had lunch at Smythesdale Gardens Reserve (where we stopped for morning tea with Erin a couple of days prior).  Vaughan played on the neat pirate ship and afterwards we checked out a nearby quarry area for another geocache - before making our way home.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Frog Serenades ...

It was a glorious day yesterday - far too nice to stay at home, so we went out! Our original plan had us lunching at Lake Bolac but given our late start, relaxed pace and school pick-up deadline we opted for Plan B along the way.

Plan B meant we looped around from Skipton to Ballarat via some back-roads, in search of Mount Emu.

We weren't quite sure we'd found Mount Emu, until we went back today with GPS assistance!

Mount seems a rather grand title but we liked the rather pretty hill - both days!

We were a lot better organised this morning, so made an earlier start (in spite of grey skies). After picking up provisions in Ballarat, we had a quick break at Jubilee Park in Skipton (spotted yesterday and noted for future reference).

Bandit enjoyed a short walk around the lake, as did we.

Lake Bolac is about 50km further west of Skipton and we arrived in good time for lunch.  As much as we liked the look of old gums by the water's edge, we were amazed by the size and number of mozzies living in the vegetation beneath them, so chose a better lunch spot.

Some of our outings are prompted by things we see on earlier explorations and we made a few mental notes today. I've already started researching for another day-trip.

We got back to Vaughan's school just in time - and then bought a few items for an early sausage sizzle dinner at our local reservoir.  Many froggies were singing as we cooked and ate - and I realised we had enjoyed morning tea, lunch and dinner all with frog serenades!  How good is that?!  After dinner, Vaughan caught a sleek skink - and we spotted an echidna on the way home too. Gotta be happy with a great day out!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Monumental Day Out!

Back in May, we enjoyed a day exploring. We'd already visited Quartz Mountain when we called into the tourist centre at Maryborough.

The volunteer there gave us some more detailed directions to the Aboriginal Rock Wells, which we appreciated.

While chatting at the centre, I spotted an information sheet about an Aboriginal Shelter Tree but we would have needed to back-track almost to Quartz Mountain to see it, so elected to visit another day.

Our departure today was a lot later than usual and after some quick discussion we started driving to Maryborough, hoping to find at least some sunshine.

Along the way, we detoured slightly to see the magnificent "Maternity Tree" - it was just wonderful, well worth visiting!

From there we went to Dunolly, where the main street has a Welcome Stranger monument.

We had a very late sausage sizzle in a nearby park before heading further to the Moliagul site where the Welcome Stranger nugget was found.  It was a day of monuments. A few metres from the public toilets at Moliagul is a monument to John Flynn, founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.  We've had some experience of the Flying Doctor Service at Yowah, so we stopped to read the plaques at that monument also.

Because of our mid-afternoon start, it was late when we were heading home.  We called in to the Goldfields Reservoir at Maryborough for hot beverages and snacks. The wind was strong (and icy) so I shifted the stove into a sheltered area beneath the table - and sat inside a similar compartment myself!

Friday, 4 November 2016

Lake Goldsmith (not Beaufort)?!

Earlier in the year, we dined by Lake Beaufort as the sun set.  Actually it is more accurate to say we sat with a view of the large puddle that had been the lake!

Although there are many references to Lake Beaufort online - my map of Victoria refers to the same body of water as Lake Goldsmith. 

Actually, no - during further explorations, we drove past Lake Goldsmith and it is definitely quite separate to Beaufort.  There were a few houses nearby and a very interesting park (with gypsy wagons), the site of an annual steam rally.  We've just missed this year's event and won't be local in 2017.

Vaughan was at school when Nick, Erin and I headed out for drive with Bandit.  We picnicked in a roadside rest area but found ourselves near Beaufort a bit later in the day, so called past the lake to see it as it should be.  There were many, many happy froggies singing their appreciation of all the water!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Forest Feast Festivities

Erin didn't fancy an elaborate birthday dinner.  She really just wanted a camp oven dinner in the forest - specifically our adaptation of butter chicken, which is actually butter pork (first made during our Kwiambal trip).

There's a pic of a thermal cooked version cheffed when we visited Ironfest in 2012. You can see the added butter and cannellini beans, plus extra vegies.

The weather was amazingly variable throughout the day. There was blue sky, rain, wind and even hail!  We decided to keep preparing and packed a gazebo to set up on-site over one of the existing picnic tables.

Once at the reserve, Erin and Vaughan set up Elmer's awning.  When it was last used, one of the side poles was bent but is still functional (though hopefully will be replaced soon).  You can see Nick lighting our latest acquisition, a new Coleman Northstar Dual Fuel Lantern bought at the most terrific bargain price, due to it being used as a demonstration model. Our original dual fuel lantern was purchased in 2009 for our first camping trip and has served us very well since.  It hasn't been functioning to it's usual high standard though (and neither has our original dual fuel stove, also from 2009) but in chatting to the salesman, he offered the solution - and service kits for both items are to be purchased in the near future when stock becomes available.

What of Erin's camp oven feast?  The fact that there are no photos of the finished dish prove how great it was - and how hungry we were!  (I'd cooked rice in the thermal cooker before leaving and it was pretty good too).  The cake was lovely and the birthday song was sung with great gusto, particularly by Bandit! Erin declared the night wonderful - and it was.  There was even a wombat sighting as we chatted by the fire.  It doesn't get much better than that!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Lake Learmonth

We'd visited Lake Learmonth in March, at the end of a very full day of exploring.

I was surprised at the lake's dryness on that occasion but my research later indicated there had been very little water since 1996!

Given all the recent rain (and flooding) I roused the troops for an after-school visit to see the lake again - with water.  Wow!

I took a series of compare/contrast shots, to show the difference between our two visits.

I turned down a different road to get to the lake-side, so we made a quick stop to admire these bird sculptures.

I particularly liked the balancing ibis. How neat are they?!

Nick set up our small dual fuel stove to boil the kettle for afternoon tea. (The rest of our picnic was set up on a different table and we sat there, just to be safe)!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

First-aid ...

At some stage since our move to caravan living, we decided it was easier to take our dual fuel stove with us to boil a kettle/billy, rather than filling our thermoses before departure.

In more recent times our original dual fuel stove hasn't been working as well as it used to.  (It was purchased in very early 2009, so has done good work over the years).

I wasn't prepared to retire the original but thought we could use a small version for our day-trips, while we decided how to re-tune the larger stove.

Although Nick and Erin had tested the new stove while Vaughan and I were in WA, I was keen to see it in action once home again.

We found ourselves at Mount Franklin the day after Vaughan and I returned to Victoria.  We had a picnic lunch followed by a round of hot beverages, before setting off for a walk up the crater.  Tanya rang when we were at the top, to announce that she and Brett had eloped!  We chatted for a while before heading back down to Elmer - and decided another round of drinks was in order.

I'm not quite sure what went wrong but the billy slipped off the stove and spilled boiling water across the table.  Some splashed on Erin but as Vaughan was closest, it wet his leg.  He stripped off his track-pants and Nick applied some cold water but Vaughan then said he was ok and pulled his pants back up.  There was a bit of drama before his pants were removed and more water was applied - due to Vaughan being anti even semi-nakedness anywhere, let alone a public space!

We probably tipped 12-plus litres of very cold water over the knee, with many trips back to the tank to refill our bottles.  The local hospital was 15 mins away so after ringing, we drove there.  They checked Vaughan's leg and said we'd done the right thing.  (They advised water should be tepid not cold but we used what was on-site). A gel infused pad was applied and held in place with a bandage - which did very good work overnight (and the skin healed fully after a few days).

Saturday, 24 September 2016

The Pinnacles!

Vaughan and I had some wonderful adventures with Nissa - and visiting The Pinnacles was a definite highlight!

We stayed in Freemantle, so the drive up to The Pinnacles was just under 250 km.

Nissa drove a lot of the way, which meant I could take pics and watch for wildflowers.  I was really impressed by the huge areas of grass trees - and of course, driving along the Indian Ocean.  Stunning!

The Pinnacles were awesome! I'm so glad we saw them - just magic!

Nissa and I spent some time in the Discovery Centre before re-joining Vaughan (who had wandered off to a viewing platform).

It is possible to go bush walking in the area but we chose to drive the one-way track, stopping off at various bays to walk short distances and view the formations more closely (some of which are close to five metres high)!  We would have stayed longer but had packed a sausage sizzle lunch, so needed to head further afield to find a BBQ as we were all very much in need of sustenance!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Lal Lal Falls (with water)!

We visited Lal Lal Falls in March but there was no water.

Given all the recent rain and flooding, I wanted to see the falls in action, so we headed over for a quick visit en route to the airport (where Vaughan and I were taking a WA flight to visit Nissa)!

Wow!  So much water - and so many people there to see it!  The carpark was over-flowing and more cars arrived as we strolled around.  There were lots of visitors enjoying the wonderful sight - and I'm very glad we made a detour to join them!  You can view some drone footage (not ours!) of the falls here, taken about a month prior to our visit.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Nimmons Bridge

I'd seen photos of Nimmons Bridge and really wanted to see it for myself, so scheduled a picnic stop on my pre-birthday itinerary. I'm good, eh?!

Nimmons Bridge is a very impressive hand-built wooden trestle bridge, built in the 1850s for the rail service during the gold rush.

It is one of the largest bridges of it's kind in Victoria and remains in use as part of the Ballarat-Skipton rail trail, a 53 kilometre cycleway.

Fortunately we didn't have to exert ourselves too much to view the bridge - and there was a picnic table very close to it.

We stopped for lunch - and were greeted warmly by a three-legged dog that lived in one of the nearby houses!

After lunch we strolled across the bridge and then walked along the bottom track to admire the structure from below.  Wow!

Devil's Kitchen

I'd read about Devil's Kitchen a while ago and decided to put it on the itinerary for my birthday prelude picnic outing.

The information I read was on a rock-climbing site, so most of the notes were concerned with climbing - whereas we just wanted to see the rocks.

Well, most of us were happy to view the formations from ground level.  As usual, Vaughan was keen to scale higher!

No-one else was climbing when we visited. There were a couple of other small groups wandering about.  Some were walking their dogs and others were collecting rocks.

There are no facilities at the kitchen, so we headed further along to seek a loo and picnic spot.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Snow-break ...

Given the snow and cold, we were pleased to pack up for eight weeks - and spend much of the colder months house-sitting.

Soon after we moved to the house there was more snow and we enjoyed watching it, while comfortably warm inside solid walls (and basking beside the wood-fire)!

Nick and Vaughan were snowed on while walking Bandit one very cold afternoon.  (They were not impressed)!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


We were very pleased of Nick's repair work and our added insulation efforts when it SNOWED!  Wow!

Typically Vaughan debated the snow forecast with me when I collected him from school.

He was quite adamant we wouldn't get any snow.  I listened to him while watching rain fall on the windscreen of the car.  The rain looked odd - because it was actually ice! (Nick was sleeping in preparation for night-shift, so missed seeing that first round of slushy stuff).

It was around 6:00am when Nick arrived home this morning.  He said it had been snowing on the freeway while he was driving and there was snow on the tent.  The rest of us huddled down in our blankets and asked him to show us a photo!  There was still snow on the ground when Vaughan and I got up later and we were very gleeful on the way to school, seeing cars drive past with snow mounded on bonnets and roofs!

I roused Erin a bit later to come out for some snow appreciation - and it snowed again while I was taking photos.  Of course, as interesting as it was to see snow, we were less impressed to be trekking back and forth to the amenities block in the cold!

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Bragging Rights!

Much rain and local flooding in early July saw us taking advantage of a rare sunny day to head into our local forest.

We took provisions for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner - so were well prepared for a day of fun.

The creek was full, which hampered Vaughan's critter catching but our new toasting fork was thoroughly tested and Bandit shared some special Sausage King fare.

I made my best-ever damper - so need to brag about that.

Well, on searching the archives, it seems there was another rather fine example in 2011. However, there have been slightly charred offerings in between, most recently at Firth Park, so some fanfare is justified!

We stayed late so as to feast on camp oven roast dinner, toast giant Aldi marshmallows and then admire three packets of Mystic Fire (when all the cooking was done).

Back in March we first tried one pack of Mystical Fire.  It was pretty but the effect is definitely more impressive with three packets!

We finished the night with a sparkler finale.  Better than staying home!

Sunday, 5 June 2016

C-O-L-D Comfort!

Nick worked in stages to repair the back of the van.  The first step was to remove everything stored beneath our Princess bed and shift it to the back room of the tent.

There was a definite draught coming in from the back of the van.  I was very aware of it when doing my nightly back stretches.  To combat the cold I hung a blanket across the bed frame, tucked in along the mattress.  

(You can see how cold it is some nights, there is a photo at right showing my tent kitchen looking like a steam room from the cooking)!

We made several trips to Bunnings to acquire a pop rivet gun, rivets, a length of aluminium and a strong drill bit.

There was very heavy frost earlier this week.  Nick had checked the tent thermometer at around 5:00am and the reading was -6 degrees!  It was 2 degrees a couple of hours later when we roused ourselves for the day.  There was ice on the tent and frost everywhere. Bandit's water bowl had iced over - the world was definitely C-O-L-D!

When the ground thawed, Nick worked on the caravan.  He riveted the metal cladding and also replaced the edging band.  The next day he installed three aluminium brackets to further anchor the cladding in place.

Nick had taken out the back interior wall lining while working on the repair.  It seemed a good opportunity to fit some insulation, so we went back to Bunnings to see what might work. Sheets of black corflute (thinner and far more flexible than the white variety we'd used for the window insulation) were on sale for $7.00 a sheet.  We bought two.  They were cut to size and sandwiched around layers of leftover bubble wrap (which had been used to successfully cut the cold coming off the van door).  The interior wall lining was replaced over our DIY insulation sheet. The van is much cosier now the repair is done and insulation added - hooray!

During our Ballarat trip a hook for the door blind came loose. It has now been replaced but for a week or so, the door was without it's blind - and we really noticed the difference. However I was heartened by the fact that we'd all coped with the -6 overnight temp with the draught from the back end and the missing door window blind. It gives me hope for our comfort as winter advances!

Saturday, 4 June 2016


The weekend after shifting sites, we had a couple of nights away - for a change of scene!  We left the tent set-up and took the van with us.

Nick had been on night-shift, so we travelled on Saturday afternoon to a caravan park not all that far from our usual one.

We stayed two nights and then came home on Monday morning.  I drove back first, delivering Vaughan to school just before 9:00am.  When I arrived back at the tent, I was impressed to see how well it had fared during the strong winds of the weekend.  (A large tree had broken off just beside Elmer Fudd at our temporary site and the weather had been similarly wild in the larger region).

Nick and Erin returned around mid-morning.  As they drove in, it was obvious the back of the van wasn't right.  The cladding had pulled away along the bottom edge.

Once the van was parked beside the tent, Nick inspected the rear-end damage and starting thinking about it's repair.  There was a definite gap between the exterior panel and the floor.  Fortunately it didn't seem that anything had fallen out during the 30km drive.  Lucky!