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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #072


Ooooo Kaaaay.

I can't believe it's been over a year since I posted on this blog. What can I say, after 14 years maybe I got a bit tired of it, or maybe as we're not traveling there's just not that much to talk about.

On the other hand what we are doing here at Wallaby Ridge might be interesting to some people. Also we use this to jog our own memories and as such it's a valuable resource to us.

So let's give it a go again.

One thing that has changed of late is my returned interest in making videos and I hope they will become a regular feature here as well. Nothing fantastic as I don't have the equipment — or indeed the talent — to make award-winning videos. But it's fun making them and hopefully fun watching them.

And speaking of videos, I have started a YouTube channel

link to channel (I hope)

Don't expect too much, I'm just playing around.



Till next time then, and remember,

Mon 28 Dec 2015

I'm finally getting the smithing area sorted out, still a long way from actually using it but at least things are more or less where they will be used.

The smithing area to be.

And while on the subject of low-tech hobbies, here's a quick video of me firing my muzzle-loader.

Thu 31 Dec 2015

A few photos of some locals.

It's raining so I just sit inside and watch the (wet) wildlife.

Sat 02 Jan 2016

Time to start building the workshop shutters, there will be six in total.

The bench is not large enough to lay out such a large project but I have extensions that allow that to happen. With the extensions I can lay out something about 2.5 metres square, half of which is supported by the bench proper and the other half by the extensions.

The second shutter being fabricated.

Here we see the second shutter being fabricated and you can see the first in position and half open.

Note also the welder, it's suspended from a makeshift beam trolley that runs along that large purlin, this allows me to move the welder back and forth to better access various parts of a project and also to store it out of the way, all without cluttering up the floor.

Mon 25 Jan 2016

The kitchen is finished, it's not very large but then neither of us are gourmet cooks and after living in a motorhome for years we don't need much space.

The kitchen.

Actually this room was supposed to be just a large pantry, but things change when you build "organically" as I do.

Fri 06 May 2016

ReiseMobil is a German magazine about campervans and motorhomes. They contacted me to ask if they can write an article about the truck. "Of course" I replied.

All they need from me are high-resolution photos, of which I have many of the truck itself but they also need one of its multi-talented builder and I don't have one of me and the truck.

So I have to frock up for the camera.

Yours truly, dashing as ever.

The article.

Sun 22 May 2016

I seem to have stopped working on the workshop, maybe because it's now complete enough to be used. It is weather resistant and usable but not weather proof, but at least today I made some progress and built this half wall.

Outside view of the wall.

Inside view.

Mon 08 Aug 2016

For a couple of years or so now we've been running a generator almost every day, more so before we moved the truck out from under the trees into the sun but even in this location we still don't generate enough power.

But that's all in the past now. I have installed another 12 solar panels, each 175 watts. So that's another 2100 watts added to the 1700 on the truck.

The 12 new solar panels.

Backing up we see our original panels as well.

See those 8 panels in the foreground of the second photo. They are the original Unisolar panels we had on the Mk1 version of the truck, all those years ago. They aren't connected right now and with nearly 4000 watts of panels on the truck and the container we don't really need the extra 500 watts they would provide, but I should add them to the mix.

And to think we used to live just fine on only these panels.

Tue 27 Sep 2016

I've been doing some contract electronics design work lately.

The first prototype.

Next level prototype.

This is (or will be) an oven controller. The work seems to have dried up now though and to be honest I'm a bit sick of doing this stuff, I prefer more manual work these days.

Sun 23 Oct 2016

The "mud room" has a window which is at about torso level when sitting on the composting toilet, for long dunny sessions on hot days this is a great feature.

Now around here "window" is normally just a euphamism for "hole in the wall" and this particular hole in the wall needed something to stop the bad guys from climbing in.

So I weld up a frame, fit some aluminium grate into it, then bolt the assembly into the hole.

The mudroom window.

It looks a bit "corrective services" eh? No matter.

And while in the district here's a photo of the local Bunnings (a big hardware chain for my non-Aussie readers).

Bunnings, GRAYnomad branch.

That's the doors of one of our containers, lined with ply and used to hang tools and stuff (like screws). Finally I can actually find things when I need them.

While I was welding in the shed — with Chris supervising — something caught her eye, it was one of "our" possums. He must have been sleeping up on top of the tank and came out to complain about the noise.

So we get some apple core left over from lunch and compensated the little fellow for the disturbance.


Mon 24 Oct 2016

For some time now I've been collecting old wheel weights from local tyre businesses, with a view to casting my own bullets.

Recently I made a start, I'm melting the weights into "ingots", and although I have done a couple of test bullet casts for now I just want to clear all the buckets of weights I have cluttering up the workshop.

A bucket of weights.

Sorted and the lead ones put in the pot.

The lead has melted, any steel and zinc floats to the top, just scoop it off.

Then throw in a tea candle, this acts as a flux and burns off impureties.

Then let cool.

And tip out the solid disc.

Some test bullets, 50 cal round balls in this pic but I can do other types as well.

Fri 28 Oct 2016

I finally finished the outside shower.

The new outside shower.

This is a Godsend because we now have the ability to easily wash down after working in the field. It does have hot water but I normally just use cold 'cause I'm tough.

The glass screen is a window given to me by a neighbour.

I don't particularly like the chrome taps and rose — too flash for here as we specialise in rustic — and I do have some brass taps so I'll swap them soon, but it seems that nobody makes a brass shower rose.

Sat 05 Nov 2016

For some time now we've been milling flour to make our bread. So today I go into the pantry to get the mill down from its storage location up on a shelf.

Oh boy, time to mill some more wheat.

On second thoughts, you go ahead, I'm a little tired.

Later I go to clean the mill and tidy up, however possum has beat me to it, what a helpfull little guy.

Just need to get a little deeper, it's important to do a good job when cleaning up.

All clean now gov, anything else I can help you with?

Thu 10 Nov 2016

We were woken at about 4AM by an almighty racket. I go outside and shine a torch onto the roof, to see a possum innocently peering over the edge.

Mystery solved.

So now I'm up I may as well melt some lead eh?

The workshop in the early morning.

Later I stack the discs I've done so far.

A stack of discs, 144kgs worth.

I did plan to make some ingot molds and may still do so, but for now these discs will work.

Sun 27 Nov 2016

It's raining again, I think I'll find a job to do in the workshop...

Bush chooks in the workshop.

hmmm, maybe later, I'd hate the little darlings to have to go out in the rain.

Mon 28 Nov 2016

One of my neighbour's mum is a well-known artist, she's 94 now and a bit past it but still loves to draw portraits, and who better to draw than the Ned Kelly lookalike that lives next door.

The original drawing.

My bad poster.

I probably look a bit too neat in the pic, my neighbour had to constantly say "Mum you've draw him too neat, don't think bank teller, think bank robber".

So given that I thought I'd make a wanted poster from the drawing.

Wed 30 Nov 2016

Some time ago during a burn off a tree fell when the fire got inside it and chimneyed up through its middle.

The tree is on a neighbouring property, he is infirm and she is pretty old and they have no way to clear the fallen timber. So being the great guy I am I offered to cut it up, of course I will get some firewood out of the deal

The first day I did some general clean up and cut some of the smaller limbs.

Some of the fallen timber.

Cut and loaded.

We start a new firewood storage area.

Today though it's time to have a go at one of the large limbs.

One of my neighbours has lost his driving license due to being busted too many times for drink driving. He's a bit of a no hoper but a nice guy and I often give him a lift into town or drop in to his place for a beer. Today though I don't have to drop in because he walks past on his way to the main road to hitch into town.

As the sun must be over the yard arm somewhere I accept his offer to share the beer he is carrying.

Another neighbour walked by with a few beers in his backpack (as you do), time for a break.

OK, beer break is over, time to roll the log over, and to do this I really need a cant hook.

These are designed to allow a person to easily roll over a large log.

I've been meaning to make one for years but keep saying I'll do it when I get the smithy up and running. Well I've had the blacksmith gear for over two years now and done almost nothing with it, by the time I make a cant hook I'll be too old to cut firewood.

Whatever, I don't have one right now so what to do? Another neighbour gave me a "come along" some time back, that's one of those low-grade winches. They aren't super strong but still very useful for general snigging of stuff and even lifting (but don't tell the OH&S people).

I use one of my ground anchor spikes to hold the winch.

I fix the cable to the log by driving a steel peg into one of the cuts.

Overview of the setup.

Once the log is rolled over I can complete the cuts, load the rounds into the trailer and go home.

Some of the large rounds arrive back at the wood pile.

I still have maybe 5x as much again to cut, that'll be for another day.

30 Nov 2016

I've had my lathe for some time but not done much with it so far so tonight I decide to have a play with some scrap aluminium stock.

My little 7x14 Sieg lathe.

I'm pretty crap with it at present, and will never be really good I think, but I enjoy tinkering with "engineering-style" projects and have always been interested in model engineering so the long-term plan is to get more into that.

Sat 03 Dec 2016

It's been a hard morning brush cutting, let's relax and see what's on the TV.

Python on the TV.

I love living with the wildlife, by and large all animals are free to come and go around here, even this python, although that was mostly because it was too difficult to get him from behind the TV. Next morning it had gone from that spot but it will still be around somewhere. In fact the other day when I was away Chris found two of them in the kitchen.

A scrub turkey (aka bush chook) in the workshop.

Huntsman on the living room door.

Cane toads in the bird bath.

Sun 05 Dec 2016

We've had a lot of rain lately, that softens the earth and makes the removal of lantana easier, so we're into that at present.

I've no idea how many I've removed, 100s at least I reckon. And they have all been burnt so our carbon foot print is not that great this month.

I manually pull them out, roots and all. It's hard work but I find it to be quite rewarding, just something simple I can put my back into.

A lantana load for the fire.

This is the stump and roots of a large one.

Some just pull out, others are so large I have to cut away one side so I can get to the center, then chainsaw off the larger branches, and finally use a crow bar to extract the stump.

Like I said, hard work but rewarding.

Fri 06 Jan 2017

A few month ago I offered to weld up a BBQ plate for one of my neighbours. I got the 8mm plate laser cut in Bundaberg and did nothing with it for ages. He has been using the plate as is but with no lip around the edge all the fat drips off onto the ground.

So today I get it back and weld a ring around the outside to stop that. I also weld a ring around the flu hole to help stabilise the flu, this will also stop fat running through there.

Wed 11 Jan 2017

The other day when we were in town we spotted some pallets for sale, only $2 each, so today I drive in to get some. I can fit 18 in the trailer and another two in the back of the car.

A load of pallets.

I think we'll use them to make an enclosure to hide and secure various items of garden equipment like the wheel barrow.

Fri 20 Jan 2017

I have 38 pallets now, that should be enough.

The 38 pallets.

Tue 31 Jan 2017

There's been a lot of snake activity lately. I've evicted three carpet pythons and a tree snake (I think) from a neighbour's place and this large fellow has been hanging around our place, always in a spot that made it too difficult to extract him.

Our latest python, larger than others so far.

Tonight I managed to grab him, he got a bit feisty and it was not practical to put him in a sack for proper relocation some distance away so I just drag him tail-first out into the bush about 100M from the house.

He'll be back, in fact he probably beat me home.

Truth is I should really leave him be as he will keep the mice under control, trouble is he could also eat our possums and that's not an option.

Speaking of which, I haven't seen any possums for a few days, they aren't inside the snake so I'm thinking they knew it was around and beat a retreat to a safer location.

I hope they come back.

Wed 22 Feb 2017

We finally got around to paving the patio area outside the living room.

It's turned the area into a really nice place to sit and watch the world go by.

The new patio area.

The patio area is delimited with old bridge timbers, you can see one of the original bolts in the following pic. To join them I made fish plates then some DIY railway spikes by cutting 100mm sections of reo bar, heating the end with my oxy (no the forge is not working yet) and 'upsetting' the ends on the anvil.

DIY spikes and fish plate holding the timbers together.

Sun 26 Feb 2017

We've been outside building a wall from pallets, this wall will create a 'compound' in which we can store various items like motorbikes, garden tools, and building materials etc. in a manner that is relatively out of sight which in turn will make the place look a lot tidier.

When I come in for some water I find that Notch is in the lounge room, by the time I return with my camera he's moved out into the living room.

Notch in the living room.

What a darling boy he is, he even left us a present in the lounge room, fortunately wallaby poo is hard pellets that are easy to clean up, unlike scrub turkey poo, but that's another story.

Oh, and the broom that's appearing at the top of the photo? That's hanging from the TV antenna and is required if we want good reception on the ABC.

Meanwhile, back outside the pallet compound is coming along.

The pallet compound, a work in progress.

It was going to be a lockable enclosure but I decided that's too much work and anyway anyone with a car and a chain could rip half of the wall down if they were serious. The motorbikes will get chained to something solid but the wheelbarrow and garden trolleys etc can fend for themselves.

As we had a lot of pallets left over I decided to clad the container with them as well, partly for aesthetics but mostly to provide shade to keep the interior cooler.

The corner of the wall was going to be 90°, but I decided to make it beveled with 30° and 60° corners. These will require gussetting to join the wall sections.

It's all pretty rough, but in keeping with the "rustic chic" of the house.

The entire thing has been sprayed with diesel and that is not a job I would wish on anyone, I had diesel saturating my clothes, dripping from my nose, all through my hair etc etc. Still it should be good for my dry skin :)

Mon 27 Feb 2017

We don't generate much rubbish that we can't burn or feed to the bush chooks, but every few months the accumulated junk gets to the point that we have to do a run to the rubbish tip.

Today was the day. Thank goodness we have a large trailer.

Another load for the rubbish tip.

Sat 04 Mar 2017

The pallet compound is pretty much finished.

Nearly finished.

Close up of the gusseting on the corners.

Thu 09 Mar 2017

While at the tip the other day I spotted a tumble drier drum and grabbed it with a view to making a fire pit near the patio.

The new tumble drier drum fire pit.

It works a treat.

Sun 19 Mar 2017

We've had a lot of rain lately and the place is looking pretty green.

Early morning at Wallaby Ridge.

That's good, but also bad because when things grow we have more work to do with the brush cutters.

Thu 30 Mar 2017

The python I talked about above is back.

The python has found a comfy snake-shaped resting place in the workshop.

Sat 01 Apr 2017

We all know how cuckoos work right? They put their eggs in the nest of another bird species and let the poor surrogate parents raise the cuckoo chicks.

I knew this but have never actually seen it until a few weeks ago and again today when I finally got a photo.

Crows feeding Cuckoo Shrike chicks.

These poor crows are being run ragged trying to feed three Cuckoo Shrike chicks that are larger than their foster parents.

And getting back to pythons, I mentioned some time ago that I was worried about this one eating one or more of our possums, well today I find it eyeing off a possum but in return the possun was eyeing off the python and given the speed and dexterity of a possum I figured it was pretty safe now that it's aware of the threat.

The python is still up in the purlins and the possum is in the strainer up on top of the water tank.

Sun 02 Apr 2017

This morning the python is in the strainer and there's no sign of the possum. Hoping against hope that the possum has just moved to a safer place I climb up to have a close look at the snake.

He's certainly a lot fatter than he was and while there's not an obvious possum-shaped bulge amidships I'd say my poor possum has gone to heaven.

Yes that is nature at work, but I am still extremely angry at myself and even more so at the snake. My first instinct is to kill it but they are protected and I'm not one to act in haste so I'll sit on that idea for a while.

Fri 07 Apr 2017

Not far from us is a block that's been for sale at least as long as we've been here, IE 11 years or so. It has a caravan on it and used to have a corro iron roof over the van as well but of late the place has become pretty derelict.

The roof has fallen down over the caravan and the lantana is out of hand.

I could use some corro for my forge area and also for a camp kitchen we might build for the 1000s of guests we have staying here. (That's a joke BTW, we have bugger all people stay here, which makes me wonder why we would need a camp kitchen.)

So I approach the real estate agent and offer to clean up the place in return for the corro sheets. He agrees that it will make the place easier to sell and says he will ask the owner.

After a week or two I have permission and we get to work.

It takes all day to clear some fallen trees and overgrowing lantana and remove the corro, the end result is still not exactly 'House and Garden' but a lot better than it was.

It looks a bit more presentable now. Still one huge lantana but it's growing from under the van and that's too hard to deal with for now.

Sheets of (mostly) antique corrogated iron in the trailer.

All in all I got 36 sheets, most of them are original galvanised corro, some even with the ORB logo on them. These old sheets are thicker than modern ones and to my eye look better, I think they will also be more appropriate for the projects I have in mind.

Wed 12 Apr 2017

As I've mentioned many times our place is pretty much open to the local wildlife, here's another example.

The old-wallaby-in-the-workshop trick.

Thu 13 Apr 2017

And here's me thinking that I've stopped building stuff. I've decided that the plywood panels on the workshop shutters are not good and I'll replace them with the same fibreglass sheeting I've used on the roof.

This will make the shutters lighter in both senses of the word, IE lighter in weight and therefore easier to open, and lighter in colour so they will let more light into the workshop.

So to this end I've bought ten sheets from my neighbour.

We originally went halves in about 30 sheets and he didn't use all of his, so being the nice guy that I am I offered to take the ones he didn't use.

Ten fibreglass roofing sheets on the car's roof rack.

With the addition of some half pallets to fill in the gap under the container the pallet compound is now finished.

The finished compound.

Weeeell maybe not, I think I'll add a roof to some of it.

Wed 26 Apr 2017

Out watching the fog this morning.

Wallaby in the mist.

The possums figured out how to open the seed bin ages ago, but it seems that the turkeys have now as well.

Who's a clever boy then?

And on a completely different topic, it only takes one 'accident' in the South China sea to stop most of Australia's fuel supplies for quite some time, causing prices to rocket and maybe even prompting the government to ration fuel.

Best to have a little put aside I think.

Two 44s in the trailer, not filled yet.




Date  ::   26 Jan 2017
Name  ::   Nick
Location  ::   London
Comment  ::   Glad to see you are posting again! Really great to see the progress on your property
Date  ::   19 Feb 2017
Name  ::   Robert
Location  ::   Sydney
Comment  ::   Great to see the update, enjoyed the videos.. one question.. The lights in the workshop, are they LEDs??, they look quite large and bright. What sort of power would they consume??
Date  ::   19 Feb 2017
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   The lights are triple flouros, not the most efficient these days but I got them for $10 each.

I could use LED replacement tubes but would have to muck around with the fittings, I think you have to remove the ballast or whatever. Truth is for now I don't do much out there at night and we have plenty of power anyway.
Date  ::   08 Mar 2017
Name  ::   Jesper
Location  ::   Portugal
Comment  ::   Finally! I love your update, and now with videos! Even the female part of the household got interested. "What a nice looking man he is!" She said. Maybe you should consider a modelling career, perhaps?! That would be something to impress Chris with, right! :D Here I'm building a Tiny House for the (latest) exwife. Difficult to explain, but we are all one big, happy family around here... ;)

Are you planning to start a war with 140 kgs of ammunition??? A lot of lead. Beware of the fumes, someone says. It could damage the brain, they say too. I don't know if you have much to loose, but I probably wouldn't have to worry too much myself...

Congrats on the new panels. Just read somewhere that prices per watt is now less than 1/10 of what it was 15-20 years ago. More bang for your buck. Then again, we just use more and more, it seems. :) Be safe, and please don't wait another 14 months to tell us what's going on. Please! Love to Chris too.
Date  ::   09 Mar 2017
Name  ::   Will
Location  ::   Mandurah, Western Australia.
Comment  ::   Hi Rob & Chris,
Thought it was time to check up on some of the old Blogs I've been following over the years. In your early days, your writing would keep me amused during the long night shifts on the Control Panel at the mine site. It helped me keep my own dream alive.
Good to see you are back at it & writing about your exploits again

I wrote to you once back when we first returned to the Mandurah area (2004 I think & you replied). Since then a lot has happened about the only thing that has stayed the same is I'm still happily married.

Kids, have all grown up, we shifted house 4 times, had multiple jobs, made a bit of dosh & have done some traveling. Haven't done "paid" work in over 2.5 years. Your blog & others have assisted in guiding the way & what else is possible if you don't want for much. For that I say thank you.

I see that your block is keeping you both busy. Do you have any plans to get back out on the road for an extended length of time again ?

Anyway, keep up the good work, I'll check out your YouTube Channel soon.


Date  ::   19 May 2017
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Jesper, yes I'm back, well maybe not as frequent as before but I'll try to post regularly.

That 144kgs is just my lead, ammo is another story.

"Are you planning to start a war with 140 kgs of ammunition?"
No, planning to finish one :)

I blow the fumes away with a fan, but as you say I haven't got much to lose so no big deal.

Yes when I first bought panels they were $10/watt, last I looked you can get them for about 70c/watt, and the other components are much cheaper (except batteries, not much change there I think). No reason not to go solar these days IMO.
Date  ::   19 May 2017
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Will, glad I could help, yes if you lower your needs for stuff you can indeed have a better life with less working for the system.

At this point we have no plans for extended travel again, in fact we almost put the truck on the market but just couldn't bring ourselves to do it, that truck has been a major part of our life for 20 years, that's a 3rd of our lives. Yikes! So we just couldn't part with it and anyway if we have it our options are always open to head off again, but for now we're happy on our land.

I just had a quick look at your blog, looks interesting and I'll browse properly later, after I dig some post holes for my workshop extension.
Date  ::   19 May 2017
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi guys, thanks for getting in touch, and sorry I've been so tardy in responding.

I'm working on diary updates as we speak.

Date  ::   21 May 2017
Name  ::   Cees
Location  ::   Dronten The Netherlands
Comment  ::   Hi Chris and Rob
Any interest in lending your truck to us for a periode of time to travel australia
Of course for a fee !
This way you are not selling IT and brings some money
What do you think of IT
As you know i am former truck driver

Date  ::   23 May 2017
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   I'm, OK with that in principle Cees, but the practicalities would kill the idea I suspect.

Firstly, it's not insured right now so not only would I have to get insurance but it would have to cover another driver. I don't know what that would cost.

But the big thing is recovery, if you break down in say Broome I have a 12-tonne dead vehicle 4000k from me, it would cost a fortune to get it back.

There may be ways to cover this but short of a $10,000 bond I can't think of one.

Anyway email me if you want to talk further about it.


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