Friday, 26 August 2016

Bourke and Lightning Ridge



The final leg of our month long road trip was from Broken Hill to Bourke then on to Lightening Ridge and finally the big push to home.
As we traveled through this part of outback we really enjoyed the scenery that is so unique to this part of the world.
There had been quite a bit of rain recently so things were showing signs of new growth and the wild flowers were abundant.
However as you can see from the below photo the conditions are still very dry and lots more rain is needed, I guess this is the reality of the outback.




We also saw lots more wild life.


At the Back of Bourke Information center we were treated with a large flock of Black Cockatoos eating the berries of the cedar trees and I was able to get a few snaps.  They are such magnificent birds.  We also learnt all about the history of the area including the early explorers, the history of the paddle steamer trade which made Bourke a significant inland trading port.



Bourke has some amazing scenery nearby and this has kept local artist Jenny Greentree very busy. Her gallery was great and we came away with a few prints to take to NZ with us.


Our final stop on out rip was Lightning Ridge and by far this was the most interesting place we visited.  It was just so unique and like nowhere else I have ever been.
Lightning Ridge is an opal mining town and home to the Black Opal and the site of some amazing hot artesian springs and John Murray's gallery.  John Murray produces some comical art that captures the essence of the outback and is know for his below painting of Tony Abbott our former Prime Minister.




We made good use of the hot pools every day but being pregnant I had to be careful not to get over heated as the blood vessels dilate and then the baby can have reduced oxygen, so I sat on the step of the kiddy pool and just had from my hips down in the water and then only for 10 minutes but even that was great and enough.
The hot pools, free to access 23 hours a day with change rooms, great lighting all night
and picnic facilities.


Australia produces a lot of the worlds opals and where as Coober Peedy tends to produce pearly coloured opals Lightning Ridge produces Black Opals and while there I treated myself to a set of earrings.  They were not cheap but they are my treat to myself for finishing work and having a baby and I will get a lot of wear from them.

Lightning Ridge is a funny town to drive around as when you drive down the main street it looks just like lots of other outback towns other than the fact that every second shop either buys or sells opals. But venture off the main street and you are confronted with homes made of every conceivable material and yards full of piles of spoil as people hunt for opals in their back yards.
And if you want to get a taste of opal mining you can fossick for free in the big pile of spoil outside the information centre where people have found opals up to the value of $5000.

Us outside the information center beside the fossicking pile
Tourists fossicking outside the information centre
Front yards of Lightning Ridge
One of the best ways to have a nosey around Lightning Ridge without getting lost is to do the car door tours.  Because many of the streets look a bit like they might just be a private driveway or road these tours let you have a good sticky beak without trespassing, falling down a mine shaft (yes a real concern) or getting lost.  There are 4 different self guided tours you can do Red, Green, Yellow and Blue and you pay $1 at the information center and get a map with directions and a guide to what you are seeing.  All you do is follow the signs to the starting point then follow the painted car doors.





As I mentioned the people of Lightning Ridge live in all sorts of home and these are just a sample.

A castle.


A home made with bottles and cans.


Another Castle.

Help wanted in the castle.


An assortment of materials used for building.


On one of our tours we stopped off at Bevans Cactus Nursery which has the largest collection of cacti in the southern hemisphere some of which are up to 150 years old.  I wish we had been there to see them flower but that is September/October and we will be busy with Peanuts arrival.


An old miners house - boy it would have been hot in summer

On our last day at Lightning Ridge we made an effort to go and see something that the ridge is famous for - Outback sunsets.
We followed the Green Car Door tour to one of the first mine shafts ever sunk in the area traveling past a lot of moonscape type land on the way.


It was really cloudy up at the lookout and we were not sure if we would get a great sunset or if it would be too cloudy and be a fizzer.
But we were patient and it paid off as you can see from the following photos.





As you can see we were not disappointed.

We stayed at the Opal Caravan Park which was fantastic.  The park is only 5 years old so the amenities are well designed and modern.  There was entertainment every afternoon and they are just 200m from the hot pools.

If you ever have the chance to go to Lightning Ridge you should take it as it is so worth a visit and a week would be the ideal amount of time to look around as well as have some down time to just relax.

We made the big push to home from the ridge in just 1 day which was 10 hours of driving but if we had stopped on the way and set up camp again then packed up the next day it would have taken the same amount of time so we decided to just push on and sleep in our own bed which after camping for a month we were looking forward to.


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Why Would You Buy New?

We are counting down to the arrival of "Peanut" our first baby.  He is due in about 5 weeks and we are in the final stages of getting things ready for him.

I have purchased all of his clothes second had from the op shop and have spent about $75 in total on clothes in sizes that range from 00000 up to size 0. We think based on the scans we are having a small baby (Hubby and his family are all small so not unlikely) hence some small clothes but we will not know until Peanut arrives so we have a range of sizes.  In addition to what I have purchased we are borrowing clothes from Hubby's brother and his wife as they had a baby boy 2 1/2 years ago and I see no sense in buying heaps of clothes that Peanut will grow out of quickly.  The additional clothes we are borrowing will be returned when we leave the country in January but by then we will know how big he is and what sizes we actually need.  We can then go back to the op shop and get the sizes we know we need then and into the future.

So many of the clothes I have purchased are either brand new or very close to it as no one really ever knows what size baby they are getting and like us I suspect they buy a range of sizes.  That combined with the fact babies grow very quickly means none of the clothes get much wear.
I have since seen some of these outfits in other stores and new they range in price from $14 - $30 which seems like an awful lot of money just to buy new.



In addition to the borrowed clothes we are also borrowing a bassinet as out revamped cot will be packed away on it's way to NZ.  All of the cot sheets and blankets are also second hand (some were even Hubby's).
At this stage we have only purchased a new car set and pram and a few cloth nappies to trial and we will be trying to limit our spending on everything else where we can and buy second hand if we can as I do not see the point buying new when second hand seems to be so cheap and in such good quality.

Did you buy second hand for your children?
Is second hand your go to when shopping?

Monday, 22 August 2016

Comfrey - A Must Have In Every Garden

Comfrey is an amazing plant and one I would never be without in a garden. This week I came across this great article on comfrey and it is worth having a read if you want a cheap way of adding fertility to your garden and growing supplementary food for your animals.

At the farm I grew a big patch of comfrey on the down hill slope from our composting bins.  It is hard to see in the below photo as the pumpkin grew everywhere but between the corrugated compost bay side and the water tank is all comfrey.  I started off with just 3 plants and just divided off some roots and allowed them to shoot.  This big patch of comfrey helped us when we had a delay in getting our freezer cow processed as we used it as a feed supplement. 

We used to hang bunches in the chicken pen for the chickens to eat which they loved especially when their grass was a bit dried out over the hot summer or when they were moulting.

I also used to make a liquid tonic for plants by soaking leaves in a sack in a bucket of water and this gave them a boost and when ever planting new plants a few leaves were always added to the bottom of the hole then covered by a layer of soil.

Comfrey is buried below the pumpkin vine


Comfrey is high on the list of plants for  our NZ farm and as soon as I get there I plant on getting some plants in the ground and getting lots of root cuttings going as I know that we will need a lot of it in our plans for our garden.  I am hoping to plant quite a bit of it to use in gardens as a ground cover, for making compost and for animals.  As we already have our planting of trees along the roadside for a wind break in the ground I should be able to plant comfrey in this area without worrying about them being too invasive and not wanting them there in the future.

Our windbreak planting which should be a good area for comfrey


Do you grow a big patch of comfrey?
How do you use comfrey?

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Mildura, Broken Hill and Silverton

After leaving Daylesford we had originally planned to head to South Australia but the weather was going to be terrible with cold wet and windy conditions so instead we decided to start our journey north and towards home and our next stop was Mildura.
Mildura is a huge grape growing area both for wine and dried fruit like sultanas.  This industry dominated the area for over 100 years due to the ability to use the Murray River for irrigation.  We did a driving tour of the Chaffey Trail which is all about how irrigation changed the ladscape in this arid region of Australia and to look at some of the historic buildings associated with the industry.  It appeared that quite a few of the vineyards were being left and not managed and some were being removed and replaced with housing developments.  I can only assume that this is due to reduced irrigation or poor returns for fruit.

The Historic Psyche Bend Pumping Station - where just next door water is still pumped out of the Murray River

Rio Vista Historic House
 Just over the border in Wentworth NSW is where the Murray and Darling Rivers merge and you can see the line in the river flows below.  There had been rain so the river colours were the same but normally one is brown due to a muddy bottom and one is blue due to a sandy bottom.

River merge
 Just outside of Wentworth are the Perry Sand Hills.  It is quite amazing that this dune system is just out of town and when you wander around you would think you are right out in the middle of the dessert. 


There have been remains of mega fauna found here and it is a culturally significant are to the local aborigional people.  One of the amazing things in the dunes is a huge River red Gum that has been burried by the san all the way up the trunk so that now as you walk around it you are actually walking around in the canopy.

River Red Gum Canopy only above the sand
 In the photo below you can just make out Hubby on the left hand side under the canopy which gives you an idea of the size of this tree.  It is enormous and estimated to be nearly 500 years old.


Once you see things closer up you can see that the branches of canopy are as big as tree trunks.


Jessie had an amazing time on the sand dunes and ran around like a dog possessed.  I am not sure if she just had excess energy to burn or if it was the environment but she had a great time racing up and down the dunes.


Next stop Broken Hill and what an interesting place.  It had 72 pubs at it's height and these days while most of the pubs are still standing many are now closed and these days there are more art galleries operating than pubs in fact Broken Hill seems to attract artists and we did get to a few galleries including the Pro Hart and Jack Absalom galleries.
We did a self guided walking tour of the centre of town looking at many of the amazing old buildings with their beautiful stone work and ironwork.

The Trade Union center


The town hall

The court house

One of the old pubs with sunflower ironwork
Broken Hill was built on silver mining and in the below photo you can see the "Broken Hill" or what is left of it in the distance and all the spoil that now forms part of it.


Looking back from the top of the Hill back to where the previos photo was taken with the city spread out below.


Most of the early houses were made entirely of corrugated roofing iron as it was one of the few materials easily transported and readily available that could deal with the harsh conditions. Until recently with the advent of air conditioning and evaporation cooling I cannot imagine living in a tin box in the heat of a Broken Hill summer however many people still build this way I assume with better insulation.



A new home still built with corrugated iron

Just west of Broken Hill there is a great sculpture display out in the desert.  It is recommended to visit at sunset which is what we did.  There is also a flora and fauna reserve with walks and displays of aboriginal heritage at the site which we did prior to going up to the sculptures which sit on top of the hill.  Below is just one of the sculptures.



Just west of Broken Hill is Silverton and while it once had about 3000 inhabitants today there is only about 50.  It has been the location for many films including Mad Max, Priscilla, Mission Impossible and many others.  We did an underground mine tour at the historic Daydream Mine.  I am not sure that it would have been much of a daydream as the rock was so hard they only progressed at a rate of 40cm a day.  It was fascinating and this mine even used horses that were lowered down into the mine to pull the carts, not much of a life for the poor horse.  The tour took just over an hour and for a pregnant lady it was just the right length of time to be underground going up and down steps.


Ready to go underground

All those rock on the left of the photo are backfill in a space that has been mined and
Hubby is standing between the rail for the carts.

My belt supporting the battery pack for my miners lantern had to go above the waist
since I no longer have one.

This is the smelter ruins which due to safety we were unable to visit but that is a big pile
of spoil in the front.

 The township of Silverton is primarily old historic buildings and you can do a self guided walking tour, we didn't do it due to lack of time but there were plenty of other people out doing the tour.





Apparently the Mad Max museum is really interesting but sadly it was closed when we were there.


We called in at John Dynon's gallery and I got a couple of prints.  I would have liked one of the originals I saw but at $900 it was out of our price bracket with a baby one the way and everything else we have going on.




We also visited his son in law Justin Cowley's gallery and again there was art I really liked.

There were more galleries to visit and the pub looked really interesting and there were heaps of people enjoying a drink and looking around but for Hubby there is only so many galleries he will go to before he has had enough and I only have a limited amount of energy these days.