Saturday, 9 September 2017

Kettle bag ...

Now that Nick has installed the rear drawers, we can re-stock them with various essentials.

Our kettle, small dual-fuel stove and beverage case were some of the first items packed.

Although we used a billy on the little stove initially, we decided a kettle was safer.  Not long after we started carrying the stove inside a billy - and packed the kettle in an old pillowcase.

The other day I cut some pieces of pool noodle to hold the stove inside the billy, so it doesn't rattle in transit (see bottom pic).

That success and my silk sleeping bag project prompted me to think of replacing the old pillowcase (which I had considered a temporary fix).

I stayed up far too late last night, looking for ideas.  I thought a bit more this morning, before heading downstairs to raid the infamous stash.  (The stash has provided fabric and notions for a number of camping projects in the past).

Erin will turn 25 this year.  It was during my pregnancy with her that I attended sewing classes at TAFE.  My sewing teacher helped me make one maternity dress and I cut out another, using a different pattern.

The second dress was never completed and some of that fabric became the lining for today's bag.  (I wanted a darker print because it will be blackened by the kettle).  The outer material was a remnant purchased from an op-shop far more recently.

I followed the drawstring bag method on this tutorial, after deciding on fabric dimensions using calculations from here.  I didn't make a fabric casing but rather used a length of wide twill tape.  The drawstrings are ANZAC ribbon that I also used for my chair bag. I'm very impressed with the end result. It's definitely far more flash than the old pillowcase!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Starry, sari nights!

Our recent first night in the camper trailer prompted Erin to buy a swag.

She'd been thinking about the purchase for a while, so it wasn't a reaction against the cramped conditions - or the fact that Bandit stood on her face during the night!

In researching the available styles of swag at a few local camping stores, we also checked various sale-priced items.

Anaconda had some sleeping bag liners - including a silk blend.  Erin seemed to be considering them, so I reminded her of the sari silk she'd purchased for a different project.

Over the weekend, three lengths of sari silk were retrieved from the infamous stash and I've now crafted two large silk sleeping bags.

Although my initial thought was to line Erin's sleeping bag, she is not sure she'll continue to use it now we are based in Queensland. My Plan B was to create wide bags by using the full width of the fabric lengths.

Erin tested one bag last night in her new swag (set up inside). She can be a restless sleeper, so found the extra roomy bag very comfortable - and didn't need any additional covering.

It was quite warm here overnight but if she does need another layer, she can unzip her sleeping bag and use it as a doona.

The sari silk was originally purchased to make special pillowcases and there was plenty left for those. I've made two so far, one for each of the sleeping bags.  (If a swag is silk-lined, does that count as glamping)?!


Erin paid approximately $13.00 for each sari piece. The fabric isn't exactly the same width or length but I think it is fair to cost a sleeping bag and co-ordinating pillowcase at $13.00. (A full silk, plain coloured sleeping bag liner was on sale at Kathmandu for just under $90, discounted from $149.98)!

Construction of the bags was simple. I hemmed the short ends and sewed the bags with the right side of the fabric to the inside. The non-door side seam is sewn along the full length. The side seam adjacent the door was left open for the top third, to allow easier access. Both side seams were double-stitched. There was no need for overlocking as the seams incorporate the selvedges of the fabric. (One bag measures 116xm x 192cm and the other is 112cm x 183cm).

I used the burrito method to make these pillowcases.  (There are a number of free tutorials on YouTube.  I like one by Crafty Gemini).  No overlocking is necessary, which is great as I wasn't sufficiently motivated to unpack mine and set it up!  

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Sales and Celebrations

It's two years since we left our former Hamby Home(in) stead and started a much longer than expected transition period. Our family were in limbo for 492 nights in total - between leaving the acreage property and then (finally) departing Victoria in February 2017.

This time last year we returned to the caravan and large tent, after spending two months of winter in a proper house - such luxury!

The van was our home-base for 412 nights in total (when we weren't house-sitting) and we had the extra big red tent living area for 207 of those.  We initially used our 10-plus touring tent and a gazebo for shelter beside the van.  You can see pics of that arrangement in the second collage.  The tent was definitely not usually that tidy!

Three massive cheers for Nick who did the full 412-night stint, while the rest of us enjoyed various reprieves from tent/van living (additional to any breaks taken as a family group).

We were hugely thankful when our Red Desert tent was acquired for $600 via Gumtree last May.  Even at that time, it was getting too cold for outside cheffing and I was very glad of my "tent kitchen" - though some nights it looked more like a steam room than a meal prep area!

During our long period of caravan and tent living we weathered huge winds, lots of rain, heavy frost - and even SNOW!  Our large tent provided much appreciated extra living and storage area.  It was a bit of a giggle that the brand name was Red Desert and the two main rooms sported pseudo-Persian carpet.

Our two Engel fridges and some food items lived on a table in the dining area.  Nick also acquired a small bar fridge when his workplace moved offices - and that was handy for storing fruit/veg.

From May to mid-July (before our winter house-sitting), we would dine in the middle room, often with both doors zipped shut and a small heater on full blast.

The back room was used as a walk in wardrobe / storage area.  When the weather warmed up around late October, Nick set up a table in there so I could have a small sewing nook for crafting Erin's birthday gifts.  I also sewed a few little Christmas goodies, though needed to coax the machine into action due to heavy condensation while it had been stored in the van.

There was a small desk in the van, where I could use my laptop.  Most of the table area was given up to storage.

The caravan sink was tiny with very limited bench area beside it.  For that reason we washed dishes outside (as described here), till the outside temps dropped too much.

The dish draining rack was located immediately adjacent Erin's lower bunk bed.

We used an absorbent mat beneath the rack to ensure water didn't escape onto her pillow. Mostly we were successful in our efforts to keep Erin's bedding dry - and every so often we weren't!

Our van didn't have a hot water service, so instead we used an insulated 7-plus litre cooler jug to carry water from the amenities block back to the sink.

The insulated jug kept water warmer than a bucket and this method was a bit easier than repeatedly boiling a kettle - with added exercise benefits.

Trekking to and from the amenities block for hot water, bathroom, laundry etc did account for a reasonable amount of exercise each day.

We certainly noticed the difference in activity when we returned to house-living in February!

We sold the caravan about a week after purchasing our camper trailer.  The sale price was less than we'd paid back in October 2014 but we were happy to see the new owners drive it away, knowing the van would provide extra accommodation for another family in need.

Although I originally listed our large tent for sale in March, it remained unsold. We were out of phone range during our first night in the camper trailer. When we again had signal I responded to a buyer query and negotiated the sale of the kitchen annexe wall. The buyer had a smaller, slightly older Red Desert tent and believed the wall would fit his tent, so the deal was struck. (He had considered upgrading to our full tent but decided it was too large for his needs).

That sale prompted Nick and I to erect the tent to take photos for a new listing. After various silliness, we were contacted by a very keen purchaser who arrived early yesterday morning. He was a lovely guy and we really hope he and his large family enjoy many happy adventures in their new acquisition.

As a result of the two-part sale, we've recouped nearly the full amount we paid for the tent last year - and significantly more than our best offer for all components listed together.   Of course we are immensely pleased with such a positive outcome. Just under 50c a night for vastly improved comfort during our time of use seems an absolute bargain!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Steele yourself ...

We left Heifer Creek at around 12:30 and were in no hurry to head home.  (Well, the majority were happy to meander but one of us was keen to return to base and start playing MineCraft)!

After about an hour of driving, we saw a sign for Steele Rudd Park so did a u-turn and drove down a side road to visit.

What a lovely spot! The flushing loo was appreciated and we all enjoyed walking around the displays before and after our picnic lunch.

You can read some of Steele Rudd's biography, here.  I remember studying a little of his work when at Uni.

"On Our Selection" is available as an audio book.  I'm looking to obtain a copy for family enjoyment.

My childhood was TV-free for long stretches but my family used to listen to various radio comedy (the Goon Show was a big favourite).  

I don't remember the Dad and Dave episodes as strongly but the duo was definitely familiar because my brother and I were always highly amused whenever my father's work partner, Dave, rang to speak with Dad!

It was our first visit to this area.  We drove through some gorgeous country and I'm sure we'll return for further exploration.

Thiess is the life!

It was an interesting first night. Nick's blood sugar had dropped in the wee small hours and he needed to extricate himself from our bed, around the stretchers and out the door in search of his monitor and a suitable snack.

When Nick came back, I asked him to retrieve Vaughan's blanket from the floor and recover our boy. Bandit thought Vaughan needed protecting and in performing a "rescue", stepped rather heavily on Erin's face!

We woke much later to birdsong and sunshine.  The fire was kicked over to boil the kettle and after cleaning our Cobb Cooker plate, I made banana pikelets - which were cooked over the coals.  Yum!

This time I had measured the dry pikelet ingredients into a rectangular lidded jug. When the water, eggs and golden syrup were added and mixed, I could pour directly from the jug to the hotplate.  I used a balloon whisk for beating but will source a flat version to better reach mixture lodged in the jug's corners.

We stayed at Heifer Creek Rest Area, a free 48-hour-stay camp area.  There is a memorial to the Thiess brothers at the entrance to the site, which was interesting reading.  (The Heifer Creek cut was quite impressive when we drove through the previous afternoon but I failed to get a good shot of it through Elmer's windscreen).

While the rest of us sat about Vaughan explored some of the rocks on the other side of the creek, getting hooked by lantana in the process.  We'd picked a pretty spot for our first camper trailer experience and we took our time appreciating the scenery before packing up.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Out of practice!

I finalised the camper trailer registration on Friday and Nick secured the number plate on Saturday morning. It had been a big week for us but we were keen to take our newly registered trailer somewhere!

Nick and I consulted our camping guides as well as googling possible places.  We settled on Heifer Creek, a free camp area just over an hour from home.

It was just as well we didn't plan to go too far because it was 4:00pm before we left the driveway!

Although we were based in caravan and tent from September 2015 to February this year, it's been a long time since our last real camping trip - April 2015 with the van and September 2014 with tent/stretchers etc. Some gear had been with us during our transit period but other stuff had been in storage since late 2015.  (We relocated from Victoria to Queensland in February and are still sorting/organising various belongings.  Our camping gear is yet to be rounded up and housed in one spot).

We drove through some beautiful countryside en route to our planned campsite.  It was still light when we arrived, so we set up stretchers and 4WD mats on the floor area of the camper trailer.  (There was not much free space and Vaughan was initially stunned when I mentioned doing my normal stretches cos he thought I was going to try to do them inside the trailer)!

I'd planned a simple meal, which was just as well because the facilities were not quite what we expected.  The information we read referred to wood BBQs, which was incorrect.  Some improvisation was necessary to balance our Cobb Cooker hotplate on a few rocks.  (The cookers and our maxi BBQ had been left at home along with the folding shovel, fire poker, gloves and various other handy items).

We'd bought two packs of firewood from our local servo.  The kindling was nicely sized but the larger wood pieces were far too big to be really useful - especially when dealing with the small area beneath the Cobb Cooker plate.  Anyway, our sausages were well-cooked and not as smoked as we expected!

I made a packet pasta dish in a larger billy and fried onions in the smaller one.  We lit a second small fire adjacent the BBQ plate, to accommodate the two billies. The pasta took longer than everything else, so was served as a second course after we'd eaten sausages and salad.

We dined listening to many frogs singing and the repeated call of a distant Southern Boobook owl.  Vaughan was keen to toast marshmallows for dessert.  Fortunately I had remembered those and a couple of toasting forks.

I did my stretches beside the fire, gazing up at the stars.  It was quite pleasant, though I was not sorry to retire to the greater warmth of my bed in the camper trailer.  Bandit was less impressed at having to scoot over for me!

It's not our plan to have everyone bunked in together for long stays.  We'll set up our small touring tent if camping longer than one night at a site.  Erin has been thinking of buying a swag and it may be she opts to use that instead.  Her current stretcher is quite large (pic in the link) but we have others available for her to use that would better fit the small floorspace for overnight stops.  

Friday, 25 August 2017

Weighty issues!

We bought our camper trailer unregistered.

Although it had previously been registered, the former owner had made modifications that substantially increased the tare (unladen) weight.

That heavier weight meant we could only add around 70kg in total of water, gear, clothes etc - while still remaining within the legal range for a single-axle 750kg (fully loaded) trailer.  In effect, if we put in the mattress and only partially filled the water tank we would be over-loaded.  The previous owner had started the process of having the trailer approved for registration in a higher weight category but hadn't continued due to a death in the family.

We thought everything seemed fairly straight-forward - but we were wrong!  What a saga!  Nick and I both researched.  We received various conflicting advice and I was beginning to think we might never camp anyway other than in our back yard!

At some stage, the former owner called in to drop off some spare keys.  He gave us the name of a mechanic who had previously seen the trailer.  When that lovely guy attended, he looked at all our paperwork and asked what we were doing?!  He explained the flaws in our interpretation of the process - and advised how we should properly proceed.  He was definitely a man with a plan!

On his advice I arranged for another wonderful man to inspect the trailer and provide modification certification, which included attaching the necessary "mod plate" to our trailer.  When that was done, my first adviser returned to complete a roadworthy/safety inspection and then I was ready to present all my certificates to the motor registry.

When I was standing at the service counter waiting for all the relevant data to be processed, the registry computer stalled.  I half-expected the operator to say "computer says no"!  Fortunately there wasn't an issue and I was soon handing over the registration fee.

Given all the angst I was a bit stunned when I actually exited the motor registry with my brand-new number plate, which proves the camper trailer now has a legal ATM of 1200kg! Hooray!