Country Mud Crab. What?

Few house sitters would have cause to ponder farm fence maintenance, unless like us, they’ve branched out into farm-sitting or they are absolutely crazy. Or both.

Aside from cattle and sheep, the most common rural fence problem comes from kangaroos but hidden away in all that, is the inexorable march of Mother Nature out to reclaim her own. Yes, I’m talking about trees. When we’re thinking ‘farm,’ getting plenty of practice with the chainsaw is guaranteed. Aside from doing the little things, like avoiding direct contact with the sharp, moving chain and dropping branches onto your head, to do the job properly, there is a lot of walking involved. After lopping overhanging branches, one must then pile up the debris for later burning or as they do in most cases, leave it to return to the soil. Cutting back the branches is not difficult if you keep your wits about you, but dragging the branches to a central spot is not the best fun you’ll have today.

Near the end of our stay I was especially conscious of the risks attached to being in the paddock with a chain saw but still managed to clear a kilometre or so of fence line, mainly in the area closest to the homestead, making piles of branches as I went. Actually it went without incident if we skip that part about the log that jumped onto my toes when I wasn’t looking and reminded me that I was supposed to be wearing steel caps not sneakers.

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The Man With Five Pianos

As we travel Australia house sitting we have the privilege of living, for a short while, as a local. Even in this short window, we have been able to visit and get to know places that would otherwise be very unlikely to be found on our ‘must-see’ list, yet have been entertaining, surprising and educational.

We took the opportunity to spend a little time in Goulburn some 55 kilometres from home. As the regional ‘capital’ we had some business there in particular matters relating to Julie’s new hip after care.big merino front 65

Driving around Goulburn, it appears a nice enough small country city. The surrounding country is very pleasant, mostly farm land and scenic without being outstanding. It has a reputation for being cold and considering that even the average low temperature in winter is below freezing it’s not hard to see why this should be so. One frosty morning a few years ago, they recorded minus 11. The average maximum in winter is nothing to be too excited about either at a miserly 11 degrees Celsius.

Unfortunately we did not get to visit the rail museum which we heard was worth seeing but it was hard to miss some of its other ‘attractions’ if you consider the word in its full sense. The Big Merino allows no visitor to escape without a nod to its presence and if you are attracted by policing, you will most certainly have been trained in Australia’s largest police training facility. On the other, extreme end of the scale, some will also have been a guest at Australia’s most secure prison.big merino back

Notwithstanding these fascinating facts, take the road north-west to Crookwell and things change quickly.

Within a few kilometres, the country opens out to spectacular views across green open fields to the low mountains in the far distance. The road is excellent, not straight and every bend leads to a gentle climb after which another wonderful view comes up in front of you. The area looks well maintained, the farms are large with a fair smattering of sheep and cattle, half of them grazing, half lying down fully sated apparently.

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There’s No Fish in the Murray

It was clean, quiet and sociable as most free camps are and we also had the company of a few resident pelicans. I don’t know what they ate. It can’t be fish as having had a line in the water for hours, I can say with some certainty, there are no fish in the Murray River.
We departed at a reasonable hour, well after those on a schedule had gone and 15 ks later we were in Victoria. An hour after that, we arrived in Mildura and I took the opportunity to buy some fishing tackle and long-life bait. Now I know what you’re thinking, if there’s no fish in the Murray why do I need bait?
As it happens, one of the stops will be on the Murrumbidgee River and I have it on good authority, there are plenty of fish there.

Tearing Out The Tow Bar

Everywhere in Australia is a long way from everywhere else, so we generally try to get at least a week in between assignments for ‘free-camping’. In this case we had to get ourselves 1,000 kilometres (600 miles on the old scale) in two days, which by Australian standards is nothing much but with our dodgy old camper and a heavy trailer, there is an element of risk involved.
On our wanderings on some roads that could more easily be described as bituminized tracks rather than roads we came across a few places, well a lot actually, where they forgot to put up the ‘dip’ sign. You must know them, you are driving along ‘dumb fat and happy’ well I was anyway, when the front of the vehicle takes a short sharp dive, followed by an upward surge as your seat tries to swallow your bum and your lower jaw seeks out engagement with your navel.

Operation Destroy the Dam

Operation destroy the dam. In this, our second Travel Australia house sitting assignment, we had seen a lot of bumper stickers around Glenrowan about saving the lake, ‘SAVE MOKOAN’.
It was only to be a few days before we knew what they were on about.

The focus of much of our attention initially had to be in Wangaratta as this was ‘town’. Here we could find the supermarkets and other services one needs. I spent some time with the mechanic and a few trips to Bunnings for knickknacks to be used in upgrading the van and trailer.

It’s actually not a bad place with a population of 17,000 substantially larger than the nearby Benalla to the west.

If you can’t find what you need in Wangaratta another seventy kilometres to the north Albury Wodonga with a combined population of 100,000+ it has most offerings of larger cities.

We made the trip into town maybe twice a week and the mechanic loaned us his car while we worked on the van. Overall the van was much improved during our stay as we gradually found and eliminated small problems and rattles. We fitted extra sound proofing and re-cut carpet, filled door panels with insulation and lots of other little titivations.

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Glenrowan and Snow On The Mountain

Our previous and first Australian house sitting experience in Armidale did us a favour in our acclimatization to cold weather which was a jolly good thing because if we expected it to be cold in Victoria in winter, we were not to be surprised. It takes at least a couple of hours after dawn for the sun to warm the house through the big East-facing windows and when the snow on the distant mountains reveal their true white brilliance, you know it is safe to venture out into the garden.

Glenrowan sunrise SNot that we had to wait for the sun to warm the house as the reverse cycle air conditioner did the job very well.

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Sliding The Bus Down The Hill

We’d been talking by phone of course and Ian gave such generous directions I almost immediately took the wrong turn driving down a rather intimidatingly steep, wet and slippery dirt road. Naturally the trailer, being the head-strong twerp that it is, wanted to get to the bottom first and applying the brakes was to invite disaster.
Another kilometre further and the few numbers to be seen on property fences were getting smaller, so clearly we were going the wrong way. As the rain continued to fall, it quickly became apparent we needed to turn around our small ‘bus’ with trailer and tackle ‘the hill’ and get back to the turn off.
A few anxious bum-clenching minutes later we had slipped, slid, skidded and spun our wheels to the top and back onto the main road where we were met by our now mystified host in his 4WD, who then led us to our sanctuary for the night.