Bush Mechanics Part One

It’s about time that ‘rough and ready’ bush mechanics were given a fair go. Since about the nineties, real ‘Bush Mechanicals’ were relegated to ’emergency fixes’ with dire warnings of their temporary nature.
I bring this first of many parts that deal with cheap and nasty fixes that may keep your old (motorised) unit mobile for a little longer, without spending hundreds of dollars.

Welch Plugs

They are those round, usually brass or stainless steel cup shaped caps that are knocked into the casting holes on an engine head and/or block.
Welch plugs tend to corrode and leak vital cooling fluid (they are located on water channels) at the most innopportune times. Keep a few five and ten cent coins in your toolbox, plus some of that 2-part ‘liquid metal’ epoxy. You could also get some of that hi-temp 2-part putty that comes in a long ribbon of blue and white. It’s waterproof too.
Anyway, clean up the outside of the coroded welch plug as best you can. Try to get all the grease and rust and water off it. A $2 can of spray degreaser will help.
Once it’s clean, mix your paste or putty. Take one those coins that more or less match the inside diameter of the welch plug. Smear a generous bit of your ‘glue’ onto one side of the coin and place it glue side down (or in) the plug. Then slowly fill the plug with the putty or epoxy. The epoxy can be tricky for plugs that are on the vertical sides of the block or head you’re working on. It holds better in the long run than the putty. I have two plugs located under the injector lines and glow plug rail of my 2H Toyota diesel engine that I sealed in the above manner over 12 months ago as a temporary fix. They’re just real fiddly to get at. I’ll buy replacement plugs one day and do all four or six that are there. I dread the day the one at the back of the head goes. There is only about a one or two centimetre gap between it and the firewall. I will have to pull the motor out.
Oh, the total cost of the above quick fix?
5, 10 or 20 cents, depending on what size coin you use.
Liquid Metal 2 part epoxy $15
2 part ribbon putty $12
Can of degreaser $2
A rag $1
That’s $30 bucks to fix without touching a spanner. The bonus is you can do this anywhere if you have $30 worth of stuff in your toolbox.

OK. So that was Bush Mechanicals Part One. Next, I’ll tell you how I managed to beat a frozen front diff inspection plug that an FBH* and a cold chisel wouldn’t budge.

*FBH: F%$#ing Big Hammer.


Time For A Yarn By The Fire

The billy is on. Pull up a stump and take a load off ya feet. It’s been as slow as a wet week these past few days and I feel like chewing the fat for a while. If you want, I’ll translate that last sentence from Australian to English for you.
‘I’m boiling a pot water for a cup of tea. Find a chair and have a rest, because the past couple of days have dragged on and I would like to talk with you for a while.’

Went back to work on Tuesday after four days off (but broke) and my baby has been crook most of the time. Her neck is giving her bad headaches and making her feel sick…like throwing up sick.
I took today (Thursday) off to stay with her. Poor Tina has been in some pretty bad pain since this morning. We have no pain killing drugs until we go to town tomorrow. She is sleeping now though.
The weather has been typical dry season here. The sou’ east and easterly winds generally blow from  the end of May through to October/November. The winds on the coast get up to 30 knots or more, with an average of 15 knots through those months. Come November, the winds will ease and the temperatures will rise. The humidity will remain as usual, in the high eighty and ninety percent range. It will be tropical. Then the rains will come. Monsoonal torrents will soak the Far North for the better part of six months, isolating towns and properties as The Wet revitalises the landscape.  At the moment we’re lucky to be getting the odd coastal shower to keep the coconuts, our baby tomatoes, Paw-Paws (papaya), passionfruit and chilli bushes thriving.
Yes, we are cultivating.
This may be a sign of our evolving from a nomadic lifestyle to that of a combined hunter/gatherer farmer. But probably not. What will be nice is the thought that in five years or so, someone will turn up here and there will be ‘wild’ paw paw and passionfruit growing next to the coconuts. Maybe future visitors will plant more seeds, or help by replanting seed from the fruits they eat.  We’re planning on growing some fast greens like Bok Choy or Rocket. I’ve also got to catch up with Willie Gordon and ask him about local greens and fruits that are around here. I would prefer to cultivate local native foods than exotics.
We discovered a Mango tree at the Southern end of the beach last  week too. If wasn’t for the profusion of flowers on it, we may have completely missed it. It is well back in the scrubland, about 100 metres from the high tide mark. The tree is surrounded by Wattle, some She-Oak, and other native species that grow in the old, mulch rich former dune zone. Come November it should be laden with juicy, pink/green skinned, orange centred fruits of wonderfullness. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it yet, so I’ll tell you anyway. A few weeks back, a bloke roughly our age, and his presumably youngest boy of about four, came into the camp to say hello. It transpired that this very cool gentleman once had a shack on the beach back in the late eighties to nineties, and planted the majority of the Coconuts that thrive around here. Not only was this a cool bit of local history to have learnt, but it also gave us an idea of how old the local palms are.
We’ve been boiling the billy on the pig a lot. 4:20 is usually the best time for tea and we’ve had a bit lately. 😉
Coffee too. Oh, and we have been cooking bigger and better meals on the pig with one frypan and a big pot. Cheaper than the meals in the previous post. I might relate some recipes in future posts because they are “To die for darlings!”
You might be wondering how we can grow food in sand country near the beach. Well, we found an old scrub turkey nest. Basically a 4 metre by 6 metre mound of well rotted leaf, branch, root and other organic debris. All mixed with some sand to enhance drainage and composted by a dedicated bird a few years back. We collect this from in the bush and use it straight as a potting mix. It’s bloody brilliant stuff. I’ll show you some photos later.
I wanted to tell you a few little snippets of trivia that have been flitting around my head of late. That’s why I boiled the billy in the first place.
Actually, some of it isn’t mere trivia. One factoid is actually a sobering thought for some depression sufferers.

Consider this. Recents studies have shown that sufferers of depression who treat themselves with some thing or method other than prescription anti-deppressants, have a 25% chance of relapsing after ceasing treatment. However, those studied who used chemical anti-deppressants had a 42% relapse rate after ceasing treatment.

I’ve been picking up little bits of information at night when I’m not sleeping. Late night ABC Radio from about 10pm when Tony Delroy has ‘Nightlife’, through to Trevor Chappell at 1am onwards is 3 to 6 hours of brain food.
For example. Stephen Spielberg had a lecturer at uni when he was studying  drama and art. The lecturer’s name was Alan…Anakin. No, I kid you not. Darth Vaders real name Anakin, was Stephens lecturers name.

Peter Wier(sp?) first movie was ‘The Cars That Ate Paris’. You really should check this masterpiece of early Australian  cinema and classic sci-fi. Apparently this movie is widely regarded amongst sci-fi afficionados as a hallmark movie of its genre.

Another presumably tax payer funded study has found that the worlds happiest places to live, also rate in the places with the highest rates of suicide. Eg, Hawaii at number 2 happiest place has the worlds 5th highest suicide rate.

Here’s something that maybe one of you dear readers might find interesting. This a mash up of Captain Cook trivia that I knew as well as some stuff I didn’t know that I heard today when Dr Karl was on the ABC Local Radio.
Cooks ship, the Endeavour, was an ex Coal haulier that once carried loads of the stuff around Great Britain. The bark was renowned for its sturdiness in the wild North Sea. What I learnt was that James Cook chose that particular ship because of its robust reputation. He also picked this ship because of its size. The Endeavour wasn’t so much long as it was wide and spacious. The good Captain knew that the ex coal hauler could easily accommodate food, including livestock, to keep 90 odd men alive for three years.

More on the Endeavour. The United States Space Shuttle Endeavour is named after Captain Cooks vessel. You see, the Endeavour made many journeys in what may as well have been outrr space in her day. Also, one of Cook and the Endeavours primary tasks was to plot the path of Venus for some mathematical equation that would make Gt Britain superior in navigating the oceans or somesuch. Anyway. On her final flight, the shuttle crew spoke to the crew of the Endeavour replica ship that is currently circumnavigating Australia. The echange happened as the shuttle came in over Australia and the Great Barrier Reef.
The shuttle took 8 minutes to cross the Australian continent from the far South West through to the North Eastern tip where the HMB Endeavour replica was located. The same journey will take the ship til next year some time.
Another Endeavour related piece of news. I promise it to be the last in this post. A few posts back I mentioned that the Endeavour replica did come to Cooktown. But the harbour was too shallow for her to moor at the wharf. Plus, the weather was too rough where she had to anchor for the crew to put ashore.
As an indirect result of that circumstance, the government has committed a few million to the Cook Shire (I think) so that the harbour can be deepened. Of course, this will allow the larger cruise ships to berth at the wharf as well. This will enhance tourism, but geeze it’s gunna piss the local fishermen off! Dredging fouls the water for months. It takes a good ‘Wet’ to flush the detritus stirred up by the process. Then the big ships block off the fishing spots on the wharf!

Ok then. What else has happened of note?
I saw a very large Brown snake this afternoon. Jack the Dog and I were heading to the beach and this snake crossed the track roughly ten metres in front of us. My conservative estimate put this big Brown at 1.6 metres long and 2.5 to 3 cm in diameter at its thickest. That’s about 5’6″ and 1 to 1&1/4 inches respectively in imperial scale.
We’ll need to stay aware of snakes here. That’s the third snake I’ve seen around here. So far it’s one Taipan, one Brown, and what I think was a Red Bellied Black snake.
Snake trivia time. The Red bellied Blake snake is as its name describes it. Jet Black, wirh an almost Scarlet underbelly. But it is actually a member of the Brown snake family. The three snakes I have mentioned above are in the top five deadliest snakes in Australia. Now, normally this wouldn’t concern me. Snakes generally avoids humans. We’re instinctively dangerous to them, so they stay away. But they also love rodents.
The rodents love where humans live.
Conflict of interest methinks.
We are controlling unwanted rodents though. Jack the Dog has caught and killed at least four. We’ve drowned three in traps and I’ve caught two by hand. Oh, if someone ever tells you they killed a ‘Yellow- bellied Black snake’, explain to them gently that they just killed a green tree snake. The Northern from of the common Green Tree snake has a very dark back. It’s almost Black. The underside is Yellow. The southern form has a much lighter Green back. They’re also more commonly seen on fences, low tree branches, or in your rafters. If you disturb them when they are on the ground, they tend to flatten their necks to appear bigger than they are. Green Tree snakes are usually quite slender snakes, growing to 3 metres (in our experiences). They are harmless to humans, so please don’t kill them. One last thing about venomous snakes. Don’t rely solely on colour to identify a snake. I have seen Brown snakes, the venomous type, ranging from a dark brown through to fawn. I’ve also seen a brown snake in the wild that was orange. To add to the confusion, I’ve seen photos in snake field guides showing juvenile browns with banding patterns. So I guess if you want to be sure, avoid or at least don’t purposely upset a ground dwelling snake. Chances are around here is that it is venomous. The only pythons I’ve seen are couple of Black-headed Rock Pythons, dead on the highway at the southern entrance to town.
You’d think that we’d be trekking through the local scrub with our hiking boots, thick socks, spats and denim jeans on after the above stories. But no. We still get around in shorts and thongs. We’re just more aware of our surroundings when we do.

(Friday): I’m going to set up a bucket trap for tonight to catch some rodents. Tina was sick still today, so I let her sleep and stayed home again. I have to go to town this afternoon and see the boss. We can’t phone from here because we have no reception. I also need to get the pain meds from the chemist for my Baby.
We’ve had some fairly good rain overnight too. The temps have stayed in the 20’s from my estimate. That’s the poroblem with no reception. No weather reports except for the radio. I need a rain gauge and a thermometer!

Back from town.
I couldn’t find the boss, but I did get groceries. Just the basics. SR flour, sugar, powdered milk, oats, peanut butter and some bread & butter. Bought some discounted garlic steak and turned it into a stew with onion, spud, tomato and some spices. Simmered over the pig for an hour or so until the beef softens.

Tina is still basically bedridden. We didn’t go into town today. I started the table work and did some gardening. We did manage a short beach walk, but that made Tinas neck worse.
I’ll have to go to town tomorrow. For nothing else but to see if I still have a job.
Saturday evening. The fire is going. It’s a clear, cool evening. The sea breeze is finding its way through the scrub, giving the wind chimes an excuse to sing. The crickets have started their nightly ritual, trying to find a mate. The ocean is kissing the beach. The moon is almost directly overhead and almost half full. It is casting a nice glow across the ground and on the trees.
Tina has been asleep most of the afternoon. I hope her neck eased a bit for her. In the past three days I realised how lonely it would be here without her. She has slept on and off when she could. But only half hour or hourly. Each time she rolls, the pain wakes her up. As a result, conversation and interaction with her has been fleeting, even though we’re less than a metre apart most of the time.

Righto, that’s enough. Sometimes I can talk underwater with an apple in me mouth.
Photo time!

For your viewing pleasure:

The billy on the boil.
Jack the bodysurfing Dog.
Jack wants to go to the beach.
The baby Tomatoes.
The beginnings of our new table.
The Bamboo is seasoning well.
The back of our pig pen.
The front, with our wood drying fire.
We need firewood.
Late afternoon. Vegie patch at centre, with our ‘Guest House’ in the background. Jack and the pig on the right.


New Furniture and The Story of The Halstroms Fridge

I guess it was in need of repairs. Plus, The Legend of The North couldn’t sit on it properly. I’m talking about our bamboo & driftwood seat. Sorry ’bout that.
Yep. It was looking sad. Anyway, The Legend & The Lad rocked up on Sunday with a couple of beers, a few ideas and a treasure.
First the treasure.
I’ve been talking about trying to find or buy an old hand auger. With a hand auger I could dowel together timber, drill holes of most sizes and a host of other things. Well, it happened most serendipitously that The Legend’s father had one lying in an old trailer that was either bound for, or came from, the tip.
It is old and partly seized up. But the two piece sprung jaws and the chuck still work fine. I put a bit of garden hose on the handle with cable ties temporarily, just to make turning it a little more comfortable. I’ll improve on that soon. I’ve already used it to drill holes in some bamboo that will be a new wind chime. Works a treat!
The Idea became the new chair. Four stout lengths of bamboo, four narrower lengths, and a length of timber we found in the treasure trove. The secret place is ‘B’s’ old farm. We can’t tell you where it is though, because then it wouldn’t be a secret. The forest has almost consumed the farm now anyway.
We’re now planning our next bit of new furniture. We know where there are several lengths of timber similar to the new seat base, but about half the lengrh. So we’re gunna grab some and make a table for preparing food and stuff. It’ll have bamboo legs and bracing, with three lengths of plank side by side. It should work well.

The Hallstrom fridge.
Edward Hallstrom was an Australian inventor and philanthropist who made his fortune with fridges. He invented a kerosine fridge that basically replaced the Coolgardie safe (Google it) in the outback. He was also a huge contributor to Sydneys Taronga Park zoo. The one in the photo is an early caravan model that ran on gas or electricity. The coolant is ammonia. That’s the fridge I mentioned in an earlier post that is on loan until The Legend needs it again.
Anyway, that’s enough for now. We promise to post again soon. Maybe even later tonight 🙂


Dodgy Bush Furniture, Plaited Vine Bangles and Mobiles

What do you when you have two days off? Why, you make plaited bangles from vines and dodgy furniture from driftwood of course!

Wednesday was spent doing not much at all. The evening was quiet, spent yarning with a couple of folk from town who came out to visit. A few ales and some interesting conversation while the music of artists as varied as Geoffory Gurrumul Yunupingu, Syd Barrett, JBT and The Dead Kennedys played on our ‘fone’ in the background. Next time our friend will have to bring his guitar out. Last time he just played some freestyle type acoustics that blended with the ocean and the breeze in the bush. Very cool stuff.

Our plans for Thursday were influenced by the need for more sitting spots near the fire.
We have (had) two eskies & a dog food drum for seats, so when we get more than one visitor I usually take the ‘floor’.

So, bright and early Thursday morning, we took a trip to a good scavanging spot we’d been informed of. We collected a length of old sawn hardwood that was once a porch step. We also grabbed some poly pipe, once used as a water supply line & now destined for our ‘kitchen sink’. Three lengths of old corrugated iron also came with us to be used as a bigger fire/wind guard around and over the campfire.
On the way home, we pulled up by the beach and found some interestingly shaped, solid chunks of driftwood and put them in the car as well.
We got all our treasures home and started to scratch build a seat from driftwood and vines.
I managed to get most of it done with driftwood. The first pic shows it half done. I had to cheat a bit and use one coach bolt on one end of the seat. The other end is lashed with vines. The rear support is also lashed in.
I couldn’t find anything in our driftwood stash to make a back for the seat. Not without a decent hand saw at least. Going back to the beach wasn’t an option either. So I ended up using some bamboo driftwood to finish it. It’s comfortable & it supports two people easily.

While I was playing with wood, Tina got to making vine bangles. Check the photos. Very organic and very cool! They’re all different, with varied twists based on how the vine flowed in the weaving process. Even Jack wanted one to go with the shell bling on his collar. Have a look on his left front leg. 🙂

On Thursday night our friend turned up again. This time with his guitar. The seat was “sick” in his opinion, and excellent for sitting while playing. I recorded a bit but the wind noise thru the fone mic kind of drowns the guitar. Maybe on a calmer night. The chair worked. It supported his 100 & my 60 odd kilo frames easily. The only problem so far is that the seat part is only good for small butts. The back rest works well though. I’m working on a way to make the seat big bum friendly soon.
The Guitarist went home with a vine bangle and is going to bring his ‘pig’ out one day for us to test out. We’ll keep you posted 🙂

The wind has been blowing up since Wednesday afternoon and by this morning (08:00 Fri 24 June) it was up to the 30 knot mark SE to Easterly.
The ocean isn’t quite water ski smooth out there as you can see in the photos. Even the mouth of the Endeavour had ‘surf’!

The wind mobile has been loving the breeze too. There’s a couple of pics there. It’s a mix of twisted dead vine, driftwood and shells. One shell that acts as a wind catcher is a feather shaped, wafer thin scallop type shell that spins crazy in the wind.
Tina is in the process of making another intricate shell mobile. When she has it finished, we’ll post pics.

(15:30 Fri 24 June): Out of neccessity I’ve made a windbreak around the fire place. Even though the fire has a windbreak and is in a relatively protected spot, when it’s blowing 30 knots on the coast, we get gusts through the site that can stir the fire up. We do not need to be creating a hazard now do we? So, I’ve bolted some iron together according to some obscure design rule in a Quantum Chaos Theory study guide and created a fire containment vessel thing. One side is adjustable to allow for variations in wind velocity and direction. The rest is solid. Sort of. But then, if you look at the photos, there were 5 to 10 knot gusts blowing in when they were taken. So it’s working 🙂

(19:00 Fri 24 June): Tina has finished one mobile. It’s currently under wind testing 😉 . Check out the photos. She has started work on another and if it’s ready in the morning I’ll post even more photos 🙂
The fire enclosure is working well, even with a largish fire it keeps things calm and contained.


Tyres for Low-Cost Housing

After the Haitian Earthquake earlier this year, some clever people thought of using old tyres to build temporary housing for those who had been displaced from their homes.

Earthship Biotecture is a company that has built a number of these structures in Haiti, and other places. The temporary houses, once completed are strong and flexible, making them ideal for use in earthquake areas. So maybe with a bit of thought we’ll discover that bad things like dead tyres can actually be useful.


They might not be the most visually pleasing houses on the block… but I imagine that it would be a blessing to those who’ve lost everything… and a castle to those who never had anything. At the very least, having a house to keep dry and warm would lift the spirits of those who need it immensely. That on its’ own would make the project worthwhile, in my opinion. A little bit of help can go a long way.


Earthship is just one organisation that helps those in need by using recycled products. If you’re interested in having a look at some other ideas for recycling and using rubbish, check out the Treehugger site. This site has some brilliant articles and ideas…, quite often I find myself mumbling happily to myself about one good idea or another. This page is all about recycled building materials… some interesting stuff.