Living the dream

Or not! The roads we travel aren’t always straight forward, and don’t always take us down our chosen path.

I read a post today from Ingrid at, Live, Laugh, RV. Ingrid travels America in an RV living the life we had planned to live. Today’s post by Ingrid was tiltled, ‘Trouble with the Dream.’ In it, Ingrid outlined some of the pitfalls encountered along the way, the less desirable side of, ‘Living the Dream’.

Currently suffering a bit of post road trip blues, compounded by the life restrictions (self imposed) of training a new puppy, Ingrid’s post brought tears of self pity to my eyes.  It caused me to I reflect on how far away from the dream life we had planned for ourselves only a few short years ago we’ve come.

The roads we choose to travel sometimes have forks in them that take us in a different direction to our planned destination. Today, I’m hankering for, Living the Dream’ again, and all the trouble as outlined in Ingrid’s post that goes along with it.

The dream

Currently, Mr Tilly is hard work. He sleeps a lot through the day but awakes to follow (and mither us) if we start to try and go about any household or gardening tasks.

A line on the floor at the entrance to the kitchen which Mr Tilly is learning not to cross

His training is going very well but toilet training’s a bit hit and miss. He loves his training sessions. He’s  responding well (with the help of treats) to soft lead walking, coming when called, and we’re getting him started on grooming. Trouble is, if we’re not giving him a play, or training session,  if he’s having a nap, we can only do something seated nearby . If we wake him up trying to get on with anything that’s not a quiet, seated activity, and that activity doesn’t involve him, he occupies himself as puppies do – by getting into mischief.

Mithering the spin mop

I’m sure that once his vaccinations, have been completed and we can then take him to the beach and tire him out, things will improve remarkably. We’ve taken him on a few walks to the beach carrying him safely in arms till we get there, or walking him down the centre of the road away from the verges where other dogs will have left their marks (possibly Parvo virus contaminated).Then we’ve been keeping him almost at the water line where hopefully the water has washed away the possibility of any dangerous virus contamination. He loves it, but the restrictions of being unvaccinated mean it’s a very contained activity.

Being safely transported to the beach

A restricted romp at the water’s edge

Only a few more weeks, and we’ll be able to take him out to picnic spots, and will try and fit in a couple of short trips away in the RV to introduce him to that part of our life. The weather will be warming up. The big tidy up of the garden after five months away will be well under way, and we’ll be settling back into our summer house. Life – currently in unvaccinated puppy training limbo, will become good again. We’ll  be out and about enjoying the wonderful South West of WA, and Mr Tilly will be out and about enjoying it with us.

And won’t  that be just, ‘a pleasure’!

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Puppy shell shock!

One week on with Mr Tilly (AKA Rastas), and I’m feeling just a little ‘puppy shell shocked’. When people say having a puppy in the house is like having a baby in the house – they really mean exactly what they say. Having a puppy in the house is definitely like having a baby in the house.  It’s not an exageration.

There are a few difference, mainly in that puppies don’t wear nappies, and don’t create a washing machine full of clothes each day. And you can go out and leave them home alone without being in breach of the law. Do the latter though at your peril – you’ll be risking all sorts of mischief that you weren’t aware existed. So, that gives you an idea how our first week with Mr Tilly has progressed.

It’s been hard work, and time consuming. A pair of eyes in the back of my head wouldn’t go astray. Puppies chew everything!

Half a foot for a size comparison

Fortunately, they do grow up quicker than their human counterparts though. He’s already 2.9kgs. I tried to take a photograph with him alongside my foot to show his size, (have you ever tried to photograph your full foot from a standing position – not easy).

Okay, now I’ve got the grumbling out of the way, let’s get down to his first weeks progress.

Firstly, house training Continue reading

Anniversary dinner

We rarely buy anniversary presents for each other. Our preference is to either go away somewhere, or treat ourselves to a special meal out.

As we’re still settling Mr Tilly in, we’re reluctant to leave him to his own devices for more than an hour or so. We’re possibly being a little over protective, but that’s what happens when ya our age and you get a new puppy…… Have I mention before that this puppy is going to one very spoilt little puppy! Mr Tilly (aka Tilly-Mon), living the ‘Life of Riley’ already.

Having missed out on the bulk of the winter means we’ve missed out on all the slow cooked comfort food that one associates with the long, dark winter nights. Although Spring is here, the nights are still cool, so we decided to celebrate our anniversary with a good bottle of red (2014 Woodlands from Jolliffe Vineyard), and a good slow cooked braise. I must say the wine was very, very smooth – and we have a 2012 to look forward to at a later date.

I’m not one to fuss with cooking, so here’s my version of Osso Bucco. You’ll notice I don’t do any pre-sealing of the meat which is supposed to lock in the juices and create a bit of caramelisation. My mother never pre-sealed meat when cooking a braise, and I can honestly say I don’t notice any difference in the taste or the texture. So, I continue to cook a braise the way my mother did, it’s easy, and creates less dishes.

Osso Buco (serves 4 – in our case two dinners)

You’ll need: Continue reading

Meet Mr Tilly

Mr Tilly was the seventh, and final puppy to be born in a litter that entered the world on 13th July 2017. All were boys. He was ‘the runt’ weighing in at a tiny 213gms.

He’s still the runt. We picked him up yesterday afternoon from a suburb in Perth. He was the first of the seven to be picked up. We’d only seen a photo of him, so wondered how easy he’d be to identify.  Seven exuberant puppies, all the same age and from the same litter, yet all so different – and yes, he was easy to pick out. He’s so, so tiny.

What a cutie

He’s too young yet to have completed all his vaccinations, so Parvo virus is a real threat. We knew we couldn’t stop at our usual ‘pit stop’ to take advantages of a loo break for both us, and for him. It’s too well frequented by other dogs, so the risk of contact with such a deadly and highly contagious disease couldn’t be risked.

We didn’t know how he’d go during the three hour car trip to get home, and didn’t know if we’d be able to spot a suitable, safe looking pit stop for him. We prepared ourselves and the car for mis-haps. Paul drove, and I sat in the back with Mr Tilly secured in his travel harness. We covered the back seat with a waterproof drop sheet, and I covered myself in big beach towels. He travelled peacefully the whole way snuggled up  on my knee, apart from one little spell with a  bit of whimpering about half way. We did spy a country side- street that looked like it wouldn’t be a place well frequented by other dogs, so we were able to give him a breather. He promptly did what he was supposed to do, and we were immediately able to continue our journey.

I’m happy to say he didn’t seem to suffer any motion sickness, and no in-car incidents. In fact the motion of the car seemed to lull him off to sleep, which is a reassuring sign for future travel.

Home.

Home safe and sound, so time for  a bit of exploring before bedtime. With half of the house off limits for now,  it didn’t take him long to give the remainder of our little house the once over. He ate a bit of dinner, and settled down well for the rest of the evening.

He didn’t seem to be too daunted by all the changes until bed time, at which time it seemed to hit him that he didn’t have his six siblings to snuggle with. We set him up as well as we could, and followed advice to ignore his crying and whimpering. He woke up distressed three times throughout the night. What a performance! For such a little guy, he sure can make himself heard, and ignoring him wasn’t easy. We buried our head under the blankets, and I’m pleased to say he settled down reasonably quickly after each bout.

At five this morning we thought it best to call it a night, and we let him start his day.  I’ve gotta say, he was ecstatic to be allowed up on ‘the big bed’. Our last dog Sophie (who’s been gone for well over 20 years now) slept the last few years of her life on our bed. She knew she had to behave well for the privilege, and we enjoyed having her snuggled into our backs. I’m sure that once we’re sure Mr Tilly’s well house trained he’ll most likely get to enjoy the same. But that’ll come a little later, after the ‘order of the pack’, and house training is well established.

Today he’s had a few firsts with us:

First bone (chicken neck)

I must say he gave that chicken neck a good going over. I’m sure having one of them a few times a week is going to help with teething, and keeping his gums healthy.

A few good games of ‘tug’ with two of his toys well suited to the purpose. He loves that, and is strong for the size of him.

We heard our neighbour’s grandson, Mitch, visiting. So, we carried him over to introduce him. He loved that, as did Mitch, and Mitch’s mum, and Mitch’s Nan and grandad.

After that, we carried him down to take a look at the sea. Once his vaccinations are up to date I’m sure he’s going to spend a lot of time down there. Labradoodles are supposed to love the water, so what better place for him to live than a couple of hundred metres from the shores of Geographe Bay. For now though, he can only experience it from the safety of our arms. He looked interested.

First look at the sea

He met a few people while we were out who stopped to say hello as we walked with him, and he seemed happy enough to allow people to give him a welcome pat.

When we came home we gave the lounge a bit of once over with the vacuum to see how he’d go with that – no problems. He’s had an adventurous 24 hours and is now clearly tired and in need of good long nap. He has been nodding off, but will only do so if we’re in very close proximity, at our feet and on the cold ceramic tiles. We’ve been trying to get him to stay in his bed, but he won’t have a bar of that – it’s too far away from us. I’m sure he’ll sleep enough though to get him through the day, and hopefully by tonight he’ll be so exhausted that he’ll snuggle up to his soft toys and won’t fret to much for his canine family.

We’re delighted with him. I’m sure within a few days he’s going to be adjusting well to us too. He’s soft and cuddly, and doesn’t object to lots of snuggles. Travelling will be very different with a dog, and life will definitely be very different with a puppy. I think it’s going to be a pleasure. (let’s hope I still think so after the next couple of nights). I’ll give you an update in a few days to let you know how we’re all coping…..

Long overdue changes and updates on the way

What’s one to do at 2am when sleep’s being elusive. Last night had me perusing this blog. I know! – not the thing one’s supposed to do when sleep’s being elusive.

I started by reading the ‘about us’ page. Clearly, life has evolved. The page is now so far out of date that it doesn’t fit with where we are in life at all any longer. Sometime in the next week I’ll update that so as it fits.

Next I moved onto the ‘categories’ drop down box in the header. For some reason my side menu bar with the drop down box for ‘categories’ isn’t linking up with the header. As it’s the side menu I use when categorising posts, anyone seeking to view past posts, and using the menu from the header box won’t be finding much of anything. Clearly some administration, and a bit of a tidy up is needed.

I’ve looked at changing the header – but the fix for it is as elusive as was sleep last night. I’ve sent a call for help by way of an email to my ‘guru’ helper (Grandson – Tim). Hopefully, later this week when we take a trip up to Perth I’ll get some much needed help to get the headers, and side bars in sync.

Watch this space – I think a better format will transpire very soon…..

Critters

Four months on the road – countless critters seen and photographed. These are our favourites from this trip:

The water critters

With most of our times spent at the ocean we saw some amazing sea life. Amongst them lots of pretty blue spotted Rays at Corol Bay.

Ray at Coral Bay

We saw several sea snakes on the shores of Cable Beach as the tide receded. This one was actually quite small, but we saw some that were more than a metre in length. Although deadly poisonous, there’s little chance of being bitten by one. They have tiny mouths, so just keep your fingers away from their mouths and you’re pretty safe. Should one get you though, they say you won’t make it to the telephone to call for help. I’ve heard it said you get about 10 seconds……. Needless to say I kept my fingers well tucked in.

Sea Snake

We saw turtles swimming in Roebuck Bay, and also resting in the mudflats when we went on our Hovercraft tour.

Turtle in mudflats of Roebuck Bay

And then there were the smaller critters, lots of starfish on the shore at low tide,

Starfish buried under the sand when stranded at low tide

and several of these  amazing looking critters in the rock pools at low tide on Cable Beach. I’ve never seen anything quite like these Feather Stars. They look like a Fascinator that one might wear to the races. Apparently they start life like a flower attached by a stem to the ocean floor, then as they mature they break away from their stems. Dozens of feathery arms (or are they legs) dance around in the water. They actually walk around. That’s if you can call in walking, but definitely they move along the bottom of the rock pools with purpose.

Feather Star

We saw crocodiles, some saltwater, and some freshwater. The Johnstone Crocs (Freshies as they’re known colloquially) are relatively timid and harmless, unless cornered. Then, like any wild animal they will try and defend themselves, often doing themselves more harm than they do to their victim. They can inflict nasty damage, but in doing so are likely to do irreparable damage to their own narrow snouts. Wide snouted Salties, however, prey on larger animals. To them, any animals entering their hunting ground is fair game, and to them humans are just another animal.

Don’t be fooled by their common names either. Contrary to what some people believe,  Salties don’t only live in saltwater. They’ll make their homes in fresh water swimming holes, and if you see crocs in any potential swimming hole it’s important to know which kind. Salties won’t usually tolerate Freshies, so if you see a potential swimming hole with several freshies in it, you’re most likely safe. However, we always go by local knowledge, and will only swim in water holes known to be safe.

Freshwater Crocodile at Windjana Gorge

The Birds

We spent several hours watching Sea Eagles tending their nest in both Cape Range National Park, and at the lighthouse at Gantheaume Point (Broome). It was while watching the eagles in Cape Range that we realised our need to invest in a better camera so as to increase our chances of getting photos that do justice to these amazing critters. The need for a better camera was re-enforced many times whilst on this trip, and never more so than when trying to photograph birds. So, apologies for some of the following photos, I know they’re not up to scratch. We’ll get some better ones next time.

Sea Eagle’s nest

Darter with dinner

Peregrin Falcon

Owl Faced Finch

And flying creatures of the a smaller variety

Red dragonfly

Land animals

We saw lots of emus, kangaroos and wallabies, the stand out of which were these wallabies on the outskirts of Broome. The small female with the Joey in her pouch had apparently been hand reared as a baby, so had no fear of us when we approached for a photo.

Joey in the pouch

Mum bent over to nibble some grass allowing the little Joey to also graze safely without having to leave the safety of his snug pouch. Some great close-ups of some very trusting wild animals – I only hope they never pay the ultimate price for their faith in humans.

Mum and Bub sharing a meal

So, that’s the stand out critters from our trip.

We’re home now, almost four weeks earlier than we’d intended to arrive home. The reason for the earlier return – another little critter is about to enter our lives. ‘Mr Tilly’ wasn’t going to be with us until early next year, but an extra large litter of all boys meant there was one for us sooner than expected.

So, we came back early, and are currently cleaning out the caravan and getting ourselves and our house ready for our new arrival. We have lots to do – four months has given the weeds a chance to grown with wild abandon. We’ll try and get the garden sorted out a bit before we get side tracked with our new arrival.

Watch this space. Shortly we’ll be introducing, ‘Mr Tilly’.

Mt Whaleback, largest open-cut iron ore mine in the world

A tour of an iron ore mine has been on our list for some time now. Being stuck in Newman waiting for new tyres to be freighted up seemed like a perfect opportunity.

First, a look at two of the Haul Trucks on display in the town.

The superseded model:

The truck on display at the visitor’s centre was one of only 30 such trucks produced. BHP purchased 22 of the trucks for Newman’s Mt Whaleback mine in 1973 at a cost of $2.5million dollars each. Each truck could carry a weight of 200 tonnes, and when fully loaded the trucks weighed 75 tonnes more than the take-off weight of a 747 jumbo jet. In 1992 BHP sold one of the trucks to the visitor’s centre for the princely some of $1.00.

Superseded Haul truck on display outside Newman’s visitor’s centre

The newer model truck:

The second truck on display in the town is located near the south bound exit to the Great Northern Highway.

Currently there are 40 – 50 of these 240 tonne trucks in the mine’s fleet. The left hand drive monsters are produced in Ameria. They have 6 forward gears, reverse, and of course, power steering.

The air conditioned cabs are fitted with a 2 way radio, dust suppression kits, and a CD player. There’s also a monitor fitted that views the drivers face looking for signs of fatigue. This is linked back to an office in Perth, approximately 1200 kilometres away.

Length – 13.2 metres

Width – 7.4 metres

The newer model

Goodness me, if it ran over me and I was in the right place underneath, all I’d have to do is duck and it’d miss me altogether.

‘Duck’ and it could run me over without mishap

Those wheels would do some damage though

About the tyres:

Tyre weight – 3.6 tonne each

Tyre diamètre – 3.5 metres

Tyre weight with the rim inserted – 5 tonnes

Expected life-span – 100,000kms (average 1 year)

The on-site tyre store can hold $2million worth of tyres

Them’s big tyres!

The mine tours are run from the visitor’s centre. There’s clothing requirements for anyone going onto the premises, and we all had to wear long pants, a long sleeved shirt, and closed in shoes. The visitor’s centre then supplied us with the other compulsory items, the hard hat, hi-viz vest, and safety goggles.

Paul displaying his safety gear inside a loader scoop

Most of the tour comprised of being driven around the various areas in an air conditioned bus. Our tour guide, Michelle, pointed out the various working areas, provided statistics, and generally gave us a good insight into the workings of the mine. There were a lot of statistics, far to many to remember. Fortunately, Michelle gave us a print out at the tour’s conclusion.

Open-cut Iron Ore mine

Pit statistics

Mt Whaleback was originally 805 metres above sea level. They are currently mining down to 135 metres.

Each step on the sides of the pit are called benches, each bench is 12 – 15 metres high.

The water table starts on bench 18, they are currently mining on bench 30.

They pump 46 million litres of water out of the pit each week. The water is used in the water trucks used to keep the dust under control, and used to assist with other production processes.

The trains

Once the ore is mined, it goes through a number or processes before being loaded onto trains and transported to the Port (Port Hedland) for shipping overseas.

The average length of each train is 2.7kms.

Each train consists of 4 locomotives, 268 Ore cars, and only one driver. Two locos are at the front of the train, the other two are in the middle. The driver in the front loco operates the other three locos remotely.

Each car holds approximately 130 – 138 tonnes of ore.

Loaded trains pull a payload of approximately 33,000 tonnes.

When fully loaded the trains can reach up to 65kms per hour, with a braking distance of 3kms.

The conclusion of the tour

The tour lasts around 1 1/2 hours. We learnt much more than I have included here, but if you want to know more, I’d recommend doing a similar tour. It was extremely interesting, and definitely not just ‘a man’s tour’.

The tour concluded with coffee, scones and jam back at the visitor’s centre (included in the price of the tour).

But that’s not all

The following day our tyres arrived and were fitted by 10.30am, enabling us to get on our way again by 11am. We were heading south towards Cue when an oncoming support vehicle for a massively oversized vehicle approached us driving down the our side of the road. The driver of the support vehicle was a few kilometres in front of the oversized loads he was escorting, so we knew it was going to be a big one.

Next came a second support vehicle with all lights flashing immediately in front of, not one, but two trucks, each loaded with a massive piece of machinery on it’s back. Clearly we hadn’t seen the last of the mining machinery, as these two massive babies would have undoubtedly been on route to one of the mines. They took up the full road, so all traffic travelling south had to pull right off the road to allow them to pass, easy enough for us. Not so easy for any road trains though, and there were two in front of us. 

A mining vehicle being transported up Gt Northern Highway

A third support vehicle followed behind, also travelling down the wrong side of the road to prevent any following vehicles from attempting to overtake.

Rear support vehicle preventing any attempts to overtake

A lot of tourists won’t use the Great Northern Highway because it’s well used by big trucks and road trains. For those of you unfamiliar with road trains, they’re a big road truck pulling 3 or 4 carriages behind them. They’re long, and can get a bit of sway on the carriages, but the drivers are pretty good at controlling them. We always give them space when they’re passing, and we find by conversing with the drivers on our two way, they’re always really considerate.

Because the Great Northern Highway is used by such heavy vehicles, and often has oversized mining equipment being transported along it, it’s kept in tip top shape. Even though a lot of the traffic is big and heavy, there’s still a lot less traffic than on the coastal highway. We personally prefer this route when travelling up and down Western Australia. Mind you, we’ve never been stuck behind any convoys such as we saw today for any length of time. For us, the reduced traffic, the considerate truck drivers, and the prime condition of the road has always made travelling this route a pleasure!