Chaff cutter to the stars …

I was complaining about the weather yesterday and today is no better. But last night the sky cleared and gave us a look at the stars. I put on my warmest clothes and sallied forth. Clear skies have been a rarity just recently. This was a good opportunity to complete a project that was conceived months ago.

The machine is a chaff cutter. It was built by Buncle of North Melbourne and after a busy life preparing horse feed is now retired.

John Buncle was a Scot who arrived in Melbourne in 1852 aged about 30. This was at the height of the gold rush. He was a skilled draftsman and engineer and had no trouble finding employment. After about a year as foreman at Langlands foundry he started his own business and became famous in the field of agricultural machinery.

He died in 1889 by which time he’d made a sufficient mark in Melbourne society to warrant an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Even More Rain …

A bout of rain last week brought 17mm to the farm and made my neighbours happy. Yesterday it rained a lot more. We emptied 35mm out of the rain gauge. The neighbours are now ecstatic.

The creek at the bottom of the garden has been a series of pools. It is now the handsome river in the photo above. The ford hasn’t had water flowing over it for more than a year.

The ground is turning green as we watch. It’s beautiful.

Carman’s Tunnel …

The visitor to Victoria’s goldfields has a number of opportunities to get underground. The most authentic has to be Carman’s Tunnel. There is no tourist hype, there’s not even any electricity which could be why there is no EFTPOS. The $7.50 for adults and $2.50 for children will need to handed over as real money. Excellent value.

The mine is located at the end of Perkins Reef Road in Maldon. It’s just opposite the North British Mine site, the famous quartz kilns and the ruins of Oswald’s Workshops.

Currently tours run on Saturdays, Sundays, Public Holidays and School Holidays (closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and Good Friday) at 1:30pm, 2:30pm, and 3:30pm. Each tour takes 30 – 40 minutes. You can check for changes <HERE>.

Maldon was a very gold rich area and the concept of tunneling through extremely hard rock until you hit a reef was sufficiently attractive to induce investors to part with their money. The Great International Quartz Mining Company was formed in 1882 and drilled 600 metres of tunnel over a period of two years and two months. Reports of the yield vary from nothing to next to nothing and the project was abandoned.

Initially the mining proceeded by one man swinging a sledge hammer at a drill held by a second man. They changed places from time to time. Each was given two candles per day to last their 10 hour shift. If they broke a candle they could get a replacement with the cost deducted from their wages. Be careful with the candle.

At the end of the week the holes would be filled with powder and the rock would be blasted. Be very careful with the candle.

Progress was about a metre a week. Across the road at the North British Mine Robert Dent Oswald was pioneering and manufacturing compressed air drills. Progress picked up considerably once these were adopted. If the miners welcomed the new regime their enthusiasm would soon be extinguished by the silicosis that cut short their lives.

A couple of Oswald’s Compressed Air Drills remain in the mine …

While the Great International Quartz Mining Company was throwing money into a hole in the ground The North British, just a stone’s throw away, was hauling money out. It was one of the last of Maldon’s mines to close, by 1926 it had yielded more than 242,000 ounces of gold.

Carman’s Tunnel is well worth a visit. The temperature inside is very mild no matter what the day is doing outside. The floor is pretty level. Where else can you get a tour by candlelight?

The North British Mine site is also fascinating. Kilns were used to roast the quartz making it easier to crush before it went into the cyanide pits for gold extraction. The kilns and pits are well preserved and there is sufficient interpretive signage to make sense of the rest of the ruins. Entry is free. Learn more <HERE>.

Quartz kilns – North British Mine
Cyanide pits – North British Mine

Autumn Break …

Back in the US students and their parents are contemplating the Spring Break and whatever shenanigans go with it. Around where I live the farmers are hoping for a decent autumn break, a far more prosaic event when precipitation catches up with evaporation and a winter crop can go in.

The last significant rain was in January. The other mainstay around here is sheep. The paddocks are fairly bare. Feed is being delivered by truck or tractor.

We may get a little rain tonight. Beyond that the outlook is dry for a while. Nonetheless preparations are under way. Fertiliser piles that appeared in the last few weeks are now slowly disappearing. Not everyone calls in the airforce – some spread it the old-fashioned way …

Ag Work …

Life in the bush is quiet and peaceful.

Unless of course the neighbours have decided to spread fertiliser by the aerial route.

Hotel Golf Victor here was built by Air Tractor Inc in 1996. It is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney turboprop engine that makes an impressive amount of noise.

In the next photo you see it shedding its load. The wire beneath it is the electricity supply to my house!

Little things like that and trees …

contribute to an accident rate about double that of the rest of General Aviation. My own personal air show, very impressive.

The Archdale Bridge …

Out on the boundary of the Central Goldfields Shire there is a spot on the map labelled Archdale. Oddly it’s easier to find on Facebook than it is on the ground. And you learn from Facebook that there is no recommended place eat, no recommended place to stay, no recommended place to drink and nothing to see. The reason is very simple. Apart from the odd farm-house there are no buildings. You wonder why they bothered to give the place a name.

I drove through the area some time ago. I was on my way to check out the Dalynong Flora and Fauna Reserve which I had heard was a good chunk of not too badly disturbed woodland habitat. I noticed an old wooden bridge and made a note to come back and photograph it one day.

It’s not an easy spot to photograph, there is a new bridge parallel to it and it is surrounded by River Red Gum woodland. From most angles you either can’t see it or you have a modern concrete structure intruding on the ambience. It’s just a sad old bridge crumbling slowly into the Avoca River. There are no sign posts leading you there. Facebook doesn’t love it.

I wanted to catch it in the evening light so I spent some time poking around. I was rewarded by a pair of Rakali chasing each other’s tails in the water.

Rakali, Hydromys chrysogaster

The bridge was built in 1863 and is the oldest wooden bridge in the State of Victoria and one of only two to survive the great floods of 1870. It is heritage listed and from the statement of significance we learn that …

Archdale Bridge is technically significant for its humped timber deck, designed to permit the ready flow of flood waters. Humped bridges were not uncommon in an era of horse-drawn vehicles, but were impractical with motorized vehicles; very few survive.
Archdale bridge is one of very few timber river bridges surviving in Victoria to possess large squared-timber pier ‘caps’, combining with squared and shaped corbels. Those heavy caps, over ten metres long, are cantilevered beyond the outer piles and fixed to the pile tops by mortis-and-tenon construction. They represent very rare examples of early bridge-carpentering traditions.

I think Facebook is wrong. There’s plenty to see in Archdale. This bridge is beautiful and deserves a bit of love.