Living Lawnmowers

The lawn that I used to mow

Since being on the road we have noticed heaps of work offered that involves maintaining and mowing lawns. Possibly because people don’t have enough time, or don’t really enjoy mowing the lawn.

So it’s not too strange that resorting to the help of a living lawn mower or two is becoming quite popular. It’s also considered to be ecologically friendly.

Two horses grazing showing the possibility of uses horses or other animals as lawnmowers.  Windmill, tank and trees in the background.

So what’s a living lawn mower? Almost anything that eats grass could be considered, however the most regular choices are animals such as goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, cows, llamas, alpacas, geese and even guinea pigs – depending on the size of your acreage.

Before you dash out to buy your new living lawn mower though there’s a few things to think about.

Considerations

What kind of animal you employ will depend on a number of things:

How big is the area to be mowed? Will one animal be enough for the area or do you need two, or a herd?

This article gives a handy calculator on how many of various kinds of animal you might need Reduce Animal Unemployment: Hire A Goat

How much does the animal cost to buy?

Does the animal eat only grass or will it need supplementary feed? Will it be likely to eat your lawn down to bare earth or snack on plants or trees you don’t want it to eat?

What kind of healthcare and maintenance is involved – worming, shearing, foot trimming?

How will you provide water and shelter for your living lawnmower?

Are there any threats such as feral or native animals that like to eat your brand of lawn mower?

What kind of fencing will be needed (e.g. for goats it needs to be pretty good as they are great at escaping)

What kind of poo does the animal produce and how will it affect your lawn (e.g. cow poo tends to be sloppy, horse poo chunky etc)

What impact will the animal’s hooves/feet/weight have on your grass?

Benefits

A quieter form of lawn mowing

Aside from savings on labour and fuel, depending on which animal/s you decide on, there may be some extra bonuses. For example, free fertiliser, meat, milk, wool, eggs and often just the sheer entertainment value of their presence and antics.

So there you go, consider retiring the mechanical mower and adding a decorative, living lawn mower or two to your landscape.

Caravan Parks vs “Freecamps”

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Beautiful

Whether you prefer to stay at caravan parks or freecamps is a regular topic of conversation between travellers on the road. Briefly, to explain the difference between caravan parks and “freecamps” (and for the purposes of this article I am including low cost camps as “free”) caravan parks usually have a variety of amenities (power, water, rubbish collection, laundry facilities, bbq areas, pools, sporting facilities etc) for their cost whereas freecamps tend to have fewer or no facilities and a lower, or zero, cost.

Caravan and car in grassy park for campers with stone wall and building in background
Freecamps can be spacious

Complaints are sometimes received from caravan park owners that the freecamps take their business. This may be true to a degree but only if the people who are freecamping would use the caravan park if there was not another option. In very popular tourist areas sometimes it is difficult to get a space at a caravan park should you want to stay in one. Some travellers will simply bypass a town if it has no freecamps.

There are different kinds of travellers

If you are going on your annual holiday you will probably be ready and willing to spend freely for your vacation.

If you live on the road, either through working requirement, retirement, inability to afford a house, extended vacation, to see the country or any other long term reason, most people’s budget will not allow for caravan parks ($20-$45+ for a site) every night.

For example, retirees living on the aged pension currently receive around $600 per week. If they had to pay $200+ per week in a caravan park there is not a lot left for food, fuel, maintenance of vehicles, insurance and all the other costs of living. Similarly if you are a backpacker living in a tent and picking fruit to earn a wage, you probably won’t be able to earn enough to pay living expenses and continue to travel (unless you are a gun picker of course).

Yet there seems to be a wide held opinion that people who stay in freecamps are cheap, even total misers. Some are – yes, we’ve seen you arrive late and leave early to save yourself gulp! $5, $10 or even a gold coin donation – but in the majority of cases it is the travelling market voting with their feet (or wheels) and choosing the option that meets their needs at a price they can afford.

A further consideration is your method of travel. If you only have a tent you will need facilities at some point. If you have a fully ensuited caravan with solar power, then your requirements will be less.

Some travellers will only stay in caravan parks as they are perceived to be more secure than freecamps. Some freecampers will stay in caravan parks some of the time for the facilities and convenience. Some travellers will never stay in a caravan park if they can avoid it.

Overall, there is more than one kind of traveller and they need more than one kind of accommodation.

Local Community Views

There are many freecamps in small communities, either in addition to the local caravan park or because there isn’t one.

In a large number of small towns the council or local groups have set up freecamps or allowed the use of community assets such as sports grounds to be used. Often if a fee is charged the money goes to community groups and /or to the maintenance and improvement of the site. The general view appears to be that travellers are welcome as they contribute money to the local economy (which may only be a general store and/or a pub) that would not otherwise be available. Particularly in drought, flood and fire affected areas, tourists are needed. And there seem to be plenty of places that have one or more of these events happening constantly.

Freecamps are a plus for local businesses as no matter how frugal a traveller you are, you have to buy food and fuel. It can happen that if a town doesn’t have a low cost camping option the traveller’s business will go to the next town that does. Recently we stayed in a town which had both a caravan park and a freecamp. While at the local hairdressers I was interested to hear a discussion about the freecamp. Travellers are asked to put their receipts in a box. Apparently they regularly total @$10K per week. And that would only be from the probably very small percentage of people who remembered to save their receipts and put them in the box.

Events

Another aspect to consider is events of every kind, music, arts, markets etc. Many towns have iconic annual or more regular events where accommodation is at a premium. Freecamps can provide that bit extra accomodation when it’s needed.

Location, Location, Location

Both caravan parks and freecamps can be situated in the middle of town or further out, on the banks of rivers, in beautiful parks and by the beach. One difference that does come up quite often is that freecamps often have that bit more space to spread out your camp and choice on where you park.

View of beach,ocean between two trees with mountains in the background
A standout view from Tasmanian east coast freecamp

Less Facilities, Less Rules

Freecamps often have a broader acceptance of pets and the ability to have campfires. On the other side, there will not always be a caretaker to answer questions and solve problems. Frequently you will need to take your rubbish with you. Some camps will have water, toilets, dump points and power, some will only have a place to park.

So, What’s the Answer?

Broadly, there is room for both caravan parks and freecamps. I’ve seen many towns happily incorporate this. The exceptions have been where the local caravan park either has a bad reputation (you can’t get away from social media, wikicamps etc) or is badly placed, far from the attractions etc. One answer might be to have (as we have seen in several places) caravan parks that offer two tiers of accommodation. You can have all the facilities for a premium price, or simply somewhere to park, water and rubbish collection for a discounted amount, therefore catering to everyone’s needs. Another idea is for caravan parks to offer some extra truly useful attraction, for example the Gundagai Tourist Park installed a weighbridge for their customers and another park we’ve stayed in offers caravan repairs. Brilliant idea.

In 2018 there were 670,000+ registered RVs in Australia and 23,000 new ones were manufactured. They’ve all got to park somewhere when they go on tour. With these numbers plus tents and every other variety of camping options, there really should be business enough for everyone.

Road Laundry

Keeping it Clean

Of all the things you think about when going on the road, I must admit that doing the laundry was not the first thing that sprang to mind. That was until the washing piled up. Then a few social and practical issues arose.

Here’s what I’ve noticed.

  • Clothes Lines

Anything can be a clothes line. Fences, gates, stray branches. All good.

Washing hanging on a wire fence with sea and mountains in the background
A fence makes a fine clothes line
  • The State of Your Washing

You might rethink some of your clothes.

Is your underwear fit for public display on the communal washing line or wherever you are hanging it? It can be too disreputable or too lovely! All depends what you’re comfortable with.

Are there some clothes that are possibly past their use-by date? Perhaps items that were alright in private but less than stylish (depending on how in-style you like to travel) worn, or otherwise ungorgeous?

Quick check: will you be at ease hanging out and collecting your washing however public the washing line? You can of course use dryers where available but that’s a fairly expensive option and you won’t always be in a situation where you have an “inside” in which to dry things.

  • It’s All About Sharing

On the road you will always be using someone else’s laundry (unless you are in a hotel or motel that provides a – usually expensive – washing service). Whether you are using machines in accommodation provided by an employer, with friends, in a caravan park, or using the machines at the local laundromat you’ll be relying on someone else’s equipment.

Some washing machines work well and treat your clothes gently and some will destroy them. Likewise some washing machines will be really clean and some, not so much. It’s worth taking these uncertainties into account when deciding whether to expose your sentimental favourite, expensive or irreplaceable items to life on the road. Yes you can handwash in a sink or bucket but dripping wet clothes can be a challenge, particularly in cold climates.

Sharing facilities also means that you won’t always be able to do your washing when you want to. Other people will want to do their washing too.

Two pairs of jeans and a sheet drying on a farm gate
A gate will do nicely
  • Travelling Light

I’ve learnt what clothes I really need, what clothes are practical, and pruned accordingly. Some things just haven’t survived. Delicate items that need handwashing can languish in the washing bag for quite a while so I’ve seriously cut down on those as well as clothes that take too long to dry. What’s left of the wardrobe is fit for purpose. And it’s a whole lot lighter and takes up less space.

The availability of washing facilities can be hard to predict. It could be a long way to the next laundry or you could be somewhere that is washing hostile. For example: towns with limited or substandard water, it’s Winter and snowing, there’s red dust blowing everywhere, you get the idea. Keeping an eye on how many clean clothes remain has become bit of a habit for me. Of course you can always keep wearing the same clothes but there comes a point where it really isn’t a great idea.

  • Soap it Up

Remembering to have some laundry powder or liquid handy – you may or may not be able to find/buy some when you need it. If there’s none to be had you can do without, or substitute a little shampoo.

  • Costs

When doing washing in a laundromat, chances are you’ll need cash, often coins. Depends where you are of course but I have found few laundromats, as yet, that accept card payments. Keep some coins handy for this.

  • Overall
A pair of legs in jeans sticking out from and industrial dryer in a laundromat
Check you’ve got all your washing
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Somewhere, somewhen you’re going to leave some laundry behind.

It’s nice to be clean, however when you’re travelling it’s likely you won’t be washing as often or in the same ways to the same standard as you do at home. Relax. It’s all part of the adventure

Travelling with Libraries

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Old book open with dog, birds, road and girl with red umbrella on pages.  Coffee cup, pen and balloon in the background
Image by Jonny Lindner from Pixabay

When our local library was being rebuilt there was a suggestion that the new version need not contain actual books. This suggestion was howled down by those who prefer their books in a more substantial form than the electronic version and so it came to be that printed books were reinstated. While you’re travelling of course ebooks are the easiest to come by and weigh nothing. If you prefer the solid version however here’s where you can go to resupply.

De Facto Libraries

Usually found in the laundry, bbq or other communal area in caravan parks and other accommodation providers. A great place to unload the books you’ve read and pick up some new ones.

Street Libraries

While not yet on every street corner, Street Libraries are proliferating around Australia. Here’s one I found conveniently located at the bus stop in Tunbridge, Tasmania.

Street Library with books at the Bus Stop in Tunbridge, Tasmania
Finding a library wherever you roam

Anyone can start a street library and I think it’s a great idea.

Opportunity Shops

Ok so these are not an actual library but I tend to use them as one except of course you need to pay for the book originally. Then I give it back when I’m finished.

Library Membership

I have asked at many libraries along the way while travelling whether I can use my library card from my local library. While there are some libraries that are connected, sadly you cannot run around Australia and borrow and return wherever you like. Tasmania however has a wondrously friendly idea: visitors can apply for a three month membership. Hopefully the rest of Australia will realise just how many people there are working/living/travelling away from home who would love greater access to libraries wherever they may be staying.

National and State Libraries

It’s worth noting that you can join the National Library if you live in Australia and have an Australian residential address. This gives you access to a range of electronic resources in addition to the freely available ones. Similarly each State Library has a membership program which extends the usually available resources and services, see the State Library of Victoria for an example of the advantages of membership.

Finally, there are always ebooks (as long as you have internet access or have already downloaded them)

Smart phone with picture of library books held by a human hand with a hardcover book in the background
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

For the frugal reader there are quite a few free sites for ebooks. Then of course there is Amazon, Google Play, Kobo ebooks, Barnes and Noble, ebooks.com and many more where you can purchase ebooks of all varieties.