Friendly Ballina

                We’re two and half weeks into our trip and have spent most of the week staying in Ballina on the NSW north coast. We needed to spend a few days in a big town in order to take our Prado to a mechanic to get the suspension upgraded, and a few other bits and pieces done, before we head to more remote places. If I had to choose one word to describe our stay in Ballina, it would be ‘friendly.’ From the people running the caravan park, to the other travellers camped nearby to the locals we’ve met; every single person has been incredibly nice, helpful and friendly.

                The caravan park we chose to stay it is located just outside Ballina and is called Ballina Headlands Holiday park. It is part of the Big4 chain and although it was the furthest caravan park from the mechanic, we chose it as it had good facilities and great reviews on Wikicamps. We hadn’t pre-booked but when we showed up, the lady at reception was extremely friendly and accommodating. I requested a site near both the amenities and playground and that is exactly what she gave us. When we drove into the caravan park, we were met at our site by another staff member who directed us whilst we reversed into the site. What great service! The sites are quite small and close together, but the facilities themselves and overall cleanliness more than made up for it. The park boasts a pool, two playgrounds, a spacious camp kitchen and a rec room. We used all of these during our stay, especially the playground across the road from our campsite. We could supervise Jarrah as he played in the park, without leaving camp. Perfect.

                This was the first time during our trip that we met quite a few other families. Some were just down from Brisbane for the school holidays, but others were travelling for an extended period like us. We spent quite a bit of time chatting to the families and comparing caravan layouts, discussing different campsites and the direction we are travelling as well as general parenting chitchat. Jarrah had a great time playing with the other children and we even had other kids over for a play at our campsite. All the other campers were incredibly helpful. One gave me some wine so I could cook risotto, another (who was a trained nurse) gave first aid to Jarrah when he fell off the play equipment and had a bloody nose and mouth.

                One of my aims during this trip is to take the kids to a different playgroup every week. This serves a number of purposes: To socialise them, amuse them with new and different toys and so I can have a chat to other parents with kids of a similar age. It also gives Dave some time alone at camp to study. This week we attended Little Pelicans playgroup in Ballina. It is a Playgroups NSW playgroup and is held 3 mornings a week in a dedicated space behind the local library. We chose Wednesday morning to attend. The ladies running the group welcomed us with open arms and told us it was free as it was a ‘trial visit’ for us. At three and a half, Jarrah was the oldest child there. Most of the children were closer to Dianella’s age. Both kids still had a great time playing indoors and outdoors with a variety of toys. Jarrah built a giant city out of blocks and Nella rode a trike for the first time. I had a cuppa and sat down with the other mums who were friendly and interesting to talk to. We discussed travel, art, handmade businesses and parenting. The mums at the playgroup reminded me very much of my mama friends back home in Jervis Bay.

                Other than a day trip out to Nimbin and a trip to Bunnings to see the Big Prawn, we haven’t done much site-seeing whilst in Ballina. We’ve chosen instead to relax and enjoy the caravan park. It’s quite refreshing to slow down our pace a bit and settle into this new life of ours. Our next stop is Kingscliff then we will go wherever we feel like at the time. Freedom is a wonderful thing.

Crafting on the Road

In the two months we spent preparing for our trip, one of the things I spent the most time planning was how I was going to run a handmade business whilst travelling Australia in a caravan. The idea of having a Tree & Pixie stall at markets all over the country really excites me. I love what I do and having the opportunity to take my products to hundreds of different places and expose them to thousands of different people is truly amazing. When you’re a crafter and run a handmade business you do what you do for love, not money. What I do probably won’t make me rich, but I get real pleasure not just out of being creative and making beautiful things, but also from seeing other people enjoy the things I make. I hope to bring the things I make to as many people as possible over the next year.

A week and a half into our trip and I’ve set up a Tree & Pixie stall at one market so far, in Mudgee NSW. My plan is to find a market around every two weeks to hold a stall at so I have time in between to create stock, look after the kids and enjoy our travels. I made quite a bit of stock before we left home, but had to maintain a balance between having enough to fill a stall and website, but also not have it take up too much space in the car. Mudgee markets were very successful and I found that I hadn’t quite made enough stock and that the car (thankfully) had a bit of empty space meaning I could make more stuff before the next markets.

We’ve spent the past 3 days staying in a lovely little caravan park in Armidale, NSW. This meant we’ve had mains electricity, access to running water and a laundry, perfect conditions for creating fabric button accessories and tie dying clothing. In two days I have tie dyed twenty two items of clothing and made twenty fabric button hair clips and ten bookmarks. There’s still more to do, but the messy part of the job is out of the way.

Before we left home, I thought long and hard about how I was going to tie dye clothing on the road. I set myself up with a couple of buckets with lids and stocked up on dye and salt. Yesterday I put my new set up to the test and tie dying whilst camping was easier than I expected. Our caravan has hot water, so I could fill up the buckets and mix the dye at our campsite. I just used the laundry sink in the caravan park to rinse the items when I was done and chucked them all in the industrial washing machines. I even found a great spot inside the caravan to hang up the clothes to dry. The only thing I forgot to pack is an iron, so I might have to pick one up along the way. I think I’ll very quickly get used to doing this on the road.

In many ways, tie dying has proved easier to do on the road than making fabric button accessories. It takes up quite a bit of space to lay out all my fabrics and design each item and space is something we don’t have much of these days. It hasn’t helped that the weather has been rainy and miserable. Thankfully the caravan park we’re at has a large rec room that seems to be empty at night. Once the kids were asleep, I sat down in front of the TV in the rec room with a glass of wine, some leftover Easter eggs and spent a good couple of hours crafting. Space! Me time! Bliss.

The one thing I didn’t think through before we left home was gluing together my fabric button accessories. The glue I use is industrial strength. You shouldn’t breathe in the vapours and it takes 48 hours to set. At home I just glued everything outdoors and then left it all my garage to dry. The only solution I came up with for completing this process on the road is to glue everything outdoors and then sit it in a container (with predrilled aeration holes) under the caravan for two days. The only problem is that the container I have brought with me can only hold around 20 items at once. I wasn’t anticipating selling so much at each market and having to make so many items as once. I guess I need a bigger container.

 

I’m sure in time I’ll streamline the whole process and find my feet when it comes to crafting and running a handmade business whilst on the road. Even with the challenges of such a confined and unique space, it really is a joy to be creating beautiful objects for others to enjoy. I can’t wait until our next market. Northern NSW here we come.