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Lonewood Archive

A difficult harvest

Posted January 2, 2007 By AussieSapphire

This time of year, we take a break from mining to harvest our oats.  We produce seed oats for our local district – oats is an important winter forage crop for many graziers around here and is also grown for hay.  There is always a steady demand for seed from our regular customers but the widespread drought in NSW has seen the price for grain skyrocket and enquiries from far and wide from growers desperate to secure seed oats for the coming season.

heading07.jpg Due to the drought and poor harvests in other regions, we knew that it was important to get this crop in.  It has been a nervous time though and we wont relax until it is all in the silo – we did lose yield in some paddocks from hail storms about a month ago but luckily, the damage was not widespread. 

Harvest usually starts just after Christmas each year.  A few months of nursing the crop through and now it all comes down to harvest time.  Unfortunately, the weather is proving frustrating to say the least – very showery, cool and damp. 


So far, we have had daily interruptions due to rain.  It is 8:00 am as I write this and these pictures from the Bureau of Meteorology tell the story – rain to the west of us and rain to the east with lots of clouds overhead.

We have relatively small paddocks compared to some of the very large wheat growers out west so usually one header is sufficient to get the crop off easily.  However, in these circumstances, it is urgent to get as much off as quickly as possible so the photo  below shows our own header with Andrew driving (in the red) as well as a contractor called in to help (Peter driving the green John Deere in the background).


Unfortunately, about 20 minutes after this photo was taken yesterday afternoon, another shower rolled over us and we had to call it quits again for the day.  Looks like today will be similarly frustrating.

stubble-hay.jpgWhen we do manage to complete the harvest, the next job will be to arrange baling of the stubble.  We contract this job out and most will go to a nearby feedlot for cattle feed.  This photo from last year shows a truck loading up ready for delivery.

Of course, the final job is cleaning and grading the seed ready for sale and this will take place over the next month.  As usual, our seed will be sold through Elders, Glen Innes and any enquiries for supply should be directed to Bruce and his team on 02 6732 2500.  Supply is extremely tight this year and it looks like the price will be high due to general shortages and high demand so we suggest you get your order in early so you dont miss out.

cheers for now from Andrew and Leah (Aussie Sapphire)

Short History of Lonewood Mine Part 1

Posted June 27, 2006 By AussieSapphire

Further to my last post, I thought I’d just write a few short notes on the history of the Lonewood Mine.

Often I get asked two questions: 1) why do you worry about running the mine when you own such a great property and 2) what makes the most money.

I will answer the second question first (makes sense?).  Neither make much money (worst luck!) but one does prop the other up and vice versa.  The relative profitability changes a bit depending on the market at the time.

The first question is a bit harder to answer, I will go back into some of our past and that should help explain the (at times) madness.

When I was a small boy my Grandfather Frank Lane owned a “bush block” at Bullock Mountain about 5 miles downstream on the Reddestone Creek.  He loved it and spent most winters down there mucking around as it was always warmer.  Quite a bit of the rest of his time was spent fighting sapphire mining companies. Many a battle was played out in the court as at that time the chance of getting an honest royalty out of a miner was about zero.  Another problem was the fact that proper restoration of the land after mining was unheard of. 

I can see why he was frustrated by the invasion of these miners on his peaceful bush block and we need to remember it wasnt just a couple of miners.  This was around the height of the sapphire boom in the area so there were many miners including the daily car loads of mostly no-hopers from town that expected free access to anything they could find.  Anyway it was in these early days that I guess my initial interest was aroused.  The rough minesites and machinery (and people) interested me.  Pretty soon, most of my spare time was spent watching (and probably annoying) these facinating men.

By the age of around 9 I had a Honda postal bike that took me anywhere I was allowed.  Unfortunately, this resulted in the eventual sale of our bush block. It had been for sale for some time when on a weekend visit I caught up with a funny old chap by the name of Arthur Lancaster.  He was a city bloke who bought a mine on the place and came up for extended periods to lose some of his hard earned cash mining. I didnt know that he wasnt aware that the whole property was for sale but me and my big mouth 🙁 – within about 8 weeks our bush block was gone.  Malcolm, my father, kept one lease that he was informed may have some sapphire on it but much to my disappointment, the rest was lost.  However life went on and I kept pestering the miners. 

But I will keep the rest of the story for Part 2.
Cheers from Andrew

Missed our 10th Birthday!

Posted June 15, 2006 By AussieSapphire

This note was prompted by the fact that time flies when you're having fun. On Thursday last week, the day was progressing as normal.  After our normal 7am start in around -8 degrees (fun with water and machinery to start), we just sat down in luxury on our 5 gallon buckets for our 15 minute cup of tea when sudden silence fell over the plant site – no power.  Now this kind of thing is not uncommon.  We are lucky enough to be connected to the mains power, but we do have our share of brownouts and loss of power from time to time. This is a real pain as sapphire is often lost over the jigs when this happens plus there is a big load when starting our gear up again when the trommel has a couple of tonne of wash in it.  Following a normal restart, it's off to work we go.  I was digging in a rocky bit of wash (unusual for our flat) and didnt notice my offsider Phil arrive down at the cut with that telltale sad look on his face that told me all was not right at the plant. Shortly after I had left the main pump stopped again and when Phil investigated he could smell the smoke a hundred yards from the pump shed – that awful burnt wire smell that means you're up for lots of dollars.

Anyway, that's a long way around to explaining the title of this post.  As I mumbled to myself some unrepeatable words while removing the cover of the 40hp electric motor, I made a comment to Phil that "we didnt get much of a run out of that motor". Phil then quietly pointed down to the date scratched into the top of the cover and it all came back to me. Ten years isn't so long I guess but not such a bad run for the motor after all.  I remember it was only a couple of months after we took over the entire operation of the mine that I scratched that date into the rebuilt electric motor.  It hurt paying for it then and it did again this time.  But I cant deny that it has been an interesting 10 years – we certainly didnt think then that we would be sending our sapphires all over the world from our website – in fact we had only just discovered the internet about then. 

But really, my interest in sapphires goes a lot further back than just 10 years.  If you have kept reading up to this point, you might be interested to read a bit more about the history of Lonewood Mine in the next post – will write a bit about this in the next couple of days.

Just installed the new electric motor today – yes, it did cost lots of dollars but we are up and running again. 

cheers for now from Andrew

Expedition Travels

Posted June 11, 2006 By AussieSapphire

Just had a very pleasant, albeit extremely cold (max of 4.7 degrees C), visit from a small group of German tourists visiting Australia to tour our gemstone areas.  This tour was run by Expedition Travels, a small tour company specialising in trips to Australia where small groups can look for gold, sapphires and opals.

German Tourists fossicking for sapphire on the Reddestone Creek

This small group did some fossicking down on the Reddestone Creek and were lucky to find a couple of very nice dog’s tooth crystals along with plenty of lower grades and some nice small blues.  Funny how it was only myself and one of the tour guides that did the sieving ;-)   It was very cold ! We just had 63 mm of rain overnight and in fact I think there was a bit of sleet falling when I took this photo.

Hope the visitors enjoyed their visit to our place anyway and hopefully they will have better weather next time they visit Australia.  If you would like to enquire about joining one of the tours, please see their website – very friendly and knowledgeable guides so you are guaranteed of a great trip.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

Lonewood Museum – Part 1

Posted May 8, 2006 By AussieSapphire

Apart from our interest in gems, we have had a long-standing interest in antique machinery. Over the last couple of decades, Andrew has put together an impressive collection of antique tractors and stationary engines. These are currently housed in the Lonewood Museum (aka the Shearing Shed lean-to) although the collection constantly threatens to spill over and encroach into neighbouring shed space.

We thought some of our blog visitors may be interested to see just an overview of some of the collection in these few photographs. Will talk about a few of our favourite pieces in a future article.

Here are some of our old tractors including a Twin City 21-32, Allis Chalmers C35 and a Case. All these tractors are in working order. Unfortunately the Dodge ute (1923 model) will need some work before we can drive it.

This view shows another old Case and a Howard DH-22 – one of the few genuine Australian designed and built tractors.

 The last photo shows a selection of our stationary engines – used for many jobs throughout the last century. Many of these are in working order although they are still in their “working clothes”.

That’s all for now from us at Aussie Sapphire.

Could write pages about our museum but better get back to work on the website re-write. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article some time soon.