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Ann Britton Outback Photography

Icons of the Outback

Nothing survives without water and where we live windmills provide us with the ability to source this precious commodity, and has done so for the last 150 years. So Pastoral Lease Holders in Qld have been eco-friendly, using clean green natural energy since the 1860’s. When you live in country that has no permanent water holes, country that doesn’t “hold” when talking dam building, windmills are the answer.


Bird’s eye view. Windmills towers can range in height from 25ft (6.5m) to 50ft (12.5m). Windmill “heads” or wheels range in diameter from 8ft (2m) to 30ft (7.5m). The windmill pictured has a 21ft wheel.

Furthermore for water holes and dams to be of use, it has to rain and sometimes Mother Nature forgets to do that where we live.

To me, the windmill is the grandest design, with the simplest mechanism that has stood the test of time.

Before you erect a windmill you first have to drill a bore hole, in sub-artisan areas the water is drawn up from about 200ft in our area it is drawn from the Sandstone aquifer, in artesian areas the hot water is located at 1000-1400ft and raises to 50ft from the surface, we pump from the Great Artesian Basin. We have 30 bores, some sub-artesian, some artesian, 2 are equip with solar (one brand new, end of last year), 1 with an electric motor mono pump the rest are either fitted with Comet or Southern Cross windmills, we have one IBC windmill (hubby has never seen any other like it) Comet uses wooden bearings and Southern Cross white metal bearings, in the heads of the windmills. Plus Comets like the all the even and Southern Cross the oddss, sizes of wheels that is! For example 17, 19, 21ft wheels would be Southern Cross windmills, 16, 18, 20ft would be Comets. (Wonder if that was a woman’s initiative to make things simple?)


I find windmills a great subject to photograph. 21ft Southern Cross at our house.

A note: before you start drilling a bore you have to find where a good source of water is under the ground, you can’t but a bore down anywhere, you may not find water, some people have a gift called divining, and it truly is magic, another blog I think.

Windmill Experts are an endangered species, but most talk in feet & inches.

There are sails, tails, plungers, pump barrels, wheels, heads, buckets with holes but they still do their job, pitman rods, and just rods, sometimes pipe sometimes wood, casings of different sizes but we prefer 4in, foot valves, brass cup-links, rivets, flash cap pumps, strainers. But basically the rods attached to the windmill head, sits inside the casing, has a foot valve attached to the bottom of it lengths, which sits inside the plunger at the bottom of the casing, when the wind turns the windmill, the buckets and valves in both plunger & foot valve go to work drawing up the water, simple hey!


Our “Ole Girls”, their calves & cockies gather for drink. 18ft Comet

Say for instance you have a 200ft deep bore hole but can pump from 180ft (54m), casing is a standard 21ft 6in (6.5m) so you would need 8 lengths of casing to go down the bore hole, rods come in 21ft 6in lengths too and can be cut to accommodate, unlike casing.

We store our water beside the windmill in either 300,000g (1ML) or larger turkeys nest (dams above the ground, small earth tanks) or 5000g-10,000g water tanks (19,000L-38,000L) from the turkeys nests/tanks the water gets delivered via poly pipe to troughs for the cattle to drink from.


400,000g turkey nest looking over Black Mountain’s natural treeless plains

Well I’m off on a bore run, wish me luck the ones I check are all pumping and if they aren’t, well there is another blog for me to write about.



  1. Lisa Claessen 

    Ann, so glad you made it! Am in awe of your beautiful photography. There is something rather beautiful about the squeak of a working windmill, even though it probably shouldn’t be doing it! Such an amazingly simple concept that works(well most of the time!).
    Am just wondering how often the bore run must take you?
    Do you have to do it every day, apart from summer months?
    Can we plse have a post on the fascinating subject of water divining…
    I congratulate you on a magnificent “entrance” into the blog world and I look forward to more magic. Lisa

  2. annbritton 

    Thanks so much Lisa, I greatly appreciate the huge push you gave me to get going with this blogging, isn’t it fun? My internet has been extremely slow so haven’t been able to reply sooner.
    A squeaky windmill would be hugely frowned upon, bad management in hubby’s books.
    Our places being so spread out if we did one bore run to check all our windmills it would mean travel of about 400-500km, so we do place by place one day at a time, so in summer if we have no surface water from being lucky enough to be under an early storm, bore running is a consent and very important job. All bores get check at least twice a week in summer, some bores more, depending on the pressure on them, number of cattle watering, if we have had enough wind so the windmill can cope etc.
    The divining blog should be very interesting, have lined up my diviner, so will have to wait for the magic to happen. Thanks again, Ann

  3. Yvonne 

    Looks great Ann, I love the purple sunset photo!! While your life is filled with windmill terminology, mine is filled with mono-pumps, stators, bobbin rubbers, whip-rods etc etc since hubby is a bore mechanic!!

  4. annbritton 

    Thanks Yvonne, The colours of the Outback are a wonderful challenge to capture just as they are, they amaze me all the time, the purple photo is actually a sunrise, what a great start to that day.
    You could write your own mono pump blog it would be very interesting with distances needed to travel etc.
    Thanks for your kinds words Yvonne, Ann

  5. Lloyd Topp 

    Hello Ann,
    Great article, Is that not the Sunrise/Sunset I have been looking for.
    Love Lloyd

  6. annbritton 

    Thanks Lloyd,
    Will have another go to capture what you want.
    Love Ann

  7. James 

    Top read Ann, and here’s to our visionary landholders who were doing the eco-friendly thing years before it became trendy elsewhere!

  8. annbritton 

    Thanks James, take my hat off to our Pioneers for many things, the effort they would have had to go to get windmills to the Outback in the first place would have been a feat in itself, let alone what they would have had to do to get a bore down and the eco-friendly piece of equipment erected.

  9. Robert Stringer 

    I was raised on a sheep farm of about 650 acres in Gippsland Victoria. It was in mountainous country and my parents property had altititude range of 1000 feet as measured with an aircraft altimeter. There was a small permanent stream running throught the property and we had a windmill on it.
    My father a WW1 Vet planted willow and poplar trees along most of the stream and these used to be severely pruned to feed some milking cows during the dry summer. At age 11 I used to be 30 feet up the poplars with a tomahawk to cut the multiple limbs. This used to worry my mother but not father. In two years the plplars would be back up to 60 feet tall.

  10. annbritton 

    What a great story Robert, thanks for sharing. What totally different country to our Outback, I could nearly guarantee I wouldn’t be swimming in that creek any time of the year. What a magnificent view you would have had 30ft up those trees. No good to me, my husband Rick, has only ever got me up one windmill, great view once you are up there, it is just the getting up and down that I can’t cope with, second rung of the ladder is too high for me.
    When Rick was a toddler his Dad & Mum were doing a bore run, his Mum busy with his baby brother and his Dad up the windmill felt a tug on his trousers and looked down and there was Rick. He just climbed back down the way he came up with his Dad close at hand this time.
    Thanks for taking the time to comment, appreciate that, Ann

  11. Deborah Leake 

    Congratulations Ann – a great blog peppered with interesting fact and a little bit of trivia. I’ll look forward to your next post!

  12. annbritton 

    Thanks Deborah, welcome your comment and grateful you took the time to post, Ann

  13. Kelsey Neilson 

    G’day Ann,

    Wonderful that you have written such a terrific blog on our old mates the windmills. How much a part of our life they are. Maybe they will disappear within our lifetime. I hope not. Your photos are brilliant Ann, and add so much to your blog. I was very pleased to be asked by Ann to pen some words for her Waltzing Matilda Centre Gallery photographic exhibition “Home”.
    This is the verse we put with one of the windmill shots.

    Silent sentinels silhouetted in the stillness of the dawn
    Facing down the enemy, the red sky painted with blood
    The windmills stoically battle, to raise the life force from the dust
    When rain’s a distant memory and fantasy’s a flood
    Through the death and destruction of the drought
    They stand like monuments
    To their keepers stubborn resistance of the dry
    They bring us hope and sustenance
    Their flower like faces in the sky.
    Kelsey Neilson

    Looking forward to your next post Ann. Well done!!

  14. annbritton 

    Thanks Kelsey, I asked myself “what will I write my first blog about?” and thought start at the beginning, without them we wouldn’t be here, they are a huge part of our lives, they have so much history attached to them and I know a bit about them so should be able to write something!
    You know how much I am grateful for your words, so thanks once again, Ann

  15. Raelene Hall 

    wonderful blog. Congratulations. We are windmill people too but the most I do is turn the house let the house one out or turn it off occasionally so admire you for knowing all the ins and outs. One of our sons seems to have the knack for divining.

  16. annbritton 

    Thanks Raelene, It is sort of an occupational hazard knowing a bit about windmills, I’m usually the bore truck driver when it comes to pulling bores, that can become very interesting, when you have a few tonne of weight at the end of the metal cable and Rick wants you to shift it up or down a couple inches, good marriage counselling session I think!
    Divining is fun, I can find a pipe line and know which way it is running with two piece of wire, but others are so much more clever and precise.

  17. Dianne Bray 

    Hi Anne
    I love your blog. I just heard your interview on the ABC and had to follow you up. I am so pleased I did your photographs are just beautiful. We are city folk from Brisbane and we are caretaking a property near McKinlay . Thank you for your information on windmills. Looking forward to your next blog.

  18. annbritton 

    Was thrilled to receive your comment Dianne,
    Greatly appreciate you taking the time to do so.
    Thanks for your kinds words re my photographs.
    Hope you are coping well with the heat out this way at the moment.
    Working on my next blog now, Ann

  19. Elisha 

    Well done Ann and good on you for taking the time to write your own blog – look forward to what is to come!

  20. annbritton 

    Thanks Elisha,
    Pleased you took the time to comment, very grateful you did, Ann

  21. Cameron Thompson 

    Love it, Ann.
    Great photopraphy and a lovely windmill article. The detail really works. Keep up the good work

  22. annbritton 

    Thanks Cameron,
    Grateful for the confidence boost, working on two blogs at present, Ann

  23. Back pain relief 

    Thank you for sharing. Not to many people in your position are so gracious. Your article was very poignant and understandable. It helped me to understand very clearly. Thank you for your help.

  24. annbritton 

    Regret taking so long to answer your comment. It is my pleasure for sharing, glad I could be of some help and you were able to understand. Not too sure what position you are referring too that you find me in. Hope you are able to enjoy more of my blogs when they are posted, hopefully not to far into the future. Ann

  25. Peter Murray 

    G’day Ann, What a great collection of photographs. Reading your blog made me recall my days as a jackeroo in the 60’s. Especially the windmills , on the first property near Mitchell I was required to do maintenance on mills and bores. Probably on about my second day the boss took me aside and told and showed me how I was to handle nuts when working on mills left hand always under the nut at all times I was told that I was never to tell him that I had dropped a nut down a bore. Today I always have my left hand under a nut whenever doing work that involves machinery. We used to connect to pump jacks on a regular basis so I was up and down mills all the time. A bit scary at times when grabbing the blades to tie them off before working on the mill at times the blades would lift you off the platform and I would hang on waiting until my weight brought me back to the platform.

    I found your site whilst doing a bit of research as we are heading out that way in April heading across the Plenty .
    I really enjoyed your photographs. I just wish we had digital camera’s back in those days.

    Peter Murray

  26. annbritton 

    G’day Peter,
    Your comment made me smile and nodding in understanding. Lovely of you to take the time and share your memories. My hubby oiled nine mills the other day, thinks that’s a good enough work out for one day.
    Boulia hosts a big weekend at Easter if you are out in early April, rodeo, races, campdraft truly is a great weekend. I hope you have enough time to have a look around the town, the Min Min Encounter is a must see as is the Stone House.
    Enjoy your trip across the Plenty, it is a great drive, hope you have yourself a digital camera now! Thanks for your kind words Ann

  27. Peter Murray 

    We intend to check Boulia out pretty well. Probably later in April. My wife has never been to Birdsville / Boulia. I am disappointed that the working museum has closed at Birdsville.

    I had a few cheaper digital cameras however a couple of years ago shouted myself a EOS Cannon 500D. I could not justify going any better for the photos I take. I am pleased with it and it is not too complicated to use.

    What type of camera are you using for you photos.

  28. annbritton 

    I use a Nikon D700 now Peter, but lots of the photos on my website are taken with a Pentax. I love my new camera.
    We are receiving rain here now and out on the Donahue/Plenty Highway/Outback Way across the Georgina has received some very handy falls, so the country should look a picture for your visit. Hope your travel plans are coming along nicely and you have a wonderful trip, Ann

  29. Julia Merritt 

    Hi Ann,
    Am so sorry that I had missed your blog out on my blog roll, I have now added it. Am looking through your website and loving it, pic are just fabulous.

  30. annbritton 

    Thanks so much Bushbelles, have enjoyed your site for a while now, no worries about my blog, I’m not as disciplined as other bloggers but enjoying it just the same, thanks Ann

  31. Ann Watson-Brown 

    Heard your interview with Rod Quinn. I love your description of the bush-nothing beats the beauty you can always see. Love your photos. Have you ever seen the Min Min lights? Hope the drought breaks soon for you all.

  32. annbritton 

    I’m terribly sorry Ann that I never replied to your comment, not too sure how it was overlooked. Thanks so much for your kind words, very nice of you. Yes I have seen a Min Min, well I can’t put it down to anything else. We have had some relief storms that has been a blessing but some general rain would be nice and for those that still haven’t received any at all to get their quota as well. Again appreciate your time to stop by and make a comment which I’m sincerely sorry I missed completely.

  33. Who wants to be my gate opener? (Bore Run) | Ann Britton Photography 

    […] bores  I would class as the  most important job of our business for obvious reasons. Nothing survives […]

  34. Greg Phelan 


  35. Bruiser’s Bore Pulling 10 January 2020. Rick’s tap, Ann’s Edit and Go – Ann Britton Photography 

    […] and allowed us to do what we do today. It is a history that I hope is never forgotten. My very first blog was on windmills. They are very special to me for allowing us to do what we do […]

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