WHEN John Piccoli retired from a life of farming he picked up a bunch of spanners and started sculpting, writes COLIN TAYLOR
The rusted relics of early farm machinery along the winding driveway, lined up and labelled, spark the feeling there are more surprises to come.
The drive leads to the prettiest of gardens, emerald-green lawns and vibrant beds. They form the backdrop for a small collection of towering metal sculptures, which have earned their creator a modest measure of fame.
Here, two stallions fight; over there, a buckjumper grips the reins; a shearer bends low over a silver fleece; and a giant marlin heaves against a line.
Elsewhere, an egg-shaped garden seat beckons and a bull stands, square-shouldered against an unseen rival.
The sculptures - all, remarkably, made out of spanners - are the work of former farmer and self-taught welder John Piccoli, who lives with his wife, Sonia, at Barraport, near Boort.
John, 71, has lived on the property all his life.
He was born in 1941 and contracted polio when he was eight, spending three years in hospital in Melbourne.
After his father died, John, at 18, ran the family farm from his wheelchair with his mother's help. The property has played host to many animals including Beef Shorthorn and Wagyu cattle, Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset sheep, Angora goats, ostriches, alpacas, deer, turkeys, camels, and meat rabbits.
Twelve years ago, however, John and Sonia made the decision to get rid of almost all their livestock and lease the whole farm to a cropper.
"We've only got 10 fallow deer out there now for our own enjoyment, plus a couple of alpacas," John says.
John turned his relentless energy to building his collection of old machinery and his sculptures.
"It's all Mallee-type machinery and all horse-drawn," he says.
"We started with about 20 old machines out the back, but now the youngest we have is 1935, the oldest is 1859 and there are 84 different types.
"When I stopped farming, I started sculpting. We were tidying up the workshops around the farm and found a lot of old spanners in boxes.
"We ended up with 600 of them, so I began with those. I sold a lot of stuff in the early days - fruit bowls, a few tables, some pedestals - and made coffee tables, hall tables and mirror frames.
"I ran out of spanners very quickly and had to find more, so we started going to clearing sales."
John says the fighting stallions took him about nine months to complete. "It's all in my head - I don't have any pictures, plans or drawings. I make them up on a steel-topped table, then use a block and tackle when the piece gets too heavy. Things have to be made lying down, because I can't reach very high.
"The hardest part is imagining what it's going to look like in a standing position."