Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Free range chicken

One of Tasmania's largest poultry producers, Nichols, has recently launched a new ethical free range chicken product line. The birds are housed in 'villages' of four movable sheds each housing 720 birds (a much lower density than the thousands housed in one shed under other poultry production systems) and they are free to come and go from the sheds as they please.

I had the opportunity to have a look inside last week on a field trip. While it is still a little shocking to see so many birds living such short lives, the conditions were clean and spacious, the feeding and watering stations looked great and many of the birds were enjoying themselves resting outside the sheds or pecking in the grass and mud. The large, green paddock we visited contained four of these chook 'villages'. Check out the video on their web site to see it for yourself.

While at present the ethical free range product represents less than 10 percent of the chicken they produce (the rest is barn raised under the RSPCA standard), it is hoped that customer demand will grow and production can expand. It's good reason for us Aussies to eat a bit less chicken and be happy to pay a bit more for it, I reckon. I'll be checking out our local supermarkets to see who stocks it.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Japanese wasabi, grown in Tasmania

On a field trip last week visiting businesses in Tasmania's north west, I saw wasabi growing for the first time and tasted the freshest possible, just picked, trimmed and grated by the founder of Shima Wasabi. Now part of The Tasmanian Food Co. group of companies, it's a fascinating business and the largest grower of Japanese wasabi in the southern hemisphere. They primarily supply fresh wasabi to high end restaurants around Australia. It is grown hydroponically in a large climate controlled greenhouse. The stems (not the roots, as widely believed) are harvested and shipped on demand direct to chefs, chilled to keep it fresh. There's little waste, as the leaves, stems and flowers can all be used as well. Currently, little of their product goes direct to consumers, although you can buy wasabi powder  to make a lovely paste from their web site. That may change, however, with new products and packaging methods currently under development.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The big spud

How have I been in Tasmania for more than seven years and NOT seen this before? It's the Big Spud at Sassafras. Yes, a large potato in a hat. His name is Kenny Kennebec (a type of potato). I've been to the Big Banana, the Big Pineapple, the Big Merino and even the Giant Earthworm, but seriously, this is quality stuff Tasmania. The only problem is, as far as big things go, he's not very big.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hobart sings in winter

Last Saturday, our little community choir from Franklin performed three pop-up gigs as part of the Festival of Voices in Hobart. We took the bus into town and sang in the lovely Wild Gallery in Salamanca, on top of a red double-decker bus parked at the Brook Street Pier and in the IXL Atrium behind the Henry Jones Art Hotel.

It turned out to be a glorious winter day in Hobart and aside from the fun we had singing, the hanging about at Salamanca Market and walking between venues was such a treat. David drove into town to meet me afterwards and we finished up the day with cocktails at Rude Boy and dinner at Restaurant Schulz at the Polish Club. A very long and happy day out "in town".


Friday, July 21, 2017


The Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival is over for another year, and this year we again spent the Friday night in the glorious cold night air in the paddocks around Willie Smith's Apple Shed in Grove. Well, some of it was spent toasting ourselves next to fire barrels. Eating pork cracking and pork buns from Fat Pig Farm, raclette with cheese from Tasmania's Heidi Farm, burritos and divine doughnuts from Lady Hester. Stu from Tasman Quartermasters was wielding the blowtorch, his cooking method of choice. We warmed ourselves up from the inside by sipping hot mulled cider.

It must be said that the 'burning man' ceremony went on a little (OK, way) too long this year, with a man telling a "story" that wasn't and fire dancers who would have been awesome if you could see them. After 35 minutes of this, some Korean tourists standing next to me wielding enormous Samsung phones turned and asked "burning soon?" Then finally, Big Willie was lit and he burned brightly in the Huon Valley sky. It's absolutely one of the best festivals of the year, set up to cater for the crowds and the cold. All my photos were rubbish though. I'm blaming icy fingers!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cheese club

Join the club! The Bruny Island Cheese Club, that is. Even if you live on the 'mainland', you can still enjoy artisan products from Tasmania at home. The courier arrived yesterday afternoon with my latest cheese shipment and by 6pm, a fair chunk of the 'smoked truckle' was already gone. Delicious. My favourite Bruny Island Cheese is the o.d.o (one day old) marinated fresh cheese and the C2 raw milk... or maybe Tom... gosh, I'll just eat it all, shall I? The cheese and other products come packed in reusable ice blocks and it makes a great gift too... just saying. It's not my birthday or anything.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The chicken swing

I'm not talking about some new dance craze. No, after years of seeing me chuckle at silly videos of chooks on swings, David built one for me. It's not really for the chooks. More for my own entertainment, you understand. Clearly I'm not the only one, as there are quite a few commercial chicken swings available to buy. We're now hoping to catch one of the girls on it. One hen is very curious and has spent a lot of time peering at it, but I have not seen her on it yet.