Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Where's the snow?

The forecast for winter in Tasmania this year was "a little warmer and a little wetter". We've hit August with no snow so far, other than a few flakes mixed in with rain one afternoon. None that has settled on the ground anyway, unlike last year. The ground at our place is pretty soggy and it's a bit muddy around the chook shed, where the girls have scratched up all the grass and leaves. I won't say it's been warm, but we've certainly enjoyed the winter sun and plenty of rainbows. Dear old Baerli can't walk far now, but we've still enjoyed a few cafe lunches outdoors with the girls. I am certain the snow is yet to come...

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Egg supply

A month ago we were getting on average one egg per day. Now production has ramped up and so far this month the hens have laid 110 eggs. We've eaten plenty, given some away and next I'll have to go looking for customers, now that we have our little stamp of accreditation. Thank you, ladies!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Fresh walnuts

What to do when you are given a lovely big bag of walnuts and don't have a nutcracker? Hmm... I did what many of us would these days and googled the problem. Up pop plenty of videos demonstrating complicated methods of cracking walnut shells. I fetch a regular dinner knife as recommended in one of the videos, but the first walnut I pick up splits in two in my hand! All but three open easily that way, the others I prise open with the knife. After that I am left with about 250 grams of freshly shelled walnuts, which I lightly crush in the mortar and pestle. A Matthew Evans recipe for honey and walnut biscuits that I saved from an old SBS Feast magazine years ago uses 150 grams. The rest I add to a maple syrup granola mix and bake in the oven. I'm sure I'm not just imagining that they taste better than the store bought walnuts from a packet.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Mid-winter festing

My favourite Tassie festival, over again. This year, friends made the trip down from the north to stay and join us at the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival. Friday night's burning man ceremony was awesome. After the long and tedious preamble last year ("Let me tell you a story...", a very long one that will go for about 40 minutes), it was refreshing and positive to have a woman from the local indigenous community welcome everyone to country, encouraging us to take care of the land we depend on. Then a horde of flaming arrows flew at Big Willie and up he went, to the great delight of the crowd.

I had been looking forward to trying a rabbit pie from The Princess and the Fatman made with sustainably farmed bunnies from Geeveston, and it did not disappoint. Absolutely delicious. Then a pork bun from Fat Pig Farm and some hot mulled Willie Smiths cider. And I simply can't go past Lady Hester's sourdough donuts, oh my god! As always the event is so well organised, with all the basics sorted, like enough seating and toilets, friendly staff keeping the place clean, easy parking and plenty of fire barrels to warm up by. Add the music, costumes and generally jovial atmosphere, what's not to love. Bring on 2019.

Sunday, July 1, 2018


On my recent visit to the Tasman Peninsula to walk the Three Capes Track, I couldn't leave without making a stop at McHenry Distillery. As I pulled into the car park, a wedge tailed eagle soared above and sun filtered through the forest. It's a beautiful spot that reminded me of our own home up in the hills. Some time back, wandering through Salamanca Market with my mum, I stopped to try McHenry's Classic Dry Gin and a bottle came home in my shopping bag. It's definitely now my favourite gin. Anyway, the last bottle ran out last year and I was keen to see where it was made. In the cosy tasting room (pictured here) I tried their Federation Gin, which uses one botanical from every state of Australia, and a bottle came home with me too. I had a brief tour around the distillery and bond store. If you're visiting Port Arthur, make sure McHenry's is on your itinerary. I doubt you'll leave empty handed.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Whisky school

Sounds like a pretty good kind of school, right? And it is. The Tasmanian Whisky Academy runs courses and industry education and events. I attended their Foundations of Distilling course this week, together with aspiring distillers from as far afield as Townsville, the Sunshine Coast and the Macleay valley. It was a cracking couple of days packed with information. For whisky and gin lovers, the course is a great insight into the process of producing the beautiful crafted beverages we enjoy. For anyone thinking about starting their own distillery, it provides both loads of inspiration and a healthy reality check. Either way, you'll learn at least a few things you didn't know about the art and business of distilling.

After a morning covering the distilling process and an overview of the business with Sullivans Cove head distiller Patrick Maguire, one of the 'founding fathers' of Tasmania's whisky industry, we took a trip out to local brewery Moo Brew. There we learned from brewer Rowl about the brewing process and how the 'wash' is made, from the supply of quality malted barley, through milling, mashing and fermenting. In the past, Moo Brew has supplied several of Tasmania's best whisky makers with their wash, although at present they are concentrating on other things, such as an exciting whisky barrel aged stout that we were lucky enough to taste.

We spent the afternoon at award winning whisky maker Sullivans Cove for a walk through the distillation process from delivery of the wash to the barrel, where it stays for at least 12 years, and beyond. The sheer amount of whisky knowledge stored in production manager Heather's head really blew me away. At home that evening, David handed me an article from this week's Tasmanian Country newspaper about how a bottle of Sullivans Cove American Oak Single Cask had sold for $11,667 in an auction through Christies of London. And proceeds from the sale will go to charity. Wow. It was one of the last remaining bottles of this year's world's best single cask single malt.

The following morning we were out at Nonesuch Distillery, a boutique Tasmanian distiller of small batch spirits, primarily gin and now whisky. Owner and distiller Rex is truly passionate about his product - and you have to be - as he said, there's no point making gin you don't want to drink. It was great to see a smaller, newer distillery in operation and the solutions Rex has come up with to a wide range of challenges. Everyone I've met in the industry so far (I'm sure there are exceptions) is so supportive of others wanting to follow them. Our group asked lots of questions, and even the cheeky ones (a gin maker's recipe is always a secret) were answered with expertise, experience and good humour. The spirit of coopetition is alive and well in Tasmania's distilling industry. I took home a delicious sloe gin as well as some classic Nonesuch Dry Gin. Now I need to rearrange the 'drinks cabinet' to fit them in - not a bad problem to have.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


On the way down to Port Arthur last week I took a small detour to see the tesselated pavement at Eaglehawk Neck. It's a very beautiful spot and really does look like tiles rather than a natural phenomenon. You can read about how it was formed in this post on the Exploring The Earth blog.


On the way out of Port Arthur I stopped at several other coastal formations: Tasman Arch, Devil's Kitchen, the blowhole and Remarkable Cave. I have to admit I was underwhelmed, but I'm sure that was only because I'd been spoiled by what I'd seen on the Three Capes Track. They would be pretty spectacular in the right sea conditions. Or maybe there's only so much dolerite you can look at in a week.