Monday, October 24, 2016

Rapt with raptors

This is Montgomery. He's a Tasmanian Masked Owl, and as I learned on our visit to the Raptor and Wildlife Refuge of Tasmania in Kettering last week, that's one of only two types of owl in Tasmania. Isn't he beautiful?

This amazing facility was set up by veterinary nurse and licensed wildlife carer Craig Webb with purpose built aviaries and volunteers who are working to rescue and rehabilitate Tasmanian raptors, like eagles, hawks, owls and falcons. When the birds can't be released due to their nature of their injuries, they get to live in the education area of the property and help people understand them better. Some have been hit by cars, some have collided with powerlines, others have been shot by morons. On our tour last week we saw swamp harriers, wedge-tailed eagles, brown goshawks (such a stunning bird, much more than the name suggests), southern boobook owls and brown falcons.

Cameras in the aviaries monitor the birds and allow the team to see injuries that the birds may hide when they see you coming. Through this camera footage, we saw a female sitting on two eggs and the male bringing her food. Awesome to see. I've had several chickens taken by grey goshawks over the years and I'm always torn about it. Sad for the loss of my hen, but happy that our beautiful wildlife is fed. We learned at the refuge that, for example, the lifespan of wedge-tailed eagles is not as long as it used to be due to challenges finding food - and, I guess, clearing of habitat.

You can book a private tour as we did via their web site. By appointment only. Go on - the money goes towards saving some of these wonderful birds. And while you are there, buy one of their beautiful calendars.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The end of the fest

Today is the last day of Oktoberfest in Munich. The world's biggest fair and folk festival is almost over for another year.

Most years, we host an Oktoberfest bash at our place, complete with proper German-style sausages, pretzels, sauerkraut, salads, cakes and of course, beer brewed according to Germany's purity law of 1516. But not this year. This year, we went to the real thing in Munich.

On the first Sunday, we went to the traditional parade through the streets of music, watching more than two hours of floats, brass bands and community groups as they headed up Maximillianstrasse towards the Theresienwiese where Oktoberfest is held. There were so many beautiful traditional costumes and floats crammed with happy, waving people despite the rain.

A week later, we returned to go the festival itself and had a brilliant time, going on the giant wheel and the skyfall ride, enjoying the food and beer and soaking up the atmosphere.

If you're in Hobart and all of this beer-talk is making you thirsty, next Saturday 8 October, the Hobart Brewing Company is hosting it's own local Oktoberfest event. There's another, larger Oktoberfest event at Princes Wharf on 25 and 26 November ... although it will be well past October by then. Prost!

Friday, September 9, 2016

An evening with a whisky legend

Bill Lark is known as the father of Tasmania's whisky industry. He tells a good yarn too. Last month the Public Relations Institute of Australia hosted an evening with Bill where he told us the stories behind the Lark Distillery and its single-malt whisky that (along with Bill) is now well known in whisky circles worldwide. He's a good storyteller, one of the keys to the success of his brand.

I am not a big whisky drinker but I do enjoy a taste. Whether you drink whisky or not, Lark's cellar door in Hobart is a great spot to enjoy a drink or simply to soak up the atmosphere. On arrival we were served a gin and tonic with Lark's Forty Spotted Gin with a strip of pink grapefruit and a few Tasmanian pepperberries. Then it was on to the serious stuff. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Cask Strength single malt. At 58 percent ABV I expected it to blow my head off, but it was smooth and delicious. As was the slightly sweet Slainte whisky liqueur developed by Lynn Lark. Tasmania will make a whisky drinker out of me yet.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


After a dry spell at the end of winter, before the weather heats up and the fire permit season starts, it's time to burn the pile of cuttings, fallen branches, weeds and unusable wood. A bonfire! Ah the joy of standing around the warmth of a fire outdoors on a cool evening. It brings the neighbours out of the woodwork too.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Return of the pardalote

Yesterday, the first daffodil popped open in the front paddock. Everywhere we walk there's the whirring of tiny wings in our ears, as flocks of fairy wrens tumble through the bushes and peck insects around our windows. Blossoms and buds are bursting on the fruit trees with the quince, the apricot and the peach leading the way. The rhubarb has emerged from winter dormancy. And most exciting, the pardalotes who nested in clay banks at our place last year have returned, lending flashes of yellow to the trees around the house. Welcome to spring!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Footy first timers

Many people in Tasmania are big AFL supporters. Us... well, let's just say we aren't exactly the biggest sports nuts on the planet. We like watching the World Cup football and some of the Euro Cup when it's on. Formula One Grand Prix. A bit of the Olympics. David likes the tennis, as long as the sound is turned off so you don't hear all the grunts and sighs. That's about it really. No cricket. No footy. But when your good friends (and massive Sydney Swans fans) decide to visit Tassie for an AFL round played at Blundstone Arena AND organise awesome tickets, well... you just have to go! They even brought spare Swans scarves for us to wear. We had a great day out with lots of laughs. And luckily the Swans won. But don't worry. Despite how much I enjoyed my pie and chips and the quarter time entertainment, I haven't turned. I reckon it might be a while before our next game.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The cat who got the cream

Happy 20th birthday to Lilly the cat! Yes, you read that right. Twenty years old. Happy birthday, Lil.

This morning she enjoyed a special birthday treat of whipped cream. It sure seems a long time since we adopted her from the vet in Sydney as a scrawny tortoiseshell-and-white kitten with a few gut problems. Then she developed gut problems of a different kind, stealing food from all our neighbours and ending up at 8-plus kilos with a large swinging tummy. We had to do a letter box drop with her photo on saying "Do Not Feed This Cat".

Now, our poor old girl is very frail but she's still eating and drinking well. She needs regular combing and claw trimming but otherwise has simple requirements. Earlier this week, I spotted her trundling out from her home in the garage and across the driveway where she sat in the sun for a while. It mightn't be much, but it's not her time to go quite yet.