Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rained out

I failed today's mission to walk 16km with a 16kg pack. I have to do this as a fitness assessment for a hike I'm going on in December. I was keen to climb Grey Mountain which is the tallest peak (830m) that we can see across the Huon from our house. In good weather there should be pretty good views too. Unfortunately I picked the wrong half of the day to do it. Started out in thick fog (very atmospheric and pleasant) and ended up 30 minutes later trudging in bucketing down rain, and finally blocked by several large pools of water across the track that I couldn't cross. After 2 hours walking I got nowhere near the distance I needed to. Now I somehow have to find time to do it again in the next few weeks, which won't be easy.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Welcome Swallows

A pair of welcome swallows has selected our back verandah as an ideal place to hang out over summer and hopefully hatch a little family. They are very pretty little migratory birds. We decided to put up with the mess they are making and enjoy watching the cute little guys at work. You can just spot both of them in the photo below, and beneath that is the work-in-progress that is their nest made of clay mud and grass clippings.


Friday, October 29, 2010

What plant is that?

Seriously... any ideas?

We have four of these young trees, which have just come out in pretty reddish-pink blossoms. The only label I can find that might relate to them simply says 'pink rosea' - two words which mean the same thing. Deciduous, not native... I'm no botanist, no idea.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wombat scat

Someone told us not long after we arrived in Franklin that you can identify wombat droppings or scat because it is square, and typically deposited on top of a log or rock or similar. Well, it is true. And at the risk of offending someone, here are some pictures taken on my weekend walk. Want to know why wombats do cube-shaped poop? You can read all about it here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pack horse

Yesterday I took my recently acquired 65-litre Macpac backpack for a test walk, as I resumed training for the upcoming Wild Women on Top Mt Kosciuszko and Mt Townsend climb. The weekend trip is to commemorate the centenary of mountaineer Freda Du Faur's historic climb of Mount Cook, and it's only 6 weeks away! The hike itself is by all accounts not difficult, mostly metal pathways and walked by thousands of people each year. The bit I need to train for is carrying a full pack with all the gear required for the trip - 16 kilos all up - so just over a third of my own weight. Normally I just walk with a day pack.

The recommended training program includes a weekly 4-hour "undulating trek", which is what I did yesterday. I headed into the forestry area and attempted to walk behind our property and back in a circle. I won't bother trying that again. Most of the paths are just bogs. At one point I was surrounded by pools and bogs and not keen to go back through the bogs I'd just walked through so had to push on. Ugh. The one benefit was that I saw some great animal prints in the deep mud - see the Tasmanian Devil footprints in the photo! On the way back I walked up Phillips Hill (493m), which was much nicer. We can see it from our house. It is the most recently logged area and has been replanted, but the trees are still tiny. I saw an echidna, but the photo I got was blurry, as he scuttled off through the bush. The tracks and views were lovely, and the hill is a good challenge. I'll do that again for training, next time trying out some of the other tracks.

Our house can just be seen peeking out from behind some trees

View east towards the Huon from felled area on Phillips Hill

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On the tourist trail

My parents and my aunt and uncle from the U.K. came to visit us over the past few days. It's lovely that we have room for visitors now and can enjoy showing family and friends our new home and some of the local area and attractions. This time we visited a couple of things for the first time ourselves: the Wooden Boat Centre and boat building school in Franklin (pictured below is chef Tetsuya Wakuda's boat under construction), and we had a beautiful lunch at Home Hill winery in Ranelagh.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Freshly smoked salmon

Salmon farming and processing is another major industry in the Huon Valley. This evening we got a taste of the local produce, when a neighbour dropped by with a slab of salmon that he had procured, which was then smoked by another neighbour. This is how it arrived on our kitchen bench. Still warm and absolutely delicious. How lucky are we?!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's mid-spring... somewhere

Hello, weather?? It's mid-October. So halfway through spring. You are supposed to be helping my recently planted seeds to sprout. Instead, it was 1.9 degrees and looked like this at 8.30am this morning.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Free for the picking

We currently have a bumper crop of daffodils in the paddock providing a good supply of flowers for the house. This is just a small clump of them.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The disappearing plover egg

I love plovers (also known as the masked lapwing), they are one of my favourite birds. For a start, they look like they are wearing a dinner suit. Secondly, they are a bit aggressive and swoop and squawk in a very amusing fashion when they have eggs or young around. Third, they have the cutest chicks. Unfortunately, they aren't the brightest birds. They like to lay their eggs on completely flat, open ground. It's amazing any eggs survive. When we were WIRES volunteers in Sydney, there was a poor wildlife carer who kept having to go and rescue the same plover babies because the mother would lay her eggs on the top floor of a supermarket car park. The babies are like a piece of fluff on sticks, and they would drift on the breeze down three floors to the ground, where the woman would collect them and deliver them back to the mother... and two days later they would be back on the ground floor again.

There are a lot of plovers in Tasmania. The most we've ever seen is on the football oval in Franklin. Two of them have been hanging out in our paddock and we hoped they were a breeding pair. Then on Friday, David mowed around the house with the super green Grillo. How he managed to spot a speckled green-and-brown plover egg in the grass and not run over it I don't know. He put a couple of stakes on either side so we wouldn't tread on it. For the next couple of days the squawking, swooping parents tried to keep everyone away from it. Then, when David went back to check on the egg, it was gone. No remnants, just gone. Shame. It looks like we won't have a cute fluffy chick around after all. However, we do have a pair of beautiful welcome swallows flitting around and looking for a nesting place.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Green acres

While I was out walking on Saturday, David did an amazing job of mowing the grass and building an enclosure for the apple crate vege garden. Check out the view!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Apple and Salmon Race

Today I went to a peculiarly local event, the Apple and Salmon Race Day Carnival in Franklin, organised by Rotary. Over the past few weeks we have asked a few people what such a race involves, and they all came up with suitably dodgy stories for the gullible mainlanders, the best being this blog post by Steve Cumper, chef and owner of The Red Velvet Lounge in Cygnet.

The description of the event on the Huon Trail tourism web site's event calendar was more accurate:
Rotarians release approximately two hundred pre-sold numbered artificial salmon into the river. The excitement is then on as the tide carries the salmon to the finishing line. Shortly afterwards, numbered red and green apples are released in a similar fashion.
There were food and local produce stalls, rowing and dragon boat races, a cooking competition, music and zumba dancing - all on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon on the Franklin foreshore.

The best thing about it though (and other recent events we've been to in Franklin) was running into many of the lovely people we have come to know since moving here 5 months ago. Today it was some of our great neighbours Joanne and Brett, and Di and Kel who are building just up the road from us; fellow cat-lovers Peter and Sindi; the lovely Eleanor and Rod who kindly let us join their team at a quiz night in Castle Forbes Bay; Warren and Lorrie (who is one of the pink ladies in the Dragons Abreast boat pictured below) and many more we have met along the way. It is great to feel part of a community here.

And they're off! This is the excitement of the apple race.
Remote control yachts
The winning dragon boat crew coming in to shore

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Devil's Gulch

Continuing on last weekend's theme of walking to places with pleasant-sounding names, today I went on a walk with the Hobart Walking Club to Devil's Gulch. This was my first walk (of many I am sure) in Wellington Park, a large area of bushland on Hobart's doorstep. While spectacular Mt Wellington (1271 metres) is the focal point, there are many other places to visit and things to see in the park. The people I walked with told me there are hundreds of paths that are not shown on the 'official' map of the park.

Starting at The Springs car park about halfway up the mountain, we climbed up the Ice House Track. The ruins of several 'ice houses' can be seen along the track. These constructions with thick stone walls were used to make ice from compacted snow and store it. They were built in the 1850s and the ice was brought down to Hobart by pack horse. One of our party suggested the idea came from men who wanted ice for their whisky... but whatever the first purpose, it continued as a commercial operation for many years.

From there we climbed up to South Wellington and spent some time just climbing on and around some of the most improbable looking boulders perched on top of the mountain. As you will see in the photos below, the area is filled with amazing dolerite columns, piles of rock scree and boulders perched precariously. Only tiny patches of snow remained, but there were several large pools of the melted stuff. At the top there was a strong cold wind and I was glad of the extra layers. The return journey was along the pinnacle track to, well, The Pinnacle, then down the Zig-Zag Track back to the car park. The entire route affords amazing views of Hobart, and out to Kingston and Bruny Island.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Garden update

Some more snow fell yesterday morning, although none of it stayed on the ground. I'm sure it was because I planted stuff in the garden this week. The day before it was 22 degrees and sunny. Crazy weather that's for sure. Despite that, touches of spring have started to appear in the garden. A few deciduous trees have tiny green buds and leaves on them. In our 5 apple bins, so far I've planted potatoes, carrots, spring onions, arugula, snow peas and peas. All of the raspberry canes have grown pretty leaves. Of the seeds I've planted in punnets - some in the shed and some on the outdoor seedling table - so far only the lettuce and oregano has germinated, but I''m still quite excited about the prospect of actual food coming from the garden.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mt Misery

Tasmania has a lot of places with dire names. So many that it is a popular joke for the tourists - we bought a stubby holder recently with a map of Tasmania including many of these names on it, such as Dismal Swamp and Hells Gates.

So when I read in a tourist guide of the area we live in that there is a walk up to Mt Misery, I had to go. Yesterday was anything but miserable though. It was a warm sunny spring day, T-shirt and shorts weather. The walk starts in the private nature reserve at the Huon Bush Retreats near Ranelagh. I was glad to be driving a 4WD to get there.

The hike up the hill is fairly steep, but through rainforest so it's lovely and cool. At the top, the vegetation changes suddenly into sub-alpine heath and some dry forest. Part of it was burnt in a 2007 bushfire. There is a rocky outcrop with fabulous 360 degree views, with the highlight being the snowy peaks in the south and west. The return trip took about two-and-a-half hours, including a rest at the top and plenty of photo stops.