Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Views from Franklin

I've heard people say that you have to try pretty hard to find a home without a view in Tasmania. Certainly every time we visit friends in Franklin, I am struck by the different perspectives you get from different sides of the hill or road. All equally lovely, but framed differently by the home's windows and aspect. Here is the view from three different friends' homes on the hills above Franklin. Beautiful, aren't they?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bird nest fail

In addition to the highly unsuccessful pair of plovers at our place, this year the beautiful welcome swallows have so far failed to produce a single chick. They decided to build their fancy mud nest in the rafters of our garage. Not that we mind. Even with the mess they leave on the floor and occasionally the car windows. In the morning when we press the button on the remote, two high speed small aircraft shoot out of the hangar as the door opens.

The problem is that if we go out before it is dark and close the garage, the birds are trapped outside and can't get in to their nest. So this morning unfortunately we found the remains of two very young baby birds on the garage floor. Our guess is that they were left alone in there overnight and dead in the nest by the time the parents got back in the next morning. Today we also found a tiny spotted swallow egg wedged in behind a light fitting at the back of the house. While trapped outside, the birds liked to perch on the lights at night and laid it there instead of in the nest. So sad. Last year they managed to raise two lots of babies successfully, including one clutch with five chicks.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Snakes alive

Yesterday a courier showed up at our back door to collect a parcel, and told us he'd just seen a large snake at the bottom of our driveway. That's not surprising, as the past few days of lovely warm sunny weather would have brought them out to bask in the sun. But this news sent David out on the ride on mower to cut the grass in the front paddock. It's kept nice and short in the winter by the army of wallabies that gather there each night, but come spring, everything grows like crazy. David had already mowed inside the house paddock this week, but he didn't want the snakes in the longer grass outside the wallaby proof fence.

Neither of us are particularly worried by snakes, but we are worried about the dogs getting hold of one. I'm not keen on having a snake in the chook shed either. Doesn't the front paddock (our 'sprawling parklands') look great now?

I remember reading in a tourist guide before we moved here that 'there are only three kinds of snake in Tasmania - all venomous'. However, the good news is that they are all quite timid. You are unlikely to encounter a snake in the winter months. Snakes in Tasmania are generally active in the warmer months between October and March. The dark colour of most Tasmanian snakes is an adaptation to the cold climate, as it means they can absorb heat more quickly.

The smallest and least dangerous of the three varieties is the white-lipped snake, also known as the whip snake. They are greenish-grey or olive in colour and grow to around 40cm long. They are quite shy and feed mainly on small skinks. They are most often seen in grasslands or heath and on rocks. I once saw one sliding away through the rocks on the beach near Cockle Creek, where it had been sunning itself. David has seen one along the fence at home.

The lowland copperhead snake lives mainly in swampy or marshy areas where it feeds on frogs, lizards and smaller snakes. It reaches up to 1.5 metres in length. Unlike the tiger snake, it has a narrow pointed head and range from dark grey or black to copper or brick-red in colour, usually with a yellow-white underside and an orange or red streak along the sides. They are very shy and prefer to retreat when disturbed by humans. Copperheads are extremely venomous and capable of killing an adult, but the good news is that their fangs are relatively short, making their bite less effective. Thick socks and strong shoes or boots will provide some protection.

The tiger snake is the largest snake in Tasmania, reaching between one and two metres long. It is found in most habitats in Tasmania and mainly feeds on small mammals and birds. They are known to climb trees to reach bird nests, and so the alarm calls of birds in the area may alert you to their presence. It has a broad and blunt arrow shaped head and comes in so many colour variations that it is unwise to identify them this way. If threatened, a tiger snake will raise its head and may feign a strike, but like most snakes, they will not bite unless provoked. Their venom is highly toxic. We saw one recently on a walk to Billy Brown's Falls.

If you want a better idea of what these snakes look like, visit the Parks & Wildlife Service web site or check out the natural history section of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery for some safely stuffed examples.

A couple of months ago I did a St. John’s first aid course and the instructor, a paramedic of many years standing, reliably informed us that no-one has died from snakebite in Tasmania for around 40 years. I’ll take that as an encouraging sign.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ye Olde Oyster Cove Store

It's a bit of a drive from our place unfortunately, but if I'm in the area I always pop in to this gem of a store. Heading south from Hobart, Oyster Cove is between Snug and Kettering on the Channel Highway. You can pick up everything from local meats, cheese and wine to good quality organic fruit and vegetables to seedlings, straw, hay and mushroom compost for the garden.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Surprise salmon delivery

Last week I was at a work conference on the Gold Coast and a colleague who lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada was telling me about some of their local food specialties. One was a whole side of salmon cooked over a fire on a slab of freshly cut cedar. With all the great fresh salmon here in Tasmania, I thought that sounded like a good idea, and got to thinking about eating it again... then this evening a neighbour who works at the nearby fish farms dropped by with a whole gutted salmon for us, fresh from the Huon. How nice is that! He saves those that might otherwise be thrown away in the testing and quality control processes. I looked up an online video to work out how to fillet it, David sharpened a knife for me and I gave it a go. I left a little too much meat behind, but it wasn't too difficult. Below are the before and after shots. Now we have 2kg of boned, skinned salmon fillets to eat... who's coming over?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Garden inspiration

It has been a weekend of garden envy... oops I mean inspiration. On Saturday, a local garden enthusiast in the valley one road north of us opened his garden as a fundraiser for charity. Now I absolutely love a good stickybeak in other people's homes and gardens. I believe this condition is hereditary, my mum loves it too! So this was something I couldn't resist.

For a $5 donation, we wandered around admiring the beauty and the hard work that has gone into creating such a garden. In just 11 years, Rick (aged 73) has transformed abandoned pine forest, gorse, bare fields and thistle into a little oasis. There's a dam full of tadpoles and frogs, ponds with lilies, native and introduced trees like Canadian spruce, rhododendrons, roses, hollyhocks, plenty of quiet places to sit, sculptures of birds and Buddhas and the beginnings of a ferny glen with local giant manferns planted. Like all such gardens, it is a work in progress. But unlike other serious gardeners I have met, he had a healthy attitude regarding the success of plants - if they die, they weren't meant to be there. He does only minimal weeding.

Today's garden envy was entirely different. I attended a 'poultry breeding masterclass' at breeder Paul Healy's place in Judbury, a follow-up to the workshop I went to back in March. I didn't really take much of a look at his garden, but this one is not about aesthetics. It's all about plants with a purpose, food, herbs and organic insect control. He's currently writing a book about it. But what interested me more was the housing of his Barnevelder chooks. Everywhere I looked there were small innovations, the result of many years' experience, trial and error no doubt. I'm glad I went to the class today, it gave me more confidence in being able to breed and manage my own small flock of birds.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hurtling hens

I am constantly surprised by how much ground the chooks cover each day. One minute I see all three of them dashing about in the front paddock, the next, they're charging along the fence up behind the house, then out in the driveway pecking around the water tank. And when they spot me on the way to the hen house at dinner time, they sprint. I had no idea how active hens are. For some odd reason, I expected them to peck about quite sedately. Anyhow, I expect to learn a lot more about poultry on the weekend at a 'poultry breeding masterclass' with Paul Healy. I'm thinking about picking up a young cockerel for the girls... but I'll wait to see how I feel about that after the workshop.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Yukon here to stay

A different boat appeared recently in Franklin. We could see her tall masts as we drove down the hill towards the Huon. On the weekend we went down for a closer look. It turns out to be the Yukon, built in 1930 in Frederikshavn, Denmark, a private vessel on a round-the-world voyage... and according to their online logbook, the family has decided to break their journey for a year and stay here in Tasmania:
We have made no secret of the fact that Tassie has long held an interest for us, as an alternative to Denmark and it seems crazy to sail past it, especially when we have our sea-going home with us. Tasmania has an active wooden boat fraternity; this is partly due to the cooler climate. We found a good place for Yukon in the town of Franklin. Here is a boat school for wooden ships and the Wooden Boat Trust is also situated here. It’s a very friendly and active community. The boys’ school is in walking distance and our friends from the earlier years live just over the hill in Cygnet. 200 years ago people were sailed around the world to Van Diemen’s Land for doing something wrong. We fortunately stopped here by choice, to experience this lovely island.

It's quite a tale. Below are a couple of our photos, and the Franklin Marine blog has a photo of her arriving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Huon Show 2011

Yesterday we visited the Huon Show, or as some of the locals say, the 'Ewan Show' (I also loved Amy's spelling 'Yoowan Show'), held at the showgrounds in Ranelagh. We enjoyed it just as much as last year. Our plan to go later and avoid the parking queue worked. We ran into a few friends, patted some (other) Bernese Mountain Dogs and looked at the goats, alpacas, cattle and poultry. Watched the 'grand parade'. Consumed a pork bratwurst with sauerkraut, a cider and an apple and cinnamon ice cream.

This year I especially enjoyed Brian Fish's bullock driving demonstration. He conducted the six enormous bullocks like an orchestra, it was quite a thing to watch. I love the draught horses too. The biggest crowd however gathered to watch the annual Rural Youth dog high jump competition. The cute fluffy varieties were knocked out early on, leaving the kelpies and cattle dogs as the serious contenders. The winner jumped a good 2.5 metres. The weather smiled on the valley again for a lovely day out. I do love a good agricultural show.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Evening sun

Have I mentioned before how much I LOVE daylight saving? Already, it's light here in southern Tasmania until after 8.00pm. As the sun sets behind us, it lights up the tips of the Snug Tiers opposite in pink. So pretty. The tallest peak in the picture (second from right) is Grey Mountain at about 830 metres.

I was totally confused visiting Brisbane a few weeks ago, where it was light at 4.00am and dark by 6.15pm. And next week I'll be back in the dark at a conference in Queensland. Something seems terribly wrong about that, when they have such a warm climate.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Killer views

I have seen some dreadfully corny property names driving around Tasmania so far. Like the one as you drive into Franklin called Sanctuary Much... On the weekend, driving over Woodbridge Hill towards Cygnet I saw a property named 2 C Forever and groaned... until I turned the corner and saw the view, that is. Just wow. It's not a good photo as I was driving into the late afternoon sun, but check out the array of peaks in the distance, including Adamsons Peak, The Calf, Mount Snowy, Hartz Peak and (I think) Mount Picton. Just stunning.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It must be spring...

The grass is growing at a remarkable pace.

Lilly the cat moves between the sunshine and the shade.

Plants are putting on a growth spurt, including these young beetroot.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Snug Falls

The weather was so perfect yesterday, it was begging us to spend the day outside. We drove to Kingston Beach with the dogs in the morning, and even gave the salty, sandy, hairy ones a bath on our return. Baerli's toes turned out to be white underneath the reddish brown clay colour they've been for months.

In the afternoon, I went on a short walk to Snug Falls. It's an easy walk on a well-maintained path down to the falls, which as you can see are tall and had plenty of water flowing. There are park benches thoughtfully provided along the path as you reach the top of the hill on the way back. It's about a 45 minute walk, let's say an hour if you stop to admire and take photos as I did.