Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tassie tan

I was never much of a beach goer in Sydney, but you can count on one hand the number of times I've had my legs out in public in Tasmania so far. This week the weather has been so warm I've had shorts on two days in a row! Today we waded in the lovely clear water at Kingston beach again with the dogs. Apologies to anyone who was momentarily blinded by my luminous white Tassie tan.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Huon Jet

We picked the perfect day today for a ride on the Huon Jet Boat. David gave me a voucher for my birthday. It was one of those things where we had driven past it on the Esplanade in Huonville so many times and said 'must go on that one day'. Owner John sure knows how to drive that thing. We narrowly dodged rocks and logs, flew over shallow rapids and did plenty of 360 degree spins. It was awesome fun.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Today's project

In return for butchering some of his trees, the energy company left a huge pile of mulch in our neighbour Nigel's driveway when they trimmed around the power lines recently. He kindly said we could help ourselves if we wanted any. So today David made a few trips over the road in the ride-on mower with trailer to collect a big pile of hardwood mulch, which I have spread out on top of cardboard around the apple crate vegetable beds. The idea is that it will be easier to keep the weeds down and hopefully David won't need to whipper snip the grass inside the vegetable garden anymore. As a bonus, it looks really nice too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Made with mashed potato, topped with olive oil, sea salt, fresh thyme and oregano. It was meant to be a snack but was so tasty it ended up being dinner. And then breakfast this morning too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fun in the sun

On Christmas Eve we avoided the shops and headed for the doggie beach at Kingston. The dogs love it there. Even David and I went in the water... well, we waded in up past the knees anyway. We've had such beautiful weather over the Christmas break this year.


Monday, December 26, 2011

A very merry Christmas

Christmas Day was a whirlwind of friends, food and fun. We started by opening gifts from our family under the tree, moved on to brunch at the beautiful home below, followed by a lovely long lunch with great company at the newly completed masterpiece home of more friends. Luckily there was a break before dessert for a walk along the river and games on the oval. 'Rudolph' pictured here was a handmade Kris Kringle aka Secret Santa gift. There was no way I would have guessed what was inside that well wrapped present. We finished the day by dropping in on our neighbours who were enjoying a few drinks with family and friends on their new deck. Delicious food and great company, what more could we wish for. I hope you enjoyed a wonderful day too.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Don't count your chickens

On Monday night, 12 December, I put these 12 fertile eggs under one of our hens who had been spending most of the day sitting on the communal nest in the chook shed. It hasn't gone so well. At first, she didn't seem too pleased about being shut in a cage when her two friends were off free-ranging in the sun (and the pouring rain... not the brightest chooks). She was sitting on the eggs, but whenever I appeared in the shed she got off the eggs and squawked madly, most upset. Then she settled down happily spread out over the eggs for a few days.

Then one morning she flew out of the brooder box when I opened it to refresh the water. Had to catch her and put her back in. At that point I figured she was not so keen on being mother hen and kept a close eye on her to see that she was sitting on the eggs. Then she broke one of the eggs, and then another, which was difficult to clean up and the remaining eggs were looking pretty dirty. So last night I took the eggs, gently cleaned them and stuck them in an incubator borrowed from our neighbour Nigel. I don't hold out a lot of hope that any will hatch given the bumpy ride so far, but I'll keep turning them a couple of times a day just in case.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lazy Sunday afternoon

Late Sunday afternoons at the Franklin Tavern - otherwise known as 'Kon's pub' - are a relaxed and jovial affair with music by local duo Rumour. A friend is visiting us from Sydney for a few days, so we decided to have a few beers followed by pizza from Franklin Wood Fired Pizza and a walk along the river at Franklin. All up a pleasant end to a busy but fantastic weekend which included a housewarming, a Christmas party at a property right on the Huon River, the Huon Valley Growers and Makers Market, cleaning, mowing, shopping, cooking and generally too much eating and drinking. The festive season is in full swing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tank water

OK, that's not the tank we drink out of, it's the small tank attached to our chook shed. In addition to this old slightly rusty tank, we also have a modern new one that holds approximately 40,000 litres, with a pump to bring the water to the house. The water that comes from our tap is pure, clean and tastes fantastic. I appreciate it most when I'm interstate for work and refill my plastic bottle from the tap in the hotel. Urgh.

Although Hobart is the second-driest capital city in Australia, we get a lot of rain at our place here in the Huon Valley. We have rainforest on our property to prove it, with huge man ferns, bright green moss and colourful fungi in autumn. It seems that as the weather moves in from the south west, the clouds dump all the rain on us as they come over the hill, then keep going. The opposite side of the river at Cradoc is very dry by comparison.

When we first moved here from Sydney with its water restrictions, we kept up the water saving techniques, like using a bucket to catch the water from the shower before it heats up, to use for dog drinking water and the garden... but pretty soon stopped that when we realised that our rainwater tank is constantly overflowing. If we do a few loads of washing one day, it's almost guaranteed that we'll get a downpour overnight and magically it is full again. Even having a few guests to stay hasn't put much of a dent in it. We're tempted to get a few more tanks and bottle the stuff... except that bottled water isn't so great for our environment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Say 'sheep's cheese'

A home delivered Christmas hamper of sheep's milk cheese arrived today, purchased from Grandvewe Cheeses, for us to enjoy with visitors over the festive season. Yum. Amongst them is my favourite, the White Pearl fresh cheese marinated in lemon thyme and olive oil, and the very tasty Friesland Fog. Plus some whey liqueur which I have not tried before. For more details on Grandvewe (and why sheep's milk cheese is good for you!), check out my article on this Cradle Mountain & Tasmania travel guide.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Weekend chook shed project

On Saturday, it was time to clean out the chook shed. Our three hens are lucky enough to live in a solid old pickers hut that was on the property when we moved here. While the bunk beds were removed to make room for their roost, they still have a table and chairs, proper windows AND a kitchen sink in their house!

Using the 'deep litter' system (maintaining at least 6 inches or 15 cm of hay, straw or other bedding on the floor) seems to have worked really well. After nine months, it was surprisingly clean under all that hay, straw and grass. That said, we inhaled a lot of dust from the decomposed and finely shredded hay and straw in the shed as we removed it and piled it up as mulch around various trees around our place.

Then while I added compost to the vegetable beds and transplanted the tomatoes, David built a fantastic nest box inside the chook shed to house a broody hen. One of our girls has been spending most of the day on the nest (located in the cupboard under the sink) and we're going to try setting some fertile eggs under her. I don't hold out a lot of hope that it will work first go, but it's worth a shot. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rural services

We haven't had many problems with the lack of services up our road. By that I mean no post delivery, no garbage collection, no town water, no mains gas, no phone line. In fact in many ways I prefer it this way. It means we get to drink tank water and collect our mail from the nice people who run the local post office. Even taking our rubbish to the tip has its benefits. I instantly became much more conscious of what I could compost and buy without packaging to reduce our rubbish. Also, there's no garbage truck noise to disturb the peace at 6am.

However, yesterday morning's 'planned' power outage presented some small challenges. In the past, we have received a letter from Aurora Energy to say that the power would be out from, say, 9am until midday on a certain day, for repairs or upgrades. But this time, nothing. At 8.55am the power went out. Hmm. I called the service hotline five minutes later, to be told there was a 'planned' outage until 3pm due to tree trimming on our road. So with laptop battery power and wireless broadband I was able to keep working from home for a couple of hours, until my computer battery died and the mobile phone battery was about to go. The water pump wasn't working, so no tap water or flushing toilets. When we've had warning of outages before, we have filled some plastic containers with water and put the kettle on the gas stove for tea. So I decided to go and work from the internet cafe in Huonville... um, the truck is in the garage and the remote controlled door would need to be disengaged so I could get out. Sent a text to David who was at a customer site in Sandy Bay to explain why the garage would not open when he got home.

This morning, looking out the window I can see the workers chainsawing and mulching trees on our road and I'm wondering whether there is another 'planned' outage about to happen... at least today I am fully charged and better prepared!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Agrarian Experience

Our day at The Agrarian Kitchen today started with milking Pretty Girl the goat (for the elderflower and vanilla bean goats milk ice cream we made later on). We collected eggs and picked asparagus, herbs, rhubarb, strawberries, broad beans and spring onions. Rodney showed us tricks and techniques for everything from making pasta and Bearnaise sauce to peeling quail eggs. Magically the mess we made disappeared as the kitchen fairy (actually chef Rhys) whisked dishes away and ensured everything was ready for us. We chopped, peeled, whisked, folded, boiled, simmered, baked, grilled and served. Then we sat down and ate a meal so good we couldn't believe we'd made it. You can read all about The Agrarian Experience and the philosophy behind Severine and Rodney Dunn's farm-based cooking school on their web site, so I won't repeat it here. Suffice to say, if you get the chance, do it. We had a brilliant day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Remote working

Whether you call it teleworking, work-from-home or remote working, that's what I've been doing for the past 18 months full-time. Before that, I used to work from home mostly two days a week and commute into the office on the other days. It took more than an hour on the bus in Sydney peak hour traffic, so including the walk/wait at each end, the trip took more than three hours a day. It was often stressful and a dreadful waste of time, except while I was studying, when the bus trip (provided I got a seat) was great for textbook reading.

I work as a regional director of PR for a US company in the technology industry. That means spending hours on the computer or phone, writing, talking with journalists, finding them information for their stories, arranging interviews with the company's spokespeople, promoting the company's expertise. I also manage a small team in Asia Pacific and Japan. I travel interstate to host journalists at the company's conferences and for leadership team meetings. This kind of work can be done from anywhere.

I consider myself very lucky to work for a company where this is normal. I have met colleagues who work from their home in the Arizona desert, on Vancouver Island in Canada, on Waiheke Island near Auckland, New Zealand, in Perth, Macau and on Scotland Island in Sydney. Everyone in the company has a notebook computer; there are no desktops. With the increase in fuel costs, traffic and natural and other disasters, I think this is a very smart move. In an emergency situation, almost the entire company can do their jobs from home. But even in a company with the technology set-up and culture and experience to support remote workers, being able to do so successfully is still dependent on having a supportive manager and management team, and I'm lucky in that regard too.

Personally, I like working from home. I can concentrate better on the task at hand, I'm in control of my own work environment (no beige cubicle for starters), I don't eavesdrop on everyone else's phone calls, I can stand up and wander around on the phone, the coffee is good (and cheaper), there's less wasted time. I can wear jeans every day. My desk has a nice view (see above). Sure, my social interaction mostly comes from Twitter, instant messenger and the dog, but that has its upsides to be honest!

However, there are things I need to do better:
  • Get out more. Late yesterday afternoon I drove into Hobart for networking drinks organised by the Public Relations Institute of Australia. It was the first time I had met other PR people in Tasmania. Some of these people are in the same situation as me. One suggested catching up for coffee in the new year, so I'll be following up on that idea. I go to local business dinners with David, put on by the Huon Valley Business Enterprise Centre, but there may be other networks that are useful. Also it means I put on a suit! And as much as I dislike being away, I also need to travel to see people more. Relationships are worth investing in.
  • Exercise. In Sydney I had regular appointments to train with the totally brilliant Wild Women on Top, and I always kept that commitment, rain, shine or headache. When working from home I walked the dog every afternoon. Here I have failed to keep any commitment made to myself to keep up the hiking training, and the dogs have a huge paddock to run around in. Sitting at a computer all day long is not doing me any good at all. To change this, I have to set a big hiking goal to train towards.
  • Webinars. I used to attend these more when I was in Sydney, and in the absence of PR colleagues to discuss ideas with, I found them a time-efficient way of thinking outside the day-to-day.
  • Weekly 'team' meeting. Or Friday drinks, like the office-dwellers do. David and I have a regular breakfast booked in at a local cafe, but I need to do a better job of actually using the time to discuss our work.
  • Keep more regular desk hours. With most of my team between one and eight hours behind me (and worse in summer), a lot of the email and calls fall late in the day my time. That's hard because I'd prefer to work early and finish before I am brain dead and inefficient. I don't have a good answer for this one yet. To be honest it was no different in Sydney.
There's more, but with this post I just wanted to share a bit of what it's like working remotely, the good and the bad. I'd love to hear about your experiences if you work from home too.