Today we were visited by an assessor from the Land for Wildlife scheme, a voluntary conservation initiative for landowners run by the Tasmanian Government, and we've now joined up. We were alerted to the program by two lots of friends and fellow Franklin residents who also participate. One of the things that attracted us to this place is that more than half of our block is bush, and it's full of wildlife. We want to keep it that way, hence the reason we wanted to state publicly that this is what our property will be retained for.
The assessor looked at the habitat and various risks/benefits to wildlife such as water sources and feral animal/plant populations. She asked us to list the animals we've seen in and around our property: wallabies, pademelons, bettongs, quolls, echidnas, wombats, possums, bandicoots, frogs, a whipsnake plus one live and two dead Tasmanian devils. And many different birds, including spotted pardalotes, black cockatoos, fairy wrens, welcome swallows, wedge tailed eagles, grey goshawks. Seriously! It's a zoo out there and we love it.
This is the stash that David just bought from an orchardist in Franklin, the same one we bought our apple box vegetable beds from. I just ate the first apricot I've eaten in years, because so many of them are tasteless and floury. Well not these ones. Yum.
In Sydney it was illegal to burn pretty much anything, anytime, except food on the barbie. Where we live now, people burn pretty much anything, anytime - at least in winter. On 5 January a fire permit season came into force - so it is still possible to burn off, but you need a permit.
One bloke down our road seemed to have a constant fire going during winter. With my OH being a bit of a fire bug, of course he had to acquire a butane powered torch for burning weeds. It worked very well on the horrid thistle that pops up around the place. Then he progressed to torching the longish grass and weeds along the fence, where the terrain is too rough for either a mower or whipper snipper. Didn't enjoy himself at all, as you can see.
Six weeks ago my dear, soft, slightly senile 15 year old cat Patsy ran away into the bush next to our house and has not returned. As she was old, timid and fragile, and the weather in the weeks following was cold and often wet, and the Tasmanian bush hostile and full of other creatures like possums and snakes, I don't hold out much hope for her survival. For four weeks, I called for her every day, and shed a little tear when she did not return. When it was windy, cold and wet at I night I couldn't sleep, knowing my poor little cat was out there, frightened and hungry. But now, six weeks after her disappearance, I think I have to accept that she's gone.
A couple of times when she was younger and we lived in Sydney, she disappeared for two weeks only to turn up unexpectedly, a little thinner but otherwise fine. Miracles always happen, I guess, but I doubt she's still out there now. Please don't ask me to talk about it as I can't do any more crying. Goodbye, my little Patsy.
We spent this afternoon at the Cygnet Folk Festival. I rode on the back of David's bike, for the first time since we moved to Tasmania, as the owner of the lovely Old Bank B&B in the centre of Cygnet had kindly said we could park in their driveway. The weather certainly smiled on the festival today, the third and final day. First up we went to see the Sydney Balalaika Orchestra, who we have seen several times in Sydney before and really enjoyed. You just have to see the woman who plays the cimbalom - just amazing. There was also a young woman who played the bayan, a type of button accordion, and the lead domra player was also fantastic.
Next up we saw local singer/songwriter Amy Kendall down in the scout hall. As odd as this sounds, the sweet, reflective melodies were a perfect match for the relaxed venue with a backdrop of stars behind her. We were lucky to catch her - it was her last gig for some time with a baby due soon. After that we saw part of one act which I didn't enjoy and then couldn't get in to see another as the venue was full. So we wandered back down to the scout hall in the camping ground and saw the last few numbers by traditional folk singer Mandy Connell, and finally the brilliant Spooky Men's Chorale that I'd read about but never seen. An afternoon packed with sunshine, a huge variety of talented musicians, some Vietnamese food and an ice-cream - hard to beat. I forgot to take the camera and so only have these crappy mobile phone photos to post. Ah well.
Driving north from Franklin towards Hobart offers many views of the mountain range called Sleeping Beauty. You can see quite clearly why it is called that in the photo below, taken from the not-so-lovely swamp in Huonville. I love how it looks different every time you look at it, whether lit up by the sun, misty or framed by dramatic clouds.
The local free-range smoked ham turned out to be delicious, and since our Christmas Eve dinner we've enjoyed the "best-ever" ham sandwiches (quote from David), fried ham and eggs with sourdough for breakfast, quiche, roesti, omelette... I have no complaints about eating leftovers like that.
Yesterday we ate the first food grown in our garden (unless you count the herbs) - a single, crisp, crunchy snow pea. Bit sad really, but there are plenty more growing, so no doubt we'll be eating more of them in salads and stir fry over the next few weeks. Lovely.
About an hour and 20 minutes drive south of our place is the end of the road. Cockle Creek is the farthest south you can drive in Australia. It also marks the start (or end) of the South Coast Track, one of the greatest bushwalks in the country. Right now, I don't have the experience, skills or fitness required to do it.
From Cockle Creek we walked to Fishers Point, where there is a navigation light and the ruins of an old pilot station. The area has amazing history attached to it. The walk goes along the south side of Recherche Bay, which was discovered by French admiral Bruni D'Entrecasteaux in 1792 and named after his ship. The area was once home to more than 1000 people and even two pubs when the whaling stations were in operation, between 1830 and 1850.
We saw aboriginal middens, remants of bricks and David spotted a fragment of crockery on the beach, white decorated with lilac. I also saw a snake for the first time since we moved to Tasmania! I think it was a small white-lipped snake (whipsnake) but wasn't about to get closer to look. It slipped away beneath the rocks on the shoreline.
While the beaches and rocks are beautiful, I most enjoyed the view opposite the walk, into the Southwest National Park, part of Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage area. Lined up in a neat little row were some magnificent peaks, each shaped differently, including Mt. La Perouse, The Cockscomb, The Hippo, Adamsons Peak and The Calf.
It's hard to drive anywhere in the Huon Valley at the moment without getting stuck behind a caravan or mammoth Winnebago. But it is nice to see the camping ground on the river in Franklin being enjoyed by travellers from around Australia. Empty for most of winter, there is now a collection of vehicles and sometimes even a tent or two there every day now. Summer holidays are here. The main downside to the increase in traffic: a corresponding increase in roadkill. The roadside is littered with poor wallabies and possums.
Escaped Sydney in 2010 for a piece of paradise in Tasmania's Huon Valley. I'm a keen walker, remote worker, incompetent gardener, Bernese Mountain Dog owner, fan of almost anything German (food, language, cars, beer), amateur linguist, chook fancier, childfree.