Last night we enjoyed fantastic local produce in good company in the orangery at the beautiful Old Bank B&B in Cygnet. The long table dinner 'a peasant's feast' was run and hosted by well-known food writer, chef and farmer Matthew Evans aka the 'gourmet farmer'. Pork from his nearby Fat Pig Farm featured on the menu, along with local milk fed and dry aged beef. Huon Valley wines and ciders were on offer to complement the meal. It's hard to pick what I enjoyed the most - a close tie between the pickled mushrooms, the beetroot and the delicious cottage pie. It's also surprisingly good fun to enjoy a meal with local people you don't know. We ended up with interesting dinner companions who moved here from the UK via Western Australia several years ago. Some of the dinner guests had travelled from as far as the Blue Mountains in NSW to attend, such is the pull of our beautiful Huon Valley and its local produce and talent :-)
There's been a bit of publicity in Tasmania recently about a fight to 'save Ancanthe'. This unusual building styled after a Greek temple was commissioned by Lady Jane Franklin, wife of then Governor Sir John Franklin and after whom our little town is named. It opened in 1843 and originally housed Tasmania's first museum. Lady Jane also left 400 acres in trust as a botanical park. The building has been leased to the Art Society of Tasmania since 1948.
I drove past it on the way to a walk on some Mount Wellington tracks and saw on the sign that it would be open later that afternoon, so I stopped to peek inside on the way back. When I visited, there was one exhibition in place and another being constructed by a Art Society volunteers. It is in a very picturesque setting, nestled in peaceful Lenah Valley underneath Mount Wellington. However the site has been threatened by a planned housing subdivision behind the gallery and negotiations are ongoing. For more information, visit the Saving Ancanthe action group's Facebook page.
Since the first loaf of bread I baked almost two years ago, I've got pretty good at it. The same old recipe that is. I've baked it over and over, and it's very nice, but I'm a bit bored of making it and it's not real sourdough with that wonderful flavour. I got the recipe from the cookbook that came with our KitchenAid mixer and it uses a 'starter' made from dried packet yeast, flour and water and left for a few days, rather than one that comes from a proper starter with natural yeasts that have been loved and cared for over months and years. I've also made focaccia, a heavy Hunsruecker Bauernbrot and a bread made with dark beer, but, well, it was time to expand the repertoire. So when I met Kate from the Garden Shed and Pantry at the Cygnet Market recently and saw that she was collecting email addresses of people interested in doing a class on sourdough making, I signed up immediately.
Last night at 7pm we gathered in Kate's kitchen and learned the basics of sourdough making. We carefully measured out our ingredients and mixed our dough for the first rising. The whole thing is amazingly simple. We learned about the equipment and ingredients as well as the process and timing.
At 9am this morning, we were back in the kitchen for the next step. The classes are timed for optimal rising time depending on the time of year. We prepared our dough for the 'second rising' (which Kate took care to point out is not a religious experience) and observed as she baked a loaf prepared earlier in a cast iron pot. It looked fantastic when it came out of the oven, as I'm sure you'll agree:
Each of us took home our prepared loaf ready to put into the oven an hour later, plus a bag full of the ingredients needed to make our next loaf. Kate also sells a variety of flours, pastas and other pantry items, and I bought some kalamata olives which I am looking forward to marinating, and a bottle of sunflower oil - not the bland stuff that comes in two litre plastic bottles at the supermarket, but the beautiful hand made tasty variety. As a bonus, we got to meet our fellow sourdough students, including another lovely local blogger who has recently moved to the Huon Valley. It's brilliant how many people in our local community we have first 'met' via Twitter or their blogs.
Our walk in Wellington Park
on Sunday included enough uphill stretches and was long enough to feel
like I'd made an effort, but the well maintained tracks and the views
made it feel easy. Starting at the end of Lenah Valley Road, we walked
up the Lenah Valley Track, had morning tea at Junction Cabin and
continued on for lunch at The Springs. Some of our party shared memories
of eating and staying at The Springs Hotel
that was burnt down during the terrible 1967 bush fires.
down the "shared use" section of the North-South Track, which has special features built for mountain bike riders including rock jumps,
ramps and large logs or fallen trees with a flat track carved the length
of them - see photo above. It's a very pretty walk, affording great
views of the pinnacle above and out to Hobart and beyond from Sphinx
Rock, waterfalls, some rock scree and beautiful trees. Most of the
people in our group have been walking on and around Mount Wellington for
20 or 30 years and still hadn't been on that particular track more than
a few times. There are just so many great tracks up there to choose
For almost two years I have driven past a sign just north of Franklin pointing to 'pioneer graves' up Maxfields Road and thought, "I must go up for a look one day". Yesterday I stopped and walked up to the old cemetery. I'm no expert on local history, but there are several well-known local family names on the headstones, families that are still living in the Huon Valley today, like the Griggs, Canes and Judds. Henry and Isobel Judd had named a daughter Franklina Amelia - what a quaint name. Most gravestones are plain, a few more ornate, some graves unmarked. It's clear that someone is maintaining the site with care. It struck me how long many people lived given how tough their lives must have been, a few reaching their 80s or 90s. Others were less fortunate, like the woman aged 23 whose life was described as "one long sacrifice to others", and the Hay family, who lost two daughters aged 9 months and 10 years in 1866 and a one-year-old son nine years later. The Franklin Congregational Church is no longer there but is to be seen in this blurry photograph from 1870. There are more historic graves up Jacksons Road in Franklin but I haven't actually found them yet.
Autumn is fungus time in Tasmania. In the past two weeks we've seen some absolutely enormous ones around our land, some pretty, some hideous. There's a big collection of them under the two silver birch trees in the house paddock, and many more interesting varieties up in the rainforest near the rivulet. Here's just a few spotted around our place this afternoon.
Egg production has all but stopped here over the past two weeks, as the hens have started their annual moult. One poor chook looks terrible, she's missing great clumps of feathers and looks a little embarrassed about it. The floor of the chook shed looks like one of them has exploded, feathers everywhere. I sure hope all is how it should be and they start to grow a thick winter covering of feathers soon. We are down to only five eggs and the thought of having to buy some doesn't appeal! Meanwhile, the rooster has grown a bit.
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.