Friday, November 30, 2012

Lake Skinner and (almost) Snowy South

I took a day off work yesterday to go on a walk that I have long wanted to do with the Hobart Walking Club. We walked to Lake Skinner, a beautiful sub-alpine lake not very far (as the crow flies at least) from where I live, and then on to Snowy South (1398m), a peak in the Snowy Range. It was a hot day and one woman was throwing up from heat exhaustion even before we reached Lake Skinner.

As we neared the top of Snowy South, clambering over rocks and boulders, I had difficulty breathing so stopped. I'm glad I stopped, because I actually felt very ill once I sat down and think it could have been a lot worse if I'd kept going. I'm sad I didn't see the view out to the west, but as you'll see below, the views I had were not too bad either. One other chap had a bad case of hayfever and we wondered if it was the pineapple grass which seemed to be throwing up a lot of dust or spores as we walked. I've never gasped for breath like that before. I really like climbing hills and mountains, but must say I prefer to do it at my own less-than-cracking pace, taking a short breather to take a photo now and then. I did manage to get a couple of photos of the lovely wildflowers along the way though, and some of Lake Skinner with its beautifully cool, clear water. I'll go back one day and allow time to enjoy it.

P.S. If you look closely at the peaks in the distance in the last photo below, you'll see they are the same ones as in my blog header above, just from a lot further away.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A very local drop

Our town now has its own cider!

As it says on the label, Frank's Summer Apple Cider and Summer Pear Cider are not made from concentrate but from fruit grown at Woodside orchard only a few kilometres down the road from us. Both ciders won medals at the 2012 Australian Cider Awards.

Apart from the fact that it tastes great, I love the whole idea of this. Franklin Cider Company's joint MD Naomie is a sixth generation fruit grower on the property that has been owned by her family since 1836. She has teamed up with Tasmanian vigneron Julian Alcorso on this new venture. I hope it's a success for them.

Many people will have had their first taste of Frank's cider at this weekend's Beerfest in Hobart, but it will be officially launched at the Taste Festival in Hobart, 28 December - 3 January. We've already had a few occasions to sample both the apple cider and the perry, at the recent 100th birthday celebrations of the Palais Theatre here in Franklin and at the last monthly classic movie night, also at the Palais. I also picked up a couple of bottles at the local bottle shop in Huonville this weekend. Some of the 9/11 bottle shops are stocking it, or you can order directly via their (temporary) web site. Find out more on their Facebook page here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The value of fresh air

I have just spent a few days in Beijing for work. Although I saw only a tiny fraction of it, it struck me as a truly amazing city, at once modern and ancient. I'll happily admit to wandering around a little wide eyed. The first two days were beautifully clear, cool and sunny. I took a few hours the day I arrived to walk around and see a few sights. I visited Forbidden City, which was the imperial palace over several dynasties, strolled through a couple of lovely parks including Beihai Park with its Emerald Islet and Jingshan Park with its temples and view over the tiled roofs of Forbidden City. I saw the national flag lowering ceremony at sundown on Tiananmen Square and walked through some of the 'hutong', narrow streets lined with traditional courtyard houses where people have lived and worked for centuries, before the high rise era saw many bulldozed. I walked, caught the subway or bus everywhere and didn't resort to a taxi, probably a good thing as all I can say reliably in Mandarin is 'hello' and 'thank you'. The view from my hotel room looked out at the interesting new CCTV building, apparently known as the 'big pants' to locals.

The day before I left, the air quality deteriorated and I awoke to a day where the sun never breaks through the thick cloud of smog and visibility is low, almost as thick as a Huon Valley fog. Surprisingly it smelled of smoke, not car fumes. It reminded me of the very worst bushfire seasons in Sydney. I noticed many people with dry coughs and by the end of the day I had a sore throat too. Some people wear masks, but not as many as I would expect given the dangerous, toxic air. Now more than ever I am grateful for the sweet, fresh, clean air we enjoy in Tasmania.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Huon Show 2012

I used to love the Sydney Royal Easter Show, and now it's the Huon Show we go to every year. I love seeing all the animals, the crafts and baking, the stalls with local produce and the annual events like the dog jumping, woodchopping, draught horses, the ute muster and the bullock dray. Three of our friends just about scooped the pool in the various baking categories like bread, cakes and scones as well as the fresh vegetable and herb baskets. Yesterday we were there early as the Living Boat Trust needed a lend of our tent, and we were lucky enough to catch the Bernese Mountain Dogs from local Hobart breeder Cloudforest as they trotted around the ring (we got pats and cuddles afterwards). The weather wasn't as hot as in 2011, and it was lovely to bump into so many people we know.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A welcome sight

Every time I see this I feel happy and a teensy bit excited.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An inspirational garden

On the Sunday before last, several gardens in the Huon Valley were open to visit under the Open Gardens Australia scheme. On the way back from my walk up Grey Mountain I stopped in at Lanes End in Glen Huon, a peaceful oasis in the hills. My phone camera snaps simply did not do it justice, so I have only included one photo of the beautiful stand of gum trees, under which a planted understory attracts many birds. I loved the mixture of native and introduced plants and the lack of formality, and wondered if piles and piles of mulch could ever improve the clay at our place... maybe one day.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, Palais

Yesterday was a big day in the life of our town. Celebrations to commemorate 100 years of the beautiful Palais Theatre in Franklin were in full swing. The Tasmania Police Pipe Band played outside the Palais and the Tasmanian Lighthorse troop paraded, awaiting our special guests. His Excellency The Honourable Peter Underwood AC, Governor of Tasmania and Mrs Underwood arrived by boat via the canal through Egg Island - in the same boat that David and I "helped" (in my case I use the term loosely) to row during last year's Focus on Franklin festival. The Governor unveiled a plaque to mark this important day. We were entertained by the Tasmanian Heritage Fiddle Ensemble and enjoyed music from around the globe played by the Franklin School Marimba Band - the school that narrowly escaped closure (so far) in last year's round of State Government cuts.

Ruth Young, author of a new book about the history of the Palais - and so much more of the town's history - articulated perfectly what this building means to so many people, and how its survival has been due to the hard work of countless volunteers. Franklin School students presented the chair of the Palais Management Committee with a time capsule that will enclose items from our time for future generations to learn from. An afternoon tea in the local tradition followed, tables laden with scones and slices. I have said before how lucky we are to have found ourselves in this community that is lucky enough to have a facility like the Palais, and yesterday really brought that home again. It was a fitting celebration of the heart and soul of our community.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


It was a bit of a sad day yesterday, as we said goodbye to a small stand of beautiful gum trees. However they were a little too close to the house, both from a fire and wind perspective, and blocked a lot of sunlight from the house, garden and the solar panels in winter. Well, we now have a good future firewood supply on hand.

One tree down
Branch removal