Thursday, February 28, 2013

Moving to the country

Recently I wondered when the seed of country living was planted in my brain. When did I decide that I wanted to live in a rural area, with plenty of space, fresh air, wildlife and silence?

I can trace much of it to going to college in Bathurst, a country town about three hours drive west of Sydney. Most students rented old Federation houses that are probably worth a fortune now. We spent weekends playing pool at the Perthville pub. Oh and in the library of course! I loved the space and the relaxed pace and the friendly, interesting people I met. The whole experience as a student in a country town was brilliant and I'd recommend it to anyone.

Before going to uni I also lived in a country town of around 5,000 people in Germany for just over a year, but I don't think that was the source of it. Back then I was still a dressed-in-black city chick through and through. I liked seeing bands and drinking beer in dingy pubs. Going out dancing. Cafes. Just walking along city pavements and window shopping. I still like all those things. But if it means crowds, queues and traffic I'm not keen on doing them often. Once or twice a year will do. By my early thirties I was a tragic Country Style magazine subscriber and David and I went on many driving holidays in country NSW and Victoria with one eye on potential new places to live.

I blame the rest of it on Enid Blyton. I loved many of her books as a child but The Children of Cherry Tree Farm series and Shadow the Sheepdog were among my favourites. Possibly just beaten by the Faraway Tree books, but well ahead of the Famous Five and Malory Towers. Recently my mum confessed that she read Shadow the Sheepdog before giving it to me for Christmas and shed a tear or two, and I don't blame her at all, on both fronts. It's a lovely book. Johnny and his pup adore each other and have all sorts of adventures and misadventures.

The Children of Cherry Tree Farm escaped dreary London (where they were all pale and sickly) to stay with their aunt and uncle in the country for the holidays. They fed lambs, got chased by a bull, drank fresh creamy milk and went to market in the pony-trap. A strange old woodsman called Tammylan befriended them and taught them about the plants and animals.They saw squirrels, weasels, badgers, hedgehogs, deer, moles and foxes in the woods. Then, their dream came true: their parents decided to move to a farm of their own, and they became The Children of Willow Tree Farm. They churned butter, fed buttermilk to the piglets, gathered sheaves of corn, fed the hens and collected the eggs. I dreamed of doing the same.

Instead of those quaint-sounding British animals, here we have pademelons, possums, bettongs, wombats, quolls and echindas. There are screeching black cockatoos, tiny fairy wrens and soaring wedge-tailed eagles. We are definitely not farmers, but we're having little adventures of our own and love our new life. Just like those kids on Willow Tree Farm.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Russell and the lovely ladies

We're down to only three hens again after one was run over in January. But soon the pullets will join them and Russell's little harem will grow. He'll be so excited he'll do even more happy dancing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Driving to the west coast

I didn't get a chance to stop much on the drive to and from Strahan on Tasmania's west coast last week, but what I saw made me want to return with time to explore. Spectacular rugged mountains, button grass plains, lakes and rivers, hydro power stations, the bizarre barren mining area of Queenstown. Can't wait to go back and get in some bushwalks on the way.

Friday, February 22, 2013


I loved that movie. This week Crackerjack came to Franklin, with barefoot bowling hosted by our local lawn bowls club. Some of the club's players patiently showed us a few techniques and then we had a few games out on the soft green. My first two games were my best and it all went downhill from there. The bar was open and snacks available. It was good fun and perfect for a sunny summer evening after work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I have been reliably informed (i.e. on Facebook) by my neighbour Craig that it isn't called a 'bee farm'. During my visit to Strahan last week I got to visit the property of a fellow Tasmanian Leaders program participant. It was just a short drive out of town on the beautiful Henty River. He showed us inside one of the smaller hives so we could see the queen bee and the worker bees toiling away. We stuck a finger in and ate warm honey fresh from the frame. Yum.

Monday, February 18, 2013


I spent the last four days in Strahan on Tasmania's west coast getting to know 23 amazing people from around the state at the opening residential session of the 2013 Tasmanian Leaders program. It was my first visit to Strahan and the place is stunning. Early in the mornings I walked around Macquarie Harbour to local beaches, Hogarth Falls and Regatta Point where the West Coast Wilderness Railway starts. We ate local seafood, saw dolphins in Risby Cove and basked in the hot sunny weather. And learnt an awful lot too. It's going to be an exciting year of exploring Tasmania.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chook catchers

Yesterday afternoon we moved eight 11-week-old chickens out of their temporary chook tractor home and into the enclosed yard out the front of the big hen house, a former pickers' hut, where they will stay until they are big enough to join the rest of the flock (or in the case of the cockerels, until they are given away or eaten). They seem to be enjoying their new home. We caught the slippery feathered crew and put them in our cat carry boxes for the transfer. It was pretty funny. Real farmers would have found our antics quite amusing I'm sure. Bloody treechangers.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Wooden Boat Festival 2013

Held every two years, the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart is a real treat, whether you are a mad keen boatie or not. The event has grown from a social gathering of wooden boat enthusiasts in 1994 into the huge event it is today, but the idea is the same: to celebrate maritime heritage and culture and the enduring beauty of wooden boats. Last time it was on some friends from Sydney were visiting Hobart especially for the festival and we enjoyed it very much.

I spent part of yesterday on the Franklin History Group stand, which was part of the Franklin Village display that included The Living Boat Trust, the Wooden Boat School, Franklin Marine and the Huon Trail tourism folk. One aim of the Franklin Village display was to talk to people about the big idea brewing to see the old Franklin river port reborn into a 'working waterfront' and a home for the building, conservation and preservation of wooden boats. Quite a few people from the Franklin area travelled to the festival by wooden boat themselves, on the Tawe Nunnugah raid from Recherche Bay to Hobart, stopping at Southport, Dover, Cygnet, Oyster Cover and other local ports along the way on a 10 day voyage. What an adventure that must have been.

Today David and I went back into Hobart on the motorbike for another look around the festival and some satay from the Indonesian Village display. We saw the lovely model boats and the steam ferry again. A replica viking ship called 'Rusich' had travelled all the way from Russia (it was spotted in Sydney Harbour a few weeks ago) and the all-black 15th century Portuguese Caravel 'Notorious' (apparently Australia's oldest boat reconstruction) complete with pirate flags was very popular with the kids. Oh and navy and red striped shirts were the costume de rigueur.

Two cruise ships docked in Hobart during the festival, including the Oosterdam pictured below. The passengers sure had a big party waiting for them. The whole dockside area was full of boats, displays, food and entertainment. If you missed it this year, you'll have to wait two years for the next Wooden Boat Festival, but it wouldn't hurt to book a hotel. The place was packed. Here's a nice ABC News video showing the viking boat and some of the other 550 boats on display.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Garage sale in Cradoc this weekend

This Saturday 9 February, the Huon Valley Dog Walking Association is holding a garage sale at the hall in Cradoc Park on the Channel Highway from 9am to 1pm, with all proceeds going to the Dogs' Homes of Tasmania. There will be many treasures to be found at bargain prices, and not just dog related items, I promise. For example, David and I have a hardly-used cat tree house and scratch pole up for grabs! There will be books, clothing, home wares, plants and more, with all proceeds going to the Dogs Home in Hobart so they can continue the great work they do. Anything unsold at the end of the day will go to the local scout group or the tip shop, so come along and make us an offer.

The Dogs' Homes of Tasmania do a fantastic job, re-homing dogs that haven't had the best start in life, arranging veterinary care and much more besides. Recently, they found themselves in financial difficulties, struggling to continue services. Thanks to fundraising by many kind people, including several collections in Cygnet, the emergency passed. Then the bush fires hit Tasmania, and fire affected families needed somewhere secure for their beloved pets to be housed and cared for. Then... you get the idea. The need for funds to keep this important service open continues. Please come along, grab a bargain and help them to look after man's best friend.

UPDATE: We raised around $1,400 - thank you to everyone who came!

Monday, February 4, 2013


People around here complain about having too many zucchini. Some keep trying to give you a big paper bag of them, or sell them at the markets or pickle them. There are even tales of anonymous bags of zucchini (courgettes for the British) showing up on people's doorsteps. So I listened to that, and planted out only one seedling this year. I like cooking with zucchini (especially good in green curry, grilled on the barbeque or grated in chilli and chickpea patties), but still didn't fancy trying to eat more than I already do and space is at a premium in the vegetable beds. Our one little plant has been producing just the right amount for us over the past couple of weeks, and the flowers are lovely too.

Friday, February 1, 2013


During spring and summer each year in Tasmania we've seen plenty of echidnas while out walking or driving down our road, but last weekend was the first time we've seen one (twice) wandering around our property. I love how they trundle along, just minding their own business, not particularly bothered that we are there. This one was half covered in ants and seemed to have fewer spines showing than normal. However, I just read on a government web site that:
The fur of the Tasmanian subspecies is thicker and longer than that of echidnas in warmer mainland areas and therefore often conceals the spines.
Well, I learn a new thing every day living here.