Thursday, May 30, 2013

Green tomatoes

Last weekend I pulled up the tomato plants, both those growing in the greenhouse and the ones in the apple crate garden beds outside. I was left with several large bowls of red or 'turning' tomatoes that will go red, and a couple of kilos of green tomatoes unlikely to do much except rot if I left them there.

On the weekend I made a large batch of tomato passata (now in the freezer) using the ripe tomatoes and then on Monday night made a big pot of green tomato chutney. Only thing is, I remembered halfway through cooking it (from the overpowering smell that filled the house) that I don't actually like chutney much. Well, except perhaps the peach and lime chutney at the local Indian restaurant. So David is going to be eating a lot of the stuff and there might be a few jars given away or swapped.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A thriving Huon Valley

We were driving up the hill towards home from the Franklin Market on Sunday (having well and truly emptied our wallets) when Dad rang to let us know that there was a story on the Huon Valley coming up on ABC Landline. It's a story about a project to use the 1880s sailing ketch Olive May to take produce from ports around the Huon Valley to a market in Hobart. It features lots of local produce - wine, apples, goats milk soap, cider, potatoes, timber, honey (our favourite) - as well as of course the glorious views of this beautiful part of southern Tasmania. We commented how refreshing it was to see a positive story like this, when often what we get through the 'meeja' is fear, negativity and general whining overshadowing the news about people getting off their backsides to do great stuff. We see it happening all around us, so it's great to see even a little bit of it showcased on national TV.

"The produce may have changed over the years, but it's hoped the agricultural sector will continue to be just as strong. If enthusiasm counts for anything, the producers of Tasmania's Huon Valley are thriving."

If you missed it, you can watch it here.

Last rooster standing

This glossy 17 week old cockerel is headed for an early and untimely end this weekend... unless you would like him, that is?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Next season's garlic

I've heard several people saying it is too late to think about putting garlic in, and yet it feels like I only just harvested last year's little crop. Then I saw my planting notes from last year saying I planted 35 cloves on 20 May, so maybe it's not too late after all.  It was a late crop but I was happy with it and I have plenty left - see photo below. They might not be the biggest bulbs, but the cloves are good sized and tasty. The year before I only planted nine cloves and they were gone too soon. This year's harvest will last a bit longer. Today I planted even more, of three different varieties, so fingers crossed they do as well as last year.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dutch creams

I've had a bumper potato harvest this year. From just one raised garden bed and half an apple crate, I've dug up many kilos of delicious dutch creams, my new favourite variety of potato since moving to Tasmania and discovering that there were more than just brushed, washed and desiree varieties. I left digging up the last of them a bit too late and the soil was wet, not ideal for harvesting potatoes. Firstly they are much harder to extract and secondly they need to be well dried before storing, not so easy when they are covered in mud. We've already eaten the first lot we harvested and they were some of the best potatoes I've had - easy to peel, creamy yellow flesh, great mashed, boiled, baked or fried... a great all rounder. I'll plant more again this year.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Burnie, city of makers

In one of his stand-up comedy routines, my husband tells a joke about the TV advertisement for Burnie, "city by the sea". Because, let's face it, the vast majority of Australian cities are by the sea, so it's not exactly a unique selling proposition. The signs you drive past on the way into into this town in north west Tasmania tell a different and much better story - they read "Burnie, city of makers". And make stuff they do.

I was lucky enough to visit several businesses in the north west region last week as part of the 2013 Tasmanian Leaders program. The theme of the two-day session was business innovation and that's exactly what we saw. We visited a company that produces 60 percent of the world's pyrethrum; a family business that supplies hydroponic cherry tomatoes to both major supermarket chains in Australia, a supplier of specialist haulage trucks for the mining industry and rail excavators, a manufacturer of molded composites like fibreglass, a whisky distiller and one of Tasmania's top salmon producers. Each of them showed resilience and creativity in tackling market challenges and opportunities. We had dinner with the regional business community at the Makers Workshop in Burnie. It was an absolute eye opener to see what's going on up in the north of Tasmania. Go and have a look - it's amazing.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vintage day

Today we were invited to help friends in Franklin with vintage - harvesting this year's pinot grapes. Luckily they decided to move the date from yesterday with its alternating waves of sun and icy rain to today's perfect autumn day. A small army of locals armed with cutters and buckets moved up and down the rows, snipping the bunches of grapes off and delivering full buckets to the waiting bins on a truck to be carted away for wine making. We stopped for a delicious morning tea and were treated to a huge lunch spread afterwards, complete with wine and music by Steve and Marjorie Gadd. I could see that so much work had gone into having all of us volunteer helpers on site, I sure hope the harvest was worth it! We really enjoyed the day, chatting with friends and new acquaintances among the vines. It feels great to be tired from working outdoors.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Here's to Tasmanian whisky

I'm not a whisky drinker. But I might yet be converted. It should be in the blood somewhere, seeing as my Mum is Scottish. Today is World Whisky Day and Tasmania has a growing reputation as a producer of premium single malt whiskies.

This week I had the opportunity to tour Hellyer's Road Distillery just outside Burnie in Tasmania's north west. The general manager and chief distiller explained the process of whisky making then hosted a tasting, giving tips of what to look for. The restaurant is terrific too - we enjoyed lunch with the backdrop of  beautiful views. I had no idea before I visited that the distillery is a subsidiary of Tasmanian cooperative milk supplier Betta Milk, and it was interesting to see a few products that combined both sides of the business. I came back with a bottle of single malt and another of whisky cream liqueur.

Seeing as it's World Whisky Day and suitably chilly outside, we'll try a wee dram this evening. Here's to the Tasmanian whisky producers' continued success on the world stage.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


We've had some warm days this week, but daylight saving is well behind us for another year and darkness falls earlier every day. A different collection of birds is visiting: robins, firetails, fairy wrens, lorikeets. We look down on thick morning fogs in the valley and the first frosts appear. Clear, fresh sunny days and days of misty rain. Fungi everywhere. I think Autumn is my favourite time of year in the valley.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

God I love it here

It's something I've said to myself many times during the last three years in Tasmania. It's generally due to the small things. When I say it, I am usually driving down the road in the truck and shaking my head in disbelief at how lucky I am to have showed up in a beautiful place like this and made a new life here. To provide specifics, here are a few things that made me say this recently:
  • Minutes after a bush fire broke out in our town in February, friends and acquaintances from all around were calling, emailing or tweeting offering somewhere to stay (including our various animals) should we need to evacuate. Lucky for us it didn't get close.
  • Going to local functions and realising we know almost everyone in the room
  • The lady at the the petrol station who said I could have the fuel discount despite leaving the voucher at home because I am 'a regular' (I swear we've only met a couple of times)
  • Walking down the driveway to lock the chook shed after 9pm at night in summer and it's still light
  • Walking down the driveway to lock the chook shed at 5pm in winter and the birds are already asleep on their perch
  • Getting up close with wildlife including the blind pademelon who comes out in the daylight to feed near our garage and the one who hides out in the chook shed if I don't close it early enough
  • The dinners we ate where almost all of the ingredients came from our garden
  • The friends who say they have too much silverbeet or too many raspberries, so just come over and help yourself
  • Chats with shopkeepers. People take time here.
  • The view. There's always the view. You'd have to look hard to find a bad one.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hobart mini-break

Last night David and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in Hobart, only a 40 minute drive from home. It was the first time we've stayed there since holidaying in Tasmania more than five years ago. Many Huon locals we know stay in Hobart quite regularly, when they go to see a show, get a cheap hotel deal or want to enjoy a few drinks over the new year period when the town is in festival mode. We had a prize voucher for a night at the Hotel Grand Chancellor and stayed in a newly refurbished suite overlooking Constitution Dock.

For dinner we walked up the road to Garagistes for a five course dining extravaganza, including several things I hadn't tried before: abalone, chickweed, parsnip ice cream and an absolutely delicious bottle of 'orange wine' from Dario Princic. This morning we strolled over to Salamanca for breakfast before heading back home to the Huon. I don't think that will be our last Hobart mini-break.