Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas chicks

A lovely present on Christmas day: the sight of two mother hens outside in the sunshine fussing over the four little chicks that hatched. It's hard to spot them, as they tend to disappear under the hen as we approach. A lot of the eggs did not hatch, and one chick died trying to get out of the shell, but we are still happy to have four healthy chicks being cared for by the hens and out free ranging. It's one thing to see them hatch in our incubator; quite another to see it done how it should be. Super cute. Last night they took themselves off into the bush and slept the night out there, but all still there in the morning - so far so good.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Barnevelder hen birthday cake

Brilliant, isn't it? My birthday cake, made by Michelle from a photo David sent her of my own chooks. If you want to see more of her work, visit the Cakes by Chelle Facebook page.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The hatch

For three weeks, two of our hens have been sitting tight on a clutch of eggs in the shed. Finally, when I went down to let the chooks out this morning, I heard cheeping coming from under one of the hens and she looked a little perturbed. Have not sighted any chicks yet, but I'm hopeful it won't be long! It's the first natural (i.e. non-incubator) hatch we've had, so we're pretty excited.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Summer solstice sailing

Three years ago, a beautiful 1930s Danish ship showed up in Franklin after a round the world voyage. The family who sailed her here decided to stay. Now, this summer, you can spend a Sunday afternoon aboard the Yukon, sailing down the Huon River enjoying locally sourced produce prepared by chef Ashley and Jacinta from Pantree Produce. It was an amazing special treat for my birthday. The whole experience was understated, relaxed, personal - an afternoon on the river with friends and great food. "The duck we are eating came from that hill over there," says Jacinta, pointing to the hills south of Franklin. "See that roof there? That's the house they came from." Fresh peas, broadbeans, beetroot, peaches, berries, river herbs and flowers, pink eye potatoes. To drink: local wines including a sparkling chardonnay from Wombat Springs (also in the hills of Franklin), Seven Sheds Ale, a stunning pinot noir from d'meure wines at Birchs Bay and home made limoncello - and yes, the lemons were also from Franklin. We could see where most of our meal was grown. David and Ea who own The Yukon told us the story of her restoration and how she came to Tasmania. We got to explore below decks - the galley, engine room, bunks and bathroom. Wonderful.

I have been completely and utterly spoiled this weekend. First, my dear friend Cheryl flew down from Sydney - a surprise visit plotted weeks in advance with David. I had no idea she was coming until the car pulled up in the driveway on Friday. Cider and burgers at The Apple Shed on Friday evening. Saturday morning shopping in Wilmot Road, Huonville and at Salamanca Market and relaxing in the garden in the afternoon. And then yesterday's feast on the Yukon. Happy, happy days.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Many people in Tasmania do lots of different things to make a quid. Take local Huon Valley ceramic artist and farmer of saffron, olives and lavender Lisa Britzman for example. Her business Campo de Flori (field of flowers) had an open weekend for Christmas so we took the opportunity to visit her cute Glen Huon studio yesterday. I wanted to add a few of her ceramic Christmas decorations to the tree David made from sticks this year. Aren't they beautiful? I was left amazed at what she and partner David have achieved on their land. Diversified income streams are a necessity for many and a dream for some, especially in rural areas where full time jobs are few and revenue from one line of business not enough to live on. It's great to see this talented lady making a go of it.

Monday, December 8, 2014

In defence of flowers

I don't normally allocate space in the garden beds for flowers. Sure, we have 'accidental' flowers that pop up, like the daffodils that appear in ever greater numbers each year in the front paddock and some flowering bushes (native and not) planted by the previous owners. Growing food plants is more important and many of them look beautiful too. But this year, I got some free cottage flower seeds in an order from the Diggers Club and some poppy seeds from our lovely local vintage store Shop@Franklin and decided to mix them in with the vegetable beds to look pretty and attract the bees. The day after sowing the tiny poppy seeds, we had high winds and heavy rain and months later, nothing had sprouted at all. So I planted out some onions and leeks in that raised garden bed. Of course, only then did clumps of weedy looking plants start to appear. I didn't pull them out in the hope they might be poppies. Sure enough, the first variety has started to flower. In this week's damp and misty weather, the luminous dark red flowers look fabulous against the bright green grass and grey skies. I'm sold - more flowers from now on.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Birds on the nest

Two of my Barnevelder chooks have gone broody and have been sitting side-by-side on the nest since last week, looking very serious indeed.

This would be unremarkable for most hens, but it's the first time my Barnevelders have sat on eggs for more than a few days. They have been bred not to be broody... a trait that is for the most part good when you want chooks for eggs or meat. For many poultry keepers a broody hen is pest. But I'd love to have a batch of chicks that we have not had to incubate ourselves, so I am letting them sit. We have a huge oversupply of eggs at the moment anyway. However, I am not counting any chicks before they are hatched. The two Australorp girls in our little flock have both sat on eggs for a few days before giving up on the idea. If you are wondering what that hen is sitting behind, they are pipes underneath the sink in the luxury pickers hut that is our chook shed! The girls like to lay eggs under the kitchen sink.

Meanwhile, the first chicks this season from "our" welcome swallows have fledged, but still return at night to perch in the rafters on our balcony. Or, as they have done tonight, back in the nest, even though they are now too big to fit! They are so cute. The swallows showed up early this year, unlike last year, so we are hopeful they will have at least one more batch of chicks before summer is over.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


What you are looking at on this blog is the real Huon Valley. It's the real deal. The photos are happy snaps normally taken with my phone. No Instagram-style filters. No rose-tinted glasses. What you see is what you will get if you visit or live here. The colours change with the seasons and are so beautiful, I don't see the need to enhance them. I'm no photographer, but seriously, it is hard to take a bad photo of the Huon River. It is stunning, just as it is.

I'm getting tired of filters that make the sky look bluer than blue and turn ordinary moments of family life into vintage perfection. Landscapes with added drama. Portraits with added softness. But last week a friend told me something I found quite horrifying.

Apparently, the good old school photo is now touched up, photoshopped or airbrushed - call it what you like. Now I'm sure many of us have school photos we would rather erase from history. Like the one where I had an allergy that gave me puffy bags under my eyes, during my 'chubby' phase to make it worse. Or that terrible zit at age 13. But what message are we sending kids about how they look if we have to 'correct' it? We're telling them they're not good enough. What might seem like a short-term self-esteem gain I think will turn into long-term body image problems. Celebrities look so alien in the airbrushed photos on magazine covers, with out-of-proportion body parts and plastic-looking skin. I'm hoping that pretty soon, Instagram filters will look passé. "So 2012," we'll say, and show the world in all it's natural glory, even the ugly bits.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Eight little chickies

Sebastian is a daddy. Eight of the eggs I put in the incubator hatched last weekend and we now have a box of cute little chicks cheeping loudly in the downstairs bathroom again. We decided to hatch just the one batch this year as a kind of "insurance population." While we currently have nine hens, one is old, one is injured and... well, you just never know with chooks.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Vintage fashion high tea

A while back I ran into Jane at a function in Franklin. "Oh," she says. "You're the same size as me, can you wear my clothes in the fashion parade?"

The event she was talking about was yesterday's 'Vintage Retro Fashion Parade with High Tea' held aboard the 1912 steam ferry Cartela, currently moored near the old Government Jetty in Franklin for her restoration. It was a fundraiser hosted by the Women on Water (WoW) to raise money for the St Ayles Skiff Regatta to be held in Franklin 12-15 February next year.

It was a great afternoon. A bunch of us ladies (and two blokes) aged from 13 to well... she would prefer not to say I guess... dressed up in an array of funky outfits from various eras, from the 20s to the 80s. Hair, make up, frocks, heels - so different from my standard daily attire! There were cute fifties frocks, sixties rayon numbers, wedding gowns and even some bathing suits, all matched with the appropriate hat, jewellery, gloves, parasols and handbags. My favourite outfit was a funky red pantsuit with slightly flared sleeves and legs and a colourful turban hat - it sure got some shrieks from the guests! I am not much of a fashion sort, but boy it was a fun day, getting to wear real vintage clothing.

The WoW ladies did an amazing job of setting the upper deck of the old ferry for high tea, with beautiful crockery, tablecloths, flowers and cake stands piled with savoury and sweet delights. The fashion parade showed off some of the beautiful items in Southerly Dolling's Shop@Franklin. If you are passing by, pop in - there are some wonderful finds in there.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Organ Pipes Walk

Yesterday I walked the Organ Pipes circuit walk from The Springs on kunanyi / Mount Wellington. I sure picked a warm day! At 8.30am it was already 20 degrees at The Springs, halfway up the mountain where it is normally quite cool. By the time I finished, it was 29 degrees and the sun was brutal on the exposed sections of track. Sunscreen, hat and lots of water required! To think that only a week ago, there was snow.

The walk has four quite distinct sections - the easy, undulating Lenah Valley Track to Junction Cabin, a steep and often rocky climb up Hunters Track to the Chalet, the Organ Pipes themselves, then a downhill back to the Springs. I saw two snakes, hundreds of skinks of all sizes and thousands of tiny wildflowers in season.

If you peer very closely at the first photo below, you might spot a man in red, halfway up the dolerite columns known as the Organ Pipes. I could hear the rockclimbers hollering to each other up there, but it took me a while to spot them!

The hot, sweaty climb was worth it. Spectacular views all round.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

I'll have a Frank's, thanks

A crowd of invited guests gathered today at the former St Johns church hall for the official opening of Frank's Cider Bar and Cafe in Franklin. There were state members of parliament of all flavours and Huon Valley councilors elect, family, friends, business partners and other supporters. It was a lovely celebration of the hard work by owners Naomie Clark-Port and Tony Port in establishing the cider company and renovating the historic hall, as well as their winemaker partners behind the product and other business partners and supporters. I won't retell the history behind Frank's that Naomie spoke of - you can read about it here. Premier Will Hodgman spoke about the positioning of Tasmania as the food and beverage paradise that it is, with a visit by celebrity chefs and food critics from around the world next week and the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping later this month. He unveiled a carved wooden plaque to commemorate the opening. Once again I felt so lucky to be a part of this place. One of my friends said "this is just like one of those community celebrations on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage show" and she was right - that's just how it felt.

The Frank's Cider cellar door and cafe is another welcome piece in the Franklin waterfront precinct revitalisation.  It also means there are now three cider cellar doors open in the Huon Valley, adding a nice loop to the Tasmanian Cider Trail. All using our great locally grown apples, pears and cherries. We are planning to have a Friday after-work drinks evening there soon!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Show Day

This year I did not work on the Hobart Show Day public holiday. It's always a tough one, as the rest of Australia is still working and it's a busy time of year at work. But we took the day off and David and I went to the show. As I have mentioned before, I love a good agricultural show - seeing the cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, the farmyard nursery with the cute yellow ducklings, the horses and even the rabbits and cavies. We patted one of the rabbits and I think it was the softest thing I've ever touched. You can keep the dagwood dogs, the fairy floss and the showbags, but it was still an entertaining day out - although an expensive one for families. It must be said that the Woolworths fruit and vegetables display is not a patch on the one at the Sydney Royal Show and I was disappointed that the old chairlift is no longer there as that part of the showgrounds is now a big construction site. But it was a good thing to do once anyway. Some churros, hot chips and an ice cream later and it was time to go home.