Monday, April 28, 2014

The bell curve of visitors

Comedian Anthony Morgan, a very funny bloke who also lives in the Huon Valley, said during a gig in Hobart a few years back that when you move from say Melbourne or Sydney to Tasmania, you experience the "bell curve of visitors". At first no-one comes, then in your second and third year here all your friends want to visit, then gradually the visitors drop off until no-one visits again.

We love having visitors. Over the weekend we had two friends visit from Brisbane. Actually, we had never met before - one of them we had "met" online way back around the year 2000 when we published our book about people who choose not to have kids. It was fantastic to meet her in person and show off our little piece of paradise. Here are a few of the local things we did during their stay.

A stop at Home Hill to pick up some pinot
The grapes are almost ready for this year's vintage
Hot spiced cider at The Apple Shed in Grove
Hot chocolate at The Cat's Tongue in Huonville
.... with some chocolates of course
A walk in the Hartz Mountains National Park
Lichen, fungi, snow
Tahune Airwalk
More autumn fungus under the Tahune Airwalk

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Possum protection

Over the Easter weekend, David installed plastic protectors on the trees in the front paddock and along the side of the shed, designed to make it harder for marauding possums to climb them. The little buggers have been climbing all the young silver birch trees at night and snapping off the top branches under their weight as they try to reach the tender new leaves at the top. I hope it stops them decimating the nice little oak tree at the back steps next spring too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The annual dust bath

Today we cleaned out the chook shed. Thankfully, it only needs to be done once a year. The deep litter method of having at least six inches of hay, straw or sawdust on the floor seems to work well. The wooden floor of the old pickers hut was completely dry and clean underneath. And unlike last year, I did not find any little rat corpses hidden in a corner under the straw.

The amount of dust that poultry creates is pretty disgusting. You don't want to breathe that stuff in. Dressed in old work clothes, masks and goggles, we dragged out all the old hay and swept away piles of dust, grain husks and chicken poop. After the dust had settled, we spread out fresh hay. Following a tip from a local blogger, I cut all my remaining spearmint and distributed it around the shed (apparently rats don't like it), and then sprinkled lice dust around all the nesting and perching areas in the shed. I'm glad that job is done for another year. Our hens really do have luxury accommodation - check it out.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Haircut from hell in Huonville

Perhaps my biggest indulgence is a trip into Hobart every 6-7 weeks for a haircut at a good salon. Yes, I know it's a 45 minute drive. Yes, I know it's expensive. A bit ridiculous and extravagant. And yes, I wish I could just let my hair grow long and wear it in a pony tail. But I look truly awful with long hair and have no skill at all with hair-dos. Plus, I need to look professional in my job. Dreadlocks won't cut it.

When we first moved to Tasmania, I decided to try out a local salon in Huonville, just 15 minutes down the road. A lovely young lady cut my hair for a few months. If I had asked her to do something different there might have been trouble, but she did a very good basic cut and colour. And it was $80, compared to the $200+ I used to pay a fancy salon in Manly in Sydney. I was delighted. And then she left.

The next time I went back, someone else cut my hair. What I came out with can only be described as a kind of mullet. Instead of a straight bob, my hair was somehow long at the back and short at the front. My fringe was crooked. And the kid in the seat next to me at the salon had lice. It was time to find somewhere else.

Next, I tried a trendy kind of place in Kingston, a 30 minute drive away. The result was not much better and the staff were really rude. So I hit the internet for recommendations, and the same place in Hobart kept popping up. I know it's a bit extreme, driving that far and paying that much (though still less than Sydney prices) but to me it's worth every cent. It's insurance against the mullet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On the cider trail

After sizzling sausages at the garage sale at Cradoc on Saturday, we drove a few kilometres towards Cygnet to pop in at the Pagan Cider cellar door. We've tried some Pagan Cider at local restaurants before, but this time we tasted the full range plus a couple of 'cellar door only' samples, and picked up some four-packs to take home. Delicious whole fruit cider, no added sugar, unpasteurised. I particularly like the Rose apple cider with cherry juice added. And I love the artwork on their packaging, isn't it beautiful? It was refreshing to hear owner co-owner Harry Moses say he was looking forward to Frank's Cider opening over in Franklin, because it would complete the southern part of the Tasmanian cider trail for tourists and locals to visit. I like his thinking. The sectors of the food industry in Tasmania that work together - like the big salmon producers and the whisky makers - seem to be more successful at promoting and growing their market than those that view their 'competitors' as adversaries.

Monday, April 14, 2014

How to make enemies in a new town

Okay, so this is a tongue-in-cheek follow on from my previous post about how to make friends when you move to a new town, especially in 'the country'. Here are some quick ways to stuff it up:

Gossip. Especially in a small rural community, I am amazed that anyone would think it is okay to tell tales about others.

Rip people off. Not paying your suppliers in business, always asking favours but offering nothing in return, not showing up for appointments. In large cities you can get away with this behaviour to a greater extent (sadly) because the pool of potential customers, friends and employers is larger. Word of mouth is king.

Stay at home. Obviously.

Complain about everything. People won't offer you things or invite you places, if you're only going to be miserable about it.

Judge the local cider competition. I have found out the hard way that this is possibly one of the best ways to make enemies! Local competitions take one-upmanship to a whole new level in a rural community. Whether it's a trivia quiz, sailing, baking, art or cider making, it's very serious business indeed, let me tell you. And if you are one of the judges, then the end result is all your fault. It's a quick way to endear yourself to those who win and be forever complained about by those who don't.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How to make friends in a new town

A few years ago I met a lovely couple who had moved to the Huon Valley with their (almost) adult kids. We met when I popped in to collect a rooster advertised 'free to good home' on Gumtree. They mentioned how hard they had found it to make friends here. I was really surprised by the comment, because we've been amazed at just how easy it was to meet people and get involved in our local community. Your kids' school and the neighbour's kids can be a great starting point for making connections when you move into a new town. But we don't have kids, so we've found other ways. Here are just a few:

Step outside your comfort zone. Try things you might not otherwise do, even things you don't think you'll enjoy. I don't like old movies. No interest in film or film stars at all. Before I moved here, I had hardly seen any pre-70s movies. Since moving here, on the first Sunday of almost every month I have seen a classic movie at the local Palais Theatre. The bar is open, everyone takes a plate of food to share, we have a laugh at the overacting and dodgy plots, conversations are started and friendships formed, some folk even dress up in theme for the occasion. I've tried rowing, joined a local history group, gone to see  folk music... none of which I would have ever even considered doing in Sydney. But it's fun to try something new and it's a good way to meet people with common interests and values.

Social media. Follow people and businesses in your local area on Twitter or Facebook. Read and follow local bloggers. Then if you get the opportunity to meet them in real life and introduce yourself at a function, do it. In a wonderful yet sad example of this, David made friends with Bruce because he had mentioned on Twitter that he rode a Ducati motorbike. David went out on a limb and rode his bike over to say hi in person. No agenda, just to say hi. Bruce suddenly passed away 18 months ago now, but I know David will always treasure that friendship formed over good coffee and a joint interest in Ducatis.

Accept invitations. All of them. Sounds obvious, but if someone is kind enough to invite you...

Get out of the house. Anywhere. Apart from one neighbour who showed up on our doorstep with a whole salmon, and our friends who we met when they dropped in to look at our new ride-on lawnmower on the recommendation of the guy who sold it to us, no one has ever come to our door to meet us. We met our neighbours down at the local pub through that simple social question "where do you live?" Would we have spent Friday evenings in a pub in Sydney? Probably not, but it opened conversations and connections that have made living here a whole lot more special. There are of course healthier options like exercise classes, the local business group, choir or theatre group.

Get a dog. Kids may be the best way to meet other people (parents), but dogs must come very close. Lots of people approach us to pat our dogs when we take them out. We also joined a local dog walking group to socialise our dogs - and ourselves.

People tell me they would like to move to 'the country', but they're afraid of leaving their friends and worried they might not make new ones. It's a valid concern. Community connections are so important. I can imagine that it's harder to meet people and make friends in some towns than others.

If you meet a new arrival in your town, say hello, get their email address or mobile number so you can forward invitations to events, remember their name and introduce them to others. That's what the kind people of Franklin did for us when we arrived, and we're very very grateful for it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dogs of Franklin

It was lovely to see all the dogs out and about during last weekend's Focus on Franklin festival. Here are photos of just a few of them... and not our own dogs this time. A 'nude dogs of Franklin' fundraising calendar has been suggested... there are certainly plenty of photogenic models available to pose.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Frozen carrots

When I hear those words, I think of those tasteless baby carrots that come in a plastic bag from the supermarket freezer. I had never thought of freezing fresh carrots, until last weekend, when I dug up the remaining carrots that filled one of the raised garden beds this year. There were kilos and kilos of them. It took ages to sort and wash them all.

Out came the trusty Sally Wise preserving book to see what I could do with them. Turns out you can blanch and freeze them, so I now have several bags of them in the freezer. The small and sweet ones I have kept in the fridge for snacks. The dogs will get the oversized, damaged and deformed ones. The chooks got all the green carrot tops. They love them, as well as carrot peel when available. Now... any carrot recipe recommendations?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jazz on the Yukon

In a wonderful end to the Focus on Franklin weekend, the Danish ship the Yukon sailed the short distance from the Marina at Franklin to moor in front of the Landcare Walk along the Huon River just north of the town. A jazz band played on board and her decks were full of friends and family. People gathered along the board walk with picnic chairs, wine and snacks to listen, chat and groove away to to the music. On the road above the river, cars stopped to take photos and marvel at the sight.

ABC TV news featured  the Yukon in a story last week about the family who sailed here from Europe with her, but if you missed it, here's an ABC Radio interview with owner and shipwright Dave Nash. He's now offering tours which we must do with visitors one day...

At about 8pm, she sailed off down the river, bound for Port Davey. What a wonderful life.