The last two weeks in Tasmania have been absolutely stunning. Sunny and warm. Clear starry nights. The trees have been tricked into sprouting buds and blossoming. The daffodils have popped up. We've been spending evenings outdoors, cider or beer or tea in hand, playing with the dogs, pottering around in the garden, admiring the colours as the sun goes down. All the while, it was technically still winter.
It's once again the season of eggs for breakfast, quiche and cakes.
Meanwhile, Sebastian is growing up and taking his manly duties very seriously indeed. He is leading his flock of nine hens around the place with a new found air of authority. He is charging about the place, ever vigilant against threats, both real and imaginary. Calling the hens to bits of food he has found, both real and imaginary. And generally making a real pest of himself with the ladies.
Today a very special guest arrived in Franklin, on the last section of her journey from Hobart. The Cartela is a 100+ year old steam ferry, the oldest continuously licensed ferry in Australia. She needs significant restoration work. And where better to access those skills than here in Franklin, where love of wooden boats of all shapes and sizes runs deep.
One friend we spoke to remembered going on 'booze cruises' on the Cartela in his youth. Also present in the crowd waiting to greet her today were one man who had worked on her as a skipper and deckhand for some years, and another who cut the tree for her current mast. What an amazing piece of history. She looked wonderful sailing up the Huon River on the TV news tonight. Once berthed, we were allowed on board for a look around. She even has a resident parrot, a.k.a. Trevor the chief engineer. Follow the Cartela's journey back to health here on Facebook.
Two blueberry bushes, two plum trees, two cherry trees and one peach from Woodbridge Fruit Trees are the latest additions to our little orchard. Which so far has produced not one piece of fruit. Well, except for a few apples that Baerli ate direct from the tree long before they were ready. That's why they are now fenced.
As I dug holes for each of the trees, I pulled out fragments of glass, ceramics (like pieces of plates or tea cups with blue patterns on), pieces of rusted iron, slabs of 'cement' or more accurately rocks with mortar... almost every hole I've dug here has uncovered similar bits and pieces. I wonder where they came from? As far as I know this land was just forestry before. We have found an old forestry 'road' going up into the bush behind our house. Luckily, I know a few local history experts to ask.
My dad reckoned this was one of the best experiences he's had in Tasmania, and other people we know had similarly high praise. And last week when we finally took a trip on the West Coast Wilderness Railway, it didn't disappoint. Steam locomotive number 1, which pulled us up the mountain, is 118 years old. The railway was originally built and used for transporting copper from the mines at Queenstown and uses a rack and pinion system on the steep sections. The wet winter weather provided an authentic west coast Tasmanian experience for our trip. As the rain dripped off the trees, it wasn't hard to imagine how tough life must have been for the men building and working on this railway more than 100 years ago as well as for their families living up there. However, we did the trip in style, staying warm, well-fed and comfortable in the beautifully restored carriage. At present, the journey runs return from Queenstown, but later this year there are plans to re-open the full length of the railway to Strahan. We'll have to go back and do it again sometime after that.
I took a very deep breath. And a few more. It seemed the thing to do at Cape Grim on the north west coast of Tasmania, which lays claim to the cleanest air on the planet. Scientifically measured by this baseline air pollution station.
When the wind is blowing from the west, it has travelled more than 16,000km across the Antarctic Ocean to reach land again. And when it rains (which is often), the entrepreneurial Cape Grim Water Company bottles it, claiming to be the purest water on the planet - and again it's been measured. A work colleague once told me he'd seen this water in New York restaurants for more than $20 a bottle. Marketing genius. I have tried the sparkling water and it is lovely. No doubt about it.
We visited Cape Grim during a half day tour of Woolnorth, the large property on the north west tip of Tasmania owned by the Van Diemen's Land Company. We saw stretches of green pasture feeding dairy cattle (Cape Grim Beef is now mostly raised elsewhere in Tasmania), historic farm buildings, wedge tailed eagles soaring, large flocks of Cape Barren geese and the 62 turbine wind farm operated by Hydro Tasmania. It was wonderful to get up close to one of these amazing structures providing clean energy to many households. Just an awe-inspiring sight and sound.
This town is every bit as picturesque as you expect from the tourist brochures. Up in the north west corner of Tasmania, Stanley is on land granted to the Van Diemen's Land Company for farming in 1825. It's history is visible everywhere. So is the familiar landmark, The Nut, the rocky volcanic outcrop on the headland. A friend and his son kindly walked with us to the top, explaining the local places of interest as we went. In summer there is a chairlift. We got lucky with the cold-but-sunny winter weather on the days we visited last week, not the normal pattern for this time of year, we were told. Stanley boasts several excellent places to eat (had a couple of good meals at the pub, the old Stanley Hotel) and a wide variety of accommodation too. It must be a busy place in summer. It was wonderfully peaceful in winter. We finished our stay with a visit to Highfield House, a restored historic home perched on the headland opposite The Nut. So glad we finally made it to this beautiful part of the state.
Escaped Sydney in 2010 for a piece of paradise in Tasmania's Huon Valley. I'm a keen walker, remote worker, incompetent gardener, Bernese Mountain Dog owner, fan of almost anything German (food, language, cars, beer), amateur linguist, chook fancier, childfree.