Thursday, December 31, 2015

Two lonely gooseberries

At a friend's garage sale a year ago, I bought two small gooseberry bushes in pots. I had seen them growing at Hartzview Vineyard and thought they might go well at our place. Up close, they are very prickly indeed, with large spikes coming from the tiny branches. I planted them in a sunny corner behind the greenhouse and this year one of the bushes sprouted just two berries. Hmm, what to do with two gooseberries? To start with, add them to half a kilo purchased from a friends' stall at The Market @ Franklin. After researching a few recipes - crumble, tarts, cobbler - I decided to make gooseberry ice cream using this Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe. Oh my god, it's delicious. Fluffy, creamy and refreshing. Such a beautiful summer treat. Now I can't wait for my gooseberry bushes to grow and bear more fruit.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Eve on the Nancy

The MV Nancy is a Tasmanian river ferry, a beautiful piece of living history based here in the Huon Valley. Built in 1917, she has had a long and colourful life, falling into disrepair in the 1990s before being rescued, restored and finally donated to the Living Boat Trust here in Franklin. With my parents visiting us this week, we thought it would be nice to book a tour and asked a few friends to join us for a Christmas Eve cruise. With sparkling wine and some snacks in hand, we spent an hour and a half in the evening sunshine in the peace of the Huon River, finishing with a trip through the Egg Island Canal. Very special. You can book it for up to 12 people. We all loved it, I highly recommend it. But see for yourself...

Monday, December 21, 2015

Summer solstice

9pm. Summer solstice. My birthday is the longest day of the year and it's even longer in Tasmania. Lucky me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What's growing in my garden?

Turnips, snow peas, strawberries, silverbeet, radishes for eating now... the broad beans, garlic, potatoes, pears, carrots and beets are still a work in progress but not too far off.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday sessions at The Apple Shed

Last Sunday we spent a couple of hours relaxing outside at The Apple Shed in Grove. They host regular 'Sunday sessions' featuring different music and catering each time. This time it was reggae - which we love - and the Dos Trucos taco food truck parked out the back. The cuban sandwich was very tasty, as was the cider, as always. It's a seriously pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Little Boat Choir in concert

Our village choir's first big gig is coming up next Saturday night! The Little Boat Choir is a recent addition to the community choir scene in Tasmania. We sing together every Wednesday night at the Palais Theatre in Franklin - new members always welcome. Led by Tiffany Eckhardt, we'll be singing a range of material including gospel, folk and two songs written by local singer/songwriters (and choir members) Sandy Pollard and Anne Toner. Please come along! Gold coin entry fee. 6.30pm for BBQ and drinks, concert starts 7.30pm.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Baby birds

Hatching and fledging is in full swing in the valley. From the swallows nesting on our back deck, to the long-legged 'turbo chook' babies, to the puffball-on-sticks plover chicks, there are super-cute baby birds everywhere you look.

I had a few minutes to kill before yoga yesterday evening and walked down to the river. Mother duck and her brood of seven waddled right up to my feet. Aren't they adorable?

Balancing in 'tree pose' in the yoga studio, I glanced out the window to see a family of swans floating by on the Huon. They were still nearby after class.

It reminded me of the farewell song we sing in the Little Boat Choir:

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the starry sky
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the river flowing by

Until, until we meet again
May all your days be bright
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the river flowing by.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lunch with dogs

Frank's Cider Bar & Cafe in Franklin has been "under new management" as they say for the last month or two. There is a new menu with choice of light or full meals. We enjoyed a Sunday morning brunch a few weeks ago. For today's late-ish lunch we shared a trio of dips with warm bread, followed by scones made with apple cider and grated apple - both delicious. They offer a nice selection of Tasmanian drinks: Frank's Cider of course, as well as soft drinks like ginger beer and sparking elderflower.

The interior has been updated with cosy lounges and there are several outside tables, under cover or under umbrellas. The ramp that divided the old church hall (a council requirement) is gone, replaced by an unobtrusive mobility lift in case someone in a wheelchair needs to access the bathrooms. The "no dogs" sign is gone. The Franklin History Group has an excellent display including some of the region's apple growing heritage, a beautiful piano that belonged to Lady Jane Franklin and currently also a fantastic exhibition about local World War I history for the Anzac centenary. If you haven't been back in a while, you should go. And take your (well behaved) dogs if you like.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bringing comedy to the Huon

David has been working hard to bring laughs to the locals in the Huon Valley.

Next weekend, there is the LOL Comedy Megashow at the Palais Theatre in Franklin. Tasmania’s own Josh Earl, as seen on Spicks 'n' Specks and many other TV shows and comedy festivals, is headlining a huge line up of local comedy talent on Saturday 21 November. There will be 16 fantastic Tassie comedians on the bill for only $30. Food and drinks available from 6pm, show starts 7.30pm. The event is primarily about having a funny night out, however, profits will go toward the Franklin Tennis court restoration project. Last year's event saw around 180 people laughing themselves silly. Don't miss out - you can still book online here or buy tickets (cash) at the door.

Last month, it was Damian Callinan's solo show The Lost WW1 Diary. Damien was the star of last year's big comedy lineup at the Palais in Franklin, so it was awesome to have him back. The show is funny and sad at the same time and as always, Damien does an amazing job of localising his show for the town he is performing in and interacting with the audience. The audience loved it. He has been touring this show around the nation during the ANZAC centenary, and for the 100th performance here in Franklin we had a special visit by the Tasmanian Lighthorse, a World War 1 exhibition by the Franklin History Group and terrific pre-show music by the Huon Valley Society Orchestra. And a LOT of laughs.

Update: read what Damian had to say about his show in Franklin. Too funny.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The heartache of animal ownership

Our beautiful dog Baerli turned nine on Friday. The downside to owning a large breed is that their lifespan is short. In the case of Bernese Mountain Dogs, 8-12 years is considered good. And poor B has been in the wars lately. She's torn her cruicate ligament in one leg. There's a nasty tumour (thankfully benign) in her mouth. Then she hurt one of her front legs too and was hobbling very badly. On Friday night she wouldn't eat her dinner (for the first time ever), nor breakfast on Saturday morning. Happily she's eating again now. Then on Sunday after a very short walk and swim she was finding it so difficult to get up that she peed on her bed and dripped all the way to the door rather than go outside to the toilet. Yesterday I spotted that her urine was very dark brown. Straight to the vet. A raft of tests ruled some things out thankfully, but we don't know what's wrong yet. It's so hard to see her miserable. We only want to do the best for this lovely old lady.

Then last week while I was away for work, five-year-old Gretchen hurt one of her legs too and was limping. The way she hurtles across the paddock after the frisbee, it's no great surprise, but it's hard to keep her quiet to allow it to heal. She's so desperate to play.

Meanwhile, every time I look at our frail 19+ year old cat Lilly, I wonder if I'm doing the right thing. She's eating, drinking and sleeping fine, but can't groom herself properly, or hear, or see much either. Is she in too much pain? When is too much? I just don't know.

One of the hens has had mites on one leg, which I've been dunking in oil and rubbing gently to (hopefully) help remove them. Yesterday she disappeared. Another hen has some kind of wound on her breast but seems otherwise fine... I don't know what to do.

I wouldn't part with them for the world, but they sure can be a worry. There's so much more than cute and fluffy when caring for our animal family. Every now and then we consider getting some goats or sheep, but I don't think I'm ready for livestock. Especially not after reading a series of Facebook posts by a friend about the birth of calves (to some very obstreperous cows) at their place last month. Now THAT sounded stressful.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Jam time again

I came home from a week on the Gold Coast for work this weekend to a raised garden bed overflowing with rhubarb. Time to make jam. It was very timely, because I just ate the very last scrape of the last batch on yesterday morning's toast. Now there are six jars of the stuff cooling in the back of my cupboard. Rhubarb is my favourite jam and it is super-easy to make. Now to use the rest of the crop... I foresee crumbles, cakes and tarts coming up.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Franklin Quilt

Some very clever Franklin folk made this:

It shows 24 of Franklin's historic buildings along the main road, each unique and instantly recognisable. The finished work was presented to the Franklin Progress Association and now hangs in the front room of the Palais Theatre. You can view it on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays when the Franklin Collective is open - and pick up some great local produce at the same time.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The battle for the fruit trees

This year's battle with the possums has begun. Two of my apple trees have not yet started growing again after the savage "pruning" they received last year from these cute but pesky critters, who ate every last leaf. Our silver birches were all broken off at the top and now sport a plastic band in the hope of making it harder to climb them. So far so good on that front... The plums, cherries and peach planted last year had only a few blossoms but lovely healthy leaf growth so far. If only the possums would eat something else. Apparently they don't like pear trees, the only ones spared in last year's feast. The pear blossoms are so pretty, and the bees love them - see if you can spot them in two of the pictures below. This year I planted two new trees, a medlar and a quince.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Home grown

We've enjoyed gifts of produce from several friends' gardens before, including raspberries, silverbeet, kale, zucchini, tomatoes, but this was a first - home grown mushrooms! Absolutely beautiful they were too.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

In heaven there is no beer

In heaven there is no beer
That's why we drink it here
And when we're gone from here
Our friends will be drinking all the beer*
Our annual Oktoberfest is over. It's become something of a tradition for us, first in Sydney and now here in our "beer hall" (shed) in Tasmania. The real deal in Munich actually happens in September, but weekends in late September in Tasmania are reserved for football apparently. It's Grand Final season you see. So we hold ours in October.

This year we were excited to procure pretzels baked by a local Franklin woman, Sip Visser of Grey Hen Bakery. They were absolutely delicious. We had pork and beef bratwurst (proper German sausages, not what is passed off as bratwurst in most butchers) from Silverhill in Cygnet. Sauerkraut using a recipe told to me by a Bavarian butcher in Sydney. Cucumber salad, fried potatoes, mustards, GlΓΌhwein, my favourite apricot streusel cake that uses quark in the pastry (can't wait to be sourcing that from Elgaar Farm in Tasmania again once they re-open) and of course plenty of (imported) German beer. Oktoberfest music, dress ups and decorations. Our fellow Teutophile friends came down from Sydney for the weekend and kindly stayed to help clear up afterwards. The weather was beautiful, sunny and mild - unlike last time we held it, when snow flakes drifted onto the barbecue as the sausages cooked and we spent the afternoon huddled around the fire barrel. I'm sure our Tassie Oktoberfest would horrify many Germans, but we love it. It's a wonderful way to catch up with friends while enjoying many of my favourite foods.

*For a lovely old German version of this song, see here. Prost!