Sunday, October 30, 2016

Happy birthday, dear old girl

Our Bärli is 10 today! We don’t normally celebrate dog birthdays, but 10 years is a major milestone for a Bernese Mountain Dog. Bärli is the sweetest natured dog, easy going and gentle – though increasingly stubborn as she gets older! Her vast repertoire of facial expressions makes us laugh every day. We thought we might lose her a year ago, but an operation to remove her spleen (with haematoma) and a tumour in her mouth, then another to remove a lump on her side, gave us another year of love and cuddles. She can’t walk so well anymore, but she has a happy life with twice-daily brief frisks and plenty of time on the lounge.

When we got her, she weighed 4 kilograms. Now, she is 50+ kilos. Her name (pronounced like 'barely') means 'small bear' in some parts of Germany and Switzerland and it turned out to be accurate. Happy birthday, dear old Bär.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Each time I visit Germany, I fall in love with the geranium-filled window boxes brightening up all the homes. The bright pinks, reds and whites contrast so beautifully with the white houses and dark roofs. Last week, David found me some planter boxes with brackets for our verandah. Today, I bought as many small geranium plants as I could find and filled them up.

Our home is white but far from cottagey. As much as I love the idea of renovating one of Tasmania's lovely old homes, the reality was that when we moved here, we didn't have the time or money to do it. We both went back to full-time work as soon as we arrived. So we moved into a new, modern home where all our Sydney-life furniture fitted in and we we didn't need to rush to buy new things. My new geraniums are a little cottagey touch that I will enjoy from my office desk.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rapt with raptors

This is Montgomery. He's a Tasmanian Masked Owl, and as I learned on our visit to the Raptor and Wildlife Refuge of Tasmania in Kettering last week, that's one of only two types of owl in Tasmania. Isn't he beautiful?

This amazing facility was set up by veterinary nurse and licensed wildlife carer Craig Webb with purpose built aviaries and volunteers who are working to rescue and rehabilitate Tasmanian raptors, like eagles, hawks, owls and falcons. When the birds can't be released due to their nature of their injuries, they get to live in the education area of the property and help people understand them better. Some have been hit by cars, some have collided with powerlines, others have been shot by morons. On our tour last week we saw swamp harriers, wedge-tailed eagles, brown goshawks (such a stunning bird, much more than the name suggests), southern boobook owls and brown falcons.

Cameras in the aviaries monitor the birds and allow the team to see injuries that the birds may hide when they see you coming. Through this camera footage, we saw a female sitting on two eggs and the male bringing her food. Awesome to see. I've had several chickens taken by grey goshawks over the years and I'm always torn about it. Sad for the loss of my hen, but happy that our beautiful wildlife is fed. We learned at the refuge that, for example, the lifespan of wedge-tailed eagles is not as long as it used to be due to challenges finding food - and, I guess, clearing of habitat.

You can book a private tour as we did via their web site. By appointment only. Go on - the money goes towards saving some of these wonderful birds. And while you are there, buy one of their beautiful calendars.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The end of the fest

Today is the last day of Oktoberfest in Munich. The world's biggest fair and folk festival is almost over for another year.

Most years, we host an Oktoberfest bash at our place, complete with proper German-style sausages, pretzels, sauerkraut, salads, cakes and of course, beer brewed according to Germany's purity law of 1516. But not this year. This year, we went to the real thing in Munich.

On the first Sunday, we went to the traditional parade through the streets of music, watching more than two hours of floats, brass bands and community groups as they headed up Maximillianstrasse towards the Theresienwiese where Oktoberfest is held. There were so many beautiful traditional costumes and floats crammed with happy, waving people despite the rain.

A week later, we returned to go the festival itself and had a brilliant time, going on the giant wheel and the skyfall ride, enjoying the food and beer and soaking up the atmosphere.

If you're in Hobart and all of this beer-talk is making you thirsty, next Saturday 8 October, the Hobart Brewing Company is hosting it's own local Oktoberfest event. There's another, larger Oktoberfest event at Princes Wharf on 25 and 26 November ... although it will be well past October by then. Prost!