Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Bruny Island from the water

It's been on the list of "things to do when friends or family visit" for years, but this year David gave me a Bruny Island Cruise for my birthday. Awesome gift! One of the multi award-winning Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, this one takes you around the towering dolerite cliffs of southern Bruny Island.

We were collected by bus at Kettering just near the ferry terminal, and taken across on the Mirambeena to Bruny Island. Our guide (we were soon to discover they are all masters of the truly dreadful 'dad joke') told stories of the island and its characters past and present on the 45 minute drive south. On the way to Adventure Bay we stopped at The Neck to climb the stairs to the lookout and that fantastic view of the isthmus and South Bruny.

Once we'd checked in at Bruny Island Cruises HQ in Adventure Bay, there was time for a muffin and a coffee before walking to the wharf to board one of the famous yellow boats. There were people from all around the world in our group - Minnesota, Belgium, China, Malaysia - and we all donned huge red capes the covered me from head to toe to keep out water and wind.

We cruised past beautiful headlands, rugged cliffs and caves, including the magical Breathing Rock that appears to suck air and water in before blowing it out in spectacular fashion. Some cray fishermen checking their cray pots kindly entertained the boatload of tourists by holding up a fresh cray along with a young Port Jackson shark that was released back into the water.

Next came a thrilling spin around The Monument, a 30-odd metre high dolerite stack, before heading to the southern tip on the island where the Tasman Sea meets the Southern Ocean. The swell made for some interesting rises and falls on the boat and the odd exciting drenching by sea spray and rain!

We saw male Australian fur seals basking on The Friars, a group of islands at the southern tip of Bruny Island, then a group of New Zealand fur seals, before the high-speed, wet and windy ride back to Adventure Bay for our pre-ordered lunch and a hot chocolate. On the way back to the ferry, our guide stopped the bus at Get Shucked oysters where I picked up a dozen for Christmas Day, then at the Black Devil Cherries shed near the ferry terminal where I bought a kilo of these huge, juicy beauties. Such a brilliant day out, highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The traditional Christmas Eve cruise on the Huon

For the third year in a row, we spent Christmas Eve with lovely friends on The Nancy, a 100 year old motor launch now owned and run by Franklin's Living Boat Trust. We cruised through the Egg Island Canal and around the top of the islands before heading back down the Huon River towards Franklin. It's great to see the other side of properties we normally see driving past on the highway. The weather was very 'Tasmanian' - a bit of sun, a bit of rain - but it didn't matter one bit. Our skipper Martin definitely got a bit damp at the helm, while the rest of us were able to retreat under cover with snacks and a beverage. Plus, we were rewarded with a stunning rainbow, the pot of gold somewhere at the bottom of the river between Franklin and Huonville. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cherries and berries

The Green Shed in Grove opened last Saturday, a much-anticipated event in the Huon Valley. It's your one stop shop for cherries, pink eye potatoes, raspberries and other Christmas-time delights. David visited a customer in the same road today, so on the way back he picked up a big bag of new season cherries. Delish!

Meanwhile in my own garden, the strawberries are ripening and the blueberry bushes are laden with clumps of green berries waiting to ripen. And aside from the berries, there are green cherries and plums, tiny apples and pears. And before you ask - all are under nets this year so hopefully the birds won't get them. The possums still might though.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Can we borrow your ark, please?

It's not quite forty days and forty nights but it's starting to feel like it. On Thursday evening a storm hit, with hail, thunder and lightning (all rare where we live). Since then, it has rained solidly without pause. Throw in some gusts of wind and it's pretty unpleasant out there. No gardening for me this weekend. I've been awake since 3am, listening to rain pelt against the house, worrying how my chickens are faring out in their house where I've left them locked in for the past two days. And the tiny chicks with mother hen out in the chook tractor in the orchard. I've put in some protective shields so they seem OK, although it is very soggy out there.

Our water tank is overflowing, dirt and gravel are washing down the driveway and a large pond has appeared at the corner of our property where there isn't one normally.

We live at 450m above sea level and our neighbours have a boat sitting in the middle of their front yard which always seemed a little optimistic, but it now looks like its in a flowing river. If the water keeps rising, maybe we'll need to borrow it. Do you think they'll mind if we take the dogs?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Beeswax food savers

As well as a few plants, I also picked up some pretty beeswax cloth food covers from the Market @ Franklin last weekend. You warm them slightly in your hands and shape them around the food or container. Cheese, snacks, fresh ginger, fruit and veg... anything but meat. You need to keep them away from heat, and either just wipe them clean or rinse under cold water. After only a couple of days of using them, I'm hooked. Much easier than plastic wrap and better for the environment. Apparently they last at least six months, and when they're dead, you can compost them or use them as fire starters. And they smell nice. Like honey.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The circle of life

In the land of poultry-keeping, you lose some, you gain some.

One of my hens recently lost use of her legs. She spent a lot of time sitting down, or making strange stamping motions with her feet. I first suspected bumblefoot, but on checking her feet there was no sign of swelling or infection. After separating her from the flock and checking her over thoroughly again, I couldn't find anything broken and started to suspect Marek's disease - not good at all. I could have dispatched her myself, but she was eating and drinking just fine, her eyes were OK... so I took her to the vet yesterday. He said it was some kind of neurological condition, with messages from her brain not getting to her legs, and unlikely to improve. We could try generic kinds of treatment - antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and the like - and then end up having to euthanase her anyway. She wasn't laying eggs and may have been in pain. So long story short, she didn't come back home with me from the vet today.

When I got back from the vet, I decided to go and check on the broody hen whose eggs were about due to hatch, and lo and behold - four healthy-looking tiny chicks were standing next to her cheeping! By the time David and I collected some chick feed and a water container to take down there, along with the camera of course, five little chicks were visible and mother hen was off her nest. I couldn't see signs of movement from any of the other eggs, but you never know. Either way, five new chicks is great news. A sad and happy day in chook land.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Specially steam boat

Last weekend there was a steam boat rally from Franklin up the river to Huonville and back. In fact there were all types of powered boat - electric, motor and human - all looked so beautiful out on the Huon on a hot sunny Sunday morning. We would have loved to take up the offer of a ride on the Nancy, but we were looking forward to meeting old friends from Sydney at Willie Smiths for lunch, so we had to pass. It was such a beautiful day to be sipping cider too!

The title of this post comes from a Thai restaurant menu David and I have kept since the 1990s. The description of each dish was generally one word more than its name and provided no additional clue as to its contents. So the dish called 'Steam Boat' was described as 'Specially Steam Boat.' A tropical cocktail bore the description 'A refreshing tropical'. We were none the wiser.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

$3 each

Today's purchases at the Market @ Franklin: a walnut tree and two basil plants. $3 each. A large jar of blackberry jam, $5. We also made considerable inroads into the Christmas gift list, with Huon Pine goods, native pepperberry and more that can't be revealed yet lest the recipient actually reads my blog.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sitting hen

Surprisingly, one of our Barnevelder hens has gone broody. The breed isn't known for it. We discovered her sitting in one of the nesting boxes on the weekend, and based on her reluctance to move (I got a healthy hiss and peck on the hand!) I decided to leave her there and put more eggs under her. I don't know how many eggs she is sitting on in total. Many chicken owners don't want their birds going broody because they want them laying eggs. But now with 12 hens, we have more eggs than we know what to do with. So hopefully Vladimir has been doing his job (he certainly seems to be kept busy in this department) and she will hatch some chicks. But it's very early days and I'm not counting... well, you know.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tomatoes are in

October is the busiest time of the year for me at work, so the poor old garden doesn't get the attention it needs in spring. Despite that, on the weekend (between work trips) I bought some tomato seedlings from Cygnet Market and planted them. I chose some 'cold resistant' varieties and planted a couple in the greenhouse and some outside in the raised garden beds. Last year I found buying seedlings a much better approach for me than starting them from seed in the house in August. Maybe one day I'll get to do that again. The local wisdom says that tomato plants can go in 'after show day' (meaning the Hobart Show), but based on how cool it is at our place this evening, I'm wondering if where I live, the rule should be after the Huon Show day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Oktoberfest 2017

Last year, we didn't host the traditional Oktoberfest gathering at our place because we were at the actual Oktoberfest in Munich! So this year it was back on. We ordered pretzels from the Brezel Backerei in Sandy Bay and pretty gingerbread hearts from the Tasmanian Gingerbread Company. I picked up decent euro-style sauerkraut from Wursthaus and quark for my favourite apricot crumble cake from Hill Street. This year the sausages came from the Huon Valley Meat Co. They recently opened a wonderful store in Huonville. I heard a while back that they had a Bavarian guy training them in sausage-making, and figured we'd ask what they could provide. We tried a couple of their weisswurst and a couple of bratwurst and both were absolutely delicious, so we placed an order for a good quantity of each. Beer hall music, decorations from the online Oktoberfest Shop, plenty of German beer and about 60 lovely friends (locals and from afar - well, Launceston and Sydney!) made for a fun afternoon. These are a few of my favourite things!

Photo credits: © Cheryl Gallienne 

Monday, October 2, 2017

The small things

I have seen a lot of slugs in Tasmania, mostly tiny ones eating my vegetables in the garden, but hardly any snails. Every now and then, I see one crossing the road while out on my morning walk, like this one I saw this morning. Back in Sydney when I was little, I remember going out in the rain with my aunt Emily with an ice-cream container of salt in hand, to sprinkle on all the snails in the garden. I can't believe how cruel that was! We would stand under the car port out of the rain and watch them all froth up and die. Effective, but kind of mean... then again, I also remember once pulling a few legs off an ant to watch it walk around in circles. What a horrid little girl.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tasmanian Writers Festival

I'm so glad I booked tickets to some sessions at this year's Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival. On the Friday evening, I caught Ashley Hay in conversation with Tasmanian writer Danielle Wood. I'm currently halfway through her book A Hundred Small Lessons and I really enjoyed her previous book The Railwayman's Wife. It was great to catch up on her life and writing. Many years ago we were in the same creative writing class at college in Bathurst in NSW. That small class included a few other notable writers like Charlotte Wood, and I guess others who are 'just readers' like me.

I read Caroline Baum's memoir Only earlier this year after hearing her interviewed on the 'So you want to be a writer' podcast. It was a wonderful book. On the Saturday morning of the festival she was interviewed by Stella Prize winning Tasmanian author Heather Rose. I found myself recalling parts of her book, nodding along, laughing, learning a lot and the hour passed just too quickly. Following advice from Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait who host the Australian Writers' Centre podcast I mentioned earlier (one of my favourites) I also just hung about at the festival a bit, went to some networking drinks and chatted to some interesting folks over coffee in the breaks.

One small gripe - when it came to the 10 minutes allocated for Q&A with the author at the end of each session, most of the 'questions' weren't (questions that is). Instead, they went something like this: "I've just finished my memoir and my daughter..." (cue personal life story lasting several minutes). No question in sight. To her great credit, Caroline Baum managed to respond to all of them with an insight about her own writing as if an actual question had been asked. This drives me crazy at conferences too. Please respect everyone's time and ask a succinct question so that we can hear more from the person we came to hear, not you! Gripe over.

Friday, September 15, 2017


I'm excited to have my first few egg customers this week. It's great news, as the eggsplosion continues... we're getting 8-10 eggs a day at the moment, and as much as I'm enjoying an egg for breakfast and making custard ice-creams, there are still too many for us to consume. And they are so lovely, I'm very happy to share them. Here are the first lot packed up and ready to go.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Snow glorious snow

Just as spring started to show her face, the biggest snow of the year hit and covered everything in a
deep, white blanket. We woke to heavy silence and eerie blue light. The snow was glorious, it must be said. The dogs were up to their bellies in it. The chook house we built over the weekend looked a little different under a huge drift of snow. I'm glad we didn't have to head into town and brave the roads. Instead, we had an early morning romp in the front paddock with the dogs. David had lit the fire by 7.30am and I put a beef casserole in the slow cooker at lunchtime. It is just that kind of day. Stunning, I'm sure you'll agree.

Chook mansion

No really - it IS a mansion. It even said so on the box. On Saturday we finally had a day of beautiful weather to be working outdoors, and spent it constructing a kit chicken coop ordered online from Backyard Chicken Coops. It was surprisingly easy to put together. Whoever designed the kit really thought of all the little details and the instructions were clear. The finished house looks fantastic and now I just need another day of clear-ish weather to add the straw bedding and move in our 12 hens and Vladimir the rooster. Can't wait to see them all settled in!