Saturday, June 24, 2017

Fleeting snow

The forecast was for snow down to 400 metres. We settled in on the lounge to watch a movie (Hunt for the Wilderpeople - highly recommend) and by the time it was over the flakes were falling thick and fast and the garden furniture had a lovely dusting of snow. This afternoon, the snow is melting and clumps of it are falling off the roof with a great thud. The first snow of the year won't last long but it was pretty! And the dogs love it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Winter fitness challenge

This is what I saw when I went out on my little run this morning:

If you're moving to rural Tasmania and (like me) don't like gyms and prefer to exercise in the fresh air, here's some honest truth. Be prepared for the mental barrier to climb just a little bit higher. I prefer to exercise first thing in the morning before work, and at this time of year when I go out, it's dark until after 7am. I mean pitch black. There's no ambient light or street lights like you get in the city. I find it easy to go out walking or running at 5.30 or 6.00am when I'm in Sydney for work. Here, I wear a head torch that illuminates the patch of dirt road immediately in front of me, helping me to avoid puddles and potholes. Apart from the occasional hopping sounds of pademelons fleeing from my path, I could be anywhere. Sometimes forestry guys in their utes whiz by on their way to work and the occasional truck thunders past and I have to step off the road until they pass. In the daytime, walking in the forest is beautiful, in the dark it becomes just a little bit scary.

Boo hoo, I hear you say, you're just making excuses not to exercise. Fair enough. I much prefer to walk and run in the cold than (say) the humid heat in Sydney, but I won't pretend its not harder to get myself out the door here. This morning it was a pleasant 7 degrees, unlike yesterday's sub-zero temperatures and chunky frost (I stayed in bed). While it will no doubt get colder over the next couple of months, I am so happy at the passing of the winter solstice this week, as it will start to get lighter at both ends of the day. Hurray!

A few months ago, David and I decided to bite the bullet and get a personal trainer to visit once a week. It seemed like a splurge, but it's been absolutely worth it. For the first couple of sessions we were able to exercise outdoors, but since daylight saving ended our trainer comes to our home and we work out in the living room. The bonus is I can wear a t-shirt and can see my own feet! Without someone (nicely) bullying me I doubt I would ever work as hard. Another step I think I'll have to take is to vary my exercise time and go out after 4pm some days when I'm too brain dead for complex work but before it gets dark. If you have any good winter exercise strategies, please let me know. It has been a challenge, one that I'm only just starting to get on top of.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sculpture Trail at Birchs Bay Art Farm

An art farm? Now that's a good idea. Art Farm Birchs Bay is on a property growing native pepperberries and a variety of flowers. It is also home to 12 permanent sculptures dotted around the hillside above Birchs Bay. Until mid-July, there's an exhibition of 17 additional works along the trail, which takes around 45 minutes to walk. There were many clever, beautiful and fun pieces. My photos really don't do it justice, so check out their gallery for more. There's a cafe on site if you need refreshments.

We took advantage of yesterday's perfect, sunny winter weather to visit the art farm. On the way we visited the Woodbridge Market (including a coffee across the road at the general store) and a stop at the Margate Train on the way home, where we ate Turkish Gozleme in the sun and picked up some Tassie pilsener from the Devils Brewery cellar door. What a lovely start to a long weekend.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Road trip to Launceston

Every day, many Tasmanian business people and public servants drive the 2.5 hour stretch between Hobart and Launceston for meetings. It seems crazy in the age of Skype and conference calls, but I guess sometimes face-to-face is best. Those making the trek regularly complain about the ongoing roadworks (improvements) on the Midland Highway, but it didn't bother me much on my brief road trip north last week. In fact, the road is looking great, much better than even a few years back. I drove north for a small gathering of communications and PR people at Saint John Craft Beer - a Launceston institution - and back the next morning.

I stayed at Auldington, an old convent with lovely views over the city and fully renovated, modern rooms inside. It turned out to be great value for money and only a short walk from the centre of town. As I've said before, Launceston grows on me with every visit.  In the frosty dark morning, I ran up Cataract Gorge to the suspension bridge and walked back down the Zig Zag Track. On the drive north, I stopped at Redlands Distillery, and at Oatlands for a late breakfast on the way back. If you have a favourite spot to stop on the Midland Highway, please let me know!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Redlands Distillery

I chose a perfect place to stop on the way to Launceston one gloomy day last week: Redlands Distillery in Dysart House, an 1840s colonial inn in the village of Kempton. There's a warm and inviting sitting room with leather couches to enjoy a bite to eat in. In my case, that was two enormous whisky soaked fruit scones with jam and cream and a lovely coffee. I'll have to go later in the day next time, as the lunch menu looked great. Redlands does of course produce whisky, which I haven't tried yet, but it was a little early in the morning for me, so I had a taste of their apple schnapps, produced using wash from Spreyton Cider in the north of the state.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Funnies at Frank's

My funny husband (pictured above) started a semi-regular comedy room in our little village of Franklin this year. Held at Frank's Cider Bar and Cafe, it's been an awesome addition to the local entertainment scene. I'm not biased at all - just ask anyone who's been! It's a great night of laughs. I'm so proud of him for making it such a success.

Each headline act has been a big name in Australian comedy, starting with Dave Callan in January, Peter Berner in April and last week, the wonderful Rachel Berger (pictured below). Two local Tasmanian comedians have supported them each time, all of them fantastic. The venue seats about 80 people and it's been sold out well in advance every time. That makes for a great atmosphere, warm and welcoming. Upcoming acts include Peter Rowsthorn on 29 June, Bob Franklin on 27 July and Simon Palomares on 7 September. If you live in the Huon Valley and want to laugh along, you'll need to get in quick and buy tickets online. Check out the Frank's Cider Facebook page to find out about upcoming events.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


In the first few years we lived in the Huon Valley, we spotted a pattern. Each spring, the 'for sale' signs would go up along the Huon Highway, and when the temperatures dropped in autumn, they would be taken down again. It looked like the owners were hoping for a 'lottery win' sale to a passing tourist over the summer season, but weren't really serious about selling. During that time, prices were mostly flat. Properties took a long time to sell. Six to nine months would be good. Much like most regional areas, I expect.

That's not the case now. Hobart has become a very competitive market and where we live, only 40 minutes drive from the centre of town, has picked up too. Lately, the Huon Highway is lined with 'sold' signs and many of those properties were only on the market for a few weeks. To explain why, here's a video of one of our local real estate agency principals discussing the state of the local market this month. Thinking of moving here? Get in quick!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Seven years in paradise

Yesterday marked seven years since we arrived at our little piece of paradise in Tasmania's Huon Valley. So much has happened and yet so little has changed. The weather yesterday looked almost exactly the same as the day we arrived.

Compare the photo of me in the very first post on this blog, when I looked a little dazed from the relocation, the dislocation. The sun rises noticeably north at this time of year - see the shadow in the photo above - and dews are heavy. Fog starts to appear in the valley, but up on the hill, it's usually sunny.  The occasional patch of frost. A few snowflakes falling. Some dark and moody days heralding winter.

Autumn is a spectacular time in the valley. Moving to Tasmania was definitely one of the best decisions we ever made. I am so grateful we've landed here.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Backyard of Fires

Okay, it's not exactly the famous Bay of Fires in the north east of Tasmania, or a tourist attraction, but we have a lot of rocks at our place that are also covered with a striking bright orange lichen.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The new chicken run

While I was traipsing around in the southern forests on Easter Monday, David installed netting over our fenced orchard containing six young apple trees, two pears, a peach, two plums and two cherries. The new net is not designed to protect our young trees and their fruit, but chickens! I currently have eight young pullets around 13 weeks of age, six of my favourite Barnevelders and two very pretty (and large and strong) Huon Blues, a new breed under development by Paul Healy. They are such beautiful birds, I'm so happy to have them. It's part of replenishing my flock, which has dwindled due to random deaths and disappearances over the past couple of years. The orchard is the perfect place for them to forage, but there's no shelter. It's out in the open and basically a smorgasbord for hawks. Except now it isn't. Now, these beautiful young girls get to roam around a large fenced area, pecking grass and bugs, protected by white overhead netting. They are having a great time.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Adamsons Falls

After an easy stroll of one hour return to Duckhole Lake on Monday, I drove a short distance up the road to the start of the Adamsons Falls track. It was a perfect sunny autumn day. This was a varied walk, including grey mud, red mud, brown mud... nah, only joking. As much as I didn't enjoy the cutting grass and mud sections, they were interspersed with such beautiful trees (including many of my favourite, the myrtle beech), ups and downs, fallen trees, singing lyrebirds, colourful fungi, finally arriving on the mid-platform of the falls. The walk takes about two hours return. I can't believe I did not pick up any leeches on this walk, but I did find one on my wrist after pruning a couple of trees in my garden on the weekend.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Duckhole Lake

The Duckhole Lake walk is included in the 60 Great Short Walks of Tasmania booklet and app, as well as many local tourist guides, but when we moved to Tasmania it was closed for repairs. Finally I got there today. It's a beautiful walk, only an hour return and very easy. Almost all of it is on duckboard, and follows an old forestry tramway. The lake itself is a flooded sinkhole that's part of the Hastings Caves landscape. I wanted to check it out over the Easter long weekend ahead of a walk I am leading there this month.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bloody rabbits

I know, I know, it's Easter, but I'm not feeling very charitable towards those cute little bunnies at the moment. Everyone around here has been complaining about the growing plague of them over the past year or two. They are super cheeky. There are piles of droppings on the lawn right close to our house. You can see below their attempt at ringbarking one of my young plum trees, and below that my latest attempt to foil them - that's the trunk of an apricot tree painted with bitumen rubber to deter chewing beasties. I've painted all the exposed trunks of the fruit trees and the olive. In the bottom photo, you'll see the fine tunnel a rabbit has dug in one of my freshly dug over raised garden beds. I won't be planting carrots in it.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mount Nelson Signal Station Brasserie

I had a day off last Thursday. I know, big news, right? We'd had notice from the power company that there would be an outage all day while new power poles were installed. Rather than juggle working locations, laptop charging and wifi issues, David and I both took the day off. What a treat that turned out to be. First up, knocking over a to-do list of items in Kingston and Hobart, everything from get a long-overdue X-ray (Susan) to buy a new suit (David). Tick!

The weather was beautiful, so on the way back, we decided to drive up Mount Nelson and have lunch at the Signal Station Brasserie. It was our first visit, but won't be the last. Our food was absolutely delicious. Nice Tassie wine list, lovely garden surroundings (dog friendly) and Derwent River views. And it's only a short drive from the centre of Hobart. My only gripe would be the lack of Tasmanian cider on the menu. There was only a commercial Aussie one, which seems a crime when Hobart is surrounded with fantastic local cider brands. The brasserie would be a perfect afternoon tea spot too - the cakes and scones arriving on the table near us looked excellent. We've added this place to our "when we have visitors" list and will go back soon, perhaps followed by a walk around Mount Nelson to work off the cake.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Introducing Vladimir

Last week I moved our new young Barnevelder cockerel (now known as Vladimir) in with the three older ladies, using the common trick of placing him in the shed at night so he's just there when the hens get up in the morning. After a bit of confusion about where he should sleep for the first couple of nights, when I went to shut the shed door last night, he had wedged himself between two of the ladies on the top perch. They didn't seem bothered, so all is peaceful in the hen house. Hopefully he turns out to be a good rooster and not as aggressive as Russell and Sebastian were.