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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It has snowed three times in the last two weeks at our place, most recently this dusting that we woke to on Sunday.
Still, there have been many signs of spring appearing. Buds on the fruit trees. Birds are more active. The days are longer (no more walking in the dark before 7am) and the light is different. Daffodils are popping up in the front paddock.
It was a gloriously sunny start to spring today, but still chilly. We woke to a thick frost, but glad not to be down in the thick fog in the valley.
Once the fog cleared, the blossoms down in Franklin village looked so pretty against the blue sky, I had to stop and take a photo.
This year's pullets (all 10 of them) have started laying, albeit mostly tiny little eggs. Their eggs look so cute next to the bigger brown eggs laid by the two older Barnevelder hens. So for us it's time to eat more yummy eggs for breakfast, custard-style ice-cream (it uses five yolks), omelettes, patties, fried rice, cakes, quiche, frittata and anything else that uses eggs! I have sent off the forms to register as an unaccredited small producer so hopefully I can sell some of our eggs via local shops, markets or to friends. Want any?
For a long while, we've driven a few kilometres out of our way to Ranelagh to buy sourdough bread from Summer Kitchen Bakery. More recently, there's been another great reason to make the detour: Ranelagh General Store. Lovely coffee and the best. muffins. ever. Previously, that honour went to the Red Velvet Lounge in Cygnet, before the change in ownership. The burgers for lunch are to die for. I recently had a duck and orange burger with slaw, oh my dog... speaking of which, if we have the dogs with us, we can sit outside, with Baerli's enormous bulk blocking the entire footpath. A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to attend a friend's 50th birthday dinner there, as a private function. The small cafe was decorated so beautifully and the food was fabulous. I especially love the vintage elements they use like the water jugs. It's so warm and inviting. Must be about time for another visit.
One of Tasmania's largest poultry producers, Nichols, has recently launched a new ethical free range chicken product line. The birds are housed in 'villages' of four movable sheds each housing 720 birds (a much lower density than the thousands housed in one shed under other poultry production systems) and they are free to come and go from the sheds as they please.
I had the opportunity to have a look inside last week on a field trip. While it is still a little shocking to see so many birds living such short lives, the conditions were clean and spacious, the feeding and watering stations looked great and many of the birds were enjoying themselves resting outside the sheds or pecking in the grass and mud. The large, green paddock we visited contained four of these chook 'villages'. Check out the video on their web site to see it for yourself.
While at present the ethical free range product represents less than 10 percent of the chicken they produce (the rest is barn raised under the RSPCA standard), it is hoped that customer demand will grow and production can expand. It's good reason for us Aussies to eat a bit less chicken and be happy to pay a bit more for it, I reckon. I'll be checking out our local supermarkets to see who stocks it.
On a field trip last week visiting businesses in Tasmania's north west, I saw wasabi growing for the first time and tasted the freshest possible, just picked, trimmed and grated by the founder of Shima Wasabi. Now part of The Tasmanian Food Co. group of companies, it's a fascinating business and the largest grower of Japanese wasabi in the southern hemisphere. They primarily supply fresh wasabi to high end restaurants around Australia. It is grown hydroponically in a large climate controlled greenhouse. The stems (not the roots, as widely believed) are harvested and shipped on demand direct to chefs, chilled to keep it fresh. There's little waste, as the leaves, stems and flowers can all be used as well. Currently, little of their product goes direct to consumers, although you can buy wasabi powder to make a lovely paste from their web site. That may change, however, with new products and packaging methods currently under development.
How have I been in Tasmania for more than seven years and NOT seen this before? It's the Big Spud at Sassafras. Yes, a large potato in a hat. His name is Kenny Kennebec (a type of potato). I've been to the Big Banana, the Big Pineapple, the Big Merino and even the Giant Earthworm, but seriously, this is quality stuff Tasmania. The only problem is, as far as big things go, he's not very big.
It turned out to be a glorious winter day in Hobart and aside from the fun we had singing, the hanging about at Salamanca Market and walking between venues was such a treat. David drove into town to meet me afterwards and we finished up the day with cocktails at Rude Boy and dinner at Restaurant Schulz at the Polish Club. A very long and happy day out "in town".
The Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival is over for another year, and this year we again spent the Friday night in the glorious cold night air in the paddocks around Willie Smith's Apple Shed in Grove. Well, some of it was spent toasting ourselves next to fire barrels. Eating pork cracking and pork buns from Fat Pig Farm, raclette with cheese from Tasmania's Heidi Farm, burritos and divine doughnuts from Lady Hester. Stu from Tasman Quartermasters was wielding the blowtorch, his cooking method of choice. We warmed ourselves up from the inside by sipping hot mulled cider.
It must be said that the 'burning man' ceremony went on a little (OK, way) too long this year, with a man telling a "story" that wasn't and fire dancers who would have been awesome if you could see them. After 35 minutes of this, some Korean tourists standing next to me wielding enormous Samsung phones turned and asked "burning soon?" Then finally, Big Willie was lit and he burned brightly in the Huon Valley sky. It's absolutely one of the best festivals of the year, set up to cater for the crowds and the cold. All my photos were rubbish though. I'm blaming icy fingers!
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.