Thursday, 18 April 2019

Wanted - Chief Clock Winder on no pay

Old houses and old things require time.  This was a stark reminder as the cold wind whipped up the leaves from under the back door to gather them up in the hallway.  Autumn is here and it suddenly got cold.  This means fires to keep warm.  We do have electric wall heaters but they are quite expensive to run and you can't really whack a modern dual air conditioning unit into the wall of an 140 year old Victorian homestead.  Well you can...but I personally wouldn't.  So without wanting an electricity bill that requires the both of us to sell a kidney or two, we use the wood fire to stay warm.  And if you have wood heaters, you know they take time, kindling, and constant attention.  It means you all congregate in the one living room.  And it's a popular spot in front of the fire, where we try to accommodate drying clothes, rising bread dough, two cats, a dog and us.  We're a close family in winter.  The other labour of love would have to be our clock.  We toyed with the idea of getting a grandfather clock as I've always loved their imposing presence in a room.  It reminds you that you are in fact, just taking up time.  We decided on something more manageable and less likely to wake us up on the hour every hour, so we adopted an Ansonia kitchen clock (pictured).  It chimes on the hour and once on the half.  And it don't come with batteries.  Which means that someone needs to wind both the clock and chimes at least once a week or else silence.  The job of clock winding also requires a clock reset which means you must go through the clock cycle to pick up the correct chimes.  She's a bit fiddly and doesn't like to be forced backwards.  I suspect she detests Daylight Savings/Summertime as I do because it just throws everything out of sync.  Old houses used to employ people to wind clocks and attend to wood fires.  That would be perfect (dream on sister) but not likely and our house isn't exactly a castle and I possess no crown jewels to pay someone.  So while a cold westerly reminds us that winter is coming, we'll chop wood and put on extra clothing - and eat chocolate as well.  Happy Easter if celebrating.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Breakfast cereal with no added animation

I think sometimes we like to read the headlines of a favourite topic so we can quietly say to ourselves 'I knew that' or even better, 'hah, I was awake to this all along...!!!'  Fake food is one of my favourite aha topics.  Having long turned into one of those mad muttering people at the stores with the bright lights and trolley aisles, I feel a sense of pleasure when I read something suspect about manufactured foods that provide more nutrition in their packaging than the product itself, or at least the box may be less harmful.  Commercial breakfast cereals and I parted ways many years ago having gleefully read somewhere that one of the most famous of them contained as much salt as a packet of crisps.  I didn't want to know if it was entirely accurate or not, I just wanted to have my quiet aha moment.  Leaving my quality nutritious breakfast in the hands of food manufacturers was a risky route given they have shelf life to consider and wages to pay.  A lot of popular breakfast cereals now are so targeted at children they just look like an ad for the latest kid's movies - so rather than shoving a tiny Fred Flinstone in my mouth at 5:30am, I figured best if I do my own.  And geez, it's not hard.  You could fill a grain silo with the amount of granola recipes out there but depending on how much stuff you want to chuck in, it's mostly up to you.  Mine's pretty basic with no sugar.  Yes, no sugar needed as I don't need to keep it in storage for a year.  I use locally produced honey to toast with the oats and then add coconut and dehydrated fruits afterwards.  We're really lucky here in Tasmania to also have access to loads of fruit and also left over local harvests that are freeze dried with nothing added.  They do apple pieces dusted in dried blueberry or raspberry.  Just perfect for this.  And then I also add whatever nuts I've got in the cupboard.  We had a bumper crop off our almond trees this year and I managed to get most of them off faster than the green squeaky parrots.  These parrots make a noise similar to someone squeezing a rubber toy.  And boy, can they strip an almond tree fast so I get in quick, with me on one side of the tree with secateurs in hand, and parrots on the other side munching away at a rapid rate.  Once dried, I roast them (the nuts, not the parrots).  Fresh nuts are a treat as I'm convinced the ones in commercial muesli are a bit old, perhaps even had a birthday or two.  Your own granola or muesli (call it anything you like, just not anything that's copyrighted or about to be released into a blockbuster animation movie) it won't stay fresh forever so eat it on top of your poached fruit and yoghurt, and when you want to replace it, the chooks will be happy to help you out.  Oh, and by the way...Wikipedia states that a bag of potato crisps will be 1% sodium.  And a cupful of Cornflakes will be 8%.  Aha! No wonder they keep so well.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Bunny boiler alert

It's so dry.  No rain.  We've put in the oats with the hope that they'll manage to struggle up to the top with some tiny green shoots.  On my walk with Bennie yesterday along the farm lanes in between crunchy dry paddocks you could see the wide cracks in the earth along the side of the road.  It's been so very dry.  And even though we've got politicians in the media every day promising just about everything for everybody if we let them wear the biggest hat in town, I'd hate to rely on them.  Far away from the steering committees and policy advisory boards people are digging holes and putting the seeds of food in the ground for our survival.  My trip to the big shop with the bright lights, trolleys and long double sided aisles gave me a sense that real food was disappearing off the shelves.  I'm not talking about empty shelves.  No they're stacked full of bright, shiny packets with images of cooked food on the front and a list of unheard of ingredients on the back.  All very instant.  In the 70's they called it 'convenience' food.  Now it's called snacks.  Snacks seem to be replacing ingredients.  The choices are getting smaller and smaller and what was once a shelf with three or four brands of the same product, is now a choice of the house brand being the cheaper option and one other.  And when no one buys the house brand, the other seems to magically disappear somewhere.  Unfortunately this is occurring more and more as our purchasing is directed and monitored through the data available to these giants.  It's clever.  But it still smells.  And whilst they react instantly to trends and customer feedback, at the end of the day their shop is about profit.  Not our nutrition. So if the Easter Bunny dares rock up to my house with anything dairy free or soy based, he'll be conveniently crock potted.

Friday, 12 April 2019

The big dipper

Boy!  Talk about ungrateful.  We get high winds here.  Living on an island you see.  And when you're on a small hill on an island with no protection from a giant hunking mountain like Wellington, we cop it pretty hard sometimes.  Where we are the westerlies get us the most.  It leaves our front verandah with old and slightly rotted palings flapping in the wind like a lose baby tooth needing to be yanked.  The winds lift off anything unsecured and whip it around the paddocks.  Your if left on the line could quite easily be wrapped around next door's cows and your underwear found somewhere near the airport.  Our chimney cover has taken flight on the odd occasion even we thought it was secure.  It was found a few months later lodged high up in a tree looking like some sort of small lost space ship.  Well that's what the chooks thought it was.  We're yet to put it back (see long list of jobs to do) and as a result the starlings find hours of entertainment pushing each other down our chimney.  You'd think word would have got around starling circles that it's a bit risky.  Bennie, our ever vigilant Cocker Spaniel is right onto this one.  He checks the fire places every morning.  He hears them scratching around at the top and goes bananas.  As he did this morning.  I have to open the glass door of the unlit fireplace to prove to him that there is nothing there.  And so I did.  And so I was wrong.  Bloody starling comes belting out throwing itself at all and sundry.  By this stage both Max the ragdoll cat and Bennie are on the chase.  Bennie won't kill a bird, it's not his breeding, he's a retrieval dog and Max, well unless it comes in a pouch or a tin with a picture of a cat on it, he's just not interested.  I've tried feeding him cooked and raw meat in the past and the look of disgust on his face was disturbing.  So starling disappears within seconds.  Gone.  Big house and one loose starling.  Oh, and I forgot to mention the other outdoor cat who's sound asleep on our bed upstairs.  Yes, ahem, outdoors!  So after a small slightly interested search and about ready to leave it to some of the more interested parties, I discover a starling lying beside the fireplace, dazed.  I swiftly pick it up in a clean tea towel (you're not getting the good ones), and as I do this it instantly wakes up and starts squealing like a stuck pig.  I take it outside and release it.  Still screaming blue murder, it swiftly takes flight upwards.  Then I look up to see a few more lined up to do exactly the same thing.  Guy's it's not a theme park you know!

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Winter draws near

As the days of sitting on my white chair under the leafy trees draws to a close, the days are getting shorter and the warmth in the sun only lasts a few hours or so.  The feathered friends are moulting and making the most of the warm spots around the yard.  I've been battling a chest infection for a few weeks and took some time out to sit out in the courtyard in the sun today.  I'm never alone for very long.  One by one the feathered friends all ventured past to see if there was a recently baked cake or a scone to share.  No luck today folks.  Although having said that, not one for lying low for very long I managed to drag my sorry arse out of my sick bed to try a banana loaf in my new bread maker machine.  The results might be a jackpot for the chooks, who knows.  The bread machine by no way will produce those marvellous stoneground artisan sourdoughs we greedily queue up for at the farmers markets.  To me sourdough is the craft of magicians who turn metal into gold in their spare time.  Bread machines provide a little loaf of your choice that is suitable for the standard sandwich and toast requirements.  It's a great way to save money if you were like me and buying on average two of the artisan loafs a week and eating a few slices and wasting the rest. We'd freeze it but even then couldn't really get through a complete one.  The other thing is the crusts.  Where is it written that sourdough must have crusts so strong they can withstand a cyclone or major storm event?  Some of them are so crusty i.e., like plaster you can barely cut them with a bread knife.  Not to mention the risk to the dental ware which if shattered will cost significantly.  So whilst the old bread maker might have fallen out of the favour in the coolest of kitchens, mine is my new friend.  Just not sure about the cake baking.  Chook Chook....

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Bream Creek Show tentacles on a stick

Bream Creek Show last Saturday, always popular.  In the style of the traditional Agricultural Show where the city or in our case, the country comes to the country to showcase everything that's great about rural life.  Morning tea in the shed with the big tin tea pot, scones and few sandwich corners is a great way to start the day off.  Giant pumpkins the size of a small car take front place outside of the hall of industries where serious scone championships are fought and won.
The animal displays are hands on with highland cattle up for a pat and the bullock driving demo is hard to turn away from as 'tiny' and 'freckles' take a left here and reverse there at the crack of a whip.  I'm always a bit wary of the animal attractions, particularly the poultry pavilion with displays of some fascinating breeds.  'Nooo, we don't need any more, we already have an out of control chook population and even though her hair is more out there than Doris's we still don't need more'.  The food stalls are pretty genuine with pulled lamb rolls, good quality pizza, octopus on a stick... yeah they were a bit alien like for me, kind of deep fried tentacle lolly pops.  A great day though, but the traffic is a problem as cars are slowly parked in the car paddock on arrival and as a result the rest are banked up for a very long way.  If you are going to get there, get there early.  Before the scones run out.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Help wanted. Must have connected head and body

He's real.  He was in an arcade, in a shop in a train station near a place called Nara outside of Osaka.  There were also about 25 others, some much bigger than him and would clearly take your hand off if it got too close.  Having no ability to read the signs, the face said it all.  The shop was a type of conservation organisation for the protection of the species, or that's what we convinced ourselves on finding a women outside this shop with an enormous owl on her wrist during our recent holiday to Japan.  They had owls from every corner of the earth.  It was utterly fascinating and such a privilege to be able to be so close to these wild animals.  The not so little guy on the left and I struck up a great one way conversation.  I offered him a job, back here in Tas.  I said I've got this problem that he would be able to solve for me very quickly.  We have too many Starlings on and inside our roof.  Hundreds of them.  And slowly but surely there are helping to speed up the deterioration of a 140 year of house.  They have taken up residence inside our closed up chimneys and they nest there until their families are old enough to rent new premises. This takes some time and drives our Ragdoll to distraction as the sound of collective 'cheep, cheep, cheep' is a constant reminder of liberties taken by these chimney squatting vandals.

During our conversation I mentioned that the previous incumbent hadn't worked out so well.  His head fell off in a strong westerly.  He was recruited from a hardware shop and came by the name of 'Bobble Head'.  His purpose was set out for him but he failed on every front.  He is now in two parts, one part of him being his head now firmly lodged under the front gate and the second part being his body, regularly found rolling around the front verandah.  Some larrikin starling even crapped on his head, you could almost hear the laughter.

Now I know the travel would be significant but I would make it worthwhile, I explained.  There is a local hawk who surveys the nearby fields and I'm told is adequately rewarded particularly after hay bailing when the mice scurry is on.  But unfortunately due to the language barrier, I was unsuccessful poaching my new recruit. Oh well, better find Bobble Head and get the glue out again.