Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Christmas list



You can only be in denial for so long.  There are only so many lists you can write until you realise that the Christmas shopping won't come down the chimney with Santa carrying a bunch of Coles bags.  I do my best to avoid it.  I get myself psyched up for an early morning shop.  That way the car park won't be full and I can get in and out early.  What I'm clearly deluded about is the fact that every other household within a 20km radius of the supermarket is thinking pretty much the same thing.  Get in and get out.  The downside to the early morning shop is that there are no registers open and you've got to unload an abundance of groceries that's toppling over the trolley onto a small square space of express lane counter that is really only suited to a small packet of pre-sliced cheese or a packet of fags.  Both, I can guarantee won't make it onto my shopping list.  The list of things to do is as ugly as the grocery list with only a few days to go and enough jobs to classify you a major employer.  You put it all off until the last minute.  No point scrubbing the shower now.  No point mopping floors now and so on.  So the day before Christmas it's assuming that you'll be baking with one hand and scrubbing with the other.  The tablecloth that doesn't get looked at for 12 months gets a dust off and an iron.  It's usually when you just finished the last once over (on a 35 degree stinker of a day) that you realise the Shiraz didn't come out and the brandy sauce looks like it could be there for the next millennium.  Bugger.  You've done the gift shopping at least you thought, until on the very eve of the day someone presents you with that unexpected small token that leaves you guilt ridden, for a short while anyway.  Well that carpark is filling and I haven't got to the shops yet.  I'm stalling.  I need to get off this computer and face it.  Perhaps I'll start a new list first.

Friday, 24 November 2017

The chicks at the local pool

We've been struggling to stay up with the water demands here in an unusually hot season of consecutive days of 30 degrees.  It's slowed down the egg laying, but not the hatching.  It is Spring, after all.  The sheep and lambs spend their day sitting under a 100 year old Macrocarpa tree in the shade. Bennie and I braved the cool of the morning and went for a walk up the lane.  We walk past the creek and watch out for anything slithering in our path, and then walk up to the old hay shed around the bend.  It's a country lane walk with little finches darting in and out of the prickly hedges and a few horses look up but only briefly.  We saw rabbits this morning.  I'm still yet to know the difference between rabbit and hare, so we'll just refer to these as Super Bunnies.  They were big, and didn't so much hop along away from us as thump off slowly in another direction.  I, personally wouldn't mess with them.  Bennie wasn't that keen either.  We've lost our appetites for slow cook roasts in these warm nights so I've been scouring the freezer for inspiration.  Someone recently gave us about 12 wild ducks (for eating).  I was all keen, getting excited about an opportunity to cook with real, foraged (er., shot) produce that's come off the land.  I searched for wild duck recipes and was all good to go until someone mentioned 'beware of the pellets'.  Having not cooked with food containing bullets before I suddenly lost interest with the thought of running a metal detector over my food.  Am I being a bit precious knowing that my meal wouldn't get through airport security?  My husband laughed at me and asked me if I even knew what these pellets looked like.  I replied "Yes, I've seen James Bond and I've seen bullets.  They are about this big...and gold". Might just cook an omelette instead, less likely to require forensic examination before eating.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

The curse of the lilac tree and the loungeroom Starling

I read somewhere, that there is an old wives' tale which says if you put lilac inside the house, it brings death.  Our tree this year has blossomed better than previous years, it's a ripper.  The perfume smacks you in the face when you walk down the driveway.  They keep their fragrance for a little while so I've got bunches and bunches of them in vases and jugs all around the house.  I'm expecting a major massacre any moment now!!  I love to come home to a house filled with fresh flowers.  Particularly now that the garden is offering up new rose buds.  That is, if you can get to them before Possum does.  I've tried putting a net over my favourite rose bush, which unfortunately is also his favourite, but this hasn't been successful.  I can't get the roses out of the netting when I want them and so both me and Possum are denied access.  I just get frustrated with the net and end up pulling their heads off which is not very good at all.  The rose heads that is, not the possums.  Although if he keeps this up, it really will get personal.  People I speak to tell me that at night their gardens are a hub of activity with Quolls, Pademelons (I thought that was some little yellow character from an on line game), Wallabies and Possums, and that eventually they have to fence in and cover everything.  We're lucky not to live that close to bushland or forest because I'd be employing some sort of armed night watch guard if that were the case.  Although we're not prone to any sort of violence here and I was alarmed to come home this week to a dead Starling on the lounge room floor.  With no windows or doors open it's come down from one of our sealed up chimneys where they insist on moving in with their new families.  I couldn't help noticing that it was completely untouched, all feathers intact.  This seemed a bit odd given we had a cat inside at the time.  Then Max appears and without so much of a blink of an eye walks over the dead bird to say hi, nice you're home and feed me now.  He barely even noticed it. We know he's not the predatory kind, but golly, at least pretend you caught it.  Damn those lilacs.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Gruelling



Oh dear!  Fixer upperer anybody?  Not quite.  This is a photo from an historical site in one of Tasmania's former 'female factories' that kept convict women prisoners during the 1800's.  This was a room in what is left of one of the Superintendent's houses which gives a stark look into how hard times were back then (I suddenly don't feel so compelled to wipe down my kitchen bench for a third time today).  This place would have been freezing in winter, being inland with the only source of heating being in this fireplace.  They must have welcomed Spring sunshine even if it didn't belong in such a cold, awful place.  One of the information panels on the walls explains the diet of these women and the rations of food they were given which were mainly bread, gruel and soup, made from meat thickened with vegetables and peas or barley.  I didn't find this at all horrifying.  This prison food whilst not palatable and probably not cooked or prepared with much care was most likely of better nutritional value than a lot of items on our supermarket shelves.  We've got people out there with shopping trolley's full of packaged unknown chemicals, colourings and food additives that if you had put them out on this bench sometime in about 1850, would probably still be ok to eat today.  That's not a good thing by the way.  I worry about where our food comes from and like to have some control over its origins.  Our farm cat Minnie leaves her local catch of dead mice artfully arranged on the back doorstep and whilst I notice this early in the morning, by lunchtime the body has been removed. The chooks love them.  It just scares me a little that this dead mouse has now entered, just slightly into my own food chain..eeewww!!  I'll stop thinking about that now.  Perhaps I need to go and prepare some gruel for dinner.  What is that anyway?

Monday, 2 October 2017

Ready, aim, splat

Ah, Spring!  A welcomed season from blistering cold winds that howled through the gaps in my old front window frames.  Spring means new life and nest building. Unfortunately my house has proven, year on year, to be a reliable host of our new mum and dad Starlings.  Like going back to the same seaside shack every year, they choose the inside of my front verandah roof with the late afternoon sun and a room with a view.  Whilst we've been known to be on the generous side with our own menagerie of bird life that includes a good proportion of bantam chickens and guinea fowls, I draw the line at bratty Starlings that outstay their welcome and crap all over the front of my house.  After a Sunday of washing down windows and removing bird pooh from the entrance of a very old weatherboard house that doesn't deserve such ill mannered treatment, I resorted to the only defence I know that doesn't involve a twelve gauge.  A bird of prey.  Now this little feller came from the hardware shop because apparently they don't sell either real or stuffed ones (to my absolute disappointment) and so with beady bright eyes and a plastic bobble head, he had to do.  So Bobble Head as he is now referred to, was placed on the verandah and told to ward off anyone bird like that refuses to see the sign, no room at the inn.  However unfortunately since Bobble Head was engaged in verandah duties, we've had some serious westerly winds come through which continue to blow him off his verandah perch, down the steps and into the rose bushes.  Initially I didn't want to secure him because the Starlings would wake up to that pretty quick and notice that he doesn't leave his post...'yeah, that old plastic bobble head trick, hah, hah, hah!'  So I went out yesterday to collect poor BH to find him rolling around the porch like he'd been on the sherry all night, and noticed that some brazen Starling had managed to plant one right on his head, in between his eyes.  I can only imagine what careful planning that took.  So having failed dismally with my bird of prey defence, I'm at a loss as to what to do with those recalcitrant Starlings with precision aim.  I wonder if the hardware store sells something, perhaps a little more concerning, like a Pterodactyl.  Don't suppose I could get a stuffed one anywhere?

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The shared table

We've had five new baby lambs safely delivered on our farm - with no help from us whatsoever.  Phew!  Dodged a bullet there.  Bettie heroically delivered three.  She was pretty big, and very uncomfortable. We've got perhaps one more to come and have pretty well given up on names.  We started with chalky but then a few more chalkboards arrived and now we are struggling to tell them apart.  Did you know you are not allowed to call a blackboard a blackboard any more?  Head farmer and husband found this out in the local hardware store recently searching for blackboard paint to put up on a wall in our preserving room.  He was momentarily denied service by a surly store woman as she corrected him over and over again, saying 'No we don't have blackboard paint.  We have chalkboard paint'. So that's how the little guy on the left got his name.  There's a theory on farms that once you have a name you don't end up on a plate.  That will certainly be the case on our farm.  These little guys will grow up on this five star animal resort being none the wiser.  And costing us a small fortune as ute load after ute load produces more bags of animal feed with not much grass around, for the privileged mouths and beaks on this property.  Unfortunately they all support the shared table philosophy, that what's in your bowl is also mine when you're done with it. The chooks are eating the leftover lamb feed pellets and the thought of this now entering into our food chain via eggs scares me - just a little.   About 11pm every night Bennie our best in class cocker spaniel sneaks down the stairs to polish off the cat's food provided we haven't given Max's food to Minnie as she sits at the kitchen window looking in like something out of the movie Oliver, just not quite so undernourished.   Max won't eat anything that isn't out of a can or pouch and Bennie's gastronomical experiment with eating blood and bone out of the garden beds ended badly all over my new lounge room rug.  So food is a shared experience in my home.  Sometimes I wish it wasn't though.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The locals here even look different

In Bennie's former life, before moving to Tasmania we used to go for a walk to the local coffee shops. And where we lived, there were many.  He would sit under the table and stair longingly at waitresses until he got their attention.  What was hard to explain was that those cute puppy dogs eyes are all about the toast she was carrying and not so much about her. These days there's not much coffee on our walks, and definitely no toast stops.  He's done well considering he's not 'off the land' as they say.  He's had to adjust to new surroundings.  He's learnt that chickens lay eggs that must be delivered without breaking onto the back door mat.  Not an easy task for a dog, but rewarding if you do break them!  He's learnt that roosters are not to be messed with and there are some seriously good smells in the veggie patch when blood and bone gets throw around.  He's now trying to get his head around baby lambs.  They sort of look like a dog...a kind of poodle perhaps?  They don't smell like a dog and they don't play like a puppy at all.  In fact he looks a bit bewildered by them.  Having been a high achiever in his puppy school years, Bennie thinks all dogs should have the same schooling as him.  I imagine he introduces himself to all animals as 'Hi I'm Bennie, best in class what's your name?'  This would be pretty well lost on a bunch of sheep who neither sit on command or stay when told.  Before moving here we used to walk past the local community veggie garden that had a bright red, life size sculpture of a cow in it.  Bennie used to bark at it every time and tell it off for being there I guess.  He's not quite so cocky these days.