Monday, 10 December 2018

It's nearly here and nearly over

Whoosh, sound of year passing by!!  Nearly the end of another.  Christmas carols on loop, well Dean in my house much to Max's disgust (pictured).  You either DO Christmas or not.  For many years I was in the not category with family obligations meaning my day was spent on the highway driving between roast turkey and cold ham destinations.  The weather was usually at least 45 degrees with the oven door open and whilst the paper plates make sense, geez they do make the food hit the garbage bin a lot quicker.  Nowadays the weather is kinder due to a Tasmanian summer, the driving a little less demanding - we just stay at home and the plates are at least worthy of the effort.  It's a lot of work for just one day.  The leftovers are now the highlight along with National Lampoon repeats. I recon I even know the script as good as them now, and then it's all over for another year.  Thank goodness we get 12 months.  I can hear the major supermarkets unpacking the hot cross buns already.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Dean Martin in a bottle

Bottling a serious business in this house.  I'm not the bottler, just the chief cook and bottle washer as the saying goes.  As pear season arrives into view my head preserver has been busy doing the peeling and poking of star anise, vanilla bean or just getting them plastered with Pinot.  Now we have to just look and admire.  Our preserving shelves are now laden with assorted fruits from the summer, as well as rhubarb, cherries and just about anything else we can jam into a jar.  These will get us through the winter.  Well that's the theory.  Except gaining authorisation to open a jar of preserves is like getting access to the Crown Jewells.  The look of horror on his face when I suggest we break open a seal!!  And whilst I've contributed to, ahem, not much of the process I did play an integral part of the tomato bottling operations.  Our tomato vines were literally throwing tomatoes at us as we walked past so we were pleased to grow sufficient amounts to bottle.  In true Italian tradition we donned our aprons in the outdoor produce room, fired up the record player with Dean Martin, and off we went a skinning and a chopping.  It's a messy job but well worth it considering the quantities of tinned tomatoes I usually buy over the winter.  And who knows what processing elements go into canned produce these days, and yes I'm well aware that the tins aren't made of tin anymore, but what chemicals are in the lining?  So I'm looking forward to a winter of shopping at my own produce store, even if the store keeper is a bit reluctant to share his wares.  Because before too long the winter season has flown by into the next one, and the blossoms will soon be with us.  Volare, oh, oh!   Cantare oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!

Friday, 9 March 2018

Goat handling and fast cows

We went to Hamilton Show last weekend.  An agricultural show.  A real one.  Not the one that says it's an agricultural show and has to ship in livestock from over 300 kms away in order to charge you $37 for an adult and $22 for a child just to walk through the gate.  This show is about the local community and local animals i.e., from nearby.  Whether they be for grazing, eating, jumping or rounding up, Hamilton Show did a fantastic job representing them all.  Me, having come from an upbringing in the suburbs, the thought of growing up in a community that supported young women in sheep shearing championships and mustering on horseback is as far removed from this goat in the photo to a Kardashian.  This goat, whom I suspect deserves his ribbon better than anybody with a Kardashian surname for that matter was grumpy and not keen to be in the spot light.  The girl was commended for her handling and will no doubt be grateful for those skills in later life.  The women on horseback that could chase down a young cow (see I don't even know the correct term for young cow...) and young fast cow too, was simply amazing to watch.  Such control of the horse, these women were truly inspiring.  The food was either the standard orange variety i.e., some unrecognizable object dipped in batter and deep fried until orange, or you could queue up for the local guys BBQ with steak sandwiches, lamb in pitta bread for the vegetarians and a tasting platter with a few bits and pieces.  Included in the bits were some slices of a smoked lamb that was so tender you barely had to chew it, some cold smoked salmon and someone had done some pickled cucumber that had long forsaken its title of gherkin.  All good stuff.  So if you get the chance to support your local agricultural shows, go along.  We enjoyed our day and even managed to get home without purchasing a goat.  Came close though.  Phew.  Our trees are only just recovering from the last two, who would never win best in class. Unless there was a category for escape strategies.  Prize winners.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

My sanctimonious apples

When you go to the supermarket, it's ok to judge people.  Well that's what I tell myself when I'm waiting in line at the checkout.  And no I never self serve, because that's their job not mine.  And unless they want to pay me as per their enterprise agreement to scan items like other employees - ain't going to happen.  Note, rant ended.  Almost.  In the checkout queue I can almost hear myself tut tutting (I'm getting so old) as the person in front unloads large bottles of soft drinks, shiny packets of 'snacks' as they love to call them now and countless other pre-packaged stuff that is as nutritious as the sole of your shoe.  Less actually.  At least that contains real dirt.  Currently I'm being pelted by apples from my driveway apple tree as I walk past.  This tree having predated my arrival has produced an abundant crop without much attention or intervention by me at all, it's sad to see people relying on pretend food when it literally grows on trees.  My home grown apples don't get stored in a warehouse, or sprayed by toxic gas to prolong shelf life, and in fact won't actually come into contact with a shelf at all.  It won't be slapped with a sticky label, particularly because I don't even know what variety it is...Pippin Something would be sticker if it had one.  But when you are in Tasmania, you have apple trees.  And when you have apples.  You have pie.  My pastry making skills are not good, but I'm not a fan of the frozen stuff, being judgemental of myself here.  So I battle the pastry gods and put together something to use up some of my apples.  There is something purely sanctimonious about cooking with your own produce.  You just get this warm smugness that comes from something grown and picked from your own backyard as opposed to something that's been a barcode on supply chain.  No judgement.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Toast friendly

Everyone deserves a night away.  A night away from responsibilities.  Well, away from most of them anyway.  Hawley House being pet friendly up at Hawley Beach gave us an opportunity to enjoy such much needed time away from pulling weeds, putting up fences, cleaning and baking.  Having three apple trees is marvellous until they all ripen at once.  The dreaded coddling moth has worked its way through my apples as Peter Cundall stated that they eat from one side of the fruit right through to the other then fall on the ground.  Rather than use my apples as a drive through, I'm keen to get to them before the restaurant opens.  But back to Hawley House. Set on a 150 acres this old rambling property is a private bed and breakfast home with welcoming dogs and people.  'Shadow' an ageing German Shepherd checked us in, giving our Cocker Spaniel a good sniffing over at the same time.  Bennie has limited time for social skills and will rush up to the nearest dog, introduce himself and then move onto the next one and then continue on his scented path.  It's pretty much, 'Hi, I'm Bennie, Best In Class....Hi, I'm Bennie Best in Class, see ya'.
Hawley House provides plenty of wetlands for birds and whilst they are pretty relaxed about most things, well behaved dogs are expected.  We sat outside on the verandah for breakfast (where this photo was taken) and enjoyed this gorgeous morning. Whilst the toast was cooking in the dining room I sat in the sun with Bennie when a young girl came up to him and gave him a pat.  Always the opportunist, Bennie licked the child, wagged his tail and took off towards the dining room with me thinking he was secured to the leg of the table.  In amongst the dining guests, Bennie races up to the toaster, on back legs puts his paws on the plate where the toast is and wags his tail.  Oops.  Not meant to be in there.  A few looks of disgust from fellow guests as I race in and drag him out by the lead to wait for his toast there.  So much for best in class.

Friday, 9 February 2018

The Forensic Guinea Fowl

Guinea Fowl are strange looking creatures.  We have four of them.  Two in this lighter grey colour and two that are a more deep bluey grey (very on trend you know!!).  Their heads look like they've been dipped in a bucket of white paint and they have bright pink wobbly attachments underneath.  We don't know if they are male or female as they all look identical so we don't ask any question as they go about their daily business.  We expected that the four fowls would stick together and form a posse of snake protection around our property.  They're amazing to watch as they walk around the perimeters, heads downward, forensically examining every blade of grass and patch of dirt.  If they find something of interest then all hell breaks out and the screaming goes on and on.  It's the sound of someone jumping up and down on a rusty trampoline, great!!  The excitement is usually not much more than a garden hose or something that's been relocated or anything new.  One of the four has decided she's a hen and hangs with the main chook crowd all lead by our main rooster Lewis (formerly known as Lulu until he started to crow).  The other chooks don't seem to mind and are now at the point of accepting anyone a bit odd looking into the fold.  We've got a few of those.  Our neighbours Isa Brown chooks, being the standard, fast laying (short living) battery hen of choice chicken have all but been bred out by our wandering Bantam, Wyandotte, Polish breeds and misfits.  Now  I see their coup filled with bright colours and feathered legs.  I'm just wondering if it's only a matter of time until we see some white painted heads over the fence as well.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Can you keep that noise down, someone is trying to sleep

Not a good start to the day.  Two huntsman spiders in the bedroom.  Count them.  TWO.  I detest these things at the best of times but to sneak in the open window during the night through the tiny space between the fly screen and the window, well that's just un-Australian.  Particularly when you've paid a small fortune for fumigation.  Max (pictured) is no deterrent for these unruly stick invaders. The best he can do is remove one of their legs and wonder why they don't want to play any more.  Max's hunting skills are somewhat lacking.  He loses interest in most crawling things pretty quick and prefers to spend his time embedded in a Laura Ashley blanket.  The chooks are the masters when it comes to tracking down insects.  They can spot a creepy crawly from a great distance.  Could have done with them in the room last night but the crowing thing at the end of the bed would be a problem.  Animals never fail to entertain around here.  Every morning a well loved Ute drives past with two kelpie dogs tied up in the back.  Every morning they both bark and bark with tails wagging as they go past.  And then in the evening I hear them on return still barking, tails still wagging.  I always imagine they are saying "We're off now, we're off to work..." and then "We're back now, we're back..".  Hilarious. I don't suppose they are calling out to Max.  He's busy anyhow.