Monday, August 10, 2015

A bird's eye view

Our neighbours are fantastic property photographers and run the Tasmanian franchise of Open2View, a nationwide real estate photography and marketing network. Shortly after we moved here, they acquired a telescopic pole on a trailer that they would tow to client properties to take elevated shots of the property. Now, technology has moved on and it's all about drones. The photos they can take are amazing. During last week's snow, our neighbours drove past our home just as the sun came out and flew the drone to take some photos for us. How nice is that! I just love the photos.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The logistical challenges of snow

Our minds last week were preoccupied with snow logistics. How to reverse out of the garage without sliding sideways down the driveway, for example. Or if we got out and down the road, how would we get back? Would Vinces Saddle (the highest point of the highway between Hobart and the Huon Valley) be closed or have black ice? Maybe we could walk down the hill and get a lift or catch the bus? Who gets to take the 4WD?

I am certain that the people I mentioned this to thought we were pathetic mainlanders* or just making it up. It last snowed a few days ago and down in the valley life has returned to normal. It has been sunny and warm(er). But up here, very little of the snow has melted. Instead, overnight frosts and sub-zero temperatures have turned it into hard, slippery blocks of ice.

So this afternoon I drove the two-wheel drive car back from Hobart in the glorious winter sunshine. As I came over the last hill, there was our place, still completely white! I stopped the car in the driveway and David made a couple of attempts to get the car in the garage for me, but the ice was too slippery. We parked the car and started to unload the shopping, when the car started moving! It slid backwards down the driveway to its current resting place in front of the water tank. There it will have to stay until the ice melts.

I think our caution and conservatism on snowy roads is a good thing. As I ventured into Hobart on Wednesday afternoon, only a few hundred metres down our road we encountered a woman in a two-wheel drive Camry who had slid backwards into a ditch and was unable to get out. What was she thinking? And to all those people whinging about the road to Mt Wellington being closed at Fern Tree - get out and walk if you'd like to see snow. It will be safer for you and your family.

* A term used by Tasmanians to refer to Australians who live on the 'north island' :-)

Hobart morning walks

I needed to be in Hobart early on Thursday and Friday this week, and as I wasn't confident I would be able to get there with the snow and ice on the roads, I stayed in town for two nights. One thing I do like about city living is the early morning walk or run. At dawn, before the influx of office workers. The main difference between walking or running in the city and where I live is pavement. It's harder on the legs, but it makes weather irrelevant. There's no snow, mud, darkness or frost to deter me from getting up to go outside.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The big snow

Our friend Ursi from Switzerland arrived on Saturday afternoon to stay for a couple of days, and today we have about 20cm of snow, the most we have seen since we moved to Tasmania. Even Hobart and Kingston Beach have had a good dusting today. The ABC TV news bulletin is saying the snow is down to the lowest levels since 2005. It might not make the news in Switzerland, but it does here. Ursi was supposed to fly back to Sydney this afternoon, but some of the roads between here and Hobart are closed. So we moved the flight and instead we're spending the day playing with the dogs in the lovely, powdery white stuff and thawing out by the fire. It will be a cosy evening ahead, with chicken, potato and saffron soup and perhaps a glass of red or two.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The interloper

I never envisaged spending late afternoons standing guard at the chook shed door, chasing away pademelons so the birds can go inside to roost. There is one particular offender:

As darkness falls he hops out of the bush and makes a beeline for the shed, where he knows he will find leftover grain and other tasty treats. If I get there any later, he has invited some friends. He is very persistent. If I shoo him out, he simply hops around in a circle and attempts to re-enter the shed. But they are so cute, it's hard to be annoyed.

One of these things is not like the other ones:

As one of my friends commented, this ain't New York! Here at the other end of the earth, I feel so privileged to share our home with so many wonderful, entertaining creatures.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Independence Day in NYC

At 3am on the fourth of July for the past 19 years, lawyer and historian James S. Kaplan has led a walking tour of lower Manhattan, explaining New York's role in the American revolutionary war. He calls it his 'personal fight against historical ignorance'. When I realised I was going to be landing in New York late on the third of July, I stumbled across an event listing for this tour in the Time Out guide and thought "why not"? It's unlikely I will be in the US on this important day again. My knowledge of American history is pretty poor and I was keen to know more. So I booked my $20 ticket online, and after only three hours sleep, hopped in a cab from my hotel down to City Hall to join around 40-50 other people strolling behind James with his megaphone along the empty city streets in the early hours.

Promoted by the Fraunces Tavern Museum, the walking tour passes historical sites of significance in and around what is now the financial district. Many people know about the role that Boston and Philadelphia played in the war for American independence, but relatively few have heard the fascinating tales of what happened in New York. The tour concluded at 7am by laying wreaths on the graves of revolutionary war heroes Alexander Hamilton, Marinus Willett and Horatio Gates, in the Trinity Church Graveyard. Then back to my hotel to sleep for a few hours, so I could enjoy the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks later on.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Craft distilling in NYC

When I travel, I like to ask people what they know about Tasmania. Five years ago, Taz the Tasmanian devil from the Looney Tunes cartoon was the best most people in the US could come up with. On my most recent visit this month, it was a different story. Yes, Taz came up, but so did Richard Flanagan and his Man Booker prize winning novel, convict history, the film The Hunter, world-class hiking and pinot noir. I even met a couple of people who between them could name three of Tasmania's award wining whisky distillers... OK, I met those people at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, so that might be expected.

Kings County is one of a new breed of urban distillers. They make bourbon, moonshine and a few other small batch spirits from a historic building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and bill themselves as New York's oldest distiller... since prohibition that is. They've been operating since 2010. On Saturdays, you can tour the distillery and learn about the history and process of distilling from corn and malted barley and sample some of the end product, aged in American oak. There's a sunny 'whiskey garden' with pop up food providers in summer. I tried a brandy distilled from a 'dud' batch of wine from a local producer. It was delicious. They even have a super friendly distillery cat.