Monday, March 30, 2015

Hiking in the Huon

I finally managed to pick up a copy of this lovely little book called Family Bushwalks in Tasmania's Huon Valley. I knew of it because it contains a description of a walk that can be done from our place to the Old Mill, which I stumbled across on a web site while researching our move to Franklin. The book was published 20-odd years ago now and contains a good list of walks in the area as well as basic information about bushwalking in Tasmania, photos, drawings and poems as well.


Despite several attempts, we didn't actually manage to find the Old Mill hidden up in the forestry area until a friend showed us. This was because the "New Road" described in the book was no longer in the same place - forestry roads tend to shift, appear and disappear over the years. However, this morning while out for a run in the semi-dark (daylight saving ends this weekend), I discovered that there is once again a road or forestry spur leading to the Old Mill! The overgrown, wet path lined with man ferns and young myrtle beech trees has been cleared and fresh gravel laid. I feel kind of sad, as it was a pretty section of the walk, but if the nasty gorse patch and the spot strewn with beer cans are gone, it might be a good thing.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

New and improved raised garden beds

The year we arrived in Tasmania, I was keen to start growing food. Unfortunately, most of our topsoil up here on the hill is clay. It's very hard to dig when its wet and even harder when it is dry. And most things don't like growing in it because of poor drainage. So we procured some beautiful old apple crates at $5 each from an orchard down the road, filled them with compost and soil and for almost five years they have worked really well and looked so nice to boot. But now the wood is rotting, and despite some handy fixes from David, the weathered boxes are starting to fall apart. This winter, we planned to replace them.

Then, a couple of weeks back at the Taste of the Huon festival, we spotted Dovetail Timbers with their ingenious lock-together system for building with wood. It turned out we could order the timber in a length that would go around the existing apple crates - perfect! No need to remove them from the possum-free chicken wire enclosure they live in. While we were at it, we ordered a couple of extra beds for stuff that doesn't need possum protection. They are made from Tasmanian hardwood and lined, so we're expecting many years of food production in them. We started installing them today and hope to finish the rest tomorrow. I think they look every bit as beautiful as the old apple crates - see what you think in the pictures below.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dog squad on duty at Taste of the Huon

This year, members of the Huon Valley Dog Walking Association volunteered at the Taste of the Huon for the first time. Dogs are not permitted at the festival, for 'hygiene reasons' it says on the signs at the ticket booths. In previous years there were a few dogs left in hot cars who needed to be broken out by police, perhaps by people who didn't know about the 'no dogs' policy until they got there. So this year we offered to patrol the car parking areas for any dogs in distress. I'm happy to report that there were no such issues this year, although this lovely girl was chained to a fence all day Sunday and we kept returning to disentangle her leg from her chain and make sure she had water.


On Monday afternoon, our group was on the 'clean team', making sure the tables were clean, rubbish was in the bins and the bins were emptied promptly. It was a fun day actually and good exercise! The organisers did a great job and the festival was very busy, with lovely weather, great food and drink and entertainment drawing a record-breaking crowd of 14,000 people on Sunday and almost as many on Monday. On Sunday, David and I got there in time to have lunch. My oysters from Bruny Island, beef pie from Geeveston, Inn Cider from Margate and salted caramel ice cream sandwich were delicious.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rhubarb. Jam.

It's my favourite kind, and thanks to a bumper crop, I made quite a few jars of the stuff this year. David brought home an enormous bag of plums from a customer, so I tried making jam with those too. It was less than successful... so I plan to use it in a jam tart recipe from Matthew Evan's Winter on the Farm book. Speaking of winter... Autumn hit with a vengeance last week, with temperatures at our place plunging to just 4 degrees and snow on Mount Wellington. We lit the fire and put our ugg boots back on. If that was summer, I think it might be over.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Franklin alive

Changes are afoot in our little village and I'm very excited about some of the recent new additions. We will soon have our own choir. Singer/songwriter Tiffany Eckhardt moved here recently with musician husband Dave Steel (formerly of Weddings Parties Anything). Last night she ran the first 'choir practice' in the upstairs supper room of the Palais Theatre. There was a fantastic turnout, men and women, young and old, experienced singers and newbies like me. Not only that, but a yoga studio, River Flow Yoga, has opened up in the beautiful old white stone church right in the middle of town. Owner Charly gave some free 'taster' classes this week to locals and I really enjoyed it. It's been too long between classes for me. These things enrich our community, which already has so much to offer. Exciting times ahead.

Friday, February 27, 2015

St Ayles Skiff Regatta

David and I had a lot of fun as volunteer timers during the St Ayles Skiff Regatta in Franklin over the weekend of 8 and 9 February. There were rowing teams from Franklin, Cygnet, Taroona, New Zealand, as far away as Scotland, and even a team of Iranian refugees from South Australia. They were rowing in a variety of in 1km and 2km women's, men's and mixed races. It was very competitive, tiring and so much fun. It was clear the organisers had put in many months of very hard work to make the weekend run so smoothly.

There were so many highlights - the 'French Connection' team of ladies from Castle Forbes Bay in their striking red berets and navy-and-white striped shirts who just about scooped the pool; and the over 70s men's race, who were up against a 'youth' team of fit young rowing lads... who came last! The old blokes on the other hand were amazing. Hats off to them.

Saturday evening's corporate challenge event of 250 metre races proved very entertaining, with many teams dressing up for the occasion. David's karate class had a team and they looked great in their white uniforms! The day ended with balladeer Hairyman singing of whaling, whores and rum as the light faded over the Huon. We collapsed into bed at the end of the weekend, and we weren't the ones who rowed many kilometers over the weekend.

The St Ayles Skiff movement is an amazing story, starting only in 2009 and now with around 200 community-built boats in various countries. Wonder where the next regatta will be held... I reckon New Zealand will be a likely contender.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What happened to January?

Of the 31 days in January, I only spent six here at home in Tasmania. Unfortunately this meant I missed the summer festivals that Tassie does so well, like MOFO and the Cygnet Folk Festival. It also meant my summer gardening efforts were, well, pretty much zero or wasted. I came back to many kilos of broad beans that had to be picked, blanched and frozen immediately. Loads of snow peas. Tonnes of rhubarb. And after that, pretty much just weeds.

So where were we? I had work meetings in California in mid-January, so we managed to fit in 10 days holiday in San Francisco beforehand. It was my first visit to that lovely city and we stayed in an Airbnb right on the Powell-Hyde cable car line and two blocks from the famous Lombard Street. It was enough time to see almost all we wanted to: the Golden Gate Bridge of course, Sausalito, Alcatraz, a hike on Mt Tamalpais, Walt Disney Family Museum, wine tasting in the Napa Valley, hopping on and off historic cable cars and street cars. Then back home for five days and off to Singapore, again for work, but still managed to squeeze in a few sights. It has been great to be home for a few weeks, even though we were both knocked out by some horrible lurgy picked up on the flight back. So now the end of February is rushing up on us, and we are savouring the beautiful summer days and long evenings.