Friday, April 17, 2015

Mourning the loss of another beautiful hen

I lost another poor girl to a grey goshawk today and feel very sad about it. There was squawking from the direction of the chook shed and I looked out the window to see something white in the driveway... oh no. By the time I ran downstairs and down the driveway, it was too late. The goshawk flew off, but the hen was dead. Now I'll need to keep the chooks locked up in their yard, as no doubt the bird will return tomorrow. Nature sucks sometimes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Drink your way around Tasmania

... without leaving the centre of Hobart.

The lovely old Gasworks building, next to the bottleshop on the corner of Macquarie and Davey Streets in Hobart, has been converted into a cellar door. For a very reasonable price per person, you can have a tasting of beautiful Tasmanian wines, including some rarities. Each room on the ground floor represents a different region of Tasmania, with a wall map and information and display cases of wines from the area. You start in the north of Tasmania, tasting wines from the north west,
the Tamar and Pipers River area, then move to the East Coast and finally the south, including the Coal River and Huon Valley regions. I went there for a small industry Christmas function, and would highly recommend it if you have interstate or overseas visitors or even if you are just keen to learn more about Tasmanian wine.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Creature comforts

As she approaches nine years old, Bärli is starting to slow down. The downside to owning any large breed of dog is that they don't live nearly long enough, and most Bernese Mountain Dogs live at best 10-12 years, with exceptions at both ends of that of course. We are lucky that B has been extremely healthy so we're hopeful we will have her for some time yet. But she has started to tire more easily on walks and her attitude has changed from willing-to-please to all-in-my-own-good-time. If I get up to let the dogs out in the morning and it's dark, Bärli just lies there and thumps her tail, refusing to go out, and no amount of tugging on her collar will shift her 55 kilo frame from the mat. While I'm working, she waits until I'm on the phone before relocating from the wooden floor under my desk to the soft carpet in the stairway. When told to sit for dinner, her rear-end never quite makes it to the ground. Mostly, she prefers to relax on the lounge, and instead of asking permission to get up she now just climbs up whenever the opportunity is presented. She might not be the smartest dog around, but she's sure not silly. Just indolent.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter bunny

Along with the hordes of pademelons and wallabies in our front paddock every night, recently we've had more intruders of the feral and fluffy-tailed variety - rabbits. We see them bolting across the driveway as we turn in at night and they leave tell-tale little piles of evidence on patches of bare ground. They are also venturing into the yard, so we decided to try to reduce the population of non-native animal visitors.

He was a day late, but this little guy was in the trap when we got up this Easter Monday morning. I feel half-inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on River Cottage last week to try cooking them (don't mind a bit of rabbit stew) but in the end we did not eat this one. Maybe the next unfortunate bunny who walks into the trap will make it to the pot.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The perfect food for a Tasmanian winter

Given my love of German food, I was excited to find a store in Hobart called Wursthaus Kitchen not long after we moved to Tasmania. Then disappointed to find that other than bratwurst, they didn't actually stock any German foods. They have a lovely range of Italian and French foods and a good selection of local Tasmanian fare too. But the name was definitely misleading.

Then last week I spotted an article in the paper about German chef Rainer Oberdieck who moved to Hobart with his Tasmanian wife, and a classic German cooking class he was holding at the Wursthaus. The story mentioned Rheinischer Sauerbraten and I was sold. I rang the store first thing Monday and booked in.

We made a traditional apple strudel with vanilla custard, pork knuckles (Schweinshaxe), goulash, the sweet-and-sour roast silverside called Sauerbraten and Bavarian bread dumplings (Semmelknodel) which are a great way to use up old bread rolls and perfect for mopping up sauce or gravy. We then sampled a little of each, accompanied by red cabbage and a selection of German beers from Weihenstephaner. For some of these dishes, it was a case of "here's one I prepared earlier" because they take hours, or in the case of Sauerbraten, days to make. I came home with a booklet of recipes and new confidence to make more of the food I love.
I can't help but think that people who find German food bland have only sampled Schnitzel with mashed potato from a chain restaurant. Although Rainer said he has had to adjust his cooking in Tasmania for local tastes and the availability of ingredients, all of these dishes are well spiced, tender and extremely tasty. To test out what I'd learned, last night we had a few friends over for a giant pot of goulash and some bread dumplings. I am happy to report that everyone found it as tasty as I did . Now I just need to source the cut of beef I need to make that Sauerbraten. Lecker.

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.