Ramblings from Nature

Today it has been extremely warm and sunny, so I took a stroll around the vineyard.  It was evident that spring had arrived in full force.   People say it’s cold here and it certainly was in the winter, but the spring is amazing, I can sit out in the sun with a warm gentle breeze brushing against my face and it just feels comfortable.  Sure it is not as hot as Sydney, but who wants to spend their time sitting in air conditioned rooms hiding from the searing heat when you could be out enjoying warm sun and fresh air?

I strolled around , up and down the rows of vines admiring how quickly the vines changed from looking boring brown  and dormant to a vibrant green and so full of life, as if the leaves burst out from almost nowhere in just a few short days.  After a while I found a spot among the rows where I could sit hidden among the leafy vines and survey the peaceful surrounds, breathe in the fresh air and admire the miracle of Mother Nature.

In the city my mind was constantly buzzing with everything that needed to be done, every place I needed to be, the constant traffic noise, and the struggle to drive even a short distance without having to allow an hour to get somewhere.     Now I stare across the valley at the green grass covered hills, separated by a road where occasionally a car drives by producing a slight hum before the sounds of nature once again take over.   I wonder how long it will take before the urban sprawl spreads this far.

In the short time we have been here I have seen Hobart spread taking in what was once a small town called Cambridge.    Every time I pass through the town I see a new home which has just been completed and already a new family has moved in even though the new subdivision hasn’t yet been completed

Currently there is still a 10km stretch of road between Cambridge and Richmond where we reside,  that still has a number of vineyards,  farms, cheese and artisan chocolate outlets,  however there are council murmurings that it may be prime land to subdivide.  There is no doubt that that these rolling hills will soon be covered with new homes.

I take a deep breath of clean fresh air close my eyes and contemplate the noises around me, birds singing, and the distinctive sound of the heavy wings of the lapwing plover that flies overhead on its way to its nest nearby.    It has had a new born chick hatch recently; I have watched this little bird family grow from early spring when the male bird started swooping me in an attempt to dissuade me from visiting his nesting area.  Now that his young one is more mobile he seems to more accepting of my regular presence.

A fat yellow bumblebee flies past my face making me contemplate how different the wildlife is in this part of Australia compared to Sydney.    I have never seen a bumble bee on the mainland I thought they only existed in New Zealand yet here they are in this magnificent piece of Australia.  Such a beautiful rounded bee, although a bit too fond of the smell of my sunscreen for my liking as he keeps trying to land on my face.

In the distance I hear the children’s voices being carried on the breeze; they love this place so much even S has taken to playing outdoors in a way I could never have imagined just a few short months ago.   She is often up a tree or swinging on a rope.   When I first arrived here I was concerned that the school curriculum was lagging behind NSW, but after being here for a while and watching the way children play when they are bored I realized that they actually are more developed than their Sydney counterparts.  As long as students know the how to read write and do maths they can do amazing things when they are allowed to just go and create and find their own solutions to problems.

They have no homework here and given that there is actually no scientific evidence to prove homework makes a difference I am glad, S has so much extra time to hang out in the garden working out for herself how to create a rope swing strong enough to carry her through her acrobatics.  She has also created a rain gauge and an anemometer – this for the girl that claims she is not interested in science

I wonder where this great obsession of forcing kids into prescriptive learning for hours and hours a day including weekends and public holidays actually came from.   While at the same time the Department of Education and the Government are concerned about how Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of innovation.   My question is when they have got time to create and innovate if they are continually bombarded with homework and extra tutoring to keep them constantly busy?

I digress from discussion about how amazing it is to be out in nature, all I want to say is spend time looking at the natural world around you.  Find a nice spot outside; mindfully listen to the birds and the sounds around you, clear your head of the chatter and you never know what great ideas will come to you.

And so it is.

The Wicked Cheese Company – Wicked By Name Wicked By Nature

What better way to start a Saturday morning than drinking coffee and eating cheese?  It just sets you up for an awesome weekend, so we took a drive to one of our favourite places– Wicked Cheese Company, Richmond Tasmania.

The Wicked Cheese Company  is a family owned boutique cheese factory near Richmond,  where you can purchase cheese that is made on the premises as well as a number of other locally produced delights such as olive oil, chocolate, locally brewed wines and spirits, jams, honey, dukkha and so much more.   One half of the shop is the retail space while the other half is a café where you sample some of Tasmania’s finest food.   We have visited the shop several times since arriving in Tasmania but we had never tried the café.

The owners are clearly music fans.  The wall of the cafe are lined with an eclectic mix of rock memorabilia, mostly Beetles.  We sat at a glass topped table decorated with poster art from various classical musicals such as The Sound of Music, and What’s New Pussycat?  An interesting theme for a cheese shop I thought.

The menu has a range of light meals from soups to bread and cheese platters.  There are also some amazing cakes and desserts, and ice-cream.  I am all about the cheese so along with my latte, I chose the cheese platter with a selection of mini toasts and water crackers.   The platter included a delicately light blue vein cheese, an aged cheddar and creamiest brie you could imagine (I was not surprised to find out that it was an award winning brie).

My cheese platter half eaten before I took a photo.

Paul decided it was a dessert morning for him so he chose a warm chocolate cake covered in warm chocolate sauce.   According to Paul this moreish cake was so light and fluffy that he felt satisfied with out that weighed down feeling that sometimes follows over indulgence.

 

 

The kids chose rainbow ice cream in a waffle cone.   J allowed me

Ice cream as it should be

to sample some of his in return for a large chunk of my blue vein cheese and it was a pretty good swap.  The ice cream was exactly how all ice-cream should be full of flavour and extremely creamy.

After a delicious morning tea it was time to venture back through the cheese shop to get a selection of cheese (and chocolate of course) to take with us.

The Wicked Cheese Factory is on the Richmond Rd which is the main route from Hobart to Richmond Tasmania, and offers free tastings of all their cheeses.    If you are heading to Richmond I recommend a visit!

Now I am off to prepare my afternoon tea –blue cheese and crackers of course!

The Wicked Cheese Co,
1238 Richmond Road,
Richmond TAS 7025

The Vineyard – Vine Management

I thought I should take some time to post about what we are actually doing in Tasmania in case you were wondering if we were just sampling the delicious local food and coffee Richmond has on offer, and enjoying freshly laid eggs, all of which we definitely doing –  but there is more!

Let me set the scene by describing the vineyard.  There are a number of different varieties of grapes on the property but there are 42 X 300m rows of Pinot grapes that are used for the serious (commercial) wine making, so these are the vines we are spending the most time on at the moment.

The main vineyard – At this time of the year the vines are dormant,

At this time of the year the vines are dormant, which means it is time to prune them, and unfortunately they all need to be hand pruned.  That is 12,600m of vines to prune before budburst in spring, not only that – these vines are on a fairly steep incline.   This means for each and every vine, find a leader cane count 10 buds and trim the remainder of the leader cane and tie it down.

Prior to pruning the vine has empty canes. The leaves and grapes have now gone for the season.

Then remove all the remaining canes, the canes then need to be collected and disposed of to reduce the likelihood of disease throughout the vineyard and so we don’t flip the ride on lawn mower as we go through the vinetyard.

Pruned vine. Once pruned the vines are left with just one cane, the remaining canes are removed.

Currently Paul is doing most of the pruning while I come behind him and clean up the canes.   The canes from the end of the rows go straight in the trailer and taken away to another part of the property where eventually they will be incinerated.

Me cutting the vines enough so the sit on the trailer flat.

However the rows are very close together, too close to take the trailer down, so I cut the canes up small and pile them into the drum.   As you may imagine dragging a metal barrel full of vines up to 150m on uneven ground uphill then dragging it back again when it is empty is not easy.   So now I take pockets full of matches and paper and set the canes alight once the drum is full.

Setting the canes alight. Who doesn’t love a good fire?

The kids "helping."

I use the terms helping very loosely

The kids help whenever we make them by taking some of the canes at the end of the rows and putting them straight on the trailer.

We are trying to do an hour or two each day during the week and 5-6 hours each day in the weekend.  We are over halfway through the main block which means as long as the weather remains kind to us we should finish by spring.   As for the other blocks we are just going to have to do the best we can!

 

The Sensory – Unique Gifts and Unique Smells

I admit it, yes it was the sign out the front of The Sensory stating that it was agent for Anvers Chocolate that drew me into this shop to begin with, however upon entering I found there was so much more to experience inside.

Tasmania is a beautiful part of Australia that is largely untouched by big business and pollution.   There are some distinctive smells of nature that many tourists may wish they could bottle for ever.   Well some smart scientists have done just that and created a unique aromatic experience for visitors.

Unfortunately they have not created bottles of scent for tourists to take away yet but they have created three sensory domes in store to allow visitors minds to be transported aromatically back to relive a bit of the wild.  The sensory domes are clear plastic domes in which visitors can put their head and allow unique southwest Tasmanian aromas such as Tasmanian devil, Tasmanian rainforests and Leatherwood flowers, to gently permeate their nostrils.

The Sensory is also prides itself on being a retailer that promotes locally made products.   They are a southern outlet for Bridestowe Lavender which means you have the opportunity to pick up some amazing Lavender gifts such as Lavender soaps and oils and even florally cards.  They also have an eclectic range of handmade jewellery and locally knitted jumpers.

If good quality tasty food is your thing there is an amazing range of locally produced honey for you to try, each with its own unique taste.   The flavours are richer and more intense than anything you can buy in the supermarket.   Some had a very strong floral taste, some almost caramel while others had a rich and creamy finish.   Then of course there is the chocolate.


This photo of The Sensory Tasmania is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The chocolate is all handmade from the finest ingredients, they are so confident that you will love them they offer free chocolate for tasting.    As predicted I did not leave empty handed, we bought a selection of handmade chocolates from the case mostly fruity ones and a few chilli ones.   We also bought a bag of what they called ‘bark’ which are sheets of chocolate with various toppings.  I can definitely recommend these.

The Sensory is truly a feast for your senses I highly recommend a visit when you are in Richmond Tasmania.

Ok now it is really cold!

Today’s blog is more about photos than words.  You see up until recently I thought sure Tasmania is colder than Sydney, but really it is not too bad.      We have had a few mild frosts but then I spent many years in a place called Taumarunui, a small town in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island, where every winter morning we were greeted with fog as thick as pea soup, icy roads and frost the crunched under my feet.    So I was quite disappointed by the mild frosts put on for me in Richmond Tasmania that was until …..

The  kids were slow getting ready for school this morning and as we were rushing out the door I had to deal with this.

 

 

Our land was blanketed white; however the sun on the hills opposite gave us hope for cracking weather ahead.

The trees were not immune to Jack Frosts touch

Nor was the trampoline

 

It all burned off by 11am to a beautiful day.

I Have Found My New Coffee and Food Utopia

I think I am in food heaven….

Richmond in Tasmania is a quaint little town with a total population of 880, it is 20mins drive from the nearest Coles or Woolies and you could stroll from one end of town to the other in less than 10 minutes but when it comes to good food Richmond offers cuisine to rival any upmarket city restaurant, as we found out when we visited Czegs, a quaint little café in the middle of town, for a bite to eat on a cold wintry afternoon.

Dont be fooled by the quiet exterior Czegs Cafe is buzzing inside.

Despite the quietness of the street outside Czegs café was absolutely buzzing with people inside.    We found a table by the roaring fireplace and sat for a moment staring in wonder at the eclectic collections of silver tea services and fine china cups displayed in the cabinets, around the room.  S immediately spotted the old children’s novels that lined the shelves around the fireplace, and wanted to pick them up and read them immediately.   I would have liked to flick through them myself but fear of the ancient yellowing pages disintegrating into dust between my fingertips was enough to curb that impulse.

After soaking in the ambience it was time to order.  The moment I spotted

There are no words for this seafood chowder from Czegs

the seafood chowder I became blind to the rest of the menu and as soon as it arrived I knew I was not going suffer food envy today.    There are no words in my vocabulary to describe this creamy little bowl of heaven, filled with large chunks of fish, huge prawns, and mussels.

Paul chose the pork belly with the crispiest crackling ever.  When I asked him if he enjoyed it he replied “there is nothing left on my plate is there?”

There is no separate children’s menu but that did not worry our kids with J choosing the croque monsieur, yes I know that is a ham and cheese toasted sandwich but that did not stop him squealing with delight as sumptuous gruyere cheese ran down his chin.  S went with salmon on Turkish bread and did not allow the adult size portion stop her from polishing off everything on her plate.

All this delightful food was washed down with freshly squeezed juices for the kids and the most amazing café latte and cappuccinos we have had in recent memory, I am pretty sure this is going to become my regular morning coffee stop after school drop off.

 

A new two story nesting box for the girls

Too many chickens too few places to lay?

We thought that perhaps one of the reasons curly became egg bound was lack of nesting boxes (there were three boxes for 11 chickens) so Paul decided to build some more so that the girls didn’t have to fight over them.   Out the back of our property is a pile of wood planks.   Paul thought some of these would be perfect to create a two story nesting box.

After much measuring, cutting and hammering, a new if slightly rough looking two story nesting box hotel was born.   The intention was to provide 8 new nesting boxes – four  on the top floor and four on the lower floor.  After moving it into the coop we filled it with shredded paper, and for good measure the kids decided to pick up the chooks and put them in their new nesting boxes to see if they liked them.

It turns out the chickens love it, well the last two nesting boxes at the end of the lower floor, which is where they all seem to lay their eggs.   The other spaces and the old nest boxes remain unused.

I did a little research on the matter and found that it is not uncommon for chickens to want to use the same nesting box according to this forum from backyard chickens.

Perhaps Paul didn’t need to build the extra nesting boxes or perhaps the hens will use them in the summer when they are likely to lay more often.  In the meantime at least the girls are happy with two of the nesting boxes.

Fresh Tasmanian Produce Pizza Night

Tasmania is a foodie paradise.   There are so many fresh food farmers markets on the weekends it is so easy to find delicious produce recently picked ready to eat.  After shopping at Farm Gate market in Hobart where we picked up some locally made cheese, spinach, and other fruit and veges it seemed appropriate to make something delicious for dinner.  As luck would have it we also have an outdoor wood fired pizza oven on the property so it seemed family pizza night was a no brainer.

The secret to encouraging children to eat is to get them to design their own pizza and they were all so amazingly delicious I decided to share the recipes.

Pizza Base

We started by making the bases using a simple premix packet, and we allowed the bread maker to do all the heavy mixing and kneading, then we placed them into pizza pans and left them for three hours to rise.

Once the bases has risen sufficiently, we precooked them in the oven for 10 minutes at 100 degrees celsius, because in the past we have found the pizza oven cooks the toppings much faster than the bases.  Once cooked slightly I coated mine, J and S pizzas with garlic oil and tomato ( we just used a jar of Bolognese sauce), and from there everyone took responsibility for their own pizza.

Pizza Toppings

Sara’s Smoked Salmon and Brie Delight

  • Fresh spinach leaves spread across the base

    Smoked Salmon and Brie Pizza

  • A generous amount of hand ripped smoked salmon slices.
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Huge chunks of Coal River Cheese Company brie
  • Half a handful of cheddar cheese scattered over the top

Place in the pizza oven until the brie has melted.  Bite into it and wait for the taste bud party.

 

A ‘Lil Bit of Everything

S was inspired by the half and half pizzas for those who want a bit of everything and cannot make up their mind.

  • 1 handful of cheddar cheese sprinkled over the base

    A Lil bit of everything Pizza

  • ¼ red capsicum diced into tiny pieces
  • Fresh spinach and rocket
  • Thinly sliced mushrooms
  • One piece of smoked salmon roughly ripped and spread over half pizza
  • 1 piece Parma ham ripped and spread over the other half of the pizza

Place in pizza oven until the cheese has melted.

J Random Things Pizza

J was inspired by his appetite and lack of interest in green vegetables.

A handful of grated cheddar cheese spread where ever

Smoked salmon ripped and spread leaving quarter of the pizza exposed

Two slices of mushroom to place in the empty corner where there is no cheese or salmon.

Place in pizza oven until the cheese has melted.

 Pauls No Cheese Option

Paul’s creation was inspired by the notion that if you avoid cheese you can eat as much ice cream and chocolate as you want without any health problems. His base was covered with barbecue sauce and topped with

  • Fresh spinach and rocket

    Pauls No Cheese Option

  • 3 slices of Parma ham
  • Red onion

Cook until it looks ready.

As a family choose a movie on Netflix and enjoy your pizza in front of the TV.  Follow it up with white chocolate bark from The Sensory in Richmond Tasmania.

A Huge Milestone Nearly Slips By

J started big school today.   It should have been a relaxing day when mama paparazzi could have taken lots of pictures, then walked him into his class said goodbye and gone home to worry about how he is doing and contemplating how fast his childhood is slipping away… In reality the morning was spent screaming at his big sister to get moving then spending hours trying to comb a tennis ball sized (and shaped) knot out of her hair that she had cultivated over her three and a half weeks off school…

I have been contemplating childhood today and how we have so much time to spend with our first born versus subsequent children.  Well I only have two – just as well really because I would hate to think how I would cope.    It seemed I had all the time in the world when S was born.  I would stroll around the streets of an afternoon with a dreamy smile on my face pushing my beautiful new-born daughter in her pram contemplating how amazing women’s bodies are to be able to create such a beautiful little thing.    Other cooing parents would stop, stare into the pram and comment on how gorgeous she is.     Poor J, the only strolling I ever did with him is a hurried walk up to the school grounds to drop of his older sister then rushed home to clean up the kitchen before the next feed  a nap and then back in his pram for another brisk walk up the road to pick her up.  No time for cooing strangers.

Now here we are nearly five years later and after spending his formative years tagging along while we dropped his sister at school or watched her assembly performances or took her to drama, it strikes me, he got no quiet time with his mum to contemplate life and ask a million questions like – why is the sky blue?  Why are cats furry?

Today I would have liked to spend a leisurely morning gushing about how handsome J looks in his uniform and taking lots of photos to display proudly on Facebook and on my phone.  Instead  the morning was spent screaming at his sister for letting a tennis ball sized knot grow in the back of her hair over the holidays, while brushing it a little too roughly.  This was promptly followed by screaming at them to hurry up and get in the car as we only have 10 minutes to get to school.

The frost on my car hadn’t time to melt, as we sped along the country lanes, warning alarms on my dashboard sounding, and icicle symbols that I had never seen before lighting up.  Perhaps the car was not supposed to be driven that fast before it had a chance to warm up but hey it’s been a long time since I have had to drive in those conditions.  Thank goodness for country roads and no traffic or traffic lights it turned out we were only about 8 minutes late but not a good way to start at the new school that that was so crowded it had to turn away 17 other families and only just took us out of zone because we were house sitting for another school family who were away overseas.

When I got to the kindy room, the lovely kinder teacher let me take a few hurried pictures of J outside the classroom, unfortunately the sun was in his eyes and he was squinty and distracted.  I felt that I had already intruded on the teacher’s time too much to ask her if I could try few more angles to get a good shot.

A quick squinty photo

The school is amazing and J’s teacher rang me at 11am to tell me that J had seamlessly transitioned into the school routine and was having a good day, just because she knew I was worried that he would be behind all the other children who had started at the beginning of the year and had been drilled on the routine for the last 6 months.

At pick up a happy child came up to tell me he had two Dojo points and had borrowed a book from the school library.    The teacher, who is lovely spent time with me showing me what J had accomplished,  but also gave me a firm reminder of drop off times and could I please get him there earlier in future.

S also had a lovely day despite her teary start and came home happy that she had made a friend to play with at lunchtime and earned a dojo for PE.   They also had school assembly where both S and J were asked to stand up so all the students could say a special welcome.

To top it off I also got a few pictures of them in their uniforms when they got home before they wanted to race off again to climb the tree before dinner.

 

That’s it – We are in Charge! Vineyard and Chicken Farmers

At some ungodly hour this morning Paul drove the vineyard owners to the airport to catch their flight to Germany and now it is up to us to keep the vines alive as well as look after their brood of hens.   How hard can it be….?

Who knew chickens thrive on routine?   Every day it is the same, each morning feed them half a scoop of grain, keep them locked in the coop until about midday, then let them out to scratch around for grubs and other chicken delicacies.  At about dusk (around 4.30pm -5pm), they will come to the back door to demand we bring them our food scraps, we bring out the scraps and they happily follow us back to the safety of their coop for  a delicious dinner, ready  to be locked in for the night.  If it is cold and wet, they usually start congregating from about 3pm ready for an early mark, who can blame them I hate being out and about on a cold wet night as well.

S putting the chickens away

On our first night in the farm house we were late with the scraps, as we had to pick up our cat Thomas from the airport after he had caught an afternoon flight down to Hobart from Sydney.  The chickens had given up on getting our scraps that night and gone back to the coop on their own.   I went over to the coop to count them, it was pitch black inside I only had my mobile phone torch.  The chickens made it especially difficult for me by crowding into one small corner at the end of the coop.  After counting them several times and coming up one short I went hunting for the missing chicken.  I finally found her  huddled at the end other end of the coop on her own in a dark corner.  I thought nothing of it because chicken behaviour is all new to me.  I locked up and went inside.

The next day we let them out at midday as usual, but one stayed behind, the one the kids had named Curly.  She was near the grain tray with her head down and tail up.   The owners had told us before they left there was one hen walking around awkwardly and she may die soon she as she was old.   We picked her up her abdomen was tight; we did some research and thought that she may be egg bound.  We found a wonderful site called Backyard Chickens we followed their instructions and gave her a warm bath.

Curly struggled when we first put her in the bath but then she relaxed and seemed to enjoy it a bit (and who doesn’t feel relaxed in a warm bath?).   She seemed rather perky after her bath and, wandered off for a little snack.  We left her to see if she would lay, she didn’t.    That night she followed the usual routine.

Bathing curly

The next morning when we let the chickens out Curly was head down tail up again.  We gave her another soak and she seemed ok, however when we checked on her later the poor thing had collapsed, this time her tail wasn’t in the air, it looked like her legs had buckled awkwardly underneath her.  We gave her another bath and fed her crushed calcium and magnesium tablets which are supposed to encourage contractions, we also considered trying to lubricate the egg so it could slip out easily.   However the backyard chicken site stated if she is egg bound we should be able to see the top of the egg, which we couldn’t so perhaps we were wrong in our egg bound diagnosis.

Feeding Curly calcium and magnesium

We brought Curly inside and kept her in a cage where she would be safe and warm for the night to see if she would recover, she didn’t.  Curly died peacefully in her sleep that night and was cremated the following morning.  RIP Curly.