Sunday, October 30, 2011

Turf War – Where are you Jamie Oliver and Friends?

Let them eat thistles.

Speaking of Food, my undercover spy in Canberra tells me that weeds and wild greens are all the rage there in upmarket restaurants now. This is terrible news. Soon I won’t be able to find a dandelion or a bit of sheep’s sorrel to graze upon. 

What we need is for restaurateurs to offer elegant dishes with things like Cape Weed, Marrum Grass and Ragwort. Thistles wouldn’t be a bad place to start. They are related to globe artichokes and the Scots used to use them on bread.  I have quite a bit of Oxalis I’d like to get rid of too- it even grows on pure gravel, and it has quite a nice tart flavour.
The art of a true chef lies in making the unappetising palatable. Otherwise France would be overrun with snails and sparrows. No one would eat oysters, much less mountain oysters and hats off to whoever thought of marketing things like Chocolate coated ants, locusts and Bogong Moths as delicacies.

Not only are these abundant – enough for all and to spare, but this would serve several socially and environmentally useful purposes. Firstly, they would stop being noxious pets in our wild places and gardens. Secondly, it would provide green employment opportunities in harvesting, cultivation and transport.  We could even start an export industry and here’s where we should begin our experiments in Biofuel.
Lastly, but not leastly, I think there would be enormous satisfaction in getting some overpaid CEO to pay a premium for something like Burdock on a bed of delicately seasoned couch grass while we eat the good stuff. The first person to offer it to Alan Joyce with a straight face (CEO Qantas - just the latest in a long line to award himself a monstrous payrise while others lose their jobs)  will get my vote.

So come on all your Masterchefs. Stop wasting time with threads of saffron that cost a king's ransom and have to be imported, start with the things in our own backyard.  They would certainly be fresh and stop concern about Food Miles.*

And can we please see more rabbits on menus and supermarket offerings?
Cute though they are, they are another pest which is doing much too well.  It’s an excellent light, healthy meat and makes a nice change from beef and lamb or factory -farmed pigs and chickens. It also produces a much smaller carbon footprint or any other sort.
Why should pets have all the gourmet food?

If have one quarrel with the 100 mile food sourcing thing, for most of the year we in Tassie we would be stuck with coleworts of various kinds, potatoes and onions and would all have scurvy, if we don't already.


Apple and Cream Croissantes*

It's Sunday morning. I have just had apple and cream croissantes for breakfast. Not that I planned on it. I just forgot to buy bread yesterday. It rained all day and I was too busy reading my book. Either way they were delicious.

My sons have often asked me how it is that I can just invent recipes.  There are two ways really. This just illustrates the first. There were two lonely croissantes left in the freezer from when my son was here and I already had the stewed apple and the cream. I am convinced that my great reputation in the Food Lovers' Guide rested not so much on my ability cook - I just get bewildered when I have an unlimited range of ingredients, but upon my ability to produce something edible out of whatever is left around the house. This was an indispensible skill in a place where the bus only came two days a week, the roads were often closed by snow and you never knew whether there was going to be a stampede of Morris Minor Owners when you were expecting the three Life Members of the Wine Appreciation Society. Watch out for the forthcoming title "Five Hundred Ways with Two Minute Noodles that you might never have Imagined."

The second way involves cooking or shopping while not wearing your glasses. That is how our very popular hot and spicy Cajun Pumpkin Soup was born. I accidentally used Cajun seasoning instead of nutmeg, and it was too late to start another one. It was a big hit and we made it that way ever after. In the supermarket recently I bought chive and onion cream cheese instead of the usual one and only had fig and walnut bread to eat it with, but that too was a taste sensation. So the second way folks, is never mind the recipe. Just get it wrong and you never know what exciting taste treats might be in store.

While we generally eat and enjoy our mistakes, I wouldn't recommend the scrambled eggs with ham and custard powder.

Bon Appetit!

* Not recommended if you have a cholesterol problem

Do people look like their dogs?

Gentle Charm -Nigel and Seb (Sorry it has taken so long to add this!)

Anonymous, Lower Sandy Bay

Do people really look like their dogs?
I have been testing this theory between master/mistress and four footed companion animal for some time and there do seem to be some similarities. The question is who takes after whom? Do people with a certain style choose a dog which resembles them in some way? Or is it the other way around? What do you think?
When I say look like, I don't necessarily mean appearance, though that is sometimes true too and certainly, neurotic people seem have frantic neurotic dogs and placid people have placid dogs, but more often I am talking about a symbiotic relationship where there are similar mannerisms, character traits or body language -a set of the head or the way they walk.

Stan with Skinny and Sooty at Boomer Bay
Stan's dogs are neat, busy and curious and I imagine he might be too. He did come and ask me what I was doing.
The lady below also has a border collie. When I first saw them, both were looking thoughtfully into the middle distance with exactly the same set of the jaw. Unfortunately, this changed the moment I asked if I could take a picture and they both turned to look at me with the exactly the same expression.

Bliss outside Pigeonhole Cafe

Lower Sandy Bay
I didn't really talk to the two ladies above, other than to ask if I could take their picture, but I imagine that the lady with the black dog is an assertive, go -getting sort of person who knows exactly what she wants and her dog as well.
Her companion looks more diffident, as does her dog. Friendly, cuddly and fluffy. Lil below, and her owner both have a bit of style and attitude and look just a little alike.

Nem and Lil (Lil is on the right) outside the video store.

Will and Sasha -friendly nature and Style

Diva and Rob -  Hey you guys even stand the same way!
Perhaps it's about personality. I always had border collies as a child. They were shaggy, friendly and bouncy and always looked like they were laughing. All three had a bad habit of chasing cars and rounding up sheep. You'll be pleased to know that I have given up chasing cars and rounding up sheep.

I will add more to this series in due course (i.e. when I find the rest of the photos). This will be an ongoing study. Feel free to send in your own classic examples and thanks to all the people who let me take pictures of them and their dogs and to the dogs who let me take pictures of them with their owners.

Meet Daisy, Louise, Lel (Daisy is the one on the right)
They are training for Tasmania's toughest mountain race, the Three Tops, - Mt Claude, Mount Van Dyke and Mount Roland, on Saturday, November 12. Total Distance 19.7 Km.  Wish you luck Girls! Let me know how you got on.

Evelyn and Zar
 I literally lurked outside this shop to see what the owner of this cute pooch would look like and I wasn't disappointed.

No, not Inspector Rex, but Maximillian and  Norton his owner. Both their eyebrows shot up as I flew past, late for an appointment.  Norton agrees that his friends think that he and Maximillian look alike, " Both lean and handsome." I think he said they said. At least they didn't bark.
When I first saw Archie (L) and Olivia (R) they were both running and laughing, blond locks flying
Tex, Jim and Butch (L -R
Loved the hair!
David and Chloe. "Of course I don't look like my dog. She's much prettier!"

John and Duke. Duke is the one in front. You both have a lovely smile!

Yes I know it's a terrible photo, but I couldn't resist this pigeon pair at the service station    That's Zane on the left, holding Polly and Sally is on the right holding Hugo

Friday, October 28, 2011

Get ready! Get set! Let's start a kindness revolution!

While many Australians are gearing up for the Melbourne Cup,* the horse race that makes the nation stand still and the dreariest workplace run a sweep, I’ m gearing up for World Kindness Week which runs from November 7th to November 13th this year culminating with  World Kindness Day on November  
How dare they call racing a sport and spend so much of our taxes on it, while closing hospital beds!

The idea is to do unexpected things for strangers - nice things. Things like paying for someone’s coffee in a cafĂ© or someone’s groceries at the supermarket, putting money in someone’s parking meter before it runs out or mowing someone else’s lawn. Some of the more original ideas are to make up packs of toiletries for the homeless or driving an elderly person to the shops. They don’t always have to cost money. Just reading to someone or helping out at an animal shelter will also make the world a nicer place.
For lots of ideas check out
or its Aussie offshoot:
both of which have loads of suggestions – some of them pretty obvious, for things you can do.
Oh yes, and you could just bloody smile and say “Hello” to strangers, though pick your targets carefully. Some people may take it the wrong way.

It is the perfect antidote to the over corporatisation of our lives where everything revolves around the cash nexus and we are merely supposed to be atomised consumers “maximising our self -interest” as economic rationalists would have us be.   If you want to know how good it is for you, check out the scientific studies of happiness at
Yep,  it could be a case of maximising our self interest, but hey, I think it is just fun.
But why stop at one week? If we want to make kinder more caring communities and or lead more fulfilling lives we could take the pledge at
Although this site is essentially geared to Americans, I see no reason not to make the ideas global or at least Australian.
Ripple Effects has some free cards and some nice ideas, though I am not so keen on cards that make it seem like I am advertising their printing service. Anonymous would be better. Nor am I so keen on pushing the spiritual growth idea. Let people simply enjoy the thrill of making others smile. That will be satisfying enough and create sufficient contagion.

This is from their website:

DID YOU KNOW: It is said that if you perform two acts of kindness a day, and the recipients
of that kindness go on to perform two acts of their own, more than a thousand act of kindness
can been shared in just 10 days. But if each of those same people shared five acts instead of two,
more than 19 million acts of kindness could be shared in just 10 days!

Just in case you think I am all talk and no action, I am on my way to the blood bank now. I think this is a wonderful service. The situation is positively tragic in countries which do not have this. I have been paid for blood in Greece, while people desperate to obtain life saving blood for their relatives outbid each other in the corridors. I have also been on the receiving end. Even in supposedly enlightened places like Germany, you still have to pay an arm and a leg for a transfusion as my mother found out in 1975, after being a donor here for 20 years. 

So go on and DO IT NOW!

Two hours later......

Done! And I do feel good about myself. Things haven't changed much since I used to do it, except that they don't send a car for you any more. They do however, make excellent chocolate milk shakes, which they didn't have before. If you don't want to do it for noble and altruistic reasons, do it for the milk shake. The recipient won't mind.

Alas, my organic, free range, Fair Trade coffee experiment was not so successful in that it tastes like donkey pee, but I'll  keep trying.


Seen near the paper mill on the Derwent

This remnant of Eucalyptus Regnans weighs 30 tonnes.
  The Bluegum or Swamp Gum which also grows in Victoria, is the world's tallest flowering plant and the second tallest tree in the world. (The Coastal Redwood is the tallest, but some Tasmanians dispute this). Centurion, recently found near the Airwalk in Geeveston clocks in at 99.6 metres and 4.5 metres in diameter and is still alive.
The sign on this log says that when this tree was a sapling, Elizabeth I was still on the throne and Tasmania had not yet been 'discovered.'

I was pleased to see this small shoot. Nature fights back.
Unfortunately, unlike other native plants and especially most other eucalypts, they do not regenerate well after a fire. What fire does do is cause much seed to set, admit more light, and provide soil nutrients. This little shoot has probably grown from a seed dropped by a bird, but it was nice to see anyway.

While some of the known trees are now on a register of noble trees and may not be logged, many more are still being felled for woodchips to be used for mundane products as toilet paper and newsprint. The ones in Victoria go into Reflex copy paper. Wouldn't mind so much if they were occasionally used for something more lasting - items such as cradles, furniture and housing, from which many generations would benefit and which would provide much longer employment.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Mystery Cave shall have to remain a bit of a Mystery
*Not sure if that refers to the sound your hard hat makes when your head hits an overhang or the sound you make when you fall in the water. 

Spelunking is about exploring caves. While Tasmania has many beautiful public caves which you can visit in perfect safety, we have gone to a wild cave in the World Heritage Area just south of Ida Bay.

Mystery Cave as it is called, will have to stay a bit of a mystery because my flash didn’t work inside the cave and the cave creatures that live in it  don’t like too much light and noise.
It was rather exciting in that way where you are really nervous the whole time and quite relieved when it’s over, but afterwards it feels as if you have had a fantastic adventure. It does really make the adrenalin flow. People have perished on this trip too–  most recently a party of  High School girls and their teacher when the waters rose unexpectedly, so it’s another one of those places where you have to take extreme care and, although it’s against my religion, even I went with other people on this one. 

If getting everyone together in one place all at the same time is one problem - worse than herding cats, then getting the right weather is another. Good weather is not really essential when you are in the cave, but you do have to wait for at least 48 hours after the last rain because the creek runs through the entire cave system. Do check with Park rangers at Hastings Caves to make sure it’s safe before entering and be sure to sign the intentions book on the way in.

One of the reasons it took so long to get going was because we had to make  a stop at the hardware shop to make sure everyone had the necessary gear – safety helmets, cap lamps, gumboots, breakfast, spare torches, Parks passes and permission, warm and cool clothing  – it’s generally only 9 -10o C in the cave, but it was quite warm while walking to it.
The walk through the rainforest was lovely – beautiful ferns and mosses, occasional sassafras and myrtle, and laurels and leatherwood about to burst into flower. It follows an old tramway where limestone was taken from a quarry and here and there you come upon evidence  of its former life – a rusting boiler, a couple of buckets, a rail here and there and an odd collection of hob nailed boots  and bottles left at what was once a camp by the river. It’s a lovely day today and nature has reclaimed most of it and covered it in moss, but it’s a poignant reminder of how hard life must have been before we had chainsaws and log trucks. Were it not for logging and mining, many of these sites would never have been discovered

The transition from rubbish to historic relics (or antiques) always intrigues me

The approach to the cave is simply awesome. Then it’s a muddy scramble of about 100 metres down to the entrance and then down about another 1- 200 metres  inside the cave.  It’s not at all claustrophobic because this is not one cave, but a series of chambers with very high ceilings. There are lots of twists and turns where you cross and recross the creek so a lot of the time you are so busy watching your feet that you don’t slip in, that you can hardly take in the surroundings. That why you need helmets, because while you are doing that, its quite easy to bump your head while looking down in the narrow beam of the cap lamps. 

The way in is like the Journey to the Centre of the Earth
The formations are not as spectacular as in the caves at Mole Creek or at Hastings Caves but the glow worms are absolutely astounding. According to Nell Tyson and Annie Rushton in their “The Family Bushwalks in Tasmania's Huon Valley” book they were regarded as one of the finest displays in the world and were reported in the Scientific American as far back as 1895. Certainly, when you turn your cap lamp off and look up, it’s like looking into the Milky Way. There is a whole universe up there but there are also isolated ones along the walls.  I have tried taking pictures of these, but just turning  the camera on made too much light to see them. I did manage to get a picture of a cave spider with its enormous span – its legs longer than my fingers.

Not sure how long we plodded about and splashed around in there. Today the water was only ankle deep, but it can rise very suddenly. It would probably be a great place to spend an Ice Age or two. There's plenty of white pigment for cave drawing at hand, but I wasn’t too sorry when one of our party wanted to call it a day. I wasn’t looking forward to scrambling back up to track level in the dark myself.
It was hard to believe that despite daylight saving, it was almost dusk when we emerged.  I am pleased to report that, apart from almost running out of fuel because everything from Ida Bay to Huonville was closed, we survived an entire day without any mishaps at all.
At the time of writing, there is still a twenty four hour service station at Huonville.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do not adjust your set, this is not a commercial!

More retail therapy. I know it's buy nothing new month, but that's my usual mode and as several of my offspring are having birthdays (funny about that - must be something to do with the onset of the cooler weather), I have been looking for small affordable things to surprise and delight. This place is a franchise of a UK company, however, all its products are handmade here and do not involve cruelty to animals. The smell in this shop is simply divine and the products aren't bad either, having been given some last Christmas and trying lots of free samples in the shop today.

Being a word packrat as friend Wynn (see his lovely fractals describes himself, I was very taken with some of the names :

Catastrophe Cosmetic, Breath of God, Mask of Magnaminty, The Smell of Freedom, The Sacred Truth, Cosmetic Warrior, Dragon's Egg, Snake Oil - to mention but a few.Then there are all those that sound delicious.

Love the names!

Good enough to eat! Just reading the ingredients makes me hungry.
 They say you should never go shopping on an empty stomach. The temptation to try some of these was overwhelming. Creme Anglaise with Vanilla and Saffron, Cupcake Facemask, Almond and Coconut Smoothie, Shower Jellies and Porridge Soap. The fresh face masks "made from organic fruits and vegetables" look like dips and ought be tasty. They probably wouldn't have too many kilojoules either. Not sure the same would be true of some of the things designed to be eaten. There is Chocolate Vanilla Lip Scrub for instance, made with Fair Trade sugar which you can lick off afterwards. Orange Choc Lip Balm sounds pretty yummy too though I haven't tried that one yet. Might save it for an after dinner treat.

As well as more typical lotions and potions - soaps, bath bombs, body butters, hair care products, moisturisers etc. they also have some highly original products. Dirty Tooth Tabs for instance, (for men of course), massage bars, glitter bars and the head -clearing Too Drunk Shower Gel. 

No, I am not getting paid for this free plug. Just wanted to share something that amused me today.
and yes, I will pay for a bit of wit and creativity.  The political correctness monitor on my left shoulder is harping on about using good organic produce for cosmetics, while people are starving in Africa and while many people including me, can rarely afford to buy it to eat, but I'm hoping that as a one -off occasional treat, they are not too sinful. Remember, cleanliness is next to godliness and I am pretty sure a little laughter comes a close second.
If it makes you feel better, this company also has little charity pots from which the proceeds go to various causes, including research into the facial tumor disease that's wiping out Tassie devils. Products are generally vegan or vegetarian and use little in the way of preservatives. Packaging is minimal and from recycled materials where possible.
 I also bought fair trade coffee. So there! That's my shopping done.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lilac time and a progress report on the garden

There's snow on the mountain again. While my friends in northern climes have been sweltering, we have had one of the longest, coldest winters on record. The wild weather has played havoc with my 'garden.' The lettuces and most of the strawberries have expired, the avocado looks like it's trying to climb inside and the only thing that's really flowering are the Chinese greens, which aren't supposed to. I did have a win with the crocuses, three purple and three white, until the wind blew them away.

croaked crocuses

RIP lettuces and strawberries
 This weather does seem to be good for other people's gardens.

The scent is heavenly!

Meanwhile I found some lovely flowers in the market when I should have been buying vegetables. There was hardly anyone about and it seemed such a shame to leave them there with no one to admire them. It was a hard choice too - there were three deep magneta lilies, bright iceland poppies, fragrant freezias and enormous salmon coloured Asian poppies, but I am happy with these. They not only cheer me up on these dark days, but they highlight quite different aspects of the house. For instance, there are colours in my rag rug that I have never noticed before - all the pinks, the oranges and the greens positively glow now as do all the purple and pink covers on the books in the bookshelf.

Food for the soul

That's enough now Huey! (local Rain God). I am getting webbed feet!

PS.The things I planted may not be doing well, but the self sown 
snapdragons in my driveway are flowering, even though I keep 
running over them. 

walking in the rain

I was supposed to meet a friend at the market today but it was raining and hailing so I tried to phone to call it off. No answer. No signal. The wind turned my umbrella inside out as I trudged down anyway thinking they would be really cranky if they had gone out in this weather and I didn't show up. After being rained on at the fountain for a while, I suddenly got a text message on my phone. "Not coming, too wet." The rain eased up a bit after that, so I took a few photos in St. David's Park where the rhododrendrons were blooming their little hearts out. I probably wouldn't have seen them if I hadn't gone out. Their season is very short.

St. David's Park was built on one of Hobart's first cemetries. Obviously excellent compost there and an excellent use for old cemeteries. In the background on the left though, you can see some of the tombstones that used to be on this site. They tell many interesting stories.