Thursday, January 9, 2014

Farm life

This visit to the farm is unlike any others to date. On previous visits we have enjoyed the serenity and beauty of the natural landscape, the calm felt being around the sheep and cattle have got in and worked wherever there was the need. A little while ago we made the decision to put the farm on the market and we have recently had an offer made that we have decided to accept. Retaining the farm, regardless of how much we love it, without living on site is not viable. The running costs, and workload during sporadic visits have seen us reassess the impact on how we live and work. Perhaps if we were able to consider retirement and could move here permanently things would be different, but we can't and therein lies the challenge. A decision has been made and now we need to follow through. This has seen the focus for our Christmas visit become the packing up and disposal of a houseful of furniture, bits and pieces and memories. It is a bitter sweet experience. Most times when you pack up your home and sell up it is in order to relocate to another property. As such, the sadness is tinged with excitement as you plan where you will move on to and the packing is balanced with unpacking. Without this valve I am struggling a little. It is an immense task, there is a limited timeframe in which to work and the way forward is not clear. That said, this is not a one man job, as such my ability to help makes a difference. The challenge is balancing disposal of items while deciding what should be retained, then working out the logistics of getting those items home to Brisbane. We are working on one car load of items for retention. As such the packing process is one step short of ruthless. For someone like me who takes pleasure in the history of items this is a hard one, but it is balanced by the fact that the bulk of memories tied up in the farm belong to someone else. As such I am able to take a step back and do what is required - for the most part. Little clues suggest that I am finding the process emotional. The need to trap and dispose of a feral cat and her kittens is doing my head in. The logic of knowing the impact she inflicts on the environment is hard to balance when so far she hunts pests like rabbits and starlings to feed her family. I am yet to see the justification of the need to dispose of the cats. Perhaps now that I no longer need to be a "farm girl" I am taking a step back from what can sometimes see justification of tough decision making processes a necessity of life. As for the final farm clearance - this is scheduled to take place 18 January 2014. A time for new beginnings with a family of five children getting set to move in. For me, the thought that we have access to a beautiful 1870 Georgian heritage listed farm house for a holiday base and a guaranteed support for return visits will see me able to walk away smiling. I would not like to think that our leaving the farm equates to our leaving this small community. 27.12.13

Old English flowers

I discovered a little bunch of colour in the bush today - nestled beside some old logs, just near the properties dump were growing snapdragons and fox gloves. For this city girl, who has never even seen foxgloves before this was quite unexpected. As for how they ended up where they were, I have no idea. They did look sort of out of place though, unlike the little bush orchids. Suffice to say I now have a bunch of snapdragons and foxgloves in a jar on the windowsill of the farm house. A little bit of English countryside comes to Tassie in time for Christmas. 24.12.13

Hobart here we come!

We left the farm early Sunday morning so that we could arrive in Hobart for a visit to the Salamanca markets bright and early. Beat the crowds, find a car park etc. Only problem was the markets are held on Saturdays! Oops. Slight miscalculation of dates. Luckily for me the Tastes of Tasmania festival is on as is the end of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race sponsored by Rolex. While we didn't get to see Wild Oats cross the line in first place for the second up year in a row, we have seen her in the dock, alongside Loyal, Wild Thing and Nikata as well as seeing Brindabella and many of the smaller boats cross the line. Yesterday we walked along Salamanca Place, then headed up and around Battery Point and down again, and by a fluke found a secluded little section of coastline adjacent to the finish line just near the officials hut. As each boat crosses the line the hooter goes off as the boats cross between two yellow buoys. We sat on the rocks protected from the wind by the shrubbery and both got the worst case of sunburnt faces we have had in ages. Incredible given I was wearing a winter coat, long sleeved shirt and jeans. It was freezing in the wind. I now look like a red panda sporting a red face and nose and white eyelets. Battery point was well worth a look with some lovely stone cottages and unique buildings. Obviously both history and money abound in this area. The queue for coffee at the bakery suggests that it is also a trendy place to be seen on a Sunday....or that the coffee is good. Unfortunately the Tastes festival leaves a lot to be desired. Huge crowds and long lines. Food seems expensive and in small proportions. Entertainment for children falls short of the standard I have come to expect at home and as such is disappointing. That said, there is a good audience for the twilight screening of the Sound of Music. A classic at any age. There are also the usual selection of buskers and street performers. My favourites so far are the Verandahcoots. One girl plays honky tonk piano, the other plays her wash board. Sometimes they have a guy on accordion to accompany them, at others not. For perseverance they win hands down. For boppy little routines they are are a crowd favourite. Late afternoon update - when the girls only play they go by the moniker "Ragdolls". 30.12.13

Designer homewares in Hobart

The incoming yachts lured Frank back for viewing again today. As for me, I decided to follow up on some design and interiors research and hit the shops. Details gathered online suggested I focus on homewares stores in the vicinity of Murray Street, Macquarie Street, Elizabeth Street and a couple of parallel streets so that's where I headed. First port of call was Reminiscence, en route to Love and Clutter at 31 Murray St. This shop is full of delightful scarves, bags and jewellery with a strong nod to Parisienne style and not being on my list was a bonus discovery. Imagine my disappointment on walking further along Murray St to find that not only was Love and Clutter not open (a common problem being between Christmas and New Year), but that the shop was in fact empty and the building for lease. I am yet to confirm whether the shop has relocated or whether it no longer exists. Not letting that deter me I headed further up Murray St to number 90 to discover the delights of Inside. This made for dedicated browsing and I happily spent some time looking around. A quirky mix of unique homewares, decorative items and other non necessary but gorgeous items, including the best range of the Irish designer Orla Keily I have yet seen. It would have been no challenge at all to spend up big! Unfortunately for me I have to travel light this trip, but I did succumb to a sweet little flask that was too cute to resist. Inside has certainly made it high on my list of return to haunts in Hobart. Funky Homes was my next destination and it was worth exploring further afield to Liverpool St to find it. Hobart streets are pretty easy to navigate with this one running off Murray St. Funky Homes, located at 149a Liverpool St, certainly lives up to its name and while smaller than Inside is still worth exploring. Arranged in bursts of colour I again found it easy to wander and look quite happily. With Boxing Day sales on most shops seem to have up to 25% off most items! with some ranges 40% off and Christmas lines 50% reduced. I left with a small purchase intended for mosaic embellishment and a smile, happy to have discovered the delights of Funky Homes. For anyone interested they have an online store too, so happy shopping. Unexpected find of the day has to have been Charlie's Bucket. At 166 Liverpool St it is almost next door to Funky Homes. This is certainly my favourite new discovery and as a source of unique children's toys and accessories would give Ruby's Room (discovered on a previous trip to Hobart) a run for its money. Last intended stop for the day was Wishbone at 79 Bathurst St. Found my way there only to discover they were not open until early January. The window display however was enough to reassure me that Wishbone should remain on my list for a future visit. So, as far as quirky little designer stores go, Hobart has a lot to offer. Certainly the tourist material doesn't give a clue to the quality of shopping beyond Salamanca Place. As for Salamanca place that is my intended destination for this afternoons adventure. 30.12.13

Huon Pine

Tuesday saw us heading off on The Lady Franklin II for a day cruise up the Gordon River. We were on the upper deck with direct access to the Captain. Very posh! We initially headed out towards the coast and through Hell's Gates saw Bonnett Island with its little lighthouse and a second larger island complete with its own larger lighthouse. Salmon and trout farming is a core local industry and we went out within viewing distance to see both the holding pens for the fingerlings and larger fish and the feeding technique. Basically fish pellets are mixed with water and a little boat with a fire hose style attachment sprays plumes of water into the holding pens. Whatever they are doing works if the smoked Petuna Salmon we had at lunch is anything to go by. It was delicious. The cruise included morning and afternoon tea as well as lunch, so by the end of the day had tasted lots of Tasmania's local produce - from beer and wine, to King Island cheeses, smoked salmon and wallaby, trout, and cookies. Unbelievable though it may seem the food was not the best part of the day. Once we turned away from the coast and headed back to the river system the boat slowed from cursing speed to a speed where it hardly made a ripple on the water. I guess this is to ensure minimal environmental impact, but it actually made for wonderful viewing of the vegetation and ensured some great photographic opportunity as we moved further up the River system and into sheltered stretches if the river. Although overcast, the reflected views of the trees onto the river were incredibly beautiful. Part way in we stopped at the Heritage Walk, everyone disembarked, walked a lap of the raised boardwalk through the forest and returned to the dock. Seeing the vegetation up close was interesting. From the boat too we went close to the bank at one point so that the captain could point out a Huon Pine. This is what the Gordon and Franklin World Heritage area is famous for. These trees are no longer able to be milled, but such is their value as timber that there are still seemingly large supplies stockpiled locally. Apparently this timber is unique in that it is nearly impervious to rot, even after years in water so as trees die naturally and fall they still end up in the river system. Floaters are up for grabs and can be collected. There are a number of local businesses that rely on the timber trade - either raw product or turned items from sale. Needless to say, like any hand crafted items, prices reflect the time taken to source stock and make items. Leatherwood, sassafras, King Billy and Huon Pine are all timbers used. 17.12.13

The Wall, Tasmania

The highlight of the trip across to Strahan (other than an echidna tally of three) had to be a visit to The Wall. This incredible place must be one of the best kept secrets in Tasmania. Frank had heard of it from one of his brothers who stopped in on a visit to Tasmania. The feedback must have been good as one minute we were driving along the road and the next we had veered off and were finding a place to park. This place is almost indescribable. A labour of love, self funded by a local wood sculptor named Greg Duncan The Wall is both a personal testament to an artists' skill yet also depicts a personal view of the history and environment of this unique island. Made up of a series of carved wooden panels 3 metres high by 1 metre wide, the panels joined make up a scene almost 100 metres in length. The panels run back to back down a long enclosed hallway. The space itself is awe inspiring and a lot of thought has been put into this purpose built space. The carved timber panels take pride of place running up the centre of the building. The walls themselves will, over time, hold customised display panels. Some of these have been installed, others are yet to be erected. The interesting thing for me was to see that the art on display here is very much a work in progress. While many of the panels are completed with detailed carving and textured images, many of the panels are part carved and some are yet to be begun. As a learning tool this makes for great viewing as at different points you are able to see the artists' rough sketches, more detailed drawings, rough carved sections and detailed carving int he middle of unstated panels. It is incredibly interesting to see this work in progress. For me, perhaps even more interesting than seeing what this will be an another 10 years time. I'm only guessing at time frames, but the level of detail in the carving suggests it is far from finished. Panels depict early settlers, people working clearing forests, farmers, draught horses, dogs, children, native flora and fauna. Stories depicted range from settlement to environmental impact. From now extinct animals such as the Tasmanian Tiger, to those under threat like the orange bellied parrot. The bounty for Tasmanian Tiger pelts as documented is heart breaking yet the artistic talent required to carve the record is inspiring. A long list of names and dates shows the human impact on the native population of this animal. The rest of the centre is set out around a reception area, massive fire place and lounge area and a mezzanine displaying work by the artists' son, also a wood carver, and the artists' sister, who paints. There are also numerous examples of carved items that until closer inspection look like a pair of leather gloves draped on a shovel, or a coat and hat hanging on a rack. The timber screams out to be touched, but it is clear that this is not an option. The smell of the space however almost makes up for it with timber scents everywhere. It is easy to get a feel for Greg Duncan. His views on unruly children as visitors and vehement demands for no photography suggest an artistic temperament. That said, I can understand his concern for copyright - that was before I read an appeal from him, stuck to the door, that detailed a list of injuries he has received from disgruntled visitors - fractured eye socket included. It truly is an amazing place to visit and I hope long term plans include capacity for coffee and cake added to the alcohol currently on offer. Our morning visit was not the right time to take up the offer of local spirits, the honey tasted however was enough to encourage us to buy a block to take with us. Almost like creamed honey, but solid, this tasted sweeter than chocolate but with a similar texture. Heavenly! Coffee would go a long way to making The Walls commercially viable, but I wonder whether this is what the artist wants. It really is a labour of love. My thought at present is that some people would think the $10 adult admission price a little steep. As for me, I loved this place and could happily have stayed on. 16.12.13

Arrival in Strahan

We arrived in Strahan in time for a late lunch so joined everyone in town for a nibble at the local bakery cafe. After a very good toasted pita bread with chicken and salad washed down with banana flavoured milk (tasted exactly like banana lollies!) we headed off to walk around town exploring. We collected tickets for the boat cruise we had booked for the next day, then checked in to our accommodation. Everyone is very trusting here - we were directed to head on up the road to The Crays - Kelly and we would find the key in the door. We did, and it was! Neat and tidy, with a living area, kitchen and two bedrooms we had everything we could need for a couple of days stay with a glimpse of the water and walking distance down to the main part of town. Perfect. Being early summer it is easy to spot the tourists, but being early in the week was still quiet. We went to the local IGA and got supplies for self catered breakfasts, water, snacks then headed back into town for dinner at the local Hamers Hotel. All good and everyone happy. 16.12.13