Saturday, December 31, 2011

Old McDonald had no more hens because a dog ate them

It's New Years Eve and we spent a lovely last day of 2011 visiting a most lovely couple who may have work (of a sort?) for me, was incredibly inviting, went to the beach and picked up loads more shells, driftwood, and sunburn, and finished off at a salt-water river fishing with my brother-in-law and his fiancee.

Of course, I won't write more about this or post the pretty pictures because when we got home and Phillip went to lock up our remaining chicken and our lovely rooster, he found feathers. Everywhere. And then saw a dog with something in it's mouth. He chased it a bit, came back and got me, and we went searching for it with his block buster in hand, the cat trailing after us like the loyal little girl she is, a flash light, and a barrel full of anger.

We didn't' find it, of course, but we're now certain it was the dog that killed everything, and came back for more. Not sure if it belongs to anyone though. But if it comes on our (technically our landlords) property, we're fully within our rights to kill it if it's harassing our animals or us.

My brother-in-law? The hunter? He really liked our ducks. He thinks our rooster and our chickens were pretty nice as far as chickens go  (our rooster gets compliments from everyone who visits, he's so massive and majestic). He was ready to shoot anything here before we found out for sure it was a dog. Guess who's coming up for nachos tomorrow.

Photos of pretty day out to come tomorrow.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I made my own jam.

It's nearing the middle of summer here, and the little raspberry patch on our rental property is coming along very nicely. Almost TOO nicely, as it nearly overran the rest of the flower garden, and if not kept in check, will soon overtake the entire back of the house.

I have plenty of time, however, to trim back all it's little new shoots and tie up the old ones so they stay straght and healthy. And with all this care, and the natural voracity of raspberries, we've been getting some of the sweetest, largest, most delectable berries I've ever had.

My in-laws place has a raspberry forest. You could spend all day in this patch, picking, and never finish. And the next day, more are ripe. When I pick there, my mother in law lets me keep half of what I pick if I want. The last bath I kept was over two kilos, and I have more from her in the freezer. From our own bushes, we get two, maybe three, good sized cereal bowls full.

Since our berries are more maintained due to the fact I have loads more time, and the landlord trimmed them all back to the main canes last year, our berries taste much sweeter and tastier sometimes than from my in-laws. So, since we're so over-run with all these berries, I decided to try my hand at jam making with some from the in-laws.

1 kilo of sugar = using only 1 of my kilos of raspberries. A good small batch for my first attempt.

Mmmm. Raspberries!

Raspberries in the pot. Looking slightly less tempting.

Sterilizing and heating up my jars in the oven. Just using old spaghetti sauce and jam jars, like my mother-in-law and Phillip's grandmother. Works well enough for them, and is FAR cheaper than proper canning jars. 

Sugar in the pot...

Dissolve and bring to a boil. For a while. Without burning. Until it "gells", which you can tell by either dripping it on a cold saucer, or some spoon test, or just that the bubbles look really nice and thick. 

3 jars of nice thick jam! The tops all pop back in when they cool, preserving the jam nicely. And it's nice and thick, and you can turn my jars upside down and the jam doesn't move! And it tastes sooooo good. And we still have more raspberries to eat.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Discovery, Unwanted

I had hoped to write all about my first Christmas in Australia (and also my first Christmas married), as well as Boxing Day (which, up to now, has been and still is a complete mystery to me), and all about Christmas pudding, crackers, how it's summer instead of winter and it's just weird to experience, and the FANTASTIC ninjabread house I made for the family gathering.

But, unfortunately, the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) we woke up late, went to let the chickens and ducks out of their shed, and all there was were the rooster and one hen, both of whom were already wandering around outside. Apparently, in all the fatigue of the mountainous Christmas lunch and dinner, we forgot to lock their shed that night. Thinking that the ducks had found another spot to roost, and possibly the hen with them, (normal for our ducks, odd for the chicken), we searched the areas they're known to frequent.


Until I went around the side of the house by the car port and found my dear little drake laying belly up near the brush line, surrounded by some fluff and a few feathers.

The poor little guy had no injuries that we could see, and was stiff as a board. Upon further searching, I found some of the little ducks breast and wing feathers. No body though. Just today, while moving the fire hose, my husband found chicken feathers.

So, one body, three casualties. And our rooster, Eutychus, is nearly horse, most likely from crowing out an alarm. We're guessing it was a dog, since any of the cats that wander around here are terrified of the ducks (yes, odd), and cats are more known here to go for baby chicks and leave full-grown chickens alone. Dogs, however, will just come and "play" with foul, get a taste for it, and kill as many as they can before they're stopped.

The most likely scenario is that, while we were gone Christmas day, someones dog go out and came and killed our poor birds. (We've already lost two chickens from random unknown deaths.) Our little flock is down to two: Little Red, and Eutychus. Why do we figure day? We sleep with the window open and it happened right outside our window. Even with the windows shut you can hear any noise the birds make.

No, we're not sure it was a dog, but we mostly ruled out cats (for reasons listed earlier) and Devils wouldn't be able to chase and kill and drag off three carcasses (though they might just one), and our ducks had gotten quite hefty. Quolls (or Native Cat, though its a marsupial, not even close to a cat) would be the same, and are about the only other native animal that might come after our birds. They generally sneak into coops or get birds that are roosting unprotected, bite the neck, and suck out all their blood. They then fall asleep, wake up much later, and eat most of the bird. They keep their pray where it is, and pretty much just stay there. But the Devils and Quolls are both nocturnal.

My poor ducks. They were getting more and more awesome each day, just learning how to fly, still followed me around outside to their little pond (a child pool) or while I picked raspberries, nibbling my shoes and pant legs. Our chickens sort of lacked personalities, and they're much easier to obtain (my husband's parents have some just hatched and we'll be able to have a few). Plus, ducks are just way cooler. And they were all attached to us, and young, and fun to watch.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Now We're in Launceston....

My husband and I were finally able to allocate a weekend to just getting out and shopping for Christmas. Mostly just for his family (and a bit for each other) since at this point it will take far to long to ship anything to my family in time for Christmas, and we'll be seeing his ON Christmas. So... we did what we did. But he took me out of our usual areas of shopping in Devenport (small city 30-40 minutes away, depending on who's driving) to the bigger city of Launceston, about an hours drive.

 I've only been there driving to or from the airport, and once when we went to Cataract Gorge on one of our dates. We didn't do much other than that. Phillip's description of the city as "nothing but hills" and "just a hole" come more from his job as a furniture removalist (mover, for American speakers) than looking at what the city is actually like. It is, literally, in a hole. It slopes down, many many hills, towards the sea. And it's an older city and port than Devenport, so there's more old buildings, plantations, and cobblestone and brick streets and walkways.

While Devenport is nice and close for shopping, and I'm sure has some quaint little areas we just haven't visited yet, Launceston was just... pretty. And it was nice to get out and see something different. And to be in an actual city again. And oh the little shops that were there! So many tiny boutiques with pretty tempting things...

We only visited a small part of the shopping centers (apparently there's a high mall and a low mall, or something like that, I honestly wasn't paying much attention when it was explained to me), but the shops that we did go in (aside from the big chain ones that were there too) were just adorable and feminine and... old-ish. And, like I said before, Launceston is an older city. So I got to look at some quaint old buildings, alleys, walkways, and courtyards, drifting in and out of my little bookish fantasy world that I sometimes drift to that is full of Secret Garden, Narnia, and all those other childhood favorites. Thankfully, I've been blessed with a husband who likes to do the same thing.

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera and only had my phone with me.

Christmas sales, even down a well-lit back alley

We stopped for lunch, late, and pretty hungry, at a random take-away/sit down place that served Souvlaki. I had no idea what that was, and Phillip tried to explain it to me as "meat and stuff that's kind of served in something like a tortilla." Turns out, what they served was pretty much a gyro. And, not knowing what I was getting, I ordered the beef (you could choose between lamb, beef, and chicken) since I've discovered I'm not a big fan of lamb here in Australia. That was kind of a mistake. The beef was just minced up and resembled Taco Bell meat in texture and flavor, though I almost think Taco Bell would have tasted better.
Not that the meal was bad, it was just... not as good as it could have been. I'll get lamb next time.

Best part of the meal? The fries (chips as they call them here) drizzled with gravy. It's an option nearly everywhere you can get chips, and it is wonderful, and fatty, and hot, and delicious.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

With this Christmas wish is missed, the point I could convey...

Ten more days til Christmas!

And I have never been more disorganized than I am this year.

Usually I have all my shopping (the little that I have to do) done, at the very least, 2 weeks before Christmas. Everything is wrapped, sitting hidden in my closet so the cats can't play with it. I'll be working on making Christmas cookies to take to work, or just to have around the house because I love cookies. And planning out the gingerbread house that I've been making (usually with help of sister or cousin) the past few years.

Here, mostly because of the lack of car, I have nothing done. With the exception of a collection of very different candy than we have back home for a gingerbread house. No shopping done (my husband and I haven't even really made lists, though we have vague ideas of what to get each other) nothing bought for family members here, and nothing done for family members back in the States (though that I can blame on certain people never telling us what they wanted).

I'm still searching online for things, but it's a bit hard to do when shipping anything here sometimes costs almost as much, if not more, than the object being shipped. That, and the total lack of ideas of what to even get. So, family members, back home at least, might have to console themselves with "New Years gifts" instead.

As for cards, we haven't even been able to find nice ones to send out, either. That has more to do with my pickyness though. Don't want anything too campy (like multi-colored penguins and Santas prancing around with lots of glitter) or, well, that's about all we've found really. I'd much prefer something with, you know, Christ as it's center, since that's what I like to celebrate Christmas for (that, and family. Can't forget family). I prefer to celebrate "the day You were born to die".

Oh! And decorations? HA! For one, it's summer here, so it just feels plain odd to be thinking of Christmas. The locals here are upset because it's too cool for summer so far. And Phillip isn't as Christmasy as I am. And I'm cheap and don't want to waste money on a crappy looking fake tree and cheap ornaments (I prefer ornaments that have some meaning, like childhood handmade ones, or gifts). So this is all I've done. Phillip is quite happy with it, since he loves to snack on the candy canes.

And that cute little guy? Our "new" kitten! Meet Indiana Jones (aka: Indie)! He was the first kitten "our" cat brought to us. The rest were taken to the RSPCA, but we kept "the bestest" of them. He's still super purry and playful and friendly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Poppies! Poppies!

Last year, during my second visit to Tasmania, I saw slowly wilting fields of poppies.

And not the lovely orange ones you see in Monet paintings.

No, these were, I was informed, opium poppies. Apparently, Tasmania is the world largest producer of opium poppies. For the pharmaceutical market. 50% of the worlds market of opium poppies, in fact. That's a lot for an island state.

This year, I was determined to get photos of them.

And yes, it is very illegal to go into these fields. No I did not go into this field. I stood on the road, in the ditch, after making sure there were no snakes.

Not that I'm up on Tasmanian law, but they have somewhat intimidating signs at intervals around the fields.

Click to see a larger version. It reads: Trespassers Prosecuted, and below that, Illegal use of crop may cause DEATH.

I've only heard one story from the in-laws about some guy they found on the side of the road near their house who had fallen off his scooter or something, high as a kite, blue lips, looking dead. Turned out that he had a back pack full of poppy seeds and had been drinking a tea he made with them. Or something along those lines.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Honey Farm

If anyone who reads this ever comes to Tasmania, you need to go here:

It doesn't look that impressive, but blame my terrible photo. Also, I love the mix of old and young bikers out the front eating their ice cream.

I'm not the worlds biggest fan of ice cream. In fact, I have to be in the right mood to actually enjoy ice cream. The stuff at The Honey Farm though, oh my goodness. It's the best I've ever had. I actually start to crave their ice cream after a few weeks of not having it. Or days....

Usually, we stick with the boysenberry ice cream. It was what was first recommended to me and it was amazing. Sweet, tangy, creamy... Oh so creamy... And the PERFECT blend of sweetness. And it coats your mouth perfectly with deliciousness and the fat of real milk and cream.

This time, we tried, on top of the boysenberry, Blue Gum (which, while it sounds like some psycadelicly colored disgusting flavored ice cream for children, is actually from a Blue Gum Tree. More specifically, the honey made from it.) and Leatherwood (also another type of tree). Since they make the ice cream from seasonal and natural ingredients, (or berries that were picked and frozen fresh) it's just amazingness on a cone.

Oh, and since it's "The Honey Farm", all the ice cream is made with honey. And so are the cones. It's just... too good. And while my husband can finish his off in less than 15 minutes (which, for him, is taking his time), I take over a half hour to savor every delicious morsel of cream and cone.

On top of fantastic home-made ice cream, they have so so many different kids of honey. Or honey-products. And these massive tasting tables with little jars full of all the honeys available: plain, mixed with fruit, creamed.... even some mixed with hot peppers that they have in a little warming station. It's just fantastic. And delicious.

And the family that owns and works The Honey Farm is just delightful.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hot DOG!

Chicago is the land of people who fight over food that makes you fat, and where the best of it is.

And for good reason. Chicago has some pretty fantastic hot dog and pizza places. Just THINKING about it makes my belly rumble with hunger and my mouth water.

Australia is known more for it's deadly animals, crazy awesome iconic people (Steve Irwin, anybody?), and ridiculous animals. When I asked, most people didn't even know if there were hot dogs here.

Hot dogs are one of my favorite foods. Not that I indulged in them frequently back home, but I was quite fond of them, and would every other month or so, splurge on a trip to Portillos or one of the smaller places closer to home that had good dogs. Or just enjoy a pack of Nathan's or Hebrew National with the family. Here, you really have to search for hot dogs.

One place we've found them (but not yet tried) is "Donut King". Then, with much heavy searching, we started noticing a few packs of different brands here and there in two grocery stores. We've only managed to try one brand thus far.
We (more, I,) chose this because it says "American" Hot Dogs. I wanted to see if they tasted the same. It was pretty close to an Oscar Meyer. So, not terrible. And being the first one I've been able to eat in almost four months, it was absolutely delicious.
Going all "college student" cooking style, because I'm not a fan of boiled, and this is the closest thing we have to a grill.

We picnicked on the lawn, and were later joined by our ducks. And chickens. And a cat. Only the ducks were cute enough to merit a photo, though.

Hot dog buns were the harder thing to find. The things marketed as buns (that we found this time around, anyway) are thick and well, more suited for a sandwich, or sausages. We had to cut out a lot of the extra bread (though the chickens were happy with that).