Friday, January 27, 2012

And now for something entirely different: Snakes!

One of the highlights of my weeks is that, nearly every Friday, I spend some time with the family "up the hill" from our assembly. They're a small family of eight children (soon to be nine!) ranging in ages from 13 to 1. They're fantastic.

So I walk up there most times, about one mile from our place, and a bit (read: large chunk) of it up the steep hill known as their drive way. I'll chat with the mother and we get to socialize a bit while she and the kids make a simple lunch, and we all do the same over our bread and "spreads". It's quite  nice and relaxing. We get some womanly chatting in amongst the chatter of children (or silence if she tells them to). The kids all know their jobs so, being pregnant, she gets to go upstairs to take a little rest, while they clean up and I play with some of the younger kids. We've lately been reading through The Secret Garden while sitting in their little individual gardens, or on rocks under trees throughout the property. Then we usually end up running around and play in ways that aren't dignified at all for a married woman to admit to doing  but are still loads of fun anyway.

Today, after reading til my voice was going, the kids were showing me a new play they've made up for themselves that involves pulling each other around on a "sled" up and down the gravel drive right near the house. I was to take photos of each of them doing it, and they told me where to stand. So, with the youngest on my hip and the second and third youngest walking down with me, we went to the appointed stump to stand. This stump happens to be right next to a large rock that is on yet another slope opposite the driveway. Just as I stepped near the stump, not two feet in front of me I see a massive flash of thick black tail and hear the "woosh!" and rustle of leaves.

A Tiger Snake, between four and five foot (I'm guessing based on the girth of the two and a half feet of its tail end that I did see), not two feet in front of me, a beautiful shiny black, and quickly retreating, thankfully.

Oh boy did I ever jump back and gasp. Then walked back away quickly, attempting to pull the two younger children with me, one of whom would NOT listen, as he was in a somewhat smart mood that day, and wanted to tease me and go next to where I saw the snake disappear to.

Thankfully, the snake did not come back, as they can have a temper and get pretty aggressive.

For example,someone saw this happen one day: A tiger snake was attempting to go over a tussock of grass, rather than around it. Several times the snake tried to slither over the grass, only to slide back down the slippery stuff. The snake became so irate with the grass for it's failed attempts at going over it, that the snake began to violently strike at the grass, over and over and over!. Just as suddenly as it had turned against the grass, it calmed down, and went around it.

The same thing was witnessed by my husbands uncle. Only instead of attacking the grass, the snake (a very small thing) went after his boot! Again, as quick as it turned violent, it calmed down again and went happily on its own way.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Australia Day.... I still have no idea

January 26th is Australia Day.

Nearly every Australian (which, admittedly, isn't many) I've asked what Australia Day celebrates has no clue. Except it's about being Australian.

So, on to Google I went, because no one could give me a satisfactory answer.

Apparently, it's a close equivalent to our Forth of July. In my geocentric brain, anyway.

It is, at it's barest meaning, about being Australian. Which would mean throwing some sort of BBQ with lamb, as I've been told a few times. Lamb and sausages. (Not as tasty as it sounds, in my opinion).

Looking up some historical bits though, it's to commemorate the landing of the first convict ships and first governor of New South Wales.

So, when the first boat-load of British prisoners and their leader landed in Australia in 1788. It has, since then from what I can gather, become about the pride of being Australian, and descending from a rather hardy people, who were sent to a rather harsh (though somewhat beautiful)l land for committing crimes like stealing bread to feed their starving families, or offending the wrong nobleman. And probably some much harsher things than that, but those are, literally, some of the crimes the British would send convicts away to Australia (and The Colonies). Australia Day didn't become a public holiday (meaning, most everyone has the day off work) until 1994.

So, like I said, a lot like our Forth of July. Except that Americans celebrate their freedom and Australians celebrate.... I guess, it's still just being Australian and being proud of it.

My husband and his family don't much care what the holiday is based on, what it means, or the history of it., They're just glad for a day off work. Last year, when I visited, it was somewhat cold and damp, not close to a real summer, and I made them fried chicken and apple pie (they loved it, I thought it was funny). SO I've somewhat followed suite and my interest in the holiday, other than my husband getting a day off work, has somewhat petered out.

This year, it was HOT. And beautifully sunny. So my husband and I spent the morning dawdling around the house, me picking herbs to dry from the garden and then reading up on them, him.... doing something. And then, around the hottest part of the day, we ended up at the beach. A beach I haven't been to yet, with a wide stretch of yellow sand and beautiful blue water and gentle waves. And it was hot enough I actually made it into the water for my first Australian ocean swim! We acted like kids, jumping over, under, and through waves. It was glorious. Then, we dug our toes in the sand and relaxed on the beach, just listening to the waves.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What a Stud...

The other day, I went with my sister-in-law to help her check out the "neighbors" cows (the neighbor is a family friend who also maintains the land next door as well as cares for the cows on it, though someone else pays him to do it. This is the same "neighbor" as when I watched calves pulled). He put her "in charge" of keeping an eye on the cows and whatnot.

So off we went to check out what she thought was a calf in distress, and turned out to just be a cow, heavy with calf, laying down for a bit of a rest.

And, while we were there, we checked out his horses, three mares and a beautiful stallion.

Yes, yes, stallions are unpredictable and somewhat dangerous to be around. And while I was very much on guard, this boy was just beautiful. Quite the little show pony, he was. Surprisingly walked right up to us for pats, then wandered straight over to the thistle bushes, talking to his girls, for a prickly snack.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

That's no ants in your pants...

After all the people telling me that getting bitten by a snake is extremely rare, and that they never bother YOU if you don't bother THEM, something fantastically rare has happened.

Not to me, of course, but my brother-in-law, Anthony, the "great hunter".

He had a copperhead crawl up his trouser leg. The one time he was outside NOT looking for snakes.

As the story has been told and retold, many times this one day (and understandably so, as this doesn't happen often and is quite terrifying!), he was leaning against the hay bales up the back of the property when he felt the thing crawl up his leg. He somehow managed to guide it back down is pant leg without getting bitten, push it's head down past his boot (instead of into it) and hold it to the ground with a piece of wood while trying to look for something to kill it with.

The one time he didn't have his knife with him.

As there was nothing on hand, he Steve Erwin-d it and grabbed it by the back of the head and it instantly wrapped its body around his arm. All this time, he was apparently yelling loud as he could for his father, the only one home, to get him some help. He didn't hear a thing until Anthony came to his bedroom window yelling.

Eventually it was gotten across that no, Anthony was not playing with a live snake, did not know if he'd been bitten, and the ambulance was called, along with a snake handler. And then, of course, the local paper. His mother was called (in the middle of church with all of us) after, and she left immediately. My husband and I showed up about half an hour, forty minutes, later, to this scene.

Anthony, as calm as a cucumber. With the worlds 8th deadliest snake wrapped tightly around his wrist. 

Dripping venom.

The paramedics wouldn't come closer than about 2 yards, except to quickly check Anthony over for bites. And even then, just his leg. And very very cautiously. Really, there's not much you can do if you HAVE been bitten, I hear over and over, but lay down where you are and wait for help to come. Movement, even walking to a phone, causes the venom to go through your system faster, and your blood and other bodily fluids are probably flowing fast enough as is what with adrenalin. Most of the time hospitals won't even administer anti-venom if they get to you in time and get you close to ventilators and whatnot, because it makes you nearly as sick as the venom itself. 

As a slight side note (well, more of one), the anti-venom in Tasmania is for all three snakes (there's only three types of snakes here). So no point in running after the snake to kill it. Also, the last person to die from a snake bite was in 1966 from a Tiger Snake (as read in the pamphlet given to us by the snake handler). It's over on the mainland that they have the really REALLY deadly snakes that get super aggressive. Comparatively.

So after waiting for a long time (Anthony held on to the snake for nearly an hour before we got there, nearly two hours in total), the snake handler arrived. At the same time as a reporter and photographer from The Advocate, a local paper. (Their photos are much better than mine sine the man taking them had a much MUCH better camera, as well as training, I'm sure). Check it out, they'll have a video up on their site for a short time, too, we're told. 

The snake handler examined the situation, had a look at the snake, and then carefully explained to Anthony what he was going to do, and what Anthony was to do. The snake, by this time, was wound in a tight little knot around his wrist. A knot which is apparently used by the snake to quickly turn itself about and attack the moment it feels any slack in whatever is gripping it's head.

Slowly unwinding the snake

You can nearly see it's full length, just before he flung it into the bag

Safe in the bag! As Anthony slowly regains blood flow and feeling to his hand

No, he wasn't bitten, but better safe than sorry, and swallow any pride you have and let the medics check you out

The snake handler told Anthony more than a few times he was lucky to have not been bitten. And it doesn't take a hard look to see there was a bit of divine looking out on this situation. So, after all was well, the photos, quotes, and recordings taken, the reporter and photographer gone, Anthony took the two snake handlers out to the back of the property to look for more snakes. They came back with a four-foot tiger snake less than half an hour later. He'll apparently be calling to come out again to look for more. I FULLY plan on asking if I can come along. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Hopping Pot

Last night, I made Roo Tail Soup.

Yet again, cooking Australians icon and eating it.

It was pretty good. I tried looking up recipes online, but my pantry, while well stocked, still lacks some things like: bay leaves, red or white wine vinegar. Things I can get by without so we can just purchase chocolate instead. Anyway, with that slight sidetrack, actual recipes contained things I didn't have, or involved doing things like marinating the tail for days. I... was not willing to wait. It's been some chilly days and we were in the mood for soup. So I loosely followed a recipe and just ended up throwing things in the pot that sounded good anyway.

One small roo tail, from this roo (lightly floured and fried up quickly in oil)
3 potatoes
1.5 carrots (half happened to be in the fridge and needed to be used)
1.5 onions (same as above)
Some garlic cloves
Fresh sage from the front garden
Enough water to JUST cover everything
A tiny bit of homemade hot sauce that's basically Worcestershire sauce we got from Phillip's uncle
And then I threw in some red wine for good measure

I have issues with measuring when I make some things. It then simmered on the stove for about 5 hours.

Just barely thawed and out of the plastic baggy
I know, it doesn't look that appetizing, this giant stick of tail sticking out of a bowl in some not-so-colorful veggies

It tasted quite good. I have a feeling that the tail is one of the fattiest parts on the roo, because anything else I've cooked or eaten has VERY little fat on it. This was deliciously fatty, though. All the yummy marrow and natural fats from the meat came out in the slow slow cooking, and this needed nothing at all but bread to dip into the liquid and sop up all the goodness. And we just stripped the meat off the tail (well, more sucked it off) with our teeth, wishing there was more of it.

I looked up, like I said, recipes online before I did this, and some included beef stock, and then there was some guy, who, while a little overboard I think, made some sense saying that pollutes the flavor of the roo. He was, however, using actual kangaroo, that looks fairly fresh, while we use wallaby that has been properly dried and the frozen for a number of months. I didn't add the beef stock, though, and the soup was wonderful without it. 

CURRENT Events (haha, lame joke...)

Along with our large (smallish) plot of raspberry canes, we also have a nice large black current bush. Before I visited Australia, the only time I'd ever heard about currents was in books about Britishy things. Maybe this is because of my lack of getting out and seeing what's in the grocery store some times.

Anyway, currents, even when very ripe, don't taste very good. Rather more sour than I like, and a flavor that, while not unpleasing, doesn't make me reach for more. Black current jam, on the other hand, is pretty nice. 

So, with a somewhat early harvest of a little over a pound of currents (some picked a little to early because of my zeal and because our rooster seems to really enjoy eating them), I attempted jam with a new fruit. 

Turned out ok, and my husband really likes it, which is mostly what matters I guess. It's still rather sour, but sweetened with nearly a pound of sugar, not as bad as the original, uncooked fruit. I'm not perfectly happy with it, but it's still quite good.

Yup, pound o' berries with water in a pot, boiled for half an hour


Two full jars to store away, a little over half of one we dug into for dessert!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hot DOG: The sequel

Hot dog trial number two: Not as successful as number one.

WE went to a bulk frozen food place (side note: where we happened to find a massive container of Mission Salsa, so YAY!) and saw these. Trip number three, we finally picked up a package.

It says skinless, and with no artificial flavors. I have no idea what makes a good hot dog, only that I miss Nathan's and Portillos. 

Yes, cooking on the good ol' George Foreman again.

You can buy frankfurters and "savs" in the deli and butcher shops, and they're all pretty much this same bright red color. And yes, I'm already eating a hot dog, a tube of unknown cuts of meat, fillers, preservatives, and spices. Why complain about the color, because most hot dogs contain some sort of coloring agent anyway? 

These are.... really red.  
Mmmmm. RED.

And as you can see, the red doesn't go all the way through, so I'm thinking that means it sits in something instead of it being mixed into it. 

Really, when it comes down to it, I'm just being picky and silly. All in all, the color doesn't matter all that much. These hot dogs were nearly flavorless, and what flavor they did have was somewhat close to a GFS hot dog. But those taste better. 

But it was close enough to be enjoyed. And that pile of stuff in the background? It's a random bean salad I started making because we needed something more healthy with some meal a while back, and we had beans. And cheese. And raw apple cider vinegar and garlic and some other herbs. It's delicious. Our summer staple at the moment, since I'll randomly throw cucumber or broccoli, or dinosaur-shaped pasta into it. 

Monday, January 2, 2012


Our Little Red has returned to us!

We told our landlord what happened with the ducks, chickens, and the dog encounters, he phoned the neighbor, they apologized, offered compensation (we're happy if they just keep the pup tied up), and then latter our landlord phoned us saying there was a chicken wandering by his house near the creek. Sure enough, it was our battered little chicken, missing plenty of feathers and with some small bloody marks around her neck.

Maybe when Phillip chased the dog, it did what he'd hoped and dropped the chicken, giving her a chance to skeedadle. So she's back, our rooster looks much less depressed now, and the neighbors are going to keep their dog tied up and fix the fences. I guess it's a big thing if your dog starts killing other people's livestock/animals, or wandering on their property, over here.

Phillip on the beach, thinking about jumping in
Anywho, the rest of the holiday weekend was wonderful and hot, and we spent all Sunday afternoon fishing with both of Phillip's brothers, then had his  youngest brother over for nachos (apparently he's now addicted to Mexican food, and, as I've said before, you really can't get it here. So we make do with my Americanized version, which is all he knows anyway).

New Years Eve, Phillip having me pose on the beach. Hi mom and dad!

Fishing in at the river, New Years Eve. Phillip and I joined (to watch and talk a bit) right before they left

Baiting hooks, New Years Day

Stewart's Flat Head. One of the them, anyway.

My one and only fish: a puffer fish hooked through the side. They're a nuisance fish, and pretty much useless

The dock we fished off all day. After maybe 6 hours, I got bored and started wandering taking photos.