Thursday, May 29, 2014

Paddock to Paddock - no plate around here

Recently having ventured into the new experience of growing my own (very limited) range of vegetables to counteract the dead specimens offered up under the bright lights of the supermarket giants, I don't think I'll ever be ready for the whole paddock to plate experience.  Whilst my dream of having some chickens, some sheep and a pig or two would strengthen my education in non suburban living it wouldn't result in growing four legged food for the table.  Having not killed so much as a huntsman spider, not because of any creature loving or Buddhist philosophy but more they just scare the crap out of me.  I don't see myself up for the challenge of witnessing a butchering to call myself an accountable meat eater, any day soon.  Although I hope my carrots will swiftly and mercifully be pulled from their bedding with not a squeal, squawk or hint of fear.  And whilst a dedicated carnivore I will continue to support good animal husbandry through my educated purchase choices I would never consider my own animals for consumption.  No more would I eat the neighbours than feast on the backyard residents no matter how free range or tasty rare breed they might be.  Call me weak but I'm comfortable that killing must exist for me to feast on my dinner of exceptional quality.  I don't need to see the killing deed anymore than I need to see open heart surgery or an autopsy - so note to all television chefs, it doesn't make you a better person even if it does slam the competition on the ratings.  Food happens.  A bit like Christmas - even if the main course never get to see too many of them.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sharing is for girls ... and dumb cats

Number One Son got a new bed.  The tail wagged and the nose went straight in.  Quickly followed by the tail and a half chewed bone.  Then followed a carefully selected tennis ball, from a large range strategically placed around the house.  And a small stone he had hidden under his old bed.  He stayed there all day.  He looked out from his new bed and thought all was good in the world.  He came over to tell me with a wagging tail that he liked his new bed when suddenly he turned and charged back to his bed barking all the way.  Max (the cat) had dared to sniff it over with an ever so distant but stick it up your jumper sense of curiosity.  Max was unceremoniously pushed aside and Bennie sat up in his bed again.  Don't won't no cat germs all over my new bed.  Jeez. Can't have anything to myself around here.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hope there's a heaven help desk

The lady on the right is my Auntie Maureen.  She passed away this week with a frail condition in her eighties.  The man she is standing next to is her brother who has long since gone.  I suspect this photo was taken by my mother with her new Box Brownie camera.  Growing up in this family meant  a sometimes flexible but strict Irish and religious upbringing.  You know the sort of thing, going to church is holy but so is going to the races.  Swearing your obedience to God is taught but so is  swearing. Hilarious and creative this family produced some of the finest.  Unfortunately the passage of time and less than bullet proof health is snatching them away one by one.  At the time of one passing the remaining family would often spend an afternoon around the table having imaginative discussions about what they are all doing 'up there' now.  Up there, referring to the afterlife and not somewhere in the roof of course.  "Bet they're all having a good laugh around the table with a bottle of beer or two and singing songs saying look at those poor b**stards down there".  It all sounds very comforting if not a little 1950's.  I do hope that 'up there' has moved on just a little.  I hope they have Internet connection.  They'd be nothing worse than getting all the way into the celestial good books and sitting on your cloud only to realise it's not connecting with the Cloud and there's no reception there.  But I digress.  We'll miss you Maureen more than you realise.  Hope the beer is cold and the laughs keep coming.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rectified Spirit Not To Be Taken Internally

Fortunately now that I have my super turbo charged vegetable juicer my ability to fight off all colds and viruses will be superhuman.  For most of the winter ailments that are more of a slow down annoyance than a necessary swan dive onto the sofa with faux fur blanket landing neatly across knees, I mostly soldier on.  Recently I came across my mother's Ladies' Handbook of Home Treatment and was only slightly horrified at some of the remedies.  This is the 1945 Edition with its coloured illustrations of red and blue dots and spots or for example PLATE I depicting a rather out of proportion woman titled 'THE FEMALE FIGURE, SHOWING THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE VITAL ORGANS'.  And suitable arranged they were for our female figure sporting somewhere in the stomach region some sketchy woolly objects that look like she may have eaten a Marino sheep at some point.  Having a handbook nearby with ready at hand remedies for tuberculosis might not be the most thumbed through book on the shelf, but the First Aid Outfit section stands out and reads like a well stocked pantry. Castor Oil and Aromatic Spirits of Ammonia - no doubt to wash the floor with afterwards, Brandy - well obviously you'll need one, Methylated Spirit, Ether or Petrol 'for removing adhesive plaster' - off the wall maybe? Vinegar, Baking Soda, Epsom Salts, Common Salt, Boric Acid and Mustard.  Mustard?  No explanation on the condiments but then I haven't had to tend to many Boils and Carbuncles of late.  I'm sure there is a more recent edition of the Ladies Handbook of Home Treatment somewhere.  But if you happen to see the woman on Plate I, keep her away from your sheep.

Friday, May 16, 2014

This program is suitable for viewers who just like to see things go bing.

 When we were children our parents told us not to sit too close to the television as it was bad for our eyes. "If you sit too close your eyes will go square", they said.  An actual medical fact no doubt! We only sat close to the television to be closer to the dial, to change the channel you see (stay with me here...).  And it wasn't that long ago.  We weren't dressed in animal skills and didn't have to hunt our own food.  We just didn't have broadband yet.  My parents, from a generation of wireless listeners and news broadcasters with very deep and serious voices have come into the technology age with all the passion and enthusiasm of a new BBC serial.  They now send email on a regular basis and no longer have to follow it up with a phone call to tell you its coming, and to look out for it.  They put their photos on a stick and I don't fear anything involving photographs and the branch of a tree.  They download and it doesn't involve a gin and tonic.  They talk about megabytes but I suspect they're just making stuff up as they don't really understand.  In fact neither do most of us on that one. They've lost interest in the television because it's no longer connecting with them, they're not interested in personality contests, people who appear to blow things up on a regular basis or anything poorly disguised as house makeover come advertising vehicle. Television appeals to a different audience now.  We no longer sit together in the lounge room with our TV dinners (what the hell were they anyway) on our TV tables watching 'family entertainment' the way it captured the image of the 1970's family.  Although someone in our household is still a fan.  I just wish he wouldn't sit so close.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The real thing

Having worked in retail for over 10 years I was excited to spend a morning in the city of Melbourne exploring the new retail landscape with the opening of new international stores and the new Emporium complex.  New stores bring in new customers who want to come and refresh their wardrobes with something new from something new.  I walked along many clothing aisles filled with garments that were made with someone else in mind and suffered music tunneling through my ears only comparable to a car alarm going off under your bedroom window at 2am.  I walked, went up escalators and down them again.  I pulled out hangers with cheaply made garments and put them back with that sour look on my face that only women of a certain age can perfect.  My feet tired quickly with an increasing need for a good sit down.  I came, I saw, I bought nothing but I did see a great Merino sheep and his handler in the Mall.  Celebrating Wool Week.  Now that was worth a look.  And even he needed a good sit down.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

From paddock to puree

We are the proud parents of a new veggie patch.  A 2 metre raised paddock in our tiny courtyard.  From the tiny babies selected from the nursery we transported our wee carrots and onions into their new homes.  We took them out of their punnets all bundled up and stretched their legs out into their new beds of carefully prepared soil and chook pooh.  The sun on their dirt blanket filled the yard with an earthy manure aroma that sent the pets inside with a 'wasn't me' look on their faces.  We estimate a 6 to 8 week wait before we will think about harvest.  As it's our first one it will be a case of pull it out and see.  I don't expect a Coles representative around any time soon however we do hope for a bumper crop. And given I've just bought a turbo powered juicer that could pulverise a flat screen television into a smoothie, I won't be afraid to slaughter the herd. But they can enjoy the sunshine, for now.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Not really his mother, thankfully.

I was delighted to know that Max put pen to paper to wish me a happy Mother's Day.  The card read "Being with you... is like having every single one of my wishes come true".  And for this cat ain't that the truth!  I was delighted at the apparent effort he'd put into wishing me a great day including an early morning wake up call of tearing at the carpet to get my attention at 6am.  Max, in Max's world knows only one set of rules.  Max's.  Whilst we don't credit him with much we can say without him, life would be very different indeed.  Financially better off, able to take vacations, better furniture but I guess that's not the point.  His card was thoughtful and on days like this you forget the drawbacks.  Even if the card did go on to say "Happy Valentine's Day".  It's the thought that counts.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Photo: To keep the earth on one's roots and find another earth, that is a real miracle. ~Marc Chagall. 

An epigraph in Robyn Davidson's book 'Travelling Light'. (Davidson. R. 'Travelling Light' (1989) William Collins Pty. Ltd. Sydney: Australia)

Robyn Davidson. - Phototograph by Rick Smolan "From Alice To Ocean." 
The movie Tracks was released a few months back about Robyn Davidson who in 1977 as a 27 year old walked 2700 kilometres through the Australian outback with 4 camels and Diggety her dog .  Starting in Alice Springs and finishing on the Western Australian coast the true story is taken from her own book Tracks.  The film was approved by Robyn as being a close account of her travels and was a good representation of the journey however the book is all about the journey.  Not the end result.  Whilst it was an exceptional achievement, that's not why she did it.  And like so many things these days we so often only hear about the achievements. To be a sporting hero you need runs on the board or to land your dream job you need a resume of glowing achievements. What is missing is the journey that got you there.  It's the journey of discovery that is so quietly taking place nobody seems to notice it.  How did you get there?  What did you learn along the way?  I recommend the book as an excellent read especially for those of us who value time alone and know that being disconnected sometimes is a true blessing.  In a recent interview on ABC radio she said, "You really can expand the boundaries of your life and do risky things and prove yourself by doing them," but added how it's "very, very hard to disappear under the radar now. These days it's very hard to detach. I try to factor solitude into my life, because more and more that's becoming a very precious and rare commodity."  Hopefully you have an oasis in your garden somewhere to detach, and a place to tie up your camel.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

We all work for Max

We forgot his birthday.  He turned 3 a few days ago.  There was no party, no invitations sent to his friends the local possum, the pigeons and that gungy bit of string he loves so much.  No jumping castle, no pony rides just another Max day like any ordinary day for this well catered for cat.  Food on demand, a former designer throw rug to sleep on, and a household who are preoccupied with his utmost happiness, we say he does alright.  Cat's are particularly clever at moving your attention from whatever you are doing, to them.  Be it a newspaper, remote control, keyboard or (computer) mouse Max will plant himself on it in one of his usual 'stop what you are doing and pat me' moments.  He's a great communicator but the conversation is somewhat limited.  We often wonder what he is thinking.  Not a great deal is usually the response.  But somewhere in between those magnificent seal point ears is one of the smartest minds in the household.  I say that because this morning it was 4.9 degrees and the household is up and shivering through the morning rituals of another workday while Max, now fed has returned to my bed to make the most of the electric blanket with early morning sun coming through the window.  Everyday is a birthday for this little ragdoll.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Our Family Natural History Museum

My father has an artist's studio at the back of his garden.  It's a gallery of his collections including his paintings, other people's paintings and travel memorabilia.  It houses old folders with photos, long escaped library art books, a collection of forgotten National Geographic magazines, all of the long replaced family telephones and various ornaments that have multiplied as they've been evicted from family members homes over the years. In fact if I looked hard enough I'm sure my old school books would be in there somewhere too.  My father's shed is a shrine for the early 1970's ornamentals and forgotten figurines.  Here they sit enjoying the company of my father's hours of painting and constructing of wooden frames. In this shed he is never alone with framed photos of since passed family watching over his every brush stroke and cackling at the odd frustrated swear word.  The carved pacific islanders ward off any evil and stand to attention in amongst the empty beer bottles from far away lands.  The old clock that has since had its chimes silenced reminds him that night is drawing in and it's time to lock up.  Just in case, we don't want another Night at the Museum thing happening anytime soon.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Baby possum slow cooked in jelly variety

Don't pets love a routine?  Same time for breakfast and same time for dinner.  Regardless of weekend or not, I will be fed at 6.05 am again today please.  Routines work well for Max when it involves food, play and attention. With the nights now darker and more damp he's succumbed to the winter routine of more food, more attention and don't forget that red toy mouse you throw for me when there is not much on the telly.  Pets are remarkable at training us into their worldly needs.  His dinner routine involves a culinary selection of specific branded cat food labelled as casserole, meaty chunks, cooked in jelly and slow cooked varieties.  So conditioned is his requirements he's been known to decline slivers of fresh fish, roasted chicken and tiny morsels of raw liver.  Because it didn't come in a pouch.  We do our best to provide him with a varied diet to the point where we have exhausted all selection boxes at the supermarket and therefore run out species.  I'm waiting for the new Endangered Varieties range to come out next.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Baking with Bocuse, sort of...

Full credit to Paul Bocuse and his Regional French Cooking for my Bacon and Cheese tart lunch today.  Whilst not quite bang on for integrity I swapped his Gruyere for my local's vintage but he would have been proud of my bacon choice.  Organic, free range, in the paddock for a good time if not a long time and requiring a small financial loan for about 8 slices but well worth it. The tart sat beside what remains of the salad patch which is a few upright Cos leaves that I appear to be sharing with a backyard grub who's keen on the green but repelled by radicchio. The biscuit tin has been fleeced with the last of the fruit slice gone and given the weekend will be awash I suspect it's going to be an afternoon of grey skies, a slight northerly and a warm serving of scones. Hope you have a bumper baking weekend.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Virgin Atlantic Valencias

A little time in the sun.  What joy.  I came across these chickens in the rear of a hotel with a beer garden in a town called Evandale in Tasmania.  They were great to watch taking turns at scratching in the leaves, perching on the bench and ordering another round of beers. Their minders were two large turkeys that would take your eye out if you got too close.  Tasmania is one of my favourite places.  Particularly at this time of year with wood fires on the go, ornamental pear leaves turning a ruby red and fast traveling water rushing through creeks and river beds.  At this time of year baking dishes are being rescued from the back of the cupboard with the rust wiped off (or is that just mine?) for another season.  Some say cold nights are for soup and whilst I'll put my food chopping processor into formula one mode to get through the french onion soup requests I'm mostly happy to leave the soup alone.  For me it's a bit too close to failing dentures and being hand fed.  I say if you've still got molars - use 'em.  As the seasons are changing so is the desire to use what nature intends.  My nearby supermarket informs me via a notice that oranges are not in (that's fine they're not supposed to be right now) as they are awaiting them due to their flight from the other side of the world being delayed!  I'm not sure how to interpret this information.  Should I be waiting in the Arrivals lounge at the airport with a bunch of flowers and a sign saying welcome?  And whilst oranges may not be in season here now, neither are a lot of the other fruit and veg that have more visa stamps on their passport than mine.  I won't buy overseas fruit when our orchards are being torn up and bulldozed. So while the foreign oranges are somewhere over the Pacific Ocean watching a movie or just chilling before landing, I'll stick with the local farmers' markets.  Food miles are one thing but food frequent flyer points are another.