Monday, October 31, 2011

This is not Halloween

(Try singing that to the tune from Nightmare Before Christmas, it makes more sense. I hope. In my head it still does at least)

They don't really do Halloween here in Australia.

Or at least they don't do it in Tasmania. I can't honestly speak for the rest of the country.

I'm not a HUGE Halloween fan, but I do love the general fall decorations, carving pumpkins, and dressing up to hand out candy to cute little kids (and lame older ones who can't be bothered dressing up). And the fun kiddie Halloween specials (It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!, Under Wraps, and Goosebumps. I still can't stand horror movies).

I did see SOME Halloween decorations go up around here. In... one.... house. And it was a very sad attempt.

They don't do Thanksgiving here, either (really, it's only an American holiday. And Canadian too for some reason?). So it's not exactly an atrocity that stores started putting out all their Christmas gear last month. I mean everything. Ornaments, fake trees, those little gift baskets of stuff you get for someone you don't know what to get a gift for.

I do really miss my typical fall (minus the cold, though I COULD go for a crunchy leaf and a caramel apple and apple cider doughnut from Jonamac Orchard).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Since both my husband and I love the ocean, we agreed that ocean and water themed... stuff... could decorate most of our home. But we'd rather use money on things like food, petrol, and possibly plane tickets back to the U.S. at some point. Enter sea detritus (and also, lack of silly bits of crap cluttering our house for the sake of decorating).

On our walks on the beach we've been collecting shells. Nice ones, not so nice ones, ones that are old and worn, ones that are new and unbleached from the sun just yet, big ones, small ones, odd and ordinary. I've also amassed a few sea sponges and some rather nice cuttlefish bones, along with some interesting stones.

It's taken close to four weeks of slow work of cleaning everything (since I have other things to do around the house, or spend time just lounging with my husband). Mostly because I really don't want something decorating our house to smell like rotten fish and stale ocean. And if I'm going to do something, I might as well do it right, right?

Anywho, it's a long process of soaking in boiling soapy water, scrubbing with a toothbrush,

removing any living creatures (only happened once when a whole bunch of snails and two very tiny starfish were living in a big shell my husband found for me), and sand. Then soaking some in bleach and others in mentholated alcohol, depending on what TYPE of shell it is and some other boring stuff. Then more rinsing in water.
Most of them got a small rub-down with some baby oil, enough so that they have just the tiniest bit of shine to them, or so that the colors stand out like they do when the shell is ALMOST dry (going for natural looking here, just nicer when you don't have something trying to pretend to be something it's not). Sea sponges got rinsed. A LOT. They're like giant ocean filters, so they pick up and hold a ton of dirt, sand, bacteria, and plant life. So most of them got a slight dip in bleach (since they're old and sun-bleached, none of them have the pretty natural colors like they do when they're alive) and another immediate rinse.

After a few days of drying, they were put into old Moccona instant coffee jars (since I'm not paying for any apothecary jars at this point, and these look fine anyway) and used as decorative pieces in our otherwise bare home.

Why all this work instead of just buying shells and a jar? One, because it's cheaper. Two, I like the more... natural way of it. They aren't super shined-up shells that we bough. Three, they are things that we've collected while on long walks on the beach talking. Together. Some slightly more meaningful knick-knacks.

And they can easily be switched out for new shells or sea life (once we get
another empty jar, I plan on filling it with just the cuttlefish bones), and can either sit and look pretty, or have a purpose.
Right now, they're doing a lovely job as book ends.

Also, these are just plain fun for me to look at. When I was little, I remember my grandma had a large jar FULL of things she'd collected on her various trips to beaches.
All sorts of shells I loved to take out and sort, different bits of coral, and even a rock that showed little fossils on it when you got it wet. These are kind of a nice little reminder
of that.

And if you've never read "At the Scent of Water", I HIGHLY recommend it. It's an amazing story.

Busy As A Bee

Last weekend we went to a working bee.

My husband's family had a whole bunch of gum trees planted as a wind break on one side of their property for about 21 years. They were massive. And they only live about 21 years before there's a real danger of them falling onto something. Like your house.

So, all these massive gum trees (about 100 I was told) were cut down last year, so as to avoid them falling on things like houses and cars and people. And have been sitting on the side of the property lining the drive way since then.

The plan was to have it all cut up and used for fire wood. But, about 100 trees, plus branches, and they were all piled on top of each other... makes for one heck of a job.

So the working bee was planed.

A few family friends and some acquaintances who actually do this sort of thing for a living (old farmer bushman types), as well as our landlord, came out to help. All up there were 5 other people, aside from family, helping out. It involved one of the older men using his tractor to pull out the massive trees from various places in the oh so long pile of
trees and branches, someone walking along the pile with a chain saw cutting away larger branches and
cutting some of the trees down to size so that they were able to be pulled out using the tractor at all.

I have no before pictures, but just imagine all this space filled with lots and lots of dead trees.

Did I mention the trees were massive?

After the trees were pulled, they were taken to one of three spots where someone would chainsaw them into smaller pieces. Then someone threw those into haphazard piles.

Then there were those of us who got to walk along this pile of possible snake habitat gathering up branches that were more small trees than anything and throwing them over the boundary fence so that they weren't in the way of the tractor, and to burn in a truly fantastic fashion later.

All this wood still needs to be split so it can be used for firewood, and because some of it is just so stinking BIG. Apparently, gum wood gets nearly hard as rock if it sits too long once it's been cut, and if it isn't split soon, will need to be chainsawed to death.

And all throughout this, moving logs, branches leaves, that have been sitting for over a year, on a warm day, in areas we've HEARD snakes before, the only reptile that was spotted was a Blue Tongue Lizard. We didn't see a snake until a few days later, when it was cold and rainy.
Later released into the raspberry patch. And no, they're not venomous, but they apparently have a nasty bite.

There's still several meters of piled up gum trees that needs to be taken care of, even after 8-plus hours of work.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Unexpected Surprises (an oxymoron)

Why have I posted this somewhat blurry picture of a hole in the ground? A seemingly pointless and small (2 inches in diameter at most) and blurry little hole in the ground?

Because this, my friends, is the home of a snake. A rather venomous one.

My sister-in-law swore that it was a Red Bellied Black Snake, but I did a little research and they don't live here. More likely, it's a Lowland Copperhead. They can look somewhat similar, though, and when you run into a snake here, you don't go chasing it to pick it up, play with it, and study it. Unless you're some kind of stupid.

And yes, we did see the snake. Several times.

My mother and sister-in-law and I were walking into a paddock to start a massive bonfire (that's another story entirely) and as we were going through the front gate, my mother-in-law grabs her daughter's arm and starts stuttering, "Da-Da-Da...!" as I continue walking for a half second, then Danella looks down and yells, "SNAKE!"

I saw maybe the last foot of it slithering into some long grass about a yard to my left. 2 seconds earlier and we could have been trodding on it.

Oh, and this was a chilly, wet, rainy day too. Two days before, when we'd been rifling through tons of branches and fallen trees perfect for snakes, we saw none. But again, another story.

After we'd lit the fire, My mother-in-law and her son went down (him carrying a giant club he'd found) to look for the snake again. And again, despite the lack of sun and the presence of rain and cold, it was out about another foot and a half. So he swung the club and missed, but stomped down all the grass it was going into. And that's when they found it's hole.

The third time we went by it, it's little head was poking out. Again. I'm not stupid enough to point my camera directly down a hole that is known to have a venomous snake down it just for a decent photo. Thus the terrible and blurry photo of a pointless-looking hole.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The sea, the sea

One of the benefits of living in Tasmania is that I am no more than an hours drive from the ocean (depending on who's driving).

While it's too cold to swim right now without one heck of a wet or dry suit, the beaches are still open and we've gone on a few nice strolls close to sunset.

But, then again, I'm quite in love with the water. But the unending water, the smell of the salt and cold tangy air, the lulling waves with occasional crashes.... I'm in love with it.The view is just spectacular.

Not so much in love with the fact that there could be sharks out there, and that there was, in fact, a 12 foot Great White spotted in the very bay we frequent
last summer. I love sharks, find them fascinating, but would rather not swim with such a big fish without proper protection.

My husband and I have been on a few rather nice walks along the beach front. Two beaches, really. Talking and collecting sea detritus (which I'll be using for a project in a few days). Along with the typical shells, we've managed to collect some sea sponges, a small, pretty
much completely in-tact sea urchin, a puffer fish skeleton (that had too much petrified flesh on it, so that was tossed again), a fossilized shark
tooth, and a few cuttlefish bones.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You'd think we were starting a farm

Here in Tasmania, it is, as I've said in previous posts, EXTREMELY rural. I've heard it compared to, say, Mississippi or West Virginia in the U.S.

We live in a sort of rural cul-de-sac and our neighbours have horses, ponies.... more horses, and dogs. So we ourselves have started to collect our own plethora of animals.

First, we got our chickens (chooks if you're Australian). Only one, our most red one, lets us pick her up consistently. It's probably mostly because she gets picked on endlessly by the other three.

Then our rooster, Eutychus. We got him free from my in-laws since they have a lot of roosters already and if you have more than one or two, things can get messy. But when we brought our boy home, it was night, because apparently at night, chickens are so sleepy you can just grab them and they won't do anything. So he was put into a box, brought home, and fell asleep in the box. As my husband tried to tip him out into his new home (with his very own girls!) he didn't come out. So further the box tipped. And after a minute of coxing and tipping, out fell the rooster. Face first into the straw, no movement. After me freaking out a little that we'd killed him, my husband patted him on the back and he startled awake. Only to, 2 minutes later, fall back to sleep amongst his harem.

But his name totally makes sense if you check out the story of Eutychus.

Euty and the chicks

After him came our lawn mowers. I guess our neighbours don't like to maintain their fences because two of their ponies got out and, according to our landlord, they come over to eat the grass down anyway.

Our barnyard backyard. At least they keep the grass down and I can use their poop for compost.

Then there was the cat that we think might belong to one of the neighbours, but we're not sure as it travels back and forth between two houses on two sides of us. And now stops at our place to try and come inside. She's EXTREMELY friendly, and purrs if you pretty much just look at her.

I also kind of made the mistake of feeding her. I really miss my own cats... and dog.

And now, we have ducklings. Two of them. They've doubled in size in about a week and provide me with endless amusement, along with endless warm fuzzies (except when I have to clean up their poop). They're inside at them moment since it's too cold fo

r them to be outside and they have no mama to take care of them, and we don't want them getting eaten by rats, or snakes, or Kookaburras.

Taken about a week ago, they now can barely fit in that bowl together.

And, for your viewing and "awwww!"ing pleasure, the ducklings first swim.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I'm (not so much) Lovin' It

Every place and culture has their own slang.

Some of the stuff here in Tassie drives me absolutely bonkers.

For instance:

Minute= mini
Second= seci
Breakfast= Brekkie
McDonalds= Maccas

My spelling on those might be wrong. It's kind of hard to check as some slang is really regional. The last two though, I have seen on billboards.

I wanted to punch them.

Yes, the English language is FULL of it's own slang. Things like cool, sweet, neat, yeah, hot, peeps, and a whole plethora of others. (I WILL NOT count text speech as slang as that is too idiotic to be counted as much of anything other than a complete lack of trying at life). And yes, some English slang drives me up the wall. But if I hear anyone else say that, "We'll have brekkie in a seci" my head might implode.

Other slang here quite cracks me up. Here's a brief dictionary of some of it my husband sent me ages ago, when we were joking about me having to learn a new language to come here. Like I said though, the slang is somewhat regional (and, like any language, constantly changing and being added and subtracted from, depending on what's "in"), but it's pretty funny/fun to go through. Ignore the rainbows and poor font color choice.... Aussie Lingo

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Were They Thinking?!

You have to wonder sometimes, who looked at a cow and said, "I think I'll squeeze those hanging things under it and drink whatever comes out."

But then, if you think logically, they probably saw the calves drinking from those dangly things (aka udders) and put two and two together. Baby humans nurse, so maybe that calf is doing the same thing (or lamb, kid, foal, whatever animal we happen to milk).

Then there's the whole egg thing. Who in the right mind saw that THING come out of the rear end of a chicken (or duck or goose) and said, "I think I'll eat that. It looks mighty appetizing, having just come out of chicken
butt." (And as someone who now collects her own eggs, I can say that sometimes they're nice and clean looking and all pretty, and sometimes they're covered in chicken poop. Gross.)

But again, logically, they probably saw how other animals ate them (foxes, rats, other birds, sometimes the chicken that just crapped it out). So they thought, well, if they can eat it, why can't I?

And really, makes sense. People see animals eat something, they can usually assume it's safe for human consumption. (USUALLY. I'm not saying that whatever rotten thing your dog picks up and chews should be put into your mouth). But really, it's a good way to figure out if something tastes good and has any cool benefits. Like coffee.

But you've REALLY got to wonder who looked inside the barrels that were used to ferment beer and said, "Hmm.... that brown goo on the inside of the barrel looks tasty. I think I'll scrape it out and put it on some toast!"

Enter ...
Ok, ok, so there's more to the story, and it's somewhat interesting, if you're into food development and/or Vegemite. So, yay Wikipedia, here you go.

It is a truly Australian food. And aside from eating the national animal, kangaroo, should you ever visit, this is a must-try. Just don't spread it an inch thick on anything. Because all the rumours are true: it's salty and kind of foul. Unless you're like me, and you LOVE salty goodness, and you've been trained in proper Vegemite application. For breakfast, (I seriously do love saltiness for breakfast) first smother your toast in butter. Then oh-so-thinly, as if just barely trying to paint your bread a darker colour, spread the Vegemite. Or do this on a cheese sandwich, or cheese and cucumber. It's really quite delicious.

Just try not to think about where it comes from. Like your morning eggs.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

...With a Twist...

My brother and sister-in law(s?) just got back from their trip to the U.S. And, among other things, raved about a restaurant where you could get lots of Mexican food really cheap and it was really really good.

Taco Bell.

Ok, yes, Taco Bell has good food, for a decent price. But personally, I can't eat it that often or I start getting a kind of sick feeling in from not eating real food (though when the Bell craving hits, sometimes you just gotta give in).

But my young sister-in-law asked if I new what quesadillas where, because they were "REALLY GOOD!"

Of course I know what they are. My brother went through some random phase where he made quesadillas nearly every day, and, you know, I kind of grew up surrounded by cheap and delicious Americanized Mexican food. (Ok, starting to drool right about now...)

I said they were really easy to make if they ever wanted to have them again, since all the fixings (tortillas and cheese if you don't feel like being exciting) are easily found in the grocery store we all frequent. (Though they only call small tortillas tortillas and the bigger ones are called wraps.)

And Mexican food is kind of hard to find here. I think. We don't eat out much and my husband and his family never did before I got here, either. So no one I know has a really good grasp of what is actually around.

So they told me the other night, when we went over to watch Shrek 3 that my sister-in-law had made quesadillas. I asked what she'd put in them, and she said:

Cheese, ham, and spring onion (aka green onion, scallion). In the little tortillas, of course.

And there we have the Australian adaptation of the quesadilla.