Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Like Hanzel & Gretal

Does anyone know about men who like to fatten up their partners?

Please witness last nights' dinner. The second pie of the season, no zest in the crust, but still a shortbread crust, apple and blueberries. Ice-cream and freshly made whipped cream are optional, the pie eating is not.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

'Five Leaves Left'

There has been a lot of stormy weather here, I drove to roller derby practice in a complete downpour, so strong was the rain that I put my Jeep into 4WD. But when we got up today, as I opened the bedroom curtains, Zok exclaimed 'What? No way!', because the day was bright and clear. In penance, of his outburst, I made him take me to the Royal Botanical Gardens, or as I like to call it, 'The Arboreteum'. Arboreteum is not a word that Australians take kindly too, but that is what I am used too, and really Royal Botanical sounds down right stuck up. The point was that I am finally feeling season appropriate and I wanted to see some leaves across an expanse of lawn. I wanted to see Oaks, Maples, and other deciduous trees. I am of the opinion that formal gardens are the best bet for these trees, because honestly, they don't exactly thrive in this hemisphere, but if you squint a little they can pass muster. Our gardens don't have a bat colony (see Sydney post), but we have a sweet Japanese garden, a fountain that commemorates the French explorers for which many areas (Huon, D'entrecasteaux, Recherche) are named, and best of all 'Pete's Patch'!
Pete's Patch is featured on our (and by all I mean Australia wide, as most radio and t.v. are broadcast throughout Australia not bound to one state) 'Gardening Australia'. I love seeing vegetables grow that I haven't seen before, and to see how they rotate their beds or which plants they choose to be companion plants. Soil is a problem in Australia, so often an area is planted with some sort of plant that can be dug back into the soil to add a missing nutrient such as nitrogen. We like to use the garden as a sort of goal marker for our own, and sometimes as a tip for when a certain vegetable should be planted. I like the novelty of the garden being featured on my vodcast and knowing I can just drive over and see the changes.
The day was perfect, not too cold or too hot, the colors of the garden all in autumn hues. Back home I can only sense autumn, by the angle of the sun and the tides. I do love being able to hear the surf, and walking down to the blow hole (which doesn't actually act like a blow hole any longer but is still nice to watch the water rush through at a high tide), plus there is the feeling that the tides will bring in treasure that I will find along the shore.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Lest We Forget"

I am commemorating Anzac day by checking up on my eligibility and paperwork for Australian citizenship.
Anzac day is the holiday that follows 'Easter Week' here in Australia. This day seems to be the folk marker for the start of autumn as well. I hear people say 'after ANZAC day' plant this or that, go to see this or that (this or that such as the mythical fagus, aforementioned in my Tarn Shelf post).
I am able to explain Anzac day due to the study I put in to pass my citizenship test. My knowledge of both history and politics has been sharpened by living abroad, just as my grammar was improved by studying other languages. However, no amount of perusing our atlas improves my knowledge of geography so I still get comments thrown my direction that lump me in with the seemingly world wide view that Americans, if, they know geography at all, they know only the geography of the continental United States. But, one girl can only do what she is able.
Perhaps, because I learned about Anzac day late in my life, I feel the impact of this story more than all the yearly purchased poppies, of memorial day in America ever achieved.
Anzac is the acronym for 'Australian and New Zealand Army Corps'. (If you need a visual on that, think of the guy who talked funny and wore that large hat in M*A*S*H).
Specifically the day refers to a battle on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
Australia is still regarded as having a small population, even today when the number is around twenty-one million, but at the time of the battle the population was under six million. The campaign in Gallipoli resulted in an estimated 25,000 casualties including some 8,700 who died. The impact community by small community is easy to imagine, much easier than imagining just a large number. I find I can imagine the impact quite well, because every town has a memorial here with the names of the people who died etched in the stone obelisk. I mean, we are talking about a country where (again as previously posted) that even has war memorials in dedicated to the dogs who served and were killed in battles.
My parents are young, and grandparents were not a part of my life, so my only relationship to war is Vietnam. I remember my Mother complaining that her chances of finding a partner were severely lessened by the amount of men her age killed or permanently damaged by the war. When I was young, occassionally a Veteran of that war lived with us, and I heard some stories, especially from one man who used to take me with him into the city of San Francisco with him. He made the trip daily from whichever part of Marin County we were living in, to go to a methadone clinic, which was set up for returning Veterans from Vietnam who had become addicted to heroin. He also took me with him, when he mailed his medals of honour, back to the President, upside down. He told me this was a testimony to his feelings about the war. One can see how my idea of the heroism of battle was skewed by my limited first hand experience.
I think the idea of 'Lest We Forget' and the commemorative moment of silence each year is important. I remember the men I knew briefly when I was young even though they didn't stay in my life. I try to think of all the peoples whose lives have been are are affected by war. I appreciate that my life has not been directly impacted, that I can drink all the coffee and eat all the sugar that I want. I haven't had to do without like the generation of each great war. I acknowledge that people today suffer from battles on their lands. I also take the time to think about my adopted country on this day of commemoration, because I feel fortunate to be here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"...paved paradise to put up..."

Zok and I often talk about the trip we took to Tasmania, not the first trip, but the one to really look around. We toured the University and looked at land prices, this was probably 2004. We thought about actually buying land then, but as we discussed the idea we thought that waiting for my Visa, and getting more familiar with the island was the more prudent thing to do. Although I have seen cities grow beyond what I would have imagined (anyone remember when bars in Seattle would take a check?)-I clearly remember saying "What is a year or so, I mean this is Tasmania, the end of the world, how much could change?". Well, there was a boom, land prices increased by more than forty percent of what we had looked at, the economy changed, the dollar changed, our lives changed, and so the big plans were traded for more modest ones. In our neighborhood there seems to be a continuing growth spurt, many sweet homes, on nice sized lots are now being torn down to accomodate monstrous new homes, usually two or three in place of the one.
Another misconception I have to grapple with is that new homes here, aren't all they can be. When I think of a new home or building a home from the ground up, I think of planned gardens, solar panels, reclaimed grey water systems, and double paned windows. This is not what happens. Often there is no yard at all. As we walked through the neighborhood so that Zok could bear witness to the new changes, and I could vent to an audience, I fell into a game I like to call 'when we win the lottery; in division one' this is the category of winning that gives real winnings, we win small money that goes back into the pot of offsetting the ticket prices, and that is when I noticed I needed to be specific with my wishing. So: 'When we win division one of the lottery', I will buy back the land, tear down the monstrous houses and put in a community garden, and so on, and so on.
I expect changes on the main road, but now the construction is starting to occur on the next street over, which has older, pretty, homes, and a wide street. This is distressing in itself, but what is getting to me the most, is that a house I love, set back on a big lot, which sometimes has sheep grazing in the yard, looks primed to be the next victim. I have never seen any sign of people and the mailbox reads; "No Junk Male Please" which I love for the obvious reasons. Zok pointed out that there are now three driveways along their yard, which indicates that the city will section out the lot for three new drives, or six new complexes.
I may have to change my plan to 'When we win the lottery, division one, we will buy up land to the South where we can live away from subdivisions'.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"...Friday evenings people get together...hiding from the weather..."

Zok is home, and we are best described as two planets circling the same sun. Running in sync with each other but not together. For instance, I am elated that my roller derby gear came, but apparently, skating is forbidden in the house. I will be ordering outdoor wheels, immediately. Meanwhile Zok is focused on squashing my enthusiam and cooking. He booked a lay over in Melbourne for a few reasons, but the main reason was his obsession with a certain Mediterranean market on Sydney St. This store has huge wheels of cheese, the actual huge wheels of cheese, Zok is so enamored that only on our third trip did he come upon me having a macchiato at the cafe. Let me explain that each time we went there, I would walk away from him, to leave him alone with his cheese, I would tell him of my plans, have a coffee and then return to him once again. On our third trip, he came upon me and exclaimed, 'There is a coffee shop in here?'.
Along with all the cheese he brought home a bottle of champagne, which prompted my using this as an excuse to drink a bottle of champagne. I tried to be gracious by finding a risotto recipe that involved champagne. Zok got to make a new recipe, we invited over the neighbors and I got to drink champagne. The risotto was very good, Zok used three types of mushrooms as well. As an added surprise, and due to a very rainy day, Zok baked an apple pie. He has baked them before, but to be completely honest, they were a bit lacking. I shouldn't comment because I don't know how to make a pie, and aside from an incident involving a fruit tart that went awry, I never have. This pie however, was perfect. It look pretty, and tasted great.
Mostly we have been get the winter vegetables planted, and watching autumn come on.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"She feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China"

The 'mythical' Fagus

Trail Marker

Rope pull

Autumn snow

The Tarn Shelf in Mt. Field

I am happy to have hiked up to the Tarn Shelf, as it is a bushwalking landmark and people mention it a lot. Also this is where people go to ski but I can't picture skiers on this landscape. I stood staring at the rope pull but the view is overwhelmed by the boulders, how much snow does the area get that people can ski down all those huge rocks?
I have decided that if the ranger station lists a walk as 'experienced' this just means there is no real trail. Just heaps of rocks with markers that are so slight I felt as if I was on a scavenger hunt. Our walk was really silent and I felt as if I was at cloud level. Alas, April made fools of us, because the fagus (fay-gus) was not visible, or should I say that the plant hasn't started to die off and therefore isn't in fall color. The walk was short actual less than five k.m. so not even three miles, yet that distance took us around three hours to scramble up and back down the steep inclines comprised of rocks with just enough short stretches of boardwalk so that hope of being on the right path was maintained.
I am all for local flora, and this hike was not for sissies, but I did find myself reminiscing fondly about the ease of renting a car, and driving though picturesque Vermont in the autumn.
Well as the Australians say, 'One more sleep' until Zok is home. Hurrah!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What qualifications does this Easter Bilby have?

My first experience with Easter in Australia was years ago, when I was staying in Melbourne-without Zok-before we moved down to Tasmania. I got a job (! gee remember me a girl who worked?) through a friend of Zok's and I had all the nerves that go along with a new situation. I had to find my way, get parking, dress like some form of a grown up person, interact with strangers, avoid the free cookies in the break room, well you get the idea. After I got through the interview and did all my paperwork (this was a real bona fide office), I worked a couple of days, I was feeling pretty good, and then I was told 'Oh don't come back until Wednesday week'. The statement held much confusion for me, firstly 'Wednesday week' that means not this Wednesday but next Wednesday, which I suppose does have the benefit on no one having to say 'Not this Wednesday but next Wednesday'.
Secondly, I couldn't figure out what holiday was occurring, but then I found that it was Easter. Which here, at the very least, includes the Friday before and the Monday after, but commonly also the following Tuesday. For example, my sewing class in on a Tuesday and therefore next week we do not have class. This goes the same for post, and the library. Many, many places are closed. I still get the feeling that I am stocking up for a power outage or some natural disaster, I think things such as 'What if there is a run on milk?', 'What will I do without mail for sooooooooo many days, I still get upset that there is no Saturday delivery'. I fill up the tank with gas (or petrol to be AU). I buy extra bread, I check out at least one more book than I could possibly read.
Then there is the Easter Bilby.
Okay, in defense of Australia, rabbits are considered a pest, that whole scheme to introduce them to eat whatever they were meant to eat went badly, and I have heard stories of wide stretches of land literally covered with rabbits. Also there is a trend towards 'local' only, which I like and agree with, because we all know that in the films where the world gets devastated by war/bio-warfare/aliens/natural disaster well of course Australia is if not the only survivor of fall out at least the place that holds out longest. Therefore, I like to know that even if I was cut off by radiation to the rest of the world, I could still get my coffee and honey to sweeten it with.
But is this Easter Bilby trust worthy? What sort of work ethic does it have?
Will it just scatter eggs higgledy-piggledy? I don't think that the bilby has any songs written about it, so obviously the publicist should at the very least be put on warning. Worse do the millions of feral rabbits know that the Bilbys took their jobs? That could get ugly.
Lastly, and the cap to my confusion, is 'Oh snow on the mountain, it must be Easter'. Let me just haul up some wood for the porch as opposed to go out on nightly trips to steal the lilacs from tree that are in bloom...
Oh, and I had to bury a possum by the grevillea near the magnolia tree, and that just is NOT Easter-y.

*Top two photos borrowed from Google Images.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"protected for the night against the dangers of idleness"

I continue on, tired and busy. I made a poor showing at Roller Derby-we were meant to slide under a limbo poll, sort of baseball style as if sliding into a base. However I think my brain stops my body from really going in for the slide and I was always a bit short. I was in bed early due to derby, I am missing some warm, clear nights which are excellent for star gazing.
Today I was up early for a chance of a new walk, this beach trail is a bit out of the way, a twenty minute drive. There is an interesting cave that I might try to climb down too when my legs are not feeling so strained. I learned a couple things, that the native (Aboriginal) names for Mt. Wellington were; Unghanyahletta, Pooraneter, and Kunanyi.
Not that I could ever pronounce them to sprinkle this information casually into a conversation. This site is called Coningham. There were a lot of oysters, just piled on rocks and onto each other, there were patterns everywhere in the sand made by some creature underneath but neither of us knew what made them. Here in Tasmania, starfish are considered not just a pest but a menace but I am fond of them.