Kind Words

Last year, I was approached by a young Hobart-based writer I know, Jenna Cesar. She was planning an article for her blog concerning different approaches to community work and wanted to interview me about what I’ve been doing at Oak Tasmania.

You can read the full article here, where Jenna also talked to Jay Stevens and Eri Konishi. It’s a lovely piece and (hopefully) might encourage others to bring their unique skills to help others in their community.

Also, The Superstars are playing at MONA (Hobart’s iconic Museum of Old and New Art) this Saturday afternoon as part of an event for National Youth Week. The equally amazing Callum “Rock Star Man” is opening for us and (as you can see from the photo below) we Superstars are seriously excited!

If you’re in Hobart, please come and say hi – we’d all love to meet you 😀

The Superstars L-R: Tim, Mel, Megan, me (trying to hide), Sally, Kathryn, Kellie and Ben (Photo courtesy of Chris Rule)

Meanwhile, I’ve got a ton of uni work to do so I can have the weekend off! Take care ❤

Oh Beautiful Friday!

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My life is a little bit insane at the moment, hence the lack of blogging (sorry!)

I’m as always, up to my eyeballs with uni (getting a portfolio of poetry together this time) and work has started again at Oak Tasmania. This year, I’m doing my musical things with The Superstars and we have some big plans for 2017 but I’ve also started tutoring a Food Gardening group two mornings a week. It’s been hectic!

In the space of a couple of weeks, we’ve started doing experiments with growing carrots in pots rather than in traditional garden beds, resurrected the worm farm, started a vegetable and herbs seed bank, done quite a lot of weeding, cleaned out the small greenhouse that’s on site, potted up some basil and eggplants and planted some lettuce seedlings that are already up and running 🙂

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Future salad!

Eventually, we want to grow enough to pass on to the kitchen and provide the cooking courses with fresh, clean produce to turn into salads, soups and encourage better eating among the Oak staff and participants. I’m also hoping some of the seedlings will go home with the gardeners, most of whom are very keen!

This week we spotted a very old dinghy around the back of the site and we’ve decided to appropriate it. Our plan is to bed it in securely, fill it with sheep poo and some good loam and plant it out. The drainage is good – she came with lots of holes! – and we’re thinking about an experiment with some seed potatoes we discovered to begin with. Although they’re very late, in a raised bed we should get a crop and I think we should dress it up and name the old girl something like “The Good Ship Spudalicious”. (Photos are coming!)

Meanwhile, at home it’s a bit overwhelming with nectarines just finished and plums coming in and I’ll be getting the dehydrator out this weekend to turn most of the plums into prunes for the winter months. And I did get my one apricot off the new tree! A few months ago I cheered that there was one solitary fruit and it ended up perfect and utterly delicious ❤

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The maincrop bush tomatoes (San Marzano and Principe Borghese) are just starting to size up and ripen but the Debarao are still flowering and a little behind the Polish Giant Paste that are very green but already very big! Undoubtedly, the best cropper so far has been the bush Roma’s that were an unexpected bonus. I’ve been picking them just as they’ve started to colour and I’ve got a couple of kilos off them already that I plan to bottle in the next few weeks. Everyone’s tomatoes in southern Tasmania seem a little late this summer, but while the rest of the country’s been in a devastating heat wave, Tasmania has been relatively mild and surprisingly damp this year.

Principe Borghese Tomatoes

Principe Borghese Tomatoes

Last week I picked enough perfect grape vine leaves to put in brine for making Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves)

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At least I got the year right even though it’s February now!

and this week I put up two bottles of Pickled Nectarines. This is really simple and relatively quick. All I do is put halved and pitted nectarines into sterilised jars with a cinnamon quill, a star anise and piece of dried Habanero chili in each (totally optional!) and covered them with a heavily sweetened apple cider vinegar (the ratio is 1:1) while it’s still hot. Covered with sterilised lids and put the jars through a water bath for 15 minutes, these nectarines are wonderful with ice cream as a dessert or sliced with game meats. Just leave them for a few weeks for the flavours to develop.

And Wednesday, I had a great time playing a gig at Irish Murphy’s in Salamanca. Because of everything that’s going on in my life at the moment, I haven’t been playing as many solo shows and it was so good to play some songs and catch up with lots of friends 😀

Because I’m working more, I decided to make a mega Zucchini and Ham Slice to freeze and take for lunches – it’s a great way to use up some of the zucchini and egg glut! I used 8 eggs, three grated zucchini, a 1/4 cup of flour, a few left over boiled Nicola potatoes, some cubed ham (about 2 cups) a little fresh sage, thyme, marjoram, a couple of finely sliced Cayenne chilies and a grate of nutmeg. After I’d beaten all this together, I added about 1 1/2 cups of grated Colby cheese and about 1/2 cup of grated parmesan and baked it in a greased deep pan for about 45 mins in a moderate oven. I ended up with 7 generous serves that will make work lunches a lot easier!

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But now, it’s Friday night and I’m beat! All I’m good for is watching the cricket on television and drinking cups of tea. I keep looking across at the pile of clean washing and wish it would fold itself up……..

 

 

Rock Star Man – Day 28 NaBloPoMo 2016

Today I had one of those days.

Really, it was only a moment – but it was so good. It was one of those things that make everything worthwhile, renews my love for the wonderful people I work with and reaffirms my faith in my teaching practice.

I had a session with my friend Callum out at Oak this morning and I decided to introduce him to a guitar slide. What happened was just sublime.

You might remember that I coached Callum through his debut performance back in August and since then, we’ve continued to work, improving and exploring his music. It was a light bulb moment for both of us and we managed to film it – and Callum has given me permission to put it out here to share with you all. Huge thanks to Chris Rule for help with this today.

Here’s “Rock Star Man” ❤

 

The Slow Road to Being Better – Day 15 NaBloPoMo

A very quick post today.

As some of you know, I’ve had a wild time the last few months and not in a good way! I haven’t really talked about it that much but I went back to my fabulous GP today for assessment and I feel it’s time to talk about it.

I’ve been feeling increasingly “off” for the last few months, always  sluggish, tired and lacking energy. I put it down to lack of sleep, work and study pressures and all the deeply personal grief that’s made up this year. But a month ago it all came home to roost when I played a gig and nearly collapsed.

I was scheduled to play a laid back Sunday afternoon set for my friend Amy from Meraki Management and I wasn’t feeling great when I arrived. My brain felt foggy and everything about me felt slow – even my heartbeat was sluggish. I tried to shrug it off and just get on with it. But about halfway through my set, I felt like all my energy suddenly drained away and I could barely stand up. I managed to make it through but I knew I wasn’t well. I felt nauseous, faint and couldn’t stop shaking.

I was understandably scared. And I was really, really angry. How dare my body do this to me at all – but while I was working, doing what I love? Intolerable!

Thankfully, I managed to get in to see my GP the next day – and he is a friend to be treasured. For the last few years, through regular blood testing, it was clear my thyroid function was decreasing and there’s a genetic history of various thyroid disorders in my family. But now it seems my wayward gland has all but stopped working and I’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I started medication the following day and each day I’ve noticed an improvement.

Today I went back for clinical assessment and I have to do another round of blood tests to determine if this is the correct dosage, but it looks and feels like it was the right diagnosis. I think that alone made me feel better!

I haven’t been out much in the last month and the gig I played last week (also for Amy) was my first since “the incident” but I’ve been gradually finding more energy and suffering less exhaustion for no apparent reason.

And tonight I’m heading out to celebrate the first birthday of Meraki Management. This Hobart music management business has done some very impressive things in one short year and I’m really pleased I’m well enough to join in.

I’m still not feeling 100% but I’m on my way – I have a lot to celebrate too 😀

Making Room – Day 10 NaBloPoMo

This will be a short post as I’ve got to get ready for an early set tonight as I mentioned here a couple of days ago and I’m still not absolutely certain what songs I’m going to play. Something short and vitriolic feels kinda right at the moment.

While the world seems to be coming to terms with the US election, I gardened hard this morning. I picked heaps of snow peas, and there’s loads of new flowers and peas coming on. It’s been a wonderful crop and hopefully with last another month or two.

I also ripped out a couple of giant Italian Parsley plants that are going to seed and stripped them for use in the kitchen over the next few days. Then I got stuck into the broad beans in the next bed and picked the largest pods I could find and shelled them into a bowl while the chickens looked on. Again, there’s still heaps of flowers and new beans forming, so this is going to be a good crop. All the parsley heads and bean husks got chopped up and fed straight to the chickens, who are giving us loads of eggs this year.

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I’m the only one in the house that likes broad beans as a fresh vegetable but they dry very well, and we go through a lot of dried beans each year in curries and stews to make meat go further. I’ve laid out what I imagine would be a meal’s worth and I’m going to see how long it takes for them to dry out. It could end up being a dehydrator job but at least these will have a start.

Also, I gave up waiting and decided to lift the rest of the garlic. Some of it is a little small but it is what it is – and with the parsley, I want to make that other great Italian garnish – gremolata.  I’m going to experiment with reconstituting some of my dried lemon zest and adding that instead of buying fresh lemons. My lemon tree is flowering but no fruit until next year.

And the big reason to harvest these plants is the amazing realisation that I’m running out of bed space! I really need the room to plant out more beans, tomatoes and zucchinis. It’s hard to imagine that I’d ever run out of space in this yard. When I arrived here (7 years ago next month) the back yard was a huge mess. Many of the fruit trees were diseased and some were dying. What is now the greenhouse was an overgrown shed that had suckers from a cherry tree growing inside and most of the yard was a jungle, with weeds almost as tall as me.

This year’s garlic was in the first bed I made. I remember the soil was impoverished, dry and hard, with little worm activity. After all my layers of compost, mulch and crop rotations, today it’s black, rich and alive. When I first started here it was easy to get overwhelmed by all the mess and everything that needed to be done, but over the years I’ve created 6 more beds plus the greenhouse and got it to the point of producing almost all our vegetable needs and some of our fruit year round. One is dedicated just to asparagus, another just to raspberries and one is in the permanent home of rhubarb and acid-loving berries.

Now I go down the yard and still get overwhelmed by everything that needs doing – and because of all the rain the weeds are out of hand again and the grass is tall – but that’s good for the rabbits and there’s food to pick while I consider my options 😉

Today’s cute bunny pic is a double feature. Bernard Black has undoubtedly grown

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But this is my British Giant doe, Boudica. She is a lovely girl, very good tempered, but HUGE – especially when compared to BB!

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I love the “one ear up” pose from both of them 😀

I’m off to get ready to play music. Go gently and be well friends ❤

Greenhouse Action & Musings – Day 8 NaBloPoMo 2016

Today, I’ll start with an apology – there’s no gratuitous cute bunny pic in this post. In truth, I forgot to take one today. To Bernard Black Bunny’s fans, I promise I’ll make it up in tomorrow’s post!

I went into the city today for lunch, catching up for coffee with a dear friend and calling into my favourite bookshop, but this morning after I fed the animals, I had a little bit of fun in the greenhouse.

I grow strawberries in pots so I can move them around the yard throughout the year and I’ve been picking fruit steadily for the last few weeks. But one poor plant really wasn’t looking great a couple of weeks ago, so I took it into the greenhouse, fed it some of my home made worm juice fertiliser and promptly forgot about it. What a lovely surprise this morning when I discovered this luscious beauty and more on the way 😀

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A few weeks ago, I planted my precious stash of chilli seeds for the coming summer. While I usually keep a few Cayenne and Rocoto in the greenhouse to overwinter, most get treated as annuals, so this is a big deal for a chilli-lover like me. I was thrilled to see the first of this year’s crop poking their heads up this morning. The weather has been downright cold at times in recent days, so I was worried that I wasn’t going to get any to germinate, not uncommon if temperatures are too low. I’ll post some pictures in the next couple of days.

This winter was so mild, there’s more chillies than usual held over from last summer, including a few Poblano Ancho and I’m really pleased the Cayenne are starting to flower already.

After, I went into the city and (not for the first time) I was quite astonished at the difference between my oasis here and being in town. All the more so that it’s a 10 minute drive or a 25 minute walk from here to central Hobart – it’s not like I like in the bush or even an outer suburb.

I had a great time with my friend but my last stop was the best – catching up with Richard and Mike at Cracked & Spineless New and Used Books. I love bookshops but this one is really something else. It’s not uncommon to bump into friends there, it can be hard to navigate around the shelves depending on how many boxes of books have arrived that day, sometimes you’ll even see the shop’s stick insects fornicating in their tank (I have photographic proof of this!) and for me it’s almost impossible to keep track of time once I set foot in the door.

And while I always come away poorer in monetary terms, I’m always enriched by the books I buy. Today I picked up a new sci-fi thriller, The Tourist by Robert Dickinson, and a very important book from my early adolescence, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

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My father gave me a copy of this same printing when I was probably 11 or 12 and it quite literally changed my life. It caused me to think about making a smaller footprint on this fragile planet, something I still strive to do to this day but above all, it brought me even closer to my father. I’m looking forward to re-reading it and remembering my dad ❤

Finally, for those of you in southern Tasmania, I’m playing a short set Thursday night at the Waratah Hotel in Murray Street. I’m opening the wonderful UNLOCKED show that, now the days are getting longer (and sometimes warmer), is back to being a weekly event. I’m really looking forward to playing 😀

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A Star is Born! (And a Sunday Gig)

Back in August (before life got seriously weird) I told you all about my friend Callum, who I’ve had the privilege of working with the last few months. Well, I’m extremely proud to say that his debut was the most fun I’ve had in ages and a resounding success!

Meraki Management runs a beautiful gig each Thursday called UNLOCKED at a The Waratah Hotel here in Hobart. It’s designed to nurture new music and let emerging artists rub shoulders with more experienced performers. And it was the perfect forum for Callum to strut his stuff.

The lounge was packed with Callum’s wonderful family, most of the staff from OAK Tasmania and his extensive network of friends. And he didn’t disappoint! Sadly, I haven’t been able to get any good footage to share with you all – it was one of those “you had to be there” moments.

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At the end of his set, he thanked his family and friends, turned to me and said “oh yeah, thanks to my assistant”. In a true Wayne’s World moment, I bowed down – not worthy!

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It was a night to remember! After we played, Callum worked the room like a real pro, making sure he thanked and talked to everyone who came to support him. Something many performers neglect, but it gives an idea of the sort of person he is, polite, kind-hearted but with a wicked sense of humour. He even got hold of a marker pen and signed people’s wrists. Like most folks there, I was the proud bearer of an autograph. It was sad when I finally washed it off ❤

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In the meanwhile Callum’s back at rehearsal. We’re getting more songs together, looking for gigs and planning a recording in the near future. This is incredibly exciting news and I’m really proud to be involved in bringing this young man to a wider audience.

And for those of you in southern Tasmania, I’m playing at another Meraki Management show tomorrow, Noteworthy at Customs House Hotel, down on Hobart’s beautiful waterfront. Also on the bill are two friends, Matt Dean and Ian Murtagh and it’ll be great to catch up with them too. It’s the first time I’ve played a full set in quite a while and I’m looking forward to it. Playing music is like gardening for me – great therapy 😀

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