Wednesday, March 31, 2010
We went out in a little tinny boat, only suitable for the estuary, (no superstructure, or padded seats) to catch Salmon. We did not even have a nibble, and we had taken the smoker with us, so we could eat some for lunch with the bread Dave had baked at dawn. But we eventually settled for bread and butter, with no fish.
Then the boat owner went off to do something to his cows, and Dave went for a dive, so I took a light rod to the beach. I was casting out from a sandy beach, between two sets of rocks, so as not to lose the lure. All the other beach fishing I have done here to date has been off rocks into deeper water. So there I was taking a few steps into the waves and then throwing out as far as I could.
Suddenly I realised the point of all the ballet classes I had struggled through. Poor Mrs Suckling, she did her best, but I was not flexible, able to keep time or even interested. But I did master a "step-together-step-hop" move that she spent months drumming into me. It is ideal for casting far out with a light rod from a sandy beach, as long as you substitute "cast" for "hop" at the end. So I had a ball, literally, dancing on the sand, throwing my lure into the sea, and, not suprisingly, catching nothing.
At least this is Flinders Island, so there was no one around to watch me, and wonder what the crazy South African was doing now! The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the view was absolutely stunning, what more could I have asked for? Well, apart from some fish.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
After this promising start I got and went for a walk. I was not disembowled by any Wallabies or abducted by aliens. It was still dark, so perhaps they were all in bed. I've been trying to get a good picture of the Green Rosellas for about two weeks now, but they're not easy with my little point-n-shoot. They're rather startling green and bright blue wild parrot-type things that fly about these parts in... shall we say, rather loud groups. They seem prone to things like crash landing in gum trees and falling off the windi-dry (which has an Australian name that avoids me right now). I think the master designer had got carried away with the beak and had to put the rest of the bird together in a hurry before knock-off time.
For my lunch today I had Vegemite on my sandwich (all part of the 'Learn to be Australian' thing). See what it has done to me already. It's either that or wrestling with the Australian PLR registration - which, as I have to fill in one form for every ISBN of every edition of every book I have been involved in (and I don't have enough fingers and have run out of toes to count on), could have this effect.
But I think I'll stick to blaming the Vegemite.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Banana passionfruit - it sounds like one of the dodgy e-mails I get sometimes offering viagra... two new taste experiences today, firstly the banana passionfruit. Um. Well, I'll plant some. The flowers are beautiful and the scent... scented. The taste is a let-down. If it grows (and it grows in Lady Barron) I think it could be good for jam or a cordial. But as ready-to-munch fruit, not really a great hit.
Second off - on the opposite extreme - Cape Barren goose breast. This comes in as the best poultry I have eaten. (and me, as you might guess, I have tasted a lot of different birds). The meat is deep red and so flavourful and powerful it should be a chef's signiture dish. Australia should be famous for this, and have epicures from across the world beat their way here to taste it. It apparently breeds in captivity and can be effectively domesticated so long as you have big grass-paddocks. Having been endangered it is now doing rather well out here, and a limited harvest is permitted, under licence. B and I had two little pieces each, simply rubbed with a little oil to stop them sticking and grilled hot and just with salt - medium rare - pink inside. This licks ostrich with one hand behind its back, and a blindfold. There is some gameyness to it, but unlike wild duck or francolin (where 'gamey'can be the dominant description) - it tastes like poultry - add the gameyness and you're somewhere between grass-fed chicken and turkey - but the meat is not in the least dry. Just like that, with a simple green salad (in the picture, made from our garden with our first green beans - thin fingers of green crispness, and our very first sunripened tomato), it's a winner.
It'll perfectly partner a green peppercorn sauce - the flavour is strong enough to match it and lift both, or with oyster mushrooms and red jerepigo... or, well I think there are slew of stunning possibilities. Yes, you get the picture. I really loved it. I was telling John about our crab-soup and the wrasse and he shook his head. "Right. You'll eat the whole island at this rate. I reckon you'll love mutton-bird." I don't know... but there is such a lot to taste and try here. Years worth, I reckon. The island doesn't even have its own abbatoir anymore. Meat comes in from tassie - although my guess looking at them is that the grass-fed island lamb and beef - without even going to the exotic possibilities, should be worth coming all the way here for. For a self-sufficiency guy, a forager and foodie like moi... wow. It's hard to beat. I just wish they wouldn't ship the good stuff away without enjoying it here. People should come here to eat food as it should be: seasonal varied and wonderful. I am offering mouse on the spit, as my own meat-catch (yes -another mouse in the bath). It's a South African treat, and I'd be very hurt if you refused (The locals like Jimmy-the-plumber's-offsider have had some fun winding me up with seeing what tall tales we'll swallow, so a bit of quid-pro-quo, I reckon ;-))
We had a still, hot humid morning and howling curl your bean-shoots windy afternoon, and now a still evening. Probably snow by morning at this rate. Need to understand the weather? Come to Flinders, all your seasons in a day.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
There are some green beans almost ready for picking and the first sign of cucumbers. And more of these.
Friday, March 26, 2010
So far the only crabs I have been able to catch are about an inch long - I gathered a bunch of them at lunch time (low water)in about 10 minutes and some tiny ribbed mussels, along with some little mantis shrimp and some burrowing shrimp (my experience with the latter two says 'bait'). These are the little hoon pea-crabs I've mentioned before - and catching them was a matter of finding a bunch of them pigging out on a clam and swooping in from behind (nippers in front).
I've been looking for a way to deal with our most common rock-fish - wrasse. So I thought I'd try a mix between Tal-Grottli bisque (grottily?) from IIRC Malta and Bouillabaisse - cook the crabs whole and then toss the mix into a blender, sieve the shell out, and at least get the crab flavour. So I did this, along with some of Inge's tomatoes, Lisa's red onions and garlic and a red jalapeno chili. Some sherry stuff we'd been given and Tasmanian pepper - not a single bought ingredient, outside of the olive oil I softened the onion in. The soup was then brought to a rolling boil and I added the wrasse (chopped into boneless inch-wide squares, and some abalone just after. The fish had about 3 minutes and the abalone maybe 2 before I took it off the heat. I added the pre-cooked mussels and some of my chopped parsley. Served with fresh pao rolls (made with flour and some potato - the way they did Mozambique to save flour) it was superb - and near as dammit all free or foraged food. I could feel self-righteous and thrifty for nearly half a bowl - which was as long as took me start feeling a little unwell. I need a stronger liver.... it's RICH. Still, you can eat wrasse like that and really enjoy it.
John-boy popped in to lend us a couple of paddle-skis - one kid-size, the other a real fishing sit on kayak I can definitely set crab-traps from. Work presses so I need to get the wordcount up before I go and try this. Thank heavens the weather is set lousy for the next few days. It makes resisting temptation so much easier.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
For those interested I used 5 very green pears - 600 grams, roughly 120 grams of sugar (adjust to the tartness of your red wine) 300 ml of revolting red box wine (Stanley-never-to-be-bought-again-even-for-boiling-tongue-in in this case - tannic, nasty), a half a tsp of ginger and about 15 pepperberries. The pears I peeled and quartered - (you could do them whole, but your waiting to use time will go up) and packed into clean sterilised preserving jars. Bring the wine and sugar and spice to the boil, taste (should be like slightly tart gluwein) and add sugar if needed (start with a bit less sugar if the wine is gentler) and fill jars to cover fruit. I then processed the bottles in a waterbath for an hour - which may be a bit long but the pears were very green and still were a nice eating texture.
We ate the first bottle after a week, and the colour had drawn through them, leaving them a deep rosy pink rather than the purple-bloody red of the wine. The pepperberries (and ginger) had given them (and the sauce) a bite and the wonderful amalgam of complex spicy flavours. We had them with ginger ice-cream, and it was one of those desserts where you take a spoonful and just hold in your mouth (some of us quivered a bit).
Today we went and bought some more jars and pears (we have to use the wine. It's dangerous to even have it in the cupboard)
This morning Barbs and I put in our first little bit of volunteering for 'community service' - helping put the Island News to bed(Essential fortnightly local paper, with everthing in it from local news, times for the tip, and seasonal information (like what plants and animals you see in March.)). It's still collated by hand, 34 pages this issue, and B and I were the newbies on the production line. I was stiff afterwards, and I am deathly slow compared to the old hands. It's serious business, with a bit of stirring from Peter, but everyone works at like the fish-shoal will move off any minute. All done in an hour and a half. It has a circulation of IIRC 540-ish which on an island with the population of Flinders (somewhere between 700-900 depending on who you believe) approaches the miraculous. Put together by volunteers and for sale at the princely price of 80 cents its something I bet you wouldn't see many other places. It's been running for 55 years - not one of these newfangled community papers - this is the real thing. Isolation does some wonders for community cohesion sometimes. And the proof reading and editing would put the products of a few multi-million dollar publishing houses to shame. Yes, actually I was pleased to be involved.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Home made Pizza. With saltbush.
Might try a pinch of the lemon myrtle in the water next time.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The chicken drawing (and this unless you are very demented, or name is Pollock, is not art) and plucking are best not written about. I am sure they'll eat well.
Monday, March 22, 2010
So we got up early and hit the estuary at low tide and collected clams, and amazingly enough, Dave found some oysters.
But we had to hurry as we had an appointment at 10 to see a wonderful lady we had met on our bus trip. So we had a coffee with her and she gave us a huge selection of fresh veggies from her garden, including a lemon, which is beyond price with the amount of seafood we are eating.
Then off to the farm our landlord is working on, in time to almost lend him a hand with a sheep. We had another coffee, and then borrowed his chainsaw to cut some firewood. He is getting us a wood heater for the house, which should arrive next week, and the wood needs to dry out a bit before we can burn it. We have had no need for a heater yet, but the daytime temperatures are definitely dropping fast. So we cut and packed half a load of firewood before we ran out of petrol, and we had forgotten to take any with us. That will do us nicely for a start, I am sure.
But now I feel as if I have done a day of hard labour. Definitely I need to break tasks down into less per day, so as to keep busy every day, rather than trying to fit it all into one morning.
Still we have come back with several meals, and proved that there are oysters here, even if not very many. So it was a good day, or so I will think by tomorrow.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
And so it begins... The march of the Zucchini.
There is another one that needs harvesting today. The wildlife however is adding a new dimension to it - something had been digging up seedlings, so I set two traps. Well, this time around they caught 2 mice. The second I spotted in the torchlight at about 9.30 pm, when I suddenly relaised I'd forgotten to cover with plastic cups the surviving beans - my night-garden looks like a disgruntled kids tea party, with added nightmare elements as the gut section of the mouse had been eaten. I retreated to put on boots - which I was an idiot not put on in the first place.
This morning there was evidence of a wild and busy deadly night out there. Firstly the gate had been knocked down. Secondly there was a large dead rat in a bloody puddle between the beds. Cause of death - undetermined. Could it have been post- election violence, Australian style? Have I become a sleep-walking raticide? Was this the effect of cannabilistic excess?
The garden is - despite the depredations, coming along. My tyre-tower potatoes are nearly ready for another tyre.
We went to a harvest festival and barbeque on one of the farms on Summer road today. As it was spattering with rain, the entire thing took place in the farm shed. Corrugated iron... and it rained. It was rather like Nottingham Road's annual carol service (held in the sale-hall - with real sheep and calves and any kid under five that showed up dressed as either an angel or a shepherd in with them. Last time one of the angels got her hand sucked by a calf... it was one of few bellows that was louder than the inevitable drumming of the rain on the tin roof). This too was drowned out by the rain that bucketed down. Good thing too: the farmers need the rain, and I was singing. The rain stopped and we cooked snags (see, I learn. They are called sausages elsewhere) - we talked, kids rode bikes (a unicycle yet! I WANT one) a couple of chooks looked in and we were a world away from Africa. Or Venice, that I must now return to.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Me - still on my aching haunches peering intently at grass-stalks. "I saw one of those jack-jumpers on the kitchen veranda. I'm trying to follow it to its nest. Need to find it before Chris's kids get here."
"Oh. So do you actually want a gin and tonic? Because we don't have any gin. Or any tonic."
I lost it at the bottlebrush tree, having painstakingly followed it across 10 yards of grass. Fortunately Barbs found the nest - and some bigger bull-ants (I think they also have a toxic bite) today when she was mowing - about a yard from the bottle-brush, as plain as could be. Normally I'm pretty live-and-let-live, but 5% of people react very badly to them, and with kids I am not prepared to take a chance.
The island is small enough that, if you can deal with getting up early enough, you can see dawn over the ocean and sunset over the ocean on the same day. I wasn't that heroic and all I saw this morning walking back was this.
Sadly -although I took a torch down, the tide was still covering the flats, and the wind-chop made wading and looking impractical. And cold. Did I mention cold? And wet too. What a woos I am. So I came home, before the first signs of the election today. By next time I hope we'll be able to vote. I'm still faint but persuing with Australian politics, but I am looking forward to it.
Someone asked for a picture of the house so here it is.
Not exactly Finnegan's Wake - but houses like that are probably once in a lifetime experiences (Finnegan's Wake was built by an Irish cabinet maker called Murphy as his dream house. It was built on a sinstral spiral and had very few straight walls, most being curved). We're renting it until we buy and build so... we'll see. In the meanwhile it's well built, weathertight, roomier than we expected and, most importantly, we have a home. A place for me to write, and a base for us to explore from.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Someone (naming no names) omitted to tell my legs that this getting fit idea involved them. Actually, that same someone also forgot to mention how hard it is to get out of a nice warm bed, from next to cuddly wife to go out into the pale predawn and take a brisk walk. I'll find him one day (this someone) and we will have words. Anyway, as you can see by the picture I did this thing. It's about 2km down to the beach, and a lot of it is down a little back track.
There was a spectacular lonliness to the beach - Mr Somebody had obviously forgotten to tell anyone else. The sky was grey and overcast, and the tide was already fairly far out. The diffuse soft light made it look like the opening shots for one of these angsty movies... except they would have some gulls or peewits or some fowl creature doing haunting cries, or played suitable mood music. Instead we had the Black Oyster-catchers making noises like off-pitch elderly cricket phones. I'm a biologist and a forager (and I am never too sure which trumps which) so sand and mud-flats and low tides hold a fascination for me, and I put the fitness walk back on hold for a wade-and-fossick. The sand above the tideline was suspiciously dimpled. Now sand patterns are caused by the washing of the waves... and the sea, well she has no sense of humour. A very serious thing is the sea, and don't you forget it. She'll leave ripples or fans or layers on the sand yes, but dimples no. Dimples mean something is living there, and neither the biologist nor the forager minded me digging. I like to understand these foodwebs (because what looks like desolate mud is a seething arcology of life. Some of which you don't want to eat, and some which you don't want to know. Digging and sorting produced some tiny wedge shells - too small for dinner for me, but considered utterly yummy to some tiny pea-crabs (which should maybe be called p-crabs (you have p-plater drivers here in Tassie), because when they get bigger they'll be crabs. At the moment they're just greedy clam-eating hoons, so busy scoffing the free grub that they didn't even notice me pick the shell. When I put it down they were very embarrassed and shook down into the sand, just eystalks protruding. So I left them to get over it and walked on. The shallow water is full of little pimple-mounds with holes in the top, that something must live in. There are different burrows in between, and every now and again, scooped out basins of slightly deeper water, with scatters of shells - stingrays methinks. I need to get down there earlier, with a torch. Yes, now that you mention it, a lot of people do think that I am barking mad. This is not true. I leave all the barking to Roland -Old English Sheepdogs just do it better.
I lifted some drifts of seaweed from pools saw a couple of tiny translucent shrimp shaking their nippers and yelling "Homewrecker" at me before I put it back and walked back through a few spatters of rain. There were snails out on the driveway - I didn't have to walk to the beach to find molluscs, so it thought I'd better check the veg before settling in to write. The mouse that had been digging up my pea-shoots had had me set a trap inbetween them.
Unfortunately, he must have brought big brother along, because the trap was conspicuous by its absence. And to pay me back for my impertinence, it had dug up a round dozen broad beans that had just germinated.
So: Once I found the trap (on the far side of the garden) I planted some more, and went back to my desk job. Spies in 16 th century Venice right now. Talk about shifting worlds. But it's actually come out well this morning so maybe the walk did me good.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Our son Paddy took part in a University residence competition to make an advertisement for Gillette razors, they came second and won a microwave for the residence. If you want to see their movie advertisement go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXv7I0EJPf0 Paddy is the one shaving, and our younger son James is one of the onlookers.
I am having a quiet day today, with a blank canvas, and just reflecting on how life has changed, from shopping to catching, from mountains to sea, from surrounded by family to isolated, from a complicated garden to a small flat rectangle. I am realizing just how happy I am. There are low points, or course, no place or lifestyle is absolutely perfect, but this is as close to idyllic as I could ever hope to get.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The inflatable Kayak arrived, as you may gather. We took it down for a paddle and a quick swim. It's not quite the disaster area I had a sneaking suspicion it might be, but I won't be taking it miles offshore for a day's fishing.
But it's a start.
I also popped into the hospital to have an anti-tet shot after an unprovoked attack by a vicious fishhook.
The town has been invaded by aliens from Shamrockia or it's St Patrick's day.
It's obviously taken quite seriously here, which is rather nice, considering that a lot of Australians have Irish antecedants... and this could hardly be further from Ireland.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
"Und here ve haff der mine field, and zen moat and zen ze ha-ha - ze pit vith razor sharp spikes..."
Ok perhaps I exaggurate just a trifle, but with dug in wombat proofing, wooden pallisade wallaby proofing, a metal slide rim for the possums and a final bird-net layer, there are less secure houses in Johannesburg. It was a fascinating trip around some very impressive gardens. In a nutshell (or at least Fort Knox) - you can grow almost anything on Flinders (there are soil issues, and bugs etc, but it is a temperate climate, which is not too extreme.) But there are a lot of volunteers eager to help you with redistributing the produce. It was fascinating however to see the different approaches - and levels of success in different people's gardens. I learned that soil can be over-enriched, which I hadn't known, and saw several neat ideas. The trip was also fascinating for the inveterate people-watcher like me, with a cross section of islanders who grow veggies - from the humble back garden patch to things that cost more than your average family car to set up. A frightening number of them said "Oh you're the new South Africans in John's place." I began to feel a little like the new giraffe at the zoo, only less interesting. We'd been told to bring a 'cut lunch'. I was good. I did not explain that we Africans liked to cut ours fresh, and could we have the attendees list to browse over. It was time away from the desk and writing, but worthwhile in terms of learning what would grow and what we'd have to do.
And what not to do. Heh. Local wisdom has it that you bury a dead critter (sheep, wallaby, feral pig) under each fruit tree. The vivacious owner of a large and struggling orchard/garden describing the process... "you know, legs and arms coming off and maggots spilling." Fancy some fruit from that tree?! At least we savages butcher our enemies on the spot before burying them under the corner posts of our buildings without having to drag disintegrating bits. Anyway Josh Byrne assured us this was a bad idea and anerobic fermentation would have a detrimental effect on the roots, to say nothing of the acidification of the soil from all the puking at the bouquet and charming sights.
This one however was a life lesson to me.
It was probably the best and most productive of the gardens... and a charming lady of 96 kept it... by herself.
She also teaches Scottish dancing.
Monday, March 15, 2010
As time has worn on I find my cooking has gradually leaned away from the French towards rustic Italian in style, but I'm still obsessed with fresh ingredients, quality and often as minimalist as possible (yes I can hear a lot old friends packing up laughing and wondering how I can sit and type with my pants on fire) - but prettying up food a little takes seconds and you enjoy as much with all your senses as you do with your mouth. And one man's complex is another's simple. If you think about it I focus on bringing out the best flavours in something. If it isn't up to much you do have to lift it... but tradition is dead right on sole (or by extention, flounder)á la meunière is the right way to do fine fish, where you really want to taste and savour the fish. Flounder can be cooked skin-on, just remember (Luke) you must go to the dark side first. It's thicker and slightly curved. These flounder were pretty well pan-sized, just a few centimeters over the legal limit. I dusted them with flour, salt and fresh Tasmanian native pepper (I am getting really fond of this spice. Oddly even ordinary black ground pepper Australia seems to be better quality and fresher and more flavourful than South African, which is not something I could say about the dried fruit mix. What's all this rubbish in there? Green blobs belong in primordial oceans, not in fruit-cake mix).
Shallow frying fish needs high heat, and seriously, that's where I disgree with my classical French recipe. Olive oil is not good for fierce heat frying, and neither is clarified butter. I use rice-bran oil (because I bought it out of curiousity) for this but sunflower or canola are fine too. We come back to the difficult bit of cooking a fish perfectly - and at least these flounder are close to the same thickness. The joy here is that I'm not cooking for a restaurant client that I have to humour and be nice to. It's OK to have a tiny piece (less than the size of a five cent piece and about as thick) not quite cooked up against the spine right against the head, if not cooking it is going to mean the rest is just perfectly done, and Ms. Fussbudget is not going to send it back to the kitchen to get overdone. I didn't marry Ms. Fussbudget, and B knows the choices :-) If you don't like my cooking you can cook for yourself.
Anyway, the greenback flounder was superb. It's delicately textured, clean flaking rich little fish (probably lots of those omega 3 oils), with almost a hint of sweetness to it. It comes off the bone easily and even the skin is good. We had a salad of lettuce thinnings, pumpkin seeds and island tomato (and I'll leave out the tomato next time.) and baby potatoes with it, and I pronounced it the second best meal I have had on the island. Worth going out in the dark with a spear for.
Tomorrow we are going on a bus-tour! (before you die of shock, this is organised by the local council and will go to various gardens to look at the possibility of organising a community garden for the Island. Some bloke called Josh Byrne - I gather a TV gardener? - will be there.) I will get to steal with my eyes again ;-) It's worth going on a bus tour for - which also means I should not be writing about cooking, but about Hekate.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Okay so we're trying an art that was old before neolithic fish-hooks, that was common (and still practiced today)in ancient Greece. We do have an underwater light and not a piece of burning pitch-pine, and, rather than a poseidon-style trident off a Greek vase, a multipronged spear polycarbon spear (although Rex is still using a trident with a wooden shaft). To make up for this we have John-boy turning the light away just as you are ready to spear, and laughing like a drain at your cursing. It's still something humans have done forever, really (probably the turning the light away too). It fits in well to my ideas on self-sufficiency. Besides that there is something really very special about being out in the middle of the bay and having another flounderer come past "how many yer got?"
"Aw, 'bout seventy. n'you?"
"Yeah, 'bout that. It's a bad night."
(needless to say the real score is about 3 at this stage.)
I tried (and failed) to catch the needlelike garfish swimming into the pool of light with my hands. And caught a large swimming prawn... which like the idiot I am, I dropped. Barbs was better at spearing than I am, although I probably have the edge in spotting rocks that I thought looked like flounders.
Then back to gut and bag flounders and have the hot coffee we were dying for... somewhere near midnight we finally crawled into bed.
Flounders tonight for our tea (that means supper in other parts).
Saturday, March 13, 2010
We got to Flinders on 14 January, and now today, 13 March, we left the island for the first time. We had the most fantastic fishing trip out to catch flathead. Yes, the boats all around us caught more, some by a factor of 10, but we had a calm, cloudy day, so not too much sunburn, a calm sea, so no seasickness, and a wonderful view. There were small islands all round us, we landed on Kangaroo island, and had a look at some muttonbird chicks, and a small penguin.
But to me the best part of the day, was just being out on the sea, in a little "tinny" boat, catching some fish with a handline, (a new method of fishing for me!) and the good company. The chat between the boats, was fun, with one of the other boats even lending us some special tackle to we could catch more!
We have got 7 meals worth of flathead to eat, and had a really terrific morning, and seen the island from a whole new perspective! The mountains appear a lot higher from the sea.
Friday, March 12, 2010
No it's not Sauron. A flathead (one of the Platycephalidae, don't ask me which right now) But all science fiction and fantasy writers should do a little bit of marine work. It would lend a real 'we have met aliens' feel to their work. In some parts they're called lizard-fish. There is no concrete evidence of them ever having been presidents, prime-ministers, or anyone's boss, despite appearances. They're certainly one of the better eating fish, also despite appearances.
Yesterday was quite momentous - I had to take a driving test because the South African beaurocracy is so corrupt that South African driver's licences are not accepted here. Fair enough. The idea of a South African mini-bus taxi driver being allowed to drive (let alone in Australia) is enough to fill me with cald grue. Our local (about to retire) Copper has an interesting task (interesting in the interesting times sense). It hadn't occured to me that as the police on the island are shall we say limited in number and the island is big... and everyone has cell phones, everyone (at least anyone who is up to anything) knows where he is. I was a fisheries scientist working in the fishery of last resort for years. It was full of characters and not a few scoundrels - some nice guys and some scumbags - and several fat rogues who were oily polite to me (and it wasn't up to me to catch them)while they thought they were pulling the wool over my eyes about what they were up to. You do get a little paranoid about being watched. Anyway... I'd love to hear the stories from both sides one day. I bet the straitsmen (the rogues who populated these islands once) are less distant than you may think. Anyway - although I was nervous because in 30 odd years of driving you pick up habits that probably aren't in the recommended manual of driving school style - I passed.
So we went after squid last night and I set a little bait-trap for crabs/shrimps. Barbs proved that now she has the hang of squid, she can catch them - she got 2. I got none - we did get our first crustaceans too.
No they're not very big, but you have to start somewhere. I caught about 50. Not sure whether they'll be bait or part of pasta or stuffing for calamari tubes.
We went down early this morning again and we got a trevally and flathead. And the postman brought us some presents from South Australia. Tasmanian Native pepper, bush tomatoes and roasted wattleseed powder. I'm about to have the native pepper on some grilled flathead, and will make Icecream with the wattleseed - possibly not tomorrow... we have an expotition to sea with John.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
So we went shopping to celebrate. Free milk, past its sell by date but the ferry has not come in so there is no fresh, and pears to cook in red wine. The red wine was a bit of a challenge. We have no bottle shop, we get alcohol from the pub even if we want to drink it at home, and the lady there does not drink wine. So which would be good for pears? We bought the cheapest, and we will see how it does on the pears, they should become red, if not, we will not try drinking it!
Wind, weather and tide should all be right for squid tonight, so off to the jetty we will go, for another beautiful sunset, and hopefully some food.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
So we ventured into Bowmans today to acquire some more pre-paid time for my cell phone AKA 'Mobile' in these parts. We decided we needed two 'phones in case one of us is at the beach and the other gets bitten by a Jack Jumper or attacked by sudden shortage of milk (a very serious condition, which can cause absence of coffee) while the other is at the library - so we have one on contract and one cheapo. "Can we have some airtime for the cell please?" I ask after the important preliminaries have been dealt with (This is an island. Agriculture is still its mainstay. Mention of yesterday's rain obligatory). I get a rather puzzled twinkle from behind the slightly lowered glasses. (you can imagine the thought-processes. 'Humour him. He could be dangerous. Came out of a cell. Besides he's a foreigner, and they _are_ odd')"What?"
"You know. Time. For the cell."
(Blank look, or perhaps assessing distance the door.)
I take out the phone (slowly, no sudden movements ;-)) "It's pre-paid, we need to put some more money into it."
A light and possibly relief dawns "You mean mobile credit!"
And there I thought mobile credit was credit moving just out of reach. A kind of cruel teasing game played by bank managers...
We are divided by a common language.
So we went to Walkers (the supermarket. You need to know it is there, as signs are not Islandish. If you don't know where these essentials are, you shouldn't be here. Or ask someone, really. I could get to like this attitude.) to get milk - the lack of which as I may have mentioned can cause serious conditions like drinking black coffee and not out of choice) and to manage in our talented fashion to forget the Eucalyptus oil again. (to repel March Flies. Which bite, and can be a bane on windless days. I hope they really are absent after March) I also wanted some powdered mushroom soup, which was O/S. So B asked one of the staff, busy listing stuff on a sheet of carboard - presumably for re-order, if we could possibly request things. She attempted to keep a straight face and was betrayed by her dimples and said 'No.' And then packed up laughing. Heh. They were very nice to us, explaining things like instant mushroom gravy, and yes they'll order mushroom soup for us. Ah, we have a purpose in life. We are the dim country cousins for Flinders Island. I've always wanted to do more than just be a good bad example.
Last night BTW we had our first official gale according to Willyweather (the weather site which we live by). The house creaked a little, the wind roared (there really is no other word for the noise) through the pines. If I'd had a little dog called Toto I'd have wondered if we were going to end up in Oz. But we're here already.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
No, these are not Flinders Island crayfish. Seeing as my brother saw fit to remind me that Crayfish season just opened in KwaZulu Natal I dug out a picture of us grilling our catch at Mapelane last year. So far I haven't actually SEEN a Flinders crayfish. I haven't -- to be fair -- spent a lot of time diving and looking, or as John sensibly suggested gone for a night-scout with a bright torch on a shallow reef. The abalone has been pretty easy diving, with plenty of fish seen but not a solitary crayfish feeler. The downside for night cray expeditions is the nearest likely place is a good 20km off - and driving at night here is a challenge, shall we say. We need roo-bars. Anyway, my night expeditions just came a little closer as I celebrated passing the knowledge test of Tas licence (now thanks to South African government ineptitude and corruption we cannot simply exchange licences - but have to redo them.) by buying a flounder/prawn light (an underwater light). I've rigged a little "boat" - a plastic crate with a innertube stabiliser outside in which the motorbike battery can travel while we wander about in the dark in the chilly water with me weilding a spear or possibly flinging a net about. This is all fraught with misadventure, I can tell. Anyway, B has taken the potential for interesting things one step further and ordered an inflatable paddleski (sit-on kayak). It's probably a pup... um one of those purchases that SOUND like a good idea... but as I have in vain tried to find a canoe/kayak seller who will answer my e-mails about delivering a non-inflatable one to Flinders... We'll give it a try. And we may be lucky. I thought it worth trying anyway. I want to try setting dillies for crabs (You know -you go to Picadilly and catch crabs... well this is like that but only totally different). Actually it's more like hoop/ring-netting. You lower a hoop of iron with a net under it - and a smelly bait in the middle, and hopefully the crab/crayfish wanders onto it to eat. Then you - on the surface, 'snatch' (lift really fast) the hoop and hopefully the crab falls into the net and can't swim faster than you can haul. In practice it's a great way of finding snags on the bottom and falling overboard into freezing water, and if that fails, getting bitten by the escaping crabs on the surface. This is what we call 'fun'. You should try it! Really, you'll love it.
I made some home-made pitas -lovely crusty outside and soft and steaming inside, and we had Flinders Island style whatchamacallits - stuffed with spinach, fennel, spring onions, parsley from the garden topped with some spicy tomato and garlic that I cooked up, a sprinkle of cheese, and some flaked Trevally, and eaten rather messily. I need a pizza oven :-). I said to B that what the island really could use was a pizza -takeaway. Especially on nights like last night. I didn't feel like cooking. For me that's like saying I didn't feel like breathing. I miss the diving with Lemmings (the Lemmings - my brother, Brian and moi - only one would have to head toward the coast and the others would hasten after to fling themselves into the water after them. Good diving, great food, excellent red wine and better company. Ah well. Good memories.) And lo-and-behold we got a notice in our postbox that Freckles - the local cafe, not the book by Gene Stratton-Porter - is doing takeaway pizza which sound good. However, island style takeaways... Wednesday and Friday nights orders in by 7.15pm. Heh. I SAID it was a whole different world. Seriously, out of tourist season the island probably couldn't support a full-time take-away and the pub (which serves food too).
So who will come out on a black predawn crabbing/floundering/prawn expedition with me? I promise there will be floundering (possibly in the mud). We have our first visitors coming in April. I wonder if they are braced for this?
Monday, March 8, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Much ingenuity and even picallilli followed. To the ingenuity I owe the fact that we all still eat zucchini. A bit of overproduction is the life-blood of the self-supporter. You want something for the inevitable less-than-formal (and sometimes formal) trade that develops with other gardeners and foragers. Besides the fact the fact that it's better and more varied food than you can buy, there is this moment of delight in knowing the tax-man isn't keen on 45% of a zucchini. He just wants money (which is pity. I rather fancied posting a few zucchini to the 'revenue service'). But there is no point in having tons of glut of something your neighbours and friends have a glut of too. So I've never planted more than 6 Zucchini at once since.
I have seven now.
Winter may rescue us.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
However closer to the realms of international tragedy, there were no lamb-chop-in-a-piece-bread. Not even snags with or without onion. Just another thing I had not met, the saveloy. Let's just say I not going to be a big fan.
I added some brocolli seedlings into the beds, and something that called itself climbing spinach. Ah my garden! We ate our first two carrots this evening... you remember those funny little pencils that once came diaries - about half as thick as normal pencils? Yes? Oh well, these carrots were nothing like that. Pencil leads maybe.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Tomorrow is the Lions Autumn Market at the showgrounds (so the island gospel AKA the Island news informs us - published bi-weekly and paid for cheerfully it seems by the locals - imagine a suburban paper people paid for or that people drove in to fetch and wanted!). The only country paper that - if you go in to Bowmans, you can buy the day before it comes out. We're SO advanced we have time travel here. The Market should be interesting... you know, it's almost impossible to explain to big city people just how PERSONAL life in a place like Flinders is. Go into the Post Office (which is also the Wespac bank) and you will know the people serving you. You'll know John and Leanne (even if the spelling might avoid me) by first name, and they'll know your name. If post arrives... as some of ours has, without the box address - you'll get it. They'll tell you about chooks and about where to fish. Go into the General Dealer (and this has all the charm of stepping back to better time when there WAS a real general dealer - like the trader's store deep in rural Africa, you can get a kettle or a blanket or a cell-phone charger or magazine or the Island News or a shirt) and Lois is almost bound to introduce herself, Helen and anyone else in the shop to you. I get to feeling I ought to carry a note-pad around with me, because everyone knows the two crazy new South Africans who are staying in John Woolley's house, (there really is an address and a road we live on. I don't even bother to say it anymore. People look blank - I just tell them who owns the place!) and I get introduced to so many people it takes me weeks to work it all out. Because you do work it all out - the island fits together like a jigsaw. I daresay there are fueds and factions, which we'll doubless come across, but people know each other and need each other. There are grumbles about this that and the next, yes... but people greet each other. Because short of flying out this is it. If there is a fire or another ferry saga - these are the people you have to deal with, and deal with the situation with.
Okay so maybe this is not the life for the person who worries about his anonymity or is paranoid about his private life. People will know a lot about you, whether you like it or not. It's probably gossip central... But I must admit I love it. In a city you can live next door to someone and never meet them let alone know the name of someone living a mile away. Here neighbours are important. They're neighbours in the real sense... Makes me feel part of the place, even if we aren't. Yet. Give it 30 years :-).
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I need to work a bit more on my down-time (yes, this means something else entirely when you are referring to a skin-diving with a snorkel). Am getting a little frustrated that I haven't found the crayfish yet. Yes, everyone tells me 'it's deep. You need scuba/hookah'. They might be right. But I really really need to explore more. Also been trying to figure how to catch crabs here. Need to get a crab-hawk (a device which is not a trap, for fishing for crabs) maybe. But they only seem to have them in the US. I'm allowed a cray-pot or a bait trap. Bait trap door is 65mm... cray pot has to have 200mm high escape holes. The things I am trying to catch are bigger than 65mm, and smaller than 200mm... Oh well, I'll work something out. But I fancy some crustaceans for a change ;-)
I turned one of the despised wrasse into fish-cakes tonight. It's not going to be a world beater, but with a tomato chutney, a very acceptable tea (as they say hereabouts. Tea is not just a drink jam and bread).
I was just talking to B the other day about one of the differences we've noticed is whenever you go to a function in South Africa - they'll sell you a wors (kind of sausage -coursely minced beef and pork, with coriander seed as the principle spice - not worst, although sometimes...) roll as a fundraiser. Here - on Flinders - much the same thing... well, obviously a sausage, or a lamb chop (that's a first for us) ... in piece of white bread. Fortunately the Island Bakery is still running and does make a good fresh loaf. What would Pratchett's Dibbler do here? Is this Australia, or just Flinders?
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
This morning however I got my extra excercise with a lovely new dance called the mouse mazurka - which involves a mouse on the screen door and a lot of leaping and kicking. Try it, you will love it, and it's very good for the heart and calorie count. The mouse fled outside, laughing fit to bust, little bastard.
Then B went nervously in to town to do her drivers with Policeman Pat - I still have to do mine. Anyway, she passed - which is kind of right because she's a good driver and has been driving for more than 30 years - but logic doesn't always work with these things. You don't do a lot of parallel parking in real life in rural Africa. Anyway, she also brought me a letter from the the bank saying that the Save the Dragon's money was safely in the account - a relief because we've borrowed from peter to pay paul with the dogs and cats.
And that, right now, is that. Ups and downs... oh well, Barbs has developed an alternative to the mouse mazurka, called the caterpillar cavort, which could be a big hit if we can find a reliable supply of caterpillars to drop down dieter's necks. I didn't squish it but just put it out for the skink. A place with lizards that must weigh 2 pounds and walk like sumo wrestlers probably has tiny caterpillars that are poisonous or do kung fu.
And now to my 16th century Black Sea naval battle... I think I need to write about something closer at hand!
Monday, March 1, 2010
Erhm. You do get the idea that I am quite fanatical about cooking, especially seafood. I'm just glad to have all of this wonderful fresh new food to experiment on. And a guinea-wife who will try my experiments. Why has she turned purple?
Oh, I have a new wine to add to my like very much, especially with grilled fish. And it's a riesling - which after my formative younger experiences with elderly German riesling was something I thought came out of the nether end of cats. It's a Queen Adelaide from South Australia, and I have to re-assess my liking for white wine and riesling in particular.