Hell must be to be a chicken plucker with wet-sticky hands, a frantically itchy nose and feather allergy. Well, the level of hell reserved perhaps for lesser sinners, deserving only of irritation. Yesterday - as B said - was a busy one. Having been informed by several people that there were no oysters (or mussels) on the island, we collected our clams and found my imagination. I may tell you that my imagination was delicious fried in garlic butter. Exquiste even. I hope I discover the imaginary mussels too. I have found small ribbed mussels (by ton-loads) out in the bay. I'm sure they'd eat well enough, if we can't find blue mussels. I showed the imaginary oysters to John - one of the people who had told me I was out of luck. "Right! What kind of oyster is it, Dave?" he asked looking at the prize specimen (which was a good one - about 5 inches long.) "You tell me. I'm the bloke from South Africa. You're the local Tasmanian expert." A slow smile spreads across John's face despite his attempts to restrain it. "Right. Then it's a Tasmanian Native Oyster," he said utterly failing at the trusty native guide imitation by laughing. I think they're actually the flat oyster, Ostrea angasi - but I reckon probably Tasmanian Native oysters to us from now on. We were just off to start cutting some fallen deadwood (beginning on the winter fuel collection) with his chainsaw, having been visiting Lisa (who took me straight into a mental mixture of O'Grady's They're a Weird Mob and that Tuscany book. You can see how incredible hard work carved the farm and the garden out a piece of vacant bushland. The walls of the kitchen are hung with fresh and drying peppers. She still has, uses and plainly loves her wood stove. Outside the kitchen there is a sort of big porch area - real working farm style - not a place for sipping sundowners, but where bunches of garlic, more chillies and ropes of onions hang. The perserving cupboard is there too. Opened it reveals rows of spring-top jars, with every color and form of summer stored up. Tomatoes, pears, plums... The garden too fills me with envy and admiration. She's been on the island 50 years... there are fig trees, lemons, pears. The garden doesn't have the expensive Fort Knox appearance - and suffers a bit from possums - but it still has a vegatable fullness and richness that would make most of Salamanca market's barrows tuck up their wheels and creep away in shame. We're by this stage desperately trying to stop her giving more of her produce to us. We still came away with garlic and sweet red onions, carrots and pink potatoes and a bag of big mild chilli peppers(so mild I can actually eat them raw) She has explosive ones but we avoided those.
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.