Tuesday, March 23, 2010

chicken drawing and oysters

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.


  1. At first I thought you'd picked up another art form. Pencil? Water color? No...hatchet!

  2. :-)But I might get a Turner prize for it.

  3. Ah, nothing like a good chook-slaughtering to set your day right. Good to hear about the Imaginary Oysters, though. I'm not surprised they were tasty. The less imaginary ones down around Hobart are bloody marvellous.

  4. Hey, you could try oyster farming, a la Japan. I've been amazed to learn that the oyster farmers go out to their rafts and check the water regularly.

    The water checking instrument they showed us on TV was handmade -- a beer bottle with a rock on the bottom in a rope cradle, and a wooden spindle in the top with a string. So you lower the bottle down, pull the cork, wait a moment for the bubbles to stop, then haul the bottle up. Pour off the top a bit, then taste the main mix. And if you know what you're doing, you can tell if the oysters are getting the right level of salt or not.

    Apparently oysters thrive on the minerals that come down in fresh water, BUT also will die if the water isn't salt enough. So the oyster farmers raise and lower the ropes of oysters, sometimes daily, to make sure that the oysters are getting the right kind of water. He talked about lowering the oysters two meters when there was a typhoon threatening, because he didn't want to lose the crop.

    Something to help fill in the time, eh?

  5. Heh, Yes, in that ample spare time I will do a bit of sea-water drinking. (mind you, it is fascinating).

  6. The imaginary native Tasmanian oysters are also fairly described as bloody marvelous. They must be related ;-)