An Island Off an Island

Musings from Bruny

We have been so busy settling into life on Bruny that it takes a repeat visit from a friend to take us off island and explore some of the many jewels that Tasmania has to offer. During Regina’s recent stay the two of us headed up to Hobart one Saturday to enjoy a couple of the capital’s drawcard attractions.

First stop was the iconic Salamanca Markets which had celebrated their 50th anniversary the previous week. Open every Saturday from 8.30am – 3 pm, the Markets stretch the length of Salamanca Place adjacent to the dock area. With over 230 stallholders and a focus on Tasmanian goods there was plenty to tempt us – and yes we gave in to the need to buy! Can’t say too much about our purchases as some readers will be the recipients of our spending but we were both pretty happy with ourselves!

Our second stop was the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens which sits on the edge of the CBD. Marcus and I had done a tour here during winter and so I was a font of some knowledge which Regina seemed to accept as gospel! Established in 1818 they are the second oldest Botanic Gardens in Australia (Sydney having pipped them by 2 years), and like Sydney they adjoin Government House and have impressive water views. They were a blaze of colour and the community was out in force, lunching on benches and partying under trees. We opted for the Café which, after a couple of visits I can highly recommend.

Of course many of our (Australian) readers will associate the gardens with the ABC’s Gardening Australia as it is the home of the Community Food Garden tended on screen by Tino Carnevale. Previously it was known as Pete’s Patch after the late Peter Cundall beloved of generations of Australian gardeners (including my Dad who could be described as a groupie on those occasions Peter came to Orange!).

To complete the tourist experience I treated our guest to a supermarket visit – always the best way to learn about a community/country I believe.

Happy days.

Hi friends, Ruby here reporting from Dennes Point.

I’m currently enjoying a well earned rest after a busy ten days with Aunty Regina who arrived from Bendigo bearing chocolate from Aldi for Mum (no Aldi in Tasmania), Victorian ‘stickies’ for Dad, and a delicious dried beef thing for me! I think Aunty R has spent too much time with Lucy ( her brown Burmese) as she was amazed at how quickly I chowed it down and returned to the lounge room to rejoin the conversation. I mean, I didn’t want to miss any juicy gossip.

The view from the jetty

One of the many good things about a visit from Aunty R is the early morning walk the two of us take. I’m allowed to sniff away while she takes careful note of scientific stuff. We often take in the rock platforms which Mum and Dad rarely do. A treasure trove of new and exciting delights.

Mum and Dad used the opportunity of a resident dog sitter to head up to Hobart for a night of wining and dining while Aunty R and I had a girl’s night in. What fun it was! We curled up on the lounge under a couple of Mum’s quilts ( the ones I’m usually not allowed near) and grazed on things from the fridge. Aunty R is a bit of a disciplinarian about what I eat but I enjoyed it all vicariously.

Yesterday was her last day here and boy was it memorable! We started off on our walk as usual at 6.30 am and headed down to the beach to do one final rock platform inspection. Suddenly I found myself being dragged unceremoniously across the wet sand. Resisting I then found myself being dragged on my back! The cause of this urgency was an injured quoll Aunty R had spied laying at the base of the cliff. It was Animal Rescue writ large on Bruny Island.

Sensing that this was not the time to be ridiculous I allowed myself to be tied up while Aunty R bought her professional skills to bear on the poor sick little soul ( even though they are my nemesis I am not heartless). OK, I admit I may have barked a little.

Aunty R wrapped the quoll in her sweatshirt and we headed home to call Bonorong Wildlife Rescue. After speaking to them Mum and Aunty R headed off island in a flurry to deliver the quoll to the vet and I settled down to await their return congratulating myself on my role in the drama. When they came back it was a quick turnaround to get Aunty R packed up and off to the airport.

This morning I went into Aunty R’s room just in the hope that she might have returned and a morning walk was on the cards. She left me a parting gift of another beef strappy thing. I wonder when that will be handed out!

Love from the Island

Postscript: sadly our precious little quoll didn’t make it. Thanks to Bonorong and it’s volunteer network for all they do to care for our amazing wildlife.

Everyone is sick of hearing about ‘The year like no other’, but Covid aside, for us it really has been. Our relocation to the Apple Isle is definitely complete, and we’re feeling more and more like Tasmanians. This morning we were offended because Lara Hyams on ABC News Breakfast forgot to mention Hobart’s weather along with all the other state capital cities. Local news presenter, Guy Stayner has supplanted Juanita Phillips, although I must admit to a subscription to the Sydney Morning Herald.

It hasn’t been the hottest summer so far this year so we have had to make the most of what few warm, sunny days we have been afforded. Thankfully, the ferocious winds of last year have remained at bay. Our evening walks with Ruby along Nebraska beach have become part of our daily routine and we have even managed a couple of swims, albeit very quick ones. Ruby even managed a tentative but very brave swim out to us – through sheer desperation rather than for enjoyment.

Two kayaks ready to hit the water!

Our Christmas presents of kayaks have only had the one outing so far. For rank novices the conditions have to be prefect, that is a hot day, no swell and as few witnesses as possible. It has to be said that Jan has proven to be much more adept at kayaking than me – it must be all that dragon boating experience, or maybe my centre of gravity is too high. The world’s most stable water craft is still problematic. When we made it known that kayaks were our Christmas present to each other, every local without omission, regaled us with tales of their redundant crafts languishing in back yards, being used as garden beds or forlornly slowly mouldering away down at the beach. Of course, we will prove to be the exception to the rule!

Ruby assisting with the opening of gifts – and modelling her new collar. Thank you Personalised Pet!

Christmas was very quiet but lovely with traditional fare for lunch and beautiful Bruny oysters, cheese and beer later in the day. We spoiled ourselves with lots of other gifts and caught up with family and friends via Messenger video calls. Yesterday I dismantled the Christmas tree but I knew before that Christmas was over by the appearance of Hot Cross buns in the supermarket on Monday.

Another marker for the end of the festive season is the rapidity with which tourists come and go. Last week there were at least 40 boats moored off the beach, beach shelters, gazebos and kids everywhere. This week we are almost back to normal although the ferry queues have been horrendous with upwards of an hour and a half wait on both sides.

At times the ferry queue is diverted through the Pub carpark at the top of the hill to alleviate congestion on the highway.

Of course, the other indicator of summer is the welcome addition of live cricket on TV. I don’t think I’ve missed more than a handful of balls yet. The Sydney Test is rather frustrating at the moment with many rain delays. Jan managed to secure me a couple tickets for two days of the Hobart Test so let’s hope the weather is a little kinder. We also have tickets for the ODI against New Zealand in February.

We’re all aware that people say they are amazed at how much busier they are in retirement, and whilst I don’t generally concur, I have noticed that I only read 20 books last year, down from the 30-35 count of my working years. Perhaps Netflix and SBS on Demand have taken over. Heaps of landscaping and gardening have taken precedence lately as we try to tame certain areas while still trying to keep it as a sanctuary for the stunning wildlife and birds that frequent our block. The back yard has been tamed (nearly) and the weed-infested rubbish tip out to the side of the house is coming along nicely too. We really went overboard with a new house sign that arrived just before Christmas. We kept the original house name ‘Wainui’ which means ‘Big Water’ we think in Hawaiian. Can’t miss us now!

Looking flash!

So, 2022 will hopefully be the year that we can finally go and see more of Tassie, which means accommodating the needs of Ruby’s separation anxiety and looking forward to friends and family taking the opportunity to come and visit us. Hope to see you soon.

Antarctica has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. To date the closest I have gotten to ‘The Ice’ is vicariously through Regina and Suz’s photos when they made their grand tour, and a magic view of the ice floes on a trip from Sydney to Johannesburg a few years ago.

Antarctica from 35.000 feet

Australia’s new Antarctic Icebreaker the RSV Nuyina arrived in its home port of Hobart in late October. Grand celebrations were planned with a flotilla ready to welcome her and vantage points advertised. I had a 6am date with Ruby to go down to the Point to get a good view of her on her way up to Hobart. Sadly fate in the form of a snap 3 day COVID lockdown combined with a fog you could slice with a knife put paid to that! After hours of tracking her progress I was just able to pick her out from the kitchen window in Storm Bay heading up the Derwent. Even a fog finds it hard to disguise something so big and well, orange!

Since her arrival Nuyina has dominated the Hobart waterfront but today she heads south to Antarctica on her first voyage carrying 67 expeditioners and crew to refuel Casey research station, transport helicopters to Davis research station and undertake marine science commissioning. In the following days the French vessel MV L’Astrolabe and the US icebreaker Aiviq which has been chartered by the Aussies will follow in her wake.

Hobart is one of five global Antarctic gateway cities (the others are Cape Town (South Africa), Christchurch (New Zealand), Punta Arenas (Chile) and Ushuaia (Argentina)), and the impact of the frozen continent to the south is highly visible through the presence of government agencies and educational programs. The Australian Antarctic Division headquarters are located at Kingston (our local service centre) conveniently between Bunnings and Mitre 10. I say conveniently as I have an image of a research station phoning up to say they need something and a staff member popping over to one of these super stores, putting it on the account and placing the item on the relevant shelf for the next courier delivery- that’s what we would have done in the library! I guess the logistics of transporting something to Davis is slightly more complicated!

The Australian Antarctic Program is currently recruiting for the 2022/23 season. I did check it out but it would seem that the need for a library consultant of a certain age is limited. Shame really as imagine the blog posts I could write!

Constitution Dock, Hobart

Safe travels to all those heading south.

School is out and the traffic in front of 87 Bruny Island Main Road has increased – well expediently would be an over exaggeration! Let’s say there are one or two additional cars and the odd caravan with every load disgorged from the ferry. Wainui sits right on the entry to Dennes Point where the gravel switches to bitumen and the speed drops down from 80 to 40 (though 80 is optimistic or down right suicidal on much of the 11km of bends between us and the main drag). We lounge on the deck and identify the tourists (who generally slow down as they enter the settlement), and the locals who maintain speed until they hit the first bend with its ‘Slow’ sign painted on the back of an old real estate board. Just to reinforce the fact a second slow sign is a 100 metres or so down the hill. Between 7.30 pm and 6 am when Bruny is sealed off from the world (ie the ferry doesn’t run) the road is mostly silent.

By comparison the alternative highway that passes the house, the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, is busy at all hours of the day and night. Having recently come to this conclusion we are trying to prove ourselves wrong but just when we exclaim ‘no craft on the water,’ we’ll see the flash of a tinny out fishing, the sail of a yacht on the horizon or hear the distinctive thump of a power boat moving through the swell. The sheer variety (and beauty) of many of these vessels is a delight and the telescope and binoculars are always on hand, as is my new favourite app, Deckee, which helps me work out who they are.

Ronja Storm off Nebraska Beach

The Channel is very much a working highway and the fleet that in our house is collectively referred to as ‘The Ronjas’ are in constant movement servicing the fish farms in the Channel and out into Storm Bay. The ‘Ronjas’ are named after the Ronja Storm which is owned by Huon Aquaculture and is in perpetual motion past the house. She is pretty impressive even though we hate what she and her minions represent.

HMAS Hobart off Dennes Point

Last week the quality of ship on our stretch of waterway went up a notch when HMAS Hobart called in over several consecutive days – a bit eerie to look out into the early morning and see a guided missile destroyer slowly cruising past. Those of you who have read Heather Rose’s novel, Bruny, won’t be surprised to learn that I was supposing all sorts of secret squirrel behaviour on the go. Maybe the fish farms were about to blow up? I think the reality was more simply that they were doing the ship equivalent of a plane’s holding pattern before they could enter Hobart. Oh well, imagination is a fine thing!

With love from Bruny xx

It’s the time of the year when the spectre of the jolly fat man in the red suit is evoked with the sole purpose of reminding me that I have to be ‘good’ in order for him to stop by my basket (substitute human’s bed) on the 25th. I think that my American friend, Auntie Rhoda , had the right idea by sending me a Christmas tree decoration with a picture of me and the words “Define Naughty” on it. Thankfully the whole concept of bribery in December is rather subjective and totally lost on me. I can tell you now, that if mince pies are left out for Santa on Christmas Eve, they won’t survive the night and he’ll be sadly disappointed. The reindeer are welcome to the carrots. We Labradors are not keen on the vegan option.

So, has my behaviour been worthy of Santa’s consideration? Again, one has to be smart (cunning) about this. If you give M&D something to gush about and tell all their friends about, any small misdemeanor can usually be forgiven. Let me give you an example.

Being a country dog, I had little experience with large bodies of water. So, when we moved here, I suspect that M&D believed the Labrador in me would show itself and I would immediately take to swimming. Well, I was, and still am, very wary of all that water. I like paddling and getting wet up to my tummy, but any deeper and I start to panic. But, after a year, I thought it was about time to literally ‘take the plunge’. With my mates Mia and May, I was so committed to chasing a ball that I didn’t realise I was out of my depth – and yes – I was swimming!

With my friend May

There was much videoing and sounds of delight from M&D that I knew I would have ‘credit in the ‘behaviour bank’. Many family members and friends were subjected to boring, blow-by-blow descriptions of my new found skill. I have also largely been trusted to be allowed off-leash on the beach. Yet more brownie points.

Unfortunately, some of this credit has been spent with minor infractions such as chewing Dad’s sock, several toilet rolls shredded under the bed, the odd ballerina cloth eaten and my penchant for waking the whole household in the middle of the night by quoll hunting on the deck.

All in all, I think I’m on the plus side of the behaviour ledger and I am looking forward to discovering what Santa will be leaving me come Christmas morning. (I really don’t care as long as it includes food.)

Love from the Island

One of the concerns we had initially about moving to Bruny Island was its relative isolation in terms of health facilities. Most of our fears have since been allayed due to the excellent Health Centre at Allonnah. There still remained the question of an emergency situation. Could the local services cope?Well, I’m going to answer that question with a resounding “Yes”!

On Saturday I was erecting a new set of shelves in my workshop under the house. No gory accidents with power tools or falls from a ladder, just a step down off a set of steps and something jarred or jammed in my already dodgy hip that totally immobilised my leg with a great deal of pain. The slightest movement was agony. Jan eventually arrived from the studio and She helped to get me on a chair.All fairly pedestrian up until now but the comedy of errors was about to unfold. What follows is not meant to be a criticism of any sort – quite the opposite.

Patiently waiting

Jan rang triple zero and the ambulance ( which is operated by volunteers) arrived in less than twenty minutes – two ambulances . It just so happened that the big ambulance was on the island for training purposes, so it’s crew responded as did the recently appointed paramedic and the emergency nurse.So we had Mary, Margaret, Tam, Clare and Kaitlin all in attendance.

With four ambulances in the street and driveway, the whole neighbourhood had been alerted to the unfolding drama.The plan was to back the ambulance under the house, put the stretcher in the workshop and from there, into the ambo (with me on it). Unfortunately, in formulating this plan, everyone’s input into how it was to be achieved resulted in the ambo getting bogged in the loose gravel of the drive. They finally manoeuvred me into an SUV via a wheelchair.

“Chainsaw” to the rescue

Once I had been dispatched and transferred to yet another ambulance at the ferry, Lee and our neighbour “Chainsaw”(Justin) from the SES and his tractor were summoned to ‘unbog’ the vehicle.

Lying in Hobart Private Hospital I can only marvel at the enthusiasm and alacrity of all involved. Thanks to everyone in the rescue mission and much appreciation for all the well-wishers.No prognosis yet on what has caused my condition but I suspect only rest will be the solution.

Hi Friends, Ruby here.

Most people agree that a Labrador starts to become a little more settled after about two years. I am nearing my fourth birthday and I must say that I don’t subscribe to meaningless stereotypes. I mean, much to M&D’s relief, there has been a certain dampening of wild and derelict physical behaviour, but I have interspersed it with more subtle and enigmatic practices that really keep them on their toes. Let’s say Ruby has commenced a phase of unpredictable, psychological guerrilla warfare to keep M&D in a perpetual state of frustration and dismay, and its all designed to retain me as ‘front and centre’ in our family!

As usual, I need to regale you with a few anecdotes to illustrate my progress in this regard. I still employ the tactic of randomly throwing myself off the lounge and diving under furniture to get attention. This always results in M or D (or both) joining me under tables and beds with soothing words, cuddles and more importantly, tasty snacks. They must feel that if I am willing to eat something. I can’t be too sick. (I’m a Labrador for God’s sake – I’d have to be dead before I refused food!)

Another favourite pastime has been to run away as soon as the door or gate is left open. Who remembers the great escape of a few months ago when I ran D ragged all over the farm, neighbours and beach for 3 whole hours? The consequences were not pretty. Now, I realise that I can have some freedom without being yelled at or smacked – in fact I can be rewarded. It works like this. If you sneak out of the gate at home, you don’t just take off but rather just stay out of reach and move around at your own pace, making sure to stay on our property. The other day I did this and ended up down the front where I am rarely allowed to go. The weed-infested pond was fun and I even found a dead bird which was a real bonus. You know after a while that M&D are so relieved for you to be caught that you will get a treat for doing so. Same applies at the beach – just run off a little way, look over your shoulder with a glint of the devil in your eye and lo and behold, out come the snacks.

With my chauffeur on our way to adventure!

The last example of these new ‘science of the mind’ tactics has so far prevented M&D from sending me to kennels overnight. I now show my displeasure at even being left alone for a day by manic barking and wailing on their return. I think they believe that I do this the whole time they’re away. In actual fact, I’m so drugged up on the tranquillisers they sneak into me that I sleep the whole time they are away. I have been known to sleep so deeply that I pee myself without even knowing. That’s retribution enough.

A fantastic benefit of my capricious behaviour has been the purchase of a ‘Pup Naps calming dog bed’. It really does work a treat and I love it. Its so warm, comfy and soothing and much to M&D’s delight, I use it all the time. (except at night when a human’s bed is much more to my liking.)

With Mia and May at Nebraska Beach

So, I feel my armoury of tricks is growing, if not in frequency, certainly in variety. (As the great magicians say, “Keep the audience guessing”) Throw in the odd physical ruse to garner some sympathy and I have them exactly where I want them. Example – last week I had a particularly hectic play sessions successively with Ollie, Mercx and then Mia and May. I pulled up lame with a very sore front leg and after hobbling along for a while I convinced M to go ahead and bring the car back for me. Lots of fussing when we got home.

I love my life down here and I know that my antics and subterfuge make M&D happy too. They feel valued and loved.

Love

Ruby

P.S. I don’t think that I have had much success on my enforced diet.

Following yesterday’s post I received this from my friend Barry Barnett in London. As you’ll learn in his story Barry is currently researching an ancestor who came to Tasmania as a convict. He is also recording stories about his home town Blandford Forum in his Blog The Blandford Express .Thanks Barry.

There was something undeniably familiar about Jan’s watercolour by Martin Snape of Portsmouth Harbour, England – from the Gosport side.

For it is where my distant relative, John Weeks spent two spells in the convict prison hulks, Laurel and York awaiting transportation to Australia. He was a poacher by trade and a pretty astute one. For after his first transportation conviction, he managed to avoid the transport vessel to ‘down under’ as he spent all his seven years’ sentence working as a labourer in Portsmouth’s naval dockyard.

Life in a convict hulk has been described as a ‘hell on earth’. Prison hulk living conditions, isolated by water and wooden walls, were terrible and hygiene standards were so poor that disease spread quickly. Typhoid and cholera were commonplace and the death rates were high. Below deck was rat infested and the stench appalling. Dead convicts would be buried on ‘Rat Island’ so called as it faced Gosport’s large naval abattoir. Bodies not buried might be sold on by the ship doctor.

After his second transportation conviction, John Weeks did leave Portsmouth Harbour for Van Diemen’s Land. At 62, he was the oldest convict on the transportation vessel, the Lord William Bentinck II. Older convicts were left normally to rot in the hulks at it was assumed they would not survive the long and arduous sea journey. This time, John would have wanted to go as his two sons and daughter had just arrived in Oz under an early assisted passage scheme. Did he get himself arrested deliberately?

Lord William Bentinck II berthed in Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land on 26th August 1838 and John served his sentence. It must have been quite a reunion at Christmas 1844, when he met up with his family in Camden, New South Wales. Apart from his poaching, the versatile John was also described as a coachman, groom, farm labourer and ploughman. Despite his many appearances in English courtrooms there is no record of this continuing in Oz.

On Thursday 8 November 1857, the following appeared in the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser:

‘Death Notice. At Maitland, upon the 4th instant, Mr John Weeks, aged 82 years, father of John and Benjamin Weeks of Camden, after a severe and protracted illness, which he bore with the utmost Christian patience.’

It was, of course, from the city of Portsmouth from which the First Fleet left for Australia and there are several reminders today here of this link. Portsmouth, nicknamed ‘Pompey’ is England’s only island city.

So perhaps this blog piece could best be entitled: ‘Musings from an island city off an island off Continental Europe!’

Baza, London, England.

Marcus has previously described the Bruny Waste Transfer Station (aka the tip), and even as I write, he’s loading up for a trip. It is a very well-run operation and has the added benefit of a ‘treasure table’ which encourages recycling. Even if you’re not in the market for anything, it’s always worth a look and I’ve noticed that most people give it a quick once over. To date I have managed to ‘step away’.

I have very recently (and unexpectedly) had an Antiques Roadshow moment based on the adage of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. Let’s roll the camera back to the summer of 1972. I have always loved a ‘tip trip’ and so was only too happy to accompany Dad to the Orange Rubbish Dump (or whatever posh title it had in those days). He was ‘depositing’ but I was intent on making a ‘withdrawal’. Even then scavenging was frowned upon, and so Dad kept watch while I retrieved a framed picture. I had been immersed in decorating books and magazines which focused on repurposing and was in search of picture frames; what was behind the glass was of little interest. Once home I set myself up on the front lawn and hosed off the layers of dirt revealing a very prettily carved wooden frame. I prised the picture out and pushed it to one side admiring my treasure.

Mum, meanwhile, retrieved the discarded the picture, a watercolour of a harbour scene which she convinced us was of Newcastle viewed from Dad’s home suburb of Carrington. And so it became the ‘Newcastle’ picture. In time the frame would indeed be used in a decorating project and the watercolour would be framed and hang in Mum and Dad’s home. Following their deaths the picture passed to me and when we moved to Tasmania it formed part of a grouping of ‘Newcastle’ works in my studio (for those who don’t know I was born and raised in that City and have a strong interest in its history).

Last weekend I was standing looking at the ‘tip’ painting while waiting for the kettle to boil. Examining it again I realised that the artist’s signature was very clear and, taking note, I hopped online (a luxury not possible in 1972!). ‘M Snape artist’ immediately returned results and I was confronted with very similar works and an identical signature. My man and his subject choice was revealed – not Newcastle NSW but Gosport on the south coast of England.

An email to Richard Martin, an expert in Snape’s life and work, was duly dispatched with a response within hours ‘Indeed, your picture is a watercolour by Martin Snape (1852-1930). He was a very prolific artist working at the latter part of the 19th century until shortly before his death in 1930. He was not nationally known but as a local artist made a living out of painting views in and around his (and my) home town of Gosport.’ Further discussions ensued and the Snape was mailed to England and a new home yesterday. I always liked it, but part of its charm was the story behind it, not necessarily the work. Given that we still have a bedroom of framed works in bubble wrap awaiting hanging space, sending it off to begin a new life seemed smart.

As you probably realise in many of my stories there is a library connection, and so it is with Gosport. In 2009 I undertook a study tour of public libraries/galleries and museums in England which were co-located. I visited Gosport as part of that project. It was one of my favourite integrated facilities and many library friends will have seen photos of different components worked into some of my presentations. Who would have thought?

So what’s taken the place of the ‘tip’ paining on my wall? A Monte Luke photograph of Stanwell Park gifted to us by our friends Sandra and Jeffrey; and yes, there’s a story there too! So it’s now the Newcastle/Wollongong wall which is fair enough as that’s where we moved when we left Newcastle and where I/we spent many happy years.

Talk soon.

Spring has well and truly sprung here on Bruny and we have been busy immersing ourselves into life at Dennes Point.

The Jetty Café has reopened after its winter break. Friday nights are strictly ‘fish ‘n chips’ and we headed off on evening one to join with our neighbours in supporting this local business. Lovely to stand by the fire and catch up after dinner. The café is in a beautiful building overlooking the Channel. Architect designed it was largely built by the local community and also features a commercial gallery space and adjoins the Dennes Point Memorial Hall.

I am also excited to announce that the gallery has re-opened as Pluk following the retirement of the previous owner ( and fellow quilter), Kate. Pluk is the brainchild of Chrystal, who was the first person we met at Dennes Point when Ruby did her escapee act on day one. It features lots of tempting items, some of which are already making their way north to ease lockdown blues.

Yesterday we made the 7 minute drive to the Barnes Bay CWA Hall for a workshop on the Forty Spotted Pardalote. Endemic to Tasmania the 40 Spots (as we now refer to them) are one of Australia’s rarest birds and are only found on Bruny and Maria islands. They are small, quiet and difficult to spot, unlike their relatives the Spotted and Striated Pardalote, both of whom we have in the garden. The the very noisy Striated have nests in the eaves of the house and the studio and are extremely social. The 40 Spots rely on the Eucalyptus viminalis ( white gum) which itself is under stress due to climate change so lots of issues. Citizen scientists M & J are now involved, building nesting boxes, observing and recording. We thought we had seen one earlier in the year when Marcus rescued one that had flown into the window but we now know that this was a juvenile Spotted. For the birders amongst you a couple of good articles over on the Bruny Island Environment Network page.

Home after our Pardalote session, Ruby and I headed to the beach where we watched dolphins playing off shore – well I watched, Ruby was too busy searching for starfish! We’re not in Orange anymore.

Yes, winter was cold but not the raw, biting pinch of a crisp Orange winter’s day. The Bureau did announce this week that it was the mildest Tasmanian winter on record and its easy to see why. I only remember having to wear my puffer jacket on a couple of occasions. Most afternoon walks on the beach required just a warm jumper to be comfortable.

I know it may seem that I have become obsessed with the wind down here, but it can be truly surprising and so varied. There is very rarely a day that can’t be described as windy but it is the speed with which it arrives, and disappears that can amaze. The absolute force of the wind is awesome. We had a BOM severe weather warning for Monday night and sure enough at 3.00am, the gale-force winds (of over 100 kph) tore and ripped at the house trying to find a finger-hold on any loose or vulnerable aspect of the building. What we weren’t warned about was a repeat performance last night, but of even more intensity. At times it felt like a heavyweight boxer was raining body-blows to the house and it responded by shuddering as if its feet were being lifted off the ground. Ruby slept through the whole experience totally unconcerned, or at least totally oblivious. (Boy, can she sleep!)

One interesting aspect of the wind is what it can do to the beach. In the afternoon after the gale of Monday night the beach had a very different appearance to normal. Where the waves had wetted the sand the wind had scoured the surface enough to undercut every bit of tiny pebble, wood, shell and seed and left them each on their own sandy pedestal. It resembled a specimen tray in a high-end jewellery shop. At the back of the beach where the sand was dry, the landscape of ‘dunes’ was just liked Jimmy Murdoch had described in Year 9 Geography back at Orange High in the sixties.

 As you know, food is an important part of our lifestyle and we are still exploring the wide range of local produce available to us. We are well-served by several outlets on the island including the Bruny Island Cheese Factory for cheese, locally brewed beers and condiments; The Oyster Shuckery; and the baker down near Alonnah that sells his bread out of a couple of old fridges on the side of the road; and a local farmer who grows vegetables. Its not difficult to be fully inspired in the kitchen as a result. Our vegetable garden is ready to go into full production and we already have a couple of things on the go.

In terms of ‘home improvements’, I have been busy constructing a new garden shed/potting shed down near the studio. The enclosed area that has been created (which I have grandly named “the utility area”) is handy for hiding the garbage bins, compost bins and saved bits of timber and other building materials. Two or three garden beds out the front of the house have also been created and/or renovated to tidy up for first impressions.

The back yard is still a work in progress and is undergoing a change from the original ideas. When the weather permits that will be the next focus of attention with yet another garden bed (I wonder who is going to maintain them all?), and a new fire pit to locate and install.

If you listen carefully, you may just hear the wind screeching like a banshee through the fly-screens!