Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Floods, Earthquakes, First Planting and First Baking

It's been a time of natural phenomenon over the past week, with Facebook nearly collapsing under the strain of every single Melbourne hipster (myself included) updating with something along the lines of "earthquake?" at exactly the same time.

Truth be told I didn't notice until Tracey asked me what was up with the roof shaking (I've had funny ears the last week after getting off a plane so things are generally off-balance at the moment) but then it made sense how tense Happy had been and the concerned look on his face for the hour before the plates beneath the earth did their thing. When we realised it was an earthquake, I thought perhaps we should go outside in case the roof caved in. We agreed that it was too cold and we couldn't be bothered, so after a while I turned off the tv so we'd notice any aftershocks and got my social media on.

What did people do before the facebooks? Talk to each other? Read newsletters hand-cranked on a printing press? Head to the town meeting and shake angry fists? All valid options and frankly ones I would have expected in our new country lifestyle.

Here's Happy afterwards, exhausted from being protective and worried.

We had reservations for Hellenic Republic last Friday, and in keeping with the baptismal theme of water taking over prior plans, floods and torrential downpour closed roads and prevented us from making it to the big smoke and the delicious Greek delicacies to be shared with friends. We turned back after an hour of detours that were going nowhere and got some local pizza instead. Not bad - and when you pay, they get you to cut a deck of cards and if you flip it to the Joker you get a free large.

We were talking about the difference we have here - nature seems so much bigger somehow. If it rains, you just can't go where you thought you would be going. QED. I like that, the way the elements demand respect in big, loud living colour.

Having said that, I'm glad the house didn't get flooded out. That would suck a whole lot.

We visited a beautiful farmers market not far from here last weekend, and were having a great time. Started off with a bacon and egg roll, wandered around sharing a coffee, chatting with the lady who makes wonderful kindling collection bags out of recycled billboards and the organic berry lady who said with great queer emphasis that she had travelled from her "partner's house in Brunswick". Then we came across the scary honey woman.

She had the most beautiful things for sale - local honey of all sorts, honeycomb dripping away lazily and sweetly, bee paraphernalia like tea-towels and pot holders. She had gorgeous hand-knitted baby jumpers and cardigans that her elderly mother makes - "it keeps her entertained". But then the ground cracked open and the fires of hell made themselves known as the backdrop of the terrible tale of the lady who had wanted to buy a pink jumper for her little boy. Well she just thought that was revolting, and what is the world coming to when a boy will look like a girl. Etc, etc, etc.

Her audience of two ladies very much in love bowed out and went elsewhere, getting some beautiful pears and apples.

Not such a big deal, sure, but it left a sour taste dripping quietly through the whole experience. Part of me was wondering when this sort of thing would rear its ugly head, but when we got home we planted a native in the garden - the first thing we've put in the earth here. It was a pink king protea planted in memory of Addam Stobbs - the wonderful flamboyant man who taught me how to broadcast, and died two years ago on that day. It seemed a fitting end to that particular outing.

We had our first overnight non-moving-day guest last week, so I made a pudding for dessert. It turned out smashingly so I thought I'd share the recipe.

There are no quantities really, I just made it up as I went along to make a small serving, so do whatever feels right.

"Adam Quayle Visits" Pudding

raw sugar
vanilla extract
SR flour
raw cacao powder
white chocolate melts (the ones that look a bit like 20c pieces)
a jar of those morello cherries in juice - the sweet ones, not the ones that taste like medicine
an egg
cream to serve it with

preheat the oven - I put it on super low because we have a scary electric oven that roasts potatoes in about ten minutes and we're still getting to know each other.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and pour in a mixing bowl with the sugar, mix together well and add in a splosh of vanilla and the egg. Mix again (I just used a whisk)

Sift in your flour, add a good splosh of milk (any kind will do - soy, cow, almond, oat, rice) and whisk it all up, adding a pinch or two of cinnamon. You could put in any superfood here - I chose a tsp of raw cacao because I've been putting it in my smoothies and it's gorgeous. You could also add chia seeds, sunflower seeds, goji berries, whatevs.

Once that's all mixed together have a good taste of it and see what you think. It should be just like a cake mix, not too runny but not too doughy.

Get a pudding bowl or glass pyrex dish - I had a round pyrex dish that was the perfect size for two people's dessert.

Spoon in the cherries so they cover the bottom of the dish, and one more layer of cherries, then cover them with the juice. Sit some white chocolate melts over the top of the cherries, don't mix them in. Then pour your cakey mix over the top.

In our scary oven you need a lid but not sure if you will in yours. Cook til the cake bit is cooked. The juice gets mostly absorbed into the cake mix and makes it all berrylicious. Serve it up with a dash of cream, because when visitors come you need cream with your pudding.

The day after the pudding, we took a drive over to Fork To Fork, which is at Heronswood in Dromana, and had the most delicious lunch the world has ever known. I was so full I couldn't eat any dinner that night. I have got to get some Jerusalem artichokes growing in my garden, they are delicious.

If I thought the day couldn't get any better, I was mistaken. Not ten minutes after remarking to Adam how much I wanted to plant some rhubarb in the garden so I could experiment with cooking it, there were rhubarb plants for sale on the side of the road. Massive beautiful leafy ones with big red stalks - I bought three and put my money in the honesty box and we went on our way.

I'm feeling more and more at home in this place as time goes on, I'm already at the point where I can't imagine living anywhere else. I love the drives along country roads with horses and cows and sheep dotting all the paddocks, eggs and poo for the garden and fruit and plants for sale on the side of the road, the expansiveness and childhood familiarity of it all. So little traffic! So much less rage! I feel very fortunate.

The day after this is when the flooding happened so I baked some pumpkin bread sourced from the wonderful She Cooks, She Gardens. She has so many simple and satisfying recipes, and this one was perfect. With the excess roast pumpkin puree, I made Trace and I a quick lunch of spiral pasta with burnt butter, garlic and sage stirred through with the pumpkin, and freshly grated parmesan on top. Incredible!

Here's the pumpkin bread - I encourage you to make it, it's really easy and absolutely delicious.

That's all for this week, I'll leave you with an image of Gingko harnessing her talent for irony. Thanks for reading xo

Monday, June 18, 2012

The First Week

Two ladies, one sea/tree change, one blog. Here we go.

I'm Jenny, my partner is Tracey and we've moved to a little fishing village a fair ways out of town. We still commute for work a few days a week but have a decent amount of time at ye olde homestead to kick back, stare at the potbellied stove and take walks with our dogs.

We're both pretty similar in that we love the latte lifestyle of Northcote. The music scene, the hipster watching, the farmers markets with fancy cheeses, our friends, but by gum we get a bit cranky pants about the traffic. We are both overstimulated by the city. We are both exhausted and constantly craving holidays by the seaside, where it's quiet and you sleep a long heavy sleep and wake up feeling all bendy and ready for things. Things like reading all day or slow-cooking some shanks. Sometimes if we're feeling wild and crazy, combining the two. That kind of stuff is the business.

A few days after the decision was made to go ahead with the big move there was an article in the Good Weekend all about how sea changes and tree changes usually go bad, people get all excited by a few weekends away and make a big move that sees them living in Bumbonk Idaho with no friends, no prospects, shonky educational options for their kids, ignorant backward-thinking hicks on every paddock and broken relationships.

Here's why I think it'll be different for us:

- My lifelong obsession with Little House on the Prairie
- We both grew up in vague proximity to where we've ended up, so it's not unfamiliar and we have family nearby
- Blind optimism
- Articulating what we want has often led to each of us individually finding good pathways in life. We wanted trees and water and quiet and a garden. Hey presto!
- Did I mention the potbellied stove?
- We're not going out at night folk, unless it's out for dinner somewhere with nice wine and the word "foam" somewhere on the menu, so zero nightlife apart from the local open mic night is not a problem.
- I've got a two year membership to the Diggers Club, a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens, and yesterday I bought a $10 flanellette shirt from the supermarket

Wish us luck, will you?

We've been here for about a week so far and it's lovely. Every day I find myself saying (out loud to anyone who will listen) how amazing it is to be able to live here.

The house has a fresh coat of paint on the inside to give a new look to the holiday-house primary colour explosion of bright blues, pinks and yellows. (We went with Dulux Cottontail from the multitude of whites on offer, with our front door painted in a bold Porpoise Place peacocky turquoise in case you're interested). It's small but open and has a friendly feel to it. There's a great bushy garden with a massive gum in the front and an olive tree and herbs in the back. We're looking forward to welcoming friends down for the weekends to have a bit of time out. There's a spa! And I just won a woodfire pizza oven on eBay.

There's still a fair bit to do but I'll save that list for the next installment. I bloody love a list.

(Gingko the cat is very pleased to be living here)

Moving day was pretty exciting. Exciting in that 'first anxiety attack pre-8 am' kind of way! We had the greatest moving guys in the world, who did their best to cram our entire huge household plus shed full of stuff tetris-like into the too-small truck the lady on the phone organised for me. Thanks lady! Maybe send a bigger truck next time like you said you would!

Tracey's bro and mum took a round trip and filled a trailer up, Beverly Hillbillies style. That and a few carloads and we had it covered. Bless em! They even brought the gross worm farm that leaked worm wee everywhere. We had a great first night with a roaring fire, Superman III on the telly, homemade lasagne and garlic bread supplied by Tracey's mum and our friends Ange and Shannon, who were absolute champions with the unpacking on moving day. Slept like the proverbial on new flanellette sheets and did a big cook-up brekkie for everyone.

Shannon decided to go for a run with Clem the schnauzer by herself, so after she got back Trace, Ange Happy Jesus the pomeranian x, Clem and I went for a walk along the beach. This beach is an inlet beach so it's not a wave festival, but a calm little mangrovey beach. It's really sweet and Trace and I had paid the beach a visit a fair few times before moving down here but had never been for a long walk along it.

It was a nice winter day, a few clouds and quite grey, a little breeze accompanying us on our jaunt. It is so peaceful, we didn't see another person and it was great to stretch our legs and shake off the stiffness and stress of moving day. We came across a sweet little rowboat up on the sand, and I think it was at this point that I casually asked if we should turn back (Shannon needed to get home that morning and Ange was catching a ride with her) or keep going. "Let's keep going! I want to see the pier," Ange said. I think we'll all look back on the moment and remember for years to come, the turning point.

Soon after this the sand started to get a wee bit muddy. What an adventure! How fun! Various nieces and nephews will love this! Wow, my foot is slightly wet! This never happens in the big smoke!Just some of the thoughts bandied about.

Then I started getting that sinking feeling. No really, my feet were sinking in the the mud. It was a bit Bog of Eternal Stench from Labyrinth (complete with the farty noises the mud was making in the mangroves), a bit Artax sinking to his death in The Neverending Story. I focused on my left foot and wiggled that one out eventually, then needed a bit of assistance.

We could not stop laughing. Was it the laughter of fun or hysteria? We'll never know! But my right leg was in past the knee, then suddenly mid-thigh. Oh dear. Ange and Trace were yanking my arms to try and pull me out, the dogs were having a great time playing in the stinky mud, and all of us were absolutely cacking ourselves. After awhile of getting nowhere with the arm yanking, besides Trace saying in a rather deep voice that I hadn't ever heard before "SO MUCH PAIN. SO MUCH PAIN", I gave up any illusions I had of not being completely filthy and got on my left knee and hands, and asked the girls to give my pants a good hard yank.

We got there eventually, sweaty and muddy and in fits of strange laughter. Then we realised we were surrounded by this stuff and couldn't actually turn back or the same thing would happen again. Looking forward we were probably twenty metres or so from sand so we decided to go forward, and ran as lightly as we could across the muddy quicksand and found the sand was just as sinky. The only thing for it was to crawl out of the mangroves on  hands and knees, as we didn't sink as far that way.

There was a lady fishing on the pier who watched the whole thing and was clearly finding it very entertaining.

I had my phone on me (grabbed at the last minute with whimsical notions of documenting our first walk after moving in) and had given it to Ange to stuff in her bra while they were yanking me out of the mud to try and save it from falling to its doom. She still had it, so we decided to try and swim across the inlet and call Shannon to come pick us up. I looked at the maps function (bless you iPhone) and it told me it would take two hours to walk back. We were all wet and cold by now so it was a bit of a recipe for disaster.

I went first and found the water to be pretty much what you'd expect in the middle of winter, but could walk across and only get wet up to my neck. No worries! When the water hit my lungs I had a bit of difficulty breathing but outwardly and loudly remained cheerful cos I thought Tracey was quietly freaking out a bit and didn't want her to worry about any possible hypothermia or death. My vocal communication consisted of "yep it's ok! Ok! A bit deeper! Deeper! But Ok! No worries! Ha! Pretty deep! Haha! Ok! Oh good, shallower, shallower, shallower, shallower, Yay!!!!".

Clem had swum out to hang out with me while I took this detour from our walk, but I knew Happy would be well, unhappy to have to swim so I shouted out to Trace that she'd have to put him on his lead. She met me halfway with the phone held over her head, and I turned back to my side of the shore and called Shannon. No answer.

Kept calling while the girls were coming over with the dogs and broke the news there was no answer when we were all safe on the much less sinky sand.

I tried Ange's mobile, Trace's mobile (both left back at the house where Shannon was) and our landline a few times. No answer. After a few minutes Shannon called back and came to find us (we sat on tarps in her car, bunch of stinky ladies). It took awhile as she got lost but we were home within an hour or so.

(Happy, Tracey, Clem and Ange after emerging from our swim. RIP Ange's boots and my runners).

Shannon and Ange took off and Trace and I had hot drinks with a good glug of Baileys in them, watched DVDs on the couch with a few million blankets and cracked up at regular intervals over the corker of a joke "remember when we got bogged in the mud?"

Yep. Good times.

We met a local a few days later who told us about some people who had to be rescued by police after a similar thing happened so we didn't feel like such giant dorks.

This is just a (long and rather wordy) snapshot of our first week in our little house on the inlet. Other fun things like chatting with the owners of the local store and hearing about how there used to be some "bad eggs who did wheelies on their bikes" but are "no longer a problem" have given us a feel for this quiet place.

Stay tuned for shopping lists for Bunnings and talk of rosehip syrup making! Thanks for reading xo