Jobs and a Family Catchup

Robin BoyleBreakfast, Family, Launceston, Recipe, Tamar, Tasmania, The Cottage, Vegetables

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(Continued from: An Afternoon Feast)

Olive’s Cottage is both a business and a holiday house for us. This means that there are generally jobs to do when we visit from Melbourne. We try to work these into enjoying the property, catching up with family and friends and searching out new experiences in the region.

Business matters

Our intention had been for our gardener, Warwick, to come down to meet us to discuss any garden matters. On Monday morning we rang him to tell him the bad news about the four wallabies in the garden. We said we were confident we could chase them out later that day. With him guiding us over the phone, we inspected parts of the garden where they could be hiding and sections of the fence where they could be gaining access.

At the same time he was able to take us through the key changes and improvements since he began working with us in March. Everything was progressing well – there was no need for him to come down to meet us.

Later we checked every part of the perimeter fence, ducking under branches and shrubs, trying to avoid scratches from stray blackberry tentacles. We found several potential spots where the wallabies could force their way through or under the mesh.

Our manager, Tracy, was coming for lunch for a catch-up. She took over as manager in May and has done a marvellous job for us, keeping up the high standards and commitment of our previous managers. Her role includes keeping the property functioning and in A-one condition so that visitors have a memorable experience from the time they first open the front door to the time they close it for the last time.

Sitting on the deck and sharing a mixed salad followed by some of Irma’s lemon curd cake, there really wasn’t much to discuss work-wise. Everything was going well from our point of view. Tracy explained how she and her husband had cleaned the transparent roofing over the two decks and how they would soon clean out the gutters and hose down the outside of the cottage. The two decks needed re-staining and they would do those late in March, when the tourist season slowed down.

Even though both Warwick and Tracy had both started with us this year, 2015, we could not be happier with their efforts. We see our relationship with them as a partnership: they work with us, not for us. It was the same as for our previous managers.

Jobs to do

Monday afternoon was spent shopping.

First stop was a well-known DIY centre where we bought wire and some metal and wooden stakes with which to plug the holes in the fence.

The second stop was a wholesale supplier to the accommodation industry. Tracy needed to stock up on food sachets – jams, honey, etc – as the current stocks were quickly approaching their use-by dates. We weren’t happy with the big name brands and went with a small mainland supplier from the Yarra Valley. (We will take up the complications of local laws and food requirements in a later blog post.)

We completed the rest of the shopping in the CBD. Launceston has a remarkable shopping centre. Its grid pattern of streets, with wonderfully preserved buildings, contains a surprising array of interesting and high quality shops.

Launceston CBD b

We needed to purchase lighter doonas for the two beds in the cottage. The weekend’s weather at Windermere had been quite warm and the sleeping was a little uncomfortable under the winter-grade bedding. Northern Tasmania has a wonderfully mild summer. In the past we had relied on guests swapping the doonas over for the lighter blankets provided.

Finally, we had crockery and cutlery to buy. The breakage and disappearance rate of items in the cottage is negligible. Well, except for teaspoons: either people collect them as souvenirs or they throw them out with the rubbish. In addition to a dozen replacements, we needed another set of red wine glasses, and we needed a colourful fruit bowl for the middle of the dining table.

Arriving back at the cottage at around 5.30, we found our recalcitrant wallaby at his (or her) favourite spot in the middle of the lawn.

It was quite a big one. Could we chase it out? We propped the gate wide open and dragged a garden bench onto the path up one side of the house to stop it from being able to circumnavigate the building. When we appeared, armed with broom handles, the wallaby hopped in behind the thick bushes along one of the side fences. However, with some energetic bashing and poking, we had soon chased it under the back deck where it sat looking at us. It was really, really cute. But it had to go! A strong stream of cold water from the hose saw it tear off towards the front garden. Two minutes later, our waving broomsticks saw it belt through the open gate and into our neighbours’ front garden!

For us, a triumph: two city slickers evict a wallaby in under fifteen minutes! Forty five minutes after that, we had plugged the holes in the fences, leaving no chance of a wallaby, let alone any other animal, being able to squeeze through.

All that time we were down among the bushes around the perimeter where any other wallabies would be hiding. We saw not a one, heard not a rustle. We convinced ourselves that the other three were small and entered and exited each day; that at dawn they had gone back outside into the neighbouring bush, aiming to return at dusk by squeezing back through the fence.

At ten o’clock that night, our torch revealed three wallabies peacefully feeding in the middle of the lawn! They must have been well-hidden after all.

Recalling the ‘olden days’ with my sisters

Tuesday morning and the good news was that the wallabies didn’t join us for breakfast. The bad news, we suspected, was that they would be harder to chase out than the first one.

We were catching up with three of my sisters later in the day. They knew we were working on a food blog based around life at Windermere and I wanted to pick their brains about the olden days, especially about the dishes our parents cooked.

One of our father’s favourites was fresh spinach straight from his garden, steamed over a little butter and served on buttered toast. Often he would gently steam bacon and/or an egg on top of the spinach. It was the spinach and bacon combination we prepared for our breakfast. The dish is so simple, and just like Mum’s fried tomatoes, gives a far more satisfying result than the ubiquitous spinach and tomatoes at breakfast venues around the country.

For the recipe click here: Steamed Spinach.

My sisters, Jan, Jude and Maureen, were full of ideas. Maureen had already filled a page or two with notes and we took away another couple, covering life on the Tamar, family anecdotes, family food, achievements and disappointments. And we still had to chat with my other siblings, my sisters’ husbands and their children, all of whom have strong family memories. It would be a pleasant challenge to incorporate them into future blog posts. The real challenge will be to recreate recipes for dishes we loved, but have no written record of how our parents prepared them.

We mentioned our wallaby problem to my sisters. They had family stories like that as well, but no real solution apart from Dad’s: chase them out and keep them out.

By late afternoon we were armed with our broomsticks, poking and prodding at the bushes along the perimeter of the garden. We managed to flush all three wallabies out of their hiding spots but no matter what we did we could not chase any of them into the front garden from where we could coax them out the gate. After an hour, we gave up. Our gardener was happy that at least we had a go; he would try again next time he was down and possibly bring along a mate with a terrier.

(Continued in: Special Experiences)