On Sunday our Living Better With Less group went for a little jaunt to visit a dear friend. Tanya started the group several years ago, but moved recently to a renovator's delight in historic Campbelltown, leaving us to attempt to run the group on our own, which we have managed so far, but without quite the grace and charm and immense knowledge and urban homestead skills that Tanya brought to the table. We missed her, plus our sauerkraut fermenting (last month's project) was going terribly, so we needed her advice and we all wanted to see her gorgeous Georgian cottage.
They believe that their cottage may once have been a small inn - Campbelltown was a staging post. It is still the main watering hole on the Hobart road - it is halfway between Hobart and Launceston where everyone stops for coffee. Once it would have been an overnight stay where the horses were changed. And dinner would have been baked in this enormous bread oven, which now opens into Craig and Tanya's living room. I always wondered, as a child, just how Hansel and Gretel got the witch into the oven. All the ovens I had ever seen didn't seem built for any but really tiny witches. And even then you'd have to take the oven trays out first.. Now I know. It was a great big old bread oven, set into the wall at waist height, like this one. It's not clear from the photo, but the oven stretches back for several feet, and is quite wide as well. Perfect for popping witches into.
These original, wonky blackwood stairs lead up to the attic. They are so steep you need to climb down them backwards, and they are hidden behind an old wooden door with an iron latch. Tanya's lucky grandson will be able to sleep in a fairytale attic when he comes to visit.
There is so much yet to be done, but it is wonderful to see an old house lovingly restored. The thick sandstone walls will shelter more generations of Tasmanians and keep an example of fine craftsmanship alive to show us how to build into the future. Imagine a builder today building a house to last for two hundred years..
After a delicious shared lunch (clearly we all thought we needed to feed the five thousand) we toured the garden. And the chickens. Australorps! So very decorative and friendly.
Of course, when you move into a new house it is imperative that you dig up half the lawn to plant vegies.
Winter afternoon sunshine.
We are so lucky to have Tanya, who pursues the Good Life with verve and passion. She soaks up practical knowledge like a sponge, and shares it generously, and this is a model we have taken to heart. All of us in our little group are emboldened by each other to try new things, fail, laugh and have another go. Cindy and Leah are knitting gorgeous socks this winter. Katherine and I have both actually finished afghan blankets, which especially for me is nothing short of a miracle. Kim and Katherine gave me a chicken masterclass as we were carpooling to Campbelltown, and answered all of my dumb chicken questions. We all saved the seeds from the excellent heirloom Hubbard squash that Cindy shared out amongst us last month, which grew prolifically in her garden this year, and next month Kim will show us how to make cheese. We are none of us experts, but all of us have enough knowledge to pass on something that we know to the rest of us. None of us knew how to make sauerkraut last month, but Leah shared her neighbour's kim-chee secrets, and Katherine had been to two fermenting workshops and handed out recipes. Maria, Kim and Cindy had a go, and because they were brave enough to bring their failures to show us, now we know how not to make sauerkraut, which is a pretty useful thing to find out really. I believe I really could even give that a go this month..
This is what our little Living Better group has taught me. Have a go. If it all goes wrong, have a laugh with your friends about it. Then have another go.