A Little Jaunt

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.

Tanya is a preserver. She is certainly not going to starve this winter. She took a look at our wonky sauerkraut ferments and gave a diagnosis. Mostly a case of not keeping the cabbage firmly submerged under the brine. When we had exhaustively covered the subject of fermenting she showed us her new toy - a pressure canner imported from the US. I will be watching her blog with interest to see what she whips up in that beast.

 She showed us around the cottage that she and Craig have spent months camping in as they rip up carpet, floorboards and plaster to remove the essence of the thirteen cats that lived here previous to their arrival.

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.

OK, so now we all have to go home and redo our sauerkraut. When I say 'we' I mean, that is what everyone else will be doing. I will tell you how far I got with my sauerkraut project from last month. I bought a cabbage. I ended up doing a lot of stir fries and coleslaw. So far this month I have.. bought a cabbage. But I think that shows positive intent, don't you?

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.


Skippyherron said…
What a wonderful bunch of friends you have. I hope their/your sauerkraut turns out better next time. Such a lovley history in that home. Beautiful home, very interesting fire place/stove for the witches lol. Have a lovley day xx kel
Jo said…
Skippyherron, yes, this group has been a wonderful place to make friends:) It's great when you can talk enthusiastically about chickens and meet with corresponding enthusiasm, instead of eyes slowly glazing over..

Today I really, seriously thought about making sauerkraut:)
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

I am in total awe of that cupboard with the preserves. All those Fowlers bottles neatly stacked and sorted. Awesome! I can chuck in a little hint with the Fowlers bottles. Get the stainless steel lids rather than the more yellow tinned variety. The tin variety lids break down in only a few years and start to rust on the inside. I have seen no damage at all to the stainless steel lids.

What a beautiful house too. I love old houses and repairing them has been something of a hobby for me for about two decades now.

As a bit of a confession, my sauerkraut completely failed too. I look forward to reading about your sauerkraut success! Hey Asian salads can be quite tasty too with cabbage, although by tasty I actually mean exotic. I eat a lot of those salads during summer as the greens grown here are the same as those grown in Asia. A good use for Vietnamese mint. I may have managed to get a ginger tuber through all of the snow and cold weather this year!

I've got a cold today... And speaking of chickens, one died yesterday and another had to be given the coup de grace. One thing about chickens is that when they get sick, they rarely recover and August when it is wet and cold is the most likely time.

If at first you don't suceed, try, try, again! At least that is what the old timers used to say.


Bek said…
I have a presto pressure canner and I love it! I use it to pressure can tomatoes and salsa (can be done with water bath method but you want to be sure of proper acidity, in the pressure canner it doesn't matter!) and chicken stock. No need to freeze! Yay for freezer space. One day I'll get around to canning my own salmon. One day.
Jo said…
Chris, yes, I have used the same stainless steel lids for years. Brilliant. Well done on the ginger! was it in a greenhouse, or out in the elements? I would like to give ginger a go as well, but all of my garden gets very frosty in the winter.

So sad about the chickens. Not nice to lose animals to illness..

Bek, pressure canning looks very technical! Well done you:) Perhaps you will can salmon about the same time I successfully make sauerkraut:) :)
Anonymous said…
Test. No luck with commenting so far. Test...
Anonymous said…
Yay ! I finally got one to print. I'm chuffed.

Just wanted to say hello and how much I love your blog. You write well, and about subjects dear to my heart. I love it so much, I've read it twice :)

I'm also in Tasmania and am loving the blossom and slightly warmer days (like you, I am no fan of the heat).

Now that I've figured out how to do this, I shall be a regular commenter and make a right nuisance of myself !

Take care
Jo said…
Specks, so glad to meet you, and I do hope to see you here often. I love the community of commenters that gathers round here and my life so rich and interesting:)

I am gazing at a vase full of daffodils, jonquils and forget-me-nots as I write. Isn't Spring just exquisite in Tasmania??
GretchenJoanna said…
I come from a long line of German sauerkraut growers, sellers and lovers. They would think the human race was improving if they knew about all the people who are now making sauerkraut at home, including one of my housemates who make it for gifts. She likes to add some red cabbage so it comes out pink. I am the black sheep of the family because I never learned to like it, but I am satisfied because that means it is one of the few things I don't feel the need to spend time on ;-)

It is splendid that you have a group of friends who can teach and support each other and laugh together! I loved seeing the pictures of the old stairs and the new garden.

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