Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fish habitat and common sense

Fish habitat is out of control, what about our habitat? Thanks to the ongoing floods down the Murray River these past twelve months, large chunks of the riverbanks have been washed away and a great many of the River Red Gums lining the banks have toppled into the river. If Mother Nature were a person the greenies would have lynched her by now or at the very least brokered a deal with the government to have her shut down.
A barbie boat ride up the river on a balmy spring evening several weeks ago highlighted just how many trees had fallen in over a relatively short stretch of water. Our little cruise also revealed how implausible waterskiing would be (for the mentally sound), along that particular part of the river this coming summer.
Back in the good old days (read: 1855), the three colonial governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia were paying snagging contractors to de-snag the river and keep it a navigable waterway. Snags were hauled out of the river by bullock teams or in inaccessible areas the snags were towed away using boats. In 1857 Francis Cadell built and operated the first custom made snag boat (the Grapler), which was fitted with a crane and could lift 14 to 15 tons.
By all accounts there was no shortage of Murray Cod caught in the late 1800s and first half of the 1900s, which makes me conclude that perhaps de-snagging alone didn’t have too much of an effect on the cod numbers? This of course was before weirs and water regulation radically altered the river flow and some bright spark was yet to release the “Boolarra” strain of Cyprinus carpio (common carp), into the waterways.
Fast-forward to our present day where the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage prosecutes anyone found guilty of removing snags from the river. It is their view that fallen trees and branches provide crucial breeding habitat for the Murray Cod. Having done some (relatively shallow) research into the subject myself, I tend to agree….. to a point.
Surely it is possible for a compromise to be reached that would be beneficial for the river, the native fish and the people? Australia’s Murray River is still supposed to be a navigable river. The rate at which trees are tumbling into it will cause the Murray to be choked with snags and debris sooner rather than later. Would it not be possible to have both areas at intervals along the banks for fish habitat as well as keeping the middle of the river clear and navigable for boating and recreational activities?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pavlovas and Wilma

Community spirit is the trump card for living in the country and the reason I love living where I do. There’s nothing quite like the annual district agricultural show to demonstrate that sense of community we can all enjoy. Thanks to the dedicated and hard working team of volunteers, we got to enjoy an excellent outing to the Barham Show last weekend. Beginning with the very social Friday night opening and spectacular fireworks display that no doubt had half the town’s dog population heading for the bush.

Each year I have grand plans to flood the pavilion with entries but sadly my organizational skills are usually in disarray. Suddenly the deadline is upon me before I’ve cracked one egg or looked in the veggie garden for suitably impressive beetroot and my prize-winning photographs are still stored on my computer. 

This year was no exception. 

Luckily I work best under pressure. Actually to be truthful, I only work under pressure. However, I was determined to honour my vow of entering a pavlova in memory of my friend Wilma.

It was thanks to the pavlova section at the Barham Show that I met Wilma Bott. 

2009 was our first year as Barham residents and I was keen to support the local show by entering a few of the categories. Reading through the show booklet I circled a few sections that I felt the boys and I could enter (garden produce, eggs, cookery and my favourite: “the longest gum leaf”).

My mother Caroline is an excellent cook, with her signature dish being the pavlova. Every Sunday afternoon of my childhood we would sit down around the kitchen table to a huge roast lamb dinner (read: 2 yr old merino wether …..much tastier) with all the trimmings; gravy, mint sauce, roast pumpkin, roast kumara (Mother hails from the Land of the Long White Cloud) and roast potato, tomato and onion pie and peas flavoured with handfuls of mint leaves from the garden. This feast culminated in a magnificent marshmallow centred pavlova topped with freshly whipped cream, bananas and passionfruit for pudding. 

Sunday mornings were synonymous with the deafening roar of Mother’s 1966 Kenwood Chef mixer as it whipped up the egg whites, sugar, salt, vanilla essence, cold water, vinegar and cornflour.

Having witnessed this ritual for years I was confident I could recreate one of Mother’s masterpieces for the Barham Show. However I had no idea how the pavlova was to be presented. 

I consulted with friends (who also had no idea) and the general consensus was that I must phone Wilma Bott; the original domestic goddess of Barham and winner of numerous pavlova competitions. 

Wilma happily shared her knowledge. She went on to come second in the pavlova section that year and I came in fourth. We met less than a week later in person, where Wilma introduced me to the delights of her yo-yo biscuits and chocolate eclairs and I introduced her to the benefits of massage therapy.

Last Thursday at 5pm was the deadline to enter the pavlova section; I started cracking eggs at 2pm and had a client booked in for a massage at 4pm.

Cracking eggs when you are feeling “under the pump” is not recommended. Fourteen eggs later I had finally managed to correctly separate the eight eggs necessary for my mega pav recipe (I was beginning to wish I was entering a frittata instead of a pavlova). I raced the still warm pavlova to the showground with minutes to spare.

Days later and I am still basking in the glory of winning the coveted 1st prize, although I suspect it may only be due to divine intervention ….thanks Wilma.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Retail espionage and the Red Carpet Evening

A couple of months ago I found myself inadvertently attending a linen party. You see I had headed out one evening in the mistaken belief that I was attending book club, when “Surprise! We’re having a linen party!” I hate shopping at the best of times, it is an activity I will avoid if I possibly can, so I was initially somewhat less than impressed by this retail espionage.
Party plan shopping is an anxiety-ridden experience for me, as I feel almost guilty if I don’t purchase something at an exorbitant price that I will never use again. However, on this particular night my resolve was firm; I had come for book club, not to shop. Luckily this resolve didn’t stop me from encouraging my fellow book clubbers to purchase linen and enjoying an excellently funny evening. On the contrary, I became wildly enthusiastic when we spied an over the top, Vogue Living-style pillowslip. It was made of satin silky stuff with (I kid you not), ruffles down the centre. God only knows how a linen designer’s mind works; it looked totally impractical to me.
As I thoughtfully sipped on a glass of champagne I remembered other champagne sipping experiences, namely the major fundraiser for the Barham & District Medical Centre; the annual Red Carpet Evening. Fashionista I am not, but I do love an excuse to frock-up for a night out, especially when it is for a noble cause that includes great company, dancing, yummy snackie food and adult drinks. The Red Carpet Evening is a win-win situation: you are supporting your local medical centre, you have a great night out, ladies get to frock-up and all men look smoking hot in black tie.
Meanwhile back at our linen party book club meeting and the impractical pillowslip…. It would make the most fabulous formal frock if you were stylish, slim and petite. Sadly I am not, although fellow book club member Robbie May most certainly is. With a little encouragement from her book club buddies, Robbie twirled around the room modelling the pillowslip “frock”. A glass of champagne later and Robbie was purchasing two pillowslips and vowing to take them holidaying in Bangkok and have them made into a formal outfit that would be revealed at the Red Carpet Evening.
With this year’s Red Carpet Evening almost upon us (next Saturday night 22nd October at the Barham Golf & Country Club), I am tingling with anticipation at the thought of seeing the pillowslips transformed into formal attire and our local celebrities-for-an-evening strutting their stuff on the dance floor. Drop into Debbie Bott’s B&D Gifts in Mellool Street to pre-purchase your Red Carpet Evening tickets and support this worthwhile event – I shall look forward to seeing you there.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Seasonal jet-lag

Once again I have been afflicted with seasonal jet-lag courtesy of daylight savings; an initially frustrating annual event for those of us that don’t like our routines altered. Daylight Savings, people either love it or hate it ….or if you are similar to me, you hate it then you love it then you hate it again.
I have reached the conclusion that the people most affected by the commencement of daylight savings are “morning people”, of which I am one. Morning people like getting up early and we look forward to the lengthening days of summer when the sun gets up earlier. Daylight savings (to put it bluntly), stuffs this natural cycle. When we put our clocks forward by sixty minutes on the first Sunday in October, we are effectively putting our morning light back to the beginning of August.
Luckily for me, I am also a “night person” and can happily stay up to all hours of the night, so I am quite partial to the extra daylight hours at the end of the day ….especially if I want to head out for an evening kayak after dinner or kick back on the riverbank with friends after work. Sadly I am not a “middle of the day” person and would really rather be having a nap like all those enlightened Spaniards; the siesta is a concept of pure genius.
Australia first observed daylight savings in 1917, during the First World War as an energy saving initiative. During World War II, once again all Australian states and territories observed daylight savings. Then in 1968 the Tasmanians decided it would be a great idea to have daylight savings every summer and after a couple of years the rest of the country thought so too …..except Queenslanders and now West Australians (who are a law unto themselves).
Coming from a strong rural background I am almost genetically programmed to oppose the commencement of daylight savings. Fortunately for me I seem to be becoming more adaptable with each passing year and with less than a week of summer time under my belt, much to my surprise I already love it. I shall raise a glass to George Vernon Hudson, the shift working, bug collecting, postal employee from New Zealand who first proposed the idea of daylight savings in 1895 (summer evenings are an excellent time to collect bugs if you are an entomologist).
I would write more but now I have to take advantage of the extended daylight hours and go barbie boating down the Murray River on this glorious spring evening.