Mist clings to the hills. Frost, as thick and white as royal icing, slinks into the hollows. In the shade of the trees, and I have a lot of trees on my property, the ground is moist. So moist that even the north facing slopes, if well shielded, grow moss.
If you’re thinking Tassie would be the perfect place to live, you should see it now. This season, when locals rejoice in the snow on the taller peaks, when you never ever venture out without several layers either on or in your possession, this is the real Tasmania. Most tourists are long gone. Deciduous trees are barren, including the forests of fruit trees that fill Huon Valley. Chimneys trickle out grey plumes of smoke and the pigs, well my pigs at least, don’t bother getting up until I bring them breakfast.
I get plenty of visitors in winter. More than summer. They come because where they live, on the mainland, seasons are a theory more than a harsh reality. They come to snuggle by the fire drinking Tasmanian whisky. They come because it’s cheaper, easier and in some ways more fun when the crowds are gone. They come for rib sticking food that you rarely get the chance to justify eating in Queensland, Sydney or Perth.
I’ve been braising things. That’s a nicer way of saying stew. Bangers with rabbit. Duck with red wine. Minced beef with a lot of carrot, onion, celery, milk and white wine, in the true bolognese style.
I’ve also been baking. Gingernuts. Butternuts with golden syrup. Honey Anzacs. When the cooker’s on, it’s on. It lavishes me with hot water that steams when it comes from the tap. I adore the gentle warmth in the kitchen. And there’s the bonus of a steady stream of things cooked in the oven. I could feed a much bigger household with this oven, despite baking my own bread, using it as a grill, as a toaster for charred bread, as a simmer top for artichoke soup.
Today the small pigs will get a new home. A brand new, old water tank, carved in half and put next to their parents’ home in the bottom paddock. My sweet porkers are over three months old and have lost that baby cuteness but still play and frolic. They’ve also managed to dig up their whole paddock, so it’s off to greener pastures, which they’ll also turn to mud by the end of winter. That could be a problem with some paddocks, but where they’re going it’s a blessing. Then I can re-sow that patch come spring, hopefully without the return of the reeds and thistles that have started to take over.
Maggie has gone off to a neighbour’s for a few months. I milked her for a year – longer than ideal, but I wanted her next calf to be born in spring when there was more to eat in the paddocks. Hopefully she’s in calf (pregnant), and she needs to be dried off (not milked) for at least al couple of months before the new calf is born. She’s currently keeping company with some low-lines – a small version of the black angus – which should be good for her mental health. She has plenty of fresh grass on a friend’s property, which is good for her physical health.
I miss her, though it does speed up the twice daily routine. I really miss her rich, creamy, incredible tasting milk on my porridge, and in my coffee each morning. But I’ll take advantage of the sleeping in while I can.