resplendent robin

Winter has arrived and our gorgeous scarlet robins have returned. They form permanent monogamous pairs and move to the open forests during the warmer months, returning to nest in our garden as the days shorten. The male makes quite a show once he is back, letting everyone know this is his territory again. Late one afternoon, he spent quite some time admiring himself in the window. Unfortunately, he was in shade and I didn’t capture him in all his glory.

The next day, Michael sat patiently while the sun shone on the same perch, in the hope of catching the perfect image.

5.no robin

Initially disappointed, he was soon rewarded with a prolonged robin lavation.

The black headed honeyeater seems bemused by the aquatic antics, reluctant to take the plunge.

10.robin & friend

I haven’t seen the female recently and assume she is busy building the nest while he makes himself irresistible.

I’m pleased to say he is not totally narcissistic. While his partner incubates the eggs, he will feed her and both parents share responsibility for feeding the young.

13.robin

lunar landscape

One of the wondrous elements of living in the backwoods is the presence of a clear night sky. Many times, the night is never really dark, the light of the moon and stars filter through the closed curtains. Our last full moon was no exception. One evening, I had tucked myself into bed while Michael accompanied Poppy outside for her bedtime ablution. He promptly returned to retrieve my camera with the message that the moon was amazing. The first photo showed the bright, waning moon shrouded mysteriously in cloud.

1.moon

What followed was nothing less than spectacular. The countless craters, produced by meteor impacts are clearly visible. The dark regions are the seas, though they don’t contain water but are remnants of lava flows on the moon’s surface. Curiously, almost all the moon’s seas are on the side of the moon facing Earth. The light areas are the highlands and the bright rays shooting outward are impact craters. I wonder what is on the dark side of the moon?

2.moon

the humble bumble

One of the things we noticed on our earlier visits to Tasmania was the presence of the bumblebee, something we had only seen in Britain. I was distracted from my gardening recently by the frenzied activity around the Grevillea.

1.Grevillea

I sat with my camera, trying to capture these gorgeous little creatures at work. Bombus terrestris have round, furry bodies with a yellow band across the thorax and abdomen and a buff coloured tail end.

2.bumble bee3.bumble bee

They were first found in Tasmania in 1992, presumably introduced from New Zealand. Like their honey bee relatives, the bumbles feed on nectar. They lap up the liquid with their long, hairy tongues, sometimes making a hole in the base of the flower to access the nectar.

4.bumble bee5.bumble bee

Our cooler climate doesn’t bother these bees, they can absorb heat from even weak sunshine and are well insulated under their thick coats.

6.bumble bee

Bumblebees are very social insects and, apparently, very smart. There have been many studies on the behaviour of bumbles, I like the idea that they can play football

https://www.nature.com/news/bees-learn-football-from-their-buddies-1.21540

7.bumble bee

Unfortunately, in Australia the bumblebees are considered feral, with some concern that, being such efficient pollinators, they will increase the spread of environmental weeds. However, their decline in Europe, North America and Asia is causing concern as they are important agricultural pollinators. Tomato growers in Tasmanian have fought for years to change the laws to allow them to use bumblebees as pollinators but their applications have been rejected on environmental grounds.

8.bumble bee

tomato tempter

Two years ago, when I was inundated with tomatoes and running out of ways to use them, I shared this wonderful discovery

https://cannonhillchronicles.com/2016/04/24/too-many-tomatoes/

Last year, I was able to keep up with the supply and this year, I didn’t plant any. Renovations took up the time I would have otherwise devoted to the veggie patch through summer. However, three out of my four beds have produced a massive amount of self-seeded tomatoes that have run rampant. No large varieties, just the delicate, tasty grape and cherry tomatoes and my favourite Tommy Toe. Apart from giving kilos away, I am running out of ideas. I tried a tomato cake with tomato glaze last week, tasted great but was a bit stodgy. I had success yesterday that I want to share with you.

Tomato Spice Muffins.

Ingredients:

4 cups plain flour                           1 tspn ground nutmeg

2-1/2 cups sugar                              1/4 tspn pepper

2 tspn ground cinnamon               2 eggs

1-1/4 tspn baking soda                   1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1 tspn baking powder                    2 tspn vanilla extract

1 tspn salt                                         5 cups seeded, quartered tomatoes

1 tspn ground cloves                      1 cup sultanas

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients; set aside. In a food processor, combine the eggs, butter, vanilla and tomatoes; cover and process until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. Fold in sultanas. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 180 °C for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Makes two dozen (or a dozen small and 6 large).

1.tomato spice muffins

Yes, there is one missing, it was delicious.

2.tomato spice muffin

I took a dozen to work today and, although some balked when I mentioned tomatoes, all agreed they were very tasty.

The Conservatory

Over the years of living here in Tasmania, we have made many trips to Launceston. About halfway along the Bass Highway, at a place called Parramatta Creek, there is a fascinating building that has always intrigued us. The conservatory was built 40 years ago by a Devonport man who designed it to house his grand piano.

1.Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory

The mother-daughter team who run the café and providore approached the owner of the building and he eventually agreed to sell. In March 2015, The Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory opened. The interior is reminiscent of a bygone era,

2.interior Conservatory

the furnishings are comfortable and inviting.

The beautiful grand piano has pride of place.

The shelves are stocked with 100% Tasmanian goods from the best growers and producers across the state.

I took a stroll around the gardens before lunch, the late spring rewarded with some magnificent blooms.

27.front garden

Returning through the rear entrance,

36.rear view

lunch was served. The menu changes daily to make the most of fresh, local produce. Two of us chose Okonomiyaki; Japanese savoury pancake served with Scottsdale twice cooked sticky pork belly, crushed toasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots, bean shoots, fresh chilli and Thirlstane Gardens coriander.

It was a tough decision between the pork and the Braefield pulled lamb burger on a Pigeon Whole bakery brioche bun with smoky baba ganoush, baby spinach, crispy Brandsema balsamic eggplant and house pickled red onion served with sweet potato chips and tzatziki.

39.Pulled lamb burger

There are also vegetarian options, including a selection of delicious dips.

40.dips

Of course, the local wines are superb. I don’t think we can travel to Launceston without stopping in for, at least, a coffee and cake.

41.not our car42.Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory

https://www.facebook.com/Tasmanianfoodandwineconservatory/