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/

resident reptiles

Summer is snake season here in Tasmania and although there have been some years I haven’t seen any, I know they are always there. This season, we have seen a lot, probably making the most of the warmth after a prolonged winter. Recently, I saw the familiar black tail disappearing under the Golden Diosma as I approached. Curious to know the whereabouts of the refuge, I (very warily) followed the curve of the bush and saw the same tail retreat down a hole in front of the rainwater tank. We knew of the existence of the hole, a home to previous residents, but we had filled it in. I returned half an hour later to find, to my surprise, a very cosy couple sunning themselves.

1.sunny snakes2.sunny snakes

The larger of the two, presumably the male, withdrew to safety when he sensed my presence. The second one was obviously far too comfortable.

3.looking dull

I tried to find information regarding breeding pairs of Tiger snakes but have had no luck. There is no mention of snakes staying together once mating has taken place. I wanted to learn more and was concerned about the dull appearance of the smaller snake. Emails and phone calls to Parks & Wildlife weren’t particularly helpful, they suggested I contact Reptile Rescue Inc. for information. Finally getting through on the third call to them, I was promised a return call to enlighten me re breeding pairs. The call never came. I eventually received an email from Parks & Wildlife that explained a snake can look dull just before shedding its skin. Two days later, Michael presented me with this.

4.snake skin

Found in the garden under one of our tree ferns, we don’t know what happened to the back half. I wish I had been witness to the transformation. Even the eye holes are perfectly formed.

5.snake eyes

We saw her again a couple of days later as she joined her mate by the pond.

6.new coat

She looked stunning.

7.renewed

Two days of heavy rain followed and we haven’t seen them since. Apparently, it is usual for snakes to move on once they have shed their skin, I wonder if they are still together?

iridescent irrigation

Sometimes, the simple things around us that we take for granted can present us with extraordinary moments. We have had a very dry summer and the irrigators on our neighbouring farms have been put to good use. They do come in handy for a free carwash if the timing is right. Early one morning last week, I glanced out of the window and the paddock on the hill across the valley was receiving a refreshing dowse.

1.irrigator

The slate grey sky of daybreak highlighted the curve of the water

2.irrigator

and, as I watched, the accession of colours produced a spectacular choreography.

3.irrigator4.irrigator5.irrigator6.irrigator7.irrigator8.irrigator9.irrigator

A few minutes later, the show was over. The fluidic trajectory blended with the brightening sky and disappeared into normality.