Acacia abounds

Through the cold, damp haze of August, the first promise of spring starts to appear across the landscape. The expanse of green in the forest turns a lovely shade of yellow as the wattle trees flower. With over 1,000 species of Acacia worldwide, around 950 are native to Australia. We mainly have two species on our property, both are endemic to eastern Australia. Acacia melanoxylon grows to 40 metres in Tasmania, twice the height if its mainland siblings, and can live over 100 years. The Tasmanian blackwood is a beautiful tree and we are surrounded by them.

1.Tasmanian blackwood

The timber, with its variable colours and grains, is sought after for furniture making. The Aborigines used a hot infusion of roasted bark to bathe rheumatic joints. The same potion was used to stun fish to make them easier to catch. The creamy yellow flowers have a fluffy appearance and grow in clusters.

2.Tasmanian blackwood flowers

Our morning walks with Poppy look quite different when the wattles are flowering.

3.forest walk

Acacia verticillata is my favourite. Prickly Moses doesn’t actually have thorns but the small, flattened leaf stalks are prickly.

4.Prickly Moses

The flowers are quite different to the blackwood, a brighter yellow and cylindrical in shape.

5.Prickly Moses

The dense, prickly foliage offers a safe home for little critters like bandicoots and birds.

6.Prickly Moses

I have seen Acacia mucronata, or Narrow-leaved wattle, in the conservation area adjoining our property. It has creamy yellow cylindrical flowers and, not surprisingly, narrow leaves.

7.Narrow-leaved Wattle

I’ve often wondered why Acacias are called wattles. Apparently, it comes from the term, “wattle & daub”, a technique used by the early British settlers for building their huts. The branches were used to make the framework which were then daubed with mud (and perhaps a few cow pats). The Acacias were used mostly and so, they became known as wattles.

degustation decadence

One of our favourite restaurants in the whole world (no, I’m not exaggerating), is right here in Burnie. Each time we visit Bayviews, I peruse the menu closely and, for quite some time, have coveted the degustation menu. There is a choice of a 6 course or 9 course menu and the option with each to have matching wines. On a recent inclement Saturday, we indulged, with a friend, in a long, leisurely lunch. We opted for the 6 course menu, accompanied by a bottle of the wonderful Josef Chromy Pinot Gris 2016. As usual, the view was spectacular

1.Bass Strait

and the ambience restful.

2.inside restaurant

We started with lightly fried southern calamari seasoned with a blend of herbs, citrus zest, black pepper and coriander seeds and served with a romesco sauce and fresh mix of local herbs, bean shoots and roasted peanuts.

3.calamari

The pan roasted Rannoch Farm quail, from southern Tasmanian, was served with a light corn veloute, crispy chorizo and a celeriac and red radish remoulade (try saying that after a couple of wines).

4.quail

Sourced from Macquarie Harbour on the west coast of Tasmania, the Atlantic salmon was paired with a fragrant yellow curry and topped with cuttlefish from Northern Tasmania, thinly sliced and shallow fried.

5.salmon

We were surprised to see some intrepid souls braving the water in pursuit of the perfect wave.

6.surfers

We weren’t distracted for too long as the fourth course was served. Slowly poached for five hours in a stock of spices, fresh herbs and aromatic vegetables, the chicken was incredibly tender. Sliced and served in the poaching broth and finished with a fragrant herb and pickled daikon salad, the flavours were exquisite.

7.chicken

The tamarillo sorbet palate cleanser was a lovely shade of pink.

8.tamarillo sorbet

The main course of the degustation is usually slow cooked Tasmanian midlands venison shoulder. The shoulder was unavailable, instead we had venison backstrap cooked medium, served with braised red cabbage, smoked plums, white onion puree and water chestnuts.

9.venison

Outside, the clouds had dispersed and the surfers were still keen in their pursuit.

10.beach

Inside, we had made it to dessert. Peanut praline semi freddo consisting of a light sabayon base combined with a caramel and peanut flavoured cream, served with a light chocolate mousse on coffee soil.

11.dessert

Our lovely friend summed it up beautifully…. “It’s like eating poetry”.

Lillico Beach

There is one of those, “I must go there one day” places along the Bass Highway between Ulverstone and Devonport. I am ashamed to say it took me eight years in Tasmania before I pulled off the highway to explore Lillico Beach Conservation Area. The reserve is home to a colony of the world’s smallest penguins, aptly named the Little Penguin or Fairy Penguin. I entered the walkway and immediately spotted little concrete shelters scattered through the vegetation.

1.penguin burrow2.penguin burrow

The artificial burrows are used when there is a lack of natural burrow habitat and offer protection from predators such as feral cats.

3.penguin burrows

I wandered along the viewing platform, distracted by the spectacular panorama of Bass Strait at low tide.

4.looking west5.looking north6.looking east

The burrow designs are quite innovative and seem perfectly sized for a penguin who is only 30cm high and weighs around one kilogram.

7.penguin burrow

This important wildlife corridor hugs the coast for 2.5kms,

8.Bass Strait

the shingle beach and rock pools make for stunning scenery.

9.on the beach

If I were living at Lillico Beach, this would be my choice of home,

10.penguin burrow

if only for the location.

11.penguin burrow

There were no penguins to be seen on this day, they were all out fishing in the beautiful blue ocean. We will visit one summer evening to watch them waddling back to their burrows. I won’t wait another eight years.

midwinter morning

Winter is well and truly upon us. After a very mild autumn, we are having one of the coldest winters in Tasmania I can remember. Maybe it’s just that the bones are getting older? One morning last week, I awoke early and, after turning off the alarm on my phone, I checked the weather forecast. Currently 1ºC, feels like -3ºC. Fortunately, it was considerably warmer inside as the wood fire was still burning. Just before I left for work, I became aware of the subtle hues in the sky, promising a spectacular sunrise.

1.pre sunrise2.pre sunrise

Making my way to the garage, I noticed the bird bath had frozen. The nocturnal creatures had left their calling cards as usual.

3.birdbath

The frost was beautiful

4.frosty garden

and crisp underfoot as Michael and Poppy headed off for their morning walk.

7.frosty paddock

Driving along the dirt road toward the bitumen, this vision had me reaching for my camera.

8.almost sunrise

As I drove, I kept watch from every angle, intermittently testing the brakes as I stopped to capture the spectacle.

9.almost sunrise

The newly ploughed chocolate paddock had a delicious topping of vanilla ice.

10.chocolate field

Travelling north, the fire in the east simmered,

11.sky on fire

the roofline silhouettes a captivating contrast.

12.silhouette

In the valley, the frost lingered

13.rolling frost

before the road climbed again. One last glimpse of nature’s wonder.

14.sunrise at last

The moon was still high in the sky over the suburbs of Burnie.

15.moon over Burnie

I really had to get to work.

mellow monotreme

We rarely see echidnas in the wild and were very excited when, travelling back from lunch at a friend’s house, we spotted one foraging in the grass.

1.echidna

Echidnas are fascinating creatures. Along with the platypus, they belong to the order of monotremes, the only living mammals that lay eggs. Evolving between 20 and 50 million years ago, their ancestors were aquatic before echidnas adapted to life on land.

2.echidna

The cream coloured spines, around 50mm in length, are actually modified hairs. The fur between the spines provides insulation and ranges in colour from honey to dark reddish-brown and even black.

3.echidna

Long-beaked echidnas are only found in New Guinea, we have the short-beaked variety here in Australia. The Tasmanian ones are larger than those on the mainland and their fur is thicker and longer, concealing most of the spines.

4.echidna

Their diet is mainly ants and termites but the echidna is also partial to grubs, larvae and worms.

5.echidna

The pointy snout is an amazing appendage. Not only can it sense the smell of its prey, it detects the electrical impulses from the insect’s bodies. Then, the long, sharp claws on strong forepaws are used to dig into the soil or open up ant’s nests, followed by the devoration of a meal with a sticky, 15cm tongue. They have no teeth, but grind their tasty morsels with horny pads in their mouths and on the back of their tongues.

6.echidna

Breeding season is between June and September. A single egg is laid into the backward facing pouch where it hatches after 10 days. Echidnas don’t have nipples, they secrete milk through two patches on the skin from which the young suckle. Around 3 months of age, the puggle (such a cute name for the baby echidna) leaves the pouch or rather, mother ejects it due to the growth of the spines. Mum leaves the puggle while she goes off to forage and returns every 5 days to suckle it, until it is weaned at 6 months of age. She then leaves it to fend for itself, never to return.

7.echidna

Echidnas do have natural predators, despite their spines, such as eagles and Tasmanian Devils. They were a favourite food of the early settlers and Aboriginal people. Fortunately, even though they are not considered endangered, they are now protected by law. After posing for a few photos, we left him (or her) to enjoy afternoon tea.

8.echidna