Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Reviews / September 2014

Michelle is engaged to marry Steven. The couple spend a lot of time with Michelle's best friend, Beth. Three days before the wedding, Steven tells Michelle she is being dumped and that he is about to marry Beth.
What to do?
The honeymoon cruise already is paid for, so she decides to take a honeymoon for one!
On board the ship, Michelle meets Kirk and a wonderful, steamy two weeks in paradise ensues.
But what the heck, she will never see him again.

Back in the real world, after her vacation, she finds out she may lose her job because her firm is not doing so well.
But they are sending in a new management team to sort things out
And guess who her new boss turns out to be?????
Light and fluffy.
A quick, good fun read
And all for $0.99!
Wines of France is a great series of little books.
In this one everything you ever wanted to know about Burgundy wine is here.
From the various regions to individual vineyards and vintages.

This is a book that would make a great travel companion on a tour of the area.
One for the serious wine person.
Balmain is an inner western harbour side suburb of Sydney.
But in 1800s it was on the fringes of the burgeoning colonial town.
This novel (a mixture of fact and fiction) is based on the author finding a photo of 8 year old, Sophie, who lived and died around 100 years ago in the old Balmain weatherboard cottage where he had lived.
Who was she and what happened to her?

We discover that Sophie had disappeared with a childhood friend in 1908 and was never seen again.
The book traces the journey of the discovery of Sophie and her family, from their first arrival in Sydney, over five generations, until the mystery is finally solved.
I really liked this book.
Falling for Rain is a formularic romantic novel set in Canada.
A successful business woman returns to her home town after 10 years absence to settle her estranged father's estate.

And guess what? Her adopted brother who has remained behind still has the hots for her and as it turns out, she for him.
But her selling the farm to developers who are in cahoots with her entirely despicable business partner will not only displace and upset the plans of  'the brother' but will upset the town as well.
And there is a family skeleton hiding in the cupboard to boot!
But we just know everything will turn out well in the end.
An easy but less than riveting read.
And it turns out the author, Meadow Taylor, is actually two anonymous writers.
Sometimes two heads are not better than one.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Batemans Marine Park is one of six such reserves in New South Wales.
It was established by the state government in 2006 and covers 85,000ha (330sq.ml), extending from Murramarang Beach, near us, at Bawley Point in the north to Wallaga Lake in the south.
It stretches to three miles offshore and includes all the estuaries, creeks, rivers and lakes (except Nargal Lake) to the limit of tidal influence.

Trawling, long lining and dredging are prohibited from the entire park and some other forms of commercial fishing are also limited to protect the region’s biodiversity.

Unlike marine parks in other states, the Batemans Marine Park puts very small restrictions on recreational fishing. So a new legal size and bag limit sign for all fish (and invertebrates) has gone up at our local boat launching ramp.
I had no idea there were so many fish species in the area.

Seeing the great white shark mentioned as a threatened and protected species must raise a few eyebrows within the local surfing community however.
That species was suspected of killing a surfer not too long ago at Byron Bay on the New South Wales north coast.
But I guess in the end we are in their territory when we enter the ocean. Thankfully in my 40 odd years of surfing I had only three close up and personal encounters with sharks which were three too many. How many others I didn't know about is, of course, another question.
So with the warmer weather approaching, it might be time to break out the fishing gear and head for the beach when the tides are right, the surf is not too big and some nice gutters have formed.

Also the two small islands, Brush and Belowla, just offshore from two of our beaches have been declared protected seabird breeding sites. These are home to a small colony of fairy penguins among many others.
Setting foot on these islands could cost you a substantial amount of money.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Alba an Aigh

One of my ancestors was a signatory to the Declaration of Arbroath dated 6th April 1320.
The document, a letter to Pope John XXII, was intended to confirm Scotland's status as an independent sovereign state.
On 18th September 2014 the country had the chance to vote in a referendum on breaking away from the United Kingdom (which came into being in 1707) and achieving independence.
The result was 55% NO and 45% YES.
My interest in this?
Although Australian by birth, I have 50% Scottish blood running in my veins.
My late father was fiercely nationalistic despite living the majority of his life 17,000km from his homeland and had little time for 'the English'.
He would not have been happy with this decision.
But it seems the head ruled over the heart.

...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hazard Reduction Burn (HRB)

It is almost five years to the day when were under major threat from a bushfire.
Since then we are a bit sensitive to any sign or smell of smoke.
While sitting at the beach this morning, the co driver noticed a lot of smoke coming from the general direction of our property.
On arriving home it was apparent that a big fire was very close.
A quick check of the Rural Fire Service's  app "fires near me" established that it was a hazard reduction burn in the state forest between us and the village to the north.

During winter and early spring, if the conditions are right, the RFS deliberately lights fires in strategic areas that become buffer zones during the fire season. They are slow burn fires which reduce the fuel load on the forest floor taking out undergrowth and fallen timber.
This fire came right up to our neighbours' northern boundaries.
The RFS have their trucks and teams patrolling the area so it's seldom these fires cause any problems although a few have been known to 'get away' when weather conditions unexpectedly change.
So I guess it will be a bit smokey around here for the next few days.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Toys for Boys

When I first bought the property around 25 years ago, and knowing absolutely nothing about rural life, I asked around about what was considered essential equipment.
The most frequent answer was a decent chainsaw.
They were needed to cut fallen trees off fences and access roads, to cut fence posts, strainers and stays and to provide firewood for winter. 
So I invested in a Husqvarna Rancher.

And how right that recommendation was.
Never ever be without a chainsaw when living in country Australia.
And don't buy a cheap 'toy', get a reputable brand with a bit of grunt that has good local service backup.
They are pretty dangerous things to use so a course in safety is prudent. Amazing how much you can learn on a one day course from preventing kickback to ensuring an escape route when felling trees, to be aware of 'pressure points when cutting up fallen trees, to wearing appropriate clothing and protection gear. As well there are pre and post usage checks to be made to keep the saw running safely and smoothly.
Small engine and chain maintenance courses are not bad things to sign up for either.
Anyway, after a quarter of a century of use, my first chainsaw was playing up to a point of frustration and was no longer repairable.
So I bought a new one, same brand and updated model.
Husqvarna 455 Rancher (3.4 cu.inch / 55.5 cm³; 3.5 hp / 2.6 kW; 18" / 46 cm bar; 13.01 lbs / 5.9 kg).
It runs like a charm.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Touriga Nacional

Touriga Nacionnal is a Portugese red grape variety (cultivar) of the species Vitis vinifera (European grape vine).
It is traditionally used in blends for Port.
But more and more it is finding a niche as a red table wine grape in the Douro and Dão in Portugal.
The grape berries are very small and therefore have a high skin to pulp ratio which heightens the amount of extract in the wines.
The grapes can produce intense, very aromatic wines with high tannin content.

My old wine school, Charles Sturt University, produced a table wine from this variety in 2013 which was a break away from the usual fortified wine route ie. a Tawny
Tawny is the name given to Australia's most popular fortified wine style, previously referred to as 'Tawny Port'. Australia agreed to discontinue the use of the term 'Port' in line with international labeling agreements, with 'Port' now used exclusively by the Portuguese.
During the Touriga production at CSU the crusher broke down, and with no spare parts being available on the long Easter break, the grapes were processed in the old fashioned way 'by foot'.
After fermentation the wine spent 6 months storage in old French hogsheads.
The bottle back label says "This is not a shrinking violet"
Other comments in the wine notes included "bolshy in its birth, it has become a bit of a beast, needing some serious food to keep it under control.........making it is exciting, because it takes a lot to persuade it to behave. We know it can be good, it just doesn't want to!"
How right they were!
14.9% alcohol (you don't often get much higher than this with a table wine), intense black fruits flavour and lots of tannin.
A really big wine that was well matched with our grilled steak one night followed up by slow roasted lamb shanks the next.
For us it was an interesting wine but the high alcohol tended to dominate. Between that and the tannin the fruit was a minor component. However it is always good to try something new occasionally but this one won't be on our repurchase list.
The wine is sold under their Letter Series label and is called PTO.
Why PTO? I can't quite work that out.
More information on CSU wines and wine making here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


August (last month of winter) and September (first month of spring) are usually our driest months of the year.
But August saw around 200mm (average 90mm) rain dumped on us in a couple of rather intense bursts.
Our creek flooded a number of times but luckily the coastal lake that it flows into is currently open to the sea (not a common event) due to some heavy winter surf activity and the excess water did not hang about too long.
During the latest downpour the cattle were stranded on the wrong side for a while but eventually found their way across.
Our coastal lake. Sandbar cutting access to sea which is normal

So we will have a good soil moisture content ready for the warmer temperatures to get the grass growing and the vines started.
We have already noticed bud swell and some bud burst in the early varieties.
Another feature of August was the number of frosts. We usually have 2 or 3. This year we had at least 8 and some were quite severe.
Australia experiences radiation hoar frosts rather than the advection type. We had the cold, clear, low humidity and still nights that are just right for such events.
As a result, pasture grass, especially in frost hollows, was 'burnt off' and we had to buy hay for the cattle to supplement their winter feed for a few weeks.

The results of our autumn weed (bracken) spraying program were very positive with a good 'kill' (a nice sea of brown) resulting.
A minor downside is that we have to decontaminate the sprayer very carefully as the herbicide we use for the bracken is very potent (application rate: 10g/100L) and any residue could harm the vines when our fungicide spraying starts.
This process involves multiple flushing, bleach additions and recirculation/agitation and then more flushing.

Wine wise we are still racking and monitoring sulphur levels of and oak influence on the reds. All three look good so far. With those and the  planned blend we should see the four ready for consumption by the end of the year.
The white wine has proved very popular around the neighbourhood.