Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Everyone loves Marcus

I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student when I was 15 and lived with a host family who had 2 little boys aged 5 and 2. That was 22 years ago. My youngest host brother, Marcus, is now 24 and currently studying in Queensland for a Semester. He decided to visit us during his University break after first hiking his way around Tasmania. We had such a fun time with him. The Kids warmed to him instantly, a total stranger to them, other than the stories I had told them about he and his lovely family. I used to play Cowboys and Indians with him and push him around in the stroller and now he was doing the exact same with our 5 Kids. It made me feel very old indeed. Everyone thought Marcus was the Bees-knees. He played games with the Kids, swung them around by the ankles  and enjoyed being indoctrinated into the world of Minecraft. He offered to help around the farm, demolished all of my lame meals and let me practice my German on him. He was always happy, never got cross and was excellent company whilst I carried on with the mundane chores around the house. If anyone resisted brushing their teeth before bed Marcus just had to make the suggestion and they were straight in the bathroom. Everyone loved Marcus. The Kids wanted Marcus to stay forever and ever and cried when he left. Disneyland is now off the bucket list. They are all saving their pennies to visit Marcus in Munich.

Marcus had a pretty strenuous time hiking around Tasmania, sometimes doing 9 hr hikes each day and sleeping in a $20 tent in freezing cold conditions and eating tuna out of a can so he was quite happy to relax and hang out at home by the time he got to us. However, we managed to tick off the 2 things we do with interstate or international visitors - a trip to Zoodoo down the road and a day trip to Port Arthur Historic Site. Everyone loves to see the real Tasmania Devils at Zoodoo and the new additions there are the beautiful Zebras. Apparently it is the only place in Australia where you can actually pat a Zebra. It seriously made my day. And did you know that Zebras are black with white stripes rather than white with black stripes? Incredible.

We've been pondering for some time the prospect of having an au pair live with us as an extra pair of hands when the business opens up in June. It seems to be the only option that allows the flexibility that we'll need - a couple of hours in the morning to watch Flynn while I'm down at the Cafe and a few hours on the weekends whilst we are doing the markets. Have any of you had experience with a longer term house guest, au pair or exchange student? Daniel has already been receiving all manner of e-mails of potential candidates, "here's a girl from Sweden who sounds perfect" or "Amelie from France looks nice and has just been with a family with 6 Kids!". I've been a bit hesitant at the idea for many reasons but mostly because I am worried it would be more work having an extra person in the home when we are already such a big family and things are crazy enough. However, after having Marcus here I can see how great this option could be. Sitting on the Sofa last night midway through a row of knitting, I paused and pushed my reading glasses up the bridge of my nose and said "Darling, about this au pair business, I think I'm warming to the idea. Yes, I think a 24 year old energetic male with a European accent would be perfect don't you? Someone just like Marcus". I'm not sure we are on the same page yet.

Germany 1992 - Me and Marcus and Thomas

Saturday, April 11, 2015

In defense of the land of "Dregs, Bogans and 3rd generation morons"

We took advantage of having our first Sunday off from the Market all year and drove 2 and a half hours away to the end of a road which brings you to Strathgordon in the remote South West Wilderness Area. There's absolutely nothing there, only one place to stay and it's nothing salubrious but perfect for our purpose which was to be able to relax without having to keep the kids on a tight leash. There's no shops, no people, no internet connection or mobile reception and it was exactly what we needed for 3 nights to feel human again. Disconnecting to feel connected. We brought everything with us - the kayak, the bikes, the fishing rods and the built-in entertainment system that comes from having 5 kids. We all had an excellent time. We saw 4 other people one night and no one could believe we could have such a place all to ourselves to which we replied "shh, don't tell anyone!'. The accommodation managers hadn't seen any kids for weeks so our kids happily played with theirs and they even opened up the indoor swimming pool that belongs to the town for us to use and offered to drive half an hour to their house to get some swimming costumes for the kids but with no one around they weren't necessary in the end!

We returned home to learn that high profile creative arts icon Mr Schofield had left our shores but not before unleashing a tirade against our beautiful State and people calling Tasmania a land of "dregs, bogans and third generation morons". After our few days away and the last 15 years of living here I couldn't think of a less apt way to describe our experience of Tasmania. Most of us laughed off the petty remarks, taking the derogatory comments for what they were, a frustrated man who left in a huff because the government only offered him $300,000 to run his 3rd consecutive Baroque Festival, the exact same amount they gave him the year before. He finally apologised yesterday for his offensive comments and I guess allowances can be made for him not being in "a good place" mentally. But still, those 3 little words publicly shaming an entire State hit a nerve and left a lot of people rightly miffed. The brain is wired to be more sensitive to negative comments and since it apparently takes 9 positive comments to dilute one little negative I offer the following points just off the top of my head in defense of the State I proudly call home:

1. Best boutique Hotel in the world - Saffire, Freycinet
2. Winner of the Man Booker Prize this year - Richard Flanagan for "The Narrow Road to the Deep North"
3. Cleanest air in the world with the most friendly, down to earth people I've ever met.
4. Named by Lonely Planet as the 4th best destinations in the world to visit in 2015.
5. Best Single Malt Whisky in the world this year - Sullivans Cove Single Malt.
6. Over 40% of our State is either National Park or World Heritage Area, not a bad playground.
7. Oldest everything in the country - oldest Pub, Bridge, Church, Gaol.
8. Tasmania is close to being 100% powered by renewable energy, with the largest renewable energy business in the country.
9. Last night at the Australian Tourism Awards, Tasmania won 10 out of the 29 categories, and more than any other state in Australia, awesome Tasmanians doing awesome things.

As you were, Tasmania.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Getting there

We limped our way to the end of Term 1 and I think we are all looking forward to a couple of weeks break from the school routine. We experienced the modern day version of "the dog ate my homework" the other day, otherwise known as "Mum put my USB through the wash". It's a sign of tiredness if ever there was one. Just so you know, putting a USB through the wash on a 30 minute cycle and cold wash only does not harm the information stored on it. Who knew?

I'm loving the change of seasons and especially my favourite season of Autumn - the season of pink sunrises, golden light and in just a few days the hope that the kids will finally stop waking us up before 7 when the clocks go forward an hour.

As I sit here with a glass of red on my left and a guilty Whippet on my right (don't ask!) I'm quite glad there are some photographic evidence of the blur that has been these past few weeks. It's been a blur of markets, Easter chocolate frenzy, Athletics carnivals (x3) and end of term tiredness. There has also been a lot of progress on the outside around the farm. Inside the home there appears to have been quite a bit of knitting going on in the evenings but not much else on my behalf quite frankly.

The walls of the building aren't up yet but there has been an enormous amount of ground work done on the building site in terms of retaining walls, drainage, and under-slab plumbing. Weather permitting, the slab will be poured next week. It's all starting to feel very real now. We're now getting down to the smaller details like staff uniforms, cafe furniture and menu planning.

We've had an amazing season with our Strawberries, selling out at the markets within the first hour or 2 and we're looking forward to our first raspberry harvest next Summer. The boys have been working hard planting out the Vineyard. The Chardonnay grapes are almost all in and the Pinot grapes will be planted in October, a Coal River Farm Pinot Noir and crisp Sparkling are just a few short years away.

Thanks to your comments a few posts ago in relation to that list, I promptly went out the next day and bought myself 5 skeins of yarn and cast on my very first jumper. I've been spending evenings bingeing on Seasons 1 and 2 of House of Cards with the body of the jumper and 1 sleeve now finished. Are you a fan of the series? My Dad said I must watch it and I am a huge fan of political dramas like The West Wing so House of Cards was completely up my alley. The cast is phenomenal. If only Season 3 was available already to get me through the second sleeve as it appears I suffer from the "Second Sleeve Syndrome" and haven't been inspired to tackle the second sleeve yet. Any suggestions for a new series? The only other thing on the list that I'm doing is reading the 3 middle boys Harry Potter and we are having a lovely time doing that before bed each night. One chapter a night seems to be just right before they get restless or I start nodding off myself.

Also pictured above are my first ever pair of socks that I started 8 months ago but never got further after finishing the first sock.  It appears I also suffer from the "second sock syndrome".  You may recall I started these after being inspired by Marta in The Sound of Music when she says "My name is Marta and I'm going to be 7 on Tuesday and I'd like a pink pair of socks". Except, when someone commented on that post that they didn't remember that bit of the movie I looked into it and it appears I've mistaken these words for 30 years. It seems Marta didn't want a pair of pink socks after all. She wanted a pink parasol. What 7 year old wants a pink parasol I'd like to know.

I also finished off Flynn's 2nd birthday present (just 4 months late), the super cute Mochi Trout Fish. This brings my total unfinished projects to just 3, including the jumper which I hope to finish off over Easter.

On that note, I wish you all a wonderful Easter and apologise profusely for neglecting all of your blogs these past couple of weeks. I'm on holidays now and looking forward to a bit more leisure time. I might even move the yarn winder from the entryway :-)

Joining in with other readers and knitters here.

Mel x