Fix what bugs you – week 1

It’s week 1 of my “fix what bugs you” challenge. The aim of this challenge is to work within my “circle of influence” for an entire month and not to let myself get irritated or bugged about things I have no control over. If something that I can do something about is bugging me, then either fix it right away, or put a plan into place to get it fixed if it’s not something I can do immediately.

Day 1: This was a great day. Nothing really bugged me at all. I realised that my wish to be exposed to different things at work, which I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, is actually gradually being met, only not in the way I’d thought when I asked for this to happen. So I’m learning new stuff, finding out about different processes and discovering new areas of my workplace I didn’t even know existed. Yay.

Day 2: Today started out tough. Normally Tuesdays I work at home in the morning, and I have the afternoon off to do my own thing, cook a massive curry, work on my blog and catch up on niggling little jobs that would otherwise get missed, as well as prepare for my radio show. I had my (scary #yearoffear) appointment at the accountant booked, and I spent last night pulling out all my receipts and documents. I was as ready for this as I was going to be.

Then Slabs woke up feeling terribly ill and wasn’t able to go to work, so I had to take Kramstable to school. This means leaving earlier than normal, no time to set up the slow cooker, and, after picking him up from school, not enough time when we get home to cook something than is normally his and my lunch for the rest of the week. Not to mention having to reschedule my accountant appointment and not do any of the other activities I’d planned to do today.

In the morning I thought that it would have been very easy to complain, because Tuesday afternoon is *my* time, and I’m always disappointed when I lose it. But. There’s nothing I can do about it. People get sick and it’s more important that Slabs get some rest and see the doctor, so I just have to suck it up. I’d had a lovely day the day before, and nothing can take that away. And, I thought, maybe I’d get an opportunity that I wouldn’t have got if I’d been at home, so I decided to keep an open mind.

By the end of the day I felt rather differently. My shoulders were aching fiercely after 90 minutes of carrying what I didn’t think was such a heavy backpack and bag but turns out it was. One shoulder looks swollen and is really tight. I need to rethink what I carry on days like this. Fix what bugs you.

Kramstable and I caught the early bus home, which I never like, but today seemed to be worse than normal for conversations that it was impossible to tune out. I was trying not to complain about it, and telling myself I was grateful for there being a bus so I didn’t have to drive; I was grateful there were meals in the freezer so I didn’t have to stress about cooking, telling myself to breathe, focus on the breath, but still the voices got into my head, and I got home feeling thoroughly miserable, sore and headachy, and behind on everything I’d hoped to get done.

I know. First world problems. Fix what bugs you. Headphones next time.

Tomorrow will be better.

Day 3: It was. Nothing to complain about. Nothing to fix.

Day 4: Oh my god. Kramstable was sick and Slabs stayed home with him. There was a good chance he’d be sick the next day too, and it would be my turn to stay home, so everything I’d planned to do then had to be done today. Specifically go to [redacted] to get materials for Kramstable’s Book Week costume.

You know the place I mean. The place where there is no such thing as ducking* in to pick up a couple of things. Because you wait in line for hours. No matter what time of day it is. Today was no exception. As the line built up behind me, the sole person on the counter was in a huge discussion with a customer about this very expensive fabric they wanted to buy, without a pattern, and what were they going to do, and no there wouldn’t be enough to do that . . . And all the while, several other staff members kept walking past the growing line, putting stuff on shelves, and doing god knows what.

It was all too much for me. I was quietly fuming. And complaining on Twitter. And fuming some more. Was this situation within my control? No. Could I do anything to fix it? Not unless I got my supplies from somewhere else, which isn’t really doable. They had me captive.

It only occurred to me much later that Arianna Huffington had written exactly of this situation in her book Thrive, which I’ve just read. She quoted a book called Mindful London by Tessa Watt, who recommends that you use this type of situation as a chance to slow down and practice mindfulness. To pause, to take in what’s around you (in this case a line of annoyed customers), to breathe. Next time I go in there I’m taking a book to read in line. So there. While I didn’t fix it this time, I have a plan to fix it next time.

Day 5: Kramstable was still sick so I was at home with him. I didn’t do much. Nothing really jumped out at me as bugging me. Other than my overflowing freezer. I added “do a freezer clean out” to my to-do list.

Day 6: Today. I noticed myself getting irritated by a couple of things but I didn’t do anything about them. Maybe I should.

I think after (almost) a week of doing this challenge, I’m noticing the times I’m complaining more than I used to, and at least trying to think of ways to make the situation better, even if it’s just a learning for next time. That seems like a good result for now.

So cheers!

20160819 Original Soured Ale IG

* Kudos to my Mac for autocorrecting “ducking” in this post to “fucking”. It’s usually the other way around. It’s learning.

Jousting with fire

Jousting with fire
Ballarat, Australia

Ballarat, Australia


Our plan for today was to spend the day at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. I can remember going there on my Grade 4 school trip and really enjoying it, so I imagined that Kramstable would love it. Despite him saying how much he liked History as a subject, he didn’t seem especially keen to go and find out what life was like in the actual olden days (as opposed to what he sees as the olden days – when I was a small kid, because we had black and white TV).

Aunty T had said that Sovereign Hill turned into a bit of a mud bath when it was wet, and the morning forecast was for rain, so we decided that Kryal Castle might be a better option. We told Kramstable that we’d be going to “the castle” instead of the goldfields, and he was so excited that we knew it was the right choice.

I’d been there too on my Grade 4 trip and I can remember thinking it was great. I don’t remember much about it, other than the torture chamber, so it was pretty much like going there for the first time. I think there have been a few new things added since I was there – it was built in the early 1970s and underwent a major upgrade in 2013.

First up was a walk through the Dragon’s Labrynth, which tells the story of the castle, the missing children and the dragon Ushnagh. We then wandered up to the archery range where we all attempted (with varying degrees of success) to fire some arrows. I’m not expecting a call up to the Olympic archery squad any time soon.

One of the highlights was the horse trials, which involved two knights on horseback going through their paces, including jumping over some pretty serious flames. It was pretty impressive stuff.

We also made our way through the maze, and watched one of the Wizard’s gorgeous apprentices concoct some fascinating potions from ingredients such as dragon ash, goblin eyes and pixie wings (the dragon ash comes from dragons who have died naturally and turned to ash and it’s taken with the permission of the dragons, and the pixie wings are shed like snake skins – not removed from living pixies).

It didn’t rain but it was cold. I think the max for the day was 8 degrees, so after a couple of hours we’d had enough ( we decided to give the torture dungeon a miss this time) and we headed into Ballarat for lunch. It’s a pretty town with some beautiful old buildings and apparently quite an interesting arty side, so I’d like to come back and spend some more time there wandering around, because that’s my favourite thing to do in new places. Lunch was ok, apart from having to send my meal back because it was cold in the middle. They fixed it, replaced it and were very apologetic, so I was happy with that.

After lunch and a flying visit to the tourist centre (my other favourite thing to do in new places), we took as side trip to Red Duck Brewery, a Mecca for craft beer lovers. It was very hard to limit ourselves because many of their beers are limited releases and so only available for a short time. We were very excited to see that the “Amon Ra”, one of their series of Egyptian bread ales, was there. We bought a nice little mixed stash that will see us through the first few days of the road trip.

And then we headed back to Bacchus Marsh to spend some time with the family. They treated us to a nice dinner and some board games, which was a lovely way to end the day.

12 of 12 April 2015

Today was the Derwent Valley Autumn Festival, which is one of the biggest events held in the Valley each year.

The weather forecast wasn’t sensational, but there wasn’t any rain or wind forecast, so we had everything crossed that it would be a nice day. It was a chilly 7 degrees in the morning when we woke up, and by the time Juniordwarf and I arrived at the festival just before 10.00 it was 11 degrees. I wished I’d worn some more layers, as the day’s top was only 15. At least it didn’t rain!

1 of 12 - Pre-show selfies

1 of 12 – Pre-show selfies

Juniordwarf and I were scheduled to do a half-hour slot on our community radio station’s outside broadcast from the festival at 10.00 but, due to circumstances beyond our control, we ended up doing the whole hour until 11.00 – which is Juniordwarf’s normal timeslot on the radio, but today he’d been looking forward to getting off early and looking round the festival, so he was a bit irritable during the second half hour.

2 of 12 - On air (thanks to one of our lovely volunteers for taking the photo)

2 of 12 – On air (thanks to one of our lovely volunteers for taking the photo)

He’d been eyeing off this climbing maze from where we’d been sitting, so that was the first place he went to.

3 of 12 - Kid heaven

3 of 12 – Kid heaven

20150412-13 Climbing maze

$5 to play for as long as you like, though I’m not sure it means you get to abandon your child there while you go and explore the rest of the festival. Thankfully I had another responsible adult (Juniordwarf’s grandmother) with me, so I could run off and do a couple of things I needed to get done while he was having fun.

4 of 12 - This looked like fun

4 of 12 – This looked like fun

There was heaps of stuff to do and see and eat and drink.

We bought chocolate wheel tickets.

5 of 12 - Lions Chocolate Wheel

5 of 12 – Lions Chocolate Wheel

We won nothing.

We checked out the local railway society’s display.

6 of 12 - Derwent Valley Railway

6 of 12 – Derwent Valley Railway

Juniordwarf lined up very patiently for a long time to go on this attraction. I know it’s heaps of fun for the kids, but it always seems weird to hand your child over to a complete stranger who then seals them inside an oversized beach ball!

7 of 12 - Juniordwarf getting blown up inside a beach ball

7 of 12 – Juniordwarf getting blown up inside a beach ball

7 of 12 - Who knew rolling around in over-sized beach balls could be so much fun!

8 of 12 – Who knew rolling around in over-sized beach balls could be so much fun!

9 of 12 - Lots of people

9 of 12 – Lots of people

One of the new features of the festival this year was the Taste of the Valley, where local producers talked about their produce. We were treated to a lesson in making beef stock and sauce by the fabulous Ashley from Two Metre Tall.

9 of 12 - Our favourite mad scientist brewer makes beef stock

10 of 12 – Our favourite mad scientist brewer makes beef stock

I thought the raspberries had finished for the season and was pleasantly surprised to find lots of them at Westerway Raspberry Farm’s stall (probably should have taken the picture before I started eating them).

10 of 12 - Raspberries

11 of 12 – Raspberries

We bought soap from the lovely Veronica from Veronica Foale Essentials and her able assistant Kim, who was SUPER HELPFUL!

11 of 12 Soap by Veronica

12 of 12 Soap by Veronica

Unfortunately I missed out on seeing the snakes this year. They are usually a highlight for me, but we didn’t get there before they packed up.

Just before we started getting ready to leave, Juniordwarf wanted to take the camera for a while. So as a special bonus, here’s 12 of 12 from the festival from Juniordwarf’s perspective (slightly cropped but otherwise as he saw it).

It was interesting to see the things that caught his eye. I think I should let him do this more often!

1 of 12 – That looks pretty good.

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2 of 12 – Cute car

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3 of 12-  Jane from Two Metre Tall in action

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4 of 12 – Pat from Tynwald Estate with some of their Wessex Saddleback ham.

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5 of 12 – Jam from Westerway Raspberry Farm

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6 of 12 – A random festival goer enjoying a Forester Ale from Two Metre Tall

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7 of 12 – Veronica and her able assistant Kim and a lot of yummy soap

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8 of 12 – Big Red Box

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9 of 12 – A very large dog (he cut its nose off)

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10 of 12 – Some coats.

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11 of 12 – Wandering players

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12 of 12 – One of the four entertainment stages

20150412-27 Autumn Festival - Band

 

 

Tassievore Eat Local – Weeks 3 and 4

 

The Tassievore Week 3 challenge was to support a business that uses local produce. I didn’t explore this as much as I’d have liked to over the week, mainly because I was focused on walking as much as I could for the Walk In Her Shoes challenge. Even so, since last year’s Tassievore challenge I’ve been more focused on supporting Tasmanian businesses and buying local produce. 20150320 Locavore box from Hill St The Locavore box from Hill Street Grocer is a great way to get hold of in-season veggies from Tasmanian suppliers. I also spent some time at Two Metre Tall Farm Bar – a business that is 100% committed to real food, real ale and that is completely committed to ethical and sustainable production. I wrote a post about Two Metre Tall in last year’s Tassievore challenge, and that sums up everything I love about them. 20150301 Summer fruits cider Moving on to Week 4, and the challenge was similar to last year: Feast with your family and friends on great Tassie produce. I cooked my own feast last year. It was a 5 course extravaganza that started at about 7.30 am and took all day.  I loved doing it, but this time an all day cook-fest wasn’t possible.

I decided to do a soup, a salad and a beef main course. Dessert would happen if it happened (it didn’t). The main was slow cooked osso bucco from Two Metre Tall. The vegetables I used were all Tasmanian-grown, mostly from the local market. I had a minor panic on Friday night when I hadn’t been able to find any locally sourced tomatoes for the beef dish, but the fabulous veggie growers at the market were there with heaps of tomatoes on Saturday morning, so everything was good. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 04A Combo I’d never cooked osso bucco before, and the advice from my friends was the slower and lower temperature it’s cooked at, the better it turns out. According to the recipe, I seasoned it with salt and pepper, dusted with flour and seared it before putting it into the slow cooker with the tomatoes and other vegetables. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 05A Combo In hindsight, I would have started it a bit earlier in the day – maybe 7 or 8 am – to allow a full 12 hours cooking, but it still turned out OK. A bit softer would have been better, but that’s a lesson to learn for next time. It still tasted great.

My other (entree) course was soup, inspired by the menu board at the pub when Juniordwarf and I went out for dinner during the week. Chicken and leek soup. One of the things in last week’s locavore box was a leek, but I had no idea what to do with it. Chicken and leek soup. Perfect! It wasn’t proper Cock a Leekie soup, because that has prunes and rice in it, and I’m not aware of any Tasmanian prune supplier or any rice that’s grown here. So I omitted the prunes and substituted Tasmanian quinoa (from Kindred Organics) for the rice. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 09A Stock The recipes I looked at involved using a whole chicken, so you basically make the stock with a whole chicken and, therefore, cook the chicken meat that you use in the soup at the same time. Then you take the stock and add the cooked chicken meat, plus some extra chopped leeks and chopped prunes, to make the soup. I don’t think I’d do it this way again, as I have a lot of bones and meat left over and frozen from chicken roasts that I use to make stock.

When I make roast chicken I usually cut the back bone out of the chicken before I cook it and spread it out on the baking tray (which reduces the cooking time significantly), then I freeze the back bone and all the other bones, and when I run out of stock I throw all the frozen bones into a pot with vegetables and make my own stock. If we have left over meat from a roast that we don’t use in a couple of days, I freeze that too, so I can use that in a chicken soup. I think I’d have had enough frozen roast chicken and bones to make this soup without using an entire chicken.

Never mind, I now have lots of stock and lots of chicken meat in the freezer. Even without the prunes, the chicken and leek soup with quinoa was a nice basic entree.

I made a similar roast pumpkin and beetroot salad with spinach and goats cheese as I did last year to go with the main course, together with one of my favourite Two Metre Tall ales that I’d been saving for this night. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 17A Combo And while I was waiting I made a tzatziki dip and some carrot sticks because I was feeling a bit peckish. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 18A Combo Juniordwarf made a sign for the night. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 19 - Sign IG I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out. I learned a lot about what to do differently next time, but for my first attempt at two dishes, I think it was a good effort. And everything (except the salt, pepper and olive oil) was Tasmanian.

Thank you to the organisers of the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge. The challenge is a great way to get people thinking about supporting local businesses and eating local seasonal food. Even though I haven’t participated as fully as I’d have liked to this year, it’s been great just to take the time to think about where my food is coming from and to try and source as much as I can from local suppliers. It’s something I hope to continue to do into the future.

Week in review: 9-15 February 2015

This week’s goals:

  1. 16,000 steps per day – 7/7 days
  2. [Private goal] – 0/7 days
  3. Go to bed before 11.30pm – 1/7 days (close on 3 other nights)

Monday was a public holiday, so no work and no school. Hooray! Juniordwarf and I made a start on cleaning up his bedroom. Not hooray!

Under an 8 year old’s bed. A place no one should ever have to go.

At least I finally managed to get him to start thinking about things he didn’t want or need any more, and start getting rid of some things. This is progress.

I’ve not done this ‘bed before 11.30’ thing very well. I did go to bed before, well let’s say midnight on Monday, but my body decided to compensate for that by waking me up at 4 am on Tuesday. How considerate of it.

On Wednesday I got my 5th strawberry off my plants. $10 for 6 plants, 5 strawberries = $2 per strawberry. Gourmet gardening!

I also learned a valuable lesson. Juniordwarf has a cheap writing pad that was sitting on the dining table. I was sitting at the table after dinner and picked up a pen and started doodling on his writing pad. He saw it a bit later and asked why I’d done that.

I said that I’d just wanted to scribble a bit.

He looked very upset with me and said, ‘But that’s my paper and you didn’t ask permission.’

My first instinct was to think that it was only a cheap writing pad, and why would I need his permission, since I probably gave it to him in the first place. But I somehow managed to think before I spoke, and it occurred to me that he was right. It was his writing pad and I hadn’t asked if I could write on it. I knew I’d be really annoyed if it was one of my notebooks and he’d scribbled in it – so why would his notepad mean any less to him than my notebook means to me?

So I apologised and I really meant it. He accepted that and asked that I not to this again. Then he went and got another sheet of paper from somewhere and put it on top of the pad to replace the sheet I’d used. Then we both moved on.

An important lesson

An important lesson

Speaking of stationery, my favourite stationery store Notemaker tweeted this link about ‘Why grown women really fetish stunning stationery’. The author says that the Midori Travelers Notebook ‘ has space for 3 inserts from a range of handy and practical refills and accessories’. I suggested that with only 3 inserts, she hadn’t tried very hard. Mine has 7 inserts, including 4 books. Yes, you really can fit that many in. It looks like this:
Cult of Midori

Cult of Midori

On Wednesday we got 3 eggs – both of the new chickens are now laying. After their initial reluctance to roost at night, they’re now roosting with the other chooks, but haven’t worked out that the nesting box is the place to lay the eggs. They’ve been laying underneath the perches. This requires something of a contortionist effort both to get the eggs and to put the perches, which they invariably knock off, back into place.
Little eggs

Little eggs

Thursday was 12 of 12, so you know about that already.

On Friday I went to the first scrapbooking class for the year. We usually have a break over December and January and go back when school goes back. I finished one page from 2013. In 3 hours. Yeah I’m good at this (ha). I also started to design a layout for a taste test I did in 2013 of 2 different varieties of Two Metre Tall Forester Ale. Because occasionally I do a page that doesn’t feature Juniordwarf.

Scrapbook layout plan

Scrapbook layout plan

Then it was the weekend. We had some friends come to visit, and Juniordwarf had a great time with another kid in the house.

Next week’s goals:
1.  17,000 steps per day
2.  [Private goal]
3.  Go to bed before midnight (baby steps!)

 

Week in review – 2-8 February 2015

Week Goals:

  1. 16,000 steps per day – achieved every day. Gold star for me!

What we did:

This week was almost back to normal. School went back on Wednesday, and you already know how I felt about that.

Juniordwarf was with Slabs on Monday and I went to work. It was my last long day, where I got in to work and left at around the same time as most of my colleagues.

Since going back to work from maternity leave I’ve worked full-time (for 5 months), part time (3 days a week with 2 days at home) and part time (reduced hours for 5 days a week). I’ve made this choice because I want to spend time with Juniordwarf. I don’t want to put him in afterschool care every day and I don’t want to impose on my mother too much.

I’m grateful that I’m able to make this choice and that I have the opportunity to hang out with Juniordwarf after school.

But (there’s always a but) – I’ve found the reduced hours-per-day model is a lot harder than the 3 days full time-per-week model. I find it very draining, and one of my goals for this year is to make it work better for me.

The 6-hour days, where I take a lunch break and leave work some time between 4.00 and 4.30, aren’t too bad. It’s almost a standard day. But the 5 hour days, where I have to leave at 2.30 are awkward. I feel like I’m walking out almost straight after lunch, just when everyone else is settled into their afternoon.

I’m sure they don’t think this, but I’ve convinced myself that they’re thinking that I’m a slacker and not committed to my job because I’m leaving so early.

Of course this isn’t the case. First, I’m only paid for part-time hours, so I’m doing exactly what I’m being paid to do. Second, spending the afternoon with Juniordwarf isn’t the same thing as taking the afternoon off to do stuff I want to do. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s tolerable, and sometimes it’s downright frustrating and I wish I was back at work.

Mostly I let him decide what we do. If I try and get him to do something I want to do that he’s not interested in, it usually ends badly. So, rather than stress about this, I’ve dedicated the two afternoons we have together as Juniordwarf time. He can choose what we do – mostly. Sometimes I have things that I absolutely have to do, but mostly it’s up to him.

As I said, sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s tolerable, and sometimes it’s frustrating and I can’t wait for Slabs to be ready to go home.

So no, it’s not an easy afternoon off. As several parents I know have said, spending time with a small child – while you’d never give that up – can be way more draining than the time you spend at work.

I could go on, but I think I’ll leave it there for now. There’s work to be done here!

Here’s another picture from the main street – this is the Shoe Mart, a longstanding establishment in the town, which is closing down soon. I love the signage. I hope it can be preserved.

The Shoe Mart

The Shoe Mart

The Wooden Boat festival is on in Hobart this weekend. Two Metre Tall has a stall there, so there’s no Farm Bar this weekend. Unfortunately I had to go out at lunch time on Friday. I’m not sure how I ended up here.

Ooops! How did this happen?

Ooops! How did this happen? It’s a Salty Sea Stout by the sea …

While I was enjoying my Salty Sea Stout, the Constitution Dock bridge was opened to let boats into the dock. I’ve never seen this before. My initial hopes that I’d be trapped in the boat festival’s Waterside Tavern indefinitely were dashed when I realised I could get back to work the long way round. Oh well.

Constitution Dock

Constitution Dock

I’ve been walking every morning in preparation for CARE Australia’s Walk in Her Shoes Challenge. On weekends I’ve been doing 90 minute walks that include the track around the river. The forecast for Saturday was 34 degrees (it actually got to 35 degrees). You’d never have known that in the morning.

Misty start to the morning

Misty start to the morning

We got two new chooks on new year’s eve. Today we got our first egg. This one is compared to the old chook’s egg.

Little egg

Little egg

Today we took Juniordwarf to MONA. Slabs and I had been in 2013 (it was one of my 100 things to do that year – and one of the few I actually ticked off).

We’d told Juniordwarf about it and, as you’d expect, he was fascinated by the idea of the ‘poo machine’. Slabs and I had seen it get fed the day we went, but didn’t stick around for the other end of the process. So today we finally got to see it. Juniordwarf said it was gross, or to use the terminology of the day, courtesy of Coraline, ‘gross-sgusting’.

We had an interesting afternoon and we think Juniordwarf enjoyed himself.

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Snake!

Snake!

Yes it's the poo machine

Yes it’s the poo machine

Fat car

Fat car

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Next week’s goals:

  1. 16,000 steps per day – I don’t want to peak too early.
  2. Go to bed before 11.30pm.

Tassievore Eat Local Challenge: Week 2: Support local business

I started to write a post that summarised what I’ve done this week for the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge and quickly realised it was going to be pretty much all about one local business. So for the first part of Week 2, I’m writing about we did on Saturday night.

We went to the Two Metre Tall Annual Beer-Fed Brisket Dinner, held at the Two Metre Tall Brewery in Hayes.

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Two Metre Tall hosts several themed dinners during the year and this was our fourth one – last year we went to the Brisket dinner, the Spring Lamb dinner, and the Christmas dinner.

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It’s local eating at its best – the beef is raised organically on Two Metre Tall’s farm (“beer fed” on spent grains from the brewery) and the vegetables were also locally sourced.

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(These were some of the vegetables served with the first course – the white vegetable is a salad turnip, which I’ve never heard of and am now on the look out for.)

It was, as always, a fantastic night, and the food was just amazing. The photos don’t do it justice. (I only had my iPhone, which doesn’t perform well in a candle-lit brewery shed.)

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I love everything about Two Metre Tall.

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(It’s OK, it’s raspberry cordial.)

Two Metre Tall’s vision statement (if that’s the right term) sums up everything I love:

Fiercely independent, we seek flavour, sustainability & truth of origin in the food we grow & make.

If you’ve ever heard Ashley speak about large food and beverage businesses, you’ll know that the term “fiercely independent” describes Two Metre Tall perfectly.

If you aren’t familiar with Two Metre Tall, then you probably don’t know me, because it’s one of my favourite places to go.

Briefly – Ashley and Jane came to Tasmania about 10 years ago to start a winery and ended up building a brewery. Ashley has pointed out more than once that the Derwent Valley is a major hop-growing region, yet there wasn’t a brewery here.

So they started brewing beers, with a view to sourcing everything locally – either from the farm or from local suppliers. The names of some of their original ales reflect their region of origin – Derwent, Huon and Forester (which has Pride of Ringwood hops from the last working hop farm in the Forester River area of North East Tasmania).

The Huon is an interesting ale. It’s a dark ale that includes 20% apple juice from Huon Valley apples. I really like it. I might be* drinking it now while I’m writing this.

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From ales, Two Metre Tall moved into apple and pear cider. The apples are an old cider variety called Sturmer Pippin, which are grown in the Huon Valley and the pears are from the Tasman Peninsula.

Two Metre Tall’s ciders are real ciders in that they are just fermented fruit – unlike many mass-produced “ciders”, they aren’t made from fruit concentrate.

Ashley has also been developing a range of soured ales, which he has gradually unleashed on his customers, to our great excitement. So far we’ve had the “original” soured ale, sour cherry, sour wild plum, oh and a sour cherry cider.

Recently we’ve been treated to the one-off “Respect Your Elder” ale, which was one of the ales (Derwent I think) with elderflowers added, and another one with mulberries.

None of this is anything like commercial beer production. It’s real, it has flavour and complexity (do I sound like a wine expert now? Probably not.) and each brew is slightly different to the previous one, just like each wine vintage is different. It’s a living, breathing beverage. (Maybe not breathing. That would be weird.)

It’s one of the things I love – the experimentation and Ashley’s willingness to admit that everything he does is a learning process and his openness about what he does and why.

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Ashley was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2012 and spent a month last year touring breweries in the UK, Belgium and the USA to find out more about sour and natural fermentation and about traditional brewing methods. His report is on Two Metre Tall’s website and it’s a very interesting read.

After visiting more than 30 breweries and looking at what they do, he concluded that the approach taken by Two Metre Tall is unique.

His report touched a nerve with me with his comments about how too much of what happens in the Australian market has become dominated by large interests, and about the loss of old skills that are no longer required by large industry.  He talks about how this ends up with everything being homogenous, instead of food and beverages displaying a natural variety and seasonality.

“. . . whilst it may be true that a consumer can purchase many more different types of vegetable from a country supermarket than they could many years ago, the truth is that these often plastically uniform, industrial, largely flavourless, gassed ripe, energy- guzzling cross continentally distributed imitations of the real thing present a mirage of choice and a very poor substitute for the very fresh, highly nutritious, harvested at peak ripeness and flavour, but slightly more limited numerically offerings of yesteryear.”

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The way I see it, the result of this is also a disconnect between consumer and producer – and I suppose tightening those connections is part of what the Tassievore challenge is all about.

And it’s one of the things that’s so great about Two Metre Tall. We can see the beer as it’s being brewed. We can see the beef wandering around the hills and then hanging in the cold room. We can talk to Jane and Ashley and find out exactly where everything comes from, what’s in it and how old it is.

We can come to a Friday night or Sunday afternoon Farm Bar and cook the best tasting beef I’ve ever had on a wood fired BBQ, accompanied by ales that are unique and full of flavour.

It’s a model for keeping food real and keeping it local, and is truly inspiring.

Thank you for a wonderful evening Ashley and Jane – and thank you for doing what you do.

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