Tasmania is the Apple Isle, and the Huon Valley is the reason why. Apples spurt forth from the earth here like lava from Mt Vesuvius. So many apples in fact the farmers themselves don’t know what to do with them. As a result a whole stack of them seem to end up falling, not far from the tree, so to speak.
‘There’s only so many apples you can eat’, the farmer in charge of the van park we stayed at told me when asked why so many appeared to be going to waste. This farmer it would seem had decided about 15 months back to start farming nomads instead of apples. Or at least a bit of both. A goodly number of hectares of orchard have been pulled out to allow 4WD’s and caravans to sprout. I rather suspect the nomads to be the more lucrative enterprise. Especially when you know how to milk them.
We did feel a little milked after discovering showers were not included in the park tariff. Forty-six bucks and you still had to fork out extra for a shower. Grrrrr. On the upside this farmer also knew how to milk cows. Forty-six bucks doesn’t get you a shower but does get you a nightly round of chores with the farm animals, including milking Myrtle the cow. Hands on the teats and milk squirted forth. Straight into my waiting mouth as it turns out. Well some of it anyway, the rest of it went all over the front of me.
I found it oddly confronting to receive milk so directly from a cow. I suspect I’m not alone in being more accustomed to receiving it from the fridge, cold not warm. Still Emma didn’t look too keen to suckle and someone had to rise to the challenge lest we all appear a bunch of good for nothin’ city slickers.
After salvaging our good name the farmer pulled a stack of plastic cups from the roof of the milking shed before filling them one at a time from dear old Mrytle and handing them around. Although hesitant at first Amy in the end loved it and was straight into it the next evening. She liked the ‘foamy bits’. Oliver tried it on the second night, he said he is more of a soy-milk kinda guy.
Bread rolls and chocolate hot cross buns were then fed to the cows – along with an explanation on why it’s cheaper for the supermarket to give day old bread to his cows than to sell them to you and me. A canny farmer to be sure. Had me thinking he may be next in line for chairmen of the Reserve Bank. The demo went on with a few more bread roles for the pigs, and a bit of commentary on why the US Fed ought not to wind back its program of quantitative easing. Ok he didn’t go into that, but I could tell that’s what he was thinking.
Last but not least Badge the sheepdog was set to work rounding up the sheep from far-flung corners of the caravan park back into the nighttime paddock. Badge was impressive. It would be difficult to describe the joy this dog derived from his labour. If only all our toils could be so enthralling.
Now, contrary to the impression you may get from this post, there is more to the Huon region than the caravan park. The Wooden Boat Centre was wonderful, despite having a guide who deemed every single phone call more important than his paying guests. I drooled at the prospect of immersing myself in one of their seven-week courses and building a double mast brigantine (or a dinghy). Emma, I think, wanted to throttle the guide and send him to etiquette school. Amy and Oliver probably wondered briefly what a transom was before just wishing we could go elsewhere.
The Willie Smith Apple Museum was also excellent. Did you know Tasmania used to export 5 million apples a year and that at its peak there were more than 1000 apple growers? I didn’t. There are now just 30 apple growers. Economic pressure no doubt. More money in nomads.
Oh yes, and last but not least our Falcon seems to be developing an unhealthy interest in mechanics. After leaving Bruny Island the poor old dear started over-heating at the slightest hint of a hill. On route from Huonville to the Tasman Peninsula we were forced into an impromptu visit to the Ford service centre in Hobart.
We arrived at noon. At 1pm Emma, Amy and Oliver started making butter in a jar (in the name of homeschooling) in the caravan, which we had parked out front of the garage in downtown Hobart. The problem with the car, a blockage in the radiator, was diagnosed by 2pm. We were all enjoying homemade butter on bread rolls by 3pm and a new radiator was installed by 4.45pm. All’s well that ends well, except for the bank account, which took an unexpected hit and the possibility of a cracked head gasket. Hmmmm.