Carl and I have been staying at my parents’ place (read “mooching”) in a small town called Poatina about 45 minutes south of Launceston, which is home to about 115 permanent residents.
Moving from Marrickville – one of Sydney’s most ‘happening’ suburbs – we honestly weren’t sure how we’d go with the change of pace but have been pleasantly surprised at what a small Tasmanian town has to offer.
Poatina is a town that is a place I’d describe as quirky. What was once a town built for the workers of the Tassie Hydro was later taken over by a group of Christian families who sold their houses in Sydney’s west in the 90s and purchased the entire village – including a swimming pool, motel and local shops.
It was initially set up as a town for at-risk youth and had reputation for being a bit closed off to the outside world, but these days it’s home to a good number of artists and young families who have moved into the town because they’re interested in creativity, permaculture/ sustainability, home-schooling and whole-foods (not to mention the affordable cost of living). Carl has set his jewellery bench up in their beautiful arts centre – a converted airplane hangar up in the bush that also houses the hot-glass studio of glass artist Keith Dougall. The rental fee is about 5% of what he’d pay for a studio in Sydney.
It’s not where we expect to end up living long-term, but here are some of the experiences we’ve enjoyed while we’ve been staying in this quirky town:
- Walking out the door, up the street and into the bush.
Poatina is nestled at the foot of the Great Western Tiers – a beautiful often-snow covered mountain range that can be seen from Launceston, best known for trout fishing. The town itself is surrounded by farmland and bush and many of the houses have views of the tiers or across the valley. There’s a bunch of bushwalking tracks that we’ve been putting to good use and I’ve loved the chance to be out the door and into a bush track in less than five minutes. It makes such a difference to my mental health to be free of the concrete jungle.
- Foraging and fruit picking.
If there’s one activity that gives me greater joy than anything, it’s foraging for free food. Some of my favourite childhood memories involve happening on a road-side apple tree or blackberry bush with my Mum and pulling over to fill whatever bags we have on hand. One time we were out walking and we came across a field of hundreds of mushrooms. We didn’t have bags with us but couldn’t miss the opportunity, so we took off our singlets, fashioned them into slings and enjoyed garlicy buttered mushies on toast for afternoon tea.
The other morning my Mum and I drove down to an apple tree she’s scouted out this season and collected a large bag to share with the family and neighbours. I get a huge buzz from foraging. It’s a weird mix of the feeling that I’m getting away with something a bit naughty, combined with confusion that we’re the only ones smart enough to do it. Nothing tastes better than a stolen apple and these are some of the best I’ve had.
Carl and I also picked our own strawberries at Longford Berry farm 20 minutes down the road – it’s nearing the end of the berry season so this week the price dropped from the usual $10/kg to $5/kg. Not bad for spray-free strawbs.
- That day a random pig turned up in town.
Last week our new mate Alan was having a quiet beer on his front veranda when a massive hog wandered past his house. After recovering from his initial confusion (and stopping to question what was in the beer he was holding), he enlisted the help of some of the neighbours who have pig-wrangling experience. After some calling around to local farms, the piggy’s owner was located (much to the disappointment of those of us hoping for bacon). Turns out it had walked over 6kms up the road and was none-to-pleased when they attempted to get him home.
- The launch of Poatina Permaculture.
Yesterday was International Permaculture Day and the official launch of Poatina Permaculture. The event included a range of workshops including herb-spiral building, natural weaving, cashew cheese making and repurposing clothing. Carl is dairy-free so I went to the vegan cheese workshop hosted by my sister’s next-door-neighbour and whole-foods caterer, Heidi DeNardo. I’ve included the simple recipe at the end of the post.
- Jazz at the golf club.
Last night, we were fortunate to have jazz musicians Spike and Lea Mason grace us with their monthly performance at the Poatina golf club. It was a cold night, so it was great to enjoy a quiet drink by the fire ($4/ beer or cider as opposed to the usual $8 we’d pay at a bar in Sydney) while being serenaded by some soulful tunes. What an incredible thing to have access to such good quality art in such a small town.
At the moment we are stilling hoping to end up somewhere a bit warmer (probably the north-east coast of Tassie where temps average 18 degrees), but for the moment it’s been great to experience life in the town my parents and my sister and her family call home.
Vegan cashew cheese
- 2 cups of raw cashews, soaked overnight
- 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes (available at your local health food store)
- 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic
- 2 teaspoons of Himalayan salt (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon of cracked pepper
Your choice of chopped fruit, nuts, seeds or spices (I went with dried apricot, pistachio and rosemary).
- Blend base ingredients together in a high-powered blender until smooth/ well combined.
- Place mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up.
- Shape ‘cheese’ into you desired shape (wheel, block or log).
- Roll cheese in your desired coating.
- Refrigerate again until firm.
- Serve with chutney, quince paste (tis the season for quinces in Tassie) and crackers.
Have you been growing, gathering or foraging anything this autumn? Tell me in the comments below.
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