Under the Gum Trees – Wine Soup and Honey for an Olde Lawya’s soul

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Shouts from home here at Angaston. Scrolling through my phone a few weeks ago and found these shots from 7 February this year. February is high summer in Australia when casual eating alfresco style – under the gum trees for us – is routine especially as daylight saving gives us long, lazy afternoons.

My model is our beautiful Gracie, a chocolate Burmese (brown point). Our house is on a gentle hillside. Behind Gracie is a view northward from the house up to gum studded hills and vineyards.

 

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Wine soup for an old lawya’s soul ….  It’s unlabeled, a home-made shiraz made here by a winemaker friend about 3-4 years ago.  We made 2 batches up in the top shed about 2 hogsheads, one a shiraz the other a GSM (Grenache Shiraz Mataro blend).

 

The GSM has become an important style in the Barossa.    “gutsy, spicy, leathery, complex and rustic barbecue red wines often made from very old vines”. The Grenache provides lighter, red fruit flavours  …. But this popular Barossa blend didn’t just appear thanks to some happy accident in a shed among the vines, the wine style has been inspired by the wines of the Southern Rhone region of France (and if you know a little bit about the wines from this part of the world you might have heard of the sub-regions of Chateauneuf Du Pape, Gigonda and Tavel) What’s that all about?

 

A hogshead is a large barrel in the wine industry holding about 63 gallons.  We bottled over 700 bottles (750 ml each bottle).  Yikes, a lot of wine for home use.    Ay, but there’s still plenty in the shed.

 

Owz yer wine me dear?”
Oyz orright. Thank ee fer azzkin.

 

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Our view from the house and nearby tall gums looking down north westerly past gentle slopes of neighboring vineyards on the left and beyond to the Valley floor to Nuriootpa.

 

The sight and smell of the gums here, their leaves always green (they are not deciduous) are a defining part of our life here and this area is one of the spots for rustic outdoor living.  I guess you could say it’s an Aussie setting.

 

Whatever you fancy at the time: a coffee, a simple short meal for eating or a long full sensory lunch for dining, or even a big fat gourmand conquest, the ambience is simple and alluring.

 

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It’s usually quiet as the late afternoon sun goes down in the west as it was when I took this shot.  The only noise might be the low putt putt putt of a tractor in the vineyards next door.

Again, you see the gently sloping vineyards on the left. (The white smudge in the image is the sprinkler) The air is often scented with gums; Fresh and natural. You can almost taste it sometimes especially on those long late afternoons. the bees humming nearby.

I planted a few Mediterranean style plants about a year before these pictures were taken in February so were quite established.  I put in Tuscan rosemary for its strength and sturdiness and structure and shape, traits which allow it to withstand the killer north and northwest winds we get up here.  Of course its mauve/purple flowers work well with the lavenders and the salvias.

The French lavender I used is the well known ‘Lavendula Dentata’ another strong and sturdy plant and quite resistant to the vagaries of the weather up here. The blue grey lavender bushes smothered in mauve flowers with gum trees in the vista is a gardening feature that works well for me.  Low maintenance too.

Nothing really planned as I’m not a gardener.  It’s ‘put it in and see what happens’ with me. Anything I that appears choreographed or designed in the garden is actually quite accidental.

I like the sound of bees humming nearby and the lavender, salvia & rosemary do the trick as the bees collect their honey, pollen and nectar.  I’m  a beekeeper’s daughter you see and grew up around beehives and swarms of bees.  

Oh for those child hood aromas, the fires, heat, the smell of the smoker, the bees, the hives, the apiary, the beekeeper’s shed, the thick, sticky taste of honey dripping off the frame, the honeycomb. Those long, hot and sticky days.  Harvesting honey was a middle of the summer job.

My father was the traditional migratory apiarist hauling hives of bees hundreds and hundreds of kilometres to catch the flowering gums and the ultimate honey flow.  Always looking for “somewhere where the great eucalypts are in flower, and the silver-leaved ironbark is promising, where the bees are in good heart, and the creek runs clear and there is firewood and friendship.”

 

Words from Australian writer Kylie Tennant’s 1956 book, “The Honey Flow”, a novel I first read years ago is still very dear to me in its rendering of the real way of life of Australian beekeepers like Dad. It’s a story about love and beekeeping and everything in between – a must read for anybody interested in social realism and an Australian way of life.

 

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I loved this book. It never fell back on cliches, all the characters in it were real, the Australian bush was almost a character itself and those bees… gotta love ’em. (Disclosure: I’m a beekeeper so maybe that bit touched me more than it would others.)
This book follows a young woman dreaming of being a migratory bee-keeper in a time when this was definitely a man’s world (isn’t it still?) and a place where nature was a harsh mistress (isn’t she still?). Through all the obvious hardships, our heroine keeps her spirits up, her dreams alive and her sanity intact.
I’ve no idea how she did it but it was great to go along with her for the ride.A good story, well written, a bit of humour, a bit of drama with some pleasant insight into a fascinating place and time (1950s rural Australia). I’m not sure who wouldn’t enjoy this book – it’s great! From a Reviwe of The Honey Flow

 

Much of the beekeeper’s life is about driving, hauling, and traversing rough and winding bush tracks, through scrub, mallee and hard to get to places, much of it on private land. It was about making tracks yourself where no tracks existed nor would ever be made by the owner or a local council.  “Every time my memory opens its mouth it dribbles roads” says the narrator Mallee Herrick in the opening sentence of The Honey Flow.  The goal was to make a road, to chase the honey flow, to find the blossom, to find and create new honey sites, the location of which stayed close to the apiarist’s chest.

 

I spent a lot of time with Dad trawling around the beautiful South Australian countryside often at night the truck piled high with full hives.

 

 

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I remember extracting with him on those long hot days back when it was done on sight before he established a modern, state of the art centrifugal extracting plant at home. The mobile extractor was housed in a little old caravan not unlike the one pictured above which Dad hauled behind the truck from sight to sight as needed. Vintage Caravan Hire advertises old caravns including ex-beekeeper’s caravan

The sound of foraging bees here is very nostalgic, warm and comforting for me, sort of mind cleansing as it takes me back to a more innocent time and the time I spent with my father.

This spot truly makes for calm and sensory pleasure.

 

 

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Gracie taking it all in as a day dream as she looks down to the front area of house and parking area.

 

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Mmmm, yummy drop” says Gracie.  The true loving Burmese cat, Gracie has a motorized purr that seems never to stop.  You look at her and she starts.  It’s like aiming the TV remote at her, one click and she fires up  ….. purrrrrrr

 

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Wine poured, aerating and breathing while I, the dutiful good woman, was inside making the meal. What? Yes, usual stuff.

 

This image looks more north east towards Angaston though we can’t actually see the town from the house as it’s just over those hills.  If we walked north east ‘as the crow flies’ from here, we would indeed come to Angaston.

 

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My favourite flowers – geraniums.   Easy, quick and reliable and oh so vivid and long lasting in their colour.  Geraniums are for dummies like me.  Easy, low maintenance and constantly rewarding in their colour and shape.  I take a geranium cutting, put it in the ground and it grows. Too easy. What more could a non gardener want?

 

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Gracie routinely ensconces herself up on the pergola beams where she safely surveys.

 

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Summer nights for hanging out.

Sitting under big gums, under a big, wide star studded sky – a big northern sky.

Uncomplicated and restful.

Space to sit to laugh, chat and enjoy a tipple.

My northern hemisphriends are in that big northern sky country, northward from the veranda enjoying summer right now while we go through a very cold, windy and wet winter.  Yes, in the southern hemisphere we are in the middle of winter now – July.

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