I’m a Tasmanian. Fifth generation, so everything I know and love is Tasmanian. I’ve always wanted the opposing outcomes…. To promote Tasmania to the rooftops so everyone knows what a wonderful place it is…and keeping silent so we get to keep it as our precious secret.
I live in despair that Tasmania is not valued, that the very isolation and “non-progressive” nature of its people has resulted in the continuation of a very-outdated and impossibly destructive rape and pillage mentality towards our natural resources. Our forests still hold ancient giant trees, our mountains harbour some of the most ancient living plant forms on the planet, some of our invertebrates haven’t been classified, yet we are still escalating the extinction of our flora and fauna.
Education and knowledge are powerful tools. We can only appreciate and value what we know. We can only conserve what we appreciate. We will only nurture what we value.
I’ve been lucky enough to live most of my life with the land. My first 8 years were spent in a little township in southern Tasmanian on an acre of land. We had pigeons that we ate, goats milk to drink, chooks, pet cats, dogs and guinea pigs… and many weekends were spent bushwalking the coast line of the Huon valley where I learnt to appreciate native cherry (exocarpus) fruit, how to cook periwinkles on a fire and how to treat a jackjumper bite.
My teenage years were largely spent on the back of my pony as I explored my north west tasmanian environment. It was here I learnt to lick the nectar from the waratah blooms in the early morning, and how to catch garfish in a fish trap. For a couple of years I lived as a complete hippy with Ron, using bracken fern to soften my sleep, tickling native trout, making goats milk cheese.
I have been blessed with four beautiful children. My first daughter Niko was born while I was still just 19 so she was at my side while I grew up. We bred rabbits for meat, had ponies for fun, kept chooks and pigs, shared our homes with dogs and cats. And gardens….always gardens. Foraged for fruit from neighbours and strangers who let it fall and rot. Then after Rin was born, and we’d recovered from the trauma of a car accident…we moved to another life, with Julian, at Lapoinya, then Ridgley; where Jessie, then Havenview where Loki were born. Always gardens full of peas and corn, pumpkins and carrots, lettuce and cabbage. Children in bare feet, grubby hands and happy smiles.
Years passed, as years do. I had a wonderful job in adult literacy that enabled me to share the education and growing up of my family. Some bad times, lots of good ones. Finished marriages, a damaged back, my dream of a farm to call my own and all the animals and heartache that comes with it. Kids moved on and out on their own, and started their own families. The blessing of grandchildren. We bought a holiday house at Montagu, a piece of this island that was to shape my future.
I self published my first book “A Thousand Pleasures, A Million Treasures” in 2006. I have always written. My first attempt at fiction was in a Penguin competition when I was seven years old, and some of my poetry was published in my teens…but now I had time to write, and research. The teeming life on the beach, in the water and in the bush at Montagu captivated me, but I couldn’t find any texts on the shells and crabs of this region…so I wrote it. At first, just for the grandchildren and myself – but it grew.
In 2008 my life changed yet again. Julian and I split up and my mother died. A hard year. My second book, The Legacy was written and published in 2009… and I met Col.
Col and I bought “Tiabunna” a fabulous wetland property in Somerset. 12 acres of rundown house, dishevelled garden and bush infiltrated with weeds – but we were in love with each other and the property. For three years we worked incredibly hard and transformed the place into a wetland and bush sanctuary. Our enviro work was centred here, and we learnt so much. We systematically eradicated the plethora of weeds in the lake and the bush. The frogs came back, we recorded 80 species of birds, platypus bred in the lake, and healthy Tasmanian devils argued in the bush. It was as close to paradise as we’ll ever get. We were married by the lake with 160 friends blessing us. “Brazenly Pure” a celebration of all wild Tasmania has to offer was published.
Col and also relished doing environmental work on Three Hummock and Howie Islands. But then, my health, which had been deteriorating… broke down. I was unable to continue work as a TAFE teacher to fund our project…so we sold Tiabunna to people with environmental heart.
And moved to suburban Wynyard, to a little brick house…that had two huge eucalypts guarding the gate, Dead Horse Creek as one boundary, and almost ¾ of an acre of black sandy soil to grow things in. And “Eat Wild Tasmanian” was conceived. My interest in functional and edible native plants, Col’s with native and habitat plants; and our joint love of Tasmania meant we started seriously researching, tasting, experimenting and cooking with our Tasmanian edible native plants.
We have scoured Tasmania’s bush for berries and bulbs, climbers and blossom. We have picked more than a peck of peppers, nibbled leaves and blossom, delighted in snotty dodder and despaired of processing snowberries. Because my walking is severely limited, Col has been the hunter/gatherer and I have been the experimenter in the kitchen…working out complementary tastes.
We named our property in Wynyard “Murnong Wild Food Garden” after the yam daisy Microseris lanceolata, which has just about disappeared from the Australian landscape – but was a staple carbohydrate for the first Australians. We have so far established 110 species with over 300 specimens of edible native Tasmanian plants – largely thanks to Jim Mcleod and Oldina Nursery. I now make preserves, jams, chutneys, dukkas etc from native and introduced ingredients and I have written “Eat Wild Tasmanian” which explains 138 edible Tasmanian native plants and includes 400+ photos and 100+ recipes.
And now we are here. 2017.