Another Country Diary

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21 February '02

Fallen apples. Click for bigger imageThe apples are next in the garden cycle. As the possums move along the branches at night, they're falling off with a thud onto the car roof. The wind does the same. I'll pick them today. We'll store some for eating fresh, but I think I'll dry most of them and make a little jar or two of apple sauce.  

Click for a bigger image (77k) 

Jane Grigson in her funny old-fashioned Jane Grigson's Fruit Book (
Penguin Handbook.1983)  says that it was a custom in Brittany that when an orchard was picked, "one last and best apple was left at the end of the highest branch. If it clung to the branch until all the leaves fell in the autumn winds, there would be a good crop next year, not just on that tree but in the whole orchard, pear trees and plum trees as well. This mother of apples 'is the sign of fertility, the apple of good luck'. An old man once said to me that Adam and Eve were driven out of the Earthly Paradise because they had eaten this miraculous apple".

It doesn't work on possums.

22 February '02
Pine trees, mushrooms and toadstools go together. Our cypresses at the front and cedar tree in the back of the house create the perfect environments for fungi. The ones I can see from my work room window come and go in a week, starting from a button like this one, moving into a lovely feathered shaggy cap and then becoming a flat dark brown and paper dry, insect eaten before rotting into the needles and grass.

When I was living in the hill country in Gippsland, the wet mountain forests and paddock edges were fantastic sources of quite spectacular fungi. I've got rolls of film documenting finds of things like earth stars, giant orange boletus, and beefsteak fungus. There were plenty of edible ones but not a lot tasty enough that I'd want to eat twice. We even found our share of Psilocybe, quite important in those hippie days. I had a great field guide to Victorian Toadstools and Mushrooms that was my aid to what I could and couldn't eat, (more than you would think), but I'm far enough away from there now to make identifying some of these a lot harder.

As I was driving back from the ABC a few days ago I came down Limestone Avenue (near the War Memorial), and I had to change lanes to avoid a Volvo parked on the kerb. There was an older, European looking lady in a head scarf, picking a big patch of field mushrooms on the nature strip into a plastic supermarket bag. It made me feel good to know that that's one natural seasonal produce that's still appreciated by someone.
23 February '02
Dried apple ringsAfter slashing the garden bed edges ready for mowing (again) I headed into the kitchen, drew up the stool, put some music on (good old vinyl records-the CD has finally had it after 8 years) and started to cut and peel. Jan had picked up a bucket of apples from the ground and I'd picked the branches of the plum tree that were outside the bird nets. It's preserving time, heeehah!


Parrots and PlumsWhile I was picking the plums, four rosellas flew up into the gum trees and I had to get the camera to record these intense colour correspondences. Snap. Actual un-retouched images folks!

There's another bucket or two left to pick tomorrow, but I turned the plums into sauce. I've never made sauce before so I picked two recipes from the Women's Weekly Preserves book (they oughta know) for Plum Sauce and Plum and Chili Sauce. They turned out very tasty, the levels in the two opened part jars went down considerably with the sausages we had for dinner and the remains of the cold roast pork for lunch. The sauces were reasonable simple to do, taking about an hour to cook, so I'll keep the recipes for next time.

The apples are being peeled and cored and the dryer has been running
continuously. It takes about eight hours a batch. Kate's been home, so as fast as I fill a jar, the rings have been eaten. Another couple of batches and I'll be ahead I reckon. She said "Can I have a jar of them in my room?" Sure!

24 February '02
Broken swan, circus girl lust & crow/little raven Some days have enough magic in them to keep you making images just in the hope you'll catch it. I believe it's why people take pictures of sunsets over and over again. Adding any words to this lot will not help me, but as this is a public exhibition, then I figure you might need some word data to be getting along with, (until the sun sets and the sky gets dark. Like it did yesterday and will probably do again.).

The broken swan sits mate-less other than for a white concrete planter in the shape of a boot, amongst bits of last year's trampoline. It nests in the garden of the tacky A-frame house across the road. It's been broken since the single mum and her kids moved in.

The circus girl was at the Canberra Show today. In a gold lamé body suit she climbed the twin red cloth strips hanging from the top of the dark blue tent. She had every male in the audience wrapped around her body, twisted between her thighs. The applause consisted of polite clapping from the females. I had to turn away.

As I left the show car park, there was a crow/raven calling from the top of a speed restriction sign. I took a few pictures, drove forward on the edge of the road, closer, and took some more. It was distressed, reminding me of the crow I found caught by one leg between the palings of the back fence. It had died, struggling to free itself, spraying bird shit in an arc as it swung back and forth, even trying to eat it's leg off. I left it on the ground and ended up with a clean skull and bleached white bones some months later. 

I've kept the skull as an objét, trying to capture crow magic. You've only got the pictures.
Leda, crow shamanism, Carlos Casteneda, Ted Hughes, Wim Wenders... enough words?




25 February '02

Chips, donuts,dagwood dogs, fairy floss... Click for bigger imageToday class, I'd like to discuss Show Food. That's not Slow Food, but the food served at shows, events and regional fairs. 

While there's certainly been some change in what's offered, (at the Canberra Show there were a couple of the ethnic food stall tents that are seen around the local craft markets), alternative food is a minor attraction to the masses.

At the local Bungendore Show (see 27th Jan), the CWA always run the food canteen, a steak and sausage sizzle where you can always get 'a good cuppa tea and a jam scone'. At the Canberra show it's run by the local Rotarians. They do it with a bit more hoopla and constant loudspeaker announcements, 'Feeling hungry? What about a bargain 50c off these steak sandwiches with onions before the burn, with sauce of your choice'. Their customers look just like the volunteer workers, who are turning the onions into neat piles on the hot plate. And their customers wear hats so that places them firmly from the outskirts of town.

No, the big food sales are from the caravans that sit along the side show alleys and the fairground rides. They are dispensing a  'becoming traditional' food that has changed only slightly over the years. The overseas graphic influences (American) are sometimes less obvious, but there's a strong adoption of the Union flags and red and white stripes. It's from these vendors that we've been given Donuts, Southern Fried Chicken, the Waffles and Dagwood Dogs. My memory of when many of these were introduced, puts them in our postwar infatuation with all things American. (I can remember making the first Australian Kentucky Chicken TV ads as a junior agency TV producer at John Clemenger's in the late 70's. We couldn't even remotely see how successful it was going to be, especially in a world where the Greek fish and chip shop that sold roast chicken was king. Don't blame me for my part in the downfall of real food, it was a cultural thing and would have happened anyway.)

The hot chips, fairy floss and toffee apples seemed to have always been there and are probably as much British as American. Drinks have moved from glass bottles to cans and plastic bottles, but it's pretty much the same sugary lemon, orange and lemonade (but now with lots of Coke). As evidence of holding to a tradition, you can still buy a paper cup of some green or red coloured drink from a glass dispenser with a rotating paddle. Donuts were always cinnamon and sugar dusted, now they're also jam filled and iced. You can buy red and green toffee apples and pre-packaged fairy floss in three colours that still dissolves in your mouth, even if it doesn't have the warm burnt sugar smell of the fresh version.

It's all quite nostalgic and there's some case to be made for show food on that level. There's minor quibbles. I'd happily buy a 'battered sav on a stick' but calling it a 'Dagwood Dog' jars somewhat. And why can't we do great 'pomme frites' or a 'croque monsieur' like the French street vendors? I can't make any case for the quality or the healthy nature of show food at all, but that's not the point. This is comfort food so closely linked to the experience of the colour and noise and the  Laughing Clowns, that it will never change. 

27 February '02
Buckethead. AEAF Student award winning production by Dan HartneyI've been on my annual visit to Digital Media World and the Australian Effects and Animation Festival. In the past I've had Press passes to the lecture/demo sessions but this year it was just a visit to the Trade show and the awards night screening.

The trade show was a sad and much reduced affair from past years, but the talk sessions were packed. Some speakers like Jim Rygiel, VFX Supervisor at Weta Digital (who did Lord of the Rings) was talking to standing room crowds. The audience I met streaming down the stairs seemed a healthy mix of wanna-be's, fans/ groupies, and industry and students.

The awards screening, with the now regular James Valentine as compere, was a collection of ninety clips of local and international work. The judges maybe leant towards a few partisan choices for awards from the examples I saw, but there was no doubt that the local quality is as good as anywhere. Covering work from TV, features, commercials, educational, student and web it was a good 'catch-up' now that I'm more fringe to the industry. The web examples were a bit ordinary, and watching them on the big screen in the same context as video animation reduced the wow factor. On my monitor, I would probably have said, 'hey that's great'. 

The student work included the production above. Called Buckethead it's about an ageing and rusting service robot, that catches rain drips and is a very assured 3DS Max work from Daniel Hartney from the Victorian College of the Arts. I liked it and so did the judges, but then I'm biased towards robots anyway.

I went to the screening with Doug, and afterwards we cut across the city to have a late meal at Barbecue King. Some Tsing Tao's, roast pork, roast duck, garlic spinach and a chicken and fish fried rice I'd never tried, rounded out the evening just fine. A little city stimulation is vital for balanced country life I reckon. Burp.
Fred Harden
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