Winter has arrived in South Australia with a vengeance. Autumn was wet, but June has been wetter. The local papers suggest it may be the soggiest June on record. Our water tanks are full to the brim and the tides have been racing up into the sand dunes and sucking them into the sea. Rain, rain, and more rain has been predicted.
So, what better time to hide inside with a pile of good books, and a pot of soup on the stove? My mother always had a soup on the go though winter, topping it up from leftovers. It was a bit hit and miss – sometimes the flavour combinations were wonderful, occasionally they clashed histrionically. But on a freezing day, with a hot mug in our hands, we weren’t complaining.
Having lived through winters in northern Europe, you probably wonder how I can complain about a cold winter in Australia. Funnily enough, we don’t tend to build houses to keep out the cold, but to keep out the heat instead. No one really believes in winter until it arrives, and we suddenly realize that its colder inside than out. Every year. Go figur. Still, I have my Ug boots and my fleece, so apart from cold hands, I’m not doing too badly this morning. Time for that mug of hot soup perhaps?
Yesterday, my daughter and I dropped into her favourite café opposite the Hawthorndene Oval. Joan’s Pantry has apparently been around since the 1960s, when the eponymous Joan and her husband set up business – although rumour has it, tea and cake were served to the cricketers from the original galvanized iron shed for many years before that. Rebuilt in 2015, this local institution was expanded to include a large indoor dining area and outdoor seating, and these days serves far more than tea and cake. The welcome is casual and friendly, and the servings are incredibly generous, and if my soup was anything to go by, simply oozing flavour. Roast mushroom and celeriac, which looks like a very gnarly turnip and tastes like celery only better (and nuttier). Every mouthful was a joy. Luckily my girl is happy to keep the conversation going while I slurp happily. Wish I had thought to ask for the recipe.
I found a large mushroom in the garden this morning. How to know if it is safe to eat, though? It looks and smells like a mushroom. Better check. Here comes Google. Well, it’s got a scaley surface and white gills, and apparently that’s a definite “No.” Bother. Just excuse me while I go and scrub my hands…
The sky is grey and gloomy, but the garden is thriving. We live on a sand dune, so water is a very limited commodity for my poor plants, as it tends to drain away so quickly. We quickly discovered that an English garden was never going to survive here, and we are gradually learning to work with the environment. “Whatever grows on the dunes should work in the garden” has become a rule of thumb. And the birds prefer the natives anyway. We now have a jolly community of parrots and wrens, mistletoe birds and magpies, honey eaters and crested pigeons (not top knot pigeons, as I have been erroneously calling them!). I can’t always spot the smaller ones (too short-sighted) but the One & Only is becoming quite the twitcher. Although apparently this derogatory term applies not to serious bird watchers (who observe but don’t disturb) but those who race off at the drop of a hat to chase after a rare visitor. Apparently, this dashing about makes them nervous and highly stressed, and doesn’t do much for the nerves of the poor bird either. Luckily, my ‘twitcher’ sits quietly on the veranda with his binoculars and leaves the birds in peace to explore the garden.
Next week I am going to desert our soggy state and head north. As you may already know, Australia is a continent with a wide variety of climates. So, while we shiver and shake down here in the south, the Top End is enjoying a somewhat milder climate. Our average low at this time of year is about 8’C – which isn’t quite as cold as Canberra or Melbourne, and colder than Hobart (now that was a surprise) – but up north, near the equator (Darwin is closer to that magical, imaginary line than Manila – another surprise, to me at least) it is around 20’C. I think it might be time to get packing. I’ll see you later!
- with thanks to Google for the pictures. I have rarely spotted the tiny mistletoe bird – partly because it never sits still for long. It takes a talented photographer to get a shot like this!