Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Video

Rainy days may mean no picking and lots of sitting around. We've been dreaming of the road again and so I made this promo video for the blog. Share it around if you like it and enjoy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rainy Day Blues


It’s Monday and this morning I just couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed and go to work.  Kathleen felt the same way coincidentally, she hadn’t gotten enough rest to operate the machinery, and we called to see if we could come in a bit late.  Which was totally ok as we aren’t on wage for the pears.  So at 8:00 we are noticed a rather large patch of cloud that happened to go on as far as the eye could see, which was pretty far, this part of Australia is flat, like an underscore is flat ____ That flat.

We also heard lots of thunder in the distance.  After another call in we found out that the storm was projected to blow right over.  So we pack our lunch and we jump into our Executive Commodore, (that’s the model of our car, the make is Holden, owned by Chevy actually) and drive off to work. 

Its 8:15 at this point and it starts to rain.  Then it rains a little harder.  And about 3 minutes away from work we drive right into a wall of rain.

We arrive at work and our boss is confident it will blow over.  So far every weather prediction he has made has been wildly inaccurate.  The one time he called work early for a thunder head it actually did pass right over us in the time it took to get our shit in our car and start to drive away.

Today was not one of those days.  We parked next to all the other pickers in our block, and even as we were arriving we saw two cars leave.  By 8:30 somebody who had come to work after us had already left, along with three or four more cars.  At 8:45 our boss came around and told us along with the few remaining optimists to go home, it was too wet, and that he would text us when it was dry enough to come back.  We are still waiting for the text, because wait for it, its still raining. 

It stopped for about an hour around ten, but it is just past 1:00 now and it is still steadily spittin’.

I’m still feeling lazy as all hell, and am in no way upset that I’m sitting on our sofa writing this instead of out in the orchards. The only perk about picking in this sort of weather is that the sun is tucked safely behind the clouds so you can come out of hiding a little bit and ease off the sun block and wear less layers, also the rain keeps you cool so you don’t over heat, which is a problem for a lot of backpackers.

I’m listening to Jimi Hendrix as I write this post and he is the perfect thing for a rainy summer day.  Something about the way he manipulates his guitar is the perfect pickup when everything about the world right now is telling me to go back to bed.

Oh and the possum trap didn’t work.  Well it wasn’t so much of a trap really, I cut up a bunch of fruit and put it in a pile in front of our door so he couldn’t take it and run off, so he would have to stay if he wanted it.  I had hoped to leave the door open and just keep the screen door closed so we could see him before he saw us but it got cold, really cold, and the door was closed to conserve what little heat we could.  But we did make a bet with Nico and Nelly, the French couple, to see who could catch the little guy first. $5 on the line, we need a new strategy.

If you have any ideas, please do comment.

Saturday, February 25, 2012



By Kathleen      

Well, O.k., we didn’t catch the possum but we did have another hand feeding encounter and this time it was in good light!

Last night I was outside when I noticed our possum friend on the ground by a tree. I approached him but when he saw I did not come bearing gifts he headed up the nearest tree. I watched where he went and ran and got Fiz.

Fiz, who didn’t get to feed the possum last time brought an assortment of fruit. It took us ten minutes of cajoling, calling, hooting, and tossing fruit to entice the little bugger closer but then alas, sweet success. Pictures for you!


Nom Nom Nom Nom

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tasty Delight

By Kathleen   

In general, exploring the world with your mouth is frowned on past the toddler years, but there are some exceptions (besides the ones you’ve already thought of ) which cause for exactly that, mouth exploration.

Now while Australia has many gastronomic delights to fill and fulfill your foodie self there are some other things that, when entering a new culture, one must experience. I like to think of these as the Wonder Bread foods. You know the iconic food that everyone knows about, the food of our childhoods, the food that has strange Red number 5 and questionable fructose content. Yet it is these foods that hold a key to contemporary culture. I think junk food is inaccurate because not all junk food holds equal sway in the hearts and minds of a populace.
If we were in America I would insist that people who had never had them before have such treats as, Wonder Bread, Kit-Kats, SPAM, Nes-Quik, Cheetos, Tang, that sort of caliber.

To begin our exploration we start with two Aussie staples. No household would be complete without the vitamin B packing twins Milo and Vegemite. Now Milo is a sort of Ovaltine like drink, just it doesn’t suck, and is incredibly addictive. It’s made from malted barley and when stirred into cold milk doesn’t quite dissolve all the way, which from the way people talk about it, is part of it’s charm. You must always have a spoon with your Milo as scrapping out the leftover crispy bits is fantastic.

Vegemite is more of an acquired taste. Like a spreadable soy sauce it has the consistency of jam and the saltiness of beef bullion. It too is made from barley, or rather yeast grown on it (ergot anyone?) and packs a great deal of vitamin B into a very small package. It’s hard for many people to like right off the bat as amateurs will spread way too much of the potent stuff on whatever it is they are eating. The best way to break your Vegemite cherry is to smear a small, thin fingernail sized amount, onto warm toast that had been buttered. That is some delicious yeast.

Now candy is a special sub-catagory of junk food and there are always new candies in new countries, some are more appealing than others. The one’s we’ve tried have so far been pretty good. We’ve chosen them not for their popularity so much as their novelty.

Crunchie is candy bar made of honeycomb and chocolate. Now before you get too excited this isn’t honeycomb like bees, this is honeycomb like the spun sugar candy that lost popularity in the States somewhere around the turn of the century for unknown reasons. It’s delicious. Sweet, almost salty, crunchy chocolaty, I’m sold. If only it came in dark chocolate.

The Cherry Ripe comes in either dark or milk chocolate, the dark is paired with black cherries for extra effect. Where I was expecting jelly, coconut cherry filling was waiting, more like a cream. All I can think of is a cherry Almond Joy. I’m not in love but Fiz seems to think they are pretty good.

For strange tastes we have entered two Lifesavers candies into the running.
The first is a Blackcurrent Pastille, yup that’s right, the squishy kind, coated in sugar, and tasting of blackcurrants, which as an American I find both exotic and tasty.

The second Lifesavers however is the strangest. Musk flavored Lifesavers, like from a musk glad of a musk ox. ( Don’t worry it’s all synthetic now, no musk ox had it’s glands squeezed on your behalf). I had musk flavored candy once before, Chicklets from the Middle East and I thought they were pretty good at the time, but these Lifesavers are fantastic! I’m completely addicted to their pink deliciousness, every time I eat one it’s like what I imagine drinking old lady perfume to be like, assuming that didn’t kill you. As a weirdo who likes the taste of perfumes and flowers I have to say, brilliance.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quite Evenings

By Kathleen

It’s Sunday evening in Tatura and the days seem to be flying by. Weekends seems far away when you measure time in number of bins picked and I’m sitting outside on our picnic table catching the last rays of my day off.

Fiz is playing the my guitar that I found at Rainbow Festival and the cockoos are singing their strange song. In the distance I can hear a horse whinny and something screech.

It’s these moments that make life in Tat something enjoyable, despite the lack of entertainment and with all the hours of work. There is something simpler about this way of life and I find that I am very happy here some days, with time to be outside to sit and write.

Every grocery run we drive by vast orchards lining the roads and grazing fields that are filled with horses, cows and sheep. It’s incredible to believe we are only just over two hours from one of Australia’s largest cities. Sometimes the emptiness of this place catches me off guard. Our hometown is fairly rural in our eyes but its nothing compared to the Australian country.

Lately we’ve been noticing that we have adjusted to the weather here. Now 60 degrees seems cold and we worry that we will have our New England-er cards revoked.  We worry that our sense of temperature isn’t the only thing that’s been altered by staying here, especially by being in the country. Our perception of friendliness is changing. New Englander’s aren’t exactly known for their cuddliness, their right up there next to New Yorkers and Gizzly Bears on most people’s list. Australian’s in contrast seem wide open, like visiting the south if the south without the conservative drawbacks. People here are quick to smile and fast to help out.

A good demonstration may be a quick road story. On the way to the store today a grey pink thing tumbled in front of our car. We slowed down and realized it was one of the birds we call “dumb-pink-things” because they are grey and bright pink and well, sorta dumb looking. It didn’t move when we drove towards it and we realized that it was clearly dazed. We pulled over.

The bird wandered haplessly into the middle of the road and another car stopped to check on it. Just as we were debating who would take it to the wildlife services the dumb-pink-thing took flight and flew off down the road.

I can’t say I’ve ever seen two cars at home pulled over for a bird as common as a pigeon. Australians can be pretty cool. It’s becoming dinner time and soon I’ll have to start getting ready for tomorrow. At least we don’t have to get up at 5:30 anymore, now we can sleep till 6. The seasons are changing and we are losing the light, another month and autumn will be upon us, soon winter will be here and it will be time to move on.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Remebering Asia

While picking fruit is super exhilarating and definitely challenging it doesn't leave us with much to write home about. We of course will continue to let you know about our adventures in Aussie-land I thought it might be interesting for some of you if we back-logged a bit and posted thoughts, articles and photos from earlier in our trip, adventures that didn't get put up because they didn't have good internet or some other excuse. Here we go then.

Are you ready for fun? Fiz is ready for fun.

Late Nights in Hoi An

By Kathleen Broadhurst

Lighting candles on the Full Moon.
 World on the street is that Vietnam is the like Thailand was 15 years ago. I can’t verify that but Vietnam certainly is becoming a hot place to be in Southeast Asia.  While the backpacking scenes in Nha Trang and the clubbing scene in Hanoi are certainly more well known Hoi An, in central Vietnam, has its share of great venues and  it’s is worth spending a couple nights on the river here.

Hoi An, a 19th century trading capital is home to many beautiful buildings, picturesque river scenes and great food. But when the sun sets and the red lanterns come out Hoi An is a great place to have a good time, drink some good cocktails and meet other travelers.

For the most part "night life" in Vietnam is pretty subdued, as fun is apparently not cool with the big Party. So things in Hoi An don't go into the wee hours, unless you take the party home.

While things are still open its worth it to spend a night hopping from place to place to get the full experience. As everything in Hoi An is grouped in the Old City its not hard to start at one end, finish at the other and then totter back to your hostel. Here’s the spots that have the best vibes, the liveliest crowds and the longest hours.

Start at Cargo Café, a refined but reasonably priced French Vietnamese fusion restaurant that sits overlooking the Hoi An docks. The interior is very chic chic, all white and teak but the food is the best in town. Their béchamel sauce is a god-send after a week of broth and noodles and if you try nothing else get the pork mignon medallions, as if it couldn’t get any better and their desserts are fantastic (read, lemongrass ice-cream).

After satisfying your stomach, and taste buds, and maybe kicking off the evening with some cheap local draught beer head over to Before and Now on Le Loi a rocking bar that has great pop art on their walls in between 19th century Vietnamese post and beam architecture. The crowd is mostly European and the dready bar tender likes to play Brit Pop and American 90’s hits.

The whole city is beautiful at night.
 Paintings with slogans like "Google knows what you did last summer", "I love the smell of Mypalm in the morning" and a picture of the Mona Lisa with a semi-automatic and a bandana around her face that reads PEACE, it’s chill spot to have revolutionary conversations, or just to enjoy their happy hour and delicious cocktails. It’s the bar to beat on the Hoi An side of the river.

People watch in their wicker basket chairs on the porch or make nice with other travelers over a round of pool in the back. If your feeling romantic there is a lounge area complete with a raised platform strewn with pillows.

Leave Before and Now and wander into Treat, a quite cafe and bar that claims it’s the "same same but different" and cash in on their extra long happy hour. Buy one get one free tequila and 7-up, for 44,000 Dong (bout 2$). As the effects of the dinks started to take hold wax nostalgic about love and other trips in their garden. At some point you’ll need to work up the motivation to leave before you succumb to the gravity of their chairs.

Lighting a candle to float down river.
If you have a scooter now’s the time to use it, head across the bridge to the Hoi An Peninsula, a ten minute walk if you don’t have wheels. Look up and follow the signs to the Sun Bar. Set a few blocks back form the water on Ngo Quyen Street the Sun Bar is still going even when most others were pulling their shutters down.

This is a bar you won’t find in any guide books, only open for about 5 months the walls, tables, chairs, pool table and ceiling are already covered in tags from drunken foreign nationals in love with $2 beers. The music was good I think, but it was hard to tell by that point.

Sun Bar is packed with Aussies and Brits, but other nations are represented as well. Depending on the hour the mood favors some low key dancing, but otherwise people mingle around the pool table. The social scene is great, with everyone engaging in all types of cultural exchange.

Even the Sun Bar shuts its doors around 1am, for those used to going until the sun comes up the only option is to head back to the hostel, maybe with new friends and raid the mini-fridge.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Possum Attack!



So you’ve heard about the possum, the cute cuddly thing that looks nothing like the North American species.  Well it turns out that the little guy is even cuter than before!

The other day, as I was getting ready for work round about 6 am, I got rushed by the one of the resident possums.  It charged out from under our picnic table and lunged at my hands.  It missed, but it looked so adorable that I couldn’t help myself, I reached down to let it get a sniff of my hand, like you would a new dog, and it reached up, grabbed my hand, and tried to bite it.  I made a fist thinking it wouldn’t be able to fit its mouth around it, and was sorely let down, it totally could. 

It was about then that I decided trying to touch it was a poor choice, as I stood up it looked at me one last time, went for my foot and started chewing on my big toe. 

I realized that it was clearly trying to get me to feed it, because it wasn’t being aggressive, and hadn’t bitten me hard enough to draw blood.  Also because it would periodically look at me before continuing to gnaw on my toe. 

Kathleen came out as the possum was going at my toe, and startled it up a tree.  It climbed up to eye level, and watched as Kathleen went back inside and returned with a peach.  With out falling of the trunk of the tree it reached out with both of its hands, grabbed the peach (which was close to the size of my fist), stuck it in his mouth and clambered up into the upper branches of the tree.

My plan is to cut up some of the plums we have that are about to turn and make a trail leading in our front door!

I’ll let y’all know how it goes…

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rainbow Serpent: Inner Reflections

By Kathleen

 I have so much to say about how awesome rainbow Serpent was it’s difficult to choose what to write about. The great music? The beautiful art? The scale of the festival? What about the open hearted generosity of the attendees or how Australia simply keeps getting cooler?

While all that deserves attention and likes to be talked about there’s more that made this weekend amazing.

Let me back up…Some time ago a fellow traveler in Nepal told us about a festival called the Rainbow Serpent, I didn’t really even need to ask what it was about I wanted to go so when we arrived in Oz I Googled it. Wonder of wonders it was happening during our projected stay and still had tickets available. Downside was that they were way out of our budget. The early bird tickets were almost $100 cheaper but the early registration had closed out months ago. Oh well, better luck next time. Or was it?

Over Christmas we stayed with our friend in Sydney, her house happened to be housing a German couple who were also backpacking around, they were leaving Australia because of some visa issues and happened to have a pair of early bird tickets to Rainbow Festival which they kindly sold to us(Thanks guys!). So voila we drove through the gate last Thursday.

The Rainbow Serpent Festival, for all of you who are too lazy to click on the link, or for those who need further clarification is one of the biggest  psy-trance festivals in Australia. In it’s 15th year it has become one of the best known Melbourne centered festies and this year brought 20,000 people to it. It is in many ways Australia’s Burning Man.

We spent four days meeting new friends( our super generous neighbors), dancing like crazy people for four days straight, hanging out amongst wonderful art installations and people watching the diverse and colorful attendees. It was like a little bit of home and that proved to be an interesting challenge.

For the first two days I was overwhelmed by homesickness, I missed my friends  (who are avid festival goers) I missed their talent and their vibe and their ethics. Nothing and nobody seemed as cool as the people I already knew and I was feeling cynical and low. I was looking at the festival and thinking “ bellydancers, firespinners, lights, art, whatever… seen it a million times…. These people come to a festival to visit my life”

Then it hit me, these people come to festival to visit my life! My life is freaking amazing.

I have totally taken for granted the awesome-ness in my life.

I have been so blessed to know, meet and become friends with such extraordinary people. People who don’t just go to festivals to party but who go for the sense of connection and community that festivals bring.

What’s better they don’t just enjoy the community at the festival they have made that energy their life. In doing so they have created a better world, a world that has stronger communities, access to art and music and not mere concern for the environment but active participation in helping it.

These people have opened store, written music, painted art, taught students and made beautiful and wonderful contributions to the world, and especially to my world. You guys rock!

With that simple shift in perspective the whole festival changed. These weren’t just doppelgangers of my friends creating copies of my community, these people were my community, a community that has stretched around the globe, that I have found in every country I have visited, and yet is still interconnected and interwoven.

It is a community of visionaries, of artists, of friends who believe that the world would be a better place if we were all just a bit nicer. I was home.

Here’s some photos of the art, the shows and the people that made Rainbow Serpent Festival a tour-de-force of celebration, dance and light.

Art in the making.

Ott at the Main Stage

This butterfly was actually animated. At night it glowed, it's eyes lite up and it reacted to people.