We have had a lot of different experiences in the last week - lots to write about. Here is where we have been:
This week has been challenging in surprising ways. You might have noticed that our blog is a little bit about vegan food, i.e. we don't eat animal products including meat, dairy, fish (which is also meat), eggs, whey (also dairy), gelatine, honey or food colour E120 etc. This week we have been challenged on our foundational beliefs on why it is important to live the way we do (no animal products). Not in a superficial 'Where do you get your protein?' or 'Cave men ate meat and modern technology so there!' or even the classic pointing-to-teeth 'Why do I have these canines and incisors then!?' (To which our standard reply is - try eat a pineapple with just molars. But we are digressing a bit). But in a way where we have meaningful conversations around food, providence, provenance, production, land use (or a synonym for land use that starts with a 'p'), permaculture and the cloud of moral and ethical ambiguities that float around all of that stuff.
What even is the role of animals in modern human society? Does an animal want to have a useful life? Is organic farming using animals to control bugs instead of pesticides more or less ethical? More or less vegan? Is veganism a linear continuum from carnivore to herbivore or a multidimensional spectrum of complex issues, competing ethics and making-sense-of-the-world? And we are still talking, thinking, debating and reframing our ideas at the minute. And still not eating animal products or engaging in animal agriculture.
One thing we are certain about is that is important to have your beliefs, ideals and behaviours challenged. A robust discourse about our place in the world, the way we interact with other life on the planet and the decisions we make at the farm gate, in the farmers market, supermarket, cafe, restaurant and retail stores can be an avenue for positive change and more personal contentment for everyone (and the planet).
Ruth's cousin Sharon (and Adam's cousin too - thanks marriage!) and her family live on a small farm near Geeveston. Very welcoming people who open their home to workawayers (like backpackering, but trading farm work for meals and accomodation) and long lost cousins they haven't seen in twenty plus years. They grow pigs. Piglets are super cute, super hungry and super cute. They have room to run around, are fed and watered twice a day (some of their feed is recycled waste malts from a local brewery, some is waste bread from a supermarket that would otherwise end up in landfill) and when they are of a particular size and age they are slaughtered and turned into meat, bacon or prosciutto. The Phillips know where the meat comes from. They are involved in the complete life cycle of the animals and understand where the meat they eat comes from. And they all relished and embraced the challenge of making a vegan lunch for their cousins.
We want to emphasise something here that often gets lost in the omnivore/vegan debate (which is usually very emotionally charged). Eating meat doesn't make you a bad person. We don't judge you from our ivory tower of self righteous moral superiority. We don't engage in animal agriculture, because after a lot of thought, investigation, introspection and research we decided, separately and together, that it wasn't for us. The world doesn't need more judgement of others. You do what you are comfortable with. It's your body.
So, back to Geeveston. A wonderful welcome, excellent hospitality, a gorgeous landscape framed in every window of the century old homestead and a basket full of fresh veggies from the garden when we left. Man oh man, Tasmanians are nice people.
Next up was a trip to visit long lost acquaintance Heather and her family (Husband Macca and super cute 1 year old daughter Lux) who had just moved over from Margaret River WA and purchased a block of land near Cygnet to get the permaculture thing happening. A long and enjoyable afternoon of checking out the creek and dam, picking the abundance of blackberries around the property and talking about land use, permaculture philosophy, developing abundant ecosystems and reuse/upcycling of 'waste' resources. And Adam eyeing off the Series 2a Land Rover parked in the neighbours paddock.
We stopped for the night in Snug after Gary had a bit of a seniors moment (he got a little confused about wether the immobiliser should be on or not. No toolbox out = not a breakdown), with a view to dropping in to the local Land Rover specialist in Kingston for some expert advice.
After much deliberation we decided to skip the area in the vicinity of the Tasman and Freycinet Peninsulas. They are super beautiful, but we went there last time - can't see it all in four weeks!
A long afternoon of driving took us (via 10 am beer tasting in the Margate Train and the very excellent Veg Bar in Hobart for lunch) through the centre of the island to St Helens and the Bay of Fires. Also FIRST RETURNED LAND ROVER DRIVER WAVE!!!! YEAH!!!!
There is a reason why this place is on most of the 'best beach in the world' shortlists. We stayed two nights and spent a lucky sunny a day at the beach - swimming, sunning, chatting with other travellers from London, New York, Devonport and New Zealand. Everyone agrees this place is magic. One thing you notice about Tasmanians - they make the most of the changeable weather here. A bit of warmth and sunshine and everyone is doing their best to get to the beach. Adam also helped another Land Rover driver fix his car at the campsite.
From St Helens a series of winding mountain roads took us to two waterfalls. The first, St Columba Falls a study in fern filled damp air, the relentless action of water literally moving hundred tonne granite boulders down cliff face and river. Green growth upon green growth upon green growth.
The second place was reached by an almost two-cars-wide gravel road. A brief stop for a photo opportunity with a nonchalant juvenile echidna, a winding ascent and descent through logging coupes and we got to complete one of the best walking circuits of our adventure so far.
Looping it's way from a carpark to Cash's Gorge and then Ralph's falls, the hour long sojourn takes you through a dozen different microclimates and ecosystems. Scrubby bush, buttongrass plain, scraggly open woodland, dappeled light on patches of coral-like ground cover, granite cliffs, wind toppled eucalypts, tree fern glades, babbling brooks, fishbone fern almost-rainforest and a pencil thin waterfall gently swaying along the S bend of dolerite fault lines. Oh and lets not forget the sweeping vistas of the valley below. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Bass Straight.
More winding roads, gravel and high country and we made our way to the Ben Lomond National Park. Ascending to the ski fields at the top of the mountains requires careful navigation of a series of single lane switchbacks called Jacobs Ladder. The views are worth it. The ski village, empty in the late summer afternoon is a little eerie, but the landscape is so dissimilar to any other we have encountered and equally and stunningly beautiful as the rest of this island that the pulse-racingness of the drive was more than worth it.
A night in the sparsely populated (and free) Ben Lomond National Park campground and it was time to head back to the Launceston area. We happened to drive past the sold out Party in the Paddock music festival - the line up looked great!
Travelling over the pass towards Scottsdale we met a pair of German cyclists at the Sideling Lookout. We traded a cup of our peppermint tea for their story. They are 70 and 69 years young and almost at the end of a 1 200 km cycling tour of Tasmania. They had just ridden 15 km - all of it uphill - from Scottsdale to the lookout. Their philosophy - cycling is a great way to see a place - you travel slow enough to take it all in, inhale the sights and smells and sounds of the environment around you, and stay fit! They had cycled all over Europe, North and South America, South Africa and now Tasmania.
We took some back roads past picture perfect farm fields and rolling hills near Scottsdale to Bridestowe Lavender Farm. Although we arrived earlier in the year than the last time we visited, we were still too late to see any purple flowers still growing. We did get to sniff the very popular bears and wander around a bit though. From there is was on to our beloved Jansz cellar door (what we drank on our wedding day) for a bottle of Vintage Rose and lunch in their garden.