Australian Outdoor Living

Summer is coming, which for us Tasmanians means that we can bust out a short sleeved T-shirt underneath our jumpers. With a chance of perhaps taking a jumper off!

But seriously, summer is a glorious time down south. The sun shines, the rain eases up, the mad winds of spring are behind us. There's festivals galore and it's time to explore the parks and gardens of where you live.

For us, it means spending time outside on our enormous deck. We put up the shade sail, throw down a picnic rug and live on the deck, retreating inside for more drinks or to briefly escape the heat.

Australian Outdoor Living have created an eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Living in Tasmania, to help Tassie residents make the most of their home State. The eBook covers outdoor activities and amazing spots to explore, as well as outdoor and garden ideas to help you make the most of your outdoor spaces at home!

I was recently asked by Australian Outdoor Living to tell you about what outdoor spaces mean to me. You can pop over to their website and download their free e-guide to Tasmania.

It's a great guide filled with information about Tasmania, and I am featured alongside fellow Tasmanian Veronica Foale. (she makes the most delicious looking soaps, you should definitely check her out!).

It might be a bit cliche to say you have to 'stop and smell the roses', but, taking the time to breathe in fresh air and relax in the outdoors is incredibly important to our health and well being. Whether you're heading on a country walk, or simply enjoying a cup of tea on the patio, there's little better than taking time to enjoy being outside and just letting everything slow down once in a while.

So go on, (gwaaaan!) and check it out.

Where's your favourite spot outside in summer?

This post was sponsored by Australian Outdoor Living.


In defence of home.

Home. It's a word that brings a warm glow to my heart, visions of smiling family members, a warm wood stove, and more recently, the THUMP THUMP of toddler feet running around.
MY home isn't where we use harsh words or call names. Home is where we rest our hats and share our news.
Today my heart isn't glowing warmly with visions of my home. I'm mad like a Mama Bear whose kid got pushed at daycare. I've just read an interview with Leo Schofield in the Sydney Morning Herald and I want to make a few things perfectly clear to Mr Schofield.

On behalf of our narrow-minded Liberal government, I'm sorry that the Baroque Festival funding went the way of SO much arts funding. It's unfortunate that it happened and I completely understand your reasoning for taking the festival elsewhere.
"Tasmania's such a beautiful place," he says. "It's blessed as no other area in this country is blessed, and yet they can't wait to dig it up, chop it down, sell it to the Chinese..."
I agree with this loosely as a whole. The landscape in Tasmania is like nothing I've ever seen. The wildlife is stunning and again, it's unfortunate that since the mid-20th Century there's been a push to make the land work for man, not man work for the land. I've sat in forest in the Florentine Valley one year, only to return the next to find the trees missing and a massive logging road in it's place. Plantation forestry has a place - after all, where does your toilet paper, newsprint etc come from? But old growth? There's no reason for that.

Again, unfortunately Mr Schofield goes on in the same sentence to say "All the young people leave, and the only ones left are the dregs, the bogans, the third-generation morons."


In one sentence Leo Schofield has derailed any respect I had for his forward thinking ideas. In one sentence he has clearly revealed himself as those who he is attempting to defame.

I am a young person. I guess. 32? I'd still call myself young. I was not born here. I moved here by choice ten years ago. Five years ago I chose to buy a house and make a home in a very special part of Tasmania. I have a Masked Owl living in the trees behind the house, a mating pair of Wedge Tailed Eagles in the bush behind our block, tens of varieties of amazing birds, quolls, bandicoots, possums, wallabies, pademelons, and more rats and mice than we can catch. 

I'm quite disappointed that Schofield had, in his view, a soured experience of living in Tasmania and sees fit to use his cultural standing to speak ill of a very special place in generalised terms, instead of recognising and stating that this was HIS experience.

Mr Schofield, I'm sorry that you experienced such a hard time that you experienced mental health issues. I only hope that you've received the necessary and available help. I also wish you well with your future projects. I also hope that in time you can recognise and perhaps remedy your public views with those that Tasmania is a beautiful place, filled with kind and gentle people who do care about their home.

Sunrise, Narawntapu National Park, 31/3/15.
(c) Andrew Smyth Photography

Thankful Thursday: Tasmania

Can you be thankful for a place? I am.

A view of the sheep station where Mr S and I lived for two years.
It rarely looked like this - Goulburn was in the grip of severe drought for 5 years.

I grew up in the Southern Tablelands of NSW, where the claim to fame of the town I grew up in was the Big Merino. This generation of my family were not farmers, rather my Dad worked at the high security prison and my Mum is a library technician. It goes like many small town stories do, grow up, meet a boy, realise how big your world could be and move away.

Five years after meeting Mr S we decided to move. Tasmania, Eden in NSW or New Zealand. We applied for jobs in all of those places. I got a job in Tasmania first. So it was time.

We decided it was a smart thing to do before we had a mortgage and children. That way, if we didn't like it, we could just move back. So we gave notice, packed our house and prepared to move.

If you've ever moved house you'll realise it's no where near that simple, but for readability, it's that simple. I left in February 2005, and Mr S was to follow six weeks later with our car full of stuff and two cats. In the time between my leaving and his leaving, Mr S threw a lot of stuff out. I would get phone calls along the lines of 'Your sewing machine that's been broken for two years... keep? Or Vinnies?' (It went to Vinnies by the way, which was fine with me.)

I saw Tasmania for the first time when my Dad and I stepped off the plane. It was beautiful and such a strange land, for me who had only been on a plane twice previously. Mr S and I had decided Tasmania was on our list because everyone who'd ever been there had simply raved about it. Mr S is an intrepid explorer and photographer, so it seemed good to us.

Dad decided to come with me, so I wouldn't be alone in a new state straight away. At least, this was his story... he just wanted a holiday. Bless him.

Mr S arrived six weeks later to a severely lonely 6 kilogram heavier me on crutches, having fallen over three times in two weeks and fractured my foot, drunk beer and eaten biscuits the entire time. Not my finest moments, I admit.

However, why am I thankful for Tasmania? It is a welcoming place. The suburb we chose randomly to live in? Divine. It freaked me out that people said 'Hello' to each other on the street. I mean, weren't they going to say 'Hello' and then mug me? Apparently not.

The night Mr S arrived we had our entire worldly belongings jammed in a single bedroom of a share house... with two cats as well. We sat in bed and contemplated what we'd done. Oh god. Mr S didn't have a job, we had absolutely no money, and panic was setting in. As we I panicked, Mr S handed me a sheaf of mail that he'd picked up on his way down.

The conversation went like this:
'So. Money. We have none.' (open envelope 1) 'Oh look, the tax office made an error. Here's a $600 cheque! Bonus!'
'I'll get a job this week. Don't worry!' (open envelope 2) 'Oh look. We overpaid the gas bill for two years. Here's a cheque for $800! Bonus!'

Right. So far Tasmania, we were loving you.

The view of our first house in Tasmania.
I LOVED that garden.
The next day we went house hunting. We popped our heads out of our bedroom window to peer at Mt Wellington, and our gaze fell to the house across the road. 'FOR LEASE. OPEN HOUSE THIS MORNING.' Okay then. We got chatting to the estate agent, who mentioned there was a house higher up the mountain we might like. We went for a drive, and applied for both, feeling sick that we had two indoor cats to convince an agent to let us keep with us, too. The estate agent rang us the next morning, offering us our choice of either house.

That's another win for you, Tasmania.

Later that day Mr S went to buy a washing basket for us. And came home with a job from that very shop, where he then stayed for six years.

That's three for three, Tasmania.

Tasmania has always seemed like more than just a location for us. It turns out that my great great grandfather acquired a ticket of leave to Hobart, and built a house around the corner from where we lived. And, I am also a Hellyer by birth, so I have more ties to this place that I ever imagined.

Oh Tasmania, you get under my skin so easily.

Promo photo from my gigging days.

Part of the plan in moving here was to simplify our lives. We had good jobs in NSW. We decided to find jobs that would pay our bills and give us an awesome lifestyle in Tasmania. They do. We pursued our passions and I made a living from performing my own songs for five years whilst working part time. What a dream come true!

In our time here, everything has just fallen into place. A dash of trust, a sprinkling of clean air and a touch of magic, it seems.

I can honestly say that in the seven years I've lived here my life has changed so much and become so much richer. I've never been happier. So today, Tasmania, I'm thankful for you.

Mr S, Mrs S and tiny four week old M.
Indeed, Tasmania, you have made me very happy.

Linking up with Kate for Thankful Thursday.

On the subject of home...

What I see from the driveway... 

In the middle of a discussion about moving (not us!) the other day, Mr S said to me the 'Could you imagine never seeing Cradle Mountain again?' 
Initially I said 'Well, yes...'
'Like, never being able to go there and see Cradle Mountain again?' and I realised that the very thought made me sad.

I always thought I wasn't that fussed about where I lived, so long as Mr S & I were together (Millie now too). He probed this thought further with questions like 'Would you want to live in <dodgy suburb>?' and 'You say you need to smell eucalyptus trees - you could live in America?' No.

Which brought me to my navel gazing bus ride home musing... what do I need to have that sense of home? 

Really, I'm not sure. When I say 'home' to myself I'm immediately taken to the north west coast of Tasmania, where the seas are rough, mountains green, hills rolling and dirt deep red. That feels like home to me. The briskest of sea breezes. A room with a view of the water.

I always thought home was where my family was, as in Mr S, Millie & our various furchildren. It's a lovely ideal - not needing anything but each other. And if everything turned sour in our lives and we needed to live in one room, we could. But that isn't home. You know, home; the yearning you feel in your solar plexus when you think of going there, or leaving there. 

I understand that home can come in many forms, and you can have more than one. For instance,  Mr S grew up on a rural block that backed onto a national park, and now as an adult, he gets a certain kind of tetchy over the course of a few weeks and I know he needs to go bush and hug a tree reconnect with the rainforest. But I also know he likes to return to his other home. To me, his family.

I get a pull towards my home town every few years. I need to fly back, walk around the town, go for a drive to the sheep station we lived on and smell the landscape that is so unmistakably rural NSW. Crunchy leaves underfoot, a disgusting heat haze, the smell of eucalyptus leaves and an outlook across pastures. But it's not home anymore. I don't want to live there right now. So after three days I like to get on a plane and fly to Tasmania, where I get off the plane and it smells like home. It smells like rainforest even though it's an airport. It smells cool, damp and green and feels oh so good to breathe in.

Mr S & I have been in Tasmania since 2005, and when we moved here it was such a great opportunity for a fresh start. No friends, no family, barely any belongings. We laid on the lounge room floor of our three story townhouse in south Hobart drinking cheap Pinot Noir and looking at the chandeliers hanging from the roof. Because we didn't have a TV or any furniture. We were beginning again. 

Then I got a letter from my mum with two clippings about my relatives. Turns out I'm a Hellyer - Hellyer College, Hellyer gorge etc. Henry Hellyer was my (number of greats unknown) grandfather's brother, I think. And my other relative got a ticket of leave to Hobart & built his house in Adelaide Street. The reason that sounded familiar to us is that it was around the corner from our joint. So, err, perhaps a few ties? Is this why I feel settled in Tasmania -  it's in my blood?

Mr S & I were lucky enough to be able to purchase our first home when the interest rate was so low, it was cheaper than paying inner city rent. We have a large house overlooking a river. It's a large house that is entirely liveable but has accents of Mission Brown on the outside, rotting window frames and  would love a champagne renovation.  Alas, we can't justify that kind of renovation right now, so we give it some cask wine love every now and then. Its a nice house, but still not where I want to spend the rest of my life. When I lamented this to Mr S, he chuckled and said 'Yeah. Terrible. How could you not nail your dream home first go?' Good point, Mr S. Thanks for the perspective.

So since then I've been daydreaming about what an ideal material home would be. I say material, because at the end of the day I recognise that this is a privileged problem to have, and really, perhaps I'm thinking far too much about this.

I spend hours perusing the real estate websites and daydreaming. The things I'd like in an Ideal Material House...
  1. A parents retreat
  2. Dishwasher (or a child old enough to fulfil this duty)
  3. A bathroom with a double vanity
  4. Skylights
  5. A kitchen with tall benches, ample cupboard space, massive benches, double deep sinks, gas cooker and electric oven
  6. Land that overlooks the Huon Valley 
  7. A sunroom and deck that overlook the land that overlooks the Valley 
  8. Solar hot water
  9. Cozy carpets 
  10. Ducted wood fire heating

But I don't think a physical house is what I'm looking for. I'm looking for my version of 'home'. The yearning, solar plexus pulling home. I've narrowed it down to Tasmania... but where to from there?

Is home a physical place or an emotional state? What do you think?