Under the Gumtrees . . . Wine Soup & Honey for an Olde Lawya’s Soul

 

This is not the first time I have posted on social media about this spot.  The images are from a few years ago when I was fluffing around out here near the front veranda.  It’s one of my favourite spots, one of those down-home feel-good spaces.

My beautiful feliscatus model is our sweet girl, Gracie, a chocolate Burmese (brown point).  It was February at the time, high summer in Australia, when casual eating under the gum trees, alfresco style, is routine.  Daylight saving gives us the lazy ambience of languid summer afternoons in the Barossa wine country and it’s right here you can find me idling, whiling away time, even wasting time  ☺️ . . .

Our house is on a gentle hillside facing more or less northward.  Behind Gracie is our view north from the house up to gum studded hills & vineyards.

 

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Wine anybody?  We live in the heart of wine country, in Australia’s top wine producing region, the magnificent Barossa Valley, in South Australia.

And what’s better than wine soup for an old lawya’s soul? This one is unlabeled, a home-brewed shiraz made right here at Fat Lawyer Farm by a winemaker friend some years ago. We made 2 batches crushing & fermenting up in the top shed & ending up with 2 hogsheads, one a shiraz the other a GSM (Grenache Shiraz Mataro blend).

The GSM has become an important style in the Barossa.    “gutsy, spicy, leathery, complex and rustic barbecue red wines often made from very old vines”. The Grenache provides lighter, red fruit flavours  …. But this popular Barossa blend didn’t just appear thanks to some happy accident in a shed among the vines, the wine style has been inspired by the wines of the Southern Rhone region of France (and if you know a little bit about the wines from this part of the world you might have heard of the sub-regions of Chateauneuf Du Pape, Gigonda and Tavel) What’s that all about?

What is a hogshead you ask?  It’s a large barrel in the wine industry holding about 63 gallons from which we bottled over 700 bottles (750 ml each bottle).  Yikes, a lot of 🍷🍷🍷wine for home use.  Ay, but it lasts & lasts . . .

“Owz yer wine me dear?”

“Oyz orright. Thank ee fer azzkin.

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Another view from the house, the nearby tall gums, looking north-north west past the gentle sloping vineyards to our left & beyond to the Valley floor over Nuriootpa.

The sight of these large old eucalypts, the scent of gum leaves always green (eucalypts are not deciduous), is a defining part of our life here.  This area is one of outdoor living for much of the year especially in the spring & summer, a true Aussie setting.  When I lived in the USA (almost 17 years in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida & Texas) I missed the gum trees, the smell of eucalyptus oil wafting in the breeze.  What a feel-good experience it was whenever I landed back in Australia, disembarking the plane to catch the wafting scent of gum leaves as we drove away from the airport.

So, yes, this spot is special.  Whatever you fancy: coffee, a simple meal, a long sensory lunch or a big fat gourmand conquest, the ambience is alluring.

 

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It’s usually quiet as the late afternoon sun goes down in the west as it was when I took these shots. The white smudge you see is the overhead sprinkler. The only noise might be the soft whirring of a 4 wheeler or the low putt putt putt of a tractor working its way up & back along the sloping, contoured vineyards to our left.

So, yes, the air is often scented with gums. Fresh & natural. You can almost taste it sometimes especially on those long late afternoons, the bees humming nearby.

When these pics were taken I had recently planted a few Mediterranean style plants.  Easy stuff like Tuscan rosemary went in not only for its use in cooking but for its strength, structure & sturdiness, traits allowing it to withstand the north & northwest winds we sometimes get up here.  Its mauve/purple flowers work well with the lavender & the salvias I put in.  The French lavender I used is the well known ‘Lavendula Dentata’ another strong & sturdy plant. The blue grey lavender bushes, smothered in mauve flowers, growing near & under the gum trees is a vista that works well for me. Low maintenance too as I am not a gardener. Not.  Nothing is really planned here.  I will never be a gardener.  My philosophy  is ‘put it in & see what happens’.  Anything that appears choreographed or designed in the garden is quite accidental.

I love the sound of bees humming, dancing around these plants, collecting honey, pollen & nectar.  Being a beekeeper’s daughter I grew up around beehives & swarms of bees.  Oh for those child hood aromas, the fires, heat, the smell of the smoker, the bees, the hives, the apiary, the beekeeper’s shed, the thick, sticky taste of honey dripping off the frame, the honeycomb. Those long, hot days.  Harvesting honey was a middle of the summer job.

My father was the traditional migratory apiarist hauling truck loads of hives hundreds & hundreds of kilometres in search of those flowering gums, chasing the honey flow.

Always looking for “somewhere where the great eucalypts are in flower, and the silver-leaved ironbark is promising, where the bees are in good heart, and the creek runs clear and there is firewood and friendship.”  These words are from Australian writer Kylie Tennant’s 1956 book, “The Honey Flow”, a novel I first read many years ago & which is still very dear to me in its rendering, so accurately, the way of life of Australian beekeepers like Dad. It’s a story about love & beekeeping & everything in between – a must read for anybody interested in social realism & an Australian way of life.

 

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I loved this book. It never fell back on cliches, all the characters in it were real, the Australian bush was almost a character itself and those bees… gotta love ’em. (Disclosure: I’m a beekeeper so maybe that bit touched me more than it would others.)

This book follows a young woman dreaming of being a migratory bee-keeper in a time when this was definitely a man’s world (isn’t it still?) and a place where nature was a harsh mistress (isn’t she still?). T hrough all the obvious hardships, our heroine keeps her spirits up, her dreams alive and her sanity intact.

I’ve no idea how she did it but it was great to go along with her for the ride.A good story, well written, a bit of humour, a bit of drama with some pleasant insight into a fascinating place and time (1950s rural Australia). I’m not sure who wouldn’t enjoy this book – it’s great!  From a review of The Honey Flow

 

Much of the beekeeper’s life is about driving, hauling & traversing rough & winding bush tracks, through scrub, mallee & hard to get to places, much of it on private land. It is about making tracks yourself where no tracks existed nor would ever be made by the owner or a local council. “Every time my memory opens its mouth it dribbles roads” says the narrator Mallee Herrick in the opening sentence of The Honey Flow.  The goal was to make a road, to chase the honey flow, to find the blossom, to find & create new honey sites, the location of which stayed close to the apiarist’s chest.

I spent a lot of time with Dad trawling hundreds & hundreds of miles around the beautiful South Australian countryside, often at night, the truck piled high with full hives.

 

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I remember extracting with him on those long hot days back when it was done on sight before he established a more modern, state of the art centrifugal extracting plant at home at Leasingham. The mobile extractor was housed in a little old caravan not unlike the one pictured above which Dad hauled behind the truck from sight to sight as needed. Vintage Caravan Hire advertises old caravans including an ex beekeeper’s caravan.

So, yes, the sound of foraging bees here at Fat Lawyer Farm is very nostalgic, warm & comforting, sort of mind cleansing, as it takes me back to a more innocent time & the time I spent with my father. This spot up here truly makes for calm & sensory pleasure.

 

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Dear Gracie taking it all in as in a day-dream as she looks down to the front of the house, the drive & parking area.

 

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Mmmm, yummy drop” she says.  The true loving Burmese cat is Gracie.  She has that kind of motorized purr that seems never to stop.  You only have to look at her & she starts.  It’s like aiming the TV remote at her, one click & she fires up  ….. purrrrrrr

 

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Wine poured, aerating & breathing.

This image looks more north-east towards Angaston though we can’t actually see our little town from the house as it’s just over those hills.  If we walked north east ‘as the crow flies’ we would come to Angaston.

 

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My favourite flowers – geraniums.   Easy, quick & reliable & oh so vivid & long lasting in their colour.  Geraniums are for gardening dummies like me.  Easy, low maintenance & constantly rewarding in their vibrant colours & shape.  I take a geranium cutting, put it in the ground & it grows. Too easy. What more would a non gardener want?

 

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Gracie routinely ensconces herself up on the pergola beams where she safely surveys.

 

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This space is for summer days, summer nights. For hanging out.

For sitting under big gums, under the big, wide, star-studded sky, a big northern sky from here.  Uncomplicated & restful. A place to sit, laugh, to chat & savour a fine tipple or two.

My northern hemisphriends are now in that big north sky country, north of the equator, northward from our veranda, enjoying the last days of their summer as they head into fall.

Here in the southern hemisphere, the real deep south, despite it being 1st September tomorrow, the first day of spring in Australia, we are still experiencing very cold & wet wintry weather.

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