So far, Winter hasn’t really felt like those of the past but I’m guessing this is the case for many. Instead of wood-fire warmth with a furry four-footed friend, walks in earthy-rich rain-sodden Karri forest, fresh truffles, restaurant and chalet guests coming and going, agri-tour planning, meeting friends for tapas and nurturing sleep in my own rather than a borrowed bed, the undoing of all that’s been familiar has intensified as my bike is parked more than ridden and life has retreated to the inside.
I know I should stop watching the news as it doesn’t help that further afield a wider undoing, unraveling, upheaval and uncertainty swirls around us all. It’s Rona, it’s riots, it’s revealing ugly truths past and present and it’s both personal and public. It seems the years leading up to the shit-storm that is 2020 hasn’t had it’s way with me, with us or the world just yet.
As much as the phrases ‘it’s meant to be’ or ‘everything happens for a reason’ makes me want to rage against this type of meaningless, cause and effect logic as a relinquishing way of coming to terms with the unexpected, I will concede that with great disruption and upheaval there’s opportunity.
To find the opportunities though takes both time, observation and timing. To walk, to listen, to cook, to drink wine, to read, to be present, to tell stories, to laugh and to cry until spent, to take one step back and two steps forward and to reconnect. Preferably with a bonfire and full moon rising involved. Below are some of my scratching-around attempts here in the Barossa during the month of June to find those bonfire-feels and roots to place, community, peace and opportunity.
While the therapy of the throttle makes me feel wild, untouchable and free, walking in the bush offers the opposite calming end of the recharging cathartic spectrum. The Barossa Valley has many bush walks; some of which have been grouped in a terrific new guide of varying difficulty and length options. I’m slowly walking my way through them starting with the Altona CSR Landcare Reserve very near to Rowland Flat.
Used for mining sand in the 1960’s, the 70 hectare reserve has been revegetated with a variety of native species, offering multiple loop trails with views of the old sand mine cliffs.
At the top of one of the walking loops is a short spur walk leading to a beautiful elevated view over the North Para River. Although now carpeted in soft fresh green grass due to very recent rain, there is clear evidence of past struggle in many of the native trees and bushes. Old seed pods looking more like porous desiccated bone hammered by heat and drought.
One of my favourite views across the Valley is the G.B.A Parsons lookout on the top of Trial Hill. The afternoon that I took this photo was on a day after several that had bucketed with rain. The sun had found a crack in the thick cloud layer that had finally emptied itself. With a chorus of bleating lambs and ewes in the background it was pure joy to see and feel its warmth pour through again.
Burnt Basque cheesecake is a recipe invented and made famous by Santiago Rivera, owner of San Sebastian pintxos café La Viña. What started as a one-cake-a-day experiment 29 years ago has become a world-wide craze. Having a tub of Woodside Goats Curd in the fridge I gave it a go. The trick is to get that delicious caramelised burnt top without overcooking or under cooking the centre. Sometimes the simpler the recipe the harder it is to get right. I scoffed most of it before giving a third of it away to avoid making a complete porker of myself.
On a beautiful Friday morning together with a few friends, I visited a property between Moculta and Truro that was settled in the mid 1840’s by the Murray family who were Scottish migrants in the Barossa Valley. Glen Turret was originally 12,000 acres that ran 8,000 merino sheep predominately for wool. After a history of multiple owners and environmental change and management, it’s now 2,000 acres on which its current owner Greg Koch runs 2,500 merino sheep for wool and prime lamb production with some cereal cropping. I’d been on the search for an old wood fired bake oven and a mutual friend remembered Greg’s at Glen Turret. The bake oven remains in what was the original kitchen but due to more urgent renovation priorities has yet to be recommissioned. However Greg was kind enough to take us for a walk around the beautiful old stone farm buildings.
The craftsmanship and aesthetic beauty given to the making of wool presses in times past never fails to impress given its work-horse utilitarian purpose. I can’t imagine industrial designers now would have the budget or industry demand to include artistry along with functionality in the designing of general manufacturing work-place machinery as they once did.
The stone walls of Greg’s shearing shed have lost their render due to many years of the hustle and bustle of hundreds of thousands of sheep creating a natural dado line. Above the sheep pens are rafters on which shearers names remain where their hammocks were strung in the warmth above the sheep for their night’s sleep. It’s difficult to imagine much rest given the heavy smell and health impact of ammonia in the air. However after blade shearing up to 8,000 sheep through 8 stands in a world where a shearer was lucky to get work and work health and occupational safety was many decades away they quite literally and brutally had no choice but to suck it up. Life quality and expectancy has since positively changed for the better.
The many outbuildings on Glen Turret were built over several years with varying functional needs that are now no longer in service. This small side building was built around 1927 to house a 32 volt free tower to generate power for the house. Once decommissioned, the large old square glass vessels that used to hold storage batteries were used by Greg’s grandfather to make dill cucumbers. Nothing went to waste.
The old barn was originally used as a coach house and horse stabling with additional machinery storage added on as the years and farming needs changed. Interestingly, some of the surviving 17 out of the 23 children of the Murray family left Glen Turret in the early 1900’s and traveled across to Western Australia to resettle in the Stirling Ranges taking the name Glen Turret with them.
Now that Saturday mornings are no longer the start of a marathon day in the Foragers kitchen and being within close proximity, I generally go to the farmers market. The Barossa Farmers‘ Market started in 2002 as a not-for-profit organisation to support small family farms providing fresh, regional and seasonal choices for the community. It trades every Saturday morning in the historic Yalumba Vintners Shed from 7:30am – 11:30am with a core of Barossa-based stallholders and additional producers from outside the region’s boundaries to provide greater diversity and service directly from the grower to the Barossa community.
On this particular week, along with their staple products of olive oil and dukkah, Tathra Homestead offered small bundles of fresh herbs, chillies, leafy greens and Jerusalem artichokes. I was delighted to see fresh French tarragon; one of my favourite herbs that’s not easily found quite likely because it’s not easily grown. A small treasure.
There is now only two wine producers left of the original early Barossa wine producers that remain family owned: Yalumba and Henschke Wines. Henschke’s Hill of Grace Shiraz has the reputation of being Australia’s most famous single vineyard wine. The vineyard was established at Parrot Hill in the Eden Valley (around 1860) by Nicolaus Stanitzki and has since been handed down through the generations to the Henschke family. Four generations worked the vineyard for a century before Cyril Henschke produced the first Hill of Grace Shiraz in 1958. This coincided with the centenary of the Gnadenberg Zion Lutheran Church that the Hill of Grace vineyard takes its name from. Wonderfully, this wine was shared as a village wine for more than 100 years. Although first produced in 1958, it took nearly 30 years before the Hill of Grace Shiraz became famous and recognised as a result of the hard work and dedication of Stephen and Prue Henschke.
The Gnadenberg and Gruenberg Lutheran Churches are in close proximity within the Moculta / Eden Valley area. As with all the Lutheran churches throughout the Valley, the organ was and remains integral to their services. Daniel Heinrich Lemke was the best known Barossa organ builder. He migrated from Germany to SA in 1853 and eventually found his way to work as a teacher in Gruenberg in 1860, building organs in his spare time. The teacher of a Lutheran day school was also expected to serve the church as musician and as he had the skill, ended up building an organ for the church that was installed in 1871 and still remains in use.
Just up from the Zion Lutheran Church in Gnadenberg on Parrot Hill, opposite the Hill of Grace vineyard are the ruins of Jacob Allert’s Home.
Typically built of Pug, a mixture of clay, sand and straw and local stone, this home was a church school and a place of worship from 1857 – 1864 and then served as the Parrots Hill Post Office and general store from 1866 to 1876. Today it stands as an abandoned memorial to those early colonial settlers.
Richard Cooper is a knife maker and a vet. He makes his knives from collected bits of scrap steel and wood in a very small workshop in an inner Adelaide suburb that I visited with my dear friend Fiona whose friendship I recently nearly lost. She has a canary-in-a-mine-shaft-like instinctive life force with a rare eye, hand and sensibility for a quiet, unassuming nostalgically beautiful kind of aesthetic richness in the natural and hand-forged worlds like no-one else I know. Very fortunately we’ve found our way back to each other and together we visited Richard to take a look at his knives branded Dog Boy Knives one recent Sunday morning. From one gifted maker of beautiful things and dog lover to another you can see how vitally important their hands are in their message delivery communication style.
Knives not only have to function but they have to just feel right in the hand, which often only comes after years of use. Dog Boy Knives have that rare feel at the beginning of their life, which I can only guess as not only being from Richard’s skill as a knife maker but the inherent age and beauty of the material from which they’re created. He makes to order but also offers a range of different sizes and shapes that he sells directly through his website and a few select retailers throughout Australia. Above is an old saw blade destined for knife-making and some steak knives which he’s made for high-end restaurants both here in Australia and internationally.
Quick pickling vegetables is something I often do when at the end of the week I’m bored with the same fresh vegies, still have too much of them in the fridge but want to buy different fresh veg at the farmers market on the weekend. Pickling also varies the way I try and eat more vegetables, which never seems to be enough in a day. They’re delicious alongside roast pork, silverside with all the trimmings, sausages, chicken or pork schnitzel or on a platter with hard mature cheese, ham and rye bread. The recipe can be found in the Cook > Meals > Platters section of this website.
Aside from being able to now go to a cafe, gallery or restaurant, my other go-to public place to spend time is at museums and the Barossa has quite a few. Having gone to primary school in the small settlement of Light Pass a few decades ago, Luhrs Cottage would’ve then been in a state of disrepair; unnoticeable by a kid on the bus. It was then owned by the Strait Gate Lutheran Church earmarked for demolition however saved by the Pastor’s wife who had a love of old things.
This cottage was built by Johann Heinrich Luhrs, the first Lutheran school teacher in Light Pass, soon after his marriage in 1846 to Anna Rosina Scholz at Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills. You scratch your head and wonder how, but they brought up their five children in this tiny four roomed house and where Johann farmed his 20 acres until his death in 1863. Donated funds from a past Light Pass resident made it possible for a full restoration in the early 1980’s and was filled with donated old wares and historic items. The Luhrs Cottage Preservation Society now maintains the property with volunteer support and was placed on the SA Heritage Trust in 1990.
There are old photos of family members on the wall with the rooms set up and filled with furniture and memorabilia. Outside there’s a smokehouse, a long drop dunny, a thatched open shed with old farm machinery and tools and what was the separate bake house with underground cellar storage.
The early German migrant women used heavy cast iron pots directly over the fire to prepare their meals, which meant meat was always braised rather than roasted as was commonly prepared by the English. Those tiny German women must’ve had incredibly strong wrists and arms as even empty these cast iron pots are seriously hefty. Being also strict disciplinarians I can imagine this fierce strength wouldn’t have bode too well for cheeky or daydreaming jungen and mädchen (boys and girls).
The local ironstone in the Barossa was not only used for buildings but for dry stone walling to contain stock. Hundreds of kilometres of these skillfully built interlocking walls of stone created without any mortar have survived up to 150 years and predicated to survive at least another 150 years.
These photos were taken of stone walling between Keyneton and Moculta in the beautiful north eastern corner of the Barossa Valley.
In a month filled with visits to places of historical significance, the last venture out was with a group of locals for an organised tour of the gardens and house at Anlaby Station. Anlaby is located about 14 km north of Kapunda and is Australia’s oldest merino stud that was settled in 1839 and then acquired in 1841 by Frederick Dutton whose substantial wealth was founded on wool. It’s now owned by Peter Hayward and Andrew Morphett who have financially invested and dedicated years of restorative work that the public can enjoy again through tours, bed & breakfast accommodation, special private events and their luxury wool blankets and throws produced from Anlaby merino wool.
The 35 room homestead was built in stages over several years with varying architectural and interior styling. The tour of the house included the principal rooms: the servants work rooms, kitchen, scullery and butler’s pantry, a view of the 5000 book library and drawing room with its original wallpaper and extraordinarily beautiful heavy ornate curtains woven with pure silver thread.
Garden ornaments old and new have been reinstated around the many sections of the extensive gardens that is home to the largest collection of significant trees on the National Trust register in Australia. Trees frame a three-story folly which is a water tower built so that they could pump water from a hand well up into the top of it which then provided water pressure back into the garden. They also had a piano in the bottom room so the ladies of the house could practice without disturbing anyone and where Squire Henry Dutton could sit at an overseeing height and watch tennis being played on the grass court.
Andrew led us through the formal gardens, which at its prime were tended by 14 full-time gardeners. This section is on the lower terrace that has a rose arbour through the centre which leads to the main terrace in front of the house.
Manicured and tended gardens including a walled vegetable garden, shade house, glasshouse and mushroom house were filled with an exotic plant species collection that was of the time and a great passion of the Dutton’s. Along with several other properties, they had a house in Adelaide, a house in London and an ocean-going steamship, fully crewed that they would travel on together with the head gardener around Australia and to Japan to indulge their desire for collecting rare plants.
The Apple house was logically situated in the fruit orchards and was recently restored with new central beams and verandah posts. It was built with pine lining and double walls for cooling with left-over tiles from Marseille in France from the Homestead roof to store the season’s harvest.
Pavillion-like with separate wings, entrances and exits of the main house have changed over the years with five generations of the Dutton family each adding their own touch.
The Manor House, the original Manager’s and Accountant’s offices was one of the first residences on the historic Anlaby station property to be refurbished and made available for short stays.
Apart from clapping eyes on what I generally think of as lovely stuff, spending time in places and with things of the past seems to help steady and make sense of the present. However unlike the Anlaby tour with Andrew who brought a snapshot of its history and that era alive through stories and his personal connection; museums and colonial history is most often displayed and delivered through a boring series of chronological facts that have no connection to the way we live now.
This seems the absolute opposite of the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. A living timeless passing on of indigenous cultural origins and knowledge through legends and stories expressed in art, ceremony and songs that connect, have relevance and equal importance to life today as it did in times past.
Surely we can find and tell our own stories of origin and place in a far richer, honest, inclusive and more engaging way so that these stories of who we are don’t get Barossa-boxed off and only dusted off and brought out on show days when we wish to authenticate a certain version of ourselves and look our nostalgic Sunday best.
Time to find or light another bonfire and stop watching the bloody news.