Fonty’s, Fruits, Truffles & more

We are now staying at Fonty’s Pool just out of Manjimup, a significant fruit growing region of Western Australia. Everywhere we drive orchards can be seen growing apples, pears, stone fruits, cherries and berries. The area around Manjimup and Pemberton has the largest avocado farm in the Southern Hemisphere, an enormous strawberry farm supplying 40 percent of Coles’ Australian market and the wine industry is proving the area has the perfect climatic requirements for growing grapes.

Fonty’s Pool was itself once an orchard. The farm was established by Archimedes (Archie) Fontanini, who migrated from Giangugnana in the Provence of Lucca, Italy, in the early 1900’s. Over the years Archie dammed the creek to create a swimming pool for this family and friends to enjoy over the summer months. Archie’s descendants still farm the land around the Pool, but today Fonty’s Pool is privately owned and run as a caravan park and swimming pool for locals to visit. The grounds are beautifully maintained and it is a very popular stopover for caravaners and campers.

Whilst we were in the area we decided we couldn’t go past a lunch at The Truffle and Wine Co. We both enjoyed the Mushroom and Mascarpone Black Truffle Risotto accompanied with freshly baked Baguette and Truffle Butter and a bottle of Fume Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. Very nice indeed. The farm is the largest truffière in the Southern Hemisphere and was established in 1997. Their first truffles were harvested in 2003 and today supply their Black Winter Truffles to distributors around the world.

A river cruise 12km down the Donnelly River to the Southern Ocean provided us with a look at how the area is recovering after the bush fire back in 2011. Many of the fallen trees are still visible along the banks but the regrowth recovery has bought back wildlife to the area – both on land and the water birds as well.

The region, known as the Southern Forests, is home to the giant Karri trees. The nearby Diamond Tree (52 metres), The Dave Evans Dicentennial Tree (75 metres) and the Gloucester Tree (52 Metres) are all climbable trees that over the years have been used a fire lookouts. Each has a platform in the upper canopy which was used by fire fighters to locate smoke and flames. Today they are open for visitors to climb – if you have a head for heights.

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Albany Highlights

We have been visiting Albany for a few days and are surprised at how much it has changed since our last visit about 10 years ago. From a tourists point of view it has changed for the better – with the ANZAC Centre showcasing the historical significance of Albany during WW1 and the amazing structural engineering of the platform at The Gap.

Albany has some interesting sights in and around the city. Here is just a quick look at our time here. The beautiful harbour, the lovely old buildings and gardens, Dog Rock and The Amity are all tourist highlights.

Old Strawberry Farm was established in 1827 and is thought to be the first farm established in Western Australia when Europeans arrived in Albany’s King George Sound. The main building and gardens have been beautifully maintained.

The Gap offers an amazing view of the Southern Ocean from the overhanging platform 40 metres above the surging ocean below. The structural engineering of the suspended platform means visitors can walk out over the ocean and feel the energy of the water below. The Natural Bridge is nearby and highlights the power of the surging seas in eroding the rocks to create the bridge.

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The National ANZAC Centre was opened in 2014 to commemorate the departure of 41,000 men and women from the Albany harbour bound for Europe and the Great War. They centre has visual displays but is also offers state of the art technogy to guide you through the centre.

The views around King George Sound are very pretty.

It was nice to be back and the weather wasn’t too bad either.

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The Granite Skywalk

The Granite Skywalk in the Porongurup National Park, north of Albany, proved to be a pretty tough walk today. Although only 570 metres in elevation the walk is not for the faint hearted. The 2.2km walk is uphill all the way…climbing over rocks, through crevices, up a section that only has pegs/handles in the rocks to pull yourself up to scramble over the rocky formations and then up a ladder to finally get to the skywalk…it was hard work! Fortunately is was a lovely cool day but unfortunately the 360 degree views were a little hazy as you will see in the photo’s.

We passed karri, jarrah and red gum trees and the wildflowers were still flowering.

On the way home we stopped at Monderup Street Reserve in Mt Barker to see these lovely orchids and wildflowers.

It is a great time to be in the south of Western Australia.

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Bremer Bay

We are in Bremer Bay and I decided to go on a wildflower tour out at Tozer’s Bush Camp, a 700 acre property of natural beauty.

Wildflowers are one thing we always have a “stop the car” moment for. While I quickly rush out and take the photo, Jim patiently sits in the car gazing off into the horizon – again.

The tour is guided by Jeni, a botanist, who was very knowledgeable and such a delightful person.  We spent two hours in the morning, then had our lunch, followed by another two and a half hours enjoying the beauty of the Aussie bush.  We had to contend with intermittent showers and it was quite windy so taking photos was a challenge.

At this time of year the orchids are nearly done but we did manage to find some lovely specimens. Jeni had us out looking for any new sightings that could be added to their next tour.

The diversity of flowers was astounding. Here are just a few for you to see.

I would certainly recommend the tour to anyone in the area when the wildflowers are putting on their display.

 

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Lake Towerrinning

It has been a while since our last caravan trip (actually it was over to Melbourne for the Footy Grand Final at the end of September in 2015) so we were very pleased to be on the road again.

Although we only have 3 weeks to get out and enjoy our break from the garden we are making the most of the somewhat unpredictable weather at the moment.  We have packed our books, a couple of DVD’s we have had for a while but not yet watched and I have my sewing to be going on with.

Our first stop was Lake Towerrinning, a semi-freshwater lake north-west of Kojonup.  The first day was fine and 29 deg. C when we set up but the forecast is not great for the next couple of days.

The Lakeside Camping Ground is on the south side of the 256 hectare lake which is on a working farm.  It has powered and unpowered sites, toilets and showers but no drinking water for campers.   Is very popular with water skiing, kayaking and the sandy beaches make it a family friendly inland swimming destination.  It is school holidays here so it was quite busy with ski boats thundering past with kids on skis, tubes and knee boards, all screaming with excitement.  I would imagine it is a little quieter outside of holidays and weekends.

Next we are off to Bremer Bay for about 5 days.  Hopefully we get some reasonably good weather down there.

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Our First Produce

After months of waiting to pick some of our produce we have finally started to reap the rewards of growing our own veges.  There have been a few challenges along the way; the snails loved our new seedlings, the parrots will try anything and weevils are munching the leaves on our fruit trees.

But, we are now eating our carrots and potatoes and today we made our first batch of beetroot relish.

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We are eagerly awaiting the snow peas, onions, garlic, blueberries, raspberries and tomatoes to grow and ripen.  The herb garden is also starting to show signs of growth as the days get a little warmer.

New shoots have started to appear on our small shrubs and some are even displaying their first flowers.


We have planted lawn runners and can’t wait for them to cover the ground – it will help keep the sand under control and give a nice contrast to the garden.

Posted in Cowaramup, Margaret River, Our Place | 17 Comments

Our new beginning

Blog posts have been few and far between over the past twelve months as we organised the next phase of our life. We have made the move from Margaret River to Cowaramup, 12km to the north, where we have built our new home, moved in, and are now organising the garden on our 2000 sqm block.

We have gone from this…

…to this over the past year.

Our aim is to grow as much fruit and veges as practical so getting this part of the garden organised has been a priority. So far we have planted lemon, lime, blood orange, olives, pomegranate, avocado, strawberry guava and fig trees and have started the vege patch.

It has been a very time consuming phase and apart from finishing off the garden we are pretty much organised and are looking forward to getting out and about again.

Posted in Cowaramup, Margaret River, Our Place | 37 Comments

Learn Italian in Bagni di Lucca

If you are looking for the experience of a lifetime and would love to go to Italy and the beautiful region of Bagni di Lucca in Tuscany to learn Italian, then this post by our friend Debra could be what you are looking for. If you need any information I would be very happy to help guide you in the right direction.

Bella Bagni di Lucca

Laura Poggi, from the gorgeous Casa Tolomei in Via Umberto I in La Villa, is starting a small language school. She and her family have many years of experience and Laura is keen to start a new venture in Bagni di Lucca.

In a previous post I wrote about the amazing transformation Laura and her husband Andy have achieved in the house where Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning spent a couple of summers in the 19th century.  They bought it 5 years ago and have brought the beautiful house back to life. See the posthere.

Work continues, but a couple of rooms are now available to rent and Laura can turn her attention to Italian lessons. This beautiful room will be for small groups. Larger groups will be in another part of the house.

It is possible to have one on one lessions with Laura, or to be part…

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Pizza Night

Every Friday evening the Colonial Brewery, just out of Margaret River, has a $10 Pizza Night. They are great value and very good pizza. If you are not a pizza lover you can order other delights from their regular menu.

The building housing the brewery is very impressive and takes advantage of their wonderful view. All their beers are made on the premises and are free of preservatives.

Taking in the view over the lake while you dine is lovely.

The seafood and vegetarian pizza were good.  We have tried other flavours but unfortunately they were eaten before I remembered to take a photo.

Their vege garden grows a lovely range of fresh produce for use in their kitchen.

It is a very popular venue for families and the kids playground is always a hive of activity with kids of all ages enjoying themselves.

It is a great evening out, with a DJ to set the mood, and sometimes they have a guest artist providing live entertainment.

http://www.colonialbrewingco.com.au

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VW Club

The Volkswagon Club of WA attracted a good crowd today; happily displaying their ‘pride and joys’.

In Margaret River for their 5th Vee Bubs at Margaret River Camping and Cruise Weekend they had a Show & Shine in Reuther Park this morning.

Fortunately it wasn’t raining so windows and doors were opened for us to closer inspect the cars.

The Kombies were the most popular on show and many had been converted to campers. Others are still in the need of some TLC.

The Beetles were very specky.

As were the Squarebacks.

It makes our VW seem pretty boring really.

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The Orchids Are Late This Year

With the late arrival of the warmer days down here in the south west the orchids are now in full bloom.

Frieds suggested a couple of places to visit to take photos of the beautiful orchids and here is a look at just some of the ones we photographed. Thank you for showing me your secret orchid spot. Cowslips, Purple Enamel Orchids, Rattle Beaks, Reaching Spider Orchids, Fringed Lily, Trigger plants and others, I aren’t sure of the names of, were all out today.

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‘Wine for Dudes’

Today we become tourists in our own town and joined a wine tour to see what visitors get to enjoy when they come to Margaret River.

Our first stop was McHenry Hohnen Winery, a bio-dynamic vineyard established in 2004 by David Hohnen, who originally established Cape Mentelle in Margaret River and Cloudy Bay in New Zealand, which both became world renowned wineries and Murray McHenry a prominent WA wine merchant and hotelier.  Their winery uses ‘old world’ techniques and biological practices.  The vines are hand-picked and wild fermented giving their wines a unique flavour.  The also produce small goods in their butchers smokehouse on the farm.

It was then on to Olio Bello, a certified organic food producer and sustainable olive grove producing extra virgin olive oils.  They also produce a range of flavoured and infused oils and condiments, as well as beauty products.

The wine tasting at Hay Shed Hill, like most wineries in the region, was predominantly  Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, followed by a pizza and salad lunch at Rustico.

The next stop was well timed at Gabriel Chocolate where we tasted their hand produced chocolate and just had to test their icecream as well.  I can report both very very good.

House of Cards Winery is a single vineyard producer, with the young owners being very hands-on in all aspects of the vintage.  Making a good range of red and white wines it was another enjoyable visit.

Last winery of the day was Brygon Reserve Wines who opened in 2009 and are highly rated by James Halliday and Ray Jordan – leading Australian and Western Australian wine critics, respectively.

A refreshing ‘cleansing ale’ at Colonial Brewery finished the day off nicely.

Thanks John, we really enjoyed your Wines for Dudes tour.

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http://www.winefordudes.com.au/

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Wildflowers

Finally the weather has started to improve in the south west of WA and we are getting some warmer dry weather. It has been cold and wet for what seems like an eternity.

The wildflowers have been out for months but because it has been so miserable I think the orchids have been too afraid to pop out of the ground, but I finally got to see one, only one, this weekend.  Quite a few varieties grow in the area so hopefully next year I will get to see some more.

Many of the other flowers are nearing the end of the season, but still worth a stroll through the forest to enjoy what is in bloom.

All these delicate little flowers were within a few hundred metres. The variety of colours and shapes are part of natures beauty.

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It’s Show Time

The annual Margaret River Agricultural Show was held this weekend.

In the main pavilion the displays were out ready for everyone to admire.

I was fortunate enough to win ‘Best of Show’ in the patchwork and quilting section.  This quilt was made quite a while ago but this year’s theme was circles and curves so it fitted well into the theme.

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I also entered this quilt and collected another ribbon ‘the Patron’s Trophy’.  I must say I was ‘tickled pink’ with the awards.

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And take a look at some of the other quilts entered.  The second photo here won ‘Viewers Choice’.

Here is a sample of just some of the cakes, garden produce, flowers, photography, arts, crafts, textiles and the kids Lego creations.

Outside the displays and activities drew in the crowds.

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Northampton Airing of the Quilts

As the clouds threatened and the wind picked-up the quilts were hung along the shops and vantage points for the 20th annual Airing of the Quilts in Northampton.  The great hope from everyone involved that the rain would stay away for a while unfortunately didn’t eventuate, and the rain started shortly after.

This event usually brings thousands of visitors to Northampton to see the wonderful quilts by local quilt makers who proudly ‘air their quilts’ for visitors to admire.

We managed to take a few photos before the rain arrived.

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Local artist Helen Reynolds was this year’s featured artist.  Helen’s georgous quilts and very colourful textile artworks were on display…well out of the rain.   Helen recently won the 2016 Bunbury International Quilt Challenge with her piece titled There’s a Fairy in My Garden.  Unfortunately my photo of the winning piece didn’t work through the glass window.

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With any luck the rain will ease off for a while and the quilts will be out for everyone to enjoy.

Many other activities and events are part of the festival but as the weather closed in I decided to take cover.  I will have to come back next year to enjoy all the days offerings.

 

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Tadpole Creek Garden

Today was a glorious spring day here in Margaret River and thanks to the hospitality of keen gardener Paula Cristoffanini we had somewhere to enjoy the afternoon.

Paula opened her garden “Tadpole Creek Garden” to the public today as a means to raise some funds for local cancer charity River Angels.

What was once a paddock is now a wonderful garden…and in such a short time. Paula has chosen plants that flower with vibrant colours in the yellow, orange and red palate with highlights of purple. Her Mediterranean style garden features plants that are water-wise and natives that need little care but are also happy to the trimmed and shaped.  Although not a lot of blooms were on display today you could feel spring was in the air and it showed how a well designed garden still has so much to offer in any season.

Another feature of the garden was Paula’s artistic flare in producing works of garden art that bring joy and creativity to the landscape.

Take a look at what we saw today!  Paula was there to give us all the information on her garden and share as much of her knowledge as possible.

Entry to the garden is down a lovely driveway, weaving its way to where the garden opens up into view.

Then it was time to explore. The birds were out enjoying the day as well.

Thank you to Paula for making her beautiful garden available for the public to view and we look forward to visiting again.

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A Few Stats on the Size of Western Australia

This is an interesting blog on the stats of WA. Thanks for the info “Itching for Hitching”.

itchingforhitching

It’s not until you decide to drive Western Australia from top to bottom that you realise how really large it is. It takes days to drive across the Pilbara region. From the coast at Exmouth to the town of Tom Price took us two days and we didn’t sight a town only the gates of cattle stations.

According to Wikipedia statistics, if the state of Western Australia was a country it would be the tenth largest in the world.The road distance from Augusta in the south to Kununurra in the north is 3512kms. Which is a lot further than Los Angeles to New York 2789kms or Paris to Moscow 2834kms.

Western Australia has a population of 2.6 million, 11% of the national population*. *Wikipedia
Mainland Australia is 7,659,861 square kilometres

WA 2,526,786 (33%) (includes Pilbara 502,000 (6.53%), Kimberley 423,517 (5.51%))

Queensland, QLD 1,723,936 (22.5%)

Northern Territory, NT 1,335,742 (17.5%)

South…

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Tourists in Perth

It has been years since we spent any time in the city, so on a recent trip we decided to stay in Perth’s centre and have a look around.  We haven’t lived in Perth for five and a half years; the skyline has certainly changed and the new  Elizabeth Quay is progressing into a very impressive development on the Swan River.

The view of the city and river from up at Kings Park is gorgeous on a lovely winters day.

Even though there has been quite a few new skyscrapers built across the city it is lovely to see that many of the original buildings have been preserved.

Around the city there are some interesting sights.  We were out and about in the early morning before the city started to fill with cars, workers and shoppers.

The trees are changing colour.

On the walls in Prince Lane in the fashion wholesale and manufacturing area of the city, murals reflect the history of the fashion district.

Elizabeth Quay is Perth’s newest development and is planned with tourist, residential, office and commercial facilities taking in views up and down the Swan River.

Although it has been a brief visit we have been surprised by how many changes there have been in Perth….nice to see the city continuing to develop and feel so alive.  The reputation of the city being a quiet and dull little place has certainly gone as far as we are concerned.

Posted in Margaret River, Perth | 7 Comments

New Beginnings

We originally decided to come to Margaret River and rent for a while just to make sure we were happy with the area and all it had to offer us in retirement.  Well, I am pleased to say that we have settled in very nicely down here and so begins the next phase of our journey.

We have purchased a block in the nearby small town of Cowaramup – only 10 km from Margaret River – and are getting ready to start the building process.  Hopefully they will be starting the earthworks in the next couple of weeks and we hope to be in our new home by Easter next year, if all goes well.

The block is 2,000 sqm so it will have plenty of room for the caravan shed, vege patch, fruit trees and maybe some chickens.

This is the entrance to the block.

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And here is the view from the back of the block looking north.

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We have a lovely little winter creek over the road which is a haven for birds and frogs.

This morning we planted our first lot of native shrubs just before the rain came through to give them a water.

Looking forward to getting started on the house and hope the weather doesn’t hold us up at the start of this new venture.

Posted in Cowaramup, Margaret River | Tagged | 22 Comments

What a difference a year makes

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Originally posted on Bagni di Lucca and Beyond:
Last year at Casa Debbio we decided to plant a new garden on the terrace below the house. We had some pine trees removed, which has allowed a walnut tree and a…

Gallery | 4 Comments