The Winter of Our Content

As June creeps toward winter solstice and the day’s light compresses at both ends, I consider the good fortune we have had to date. No ‘wrathful nipping cold’ or visits from ‘the secret ministry of frost’ so far. No howling winds straight from Antarctica, winds that rattle the rafters and provoke dark insanity. The Black Dog month of August is still a distant thought. No long, damp windless weeks where the fog refuses to lift and the cold wet air rising from the Diamond Creek invades old bones. No, we have been lucky so far.

Oak Trees along the driveway slowly shed their leaves.
Oak Trees along the driveway slowly shed their leaves.

I do really like many aspects of winter, the guiltless indulgence of reading in a sunny window or collecting kindling for slow combustion fires.  Or looking forward to watching a repeat of a Danish Drama Series in front of the fire, cosy hand knitted blankets strewn about for extra warmth. Big bowls of soup, puddings and cream, parsnips and swedes, slow cooked Indian black lentils, smokey chowder and good bread. Baking. There is a lot to like.

Only in winter, the little red robin visits.
Only in winter, the little Scarlet Robin visits.

Only in winter does the tiny Red- capped Robin flit about the garden, its shocking red breast startling those behind glass windows. The Petroicidae are not closely related to either the European or American robins although they do go by the familiar name of red robin.

King Parrots
King Parrots

The King Parrots have remembered us, encouraged by a handful of sunflower seeds on a ledge. Sociable and noisy, they don’t mind you getting close.

Mother Kangaroo and Joey
Mother Kangaroo and Joey

Unlike the King parrots, the kangas keep a respectable distance, even though this young grey kangaroo appears to be posing with her joey for the shot. The birds and kangaroos draw us outside. On clement winter days, when the sun lights up the back paddocks, the kangas behave just like humans and enjoy sunbaking. My winter pastie dreaming finally came to fruition, thanks to Beck who, with this link, inspired a Cornish method of making pastry. Only in winter do these deep cultural yearnings for pasties resurface, like a Cornish miner returning from the tin mines.

Vegetarian Cornish Pasties.
Vegetarian Cornish Pasties.

Cornish pasties are not supposed to contain carrots, must be D-shaped and be filled within Cornwall, according to an EU document! I’m thinking about Mr Tranquillo’s great great-grandfather who died down one of those Cornish tin mines. He probably took a pastie to work. So, bad luck Cornish cousins, mine have carrots, no meat, are filled in Australia but are crimped and taste pretty good. Winter is a time to make Crostata. There is always plenty of jam to use up. A little sweet hit goes down well after wood gathering or fencing. Crostata with Mirabella Plum Jam and Almonds Salads of young winter leaves and herbs make a refreshing contrast to heavy winter dishes.

Winter Herbs and Leaves,
Winter Herbs and Salad Leaves.

A winter’s hearth is a great spot for warming rolled out pizza dough, then eating the lovely thing by the fire.

Pizza on the Hearth
Pizza on the Hearth

44 thoughts on “The Winter of Our Content”

  1. Francesca, I love winter. The summers here are so long, hot and dry. I long for the cold wet days. I also love the fact that it is too cold to go out before 10 and after 5 so that means many hours inside doing just what I like. I hate spring because that means summer is on its way. My favourite season is autumn as it preempts: milder days, green paddocks and growth. It is the opposite to those in colder climates where spring means all those things.

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  2. Last weekend my husband said to me, “When we are in SA next week the thing I want to eat is a pastie.” He has modest goals. What a lovely, relaxed post–feels like I’ve just had a visit to your house, except that my tummy is still rumbling and I’m sure it wouldn’t be at your place! Thank you for the very interesting photos and for the new profile photo too, very nice. xx

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    1. A pastie, a good one, is an ambitious goal. I know you can’t eat these Ardys and I also find most of the bakery numbers hard to digest. Yes a photo at last, taken by my 8 year old granddaughter. I’ll try for a happier mug shot next time and try to find an iron to squash out a few wrinkles.

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  3. What is not to love about all of this winter goodness? I love the salad photo…very artistic! Are they guinea fowl in the paddock near your driveway? What a beautiful driveway. It is funny, I am drafting a post right at the moment about being grateful for winter. Perhaps it is because the solstice is almost upon us?

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  4. So much here to comment, but I’ll keep it as short as possible. First, let me say that your new icon is fabulous, but I will miss the Hand of Fatima door knocker! I was also struck by your “dark dog days of August” – dog days always conjure up hot, sweltering, almost unbearable days under the sun, but it never occurred to me that the expression would take on a new meaning in the Southern hemisphere. Are the Sirius stars in the Southern sky at this time? You know, the Romans believed it to be evil times, times of bad luck. Also, love your wildlife. I only seem to attract neighbouring cats and chattering magpies (the two not unrelated). I love oak trees in winter; the cling to their leaves and rustle in the wind. And, finally, have to remark on your Cornish pasties – yum! Despite what is beginning to be our summer (slightly warm and humid), I may make more of these brilliant pastries. They freeze well, too!

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    1. I miss the old hand icon too but thought I should ‘come out’ , though the pic is a little dodgy and grumpy but I will attempt to find a more cheerful one. Hard work accepting one’s mug on the page.
      The Black Dog month of August was a direct reference to depression. At the end of winter when low light continues to affect our moods, the Black Dog is inclined to visit. So the reference is about Winter and mood change. Not sure about the stars in the southern sky at this time of the year.
      The Cornish pastie fantasy has been going on for some time. We hoovered the first batch in one day so another version will make an appearance next month.
      We live in a green wedge zoned area, and so attract a lot of wildflife. Although only 50kms from Melbourne, the bush here is protected and subdivisions are limited to 20 acres with Council restrictions on clearing existing bush.
      Thanks for your delightful comments as always Debi.

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  5. Well hello! Nice to see your face at long last, a totally different visage to the image I had in my head!! I adore homemade pasties and will indulge myself despite the consequences I will suffer. It’s been a wet week in Brissy but today was glorious!

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    1. Oh you’re up there already! I bet Leah likes having you around. The weather turned mean yesterday and my knees began to feel it, even though the house is warm. So we are heading up to Cairns next week and doing a road trip down the coast to Coolangatta over a month. See how Australian coastal travel goes! I have some concerns.

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      1. Only here until the weekend, back in September for 12mths plus! Enjoy the road trip along the coast. There seem to be loads of older Victorians in caravans heading north, much much older than you!

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  6. The delights of winter sensations described beautifully. Stop tempting me with pasties!!! Oh my, I really want one now. Interesting comment about the king parrots remembering you, we are sure the ones in our garden now are the same ones that visited us at the old house (2 streets away). We do feed them and I just love having all the native birds that visit. What a pretty little robin and I might just go and whip up a pizza. Nice photo of you too! Somehow I’d imagined you with dark hair 🙂

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    1. Everyone says the same thing. A word association with francesca and things Italian maybe? My background is strongly Celtic, but I am Almost Italian through association and language. May have to find a better mug shot.

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  7. Your opening paragraph is so evocative. Absolutely beautiful words and photos. I hope the August Black Dog stays far away from your doors. (Growing up in Melbourne I am well familiar with that beast. )

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  8. Hello Francesca! A pic of you .. fantastic! Oh I love all your photos .. just glorious. The food dishes look amazing as do the salad leaves. And that roo, oh my a baby on board. So far our weather in Akl hasn’t been too bad either .. I must stop holding my breath. Your writing is wonderful Miss .. feels like I’m there with you. And you know what, that would be fabulous! 😀

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    1. Thanks Julie. The pic of me was the least awful of a bad lot. I usually bang the delete button on most of them. Maybe it was because it was taken by an 8 year old after we had spent the day at the Australian Ballet? Anyway, I’ll get her to take another 700 and see if I can get a happy one. I
      It would be fab if you were here Julie, we could sneak off to the Panton Hill Hotel for lunch!

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  9. For us also a little further north it has been also been a pleasant winter, although a little rainy now and you’ve expressed it so beautifully.
    We’ve too been enjoying the seasonal change of food, and wardrobe. In my winter wardrobe of jeans, boots, flannies and Uggs I feel like the real me.
    I embraced winter food with gusto but had to lighten it us with salads & leaves or I get green withdrawals.
    Your photos and new pic are wonderful, so Australian winter and I love the furred and feathered ones. After seeing an earlier post pic of your daughter, who looks similar to me, I see you do too 🙂

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    1. Glad that the winter is still gentle for you to Ella. I keep thinking about lovely Ugg boots but I’m scared I would trash them, forgetting to take them off when ducking outside for some herbs or something.
      We must all have a huge dose of Celtic!

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