Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our Home Away from Home Down Under

The view from our back porch
Heading back to the Hunter Valley once we left Sydney, felt a bit like going “home.” For the past two years, we have lived in a large share house on the Tyrrell’s Wines family estate, called Weinkeller, that is reserved for harvest casuals. The house is surrounded by vineyards, horse, cattle and kangaroo pastures, bush and mountains. It's an incredibly idyllic setting. Our housemates are comprised
Beating the heat
of a hodge podge of young people from all around Australia and the world, who come together for two - three months to crush grapes, make some wine, work hard and play hard (sometimes harder).


Being the first two of three to arrive, we claimed one of the good rooms (i.e., one with an aircon) and bounced from mattress to
Unwelcome houseguest in the sink
mattress, to see which one was the best. We spent two days cleaning (the house had been uninhabited for about 8 months) and getting reacquainted with the massive, but "harmless", spiders that Australia is known for. After a jump from one of our housemates, my trusty old ’95 Camry that I’ve driven right around Australia,
Belly rubbing distracts Bunny from his recent kill (lower left)
was up and running, again. And gradually, the semi-feral cat we adopted last year (and named "Bunny", due to his talent for killing bunnies and delicately placing them in the kitchen) warmed up to us, and we had a "pet", again. We stocked our cupboards with a weeks worth of meals and snacks, not something we have been able to do lately given our food storage capacity on the bikes. I wonder if we’ll miss our daily visits to the shop. Don’t think so. 

More neighbors

Full house for dinner
And slowly, the house filled up… two French girls, Anais and Fanny, who are working in the vineyard, returned from their holiday trip to Melbourne. A guy Roel has worked with for the past couple of years, Josh, drove up from his family winery in Victoria to work the Hunter Valley harvest before going home to harvest his family’s vineyard. Kaz, an Australian who is studying winemaking, along with Lucas,
Showing friends visiting from Italy around our backyard
another Aussie, moved in from their parents’ homes just down the road. South African Jacques made his way over from Western Australia where he had been working/living with his Australian partner, Tegan. And eventually, another French couple, Mark and Juliet, arrived fresh off of a tour through Southeast Asia. 

With nothing to do but cook, drink and enjoy sleep-ins while
Not sure we have enough wine...
waiting for harvest to begin, the atmosphere around the house has been fantastic. We share large group dinners, routinely pick through boxes of wine that are brought up to the house for us and swap travel and wine stories. The French girls have helped me perfect my b├ęchamel sauce and will occasionally prepare
Oeufs en Meurette
Burgundian specialities for us, such as "Oeufs en Meurette" (poached eggs served in a mushroom and red wine reduction sauce, with toast). And if I don’t lose any weight this vintage, it’s thanks to Anais’s beignets! YUMMMM. 

Who was on 'dish duty', again?
Fun, yes. But if you counted the number of people living in this house, you might question how this will all work out. Especially when you consider that we all share one bathroom and one kitchen (without a dishwasher). Hmmmmmm...

Another neighbor

I have a feeling that as much as Roel and I are enjoying sleeping in a bed, having a freezer (YAY for ice cream) and an oven, it won’t be long before we’re missing our tent.