Where in the World Is Ratho Farm? Part 2: The Road To Ouse

I’m calling this “Where in the World is Ratho Farm” Part Two, because my inaugural blog post gave the basic location, and that of Tasmania as well, since many Americans aren’t that swell at non-US geography. Dozens who I talked with on my Southern Food Road Tour about my trip didn’t know it’s an island off the southeast coast of Australia,

and also one of the country’s six states. (Most common bad guess: “in Africa”)

But where it is on a map doesn’t really tell the story of Ratho Farm, and why its corner of the world is such compelling a place that a non-trivial number of people go there on vacation and find themselves scrambling around looking to make an extended return trip. Just in the eight weeks I was there, I met several people in Tasmania who had quit lucrative jobs, re-located their businesses or otherwise re-shuffled their lives just to be there, and at least for two months I was one of them.

I stopped doing what I had been doing (director of content at a PR firm) and started doing other things entirely. Some of them I had been meaning to get back to…for the first time in maybe 15 years, I found myself writing poetry again, inspired by the sweeping big-sky landscape in general, the heart-stopper night sky; all the peculiar animals and unfamiliar bird symphonies.

Writing poetry was one of the things I hadn’t necessarily planned on doing when I was planning this two-month cooking-travel-writing blog project. (Neither was grocery shopping, which I did an extensive amount of.) And while I definitely planned to play golf, I hadn’t planned to become obsessed with it. Here’s what I thought I’d be doing versus what I did:

Screenshot 2017-04-16 11.32.10

Screenshot 2017-04-16 11.32.49

Almost all of the 7 percent of my time I spent birdwatching was on a single dirt road, which connects Bothwell, the tiny town of 391 people where Ratho Farm is located andDSC02067 another small town, Ouse, pop. 368. The first time I took the road was by mistake, and I nearly launched off a cliff driving what, it turned out, was a bit too fast on gravel. But I traced the 50-minute length of the Ouse road at least twice a week after that, because it was both spectacularly beautiful and super bird-y, traversing a wide variety of habitats.

There are shallow and deep ponds, a dammed lake, a cat-tailed swampy area, and numerous perches for raptors to launch their sweeping attacks. Like me, they are attracted to the gnarled and whitened bones of trees that seem to be everywhere in the highlands. Nearer Ouse, the ag-irrigated ground is greener and lush taller trees harbor parrots and cockatoos. I have no idea how many times I tried to photograph the landscape, but I never really felt like I captured how grand it all was. But until I can get back there and give it another go, here’s a little slideshow of the Road to Ouse, and below it a poem it inspired!

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The Road to Ouse

I found myself on the road to Ouse.

Over and over I pressed the limits

of tread and gravel, cliff to the right,

rockface left.

I found a sheep, not like the lost ones,

who press the exterior of their fences,

trying to get back in. This sheep had

gone rogue.

Most sheep scattered at my careening

approach; this one merely looked on from

some high weeds, far from any fence,

serenely unpenned.

I promise the next post I’ll get back to writing about food and recipes: Coming up: Biscuit and Cornbread Apricot Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce, and also Brewer’s Bread, which I made from the spent mash given to me by Peter Bignell, rye wizard and owner at Belgrove Distillery. I kind of had to make that one up but it actually turned out pretty awesome, mostly because of all the unusual flavors and textures added by the mash, along with some residual yeast!

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