Windsong Wines

Conversations At The Creek

Crepuscular

June 11, 2012, 10:38 am by Heather Webster

Crepuscular is a satisfying word – mysterious and complex like a good wine. Both deserve exploration and time. Times of low light, dawn and dusk, are the times of intrigue and seduction. These are times when hope is in the air and, in the half shadows; a glimpse is more exciting than revelation.
 
I think of lives lived in the crepuscular fringes of day and night, in the water below the bright surface and in the dimness of cave edges. Shielded from the pressure of dominant species, these places and times of half-light and half-dark encourage experimentation and favour clever innovation. Lives are crafted from being able to use a new pigment, from skittering confidently though the shadows, a sharpness of eye or a biochemical novelty.
 
Rabbits’ soft colours confuse sight predators, the specialised eyes of owls see the fluorescence of mouse urine in the dark, seaweeds and diatoms have specialised pigments to allow photosynthesis under low light. Wombats use the blackness of their burrows to escape the heat and feed on roots, only emerging in the relative brightness of twilight. Living on the edge and innovating are ways to keep ahead of the competition.
 
Crepuscular, it is satisfying indeed, both in mouth feel and intellectual curiosity. The slightly odd word and the slightly odd lives touch a chord for me. And, I like the way words like this conjure thought pathways and make stories, which transform what we see, and the way we think.

 

Heather Webster, writer, Langhorne Creek grape grower, community advocate, red wine lover and commentator on things that matter in life.

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Rainbows and Stormclouds

June 9, 2012, 8:30 pm by Heather Webster

As I crested Scrubby Hill while driving home yesterday, the stormy sky formed a dramatic black backdrop for a steeply arched rainbow and a foreground of bright sun. Against this beauty, I was listening to an interview about public anger and the mood of entitlement.

Australians all benefit from a stable economy and the democratisation of wealth. This, together with universal health care has delivered us the longest expected life span and highest level of material comfort of any group of people at any time in history. Universal literacy and violence-free political debates are taken for granted to the point of apathy. It’s a rare and good space to be in.

Yet against the bright sun and occasional rainbows of these achievements, many complain angrily about a multitude of impossible things we apparently expect from government. The federal government is somehow responsible for global interest rates and the poor behavior of multi-national corporations. State and local governments are apparently responsible for poor parenting, bad student behavior, people building in unsuitable locations and most other ills.

We are responsible for giving governments a clear a mandate for what we want, and understanding the costs of those demands. Let’s save our complaints for things that our governments CAN control and take personal or community responsibility for the rest. Public debate needs to be informed not just random moaning and unrealistic expectations, otherwise its just miserable fiction.

Now about my road…

 

Heather Webster, writer, Langhorne Creek grape grower, community advocate, red wine lover and commentator on things that matter in life.

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Dragon Clouds

June 6, 2012, 1:53 pm by Heather Webster

The sky is full of dragons today. Wild shape-changing forms chase across the sky, forming and reforming – rolling and attenuating in kaleidoscopes of white upon white. Their cold colours; white, grey and washed out blue, belie their closeness to the sun. Our doona of air molecules holds in the sun’s warmth, stopping it re-radiating into endless cold space.
Air, and the water vapour in it, is a restless thing as the earth rotates and shows different faces to the sun. And cold air, like cold people, behaves differently from warm. So as water vapour and droplets rise and fall, they condense or evaporate in their restless dance across the sky, making restless cloud art for us all.

Heather Webster, writer, Langhorne Creek grape grower, community advocate, red wine lover and commentator on things that matter in life.

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Safe as Houses

June 2, 2012, 8:09 pm by Heather Webster

As safe as houses! But of course, houses are not safe. Not safe from shattering quakes or cars which failed to drive past; not safe from crafty thieves or those intent on malicious damage; but most of all not safe from the greed of financiers and men in sharp suits who connive to divert flows of money to fuel their own greed. The world has suffered a global financial crisis as a result of grasping people creating houses of straw called derivatives and subordinated debt- complex webs of indebtedness, and packages of promises designed to generate profit based on the false and unsustainable expectation that economies will always grow quickly and value will always increase.

Confidence is not a product to be bought and sold. Yet it is. The sale of false hope for solid houses built from flimsy material on weak foundations gives only temporary shelter. All too soon, the apparent asset is revealed to be a pile of rubbish. Our economy, like some houses, needs cleaning up; and the foundations reinforced to ensure we have a house capable of enduring. Too much of our economic house is built from talk and too much has been funded by stealing wealth from our earth with the expectation that Australia’s mineral wealth is infinite, and welcoming our children to inherited debt. The sooner we understand that real estate needs to be real, the sooner we can build an economy on renewable energy, modest consumption and the reduction of waste. Then we can live in a house that can withstand the only storms that matter- the tempests of greed.

Heather Webster, writer, Langhorne Creek grape grower, community advocate, red wine lover and commentator on things that matter in life.

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A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine…

May 30, 2012, 12:35 pm by Heather Webster

Without fungi we would have no wine, no cheese and no leavened bread, let alone the culinary delights of mushrooms and the medical magic of antibiotics. Who would have thought that “a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou” was a song dedicated to the power of fungi.

Fungi go where men fear to tread – fungi live everywhere, on our skins, on the sparse film of carbon residues on optical lenses even in the fuel tanks of jet engines, their ingenuity is extreme.

If fungi did not eat the carbon compounds which used to be living things, in a few short years there would be no carbon available in the world. We use unkind words like rot, decay and decompose and turn up our noses at the sights and smells of those recycling processes but without them there would be no more carbon building blocks to build new plants and or indeed new people.

Heather Webster, writer, Langhorne Creek grape grower, community advocate, red wine lover and commentator on things that matter in life.

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Quince Jelly

May 26, 2012, 1:04 pm by Heather Webster

Quince Jelly goes well on cheese plates and makes brilliant meat marinades with Dukkah.

Quince heaven is hidden behind strange fur and hard, yellow flesh. But, like lots of people – when treated well, quinces will blossom into something beautiful.

Find three or four big quinces and give them a good scrubbing with a (clean) wash up brush, until they are smooth not furry. Don’t cut them.

Put them whole in a pan and cover well with water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the water and the fruit has turned ruby red. (At least 4 hours).
Gently lift the quinces out. Cool the juice and use the quince fruit to make paste or just slide the skin off and sprinkle with sugar or yummy cream.

Filter the juice so it is beautifully clear. (I use 2 layers of stocking – clean ones of course not the ones you are wearing.! Pantyhose fit well over a big pan). Measure the juice. To each cup of juice, add ¾ cup of sugar, 1/2 small teaspoon of allspice a pinch of cloves and a slosh of brandy.

Now if you are good at making jelly by boiling at high heat until it sheets, do it that way. I cheat and buy pectin (often sold as setting agent for jam making). Follow the instructions on the packet for quantities, boil quickly and seal in small jars with a good seal metal lid (not plastic).

It will set into a clear ruby jelly which is delicious and keeps for years. If it doesn’t – call it quince honey and use it like jam or honey with cream on crusty bread.

Heather Webster, writer, Langhorne Creek grape grower, community advocate, red wine lover and commentator on things that matter in life.

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The Langhorne Creek “Old School Tie Dinner”

May 24, 2012, 8:28 pm by Heather Webster

With commendable imagination and spirited costumes, one hundred and twenty five Langhorne Creek residents and supporters enjoyed a high-spirited dinner last Saturday night.

The Langhorne Creek Historic School Inc and the Rotary Club of Strathalbyn jointly hosted the event. With generous support from Craig Maidment and much volunteer help, guests enjoyed a delicious three-course dinner planned and cooked by Lisa Wenzel and her community team.

The Langhorne Creek Football Clubrooms were decorated with an old school theme which continued with games and competitions led by Headmaster Barry Featherston and Head Boy Graham Lange. While unruly and competitive behavior would have been a challenge for any teacher, much fun was enjoyed.

Excellent Langhorne Creek wine, donated by local winemakers including Lake Breeze, Rusticana, Cleggett Wines, Karanto, Gipsie Jack, Kimbolton, Bremerton, the Wenzel family and Bleasdale was greatly enjoyed by guests.

The“Old School Tie” auctions brought spirited bidding for some very special items including a scenic helicopter flight, holiday accommodation on Kangaroo Island and rare wines including a 50 year old liqueur Verdelho from Bleasdale, some excellent aged John’s Blend from John Glaetzer and trophy winning wines from Lake Breeze.

Awards for the best dressed were hotly contested, as were spelling, art and paper plane competitions.

The event was held to raise funds to assist renovation of the Langhorne Creek Historic School, which was abandoned in the 1950’s. Special guests Rhonda Nurse and Len Potts were the oldest Langhorne Creek residents who were students at the old school.

Renovations at the Historic School are well underway with masonry repairs complete and reroofing scheduled. The community is bidding for grant funds to convert the site into a vibrant Hub to serve the needs of local industry and the community and to welcome visitors to the town.

 

Heather Webster, writer, Langhorne Creek grape grower, community advocate, red wine lover and commentator on things that matter in life.

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Wombat Visit

May 21, 2012, 9:56 pm by Heather Webster

Our property appears on some old maps as Wombat Flat, but there are no wombats here now. The old timers say there were plenty, but they lost the unequal battle with the plough. I like the solid strength of wombats – this adapts them well for a burrowing life. Like kangaroos they are marsupials. Their pouches open backwards so the baby doesn’t get covered in dirt during the digging necessary to find the roots they eat, and to shelter from the heat of the day in a cool burrow.

Wombats are the subject of many children’s books, and a firm favourite with our grandchildren. Many happy hours have been spent telling wombat stories. So when my four year old grandson came bursting into our bedroom saying “Come and look there is a wombat on the back lawn” I was not surprised. He is prone to tall tales, so we had a sleepy conversation which went like this-
Q “Now, Asher, tell me what a wombat looks like”
A “It’s got four legs for walking, and it’s furry, and it is sort of close to the ground”
Q “So you can think of the difference between a rabbit, and a wallaby and a wombat?”
A“Yes”
“Well, you look closely at the animal again. Then come back and tell me what it is. If it is a wombat I will get out of bed and come and look with you”.
Within moments, an excited little boy was bursting back into the room saying-
“Get up, get up, There IS a wombat”
So; there was no option. I had to go and witness this miracle. And, miracle it was; there was a wombat on the lawn. By now I was almost as excited as him. We gathered Barry into the fun, and he found the camera and crept out of the front door to circle around behind the wombat. We needed a record of this momentous event.
As we emerged from the back door, Barry took photos and crept ever closer. The wombat, far from taking fright, waddled toward us. As it got closer, my emotions changed. From worrying that we would scare it, I tried to remember if wombats might bite children. It got closer and closer. Soon Asher was patting it, and we were feeding it carrots. Sadly, we are not on the Galapagos where wild animals have not learned to fear men, but this was no flighty wild animal. This friendly wombat was accustomed to people – it must be an escaped pet.

The next dilemma presented itself. Our nearest neighbours are more than a kilometre in every direction. None of those, or the next ring of neighbours had a tame wombat, so where had this animal come from? We were enjoying its company. It was delightful-solid as a little tank, with a waddling, pigeon-toed walk. It had long claws but was not threatening in any way. True to the books, it had a wide backside which felt like solid bone with a thin covering of fur. This was useful. If threatened the wombat would use his backside like a cork in a bottle, blocking an intruder from the burrow and attacking his more sensitive face or front quarters.

Our wombat ate the carrot with enthusiasm, suggesting this was familiar fare, but its origin remained a mystery. I hoped it would leave some droppings so I could test the claim that wombat faeces are square in cross section due to wombat’s ability to extract every bit of moisture from the vegetation it eats. I made a few phone calls to local nature enthusiasts, but none knew of an escaped wombat. We left the wombat in peace as we had lunch, and returned to find it gone. We could only hope it knew where it was going.

Over the next few days, there were many reported wombat sightings. Weeks later, we heard that it had returned home to Milang and was happily reunited. This wombat had travelled many kilometres. I’m glad it didn’t have a close encounter with a speeding car. And, next time my grandson tells me he has seen an unusual animal, I will believe him- unless, of course, he claims it is a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is his current favourite.

Heather Webster, writer, Langhorne Creek grape grower, community advocate, red wine lover and commentator on things that matter in life.

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Flocks

May 3, 2012, 11:44 am by Heather Webster

A flock of ibis scatter
across the grass watered
from the low rain of the pivot.
Long black beaks dip up and down
like ancient shadoofs
as they probe the pasture.
They favour cut worms, I am told,
a taste welcomed by farmers.
There must be ample cut worms to feed
this big-bodied flock of forty birds.
Their strong white bodies
and sleek black heads and legs,
contrast oddly
with untidy yellow neck feathers,
a tatty boa left after a wild night.

Collective descriptors of birds
have always intrigued me.
Why parliament of owls, murder of crows,
and then just a flock
for equally interesting birds?
Partridges get covey and geese a gaggle,
and best of all larks an exaltation,
but gorgeous grebes, fabulous falcons,
and my ibis miss out.

Heather Webster is a Langhorne Creek grape grower, community advocate, board director, and red wine lover. She has enjoyed careers in science, transport and librarianship, and now writes about things that matter, but wishes she could play better tennis.

Published on 30 April 2012 in Indaily’s Poet’s Corner Compiled by John Miles

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Rabbits

April 26, 2012, 8:29 am by Heather Webster

We turn into our neighbour’s driveway, and rabbits scatter. The drooping limbs of the acacia are perfect cover. After good rains, there is plenty of feed and the soil is friable, making digging easy. I grudgingly admire the rabbit clan for its success. They invaded Australia faster than any mammal on any continent. Does reach maturity after only four months and can produce six litters a year.
I am distressed by their destruction of the fragile vegetation and the way they bare the land.
Our neighbours are anxious about rabbit burrows undermining the dam walls and interfering with precious water storage.
The rabbits are doing well, sleek, fat and fecund.
I get angry with Thomas Austin who introduced rabbits into Australia in 1859.
I remember how delicious rabbits are and wonder how I can get a couple for the pot.
Barry has a wry smile, noting that it is only appropriate rabbits live there – it is the Warren’s driveway after all.
Good or bad – the same facts have different meanings depending on your perspective.

Heather Webster, writer, Langhorne Creek grape grower, community advocate, red wine lover and commentator on things that matter in life.

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