get your glow on: Canowindra

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It’s all fairly relative when considering the definition of a fun night out. For us, driving through the countryside while the sun spectacularly set in big swathes of red and orange and pink over the hills and vineyards, heading for Canowindra to catch the evening ‘Balloon Glow’ which marks the launch of the town’s week long hot air balloon challenge festivities, was a pretty magical Saturday night.

Of course, considering that The Italian has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, where the height of good Saturday night times consisted of getting a takeaway sandwich and choosing between Sprite or Fanta (no wine, no women, no song. definitely no pork), standing on a country village football field with a glass of local cellar door wine in hand felt pretty good to him. Watching more than ten giant hot air balloons inflate and then synchronise lighting up to musical gems such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ was merely the pièce de résistance.

Canowindra is the ‘Ballooning Capital of Australia’ – and it’s also currently a movie set. It is most definitely charming. A frontier village settled soon after the foundation of Bathurst in 1815, the place started bustling in the 1840s. A wander down the old main Gaskill street (which is a National Trust Conservation Area and listed on the NSW Heritage Register) takes you straight back in time. Check out the River Bank Gallery and the Swinging Bridge cellar door while you’re there (Gourmet Traveller voted this one of the best cellar doors in NSW).

We went for a drive to check it out the weekend previously, on our way to visit Cowra’s Japanese Gardens (yeah baby, we really know how to live fast. As an aside, we’re experiencing great relief at the slower pace of life after chronically over-travelling the world the last decade). Canowindra’s best-kept secret is the Canowindra Trading Post – a two-story treasure trove of antique furniture and contemporary homeware stuff, with a huge garden and outdoor cafe. Right next door is Taste Canowindra, which in true Canowindra-style triples up as a restaurant, cellar door / bottle shop and art gallery.

There are vineyards, lots of them for such a small town (population approx. 2,000). We didn’t get a chance to visit, we’re going to have to go back, but here’s an overview: Gardners Ground, Rosnay Organic, Swinging Bridge, Toms Waterhole Wines, and Wallington Wines. Interestingly, Canowindra seems to be predominantly on-trend organic. To top it all off, you can catch a hot air balloon from the paddock next to Toms Waterhole cellar door and cafe. Hooray.

Enjoy! Kelly

 

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climate change is crap. nah, not really – just communicating it is

So I’ve spent my Easter break researching the issue of climate change, as one does. More specifically, as someone who was living overseas for seven years I’ve been fascinated watching how Australia’s climate change discourse has gone from PM Kevin Rudd’s “climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our generation” in 2007 to PM Tony Abbott’s “climate change is crap” in 2013.

So in the lead up to putting together a research proposal for my Communications Masters degree and fuelled on chocolate, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and found some interesting things from some of the world’s best thinkers. And despite a vast majority of environmental scientists gravitating towards ‘yes’ on the question “is Earth f*cked?”, climate change could very well actually be a major tipping point for the next evolutionary stage of global economic, political and social structures – bring it on!

Disappearing down the rabbit hole of research started with this paper from global communications consultant, Bob Pickard (2013): ‘The Climate Change Disaster’, in which he wonders why global communication professionals have to date been unable to communicate climate change effectively. He says:

Global warming is by far the biggest long-term challenge that our world faces. This problem can only be addressed if it is thought to be important enough – and urgent enough – for people (both elites and mass society) to think and act differently about climate change than they have before, and to do so in concert with each other

Bob points out that global climate change public discussion and coverage in the media peaked around 2007, coinciding with Al Gore’s documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and the release of the fourth assessment report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which spelled out that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal“. However, since then public interest in the climate change issue worldwide has been in steep decline. Why?

Reading through more than 40 academic papers (while everyone else is on camping holidays and The Italian is bringing in the harvest, chopping down trees and serving up venison pie at Cargo Road Wines), the problem with communicating climate change seems to be its complexity – it’s just too big a problem to comprehend.

When faced with contemplating the combined disasters of melting ice caps, rising oceans, increased floods, more bushfires, colder winters, hotter summers, islands sinking, forced international migration (try telling people “go back to where you came from” when their country has just sunk) and food scarcity, they are discovering that most people react with complete and utter apathy. It’s a bit too hard to figure out what to do about all of this when you’re trying to figure out how to cover the mortgage and pay for school fees and keep up with the Joneses. And also, this stuff is in the post in the next 50-100 years, so it’s not really like its affecting anyone right now is it?

Professor Wendy Bacon from the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism has spent the last couple of years doing intensive research on how the topic of climate change is presented in ten of Australia’s top newspapers. In the two-part ‘A Sceptical Climate’ analysis conducted in 2011 and 2012, key findings showed that media coverage of climate change in Australia was “mostly framed within a vociferous political debate”, was decreasing year-on-year, and that there was “a marked difference in the quantity and quality of coverage about climate science being received in different Australian regions and by different audiences”. In his award-winning essay ‘Climate Change and equity: whose language is it anyway?‘ Sydney GP, Tim Senior, has argued that the way climate change is being communicated in Australia just isn’t ‘speaking the language’ of the people who are actually going to be affected by it first.

Australia also has one of the highest levels of scepticism towards climate change recorded in the world, a political stance mainly shared with the Australian public through mainstream media channels, with the International Business Times recently naming Australia “one of the biggest climate change deniers in the world“. Heck, what would the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank know anyway? This is a personal favourite from Australia’s Attorney-General, George Brandis.

So is anyone doing anything about it? Hell yeah, this is a great time to be doing a Masters degree.

Don Aitkin, previously Vice-Chancellor of University of Canberra, believes “The principal institution in humanity’s race to save itself, if we set aside enlightened governments, is the modern university” (1997). In fact, futurist Richard Slaughter thinks universities should “drop everything else they’re doing…in order to re-focus on the increasingly problematic human prospect” (see ‘Beyond the threshold – using climate change literature to support climate change response’, Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, 2009).

My journey down the rabbit hole of communications research led me to some excellent Australian thinkers. In fact, nearly half of the academic papers I sourced were authored by Australians, and most of their papers were published since 2013. The most encouraging thing about this, is all the information is coming from different disciplines – not only environmental scientists and communication scholars, but business experts, political scientists, sociologists, psychologists and futurists. People like Professor Mark Beeson of WA’s Murdoch University, Dr Matt McDonald of The University of Queensland, Dr Simon Niemeyer of Canberra’s Australian National University, University of Melbourne’s Associate Professor Peter Christoff and Professor Robyn Eckersley, the University of Tasmania’s Professor Bruce TranterDr Lyn McGaurr and Professor Libby Lester, Newcastle University’s Professor Mark Balnaves, as well as Dr Chris Riedy and Jennifer Kent from the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, were the ones I most wanted to hug while doing my research.

These guys are all out there talking about new forms of public engagement with the climate change debate – through deliberative and participative democracy approaches, by taking grassroots action, and through new models and methods of communication. They should all get in a room together and come up with a great big plan. I’ll make the coffees.

A major clue on how to start communicating climate change more effectively, is coming from the IPCC itself. In its fifth assessment report ‘Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Assessments and Vulnerability” released in March this year, the messages being used throughout the paper have moved from 2007’s alarmism, fear and uncertainty (there’s a great probability that we’re all about to sink) towards messages of  ‘adaptation’ and hope. Report author, Dr Chris Field, has called for more positivity about the exciting opportunities adapting the world for the impacts of climate change could bring.

Better government policies, increased citizen engagement in politics, new evolved political, economic and social structures, greater consciousness and more innovative, creative, entrepreneurial approaches….as I said before, bring it on. And pass the chocolate.

Kelly

FORAGE: festival of food + wine + wandering

This is truly a festival of the senses, wandering through the rolling lush green hills of two top-class #OrangeNSW vineyard estates (Philip Shaw and Orange Highland) with nine food + wine stations and live music along the way. By station four The Italian had declared it the best event he’d ever been to in Australia, but that may have had something to do with the glorious Brangayne Pinot Noir 2012 he was quaffing.

FORAGE is the penultimate event of the Orange F.O.O.D Week festival, and what a show-stopper it is. In just four years this event has grown from 250 people tramping across the paddocks and through the vines, to a capped 1,000 people gourmet affaire which sells out within hours of tickets going on sale.

We started off the day with a visit to the Orange Region Farmers Markets, which is held every 2nd Saturday of the month behind the Orange Regional Art Gallery and coincided with our bus pick-up from the Orange Visitor Information Centre. We try not to buy meat at supermarkets now we’ve made the #treechange, and just buy straight from the producers – Nanima Lamb and Trunkey Creek Bacon never disappoint and a whole new world of grass-fed Wagyu beef opened up to us with the appearance of Dargo Farm for the first time (website coming soon).

After storing our treasure find in a chill-bag in the boot of the car, we hopped on the provided FORAGE bus to start the real adventure. This is an incredibly well-organised event, with groups of 250 people at half-hour intervals being taken out to the lush green fields of Nashdale (ten minutes outside of Orange) and the starting point of Philip Shaw vineyard. This was an amazing sneak preview of an otherwise private vineyard and a total privilege to get immersed in some of #OrangeNSW’s most inspiring scenic views. It also started with a glass of Printhie Swift Sparkling Cuvee NV as soon as we got off the bus, hooray.

To match the sparkling, Food Station 1 served up canapés of Venison Prosciutto + Pear from Mandagery Creek. Although the view was hard to tear ourselves away from, we dutifully made our way through the rows of vines to nearby Station 2 which starred a Country Terrine with Cherry Compote by renowned local chef Michael Manners and accompanied by a Twisted River Chardonnay Viognier 2010. The Italian was still talking about this terrine the next day, five stars from him.

A Beef & Barley Soup from Bistro Ceello warmed us up at the next station in the middle of a cow field, and the Philip Shaw No 17 Merlot Cabernet Franc 2011 was so good we had to go back and have another glass, just to check it was as good as we thought. Yep, it was. By the time we made it to Food Station 4, ate a Chicken + Wild Mushroom Pie from The Agrestic Grocer and downed a Brangayne Pinot Noir we were in love – with FORAGE, with OrangeNSW, each other and just about everything else.

 

There was a little bit of uphill action while foraging for Food Station 5, but cresting the hill and seeing a valley of people on picnic rugs by a dam was worth the walk (and it built up the appetite nicely for Edwena Mitchell‘s Braised Trunkey Creek Pork Neck with Potato Salad + Aioli). We’re a little bit biased about Cargo Road Wines (The Italian is helping them bring in #Vintage14), but we haven’t tasted one of their wines we haven’t loved. At this station we went for the Cargo Road Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – and yep.

It was one last stroll through the corridors of vines after Station 6’s hand-pressed Shiraz Sorbet and a Cargo Road Wines Moscato 2013 (which both ‘zinged’ together in the mouth, awesome combination) and then a little light shining on the hill at Orange Highland Wine + Gardens with Orange local Kate Bracks, the winner of Masterchef 2011, serving Hazelnut Financier with Poached Figs. I had to hold The Italian back from lining up for another few serves of this, there were 500 people gently meandering through FORAGE behind us with their desserts lined up enticingly waiting for them. So we took comfort instead in the gorgeous grounds of Orange Highland Wines, and soaked up the live music with a glass of Word of Mouth 1K High Riesling 2013, cheese + biscuit from the Second Mouse Cheese Co and a Bill’s Beans coffee.

Then we jumped on a bus back to Orange for a final aperitif at Union Bank Wine Bar and started counting down the days till next year.

Cheers, Kelly

 

art is food for the soul

There’s a little guerrilla art front sweeping through Orange at the moment, timed perfectly around the fringes of the Orange FOOD Week festival in April.

Starting with the first PopArt Collective pop-up launch and gallery events last week, local exhibiting artists Eva Frengstad, Matilda Julian, Larissa Blake, Robyn Youll, Scott Gillbank, Kate Maurice and Amy Hick are now on the search for the next secret shed or vibrant venue where they can storm in and transform the joint. Their launch was party of the year in my books, so can’t wait for the next one.

This week a little standalone PopUp Art Show appeared in a former cornerstore on the corner of Autumn and Summer Streets in East Orange (is that the most poetic address for an art gallery or what?). Open each Friday, Saturday and Sunday during this year’s Orange FOOD Week, 4-13 April, this sweet little art space is showcasing works from young local emerging artists Madeline Young, Curtis Peasley, Ellie Hannon, Maggie Warrell and Amelia Herbertson. What’s even better, Bill’s Beans East Orange is up on the next corner – hooray.

One of the most established art collectives in Orange, the Colour City Creatives are also in on the act, holding open day art workshops and events at their studios in The Barracks (a disused railway building). Local renowned artist Joy Engelman has been leading the charge to support the inaugural Cancer Council Charity Art Auction at The Agrestic Grocer on Wednesday 9 April. This will feature works from the Colour City Creative collective, as well as local sculptor Senden Blackwood.

And then there’s the wonderful online gallery space Art of Orange, another organic collective of local artists selling reproduction prints of their most popular works. I’m personally a big fan of Marianne Courtenay’s impressions of Mount Canobolas, you can see the originals hanging at the Printhie Wines cellar door. I’ve also previously written about Jayes Gallery in Molong, a wonderful space and always hosting new exhibitions from local artists.

So many artists, so much time – this region is really glorious for art. Of course, this has been a bit of a tradition since the 1960s and it looks like everyone else is just starting to catch up. Me, I’m beside myself. Had been wondering how I’d deal with the wrench from the United Arab Emirates and leaving behind Abu Dhabi Art, Saadiyat Island Cultural District and the imminent opening of the spectacular Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Watching all of this Australian grassroots arts flourish in the vineyards and rolling hills of the Orange region has given me some of my mojo back, and I’ve signed up for the Orange Regional Arts Foundation and ArtsOutWest so I don’t miss a thing. Next step is an adventure out to Hill End Press to see what they’re up to with their vintage foot treadle press.

ArtsHub recently had a fantastic article on the great divide between city and regional artists, and the misperception that nothing happens of any interest in regional areas:

1 in 3 people live in regional Australia, yet most government support for the arts seemed magnetically bound to Melbourne and Sydney. No major art institutions did programs in Sandie’s town. Many of the metropolitan-focused arts organisations and artists that visited had a strange messiah complex, thinking they were bringing arts to a cultural wasteland. They were frequently disgruntled to find successful artists already resident there.

The truth is: the space, diversity, complexity, relationships to place and change all bring marvellous hues to cutting edge contemporary art in regional areas. This is most definitely the place to be to watch this all flourish.

Kelly

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to market, to market

On a university budget with champagne tastes, to get into the swing of things for the kick-off of Orange F.O.O.D Week (running this year from 4-13 April) I spent the first weekend going to back-to-back artisan markets. And it was total joy.

Starting with the Borenore Public School Big Brunch Country Fair was kind of like peaking before the party. This was an almost unbelievable gourmet school fete – there was an Alpaca sausage sizzle for crying out loud, and they were spinning a chocolate wheel to win bottles of world-class local wine (not chocolate), and it was bunting ahoy.

It was love at first sight. Then I found homemade quince paste, and on the way home through Borenore I found a fig orchard. The winding lanes of Borenore are a feast for the senses, and the trip home also involved stopping off for some fine apple and pear cider tasting at Small Acres Cyder. Just around the corner was Dindima Wines, and it would have been rude not to have joined the FOOD week crowds for a tasting at their very friendly cellar door. I came home with a bottle of the 2009 Stella dessert chardonnay, threw it into a bowl of cream, caster sugar and figs and a few hours later had ice-cream (thanks to the beautiful Local is Lovely cookbook by  Sophie Hansen).

One sleep later and I was off to market again, this time to the second annual Cook Park breakfast and produce market as part of the Orange FOOD festival. I paced myself at this one, fuelling up on coffee and hazelnut meal (for more baking purposes) from Fourjay Farms. Lots of lovely local producers were there, including The Agrestic Grocer and The Second Mouse Cheese Company. Printhie Wines were also there serving up tasters of their delightfully unparalleled Swift Vintage and Cuvee – it is never too early for sparkling.

The final, and penultimate, leg of the weekend market trail involved catching a lift with friends to the nearby village of Millthorpe (just a 15 minute scenic drive outside of Orange) to the much-loved biannual edition of the Millthorpe Markets. It would have been easy to go crazy for bunting and cushions and lace doily dresses, but I managed to contain my enthusiasm and come home with a wooden handmade birdhouse.

We wandered into the village after the markets, and it was an extended affair – most of the local stores had trestle tables outside on the pavement selling wares and it was definitely a country fair atmosphere. Sailing home past verdant green paddocks and soaring blue sky, it occurred to me that this #treechange thing was one of the finest ideas I’ve ever had.

Happy happy joy joy – Kelly

 

foraging for food at festivals: Orange F.O.O.D Week

I love a good food festival, it throws a little adventure and spice into the mix of life. The highlight of my life in the UAE was the annual Gourmet Abu Dhabi, and the only saving graces of Sydney for us were Porteno, Gelato Messina, the Sydney Food Trucks and the Night Noodle Markets at Sydney Good Food Month. So imagine my delight at discovering the Food of Orange District (F.O.O.D) festival in my new home town – somebody hold me back, I’m going to wax lyrical.

My job in Abu Dhabi was to go through the Gourmet Abu Dhabi program and make it appealing to different people from different places. I also got to take groups of industry stakeholders and visiting international journalists along to the events. A shocking, really terrible job I can tell you (just kidding, see ‘highlight of my life’). So when I find myself flicking through the Orange F.O.O.D Week program, I find it difficult to contain my enthusiasm. There’s just so much good stuff going on here. With over 120 events being held over a 10 day festival from 4-13 April, the only challenge is cramming it all in.

The absolute first thing I did as soon as the festival officially launched in March, was score me and The Italian tickets to FORAGE. I’d heard through the grapevine that these sell like hotcakes, and sure enough all the tickets were snapped up within hours of them going on sale. This event is the true pinnacle of the festival, and probably sums up its ethos and spirit quite nicely. Around 800 people (in small groups of 250 at a time) tramp through three local world-class vineyards (and a cattle farm), stopping at food and wine stations along the way during a gentle 3.6km scenic walk. Allegedly, there is quite a bit of singing and dancing on the way.

If you love markets as much as I love markets, the first two weekends of April are going to be a field day. I’m starting off the affair with my first-ever visit to the much-loved  Millthorpe Markets on Sunday 6 April. Held only twice a year, this market sees local artists, artisans and handicrafters flocking to flaunt their wares, apparently it’s a virtual treasure trove. The following weekend is the monthly  Orange Region Farmers Market, and I’ll be stocking the larder with my personal favourites Trunkey Creek Bacon, Fourjay Hazelnut Farms and Nanima Farm Lamb. Finishing the festival on a high note, the Friday Night Food Market in Robertson Park stars all the main players on Orange’s vineyard and restaurant scene (note that this event has moved to Friday 11 April, it usually opens the festival but this Friday we are in for a downpour).

Right, back to the food. I’m planning to spend the entire day of Saturday 5 April at nearby village Borenore, as they are really pulling out all the stops for this festival. The Borenore Store is hosting a big bubbly breakfast to kick off the proceedings, then it’s onto a big brunch at the Borenore School Country Fair, a French pique-nique at Hedberg Hill vineyard and cellar door, over at Faisan Estate Wines cellar door they’ll be serving up pheasant and pork terrine to go with their latest release wines, and Small Acres Cyder are dishing up Normandy chicken pies with cider sauce to wash down with your locally-made cider. Umm…yep that’s all on one day…

The other event that’s got me interested is The Moveable Feast (also on Saturday 5 April, see what I mean about challenges…), which provides an adventure through the local countryside, starting at The Agrestic Grocer for canapés and then out to Mandagery Creek Venison Farm for entree and mains. The progressive dinner finishes with a wander through The Farm Gate’s Nashdale Orchard so you can help pick dessert.

I seriously could go on and on and on – there’s over 40 vineyards in the Orange region, and they’re all coming to the party. Take a look at the Orange F.O.O.D Week website for a full program. Orange also has a blossoming cosmopolitan café culture, and they’re all getting into the swing of the festival festivities with Sunday brunches on both weekends – my top picks are Anything Grows, Byng St Local Store, The Old Mill Café, The Lakehouse and Union Bank Wine Bar.

It’s going to be an action-packed ten days, I’ve had to knock off two Master degree assignments well in advance to clear the diary. You will henceforth now find me ensconced at festival bars and tramping through paddocks feasting and thoroughly enjoying.

Cheers! Kelly