Good Wines, Wwooing in Penshurst

Penshurst Travel Blog

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BBQ with Viv and Bill

Well what a first impression!  We reached our next wwoofing home at about 5ish and a jolly looking chap, Bill, greeted us, followed by a three legged stumpy little Jack Russell, Ernie.  He was very friendly and showed us around the house, Bill not the dog.  As we walked through the living room with an open plan kitchen I spotted two bass guitars next to the tv and I immediately though we were in for a good musical week.  He offered us a beer and we carried on chatting about the usual wwoofing topics.  I’ve been in eight different houses and this is how we normally break the ice, we talk about good and bad wwoofing experiences, where we’re coming from and what we’ve seen along our way.  I noticed how quickly he polished off 4 bottles of beer in the time I took to drink one.  I went off to have a shower and when I got back Bill had started to cook a lovely ragu for spaghetti and was swinging white wine from a rather large glass.

Peacock
  He offered me a glass of their own Pinot Noir and we carried on chatting.  I can’t remember at which point things turned pretty groovy but a few hours later Bill was slapping away energetically on his bass and I was tapping fiercely on the table trying to follow the rhythm of country tunes by the Highwayman playing loudly on the DVD, the likes of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, we were both pissed as farts!  Carola wasn’t at all impressed with our performance and went off to bed, yet again she managed to get the best room and bed!  I tactically retired just before Viv, Bill’s wife got back home from work at half past eleven at night… She would have had a bad impression of me, I think :-)

 

I chose this host, much against Carola’s will who wanted a horse farm, because Viv and Bill have their own winery, and I really wanted to learn a bit about wine making… and maybe try a few samples.

Ernie, isn't he cute
  It was such a good choice that we decided to stay 2 weeks.  Work was easy and most days were spent in the vineyard tying down vines of Pinot Noir.  I loved it because it was light work and it gave me the chance to listen to lots of music I have been ‘collecting’ along my way from other hosts.  Carola however wasn’t too happy with this tedious job and the constant bending of steel wire around vines was hurting her fingers.  A few plasters wrapped around the tips of her fingers made it a little less painful.  I had a go at pruning as well, which was interesting and useful to me because we actually have our own vineyard back in Sardinia, and I’ll be able to help my dad with this task next time I’m home.  It is quite simple, basically you select a good shoot with lots of buds for next year’s harvest and chop everything else trying not to cut your fingers off!   

 

Fishing for Eels in the lake.

 

Stonefiels Estate is a lovely farm.  As well as producing their own wine, Bill and Viv look after several cows, rabbits, ducks, gees and peacocks.  They have a beautiful stone house, which is around 100 years old and has been lovingly renovated by Bill over the past 15 years.  There’s also a massive shallow lake, hosting a great number of different bird species and apparently lots of eels.  Feeling rather bored and inspired one afternoon, I decided to try my luck at catching one or two of these eels.  As you do, I looked up a few eel trap designs on the internet, then like a hungry rat I sieved though a load of rubbish lying around in Bill’s shed and pulled out a piece of old plastic mesh, a bundle of string and a long rope.  I was well impressed with the final product, my trap looked very professional and I was starting to believe I was in for a good catch.

My catch
  For bate, I dug up a handful of worms, chopped them up and stuffed them into one of Viv’s old stockings, I did ask if I could use them first :-)  And sure I’ll return them to her when I’m done fishing…  I chose a spot in the lake where the water runs out into several little streams, tied a few large rocks to the trap to stop it from floating, and chucked it in.  It worked!!  The next day when I pulled it out of the water there was a medium size eel desperately biting away at the cage trying to escape.  I was well impressed.  What next… Umm, kill it, skin it and eat it?  How do you cook it?  I left it in the cage and threw it back in to give me time to reed up a few recipes and ponder over what culinary delicacy I could create (maybe I could ask Alice on TB for a recipe?), but the next day the little slimy bugger had found it’s way out!  Just as well, as I didn’t really like the idea of gutting and skinning an eel, blah!   

 

Bella ‘brakes’ the bank

 

After the initial cost I incurred when I first bough Bella (thanks to my stupidity for not checking her out properly and trusting the Dutch gils, cows!), I managed to travel from Hervey Bay all the way down to Penshurst without having to spend an extra penny on maintenance, almost 4000km.

Sunset over the lake
  That’s pretty good going for an old bag, however I have ignored a few tiny issues which needed attention, mainly because I knew I was going to sell/flog her soon.  Like the brakes, but unfortunately you cannot drive without brakes, and if you use the hand brake at speed it causes the car to skid… believe me I have tried; so I booked her in for a change of pads and prayed that it was all I had to pay for.  Oh no, little did I know… Just like opening a can of worms, when the mechanics took the brakes apart they saw that the discs were badly warn too.  I got away with having them machined off to the minimum legal requirement (£50) instead of replacing them, but then another problem was apparent.  The ball joint on the passenger side was completely shagged and needed replacing, another £130.  The total cost of repairs came to £370, which I really didn’t want to spend if you consider that I was planning to sell the car in three weeks!!  Sod’s law, but then again I’m better safe than sorry.
The 50p piece is about 30cm in diameter
        

 

The biggest spider so far…

 

Having worked on many farms along the East coast of Australia, I have seen my fair share of nasty spiders, and I don’t jump on a chair and scream like a girl when I see them, not any more :-).  Carola on the other hand suffers from arachnophobia and has only stayed in cities, so she has yet to see her first big hairy monster… until now.

Wolf Spider
  We were cleaning the veranda when I moved a large piece of furniture to reveal probably the biggest 8 legged creature I have seen so far.  I have been told it is a Wolf Spider from the markings on it’s back, but it looks very similar to the common Huntsman.  Check out the photos, for reference I slid a 50 cents piece between the front legs, which is about 30cm in diameter.  I know they can be bigger than this, but to me it’s pretty meaty and deserves this entire paragraph on my blog.  You should have seen Carola’s face when she saw it, priceless!        

 

I enjoyed my time at the Stonefield Estate, Viv and Bill were entertaining, hospitable and the meals we had were extraordinary, cooked on a proper Arga.

Smile for the camera
  What I will miss the most though is my favourite dog, Ernie.  He’s absolutely adorable.  He did this thing when we would sit at the table to eat where he would stand on his back legs and sit on his bum just like us, very cute.  He loves cuddles too. 

alicegourmet says:
You really made a good choice to work in a vineyard! I love wine more than beer...used to drink quite a bit when I was living in London! BTW, thanks for thinking of me when you caught the eel! I had a great Chinese recipe to cook eel! Hehe...
Posted on: Sep 22, 2008
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BBQ with Viv and Bill
BBQ with Viv and Bill
Peacock
Peacock
Ernie, isnt he cute
Ernie, isn't he cute
My catch
My catch
Sunset over the lake
Sunset over the lake
The 50p piece is about 30cm in dia…
The 50p piece is about 30cm in di…
Wolf Spider
Wolf Spider
Smile for the camera
Smile for the camera
Carola and I working on the vineya…
Carola and I working on the viney…
Carola
Carola
Pruning... Im laughingbecause I d…
Pruning... I'm laughingbecause I …
Ernie
Ernie
Our living room
Our living room
matrial for my eel trap
matrial for my eel trap
the eel trap finished
the eel trap finished
Bill and his Highland cow
Bill and his Highland cow
New born cow
New born cow
Sunset
Sunset
The moon at sunset
The moon at sunset
Chilling out
Chilling out
I love that dog
I love that dog
Ernie on his throne
Ernie on his throne
These railway crossings are unbeli…
These railway crossings are unbel…
Penshurst only petrol station
Penshurst only petrol station
Penshurst
photo by: Rubbertoe