In My Kitchen, August 2020

This month, I’m inviting you to step inside my kitchen. No one else can come inside these days, but you’re all welcome. It’s one long narrow room that incorporates a kitchen, a small pantry, a long table of 2.8 metres, a wood fired baker’s stove and two old sofas. Above are high beams and clerestory windows and plenty of natural light from the windows facing north and east. All are double glazed making the room easier to heat in winter and naturally cooler in summer. I would argue that retrofitting old windows and upgrading to double glazing is one of the most important energy saving moves you should make, regardless of where you live. Although we have other rooms in the house, we have chosen to live in and heat this single space, along with our bedroom which has a heater set on 17º c for 8 hours overnight. Our kitchen/living space heating consists of one small but very efficient wood stove and one split system inverter. Things are nice and toasty, even on days when the temperature ranges between 0º c and 10ºc outside. We monitor our power usage and note that the winter costs are much lower since adopting this single living space approach. Sig Tranquillo chainsaws fallen trees from the forest on our property which supplies the wood heater, another major cost saving and a gym workout for him.

Melbourne is now in stage 4 lockdown, due to the surge in numbers of corona virus in the state of Victoria. This is one of the most stringent of all lockdowns, and the world will be taking notes on the effectiveness of such a move. Mask wearing is compulsory, no one can travel more than 5 kms to shop, only one person from each household may do this and only for one hour, a night curfew operates from 8 pm to 5am, exercise must be undertaken locally, and only essential businesses may stay open. The vast majority of Victorians are doing the right thing and are determined to make this work. Of course, the media will highlight those who break the rules, and give way too much oxygen to the Karens and Kens of this world: anything newsworthy to feed the coffers of the Murdoch Press.

Dan the Man

In My Kitchen is Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, who appears at 11 am, or later on really bad days. Dan has been doing these updates for months: most Victorians admire and respect him. I moved the TV into our kitchen/everything room at the beginning of the pandemic to save on heating. Before the pandemic, we weren’t so glued to the big screen in the daytime. 

In my kitchen is a Nectre Heater, an Australian made wood heater that is very environmentally efficient and effective. We use it primarily for heating, but also  to cook stock and soups, heat the kettle, and warm leftovers and puddings in the little baker’s oven below. I often use the top to toast bread for bruschetta.

In my kitchen, there’s plenty of research happening. Sig Tranquillo is working on a Scottish history project. Sometimes his clutter fills the large table. Meanwhile, I’m finally back into full time reading and the books are piling up. I can highly recommend, Cal Flyn’s Thicker Than Water. A memoir of sorts, Flyn journeys from Scotland to Australia to investigate the travels and massacre of the Gunai indigenous tribe by the explorer, Angus McMillan. It is essential reading to all those who live in Gippsland, Victoria. More about this book in a later post. The local library sent my books by post but I feel that this is one book I must own. Books, computers, phones, diaries,and notes get swept to one end of the large table at meal time. Oh the clutter.

On sunny days we venture outside for lunch and have now established the routine picnic day, every Friday, on the platform under the old half built chimney. Picnic days can be dangerous, especially when the musical instruments appear.

I’m adding my post to Sherry’s In My Kitchen series this month, despite it’s lack of novel kitchen stuff.  Life is up and down here. I hope, dear reader, wherever you may be, that you keep safe and wear a mask.

Header photo. Turnips from the garden. Despite their vibrant colour, they always remind me of Tess of the d’Urbervilles. 

36 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, August 2020”

  1. This is so thoughtful and enlightening, I really enjoyed it completely. Your space is so beautiful, and the feeling that your house really has a hearth — center of life — is wonderful. As a Northern Hemisphere dweller, I appreciated the mention of “northern” exposure. Opposite of how we do it.

    “In my kitchen” for me has morphed into whatever was happening in my own kitchen whether or not there were new things. So many of us who participate in this blog event are getting older or adopting philosophies of saving, so we just aren’t buying much new. I say to you Bravo! I’m sure Sherry says so too.

    be well… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Yes, tours are fun, especially during these times when we can’t ask friends into them. I hope to see yours soon. I need more ideas to fix mine so didn’t show pics of its ‘problem’ areas.

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  2. This is probably the best, most gently inspiring post from a blog that I have seen lately. As an Aussie ex-pat I have been wondering how you are doing in Victoria, and I can now see you will be OK. We too are in the country and have come to appreciate just how lucky we are, despite Covid fatigue.Stay safe, Francesca and thank you for continuing to write for us.

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    1. Thanks Joanne, I appreciate your thoughtful praise, it inspires me to keep writing. That Covid fatigue is kicking big time. Whereabouts are you located? ( you may have told me before? ) The experts believe that the numbers will start dropping sometime next week, as a result of this hard lockdown and enforcement of mask wearing. Let’s hope so. It has been devastating for many workers. The jobkeeper payments help at AU$750 a week per person ( those workers who were not casuals) but for many who are mortgaged to the hilt and have children, cars to pay off and the usual run of things, it is really difficult. For those who can work from home, are in government jobs, or are retired ( like me) things aren’t so difficult financially.

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  3. It looks like a lovely, warm, inviting space Signora. I hope you are ok. I have been grateful we have space and the ability to walk outside, I often think of those families in small apartments, it must get tense at times. I actually have a Nectre gas fireplace, it is great, and I was delighted to find something actually made in Australia.

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    1. Hi Signorina, I bet your renovated place is looking stunning and the extra space to grow things is a bonus. Seed catalogue time. Nectre heaters are great. We have a second one set in a wall in the living room, but have decided not to use that room this winter. Too much wood gathering required to run both at present. Good to hear you like yours too.

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  4. Stay safe down there. I’m heartbroken for my Victorian friends. Queensland is sooo lucky and we appreciate it.
    Your kitchen looks so welcoming but I’d also love to be outside to hear that banjo.

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  5. Lovely Francesca, your kitchen is warm and welcoming just as I expected it would be. Years ago we considered installing a Nectre heater but other projects came along and we ended up with an outdoor wood oven instead. But, I still love the idea of the Nectre, a project for another time perhaps. My thoughts are with you in stage 4 lockdown. We are fortunate not to be in lockdown but we are blocked from family in SA due to the border restrictions and life feels a little in limbo. For some reason I have been thinking about Christmas, how will life look by then I wonder? Take care and stay warm.

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    1. It’s hard to imagine that we’ll be out of the woods by Christmas, but let’s hope so. your outdoor oven is fabulous, I’ve always envied it and may consider one for here too. The small nectre baler’s ovens are really heaters. They warm food, but are not so reliable for baling unless you really monitor the wood and little gauge. Great heaters in fact. take care Jane. xx

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  6. Francesca your cucina is just as I imagined! A lovely warm, homey place. Signor Tranquillo looks very entertaining, and what a lovely picnic spot! Sounds like this strict quarantine was needed-Hang in there! I can’t wait till we are all saying ‘remember 2020-you know, that year that sucked?’ Ciao, Cristina

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  7. So nice to be able to pop in virtually to your space… as a respite from my own… I have spent more time in the my kitchen in the last 4… omg FOUR… months than I have ever done. Every time I dream of having a break I remember how fortunate are we who have kitchens and gardens, the know-how and inclination… often inspired by your posts… to make the best of them during these covid times.
    I would love a combined kitchen-living space but our layout means it’s easy to shut the bathroom and spare rooms off. I wish we’d known about Nectres when we installed our woodfire.
    We have never watched the TV news so much in our lives… each evening we watch SBS News with a glass of wine… imo there’s no room for complacency regardless of where you are located and that gives us the best worldwide coverage… either in the kitchen while making dinner or in front of the fire in the living room.
    Those turnips are a Dharma for #winter2020 ♡

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  8. Thank you for sharing your home with us Francesca, it’s beautiful! I love your wood heater, it looks almost identical to my parents’ one, and my mum gets the grand children to practice wood chopping when we visit, also with wood gathered from the property. I would also love one, but it would be an absurd thing to have when we’d have to buy wood at more than $300/t, so I’ll just enjoy pictures like yours 🙂
    Those soups also look wonderful, and I’m sure every meal is improved by banjo accompaniment!

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    1. Hi Beck, Isn’t it insane, the cost of wood! It’s now $350 /t here at the dealers. we have enough fallen wood to keep us going, but it is hard work, up on a steep hill, chainsawing, carting, storing till dry, then splitting. Your parents sound a bit like me- well I think I’ve noticed this before in some of your posts.
      Mr T is still learning the banjo. He has 9 guitars and has been playing for 55 years, He mostly plays blues so shifting styles is tricky. I want him to play the banjo like in the opening of Boy and Bear’s version of ‘ I fall at your feet’. And I also want Bernard Fanning to come and sing it too. Swoon. One needs good fantasies in these times.

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      1. Apparently the prices here are due to all the usual sources having literally gone up in smoke over the summer, one of those side effects of bush fires that is certainly not top of mind at the time!
        It’s lovely that Mr T is still learning and playing – dad used to play the double bass in a jazz band many years ago, but it broke some time ago (and was never as portable as a banjo!)

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  9. sig tranquillo? is that your husband? interesting … thanks so much for joining in this month, and thanks for the lovely look into your kitchen. Poor old dan andrews – he looks exhausted. it must be so disheartening for him. i keep thinking of Churchill – no one appreciated all the work he did in the war, and he got booted out after the war. i fear it will be the same for Dan. keep safe. cheers
    sherry xx

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    1. Sig is just short for Signore. I call him Tranquillo because he is so even tempered. That’s hubby with one of his 10? Stringed Instruments. Yeah poor Dan. #StandByYourDan

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  10. What a gorgeous homey welcoming kitchen! Love the pics giving an insight to your life. Poor Dan Andrews he looks absolutely buggered, it’s been such a rough trot for Victorians

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