It’s Thursday morning and at 6.30 am I’m out digging up a raft of potatoes for my produce entry at the Canberra Show. Insane I know, but with friends over the night before I didn’t get a chance to do this in advance. I had three potato entries so that was a lot of spuds to be dug. Presentation also requires the potatoes are brushed – not washed – to avoid damage to the skin. So there I was nail brush in hand, brushing, brushing, brushing.
Then the green tomatoes and the zucchinis. Bugger one of my tomatoes has been chewed by a vindictive snail so a big hunt around for another set of 3 to enter (most produce entries are done in multiples). Off with the stems. The zepellins are easy to get off the bush the struggle is to carry them inside. Unfortunately some scratches on their skins will detract from my chances.
All bagged up and ready to go, only two and a half hours later!
It was a busy time once I got to the Fitzroy Pavillion, all the more so because my entry form got lost in the mail. Thankfully the stewards were very relaxed and I only had to fill the form out again. Other stewards were on hand to show us newbies how to set up. Done and dusted with 10 minutes before closing time. Phew!
Its Friday night and TB and I are approaching the produce display. TB will tell you I am a tad competitive (well a lot really) so it was with a sinking heart that I looked at my entries, none of which were bearing that small coloured card. Where is that collection of potatoes, 3 distinct kinds?
THAT WOULD BE THE ONE WITH THE SECOND PRIZE!!!!
Well my timing was a bit off. I had intended to enter the Canberra Show 25-27 February, this year with some of my jams and preserves – entires closed yesterday, rats!
However bearing the vicissitudes of veggie gardening in mind the garden produce section is much more lenient with its entry deadlines. Those with produce in their garden have until the 17th to get a postal entry in and late phone entries on the 22nd are permissable, even entries on the day of judging (24th February) are a possibility, but only if space permits. By the way the garden produce section also includes eggs.
Having a look at the schedule (available along with the entry form), there are plenty of categories to choose from. Wow, I’ve just discovered that there is actually a class for unripe tomatoes!! things are looking up. We are no where near ready with corn or eggplants, but we can have a tilt at the potato and garlic classes.
There is also a school childrens section and a novelty fruit and vegetable sculpture section so get those children working! BTW if you find the inner child in yourself making an appearance there is also an ‘Open’ section in the fruit and vegetable sculpture class.
On Friday my work colleague commented that the best thing about her children growing up was that she didn’t have to take them to the Canberra Show anymore. While we don’t go to the show every year we were inspired to go again this year having watched Hugh F-W, in his early River Cottage DVDs, entering the local village shows and going head to head with his neighbours in the veggie and cooking classes.
Our goal was to head for the Harvest Hall, via the animal displays and the wood chopping. On the way we caught the judging of the Merino rams and watched the judging of the Highland Cattle. We also saw several heats of the wood chopping. While this sport is dominated by Queensland and NSW axemen it was encouraging to see ACT competitors in the mix. Unfortunately none of them made the finals which we saw later in the day.
The prime reason for visiting the produce display was to check out what sort of competition we’d be up against should we decide to enter the produce classes next year. We certainly thought that we could make a good showing in a number of the classes. Our veggies look like they would stand up well to the competition and I’m kicking myself that it never dawned on me to consider entering the jam making classes. My Blackberry Curd would have knocked the socks off the competition in Class 263 ‘Jar of Fruit Butter – other than Lemon Butter’. Next year I’ll just have to remove my digit and put my curd where my mouth is!
My greatest pleasure at any agricultural show is wandering around the cattle pavilions. All those beautifully groomed animals, washed and blow-dried into a picture of bovine perfection. And after the judging they return to their stalls to pose in the most elegantly arranged of sculptural forms. My latest bovine swoon is a breed of cattle called Speckled Parks (which I‘m told were developed in Canada). Their general appearance is one of white hides exquisitely spotted with black, but one animal we saw was black with a rococo flourish of white running down the length of its spine.
I also took great enjoyment in watching the carriage driving event which we caught while eating our lunch. The élan with which the horses step out and the precisely turned out drivers are the essence of a refinement not commonly seen today.
Moving from the sublime to the sweaty we stopped again at the wood chopping on our way out of the grounds. This time we saw several finals and the Queensland vs NSW ‘state of origin’ team relay competition. Each team has to cut, in order, one underhand (horizontal log), one standing log, saw a log with a single-handed saw, saw a log with a two-handed saw then cut another underhand log and a final standing log. What would take your average punter most of the day to get through takes these teams well under five minutes to complete. All their equipment is honed to the sharpest edge and yes they do have specially designed ‘racing’ saws for these competitions. It was all going very closely when the NSW sawyers’ single saw buckled and he was unable to move it through the log. While NSW had clearly lost the day they were supported by the Queensland team who loaned them their own single saw so the NSW team could complete the event. This was very well received by the large crowd that was watching and I believe that the NSW team ended up receiving the greatest applause.
At the end of the day we made our way back through the fields of parked cars. No tears or tantrums, just plain tired and not a showbag between us!