Category Archives: Wild Life

Sicilian sweet and sour rabbit (or my version of it)

Sicilian Sweet and Sour Rabbit

Sicilian Sweet and Sour Rabbit

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been steadily eating our way through our freezers full of pork, fish and beef here at son Daniel’s. We’ve had pork chops on the BBQ, roast pork, pork belly braised in master stock, chilli pork, crumbed fish and delicious organic grain fed steaks. All fantastic, but nothing to blog about.

Tuesday, I decided it was time to use another couple of the rabbits we were given in WA back in October. After watching an episode of Italian Food Safari with Maeve O’meara and Guy Grossi where they made a Sicilian rabbit dish, I decided to check out it and a few more recipes and came up with this:

Sicilian sweet and sour rabbit

  • 2 cloves garlic, bruised
  • 8 rabbit pieces
  • Seasoned plain flour
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 100 g prosciutto (I got one slice, then diced it small)
  • 250 ml red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 150 ml chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons of dried cranberries (originally called for currants)
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (I do this in a small dry pan over a low heat, shaking ’til golden)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leafed parsley
    Sicilian Sweet and Sour Rabbit

    Sicilian Sweet and Sour Rabbit

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-based heat-proof casserole, add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden, then discard the garlic.
  2. Dust the rabbit in seasoned flour and shake away the excess, then cook in the oil over medium heat until light golden all over-this might need to be done in a couple of batches. Remove all from the pan.
  3. Add the onion and prosciutto and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the onions  are almost soft.
  4. Add the wine, bay leaf rosemary and vinegar and boil for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the stock, then return the rabbit to the pan for about one hour or until tender.
  6. Remove the rabbit from the pan and keep warm.
  7. Add the sugar, cranberries and olives to pan and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce is syrupy.
  8. Return the rabbit to the pan and stir in the parsley and pine nuts and serve.

I should add, it was excellent and will be made again one day. It wasn’t sweet and sour like Chinese S&S but had just a nice “tang” to it. The rabbit cooked up tender and moist in the sauce too.

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Slow cooked Thai style venison and sweet potato stew

Slow cooked Thai style venison and sweet potato stew

Slow cooked Thai style venison and sweet potato stew

The original recipe was for beef and didn’t contain coconut milk but I think it needed it. A friend gave my son the venison, Russ cooked it under direction from me. I was busy doing school stuff with our grandson.

Slow cooked Thai style venison and sweet potato

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2kg venison (we think ours was rump), cut to about 2cm dice
  • 2 large red onions, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 inch ginger grated or cut fine
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste (or to taste)
  • 2 tins whole tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 750g sweet potato, cut to about 2cm dice
  • 1 400ml can coconut milk
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • chopped coriander to garnish

Method

Slow cooked Thai style venison and sweet potato stew

Slow cooked Thai style venison and sweet potato stew

  1. Heat the oil and brown the venison in batches, putting it aside on a plate as you go.
  2. Add the sliced onion to the pan (you might need a bit more oil) and cook until well softened (about 10 minutes).
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook a couple of minutes. Stir in the curry paste and cook a minute or two more until fragrant.
  4. Add the tinned tomatoes, water and fish sauce, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, pop a lid on and cook for a couple of hours until tender.
  5. Add in the diced sweet potato and coconut milk and cook a further 30-45 mins until tender.
  6. Just before serving, season to taste with lime juice, brown sugar and chopped coriander and more fish sauce if you think it needs it.
  7. We ate ours over rice.

Louth and the Norfolk Broads

early morning mist on the broads

early morning mist on the broads

On Friday October 3rd, we left Edinburgh and drove about 300 miles to stay for three nights with friends Joy and Simon in their gorgeous home on the edge of the not-s-small village of Louth. We had a really fun and relaxing three nights and two days with them that went all too fast!

I met Joy many years ago when we both belonged to an internet recipe site called Recipezaar. At the time, she and Simon were living in Wales but she and I had become good enough cyber friends for Russ and I to visit her when we holidayed in the UK 7 years ago.

Joy and Simon are actually Australians, with family there, so they decided a few years ago to move “home”. We caught up with them quite often in Perth. The move to Australia lasted just over a year- until they realised how much they missed the UK and all it offers them.  They’ve been back just over a year and are very happy now!

Joy is a fantastic cook and hostess, and Simon is a great host who hates to see an empty glass at the table so needless to say, we felt very much at home! On the night we arrrived, we had a great Chinese meal followed by an impressive cheese board.

raclette

raclette

Night two, we had a raclette. I know Joy and Simon love raclette, so I’d hinted I’d love to try one. I wasn’t disappointed.

Raclette is a melting cheese, and in Switzerland, I think they do just that-melt the cheese, then scoop it up with crusty bread.

Joy’s version is quite different. We each got an assortment of chopped and prepared ingredients, and starting with the raw meat and onion, added things to a dish on the hotplate (of a machine sitting in the centre of the table) in the order they took to cook. When they were done, we topped with raclette cheese and popped under the grill part of the machine. Each dinner had a bowl of baby skin-on potatoes and split a couple of them on their plate before topping with the cooked and cheesy mixture. It was really yummy and lots of fun and I’m having a machine!

Sunday, we took Joy and Simon out to a pub we’d had a drink in the day before. Daniel Craig is known to frequent it, but he didn’t show up. Still and all it was a lovely lunch in a really quaint little pub. Dinner was a marinated Thai chicken breasts with great salads and another fantastic cheese board.

Louth Church

Louth Church

We took a lovely walk around the village of louth, caught up with all our laundry, had a fun visit to friends of Joy and Simon, and I even managed to cook and freeze two meals for our time on the boat on the Norfolk Broads.

We left Joy and Simon’s in pouring rain and made our way to our boat on the Broads. We arrive at the boat yard outside Norwich around 4pm, and by 5pm were underway (still in the pouring rain) on our 4 night adventure.

On most holidays, we allow ourselves one really extravagant activity With this holiday being 10 weeks long, we allowed ourselves one each. Mine was to fly to Switzerland to visit our dear friends, and Russ’s was the boat on the broads. I’m so glad we did them both as they were amazing times

Raining on the Broads

Raining on the Broads

Like I said, it was pouring when we left the boat yard, so we made our way up stream very carefully mooring at Coldham Hall Pub for the night. We popped into the pub for well earned glass of wine, to use their Wi Fi and to just unwind. After our drink, we went back to the boat and made ourselves a warm salad of salmon capers and dill, baby potatoes and asparagus. Exhausted, we both slept like logs!

early morning mist on the broads

early morning mist on the broads

Tuesday, we woke to a mist over the water and the promise of a lovely day so we got underway. The boats on the broads are only allowed to do 6 mph in most places and as low as 3 or 4 mph in others, so it’s a pretty leisurely way to see the Broads. Mid week and out of season was a wise choice too-I can imagine it would be manic with boats, and moorings would be as scarce as hen’s teeth in the high season!

We putted up the river stopping for lunch at Hardley wind mill. As luck (?) would have it there was a windmill enthusiast on hand to give us the complete and utter run-down on the mill and all mills in general.

Hardley Wind Mill

Hardley Wind Mill

We were able to climb three very steep sets of stairs, then 2 equally steep and scary ladders to the top. When I said I might miss out on the ladders, he said I’d regret not seeing the view and I should do it. The view was great (I even walked out around the sails,) but OMG it was scary! All this for a 2 pound each “donation”

Our boat from the windmill

Our boat from the windmill

After lunch and our very educational visit to the mill, we headed up the Chet River to Loddon where we planned to spend the night. The Chet River was really narrow and windy and we were thrilled not to meat a boat on it’s way out. The banks were very weedy and a fouled prop on the boat would have cost us 250 pounds if we called out the engineer!

Loddon's lovely library

Loddon’s lovely library

With the boat safely tied up, we took a long walk across the fields to the lovely village of Loddon. I really loved the buildings around town especially the local library and church.

Back on the boat, we had pre-dinner drinks on the back deck to watch the sun go down. It was lovely to be visited by a family of swans (mum, dad and 7 cygnets) to talk to locals as they walked their dogs and watch the fishermen in their little boats head home. We had chilli con carne (made and frozen at Joy’s) for dinner  and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Moon over the Broads

Moon over the Broads

Wednesday, the good weather had moved on so after a lazy late breakfast, we headed back up the Chet River and moored at the mouth while we waited to see what the nasty weather would do. Our good luck at not seeing another boat on the river deserted us and we had to pass three boats and were over taken by another-quite nerve racking but we survived!

Sunset over the BroadsAfter lunch we decided it was silly to move on, so just stayed put on our mooring for the night. The weather lifted a bit so we could sit and watch another pretty sunset on the back deck then we had chicken, leek and mushroom casserole for dinner

In the morning, we motored back towards the boatyard, stopping off for lunch and more Wi Fi at Coldham Hall Pub, then moored at Bramerton for the night. Once again we took a long walk around that very pretty little village before having dinner-left over casserole with asparagus, parmesan and sour cream added and all served over pasta. Same but quite different.

remains of a windmill on the broads

remains of a windmill on the broads

Our boat was a bit of an old donga, but everything worked and the bed (especially the pillows!) was comfy, so we didn’t let its old age or the rain spoil our days! If we’d taken a better boat, it’d have been double the price so we were quite happy with it. We saw lots of bird life (heaps of swans, ducks, geese, herons, harriers etc) I think I saw a mink and we saw rabbits and hares.

This morning we returned the boat to the boatyard around 9 am then drove to our last cottage just outside Matlock in the dales on the edge of the Peak District. Talk about saving the best til last-it’s gorgeous. And to make it even better, the owner had lit the wood fire and left us some fresh fruit scones, jam, butter, milk and laundry detergent.

We have 4 nights here, then we’ll drive the 1.5 hours into Manchester on Tuesday and catch our plane back to Perth Wednesday morning.

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Loch Ness, Isle of Skye and Speyside Steam Train

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

We had three full days before leaving our accommodation on Loch Ness this morning and making our way here to Edinburgh.

Driving down along the Loch Ness South Trail

Driving down along the Loch Ness South Trail

After our huge day out of Inverness on Thursday,(we didn’t get home until 9 pm) we had a relaxing morning, lunch at home, then drove around what they call the Loch Ness South trail. It has a stunning viewpoint about half was down the loch over another couple of other lochs and along the Great Glen. It’s a narrow little road, but with not much traffic on it, it was fine. We also took a detour of that road and visited the Falls of Foyer. It looked like it’d be a good walk to the bottom but we quit at the first lookout when it started rain.

Falls of Foyer  were much taller than they look

Falls of Foyer were much taller than they look

Saturday we set the alarm and got away pretty early (for us) to the Isle of Skye. It was only 57 miles from our accommodation on Loch Ness to the Bridge of Skye, then we did about 120 miles on the island and finally the 57 home.

Skye Bridge

Skye Bridge

It’s a really ruggedly beautiful place and it was hard not to stop every hundred metres for another photo. You get great views of the Hebrides, picture perfect villages with tiny whitewashed cottages, tall mountains covered in mist, waterfalls and of course the occasional castle ruin. We lunched at Columba 1400 in Staffin-it’s run to benefit kids in trouble and Russ’s burger and my pannini and soup were excellent .

Speyside steam railway for lunch

Speyside steam railway for lunch

Sunday we had booked ourselves lunch on a steam train that operates on a 10 mile stretch of track out of Aviemore (75 miles from Loch Ness). I wasn’t really holding great hope for the meal but was honestly surprised at the quality of food we got. Russ had Pate, roast beef and apple pie, I had lentil soup, poached salmon and apple pie. We got a side of veg with our mains and coffee and home made fudge to finish. It was lovely to have an Aussie couple beside us-two federal police from Canberra on holidays in Scotland and Ireland for 7 weeks.

Speyside steam railway for lunch

Speyside steam railway for lunch

After lunch, we drove out to a reindeer farm. In 1952 a Laplander came to the area on his honeymoon, discovered the local reindeer had been hunted to extinction so he and his wife and 8 reindeer moved to Aviemore. The herd is able to roam free in the alpine national park for a lot of the year but they are pretty well domesticated and easy to get up close to. It was a bit overpriced and quite a hike up to the holding yards, but I’m so pleased we did it.

Reindeers

Reindeers

Today we drove to Edinburgh where we’ll spend the next 4 nights. It was a nightmare finding our apartment and another nightmare finding our parking place when we’d unloaded our gear. The car is in a parking building about a mile from here! We had problems connecting to the internet and using the TV but it’s all sorted now and we’re relaxing with a bottle of bubbles before we have Chinese for dinner.

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Loch Ness-the mistake

Beauly Pass

Beauly Pass

In hindsight we should have moved further north than from lovely Loch Earn to Loch Ness.

We have based ourselves a week at a time in self-catering accommodation and taken drives of the local area. After 3 days here, one drive back we fancied doing would have us crossing roads we’ve travelled before, and to get further north, takes a lot of miles. Not ones to beat ourselves up too much for our mistakes, we’ll put up with it, but will know better next time we visit. The roads in Scotland have been good with much less traffic than England and Wales, so it’s much easier to actually drive further.

Loch Ness from our apartment

Loch Ness from our apartment

On arrival here, we were upgraded to a two bedroom apartment. It’s lovely, right on the loch in a nice, quiet part of the complex. We’d cooked ourselves a lovely dinner and were sitting relaxing (purring almost) when I took one more look at all the correspondence I’d had from them over the last couple of months before I deleted it. Imagine my shock and horror when I looked a little further down the page on the last one and found our “upgrade” appeared to have actually cost us a further 170 pounds or Aus $350 for the week! I was sick. I was so sick I couldn’t sleep.

We headed to the office here but it turns out whilst they do the bookings, they don’t handle the money so I emailed what I thought was the office in London but it wasn’t (see my blood pressure rising here). However that e-mail had gone to a bigger sort of boss who sent it on, then kept on it, until it was sorted it all out for me and we didn’t pay the extra. It’s a nice apartment but not that nice!

All this took most of the first day here for someone to say “no, you don’t owe the money”, so day one went by in a daze of tiredness and annoyance, and was a day wasted. In a big holiday of over 10 weeks that we (mostly I) organised ourselves, that one hiccup so far is pretty good! All we did that day was drive a little way to the Loch Ness Experience at Drumnadrochit.

Home of the Loch Ness Experience Drumnadrochit

Home of the Loch Ness Experience Drumnadrochit

The “experience” is a series of 6 rooms with movies and displays basically explaining why there CAN’T be a monster in the loch, and while it was ok, it’s not something I would tell any of you you need to visit. But then I could have gone to the most exciting show on earth and felt down-I just wasn’t in the mood. I slept all the way home in the car too (apart from stopping to take a quick photo of Urquhart Castle).

Urquart Castle on Loch Ness

Urquart Castle on Loch Ness

The most often seen photo of the “monster” is a fraud-the man who took it has since admitted this. There is not enough food in Loch Ness to support a creature the size Nessie is supposed to be and bubbles seen often our end and near the entrance into the loch from another river are just methane bubbles (caused by rotting vegetation) rising to the surface. So there, it’s a hoax to keep tourists coming back. Or is it……….?

The highlight of that day was dinner-Russ cooked me a beautiful forequarter (shoulder) of roasted scottish lamb with roast potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, peas and broccoli and gravy and mint sauce. He went out in the garden here and picked the mint for the mint sauce!

Victoria Market Inverness

Victoria Market Inverness

On Wednesday, we drove to Inverness where we did a bit of shopping in the Victoria Market (now converted into 47 lovely little shops), and just strolled around town. We crossed a huge bridge onto The Black Isle and stopped for lunch at North Kessock. It was nice to find a tourist info place with picnic tables and toilets for a change although picnic tables seem slightly more common in Scotland than England as do public toilets!.

Cromarty

Cromarty

I loved the little village of Cromarty on Cromarty Firth and wish we’d stayed there instead of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is lovely but, as I mentioned too close to Loch Earn. The Cromarty Firth is home to a number of oil rig building and maintenance yards so there are quite a few of them sitting out on the water. Sounds ugly and industrial, but somehow it wasn’t.

Lighthouse Chanory Point

Lighthouse Chanory Point

Beauly PassWe came home over the Beauly Pass through some gorgeous country. We’d just passed something dead on the side of the road (and no, we didn’t eat it) when I saw a lovely fence dripping with mosses and lichens. We stopped the car, took a photo of that, then went back to investigate the dead body. It was a badger. Not long dead, he was much bigger than I thought a badger would be. They are protected in Scotland and we found out later, we should have rung the badger society so they could come collect him. Dinner was a quick pasta of Scottish smoked salmon and was delicious. I also made a beef curry for dinner the following night in case we got home late from what looked like being a big day out.

Dead Badger

Dead Badger

What good luck I decided to make that curry. We left home at 10 am and didn’t return until 9 pm. I drove and I feel like I drove right around Scotland yesterday!

Back and through Inverness, we drove to Fort George Via Ardersier where we lunched at the common and took a walk along the stony beach. Near there, we stumbled upon an amazing, organic, on-farm cheese factory at Connage. We both love our cheese and Russ is a bit of an industry expert, but we both walked away gob-smacked. The friendly, knowledgeable staff helped us to buy more than we would normally, but it was all too good. If it wasn’t made by them, it was made pretty locally and made well. I bought a bag of Scottish tablet (a sickly sweet condensed milk toffee I think) so have tried that now and don’t need to again.

Heading to the coast and driving through the very pretty town of Forres (it won something for all the floral displays in town) we stopped by a huge carved Pict stone, then a bit further on came across Duffus Castle just sitting in a paddock.

Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle

There’s been a castle on the (man-made) hill since the 1100s, but it’s just ruins now. Still, it was a really lovely spot amongst the farms and little towns and we especially enjoyed having it all to ourselves. The only disturbances were about 4 fighter jets taking off from an airfield nearby and a farmer harvesting some sort of dried beans we couldn’t identify!

Findochty

Findochty

Along the coast, we drove the Scenic Coastal Route through a number of delightful little seaside towns-old fishing villages. Most seemed unspoiled and not at all touristy. My favourites were Findochty and Cullen. Finally at about 5pm, we turned for home. Our chosen route was 150 miles long and that took us along the Malt Whiskey Trail, the Speyside Trail, and the Wildcat Trail. I now think I’ve seen every major whiskey distillery in Scotland as they seem to all be along the Spey River. Name one! I’m sure I drove by it! And yes, Scotland has wild cats. Much like a domestic tabby cat, but with slightly longer legs, a much longer tail, and a bigger head. But we didn’t see one.

Driving through Aviemore, we saw a little snow on the hills behind. After that, it got dark and started to rain, then it got windy and started to pour. I was never so glad to arrive home at 9 pm to my curry waiting and some delicious cheese for supper!

We have lots of rabbits and birds on the grounds of the Highland club and every morning and afternoon the rabbits are out feeding. Most are just babies so have very little fear of us. They come in all colours too so black, white, grey, brown and brindle-they really are cute. But I’d like a couple to eat!

Out front our apartment Highland Club Fort Augustus

Out front our apartment Highland Club Fort Augustus

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Crab Risotto

Crab Risotto

Crab Risotto

We had a late brunch yesterday (bacon and eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms on toast mmmmm) then went over to Monkey Mia to crab.

On the way across, I commented to Russ that if we happened to get any crabs, I’d make risotto for dinner Friday. We haven’t heard of anyone in the park crabbing, or getting crabs so I thought maybe they (the crabs) had moved on. How wrong was I. We’re only fishing on one licence now as the fishing is poor and 20 crabs is enough but they were there in huge numbers.

Pearl farm Monkey Mia

Pearl farm Monkey Mia

We had 8 nets out and every run (we did about 6) got us at least one, and often two, crabs in each net. We threw back lots of just size crabs to bring home 14 big beauties. I also pulled in a shovel nose shark/ray that was at least 1.2 metres long in one pot .  Russ has only ever been nipped by a crabs  a couple of times but one got him yesterday. It was undersized with one deformed claw. We threw it back, went back and picked that net up again 20 minutes later and there the nasty little bugger was again!

Back from crabbing watching Shotover go out

Back from crabbing watching Shotover go out

Last night we cooked the crabs and put them in the fridge-this morning we picked them. Out of interest, I weighed the meat. We got 1.2 kg! Then out of interest I priced blue swimmer crab meat-about $60 a kg so quite a nice little feed! We froze three packs of around 300g each, and kept back about 300g for risotto tonight.

Dubaut Inlet

Dubaut Inlet

After lunch we went for a drive to Dubaut Inlet-a lovely little creek Beaty and Charlie have often spoken of but we’ve never seen.  We probably did 10 ks of 4WDing through biridas, up and down red sand hills, to a little inlet surrounded by mangroves. It was one of those flat, still days when it becomes hard to tell the sky from the sea-very beautiful. It was a great few hours.

At home, I made crab risotto for dinner and we sat, as usual, telling each other how lucky we are!

Crab Risotto

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 leek, sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed, divided
    • 1 cup aborio rice
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 3 cups chicken stock (approximately), kept simmering on another burner
    • zest of a lemon, divided
    • 2 tablespoon shredded basil, divided
    • 30 g grated parmesan cheese
    • 60g butter
    • cracked black pepper (much as you like)
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • Cooked crab meat (as much as you have, or want for two people)
Crab Risotto

Crab Risotto

Method

  1. Heat the oil and cook the leek until it’s well softened. Add half the garlic and cook a minute or so more.
  2. Add the rice and cook until it’s coated with the oil. Tip in the wine and cook, stirring, until it’s evaporated. Now start and add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until it’s completely evaporated, before adding the next.
  3. This might take about 25 minutes in total but keep stirring and when you get near the end of the stock, start tasting a grain of rice-it needs a bit of bite in the centre but to be 9/10ths cooked. When you reckon it’s almost done, add in half the lemon zest and shredded basil.
  4. When you are sure it’s done, turn the heat off and stir through the butter and parmesan, the lemon juice and black pepper. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes.
  5. Mix together the remaining garlic, basil and zest to make a gremolata
  6. Serve the risotto in a flat disc, sprinkle over the gremolata, top with the crab. Eat!

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MIA

A portion of Nornalup Inlet

A portion of Nornalup Inlet

With nice weather promised today (and not so nice tomorrow) we headed out to do our usual fishing and crabbing on the inlet this morning.

Nice morning at the boat ramp

Nice morning at the boat ramp

It all looked fine as we crossed the water to the spot we planned to try out, so Russ started baiting up the nets while we drifted along gently, and I fished. There were a few threatening looking clouds to the south but we kept going. By the time we’d dropped the last net, the wind had really risen and the water was a mass of white capped waves. We abandoned the last two nets we’d dropped and attempted to retrieve the first four. We got three of them before we made it, soaking wet, to a sheltered place around the corner. We decided to sit and fish and wait out the wind before we tried to either get our nets, or head home.

After about an hour fishing, we headed back out and got one more net before being forced to turn around and go home. We managed to catch some really nice King George whiting, a tarwine and a tommy ruff while we waited for that hour so that was pretty pleasing.We were well entertained by a couple of very bold pelicans as we sat there too.

We threw one a fish, two minutes later we had two

We threw one a fish, two minutes later we had two

After a big, steaming bowl of my homemade lamb and pearl barley soup, Russ put the boat in to go retrieve the last two nets but when he got there, they were gone.

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