Holy Crap Batman…they’re effecting change on Serendipity Farm!

Hi All,

We all have them and April is one of our birthday months on Serendipity Farm. My oldest child turns 30 and my youngest turns 22. Don’t feel left out Madeline, you already had your birthday (24). Since we moved to Serendipity Farm we no longer spend a large amount of money on people for birthdays. This came about due to us considering how much money we had, and how much money they had and working out that we were the lowest common denominator in the money chain so we now give gifts rather than moola. No doubt my son is racing out to take up bungie jumping, sky diving and anything else that he can to deny his descent into 30 and my daughters will spend the day together celebrating with an amazing feast revolving around gourmet products. Since we moved out, the girls have become gourmands. I talked to them yesterday and was informed that they had just been shopping and purchased goat shanks…GOAT SHANKS! What on earth does one do with the shanks of a goat? No idea, but the girls saw merit in them and purchased them along with a dozen oysters, a kilo of mussels and various weird and wonderful varieties of sausage that they bought from a tiny local smallgoods firm directly opposite where Bethany attends Polytechnic as an art student. Their fridge is like Aladdin’s cave and always contains something new and most interesting. Their shelves are full of weird and wonderful Korean concoctions along with various weird grains, strange brands of noodle and couscous and all sorts of unusual sweets and biscuits. I now have to think of what to get someone who lives in the “Paris” sector of Melbourne for his birthday and what to get my gourmet daughter for her birthday 7 days after my son’s. I have a week or so to think about it but the clock is ticking…

Steve was determined to not miss getting a home grown tomato this year. We started late…VERY late and this is the sum of our most delicious tomatoes that have been raised in the glasshouse.

Stretch was complaining about how cold it is moving from Western Australia (hot) to Tasmania (cold) when you are a stretchy bean filled naked rubber chicken. Apparently Stretch is working on it…

Figs and Juglans regia (English walnuts…even though they come from Persia…go figure!) collected in Beaconsfield and subsequently eaten (figs) and stratified (walnuts…apart from 1 that Earl decided to crack and sample and find wanting…)

Hi guys! It’s Monday and Steve is racing around town having a wonderful time on his own. Steve likes to establish, maintain and keep up an alarming pace whenever confronted with shopping and town and despite my best efforts I am totally unable to keep up with him. Aside from my 2 steps to his 1, I have a “curious mind” and need to pick things up…turn them over…sniff them (which has gotten me into trouble more than once I can tell you!) and generally savour this new and unfamiliar product where Steve grabs it, bungs it into the trolley on the run, pausing only to pay the checkout chick before they arrest him for motorised shoplifting. He will be munching his way through a couple of Macca’s sausage Mcmuffins (both held in one hand) and slurping noisily on a boiling hot beverage (most probably Gloria Jeans…) with the other hand…driving with his knees in the expert way that only someone who has lived most of his life in enormous cities knows how to do. I panic at the first sign of a brake light, but he lives vicariously enjoying every thrilling heart stopping minute (of our 100 000 odd population teeny tiny city) of the chase. He phoned me about 30 minutes ago (I have been commenting on some great blog posts that I got in my inbox today) at 7.30am to tell me that he had done all of the shopping and was just waiting (Mcmuffins in hand) to get the dogs meat, my stuff (can you hear the impatient sigh?) at the health food shop and then he is off to get a brand spanking new razzmatazz phone from the Telstra shop. Our 24 month contract is up and he has the desire for a smart phone burning a hole in his psyche at the moment. After doing some research we found the perfect phone for regional use (most important) to get coverage out here and that will allow him to play “Need for Speed” whenever he wants (no doubt with Mcmuffins in the other hand and driving with one foot…). I could care less about mobile phones…so long as they are able to be used for the purpose of “Phone” (obviously hidden under all of the aps, games, music etc.) and have nice easy steps to get there I am happy. Steve is a techno geek and loves new things and will be messing about with whatever he ends up getting for hours muttering under his breath at regular intervals about GPS…MP4 etc. and speaking that foreign language that people who love technology attempt to pass off as normal conversation. Have fun babe…just make sure that I can press something to phone a friend should the need ever arise!

I would like to call this photo “What you lookin at Willis!” for all of you who are older than 10 and remember the sitcom Different Strokes. Pingu could have gone one of two ways after her last attempt at scaling the Pearly Gates. The first time Earl broke her leg and left her for dead (although she was very much alive and only playing possum…) the second time she was standing at the gate waiting to be let back in to her rightful home or be fed a piece of bread, whichever came first when she made the mistake of getting a teensy bit too close. Earl seized the day/moment and pulled her under the gate and Steve came out to find feathers all over the deck…Pingu coloured feathers! We thought for sure that she was dead and were not at all surprised as she liked to stare through the gate at a slavering Earl on a regular basis. She was, in fact, relatively unharmed after her plucking as Earl had stupidly taken his mouth off her and she ran and then flew straight off the 3 metre drop from the deck to the ground. She was waiting for her bit of bread at the bottom of the steps! Now, as previously mentioned, this would leave you one of two ways…scared witless and terrified of EVERYTHING or…in no mood whatsoever to tolerate any sort of aggressive behaviour and with a massive chip on your shoulder…Pingu chose the latter. She can now be found terrorising the feral cats and stealing food out of their mouths. She runs at them full pelt with her wings out and pecks any part of animal that she can. Bezial is now allowed out to wander around with impunity as he totally ignores the cats and the hens (with age comes wisdom…) but Pingu ran up to him and decided to check him out tempting fate severely. She has decided that he might be alright and didn’t actually attack him but she follows Earl (on the lead) at a safe distance now… watching and waiting for her chance to pounce! That’s one ANGRY little bird!

I love finding like-minded souls on the other side of the world. Back in the olden days (20 years ago) when I was actually alive (shock HORROR!) I didn’t even think about the “other side of the world”. It was like thinking about the moon and anything “American” or “English” was consigned to history, newspapers or social studies in school. Now, with technology (specifically the internet) making the world a much smaller and more immediate environment, I am able to wake up, settle down in front of my PC in the wee small dark hours of the morning and slowly wake up with a cup of tea nestled lovingly in one hand and the other one caressing the mouse. Do I love my newfound “overseas” friends? Damned right I do! I don’t know these people who share their passion, humour and essence across the miles but I consider them soul buddies (as wanky and hippy as that sounds) because whenever I get one of their carefully considered (although some of you might want to consider using the spellcheck every now and then!) content rich posts I am getting a little glimpse of their lives way over there in the U.S.A. or the U.K. or Canada or any of the other places that I regularly poke my nose into to have a careful sniff around. I found a really great blog when I was nosing around at The Soulsby Farm. A fantastic blog in its own right and a great source of information and cheap makes for we homesteading pioneers (read poor sad fools who have fallen prey to weed infestation and under the spell of animals en masse) and right there on the blogroll (some people actually do look at them you know…) I discovered Hanna and her wonderfully honest blog “This Garden is Illegal”. I will give you a little soupçon of Hanna’s fantastic way of looking at things and her great writing skills here in her latest post…

http://www.thisgardenisillegal.com/

Not only is she informative, money wise and clever (all A+ features of a blog that I want to read) but she is funny, wry and honest and this elevates her right up there with the best. Go check out her blog and you tell me that she hasn’t got an edge on writing about gardening and its foibles. I could most probably write all of this post today if I wanted to but we are planning on being bums up in the garden for the rest of the week and so I would no doubt miss out on telling you about how one of our new roosters has turned into a rapist and is just about to say hello to God, I will no doubt be covered in leech bites and will resemble something out of a John Carpenter movie by the end of the week (bring on the Jehovah’s Witnesses then!) and we will hopefully have had many opportunities to take interesting photos for you to ooo and ahhh over. Welcome to everyone who has recently subscribed to the blog by the way. Cheers for your faith that I will be able to amuse you and inform you whilst performing acts of super human strength out there in the jungle of a garden that we call Serendipity Farm. Someone on the road to Beaconsfield got pigs. Now I know that it isn’t like “got nits” or “got worms” but for me it is almost as contagious because I WANT PIGS. I love them. They are most probably the closest animal to my own personal state. Pigs are smart (tick) they are funny (tick) they tend to run to seed (tick…tick…tick…) they spend their lives looking for somewhere to wallow and cool down (oh MAN that’s a tick!) and love nothing better than standing next to a tree rubbing their large expanse and grunting in extreme satisfaction. I figure I must have been a pig in my past life. Steve wants goats and in particular miniature goats. My daughters ate goat shanks the other day and have been lauding the delights of said goaty meat ever since so you might want to think about those goats VERY carefully Stevey boy… Harvey (The Tassie Farmer) thrust pigs into my semi-awake mind this morning and coupled them with Eliza Wood who is a country livestock morning presenter on our local ABC who has rare Essex saddleback’s on a property up in Penguin (YES we have a town named penguin…sigh…) and who recently had an open day on her and her partners farm. Lots of rare breeds of things and all no doubt VERY exciting but you lost me at pigs Harvey. I sat there daydreaming about how Brian up the back (the tree felling neighbour with the sanctimonious wife) would LOVE to have pigs living in the bush block adjacent to his property (who wouldn’t?) and how they would fit in most incredibly well with the rest of us here on Serendipity Farm. Indeed…should I ever want to head off into town on secret nefarious business I could just put a pair of my jeans and a sun hat on one of the larger ones, plonk it down into the middle garden and let it do what it did best and Steve would never know the difference! It is with regret that I stop typing here and leave some space for future “events” to occur. When I get on a roll it is like a wellspring opening and the words just want to keep tumbling out. See you later on in the week :)

I allow my mind to be gloriously and most vicariously innovative and exciting. I try to learn all sorts of new and interesting things and tend to slide right off the Richter scale when it comes to weird and wonderful “stuff” to cram in the few spaces left in my mental capacity but as chaotic and exciting as my mind is, the rest of me is the exact antithesis of chaos and I love nothing more than to be soothed by routine and a dearth of change going on at any given time. I mentioned this only because I have just gotten hungry and have ventured into the previously foreign territory known to others as “Breakfast” recently. Working hard in the garden needs a degree of staying power and last night’s tea simply doesn’t cut the mustard when you need to lift, heft and hack on a massive scale especially if you intend on carrying on the process rather than making one fell swoop at glory. Staying power aka “energy” has been an elusive dream of mine for quite some time. Since I started eating something in the morning I have had energy for the first time in many years. Coupled with eating nutritious food and totally knocking out sugar and white refined products I have suddenly developed a new spring in my step and have lost 6kg without even trying. I think I have discovered a precious secret here about “weight loss” but at the moment I am still in familiar territory and when I have lost 10kg I will let you know about the true nature of my new eating regime. My breakfast this morning (and every morning if the truth be known) is “some minute oats”, “some dates cut up with a pair of scissors” with boiling water poured over them and set aside to absorb said boiling water all topped off with a finely chopped apple. Might sound boring but it tastes lovely and keeps me going till mid-afternoon when I have my main meal. I used to eat 1 enormous meal in the evening but now I eat 2 meals and something nutritious if I get hungry in between. I use olive oil in my cooking and I eat however much I want to. I am a big eater and so if anything is going to make me fall off the wagon it is portion control. I can live on broccoli and carrots (and have done so before) but if you make me weigh them out I am outta there! Gone are the days where I would get “funny” and start minimising my portion sizes, cutting out entire food groups and trying to scrape every last skerrick of fat out of my diet. It’s there because we need it folks to metabolise some of our most important vitamins and minerals and without it we look like deflated balloons (skin etc.) and apart from working hard in the garden we are walking the dogs 5km a day. Easy ways to lose weight and get healthy without even trying. I added some ground cloves and a pinch of ground cinnamon to my breakfast today and it tastes lovely. I know that at some day in the future even I, with my endless need to categorise and follow a nice sensible routine, am going to get a tad bored with this meal and so I am already looking out for interesting nutritious alternatives. In my travels I found a recipe for fermented muesli (An Instructable) which really caught my eye. I love the idea of using my dehydrator (second in cost and lack of use only to the “you-beaut” $1200 blender) to make this amazing healthy looking muesli containing equally amazing probiotics. I am a sucker for a bacterium, and even found an instructable for harnessing your own little greeblies to work for you (isolated from buttermilk should I ever find a live source in Australia that is…). This brings me back to my life’s work. I have a fever… A FEVER I TELLS YA for hunting out how to make basic things and compiling them. Recipes for healthy home-made margarine, baking powder, sourdough starter, potato yeast as well as how to make just about everything that you could possibly need/want yourself. Bugger the middle man (my arch nemesis…) bring on “do it yourself” in a way that it actually relates to our inner need to feel competent rather than societies need to foist all kinds of consumerist goods that we don’t need and can’t afford in the name of D.I.Y. Does anyone else get “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine? Has anyone else noticed how it is just an enormous advertisement from cover to cover? D.I.Y. sells BIGTIME people and don’t think it took the middle man long to work that one out and harness themselves to all of our grindstones as we did the work and they flogged the products. I have dabbled in all sorts of weird and wonderful food rituals over the past few decades and was originally one of those poor lost souls that bought each and every new super food and gadget that popped up promising eternal life. With age comes wisdom and I would like to think, a healthy degree of cynicism for these sorts of claims and products. I would even join a sceptics society for new food fads should they ever develop one. I do, however, make sure to check out as many informative food blogs as I can and use bits and pieces, recipes, hints, tips and anything of worth. A good magpie never wastes information and I would classify myself as a “Top Bird” in the magpie confraternity :). Here is a link to a PDF template of home-made seed packets. Only a “Top Bird” would find and share this sort of thing (can you see me preening my feathers?). I plan on using this template a lot and working out how to print some pretty (also pilfered) images on the front of my packets to enable me to both use collected seed and be delighted by the process. Take your own delight and get printing! (And when you do…could you let me know how you did it…sigh…). The link below also gives you a few predesigned templates to get you started (guess I had best only save tomato, sunflower and pea seeds eh?)

http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/make-your-own-seed-packets.aspx

Here’s another great blog just waiting for you all to trundle over there, find a few minutes peace and quiet to have a little look-see over a nice beverage of your choice (chocolate biscuit optional but preferable). All sorts of lovely crafts and fun things to do all revolving around “Gardens”. Love it, just subscribed to it and will be going there often.

http://gardentherapy.ca/diy-rock-spiders/comment-page-1/

Veggie burgers waiting to go into the oven and Copycat (I will take the secret to the grave!) Hobnob (U.K.) biscuits fresh out of the oven. Even when we couldn’t climb the stairs we still managed to eat…

In one of the videos about permaculture that I found online (somewhere in the ether) I was made aware of (discovery was “mine” they already knew about it…) a most interesting premise about soil. Topsoil is precious. I already knew that…I had it drummed into my head by my poor long suffering lecturer James when I was completing certificates 2 & 3 in horticulture. I dare say he was quite glad to see the back of me because I was one of those students who always wanted to know “why?” and “how?” thus making him have to come up with answers. Usually I had found my own answer by the time he gave them to me so I stopped asking after a while but the value of topsoil was one thing that we learned very early on in the piece. Australia is known for being an inhospitable arid place populated by a highly poisonous population of just about everything and what isn’t poisonous wants to kill you anyway. We get hot dry conditions and our soils are ancient and can’t afford the extreme weather events that we are starting to see as a result of our continued pillaging of natural resources at our own detriment (anyone outside looking down might just be wondering why the human race has suicidal tendencies…I know I am!) and as such we all need to be building our topsoil for future generations. Preventing it from drying up and blowing away is a good start so incorporating organic matter and mulching and getting decent soil holding root systems (preferably arboreal) into place are not a bad start. I watched a most intense, passionate thin man telling me about how the most amazing soil is produced underwater every day. Leaves, twigs, insects, anything organic falling into water and becoming subject to anaerobic bacterial activity forms amazing soil much more quickly. I must admit to being a little bit sceptical about this. Scepticism is a very healthy thing. It allows you to exercise your right to choose what you believe in and gives you the impetus to go searching for proof and information to back up said claims. I promptly forgodaboudit as is my usual way when confronted with information for more than 10 minutes…too much knowledge…such a little brain… something’s gotta give!  I was reminded of this interesting piece of information when Steve was fixing the guttering and drain system on the side of our new wood shed. We had removed a massive ancient blackberry shrub that was reclining all over the surrounding area and that had a really REALLY bad attitude. Deprivation had made it hard and lean and it really didn’t want to give up its position of power. Once we had put paid to its sequel by grubbing it out of the ground Steve headed up the ladder to clean out the slurry in the guttering. He called me over to take a look at the “amazing soil” that was coming out of the guttering. I have no idea how long the leaves and twigs had been falling onto the wood shed roof and into the guttering but they had rotted down in a puddle of stored water to a rich, dark wonderful smelling soil. I wonder if we can “make” our own soil by using water to facilitate a speedier process (waiting several millennia is a little out of my ability to wait…) and if that sludge in the bottom of the duck pond/boat could be put to good use somewhere in the garden? Having little money to spend on luxuries like additional soil I am starting to turn to more adventurous ways to get what we want around here and thanks to the internet, there is no shortage of wild eyed, hirsute, dreadlocked thin people lining up to tell me how to effect change on a shoestring budget.

Ok…time to bite the bullet! The weed species that have been allowed to run rampant for 20 years need to be taught that they have a new master and his name is pain! Here we go…

 Take that Elisha’s Tears! (Leycesteria formosa, follow suit blackberries, osteospermum daisies and twitch grass and you can just about forgedaboudit Rosa canina your asses are MINE!…

The first person to comment on how that “crown lifted” conifer looks now is going to have said comment inserted where the sun don’t shine… just a warning folks! Apart from the Truffula Tree, this area can now be considered cleansed brethren! Do I hear an AMEN?!

While I was wading through the blackberries, Steve was pruning, raking and generally clearing out the first garden “grassed” (HA) area. It now doubles as a lovely sandbath for the hens

What do you think? Not too bad for a water stressed garden at the end of summer

The view now from the stair end of our deck

If you haven’t yet gone to check out the blogs on my new blogroll more fool you! I am not going to force you to go there but it’s you that are missing out. I am anything but magnanimous in my desire to spread the word about sustainability and one of my favourite sites “Permaculture Power” had a most interesting full length documentary called “Garbage Warrior” about “The epic story of radical Earthship eco architect Michael Reynolds, and his fight to build off-the-grid self-sufficient communities.” I watched most of this video tongue in cheek because this man is a typical 60’s hippy with accompanying utopian dreams and some of his “Earthships” were bizarre to say the least. In saying that, I was totally engrossed with what he and his friends were and are trying to do. Using garbage like old tyres, beer cans and rock hard New Mexican soil baked under the sun for 9/10’s of the year and frozen solid for the remainder removed from the ground with brute force and inserted unceremoniously into the tyre walls to create thermal mass. They used different coloured bottles to give jewel coloured stained glass effect to their buildings and despite taking years to build, they were very cheaply constructed and totally off the grid. Wouldn’t you like to be totally off the grid? So would I! Now I just have to learn how to make my own composting toilet (I have actual plans…), plumb that sucker in (might have to take a plumbing course at Polytechnic in my gap year ;) and get Steve drinking again except using cans rather than bottles…”it’s for the sake of the earth Steve…GET DRINKING!” If you would like to check out this bit of hippy environmental history and you can turn a blind eye to the architects annoying accent and outbursts of manic enlightenment, Harley Davidson and enormous F200 SUV while he is spouting all about how the earth is going to hell in a hand basket because of humanities actions (apparently it is “do what I say…not what I do” in this man’s case or perhaps he has bought some trees in Guatemala and is therefore allowed to produce as much carbon dioxide as he wants…hmm) this is a really informative documentary and no doubt it will spur you on (like me) to continue saving your bottles (I have 2 wheelbarrows full already), aluminium cans (NOT aluminum…) and heck…after watching the poor sods try to remove some of that hard baked New Mexican soil to fill their tyres I feel positively decadent about our rock filled clay bollocks soil! I feel a garden shed constructed out of tyres (on the property…dad was too tight to pay the $5 each to throw them out so we got them left to us along with Serendipity Farm), beer cans and Serendipity Clay. Who knows where this will end? Most probably with Steve in the mental asylum, but at least we will have lots of “Thermal Mass” in all sorts of unexpected places on Serendipity Farm… Might have to rename it “Earthship Farm”! Here’s that link…

http://permaculturepower.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/garbage-warrior-full-length-documentary/

I think this post is going to be gargantuan. I have SO much to share! I went hunting on some of my friends Facebook pages to see if they were all doing well (as none of them post regularly and I just wanted to see if they were doing alright) and on Florida’s page I found a link to a “Britain’s got talent” entrant called Jonathan Antoine. This 17 year old boy was wearing a Jimi Hendrix tee-shirt, a pair of track pants and had long curly hair and was very large. The girl that accompanied him was very pretty and well dressed. As they came out onto the stage you could see Simon Cowell (the chief judge) mouth to the judge sitting next to him “and you didn’t think it could get worse”…You could feel the lack of interest and disdain dripping from every word that Simon uttered and it was almost as if he wanted the act over and done with before it started. “Do you think that you can win?” he asked them somewhat incredulously and only the girl answered. The boy fumbled a little bit at the beginning of the song and started a teeny bit early but after glancing at the girl they started to sing and it was the most amazing sensation to be listening to someone who at 17 rivalled Pavarotti. This kid, shy, grossly overweight and bullied who had suffered a nervous breakdown and was no longer able to go to school thanks to “normal society” and its need to be perfect, wiped the floor (and Simon Cowells gaping maw) and had everyone giving him a standing ovation. Simon had to eat his words (once he found them again) and admitted that they were listening to a future star. Thank you so much Florida for sharing that with me. Now we just have to hope that “normal society” don’t stuff this amazingly talented kid up by “grooming” him to within an inch of his life and turning him into a money making machine to his detriment. If you haven’t watched this amazing performance I urge you to check it out here.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt3Utn4mjeg

Awesome eh? Good luck Jonathan, although with that incredible natural talent I doubt that you are going to need it!

Look at this lovely little Cercis canadensis (Judas Tree) that we discovered hiding underneath a mountain of blackberries alongside the driveway. We also found a lovely weeping camellia, lots and LOTS of weird and wonderful bulbs all in the first flushes of growing and all sorts of foundation plants just waiting to be given a helping hand after we weeded all of the invasive species from over the top of them.

Can you see that nice camellia to the right of this picture? Can you see the Clivea miniata? Nope?…neither could we till we liberated them from underneath this mass of blackberries  and (I am guessing) Brachycome Iberidifolia or Swan river daisies that have taken over every available bit of space that the Erigeron karvinskianus (seaside daisies) have left vacant. We also discovered under this mass a Daphne odora, a dead specimen of Cistus ladaniferus and an almost alive one that I don’t know why I am mentioning because in my frenzied secateur offensive I clipped off the only piece of shrub that remained alive…sigh…

Here we have a wider shot of this area. It’s cram packed full of blackberries and Vinca major (Periwinkle) and any other invasive species that could take advantage of 20 years of freedom to explore their natural surrounds.

This shot was taken just around the corner from the last shot and shows that this area is indeed somewhat overgrown and in serious need of attention by two penniless horticultural student hippies who have been avoiding this mess like the plague! Can you see 2 specimens of Brachychiton populneus in this shot? Neither can I and I know they are in there!

There one is! These poor sorry suffering specimens of Brachychiton populneus have done their level best to survive in less than sterling conditions for a very long time. One of them is stunted and on its last legs and the other is weeping sap at an alarming rate. Even though we have cleared out under them and have given them back their sunlight we severely doubt that they will make it. We have been growing Brachychiton populneus from some locally sourced seed for a few years now and we can replace them should they die, but I feel an incredible camaraderie with all of the long suffering plants that survived their 20 years in the wilderness with my horticulturally challenged dad and to arrive where they are now and die is incredibly sad to me

We are always accompanied by our feathered friends whenever we venture out into the garden in any capacity. Here, we have Big Yin and his girls clearing an area of newly exposed insect life and injecting their own special brand of highly nitrogenous fertiliser onto this poor denuded soil.

Remember what this area looked like only a few hours prior to Steve and I launching our offensive? Go back a few photos and check again… After a bums up, secateurs flying, whipper snipping marathon that ended with us sitting on the deck being slobbered on with impunity by happy pooches because we were too tired to defend ourselves. The sense of accomplishment is what is keeping this old hippy chick going and it would seem that hard work and great results are somewhat addictive…you are going to be seeing some interesting things happening on Serendipity Farm, fueled by some newly invigorated hope filled land carers :o)

We have been laying low like Brer Rabbit around here for a while. It’s lucky we have only just started on the briar patches in that case isn’t it? Steve and I spent Wednesday and Thursday of this week totally changing our aspect. We have been collecting wood, removing blackberries from the poor long suffering plants along the driveway and generally skirting all around the outside of having to deal with the massive problem of the overtaking blackberries. We have been working really hard and over the last 2 days we most certainly effected change! We started in the enormous conifer on the driveway and removed a massive clump of wild briar roses that had been growing there for as long as I had known this place (2004) and got stuck into removing the weedy species from the garden next to the conifer. We fully intended on “bumbling around” which is our way of saying “taking it easy” for the day as we had really done a lot of work the week before and were just going to work to rule for a few days to recover. In the end we did a solid days work and totally changed this area. We had to remodel a tall thin conifer that now looks somewhat like a weird helter skelter lollypop but we can plant things underneath it and make it look less like something out of Dr Seuss. We then decided to tackle an area of the garden that I doubt dad had ever bothered to deal with. It was absolutely cram packed full of blackberries, Periwinkle, dead shrubs and trees and a massive tangle of dodder (a native mistletoe species) that was threatening to take over the entire area. In the process we found a nest with 4 eggs in it. Speckled Bob (one of our original hens) had been felled out of her last nest by Steve dropping a tree right where she used to lay her eggs and had only just made this nest and it was plundered. We know it was Bob because she headed straight to the nest and looked into it to check her eggs were still there thus allowing us to spot the culprit! Steve pruned the trees in the area and crown lifted as we proceeded and I waded in with my trusty secateurs and dealt with the blackberry invasion. They were none too happy with my efforts and despite vanquishing my arch nemesis (for now…) I am covered in blackberry bites…so much so that the mosquitoes left me alone last night as they couldn’t find a bit of me that hadn’t already been punctured.

It’s Good Friday today as I type out this bit of my post and last night, after working hard in the garden and being almost incapable of moving due to extreme fatigue, I set myself the task of making hot cross buns for the occasion. We don’t like shop bought hot cross buns. They always let you down by being stale and tasteless and so last year we made our own. Mum was here at the time and we set about making what ended up being stodgy and heavy buns that although Steve and mum ate them stoically, I just knew that they were being polite when they muttered encouraging words about them. As someone who earned her living from cooking before we moved here I figured I could do better and so last night, scratched, knackered and resilient I set about melding 2 recipes that I had found to make 1 successful recipe and hopefully at least a few buns that would be edible and in fact, tasty, today. I made the dough and set it to prove and then noticed that the buns took 12 hours to rise! It was 6pm at the time and so I decided to form the buns into their bunescent shape, put them onto a buttered baking tray and after buttering the tops of the buns, slid the entire kit and caboodle into a massive big black garbage bag (sans garbage) and shoved them into the fridge till today. I got up early this morning and removed the bag of buns from the fridge and put it up on the bread warmer to sit while we walked the dogs. When we got back I made up the cross mix and did my best to put the crosses on and we then cooked them on the bbq (our old work-horse oven that we used for a year when we first moved here and the stove was broken). Steve, and the dogs, pronounced them delicious and light and fruity and full of flavour which made me very happy. Sorry I couldn’t give you light fluffy hot cross buns when you were here mum but I dare say you are smiling wherever you are that I at least got to make 1 batch well :o)

Here we have our newly crossed buns after they emerged from their enormous black garbage bag to be baked in the outside bbq because it was early and we couldn’t be bothered lighting the fire…

Here they are, fresh out of the bbq (oven?) and glazed with a tasty mix of brown sugar and jam melted in a saucepan (Simon Rimmer style)

The proof is in the eating and these babies were delicious! Full of cinnamon, ground ginger, cardamom and ground cloves (who would remember to buy mixed spice when it was coming up to Easter?) they were a very interesting mix of whatever “sweet spice” I had in the cupboard. Steve had some toasted today and apart from me forgetting a batch and setting off the fire alarm they were, apparently, delicious!

We walked the dogs in Beaconsfield the other day and I collected a lot of fallen walnuts from a Juglans regia tree. My motto is “Waste not want not” and as no-one was collecting these fallen nuts I decided to take avail of their tasty neglect and they are now stratifying in peat in the shed ready to spring to life (hopefully) in spring. I also collected some lovely ripe figs that I had for my lunch later on. Nothing like figs picked perfectly ripe from the tree to make you know the full meaning of happiness. I had to wonder if the pairing for figs and walnuts was merely a culinary thing as they are both ripe at the same time so that would make them seasonally available at the same time as well. I managed to collect some more walnuts (also regia) from another tree on our walk around Bonnie Beach yesterday so we have a decent representation of local specimens of walnut so hopefully choosing nuts from trees growing well in the local area I will get a good germination rate and they will be adapted to the local growing conditions. We also collected some Washington Hawthorn berries to stratify and grow as well. They have really beautiful autumn colouration and edible berries and massive thorns making them a really good choice for using for hedging around Serendipity Farm. The native birds will love them for habitat and for food. The specimen that we got the seed grew from seed spread by birds so it shouldn’t be all that hard to get ours to grow. We can also take cuttings (hard and semi-ripe) in winter and summer respectively. With our hard work in the garden, Steve and I are both starting to get a bit of hope that we can make this garden ours.

I celebrate Easter in my own way. Steve was looking up why Easter is at different times every year. This came about because Easter fell on April 24th last year and this year it is April 8th…that is quite a variance! It turns out it is to do with the Vernal (lunar) equinox and that it is all about plastering religious ceremonies over the top of pagan ceremonies. Easter, Eostre, oestrus Esther and symbolic fertility all linked to the moon and tangled into each other in a melding of religious beliefs. I actually believe that Jesus died for humanity. I also believe that he rose from the dead. That is about where my actual beliefs veer massively from those of most common religious teachings. My dad was an atheist and mum was “Church of England” whatever that meant to mum I don’t know as we were never privy to her understanding of “church” in any way other than a vague need to adhere to it’s guidelines. My aunty used to drop by and pick my sister and I up to take us to Sunday school and we both fell into attending church. We had some interesting times and far from falling away from God, he has always been part of my life. I look back on my earlier understanding and cringe. Church isn’t where God is, he is everywhere and in everything. I once explained my concept of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to my daughters. I need to explain here that none of my children are mindless vacuous shallow creatures and every single one of them has an excellent brain that they occasionally use when promoted. They all have some very interesting ideas about “things” in general and after I explained my concept my 2 girls both told me that I was mad and most probably would be stoned by the members of the Auld Kirk church for my beliefs. I guess my children are not the only unconventional thinkers in our family! I don’t think it’s all that hard to digest, but it has taken me a fair while to arrive at this point and I have had to sift through a fair amount of life and literature to get to where I am happy to be. Whatever you believe let Easter be a time of contemplation, gratefulness and thankfulness for your life and everything that you have and are.

We left Earl and Bezial on the deck watching us as we worked in the garden. Earl likes to keep us guessing and has a most chaotic way of acting so that he just lures us into thinking that he is a “good dog” and suddenly he strikes like a canine viper. Earl mastered table jumping at an Olympic level not so long ago and so we really should have been more sensible leaving things on the table when we headed out to work in the garden for hours on end. Steve headed up to the house yesterday to get us a cold drink and noticed Earl eating something on the floor. Earl was halfway through chewing and digesting his large leather collar that we had bought from a man at the markets especially for him. He had eaten past the tightest hole on his “Shackles of oppression” and there was no point in attempting to remove the collar from him as he had done his worst with it and rendered it useless. Earl is going to have to wear a large black heavily studded collar that we used to have for Bezial until we realised the effect that it had on passers-by when we walked him. Earl had not only eaten his Shackles of oppression, but he had sampled a walnut (only 1) and found it lacking. He had selected a walnut, cracked it and had a taste of the nut and the remains were left on the rug under the table which is where Earl strews his spoils of war (and their remains). I guess we were very lucky that he didn’t decide to eat Steve’s new mobile phone, but perhaps he was warming up to tackling it. Luckily we will never know because Steve arrived to stop him from sampling anything else on the table.

I have been doing online surveys for a few years now. I started off with 1 group in answer to a referral from my son (for which he got 200 points) and just kept going. I am now doing surveys for 4 survey groups and have received $170 up until now for my efforts. I just got $140 of gift cards in the mail from one of my survey groups and have $130 to be claimed in another group. It’s actually good to be able to have a say in consumer goods manufacture and make my opinion heard whilst gaining some kind of reward for my efforts. I am going to stop dealing with one group because they make it incredibly hard to claim rewards whereas the other groups are much easier to deal with. Here’s a shot of my latest haul and also of what I am going to spend $100 (the Bunning’s vouchers) on.

Here’s my “winnings” from my reward surveys

And we are going to buy one of these D.I.Y. 3 spotlights for the lounge room with the Bunnings cards. Gotta love the barter system eh? I give them every tiny little bit of information about myself including my underpants size and they give me a loungeroom light a win-win situation!

I had to pay the library $1 for an overdue book on Wednesday. I hate forgetting to take library books back to the library and incurring fees and most begrudgingly paid the library the money in 5c pieces. It’s MY protest and I can be as petty as I like thank you very much! I picked up my next book from Mary Anne Schaffer’s list and it is going to be a doozie of a book to read by the look of it. It is called “Covenant with Death” by John Harris and is “the tremendous story that traces the fate of one battalion of men from the time they obeyed Kitchener’s pointing finger until the morning they ‘climbed over the top’ to meet their baptism of fire – and death”. Ok, so that is pretty intense isn’t it! I am a sooky la-la (thanks for that Kym, it suits me down to the ground :o) when it comes to things like that and couldn’t bring myself to watch the final episode of Black Adder thanks to it being about just this topic. I took back my copy of “Under the Tuscan Sun” due to its boring, shallow and most uninspiring of content even though I had been waiting for it for months and ended up coercing the librarian into ordering the large print copy for me. Nothing is worse than anticipating a great read and being sorely let down. I am still waiting on Flaubert’s parrot to arrive. I was assured by T.A.L.I.S. (online library site) that it was “in transit” on Tuesday which meant that it should have been there on Wednesday to pick up but it wasn’t so I guess I am meant to read “Covenant with Death” at this point in time. How coincidental that I am to read this just before ANZAC Day eh? I am obviously meant to be digesting this book while I remember the lives that were senselessly lost to humanities need to elevate themselves to a position of power above the masses. What a total waste of life that we most certainly didn’t learn enough from. I am really starting to get a feeling for what made Mary Anne Schaffer tick and what moved her and filled her with compassion and the desire to put pen to paper. Each one of these “favourite books” that I read gives me a little taste of what she felt when she read them. Apart from 1 shameless romance novel and one that I can’t get because it isn’t in the library thanks to being banned because it explained how to make a bomb, the majority of books on her list are soul feeding comfort food that are leaving an indelible mark on me as much as they apparently did on her. My favourite to date has been Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I loved this book and I loved how it was written and can’t wait to get stuck into my secondary list (other books by the authors that I enjoyed from the initial list…I LOVE my lists ;o) when I can read the rest of Louis de Bernieres no doubt wonderful books. If you like to read,  this man is a true story teller.

We have been “Flat out like a lizard drinking” (a little tip of my hat to our Forefathers colloquialisms… in fact forget forefathers, my father was a great one for colloquialisms “stone the crows!”…”Stiffen the bandicoots!”) This week and I have had to really drag myself tiredly to the computer to tap out these faint pathetic utterings this week. So tired…so little sleep thanks to Earl shoving us off the bed most nights and acting as a thermo-nuclear heat device. We have done so much this week that I can’t even begin to fathom it all and I love it! I haven’t had time to miss sitting about doing nothing because we have been busy cleaning out forgotten corners of Serendipity Farm and tackling the big issues rather than sliding them under the mat for another year. We have actually effected change this week and I am so very proud of we two penniless hippies for our dedication in crawling out of bed each morning to walk the dogs and iron out our spines as we walk from the day befores hard slog. Hard work is addictive. We had a day off and I wanted to get back outside and into changing our vista. We did heaps today as well but I am going to use what we did today to start next week’s blog. I don’t think I have room for any more photos do you? Have a fantastic week this week and remember not to sweat the small stuff that’s what we are doing so you may as well put your feet up and enjoy the sweat free ride!

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Pinky
    Apr 08, 2012 @ 09:44:43

    Happy Easter Fronkii and Steve! Hope all is well with you over there. I had to work yesterday and i’m off to work in a minute to see what joys the hospital wants to provide me with today. Ah well. Poor old Mrs Smudge the budgie died suddenly while i was at work yesterday and Jason buried her under the plum tree along with a headstone on top of her. Poor little Pip is beside himself. :….(
    Love Pinkyxoxoxoxox

    Reply

    • narf77
      Apr 08, 2012 @ 11:02:44

      Hi Pinky, That is sad about Mrs Smudge. It looks like Pippy won a too short battle in his relationship with Mrs Smudge eh? Sorry to hear that you have to go to work over Easter but you get to drink apple UDL when you get home! :)

      Reply

  2. Roz Takes
    Apr 08, 2012 @ 13:22:01

    Hi Fran, have thoroughly enjoyed the blog this week, was looking forward to it in fact. Am going to attempt your breakfast recipe as I have been trying to lose a few kilos for ages. Nothing goes and I exercise regularly on the bike and weight machine. Have great muscles tho.
    I had watched the episode of the shy boy singing and the thing that moved me most was how he refused to drop his singing partner when Simon suggested it. No they came as a duet and would remain so.
    Having family over today to celebrate Easter and my birthday. Have a Happy Easter!

    Reply

    • narf77
      Apr 08, 2012 @ 13:47:48

      Happy Birthday! Have a fantastic day and that breakfast totally fills me up until my evening meal. Don’t eat it today though as you want to be able to appreciate a nice meal at least once a year! :)

      Reply

  3. Kym
    Apr 08, 2012 @ 18:03:20

    Happy Easter to you both! Well I won’t be going to Wagin, but that means I can relax a little over the hols. I was thinking how much I needed to do if we had to move. Instead it’s given us a list of things “to do” at our leasure lol. Some will get done during the hols, just not at a frenetic pace. April is a busy birthday time in our family too. My niece and nephew, paul’s twins, have a birthday on the 7th, my great niece is today, my son Chris is 18 on Tuesday and then 2 nieces, one on the 23rd and one on the 24th. Funny how that happens eh. Great looking hot cross buns you clever cook you. That chook is so resilient! What a gal lol. Well have a lovely Easter and take care with those nasty thorns.

    Reply

    • narf77
      Apr 09, 2012 @ 07:12:01

      I know that in the back of your mind you are not all that sad to leave Perth but I do feel for Bruce who would most probably have loved to be back where he went to school. Steve and I are going great guns working in the garden and making it look a bit better (and tidier) around here. With autumn here and winter coming on it seems Tasmania has finally realised that it is supposed to be cold! Might need to get some more wood to last us…I know what you mean about all of the birthdays, we used to be financially crippled in April till we realised that we received less than everyone else so we now give a gift that the other person would like rather than money which tends to be wasted etc. Have a great remainder of the April holidays. Our lecturer forgot to mention to us that we were on holidays! Lucky we have a calendar that told us eh? Have a nice relaxing, non box packing time over the holidays and put your feet up and breath out a sigh of relief that you didn’t have to pack!

      Reply

  4. Kym
    Apr 09, 2012 @ 11:26:33

    I am quite disappointed too. It just would have been a bit of a rush and I am the sort of person who likes to plan things so it all goes relatively smoothly. Anyway that is not to be and now we look forward to the next challenge :) Daniel has decided he doesn’t want to do teaching! He “hates” uni etc etc. That was a week AFTER I paid $100 fees sigh… Please stop the world I want to get off for a little while! Enjoy your break from studies, although I think you guys will need the rest when you go back lol.

    Reply

  5. Rahel
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 11:59:40

    wonderful post, I always wonder how you manage to put some many great things and ideas into it…reading your blog always leaves me smiling! Thanks for that.

    Reply

    • narf77
      Apr 23, 2012 @ 12:03:53

      Cheers Rahel! Always great to preen with your peers ;). I guess, if I am honest (and it’s my “year of living honestly” so I had best stick with the programme…), I have a bad case of mental verbosity. It needs to come out somehow and as a quintessential magpie of thoughts, ideas and how to put them into practice in our day to day lives, I love to share and collect in equal measure. I figure that the more we can share amongst ourselves and the more knowledge and skills we can amass, the more relevant and important we are to society. Cut out the middle man…do it yourself…do it well and just “do it!”. There you go…its not hard for me to go on… and on…and on… and on… and on…(ad infinitum :o))

      Reply

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