Sometimes a bit of hope is all that keeps you going so NO-ONE OPEN THE WRONG POCKET OK?!!! I was also tempted to call this post “And then there was one”…because we are starting to slowly make a dent in our precious potted babies. “Things” are able to breech the various coniferus sectors underneath the overhead sprinkler area as we slowly remove their compatriots to be planted out into real dirt (sorry James…”soil”…) and said “things” have been selecting various tasty inner sanctum tender and tasty plants for ultimate indulgence. There are small pots of “something” that are now “nothing” but when you have over 900 potted plants to find a home for in 4 acres of soil it is actually a blessing when something gets eaten. We have decided that if they do get eaten, we are not going to get upset. They were just wrong for our situation. No point spending years trying to protect things that possums etc. are trying to reach their little arms through to grope a handful of tender green shoots is there…so we are only going to protect our food crop plants and the rest of them are fair game. Anything (like roses) that we know the possum’s rate highly…so highly in fact that they line up to sample the various kinds and fight over them…we are going to give away. Anyone want a few Pierre de Ronsard for somewhere in their gardens? As conifer lovers we are reaping the inadvertent benefits of the objects of our passion because apart from Chamaecyparis, that have the dubious honour of being delicious to wallabies, the rest of our wonderful 300+ collection is distasteful at the least and poisonous at the best so we have accidentally stumbled on the best case scenario for Serendipity Farm when it comes to plant selection. Now we just need to find something that dissolves rocks that is not toxic to plants and we are set!
This photo was just about where we left you last week. It was taken on Steve’s spanky new mobile phone and shows a much tidier, debris free garden. That didn’t last long!
After clearing out the gardens running alongside the driveway of years of years of overgrown weeds we decided to beat the weeds at their own game and plant out some of our potted precious babies. This photo shows Steve checking out our selection of dwarf conifers for use in the garden that you can see to the left.
This is a 20litre bucket of Basacote. Basacote is not organic…it’s not sustainable and it’s also not something that we would use as our first choice of fertiliser for our garden but we had purchased this product (and paid a not inconsiderable amount of money for it) and in keeping with our newfound ethos of “Waste not, want not” we are using up our existing supplies of fertiliser and when we run out, we will choose organic fertilisers from then on. For the moment we are tossing a handful of it into the “root growth zones” (horticulturalists jargon for “holes”) and integrating it into the soil to assist root growth development.
Isn’t Pingu turning into a big girl? We can only tell her apart from the other Barred Plymouth Rock by the colour of her legs. Her legs are yellow and the other one’s are white. Pingu is slowly starting to give in to her chicken side. She is scratching in the dirt and here you can see her pecking insects from our dwarf conifers. She did eat that grass in the plastic terracotta coloured pot in the top right hand corner but we have every hope that it will sprout from the base again…
I hope you have all recovered from last week’s marathon length post. I might just have to break my posts down into twice weekly posts if they all start to resemble a novella like that last one. I have been having a great time working in the garden and getting closer to nature. Far from dragging my feet I am now the first one up and raring to walk the dogs before sitting down over a cuppa (now mine has home-made oat milk rather than cow’s milk…back to total veganism for me!) and some breakfast and discussing what we are going to do with this new and most beautiful of days. Dare I say I am now one of those filthy “morning people”? Not quite, but I do have a spring in my step and a newfound appreciation for these clear crisp cool mornings that autumn is flinging at us regularly. This post starts on Saturday last week. I am sitting here after loading that marathon post and 23 photos and wanted to document what we did today so that I don’t forget anything. It is almost 9pm and Steve is watching “Storage Wars”. It is an interesting show comprising all sorts of amateur entrepreneurs who turn up to storage auctions and attempt to pay the least amount for piles of boxes which this show will have us believe, usually contain riches beyond our wildest dreams. I dare say, if the pickings were as fantastic as they make out they were, that there would be more than the 20 odd people milling about at each of these auctions. My sceptical brain tells me that most of these auctions result in the “winner” taking home a pile of someone else’s old unwashed clothing and boxes of personal papers worth diddley squat. Steve loves it though and it keeps him off the streets so for that…you did good A&E channel.
This was taken after we had watered in the newly planted conifers etc. We have plans for the Miscanthus sinensis “Zebrinus” grass to the right hand side of the photo and will be planting them further up the driveway where they will have room to expand and grow to their full potential. As horticulturalists we don’t have the luxury of being able to say “we didn’t know how big it would grow”…
This is a bit further down the driveway from the photo above. As you can see we have integrated dwarf conifers in with existing grasses and reeds. We love textures and variations of green and are not really “flowery” people (despite our Penniless Hippy status). In saying this, Steve just bought me some Shirley and Californian poppy seeds to sprinkle around all over the place. I remember my grandma doing the very same thing. She was indeed a woman before her time!
This Picea glauca “Pendula” was one of our very first conifers that we bought way WAY back when we first got passionate about them. We discovered it welded into the ground with an enormous tap root and pot bound beyond belief. Despite having to cut its pot away from the ground with our ever present secateurs, we decided to part with the money to buy this lovely specimen knowing full well that it may die from its neglect and the rough treatment that we had to mete out to extract it from it’s resting place. It never looked back once and has hung in with us ever since to the point where it was our very first conifer planting on Serendipity Farm.
After we planted out the driveway we cleared out this area under the deck and after consulting our plant oracle (paper…rock…scissors…) we isolated some specimens from our collection to plant out. It took most of the day to dig out the holes and prepare these plants for planting out but we did it! The tall yellowy green conifer furthest to the left is a Pinus thunbergii “Thunderhead”. This would normally get to quite a height but this specimen has the dubious honour of being 30 years old and used for grafting material nursery stock. It is virtually a bonsai and will most probably never grow much bigger than this. If it should put on a growth spurt, good luck to it! We planted it right on the corner so that it could grow unhindered if it sees fit.
This isn’t the best photo in the world but Steve took it for me this evening to show you how the garden looks. Each one of these conifers was chosen because of its colour, texture and growth habit. The other plants chosen are to compliment the conifers or act as “fillers” while the conifers grow. Some of these conifers are at their full potential height and are over 20 years old. Not every conifer is a massive tree and there is a conifer for every single garden, you just have to find it
Today we woke up, got up, headed out and walked the boys without any real plans for what we were going to accomplish today. I had spent the night before hunting for recipes for oat milk that would be suitable to use in hot beverages. The problem with lots of non-dairy milks is that they are either too watery (rice milk) or they separate alarmingly when united with any drink above body temperature (most nut milks). I don’t drink soymilk anymore because of some concerns that I have about its ethical production, Genetic modification and murmurings about acquired allergic reactions due to repeated use of soy products and I also refuse to pay the middle man to grind a few grains/nuts and mix it with some water and store it in a box for me to drive 50km to pick up from a supermarket. I choose to buy the raw materials and make it myself, using “locally sourced” water in the process. Sorry about that…I am a little bit over the words “Sustainability”, “Slow food”, “locally sourced” etc. being used as massive wanky buzz words by foodies and vested interests desiring to elevate Themselves and their arm length list of exclusive ingredients WAY up the food chain from we humble “normal” eaters. Leave our food alone and sod off and make some more guinea pig coffee or Moonlight picked tea or whatever it is that is the latest greatest food fad that will only last for as long as it takes the first brigade of steadfast followers to pick up on before it will be discarded like last night’s empty wine bottles. “Terroir darlings!”…sigh…Mathew Evans started all of that. He has managed to weasel his way into a regular column in “Feast” magazine, one of my secret magazine indulgences. I swear that man sets out to irritate me whenever he sits down to start his next article… “Hmmm…what is going to piss that woman in Sidmouth off the most this month?…shall I talk about walnuts? How about goat shanks (that will make her twitch!)…I know…goat cheese…she HATES people going on about that…I have it! Truffles! That will really make her blow her stack!”…sigh… I try to skip past the articles but they go on for pages and pages and it is inevitable that I am going to notice something on one of the pages dedicated to him, his anorexic wife or his child that he stole from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall because hey…he stole everything else from him…he may as well take the kid!
“Hmmm…what do we have here?”…
In honour of Friday 13th (and the total dearth of decent horror movies on Austar…) we have “Eggy Krueger” …
Is it just me who finds this somewhat alarming?!
When I was looking for a non-dairy alternative that I could make myself and that would not only behave itself in hot tea (my caffeine hit of choice) but that would almost mimic the consistency and flavour of milk, I did what I normally do and spent hours wandering all over the food blog ether following little off road foodie trails and ending up totally off context. I ended up at a vegan baking site that has a most interesting and innovative initiator who took it upon himself to invent a vegan healthy home-made alternative to butter. Yeh RIGHT I can hear you saying. Vegans are people too! They need something wholesome and comforting to spread on their toast in the mornings and the non-dairy alternatives tend to be as alarming in taste as the label is to anyone foolish enough to peruse it…how can you have 100 ingredients, mostly chemical in something supposed to be health food! To anyone (like me) who is interested in their own health and who would rather eat nutritious fats than suck crazy chemical cocktails of margarines into their poor long suffering bodies, go check out this link. It just might give you something to do in your kitchen this week. I will give you the original post first and then Vegan cookbook extraordinaire Bryanna Clark Grogan’s take on this recipe. It’s usual for a recipe to evolve all over the vegan food web until it becomes something of a legend. This Vegan “Buttuh” appears to be just one such recipe.
This is Mattie’s recipe that he invented
This is Bryanna’s take on this recipe
For anyone wanting to “make their own” so that they know exactly what is going into their food and have quality control or for people who simply can’t eat butter for cholesterol reasons and don’t want to eat margarine because they don’t want to glow in the dark, this might just be a staple recipe
I haven’t even started on what we did today and it’s just on 9.30pm! Steve thought that it would be nice to have a look at our potted babies that we now house around the side of the house under our home-made overhead watering system. Now that the weather is cooler and we are getting a little more rain it isn’t used much, but through summer it enabled us to keep our 900+ precious babies alive and gave solace and comfort to endless blue wrens and our ducks as well as the tiny little frog who strikes up the band whenever the sprinklers go off. As we were wandering about weeding out the poor potted specimens who had given their lives for the cause, Steve said “You know how we grew all of those Podycarpus lawrencei (Mountain plum pines)? What do you think about planting some of them out on the newly cleared out rocky embankment?”…what a good idea! So thus began our opus for the day. We hunted through all of the conifer specimens in our potted babies (over 300 of them in total) and after lamenting the few that had croaked (mainly chamaecyparis for some reason…) over the long hot summer that we just had, we set about isolating those conifer specimens of each species that would only grow to a specific height and width. We also pulled out all of the grasses that I have been collecting and carried them around to the front of the house in front of the deck. Armed with the conifers and the grasses and 4 miscellaneous plants (excitement value) we set about trying to ascertain the specific end heights and widths that these plants would attain. Now as newly knighted horticulturalists you (and our lecturer Nick) would most probably see us doing something like this when choosing the plants to place in any given specific area…
But the truth of the matter is that it was more like this…
I guess my plant just won…scissors cuts paper! That blue dolphin plaster on my index finger is a reminder to cut AWAY from myself when you are disembowelling a dead chicken…)
From a very early age Earl (a.k.a. the plant terminator) had taken an instant liking to plant tags, closely followed by an unhealthy interest in plant matter itself. All of the most precious (and expensive) plants that we didn’t want to risk being eaten by the native mammalian wildlife (predominately possums and wallabies) we housed inside the compound that we built just as much to keep them out as to keep Bezial in. It turns out Bezials desire to run amok and wreak havoc at every chance he got was a grossly overestimated talent. His legend preceded him and we were highly sceptical (and fearful if I am being honest) of him running away and swallowing the local wildlife and farm animals whole like some sort of marauding T-Rex on steroids. What eventuated was a very sedate dog who walked beside us, could care less about the local wildlife, in fact, actively loved watching it from the deck, and who deserted us in action in the field any chance he got to return to his lovely sunny spot on the deck where he could watch the world go by. What an angel he turned out to be…and then along came Earl… I am not going to go into everything that Earl has passed between his enquiring snout and his constantly moving nether regions but I stopped counting the cost way back when he had eaten 4 times his initial cost (and he wasn’t cheap). If Earl wasn’t a sweet tempered most loving dog he would have been bundled up and sent back A.S.A.P. within a week of his purchase. We love Earl dearly and the feeling is apparently mutual but we soooo wish that he would stop eating everything that takes his fancy! We ended up putting our precious compounded babies outside and at the mercy of the mammalian wildlife because nothing could be as dangerous to plant life as Earl was. Earl has ingested more plant tags than he has plants and so when hunting for what went where, we had to resort to a degree of guesswork that may or may not pay off. We then set out to plant out the known plants (those that retained labels or those that we absolutely positively knew were likely to be ground covers) and paper, rock, scissored the rest. We interspersed some grasses, discovered some very shallow soil that covered massive rocks and used our horticultural smarts to afford us a degree of plant knowledge to choose something to place on this otherwise barren ground and ended up choosing Ajuga Reptans (common bugle weed) that will spread and grow in this rocky terrain. The end result is that we planted out 40 plants today that will no longer have to live in confinement and water stressed fear through another summer.
With our “Waste not want not” ethos now, we decided to use these quinces that I was given by a friend recently to do more than perfume the house
After cutting them, adding cinnamon sticks, cloves and sugar syrup and leaving the skins and cores on to enhance the glorious colour once cooked I covered them up with foil and put them into the oven for 4 hours…yes 4 HOURS! That’s the beauty of having a wood burning stove. While you are heating the house you can cook whatever you like in your ovens for free…no worrying about leaving the oven on for 4 hours for me!
Here is the miraculous transformation in colour that occurs after long slow oven braising in sugar syrup. I gave our girls some of these to make a pie and the rest are in the fridge waiting to be used to make a delicious rich quince tart tartin with thick whipped cream. I am keeping the spiced cooking liquid that is now headily perfumed and the most glorious orange red colour to speed up the colouration process of my next batch of oven braised quinces.
We are tired and sore but we are also satisfied beyond belief with how happy the simple act of planting out our own plants into the ground on Serendipity Farm has made us. Tomorrow we will be removing the adventitious weeds that have grown back after our initial blitzing of the area below the deck. We chose more conifers from our stash that won’t grow above 2 metres tall and we have some interesting cold climate deciduous shrubs that have delightful scented flowers and that attract bees, birds and butterflies. We noticed a gloriously coloured Euonymus alatus (spindle tree) that was doing its level best to attest to its poisonous nature by colouring itself the most amazing Magenta and are thinking about planting this out as well…we have so many beautiful things that need to be planted out. Most of my cold climate shrubs and my abies and picea are going to find their homes in the side garden. Steve prefers cedrus and Pines and we found some really beautiful specimens to plant out in the raised garden beneath the deck in full sun and surrounded by rocks. Pine heaven! That’s our challenge tomorrow and all of the old azaleas that we hacked down to the stump and left the stump to remove another day have regrown and so we have decided to allow them to live amongst the conifers. I am constantly amazed to hear people say things like “I love azaleas but I can’t get them to grow at my place”…we live just around the corner from the woman who said this to us the other day. We just hacked ours down and they refuse to die! We were also told that Philadelphus is a very delicate plant and that they are hard to grow and keep growing in your garden. Poppycock is what I say to that! I have had the dubious “honour” of being selected to attempt to remove the Philadelphus invasion that has taken over a large proportion of the Eastern side of the garden on Serendipity Farm. This tangled; twining monster is no delicate creature I can assure you! To be told that this ground layering mass shooting invader is hard to keep growing is an anathema to me! I have seen the soil here; it is most definitely NOT anything special. It has been neglected and totally denuded of anything in the way of fertiliser in the last 20 years and has been surviving on whatever the sky throws at it and on the leaf matter that falls to the ground PERIOD! It is full of dolerite colluvium rock and I know that because I just spent the better part of 20 minutes finding out! Digging anything but the areas of raised garden bed on the property (and even then you do so at your own risk) is a fool’s errand and a most disheartening process that usually results in a small hole that you can’t bury a dead mouse in (we know…we attempt just this process at regular events). I guess you have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you learn to appreciate your very own worn and out of fashion but highly comfortable and worn in shoes for what they are. After watching last weeks “Garbage Warrior” documentary and seeing how much effort was put into mattocking up the sun-baked soil in New Mexico to stuff it inside old tyres to gain thermal mass in the desert where temperatures plummet and soar on a regular basis I have a newfound liking for our rocky soil. At least it doesn’t freeze! Another saying comes to mind…”Better the devil you know” and I guess that is the case for our soil/rock combination. Underneath the topsoil interspersed with rocks we have massive clay. Clay is just good soil waiting to occur and once it has been broken up by the addition of organic matter and tree/plant roots, it becomes a wonderful friable soil with great cation exchange capacity. “In soil science, cation-exchange capacity (CEC) is the maximum quantity of total cations, of any class, that a soil is capable of holding, at a given pH value, for exchanging with the soil solution. CEC is used as a measure of fertility, nutrient retention capacity, and the capacity to protect groundwater from cation contamination. It is expressed as milliequivalent of hydrogen per 100 g (meq+/100g), or the SI unit centi-mol per kg (cmol+/kg). The numeric expression is coincident in both units. Clay and humus have electrostatic surface charges that attract the solution ions, and hold them. This holding capacity varies for the different clay types and clay-blends present in soil, and is very dependent of the proportion of clay+humus that is present in a particular soil. A way to increase CEC is to favor the formation of humus. In general, the higher the CEC, the higher the soil fertility.” I pinched that straight from Wikipedia and if it is a little difficult and scientifically jargonarific for you, just imagine what it would have been like if I had to explain it to you! Needless to say a soils cation exchange capacity is its capacity for holding nutrients and when amalgamated with sufficient hummus, moisture. I have been doing a bit of research around using biochar, a slow burned charcoal that South American indigenous people have been using to enrich the soil for 2500 years. Here is an article regarding biochar and how to do it yourself should you wish to use it in your soil…
It is definitely something that I will be looking into on Serendipity Farm. Any low cost ways to enrich our soil and increase its fertility are going to be top priority. Thanks to Anthropogen (Spencer) for pointing me in the right direction for my latest night of searching for information. I can’t for the life of me work out how people can say that they are bored! I have no time to scratch my nose let alone be bored.
We have planted out under the deck and had a good time sorting out what we needed to plant (see above and the paper, rock, scissors conundrum). Eventually we arrived at a good range of heights, textures, colours and shapes and interspersed our conifers with grasses and a couple of nice weeping maples. We had considered putting all of the weeping maples in the under deck space but it gets really hot there in summer and as most of you may already know, Japanese maple cultivars can be quite delicate and tend to burn in direct hot sun. We are going to plant the area out down next to the bird baths with most of our lovely maple collection. It is incredibly satisfying to plan something and then actually set out and do it. We completed the deck garden and aside from one or two of the hens that shall remain anonymous (you KNOW who you are!) pecking the leaves of some of the more tender grasses that we planted, everything is still intact and happy the day after. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that our weather is going to be freezing cold and quite dry this year, just like the very first Tasmanian winter that we endured when we moved here 5 years ago. Things run in 4 year cycles here apparently and after a long hot summer (like 5 years ago) there was a long freezing cold winter that gave both Bethany, my youngest daughter, and I chilblains. I tend to believe nature rather than the weather department (who failed to predict Sunday night’s massive thunder storm at all) and so am preparing for a really cold winter. We don’t get much frost here on Serendipity Farm as we are quite close to the river and up on a sloped rocky site which keeps the temperature more even than it otherwise might be around here. Our little “microclimate” allows us to miss out on the worst of the frost and grow things that might otherwise succumb to this scourge of inner Tasmanian towns and cities. I doubt that most of the conifers that we just planted out would mind a bit of frost as most of them are Japanese, Korean and Chinese and are used to being buried beneath snow in their native countries of origin so this nice sunny spot will make them ecstatic. They already look happier out of their potted confinement and we look forwards to whittling down our potted plants to a small number of non-planters. Some will be rehoused at other loving homes where the threat of possums and wallabies is less extreme (and imminent) and we may sell some at a market stall if we can’t fit all of our precious babies in. Our main problem is that we are avid propagators and have managed to amass a small army of babies from seed and cuttings. Some of them are destined to never leave the glasshouse but the rest of them will need careful consideration now that our ideals and eventual outcome for Serendipity Farm have changed. We started out thinking that we would turn the garden into a glorious landscaped garden full of maples, conifers and other beautiful cold climate trees and shrubs. When we got here we soon realised that digging was an issue and apart from that, we have finally succumbed to our inner hippies and given in to the desire to be sustainable and do as much as we can with what we already have. Growing our own veggies, re-using, recycling and turning the garden into a permaculture based edible food forest. We have started to grow hazelnuts, walnuts, grapes; avocado’s and will be targeting food crops in the spring. We have some artichokes that desperately need planting out and we want to start growing some really interesting crops like Amaranth and quinoa and planting out an almond tree and sourcing more fruit and especially nut trees. We are going to plant olives and figs at the rear of the property where anyone from Greece would feel really at home, rows of various kinds of grapes to be used for eating, making wine and verjuice and various other things. We have all sorts of ideas for our garden and most of what we have collected up until now is totally unnecessary for our new outcomes. An example is that when we were planting out the area under the deck we had to remove many small Physalis peruviana var. edulis or Cape Gooseberries as they are commonly known. If we didn’t already have a large shrub that has seeded copiously all over the place I would have dug these small plants up and planted them out elsewhere as valuable sources of vitamin C and bird food. We may have done away with the Cape Gooseberries but we saved every little native raspberry bush that we could. Birds must have deposited these small native raspberries when the area was thickly overgrown with an enormous ancient yellow banksia rose (Rosa banksiae) and all sorts of weeds and overgrown shrubs. When we cleared the area out we didn’t notice these little plants and they took advantage of the new sunny conditions and we collected lots of small specimens that we have pruned and potted up to be placed “somewhere” on Serendipity Farm in a more appropriate area. We will provide them with tee-pees that we make ourselves from old spindly teatree poles that have succumbed to the wind in the teatree garden and some that have to be thinned out to allow the remainder to grow strong and resilient. The little native raspberries will be trained up the tee-pees and will be allowed to do what they do best, be prickly edible habitat for small native birds.
Today we got up after a 2C night and headed out nice and early to walk the dogs. I wore some fingerless gloves but even then my hands were cold and so I figure I am going to have to buy some full fingered gloves perhaps with wooly middles. Earl put paid to my conundrum about the fingerless gloves by promptly eating them when we got home so I guess he has forced my hand (is that a pun? Not intended I assure you!). We had breakfast and headed out into the garden to see what needed to be done for today. We were assured by the weatherman that it was going to be 15C which is perfect weather for gardening especially when it was going to be “fine” and “fine” all week apparently. We were dragging our heels a bit because after our triumph yesterday where we were able to make a large difference in a day, we are back to hacking, snipping, shaping and generally trying to tame some of the more wild areas of Serendipity Jungle and its nowhere near as rewarding as when you are able to facilitate change and see your results. Steve headed off to chainsaw some dead trees that we had dropping in the garden that we saved from blackberries and Periwinkle (Vinca major) the other day. The 2 sickly looking specimens of Brachychiton populneus appear to be much happier now that they have been liberated from the undergrowth and after getting a really good drink of rain the other night with the thunder storm they appear to be very happy. Who knows they might be able to soldier on yet? I decided to tackle my arch nemesis “Blackberry” again. It’s mano a mano blackberries and I insist on coming out top. I had just started dealing with a huge population of blackberries situated in the hedge between the first and second gardens when I noticed a section of blackberries over to the left of the large conifer that we tackled last week. I figured it would be stupid of me to leave blackberries on one side as they are prone to wandering around adventitiously and it was time for me to knock that garden pest on the head! Steve helped me to liberate the garden from a massive pile of overgrown blackberries and I then started on the main hedge. I worked slowly but surely, first cutting the tendrils that catch onto everything (especially me), then hacking down the larger canes and finally cutting off the canes at the base. The dead canes are worse than the live canes. We had just managed to work our way from one side of the garden bed to the other, hacking out an entire dead lonicera nitida (box leafed honeysuckle) and a mostly dead and fully lying down Forsythia x intermedia. We were just about to pat each other on the back and head back up to the house for a cup of tea when Steve noticed 4 little kittens in the shrubs near where we had been working. Felix strikes again! We collected the 4 gorgeous little tabby babies up and after Steve held one of them at arm’s length because it was going off like a fire cracker we headed up with armfuls of kittens to the shed to work out what we were going to do. We are very VERY tired of having to deal with other people’s lack of responsibility. We have 6 feral cats living on the property and now 4 kittens to add to that. Steve and I had been pondering what to do with our ever burgeoning population of roosters on Serendipity Farm. The poor hens are too scared to look out from the shrubs as they are being molested by just about everything that moves! Henry, Trogdor, Big Yin (not to be outdone) and now we find that Big Bertha is a rooster as well! Surely you would think that roosters would have made themselves known to be roosters before 6 months of age? I think that these Brahma chickens that hatched out of some fertile eggs that we bought last year are very slow at developing. We had contemplated tossing the roosters over a fence, rowing them out to the island and hurling the entire randy bunch into the first lady who sold me Big Yin but what it all boils down to is that we would be perpetuating that cycle of irresponsibility. We had decided to sharpen the axe tonight and take it in turns to dispatch our rooster population one by one. To anyone horrified by this, we are NOT natural born killers. We are natural born sookie la-la’s who can’t even kill fish when we go fishing but our hands have been forced and we refuse to be part of the problem so the only solution is to render our rooster population null and void. We are going to have to hunt down little red rooster (one of the older 5 ferals) as he doesn’t nest with the others and the 7 latter ferals appear to have at least 4 roosters in their number so we are also going to have to deal with them at a slightly later date when they can be truly isolated as male. This brings us back to the kittens that we found. What were we going to do with them? We could have left them there and pretended to not notice them which would have been putting our heads in the sand and giving ourselves a much bigger problem at a later date. We both knew that we had to take them to the RSPCA and have them put down. I sat with the 3 quiet little kittens (Steve had to take the firebrand spitting, howling and scratching wrapped up in a towel to get the dog carrier) and talked quietly to them. Their tiny faces and enormous blue eyes were all looking up at me and I told them how sorry I was that they were born kittens. That they had only had a couple of weeks of life and that life was not fair. I handed them over to Steve and he headed into town with them. Country life is not a romantic walk in the park people. It’s not an idyllic blissful retreat from civilisation. It’s a whole series of hard decisions that have to be made and we city/town folk are having a really hard time learning to be country folk. I feel so very sad for those tiny little upturned faces and for their mum and brothers and sisters who are going to have to be dealt with in the near future. We can’t keep perpetuating the lack of responsibility and the buck has to stop somewhere. We are awfully tired of being the place where the buck has to stop and it breaks our hearts to have to kill our roosters and have the cat’s euthanised. Life isn’t always easy or fair and if we are willing to have chooks in the first place, we need to be willing to deal with the hard decisions.
The rooster off to the left lurking in wait until Big Yin (to the right surrounded by wary girls) wasn’t paying attention so he could have his nefarious way with these poor stressed out hens WAS Henry. Henry is now deceased and his tender corpse is in various stages of use on Serendipity Farm. His days of being a serial rapist are over and where once he lay in wait for our poor long suffering hens, Steve lays in wait for his tasty meat as it bubbles in a delicious free range casserole…there has to be some poetic justice in that.
Steve got home after taking the kittens to the RSPCA and we had a chat about the rooster problem and decided that if we were killing the roosters, we may as well prepare them and Steve could eat them. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that (probably because I am vegetarian) but I guess if you are trying to live a sustainable lifestyle and you have a “resource” that needs to be removed from your poultry general population it is the most viable option. Steve is looking forwards to sampling our home produced free range grain fed chicken to see how different it is from supermarket mass produced chicken. At least our roosters won’t have died for nothing. While we were thinking about this (and feeling slightly better about killing the roosters because they won’t die in vain) we were sharing a hot drink out on the deck and watching the feral cats. Steve had asked at the RSPCA about how to deal with the growing problem and there is a vet in Exeter who can help us. No idea what “help” means so we will just have to phone him up and see. While Steve was telling me this Felix, our chief problem cat (the mother of millions) came out of the undergrowth with ANOTHER KITTEN! Steve and I hunted all over the place for more kittens but she must have had this one with her when we discovered the rest and so we still have a kitten problem. It was really cold last night and hopefully the cats have somewhere warm to sleep at night. My daughters phoned up last night to invite me in for a “mother and daughter” sleep-over. We are going to hit the shops, take Qi for a long walk in town and have lunch and tea together. They are making me a “pie” because I couldn’t have an Easter egg for Easter and had to watch Steve eat the enormous Easter egg that they had bought him. Steve is one of “those” people, the kind of person who gets Easter eggs and who makes them last. My sister Catherine (a.k.a. “Pinky”) is also one of “those” people and often had Easter chocolate left over well into the New Year. I can’t see the point of hoarding chocolate. I am an instant gratification person, most probably why I have also been carrying those instantly consumed Easter eggs on my person for all of these years. I guess one year without indulgence won’t hurt me. I was up the back of the house the other day collecting some of the dry wood that we had cut up and left in piles for a fire and realised that I was feeling very sprightly and happy to simply be alive. I started to think about how people carrying around a lot of weight (I was 109kg at my heaviest about 14 years ago) lose more than just hope and self-confidence. I think that when you are considerably overweight you feel the world differently. Junk food and overeating fill you with more than unhealthy thoughts, you become physically less able to do things and the unhealthy physical conditions bring about unhealthy mental conditions. That might sound very simplified (because it is. I am trying to formulate this as I type) but what I am really trying to say is when you are very overweight, more than just your body changes and it becomes a whole lot harder to see the world in a lighter clearer way. If your body is clogged up, so is your mind. I actually volunteered to head up with the wheelbarrow and get a heavy load of wood the other day. I was having fun throwing the sheok lumps into the barrow and hefting the handles and trundling erratically all over the place to try to find the pathway of least resistance to the house without upturning my overambitious load. I would have totally avoided this task in the past but with my newfound energy from eating nutritious food and allowing myself a healthy dose of fats in my diet and my total lack of concern about what I am eating I have rid myself of my previous dieting mentality and I seem to have found my own personal key to increased health and weight loss. I wonder how many people out there are trapped inside bodies that have been created by the advertising and food industry with all of their genetically modified and chemical crammed cocktails. It is surely no coincidence that obesity and gross obesity have skyrocketed in my personal generation and all generations that have come since that directly correlates to the food industry and the mass creation of all of the choices of packets, tins and ready-made mixes that we have available to us today. Life got easier, we got more choices, everything tasted delicious thanks to hidden fats, sugars and chemicals that not only made us wider but addicted us to these foods as our bodies slowly get taken over by lethargy and depression as a direct result of these chemical cocktails and our bodies being overfed but undernourished. I have been checking out some of the Paleo sites online. While I personally don’t eat meat or butter etc. I have a curious mind about the fermentation process and if you head off and check out some of these sites you will find all sorts of very intersting recipes for making your own probiotic condiments, butter, dips and spreads and just about everything can be enhanced by tossing in a few Lacto bacillus and leaving it to ferment for a while. People following the GAP and Paleo diets believe that we should be eating like our ancestors did. No chemicals, no rubbish, meat, butter, full fat etc. I am every the magpie and take what I want from various “plans” and the fermentation side of this equation really interests me. I got very interested when I stumbled on (and consequently typed this book out in its entirety!) the incredible book about fermentation written by one of the founders of Permaculture Mr. Bill Mollison. It is out of print and should you be foolish enough to want to buy it, it starts at $300 on eBay and they won’t take any less. It is highly sought after and one of the most incredible resources for documenting and providing recipes for fermentations of just about every culture around the world. I may never make seal blubber ferment but I most certainly know how to do it! The book is called “The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition”. I was so VERY tempted to keep my library copy and pay the cost (the cover price) but my sense of honesty and knowing that someone out there might just need it a whole lot more than me lead to me spending a solid week, day and night typing every single word in the book out. I have a massive word document that I might just convert into a PDF and make available on Scribd, a file sharing site that allows you to upload and download PDF’s about just about everything. I sometimes get a sense that I have found a fundamental truth when I find things like this. I get very excited and want to share it with the world. I guess that is what comes from being born on the day that I was that is supposedly the numerological day of the hierophant (that’s hierophant people NOT elephant!). A hierophant is someone who seeks out knowledge and shares it with others. For once, I have to agree with a label, this one not only sticks, but it fits this little black and white chicky.
Isn’t this a wonderful place to have a nest? So why do you think none of our chickens have decided to lay their eggs here? Beats me to0!
Music is a fundamental part of my world. My life has been tangled up with music since I was tiny and when I was 2 I became totally enamored by the Beatles (according to my mum). Music takes me places…I should say “good music” takes me places. Bad music makes me angry! Music for the sake of profit makes me even angrier so we won’t talk about “those” sorts of music will we? Good music needs to be good both musically and lyrically (if it has lyrics that is…no-one could say that Mozart was bad for lacking a word or two) and needs to have real meaning. There are songs that take me places in my life whenever I hear them. Smells do the same thing. I often wonder if those of us naturally inclined to being on the tubby side have a highly advanced sense of smell. I know I do and I figure that despite everything that popular culture would have us believe, that this heightened sense of smell might just be right up there in the survival of the fittest stakes. In our modern world of plenty, we never have to use our senses. Everything is right there in the supermarket waiting for our hard earned dollars to purchase, but back in the past when food had to be hunted I wonder if a heightened sense of smell might not have been an asset rather than something that renders you susceptible to obesity? I might have to do a thesis on that one day…I might have to sign up for a uni course one day…there are so many things that I might have to do one day that I dare say all of my days will be gone before I actually get to do most of them but hey kids…you get my legacy of learning passed on and quantified ok? Back to music that I managed to segue food and bodily senses to deviate so violently… Music has gotten me through some hard times in my life. The simple act of listening and digesting someone else’s words who has been through something difficult and who has been driven to document it straight from their soul to the hungry masses by their very obvious talent to paint a picture in music is not only fundamental, its alchemy. The ability to bypass your thought to speak directly to base human need is something primal and music can breach the process that usually has to involve unlocking all sorts of mental doors and a period of time before it can be accomplished. I would rate good musicians higher than good poets, good artists and good writers because they are able to go places that these people simply can’t go. When I was bleeding over my first marriage breakup I spent hours and hours listening to music. I didn’t think about it, I just allowed it to blend into me and slowly the familiarity of these songs formed part of me becoming whole again. I am not someone to shirk the hard stuff the life throws at me. I know deep inside me that it is better to face the music initially and be cut to the core with a sharp metaphorical knife than deny the truth and bleed slowly for years. If something isn’t working…if something is wrong you have to deal with it and the sooner you do so, the sooner you are able to start picking yourself up and becoming whole again. I find it most interesting that I am someone who hates change but I am the first cab at the rank when it comes to hurling myself emotionally and mentally into dealing with grief, loss and difficult situations. Music is one of the keys to making yourself whole. Just don’t make it death metal people or “whole” might take on other forms )
Check out this Bromeliad, one of 3 that Steve and I noticed growing one someones road verge. I wouldn’t have thought that Bromeliad’s would grow in a temperate climate like Northern Tasmania but apparently I would be wrong! I love bromeliads and will be sourcing some of these most interesting plants for Serendipity Farm in the near future.
We now have a hedge that is relatively blackberry free! We finished off what we started yesterday when Steve had to stop and take the 4 kittens to the RSPCA. The fifth kitten that remains we have named “Fatty” and Felix was noted heading into the undergrowth to deliver a freshly killed rat to his squawking maw. After the hedge we headed over to the area between the Auld Kirk church graveyard and our back yard and had a look at the Photinea x fraseri ‘Robusta’ “hedge” that is in various decrepit stages varying from psyllid infested to absolutely dead as a door knocker. Add a copious quantity of banana passionfruit vines that are in the best of health and growing exponentially and we had some thinking to do. It would take us the better part of about a week’s solid work to remove the banana passionfruit from these prehistoric shrubs and the process would be excruciating. We were standing around contemplating our fate when I suddenly had an epiphany! “Why not cut them all down!”… ¼ of them are now “down” and forming a massive pile of debris in our prospective vegetable garden. As usual, we effect change at our peril and generate an inordinate amount of debris in the process. On the positive side, we will gain a panoramic view of the beautiful Tamar River should we ever regain enough energy to prop our eyelids open long enough to admire it. I am off to visit my daughters tomorrow (Thursday) and share some quality time with them. No doubt I will be driving all over Launceston to every strange food shop in the city, but I don’t mind, I usually get to share the benefits of the girls cooking and they are adventurous and very good cooks. I wonder what I will get for dinner? Apparently it is going to contain purple carrots. I know that the girls will be able to make me something delicious because until recently, Bethany (my youngest daughter who is just about to turn 22) was a vegan and they regularly cooked for her so at least they know what sort of things I am most likely to enjoy.
Steve hopped over our fence and took a few photos in the Auld Kirk graveyard directly behind the area where we have our chicken coop and duck pond/boat that tends to be green more than clear most of the time. The area to the left has been cleared of Photinia and you can see the remaining Photinia to the right. We are in the process of removing the entire stand of Photinia from this area.
As you can see, to remove all of that banana passionfruit from the church side of our rangy overgrown Photinias would have been an epic event. We decided to totally remove the Photinias and take advantage of the sunlight that will become available for growing vegetables behind this area.
Steve hopped back over our fence to take this shot back towards where he was just taking photos (are you dizzy yet?). As you can see…apart from sunlight being made available so that we can use this area for veggie gardens, it will also open up quite a lovely view.
This area has been cleared of Photinias so far, only about 4/5th’s to go! We discovered another tap in our endeavours. That would give us 4 taps in a 30 metre area. Irrigation for the prospective raised veggie garden area TICK
It’s now Saturday and I enjoyed my stay with the girls a lot. We shopped, we walked the dog and I didn’t have to eat squid intestine pancakes with some sort of crispy Korean accoutrement which made me very happy. Instead, I got roasted pumpkin, parsnip, sweet potato, onion and regular potato with a side of sautéed mushrooms and spinach. Most delicious and for desert the girls had most thoughtfully bought me some gluten free vegan chocolate rum truffles. I am not gluten intolerant but the girls figured that they would cater for every eventuality and they were delicious. The next day I headed home and we spent the day waiting for dusk and our first chicken killing spree. “Spree” is a most enthusiastic word for what happened and Steve and I were not looking forwards to dispatching Henry, the first of our rapist roosters who had been terrorising our older girls for a week. It had gotten to the point where they were hiding out in their coop all day too scared to step outside and be molested so something had to be done…last night we did it. First we carefully researched the most humane and quick method to dispatch Henry. He didn’t make it hard for us by spending his last hours chasing our girls to exhaustion. I have a Jackie French book titled (curiously enough) “Chook Book”. In it, it tells you just about everything that you need to know about keeping chickens on a small scale. Jackie French is an Aussie icon for sustainable living and was touting organic produce long before it was fashionable to do so. Her no nonsense approach had us choosing to use an axe to dispatch Henry and after watching some youtube chicken snuff movies that will make me have nightmares for a week that involved using razor sharpened nail files, inserting them into chickens beaks, shoving them through their ears while they squawked right through the process and all performed by a 60’s grey haired tattooed version of Henry Rollins himself and his hillbilly acquaintances! I decided that good old Jackie French and her Aussie sensibilities would outrank Mr. American Hillbilly Henry Rollins ANY day! With our weapon of choice chosen, a pot of boiling water ready to dunk the corpse into to pluck and rapidly wavering nerves we headed off into the chicken coop. Steve had already isolated where Henry was roosting and I picked him up, wrapped him in an old towel and Steve cut off his head. It didn’t take long and as soon as we did the deed we carried the body over to the hot water, dunked him a few times which made plucking a whole lot easier and I volunteered to gut him which proceeded uneventfully and as we had been warned by all and sundry about how tough and rubbery roosters who have been “amorous” can be, we assumed that Henry would be as tough as old nails. Not so! The simple 30 second soaking in the boiling water caused the skin on the wings to separate a little which told me that a rubbery rooster we had not! We cut Henry up reverently and thankful that he was going to be put to good use and that his tyrannical days were over. Steve just sampled a slice of Henry and having never tried free range grain fed chicken before was most pleasantly surprised. The meat is a bit firmer but not tough and unlike its supermarket forced counterpart the meat is full of flavour. Tonight, Henry donated his breast to Steve’s stir fry and every part of him will be eaten or recycled. We buried his intestines, head and feet under a tree, his feathers are in the compost bin and Earl got his heart and liver (with some fava beans and a little Chianti…). His legs will lend themselves to a confit and his frame will be used to make the best free range chicken soup this side of the Tasman. Henry…you did not die in vain. You are extremely tasty! Next…Trogdor!
It’s not easy to kill something and I doubt that Steve and I will ever get used to it, but we are making sure that each and every rooster that we have to dispatch is both appreciated and utilised. Aside from reducing our rooster population, we are making Frank next door incredibly happy. Having amassed a small fortune in roosters who had all started crowing in the last 2 weeks, I dare say living on the coop side of Serendipity Farm at 6am when the roosters all started to serenade the new day might not be the most soothing of wake-up calls. Frank was most happy when we told him that we were going to reduce our rooster population. He told us that he had been killing roosters since he was 10 and was the initiator of the “tough rooster” myth that we just put paid to. Jackie French told us (she is our new sage by the way…) “If I kept a lot of hens I’d eat some of the old ones. But these days we only keep a few hens. They’re friends. It’s a dangerous moral and social precedent to kill your friends, chooks or otherwise”. Point taken Jackie! (You are all safe…for now…). We have 2 more roosters who are causing trouble earmarked for the roasting pan. Trogdor is enormous and is part Wyandotte part Brahma. He is chasing our girls but so far doesn’t appear to be too intent on constantly stalking them like his brother was. He got chased by Steve today with the rake so he is next on the chopping block. He will be roasted! Then we have “Big Bertha” who changed from a large hen that we were just about to give away to a rooster overnight. This gender confused chook even fooled Big Yin and has been hanging about with Yin and his girls where they were hiding from Henry. We have our suspicions that we have 3 more roosters waiting in the wings. They are all Brahma’s and we have a sneaking suspicion that like other birds, roosters suppress their sexuality when more dominant roosters are around. Once the 3 top dogs are out of the picture you can bet your boots that the 3 that we have our eyes on will start to crow. We let Effel out today with her 9 babies. When Steve went to shut the coop door tonight she was on one of the tall perches and 7 babies were sitting underneath her and 1 was in the outside enclosure. No sign of the 9th…sigh…Felix may have been too tempted by an easy meal for Fatty and I don’t actually blame her. I just hope it was a rooster Felix! Our Silver laced Wyandotte hatched out 3 little baby Silver laced Wyandotte’s the other day. She still has all 3 despite her being a close second to Effel in the “Bad mother” stakes. I get the feeling that most Wyandotte’s are bad mums. Effel will fight for her babies but seems totally content so long as she has 1 baby with her. The rest can be off squeaking for her and she could care less so long as she can see 1. Steve and I figured that it is survival of the fittest here and if she allows some of her babies to be eaten, we can’t follow her around constantly to prevent it. So far 4 of her babies have died or been eaten and I dare say the count won’t stop there.
We got stuck into removing the blackberries around the base of the bird baths and in the hedges. We are slowly starting to see rudimentary form emerging from the tangled debris. We can see where the original owners planted things, made pathways and chose to plant special things. We discovered a poor overgrown weeping camellia hidden underneath a large variegated conifer that we crown lifted slightly so that the camellia can get some light and rain. Life is full on here. We have been working on our latest sustainable landscape design and were able to work out how to use our house/block plans to superimpose a Google earth view of our property over. Cheers Google! Not only do you allow me to visit Wikipedia (stop scoffing…you all go there too!) and Instructables but you help me to do my homework as well! Now we just have to work on our concept plan ideas and add a bit to our client brief and we can sit down with impunity with our lecturer and use our “confuse-a-cat” tactics (good cop, bad cop) to get him to show us his photos of his recent trip to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. I wish we could have gone but it wasn’t to be this year. I have a desire to travel Australia and visit all of the botanical gardens. I have already been to Kings Park in Western Australia and the Tasmanian Botanical Garden but I would love to go to Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory to see what other amazing plants Australia has on display. Our lecturer is a really great teacher. He knows just how to push your buttons and make you want to learn. A good teacher lights a fire and stands back so that you can deal with it yourself. Cheers Nick for being someone who loves to learn and who isn’t below sharing with his students.
This lamp is a tiny shining beacon that allows me to spend time in the lounge room with Steve at night. He likes to watch television in the dark. I dare say it makes the countless horror movies that he loves to watch more thrilling but I like to read, crochet, pat the dog etc. and need a light source to do so. Here is a perfect example of cooperation (take note Ernie!) and how we are able to solve problems. The problem wasn’t that I wanted to read while Steve watched television…the problem was how to facilitate lighting my seating space without alerting Earl to the delights of this new found light source. The lamp (sourced from my daughter who no longer has a use for it) had to be sited above Earls “zone of interest” for its continued survival and so Steve drilled a hole in one of the higher book shelves to fit the lamp and ensure its ongoing ability to light the corner (and save us a visit to the vets with a metal impacted dog…)
I guess I should finish up about here. Steve is watching John Foggerty on television; he has set up a lamp for me to read or perform various strange badly attempted crafts while the main light is out so he can enjoy the suspense of horror movies (his favourite movies) and watch the A & E channel in its glowing resplendent glory. We will be getting stuck into the garden over the coming week. The weather promises to be warm…warm…warm…until Wednesday and so we will be effecting change while the sun shines on Serendipity Farm. I have been discovering all sorts of militant causes online and Steve spent Friday morning checking out highly credible 9/11 conspiracy theories on youtube. And to think that you thought that we would lead a boring life on Serendipity Farm? How wrong you all are! Next week will no doubt see Effel’s babies numbers decreasing, the weed population increasing, new ideas, new ways of thinking, new places to walk the dogs and new recipes to be tried and tested. We will probably have a roast chicken (well Steve will…) and we will be heading off next Saturday to a progressive garage sale that will involve a large number of houses between the Batman Bridge and Gravelly Beach putting their unwanted goods out for sale to people driving past. Last year we got a wonderful handmade Tasmanian Blackwood chair for $2 (mainly because I was the only person willing to ask the price!) and we also got our first 8 chickens. We have almost come a full circle back to where we might even be able to sell some of our own chickens at the next sale. Have a great week everyone. I just picked up Flaubert’s Parrot from the library and am working my way through “Covenant with Death” in expectation that Mr. Julian Barnes might just deliver me another quirky read. Covenant with Death is a very well written book that I am enjoying reading. It also gives me fodder for thought. ANZAC Day is rapidly approaching and this book is all about foot soldiers dying in the First World War. We all need to remember just how futile war is and how many people died fighting for our right to freedom. See you all next week for another full to bursting post about life on Serendipity (mental) Farm