Between Christmas and a New Years Eve place…

Hi All,

Mum has just set off for what is likely to be a very long day for her. She is armed with a box of chocolates, a lucky dip bag of treats from her granddaughters, 2 rounds of home-made chia seed multigrain bread with roast beef and English piccalilli and a bottle of water. We hunted and found her some Burke’s Backyard magazines from 1998 that should keep her amused as well as a Joliffe’s Outback magazine from goodness knows when and a funny gardening book. She will get back an hour and a half after taking off from Melbourne airport to Perth. She is staying with my sister and her partner in Perth for the night and then they are driving the 4 hour trip back down to the little sleepy seaside town on the South coast of Western Australia where she lives. It is forecast to be 27C here today and 39C in Perth where she will be walking out of the airport straight into an air conditioned car. I hope you had fun here mum and that you enjoyed your little break. It was a nice little break for us as well. Now that mum has headed off, it’s business as usual on Serendipity Farm and we are going to get stuck into clearing out some dense undergrowth down in the second garden. We want to prune, tidy up, fix the pond and generally tidy up the area and remove all of the blackberries and weedy undergrowth that makes it a wild cat haven so that the chooks can get in and work their magic. Once the ducks have found the new (bigger) pond, they are unlikely to be seen again. Its midway between Christmas and New Year and everyone is just about recovered from their over indulgences and quarrels. Isn’t it funny how Christmas can bring out the best and worst in people at the same time? Old family feuds erupt and spill over when people are forced to get together and deal with each other. Life is too short for bad wine, and even shorter for bad relatives. Do you have a relative like that? Someone who thinks that the world revolves around them and that everything has to be focussed on them at all times? I think we all do.

I mentioned that my New Year’s resolutions this year would not be about superficial things like “weight loss” and “giving up smoking”. I thought that I might cheat when people ask me what my resolutions are and say “I am going to give up smoking” (said in a very sanctimonious way with much waving about of arms in the direction of the heavens…). When they say “I didn’t know that you smoked?” I will say “I don’t…that was an easy resolution to make and I am damned sure that I am going to keep it!”. My resolutions are going to be more introspective this year. We didn’t have time to soak up our new situation last year. We were too busy flailing about online researching everything that needed to be researched and learned to finish off our Diploma of Horticulture. I can now write “Dip Hort” after my name for all that is worth. The only time it would be worth much to me is should I ever want to get a job at Bunning’s. Step back any lowly Bunning’s unqualified serf should Steve or I be going for your job as you wouldn’t stand a chance. You can rest easy at the moment because we are just about to sign up for another diploma course, but after that…watch out! My resolutions are to do a bit of soul searching and sharing with Steve to consolidate what we are…where we are…and where we are going from here. I think that whenever you have a life changing event occur, that you need to take stock of yourself and where you are and what you want out of life. We couldn’t do that last year and worked through it like stressed out autonomous robots. Since we finished our course we have been flat out getting ready for mums visit and Christmas and since Christmas is over, we can now start contemplating the directions that we want to take for ourselves and for Serendipity Farm. I have been doing a lot of research revolving around tree and other plant choices for the property. I want to slowly change the landscape in the top 3 acres of property that are currently covered by arid scrubby bushland with sheok and Endocarp trees. The understory consists of rocks and native grasses and I want to plant some olive trees at the top of the property where the neighbours to the rear of the property removed all of the trees down to the fenceline. We want to maintain this area as bushland for wildlife and are in the process of applying to have it registered as such. In saying this, we want to ensure that this area is able to sustain populations of wildlife and fully intend on researching and planting out native food trees and shrubs to feed the birds, bees and butterflies. I love finding websites that make my job easier. I stumbled onto one such website by sheer fluke whilst looking for edible forest gardens. This site has directed me all over the place in search of what I am after and I consider it one of my most precious and treasured data bases when looking for information regarding edible food forests, plant classification, agroforestry and so much more. The blog is owned by a young American man who has travelled more in his 29 years than I will travel in my entire life and who is passionately interested in how people use plants in all facets of their lives. If you want to check it out, you can do so here…

A most interesting site for those of you as passionate about plants, the environment and sustainable agriculture as we are. Sorry, I have just been researching plant families and lost track of time so I had best get back to this post and get it posted for you. This is the first post in ages that I haven’t had already prepared for posting the next day. It is a good way to make sure that I get my posts onto our blog nice and early for everyone to read but today is a lazy day and you are just going to have to read it when you get home. Hi Nat if you are catching up on these posts today. It’s too hot to do anything else, especially gardening, so sitting at a desk with a glass of chilled chardonnay in your hand whilst catching up on Tassie Farmer and Serendipity Farm posts is most definitely on the cards. We are going to spend the next few days lazing about doing pretty much nothing. That is my vision of the next few days. I am quite sure that Steve will have a different more active vision then me, but as the old saying goes…”you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” and that’s pretty much how it would go if you tried to get me to work on a hot day when I absolutely positively didn’t want to.

Doesn’t this look like some sort of orchid? It’s just the spent flowers of an Ivy Geranium plant. Here’s what the flowers look like…

My father was all for free stuff and no doubt, he appropriated the original stems of most of the ivy, pelargonium and regular geranium plants that now festoon most of Serendipity Farm with gay abandon. I am loath to remove them all, despite their mad push for total surpremacy over most of the garden, because of their mass of colour and their sheer mass comprises most of the garden to the right hand side of the house. When we are ready to instal brown dripper hose and plant out my ornamental cold climate shrubs in this area, some of them are going to have to go but until then, they can act as wild beacons to the bees and butterflies and splash their riotous Picasso colour all over the place to their hearts content.

I love this juniper. Apart from the amazingly angular juvenile foliage, I loved the little blotches of albino foliage and now cones that the plant exhibited when I found it our at Red Dragon Nursery. It also grows green cones on the same plant. I guess this lack of chlorophyll has some reason in nature, but it gives this plant added value and makes it a most attractive specimen.

My Stapelia gigantea is finally starting to grow well. It is supposed to be hardy and fast growing but has taken a long time to get this big from the small chunk that I sent back from our trip to the Melbourne International Garden and Flower Show back in 2010. It is doing much better since we transferred it from the heat beds in Steve’s shed to the glass house and the much hotter and more humid conditions. Hopefully we might get a flower one day that I can share with you all.

Here is another plant that has taken off since we put it into the glasshouse. This was a tiny chunk of a cactus that my mother brought over to Tasmania in her sock. It had done nothing since she brought it over in April this year until we put it into the glasshouse and it suddenly errupted with new growth. If your plants are languishing in one spot, try them out somewhere else. You might be surprised! This cactus reminds me of when they fed the mogwai after midnight and its back errupted with gremlins!

I will document everything that we will be undertaking in the next few weeks so that you can all catch up with what we are doing. There is something eminently satisfying about watching someone else sweat and work when you are not. I do understand that, but this time it is going to be my sweat and my constant readers watching and that just feels creepy! I will just pretend that I can’t see you. We noticed a telescope in someone’s front window facing out onto the river when we were walking the boys yesterday. We both mused about getting a telescope and the idea was almost instantly dismissed when we had a united vision of Earl and Bezial in their “happy hour” racing about the house and frolicking wildly in the lounge room and what would (possibly) be left of the telescope at the end of one of their wild romps and we are going to have to wait for the telescope until Earl hits middle age. They are both sulking at the moment as Steve isn’t here. He has a list as long as his arm to accomplish in town today. Unlike when we lived in town, it’s a different proposition to go to town now. It’s just on a 100km round trip and so we need to make sure that we accomplish as much as we can when we have to go in for any reason. Earl has settled down a whole lot since he turned 1 in November. Our daughters couldn’t believe the change in him when they came here for Christmas, but he feels the need to occasionally remind us of just how destructive he can be so that we don’t become complacent. This morning he ate one of Steve’s shoes so Steve has to hunt down some more in town. We figured that sandals might be the way to go as we are, after all, aging hippies and it is hot at the moment and sandals are pretty trendy for men to wear now so all things considered sandals it is. Earl will be able to carry them around like a little handbag as well so everyone will be happy.

I think I might leave this sleepy little post here. The build-up to Christmas has left me feeling a bit brittle and in need of a few days slothing. To be honest, I think I am just making excuses as slothing is something that I do so very well. I am going to head off and do some research about cashew nuts. I always thought that they needed tropical conditions but after having a bit of a nose at Anthropogens blog, I noted that they like a hot dry season and that is what we get here in Northern Tasmania. Perhaps our little microclimate and rocky dry conditions in the top bush acres might be conducive to the growing of the exotic cashew? All I know is that this little quandary has set me up for an afternoon’s researching which is how I love to spend my spare time. I call it slothing, it’s really researching and finding things out but it’s how I relax and enjoy myself. Perhaps I should have been a librarian? Surrounded by precious tombs…I can’t think of any job more delicious then that! Perhaps after we complete our Diploma in Landscape Design in a few years I can go to university and become a librarian. I would be perfect for the job and if some poor penniless hippy came up to the front desk and said “my dog ate this book” I would feel great compassion and would let them off paying for it… (do you think that anyone from my local library is reading this and will take pity on us and not make us pay the $70 for the edible forest book that Earl took literally?…nope…I didn’t think so either but it was worth a try wasn’t it…). See you all tomorrow when hopefully I will be wiser about the ubiquitous cashew (Anacardium occidentale) and will know whether or not I am going to attempt to isolate some seed to attempt to grow some down on Serendipity Farm. I can feel my horticultural sap starting to flow again much like a deciduous tree in early spring and my twitchy secateurs and nimble seed collecting fingers are starting to twitch in anticipation of mass collecting efforts. I have a need to go bush and get collecting some seed from some of the more interesting Tasmania endemics and Steve and I are going to be taking a lot more bush walks with the boys into wild and interesting places to collect plant material. We will, of course, document it and share it with you all. Tasmania has some amazing wilderness areas that we need to share with you and over the course of the next year, we will do our level best to visit as many of them as we can and share in our adventures with our constant readers. Till then, forget sugar plums…I have visions of Cashews and Pistachio nuts dancing in my head…

One of our new friends on Serendipity Farm. Regular water has been a boon to most of the breeding birds around the property and we regularly get visits to the 3 bird baths by all sorts of birds. This Kookaburra (native kingfisher) is one of 3 that have moved here to dine on basking lizards, the vast population of huge black red eyed cicadas and anything else that they can coax into their gaping maws. Life is never boring on Serendipity Farm :o) See you all tomorrow…


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