Happy New Years Day!

Hi All,

Firstly, welcome to New Year’s Day and my 100th post! How did I blag that? No idea :o) second it’s still snowing on the blog! I think it finishes on January 4th but for now, we have the amazing coincidence of snow AND 30C heat. How do we do that? I don’t know…probably the same way I got my 100th post to coincide with January 1st 2012. Totally by accident that’s how! :o)

I found this lovely little bit of hope when trolling about looking for “How to make a wooden Ladle” yesterday. Steve is getting busy making spoons, ladles, knives and back scratchers out of the large sheok that he felled (it was dead) to remove it from the power lines. He made a lovely spoon yesterday and today it’s a spatula. He is going to start buying lots of carving and woodworking tools as it is something that he is both good at, and has always loved to do in his spare time. As close to a ‘Hobby” as Steve is going to let himself get :o). I want a lovely deep ladle and was hunting and found both instructions for the ladle and this…

“”There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hidden, always leaving you room to recognise him or not to recognise him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and haunting… Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace” Fredrick Buechner

Isn’t that lovely? I found a lot of his quotes online and some of them are amazingly poignant and so I have saved them for future use. That’s what magpie hierophant’s do. Find things and then share them :o) Here’s that website with his quotes if you are interested in his work…


Happy New Years! Its bloody bollocky hot over here and the forecast for today is 28C. I can hear all of you Western Australians snickering at what sooks we Tasmanians are but as mum will attest to anyone who wants to know, 28C in Tasmania is like 40C in Western Australia. We have a high degree of humidity here and when it hits 30C it’s like tropical Queensland in the Rainforest. We are alright here on the river as it’s quite a dry heat but in Launceston 46km away it’s awful. We are supposed to be getting to 29C tomorrow and then slowly cooling down to 26C again on Tuesday but I dare say we won’t be venturing far from inside the house today apart from an early morning walk with the boys as the consequences of NOT walking Earl are terrifying. He is fine during the day but when it starts to cool down he goes mental. 2 days of not walking Earl are the equivalent of Cyclone Tracy hitting Darwin on Christmas day with a similar degree of carnage and bewildered humans. Earl is not to be allowed to get bored. It’s like Mogwai…you DON’T feed them after midnight or you suffer the consequences. Earl doesn’t shed Gremlins out of his back; he just turns into a massive great Gremlin that runs maniacally around the house eating everything in his path. Exercise Earl and you get a gentle giant who is a pleasure to be around. Don’t exercise Earl at your peril. I think you are starting to get the picture. Today he and Bezial will lie around like they are dead. They might move out into the sun but it’s so hot I doubt that is going to happen. They will take up their respective positions next to one of the doors that open up onto the deck and they will stay there (in the way) for the rest of the day until it cools down in the evening and they become animated again. They are the opposite of cold blooded creatures that will be speeding about all through the day sunning themselves on all of the rocks in the paddocks and all over the property to be honest doing what lizards and no doubt snakes do best. The insects go wild as well and the blowflies are never as happy as when they are zooming in the back door to fly straight through the house and out of the open kitchen window.

Is it hot where you are? I am sorry for your predicament if you are hotter than us today. I don’t like the heat. I have never been one for sunning myself on the beach because I learned from an early age that there is nothing like a case of blisters after a day out in the sun to cure you from sunbathing for the rest of your life. That’s probably good for me and my skin cancer risk but it also means that unlike Steve who turns nut brown at the first sign of sun, I need to shelter when it’s hot or suffer the consequences. It’s so hot that I woke up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I decided at 5am to get up and spend some time posting while it was dark and cool and before we had to walk the dogs. We are walking the dogs earlier because when it starts to heat up Bezial, in particular, gets quite stressed being a large black dog so we walk them nice and early before the sun starts blazing. We will be bumbling around Serendipity Farm today attempting to avoid the sun and trying to find something productive to do. We will most probably do something crafty or lay about watching television (Steve) and messing about online (me). I might start sourcing some seed online for various future projects. The most economical way to obtain plants for mass planting in an edible food garden is to propagate and grow them yourself. First comes the research on what will grow best here in our growing conditions. I mentioned in a previous post that I was considering cashews because they are shallow rooted, love dry arid conditions and do best with a dry hot season like we get here in Northern Tasmania. People think of Tasmania as being cold and snow covered but up here in the North we get a long hot dry summer where we have to water plants to keep them going. I am working on various ways to retain moisture in the soil to minimise the amount of water that Serendipity Farm is going to need. Using a living mulch of ground covers is a clever way to keep moisture in the soil and I will be using this method with various herbs, fruiting ground covers and other useful plants like comfrey, horseradish and mint. I have noticed that there are many annuals like Californian poppies etc. that come back year after year regardless of how terrible the soil is. I think it’s a matter of hunting down and isolating what we want and seeing if it will work with our conditions. Finding something to fit somewhere is going to be a challenge but will also be a good learning process that will help us with our Diploma course this year. I am quite excited by it all and as I walked around the chaotic jungle areas of the garden I could envisage various things that might work in these areas. Cashews are members of the same family as mangoes and pistachios so there might be room for them as well. We get very little frost due to how hilly and rocky we are and so we can grow plants here in our little microclimate on Serendipity Farm that might otherwise die elsewhere in Tasmania. We have Brachychitons that apart from a bit of borer damage are doing well. We also have 2 Angophora or Rusty gum trees from N.S.W. that simply don’t grow in Tasmania. We look forward to sourcing and growing many more interesting and unusual trees on Serendipity farm along with understory trees (mostly fruit and nuts), vines (kiwi and passionfruit and hops), shrubs (all sorts of fruiting and medicinal plants) and groundcovers to facilitate a small microcosm of a forest here on Serendipity Farm. Our horticultural knowledge will give us the edge that we need to ensure that we can choose plants that will grow to their best advantage here and that will meld together to give us a unique little ecosystem that will hopefully be self-perpetuating. Whatever happens it is going to be interesting and you are all invited to share in it’s creation with us.

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Here’s the rundown of this group of pictures. I started out by doing what I usually do and picking the best of the pictures to show Serendipity Farm in the best light. In so doing, I have been sheltering you from our jungle and the task that Steve and I spend days trying to work out how to attempt. The first picture in this slideshow is of an olive tree that my dad planted on the side of Steve’s boat and trailer shed. The shrub to the left of it is a Myrtus communis, a Mediterranean shrub in the Myrtaceae family that yields edible fruit that the Greeks make into booze. My kind of fruit! The next picture is to show you the enormous row of potted plants that we moved before mum got here to take advantage of the bit of shade that the large eucalypts give in this area. Most of the plants are very happy that they have been moved but some are not happy. You can’t please all of the people all of the time can you…the next 2 pictures were taken looking back towards the house from the side garden. The side garden is relatively tidy and now that we have taken out the enormous Diosma’s that had turned into the hardest gnarliest overgrown stems of mostly dead shrubbery and that got burned on the rear lawn leaving a massive great 3 metre crater that we are going to turn into a fire pit one day in the future. We burned some old wooden stumps out of the ground whilst burning the diosma so it was worth losing a 3 metre circle out of the rear lawn specifically for this purpose.

There is a picture of the side garden and the bit of lawn between the garden and the driveway. Next is a picture of the house and the cleared out bit of garden under the deck. This is where we plan on planting out our collection of conifers that stand less than 2 metres tall or “Dwarf” conifers for want of a better word. Now I start to get honest with you…The next photo was taken from the driveway looking back towards an old dead tree that is supporting the largest stand of Philadelphus (mock orange) that I have ever seen. The lord only knows what is going to happen to it when we remove the 2 dead trees that are supporting it and allowing it to grow to the height that it has become accustomed to. You can see the dead tree in the right hand side of the picture and that red flower to the front of the shot is of the rootstock of a rose that has an identity crisis. It can’t work out whether or not it wants to revert to the rootstock or keep growing the scion and the amazing orange rose that it was taken from. You can also see the bird baths in this photo. The next photo is a juxtaposition of plants that I want to keep and plants that are invading and that need to be removed. I love this oak leaved hydrangea. I DON’T love that blackberry growing merrily in the background threatening to take over the garden despite being cut back earlier in the year…

The next picture is the beginning of showing you the true state of this once beautiful acre of landscaped garden. This is what is left of an avenue of lilly pilly trees that stand alongside this little path that is an alternative way down to the driveway and the teatree forest. You can see the big eucalypts that we are so blessed in having and everything else is understory under them. We have cleared most of this area previously and just need to prune and tidy it up again. The wood stacked on either side of the pathway is the result of a large tree trunk falling over the path and we still have some of it to cut up. The next photo is slightly to the right of that pathway and you can see the beginning of chaos. This area used to be totally covered with honeysuckle and prior to us cleaning it up, you couldn’t see this tree or this entire area to a height of approximately 3 metres. It is starting to regrow now but we are just about to tackle it again and this time we will be dealing with it properly…the next photo is to the right of the tree. That green tray nailed upside down onto the tree was to give the little birds somewhere to rest when they ate the fat and seed balls that we provide the birds with over winter to supplement their wild foraging. The possums eventually took over and made life difficult for the birds and now that we have chooks, most of the birds just help themselves to the chook food whenever they want a free feed.

The next photo is of the archway between the first and second gardens. The first garden is visible from the deck. The second garden is a little area with a “lawn” and a resident echidna. We have been keeping it trimmed back but we are going to have to deal with the hedges on either side of this archway. It is surrounded by a snowball tree, a choisya ternata and a plectranthus that has grown to massive proportions and that has those purple flowers. The rest of the hedge is made up of a large buxus, a variagated buxus and a lonicera and lots and LOTS of blackberries. Here is the second garden. As you can see a kniphofia or two have broken ranks and decided as no one else uses this area (apart from Herman the echidna and now the cats and kittens…) that it might just grow in the middle of the “lawn”. You can see how everything is overgrown and bordering on chaos but this is nothing compared to where we are going soon…do you see how much I care about you all? I have put a nice picture of a purple melaleuca in here for you all to see…and the poor little struggling Yew tree surrounded by blackberries. A stand of shasta daisies has managed to survive despite being totally engulfed in blackberries. They are rewarding me for removing most of the blackberries but you can see that they are starting to come back…

We are now heading into the jungle. That dead shrub next to that pathway (you can’t see it well, but there is a rock pathway leading down to another area here) was an old rangy hebe that needs removing. The trunk to the rear of the picture is a curly willow that will probably have to be removed because it is half dead and you can see the large palm tree in the background. The next photo shows the curly willow trunk and palm tree better as well as some massivly overgrown hebe off to the side. You can see how jungly it is down here now. Neither Steve nor I have been past this point into the garden. It is too overgrown and tangled up with blackberries. Hebe and Buddleia are everywhere and there are some nice shrubs in here but they are going to need liberating soon. The next photo leads us through to the enormous cottoneaster red berry tree that shades this entire area. Its very jungle like in here. Can you see what I am talking about when I say “It’s a jungle out there”! The last photo was taken looking up into the large berry tree. It is at least 30 feet tall. Tomorrow you get to see some more of our jungle. As mentioned, I am going to be honest about the extent of what we have to do here. Overgrown chaos greets us whenever we foolishly venture down to this part of the garden and we tend to emerge covered in blackberry bites and sporting a lot of vegetation in our hair and on our clothing. I won’t be surprised to see monkeys and tigers down in this area one day! Ok, that’s enough for me to take for 1 day…anyone still thinking that we are procrastinating lazy swines can come and do a few days work with the machete and if you are not hiding under the bed covers in protest at having to get up and do it all over again I will be most surprised :o) See you tomorrow when you can see some more honesty jungle…

The cats are slowly learning that if you mess with the humans you’re going to get burned. After the taking of Effel’s favourite baby we removed a fair bit of the cat’s vegetation and now the chooks can look in at the cats any time that they like and can see them coming. I can guess that it was one of the kittens that took Effel’s baby because this morning, Houdini and her 5 ferals were pecking about nice and early when I heard an alarm cluck from Houdini and watched a small black streak appear running towards her babies. They all took off and the black streak missed out on its play toy and then chicken dinner. There are lessons to be learned on Serendipity Farm and one BIG lesson is you don’t bite the hand that (quite literally) feeds you! Things can quite quickly change as the cats are noticing and the hens are now taking over the conifer that they once lived in. I saw 3 of them having dust baths where Felix used to wait for her dinner. I would imagine that the cats may soon move down to the middle hedge between the 1st and 2nd gardens where there is a lot more vegetation and they can’t be seen as easily. Steve is soon to be removing the old wild rose that grew up through the cat’s conifer and that is going to make it even easier to see inside to avoid cats. I can see the day coming soon where it will be hens and not cats living inside the conifer. It’s nice and cool in there, sheltered and not much rain gets in so it’s a fine place for a hen or two to shelter from the rain and hot sun and there is so much dry soil underneath it, it is a dust bathing paradise.  Once we get going we can make a lot of change occur in the vegetation around here. We keep hearing hens sounding their egg alarm and do you think we can find them? I am sure that they are in the 1st paddock somewhere but we have hunted very carefully and still nothing. As soon as you get close to the crafty minxes they go quiet and pretend that there is nothing going on and it’s very difficult to isolate where the cluckee is or has been prior to the egg alarm.

People that have romantic visions of how delightful it is to live on a property out in the country and have a few hens and a lovely veggie garden and live off the land…are NUTS! It’s extremely hard work, it’s NEVER easy and there is always something or someone that wants something from you and you finish your day as you started it, crawling over your bed for some form of solace from the chaotic world around you. I recently won a set of the 1st and 2nd series of “The Gourmet Farmer”. We settled down to watch the 2nd series that I hadn’t seen before and it left me feeling somewhat cheated. Where Hugh gathers hedgerow materials to make beer, Matthew got given the wort (ready-made mix of malted grains in liquid) and just added a bit of yeast and the hops that he was given. That’s not sharing with us sunshine, that’s bloody lazy! This man is NO Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall out to save the planet; he is copying Hugh (even gaining a wife and son in the 2nd series just like Hugh did…) and doing a terrible job. Hugh is a passionate man intent on saving the world and has eccentric rustic homesteaders helping him out on his quest to find happiness on a sustainable homestead where Matthew Evens is a massive eco-wanker surrounded by his eco-wanker friends all intent on using a promise of “sustainable living” to make a massive profit. It goes against everything that Hugh espouses and I adhere to. Sorry Matthew, I think you get a thumbs down and I am VERY glad that I didn’t actually buy those D.V.D’s and got them for free. Does anyone want a second hand copy of the 2nd series and a brand new copy of the 1st series going free?…


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mum
    Jan 01, 2012 @ 13:40:57

    I was over there this time last week,& miss you all already! You have quite a job on your hands Pen, but have done so much, so you can plod on, a bit at a time. A thought-make each small garden a different sort? Check what can be saved too, hearing aboput the the twisted willow with a palm tree could make the beginnings of an interesting garden Glad to hear the cats den has been thinned out too, but hope the poultry take note & look before settling! You need that ging Steve, to warn the ferals not to touch, or else ! I know just how hot it will be over there, it’s cruel, but it has been raining here thank god.After horrible humidity, the rain has cooled things heaps today, a pleasure to be alive ! I’m chucking video tapes away now,& have more room in the book shelfr.Now to tackle the ironing with my nice new iron from Stewart.Keep cool & way out of the sun both of you.Pats on heads to the boys & lots of good luck in 2012.


  2. Kym
    Jan 01, 2012 @ 18:37:20

    Well we had a fine time last night! A few drinks, too much food, good company and lots of laughs. We managed to get a lift home, so rolled into bed at about 2 am. I’m not too tired today so can still rock on and pull up okay 🙂 It has been humid here but the breeze is keeping it nice. Bruce is off to Rotto for a week of fishing, drinking and tall tales with his dad, uncle and brother. That means I will get a whole week of sleep uninterrupted by snoring. Ahh bliss. The dogs love it to as they get the whole half of the bed to themselves instead of being squished between us or at my feet. I’m of to the Hopman cup on Tuesday and the finals on Satuday, my diary is filling up fast already lol. Lots of work for you both to do eh. But it will be fun to get some new plants going and see some transformation happening. Keep cool and don’t let the blackberries get you down lol


    • narf77
      Jan 02, 2012 @ 14:07:01

      Glad to see you had a good time on New Years Day and that you get a week to yourself. It’s lovely to sometimes do whatever you want for a week. We bought a king sized bed so that the dogs would be able to fit in and give us lots of room but the dogs get lots of room and we just ‘fit in’…something not quite right there…Have fun at the tennis. We will be in the garden discovering some sort of rare African tribe (that must have gotten lost on their travels as they are in Tasmania!) and fighting off tigers and elephants down in the garden for the next week. The blackberries didn’t get me down today…I got THEM down and in a large prickly pile to be burnt at the stake this evening (that’ll learn em’!)


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