The ancient rowan tree gets a second chance

Hi All,

After yesterday’s full on rant accompanied by philosophy 101 Serendipity Farm style (the 1st of many for 2012) I decided to give you a little bit of fun today. I get an email a month from Clothilde of the blog “Chocolate and Zucchini” fame. I love this blog. It is proof that culture and language is no barrier to good food. I LOVE good food. I love all food. I am a closet food blog hoarder and Clothilde is one of my out of the closet moments where I decided to subscribe to her newsletter. Every month I get new newsletters full of fantastic French recipes, interesting information regarding food Frenchy style and a high quality and most stylish desktop calendar for the month. When you accompany this with Clothilde’s indubitable style, wit and French urban charm, you have a recipe for total success. I buy an Australian food magazine (one of the only foodie magazines that I can stand to read with a whole lot less pretentious gumpf than most other foodie magazines) called “Feast” which is a product of S.B.S. networking taking on good old Aunty A.B.C. I much prefer “Feast” to “Delicious”. Apart from the degree of pretention, Feast contains ethnic recipes and Delicious tends to wax lyrical over popular celebrity chefs. Clothilde was featured in Feast magazine as a guest writer which tied up my love of her blog with my subscription of this magazine nicely :o). I always read Chocolate and Zucchini’s newsletter from top to bottom and usually take a while reading through the articles and downloading the free calendar for my desktop. This month’s edition had some interesting reading and featured another blog that is also French but that creates the most delightful animations for the recipes that it features. I have to share this most inventive of food sites with you all so that you can be delighted like I was. Who cares about language barriers, you don’t need language to watch something like this. I decided to give you the original French and then the English conversion for those wanting translations. I prefer the original French…

And here is Chocolate and Zucchini. Check out the recipes, I bet you spend some time saving some of them. I spent half a day when I first discovered this site…

When I was bums up in the garden attacking the blackberries around the rowen tree or Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) in the garden that we have been clearing I suddenly remembered that rowen trees have some sort of symbolic meaning to them. This particular rowen tree is in a bit of a sad condition that relates directly to where it has been forced to fight for its life amongst the collapsed ruins of this once lovely garden. Wherever we have cleared we find evidence of past civilisation. We like to think of ourselves as plant archaeologists. We have discovered many long dead Dicksonia Antarctica (Soft tree ferns endemic to Tasmania) trunk-like rhizomes that were obviously planted here because of the curved pattern of the remaining trunks. This has been echoed in other areas of the garden, especially the teatree garden area. It’s sad to see these long dead remainders of what would have been lush and beautiful ferns. When dad stopped watering this garden (most probably he never started watering it 20 years ago…), I would imagine that these plants would have been some of the first to die off. Here is a site with some information about these beautiful ferns and a few pictures to show you what Serendipity Farm must have looked somewhat like about 20+ years ago before it fell into a state of chaos and neglect. antarctica.html

The garden is interlaced with taps and watering systems, cleverly built in over the entire acre of landscaped garden. One day something is going to blow in this system and it is going to take us a month of Sundays to find where the problem is. Dad was always telling us “I will tell you where all the main taps are for this place”…but when it got down to it, the “telling” would have meant admitting to the prospect of his ultimate demise and so we remain ignorant of said main taps and every day we are somewhat closer to the imminent demise of the watering system, but at least we are never bored out here! Apparently rowen trees are incredibly symbolic in the Celtic and Norse (Viking) mythologies and magic wands, Druid and Magician Staff’s, runes and water and metal divining rods are made out of rowen wood. I am not at all into that sort of thing, but also learned that Rowen trees were always planted in cemeteries. This interested me because Serendipity Farm was once part of the 11 acres that comprised The Auld Kirk Church and perhaps this ancient looking half dead creature was planted for that purpose? Steve and I were talking about removing it because it is very dilapidated but it kept spiking me and trying to take my eye out while I was removing blackberries from around the base of it and as a survivor of this garden (and a most feisty one at that…) and for its history and presence, we think that we might leave this grand old dame in situ on Serendipity Farm. After crown lifting her, we are going to make things out of her lower branches. Steve has decided that every tree that we need to remove from the property, whether dead or alive, is going to have something made out of it to celebrate its life. I thought that this was a most sustainable and fitting way to give these long living survivors of the neglect that was thrust upon them after years of tender loving care (and all the water that they could lap up) the kudos that they deserve. Some of them have struggled for years only to be cut down (Buddleia davidii and a poor long suffering Philadelphus that had to be culled) and we want to do something to celebrate their amazing fight to live. It would be terrible to trivialise their fight for life by simply tossing them onto the next spuddy bonfire that we have so look out for interesting little wooden “things” that we are going to make to legitimise and celebrate their struggle for life.

Here is the canopy (if you could call this a canopy) of this poor long suffering tree. It has struggled through being almost squashed by a falling tree, being surrounded by blackberries and various other agressive vines and a total lack of water. Like most survivors on Serendipity Farm I have a soft spot for anything that managed to keep going despite all odds. We are going to give this old tree what it needs and should it eventually die, we will use the wood to make various articles to celebrate it’s life

Here is the trunk of the newly cleared rowan tree. When I say cleared, I mean of live debris. The remains of an ancient long dead hebe are hanging about still, but they have long since stopped interfering with the trees ability to get water and nutrients from the soil and are more like mulch then anything to worry about. The pond is just off to the right of this area. We liberated it from blackberries but it is still full of slime and duckweed. The chooks are finding their way into our cleared areas and are having the best time fossicking for grubs and insects. Good luck to the greedy chook who finds that goat moth and tries to dispatch it!

Steve just headed up to the little post office/shop/petrol station that Sidmouth supports. It used to be a bit of a dive but 2 women decided to take it on and have turned it into a thriving place for Truckies and locals to get good quality take away food and a reasonable range of groceries. We wanted to support this shop so we started ordering a magazine that we regularly purchase through them. We use them for posting letters and parcels as well. It’s important to support small businesses like this one or we deserve to lose them. Whilst picking up the milk (no tea + Fran = the Grinch that stole Christmas…) Steve also picked up our latest copy of Gardening Illustrated (our magazine) and forgive me for using an Aussie colloquialism but “blow me down” if the rowen tree isn’t featured this month. Call me crazy but that cements the survival of the 2 rowen trees (different species) that currently reside on Serendipity Farm. Obviously they are meant to remain here so remain they shall. They can be incorporated into our edible food forest as the berries are not only food for the birds, but can be used to make jellies, jams, cordials and most importantly wine. Anything that can be fermented and imbibed makes us happy. As penniless hippy students with alternative and sustainable liens, we are always on the lookout for cheap ways to get pissed. Making booze ourselves is the cheapest and so anything that promised to enrich our blackberry wine by giving it a bit of depth is going to be allowed to stay. This month’s Gardening Illustrated also has a feature on Nutteries (another one of my favourite things) and a magnificent Mexican garden that I talked about in a post not so long back. Was this tailor made for me this month? Another reason why we buy this most illustrious of magazines, it talks directly to us and once you wade through the pomp and circumstance that tends to accompany this sort of English gardening magazine, you get a feast of information and current plant trends that we 2 errant horticulturalists find addictive and most necessary for our bi monthly fix. I have the most chaotic approach to writing blog posts. I think of something whilst making lunch, when I am in the middle of the garden pulling weeds and always when I have nothing to write down what I am thinking about. I forget things easily (so much gumpf inside my head that focussing on one piece of brain flotsam is difficult and it’s usually submerged by the time I get around to concentrating on it…) that if I don’t write things down I forget them and so there are all sorts of interesting scraps of paper with various coloured ink (and other things) on them with little thoughts for my posts. I guess I am a bit of an anomaly in that I have no problem in thinking about things to post about. Serendipity Farm gives me so much fodder that I have to sift through the “happenings” to find the most interesting and you often miss out on little sippets of information that don’t figure prominently in my overstuffed brain. I don’t think that any day soon I am going to run out of the well/font of “stuff” that wants to overflow into these posts (touch wood) so hopefully I won’t have to resort to actually thinking about what to post in opposition to trying to put a cork in my brain to stop posts becoming too long. I think I have a frustrated writer living inside me. I think she gets furious with me for limiting her 15 minutes of fame and I am plagued by her incessant niggling to get me to write more than my 1 post a day. I am entirely happy with this arrangement. 1 post and 1 portion of my day designated to working in the garden + 1 walk with the dogs and 1 beer seem to me to be the recipe for 1 happy life. I can hear a weird noise outside. I know that the council are doing their annual road verge clean-up today because Steve saw them on his trip out to the shop for milk and magazines. This “clean-up” consists of a large green tractor fitted with a monstrosity of a sideways thresher (for want of a better and more technically correct word…) that munches it’s way merrily through any poor wayfaring roadside vegetation that finds itself contained inside the threshing apparatus. I have no problem with clearing the roadsides. I know that most of the road kill that we get on our Tasmanian roads is a result of these animals coming down to the road verge to eat the overgrown grass. What I DO have a problem with is how very ugly the road verge looks after the council have mangled it. They don’t stop with grass; they masticate the trees along the road verge leaving hideous ripped limbs looking more like shark attack victims then pruned trees. Again, I am well aware of how expensive (in money and time) it would be to get a team of council workers pruning the wild vegetation on the side of the road. Our rates simply wouldn’t pay for it, but what peeves me most is their timing for this roadside ripping. They do it right when tourists to this state are at their peak over the Christmas holidays and School holidays. Couldn’t it be done in early autumn? Tourists come here for the clean green image and all they end up seeing is a mountain of various road kill (not as attractive as their furry cute alive counterparts) and native vegetation that appears to have been hit by a cyclone.

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Because of a dearth of photos to put into this post I went hunting for some older photos that you might be interested in. They are as follows (in order)

1. Mass planted dwarf conifers and Japanese plants at the Melbourne International Flower Show that we would like to emulate in the raised garden below the deck

2. A juniper that Steve and I cloud pruned at Red Dragon Nursery

3. A gorgeous specimen of Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric), 1 of many, in a forest of Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas Fir) not far from Scottsdale

4. A most covetted and rare specimen of conifer from China that Steve and I are going to graft scion from onto Pinus Elotti rootstock that we grew from seed

5. Hollybank reserve avenue of ancient trees

6. Another picture of the majesty of Hollybank reserve

7. A hydroponic pot system that we picked up for $5 from the thrift shop

8. The previous glory of my now duck munched pot of succulents

9. A bowl of gorgeous ruby red translucent Viburnum Notcutts Variety berries. We have 2 of these waiting to go out into the garden

Steve is inventing sheok back scratchers and I am researching brownstone gingerbread houses. It’s wise not to ask why. We tend not to know why we do anything around here. We are impulsive creatures with the scars to prove it and stride out maniacally in search for the elusive result where we feel like we actually did something productive in our days. Steve just brought me a red mulberry from our little survivor. We had to practically defoliate the poor little thing last year to remove the blackberry tangle and black plastic bird netting that engulfed it. This year it is repaying us with a mulberry glut. Steve doesn’t realise that red mulberries are like eating a raw lemon. I am not going to say anything to him because he did something good. We women know that husbands and most men in general are like dogs. You reward good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour. That is the secret to a good marriage and a happy dog respectively. I am not going to eat the red mulberry but the blackbirds most probably will. I am not going to put netting over the tree because dad made me cover the tree 2 years ago so “those bloody birds won’t get all the mulberries”. The birds sat there looking wistfully at the berries as they ripened, dropped to the floor and rotted. Dad was all for saving things but never taking advantage of them. The word “hoard” comes to mind and despite the lady at the tip when we were on our 20th tip run with dads hoarded garbage telling me that he came from a time when everything came in useful, I can find no idea why he would hoard rusty nails, broken screws and the rest of the totally useless stuff that he seemed loath to part with. I want the birds to eat the mulberries this year. They ate the rest of the stone fruit apart from 2 cherries that I got. Have a ball guys…at least SOMETHING is eating the fruit. I believe in being generous. Sure, this world is getting harder and harder every day but we all live here, we are all doing it tough. If we share what we learn and what we have it becomes a whole lot easier to bear and suddenly what was once a massive great drag is now a communal day of great fun interspersed with quality moments that we would never have if we were hoarding our thoughts, our insight and our abilities let alone our “stuff” that we no longer need. I was serious about those Gourmet Farmer D.V.D’s by the way. If anyone loves Matthew Evens (lord only knows what you are doing reading this blog if you love his way of doing things!) and would like these D.V.D’s, let me know, they are yours! See you all tomorrow when it better have cooled down somewhat or I am going to be posting from the duck pond…


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mum
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 11:23:22

    I’m glad you are saving the rowans Pen, they’re a pretty tree,& have good uses. They have managed to survive this long, so let them stay. It’s a shame the tree ferns were allowed to die, wasn’t it? Think about a few judiciously more dotted here & there love, as they grow well there,& you can underplant with low growing ferns too. Some of those plants from Madagasca will fit in well there too, get a primeval garden sorted eh? The ducks & hens must think Christmas is here to stay with all the new scratching areas ! Ducks will crunch up any snails too. Get that old pond recycled again,& you’ll have a lovely little area all yours to do what you will with. Is that twisty willow by it? What a good idea about making something from each dead tree too. Even wooden platelets from a decent sized dead trunk has so many uses.Little Weed was on the go early this morning, getting energy even though overcast. It must get plenty from this weather. It will do that all morning now, till the sun goes over towards Mt Shadforth. Been out pruning off long tendrils from a couple of vines that want to strangle anyone walking past. I only did them just before Christmas too. I can’t wait to get the mulcher back to get cracking on all the pelargoniums etc. The mulch I put right back around everything. It’s free & anatural food too. That’s if Dennis can get an edge back to the blades I hope, says she with fingers crossed. I hiope your weather has cooled a bit love, the heat is so debilitating, isn’t it? It has been delicious since our hot stuff, with a bit of rain to cool things down. I do water first thing though, out back, as it gets so dry. The two apple trees fruit, only hal;f grown, are pretty well cooked on the trees from that heat too. I’m thinking of planting another fruit tree of some sort in front of them in the raised bed now, to shade them a bit.The parsnips I had growing well in that bed have all brownedf off, so let’s hope I can still have the roots from them. I shall go investigate later. Mo sent me a lovely gardening magazine from Wales yesterday,& it’s from just before Christmas,& very interesting. I am now going to have to empty all the dead plants from the hanging baskets. A couple I had with little white flowers are dead too.I’m thinking of making a cactus garden around the two espalliered cherry trees now, where I had thick cornflowers.Got to pull them all out yet too, for the compost. I’d like to have the cactus at various heights there, even if I keep them in big pots, as something a bit different. Hey, I had visions of you rising from the duck pond like The Creature From the Black Lagoon! Get it cleaned out with fresh water love, then you can go sit in it with the ducks!


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