Chooks, gardens and musical instruments

Hi All,

I was going through the mass of emails that had piled up in both our email accounts while I was away and checking out what was worthy of keeping, archiving or deleting. I noticed one from Ruth of “The Pink Whisk” fame and was interested enough to click on it to have a nose around her kitchen. I expected no less than the amazing kitchen that I saw first up but reading on, was delighted to see Ruth’s real kitchen. This lady creates amazing recipes in a space less than 1/3 of the size of my kitchen. It looks like I am not the only one with a New Year’s resolution to live life honestly this year. Check it out if you want to see how some of the Foodie blogging elite really live…

Well, Steve and I got stuck in and we made another veggie garden bed. After being shamed by my brother about how wonky the first one was we fixed the initial garden bed and cleaned out the chook roost (turfing clucky hens left right and centre), removed a cotoneaster that was waving at us like it had no mortal enemies (WRONG! :o)) and confronted a nest of enormous blackberries hell bent on taking over Serendipity Farm. Steve + Fran = unhappy blackberries. After this we revisited the chook roost and turfed out the clucky hens again. I don’t really know why we bother doing this. They are the most determined set of hens that I have ever met. While I was hauling out dung rich hay with the compost fork, they were trying to settle in their nesting boxes. When I got the shovel to remove the rest of the debris (after turfing them out of the nesting boxes once) they sidled in through one of the small doors leading out to the chook enclosure outside and were just about to settle down again when I turfed them out. After sweeping the floor with an outdoor broom I grabbed a most protesting hen and turfed her out the door…are you starting to get the picture? These hens have one mission in life. To find an egg (any egg will do) and sit on it. They are so very lucky that I am a vegetarian and that I don’t like killing things or they might be Sunday dinner by now.

Here is what we are hoping to attract to pollinate our garden, seen here on a garlic flower, by leaving flowers and shrubs in the veggie garden area.  Steve is very proud of this photo :o)

My brother has some amazing seabright chooks. He has 2 hens, a rooster and a baby chick. They are bantams and spend their days out in the wilderness foraging. Roger the rooster is the most suspicious little creature that I have ever laid eyes on. Bezial looks like an innocent compared to him! This little fellow doesn’t trust anyone. My brother, who dotes on his chooks and gives them the best of everything, is apparently not to be trusted at all. I don’t know what has happened in his tiny fowl brain to cause him to be so untrusting of any and everything, but he spends his days herding his girls and their progeny around relentlessly to avoid any contact with humans. Even a nice bit of fresh grain bread won’t get past this wily little man. He warns his girls not to touch it and when my brother tries to pick up any of his girls, he goes ballistic. I am starting to think that Yin is a saint compared to Roger. Yin has never attacked anyone. He once tried to stand up to Earl and came off second best so has a most healthy respect for anything larger than him and tends to avoid confrontation rather than initiate it. I get the feeling that my brothers rooster has a little man complex. It was quite difficult to even get a picture of Roger and the girls because he was constantly keeping them moving all the time that I was attempting to take their pictures. Here is the best that I could do…

Here are 2 of the Seabright bantam chicks on my brothers property

Despite having such distinctive markings it is quite hard to see these chooks when they are out foraging.

I wanted to show you the hens bright blue legs and comb in this photo

Here is Roger. Not a great photo, but probably one of the best you are going to get of this most elusive and untrusting rooster. He is a lovely little man but has an attitude 100 times bigger than his physical presence

We have come to the conclusion that we might have to downsize with our hens. We got 2 eggs today and we are paying a small fortune for top quality free range food for our most fussy guzzling fowls. We are buying 3 x 18kg sacks of food a fortnight and they are going through it at a rate of knots so we are thinking about setting about finding good homes for some of our chicks. It feels a bit like trying to sell my children and I feel somewhat disloyal to our chooks but 34 chickens and 2 ducks is a bit much for 2 of us especially as we are not going to eat any of them and they seem hell bent on reproducing on a regular basis exponentially. I love doing things out in the garden. It makes me feel like I have accomplished something important. Today the ducks watched us most studiously while we made the new garden bed. They were waiting for any slugs or snails that may have foolishly congregated underneath some of the large stones that we were moving. The ducks have gone from not trusting us at all, to tolerating us so long as we throw them regular grubs. They were hiding under the white nectarine tree and scuffling through the hay that I had tossed under it. The ducks are a messy pair. They spend their day in the boat/pond and rootling through things that don’t concern them. They pick up shiny things and drop them into the chooks water. They find plastic bag scraps and put them into the chooks water; they eat grain and dirt and put it into the chooks water. I don’t think they like the chooks. Saying that, they go into the chook roost every night now for protection. Effel and her baby are now also overnighting in the chook roost. The only members of our fowl population not sheltering overnight in the roost are Houdini’s 5 feral babies. Houdini herself is safely ensconced with the others at night. I have no idea if the 5 ferals will ever decide to come and join the main crew. I guess that remains to be seen. Perhaps they will set up an opposing faction of wild hens that spend their days spying on each other and making stealth attacks on each other. Maybe it will be like Romeo and Juliet one day and 2 of them will come together? Maybe I have too much time on my hands and should stop allowing my brain to wander off wherever it will…

Putting something into the chooks water…

I had a bit of a hissy fit at Steve this morning. After settling back into Serendipity Farm time, I headed off to do my regular chores. I noticed at once that a somewhat large hiatus of “regular chores” had occurred most probably the day that I headed to W.A. I understand that it was easier to just leave it for me to do, but I tend to have a bit of a problem with built up dust, mass piles of dog hair on the floor and clothes strewn on the ground in the bedroom. I also have a problem with dirty sinks, sink loads of dishes and rumpled up covers on the couch. Steve discovered the results of my being disgruntled this morning and we have a new understanding about what happens when I head off to W.A. next time… There is another reason to feel sorry for Steve :o). The weather has started to cool down a bit now. I am not complaining because there is nothing like heading over to somewhere hot to take the edge off your own semi-hot situation. The days that I spent in W.A. were hot. Tasmanians are spoiled and when air conditioning units and heat pumps are blaring when the temperature gets over 26C, I think that they should all head over to W.A. for a little while, just to see how lucky they are. I have discovered a new problem on Serendipity Farm. Once we defoliate the weeds, whipper snip the problem plants and reduce the mass of overgrown foliage, the hens move in and dig for the queen leaving our soil denuded and hydrophobic. I have started to think that we might be disturbing the microclimate if we head off madly removing plants from the main garden area. I know that we are going to have to mulch around the remaining plants but I am a bit concerned that we might change the conditions in the garden with regular and sustained defoliation. I don’t want to end up with the problem of the American Dust Bowl conditions of the 1930’s where drought and defoliation created a mass loss of top soil. The hens give us copious amounts of manure but spend most of their days either digging dust baths for themselves or denuding the vegetation with incredible zeal. I am going to have to do a bit of research to make sure that I don’t create a larger problem than the weeds

Steve has just watered the glasshouse plants and reported mass craziness. “Everything is going off!” was his reply when I just asked him how the plants are going. That’s good because most of the plants in there are quite rare and we grew them from seed or were on their last legs (thanks Earl…) and needed a bit of T.L.C. it’s good to hear that our precious babies are going great guns. Steve is talking about needing a larger glass house but I think we might just have to make ourselves a polytunnel. It’s very easy to get carried away and plan on doing lots of things in a short amount of time. It’s great to accomplish things, but here on Serendipity Farm it is rarely as easy as “making a plan and getting stuck in”. The usual state of affairs is that we encounter at least one problem with what we are attempting to do. Most of the time it’s a tangled mass of weeds that hamper our activities. Sometimes it’s a lack of materials, but we have learned to think outside the box here and have many solutions for these sorts of problems now. Sometimes the problem comes from stage left like Earl and his pruning, hen eating, house content disassembly and book scoffing ways. We have learned to never assume that a job is going to take a regular amount of time and that the “Before you can have a cookie you have to lift the lid…after you lift the lid you can have a cookie” adage is most probably going to come into effect at any given time on Serendipity Farm. Here is a point in case. We headed out to cut down the cotoneaster tree that borders on the large conifer that the cats call home. It would seem that this would be an easy job requiring a hand saw, a pruning saw and a pair of good loppers. We headed out with our equipment and lots of enthusiasm and were immediately confronted by a tangled mass of blackberries waving in the breeze…”Before you can remove the cotoneaster you have to remove the tangle of blackberries”. Nothing is ever as simple as simply going out and “doing it”. We have come to understand that this is what country life is all about. Our neighbours just gave us a large bag of scarlet runner beans and 3 zucchini. To all of you on the Australian mainland groaning about all of the zucchini that you have been forced to eat and rehome, we poor long suffering Tasmanian’s are only just getting our zucchini’s and beans to the size that we can eat them. We are behind you and have a much shorter summer growing season and need to make sure that we plant crops that encompass that short growing season. There are only 2 types of corn that do well here and not many more types of tomato. We certainly have a whole lot to learn

Steve is attempting to faint with the exertion of trying to play the clarinet. Mum sent us my Uncle Doug’s clarinet just before she died and Steve got it while I was away. We had no idea that she had sent it and it was a poignant reminder that life goes on. We have just set it up and we almost exploded trying to make even a squeak out of it.We were hoping to be as bad as Squidward from Sponge Bob fame, but we couldn’t even make a noise, let alone a cacophony. We found a website called Monkeysee that instructs you on how to do things (somewhat like YouTube but more highbrow content) and watched a smug little lady telling us how easy it was to play the clarinet. She went on and on about the correct way of breathing. I ignored her. I need to mention something about myself at this point. In a past (and much younger) life I played a musical instrument in a brass band. I then progressed to a concert band. A clarinet is a woodwind instrument and as such requires a “medium” amount of air to be retained in your lungs. I played a brass instrument. My brass instrument was a member of the “large amount of air needing to be retained in your lungs” confraternity. My brass instrument was the largest member of its genre and required the heartiest and most overstuffed and air filled lungs to facilitate even a simple tune. I played a tuba (and at times, when our enthusiastic Canadian band teacher wanted us to march, a sousaphone. To have a smug little woodwind clarinet playing lady tell me that I needed to learn to retain more air in my lungs is somewhat akin to a small child who has just learned to ride a trike telling a professional B.M.X. bike rider how to ride. Even I, with my trained tuba lungs couldn’t make this thing squeak! I think that there might be something wrong with the reed. We wet it and Steve could make low tones, I can make high squeaks but to make a sound you have to almost turn blue. Me thinks that we are going to have to do a bit more research before we solve our clarinet playing problem and NOT from that smug little lung precious lady! I also think that the odds of either Steve or I becoming concert clarinet players are slim and next to nothing. I think it is going to end up on his music room wall along with all of the other misbehaving and difficult to play members of their genre.

Seemingly innocuous but harbouring a latent hatred for being played by anyone other than my uncle apparently…

Steve and I are having a stir fry for our tea tonight. We had slid into a routine of just throwing something together at the end of the day that seemed to be including less and less green vegetable matter and more and more pre-manufactured ingredients. That has gone by the wayside as we have both decided to be healthier. We have had salad for the last few days. We have been eating grain and wholemeal bread. We have cut down on fatty ingredients and increased things that have actual nutritional value to them (don’t faint!). I have also spent the last week learning to eat less. I have spent most of my life eating too much. It’s time to rectify that problem. It’s much like anything else. If you can do something for a month it becomes habit. Once it becomes habit you are home and hosed. We are also going to use our cooking skills and make more of our own food. I have cupboards full of ingredients. I have a whole lot of weird and wonderful ingredients from all over the world and a good knowledge of how to cook many different styles of ethnic cuisine and only sheer laziness has kept us from eating better. This year we will be embarking on some most interesting culinary experiments. Hopefully we survive! I need to get some more kefir grains (both water and milk) from my South Australian source. The last time I bought anything from South Australia we got Earl, so you can forgive me for being hesitant about spending money in South Australia ever again, but my source lives there, so spend in South Australia I must! I want us to have the best quality of life that we can. I had a friend in certificate 2 in Horticulture who told me that he stopped abusing his body with bad food, cigarettes and too much alcohol when he turned 50. He decided that he didn’t want to reach old age, a self-abused husk of a man and today he is a fit and healthy 60+ year old. I might be too late to stop my knee joints from suffering, but the rest of me is going to get the best chance that it can to reach old age well-oiled and purring like a kitten

It’s time to get that stir fry on the go. It is going to consist of lots of vegetables. Some soaked dried shiitake mushrooms. Some tapioca noodles (nice and chewy) and various tasty sauce ingredients coupled with garlic, ginger and lots of Asian spices. Steve is having prawns and chicken with his and I might add some egg to mine. My niece Sabrina and her partner Andy have reminded me that messing about in the kitchen doesn’t always need recipes and my daughters, who constantly turn out delicious food and who made the best roast vegetable salad that I had ever tasted in my whole life the Christmas before last and when questioned simply said “we just threw some veggies together with some stuff in the oven” will surely approve of my new found desire to mess about in the kitchen with interesting ingredients. They just bought 2 smoked quails, some wallaby and turkey salami and some interesting sausages. Lord only knows what they have planned for that lot, but you can bet it won’t be boring! See you all tomorrow bright eyed and bushy tailed like Basil Brush “BOOM-BOOM!” :o)

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Pinky
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 12:25:53

    Love your work guys, especially around the chook pen area. I’ve been inspired to repot and plant out the rescued plants from Mums place this morning early. I’ve put the blueberries in nice big pots and put extra soil under the loganberry? in that green pot that you pruned for me Fronkii. I potted up the Agave and its looking very happy as is this other little succulent I put into a new pot with some good soil mix and compost. We dug a hole and put some good soil mix in it and planted out the mango tree next to the wall on the left of the apple trees. If its meant to survive, it will. Stranger things have happened!!!!!!! Andy and Sabrina have planted broccolli and beetroot seedlings in that raised garden bed. I noticed the white cabbage moths dancing merrily above them this morning. I think they disguise themselves as dragonflies till you plant a brassica then they shed their coats and chow down!!!!!


    • narf77
      Jan 20, 2012 @ 15:01:20

      Well done Pinky! Those blueberries will love a bit of seasol and some powerfeed as well. I would give that poor mango a good dose of the same. I think it will do better at your place than mums sad hot back yard. My guess is it likes a fair bit of water. We also potted up tomatoes today and I am tired now. Have a great rest of the day :o)


  2. microgardener
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 12:14:25

    Hi Fran good to read about what’s happening in your garden again. Weeds are an interesting topic and I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years about just how valuable they actually are!

    Many are edible but their main role is to remineralise a depleted soil! Most weeds have deep roots and are miners of minerals deeper down in the soil structure, pulling up into their biomass (leaves) what is missing in the shallow top soil layer. You can tell by what weeds are growing, what minerals are missing in your soil.

    Thus by chopping and dropping your weeds as mulch in the same spot underneath the plants you want to keep, the leaves will release the minerals that were missing and the soil will improve – becoming more balanced in the process.

    I’ve come to embrace weeds now and think of them as helpers (many are edible too) and they are actually doing an important job in the garden. We only think of them as weeds because they are plants growing in a place we don’t want them. Many are also excellent compost activators like dock and dandelion so if you have those growing, toss them into your compost pile and they’ll accelerate the breakdown. Have a great day.


    • narf77
      Jan 22, 2012 @ 14:29:51

      I learn so much from you Annie :o) We have heaps of good old Scotch thistles growing in our garden. Sow thistles, dandelions, a little bit of broad leafed dock and lots and lots of blackberries. The blackberries are courtesy of the birds as are the banana passionfruit. We leave the thistles where they fall when we whipper snip them after removing the seed heads but we can’t do that with the banana passionfruit or blackberry as they will carry on their merry way. Mum used to put all of the persistant weeds that she removed from her garden into a large rubbish bin of water and made weed tea. It smelt like hades but I dare say, like the nutrients missing from the garden, it was lapped up by the garden when she applied it. We have so much to learn about veggie gardening! We might be tree genius’s but veggie gardening is a whole other matter. We will be haunting your site on a regular basis for months to come trying to gleen any and everything that we can. Thank you so much for your amazing site and the scotch thistles thank you too :o)


  3. Kym
    Jan 23, 2012 @ 21:19:35

    How interesting about the weeds. I will be looking on the Internet about my weeds. Maybe you have researched it already Fran?..


    • microgardener
      Jan 23, 2012 @ 23:05:45

      Hi girls

      Happy to help – weeds are a big topic and a really interesting journey. Michael Tierra is a herbalist (I have one of his wife’s books on herbs) and you might find his article on ‘Weeds as Medicine, Weeds as Food’ helpful:

      Another good article about Edible weeds is:

      Click to access Edibles.pdf

      Fran you may also find ‘MANAGING WEEDS, PESTS AND INSECTS ON THE BIODYNAMIC FARM’ useful for explaining the phosphorus value of your blackberries and some solutions:

      Click to access T&C%20Weed%20article.pdf

      I know you enjoy researching but that’s probably enough reading for one day!
      Hope this helps … enjoy.


      • narf77
        Jan 24, 2012 @ 14:11:16

        It would be great to think of weeds as my friends rather than my mortal enemies! I have a lot to learn about organic gardening. We were taught all sorts of things but organic gardening wasn’t on the curriculum. I am a bit miffed this year as we don’t get to choose permaculture as part of our diploma course (even though it is a listed option). Oh well, perhaps I need to get accredited and teach it myself! :o) Thankyou SO much Annie, I have to get onto TALIS and order those books from the library. I have some serious reading to do and as I am laid up with this nasty cold it will be a good time to focus on learning rather than moving much.

    • narf77
      Jan 24, 2012 @ 14:13:18

      I love researching but weeds were something that I would rather have pretended didn’t exist! We have had to deal with so very many of them here on Serendipity Farm that they were starting to look like the invading hoardes rather than something that could possibly be of value. It’s a whole lot easier to simply shove something in the “bad” basket where everything (even the dreaded weeds) have both good and bad points. I am going to be attempting to get hold of some of those books that Annie has listed from the library. Wish me luck! :o)


  4. microgardener
    Jan 24, 2012 @ 14:29:09

    The links I gave you Fran are just articles rather than books you can borrow, but I’m sure your local library will have a few titles on their catalogue you can browse and reserve.

    Just another thought about weeds and I’m sure this may be bleeding obvious to you but until I really thought about it, it wasn’t to me until more recent times: Who has the most to gain by demonizing weeds? Making them out to be the ‘bad guys’ instead of part of nature’s soil remediation program? … Chemical companies – who sell billions of dollars worth of herbicides every year to remove “a problem” – yes in some situations it can be argued certain plants ARE a problem – but they can become part of the solution (Permaculture principle!) if thought about carefully enough. I believe in working WITH nature not supporting a billion dollar industry and pumping chemicals into my soil killing the billions of free microbe workers I have doing an amazing job down there.

    Don’t wait for any chemical company to tell you in their marketing blurbs that weeds are good guys – it just won’t happen! They have too much to lose and 99% of the world’s gardeners have been sucked into their clever marketing hype at one time or another – me included. Nature was doing just fine before man got involved – it’s only when we disturb natural ecosystems that ‘weeds’ become a problem. I’ll be writing some posts on them this year so stay tuned for some organic solutions!!


    • narf77
      Jan 25, 2012 @ 07:35:57

      We don’t use poison. We use hard manual labour. Its hard work but we don’t want to kill our bees or soil microbes. The area that we are working in was a pristine landscaped garden about 20 years ago. Since my dad and his partner bought the place it has slowly reverted to a semi jungle state. A lot of the plants that were originally planted are actually still there in the dense undergrowth but a fair few of them are only represented by their dry desicated husks. We have a real blackberry “condition”. I have no problem with most other weeds after having dealt with these blackberries. I hear what you are saying about them having worth, but they are one of those weeds (like crack willow) that just keep on keeping on and if you miss a teeny bit of root when you are digging them up they are right back there the next year waving their thorny little tendrils right back at you…sigh…I can’t wait to see your posts on organic solutions! I will be waiting with baited breath. Until then, I will be down in the garden with my secateurs, loppers, welding gloves and sheer stubborn refusal to give in and will be making those blackberries my biotch! :o) (please hurry with the posts…I don’t know if I will be able to hold them back for too much longer…)


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