In sickness and in health for better or worse

Hi All,

I guess when you couple the stress of the last few years with the fact that I haven’t had a bad cold in a few years I should have expected some sort of bodily rejection of “me” but this cold has knobs on it! Having a cold in the summer is an abomination. At least you can rug yourself up and feel duly sorry for yourself in winter. Huddled up next to the fire with a nice mug of hot tea with lemon (and something else “medicinal”) you could almost fool yourself that you were getting better, but a cold on a hot day is a bad thing. Steve and I are not doing much today. We walked the boys at Deviot and picked up Steve’s fortnightly meat pack at Nigel’s Gourmet butchers in Exeter and when we got home we decided to tidy up Steve’s music room and the middle room. I have a heap of almost new Better Homes and Gardens magazines that I am going to drop off to the doctors surgery (or perhaps the waiting room at the small hospital annexe) in Beaconsfield and we have minimised our “stuff” down to stuff that we really want to keep rather than keeping it for the sake of perhaps needing it in the future. My anti hoarding need is in stiff opposition to my hoarding genes and Steve was shaking his head at my arguments to keep a bag of rubber bands, some ancient (and not particularly nice) Christmas cards (unwritten in) and some old ornaments that were left when my dad died. I kept the Garden’s Illustrated so that I can snuggle up in one of the armchairs next to the wood stove in the dead of winter and fantasise about our garden of the future. Hoarding is off limits but fantasising is fair game. I also kept my Donna Hay magazines. I am not entirely sure why apart from the fact that my daughter Madeline bought the subscription for me. There are some good recipes in them but I guess I can scatter them absently on our coffee table should the need arise to have to bother to impress someone. Lord knows why we would be inviting someone like that to our house but you just never know when the Queen and Prince Phillip might drop in…

This is a specimen of  Cyathodes glauca (native cheeseberry) that we decided to take a photo of for you to see. They come in a range of colours from stark white through to pink (like our specimen here) to yellow, red and a dark rich purple. Some of them are flattened out like wheels of cheese and some are round. You never know what you are getting with cheeseberries. A bit like Pimbletts :o) Don’t judge a book by it’s cover!

A picture taken in Bezial’s swamp. It’s a great place to walk the dogs whilst observing what happens when 3 rivers converge on a city and just where all of that seed matter from all of those rivers comes to rest. This wetland area right next to the city has the most interesting range of foreign invader weeds that I have ever seen! This seems to change from year to year most interestingly. This year it’s the turn of Morning Glory and Salvias for some reason. Next year it will be probably blackberries and ragwort. Its a most interesting walk and a thorn in the side of the poor Tamar NRMA who try to clean it up every year.

The middle room is clear now. Earl had a bit of a nap on the bed whilst twitching his ears constantly. He had the idea that we might foolishly forget that he was laying on the bed and he might be able to gut the wealth of pillows of all shapes and sizes that litter the bed. Even if we wised up to the sleepy Earl ruse, we might not remember that we put the wooden Christmas tree in the room and he might get to absently nibble on a twig or two…Earl is now sulking in the lounge room while Steve absently plays the guitar. Steve 1, Earl 0. Bezial had a great walk, a great swim and got to choose the best place on the wooden floor laying between the doors so that he gets the best airflow. Earl was foolish enough to attempt his middle room subterfuge and by the time he was ready to assume his rightful position as king of the universe, Bezial had already stolen his thunder. The day isn’t turning out all that well for Earl. We have the breeze here in Sidmouth but the poor girls in Launceston are sweltering under a breeze free sky. It usually takes a while for the sea breeze to get to Launceston (if at all) as its inland and at the junction of The North Esk and South Esk rivers that bleed into the Tamar River. I got that bit of information from Wikipedia so hopefully it’s correct! :o) Steve’s cuckoo shrikes are starting to return for the odd bit of cheese. We have had a convergence of insect life centring on Serendipity Farm for the last few months. The most predominate of which are the enormous black cicadas with red eyes that every 4 years build up their numbers to gargantuan proportions. If they ate the plants we might be upset but they seem to just sit up in the larger trees spending their time attempting to click in unison. The cuckoo shrikes eat these and other insects and during this period of glut they don’t come to the house for cheese.  It’s nice to see them occasionally and I think that Steve’s little female cuckoo shrike makes the odd appearance just to ensure that the cheese wagon is still operational should the insect wagon stop running.

Here is one of Steve’s “Striders”. This one is a most interesting combination of fowl species and has definately got a bit of Brahma hen in him. He, and his pure bred dark barred Plymouth Rock mate are going to be allowed to stay on Serendipity Farm. We have 2 “hens” that have most suspiciously changed colour of late from black to the most glorious of red, blues and green. Me thinkuth that they might be some of those sex changing hens that give you a false sense of security right up to the point where they start crowing…sigh…we don’t appear to have too many of them (4 all up including Steve’s striders) so that isn’t a bad deal from 13 all up. We might even see if they can all exist together as they have enough hens to share and plenty of room to isolate their girls so the need to fight each other for territory and supremity shouldn’t be an issue. We shall see…

Here you can see the Vandals. We think that one is called Attilla and the other one can be Vlad the impaler…they are pretending to be innocent ducks here, but when they think that we aren’t looking they take over the garden scoffing all of my poor potted succulents and knocking over as many pots as they possibly can. Apart from that they spend their days messing up water bowls and hiding in their duck/boat from the ensuing retribution!

It’s now Wednesday and I have to post this post today. I had so many good intentions of getting a few posts ahead so that I could just post first thing, but having been laid low by Mr Nasty Lurgy, I haven’t got all that much energy. One good thing about the lurgy (you have to look on the bright side…) is that I am not in the least bit hungry and my new found resolution about losing weight this year is starting to become a reality. It has been pretty hot here in Tasmania coincidentally since I got back from W.A. It isn’t going to change any day soon and the poor midlanders are copping 34C temperatures that would be the equivalent of 45C in W.A. or any of the mainland states. I heard some interesting news on the Agricultural report this morning on the radio. My dad found some way to cosmically manipulate the radio waves in our bedroom (once his bedroom) so that ONLY the ABC is able to be broadcast in there. I was severely annoyed at first. I tried to be smart and put Triple J on, but soon got very tired of the large representation of rap music and was between a rock and a hard place. Now I actually listen to Ms Eliza Wood and the rural report. Today’s gem was about an expatriate W.A. avocado farmer growing avocados in the north of Tasmania (not too far from where we are now). That gave me a great deal of hope for being able to do the same here on Serendipity Farm. I was only just getting over my excitement from last night’s episode of “The Cook and the Chef” when Maggie Beer was talking about how she grows macadamia nuts on her Mediterranean climate property in the Barossa. If she can grow them, most successfully, there then I can grow them just as successfully on Serendipity Farm because northern Tasmania is listed as a Mediterranean climate. I can’t believe that I am listening to the same radio station that my old Certificate 2 and 3 lecturer used to talk about in class. We would roll our eyes and thing “fuddy duddy!” James had some most happy moments listening to the rural report and now I am following in his footsteps, even going as far as to be excited about something that I heard! That’s what happens to you folks when you are isolated and can only get the ABC. Take warning!

 Isn’t this Arbutus x andrachnoides beautiful? This specimen is still a baby but you can see why people grow this magnificent tree

Here is some of the mint that I managed to pinch on one of our recent walks. I have this plus another species sitting in a large glass of water on the window ledge growing roots. I even fully intend on planting them out before the leaves die and the water turns into something similar to the ducks boat/pond…

Steve is out watering our potted plants. We have switched from watering in the evening (yes…we know full well it’s not ideal to water in the evenings but we are lazy sloths and this time suited us best so we ignored our horticultural knowledge and just did it anyway) to the mornings. We are well aware that it’s the best time for plants to be watered. We have only just stopped dragging our poor sorry derrières out of bed at 6am and heading straight out the door to walk the dogs, only waking up properly mid wrangle on some desolate highway. We now have a cuppa before we get going and we do paper rock scissors to see who gets to water. We have great plans (which we are actually going to implement) to autumn plant most of our potted specimens out this year. Autumn is the best time to plant as they get the autumn rains, a dormant period over winter and the spring rains. We tend to get rain right up to December here so they get a good 3 seasons before the dry season hits. We have plans to put some of our delicious conifers up in the 1st paddock. I know that most of them are not the best thing to be planting in an edible food forest but many of them (especially the Araucaria’s and the pines) have edible seeds/nuts so one day someone will get some edible use out of them. Until then they are going to be decorative and most beautiful specimens and habitat for native animals. The black cockatoos especially love pine trees and perhaps they will allow ours to grow a little bit before they decimate them. We have isolated areas where we are going to plant out my cold climate shrubs (my passion) and our dwarf conifers and maples. I want to get some more Acer saccharum (sugar maples) to plant out and one day they may be able to be tapped for syrup. I think that the temperatures need to be a bit lower than we get here but who knows, one day they might be! I think you have to sometimes be a bit adventurous and just “give it a go”. My mum would have said “suck it and see” as her adage for the very same thing. Mum had a mango tree in her garden. Mangos just don’t grow in Denmark W.A. but this one was struggling to grow in the near desert conditions that mum was forced to live in. Hot dry wind and an incredible heat sink. I couldn’t believe how hot it was in her tiny back yard and how very dry. She had once told me that a “lady from the water board had phoned me up and asked me how I could use so much water for 1 unit and I told her that I was just one person and that they must have gotten it wrong!”. I was all prepared to phone up the “lady from the water board” and give her a serve for her obvious stupidity but when I saw mums garden, I knew that mum must have been out there 24/7 watering to keep it the lush green oasis of calm that it was. When I got there, it had only been a few days since mum died and the garden was on its last legs. It just goes to show that we humans are very good at being able to manipulate conditions to suit us. Now we here on Serendipity Farm are trying to go one step further (with Annie of “The Micro Gardener” fame’s amazing site as one of our precious references) and actually work WITH out conditions. If you stop manipulating nature (water, light etc.) and start observing what nature is doing and working with your conditions and choosing the right plants for your conditions and using what you have available to enhance those conditions, you are going to have a much better chance of arriving at a point where you are able to manage your property AND get an incredible amount of satisfaction out of it at the same time. Too many of us are trying to manipulate nature and suffering the “Weeds of injustice”. As Annie has pointed out, they are just trying to cover the poor soil so it doesn’t lose too much moisture and are taking advantage of the newly cleared state of affairs. I noticed that whenever anyone burns off around here, the burn sight very quickly becomes populated with specific weeds (namely the Scotch thistles). Annie’s recent comments got me to thinking that perhaps the ash from the results of the fire gives the best conditions for that weed to thrive. We should be envious of weeds. They grow so well! They are able to take advantage of the meanest of situations to thrive and grow and are the most able survivors. We can all learn something from them and that is going to be my purpose for the next few days while I am feeling like my head is full of cotton wool and my chest is full of steel wool (scratchy…). I may as well be doing something useful as lying in bed feeling sorry for myself. By the time my cold has decided to move on (no doubt to poor Steve) Earl’s mangled copy of my book about turning our property into an edible food forest should be ready for us to pay for (cringe) and pick up and bring back here to use. Now comes the exciting part. Finding what we want to plant that will grow well in our conditions. No more plants that need excessive care. Bollocks to them! I am totally over “precious” plants. If they can’t stand on their own 2 feet with a little bit of assistance, then they don’t belong here on Serendipity Farm.

Earl attempting to be King of the castle on a large pile of sawdust near the Beaconsfield Primary School where the boys love to walk. It’s just a pity that Bezial had already been right to the top, marked it with a flag (pee) and was already down on the ground after the climb to the summit…

This looks like something that Earl might deposit on the side of the road on any given day (it’s about the same colour too!) but it is actually a form of mycellium fungi growing on the pile of sawdust that the boys just climbed. I love fungi and would love to study them more. They are the true survivors on our planet and without them we would be heartily stuffed!

We have so many maples, Ginkgo biloba’s and other things that we grew (like topsy) when we were initially learning all about horticulture. Now we have isolated what stream of horticulture we want to follow and many of these plants are no longer in our spectrum of interest. The Ginkgo’s are good trees. They are tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions and produce an edible nut (after you get that nasty pulp from the outside that is!) and they also have the most amazing butter yellow foliage in the autumn. They might be planted along the fenceline at the entrance to Serendipity Farm to one day take over from the hideous Photinia that appears to have been invaded by psyllids to the nth degree over the last few years. The poor thing was once obviously a hedge but is now a tangled mass of overgrown psyllids with a bit of leaf in between! Someone once planted a flowering pear tree in amongst the Photinia’s. No idea why, but even though it has had to grow in the most alarmingly abnormal shape to reach a bit of sunlight, it flowers every year and even though it gets hammered by the possums for it’s lush new foliage, it keeps on keeping on. I admire plants like that. It’s stoic refusal to give in to what has happened to it over the last 20 years and its constant attempts to keep growing make me smile and I want to prune this poor long suffering tree and give it back some shape. I want to give it a good layer of mulch and a nice sprinkling of some organic fertiliser. Perhaps even some pulverised manure to slowly give it back some nutrients. I am thinking about seeding the entire teatree area with a green crop to outcompete the forget-me-nots this year. As you can see we are novices at this sort of thing but we are willing to learn and give it the old “college try”. Armed with our seaweed tonic, our compost tea (we initiated compost tea making and perfected an enormous manufacturing plant for making it at our Polytechnic armed only with some sketchy ideas from the internet and our resident sensei Cory the groundskeeper maestro who can do ANYTHING on our side helping us to make our vision a reality). I am going to initiate one of mum’s solutions for weeds soon. I have to get hold of some big blue food grade barrels from a local cherry orchard and we are going to cut off the tops and fill them halfway with weeds and halfway with water and we are going to make weed tea and make the weeds work for us! Steve just finished the watering and we are now just about to head off and walk the dogs before it gets too hot. See you all tomorrow on Serendipity Farm where we learn something new every day (but are usually too lazy to implement it…see…I am staying true to my year of living honestly :o)


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roz Takes
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 16:39:00

    Hi Fran, sorry to hear that you caught our dreadful lurgie, as it takes awhile to shake, if its the same one many of us in Perth had. The only relief I could get was from the old Fisherman’s Friend cough lozenges. The ones with menthol work best. Of course a nice glass of wine doesn’t hurt either.
    Brings up a point of interest.. if you have so many blackberries how about blackberry wine?


    • narf77
      Jan 26, 2012 @ 11:10:19

      Hi Roz :o) Before I started this blog late last year Steve and I made blackberry wine and blackberry and apple wine. We drank it with great gusto and will be harvesting our blackberries again this year just before we mangle the heck out of them. Nothing like making your weeds pay their way before you eliminate them for a degree of satisfaction about how much hard slog you are going to have to put in to removing said weed. Thanks for the commiserations about the lurgy. It really laid me low and Steve has a sore throat today so I dare say he is going to get it as well. He grimaced when I mentioned fisherman’s friends but is willing to knock himself out on wine and says that you have just legitimised his wine habit :o). I hadn’t had a cold in over a year before this one so with stress and being run down I would have been very surprised not to catch the darned thing. I had lentil soup last night (the vegetarians version of chicken soup) and think that it is on the wane now. My throat is no longer feeling like I broke a window and slowly ate all of the glass and my chest has stopped trying to get me to cough out my lungs so hopefully I have reached cold “hump day” and am just about over the crest. When we make our blackberry wine we should send all of our constant readers a bottle of it to share in our weeds ultimate demise. By the time we are sitting back sipping it, the blackberries will be reduced to manageable proportions. We might even train some up a trellis and make them work for us, rather than against us! It’s all about taking advantage of the positives and trying to minimise the negatives isn’t it. Have a great Australia Day and say Hi to Martin for me :o)


  2. Pinky
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 18:55:29

    Wasabi! A teaspoonful 4 times a day! Actually, can you grow this as one of your green crops amongst the forget-me-nots?


    • narf77
      Jan 26, 2012 @ 11:12:38

      I have a tiny horseradish plant. I am saving it for your next visit. I will grate 4 tbs of it and will put it in your cup of tea. It will stave off your next cold :o)


  3. Pinky
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 21:16:35

    Har Har Hardehar!!!! I dont get colds Fronkii 😛 I’m always coughing so wouldn’t know if I was sick or not. I’m probably a plague barer……. Try the wasabi on Steve Fronkii :8)


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