Happy 47th birthday Steve :o)

Hi All,

Yesterday was Australia Day and today is Steve’s birthday. He can’t even remember how old he is any more :o). I think it is all of the stress from playing Mario over and over and over again that has done it. We were antisocial yesterday and goodness only knows we are going to keep on going in the best antisocial tradition for his birthday. We won’t be going out for tea. Apart from not wanting to spend huge amounts on food that isn’t how you want it, we would rather prepare something delicious ourselves and be able to eat it where we want (usually in front of the television) and when we want with no-one waiting around for us to finish our meal and get out so that they can reset the table for another cover. No sir, we are onto their game! I have had a fair bit to do with commercial cooking and working in cafes and restaurants and was taught a fair bit about the economics of how to make a venture like this work. Most of your profit comes from flogging poor unsuspecting punters soup and dessert. Steve makes the best soup that I have ever tasted so you lose on profit margin 1 and I don’t really like dessert much so goodbye profit margin 2. You are left with my mains and I have found 2 restaurants in Launceston that will even entertain a decent vegetarian meal for one of us “problem eaters”. If you don’t eat meat in Tasmania you are one of those “bloody hippies come to take our forestry jobs away!” and you are to be reviled. The first but by no means the least is “fresh on charles” (and yes…it is spelled in lower case). I guess they don’t want to be pretentious? This restaurant is ONLY vegetarian. No meat here! They have recently done a fair bit of renovation and have gotten themselves a website! Welcome to the 21st century to at least 1 business in Launceston and it actually looks like someone who knew what they were doing designed the website! Score 2 points fresh on charles for your ability to impress even a jaded old vegetarian from Western Australia. I owe it to these innovators and obvious “Hippies” to give you their website to peruse…


The second place is Subway. Yeh, good old humble Subway will allow me to choose what I want and it’s even a little bit healthy so there you go, apart from vegetarian pizza (which isn’t really an option as I need SOME nutrition in my food), my choices in Launceston. Steve is even fussier then I am! I know that I have eliminated entire food groups out of my diet, but Steve has at least 1 no-no in just about every food group and several sub classes of no-no’s to boot. He is very polite about it, but if you want him to actually enjoy his food (rather than just eat it which he will do but with obvious disgust) you need to cater to those foods that he likes. He once admitted to putting rhubarb and custard in the pockets of his skin tight jeans rather than hurt a friends mothers feelings when he was around at their place for a meal. No doubt that made for an interesting ride home on the bus! You can see that it might actually be a happier experience if we were to remain social misfits and cater for ourselves. We have plans for a delicious repast and hopefully Steve will still be feeling like eating (he is rapidly succumbing to the dreaded Lurgy) and we won’t have to postpone his meal until he feels better in about a week. I am on the mend. It’s lovely not to feel like every bone in your body has broken bits, your skin hurts everywhere and your nose, eyes, ears, and especially your mouth have rejected you and are doing their own thing vis-à-vis mucous production and ignoring their natural functions. I am bad at being sick. I try to just keep doing what I have to/want to do but even I couldn’t pretend that this lurgy was mild. I had to just feed myself well and drink lots of liquid to try to flush the little bugger out. It appears that it has decided to exit the building (along with Elvis) and apart from a massive coughing fit last night where the cold realised that if it was going to survive and reproduce in Tasmania that it was going to have to take the situation into its own hands and force me to cough my lungs out into the stratosphere.  It looks like I will be able to head into the girls next week and sort out those blackberries and fingers crossed, the weather will have cooled down a bit by then and we might even get a little bit of that precious elixir we call rain.

Steve and I have been trying to work out what some of our chooks actually are (breed wise). We know that all of these “babies” (not so small now are they! and you have watched them grow :o) had a Barred Plymouth Rock dad. No doubt about that as he was the only rooster around apparently. So we know that he was the dad but there were many breeds mentioned that could have been the mums. We have some that look suspiciously like Australorps but who would know? The lady that sold the eggs to us didn’t mention Australorp as an option but we have been mislead by chooks sellers before today so we are taking this with a pinch of salt! The little girl in this picture is most definately a barred plymouth rock. Pingu, who is recovering nicely from her recent bout of almost being eaten by Earl on the rampage the night before I left to go to W.A. (but who keeps pretending to be worse than she is to remain inside her little enclosure away from the “freaks” that are all around her) is also a pure barred plymouth rock. We have a couple of weird looking munty roosters that Steve calls his “Striders” because they look like the Striders from the movie Star Wars. One is a large brown one with feathery feet so must be a Brahma cross and the other one had been confusing us as it didn’t look at all like the 2 barred plymouths but had the same markings. We just worked out that it may be a Silver laced wyandotte hen crossed with a barred plymouth rock rooster resulting in a young heavily marked rooster. The 2 striders are definite keepers. The black with the brown “baby” is obviously (to me…Steve is still on the fence) a rooster but we only got (to my knowledge) 4 roosters (so 5 counting Yin) to 29 hens so there should be enough to go around per rooster without too many hassles (we shall see…)

Here are some more of the babies. The brown one is one that we suspected earlier on of beeing a rooster. It doesn’t look like a rooster now . The 2 black  hens are pretty little things but look exactly like Australorps so perhaps the woman that sold us our eggs was telling a few porkie pies?

Look who is back from the wilderness. Jacko has been A.W.O.L. for about a month now and came back yesterday morning for a can of food and has been here since. Jacko is a sort of honourary chicken. He has never touched a chicken or chook and is actually quite scared of them (from his earlier confrontation where he was stalking the smallest of our newly acquired hens and she turned on him with the rest of the flock and chased him down the driveway…looks like it left scars!) and will back off from food thrown to him if a chicken decides to take an interest. He hisses but the chooks don’t care, so long as they get whatever it is that was thrown they will climb down into the lions lare for grub!

I have been reading my Richard Glover novel (The Mud House) and am actually starting to feel sorry for the poor man. I can only begin to imagine how 4 idealists are coping with making 3500 mud bricks and forming quorums to work out how their shared house is going to eventuate. Back in the 80’s we all thought that we were invincible. Bright young things with everything going our way. We could do whatever we wanted because greed was good! Remember that deluded decade? I can’t remember all that much of it because it was my decade of pregnancy. I had my first one in 1982, then followed by 1988 and the last one just scraped in early 1990 (sorry Beenz, you are classified as “Late 80’s” for the purposes of this post…). Mr Richard Glover apparently was doing the same thing but heading 3 hours out of Sydney every weekend to build this mud brick house. I am bad at being sick and I am bad at trusting new authors. I have already flicked through all of the pictures in the book (several black and white shots) and have allowed my eyes to read the odd sentence here and there. It looks like Mr Richard Glover takes the best part of 20 years to build this house! I doubt that I would have the patience to bother with something that took me 20 years to build. That is bordering on “hobby” rather than “habitat”. As the mob would say “Forgedaboudit!” My sentiments exactly, but that isn’t going to stop me reading the book. I want to find out why it takes him 20 years to finish it. I want to find out why it seems like only him and his 2 sons working on this house at the end of the 20 years when it started out a group of 4 friends. Halfway through the book one of the female partners appears to take her leave and I want to nose about till I find out why. Sometimes allowing yourself a bit of freedom with pages in a book gives you added incentive to finish it because you see I am not all that interested in this book otherwise. I am doing what Steve does and am stuffing the rhubarb and custard of this book into my skin tight jeans (Steve’s were fashionable, mine are the result of too much stress and not enough outlets for said stress…) to be polite. Doing my “flicky thing” has allowed Mr Richard Glover a modicum of time to reassert himself in my opinions. Admittedly it is hard for this poor unknown quantity to fill the shoes of Nige Slater and Mary Ann Shaffer (The literary and potato peel pie society author). I wouldn’t even want to try! I just found a list of books that were Mary Anne Shaffer’s favourite books. I loved her book so very much that I would like to see her favourite books and am going to be attempting to read every single one of the books on her list. She was a librarian and worked in a book shop as well as being an author so I would imagine that she both knew her stuff and was most passionate about it. No more mud houses for me… It’s quality classics all the way! :o)

It’s ideal growing conditions at the moment in the glasshouse. Its hot, humid and damp and everything is responding with a massive growth spurt. Things that were almost at permenant wilt point on “the outside” are now thriving and happy again. I thought that I had lost my Somona plant but after cutting it back it has recovered nicely and the “dead bits” that Steve put into a few pots seem to be alive now as well. The tomato plants in this picture are very happy and hopefully we might even get a tomato or two from them before winter gets here…

A twin stemmed pachypodium that we grew from seed is going great guns. The lord only knows what we are going to do with them (there are more) when they are too big for the glasshouse, but we will think about that when that day arrives…

The lack of rain is starting to make me tetchy. I find myself wondering where it went. Why is Queensland getting so much when we haven’t had a drop in months? Turning the hose on and sticking it up in the air resulting in somewhat rain like moments isn’t the answer. There is something about the smell of that very first rain on the poor parched earth. I had to water some of the main garden today as the plectranthus was starting to look very sad. The rest of the hedge comprised of Buxus, variegated Buxus, Lonicera and blackberries (remember my year of living honestly she says grinding her teeth…) is in a very happy state. The soil is shaded and covered by this dense mass of plant material working in a symbiotic relationship with each other to keep them both happy. The other side of the hedge comprised mainly of a very large fleshy leaves Plectranthus and a few hacked strands of blackberry has been compromised and has many open and exposed areas and is suffering a lot from moisture loss from the soil. I have no doubt that these plants will survive because they have been surviving for 20 years without any additional water but I just want to ensure that they will so they got a spray today after I filled up the birdbaths (or wasp baths as they seem to be teeming with both native and European wasps). It’s not particularly hot out here, just drying up. As the moisture heads up to Queensland Tasmania seems to be drying out a lot. Before summer it was green and verdant but it’s now turning straw coloured like the rest of Australia. Here is hoping that the humidity (our scourge) will be dropping along with the moisture content resulting in a more Mediterranean degree of humidity to match our apparent Mediterranean climate. Steve and I have decided that we are going to purchase an edible plant (ground cover, tree, shrub or climber) every fortnight and we are going to plant it out when we buy it. No more adding to the ever mounting population of potted plants, we are going to get Serendipity (the edible) Farm on the road. No more waiting till we have the “time; money; inclination” as there is usually a dearth of at least 1 of the vital trio whenever we have the opportunity to get stuck in. We are applying our stoic stubborn refusal to give in valves. We both have them in quantity and hopefully, unlike lives in Mario, they will last us long into the future. I want to get hold of a few nut trees. Nuts offer protein and in harsh economic times, protein is what tends to skyrocket the first as it’s the hardest nutrient to come by easily. We want to be able to grow as much of our own fruit, nuts and vegetables as is humanly possible. We eventually want to add fish to the equation using Aquaponic principals. I will go into that in more depth in another post but for now, it is just a way of using minimum water to facilitate growing both fish and vegetables in an almost entirely integrated unit.

Here is one of my previous scourge weeds but that is quite easily eliminated and I have found out (from Annie) that it might even be a good thing in the garden. It most certainly stops Earl from running about all over the place so it is a “good thing” there! It’s also pretty when it flowers

Here’s why this weed can spread all over the place in a very short time. If you forget to remove 1 of them, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be a nice little circle of them around the old dead stalk next year. At least you get a couple of years head start on the seed pod. In the first year the rosette grows and the flower stalk only eventuates in the second year. That gives you plenty of time to get rid of the rosette before the seed head arrives so you have no-one to blame but yourself if it gets to that stage! :o) Thankyou so much Annie for giving me a much happier perspective on weeds and their possible uses. I had completely forgotten about weed tea (that mum used to make) and using the weeds to your own advantages. It’s easy to slip into thinking negatively when all you have to do is find something positive and life suddenly has a silver lining. Everything has positives and negatives, you just have to sometimes set your sight on the positives and eliminate all of the negatives till you get to one of them!

I can’t help but get excited about growing things. I know how much hard work is involved and how much research and planning needs to be undertaken before you can go about getting exactly what you need in a garden and still my excitement outweighs my trepidation and that is saying something because I was born with “Trepid” rather than “Intrepid” tattooed on my brain. I tend to hesitate. I tend to stop and think about things and am loathe to be the first one to jump in and do something because I want to do it properly with the least amount of stuff ups and mess. It takes me time to do things and I know full well that I could have done it several times over by the time that I actually get around to doing something but when I do it; I want to do it well. We have been collecting bottles of various sizes, shapes and colours for a while now. I wanted to incorporate a bottle wall as part of our outdoor pizza oven area. We bought 2 cases of incredibly cheap white wine a few years ago. It was $12 a case of 12! If you are not a mathematical genius like I am, that equates to $1 a bottle and despite having no label whatsoever, the wine was almost drinkable! That wasn’t the best part though. The bottles were the most beautiful blue and when you looked through them (not that I was upending entire bottles of white wine and looking through the glass whilst guzzling mind you…) you got a very unique view of the world. I wanted to use my 24 marvellous blue bottles for something other than trying to scam poor unsuspecting market goers out of more money than the entire carton of wine cost originally (SHAME ON YOU unscrupulous market sellers…you KNOW who you are!) and that would allow me to remember those bottles in a unique and interesting way. When I stumbled on the work of Mr Anton Gaudi and marvelled at his architecture meets nature and the resulting buildings that are amazing hybrids of both I noticed how he liked to recycle old pottery and bottles. If it was good enough for the amazing Mr Anton Gaudi, its bloody good enough for humble old me and so therein I set out to research how to build a bottle wall. On the way I found all sorts of amazing pictures that spurred me onto ever expansive desires in the area of bottle sculpture and wall creation. Poor Steve is left wide eyed and fear filled by some of my requests. I come up with the ideas and it’s often up to him to implement these ideas. I guess it keeps him busy and off the streets…

Did anyone hear that Maggie Beer got an Order of Australia? Was that because she was fat, old or merely silly? The way that she bats her eyelids at the obviously gay Simon Bryant makes me want to buy her a cuppa and explain the birds and bees to her over a sticky bun. Come on Maggie, NO woman gets to your age without being able to develop a gaydar for men like Simon. They then went on to deliver a coup de grace in giving Geoffrey Rush the dubious title of “Australian of the year”. What for? I know he is an exemplary actor and I give him all kudos for that, but hasn’t he been paid extremely handsomely for this privilege? Does he really need to be given this title or does it smack of our lack of anyone else to offer it to. I think it is more a case of the latter than the former to be honest. I will not complain too much about you getting your Order of Australia Maggie. I quite enjoy some of your recipes and you gave me the idea about growing macadamias on Serendipity Farm. I will reserve my opinion about Mr Geoffrey Rush until I watch “The King’s Speech” later on this week and will pass judgement then. Listening to the list of “Australian’s” that get kudos is starting to remind me of my increasing anger about commercial television. It seems to be sportsmen and women that are getting all of these honours. People that go out on a limb for their fellow human beings and work selflessly in the community are being circumvented and displaced by people like the ubiquitous Ricky Ponting who has suddenly become Australia’s darling when only last year I remember him being lambasted for attempting to stay captain of the Australian cricket team and everyone trying to drum him out of town. What happened there? Last year poison, this year a king? Could it be something to do with him getting centuries again? Could it be something to do with us winning against the Indians? Are we all shallow bollocks or what! Forget about the people that work tirelessly to make this precious country run, we are rewarding people who haven’t got a single brain to rub together and are showing the rest of the world that we are following blindly down the media highway to doom. Well I AM NOT FOLLOWING! If I end up arriving in that shallow soulless place it will be kicking and screaming all the way and I will be scheming constantly on how to return to the land of individualistic eccentric happiness. You can have Maggie and Ricky and Geoffy and I will trade them all for a cup of tea; a good book and a quiet life of contemplation and simple happiness.

I think you could record the posts that I have done on this blog so far that DON’T contain a rant on one hand. Oh well, I guess I am opinionated old bollocks but at least I am not a mainstream opinionated old bollocks :o). I am starting to think about fishing. I am generally not someone that likes gizzards but Steve has a perfectly good aluminium dinghy in the shed with a perfectly good outboard motor. I have been noticing lots of people out in their respective boats on the river and know full well that there are all sorts of interesting fish (mainly flathead) out there to be caught. I can’t help thinking that we should set sail BEFORE the great pulp mill of all contentment and happiness (as our illustrious fat leader Ms Lara Giddings would have us believe) #@ck’s up our river system and makes all of the fish glow in the dark (should they be able to survive the initial toxic condition in the first place that is…) and be totally inedible by anyone with a rudimentary brain stem. Why not go fishing now and catch some fish for later? We could freeze them and have fish occasionally through the year because the Lord only knows how expensive fish has become to us mere mortals. This coincides with it becoming de rigour in the health food and foodie stakes and so the steep rise in price is relative to fishes place in the wank scale. We can’t afford to be wankers (we wouldn’t be even if we could afford to be!) so if we want fish, we either have to buy soyfish fingers (now THAT is a scary proposition!) or go out there into the great divide and catch our own. I am going for the latter of the 2 propositions and as it’s Steve who is going to be eating said fish anyway, I dare say he is as well. Now we have to get information about when to go fishing, when we need to avoid the 2 manic tides and what to use as bait. Nothing is EVER easy around here! :o)


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kym
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 14:19:11

    Wow Fran a good rant there lol. Happy birthday Steve, hope you have a good one. We had a massive downpour here last night, with thunder and lightning to boot. The fireworks didn’t get all that, just some spits of rain, so they went ahead. It quite humid today, oh joy. I will send rain vibes your way :0 x


    • narf77
      Jan 27, 2012 @ 14:59:31

      Send all the rain that you want but NO humidity please, we are at about 99% at the moment and if we get 1% more we will be able to swim in the atmosphere…ECH! :o)


  2. Roz Takes
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 17:04:08

    Hi Fran and Steve and Happy Birthday Steve.
    I was most interested in your thoughts on Aquaponics and thought you may be interested in this link. http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=7621
    The people at this retirement home now apparently have Barramundi growing and use all the vegies grown in the gardens. Love the idea that the plants are watered by the waters of the Fish Tank.


    • narf77
      Jan 29, 2012 @ 10:14:53

      HI Roz, sorry it took so long to reply to this but we have been ill. I learned all about aquaponics from the “Backyard Aquaponics” site. They are the most generous people and you can get a massive great PDF download for free on their site all about Aquaponics and how to get into it. It’s the way of the future for people wanting to grow their own veggies and fish/yabbies in an integrated system using very little water. I love the idea but haven’t had the time or the readies to get into it like I want to. I have contacted Backyard Aquaponics and recieved a very nice email saying that anything I am interested in to get in touch and that they would help us set up our system gratis. I love generous people! You don’t get them more generous than in W.A. :o). Cheers for this link Roz and when I get it up and running, I will share our system with you all. Same goes for water wicking (another great Aussie invention) and vertical gardening. All amazing and all something that I am MOST interested in…


  3. Florida
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 13:15:09

    Hello Darling Fran and Birthday Boy Steve (many happies Steve). Just to let you I’m still a constant reader although I am very slack in my comments. Fran you have had a bugger of a start to the New Year, but I hope it has nothing but good and lovely things in store for you both, I too am a great fan of the ‘”potato peel society” and we are re reading it for our book club this month, so I am looking forward to revisiting it. You have made me a Nige convert as well and am reading the kitchen diaries now and have a list at the library to look forward to.
    We have bought a house on 3/4 of an acre in Westbury and are in the process of doing it “up”, the garden is a real mess and is vastly overgrown and out of control.
    I have Guy on the job and we are of like mind in that it is all slash and burn and death and destruction. Why is that people plant things and then think that their job is done. 30 years down the track every tree is suffering from die back and a mess of tangled limbs, had they only done some regular pruning and the most basic of care, probably most of the said trees may still have been viable, my rant for today! The neighbors are looking in at horror of what is happening, but will hopefully approve of what will come in it’s place.
    We will have room for some more chickens to join the Isa brown sisters so if you need to rehouse any of your babies let me know.
    All love Florida.


    • narf77
      Feb 01, 2012 @ 13:22:44

      Hi Florida
      Glad to hear you got a place in westbury. you may well get some chickens from us as we are going to have to sort out whats what with them all soon so i will keep you posted , i still have your mobile number so we will see what we have and will talk 🙂 We have to jsut wait till we see what crows with the chickens (roosters) we seem to think we only have a few and they are going to be keepers hopefully as they will be good breeding stock , we have many different chickies that you could possibly introduce your lovly girls to . ok talk to you again soon (steve who is here) and Fran (whos in town) oh Fran would love to find a book club here but she hasnt yet .

      See you soon Steve and Fran


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