Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall turns vegetarian

Hi All,

Howzit! I sometimes like to change my modus operandi of greetings and this one needs to be recycled. Life on Serendipity Farm has settled down to a nice low humming and seems to be flowing nicely along like a burbling brook. Hopefully it doesn’t flood like most of the Eastern seaboard but the garden would love a good deluge of rain and living on the side of a steep slope would allow the rain to drain off into the Tamar River so bring it on! My dad once said that he couldn’t wait for global warming to arrive as it would make his property a waterside property. Good on you dad! Steve and I are just about to set up a watering system for the mass of potted plants at the side of the house. We are getting very tired of having to hand water and have decided to organise them into rows and set up an above-the-pot system to water them all. Being the clever little vegemite’s that we are we have worked out how to make and install this system very cheaply. All we need is some black pipe and some sprinklers (as well as a few elbows to hook it all up). We are going to use some teatree poles from down in the garden to elevate the sprinkler setup and the rest of what we do will be documented for you all to see. We are going to make moveable watering systems for our garden beds that can be connected and disconnected as we see fit. We plan on rotating our crops and allowing the beds a fallow period as well as a green crop between their next (entirely different species) crop. We will also be using companion planting and “confuse-a-cat” (go look it up…) integration of flowering shrubs and perennials, herbs and vegetables. We want to encourage bees and beneficial insects whilst confusing the hell out of the destructive little buggers that wreak havoc. We will be using bug houses all over the place. We had a wasp move into the bug houses that we have in our bedroom (lazy sods that we are who haven’t put them up yet…) so I dare say if we ever get around to putting some bug houses up outside in conspicuous (and most delightful to bugs) places around the garden that they will be eagerly sought out and inhabited (hopefully by beneficials…). I have been researching “Permablitz’s” online. They are a fantastic way to help other people create Permaculture gardens and eventually getting your own garden Permablitzed for free. I wonder if we could do that here. I might have to look into that… I love the idea of finding a way around monetary constraints. Bartering…sharing excesses…swapping…working for stuff and so many other ways around having to have the readies before you can have/do what you want. Another reason why I love Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. Check out this link…I don’t love him this much!

And this more disturbing story and accompanying shot…

You learn something new every day. I didn’t know that Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall had gone vegetarian?! That will make my daughters smirk. We all remember him coercing a vegetarian into eating meat. Now he apparently has a cholesterol problem and needs to go veggie for a while (heh heh :o)

This is one of my “rose pot” succulents prior to us taking receipt of a pair of most determined ducks.

I don’t know why I am torturing myself by posting these once lovely pots of what I once thought were “indestructable” succulents…I guess I am just trying to remember how some of my urban pots looked. At this point they were still ticking along nicely but the ducks arrived, grew a bit and got brave and started to rootle through my succulent pots. Now this pot has 2 green leaves and a lot of dead and dying stalks. The rose/cabbage looking  succulent above is chewed down to a nub and the other succulent is completely gone. I have 1 pot of them left but that is only because the ducks haven’t managed to find their way around to the side of the house to scoff it quite yet…that day will come…

Steve and I spent an hour liberating our poor long suffering potted plants that have been forced to live an uncertain life out amongst the possums and wallabies thanks to Earl and his penchant for scoffing expensive plant matter. Bezial has been known to prune things but strangely, after we thought that he had put an end to our Muscat grape vine in town, we asked the chief viticulturist at Polytechnic and when we explained what Bezial had done he told us that he had pruned the vine exactly where it should have been pruned! Bezial also enjoys nipping and eating the fruit from fuchsia shrubs. I was worried that he might croak (ANOTHER trip to the vet…) but apparently they are entirely edible and he was just getting his dose of vitamin C. Apart from these minor asides (and a fatal romp with one of Steve’s straw hats) Bezial has deigned to remain abstinent when it comes to plant matter. Earl has made up for that by choosing only the most expensive potted plants and rendering them mere shadows of their former selves. He hasn’t actively killed most of them, but nipping below the graft doesn’t do a lot for their inherent desirability. Perhaps he is telling us something? Perhaps Earl thinks that we should be putting our horticultural knowledge to better use and we should be grafting these plants ourselves? Who would know what goes on in Earl’s mind, and more to the point…who would want to! We had noticed the wandering blackberries, banana passionfruit and honeysuckle (our regular plant pest species of choice) had started to invade our potted plants. They are regularly sampled, overturned and actively eaten on a regular basis by the native wildlife and our own shameful hens and ducks who would like to point the finger at the native wildlife but who have been heard actively invading the area. We decided to put pay to the encroaching mass and give it all a good haircut until we can get into this area. It seems like we spend most of our time defending our tiny fort against the encroaching plant hoards around here. If we could get the time and energy together (at the same time mind you…) to launch into these areas, we might be able to make a decent dent in the problem. At the moment it is 2 steps forwards and 1 step back most of the time and we are simply keeping the green wolves at bay.

This is the pile of debris that Steve had managed to hack out before we remembered to get the camera.

We hacked into the undergrowth and then hacked into a few enormously overgrown specimens of Buddleia globosa (a Buddleia with yellow ball shaped flowers) that when we removed their supporting crown of vines started to droop to the floor. I know that Buddleia’s are hardy specimens and that you can prune them very hard. These specimens need a decent prune as they have been allowed to grow straggly and in most alarming directions for the last 20 years. We have a problem that occurs when we start working in our garden that sometimes stops us from working in the garden at all. The obvious “lazy bollocks” isn’t actually it (THANKYOU FOR THINKING THAT STRAIGHT AWAY! :o) it is actually the massive great pile of debris that we end up with even after a very short period of time in the garden. I must add that we then have to find out how to get rid of these massive great piles. That usually involves leaving enormous ugly piles of semi decomposing debris all over Serendipity Farm until it dries out and we can harvest any sizeable bits for using on the fire and burning the rest on a massive great 3 metre burnt crispy bit of lawn out the back. We have every intention of turning this ugly burnt bit of ground into a permanent fire pit so that we can at least show people the area without wincing. Another thing that stops us from getting into the garden as much as we could is that whenever we get out there, get stuck in and make a difference, what happens is that what was overgrown green jungle turns into something that looks like the allied troops used agent orange to defoliate…from overgrown green to ugly sparse and mangled stalks on bare earth. This brings me to another thought…I am not incredibly versed in putting my horticultural knowledge into practice. In my year of living honestly, I know a shitload about how to garden but haven’t done a whole lot of it. I would like to think that was because we had only lived in rental properties up until now but that is a load of bollocks. It’s simply because my normal state of active affairs tends to be inside my noggin rather than translating into physical activity. Steve’s normal state of affairs is physical activity and he actively tries to resist using his brain for anything other than immediate needs so we make a great team. I also have this terrible problem with not wanting to start anything until I have everything that I need to do the job. This frustrated my mum no end as she would just start making gardens with anything that came to hand. She had spent her life doing this as if she had waited till she had everything, she would simply have never had what she needed to complete the task and nothing would have ever been accomplished. Her way of cobbling together bits and pieces worked. My mental block is my stumbling block also. I have to learn to make a start. Once I “start” I am hard to stop. I am starting to sound like a Rolling Stones song there, but it’s true. My biggest hurdle is “starting”. We “started” yesterday and poor Steve was left bewildered. I launched into the blackberries, honeysuckle and banana passionfruit with a vengeance. He kept trying to say “but…I only wanted to free up the pots…” but once I start, it is hard to get me to stop so I hacked away at the garden bed until we had freed a considerable portion of the side garden. I have plans for this bit. Steve could care less about it and I have a lot of cold climate shrubs predominately of the Ericaceae family including Zenobia pulverulenta; Enkianthus campanulatus; Chimonanthus praecox; Daphne odora and many others that I can’t remember as it’s early for me and my brain hasn’t quite settled into actively remembering plant names (and I am NOT donning my gumboots and heading out the side of the house just to hunt them down for you…you might be my constant readers but before my second cup of tea for the day you are highly unlikely to find me heading outdoors to do anything, let alone hunt out Earl chewed plant tags…) Most of them are highly fragrant and make lovely additions to your garden so I have many of them in pots waiting to be rehoused. I can’t think of a better place to plant them out than right next to the house where their delicious scent and beautiful flowers will be most appreciated. Most of our dwarf conifers are going to be rehoused in front of the deck. We will be strenuously researching their achievable heights before we plant them out because we don’t want to be “those sorts of people” who plant things out only to be hacking away at them for years to come. Conifers don’t take kindly to being hacked and need to be put where they can reach their ultimate height and width potential with ease. No crowding, not crown pruning no anything you lot! Conifers are sacred and need to be treated with the respect that they deserve.

You can get an idea of what we are up against whenever we decide to “head out into the garden” and do a bit of work. You can forgive us for hiding under the bed sometimes as this is what the entire front acre of Serendipity Farm consists of. Dense overgrown climbing “things” and poor long suffering half dead overgrown shrubs underneath. You will also forgive us if we don’t invite you around to Serendipity Farm in the near future as we fully intend on taking advantage of this nice cool spell of weather after the torrential downpour we have had for the last day to get stuck in and make a difference around here. We are starting in this area above, next to the house and out to the side of our bedroom and the lounge room. We are going to carve our way (using correct pruning techniques of COURSE Nat! :o) down through these invaders (that are fat and ready to reap and that don’t suspect that their days are numbered at all! Why would they? They have been allowed to grow unhindered for just on 20 years!) through these mangled jungle heaps like a hot knife through butter!

There is something very satisfying about hacking the heck out of weeds. Even if you do end up with a massive great pile of debris…

This is after I got “started”. You can see the buddleia’s and how overgrown they got. I love buddleia’s and want to keep them in the garden. They have a most delightful scent and the butterflies and bees just love them. They do need to be kept on top of, however, and we are just the people to dominate them! :o)

Our potted babies are starting to look less scared and the dense undergrowth is starting to wonder what hit it!

There’s a Cordyline australis there?!

Cleared out and decidedly denuded of weeds but looking like a hurricane went through. That’s what I mean when I talk about being dejected after working so hard because the results look like we are untrained plant mangler numpties rather than people who should at least know a little bit about what they are doing…

Do you get the idea that we love conifers? We are their indentured slaves and will remain so forever. They are some of the most neglected of all choices when people form their gardens in their minds but conifers have an amazing array of incarnations. Most of them are hardy and water wise and those that aren’t can be planted as understory plants. They come in a range that is most impressive, groundcovers, dwarf shrubs, many heights of shrub and small to gigantic trees. They are represented in just about every height and shape and you can find some most interesting colour variations and a conifer for almost every situation that you could possibly want. They add form, texture, structure and often a degree of formality to a garden that is hard to rival. Steve and I both fell in love with them after a brief dalliance with grafted maples. We still have our maples and they will be planted out along with their conifer buddies, but where we have about 20 grafted maples, we have more than 300 different kinds of conifers and many small specimens that we grew ourselves. We fully intend on planting the larger conifers out in one of the bush blocks further up the hill from the house. Once we plan and implement our conifer planting under and in front of the deck this area will become beautiful, structured and majestic. We intend on using bark, river stones and perhaps even a small Japanese style water feature to enhance their simple beauty. I have never been a great admirer of fussy or overly flowery things. I don’t mind shrubs but gaudy flowers are not something that I strive to collect. I love the simple beauty of conifers and their striking array of textures and various shades of green. They will be the foundations of Serendipity Farms newly incarnated gardens and will form the structure that we need to achieve and from where we will give this garden its new soul.

We often find little reminders that we are not the only ones living our lives here on Serendipity Farm

I think that poor date palm might need repotting? (and a bit of a feed wouldn’t go astray…)

Here is a picture of some of those pikelets that I made yesterday. I forgot to show you but the boys are most grateful that I know how to make pikelets (and know where the butter is kept) as they love them. The hens don’t mind them either on a cold morning when they are nice and warm and the cats/kittens also enjoyed their fair share

The 3 girls that Harvey chose waiting to be put into the 3 cat carrier boxes that Harvey and his 2 young boys brought to pick them up in. The brown one is the odd one out in this small group. The speckled black and brown one is one of our original girls and is just on a year old now. She went broody and hatched out that small black hen standing at the back. We called that little black hen “Gremlin” as her mum deserted her when she was a bit young and we put her in with Pingu for a while and she taught Pingu some bad manners. We let her back out to her fate and she is obviously a clever little girl as she has survived practically on her own despite her mothers total lack of concern. It is only fitting that she will most probably grow a lot larger than her mum and might even give her the odd peck on the head when she takes over being queen of the roost. I hope that Harvey and his family get many years of happiness out of them and that Harveys cats soon learn that these girls are cat savvy and will give the cats what for should they even THINK about stalking them…(and poor Harveys little dog won’t know what pecked it! :o)

Stewart arrives in Tasmania at 10pm tomorrow. He is taking a taxi from the airport as the girls don’t drive and it’s quite a trip from here to the airport and back at that time of night. Hopefully the girls cleaned up the unit like they said that they would. If they didn’t, they can suffer the wrath of their older brother. I dare say the three of them will have some fun in Launceston over the next few days. We are picking Stewart up on Saturday and bringing him back here for a brief visit before he heads over to Melbourne to hunt for a unit and start his new life there. How exciting! Hopefully he finds what he is looking for in Melbourne and is able to find his place in that big teeming metropolis. He is much closer to us now. It’s only an hour trip from Melbourne to Launceston (like travelling from the capital city Perth in W.A. down to Albany where he currently resides) and considerably cheaper than the same trip in W.A. There is a monopoly with the airway that services the Perth to Albany trip meaning that while you can easily get tickets from Melbourne to Launceston for $80, from Perth to Albany costs $280+ that’s what a monopoly will do for you! It’s the same as flying across from Launceston to W.A. That flight cost double the price of the flight back. Is there any reason for this? It’s the same trip…the same amount of fuel and yet it cost us half the price? It’s like the post office as well. No idea why, but we can send something from here to W.A. in 8 days. The same trip back over takes 5 days. Any reason why? We can get something from the U.K. in less time than it will take us to get it posted from Tasmania to Western Australia. I guess these are the mysteries of life, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there are some nefarious dealings going on! I hope Stewart has a few good days of stress free chuckles with his sisters. There is something about catching up with your family when you haven’t seen them for a while and apart from my earlier visit this year to W.A. for mum’s funeral, Stewart hasn’t seen us all since the Christmas before last. We had 2 cars then and he was able to take one of them and head off for a look at this beautiful state but this time he is at the mercy of the pathetic public transport system (better get used to public transport Stewart, buses, trams and trains will be your new mode of transport in Melbourne, but unlike here you can catch one every minute!).

The sun is coming out. There is something about a garden that has had an extended period of water stress and then a day of solid rain that makes you feel happy. I guess the plants are all turning their leaves to the sun and thanking God in their own way for their good fortune. The dust has settled, the hen scratched parched earth has been well lubricated and now the hens have to confine their dust baths to the immediate area under the deck where the rain can’t reach. The kittens are frolicking around in the sun and the hens are invading the entire front acre of garden. They have been becoming braver since they got big enough to stop themselves from being cat fodder. I think we lost 2 of our babies (both Effel’s…) to cats when they were very small, but now, the cats are scared of the hens and it isn’t uncommon to see them all laying down on the driveway together, predator and once prey all sunning themselves at once in relative peace. The hens wait around till we feed the cats in a vain attempt to steal some cat food while Steve tosses stones in their direction to dissuade them. The cats hiss at them and run for it when they head in determined to scoff some dog log (we feed the cats dog polony as it keeps better and they like it). Nothing is as it should be here on Serendipity Farm. The ducks boss the hens around, the hen’s boss the cats around. Earl is king of all he surveys, but he is impotent in his reign of terror as he is confined to the deck and house surrounds by high turrets…well the high fence that Steve built. Pingu has recovered from her broken leg that Earl snapped like a twig when he caught her on his venture into the chook heaven beyond the fence on the day before I headed over to W.A. she is walking around just fine and was actively running about scoffing pikelets from under her larger and slower siblings beaks the other day. I could hear the most indignant protestations of the 3 hens caged and now gone to live with Harvey and his family as they missed out on the feast and their recriminations about my obviously less than stellar parentage. I have taken to putting Bezials collar on him and taking him out with me to let the hens out in the morning. He isn’t a killer, he is an observer. He loves the chooks and just sits there sniffing trees while I let them all out. The ducks are very suspicious of him, but the hens seem to be able to tell that he isn’t like his kennel-mate “King Earl” who is NEVER going to be allowed out with me to let the hens out… “Fool me once shame on you…fool me twice shame on me!” (You have bucklies and none chance Earl). I have no doubt that Steve and I will head off into the garden today. It’s a perfect day for gardening. The recent rain has softened up the soil and we can get stuck in to removing some more debris from the garden and making another enormous pile of refuse that we will have to deal with later on in the year as we can’t burn off yet. Once we can get stuck in to burning off, we have enough material here to give us a week’s solid burning. We are starting to collect our winter wood for the wood burning stove. We have been using the gas hot water system and our little (well planned) gas stove top as well as the bbq outside whenever we want to cook something more substantial. We learned to use the covered gas bbq when we first moved here as that was the only oven that we had. It is amazing what necessity does towards you learning to use new skills. We actually like using the bbq to cook. It gives a bit of a smoky flavour and is a good high heat. It makes cooking potato wedges an easy event and the resulting wedges are crispy and delicious. We cooked Christmas dinner on the covered bbq with duck fat potatoes included with a highly satisfactory result 2 Christmases ago. Once the weather starts to cool down (its Tasmania…and the thermometer has nowhere to go but down…) we will start tentatively using our wood stove again. Bezial and Earl love the wood stove. They don’t give a stuff about how much we paid for it, if it has an enamel coating, if it heats water or if we can make the highest fluffiest sponge cakes in it…they just lay in front of it basking in the warmth. Bezial is a creature of comfort and in the middle of winter when the wind is howling around the house, the rain is pelting down and we can feel (if not actually see) the snow on the mountains “his” wood stove is the place to be. Bezial will be found at all times of the day lying in front of the stove. He will be in the way…but good luck getting him away from his lauded position. He will spend his nights laying in comfort on one of the arm chairs next to the wood stove. At least we will know where 1 dog is at all times….

I had best finish this post off here. I want to make a start on tomorrows post. I like to have a bit of post up my sleeve to be added to by the varying situations of the new day as I see fit. It’s my quintessential need to plan you see. I need that little bit of a start to give me some place to begin. At the moment I have no problems typing out posts and the words just flow like water from the tap. I hope that mental global warming never occurs and I have to mete out my words and count my mental tap drops, but until that day all of my thoughts just tumble out here for you to sift through and digest anything that you find interesting. Hopefully some of it will be interesting to most of you! See you tomorrow when who knows what is happening on Serendipity Farm, but you can only guess that it isn’t a normal state of affairs in Kansas!


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