Houdini strikes again!

Hi All,

Firstly I would like to clarify the meaning of the title of this post. Yesterday we were out moving some plants from one area of Serendipity Farm to another area (it gives us the illusion that we are making changes and actually doing something when in reality we are doing the equivalent of shuffling cards…) and I heard the distinct sound of baby chickens. We had counted our hens and I told Steve that I was certain that we were one of our original hens down. We thought that we must have miscounted and as lazy as we are we didn’t bother counting them again (note to self… STOP BEING LAZY…) and yesterday Houdini, the mother of the 5 ferals that live outside the hen roost and that are virtually “wild chickens” hatched out 8 more! 8 more ferals. She is teaching them how to scratch, how to hide and where to find food and pretty soon Serendipity Farm is going to be overrun by wild hens that are wary of humans and that won’t return to the communal roost at night. Because we are feeding the feral cats, they don’t bother the hens and so there is a good chance that most of them will survive to adulthood. That brings the number of hens on Serendipity Farm to 39! I was talking to the woman that sold us our first 8 hens (what a lovely small number…) well…7 hens and 1 rooster…and she told me that she has NO idea how many chooks she has but it would be way more than 30 so she is getting her just deserts! Exponential hens…roosters…mass destruction of woodland areas! At least we don’t have many destructive insects left any more. The hens run down the driveway after cabbage moths and we haven’t seen a grasshopper (but we have seen hens hopping about in a most entertaining way) on the lawn area this year despite it being a very good year for the grasshoppers so having hens has it’s positives. One negative is eggs. I would imagine most of you are thinking that I am mad about now. Eggs are great and you can use them for bartering, for food and for the procreation of more chickens and the latter seems to be what is happening the most on Serendipity Farm. We don’t breed stupid hens and our acquired rooster is full of smarts as well. He spends his days wandering around making inaccessible nests that are obscured by shrubs, undergrowth and blackberries for his hens to lay in. There are obviously nests that we don’t know about if Houdini was able to hatch out 8 babies in comparative seclusion. We can only begin to imagine how many eggs we are missing out on and the prospective hoards of chicks (and rotten foetid stenches from those that don’t have a clucky hen sitting on) that will be churned out of Serendipity Farm. No idea how to deal with that so it has been put into the “too hard” box along with the feral cat problem…

Why houdini is able to keep reproducing exponentially and why we are NEVER going to know where all of the eggs laid on Serendipity Farm are!

No idea where her actual nest was, but these little, very well camouflaged chicks, are highly active so they might have been out in the big wide world for a day or so

Houdini bums up showing her new tiny chicks how you run rings around the humans on Serendipity Farm (note the blackberries)…

Hopefully you can see some of these chicks!

This chick will be predominately “red” with a bit of wyandotte in it. We have noted the lighter chicks are the results of Yin and the red hen x wyandotte hens that we bought initially. We then went on to buy 5 pure breed wyandotte hens (1 has since passed away) and the darker chicks appear to be the results of Yin (mostly wyandotte himself) and the wyandotte girls. At least we have SOME idea of what is going on in Serendipity Farm!

You can see one of the lighter chicks (that brown bit on all of their backs means that most of them have the wyandotte type lacy feathers regardless of which mother they have and thanks to Big Yin’s parentage) near Houdini and one of the darker ones at the rear right hand corner. Now all we need to do is work out whether they are roosters or hens (I must try to remember what my brother said about that!)

Here are 2 of the 5 ferals that Houdini hatched out last time she found a pile of unclaimed eggs. They live on their own, out somewhere on Serendipity Farm and even though Effel and the silver laced wyandotte both lost chicks to the cats (or some other chick muncher) when they were small all 5 of these little ferals has survived and prospered. Perhaps allowing nature to do what nature does best gives the best results (and perhaps we are going to be up to our eyeballs in feral hens and roosters by the end of this year! sigh…)

I get a nice crop of most interesting newsletters in my email in-box most mornings. I made sure that I actually enjoy these newsletters and have been weeding the newsletters that sell things or that don’t reward my continued loyalty to the sender by trying to spam me etc. I have pared them down to newsletters that give me a lot of enjoyment and that excite me. I am most interested in Permaculture and today’s newsletter from one of the sites that I follow was all about growing perennial crops and gave a most exhaustive list of all sorts of crops suitable for different climates. I am still in awe that people will give you all of this information for free. I guess there are still people out there with generous spirits who want to advance those “good things” in the world to counterbalance all of the garbage, selfishness and global mismanagement that is occurring at all levels of government and big business in search of massive profits and power but at what cost? These small groups of permaculture activists and seed savers are bucking the system. They are trying to advance heritage seeds and get everyone to avoid sterile G.M.O. crops wherever they can because the future of our food production depends on maintaining our right to grow our own food. That was my first newsletter…the newsletter that made me want to mention them to you in the first place was my regular newsletter from the Instructables site. I LOVE this site. I don’t really care if you are tired of hearing about it because if you haven’t been to see what is on offer at this site (all sorts of free plans for how to do/make just about EVERYTHING from basic needs to the most amazing machines and scientific things) then what are you doing reading this blog every day? This blog is for adventurous minds. It is for people who want to at least “watch” someone else making a difference and as such, those sites that help us work out how to do what we need to do on Serendipity Farm are of primary importance. Instructables regularly send out newsletters with 5 – 7 highlighted “makes”. These makes allow you to build specific things and they are usually very diverse. I wanted to sharer a make in this newsletter in honour of Stewart who is visiting Tasmania just before he moves permanently to Melbourne to live and work. He isn’t feeling all that well at the moment, thanks to that (yes Kymmy it IS the W.A. flu! :o) flu that I also picked up (and am STILL trying to shake off) and so I would like to cheer him up with the following make…


Stewart is a frustrated inventor and most avid follower of all things Tesla so this one’s for you :o)

We spent the day sorting through our potted plants and the plants in our glasshouse to hunt for plants that we could re-pot and sell at the Mad Hatter’s Deviot Market March stall. That’s a lot of words for what is effectively $20 out of our pockets to see if we can sell some plants and a few home-made garden products like bug boxes etc. We liberated a few native plants that we dabbled with earlier on in our horticultural endeavours. We are not great native plant people. I can see the merit of them and the native plants on the property are welcome to hang about as long as they see fit but I am not going to be planting many of them on Serendipity Farm in the near future unless they have edible properties. We rootled out many small conifers that I grew from cuttings earlier on as well as some of the seed grown plants that we experimented with growing. We caught the horticultural propagation bug bad in Certificate 2 and 3 and after working occasionally in the industry with another horticulture student we learned where to purchase our potting mix in bulk as well as cheaper bulk pots. We bought garden tools from the same place and are very glad that we learned early on where to buy our horticultural needs for the very best price. We now buy our potting media in cubic metres and our pots in cartons. We are going to be selling some Brachychiton discolour that we grew from seed sourced from Queensland. We also have some Michelia champaca (Michelia joy trees) that we are going to attempt to sell. We have a good mix of conifers and other interesting plants and trees including a lot of Castanea sativa (European Chestnut) that I grew after forgetting about a bag full of them that I had purchased to eat and discovered (sprouting) in the vegetable crisper when I was cleaning out the fridge. We potted them up and had a really good strike rate and they are very healthy and should sell well. We are not going to price our plants very highly. We would rather sell them all than have to bring them back home because we wanted too much. We need to thin out our plants and so this is going to allow us to weed out those plants that we are not attached to and are not all that interested in planting out on Serendipity Farm. At the end of the day that is the ultimate fate for all of our plants.

Some of the Brachychiton discolor and a nice Ginkgo biloba that we grew from seed that were just about to be re-potted ready for sale (hopefully) at the Deviot market day in March

Some more of the plants that we are hoping to sell at the market day in March including 2 trays of Castanea sativa (edible European chestnuts) that I grew from accidentally stratified seed in the vegetable crisper

After repotting you can see some of the trees that we are going to try to sell at the market day. The ligher coloured leaves are on the Michelia champaca (Michelia joy tree, one of the composite scents used for the perfume “Joy”) that we grew from seed. I doubt many people will have this small tree in their gardens because it is predominately grown in warmer climates and is somewhat frost tender (when it is young) but if placed in the correct position in the garden (which we will of course tell prospective purchasers) could be a real talking point (and something quite rare in Tasmania). We are in the process of feeding up these plants with seasol, powerfeed and worm wee (yes…I said wee…)

Here are some of the re-potted chestnut trees. Some of them are for Serendipity Farm and some are for sale at the markets

Another shot of some of the plants that we are hoping to sell at the markets in March

Pingu is currently residing in her cage in Steve’s shed. She really loves living “inside” again and now she has a garden! What more could a small confused hen want?

We are waiting on the arrival of 2 Black Dog Head halters for our boys. We have had enough of being hauled about like rag dolls at the end of the lead of 2 highly excited and inquisitive Mack trucks. I find myself saying every morning as we haul ourselves out of bed “I am too old for this shit!” I don’t think I am too old, I just think that we need to get a handle on our dog’s manners and teach them how rude they are being. At the moment, both dogs are able to drag us around because we have them on collars and leads and both dogs are built for dragging. Their necks are the strongest bit of them and when they want to head off and sniff something or give chase to some wild animal or go over and see someone/something they just stretch out in front of them and start tugging. Steve has no problems with stopping them from heading off and Earl can be regularly seen walking on his hind legs when being perambulated past some delicious recent road kill, but I am not as strong as Steve and I have a dicky knee which doesn’t allow me to be able to put both my heels in and refuse to budge. Bezial hasn’t always been a perfect gentleman who does what he is told and who lays upside down on the deck on a regular basis. He used to be almost as bad as Earl when it came to walking him. We tried many harnesses (that taught him how to pull like a tractor) and head halters (that removed his fur and rubbed his skin raw but didn’t stop him from pulling) until in desperation we tried a Black Dog head halter. This head halter was amazing. Bezial didn’t like it one little bit because he couldn’t do whatever he wanted to do. If we walked past a dog, we were able to control him through the head halter and there were only 2 things wrong with this particular head halter

  1. The lead attachment was mounted at the side of his muzzle and rubbed his fur and pulled and
  2. The head halter broke one day when we were walking Bezial

They are the ONLY things wrong with this head halter and we were contemplating getting some when we decided to go with Mr Caesar Millan and his amazing collars (cough cough) that work EVERY time (except with the Pimblett’s dogs who must be rare because these most expensive collars did absolutely NOTHING towards helping them to behave any better on the lead). So long as your dog is well trained, these collars are supposed to be amazing. Why on earth would you buy a collar (training collar at that) if your dog was well behaved?! It is beyond belief that you would need to do this and that if you were buying a “training collar” it is because your dog is NOT well behaved and you are attempting to train it…Sorry Caesar, your collars suck! We headed off to the Black Dog site in desperation. A bit of fur off Bezial and Earl’s noses had become collateral damage in our quest to enjoy our walks more and gain a modicum of control. We got to the site and noticed a “new and improved” head halter called the infin8. Clever name and clever collar designed to give us the same results as Bezials head halter that worked but without the rubbing and giving the owner more control because the halter/lead attachment is mounted at the rear of the head (where it is usually attached on the collar) so your dog is used to the sensation of where it is being controlled. I don’t know if these collars are going to work but at half the price of 1 of Caesar’s collars we are willing to give them a go. The added bonus is that they are Australian made and produced by an Australian company so we are helping out a local at the same time. Wish us luck (we are going to need it) and should you pass 2 obviously stressed people walking 2 dogs…1 of them being dragged and the other one scooting his nose along the ground with one of his paws stuck in between his nose and his head halter DON’T stop the car and tell them that they should control their dogs better because you might just end up with 2 American Staffordshire terriers riding shotgun in the passenger seat until you reach your destination!

Bezial is NOT dead. He is just “resting”…

More “resting” next to the water heater…

Here he is doing his impression of E.T. crossed with something dangerous…

Stewart arrived on Wednesday night and hopefully is having a great time unwinding with his sisters in Launceston. Like all of us, he has experienced way too much stress at the beginning of the year and needs to find his niche and settle down for a bit. Our niche is when we start studying again. We have been moving our plants around to take advantage of our new overhead watering system. Since we installed the watering system we have had a decent downpour of rain every day. Call it Murphy’s Law, but I am thinking that we should have built the overhead sprinkler system earlier on as this year has been particularly dry and tough on the plants. Those that are left are very hardy now. Stewart will be coming out to Serendipity Farm tomorrow (Saturday) to spend the day and night with us. Everything that we do here on Serendipity Farm is ultimately going to be his responsibility as he will inherit Serendipity Farm and so he can see what we have been doing here. At least he has a nice comfortable queen sized bed to sleep in this time…the last time he was here he had to settle for a rickety single bed as we had only just moved in to Serendipity Farm and were living in relative chaos. Hopefully he can see the difference now (although the outside of Serendipity Farm is covered in large piles of debris that need to be burned. One good thing about Stewart living in Melbourne is that he can take advantage of interstate family and can head over and have a visit whenever he likes. Property is ridiculously cheap here in Tasmania and he may be able to buy himself some land should he ever see fit and build himself a holiday home to retreat to whenever life starts to get to him. It’s always good to have somewhere that you can head to (the hills is the usual requirement!) when life seems hot on your heels. We are so very lucky to have been left Serendipity Farm and even though there are a lot of accompanying problems to be dealt with, each little conquest that we make is something to feel good about and every time we manage to solve a problem we get another chance to feel good about ourselves. I haven’t started on the second Mary Anne Schaffer book yet. I am actually scared to, in case it is rubbish. I had such high hopes for this most talented author’s book choices and settled down to the first book with great delight. I wasn’t impressed to be confronted by a romance novel. I don’t mind a little bit of romance in a novel when it is backed up by a really good premise/plot but this book was written with romance as its base. I don’t generally like romance novels and even though I gave it 100 pages, I couldn’t bring myself to keep reading it. This next book is apparently a thriller so hopefully I will get something out of it. I feel doubly upset because I lauded Mary Anne’s list to you all and should this next book let me down, I will have to bear your wrath! I am ever the optimist, however, and am just about to order the next 2 books on the list from my local library. One boring romance will NOT spoil the bunch! :o) See you all tomorrow when Steve and I will be picking up Stewart and will most probably spend the day burning off piles of debris and baking potatoes in alfoil in the embers.


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