Angle of Repose


Hi All,

I have been doing a bit of research into Mr Wallace Stegner who wrote the book that I have just finished reading called “Angle of Repose”. I wanted to find out a bit more about him and discovered that he was not only an author but he was an environmentalist as well. He was given the nickname “The Dean of Western Writers” and that doesn’t do this man any credit whatsoever as it shoves him into a specific genre that he doesn’t deserve to be placed into. The book that I read was a fantastic love story. I am starting to think that Mrs Mary Anne Schaffer prefers stories about the human condition with love right up there at the top. The first book from her list of “must read’s” was a romance novel. The second book was again a love story and the lengths to what someone will do to pursue that love long after the object of their devotion has been proved to be no longer here. This book is sharing the intimate love story of his grandparents from the perspective of an aging damaged man. It is more a story about how love and survival was more important to society back in the Wild West and when American’s started to branch out and really discover and settle this rugged country than it has become in modern times. The novel is set in the 1970’s and finds the protagonist aging, divorced and irreparably damaged in body and soul trying to find some reason to carry on by living in his grandparents’ home and researching their life together from letters and documents related to their lives. Most of the material seems to be letters from his Grandmother to her friends back in civilisation because she was a lady in society and her husband was an engineer who needed to follow where the work was. It flashes back and forwards from the past to the present and slowly unfolds the lives of everyone portrayed in the novel. Its amazingly well written, enthralling and a book that I am proud to have read. I might even have to start another list of books to read, all written by Mr Wallace Stegner. The angle of repose can be likened to what happens to the components of  “Dirt” (it is in inverted commas to anyone involved in horticulture in any way, shape or form and who take offence at this nom de plume for what should have been called soil) when it settles. It is much like what happens to cheesecake once you have eaten it, processed it and it has turned into adipose tissue where you least want it to form. Its natural no matter how much we dislike it! “The heap shall form as it will!” This new found appreciation for reading fiction has started to weave its spell around me. I have the urge to join a group dedicated to reading and exploring these books in depth but another part of me knows that there will be at least 1 person in that group that will piss me off. With age comes wisdom and you also get a sense of what you can and can’t put up with. I have been guilty in the past of appearing to be a know it all. It doesn’t come from my need to elevate myself above anyone else; it comes from my inherent childish over exuberance about anything that I am passionate about. Whenever I find something that I am passionate about I want to share and I can’t help gushing about it. I am learning to shut up and let other people speak and in my year of living honestly with you all and with myself, I realise that my exuberant need to share is not always seen for what it is and I have irritated more than a few people in the process. I realise the value of listening now and can see how irritating it would be for a discussion to be hijacked by someone. In saying this, I want to point out that the kind of people that I am talking about are not enthusiastic about anything. The people that hijack meetings, groups anything that they can join and disrupt, are the sort of people who want to appear important and show everyone else just how amazing they are. You can see them at every single meeting where the public get together to discuss something or where public input is allowed. They are the first to stand up and they are also the first to be negative about whatever the speaker is saying. They are there to be seen, to make themselves feel powerful and important and as a rule, these people are frustrated, bored and feel unappreciated. We seem to have more than our fair share of them here in Tasmania. There seem to be even more of them attracted to anything to do with sustainability which makes it extremely painful to have to attend any meetings to do with environmental and sustainability issues. The last Tamar N.R.M.A. meeting that I attended was about sustainability groups in the North of Tasmania. There were some amazing speakers who related their own personal stories about sustainability and how to achieve it. I was enthralled by some of them, however as soon as question time came around the sustainability wankers all stood up and tore strips off the speakers and tried to minimise their efforts. We are all trying to do our best and no-one is perfect and we can learn from other people but some people think that they know everything that there is to know about everything and they like to tell everyone about it. Funny how they didn’t sign up as speakers for the day isn’t it? Anyway, I can’t be bothered to wade through acres of someone else’s bampf. I think I might just read my books and enjoy them for my own reasons. Call me a book hermit, but at least I won’t lose that simple enjoyment with someone else’s laboured interpretation…


“What is it with this woman’s total lack of being able to pair what she is talking about with her photos?”… Well….the reasoning behind the absolute lack of correlation between my photograph’s and my blog post content are singularly because I have been confined here on Serendipity Farm for a week. My dicky knee has prevented me from wandering far and wide to take photos for your eager eyes and minds and so I am having to dig to the dregs of my saved photos and today I decided to hobble out to the deck to show you what an eclectic (wacky) and cobbled together selection of reclaimed “stuff” we have decided to paste over our exterior walls. We (well “I”…) are somewhat like Hermit Crabs. I love to decorate my walls with all sorts of stuff. Not for me matching sets or photos or anything that makes sense, I love to find things in Thrift Shops and markets and garage sales that have obviously had a past and have a tale to tell that really shouldn’t have been discarded but their loss is my gain! I love ethnic bits and pieces and I really love pottery and bowls. This picture has none of what I have been talking about at all…it is to show you the clematis that is just about to burst into tiny pale cream flowers en masse and turn this boring deck post into something spectacular (if I can keep Steve from hacking it to death with a pair of scissors while I am not watching…)


This is one of the walls of the lounge room extension that dad and his partner added on to what was then “Highfield Gardens”. I love the cedar and wood in general. If you choose to click on this photo you can see evidence of our spider mates doing what they do best on that little Balinese lady. Between the spiders and the cuckoo shrikes we have very few flies around here. You can see Bernard peering at you from his cage inside the house if you look hard enough, but if you do…don’t look at the floor as you can also see what Earl has been shredding on the last vestiges of carpet in the room…


Bernard asked for a bit of privacy (you can still see him but in relief) and so I decided to show you a couple of Steve’s bonsai works in progress.


This little shelf was picked up for $2 at the Evandale markets (the box full of unusual shells was bought for $1…I spent up big on that one…) and used to have trailing plants on it. We kept forgetting to water them and so they got moved to the glasshouse to recover. You can see we still have a set of Christmas Lights up in the kitchen…but you would be wrong in thinking that we forgot to take them down from this Christmas…the truth would be that they have been there since the Christmas before last…


I just had a really great day. I worked out what had been niggling away at me for quite some time now and had been leaving me feeling like something wasn’t quite right. You can forgive me for feeling like this as our start to the year was quite stressful, but it wasn’t anything to do with that… it was a general feeling of malaise that seemed to be spread over everything. As my friend Kym said “I feel flat”. That is how I was feeling, flat, spent and somewhat energy deficient. Now I know that it was a simple case of not having accomplished anything recently. I spent a morning collecting furniture in my little virtual world and managed to collect the entire set of them. That something which isn’t even quantifiable should make me feel so happy is really quite hard to believe until you realise that for the last 8 weeks Steve and I have been “waiting”. Most of this waiting wasn’t our choice. We have been constantly putting things off because we had to wait for one thing or other and we were feeling like we were falling behind. Autumn is promising an early appearance and with it comes the deep feeling of needing to stock up. It’s primal and on Serendipity Farm it’s a reality. We can’t sit around waiting any longer. The deciduous trees are starting to colour up. I thought that it might just be our potted plants changing colour due to a bit of water stress but apparently its widespread and seems to be backing up my theory that we are due for a very cold winter. When we moved here our very first summer was hot. Everyone told us that it was the hottest summer that they had endured for years (cheers Tasmania…) and the autumn and winter that followed resulted in utter shell shock for us West Australian endemics and a good case of chilblains for both Bethany and me. It’s been 4 years since then and we are entering another cycle. I have been researching and this trend has been going on for years but no-one seems to want to admit it. I don’t care that everyone is telling me that “it’s going to be mild thanks to global warming”…bollocks it is! Steve and I tend not to believe what we are told…we head off and make sure and we have both decided that we are not going to expect a nice easy winter like we got last year. Mild, rained right through and the pasture grasses endured making it one of the best hay seasons in years. Good luck with their being much grass left after all the frost has finished with it this year! Don’t I just sound like one of those “Old Timers” rocking in my rocking chair telling anyone that will listen that it’s going to be a “hard winter this year…my dicky knee is playing up!”…


“Why has she got a great dead lump of kelp hanging from a hanging basket (with nothing in it)"?! Well…she watched a television program about how seaweed can be used to predict the future…err…wait a minute…the weather! Yes…a lump of seaweed from the beach (preferably kelp because it is big enough to last being well weathered and has a good surface area) that has dried out will respond to humidity and will get damp. My bit is constantly damp so obviously we live in Queensland. There you go…my seaweed is NEVER wrong!


In this shot you can see Steve’s Stonehenge bench. Mum spent her last few minutes in Tasmania sitting dangling her feet here smiling and looking out at the view in between writing feverishly on a little notepad that was acting as her diary. We like to think that should she ever drop by in her ethereal form, that she can still “take a pew” (mums words) and look out over the river


That strange blue light was being refracted from a crystal hanging on the end of that line of bead strings. Life is too short for interior decorating your hermit crab shell, just grab what you like and find attractive (NOT your neighbour’s husband!) and stick it on your ‘walls’. It is amazing how a whole pile of unrelated gumpf will meld together to form something aesthetically pleasing (that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it!)

Steve and I are making hay while the sun shines and are heading out with a vengeance to get our firewood for this year. We have a very good friend with 40 acres who has told us that although they use logs on their fire, they don’t like limb wood because they are forever heading outside to load up the fire and only use large logs. We are welcome to all the limb wood that we want (most of it laying on the ground left there after the removal of the larger “desirable” logs and just waiting for us to predate it!). We have to go in to town this week and as we are trying to make sure that every trip into town is worthwhile, we try to do as much as we can while we are in there. We will wait to pick up my library books until the “town trip”. We will get a large trailer load of limb wood as well and Steve will get his haircut. We most probably won’t see the girls as they are both at Polytechnic studying this year but we will probably drop off some eggs to them and give Qi a pat. Our drive to collect enough firewood for our personal use this year is more than just a desire to not have to pay for loads of it later in the season; it is a real urgent need to do so. If we live with nature and become part of its cycles we start to get a feel for the seasons. It changes from being wholly separate from our environment, to learning to identify the changing seasons and making sure that we do what we have to do to give us the advantage in the coming season. When we lived in town we just got water from the tap, hot water from the electric cylinder and bought gas bottles to keep the gas stove cooking. The lights went on at the switch and if we wanted something we just headed up to Woolies just up the road from home and bought whatever we wanted. How removed from our natural environment are most of us these days? If something were to happen to bring society crashing to its knees how many of us would be able to look out for ourselves and our families? I am not trying to scare people there, I am just postulating about how far we have come from our true natural state of being and how much we rely on “other people” to provide our basic needs. We can take back some of our ability to provide for ourselves by making subtle changes in our lives. We can grow some veggies and we can keep some hens. You can keep bees even if you live in the city. We can all make changes that give us a chance to re-learn all of those basic principles of how to survive that have been bled out of us over the last generation of prosperity. We really need to be very careful before we embrace the ever increasing degree of specialisation in our lives that mass consumerism is actively encouraging and we need to ensure that we know how to “do” things for ourselves.


This wind fish has seen it all! We put him up when we first moved to Serendipity Farm and he has gone through a rough and most windy time ever since. Despite it all he is looking decidedly dapper out on his teatree pole especially culled for his placement. I must admit his original purpose of directing my eye and making me aware of which way the wind is blowing has gone right over the top of my head. I just think he is pretty


These strands of shells were collected in W.A. and remind me of where and when I collected them. That little wind chime was found under the deck steps and we decided to put it out the front so that it could catch the breeze. That nesting box was once in Bernard and Manny’s cage and kept Manny a slave to the cycle of life so we took it out, removed her 4 (just about to burst) eggs and she has now happily returned to normality with no maternal instincts at all. It’s not that easy when you are a human mother I can tell you!


Last, but by no means least, we have Mr Ooga-booga one of Steve’s acquisitions that he bought for $2 at a the markets. The strand of chilli’s hanging from just above him was garnered from chilli shrubs grown by our class at the Tasmanian Polytechnic and we have some of the seed growing strongly in the glasshouse that we are going to overwinter and see if they grow on. We have read that chilli’s and capsicum can be treated as Biennial and will last a couple of years if given the right conditions in opposition to Biannual meaning happens twice a year (what WOULD I do without Google?) so they are our horticultural experiment. The bell is a brass ships bell that mum brought over in her case in April last year. It had been a fixture at “Gull Cottage” (my Grandmothers house) for many years and mum decided to give it to us as we were by the sea. The horse shoe was found on the property here and we decided to put it up there. As you can see, there is no rhyme or reason why we do what we do, we are impulsive little hermit crabs who are not after a “look” but are after pasting our life experiences and things that excite our interest all over our senses.


If you haven’t been to visit Annie’s “The Micro Gardener” site yet, I urge you all to visit it at least once. It is the most amazing conglomeration of thrift, organic produce, natural and sustainable cycles all wrapped up with Annie’s wonderful photography, information and her incredibly professional delivery. Every post that I get in my inbox (I subscribe to The Micro Gardener) is vibrant with colour, excitement and most importantly, jam packed with precious information that I find myself jotting down notes and muttering to myself “must do that…OH YES!…gotta do that…” Check out those amazing thrifty ideas for repurposing various containers and other items that you wouldn’t even think of using for planters and how pretty, interesting and chic these (often free) containers are and how individual and customised your gardens, windowsills and living spaces can be by thinking smarter rather than harder about what you are going to use to house your plants. There are so many ideas flowing over the page and every single post is a small jewel that when added all together make Annie’s site a treasure trove of information indeed! Even if you don’t give a damn about plants or sustainability or vegetables or organic and permaculture principals (in other words you just found this site by my “outrageous indignation” tag…) you can fully appreciate the professionalism that Annie brings to her site and the gorgeous eye candy photography that enhances and quantifies all of that juicy information that accompanies them. Go there…do what good old Molly Meldrum (who is recovering nicely from his fall off the roof quite nicely) would say “Do yourselves a favour and go there!”…

Well I have my furniture in Animal Crossing. I have sorted out the animal’s food for today, Steve’s food for tonight and I am just about to settle down in front of the fire (it’s getting colder here in Tasmania) and spend the evening reading and listening to Steve’s television viewing pleasure in the other room. Most probably horror so my concentration will be interrupted by alternating screams and wild orchestral music (I listen to a lot of horror movies from the other room…). The dogs are settling down to an evening in front of the fire after they fill up on raw steak and I must admit to liking the changing and cooling seasons quite a lot. There is something about sitting reading in front of a lovely warm wood burning stove while it is raining and cold outside and we have rain forecast for the rest of the week. We will be back to baking bread (it’s been too hot lately), nice hot casseroles cooked long and slow, various home-made cakes and biscuits and all sorts of other strange and wonderful things and a feeling that we are living simply but that the simplicity of our lives has made them indefinably richer in the process. See you all tomorrow when we will be off hunting for more wood to stack the boat shed (now wood shed) as high as we can.

Just a P.S. to this post…I just found out that Mr Stegner had pilfered the idea for his amazing Pulitzer Prize winning book from some unpublished letters of a pioneering woman… will I hold that against him? No…I don’t think I will because that book is such a good read and the fact that it is so well written is entirely his domain. 


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roz Takes
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 17:25:12

    Hi Fran
    I am becoming a bit concered about your knee. You seem to have been having a problem for some time and re-injuring it from time to time. I do hope you have had it checked medically. OK enough of that I won’t become one of your irritants.
    Your book sounds interesting but I find I can’t get into books that go back and forth. Can’t follow Movies or TV shows that do that either frustrates me trying to follow the story line.
    I really like Mr. Ooga-Booga. Does Steve know which Island it derived from?Anything made from wood appeals to me.


    • narf77
      Feb 23, 2012 @ 06:59:23

      Hi Roz, I would go and see a doctor about it but there are none in Tasmania that are taking on new clients. We tried for a year to find a family doctor when we got here and there are none! If you have a problem you go to the emergency room up at the hospital where now that labour has cut the budget of EVERYTHING you have to wait 3 days before you get seen after a major car accident. I don’t think that the rest of Australia realises just how lucky they are. Having lived in “The rest of Australia” at one time, I was able to get into the doctors within a day. I can’t even find a doctor here! We have no idea where Mr Ooga booga man comes from apart from the markets where we bought him. We like to buy all sorts of “stuff” like that (especially wooden) and have some really unusual stuff bought for a song at markets and garage sales. Cheers for your concern about my knee but everyone’s concern should be more about the health system and this corrupt labour government that we have as our state leaders than my humble appendage (and I vote labour!…not any more I don’t…)


  2. Kym
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 23:48:12

    Hi there Fran. Tell Steve I love the bonsai. I had a lovely little bonsai once, but I went away for the weekend, a hot one, and Bruce forgot to water it. So I had a dried bonsai. I’ve decided to not bother with another one until I have more time to tend to them, but I do love them. Your bits and pieces are indeed eclectic, but very appealing. You never know what treasure you will find when you go to an op shop. I love those too lol. Bruce gets very nervous when I get the urge to go to one. Great source of toys for my puppalups too 🙂 Good luck with the wood collecting. I must admit I’m feeling a bit jealous about your weather being cooler, it’s been quite hot her again. I wouldn’t mind a day of rain…. oh well have a great day tomorrow x


    • narf77
      Feb 23, 2012 @ 06:49:37

      Hi Kymmy,
      Steve and I are actually members of the Launceston bonsai society. We went a few times so that Steve could get the basics and then never went back. The place was full of pretentious people all trying to outdo each other and all we wanted to know was “bonsai 101”. Sometimes it is very hard to sift through the wankers to find that precious nugget of information (they you have to wade through them all over again on the way out the door) .Don’t envy us our lovely cold weather quite yet…we are apparently getting summers last hurrah tomorrow (Saturday) and poor Launceston looks like getting 35C which is your equivalent of “BLOODY HOT” and the worst bit is that it is accompanied by almost 100% humidity…might spend the day laying on the bathroom tiles shoving the dogs away from their delicious coolness…


  3. Kym
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 21:04:31

    We had a cool reprieve today ah sigh


    • narf77
      Feb 24, 2012 @ 09:51:58

      No reprieve for us…32C tomorrow and 31 sunday! That is like having a 40+ day in W.A. as we have 100% humidity accompanying it…sigh…glad you are getting some cooler weather though :o)


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