Sunday bloody hot Sunday


Hi All,


Sorry about that Bono…please don’t sue me…I am one of the repressed of the earth that you are trying to support remember? In fact…can I please come and stay with you and your wife for a bit? I promise I won’t stare too much at Salmon Rushdie…

I definitely think that Mary Anne Schaffer liked a good romance novel. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is right up there with the best of them. I wonder how many more romance novels I will be reading from her list. I now need to order 2 more books from the list as I am onto my last book from my last hold session. I like to give them time to get my book from its hiding place somewhere in Tasmania. I have had books from all over the place and the last one was provided by “The friends of the Burnie library”. Cheers friends, I feel like I know you now that I have read that most excellent book “The Angle of Repose” and perhaps the Burnie library would not have been able to provide me with that most illustrious (albeit teeny tiny printed) copy of this wonderful read. I just had a quick flick through the list and realised that there is at least 1 other book by Wallace Stegner on her list. I will be most interested to see how Mr Stegner treats his own material as I found out that he used some letters written by a “Lady of the Wild West” (sorry, can’t be bothered to research who…) as the basis for The Angle of Repose. I just ordered 2 more books. Atticus and a most curiously named novel called “Flaubert’s parrot”. On reading the titles of the remaining books on the list I am getting a definite “romantic” lien from Mary Anne. Through the well written books that are unfolding from Mary Anne’s list I am starting to appreciate that all romance novels are not the same. I will keep you posted on my findings but The Angle of Repose has done a whole lot to showing me that a well written book can be forgiven a multitude of theme sins. I am even reading westerns!


This is the grafted marshmallow apple that Steve produced from the mass of potted plants outside the fence


This is an older picture taken a few years ago at the Tasmanian Botanic Gardens. This specimen is a lovely young Pinus coulteri and we found an enormous pinecone underneath it that we took home and got seed from and actually grew a few last year. Nature is just waiting for scavengers to spread its seeds and we are happy to play the part of conifer scavengers whenever something as lovely as this wants to take advantage of our natural desire to collect


These next 2 photos were found on one of our external hard drives when we were searching for pictures of mums garden. They are dark but it was a very dark rainy day and it was the only day (the Troll’s day out) in the fortnight that we could throw ourselves into digging up the lawn, getting our blue metal delivered and barrowing it all in to the back of the house and getting it laid on top of some weed matting (porous) and settling a few pavers into the top. As you can see it was wet, we got rained on the whole time but we did it! We had no sooner put our wheelbarrows away when the troll’s taxi turned up…


Within a couple of weeks we had the 3 metre bamboo fence constructed and we had a modicum of privacy but this bit of hard slog that took some serious team effort to achieve gave us a huge sense of satisfaction as well as a real sense that we were just about to regain a little bit of control over our own privacy and the situation that we were living in.


Is anyone else totally OVER this stupid leadership challenge? It really isn’t like any one of us is able to vote or have our say on it so why should be we constantly harangued by newscasts about it every 5 seconds? Even when they stop the squabbling and reassemble the shambolic remains of their tattered dignity and our shredded “trust” in the labour party, their need to look after their own wants have allowed them to drag the labour party down to the bottom of the harbour. Tony Abbot must be waking up every morning with a massive great smile on his face because the labour party have just handed him the Prime ministership and most probably earlier than he would have ever dreamed it. Touché Mr Abbot! Enough said about politicians, they are leaving me feeling wan and ill and totally frustrated by my inability to be able to steer myself through this mire. I would rather focus on things that can help us in the future like food production and sorting out Serendipity Farm so that we can start planting out our edible food forest. I just got a look at some permaculture aficionado’s in Queensland who are going great guns on creating their very own edible food forest. How I envy them their growth rate, their lush foliage, their tropical fruits and nuts and especially their lack of rocks in the soil. Serendipity Farm will be turned over to perennial self-perpetuation and will one day become the food forest that we are aiming for but we really need to find some solutions for the problems that we are encountering. I would love to dig and use swales as a means of retaining the water that flows downhill whenever we have any significant rain. At some time in the past, Serendipity Farm and all of the surrounding district was subject to volcanic activity. The soil is full of rocks and to gain any sort of benefit from swales we really need to find a way to implement them. The soil is heavy clay which is fine so long as we are able to integrate organic matter into the soil and break up its overly heavy construction but with the simple act of digging pretty much out of the equation, we have to find other ways to get organic matter into the soil and our friends the earthworms come to the foreground as our chief allies in this cause. Our hens are depositing nitrogen rich fertiliser all over Serendipity Farm. The previously nutrient starved shrubs and trees are starting to show signs of appreciation for the weed removal and fertilisation of their immediate surrounds and now we just have to mulch, remove weeds and work out how to do what we want to do. We just found out that we can sign up for our new Diploma course next week so we will be throwing ourselves headlong into this course in an effort to both give ourselves the skills that this course encompasses and to give us a focus and motivation to get stuck back into the garden. Saying that, we are NOT going to be in the garden today! There is a state-wide fire ban because it’s so darned hot and Tasmania, thanks to 2 years of incredible rains and mild temperatures is like a tinderbox waiting for a spark to make it just like Chinese New Year. There have been some terrible and tragic past bushfires in Tasmania and no-one wants to see that kind of result again so that is why we are very careful to ensure that we remove as much of the dead grass (we leave it on the surface of the soil as mulch) via whipper snippers as possible to minimise the risk of bushfire. I was a bit miffed that I wasn’t able to access the units in this Diploma of Landscape Design that dealt with permaculture. The Diploma offers the units but you have to have someone trained in permaculture to deliver them. Our lecturer lives in a mud brick house that he built himself but I think that is the extent of his desire to embrace permaculture principals and so those units are not able to be accesses. I may have to pay to train in permaculture one day in the future but for now that isn’t an option. Steve’s course is paid for this year and it has really been a weight off our shoulders. We are really looking forwards to what we are going to learn from this course which should stand us in good stead for heading off to University the year after we finish this course in our endeavour’s to become Landscape Architects. Who knows where this line of study will take us, but for now, we are learning so that we can implement what we learn here on Serendipity Farm.


We bought this mulcher just before we laid that blue metal above and spent a day pruning and mulching all of the overgrown shrubs and tree branches that had been going wild out the back while we were unable to deal with them. Each fortnight we got a single day (the Troll’s shopping day from 10am – 4pm) where we could get out the back and scamper around like crazy voles digging things up, pruning, digging holes and concreting in fence palings, putting up screening etc. Our ideas didn’t always go down well with dad and NEVER went down well with the Troll as what had been his domain shrunk down to his immediate area and the small garden that we built for him (that he never cared for at all). It was, as mentioned, a very difficult situation to be living in but we were living rent free so sometimes you have to just suck it up and live with it!


We always had a constant little helper out the back whenever there was work in the offing. Bezial hated change and would lay inside refusing to even look until the job was done and he would scornfully wander around outside giving us (low) marks out of 10, but Qi loved to be right in the thick of it and was always Steve’s constant little helper. Here she is liberating the house from the soil apparently…


I spent most of the latter parts of yesterday (Saturday) sifting through photographs of mum’s garden and trying to find photos of past gardens and the stages of development of her garden at her small unit. When she died my sister and her partner Jason headed over to her unit to take lots of photos of the garden for me as requested by Annie of “The Micro Gardener” fame who had been talking with mum prior to her death about writing up her story for Annie’s online publication called “The Green Journey”. After mum died, Annie asked me to collect as many photos as I could to illustrate her garden and what she was doing with such a small space. Mum used vertical gardening principals including hanging baskets, espalier fruit trees and trellises as well as pots, raised garden beds and stands to give her the maximum space in her small garden. Annie wanted to show her readers that you really don’t need an huge amount of space to feed yourself. You can be a Micro Gardener with an area that you would not think production of fruit and vegetables were even possible. Mum used solutions to her problems to give her what she wanted in her garden. Using things like dwarf fruit trees, mini species of watermelons and rockmelons, espalier regular sized fruit trees that lined her perimeter fence and mass planting to develop thermal mass, mum was able to grow an enormous amount of food in a very small space. I went to have a look at The Green Journey and was most impressed with Annie’s treatment of her subjects. Mum would have been “chuffed to bits” to be held aloft with some of the amazing gardeners on this site. I wanted to make sure that her garden was truly represented in photographs to illustrate how inventive mum had been and how she went about building up her plant mass using thrifty techniques like taking root and stem cuttings and saving seed. The more I looked at the bumper crops of the most amazing looking fruit and vegetables that mum was able to coax from that small space the more determined I am to throw myself into learning how to grow vegetables. As previously mentioned, mum (and my brother after her) was a natural gardener. It came as naturally to mum as breathing but for me (and probably my sister if the truth be known) it is something that has to be pored over, thought about at length and worked at. Anyone can build a garden bed, but not just anyone can fill it with the right ingredients to facilitate the best growth of the plants that grow in this garden bed. There is so much to learn about vegetables. Even though we previously had a good veggie garden in town, the vegetables that grew the best did so on their own merit. We gave them water, manure and enough sunlight to grow and they did the rest. We had a lot of problems with this first garden including problems with the corn that we grew, our brassica’s were a total failure and we didn’t do too well on the spring onion front which made my father grumble because he was all for us planting a regular supply of these vegetables (his favourite) and kept giving us packets of spring onion seed in the hope that we would “keep him” in spring onions for years to come. Our veggie gardens that we built after mum died are rotting down nicely. We are due to top them up with manure, hay and our compost heap that has finally yielded some lovely dark rich compost that the hens and possums were not able to scoff. Steve found one of the grafted apples that we produced as part of our Certificate 3 in Horticulture course when he was turning on the overhead watering system. I must admit to loving this system. At first I thought that it would be a huge waste of water but it has proved me wrong. The wrens, Willy wag tails and other small insectivorous birds are ecstatic about this new tight rope that they are able to perch on and survey the plants for insect infestation. They sit up on the elevated system and can be seen diving down into the plants to retrieve aphids, bugs and caterpillars that have the misfortune of invading our potted plants. The apple that Steve retrieved had 2 small apples on it. Steve got the scion for this graft from home of the very first Governor of Tasmania who was apparently great friends with Joseph Banks and who was purported to have given the Governor interesting plant specimens to grow on the property. There are some interesting oak species and a heritage listed Cedrus atlantica on the property as well as a most interesting apple. The apple is old and wizened and most probably one of the old fashioned varieties that would have once been eaten prior to mass production. This apple was nicknamed “The marshmallow apple” by the new property owners who inherited it from their parents. The resulting fruit is soft and spongy but totally delicious thus the marshmallow tag. Steve wanted to reproduce this apple and so took some scion and grafted it with success and now we have our very own “Marshmallow Apple”. No idea what kind of apple it is, but you can bet we won’t be seeing it any day soon on the shelves at Woollies’.

Magnetic Knife rack and new window ledge

These last few photos are of when we first redecorated the house in town. The girls had been in Western Australia visiting their brother and father and so we took the opportunity to really get stuck in and totally renovate the house. I don’t recommend this sort of stress to anyone…we were tired constantly, we lived in a caravan out the back in the middle of winter and we were up early in the dark and dragged our poor sorry derrières off to bed as late as we could leave it but we were happy with the results and I guess that is all you can hope to be at the end of the day


We used to go to the markets just about every week and I started to collect this terracotta ware. I had all sorts of it (and still have a lot) and started to use it to decorate the house along with white and blue ceramics which are my absolute favourites

New colour scheme in situ

Here are some of my Terry Pratchett novels. I loved every one of them. Most of the decorations that we put in the house we purchased at markets and garage sales extremely cheaply. I very rarely went over $5 for anything unless it was particularly special. That little book shelf was on its way to the tip when I got it from a friend who couldn’t sell it at a garage sale she was having

Computer area with new colour scheme

This was our work station in town. We no longer have that computer or most of the “stuff” on those shelves. Serendipity Farm has been pared back to a few things that suit our rustic ideals. I can be a bit of a pack rat with things like glass, bowls, and anything ethnic and interesting and I have to curb my natural desire to head off to every garage sale that I see. Garage sales are amazing places to pick up things that you might not find anywhere else but they certainly don’t provide you with more space in your home to display these things so I am learning to “put blinkers on” (one of my grandmothers and then mum’s sayings) for the sake of a simple non dust collecting life


Here’s our work station today. A much bigger screen and a heck of a lot messier but I didn’t tidy it off today like I tidied it off for that shot in the last photo. This is my year of living honestly and this is honestly what it looks like on a regular basis! Note there is still an enormous cup of tea sitting on the desk…the cup might change but the beverage remains the same


Here is the last photo for the day and our latest garage sale buy. A little wooden bowl carved out of a burl or a medium branch for $2. We pick up little bits and pieces like this all of the time and will continue to do so. Pretty soon the large progressive garage sale that runs from Deviot through to Gravelly Beach will be on again. We picked up a lovely hand made chair last year for $2. I wonder if we can top that one?


So I guess that’s your bloomin’ lot for today folks…it’s too hot for me to be sitting sweltering in a leather office chair even for your most illustrious benefits so I am off to pour ice water on my head and find a screen saver and some wallpaper of the icy wastelands of Siberia because I am all for trying to trick my brain into thinking that it is someplace cool. Now I just have to suspend my sense of disbelief…see you all tomorrow when we are supposedly getting a nice cool change.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. microgardener
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 16:30:17

    You are lucky to have a volcanic clay soil Fran – it will be mineral rich and adding the organic matter will release these nutrients into the soil. I’m sure if you persevere your garden will be amazing! Keep at it. I do a little bit regularly and then find all sorts of plants are growing and suddenly one day you have the productive garden you dream of.


  2. Kym
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 22:31:54

    I don’t go to garage sales anymore because, as you mentioned, I don’t have any space left lol. A friends fella was telling us about an auction he was at. It was on again today and I was sorely tempted to go, but I held strong. Imagine the mayhem I could inflict on my card sigh… Well sorry Fran but we had the most beautiful day. It was heaven to feel a cool breeze and actually had to wear something a little warmer than shorts and tshirt. Hopefully you will soon have this weather over your way. It has been cool enough for us to tackle ridding our garden beds of invasive grass. Damn stuff gets into everything. I have tried poisoning it but it has come back again. I’m sure the poison we use now feeds the damn weeds! At one time you could keep them at bay for a year but now it is very weak and you need several goes to get rid of anything. If you know of a special formula for killing grass and weeds effectively then let me know 🙂 better still start selling it lol.


    • narf77
      Feb 27, 2012 @ 07:42:51

      I am wincing as I say this because Annie is right up there above you and this product is most definately NOT organic. We learned a lot about chemicals in our courses and we know that the best thing for monocots (grasses) to kill them stony dead whilst leaving your dicots (everything else) untouched, is “Fusilade”. It takes about a week but it will die right off and it even kills onion weed. The problems are…
      1. It is a very strong chemical
      2. It is $80 a litre (but a little goes a very VERY long way)
      3. Grass is invasive and no matter how much you kill it, it is just going to keep coming back again…and again…and again…

      Here is my solution for permenant grass removal from your garden bed. Dig it all up. Get rid of lawns and anything like that and plant creeping thyme and other ground covers that are hardy enough to take a bit of overhead traffic. Stuff the grass, what is it doing for you anyway apart from slurping up your precious water in copious quantities and invading Poland? Give it it’s marching orders and send in the hardy ground covers…you won’t look back :o)

      Steve says you can always go the Italian way and concrete the lot “Forgedaboudit!”
      Add a few concrete ornaments, a fountain and some tyre swans (recycling you know) and you have a great garden that EVERYONE will talk about lol. Don’t say that Steve hasn’t learned all about garden design! :o)


  3. Kym
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 23:24:09

    The cement comment is giving me flash backs to when I was at home lol. Thanks for the tip about the grass. Yes I will look into the ground cover, it has to better than that damn grass x


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