Effel is off…

Hi All,

Effel went missing the other day. She is usually the very first hen to the deck whenever bread is being thrown and just wasn’t there. I saw her outside the coop yesterday with the 5 ferals, Houdini and her 7 (still) chicks and the 5 cats…Effel has found that mountain of eggs that we can’t find and has perched her fluffy blue Wyandotte derrière on the very top of them. Part of me is hoping that some of those eggs are to the point of exploding and she gets an early surprise and the other part is cheering for the old girl. She is a TERRIBLE mother…she managed to hatch out 3 eggs of her last batch and only 1 survived to today thanks to Effel’s habit of hanging about where the cat’s were with her tiny fluffballs…I guess we are at least going to find out where the communal nest “was” because now Effel is sitting tight the others won’t be able to lay there any more and will have to find somewhere else. Effel will do her usual herculean race to the food trough to get grub in the morning and we will just have to watch where she is running back to (she always runs at full pelt) to find the nest. By my calculations there are probably the best part of at least 50 eggs in that nest…You have to give the old girl some credit for being keen!

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And you thought that you were going to get photos that matched this post didn’t you! Sorry folks…they are for a later post. Can’t have everything neat and tidy and tied up with a string bow now can we or you might not have to use your brain! This blog is NOT television and you will have to piece together all sorts of irrelevant and seemingly puzzling things to get to a logical conclusion. Call it your “Serendipity Crossword” and remember…it’s doing your brain good to think! This is a picture of 2 spiders…(obviously) but these 2 are attempting to take back their territory. They are part of a huntsman invasion that we have going on at the moment. It is almost to the point where we have as many as we do Daddy Longlegs which is a bit scary as they have free rein. You would think that we don’t have many insects in the house but the mosquito’s (lord only knows where they are coming from it is very dry around here…) seem to be taking over as well. Perhaps (like everything else around here) they have made a deal with each other to live together in a truce to their mutual benefit? Who would know… we just have lots of all of them!

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You are going to get some more of the photos that we took at Beauty Point. This one is of the yacht club and that large boat in the picture belongs to the Maritime college who teach people how to dive etc.

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We are supposed to be looking out for gardens/areas that we like. I just liked this bit of road verge because it was a good mix of conifers, it has kept the soil moisture in by being mass planted so the plants are all doing well despite very low rainfall and it is a good mix of colours. All in all a good job to whoever planted this out

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I like this shot…the boys getting one of their frequent dips on the way around Beauty Point but you can see the rigging of the yacht masts in the water (and Steve’s skinny white legs)

Yesterday we headed into town and signed up for our new Diploma of landscape design course that is hot off the press as a brand new course at our local Polytechnic. We now have a new focus for our time and we have decided to study on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays unless we really have to throw ourselves into a deadline. It’s good to sort out when you are going to knuckle down to study when you study from home. It’s actually quite difficult to get motivated to study when so many things are calling you from out in the garden and further afield in the real world. We have learned to study through our last 3 years of doing so and this year is going to be a more disciplined and regular year of study. Over the last few years we have had so many interruption’s to our studies that it is a wonder we were actually able to finish them on time and successfully. Thank goodness we have 2 years to finish this Diploma. We took a year and a half for the last one and at least 6 months off in that period due to “external events” because we had to finish the diploma in a set amount of time because the Education Department (in its infinite wisdom) had decided to supersede many of the qualifications starting 2012 and if you hadn’t finished your course, you were not guaranteed of being able to transfer your completed units to the equivalent course this year. In short, if you didn’t finish up last year, you were stuffed this year and had to do it all over again…a quick buck for the Polytechnic but severe stress and unhappiness for students and the poor lecturers that had to deal with hundreds of rampaging students forcing their panicking way through their barricaded doors like Wildebeest running from the lions. We already knew about this situation and threw ourselves into ensuring that we completed our course (Diploma) in time because if there is one thing that I dislike more than AutoCAD…it is having to do the entire unit over again because it was no longer recognised. It is amazing how much wind that sort of eventuality can put in your slothful sails! Steve and I are not slothful when it comes to studying. We did 5 units in 10 weeks in 2010 because we were not sure how our finances would be affected with our small inheritance after my dad died and couldn’t run the risk of having to pay full fees for the remainder of our course and so threw ourselves head first into the most stressful run of studying that I have ever participated in. I now know what “cramming” is and we did that for 10 weeks. For the next 2 years we are going to pace ourselves. We are going to be working steadily and regularly through our course. No more cramming, 5 units in 10 weeks or anything like that, just slow and steady and race winning all round.

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For all of you mainlanders who haven’t seen these before (I hadn’t) these are Hawthorn berries. There are lots of hawthorns out here, many of them planted as hedges around paddocks and pruned nicely giving a suitably rustic and rural appearance to the properties that maintain them. Most of them are in the bush growing thanks to being “planted” by the birds. I quite like them, thorny little sods that they are, especially the Washington Hawthorn that has massive long spines but the most delightful coloured foliage in autumn and edible berries. This is the common old English hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata)

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This garden is right next to the beach and is a really good example of well chosen planting. I know it is mostly European shrubs and trees but it is a great mix of edibles and ornamentals

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This photo was taken to the right of the last photo. I wanted you to see that although these people have very little lawn, their garden is very green and healthy. Using ground covers keeps the soil moisture in the soil better and allows these plants to flourish with less water. Mass planting, along with mulching gives you the best chance at having your garden not only survive in these water stressed times, but look good too

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Before breakfast…

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After breakfast…

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Future breakfast…(fig trees who’s fruit is almost ripe…)

I am in love with the River Cottage Handbook No. 8. Not so much in love that I am getting Earl to sneakily nibble on a corner or two…but still in love with it enough to be typing most of it out. It is a most curious thing that people don’t seem to be sharing many recipes from this series of books online. I have had to resort to taking them out of the library and typing out those recipes that I find irresistible. I think I am going to have to buy the Handbook about bread it is so good, but I can try to get that from my newfound best ever source of cheap and postage free books in the U.K. “The Book Depository”. I love finding new recipes and most of these are not new, just new to me. Mum would have loved some of these cakes. She made cakes for everyone. Mum gave fruit mince slice and Christmas cake to the tellers in her local bank just before she came out here at Christmas time and the teachers at our small local school would receive a different cake once a week from mum. I think it was her way of saying thanks…or “welcome” or “hi” and we were never short of cake at our house whatever the occasion. We were never short of dessert after each meal either but to this day; I am not a sweets person. I ate my fair share of dessert and cake but it’s the savoury section where I get most animated. When it comes to cake I can eat a nice bit of chocolate layer cake or something soft and creamy but I won’t go out of my way to find it. My favourite kinds of cakes tend to be dense, made with ground almonds or other nuts, soaked in “something” alcoholic, with nuts, seeds, and strong spiced flavours and always interesting. As with most other things that I am enamoured of, I like substance, not fluffy superficiality. Airy cakes don’t last long enough and don’t give you enough in the flavour and sensory department. Give me a big wodge of orange, almond and poppy seed cake drizzled in orange flower water syrup or a nice buttery friand and I will be in heaven (especially when accompanied by some thick heavy cream). I am the same with my meals. I prefer rustic hearty full flavoured things. I am not impressed with tiny portions of sea urchin row; I would rather a decent bowl of veggie packed fragrant soup and some really good bread. Substance rather than form, that’s me all round!

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Can you see the little bird on this phormium (flax) flower stalk?

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These 2 used to Bezial and Earl’s nemesis dogs. They would wait (like they are here) until the boys got right below their deck and go absolutely mental…barking and carrying on and we haven’t been down the path in a while and the change in these 2 dogs was amazing! They just stood there looking…no barking…no growling…I NEED to ask who their trainer was!

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This is the dogs nemesis’s house…Nice isn’t it? And right on the beach as you can see by that most ingenious storage of an aluminium dinghy off to the right of the photo. It is on a little platform that can be lowered into the water that some bright spark has invented

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As if one swim wasn’t enough…

I am spending my Sunday typing out a few posts. We are in Launceston for most of the day tomorrow and as such I won’t have time to be tapping away here preparing tomorrow’s post. I like to get up, paste my post into Windows Live Writer, and add the photos of my choice (that very rarely match the post any more but wachagonnadoaboudit eh?) and press “Publish” and watch it heading through the ether on its merry way straight to my blog straight to “Go” without collecting $200 (the story of my life). From there I just have to add my tags and delete the duplicate photos that have mysteriously found their way into the media section of my blog and everything is Hunky Dory. Yesterday we headed off into town, walked the dogs around the streets of Launceston, and most probably had a cup of coffee each from some obscure coffee shop and the boys probably got a muffin to share. We most probably wandered about checking out the books, window displays and may have even ventured (one at a time as 2 American Staffies are somewhat akin to bulls in china shops when taken into respectable points of purchase) into a few interesting shops to check out what was on offer. After this we would have dropped the dogs off with the girls while we head off to Alanvale and sign up for our next year of research and discovery. We love studying from home. It gives us a degree of flexibility that we never had when we headed in daily to our Certificate 2 and 3 courses. Whenever we need to provide practical/physical results for something we head into town at our next convenience and do the tests, measurements or research needed to complete the task and all fitting in with our regular lives. So long as you have the discipline to get your act together and do the work required to finish your course, studying from home is a really great way to learn. As mature aged students who actually want to learn, we are also not hampered by being in class with people who really don’t want to be there. It’s very demotivational to be in a class with people like this and worse when you have to rely on their input (or lack thereof) in tasks to get the results that you need to pass your course. I was reading a transcript of an interview between Andrew Denton and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and when he was asked about his incredible range of jobs including taxi driver, roadie and mechanic when he was clearly a highly intelligent man he said that he always tried to do the very best job that he could no matter what he was doing. In that, Dr Karl and I are very alike. I had “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well” layered and folded into my psyche by my grandmother from a very early age along with “start out as you mean to finish up” and “clean up as you go along”…She may be long gone but the first thing that pops into my head whenever I am tempted to leave the dishes before I go to bed are at least one of the preceding statements.

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After their walk the boys are usually like lambs and in Earls case…a Chinese lamb!

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This cactus that was given to me by a fellow student in Certificate 2 had been somewhat mangled by the ducks. The only reprieve that it had, was that it had spines and the ducks must have decided to predate the succulents (no spines) before they gave this one the once over so we rescued it and after reading some of Annie’s (The Micro Gardener) posts about using containers that you have laying about…we had a go at rehousing it. We have lots of olive oil cans (most of them a lot bigger than this one) and are going to mess about with them. I found a nice tin in a thrift shop yesterday that I was going to use but it’s too nice…it’s now my new biscuit tin! One day I will get the urge to bake some biscuits and they will languish in this tin until they turn furry and get tossed out to the hens…those romantic ideas about what makes a house a home don’t translate to biscuits around here

What I DO know about yesterday (and no doubt I will add anything aberrant that occurred to my beige example of our program above) is that we will get back home knackered. There is something about the process of getting up, bundling the dogs and ourselves and everything else that we need to take to town (remember the principal of doing everything that we have to do in one fell swoop?) and trying to anticipate things that we might need to accomplish so as not to have to take another trip to town (and the subsequent waste of 100km of petrol) in the immediate future and heading into town with 2 dogs decorating our ears with slobber and whimpering at the windows the closer we get to town, arriving at town, suffering the rapid descent of dogs out of the car to see their sister… walking the dogs (most probably Qi as well as we are coming back) dropping off all of the dogs, signing up for our course, doing everything that we need to do in town and in various smaller towns on the way back home after wrestling the dogs back in the car, suffering the sad enormous eyes of their sister who wants to come too and driving home to do all of the “Serendipity Farm” stuff that simply can’t wait…knackered is an understatement! I wonder if it will be raining on Tuesday? Steve and I were talking about winter and how once we start using the wood burning stove on a regular basis we will be able to bake bread daily, keep kettles on the stove, cook long slow casseroles, cakes, whatever we like for free while the stove does its stuff heating the house and water and giving us that special ambiance that only a wood burning stove can do. In my year of living honestly I need to punctuate that romantic picture that I just conjured up in your mind with the bits of wood, stick and ash that suddenly become the norm on the ground in front of the stove. How we have to keep chopping and lugging wood from the shed to the stove to feed it’s never ending hunger and how it is very difficult to get anywhere near the stove to do anything (including feeding its hunger) thanks to the profusion of dogs laying askew wherever there is a space on the floor. I might do a thesis one day on how a medium sized dog is able to spread itself across a much larger distance than one might imagine. This is a regular occurrence on Serendipity Farm especially at night time when a king sized bed is not nearly big enough to contain both humans (usually half hanging out of bed or curled up in a tiny ball) and 2 “medium sized dogs”. Do dogs have elastic bones? Do they spread out like cake batter and is their Angle of Repose akin to that of silica sand (think flat beach for your answer if you are curious about what I am talking about there)? Is there some mysterious property to dogs that allows them to dislocate all of their limbs and sloop them about like the tentacles of a squid when meeting any flat surface? No idea…that’s why I am going to have to do the thesis isn’t it?

On that most interesting of ideas I might leave you pondering that thought for today. Let’s just meet again tomorrow…form a quorum…discuss…ruminate…vote…have another meeting…think about it… and generally relegate it to the back burner…See you all tomorrow

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