Its raining hens

Hi All,

It rained yesterday (saturday) afternoon and all night and now it seems to be steadily raining and has set in for the day. I don’t mind…in fact I positively welcome it. We were going to have a market stall today to sell some of our excess plants but the woman in charge of the market never replied to us about the stall so we decided not to go. Lucky for us (their policy is that if it rains they keep your stall fee) we decided to forgedaboudit and I dare say that most people won’t be thronging to Deviot for a tiny indoor (outdoors is rained out) market selling a few veggies and some jam. Hopefully that doesn’t sound like sour grapes there, because it isn’t. I am just glad that we didn’t waste our stall fee on what is just about to be rained out. We didn’t cover the book in todays post but we did tomorrow…how about that for future travel! We are pretty cluey here on Serendipity Farm and can often be seen scooting between time frames on a regular basis. I am going to share some photos taken the other day in Beaconsfield and one particularly lovely garden with all sorts of zinnias (Zinnia elegans); marigolds (Tagetes erecta) and asters (Aster spp. by the way…putting “spp.” at the end of something means “species” and usually means that the person typing out the Botanical name can’t be bothered to hunt any further for the actual species name…).

I think this is quite a nice photo. I dare say there are many people who would disagree…it might not be centred, the colour could be tweaked a bit…blah…blah…blah…as much as I truly do appreciate amazing photography, I am not inclined to spend hours staging and posing a shell that I bought for a dollar at a market somewhere when I don’t have the talent to do it justice. I just like to look at the shell and Steve took this photo so I could transmit some of its “pretty” to you

Steve and I did a unit in our last diploma about assessing trees and this poor ancient Ash tree has obviously been assessed and found wanting. There are some magnificent trees that have suffered a similar fate to this one (splitting due to the huge weight of the canopy and a lack of formative pruning when they were young) but obviously the Beaconsfield council are not willing to pay out to have this tree bolted and braced like Launceston City Council was with the specimens that Steve and I found in the Hospital grounds. These trees are part of our heritage and deserve to be given every chance, but this Ash is just about to be removed.

You can see that this tree is huge and old. I dare say it wasn’t a good candidate for bolting and bracing but I can also guess that “trees” are not high on the Beaconsfield council’s list of being something worth paying for. If it splits, get rid of it…that says a fair bit about how trees are viewed in Tasmania by everyone except we “Greenies”.

Here is a lovely example of arb pruning (tree pruning) in Beaconsfield. The people that removed this limb would have had to have completed their certificate 3 in horticulture and learned how to prune properly. It takes just as long to prune a branch in the correct way as it does to hack it off and do a bodgy job. This sort of bad pruning opens the tree up to disease and fungal spores so why bother pruning it at all?

Here is another example of “pruning”. Note the chainsaw cut into the remaining trunk, again, allowing fungal spores and bacteria to gain entry to the tree. Bad job Beaconsfield council…it costs you just as much to pay a numpty to do the job as it does someone who cares. Alex Shigo would be spinning in his grave!

Steve and I are going to be covering that book that Earl ate that we had to replace from the library today. I have an old leather jacket that is out of fashion that was bought specifically from a thrift shop at a heavily discounted price specifically for this purpose. I have my instructions from Kirsty of “Kirsty and Phil” fame in the U.K. where every show that they host turns to pure ratings gold. They have an amazing chemistry together…she is mumsy, he is a big kid and there is something amazingly “real” about everything that they do. Kirsty had a show on her own called “Kirstie’s Home Made” and because she seems enamoured of life in the 1940’s and even wears clothing to match, home-made and thrift seems to be the order of the day in this series. Recycling things, buying things second hand and making your own even though Kirsty is most definitely an upmarket girl in every way. Who cares if she has a plum in her mouth when she is as easy going as anything. Kirsty is one of a kind and when you pair her up with Phil, you have a winning combination that could sell snow to the Eskimo’s. One of her “home-made” episodes was about making your own books. We got a detailed series of instructions on how to do this and how to use leather to make a cover for your book. Earl at the spine of my book and it now needs considerable protection as it is about to be one of my most used books so giving it a nice hard wearing leather cover would be the clever thing to do. I love being able to make things ourselves. I love being able to work out how to do things ourselves for minimal cost (free if possible) and thrift excites me. It is very different when you are forced into thrift and life is really tough, but when you have a choice, it always gives you a great feeling to be able to save something or do something yourself whenever you can. I have a real problem with middle management and middlemen in general. They tend to be the last to be let go from places of employment whenever times get tough and the very first that most probably should go. Supermarkets are perfect examples of what happens when you create a middle man between the consumer and the producer. Ask a primary producer what sort of money they are receiving per unit for their products and then have a look at the cost of what you are putting into your grocery cart and you would be amazed at how much money is being added to the cost of that item by simply passing through a middle man. I prefer to cut the middle man out as often as I can.

I have to admit something regarding this Robinia ‘mop top’ which pains me no end. In my year of living honestly I noted the pruning of this mop top earlier in the year. Whoever pruned it had removed EVERYTHING from the top of the trunk leaving a few spindly twigs with no foliage. I loudly protested the murder of these 2 trees and the parentage of the person who hacked them to death and have had to swallow my pride as each time we went to Beaconsfield they have grown more and more…it just goes to show that you don’t know everything and indeed, I know very little

This is a lovely beech that we don’t have in our beech collection (Fagus spp.) and so we are going to graft this lovely specimen when it loses it’s leaves later in the year. We tried to grow some of the seed last year and after stratifying it we planted it out. We did the same with a large, most beautiful, copper beech that was gifted to Beaconsfield from its sister city (also named Beaconsfield) in the U.K. about 100 years ago. The copper beech seed all germinated but the seed taken from this tree did not. We figure it might be sterile so moving on from seed we have grafting as a way to get ourselves a new baby beech for our collection. I LOVE horticulture and it’s many and varied ways to get stuff for free. If you can’t get it to grow one way…try another one…Next we have aerial layering…

I gave you a few recipes from The Readers Digest book “Homemade” over 700 everyday items that are easy to make and will save you money yesterday. I thought that you might like a few more that are indeed easy to make and will hopefully save you money and more importantly, the environment from all of that commercial production of unnecessary products.

Yesterday I gave you a septic tank activator and today I might give you a home-made drain clearer

Drain Opener

Don’t bother with those caustic commercial cleaners; try this simple, inexpensive and safe way to unclog drains instead

½ cup (140g) bicarbonate of soda

1 cup (250ml) vinegar

1 teapot boiling water

  1. Pack the drain with bicarbonate of soda, then pour in vinegar
  2. Keep the drain covered for 10 minutes, then flush it out with boiling water
  3. For particularly stubborn drain blockages you might have to repeat the process

Non Toxic Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Clean and sanitise your toilet bowl without harmful chlorine. For no-scrub convenience, simply pour in this mixture and leave overnight

  1. Flush the toilet to wet the sides of the bowl
  2. Sprinkle the borax around the toilet bowl, and then liberally drizzle some vinegar on top. Let the toilet sit undisturbed for 3 – 4 hours (overnight) before scrubbing with a toilet brush and flushing to clean

I really like the idea of the next one. Steve is quite sensitive to laundry detergents and gets a bit of dermatitis with some but this recipe promises to be quite gentle while removing stains and making the clothes nice and soft at the same time

Laundry Soap

This basic laundry soap gets clothes just as clean as commercial cleaners; it just costs a lot less

½ cup (50g) pure soap flakes (or a bar of pure soap grated)

½ cup (140g) bicarbonate of soda

¼ cup (70g) washing soda

¼ cup (60g) borax

1 clean 500g plastic container with a lid

  1. If you cannot find soap flakes, lightly grate a bar of pure soap on a coarse kitchen grater
  2. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together. Store in a tightly sealed plastic container
  3. Use about ½ cup (110g) of the mix instead of detergent in each load of laundry

Note: you can add a few drops of your choice of essential oil to this mix to give your washing detergent your own customised scent

And lastly here is a purported stain remover to go with the laundry soap. How cool is this? We can make all of this stuff using ingredients from the supermarket they are just up high or down low on the shelves that the top companies are not paying through the nose to be placed on to get your attention.

Stain Remover

Stains are always easier to get out if you treat them before they set (soda water is effective for lifting many stains before they dry).

1/3 cup (80ml) clear household ammonia

½ cup (125ml) white vinegar

¼ cup (70g) bicarbonate of soda

30ml liquid castile soap

6 cups (1.5 litres) water

1 clean 2 litre recycled plastic container

1 clean 500ml spray bottle

  1. Mix all of the ingredients in the 2 litre container. Pour some of the solution into the spray bottle. Shake well before each use.
  2. Spray liquid onto the stain and leave for 3 – 5 minutes and then launder as usual

Note: if this doesn’t work, at least you won’t have spent a fortune on commercial stain removers that also don’t work :o)

This last recipe is for a nice gluten free coconut and lime drizzle cake. This is for all of my gluten intolerant dear constant readers out there (and anyone nice enough to make this cake for someone who is…). It comes from The River Cottage Handbook No. 8 (Cakes) by Pam Corbin and looks to be something that could be cheerfully polished off by just about anyone with glee.

Lime and coconut cake (gluten free)

Creamy coconut and zesty lime team up perfectly to flavour this lovely gluten free cake. Because the recipe uses rice flour rather than conventional wheat flour, it does have a tendency to sink a bit in the middle. This doesn’t bother me in the least – in fact, I rather enjoy the dense centre. However, if you are concerned about it, you can prevent the cake sinking by adding a little xanthan gum, which acts as a substitute for the stretchy, bouncy gluten found in wheat flours and will bind the mix together. Xanthan gum in available from health food shops and the baking section of large supermarkets

Serves 10 – 12

For the cake: –

125g rice flour

2 tsp gluten-free baking powder

1 tsp xanthan gum (optional)

175g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened

Finely grated zest of 3 – 4 small limes

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

50g desiccated coconut

For the drizzle: –

75g caster sugar

100ml fresh squeezed lime juice (about 3 – 4 limes)

Equipment: –

1 litre loaf tin, about 20cm x 10cm lightly greased, base and long sides lined with baking parchment, or a 20cm round or 18cm square tin, lightly greased and base-lined with baking parchment

Method: –

Preheat the oven to 180C. Sift together the rice flour, baking powder and xanthan gum, if using, into a bowl. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and lime zest to a cream, using either a woode spoon or a hand held mixer. Add the sugar and continue to beat until the mix is light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, adding 1 tbsp flour from the 125g alotted for the recipe with each addition and beating well before adding the next. Carefully fold in the remaining flour with a large metal spoon and then fold in the desiccated coconut. Spoon the mix into the prepared tin, lightly smoothing over the surface with the back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for 40 – 45 mins or until the surface is nicely golden and the cake feels springy to the touch. Shortly before the cake will be ready, prepare the drizzle by dissolving the sugar in the lime juice. When the cake comes out of the oven, prick the surface deeply (but not to the very bottom) all over with a skewer. Spoon half of the lime syrup over the surface and leave to cool for 10 minutes before spooning the remainder of the syrup over the cake. Make sure that you pour plenty of drizzle down the sides of the cake inside the tin. Leave in the tin until cool before turning out.

This cake will keep for 5 days in an airtight tin

Variations: –

St Clemen’t cake – replace the limes with a mix of oranges and lemons

Christmas cracker – replace the limes with tangerines. For the drizzle, replace 50ml of the juice with 50ml orange liqueur

We call these “everlasting daisies”  The botanical name is Bracteantha bracteata but different varieties can also now be known as Helichrysum sp. or Rhodanthe sp.

This is to show you the type of soil that these everlasting/straw daisies are growing in. They are designed to grow in arid conditions so have no problems growing under the eaves of this small shop with very little rain being able to reach them and they put on a really lovely show of flowers that can be picked and as their name alludes to, kept for practically ever in a vase with no water.

This is the closest to a “Tropical flower” that Tasmania is going to get. This is a variety of ornamental ginger that apparently loves it here. We have some down underneath the blackberries in the small hedge/garden that divides the first garden from the tiny second garden. Ours are yellow but at least we can pretend that we are a lush paradise with these delightfully exotic things growing in our garden

Zinnia’s and Aster’s in jail…

Well we didn’t end up getting that book covered (as mentioned above)  but we have good plans for that tomorrow (and lots of photos of how we did it). I got some great “wool” (actually lots of balls of cotton) that I can use to crochet a nice hearth rug for Bezial to lay on in front of the fire. I spent a fair bit of last night typing out more of those amazing rustic cake recipes using home grown produce from the River Cottage Cake book. I get very excited whenever I find things like this. I also am very aware that should Google, Apple and Microsoft ever get their way about stopping actual downloads (remember the cloud theorem?) unless you pay for them (no more pictures, recipes, pdf’s…ANYTHING unless you pay Google, Apple and Microsoft for the privilege…the ultimate in middle men and my new pet hate…) and am starting to go through all of the websites that I have saved in my “Websites for the future” Word document (a very long document indeed) and finding those precious bits of information, recipes, pdf’s etc. that I can download now and making sure that I get them because come the day that I have to pay Google for someone else’s work, I WON’T BE! As mentioned in a previous post regarding this matter I will simply head back to the library for my information. Not as immediate but still invaluable. I took all of those books that I sorted out and forced myself to give away (after going through the pile and taking some back…) to the Beaconsfield Thrift shop today. That was where I got the wool. I got an enormous quantity of wool (well cotton) for $2. My idea of donating my books just before I bought the wool obviously paid off. Steve and I have been booze free for just on a month now. Steve has lost his tiny beer gut and can now stay awake to watch television at night. I don’t need to get up as much in the night when nature calls and am feeling clearer headed now. We haven’t stopped drinking altogether, we are taking a hiatus so that we can give our bodies a rest and when we drink again, it won’t be a daily (bad) habit born out of stress and the need to unwind. It is so very easy to fall into the clutches of bad habits…negativity is a terrible habit, fear is a bad habit, being angry, using alcohol and drugs to escape…life isn’t that bad…it’s just occasionally a bit hard to take and we are learning to face it all head on. We have enough blackberries to make some more blackberry wine and Steve’s new redneck ways are making him look at the “interesting” stainless steel barrel thing that is lying on top of the remains of a large pile of assorted metal that “someone” left here before dad died. People do that in Tasmania…they find someone stupid enough to let them pile up their junk on their property and then leave it there for years. We tossed out 2 piles of “stuff” that various people had left in wardrobes and in the boat shed and we found a large flag pole that a council worker who works in the area apparently owns and asked us if we still had. He hasn’t been back since so I guess we are supposed to be looking after it for him? This enormous pile of assorted metal was probably pilfered from building sites and someone tried to claim it before we moved here while our caretaker was living here. The person in question owed my dad $30 000 and there was no WAY that he was going to take a single thing from this property. The pile of metal has been swapped with a friend who is going to give us a large load of firewood for it. We are keeping the weird stainless steel boiler thingy as Steve has plans for it. His redneck ways are making him thing “still”. I didn’t say that…I never mentioned it…forgedaboudit! (I wonder what blackberry schnapps tastes like?). The weather is cooler and we are going to have a fire tonight so no doubt Bezial will be safely ensconced in front of the fire and then will move onto his chair on the side of the stove when we go to bed. It’s a dog’s life around here. I do feel sorry for all of the farm dogs stuck out in their flimsy water tanks with holes in while our 2 sprawl out on a king-sized bed with a feather and down doona to keep them warm. We were walking today in this lovely sunny but cool breezy weather over in Beaconsfield and noticed a goat tethered to one of the ubiquitous goat houses like a tiny little A Frame home. Does someone manufacture these as goat houses? They seem to be everywhere! We would really like to get a goat and no doubt our ideas of the goat eating all of the long grass in the top 2 paddocks is a noble one, but the cold hard stark reality is that within about a month that goat would no longer be in it’s little A frame home (Steve can make him/her one…)…it would be on the king-sized bed, refusing mere grass, fat as butter and living on tinned foie gras…sigh…farmers we are NOT.

There is something about a lovely cottage garden that delights my soul. My grandmother used to sow all sorts of annuals every year in her garden and this reminded me of Gran’s garden. Coincedentally, she also used to broadcast annual seed all over the neighbours fallow and most ugly empty plot next door when they were not watching and no doubt they often wondered how they had a meadow field of assorted annuals come up every year when they hadn’t planted anything.

A nice contrast between the salvia behind and the zinnia’s and marigolds in the front. Nice and lush and green with splashes of colour. Most of these annuals were grown beneath shrubs in a nice protected environment but methinks a degree of water has been splashed about in this garden because this year has been very dry and most surrounding gardens are devoid of greenery and colour apart from some parched looking hebe’s and a few half dead hydrangeas…

Isn’t this pretty? Mass planting keeps water in the soil…so does thermal mass where you clump lots of plants together (either planted or in pots) and due to their sheer mass, they are able to keep more moisture situated within the core of the group than they otherwise might be able to. Isn’t horticulture interesting?

I love zinnias…I don’t know why, but they are just something that makes me smile and that tick something in my happy zone.

This zinnia appears to be 2 toned but it was really a sunbeam that had made it’s way through the shrubs above to alight on this pretty zinnia.

I like sharing with you. I hope you don’t mind me sharing these recipes with you. I am easily enthused, especially by things that give us back a degree of control over our destiny and the fate of the earth. That might sound a bit melodramatic but we are constantly thrashed by advertisement’s insisting that we are somewhat less than normal if we don’t buy…Buy BUY!!! Their latest greatest product when what we are actually doing is purporting a massive great rip off at our own expense. I refuse to take part in that rip off whenever I can and using our own cleaning products, recipes for basic ingredients and other home-made products give us that little edge when it comes to being useful human beings.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kym
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 12:47:43

    Hi Fran. Just a word of warning, don’t use Borax. It is very toxic to the environment, and not sure it would be good for Steve’s skin. I had recipes containing Borax too, but then read about how toxic it is, so I don’t use it now. I just buy ordinary home brand dishwashing liquid to wash clothes with. You only need a small amount of it and some nice smelling oil with vinegar in the conditioner dispenser. Any heavy stains I use wonder soap on, but this saves me a fortune and cleans everything well. I got this off a great website, called simple savings, I think. It’s an aussie site. You can get tips as a non member but if you pay then you get access to heaps of tips from other members. I loved the photos Fran. We have had lovely weather here but it is tipped to get very hot again by Wednesday. It’s a long weekend here too, which is most enjoyable.We are off to see Bruce’s brother in Rockingham today, take the dogs for a drive too. Probably go to Mandurah foreshore, as it has been made into a lovely area for everyone to enjoy.
    I hope the book covering goes well 🙂


    • narf77
      Mar 04, 2012 @ 18:44:10

      Hi Kymmy, just did a bit of research about borax and the jury is out, half say “NO!” and the other half say “yes”. I guess it is probably something that if there is any controversy about it, it should be shelved till it is cleared. I wonder what you could use instead of borax in those recipes?! Steve suggested “Borat!” I guess Sacha Baron Cohen might be up for that…being rubbed all over by natural soap suds… he might even pay us… Have a great long weekend. Ours is next weekend and is called “Labour Day” here even though everyone knows what we think about Labour don’t they?!!! Couple that with hardly anyone working and the holiday appears to have lost all meaning. I used to live in Mandurah and Madeline was born when we were living there. Back then they didn’t have a hospital in Mandura and so we had to go to Pinjara for her birth. Lucky she was induced wasn’t it! We made bread today and have the fire on today as it has been raining for most of the day. The possums ate one of my $50 plants…tossing up whether or not to bring it onto the deck where Earl will most probably finish it off…sigh…


  2. Kym
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 21:55:55

    Oh naughty possums! Put an electric current through it, that will set them straight lol.


    • narf77
      Mar 05, 2012 @ 06:33:21

      Electricity leaves a carbon footprint…a nice stick and a most determined and angry woman hell bent on revenge leaves minimal carbon footprint but a decided human footprint on that possums behind!


  3. Rahel
    Mar 24, 2012 @ 14:08:18

    I really enjoyed the part about the trees maybe you can write more about it in another post some day 🙂


    • narf77
      Mar 24, 2012 @ 14:35:33

      Cheers Rahel, Steve and I love trees and they are our passion. We fully intend on making our 4 acre property a tree sanctuary intersperced with edible plants. We have some amazing conifers that we have collected over the years (over 200) and want to start a conifer arboritum. It’s not hard to get me to talk about trees 🙂 Thankyou for liking this post


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