Chicken whispering with an axe

Hi All,

It suddenly turned into Saturday afternoon and this is the first time I have sat down to post since Wednesday so let’s just see how verbose I can be in a couple of hours…my guess is my inner manic muse won’t let me down and before you know it I will be teetering on the edge of 3000 words trying to think of bits to leave out. This week the weather has finally decided to reflect the fact that we are now most of the way through autumn and I am only just thinking about putting on jumpers. It’s not because I have become accustomed to colder weather, it’s because we have had unseasonably warm weather…some might call it an Indian Summer which leads me to believe that this winter is going to be VERY cold. I don’t mind. We have been gathering acorns while the sun shines…translated (from manic inner muse to “normal” human terms) that means we have been collecting wood like crazy in an effort to have enough for winter. I love cold weather especially when you don’t have to be cold and you get to sit next to a lovely warm fire crackling away, cooking your meals and heating your water. I need to keep feeling grateful about all of this because it will be several years before I am able to feel guilt free for spending the better part of the price of a cheap small car on a static heat source.

“Would you like fries with that? Please drive through…”

I was hunting for fungi the other day (it’s best not to ask…) and found this pretty specimen that had grown over a clover leaf.

Yin has been hollowing out dead trunk bases again to try to lure his girls away from the nests that I know about…one day Yin…ONE DAY!.. sigh…

We had a meeting with our lecturer this week and spent the day learning how to measure elevations with a theodolite. A theodolite for those of you not in the know…and let’s face it…before I did this course I would have been right up there with you… is a piece of equipment that takes horizontal and vertical readings (after you spend most of the day setting it up accurately that is…) so that you can get someone to pay you for this information translated into some form of plans involving the great outdoors. Architects and draftsmen use them…builder’s use them…landscape designers and contractors use them and now, so do we! Apart from looking suspiciously like Cybermen (Dr Who people…get with the programme!) they are most useful things that allow the person using them to find out all sorts of information that then allows them to fill out sheets using trigonometry to arrive at angles, minutes and seconds. If you are confused, don’t worry, you are not the only one! Mathematics and I are NOT friends. I realised the other day when I was banging my head on the table over Cos, Sin and Tan, that something must have happened to me at some time in the past for me to have completely bypassed understanding maths at all. I decided to head back into the ether… back… WAY back to where I would have been learning my 6 times table (because that is about where maths and I parted company). I discovered that year 5 at school is approximately where you learn you’re 6 times table and you start to get familiar with simple fractions (the beginning of my mathematical mental breakdowns). I played around in my mind with what was going on when I was in year 5. In Western Australia, you are about 10 when you get to year 5…

I always thought that it would be nice to have a dress the colour of the sky when it was just about to drop a massive deluge of rain on the earth. Even when I was a child I was a mental hippy ;o)

Here is a midden of oyster shells. The good folk of Paper Beach have decided to eradicate these oysters (apparently “introduced pests”…not sure most people would think of oysters as pests but it takes all kinds to make up a world…) from their pristine chunk of riverbank and have erected a sign asking everyone who takes a stroll up the beach to take one of the buckets (conveniently located on nails sticking out of a pole in the ground) and fill it up with oysters. I get the sneaking suspicion that most of the locals like the odd free oyster or 2 (on months with or without “ber” on the end of them…or is it the other way around?) and that this enterprising idea will meet with a lukewarm welcome. I think I might start bringing buckets of these oyster shells home to crush up and use as  slug/snail/duck deterants around my succulents…

3 little sage plants and a healthy little chive plant picked up last week on the progressive garage sale

I thought more about any events that may have affected me and had one of those “Epiphany” moments. My parents split up when I was in year 5! We then proceeded to go through a pretty traumatic time being bundled from relative to relative until mum could find a place to live and despite me not having any bad memories about that time it obviously affected me more than I was aware. I didn’t think that I was too traumatised by this event and had a bit more of a think about my past and realised that year 5 was the year that I was taught by Mr Pages-Oliver…a thin dour man who spent his life frowning and sneaking up on unsuspecting students and slamming a metre ruler down on the desk to startle them. Mr Pages-Oliver who terrified the living daylights out of me, coupled with my parents’ marriage dissolving when no-one else’s parents were separated let alone divorced, must have had an educationally disastrous effect on my 10 year old virginal maths (and spelling) mind. You really don’t realise how important it is to have teachers who want to teach. I can count on one hand the teachers that I know who are passionate about teaching students the subject that they are employed to teach. Most of them see it as a job…you do it, you get paid, and you have more holidays than the average person. I can’t blame them. I was going to be a teacher and circumstances saved me from becoming the jaded, world weary English teacher that I could have become. As much as I love sharing knowledge with people, the school system is not set up to enable teachers to teach. It’s not only students that fall through the cracks…it’s a rare teacher who survives to long service still in possession of their early passion to teach. Mr Pages-Oliver couldn’t even lay claim to that long term loss of hope because he was a first year out Teacher! What possessed this young man who obviously hated doing what he did to take up teaching is beyond me. Perhaps the saying “those who can…do…those who can’t…teach” was true of Mr Pages-Oliver…all I know is that the rest of my school life was spent unable to comprehend all sorts of very important concepts because of the interruption to that most formative of years. I thought I hated maths when I am actually well suited to it! Now that I am grasping concepts that should have been taught to me more years than I would like to admit here ago, I am actually enjoying the mental processes that trigonometry and working through mathematical formulas is giving me. You owe me Mr Pages-Oliver!! (You also owe my year 12 Maths and Economics teachers who probably had nervous breakdowns after trying to get me to understand what they were telling me!)

The spent hay that I am just about to remove from the chicken coop.

Mucking out the chicken shed might not be my favourite way to spend a morning but the resulting nitrogen rich hay makes amazing compost and fills up 3 lasagne beds so it tempers the job and makes it a lot easier to get stuck in when you are getting fertiliser for free!

The rear of the chicken coop along with what we used to use to feed them (before the great population explosion of 2012). Steve found plans online for how to make a gravity fed chook feeder and it worked really well until we ended up with too many chickens to use it. Now it just sits there doing nothing but act as a night time perch for one of the fatter less agile chickens at night

Tonight we decided to allow Effel to go into the main roost with her fellow adult chickens. She has been perching in here every night for the last week and Steve has been having to grab her and toss her into the outside area where we erected a covered area for Effel and her babies to ensure at least some of them grew to adulthood (remembering she had 12 when we first put her in there and the reputation of being a TERRIBLE mother…). We put this lower perch up for the babies as Effel leaves them huddled on the floor. Steve just reported that Effel and her favourite baby are up on one of the high perches and the remaining babies are on the ground…oh well…back to the drawing board :o)

On the way home from our lecture we dropping in to pick up a jar of sourdough starter that a lady I met in the library in Exeter gave me. She wasn’t home and left us a message to pick up the starter and a bucket of globe artichokes which we dutifully did. We had a little look around her garden and it inspired me to get going with lasagne gardening in earnest. I have been putting off starting the process of growing vegetables for ages, mainly because there are so many factors up against us doing so it is frankly logistically terrifying to contemplate. We need to find some way to stop the hens, possums and wallabies from scoffing our efforts. We need to create irrigation systems for the garden beds because vegetables are very water intensive. We need to do all of this on less than a shoestring budget and using our ability to think laterally and problem solve and use what we have available to us here on site. The more I delve into permaculture online, the more excited I get because apart from lauding recycling and reusing, these sites actually share with you how to effect these changes cheaply, because penniless hippies are highly proportional in the permaculture community. Thank goodness that penniless hippies like to share because otherwise Serendipity Farm would be a barren wasteland forever! The lady that gave me the sourdough starter had made an amazing difference to her small property using hay bales, lasagne gardening techniques, no digging, and all a work in progress that looked fantastic. My kind of garden! Quirky, plants everywhere, veggies in the flower garden, a pond in the middle, a small pen of suspicious chickens and rocket and other herbs growing in every crack in the home laid paving. It all melded together to give a truly homespun and thoroughly delightful garden that I now realise is totally feasible for Serendipity Farm. This lady, who lives on her own, has just “started” and keeps going. Steve and I are rank amateurs when it comes to vegetable gardens and living in the country and I could procrastinate for the queen (Gold medal procrastination 101). Monica showed us that gardening is more about getting started and finding your feet from there than it is about creating an instant oasis of beauty. Again, the process is where you learn the most so I guess we are just going to have to get started with solving the problem of how to keep everything out of our veggie gardens and how to afford to fill our raised veggie garden beds and somewhere along the way we will discover that we have actually accomplished what we set out to do! We walked the dogs this morning in Beaconsfield in the misty crisp part of the day where walking is actually enjoyable. It warms you up and makes you feel glad to be alive. The past few weeks of rain have allowed the grass to turn green again and gardens to start looking like they might contain something other than hay. I needed to pick up some organic spelt flour to feed the sourdough starter that I had been given and so we dropped in to the café that doubles as a tiny health food shop to see if we couldn’t pick some up. I was very surprised to be able to buy spelt flour in Beaconsfield but the population is starting to change from mine workers to younger families moving away from the city because housing is much more affordable in Beaconsfield and surrounding districts. I remember my dad once saying to me that he and his partner could have bought just about every house in Beaconsfield when they first moved to the district. The Beaconsfield mine was silent and had been for many years. The town was limping along wearily and house prices were ridiculous. The company that took a chance on using modern technology to allow them to extract more gold from the mine were able to make it last for 20 years but in June this year the Beaconsfield mine is going to close again and the main source of income for the locals will be gone. It’s easy for corrupt state government officials to hold up the bell bay pulp mill as being the answer to Tasmania’s unemployment problems but this is simply a fabrication. The truth of the matter is that this mill will employ skilled workers that will be imported from elsewhere. Tasmanians are not known for their educational prowess and most Tasmanian’s work in blue collar jobs. Rather than retrain these people and have to face up to years of woeful educational outcomes, our state government would rather lie to them about the future of forestry, pulp production and mining in this state. We can’t afford to keep going the way that we have been in this state for the past 100 years. We need to be able to find employment in sustainable opportunities rather than exploiting our dwindling natural resources to our own detriment. In Tasmania we are just treading water but selling us down the river to the highest bidder (or most corrupt business) isn’t going to solve anything. It is just going to relieve the ‘heat’ from our state politicians and allow them a bit of breathing space to weasel out of the problems that bad governance has tumbled them into over years of negligent and nepotism in this state.

Steve has just spent the afternoon removing and disabling programs to make our laptop work faster. We had the misfortune of buying it loaded with Vista (sigh) and we are just about to take it to have XP installed because Vista righteously SUCKS! It is now running heaps faster and until we can remove Vista from the face of Serendipity Farm, we can live with it…

In keeping with our “work with what you have” ethos accompanying our “recycle/reuse” ethos here are some of our avocado plants overwintering in the glasshouse. I have NO idea what the possums and wallabies will make of avocados but fully intend on kitting them out for jousting on the joyous day that we plant them out in their “Full metal jackets” (Bring it on possums!)

Heres a lovely little Banksia serrata that Steve was going to turn into a bonsai after seeing a particularly magnificent specimen at the Launceston Bonsai Centre. I think it would look lovely growing in the garden but need to argue the point with Steve who is still tossing up whether or not to give it a good hair (and root) cut

Bollocks to food miles…we will just grow our own! This is a coffee plant…yes…we know that Tasmania is not known for its tropical clime but we are ever optimistic and one day we might be hotter and wetter than we are now and our little coffee plant will be given pride of place where it can grow and give us coffee berries to be roasted (hopefully not after being passed through Earl…) and ground on site making Steve’s morning brew carbon neutral!

I picked this little Camellia sinensis (or tea plant) up from a little nursery up north for $3. I will be heading back to see if I can’t buy some more as I drink a whole lot more tea than Steve drinks coffee ;o)

I had to laugh this morning when I checked my Facebook page and noticed one of the pages that I like had listed “Joe Walsh” as against alternative thinking people. I had a think about that and couldn’t for the life of me work out how someone who had imbibed more than his fair share of nefarious substances and who was right up there with Ozzie Osborne in the shambling mumbling living dead stakes could string together a coherent sentence about alternative lifestylers let alone use so many large words!  To show you what I mean, check out this evidence that Joe Walsh is on another planet to the rest of us (please forgive the bad quality but it’s the only video I could find of this to share with you)… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1mG0feiEc0 I rest my case! I went hunting to see what had riled this ex Eagles guitarist/singer up so much that he would start spouting politics as his new mantra and discovered that he isn’t the only famous “Joe Walsh” and that there is an American congressman called Joe Walsh as well. It shows how small our world has become now and how social media, especially Facebook, has allowed us to become privy to all sorts of worldly events that a few short years ago we would have had no knowledge about at all. I can only imagine how entertaining Joe Walsh and Ozzie Osborne would be should the American public ever get desperate enough to elect them to congress. I think that a jaded American public could do much worse than have to watch backbiting self-serving congressmen stabbing their way up the political landscape replaced by the amusing antics of the Joe and Ozzie show. I might start a campaign on Facebook for them :o)

I just spent the better part of ¾ of an hour maniacally wielding a block splitter alternating with a small sharp hatchet. I wasn’t re-enacting Jack Nicholson’s part in “The Shining”, I was doing something much more philanthropic. First…does the word “philanthropic” pertain only to selfless acts for humans? I hope not because I don’t know the equivalent word for selfless acts for chickens. We collected some wood from a dead tree that Steve felled the other day to use on the fire tonight. It was a little damp and the centre was rotten and Steve chopped the larger rings into smaller wedges while the chickens raced around in between his legs catching the various grubs and termites that flew from the wood. I had cleaned out the chicken coop bedding (hay) and thrown all of the hay into the compost heap and the 3 unused veggie beds that we are in the process of making and forgot to collect my jumper from the shovel that I had left it on. I decided that I would head to collect the jumper and ever the entrepreneur, collect a barrow load of wood at the same time. The wood was still a bit damp and after I loaded it into the barrow I noticed a particularly damp bit of wood and proceeded to chop it with the block splitter. Effel and her babies were hanging about. Ever since our adventures in removing the dead tree from the boundary fenceline Effel has suddenly materialised every time I set foot outside the gate and today was no different. Shadowed by her 7 babies she watched me cut the chunk of wood and as I cut it, it released a spray of termites onto the ground. Effel and the babies were delighted. I then rendered most of the firewood into kindling to enable Effel and her babies (and any other chicken brave enough to take Effel on for termite rights) to consume their weight in apparently delicious termites. The babies got less and less scared of me as they settled into their feeding frenzy and I had small chickens sitting on my feet, my hands as I was trying to chop the wood and Effel kept putting her head on the block of wood as I was attempting to chop it! I am NOT the best axeman in the world and so it is only sheer flukish good luck that Effel is still pecking around Serendipity Farm as I type this.  Night is falling; all of the animals have been fed and are heading off to wherever it is that they spend the night and I am set for a night of typing out recipes and hunting the internet for recipes to use up my future cups of left over starter. We will be burning off debris tomorrow and clearing out the side garden so that we can plant out more of our potted babies before the wallabies eliminate them all. Have a great weekend and see you all on Wednesday rested, relaxed and hopefully ready for another instalment of Life on Serendipity Farm.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rhianna
    May 05, 2012 @ 19:16:20

    Surely that midden is a new feature and not an Indigenous site?

    Reply

    • narf77
      May 06, 2012 @ 06:24:36

      Yup…a new “feature” because they were too lazy to take that mass of oyster shells anywhere else. I used the term somewhat cheekily because it is not likely to be moving anywhere any day soon and will most probably be taken as some form of archeological “find” in a few years time 😉

      Reply

  2. Kym
    May 05, 2012 @ 20:18:35

    I have to say Fran that there are a lot of great teachers in the system, but the system is not great. It is now so full of paperwork, red tape and bullshit that it is a hard job to just teach now. Yes there are definitely some who should not be teaching at all, I have to work with one such creature, and they do nothing for the students who are inflicted with them, but really there are not many. When you work in the system you get to see what it is like and it is a miracle that we have so many people who choose to teach, despite what they have to put up with. Anyway that’s my little bit of soapbox for today 🙂

    Reply

    • narf77
      May 06, 2012 @ 06:30:00

      You are absolutely right there Kym…that is exactly what I was trying to say. It is so hard to be passionate, day in and day out with all the bampf that poor teachers have to put up with these days. So many rules and regulations that it is a wonder people don’t need to refer to a 8000 page manual every time that they talk to a student to ensure they don’t do something wrong. It has taken the balance of “power” away from the individual and placed it somewhere in an office where the decision makers never have to deal with children at all. Much like our political system in fact. I was trying to say that teachers start out full of enthusiasm and the will to teach (most of them bar Mr Pages Oliver) but “the system” drags them back time and again and forces them to deal with bureaucracy rather than their students and in the end you can’t help but be jaded. Much like our overworked understaffed police department. Prefering teachers who raise the grade curve (by whatever means) to teachers who can actually teach and make a difference is the beginning.

      Reply

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