Pass the post please and don’t scrimp on the content…

Hi All,

I have just spent almost a week staying at my daughter’s home in town while they are away inMelbourne. I haven’t had much time to sit around “thinking” which was going to be something that I had fully intended to take advantage of, but I am feeling very happy with myself and the world all the same. I hurled myself into the garden today and wheeled Taylor (the grey Indian Ring neck parrot) out the back to enjoy a bit of outside sunny time with the 3 doves that have moved in. Qi has been wonderful and has been tailing me like a shadow and making sure that none of the poor pedestrians that stop to pass the time of day get close enough to me to do any damage to her food provider. She is a very clever little girl and instinctively knows who is a possible threat and who isn’t. We used to watch an elderly woman walking past each day as we set off walking with our dogs when we lived here 2 years ago. We named her the “Stick Witch” because she had a sharp pointed stick and a very sour face and would stride with purpose up and down the road looking for something to complain about. I dare say she has hit more dogs that just came out to say hello with that pointy stick and today she must have been giving out her “Stick Witch Vibes” on a large scale because Qi was sitting out on the front footpath with me while I pruned the roses. Qi growled at her and she looked like she was thinking about coming over to read me the riot act about allowing dogs out onto the footpath but thought twice and headed off striding maniacally and spearing bits of random rubbish with her vicious pointed stick. What makes people get like that? It’s just a real sad indictment of the human race. I was making sure that my little dog didn’t go near her or even bark at her. I sometimes wonder what someone has had to go through to arrive out the other end as bitter, twisted and angry as the Stick Witch who has never smiled or even waved at us the whole time that we lived here and tried to be friendly. Oh well…Qi is never allowed out on her own so should never have to suffer the Stick Witch’s pointy revenge. When I said earlier that I was “pruning” the roses, I have to be honest…I was actually hacking them down and cutting them off at the bases and painting them with glyphosate! I know…what a terrible thing to do! The roses had been very badly “pruned” by someone in the past and they had cut them back below the scion and they had all returned to the rootstock which was particularly thorny, vigorous and constantly needing to be cut back from the footpath that they had been planted close to. I have finally come to the conclusion that my daughters are highly unlikely to follow in my footsteps and ever become interested in tending the garden so I am in the process of minimising the plants that are high maintenance and adding plants that are easy to grow, water wise and that pretty much do their own thing. When we first moved here I knew sweet nothing about gardening apart from remembering that mum used to take cuttings and just shove them into the ground. This works well with things like lavenders, geraniums, pelargoniums and certain other hardy plants but most plants need a bit more coaxing. I started “Jamming bits in” to turn the barren wasteland of exposed topsoil into something resembling a garden and to my surprise, most of the “bits” grew! The front garden is situated underneath a massive Liquidambar styracaflua. It makes planting anything under its canopy a bit difficult to say the least and so there are lots of perennials and ground covers underneath it that are doing quite well.

This is the incredibly sanitised pile of strawberry plants and runners that I found at the tip…I have already potted up half of them and suddenly remembered to “GET THE CAMERA!”…photo opportunity supreme!

Yeh those ASICS are bright but at least my feet won’t be run over by a speeding milk, wine or salmon truck (yes…we have all 3 of these speeding around the narrow dirt roads around Serendipity Farm at any given time…)…the white cherry box contains strawberry plants that I am working on

My squintillion strawberry plants that have suffered an amazing lack of attrition in the days since I planted them

I learned a bit more about plants and putting the right plant in the right place and have realised that some of my early, most enthusiastic, plantings might not have been strictly thought about much before I “bunged them in the ground”…I planted an Arbutus unedo right next to the porch. These grow to quite large specimens…trees to be exact! I also planted a nice merlot coloured leptospermum right underneath the lounge room window. Again…this particular leptospermum tends to “tree” rather than “small shrub” so my judgment (or lack therein) at the time may have set me up for a bit of hard work in the future. I am trying to make this an easy care water wise garden and am constantly amused at some of the comments that people make to me who walk by when I am gardening and who live nearby. “That tree is a bloody nuisance”…I get a lot of that…for the sparing bit of water that it gets through the summer, “That Tree” gives shade and cool to this house and provides an enormous amount of habitat for birdlife. When the autumn comes and the “bloody leaves” start to drop it provides a free source of large leaves that readily break down to smaller dry particles that form the most delightful soil amelioration and mulch that I know. I wonder if gardening can come to you instinctively. I knew that the denuded soil here that is predominately reactive clay needed to be covered so that it would hold in the moisture and prevent it from drying out and cracking. Once this reactive clay is dry it’s like trying to dig ceramic. Not an easy task! Something in my head said “why waste those leaves?”…I started to rake the “bloody bollocky nuisance leaves” and put them onto the garden in thick droves. This made the roses sad but you know what…I don’t like hybrid tea roses! There you go…I admitted it! I love climbing roses, I love old fashioned roses but I can’t stand those spiky sticks that seem to need so much care and return the odd flower that smells of nothing and that succumb to EVERYTHING. Black spot is our problem here thanks to my endless piling up of leaves. I leave room around the stem but the leaves are somewhat uncooperative and with the first wind, clump around the nearest rigid thing which tends to be “trunks and stems”. Oh well… no more black spot garden!

A very sad and most depressed Bezial laying directly on top of my hot water bottle in bed at my daughters house

You can see the size of the large Liquidambar styracaflua in the front garden in town. This was my very first garden in my life where I could do what I wanted and that belonged completely to me. It contained the tree, the camellia and the yellow daisy that you can just see to the left of this picture and a tiny mostly dead hydrangea. I “bunged cuttings into the ground” (like mum had taught me) and most of them grew! Now the garden needs to be pared back to be managed by my daughters and it’s now a challenge to fill it with waterwise plants and allow it to thrive all over again…a good garden never dies…it evolves

This is where East meets West…We are West, Margaret next door is East and her gate (despite looking like it is unhinged) just shows how steep her driveway is. Nothing grew in this corner of the garden thanks to rock hard ceramic clay soil and after 4 years of me maniacally collecting the leaves in autumn and throwing them back onto the garden (much to the consternation of the rest of the gardeners on our tiny street who thought that I was some mad crazed hippy…) this soil can now be easily dug and the bare patch (that only recently contained a plethora of black spotted spindly hybrid tea roses…) will be planted out with Aeoniums. No ducks here to scoff them!

It’s a jungle out there! Prior to us moving here this was totally denuded of vegetation and completely exposed rock hard clay soil. A few leaves and a bit of time later and its rich friable soil. Nature rules!

Dealing with a small front garden that contains a massive tree has it’s problems. I dealt with the problems of invasive water stealing roots by using water wise shrubs and lots of ground covers to fill the garden and unlike most of the carefully manicured gardens in the street, this unkempt mass of vegetation survived 3 months of no rainfall last summer with no water at all…I rest my case folks!

I have noticed that the years of putting the leaves back onto the garden have paid off and in the summer the garden keeps going despite the girls never watering at all and we have an extended period of dry weather that tends to run from January through to March. We get very little rain in that period and everything starts to suffer. This garden seems to be going from strength to strength and it makes me smile inside to know that all of those people who thought that I was nuts to be snipping all of my green waste back into the garden and piling up those leaves high are shaking their heads mid-summer at their dead and dying gardens. We can’t afford to have gardens like “the old days”. We can’t afford not to take advantage of the moisture retentive properties of mulching, the use of water wise plants, which there are many of to be honest and some of them are surprisingly resilient, and thinking smarter (i.e. lots of ground covers or green mulch as they are commonly called when clumped so they all join up together). Again, something told me that ground covers were the way to go and I set about planting anything that I could that would spread out under the Liquidambar and take up as much space and minimise the topsoil exposure as it could. There are strawberries still producing fruit in this garden. Every time I would find a thriving ground cover growing close to the footpath on our walks I would take a small innocuous piece and get it growing so that I could plant it in our garden. We have violets everywhere, strawberries, pyrethrum daisies and various other low growing ground covers that are all starting to choke out the weeds and cover the surface of the leaf mulch keeping it from blowing away. Instinctive gardening…it’s a pity that our desire to keep up with the Jones’s makes us plant and do some incredibly stupid things in the name of garden fashion isn’t it? I am just about to make Margaret, our neighbour to the left’s day. I am going to kill the jasmine and honeysuckle that I planted there in my horticultural wisdom just after we arrived. I now know that jasmine and honeysuckle have the propensity to grow like invasive aliens and am removing them before I have a real problem on my hands in the future. I used to keep everything pruned and under control when I lived here and took a lot of pride in my very first ever garden of my own. It sometimes depresses me to see what has happened to it, but it’s all still alive, and it’s all growing so that tells me that it’s pretty self-sufficient (in the main part). One thing that died a terrible death was a large Vietnamese mint shrub that I grew from a cutting. You can grow them easily by putting a handful of the mint into a jar of water and they sprout like mint. The problem is that they are very water hungry and would grow IN water if they could. I just pulled up the dead plant and chopped it into small pieces back into the garden…the new rule in this garden is “if you need lots of water you are going to die!” Life is tough plants…I spoiled you, and now you are going to have to grow on your own stems!

My faithful shadow Qi inspecting my raking of the front verge and proclaiming me somewhat remiss…”You missed a few…”

Small strip of front lawn covered in leaves…

Small strip of front lawn not covered in leaves

Here I am home again and enjoying feeling my place in my space with a degree of happiness that I wouldn’t have thought possible. A week away and I missed Serendipity Farm. I missed looking out of the kitchen window and watching the sunrise kiss the Tamar River and make it blush (rain tonight) and I missed the quiet, the space that Steve and I instilled when we renovated this place and I missed Steve and the boys so much that I didn’t mind where we walked on the day I got up, just that we “walked” together. The thing that I missed MOST about Serendipity Farm (and at the risk of sounding superficial) was my wood fired slow combustion stove. The girls have a really good big all gas oven in town that cooks really well but this stove heats our entire house and the ambiance that it brings to our riverside cottage is more than the sum of its components. Bezial came to town with me for a couple of days and missed this behemoth of a stove so badly that he lay next to the small wood burning fire in town constantly despite its sad inability to heat a very small space and when I sent him back home he didn’t move from in front of the fire for the entire day. Winter in Tasmania is a pretty cold experience for an Australian. We are not used to cold and when it drops down below 0C you can actually see the heat pumps being turned on at 4pm reflected in the electricity dimming. Brunhilda has allowed us to remain warm, content and all wrapped up in a degree of inner satisfaction that we are not affected by the power cuts that are as sure as eggs over the winter period thanks to our electricity needy neighbours and compatriots who desire heat at a massive cost to the power grid. The only thing that I miss when the power goes off here is the computer :o)

Beauty Point (10 minutes away from our place) and don’t let this picture fool you…it was FREEZING COLD.

You won’t get many pictures of me…this is effectively a picture of the dogs on the Beauty Point wharf that I just so happen to be in

The pretty little seaside town of Beauty Point where you can buy houses for sixpence (which isn’t much of a stretch of the truth at the moment in Tasmania…)

Well guess what? I forgot to post this post last night! Correct me if I am wrong but this may just be the very first post that I actually “forgot” to post since I started this blog. We spent yesterday creating blocks and polishing our AutoCAD drawing of our sustainable landscape design for Serendipity Farm. My ability to sit happily designing blocks without having a nervous breakdown is a sign that not only can you “teach an old dog new tricks” but that the dog might actually enjoy said trick once it passes its suspicion gland and manages to become something that might be useful. That’s the process that enables me to learn something. I love to learn but if I can’t see a use for it anywhere in my world it’s not something that I am going to embrace or remember any day soon! The past week and a blossoming cold and an impromptu visit from a friend laden with 2 wallabies (for the dogs) and a boot load of firewood (love you friend who remains anonymous in the witness protection program…) and a mad flurry of activity in creating a soul soothing batch of chicken soup for Steve with our very own Serendipity Farm rooster stock (apparently heavenly) and a last minute hastily constructed old fashioned date loaf and custard to cure Steve’s sweet tooth and finally (and most damning of all…) a bout of playing my new copy of Zelda Skyward Sword (Cheers girls :o) ) I completely and utterly forgot to post…I forgot you my dear constant readers and there is no denying it! I guess life got in the way of a good post and if I ever find that good post, I will immediately post it here to  make up for it! Here I am at 6.51am forgoing my early morning rss feed reading degustation menu for the day just for you so that I can make sure that Serendipity Farm is not missing from your online menu of “stuff to read”. The strawberries that I found at the tip (dump…green waste receptacle…whatever floats your boat for a place where people throw what they no longer care about…) when dumping a load of blackberries (forget no longer care about for blackberries…they are instantly thrown into the must obliterate at all costs basket!) and that I spent a few happy hours cleaning up and isolating all of the small plants forming at the end of masses of runners and used up almost all of our cubic metre of prime potting mix on are ALL GROWING. That’s right folks…after goodness knows how long languishing at the tip…a day in the back of the trailer languishing in the frost…2 days languishing in the shed on the floor and a degree of predation by the shed dweller (Pingu)…I suspected at least a not inconsiderable degree of attrition…but as far as I can see every single strawberry from the large well rooted plants to the teeny tiny little buddlings (not a technical term but whatchagonnado?) are all standing to attention in their newfound pots and are threatening to change Serendipity Farm into a mass strawberry producing property in one fell swoop. Don’t you just love seizing the day? I seized the strawberry opportunity and put up with a few hours delving amongst the tangled mass of vegetation to arrive at a point where I don’t have to buy strawberries for my garden and indeed will be able to supply friends and neighbours with strawberries for their gardens as well. Cheers universe!

Who would have thought that just around the corner in the background is the industrial centre of the North, Georgetown?

This Leucadendron goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to have flowers in winter…bracts will do! I am going to be taking cuttings from Leucadendrons as they have proved themselves (through observation) to be ideal plants for water wise gardens in Northern Tasmania. Check out what is thriving in local gardens when you are thinking about what to put in your own garden and learn from other people’s hard work…work smarter NOT harder is my motto 😉

How is this for clever and most organic advertising? The salon is now closed but some bright spark who decided to utilise the existing Boston Ivy to enhance their business advertising should be given at least some superficial kudos from us all

So that’s it for today folks. I would appologise emphatically for not posting last night if I didn’t enjoy the process of forgetting about you and so…in my year of living honestly… here I am making amends. I can feel a cold tickling at the back of my eyes at the moment and filling my head up with nefarious glue…but that’s not going to stop me doing everything that I can to enjoy the process of living in the stanza between this post and the next and hopefully every single one of you will find something in the next few days to be grateful and thankful for. See you on Saturday :o)

Blackbean veggies (made with home made blackbean sauce) with omelette and spicy Thai fish cakes with basmati rice…not a bad thrown together meal if I must say so myself…

This meal just got elevated to degustory heaven for an Englishman in absentia from his homeland…

Now your talking! All that would make this pure heaven on a stick is a dollop of vindaloo on that basmati rice and a side portion of chips in curry sauce…Don’t say that I don’t try to feed you well babe 🙂

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. christiok
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 08:30:00

    It’s so good to have you back at the Farm, Fran. I can feel the love.:) But it was wonderfully interesting to see your former home that is currently your daughter’s, and how it has evolved. What a beautiful tree.

    Strawberries grow well here, too, and ours are just now fruiting. It might be burning up in the rest of the USA — especially in Texas where your son is now I believe — but here it’s still in the low 40F at night. And just gets to 65F during the day. Anyway, I noticed the hoses in the front of your strawberry picture and wonder if you struggle with the monsters like me, or if you are an efficient, patient, skilled hose person?:)

    Oh, I’d LOVE to see a photo of Brunhilda. Perhaps there is one in a previous blog… We have a wood burning stove that we use all winter, except when there’s a smoke ban, which happens. Then we have our electric heat pump. Do you do your baking in Brunhilda?

    Great blog as usual!


    • narf77
      Jun 29, 2012 @ 14:46:09

      We do our baking in Brunhilda (4 ovens), it heats the entire house AND it heats our hot water (more than we could hope to use in a lifetime to be honest). Brunhilda is our workhorse and is very efficient. There are pictures of her in previous posts but I will see if I can’t put one in the next post (don’t hold me to that…I would forget my name if it wasn’t constantly yelled at me all day…). I HATE HOSES. That’s all I want to say about that! Hoses + free range chooks = nasty things when you water… Glad to hear that you are not hot there. I didn’t figure that you would be being so close to Canada and Alaska but hey, stranger things have happened and I have learned NEVER to assume anything in this life ;). It’s great to be back in touch with all of my bloggers and bloggees (you choose which one you want to be 😉 ) and I now have to settle down and get stuck into creating some sort of legible post for you all tomorrow. I have my camera batteries in my Wii remote so I haven’t taken any photos so its going to be Posting by the seat of my pants tomorrow night, who knows WHAT you are going to get! 😉 See you then


  2. Kym
    Jul 01, 2012 @ 17:24:37

    Just read this post as I’m not getting the usual posting on fb. Great photos of your town house. I love those trees, people want everything to be too neat all the time. We had a beautiful tree at the back fence, can’t remember the bloody name of it just yet. The neighbours who had the tree tried to kill it, either that or it was the worst prune job ever! Well it struggled for a long time but is slowly coming back. I hope they let it grow. Damn can’t bring to mind the name, you know they are purple and drop leaves everywhere…. I’m full of the flue at the moment and my brain is like cotton wool. Hey don’t be cheeky, it is not always like that lol


    • narf77
      Jul 02, 2012 @ 00:12:52

      Lol…I saw that tree when I stayed with you and I CAN’T REMEMBER IT EITHER lol! What kind of horticulturalist am I eh? sigh…I can’t even blame the flu but a mild cold appears to be rendering me stupid lol. Yeh, people hate trees but we love that big tree in the front yard. It certainly gives the house a lot of shade in the summer I can tell you. Hopefully your head unglues soon and you feel better. I guess thems the breaks in winter…cold and flu season. Stick to the chicken soup and you will be better in no time lol want some stock? A few roosters? we have it all! 😉


  3. Kym
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 08:42:13



  4. Kym
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 22:25:54

    Yes it is such a beautiful tree. I remember when mum and dad bought the house in Busselton. Between the two garage doors grew a beautiful boganvillia, ( lol wrong spelling but can’t think what it is), it grew up the wall and over the roof. Mum decided it made too much mess so she pulled it out and put in a pencil pine! I almost cried.


    • narf77
      Jul 03, 2012 @ 06:28:09

      Bougainvillea’s (I had to look up how to spell it lol) are fantastic climbers for hotter climates and we miss them here. You can grow the common old purple one here…I think that would grow on the moon! But anything else is too frost tender and we found out (the hard way) that they are delicious to wallabies as well so no bougainvillea here on Serendipity Farm sigh…


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