A.W.O.L. duck and the Lazarus chickens

Hi All,

It’s been an interesting couple of days on Serendipity Farm. Not because of any amazing projects that we have started or anything particular that we have done but more our day to day happenings are more interesting than usual. I received my copy of Sandor Elix Katz small handbook “Wild Fermentation: A do-it-yourself guide to cultural manipulation” on Tuesday and got excited all over again about fermentation. Today in the mail I got a package from Rhianna of the wonderfully informative sustainable blog http://rhithinkingfood.com containing some headily scented sourdough starter! I can’t begin to thank you enough for my wonderful gift Rhianna, as there are so many of us labouring under cold pretences here in Tasmania who have been attempting to get a sourdough starter going but who have failed. We would like to think that it was down to it being so cold. That’s our story and we are sticking to it! But this tiny beacon of sourdough light in our otherwise sourdough free lives is going to do some amazing trips around Tasmania once it has gotten over its shock of travelling from the Queensland side of N.S.W. down to the Antarctica side of Tasmania. I have named the starter “Herman”. Firstly, because it’s a running joke in our house that I call EVERYTHING Herman initially and secondly because most sourdough starters end up with a woman’s name and I think that my sourdough feels decidedly male. You might ask why I think an inanimate mass of fungal and bacterial symbiosis would give off testosterone and I will humour you with my reasoning.

  1. The Starter did NOT want to be contained within its travel container and as soon as it was handed over to its initial point of travel it promptly escaped and spent 2 days trying to find a way out of its bubble wrap enclosure (obviously has a fear of commitment…a most definite male trait…)
  2. It had the lady in our small postal depot (the local Sidmouth shop) sniffing every time that she headed out the back due to its heady alcoholic scent (most DEFINITELY male…)
  3. I hastened to feed it as soon as I managed to scrape most of it off its packaging and it settled down while I fussed over it and put it gently into a warm container and has now gone to sleep on the proving rack…I rest my case!

Herman it is 😉

My new little book that is teaching me how to look after my new sourdough starter

Herman all tucked up in my 2 litre pyrex jug with 200ml water and 100ml each of organic unbleached white flour and organic stoneground rye just before I covered him loosely with a clean piece of cotton material and placed him reverantly in his new growing spot on my bread prover above Brunhilda

The part of Herman that got away…

About two month ago we found a large pile of brown feathers suspiciously “Wyandotty” in colour and when we saw 2 wing tips attached to the feathers we automatically thought “feral cats!” Effel Doocark has passed on her stupidity genes to her offspring and her 2 sons (soon to be named “Soup” and “Stock”…) spend their days head-butting each other and the girls haven’t got a brain cell to rub together and hang out underneath the deck with the feral cats, coincidentally where we found the feathery debris of chicken demise. I did a bit of a head count and discovered that Effels babies had gone from 7 to 6 and knew where the feathers belonged. It makes it easier to think about dealing with the feral cat population on Serendipity Farm if they are abusing their privileges. We actually feed the cats to prevent them killing native birds for food and we thought we had an “understanding” with them about the chooks and up until now, the only chooks that the cats had dispatched were teeny little fluff ball chicks. We were understandably unhappy with the ferals and have been watching them carefully ever since. On Tuesday Steve found MORE feathers with tell-tale wing tips and that meant WAR! We seethed around for the rest of the day and the feral cats were very conspicuous by their absence however they have moved further away from the house now and we don’t see them as much through the day so it wasn’t really an admission of guilt. The next morning I asked Steve to count the chooks to verify what we knew…that Effel had lost another baby and curiously there were still 6 babies…hmmmm! If it wasn’t one of Effels smaller and stupider offspring…who did the feathers belong to? Later in the day we were outside collecting wood and chopping some wood for the fire that night and I noticed a pod of Effels babies laying around in the dusty soil underneath the huge conifer that the feral hens sleep in. I headed over to do a quick head count and couldn’t believe my eyes to find 7 chooks in a pod. I counted them again, I eliminated Bob, who was hanging about in the area who is a particularly small hen and who I tend to mistake for one of Effel’s babies…I counted again…still 7. I thought that the additional chook MUST be the smallest dark feral chook until I turned around and saw all three dark feral chooks grazing on the lawn behind me…Not only didn’t the feral cats eat the initial chook about 2 months ago…they didn’t eat one the other day! So who’s were the feathers?!!! Now we have a case of Lazarus chooks all over Serendipity Farm…perhaps even Zombie chooks! Who would know? All I know is that all 7 of Effels babies are present and accounted for and we still have all of our other chooks intact. Maybe the feral cats are extracting their revenge on the “honey + dressed ducks WITH a smattering of assorted chooks” man up behind us and are bringing their prey back to devour it here? I can’t think of any other explanation! We just thought of an explanation! When we were talking to the water meter installers we noticed that there were several small Wyandotte like bantams hanging around him as he ate his lunch. The property behind our 2 neighbours (Frank and Noel beside us) has free range bantam Wyandottes and the feral cats may just be poaching their hens and bringing them back here!  Pink, one of Felix’s initial kittens has been making fleeting visits back to eat at night time and may be the culprit. At least the status quo is still intact on Serendipity Farm! I guess there is a long standing poaching history related to Serendipity Farm. My dad’s curly haired retriever Milo was known on occasion to “retrieve” himself the odd chicken on one of his unsupervised walks. I dare say that if we allowed Earl to take unsupervised walks…aside from never seeing him again…if he DID return; it would be a case of the prodigal son dragging a fatted cow behind him with the ranger giving chase!

An earlier experiment using my Excalibar Dehydrator using pureed fresh fruit (strawberries in this case) drizzled over plain yoghurt spread on a piece of baking paper.

The pureed ripe mango version of the above…

Then I did the strawberry negative of the first variety…

Lastly I decided to make “the lot” in one fruit leather parcel of extra tasty delight. Every single one of these experimental fruit leathers were delicious! I will be making vegan versions in the coming months

We went to our friend in the witness protection’s property today to collect wood for our dwindling wood heap. We swapped wood for unwanted steel left on the property for a win-win situation for all as her partner is a welder and loves amassing piles of steel (much to our friend’s consternation). After we collected a really good pile of wood and our friend volunteered her land cruiser to tow the full trailer back, thus allowing our little Daihatsu Feroza to live for a few years more than it would have should it have had to drag that large load up our driveway, we headed back to her house from the bush to deal with her soil sample. We don’t usually collect soil for collecting’s sake, we did enough soil samples to last us a lifetime when we were all studying Horticulture together, but today was different. Today we collected soil for Steve Solomon. We are all getting our respected soil tested for a nutrient and chemical breakdown in a soil laboratory in Seattle which is pretty close to Christi of the wonderfully written and illustrated blog http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ fame and I am going to quiz Steve (Solomon) to find out just where this lab is so that should Christi want to have her own soil analysed, she can. It only costs $12 in the U.S.A. to get a full soil sample test but here in Tasmania, for exactly the same test it costs $149. I have NO idea why there is such a variance in price but can only imagine that someone somewhere is paying for their new Mercedes from hapless farmers and land owners. The soil was collected from various areas of interest around our property, mixed together, dried in Brunhilda’s coolest warming oven overnight and sieved to remove stones, roots and debris. The resulting soil looked more like burnt breadcrumbs than regular soil but I measured out the 60g sample required, taped our name, address and phone number written in indelible ink (so that the sample doesn’t get contaminated by ink) to the ziplock bag and passed our $20 fee across to our friend in the witness protection who dropped it off to Steve on her way home from delivering our wood futures to Serendipity Farm. On the drive back we talked about how people cover up their emotions and pretend that their lives are “Peachy Keen Perfect” when in reality EVERYONE has at least 1 thing that they would rather wasn’t happening in their lives. My somewhat new found zeal for honesty has at times made other people squirm. I have lost a considerable amount of weight and when I was attending polytechnic I was quite a lot heavier than I am today and whenever I would honestly admit to being “fat” people would fall over themselves to correct me and save me from my honesty! My friend from the witness protection and I are able to be very honest with each other thanks to her being a very open and honest person herself. I can’t understand people paper-machѐing their lives over to appear perfect to the world when the reality is that if they spent as much time sorting out their respective problems as they do window dressing for the Jones’s, they wouldn’t HAVE many problems. That’s my ethos and I am sticking to it!

This is what Serendipity Farm soil looks like when it has been dried and pulverised and sifted beyond the boundaries of soils endurance. It is a broken version of the remaining soils feisty self and hopefully it will yield its nutritional and chemical secrets more readily now

The double daffodils are starting to emerge now and now that they have the freedom to express their happiness at another year on Serendipity Farm they are doing it with style.

A batch of Eccles cakes that I made for a food-homesick old ex-pat who shall remain anonymous 😉

A large container (and extra paper bags) of various seeds that we have collected over the last year on our travels around Tasmania. I spread the contents all over Serendipity Farm the other day and was most bemused to note that the chooks were following me eagerly eating as many seeds as they could catch…I am the chicken pied piper of Serendipity Farm…sigh…

Glad, next door, is turning 90 on Saturday the 25th. We saw her daughter today when we were bedraggledly dripping our way around Beaconsfield after we walked the boys today after our wood collecting visit to our friend who is in the witness protection’s property. We figured that the rain had finished but the skies opened up and dumped their damp scorn on us for doubting the weather man and thinking that we knew best. Wendy told us that Glad was turning 90 and so we are going to make her a fresh loaf of bread (maybe even sourdough…), a small specially decorated cake and a dozen eggs to celebrate. It’s not every day that you hit 90 and still walk every day and are vital, alive and wonderfully vibrant with it. I dare say when I get to 90 (should I be lucky enough to make it…) I will have to be perambulated around complaining all the way like a female Victor Meldrew of televisions “One Foot in the Grave” fame. Glad is a fantastic example of how country living can do you good and aside from spending most of her days burning heaps of leaves and debris on the property with Wendy, she is as sharp as a tack. I often “feel” like I am approaching 90 after a particularly hard day in the garden and have nothing but admiration for Glad and her persistence. I think I might finish up this post here for the day. It’s getting dark and the boys still haven’t been fed. I need to cut up cat food to stop them predating the bird population overnight and Steve’s stomach is rumbling so for now, my dear constant readers, I bid you adieu!

“Chook eggs or blue duck eggs Glad?”

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. christiok
    Aug 16, 2012 @ 04:24:11

    Thanks again for the shout-out, Fran. In the U.S. shout-out means a compliment. lol

    I have to say that I mistook the cover illustration on your fermentation book for a hot water bottle! I hope you have a new one by now.

    Our cat Garfield is too small to mess with our hens, but he’d happily take a chick out. That’s why they stay in a brooder. Keith noticed a pile of white feathers on what we call the nature trail the other morning (I have no sense of time and days) and ran to check our chickens. All were accounted for. Makes me think your idea of a raid on a neighbor is correct…


    • narf77
      Aug 16, 2012 @ 07:50:40

      We are quite sure that the ferals have somehow managed to make some sort of conection between the crazy food bearing humans that live above them and that hurl sticks at them whenever they try to procreate or eat birds and that REALLY pitch a fit when they look like they are stalking chickens and the word “NO”! In saying that…they appear to have also realised that “NO”! only extends to this property and perhaps these chickens are sacred and all other chickens are fair game. Apparently sales of hot water bottles went up 30% this year in Tasmania due to the rising power prices and people trying to find new ways to keep warm in our chilly state at night. It would seem that sustainablity might be more than just an “option” in the near future! On the down side it meant that Steve couldn’t actually find a hot water bottle for me the other day when he went hunting in town…probably for the best as its best to start a cold season with a new piece of pink rubber rather than something that has over-summered and that may be starting to perish…must…resist…bad…pun….CAN’T….”Perish the thought!”…sigh… sorry Christi…it just squeezed out there ;). I had to laugh as I actually thought that it was a hot water bottle till I just picked up the book and had a look! The Book Depository lost my other book and are resending it for me today so Sandor Ellix Katz new fermentation tomb probably next week! I have 3 books winging their way from the U.S. (Amazon rules) and knowledge…you ARE my bitch! 🙂 Life is good and spring has just about sprung! I am off to see our American hippy friend down the road to prune a few peach trees and collect a sack of walnuts to stratify and grow on to trees as well as take some kiwifruit cuttings (both male and female) to start for Serendipity Farm and for our friend in the witness protection BUT she doesn’t believe that they will survive out there with the possums and wallabies…I wish I could send some to you guys as they would love it in your climate. 🙂 Off to read your new post now 🙂


  2. Rhianna
    Aug 16, 2012 @ 08:14:02

    I feel like a mother of a girl going to prom night with a list of instructions:
    Don’t get in the car if people the driver has been drinking. Don’t forget to put on your seatbelt. And for the love of small kittens, don’t forget to use a condom………

    Roughly translated means:
    Don’t forget to feed the sourdough after it has reached its max height, which may take a day or two in the freezer you live in. Don’t forget to put it on the concrete on warm / sunny days to help the fermentation process. And for the love of god, don’t let the chickens and ducks eat it….

    Quite looking forward to watching your sourdough adventures 🙂


    • narf77
      Aug 16, 2012 @ 12:36:20

      I have to say Rhianna that that has got to be the BEST comment that I have EVER had on this blog 🙂 LOVE IT ;). I am sure that there will be some very interesting posts involving the sourdough…not the least, Steve having to feed it on Friday and Sunday this week (after taking off 400ml and starting 2 new sourdough plants with them for friends…) as I am at my daughters all weekend and am attending a Food Sustainability workshop all day Saturday. I wonder if Herman is going to be like Earl or like Bezial? If he is like Bezial he will lay still next to Brunhilda and will rise and fall content with his lot, yielding up his delicious raising power for the good of mankind…if Herman is like Earl, however, goodness only knows what he will do! I would imagine climbing out of his container and attempting escape at every opportunity whilst making the most mess possible… I have just rootled around and found Herman a lovely terracotta starter pot with a lid that just sits on top of pot for his reclining pleasure and he is ensconced over Brunhilda in his “bubble” phase. Herman is almost as much fun as the dogs! (so long as I don’t have to walk him I am fine with caring for him 🙂 )


  3. Hannah (BitterSweet)
    Aug 16, 2012 @ 13:02:14

    Those are hands-down the most beautiful fruit leathers I have ever seen! I hadn’t dreamed of incorporating something other than just fruit puree before, so your yogurt swirl is nothing short of a revelation. My dehydrator isn’t really equipped to make leathers, but I think I could rig up a parchment paper sheet to cover the slats and give it a try. Oh, the possibilities you’ve just opened up!


    • narf77
      Aug 16, 2012 @ 16:19:03

      I have a 9 tray excalibur that makes huge quantities of fruit leather and I made this in summer ages ago when I lived in warm Western Australia rather than sub-Antarctic Tasmania where tropical fruit is an anomoly. You can use all sorts of things to make fruit leather as everything dries if you take out enough water ;). The yoghurt was a particular favourite with my daughters and was good currency in the school playground for tasty lunchbox swaps. I guess you could use the same principal for making savoury “wraps” using things like tahini, vegan yoghurt, tapenade, hummus etc. incorporated with different coloured and flavoured vegetable purees? Just an idea. Knock yourself out! Just make sure that we get to read about them in future posts 🙂


  4. Kym
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 21:51:21

    I don’t belieeeeeve it! Ah yes I like that show, One Foot in the Grave, certainly gave me a good laugh. Those fruit straps looked beautiful Fran. I thought you were experimenting with tie dying at first. I’m afraid the sourdough sounds like Earl as it has already tried to escape it’s package lol. Hopefully it will settle down and be more like Bezial 🙂


    • narf77
      Aug 22, 2012 @ 07:03:41

      Lol, it certainly has a mixed up personality to say the least! Half of it reacts like Bezial and lays about slothing in the warmth of Brunhilda and the other half wants to escape and eat the chickens! Those fruit leathers were a result of an enormous cheap box of strawberries and a bag of overripe mangos going out cheap at Coles that needed to be used up. I threw the yoghurt in as I figured that the girls could use a few dairy products in their lunch box as they were going through a phase where they didn’t actually eat their sandwich and only ate morning tea. I have heaps of sourdough starter and might actually dehydrate some of it as it keeps forever that way apparently. If Herman decides to fly the coop (with Earl close in tow…) I will at least be able to use the “Essence of Herman” to reestablish another one ;). I have only just recovered from going to my daughters place over the weekend. I am getting too old for this! 😉


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