The 1 1/2 hour duck and Steve Solomon reads our soily tea leaves

Hi All

Now that the sap in my brain is flowing at an equal rate to that of the plant community on Serendipity Farm I am hurling myself into a new phase. I am researching cool climate permaculture at night and in the day, Steve and I are venturing out into the sodden soggy wasteland that we call home with new eyes on. No more overwhelmed city slickers for us! Its year 3 on Serendipity Farm and we have learned to combine our studies with our ultimate reason for being here, our desire to change Serendipity Farm for the better. Procrastination stops action and is the scourge of our generation where change seems to be ramping itself up on a daily basis and it’s wonderful to immerse ourselves in a slower more holistic approach. It’s also wonderful to be able to stand back and see what we once thought were problems, turn into solutions and actual assets before our eyes when permaculture and other systems that work sympathetically with nature are applied. I have actually managed to get my rss feed reader blogs down to a manageable level. I am loath to rid myself of any of them and have found a way to make sure that I get an amazingly broad spectrum of my personal interests in a nice slice of daily mind nourishing blog cake. It’s like one of those rainbow layer cakes for the brain but substitute artificial colours, flavours and white flour for healthier alternatives and you have my daily rainbow cake of happiness. Spencer at anthropogen.com never ceases to amaze me with his never ending search for ways to apply natural solutions to the worlds current problems and more importantly, he shares his findings freely. Yesterday I learned how rainfall in the Amazonian rainforests is initiated by microscopic organic fungi particles…a fully self-perpetuating environment ensuring that water falls where it is needed most and it could almost be seen as the rainforest itself directing water where it is needed. When you start to remove mainstream human endeavours from the equation and step back and take a good look at what nature is actually doing ad-infinitum, you can’t be anything but awestruck by the magnificence of that amazing cyclic symphony of perpetual life.

Red sky in the morning, rain on Serendipity farm

Keen little certificate 3 horticulture students at the soil carbon day…I am sure that our class never looked this enthusiastic about anything!

I sat with Nat and our friend from the witness protection at the soil carbon day today and a great time was had by all

I TOLD you my brain sap was rising ;). Steve has been finding me all sorts of information about permaculture that is fuelling my inner fiery desire to get “stuck in” to working outside again. Steve sources the stuff and I mainstream it. As usual, we are entirely different when it comes to how we work. Steve is a hands on man who works from the outside in and isn’t all that interested in where the information came from. He would rather just go out and “do” it. I am the exact opposite. I am the researcher, the porer-overer of books, the disciple of knowledge and information who positively beams whenever I find a precious little gem that gives us a way to do something that we can use to effect change on Serendipity Farm and together we are formidable! I started wading through everything that we have been finding over the weekend and discovered that most of it is stacked for the tropics. I accept that its heaven on a horticultural stick to grow plants in the tropics BUT we don’t live there…so now I am honing my searches to cool climate permaculture so that we can use what we find directly without having to sieve it through several filters to sift out the heat, the plants that will NOT grow here and the sense of disappointment that comes from not being able to apply a large swath of information directly to our needs. Never one to give in that easily, I have managed to source a cool climate permaculture book by David Holmgren called “Sustainable living at “Melliodora” Hepburn Permaculture Gardens: a case study in cool climate permaculture 1985-1995”. Written for a cold climate and extremely pertinent to our local conditions (we might even be a bit warmer than David’s property!) this book has been placed on hold at the local library and we will be able to see how someone else has juggled a 4 season cold climate as compared to a 2 season (hot and dry or VERY hot and wet) tropical climate.

Frank Strie with another wonderful presentation about Biochar and how the process of slow cooking wood gives a multitude of benefits when dealing with our soil and with energy/heat production

The components of Franks illustrative biochar burner model. Note the can full of twigs that approximates a 44 gallon drum full of dry limb wood

Now tip that 44 gallon drum (imagine people…use your imagination!) upside down and drop it into a slightly larger metal drum that you have drilled large holes in the base so that you have a slight margin left between the sides of the drum full of wood and the slightly larger drum

The internet is wonderful! Not only can I talk to you from the comfort of my computer chair in front of my massive television monitor (I DON’T NEED GLASSES!), but Steve can ring me from town while he is in my Aladdin’s cave of great happiness…”Wholesome House” health food shop in Mowbray where David and Lee not only sell the products but know everything about them and practice what they preach and I can check something online for him to make sure that it’s what I want in an instant. Technology isn’t all bad folks! I have been delving deeper into Korean cuisine and found a wonderful website that I actually added to my rss feed reader it was so good. Mochi is something that I absolutely adore and this website gave me several recipes for how to make it along with how to make your own Korean ricecakes which are a sort of extruded thick paste (think big fat rice noodles as chunky as your little finger) that is cut into segments and used for body and texture in Korean cookery. Korean food is all about healthy, spicy tastiness and being a vegan, most of these recipes can be adapted to my kind of food. Steve and I were talking about vegetarianism yesterday whilst watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s great adventure into vegetables. Under his cover story of “I wanted to get healthier” was an apparently sky high cholesterol reading and a rapidly invading middle aged paunch. I forgive him his vanity because he is one of those genuine people who put his fame/money where his mouth is and gives as good as he gets. Cooking vegetarian is a doddle folks! Vegetarian cookery is full of eggs, cheese, cream and the only thing missing is the meat. Not hard to get something scrumptious when you coat it in sour cream, roll it in egg and crumbs and douse it liberally in thickened cream and when you add all of the options of other countries cuisines you can see how easy it is to venture into a world without meat. Going vegan is a bit harder but is now sufficiently mainstream as to be a “desirable” way to live. The extremists have veered off to Paleo diets and raw food diets and left us vegans to get on with quietly living our lives out of the spotlight.

Now you loosely fill that gap with small twigs, leaves or sawdust and light it

To eliminate smoke from the chamber you add a lid to the equation with holes in to catch the heat/smoke exchange

A slightly smaller metal drum (an old oil drum from some bulk cooking oil?) with a piece of metal tubing inserted through the top to carry the heat byproduct up through this second chamber

Going vegan is a worldly experience because there is a world of experience and love for pulses, legumes, grains and all sorts of weird and wonderful cultures and fermentations out there that open your eyes to just how amazing the human race is to have survived on local and attainable foodstuffs. Even things that are generally considered inedible or unpalatable have been messed about with and tweaked to yield edible foodstuffs. The humble acorn is one such food. On its own its disgusting. I know…I tried one! After being dried, pounded into a flour and washed continually until the tannins are leached out of the flour it is not only edible, it’s a staple food for many Baltic and other European countries. Try eating a ripe olive straight from the tree (again…I know because I tried one…) and you are given to wonder how ANYONE would think that “maybe I might be able to make this tasty if I brine it?”…we owe so much to our forefathers and foremothers for their dedicated hard work in showing us that you can not only eat these things, but they are delicacies. Crickets, worms, fermented stinky tofu…hmmmm maybe there are limits! But everyone takes for granted the amazing wealth of knowledge out there regarding food preparation and how to get the most nutrition out of what we eat. Food production is generally outside our sphere of thought because we just go to the shop and get it right? That’s what we did when we moved in and decided to make the most of the 4 acres of land that we have, we decided to make it work for us, and for all of the native inhabitants of Serendipity Farm.

Now for the bit where you diversify! You need a metal drum slightly larger than the second (bulk cooking oil) drum with copper pipe coiled in through a hole lower down in this drum and coiled to fit loosely around the inner drum and exiting through a hole further up the drum…stay with me here folks…

Here’s the second chamber over the holes in the lid of the first chamber

And now you invert the last drum (with the copper coiled pipe) over the top of the drum with the pipe and voila, you have a small personal biochar manufacturer coupled with a hot water heater! I love this idea so much I am going to attempt to manufacture one of these for summer use on Serendipity Farm

As we walk the dogs every day, I have started to really look at what grows well in our local area. Cherry plums grow amazingly well. In Tasmania its apparently a sport to whinge about Cherry Plums. They grow like topsy here and I, for one, have made a mental note to plant some along the boundary fences to feed the possums and distract them from our more highly prized fruits. I dug up 4 little loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) from a road verge last year and they overwintered in the glass house and are going great guns. After a sufficient hardening off period in a sheltered spot on Serendipity Farm, these little free babies are going to be put to work as possum bait futures. We will be planting out kiwifruit, Muscat (and other) grapes and all sorts of currants and berries including ground covers (strawberries), vines (thornless blackberries) and shrubs (currants and native plum pines and native cranberries) to lure the possums away from our primary crops. It’s all about sharing the land and once our local possums get wind of a year round food supply they will be battling the ensuing hoards for their position of superiority. Feeding a few possums to guard from the many is a good sacrifice to be making! On Wednesday (today but typed on Monday) our friend in the witness protection and I are heading into Launceston to “The Tramshed” where we are going to learn all about local soil and its limitations as part of the Tamar NRM August Sustainability Month. I have gotten an incredible amount of free knowledge from this wonderful organisation and feel very privileged to have met so many passionate local people. It’s a huge pity that Tasmanian’s as a whole would rather eat their own feet than learn something new, and even the prospect of an amazing free day with morning and afternoon tea and a fantastic lunch provided can’t even lure them out of their armchairs. I am NOT Tasmanian. I don’t even mind being a “Mainlander Outcast”…suits me folks! If that means that I can sit in a room of 15 people with a fantastic view of the podium and learn quality information for free then so-be-it! I have really been reinvigorated by everything that I have learned over the past month and am inspired to apply most of it to our day to day working on our property.

Check out the root system on one of Frank’s lettuces grown in compost layered with biochar. This stuff is amazing!

I just had my very first case of what might be construed as “homesickness” since we moved to Tasmania. The funny thing was, it wasn’t even “home” I felt nostalgic for! It was the Western Australian capital city Perth that got me feeling a little wistful. Perth is an amazing multicultural hodgepodge of everything a person could need. We used to head up at least a few times a year on the 400+km long haul to stock up with everything that we couldn’t purchase locally, usually Asian grocery items and other ethnic foodstuffs that Albany simply didn’t have. I loved Perth aside from the heat when it was summer (which was coincidentally our usual time to visit…). I remember one of our “must visit’s” being Kakulas Brothers bulk produce that made me incredibly envious of people in Perth who could just drop in whenever the fancy took them. For us, it meant a large spend to stock up on all sorts of dried beans, herbs, spices etc. that we simply couldn’t get in Albany. The very last time that we shopped in Kakulas we were served by Mr Kakulas (since passed away) who started this thriving and no doubt incredibly profitable landmark in the city. He had to leave part way through serving us and the girl that took over told us that he had a real hands on approach to his business and was often to be found serving behind the counter and chatting to customers asking them about what they liked and didn’t like about his shop. I dare say that this 80 something year old man had his finger on the pulse of that well-oiled machine because every single time we ventured through those hallowed doors, the place was thronging with customers. You give people what they want, they come back! I also remember Kong’s, a large Asian supermarket, one of many in Northbridge a multicultural suburb of Perth and the restaurant strip of the city. A very exciting place to wander around and immerse yourself in culture. I love Perth. I haven’t found a city close to its vibrant eclectic laid back sense of entitlement and always loved to visit even though the 6 hour car trip had knobs on!

The stuff that dreams are made of!

Back to Wednesday and just about to have a shower ready to head off to Launceston with our friend in the witness protection for a day learning all about soil carbon courtesy of the Tamar NRM. I have a newfound appreciation for this humble behind the scenes group who have been putting on some pretty amazing free events in the hope of educating some of us as to what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our soils. Steve has been hunting. He has found me a myriad of information about permaculture including videos, pdf’s and all sorts of documents that I am going to share with my friend today. “Just bring your laptop and I can stuff you full of garden hope!” We are in similar situations with our garden. “Chaos”. Hers is denuded of all vegetation and anything that she plants is instantly visible and noted as “prey” by the many nocturnal visitors to her 50 acre property out in the bush. She is so far out in the bush that she doesn’t have electricity, water or phone and her family are completely off grid.  We have plenty of vegetation’s but no order and both of us have those troublesome little nocturnal visitors who like to swing about on our tender new vegetation, however the feral cats have been leaving us “tails”…we can only guess that they were once young possums! No sign of the duck that we owned for 1 ½ hours that we bought for our lonely girl who quacks herself hoarse for her sister. We bought it from the grouchy old bee/duck man up the road for $15. Lucky we didn’t spend a fortune because after luring us to let it out of the outside coop area by making doe-eyes at our duck and trying desperately to get out “to her” it hightailed it over to the nearest high spot and made like a tree and leafed! The last we saw of it, it was running faster than Earl on the scent of a chicken towards the bush at the back of our neighbours block. We must have made a funny site, just on dusk, running with rakes in pursuit…our neighbour to the rear drove down to see what the commotion was about (no rake I note Noel…not going to join in the frothing melee?) and we had to reassure him that we were not insane nor were we intent on taking our rakes to Frank’s house. Not only are we now “those crazy hippies down the hill” but we are also “those crazy whacked out hippies down the hill!”…sigh…I have found a use for a large stainless steel enclosed drum that we inherited on dad’s “steel pile” left here for years by nefarious steel pilferers around the state. I am now the king of that castle by default and so I am trying to make the most of what we were left “cheers for that pile of steel dad…” by putting it to uses that my dad would have shaken his head and said “done ya dough” to whilst walking away disgustedly. I have come to terms with the fact that I was never going to be one of my dad’s favourite children and actually enjoyed the rise I got whenever discussing my fantastic schemes…dad hated hippies…my job there was done!

Looky here people, another massive post rolls out onto the printing floor and I haven’t even had my shower yet! Sorry about sitting here overnight smelly and with unkempt hair but you know how it is… the press never stops! Got to get you all something to read over your cocoa and here it is, unadorned, severely unedited and most definitely passionately heartfelt. Have a fantastic time till Saturday. The sun is weakly sniffing around the perimeters of Serendipity Farm but I am NOT lured into thinking that we are going to have anything other than the rain that was forecast! A day sitting indoors listening to precious information about soil amelioration and soil carbon is most probably the best outcome for today. See you Saturday and don’t sweat the small stuff folks…it will still be there tomorrow! 😉

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. christiok
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 06:40:25

    Wonderful post, as usual, Fran. I share your interest in cool climate permaculture, our chilly “cyclic symphony of perpetual life” as you so beautifully put it. I love that you “sift out the heat” from all planting fantasies. So true. We had just 3 days that got to 90F (32C) this entire year. I’ll look for David’s book.

    “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in the morning, sailor’s take their warning.” I hadn’t thought of that in years.:)

    Reply

    • narf77
      Sep 06, 2012 @ 15:45:19

      We call it Shepherds warning, but it all means the same thing! rain…Rain…RAIN! We have had a fair bit of rain over the last few days and its making up for not raining much over winter. I don’t mind rain per-se, but I DO mind getting wet. I am getting excited about everything starting to grow and am going to grow as much as I can for our edible food forest this year. My tip rescued strawberries are going great guns (the ones that the chooks cant reach through the net and peck off the flowers that is…sigh…) and Don’t worry about Steve’s book, I can send you a PDF of it if you like :). Steve is now chuffed to bits to be the Vice President of a new political party. He wants to know if he can still wear his 9 earings and he has been working on his stick drawings (alarmingly!). Tell the Bearded One that he has given steve’s artistic inner Aquarius (he is an Aquarius, just forgot that he was supposed to be artistic ;)) a boost and he is doodling on bits of paper everywhere. One of them (sitting on the desk in front of me) looks like Steve has turned bushranger with a balloon to lure small children! Not too sure that is the sort of look he was intending to conjour up! I am a little afraid at his artistic talents! 🙂

      Reply

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