Hermits with soil samples unite!

Hi All,

It’s Tuesday and another blog post deadline is looming. Stewart and Kelsey made a short stop on Serendipity Farm and it was lovely seeing them. They spent a lot of time wandering around in the dark looking at the stars and watching possums, bandicoots and wallabies scooting around in the undergrowth no doubt on their way to eating one or other of our tender shooting deciduous plants. We spent yesterday recovering and realising that we are indeed the hermits that our friends prophesied that we would become living out in the sticks and only venturing into town for “supplies”. A week of tidying and a whirlwind but wonderful visit later and Steve and I are feeling shell shocked. We had to head off to our friend in the witness protections place today to get another load of wood and to head over to Steve Solomon’s house to get the results of our soil tests and his customised prescription to remedy our obviously denuded soil. When we arrived at our friends place we noted that she was striding with purpose from her boundary fence with a large metal mallet. Living in the country can sometimes do strange things to a person and we approached her with caution but we didn’t have to be alarmed, she arrived muttering about how shooters hunt on her property and don’t shut the gate. They had broken the fence to get through (must be fat hunters) and she had been banging a metal star picket into the ground to hold the gate closed and stop her donkeys from raiding her vegetable garden. The things that people living in the country have to contend with!

Stewart and Kelsey relaxing on Sernendipity Farm

A group cuddle

Kelsey and the infamous American style Pumpkin Ale that is languishing at the back of our fridge for when I next feel like baking a beer chocolate cake

And what do we have here?

That would be a white forest cherry cake!

The travellers heading off to warmer climes 🙂

She heard on the grapevine somewhere that possums and wallabies won’t eat your plants if you situate stuffed toys all around them. Her garden now looks like some sort of demented landscaper has designed it with stuffed toys hanging by their necks from all sorts of odd places. Her little granddaughter had helped her to hang them by the neck. Life in the country is about as real as you can get. We left Steve with a massive log to be cut up and we headed out of the gate to Mr Solomon’s place for our results. We arrived and found Steve minus his bottom teeth thanks to some sort of denture accident but despite the loss of his lower mandibles speech mode we cobbled together the gist of what he wanted us to do. We purchased a sack of Soft Rock Phosphate from him and a large sack of dried wakame in lieu of kelp at a significant discount ($8 a sack for the wakame and $40 a sack for the kelp) with essentially the same nutritional rundown and the wakame has the added bonus of being extremely tasty! We got a printout of our initial results from the American soil analysis company and Steve then took those results and reworked them to be pertinent to a 10 square metre garden plot. My witness protection friend’s soil is quite denuded but nowhere near as much as he had expected. Because of the clay in her subsoil her summer hydrophobic soil is able to hold onto a reasonable amount of nutrients and our soil profile was even better. We both got Steve’s prescription for what to add to our soil and in what quantities. We had a bit of a laugh with him and he said that he was glad that he had met us and that we were “his type of people”. Always glad to make a new friend especially when he wants to assist us both with our gardening ventures in the future.

Meet Tilly. She used to be Nat’s dog and now she lives with our friend in the witness protection. If you lean on Nat, you might discover our friends identity but you have to get past Tilly first 😉

Our friend in the witness protection’s long suffering possum and wallaby scoffed back yard. Note the close proximity to native bushland and the strange collection of stuffed animals in grotesque poses

This is the first time that the rose situated directly underneath Mr Ted-E-Bear (complete with bow tie thank you VERY much…) has managed to keep its tender little new leaves since our friend in the witness protection planted it.

A teddy in a waistcoat taking one for the Gipper

Our friend in the witness protection just so happens to work in a gardening centre and can use her staff discount to avail herself of the necessary nutrients required for our soils. We have decided to buy in bulk and split the cost. I am going to buy 2 more sacks of wakame from Steve, myself, so that we can top dress the soil with pulverised dried wakame and he also said that we should use spent mushroom compost to add organic matter to the soil to increase the soil carbon. No problems with that Mr Solomon and your prescription fits in nicely with our own thoughts on what we want to use to improve fertility and vitality in both of our soils. We can also harvest mushrooms from our spent mushroom compost value adding at the same time. I love it when a plan comes together! We then bid Steve and his denture free lower mandible arividerchiand adieu and drove back to our friend in the witness protection’s property where she dropped me off at the gate where Steve was sitting in the car waiting for me to return with a trailer loaded down with wood, a most satisfactory situation! We drove home just in front of a massive black cloud that was hell bent on raining on our parade (and our load of wood!). We just made it home and the cloud decided to take a left at Albuquerque (no fun in us beating it home…off to find more mischief somewhere else) and leave us alone for a bit and so we quickly toted our wheelbarrows off to the woodshed to get ourselves some nice dry wood and on the way we decided to plant out the lovely claret ash that our good friend and lecturer in horticulture at our Polytechnic had bought for us when my mum died earlier this year. My mum had a massive big claret ash at her loved home in Denmark and couldn’t take it with her when she moved to her new little flat and she always talked about how much she loved it. We were going to buy one and plant it in her honour but Nat beat us to it when she read about our ideas. We hadn’t gotten around to planting it yet (slack…I know Nat!) but in honour of mums birthday today we decided to get stuck into our stone ridden soil and put the effort in to honour mum and give her a belated birthday gift. The place that we chose was near a regular green ash tree and overlooking Glad’s property with a nice view of the river. We can see it from the deck and when the ash starts to change colour in the future we will think of mum.

On a whirlwind visit to town after visiting Steve Solomon and our friend in the witness protection I noticed this lovely pattern painted by nature in Princes Square

Lacy tree shadows are a much better picture to share with you than what Bezial and Earl were doing ON said lovely deciduous trees…sigh…

A pretty display of Polyanthus in the park

I hate the gaudiness of Petunia’s but can’t resist Polyanthus

I can’t think of a better way to herald in Spring in earnest

Steve is wailing away to Jimi Hendrix who died on mum’s birthday (September 18th) 42 years ago. The dogs are tucked up on their respective chairs next to Brunhilda and I have our evening meal on the go. We were going to dispatch “Chicken” and “Stock” today but as it’s about to rain cats AND dogs we decided to give The Dalton Boys another day on this earth. We will be putting in a sterling effort tomorrow to work out where we are going to build our series of polytunnels behind the house. We dropped in on another friend who has been away this morning when we noticed them home on our walk with the dogs and they are going to get us some thick netting from the local salmon farm so that we can build our gravity assisted chook run. We will use terracing to ensure that our furious digging poultry can’t redistribute the hay that we put into it down to the bottom of the run in a day. Over the course of spring and summer we will be dealing with all of the debris constructively and we will be getting creative with our resources. I envy people who have water tanks and that is going to be our next big spend but we need to save up for them first. I have some ideas about market stalls and things that we have been tinkering with but that is going to have to wait a little bit as we have a pretty full few months ahead of us working out how to enclose our restless unsuspecting chooks and regain Serendipity Farms gardens and the ability to mulch and have the mulch stay put! After we planted mum’s claret ash “Chicken” was hovering around scratching the soil and pecking up slaters that had spilled out of the bottom of the bag and the remaining duck was feasting on a few foolhardy snails who thought that they were safe under the lip of the tree bag. I am under no misapprehensions that “Chicken” is going to do his level best to uproot the ash and will put some stones around the base tomorrow to ensure that they don’t tunnel mine down to its emerging spring roots.

Isn’t this a beautiful colour?

Either “Chicken” or “Stock” (not sure which) rootling around in the newly turned earth that contains the lovely claret ash that Nat bought for us when mum died earlier this year. We decided to plant it in honour of mum’s birthday. Thank you so much for your amazing kindness Nat and a huge hug to you for losing your dad last week

You know its really spring and not just a freak weather event when your grafted Japanese maples start to leaf up

This is how real men buy their spuds…by the 10kg bag and I applaud Steve’s cleverness as 10kg of King Edwards for $6.95 is a bargain in anyone’s neck of the woods

What have we here?

Is it catching?

Sigh…it would appear that “Clucky” is the new black on Serendipity Farm

Today was spent dealing in futures…it rained and thundered so any work was to be considered “future” and put on hold. We walked the dogs and swapped some plants and eggs for some netting to make our gravity fed chook run. We measured out the area that we are going to build our polytunnels in and decided to use the space in between the polytunnels as a covered area where we can harden off small plants out of the curiosity sphere of our native woodland scamp’s hell bent on scarfing their tender little shoots. It rained all afternoon and aside from trying to work out why my Facebook page seemed to not want to load when Steve’s was fine (sorted out now) we didn’t do much else.. We worked out the logistics of our polytunnels involving arcs, diameters and radii and gave ourselves headaches but at least we know that the materials available to us are going to be suitable for making polytunnels. I consider that a good day! It felt like a decidedly strange day all-round and after I post this post I am going to head off to ether land and do a bit of online distressing. I might even play a bit of Zelda as I had a nice early tea and am still awake which is always a bonus for me. I note that my posts are starting to creep up in the word count again but I am trying to keep a lid on their size. I will head off and post this one now as I know that there will be lengthy and wordy captions for my photos and it feels like cheating on my newfound desire to keep these posts lean and pertinent. See you all on the cusp of Saturday :o)

Before we go, here are a few of the projects that we took on in the week before Stewart and Kelsey arrived on our doorstep. Firstly this sad old rusted out mailbox might be only hanging on by the skin of its rust but you certainly wouldn’t know it from it’s schmick new look!

Our Hakea elk got attacked by some possum marauders and sustained an antler malfunction but he is still greeting visitors on Serendipity Farm

A close relative of the rusted out mailbox was the daggy old metre box but who could miss it now?

Last but by no means least the old dishevelled gas hot water system that hasn’t been used all winter now has a nice new paint job to match the metre box

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Katie Glenn
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 23:41:57

    Hahaha, your friend in the witness protection plan sounds like a hoot! What an eerie, yet hilarious, display that garden full of stuffed animals must have been. Such fun bits from the farm today!


    • narf77
      Sep 20, 2012 @ 07:07:00

      Our friend in the witness protection is a real character! She can call a spade a spade AND she doesn’t care what people think of her garden with grotesque stuffed toys in all states of disembowelment and decomposition all over the place. She lives off the grid so hardly anyone gets to see her place anyway and she has the attitude that if someone doesn’t like it…they can come and man the post with a shotgun to scare the advancing native hoardes! Cheers for liking the post today Katie and I dare say you are noticing how my newfound desire to keep my posts short and sweet seems to be falling by the wayside…sigh…oh well…at least my fingers are getting a physical workout! 😉


      • Katie Glenn
        Sep 21, 2012 @ 01:35:28

        Well, you DID try to keep ’em short. Cheers for trying new things! It’s not your fault that you find so many things delightful. 🙂

        Also, I just love the title of this post…hehehe

  2. bakermom
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 01:12:36

    Let me try again. My last comment dissapeared when the computer went wanky.
    I was saying that my boys would get a kick out of hanging some of their old stuffed animals in a macabre way. Is your soil denuded because of winter? Or is it the Bandicoots. I love that word by the way and could say it all day..bandicootbandicootbandicoot…
    My youngest wants to know if Tasmania has tarantulas the size of dinner plates? Or other hazardous beasties? Thank you for your pictures. I love seeing a peek into a world so removed from ours.


    • narf77
      Sep 20, 2012 @ 06:33:03

      bandicoots are tiny little marsupials that hop around at night time digging tiny little holes in the lawn that you fall into when you foolishly venture out before dawn. Our soil is denuded because Australia has “ancient soil” thanks to us being a water stressed country from the very beginning. A very thin layer of topsoil that seems to want to migrate all over the place BUT where you want it to stay. Our friend in the witness protection and I were at college together to learn about horticulture. We (Steve and I) carried on and are taking it to the limits (one more time…) but she was happy to get a job in a nursery which is great for we penniless aging student hippy horticulturalists because she gets a staff discount and Mr Solomon’s prescription comes at a cost!

      Tell your son that unlike the rest of Australia we have a limited supply of tarantulas. We DO have large huntsman spiders that love nothing better to sit on light switches in the dark and terrify the life out of you when you go to turn on the light but they are, alas, harmless. We have snakes here (Tiger snakes and brown snakes) but at the moment they are sluggish and easy prey for Kookaburas (birds like large kingfishers) that are eating them en masse. We have platypus here that are weird looking things that look like they were made up from the leftovers from several other things and wombats and Tassie devils and tassie devils are like tiny little pit bull terriers ;). Aside from that, we don’t have any large things wandering around howling and eating up the natives (worse luck as the natives think that they can eat up our vegetation with gusto!).


  3. Sincerely, Emily
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 02:11:59

    The ash is going to be beautiful where you planted it. Great to look at it and think of your mum. How exciting to get your soil sample info and a recipe of where to go from there and find a new friend at the same time. I laughed because when we bought our house there were remnants of stuffed animals everywhere in the back yard. Even a few in the crook of tree branches. Well since there are no wallabies here I deduced that they were crew toys for the dogs. Last summer I even found another in the crook of a tree branch at eye level, made me jump a but before I figured out what it was.

    I also laugh because I can barely seem to get a post longer than a paragraph up lately and here you are with all your nice photos and stores. They are fun to read.


    • narf77
      Sep 20, 2012 @ 06:42:29

      I suffer from an extreme case of verbosity and my problem is how to cut my posts down! I used to do a post a day (all about 2800 words) but cut them down to 2 a week because I thought I was oversaturating my readers with Serendipity Farm and that they would get bored. I guess I am a frustrated writer and this blog is my online stress relief valve ;). Our 2 Amstaffs love stuffed toys. The son and heir and his new American sweetie brought the boys some chew treats that were supposed to last over a week and Earl ate one in 3 minutes…sigh…I couldn’t put soft toys out like our friend in the witness protection because I am a nature snob. I love the simplicity of nature. I don’t even like many flowers because they detract from the greeness of it all and the wonderful textures of nature. Soft toys would grate me up the wrong way so I am choosing to plant an edible food forest of such great productivity that the natives cant POSSIBLY hope to eat more than about 10% of it on a good season. I figure (most cunningly) that the possums have territories and that a family (the bruisers that live here now) will protect its territory against marauding invaders and will receive a stipend of “grub” in return. My own little possum warriers, fortified by variety and oppulent choice and girded to the loins to fight for our food forest! Thats the idea, the utopian idea, and I am sticking with it! ;). The nice photos are the easy bit. I send Steve out with the camera and say “shoot babe…shoot like you are Lord Lichfield!” and being the loving husband that he is he heads out (usually on dusk because I am slothful about things like that and tend to panic just before I have to post…) and takes me some nice pics to use in my post. Cheers for liking my posts, I get a great sense of happiness in sharing Serendipity Farm with my dear constant readers :). Let me know if there are any Tassie memories that you would like me to try to rediscover for you and take photos of… (babe…my readers NEED you to go to the Huon and camp overnight and take photos of that enormous Myrtle in the snow pronto!…me? Nah, I have to stay here and keep Brunhilda burning for the dogs…you KNOW they like to keep warm ;)…


  4. christiok
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 03:14:43

    Wonderful post, as usual, complete with lovely pictures of Stewart and Kelsey. How cute is that picture of them kissing Earl?! Kelsey looks so young! (maybe I’m just old…) And the stuffed animals are fascinating. We have two plastic owls posted out in our lower pasture to keep the eagles and hawks away — stuffed animals would get soaked here, methinks. Poor Steve S. without his lower choppers…and we can totally relate to the hermit lifestyle, except in the country it seems like we know more of our neighbors than we ever did in the city. Cheers to Steve for the spud bargain.:) He’s a good shopper.


    • narf77
      Sep 20, 2012 @ 06:54:53

      We know our neighbours and we wave to Glad every day on the way past her lovely house with the best view in the whole valley when we are walking the dogs but Frank is gone for 6 months in Canada and the U.S. (might even be hiking in your neck of the woods) and Noel is more of a hermit than we are and shares his time between here and some expensive address in the Sydney Northern Shores if I am not mistaken and we don’t talk about the neighbours behind us (we try to pretend that they don’t exist ;)). The stuffed animals get wet and frozen at our friend in the witness protections house BUT she doesn’t care…anything to try to stop the ravenous hoardes from scarfing down everything that she plants. She spotted 30 wallabies and myriad possums advancing on her newly planted fruit trees the other day. Its somewhat disconcerting to see your hard grafted efforts going down relentless native animals craws! Tilly the old dog is doing her best and is cleaning out the plovers BUT she is one tiny old Jack Russell terrier and prefers the warmth of inside to racing around outside protecting the plants. I guess if the hung soft toys work, good luck to her! But…I couldn’t do it. There is a bit of a nature snob inside me that says “bollocks to the toys!” I would rather see simple green even if it is considerably nibbled. I figure that whats the point in trying to plant something that the natives adore? If its precious enough I will give it its own little protection fence so that the little darlings can stand outside with their little twitchy paws looking at the literal forbiden fruits of our labours and they can free range on the rest! Kelsey is 21 but I agree, she looks very young. She is a lovely girl and we really hit it off and Stewart is wonderful with her. They are all wrapped up in each other and its lovely to see :). It would be good to see more of them but they are at least somewhat close over in Melbourne as its the closest state to Tassie. Steve says “Cheers” for your comment on his spuds. King Edwards are the best EVER spuds for baked potatoes, roasted potatoes and chips which are all an expat englishman’s favourite thing so to be honest, he really bought them for himself lol ;). Thank you for your lovely comments by the way Christi, I love getting them and look forwards to seeing how my friends enjoy what we have been doing on Serendipity Farm. As you can see, Steve has grown weary of the stick life and twitches a bit whenever I talk about drawing so it is going to take him a while to get over his forced rounds of creativity. He may draw again…but then again, he might not. He concedes that The Bearded One is the master of the stick and that he is a mere shadow of his creative genius. I told him to keep his fingers and pencil on standby in case I get writers block. Knowing my verbosity, that’s unlikely to happen but you never know and its always good to have a trigger finger ready at the waiting just in case 🙂 Have a fantastic day in Olalla…Steve Solomon sends hugs! He knows Olalla well and was telling us that you guys have basalt rock that causes it’s own deficiency problems over there. Let me know if you would like me to ask him about soil in your neck of the woods 🙂


  5. Charlton Estate Trust
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 08:29:52

    That is the largest cake I have ever seen! Where can I get one of those from?


    • narf77
      Sep 20, 2012 @ 10:40:24

      Steve bakes a mean spongecake…and this delicious creation consisted of 2 of them, light and fluffy, full to the gills with fresh lightly sweetened cream and vanilla and smothered with morello cherries and chocolate…any time you feel like a carb overload, come on down to Serendipity Farm where the cakes are as free range as the chooks are! ;). Glad to see you visiting, stop by any time for a cuppa and a virtual slice of cake…no calories I promise! 🙂


  6. brymnsons
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 20:30:27

    Don’t worry about being verbose Fran, it’s like wandering along a pretty lane and discovering new things each time. I, for one, love it! Great photos and they look very happy together. Aint love grand 🙂


    • narf77
      Sep 20, 2012 @ 21:31:00

      :)… Cheers for that Kymmy. I sometimes think I am going to burst with everything that I want to say. I think I should have been writing in a diary all of this time lol! We didn’t see them for very long but they are lovely together and its wonderful to see Stewart so very happy 🙂


  7. The Squishy Monster
    Sep 21, 2012 @ 10:05:02

    I need some of those potatoes–what a steal! I would’ve attempted to carry away as many as I could manage! …and Clucky is beautiful!!


    • narf77
      Sep 21, 2012 @ 10:26:47

      Hi Squishy…clucky is beautiful but means less eggs however we also know where those particular chooks are at any given time so Newton’s law of physics applies ;). Those spuds (potatoes) are a bargain! We live in Tasmania…the home of the spud! We get some amazing potatoes here and for quite a while you can get 10kg sacks of all different kinds for about $7 on average. We are totally and utterly spoiled and as a spud officianardo who can’t go a single meal without at least one spuddy ingredient, I am in heaven! Welcome to Serendipity Farm by the way and please feel free to come back any time you like 🙂


  8. Allotment adventures with Jean
    Sep 25, 2012 @ 08:37:29

    Love the post and the pics Fran. AND what a cake!.


    • narf77
      Sep 25, 2012 @ 20:54:05

      Steve is getting good with Cake isn’t he! The son and heir and Kelsey, his Texan girlfriend certainly enjoyed the cake. We made a 6 layered cake a while ago for our lecturer (vanilla, strawberry and chocolate all sandwiched together with cream and ganache and covered with chocolate ganache and cream with chocolate shavings) that was so big that we were worried that it might collapse under it’s own weight! We love making people happy with a nice piece of cake 🙂


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