I belong to a couple of survey sites and am occasionally sent surveys to complete online and yesterday I was asked several questions about how happy I was with my lot. As I worked my way through the questions I thought about how very lucky we are to be living the life that we have here on Serendipity Farm. Most of the questions were a selection between two polar opposite answers and for most of them I was genuinely able to choose the positive option. Prior to inheriting Serendipity Farm from dad, we were living a somewhat aimless life as nomadic students. We lived in one of my dad’s rentals that was empty and studied in an attempt to gain a foothold in the job market in a state where 34% of the population live on welfare payments. Tasmania is a desperate state. Anyone who wants to throw a few dollars around here can pretty much do whatever they like because both of our major political parties are desperate for solutions to our own tiny island GFC that defies Australia’s robust economy. We are a state on the edge and employment here is not a given right, but a lucky break. As I waded through my survey choosing my answers I thought about how a simple stroke of luck took us from a spiral of increasing bills with a stagnant income to a place where we get to make choices. I heard on the news that people receiving government payments are living below the poverty line. As students, Steve and I receive the lowest payments on the government payment line and are considerably below the poverty line…so why was I choosing the positive answers from a survey obviously designed to test the waters of debt in Australia? The answer is very simple… because I AM happy.
One of the overgrown grevillea shrubs on the property
A prostanthera ovalifolia/native mint bush, one of 3 overgrown specimens down in the jungle part of the garden
I didn’t get happy overnight. I spent a fair bit of my life feeling adrift and separate and unconnected. It was only when I started to make choices about what I did with my life that it suddenly started to fall into place. Choosing a goal (studying) and working through to where we are now has given us choices. We have gone from statistics to anomalies in a single fell swoop. We are no longer welfare victims; we are people who choose to live simply. We don’t see ourselves as “poor” because the life that we choose to lead is rich with possibility, choice, pathways and self-governance. When we chose to take positive steps towards living a more sustainable life we started to remove obstacles to happiness and even though everything about our lifestyle should shriek “fear” and “unhappiness”, the steps that we are putting into place to amend Serendipity Farm from the soil up are going to build positive changes at every stage to allow us to live a simple and debt free life. We are debt free by choice but Serendipity Farm gave us back a whole lot more than being debt free. We have somewhere to call home, to grow our own food, to implement energy saving and water saving techniques and to start a series of cycles incorporating permaculture principals that will live on long after we are gone. The future is nothing but positive when you take control of your choices and you choose to live simply and discover that happiness doesn’t come out of a wallet, it is a state of mind.
A large Mahonia aquifolium against one of the large palms in the jungle part of the garden. You can see why I am expecting to see monkeys whenever I head down into this part of the garden
The Mahonia has wonderful blue fruit and lovely bright yellow flowers along with spiky banksia looking leaves which makes it a striking and hardy specimen for water wise gardens
I finally got around to bleeding my rss feed reader of all of the blogs that I didn’t really need to be reading. Most of them were food porn and as each delicious morsel checked out of my reading list it was difficult to let them go. I am a prolific commenter. I believe that people who write blogs give us a special part of themselves. They sit there, week after week, month after month thinking of insightful things to titillate us and educate us. Some of these blogs were works of art. The photography alone was drool worthy. As a vegan I had no use for some of these blogs. They positively dripped butter and triple layers cheesy meaty goodness but I lusted after them because they were simply beautiful. Someone out there thought enough of their unseen readers to put that much effort into what is effectively a diary. It takes very little time to give people positive comments about all of that effort. Whenever I get an especially exciting recipe from a blog, or a beautifully written post, I have to tell the poster that their work has hit home and feedback is part of the reason why we blog and to connect with strangers is delightful. Many of my dear constant readers are now long distance friends. All of your blogs are still gracing my rss feed reader and your posts are awaited with glee. I deleted posts that were not relevant to me “right here and now” and even then, I lamented their loss. When you have 600+ posts a day to wade through, you know that you need to do SOMETHING to remedy the problem and the problem is that I am greedy when it comes to wonderful blogs. I know that I haven’t even tickled the surface of the blog world. There are glorious blogs out there that I am not even aware of. I found one the other day that was cram packed full of amazing Chinese recipes for how to make all sorts of wonderfully exotic things from scratch including making your own starch noodles, spring roll wrappers, all sorts of amazing Chinese pastes, condiments, pastries and all sorts of steaming techniques and it opened up my eyes to getting a real handle on Chinese cooking that I hadn’t even thought relevant to my kitchen. I can see all sorts of steamed buns, gowgees, chilli oils and water roux’s in my kitchens future now all thanks to a lady who I will never meet who is generous enough with her time to share her precious knowledge with me personally. The internet allows us all to be authors and our viewing public votes on how good we are by liking, commenting and following us. THAT is why I comment. Because what you are doing is precious to me and I value every single comment that teaches me something that I don’t already know.
Sorry about the blue jellyfish in this shot but I just wanted to show you the 2 Tasmania varieties of Telopea truncata/Waratah, one light yellow and the other bright red that are in flower at the moment. We have 2 small specimens and after seeing how well they do in our local area we will be planting them out ASAP
A lovely old Cornus kousa rubra that we noticed on one of our walks with the dogs
We have been working our study futures on Serendipity Farm in the last week. We worked on some plans for a drainage system for our course last week and finished off our costing for our Landscaping unit. We are now putting out tentative feelers in the direction of our unit in creating a show design garden but are holding ourselves back because we aren’t yet aware of what our lecturer has in mind for us. That hasn’t stopped us from thinking about our ideas and planning what we want to do. Steve, as gung-ho as ever, has forged ahead, has designed blocks on AutoCAD, has basically formulated his entire garden along with a pencilled in plan for what he wants to do for his concept plan. I have a list of items on a piece of paper. I am a lot more cautious than Steve and would rather wait to see what Nick actually wants us to do BEFORE I commit to hurling myself into action. I love Steve’s idea. We are both working on small courtyard gardens in urban settings (our choice) and although we have worked closely together on most of our units our ideas are wildly different. I have chosen to run with my heartfelt passion for sustainability to design a garden that will combine function and form with simple food growing strategies in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible. I want to integrate water wicking garden beds, vertical gardening (including green walls), aquaponics, composting and worm farming along with lots of other ideas that I have been finding in my research for my project online. Steve has headed off to create a beautiful garden with incredible simplicity that is quite formal but that allows the owner to recreate the garden as they see fit. A very clever idea that got me excited when he was discussing it with me yesterday. We should hear from our chosen area of study next month to see if we are able to get interviews into the art course that we both want to undertake next year. We are very excited about this course because we have been working with horticulture for 4 years now and a sideline off into another discipline, albeit one that is relevant to what we are doing, has us heading into the unknown again. If we both get interviews and we are both selected for what is apparently a highly sought after course, we will be studying all about art and design using the Adobe suite of programs. Having learned to ride AutoCAD like we stole it, we figure that Adobe will soon yield to our combined efforts and we are really looking forward to learning how to manipulate the pictures in our heads and turn them into a visual interpretation of what we want to say…words in pictures…communication…what it’s all about.
A most beautifully constructed stone wall in Beauty Point. The stone is endemic to the local area and Serendipity Farm soil is predominately comprised of this stone so we are thinking about looking into learning how to make dry stone walls and taking the lemons that our soil has handed us and making dry stone wall lemonade!
“Herman” the orphaned magpie before he went to live with the wildlife carer.
Steve and I decided to take a break yesterday from studies to plant some larger maples that have just revealed themselves to BE maples by growing some leaves and ceasing to be nameless sticks in pots. We have all sorts of maple trees, predominately Japanese maples collected from road verges around prolific seeders that started out as tiny seedlings that wouldn’t have made it through their first summer in the gravel and the pathway of oncoming traffic. We have given lots of them away but there is still a forest of them out there to plant and we decided that there are worse things to have a forest of than maples. One of them is an Acer saccharum or sugar maple, a native of the North of North America and Canada and aside from being a beautiful specimen; it has worth as a food producing plant. Global warming might reduce that worth but in my mind’s eye, I can see the glorious colours that a forest of maples interspersed with edible food trees would bring to Serendipity Farm. Perennial food plants and trees that produce food are the best way to shore up your food futures for generations to come. We are like squirrels on Serendipity Farm but we are not collecting nuts, we are planting them. I learned that pecan nuts will grow in Tasmania and now all I have to do is source some. Along with Almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts we can grow a source of energy rich protein that will allow us to make our own oil, flours and pastes and in my case, milks, to add to the food spectrum. Self-seeding annuals, perennial food shrubs like currant bushes and berries, prolific fruiting vines like passionfruit and kiwifruit are all on the cards and knowing that we can guide nature and assist it to give us the eventuality that we want along with gaining positive benefits to the soil, the ecology and the native environment around us has given us the impetus to get stuck into the hard work that it takes to turn 4 acres of neglect into a going concern.
The “Cluckies”…a group of old biddies hell bent on waiting out our enforced eviction from the nesting boxes. They lay in this spot all day waiting for us to reopen the coop doors and scramble to hop back into their empty nests. A sad indictment of a hens desperation to hatch out a clutch of babies…NO MORE BABIES!…sigh…
A tray of dehydrated bananas that might make it to storage but that are so tasty that I might end up eating them before they get put into a jar
The maples that we plucked out of our “pick me…pick me…” pile, were assembled and ready to plant. All we needed to do was pick where we were going to put them. Steve chose an area to dig and I pointed out that the tree was going to grow to a considerable size and that we didn’t want it to take away our view and so perhaps it might be better moved slightly over a bit…I chose a spot and Steve started to dig…and suddenly we had a water spout…a water spout? Yup…we hit a pipe. In effect “I” hit a pipe with my choice. We have been very lucky not to hit one of the networks of black polypipe that spreads like a subterranean system under the soil just about everywhere on Serendipity Farm. The owners prior to my father and his partner were like water seeking moles that were determined not to lose access to water anywhere on the property. There are taps EVERYWHERE and most of them are within 50 metres of another tap and to have missed them up until now is a sheer miracle. The next hour was spent shoring up the system until we head into town next and pick up a more permanent fix for the system and at the moment the pipe is graced by an old metal stopcock that Steve found in the shed. Steve is an amazing Mr Fixit. I thought that country living conditioned you to being able to find solutions to problems but as a city dweller for all of his life, Steve was dumped into the deep end of country living and was able to take what we have on site and work with it to fix just about everything that needs fixing and work out a solution for most of our needs that doesn’t involve the moth eaten sock under the bed. Bedraggled, covered in mud and after flooding one of the chooks predominate nesting spots (that we know about) we looked at the rapidly assembling mass of dark clouds and decided that the maples were just going to have to wait for another day. Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men are not enough to get your maples planted.
Effel Dookarks daughter in the compound sitting on 12 new fluffy babies
You can see the new fluff balls in this shot as well as Effels daughter AND Effel in the background watching her grandkids
We had a very eventful day today. We decided to walk the dogs in Rowella which we haven’t done in ages but for some reason we decided to do so again. Towards the end of our walk we noticed what we thought was an old bottle in the middle of the road but when we got closer we saw that it was a magpie. Steve’s first thoughts were that the magpie was dead but as we got closer it put its head up and looked at us. Thinking that he was going to have to euthanise the injured magpie Steve was considerably upset but as I walked closer I noticed that the magpie was much smaller than a normal adult magpie and realised that what we thought was an injured magpie was a fledgling that had fallen out of its nest. We decided to remove the little guy from danger as there was a large crow watching him intently and his parents were nowhere to be seen. After rescuing him I put it under my jumper because it was very cold. We got home and put it under an infrared heat lamp that we bought back when we rescued Pingu last year until we could contact an animal rescue centre who told us the name of a lady living in Legana who cares for injured and orphaned wildlife. We were not considering taking another trip to town but we popped the baby into a hay lined shoebox and loaded the dogs into the back of the car and headed in to town. After dropping the baby magpie off we headed into town to pick up a few things that I forgot on the shopping list on Mondays shopping event and to give the dogs another walk around town. We got home and were sitting on the deck having a well-deserved cup of tea and as we were talking I noticed a hen that looked suspiciously like Effel Dookark wandering around outside the compound where we have contained her for her own good with her 2 remaining babies. On closer inspection we realised that Effel was still inside the compound but one of her daughters was wandering around with 12 tiny little fluff balls that she had hatched out in one of the nests that we missed! We managed to shuffle them into the compound with Effel and hopefully she will manage to keep some of them alive longer than her silly mother. As it stands, we have over 50 chooks on Serendipity Farm and it’s time to think about how many chooks we actually need here. 50 might be a tad too many methinks! After a long hard day I think I might let you off a couple of hundred words early and I might call this post finished for today. I think I might be asleep before my head hits the pillow tonight :o). See you all on Saturday.