“What’s the name of that garbage monster?”…

Hi All,

“Is it Elmo?”…”Oh THAT’S right…it was Oscar”. That’s what my dear Sesame Street deprived husband said to me on our walk with the dogs this morning. We were just about to pass a notorious dog house where said “Garbage monster” lived and dragged our two past an enormous hairy adolescent of a German shepherd with his voice breaking with excitement to see our boys. I hate to break it to you babe…Earl is the garbage monster! We then carried on our walk only to see a group of extremely tall and thin kids with their dog off the leash…sigh…we turned around and headed back the other way till we were just about to meet up with another Saturday dog walker and did another about face in the other direction and returned back to where we had started. On the way back to the car we met Buster…I can only begin to imagine the thought processes going through Steve’s strange mind that are going to give him his memory cue for that one! At least it gives me entertaining blog post titles to lure the unsuspecting in! 😉

As I just used Steve to shamelessly promote todays post so I had best give you an action shot of him making a mountain of wood futures

When I get out of bed in the morning my warm spot is immediately predated by a heat seeking missile

Earl contemplating a career as a prize fighter

On Wednesday I mentioned that we had berries on a Mahonia shrub in the jungle part of the garden and Spencer from Anthropogen, my go-to place for learning EVERYTHING about practical useful horticulture (in opposition to horticulture that is a bit of a waste of time and that results in things that you can’t use or eat) mentioned in his comment that you can make jam out of them. Always the sceptic I decided to head off and take a look…Mahonia aquifolium’s common name is Oregon grape and as the blackbirds are eagerly hovering around these bright blue berries I figured that I might harvest them and see if I can’t make a small pot of jam out of them. Here is a good website with a great recipe for jam/jelly and some hints about combining the fruit with milder carrier fruit to mellow its flavour…


We have some Myrtus communis (common myrtle) shrubs on the property as well and aside from making jam from the fruit, it is apparently good for making a type of booze and anything booze is alright by me! Thinking about it…maybe Mahonia could be turned into an interestingly coloured wine? Anyone for blue wine? Talking about blue things, we have seen an influx of the dreaded huge blue ants which form the stuff that Steve’s nightmares are made of. He was once bitten on the foot whilst whipper snipping by one of these nasty critters and aside from being amazingly painful the bite took ages to go away. The ants are not actually ants but are wingless female flower wasps. Here is a website with a picture of one of these beautiful but painful insects to check out for yourself…


That’s my “something new I learned today”.  I dehydrated some bananas that I bought for 99c a kilogram the other day. The local grocer that we buy our fruit from doesn’t wait till the bananas go black before he puts them out cheap so they are great to eat immediately or to freeze or dehydrate for later use. I was thinking about how to use dehydrated bananas other than eating them and decided that I am going to partially dehydrate some bananas to the approximate texture of dried dates and then I will puree them and add them to some home-made nut butter. I am also thinking about adding some cocoa to the mix to see how that pans out. Today’s bunch got frozen after I skinned them. I then snipped the skin into fine chunks for our ravenous compost pile to consume. I say that the compost pile is ravenous, but really it’s the small handful of leaves and red wriggler worms that the owner of “Inspirations” nursery in Exeter gave to me. He must have given me about 20 worms and I laid them reverently in the compost bin, covering them with some dried oak leaves and a kitchen scrap bucket load of various choice scraps. I came out later to see the entire compost bin seething with chooks all pecking away like crazy and immediately lamented my 20 red wrigglers, writing their eulogy as I yelled at the chooks and did windmill things with my arms in a vain effort to dissuade them from eating every last one. I figured that the compost heap was now worm free aside from the odd huge native worm that bumbled its way into Nirvana. I was wrong! At least 1 worm must have survived and went exponential on our compost heap in a big way because all you have to do is life a little of the top layer of compost and you get to see a seething mass of worms in various stages of development from teeny little thin whipper-snappers to strapping red gyrating teens. The nursery owner did warn me that they breed exponentially and now I get to reap their composting rewards and they get my buckets of scraps to fight over with the chooks.

The ubiquitous worm laden compost heap complete with an entire dead lavender shrub disguising the baby pumpkins that are growing behind it until they get so big that the chooks can’t possibly hope to quell them

Wednesday’s Mahonia berries are Saturday’s empty stems

Unripe Mahonia berries that will be harvested BEFORE the birds predate them as soon as they are ripe

The extent of my haul of Mahonia berries 😦

I put the two plastic bags that the bananas had been languishing in into my plarn bag and noticed that it was now full of all kinds of plastic bags and ticked the “to do on Saturday” box in my head initiating a plarn manufacturing day in advance. Little did I know that the garbage monster had plans of his own and his plans were for earlier on in the week! Needless to say…never leave your dog’s alone with an unattended bag of plastic bags that you intend on recycling creatively because you may have to change your “plarns” (sorry, I couldn’t resist that ;)). Earl recycled most of my plarn bags into unusable shards and the rest of them are still waiting to be processed by Earl’s internal plastic recycling depot and I am NOT going to make plarn out of them! I read on a website that living sustainably starts a chain of events in your life that can completely change the way that you live and how you see things. I completely agree. All sorts of cycles start coming out of the woodwork and I am constantly amazed at how many ways to recycle, reuse and repurpose things there are. As a natural born skiller (again…sorry…I am full of them today! ;)), I have a driven urge that is apparently the fruit of generations of thriftiness that runs in my blood like ginger beer. Talking about ginger beer…I must get a plant on the go! I keep seeing opportunities to make and do things and I am finding it increasingly hard to just make it to the end of the day having followed my goals because I am always deviating out sideways after finding something new. I thinned out my rss feed reader and rather than making my life easier, it’s actually made it harder! I have so many great blogs that I am actually reading every single post and am commenting on them all because they are all amazing resource rich sources of information and I am always incredibly grateful to those bloggers who yield quality stuff. I am getting up at 5am and have 2 hours to wander lonely as a cloud to find that sea of daffodils BUT those daffodils side-track me like crazy. It’s not MY fault that those amazing vegan food blogs are just about all participating in Vegan Mofo and keep linking to other great vegan food blogs that I just HAVE to stuff into my rss feed reader (like the hoarding pack rat that I am…sigh…) and that the rest of the quirky crafty homesteading mix that I have padding out the vegan stuff is equally as prolific and productive with their amazingly useful posts. I am going to have to spend this entire weekend working slowly through the 840 (yes 840!) posts that are mounting up exponentially in my rss feed reader and I want to read every single one! I keep a word doc open and ready to filch the mouth-watering recipes and how to’s and precious gardening information and by the end of my 2 hours word is ready to go back to bed for the day. I hit 7am (Steve’s time to wake up) running and have started a new tradition of thinking of some amazing music for him to wake up to and heading on over to Youtube, finding the entire album and turning it on as I bring him his morning cup of eye opening java. I am usually a very happy camper to be full of hours of acquired knowledge and information and carefully cribbed amazing recipes and bounce into the bedroom with coffee, wonderful music and a bleary eyed husband and his 2 furry bed mates. I think I am becoming one of those dreaded morning people!

Bananas ready for the freezer

My compost bucket with snipped banana skins to allow them to decompose more quickly

More banana peels to snip and 2 plarn futures bags…well they WOULD have been plarn futures if Earl hadn’t decided to intercede… I love being able to find ways to reuse everything that comes from our purchases and am looking forwards to heading even further afield to find more interesting ways to reuse, repurpose and recycle as much as we can on Serendipity Farm

When I was dejectedly stumbled around the garden after finding the Mahonia stripped bare of all of the succulent blue fruit that I had just decided to harvest I noted the seed pods on an incredibly overgrown and tumble-down Cassia bicapsularis/Senna. The tree is apparently incredibly hardy and this one has seen MUCH better days. I decided to collect some of the seeds and grow some more for Serendipity Farm. Aside from flowering in the winter and being a lovely looking tree, Cassia’s are leguminous and fix nitrogen in the soil and this particular variety are somewhat fast growing so they can act as foundation trees to support other slower growing trees and because they grow faster they can be cut and used as mulch. We also discovered a Kowhai/Sophora tetraptera, another leguminous small tree by complete accident when Steve noticed it flowering. It has very distinctive shaped and coloured flowers. I wonder why many leguminous trees and shrubs have yellow flowers? Genista monspessulana/Canary broom and Cytisus scoparius/English broom that has developed a curious red centre on many of the self-seeded weeds in the area also have yellow flowers as does Ulex europaeus/Gorse. Thank goodness we don’t have gorse on Serendipity Farm! That’s one weed that we really don’t need! This garden is constantly revealing little parts of itself as it evolves. I got to peek into the jungle part of the garden by braving some menacing blackberries and by turning sideways and peering through the hugely overgrown Phoenix canariensis/Canary palm that prevents entry to this part of the garden. I noticed a most interesting looking vibernum and on doing a bit of research, I discovered that there are many viburnum’s that have edible berries and some have leaves that can be used to make teas. I think that the vibernum that I discovered was Vibernum rhytidophyllum from a bit more research.

The distinctive flower of the Kowhai a leguminous tree that we recently found in our garden thanks to this flower

After a while it gets easier to work out what is leguminous and what isn’t. The leaves on the Kowhai are a dead giveaway where the flower isn’t really all that pea shaped

The plant (taken with a zoom lens) that I suspect is Vibernum rhytidophyllum amongst the jungle down in the lower garden area

It looks like Tasmania has decided to shuffle in some last bastions of winter for a couple of days. I don’t mind because I like when the garden gets watered for free and Brunhilda gets to make an appearance for a while and I don’t have to turn on the gas hot water system for a few more days. Steve has been busy fixing the front gate that has been warped by a large tree growing against one of the gate poles. He also fixed the water pipe that we burst the other day when we were planting our maples. I am so very lucky to have a husband who is “handy”. He might want to run at his days like a bull at a gate but he certainly knows how to redeem himself :o). I need to mention here that I finished “Gone Girl”. I loved the book and the interesting premise of the book but the ending was a bit weird to say the least. I had to suspend my sense of disbelief a bit but aside from the strange ending Gillian Flynn has written 3 books that I thoroughly enjoyed and will be reading anything else that she chooses to publish. I still haven’t read Like Water for Chocolate but I dare say I will find 5 minutes to shove my nose into it someday soon. My main problem now is that getting up at 5am renders me zombified by 8pm and completely unable to read anything more than a few sentence’s before I find myself waking up with my chin on my chest. At least I now earn the drool on my shirt with spring giving us so many opportunities to work hard on Serendipity Farm

I just wanted to share a few photos with you of the jungle area of the garden…

The pink coloured tree in the background is a Circis siliquastrum/Judas tree that is struggling to be seen amongst this seething mass of impenetratable vegetation

My sideways, upside down on one leg squinting shot of the garden taken just before I was heartily yanked by a wayfaring blackberry and forced to retreat from the jungle garden post haste

The mushrooms have started to slow down now and I think that my days of free mushrooms are limited by whether or not we pick up some more mushroom compost when we next head into town. The spent compost will be used to top dress garden beds as mulch. I was reading a blog this morning that talked about how restaurants are lamenting how difficult it is to minimise food waste because companies that haul away their food waste for composting charge too much. I wonder why all of the restaurants in a suburb (or even a few suburbs) don’t get together and try to do something about the problem. If companies can make money out of hauling away someone else’s food waste, surely the restaurants could as well? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to start their own communal compost heap somewhere and pay someone themselves to haul away the waste, compost it and sell it on? Thinking about it a little more, perhaps they could supply community gardens and a percentage of the produce could be returned to the restaurateurs to be recycled into their profit margin? I wish I had more food waste to compost as one day my red wrigglers are going to start lining up at the back door demanding I open the fridge for them. I think I might start a real worm farm soon. The compost heap is almost ready to be plundered for its black gold and I am going to have to evict the worms en mass. Beaconsfield tip shop often have ceramic baths for $20 and I think it might be time to head on over for a tip run in the near future to see if we can’t get ourselves a nice pink (strangely most baths thrown out are pink!) prospective worm farm. Another cycle forming on Serendipity Farm to integrate with all of the other cycles. Steve watered the glasshouse with some Powerfeed and worm tea the other day and pretty soon we won’t have to buy our worm tea, we will be able to make it ourselves.  It’s this myriad of cycles that has me excited for the future and once we manage to tame these cycles we should be able to ride the waves of change on Serendipity Farm. Nothing like a bit of proactivity to give you back a sense of equilibrium :o)

One of the lily of the valley’s that have been sprouting up all over the place lately along with the Soloman’s seals

Steve’s weird choice of foodstuffs that comprised 2 spinach and herb wraps consisting of French onion dip spread, roast pork, fresh sliced tomato, baby cos lettuce, sliced tasty cheese, omelette chinese style and some dijonaise all wrapped up and consumed with happy expat gusto. Glad I can make you happy babe but please…NEVER expect me to eat them with you! 😉

“Yeh…I did it…what are you going to do about it eh?”…a lesson in how dogs amuse themselves if you don’t leave them enough plastic milk bottles to work on till you get back…”Goodbye plarn futures till I build you up again!”

It’s just about time to post this post and I am still sitting here tapping away. I have had my tea; I have watched Gok’s wonderful cooking show. Anyone apart from me think that Gok is the Asian equivalent of Nigel Slater? I am ready to trawl the net tonight to find all sorts of quality information and so I bid you adieu for now and wish you all a wonderful weekend and remind you not to forget to listen to some good music when you can, it adds a magnificent piquancy to life and can take you to those mental and emotional places that nothing else can. See you on Wednesday :o)

Cat Stevens is a never-ending cup of the purest unadulterated pleasure and this is what I played first thing this morning to wake Steve up and to fill my heart with simple clean pure joy

The very best of Cat Stevens the full album…


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kym
    Oct 21, 2012 @ 17:37:01

    It appears you have been thwarted by the animals again Fran. No blue fruit, and yes blue wine sounds interesting, and no plarn. At least the worms won out over the chooks. I wonder whey the restaurants don’t come up with a creative solution like you suggested. Not that long ago, in our grandparents days, everyone did this sort of recycling without a second thought. Now everyone seems to want to pay someone for what they need doing, instead of finding a better solution, no imaginations left perhaps?? It’s the same with things that stop working, I would rather fix it, but sometimes the cost to fix far exceeds the actual cost of the item. We have been made into automatums who think oh I need something so go buy it or pay someone to do it. They actually make stuff to stop working after 3yrs if you are lucky. It’s frustrating, and hard to get out of this cycle. Op shops are gold mines, but lots of people wouldn’t be seen dead in them. Have to have the new and shiny prestigious stuff I suppose. At least we can recycle and still grow our own stuff.


    • narf77
      Oct 21, 2012 @ 17:55:01

      Hugs from Tasmania Kymmy :). I totally and utterly agree with you and the older we get the more we reflect on each other. Built in obsolescence is big money and rather than make something to last, they make it so that you have to buy a new one. I LOVE op shops and have found some amazing things both there and at garage sales. Now that summer is creeping up on us we might have to start getting out and checking out the garage sales all over again. The animals are definately out to get us this week! Earl keeps trying to bring a mangy old bone in and keeps getting told to get out (mainly because Bezial dobs on him if he sneaks it in!). The weather is cold here today. Hopefully you aren’t too hot over there yet. Have a great week 🙂


  2. christiok
    Oct 22, 2012 @ 10:48:00

    Oregon grape! How cool to read you’re growing it, and it’s one of those USA Pacific Northwest (states of Oregon and Washington) staples. We don’t have one, but our neighbor just showed us two she planted this fall. It’s on my list now, too! And that jam looks great. A bit smokey, like chokecherry I imagine, but I’ve never had it. Here’s to living with Bert and Ernie (aka Bezial and Earl)…:)


    • narf77
      Oct 22, 2012 @ 13:20:34

      They are certainly bert and erniesque…so much so that half the time we call Earl Ernie! I didn’t know that you could eat Oregon grape fruit either until Spencer mentioned it so we were both in the dark about that one BUT the blackbirds were certainly wise and have obviously been predating the tasty morsels for years and beat me to the booty on the first plant but there are more…and these ones are MINE! ;). I have to say they are a lovely plant as well with spiky leaves (read predator proofed) and lovely yellow flowers. They almost look tropical which is funny because unless I am severely mistaken, Oregon isn’t a tropical place :).


  3. Hannah (BitterSweet)
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 08:35:59

    Vegan Mofo does make it very difficult to keep up with the blogs, so I’ve actually been reading them less altogether. It’s just information overload and so much of it I can do without! Besides, with midterms coming up, it would be much wiser to stuff my brain with facts about ancient Roman and Greek sculpture than what the blogger down the street is eating today.

    I wish I had your dream-like farm to escape to! I can only dream of having so much to look forward to harvesting.


    • narf77
      Oct 23, 2012 @ 17:25:35

      Are you studying history? My niece who is studying history at university just hopped a train all over Italy, France and Munich to go and see history up close and personal herself. Brave girl! I agree with you about the study bit. No-one ever rewarded your blog perusal efforts with anything but good ideas :). I get up at 5am and read them till 7am so that I don’t miss a single post. Our dream-like farm is off and bolting at the moment thanks to an influx of new baby chicks and our new veggie gardens that we are just about to plant out. Everything has gone mad with the sunshine and rain that we have been having which makes it a joy to get out there and dirty and tired. We have 2 units left to finish in our Diploma and then we get 6 weeks off over Christmas and hopefully we will be studying graphic art (to assist our concept design plans) next year. After almost 2 years (in December) of living on Serendipity Farm, studying constantly and hacking everything back so that we can start again, we are finally to the point where we can actually “DO” something :). I am a happy camper. Good luck with your studies. You are an amazing photographer who captures the essence of your subject with grace and an ease that is awe inspiring. I love your work and want to eat EVERYTHING that you photograph. That takes talent :).


      • Hannah (BitterSweet)
        Oct 23, 2012 @ 22:54:46

        Indeed; Art History before the 15th Century. I honestly couldn’t care less about the content, but it’s one of those irritating courses that’s required for graduation. I’m mostly nervous about the exam because even though my classes are online, the test is actually supervised by a real, living person, who I’ve arranged to watch me at the public library. Scary! I haven’t taken a written exam in person for 5 or 6 years now, so it will be tough just to get over my nerves.

        If I could go visit all of these historical sights though, I’m sure I would feel differently about the content. Your niece definitely has the right idea! It was helpful that I’m no stranger to a few of the Italian monuments, and outliers like Stonehenge. Travel is good for more than just recreation! 🙂

        Our garden sounds similar, except without the reward of actually growing things in the end. It started out tiny, nothing but herbs, and then we finally expanded over the years, and went as far as to dig out the huge stones directly underneath, filling back in with nutrient-rich soil. We expanded the perimeter again this year, and so far, it’s paid off with a mere handful of tomatoes and snow peas. I’d love to finally be in the position you are!

        Thank you so much for the encouragement. I really do need some reassurance about this whole school mess I’m in sometimes.

      • narf77
        Oct 24, 2012 @ 05:05:51

        Sometimes, when you are studying online (like we are too) it just seems like you are wading through quicksand. The son and heir did a degree in accounting online while he was working in the industry and had to sit supervised exams at the local library. Apparently his supervisor was really nice and he got the same man for every exam that he took and at the end the supervisor wished him the best of luck on his last exam. Just remember that some day soon you will be totally finished with your studies and how liberating that is going to feel :). The best things in life aren’t free…they take a concerted hard effort and sometimes they suck. I had to do a unit on mathematics to pass this Diploma and much like you with the unit that you are doing I hated it. The most maths I had been forced to do since I left school (last century 😉 ) was to add up my grocery tally. I had to not only add…but I had to use complex equations and my lecturer had to coach me for it. Embarassing AND liberating. Once you finish this unit, and finish it you will, you probably won’t have to think about it again but it will be sitting there in the back of your thought processes as another amazing thing that you can do :).

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