Earl is my Muse….

Hi All,

Our 4 years of horticulture have just flown past. In 4 years we have managed to pack in Certificates 2 and 3 in horticulture and a Diploma of horticulture with a soon to be Diploma of Landscape Design following suit. It’s amazing how much information can be crammed into your head before it bursts. I still haven’t reached bursting point but I sometimes thing I am getting close. You NEVER stop learning when it comes to gardening and nature. All of these (usually self-proclaimed) garden equivalents to Gordon Ramsey who easily impressed gardeners aspire to be are merely skating on the surface and tend to be more marketing tools than true information highways. I tend to head over to the alternative side whenever I want to find out truly useful information but am as prone to envy as anyone when it comes to a really spanky garden. Steve and I are not natural gardeners. I shared Nat’s little piece of heaven with you all on Saturday and our garden will NEVER be like hers. We are too lazy and our sentiments and aspirations lie elsewhere (predominately in the gastronomical arena of edible plants). Whenever I drop in to Nat’s house I can spot something desirable in one of its stages of envy inducement glory. I gave up long ago with my aspirations to a gorgeous cottage garden cram packed with glorious perennials BUT I can use some of the principals of cottage gardens to help us get what we want on Serendipity Farm. Cottage gardens are mass planted. Cottage gardens have tiers and levels and borders…cottage gardens mass all different kinds of flowers together and in so doing they promote natural pest control and the massing minimises the weeds. There are many incredibly self-sufficient perennials that truly deserve a place here… I just have to sift them out of the hard work basket and work out where I can put them (most likely the side garden) so that they are close to the house so I won’t forget about them. The Catalpa bignonioides (try saying that with a cold 😉 ) or Indian Bean Tree that we bought 2 years ago from our fellow horticultural lefty mate Andrew at Red Dragon Nursery that has been only barely hanging on to life in its too small pot and its regular water stressed environment got planted out a few months back and is leafing up now. We planted it on the fenceline between our place and Glads as one day it’s going to be a gorgeous tree and it can get full sun where it is. Just a quick aside, I just checked how to spell “bignonioides” and found out that the leaves secrete extrafloral nectar as well as regular nectar in the flower in an effort to attract pollinators. What a clever plant! We have decided that we are going to plant a row of Brachychitons down the fenceline from the top of the property down to our woodshed. I can only imagine some future visitor to Serendipity Farm marvelling at the eclectic mass/tangle of plants and wondering at the minds that decided to use the eclectic selections of plants that we are choosing and what was in our minds to do so.

We took the boys to Paper Beach on a lovely cool still day and Steve took some lovely photo’s with his phone

I love the round stones on the riverbank and covet them beyond belief. It’s just lucky that I am aware of how unsustainable it is to pinch river stones or I might bring a rucksack with me every time that we visit this lovely beach

So we are plant rebels! Who cares! Someone has to be :o). Most Brachychiton species have edible seed. They thrive in dry conditions and you won’t get much drier than our back block. They were grown in Tasmania and some of the seed was collected in Tasmania so it is from established stock that has acclimatised itself to our conditions, in other words, it has provenance. Something with provenance has been grown in local conditions and is more than happy to survive and flourish. They are the perfect plants to grow in your garden or on your property because they have a proven track record. I like to check out peoples gardens in the local area. I am naturally nosy but that isn’t why I wrangle Earl in from his rabbit hunts and his sniff fests to crane over someone’s fence to attempt to see what they have thriving in their garden. I do it because if it’s happy on my neighbours property there is a good chance that it may be happy on ours.

River grass contrasting with the pure still river in the background and the 2 black swans made this a nice photo

I really liked this persons fence. The gates appear to be hand made

This photo is to give you some idea of how massive this oak tree was. The house is underneath it and is totally swamped by this enormous specimen. We couldn’t even fit it all in the shot as we would have had to back up into the river to get it all

I want to trade this wonderful man for our stupid prime minister. He is living a sustainable life by choice not postulating about it and doing deals with China behind her back to sell us and keep our economy afloat on the books. Check out this inspirational article about the President of Uraguay. This is one politician that I would actually invite into my home to share a meal. Bravo Jose Mujica you might be “The world’s poorest President” but you are one of the richest in human spirit :o).


It’s a pity Jose isn’t the president of the United States of America isn’t it? Imagine how easy it would be to change over to sustainable ways of doing things with someone who lives it every day as his creed in the top seat? Oh well…we live in hope :0).

I am SO envious of this little segment of wasteland between a house and a shed that we spotted in Exeter today. Obviously the home owner used this area to throw their green waste that obviously consisted of a proportion of potato. Isn’t it both amazing and ironic how well vegetable grow when you could care less about them? 😉

If a boat wants to head down the river into Launceston we get to see it heading past Serendipity Farm. This little tug boat is off to be serviced in Launceston. We also get to see the Astralobe, the boat that goes to Antarctica, when it comes in to be serviced. Life on the river is never boring 🙂

I just got another example of how life can give you a belly laugh when you least expect it. “Aubergine”…for 1, we don’t use that word here in Australia. We call them eggplants…but I was trying to find a really delicious looking recipe that I saw on an episode of “Andy Bates Street Feasts” last night. The recipe was for a vegan burger that started by cooking all sorts of curried things in a large pot and then adding coconut cream and THEN adding polenta to soak up all of the liquid and the resulting burgers were shaped and fried and looked scrumptious. They then kicked it up a notch by using Khobz flatbreads instead of burger buns, adding all sorts of delicious chutneys and salads and folding them up into a nice neat envelope shape that was open at the top and eating them. My kind of grub! Anyway…I was hunting for the recipe and after finding it, I copied and pasted it into a word doc and as usual Word took offence to some of the spelling. It usually takes offence to Americanisations where the words have been changed but this time it wanted me to change “aubergine”. Fair enough…I don’t use the word aubergine so lets just change it to eggplant and be done with it. I clicked on Words suggestion and it wanted me to change aubergine to aborigine! That might not have been such a terrible swap apart from the context of the recipe that wanted me to take said aubergine/aborigine and peel and dice it! I had to laugh…I guess you had to be there 😉

It may not be the most beautiful of gates but I love my new rustic garden gate :). It has given me the ability to head out to the vegetable garden whenever I like and it has given Earl the newfound joy of being able to lay in wait and terrorise passing chooks

This photo is looking back towards the new gate. The star pickets and white bird netting contain the first of the little figs that we planted out. He will soon be joined by his 3 siblings because he has responded so well to his new home.

It’s suddenly time to post my hump day post and we have been flat out fixing up things in our designs. It would seem that we raised the bar in our designs and our dear esteemed lecturer Nick has raised his expectations right along with them…sigh…oh well…I guess we were back to the drawing board on a few things! We have just finished off the work and hopefully Nick will be happy with what we have changed and added and our next meeting might be our penultimate meeting. I plan on making a celebratory cake…maybe a nice orange and almond flourless cake with an orange glaze? Who knows…maybe a coffee and chocolate spongecake…whatever we make it usually goes down well for morning tea. I have really enjoyed studying the way that Steve and I have been studying over the last few years. Studying online gives you the freedom to work at your own pace and so long as you are disciplined, it’s the best way to study. There have been times that we kept going long into the night to finish something off and there have been times that we haven’t laid eyes on a book for months. Flexible delivery is the best of all worlds. It doesn’t use precious physical resources in a classroom situation and it allows people to work at their own pace and effectively receive 1 on 1 tutelage. Steve and I attend our meetings together and poor Nick has to juggle us both but I think that it really works well because we have different strengths and weaknesses and we are able to work well together once we know what is expected of us. Nick has always expected our very best and we have always strived to give it to him…plus 10% 😉

Earl in his element. As you can see, this is the part of the loungeroom that we have given up on and have allowed Earl to systematically disassemble whatever he finds in his mouth at any given time. He is munching on one of Steve’s t-shirts that he stole this morning…sometimes Earl’s games start a little bit too early for us and racing about the house after Earl with an “I am the Stig” t-shirt in his mouth is too hard for us at 7.30am

A man and his buddha

Earl has been helping me to write this post. He wants it known that he is my muse. This morning he was trying to sing something to me and I am obviously pretty stupid because I didn’t get it. I can see him staring at me sometimes as if I am brain dead. I know that I am not very good at my doganese but I have come to it fairly late in life and can’t be expected to learn new tricks all that fast. Earl spends most of his days trying to get one or the other of us to let him out of the gate…preferably unleashed but if he MUST he will wear a collar. Due to his penchance for attempting to ethnically cleanse Serendipity Farm of all domesticated and wildlife, his days unleashed have been few and far between and usually as a result of some bloody idiot forgetting to shut one of the gates before releasing the hounds after their walk. Earl is part alien part feral and part ADHD dog. He spends his life actively pursuing life on the other side of the fence and apparently I am the weakest link in the chain and as such his telekinetic powers of persuasion should be able to get me to do his bidding. As a muse Earl sucks. The “music” that comes from within is manic. The creative thoughts are terrifying and the literature pure horror. When Earl gets bored he eats things. His latest trick is to sneak into the spare/middle room when I am stupid enough to go in without shutting the door behind me (which is all the time…) and pinching walnuts out of a large container of them that I didn’t get around to stratifying this year. Once he gets the walnut it’s game on until one of us gets bored and then its a quick “crunch” and the walnut falls neatly in half suddenly becoming a very boring game and something to be shunned. I get to pick up the slobbery bits and deposit the walnut into the compost bin. Good try Earl…today isn’t your lucky day…I am wearing my tinfoil hat! Alien BEGONE!

A newly thin Fatty after recently giving birth…sigh…we now really REALLY have to deal with the exponentially exploding cat population on Serendipity Farm

This is Steve’s favourite little female feral that he has called “little pig”…don’t ask me why but she is very tame and may just end up being caught, sterilised at the vets and become part of life here on Serendipity Farm 🙂

I don’t usually type my post straight into the wordpress arena. I might actually save it before I hit “publish” because wordpress has a habit of losing entire sentences of prose and rendering the author hair free and rabid. I have cooked Steve some interesting curried pasties with home made curry paste, mashed potato, onion and cheese to be wrapped in puff pastry later on. I have been on a roll this week with making tasty meals and hopefully this one will fit the bill tonight. We finished off our studies at 4pm and after racing about to feed the seal eyed dogs (who want their evening meal at 3pm promptly and BOLLOCKS to daylight savings…) and sorting out what has to be done at the end of the day I find myself running short of time. Its that springtime thing again combined with it being the end of the year very soon. I am slowly getting used to waking up at 5am aside from my brains attempt to sabotage me into sleeping in by having me in deep dream sleep mode right when the alarm goes off. I have learned that precisely as the alarm goes off the automatic radio track has the “good” song on. If I lay in bed too long I end up with the “bad” song…good song = creedence…bad song = katie Perry…The first song that I hear in the morning usually stays with me all day and I have learned to quickly get up in the throws of the good song and turn off the radio before the bad song starts playing and sticks in my head to torture me for the rest of the day. I guess the universe is telling me that old adage “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”…it might make a “man” all of those things but it makes me “sleepy, dopey and grumpy” and as all of you know, that’s just on half of the 7 dwarves! Talk about a weird way to start the day! Ok, you get off lightly in the posting stakes again. If Nick gives us the OK it will be back to having the time to actually contemplate our navels whilst choosing what to do with our days rather than study…Study… STUDY as our sole option. See you Saturday when we may have started our big chook run thanks to Steve picking up some ex fish farm netting with a promise of more to come. Once those ninja chooks are behind bars where they belong we can mulch the poor long scratched and suffering garden and cover it up to minimise water loss. Once that happens we can install some irrigation to keep everything (mostly us) happy and we can then start to do a few more pressing things around Serendipity Farm. Have a great rest of the week and remember…it’s just on a month till Christmas (just thought you might like to know 😉

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jmgoyder
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 21:38:05

    One month until Christmas – argh! Sorry don’t keep up with your posts as well as I want to but you are so prolific!


  2. christiok
    Nov 22, 2012 @ 01:31:13

    Great gate! Love the picture of Steve and Earl! And Little Pig is so sweet. I have turned into a cat lady. I LOVE cats. I didn’t grow up with them, and had my first cat given to me at age 52. Alas, I have just one. I love looking at your sun. It’s pouring rain here and has been for days. Rain is my provenance, but even I need SOME sun! I love your gardens, Fran. And your words to brighten my day. Hugs from Olalla! 🙂


    • narf77
      Nov 22, 2012 @ 04:57:51

      I will send you some mental sun Christy 🙂 we don’t know whether we are Arthur or Martha here at the moment we have been beavering away trying to make sure that we have finished everything in advance for the end of the year to satisfy Nick, our long suffering lecturer. We love cats too and have the horrible problem of feral cats breeding on the property and now there are way too many of them :(. I wish we had a little bit of your rain. It has been a pretty dry spring when usually it rains right up till December. I actually had to water the garden yesterday. Once we get our hens coralled we can sort out the poor garden that has been scratched and dust bathed almost to death. I am really lucky that Steve is handy (like The Bearded One 🙂 ) or I am sure that this place would fall down! We made that “rustic gate” out of things that we found on the property and only had to buy a few coach screws to attach it. We even found the hinges. I guess there are some benefits to having a dad who bordered on being a hoarder ;). Have a great day and hugs right back atcha from Tasmania 🙂


  3. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts
    Nov 22, 2012 @ 16:43:03

    Congratulations on all your horticulture learning – they are skills that will go a long way I imagine. And I love that photo of the rocks in water (and relate to the desire to take shiny pebbles away, my mother is the same and it causes my Dad great angst because it is usually when they are travelling and carrying rocks is not a wise move!).


    • narf77
      Nov 23, 2012 @ 05:08:01

      I once (before I became sustainably aware) got poor Steve to accompany me down some pretty severe cliffs when we lived in Western Australia (sandy beaches not rocky like here) with backpacks on to get backpacks full of rocks to take back and make a garden…and we did it lots of times! We were like mountain goats on the side of some pretty steep limestone cliffs…I think I thought we were puffins or we were living in Greece or something…the things you do for your garden! 😉


  4. argylesock
    Nov 22, 2012 @ 23:15:03

    I’ve enjoyed reading this. Especially ‘if it’s happy on my neighbours property there is a good chance that it may be happy on ours’ which is one of my favourite gardening principles.

    DG Hessayon said a similar thing in a radio interview. He said the success of his ‘Expert’ books was partly because he didn’t bring in his own tastes. ‘If you like it, and it grows well in your garden, and it doesn’t annoy your neighbours, then grow it!’ He doesn’t always live up to this principle in his books – you get no doubt that he doesn’t like garlic! – but basically he was talking good sense. And so are you.


    • narf77
      Nov 23, 2012 @ 05:16:01

      Thank you for this wonderful comment 🙂 I LOVE garlic and will be planting a tonne of it next year to keep us in cloves and to keep me away from the Chinese imported stuff. My garden snobbery dissolved when we moved out to the real world where borders and cottage gardens and nice neat tiny little beatiful things were completely impractical and totally delicious to the native wildlife. I had to totally rethink my idea of “garden”. Did I want something that was going to require total exclusivity to the real world, in other words, was I going to have to completely fence and cover it all? If it was that tasty to the possums/wallabies it probably wasn’t going to be the right thing for Serendipity Farm and I should be looking for alternatives that they didn’t find so palatable because they are NOT going away. I now love agapanthus where once I HATED them with a passion. I now appreciate ANY plant that will grow unassisted, in the dust and will stay alive and some of the plants that will do that surprised the heck out of me. I had NO idea that things like rhododendrons, roses and philadelphus were so hardy! It’s all about going hunting from that amazing worldwide palette that we have now available to us and seeking out what will grow in your climactic conditions, what will give you the returns that you want and grouping like minded things together. We have been practicing what we preach in our latest sustainable landscape designs and learning so much from having to put ideas into concepts into plans. Its great fun and should we ever manage to use the information that we are learning it would be amazing to help people get their visions out and onto paper to become reality 🙂 Again, thank you SO much for your comment, you certainly made me feel good this morning 🙂


  5. brymnsons
    Nov 24, 2012 @ 23:00:03

    Did you see the gate they made on better homes and gardens? They used tree branches and it looked great. Little Pig does look like a nice kinda cat. What are you going to do with the ferals? What a dilemma. Your gate looks great by the way and Earl is still a very naughty dog lol


    • narf77
      Nov 25, 2012 @ 05:17:02

      We are going to see what they charge at the RSPCA for having cats neutered. The 3 ferals that come up to us all of the time are all female. 2 of them didn’t have kittens but one of them has and we figure that if we can tame them enough and catch them then we can take them in and get them neutered at the RSPCA who offer cheaper neutering fees to people with health care cards (can’t use it to find a doctor but we can get our cats neutered…go figure! 😉 ). I haven’t seen better homes in a long time. I am either cooking tea or fast asleep drooling on the couch lol! Getting up at 5am certainly puts a damper on your television watching career ;). I will check my copy of Better Homes as its probably in there I would imagine :). Earl is getting much better! He is 2 on monday and so long as he gets enough exercise he is a lovely boy. If you stiff him on the walks you shoot yourself in the foot though 😉


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