Exploring the parameters

Hi All,

It’s 5.11am on Tuesday and I should be reading my exploding rss feed reader but with 400+ posts all shrieking for my attention I am starting to feel like a worker in a day-care centre. I have decided to make a start on tomorrows post before tomorrow creeps up and starts howling along with the rest of them. We are entering an interesting phase on Serendipity Farm…our studies are a meeting away from finishing for the year. We are just about to say goodbye to 4 years of horticultural study and head into the unknown and previously unexplored world of art and design but until February we are free agents with only our own wanton desires to harness our guilt valves and our desires run to various activities on Serendipity Farm. A little while ago we were incredibly lucky to take possession of 2 large rolls of ex-fish farm netting from the salmon farm around the corner from here. They have to regularly replace it and after they remove the lead weights from around the base that keep the hungry seals from scarfing their profit margin they haul the rolls out into the paddock and anyone in the know can have them for free. We recently reacquainted ourselves with a couple of estranged friends and gave them a plethora of plants that we were never going to be able to plant on Serendipity Farm. I wanted them to have a life because we propagated them with love and they were languishing in their pots and needed to be planted out before they gave up the ghost in our extended rain free summer. Our friends were very grateful for their newfound plant wealth and asked us what we were up to on Serendipity Farm. We told them that we were in the process of harnessing our chicken population for “good” but were waiting till we were able to accumulate the funds to build the enclosure needed to keep them inside rather than outside and that was when Guy mentioned that he knew where we could get some free netting…the start of an adventure! I have always found that generosity breeds generosity. Like most islands Tasmania relies on a few core industries and recently one of those industries lost its fight to rein supreme. The forest industry is in the process of bowing out of their monopoly but in the process they are taking their jobs with them and leaving behind a bewildered and jobless population. Money is a rare commodity and people are starting to learn the value of a good swap. These rolls of net that Steve picked up a few weeks ago are 20 metres long and 10 metres wide each. We have been promised more of them and after unrolling a roll yesterday I suddenly realised how massive they were. We should get our chook enclosure out of a single roll and visions of my friend in the witness protections fully enclosed garden are dancing like sugarplums in my head…


Talking about my friends garden, isn’t this clematis lovely? We visited our friend who shall not be named the other day and I took some photos of her garden progress and her wonderful new fully enclosed vegetable garden


Isn’t this Kalmia latifolia commonly known as mountain laurel, calico bush or spoonwood lovely? Our friend in the witness protection picked this lovely shrub up for a song at a small local nursery


A closeup of the beautiful flowers.

I can feel the boundaries of the cultivated suddenly gaining possibilities that previously existed only in my mind…in the sad, tired, almost defeated part of my mind along with the “chook” and “feral cat” categories that have been sitting on the “too hard” fence for a while now. Being a penniless hippy is one thing…being an impatient penniless hippy makes it harder. Steve and I have an insatiable appetite for being able to make and do things for ourselves but sometimes even the most pressing desires have to be tempered by the need for some kind of input and whether that input is monetary and we have to shake the moths out of our moth eaten sock under the bed to get what we want or a matter of logistics there is usually an unbearable waiting period that accompanies the process. Steve and I are not country folk. We haven’t learned the value and indeed the necessity of waiting for what we want. Living in the country teaches you harsh lessons…living in Tasmania, where there actually are 4 seasons also teaches you about cycles and change and life in a way that was previously easy to skim over the top of. Sometimes you just can’t change the boundaries no matter how much you try and you just have to wait. When you ask your deity for something you may just have to wait for a response. I tend to let my wants and needs merge together and with a bit of faith that someday they will emerge triumphant they usually do. Before we can really sort out our garden areas we need to remove the ever industrious chooks from the equation. Their unfettered population is going to be minimised and reduced down to a core egg producing population and Yin will get a free ride because he is such an amazing rooster who is completely selfless. After we build this (now possible) chook run over the next few days we will be able to take back Serendipity Farm from the chooks.


Isn’t this black sambucca lovely? You can catch a glimpse of the new enclosed veggie garden in the rear of the photo


I really love how our friend has used hardy perennials and shrubs in her garden along with rocks sourced from her property. Not too long ago this entire area was a flat wasteland…under water in winter and dry and rock solid in summer. Our friend is working steadfastly and refused to allow this monumental task to overwhelm her and her garden is really starting to reflect all of that hard work


Our friend in the witness protection with her grandson Dylan. You can see her families water supply in the background in that big green tank. Her family are completely off the grid with complete solar power, tank water and no telephone line to their home and are certainly no worse off for their lack of utilities

That’s phase 1. Next we need to protect what we want to keep alive and growing from the invading possum and wallaby hoards. I managed to grow a borage plant this year. I remember borage in my grandma’s garden and had an altogether nostalgic desire to have one in my own garden. I saw some growing in an area of wasteland and transplanted one of the small seedlings into the front garden where it promptly died BUT it must have seeded before it croaked and I got a nice healthy borage plant growing where its stunted parent dropped it the year before. It was going great guns until the wallabies decided to take a sample and found it “tasty”. I am now the sad owner of a borage stalk. It joins the ranks of the Nepeta 6 hills giant stalks…the dwarf elm stalks…the rapidly decreasing ornamental grass stumps and the repeatedly harvested back to growing point ground covers that I am attempting to utilise to minimise soil moisture loss in the front garden. Between the chooks scratching my pitiful attempts to mulch around what I love and the wallabies and possums hell bent on eating the water stressed root exposed remains I am bordering on being a broken horticulturalist. With the possibility of more rolls of netting I am starting to get excited again…I have visions. I have visions of a place where the small existing orchard is covered and unattainable to the wandering slavering hoards and they can only cling tenaciously to the boundaries licking the netting like children outside a sweet shop. I have visions of being able to walk into a fully enclosed vegetable tunnel that can be converted in the winter to increase our growing season…I have visions of being able to make attractive netted fencing around Steve’s adored Japanese maple collection that doesn’t make my newfound internal artist wince when I look at the motley collection of chook food bags and bird netting cobbled together in haste to protect them…as usual…needs must at the time but once the necessity becomes a certainty, a fella’s mind runs to aesthetics…


Our friends home behind the beginnings of what is going to eventually be a Laburnum walkway using Laburnum vosii


Our friend looks after one of her other friends rescued donkeys. You can see Tasmanian native bushland in the background


Isn’t this new little baby sweet?

Steve had a day off walking today because he did a glute (or whatever the leggy bit that joins to a glute is called…) when he was rolling up the massive heavy roll of ex-fish farm netting the other day. Bezial didn’t mind staying home because he was being plied with home-made dog jerky when Earl and I headed out the door. It rained last night and the bushland smelled amazing. The sun was shining and Earl and I set off with “Born to be wild” as our ethos and decided to head down the highway and look for a bit of adventure of our own. Steve doesn’t like walking down the highway on a week day because it’s pretty busy and there are lots of trucks but Earl and I are rebels and could care less about trucks whistling past us at breakneck speed. We collected a couple of empty soft drink bottles for our next and final lecture with Nick. I have to say that Nick has been a brilliant lecturer. He really pushed us to excel and gave us a new appreciation for deserved praise. Part horticulturalist, part psychologist and part Hitler, he certainly knew which of our buttons to push to get the best out of us. Kudos to this wonderful lecturer who genuinely loves to teach. They say that those who can…do and those who can’t…teach but this is a massive disservice to most of the teachers that I know who are in it for the long haul and you could completely understand an edge of desperation in their populace here in Tasmania where one in two people can’t read or write adequately and where education is so far down the hierarchy of importance in a Tasmanian’s day to day perambulations that it ranks after having to eat their own feet. Another old saying comes to mind…”you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink” and that echo’s the conundrum that many passionate lecturers over our state would feel when faced with a class full of students who are ill prepared to learn.


I am incredibly envious of our friends bargain kettle that she picked up at a local market. This kettle is wonderful and if you look at the side of it closely you can see an envious woman taking a photo 😉


This lovely Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Leopoldii’ (variegated sycamore) has so far resisted the local wildlife and has certainly given us the impetus to get our little specimen out into the ground on Serendipity Farm. Our friends specimen was much smaller than ours last year and now its at least 7 times bigger!


Isn’t this enclosed veggie garden wonderful? I am green with envy! BLUE with envy…just like that ex tennis court netting that our friends clever repurposing partner decided to use to protect their vegetables from the marauding hoards

We have decided to adjust our dog’s diet to ensure that they are getting enough fibre. I don’t like proprietary dog biscuits because they contain ingredients that are based on profit margins rather than the health of their consumers. That leaves me with having to find a way to include fibre in their diets through something that I have made. I need to point out that I am not a bad cook. In a past life I made my living out of preparing other people’s food so our 2 American Staffordshire terriers complete refusal of their evening meal every second night is nothing to do with my degustatory abilities and a whole lot more to do with how incredibly fussy they are. Amstaffs are naturally very strong willed and our two are no exception. Bezial is part labrador and aside from liking to head out into water up to his armpits and gaze wistfully out to sea in search of the illusion of a partridge and his predilection for enormous quantities of food you would think that he was predominately an Amstaff thanks to his complete disregard for his long suffering owners who are making windmill arms at him and yelling out his name at the top of their lungs while he wanders off, nose to the ground with purpose…Earl is an entirely different kettle of fish and actively avoids the water unless the weather is hot. He has a very finely honed sense of what is right…HE is right…the end. Living with 2 strong willed dogs isn’t much different to living with strong willed children and I have had more than my fair share of strong willed children. I can actually physically hear them all roaring in protest at that sentence but you know what kids? You WERE strong willed…and so was I :o). Whenever the dogs start to lay down the law…I gird my loins and take my years of parenting battles to the negotiating table where they attempt to negotiate and I point blank refuse to yield my territory…it took me years to gain this tiny little bit of ground and I am NOT giving it up for 2 stubborn dogs! Thus begins the battle…no problem on night 1. A large bowl of prime pet grade steak for each of them which usually disappears before I have turned away to wash their cutting board. Its night number 2 where we have the problem. I recently decided to put steak into the food processor and add it to wholemeal plain flour and several grated carrots which I kneaded together and pressed out into a biscuit (yes to my American friends that would be “cookie” in your strange language… 😉 )tray that Steve then takes out and cooks on the bbq. The end result would be eagerly consumed by just about anyone. It looks like meatloaf…it smells like meatloaf…I dare say it tastes like meatloaf but Steve is a party pooper and refuses to try it for me ;). To the dogs it is sheer unmitigated poison and every time I serve it to them they turn up their noses…look at me with seal eyes and head off to lie on the ground at a distance but still within sight so that I can see just how cruel I am being to them, sighing as heavily as they can. The battleground line has been drawn and I SHALL NOT BE DEFEATED! No pity from me! No giving in to their grumbling stomachs in the morning and no giving them extra treats on their walks because they are obviously hungry. What we are trying to serve them every second night is what other dogs would fight to get. Ours are incredibly spoiled fussy buggers who are going to have to learn to eat their fibre like everyone else. I will keep you posted on how it goes but I can bet that they are still refusing their fibre rich tea by the end of the week. I didn’t think that there was anything more wilful and stubborn than my 3 children but you know what? There is! 😉


This ancient little reprobate is called Tilly. She is the feisiest old girl (aside from Glad) that we know and in this photo you can see her actively rolling around and doing her level best to stop Steve from taking her photo to share with Nat 🙂

I love having leftovers, especially frozen leftovers. It appeals to my frugal bones as well as to my lazy bones and on nights where we have been busy or unexpectedly diverted from our regular activities it is great to have leftovers to fall back on. Even after 2 years of living on Serendipity Farm and leaving our adult daughters behind in our home in town I STILL haven’t gotten used to cooking smaller portions. I think the problem stems from Steve being Omni and me being vegan. It hardly seems worth cooking a single portion so I cook for 4 and Steve ends up with lots of leftovers which we are able to stockpile for unexpected events. I will be heading off to my daughter’s home in Launceston this weekend. We are having a mum and daughter bonding weekend and Steve, Earl and Bezial will be doing some bonding themselves…the girls and I will cook and watch movies and talk etc. and Steve and the dogs will turn feral in the few short days that I am away. I am only mentioning this because I won’t be here to post my Saturday post and Steve will have to do it for me. We have been having a battle with our duck who has decided that she doesn’t want to have the shackles of oppression thrust upon her person by having us lock her in with her fellow chook brethren and who has been hiding amongst the agapanthus where Steve couldn’t find her. I hear her quacking early in the morning in readiness for me throwing out bread and butter to the feral chooks that live in the large conifer out the front of the house. Once we erect the extended chook run we are going to give away 2/3rd of our chooks. We don’t want to give them to just “anyone” because the odds are that these prime egg laying girls will be eaten. I would rather give them to someone who wanted to keep chooks for their eggs and who wanted to give them a good home. If any of my Tassie readers know of anyone who fits that bill, we have some lovely chooks looking for a good home. Please let us know as we are not too sure what to do with 20 chooks! Our REAL problems start when we try to rehouse the ferals who steadfastly refuse to move into the coop with the rest of the chooks. We know where they roost at night and it won’t be hard to sneak in there and nab them but what do we do with them then? I am sorely tempted to toss them over the fence of the unscrupulous woman who sold us “8 hens” and who told us that she was CERTAIN that they were all hens…she has her own karma and is currently overrun by chooks and most probably wouldn’t notice a few extra’s but I couldn’t do that to my chooks no matter how much they infuriate me (and no matter how much she deserves them back! 😉 ) so like everything else on Serendipity Farm, they have to be dealt with A.S.A.P.


This photo has the sole purpose of reminding me that it does, indeed, rain on Serendipity Farm. I will be looking at this photo wistfully on a regular basis through our coming 3 months of dry weather to give me hope that one day…it will rain again


Steve…Jack of all trades and master of whatever he turns his hand to ensuring that this pole isn’t going to be the weak spot in our war against chook invasions on Serendipity Farm


Some of the poles that we dug into the rocks soil on Serendipity Farm yesterday in readiness for our wholesale chook control in the very near future

Don’t forget to send a comment our way if you would like to win the handmade Blackwood spoon that Steve made specifically for this giveaway and from timber sourced from Serendipity Farm. No bells to ring, hoops to jump through or Facebook pages to like, just let me know and you will be in with a chance. He put the final coat of delicious smelling orange eco-oil on it and it has a lovely satin finish and feels and smells wonderful. You have until December 22nd to let us know and go into Earl’s walnut lotto which we plan on videoing and sharing with you all for posterity (and complete transparency 😉 ). See you next Wednesday and remember that Steve is posting my post on Saturday so go easy on him or you will have me to deal with next week! 😉

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roz Takes
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 19:20:49

    Great post as usual Fran. I do wish I could help out with the chooks but living in the City doesn’t allow. That Clematis is beautiful don’t remember seeing one quite so frilly. Greg gives Nicholas carrot by itself. Have you tried letting them just munch on one as is? Rice, cooked of course, is also very good.
    I would love to put my name in the Spoon Lotto you know how I love all things wood especially hand made. Say hello to the girls for me.


  2. Allotment adventures with Jean
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 20:48:13

    Hi Fran. Another interesting and mammoth post. Where do you find the time? Congratulations on finishing your 4 years of study.
    I can see why you have to net your veggie area to keep not only the chooks out but also the possums and critters. It’s heartbreaking when precious plants get nipped off at ground level.
    Have a fabulous time with your daughters.
    Please can you put my name down for the Spoon Lotto? The wooden spoon looks rather magnificent, and rather special if it’s made with wood from Serendipity Farm.


    • narf77
      Dec 06, 2012 @ 05:17:02

      You are in Jean! In like Flynn ;). We have some serious plans for using that netting to make a large structure like our friend in the witness protection (she isn’t really…she is just camera shy 😉 ) has to keep out the varmints. I can rattle off posts like machine gun episodes…I have 14 muses all congregating around a single exit and at the moment (touch wood) I have more than enough material floating around inside my poor addled brain at any given time to sit down at any spare moment and tap out something that although it may not be gramatically correct and the spelling might be somewhat dubious at least starts somewhere and ends up somewhere else 😉 Lets just hope that my muses don’t all get together and have a look at their cramped working conditions and go on strike at once!


  3. thinkingcowgirl
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 06:42:06

    I LOVE the look of that Tasmanian bush. After all your chicken dramas I’m quite glad I haven’t got any 😉 – don’t they get killed by anything? Beautiful kalmia, aren’t flowers amazing? Must put the tulips in ….TOMORROW!


    • narf77
      Dec 06, 2012 @ 06:47:25

      I adore tulips and not much touches them thanks to their proclivity for poisoning anything stupid enough to try. Daffies and jonquils offer the same sunny defence and are predominate here on Serendipity Farm. I think there are so many of them because this 4 acres was once part of the Auld Kirk Church at the front of the property and who knows how many convicts are buried under our soil?! Hopefully Earl doesn’t dig one up one day! Yeh…the chooks get eaten by pretty much anything that feels like a bit of a snack but the feral cats on the property are scared of them. Our chooks appear to have developed ninja like stealth and Viking ferocity. The first feral that attempted to stalk our initial herd of chicks got chased down the driveway by a rapidly advancing hoard and they haven’t touched anything other than tiny chicks since. It’s really weird because one of the ferals catches the neighbours adult chooks and brings them back here to eat them amongst our chooks but has never touched ours! I have Kalmia envy and our friend managed to get the very last one! She has most magnanimously allowed us to take some cuttings when it gets bigger but that won’t be for quite some time yet…oh well, you win some…you lose some! 😉


  4. Hannah (BitterSweet)
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 09:48:23

    Your flowers are truly other-worldly! I’ve never seen anything like them, and they’re hauntingly beautiful, much like aesthetically pleasing aliens visiting the earth. And those colors- Oh, such vibrant hues! Sigh…. We could never grow such things here, even in the height of summer.


  5. christiok
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 15:29:03

    Such good food for thought about boundaries and chosen lifestyles…I’m with you, Fran. Desire and waiting, the yin and yang of life. The photo of the clematis is glorious and reminds me of my Grandma Milly’s front porch in Helena, Montana. Like you and your grandma’s borage. I’d like to have a clematis on my porch this spring. That baby donkey has stolen my heart. I have never seen such absolute cuteness in a donkey before. 🙂 Have a wonderful visit with your daughters! I saw both of ours last weekend, and it was so sweet. :)Love from Olalla!


    • narf77
      Dec 06, 2012 @ 15:41:35

      How “woo-woo” that I just started to read your post and noticed your comment! 😉 Those donkeys were rescued by our friend in the witness protections animal rescue friend and live quite happily at her home. The other day they stampeded down to the house paddock because the man delivering our friends mulch forgot to shut the gate and they saw their opportunity and took it with all 4 (or is that 12?) hooves! ;). Ok, off to read Farmlet for today! 🙂


  6. brymnsons
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 22:08:15

    I love the baby donkey Fran. I want one for xmas! But not with a pregnant lady atop 🙂 I would also love to take some chooks for our new home in Norseman. The back yard is ginormous and would fit a few chooks quite easily. Haven’t heard anymore from you about the gardeners job, i guess you were just teasing you naughty girl lol. The Kalmia are so pretty. Good luck with the doggy biscuits, those fussy buggers! I would love your recipe as I have been thinking I might start making my puppies some homemade biscuits when I am lazing around with loads of time in Norseman. I must admit I am looking forward to having the house to just ourselves. I’m also looking forward to having food in the fridge and cupboard for more than 2 days 🙂 It will be nice to clean the house and have it stay that way for longer than a day too! Will miss them like mad too. Have a great time with your girls x


    • narf77
      Dec 07, 2012 @ 04:23:24

      Its a whole different life when you head out and leave the kids behind! You certainly don’t feel “empty nesters” when its YOU who have flown the coop! ;). You can make a wonderful veggie garden that will thrive like crazy out there in that heat Kymmy! I will package the chooks up and send them to you…no problemo ;). Yeh…a decided NOPE for the gardening job as it’s too hot for your poor old Tasmanian friend in Norseman! You were brought up, up north but I was a delicate little petal from down south remember? Too much heat makes me wilt (and incredibly crabby 😉 ). I will have a great time with the girls this weekend and am trusting Steve to post my blog post for me in his own indubitable way. Have a great weekend but I dare say you will be flat out sorting out your move. When are you moving by the way? 🙂


  7. Kym
    Dec 08, 2012 @ 00:23:35

    Yes you southern belle you. Denmark is colder than Albany and that’s saying something! We are booked to be packed up on the 13th of January. We will travel up to Norseman on the 14th and the packers will deliver our stuff on the 15th. We will take our camping bed up with us and “camp” in the house until our stuff is delivered. I have a list of things we will take with us, kettle, toaster etc so we will have what we need until everything else turns up.


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