Trade offs

Hi All,

“What are you willing to trade for the life that you want to lead?” That seems to be the common thread running through my life. This morning I headed out to water the strawberries…a few handfuls of deliciousness for all that water…I watered the poor long suffering maple trees that we grew from seed about 3 years ago that are stunted in their pots and that are likely to still be stunted in their pots in a years’ time (those that are still alive that is…) because of a trade-off…veggie gardening and food production is more important than the cost of the potting mix required to repot these now, unnecessary, trees. After watering the “unnecessary” I headed up to the veggie garden and noticed that something has chewed my kale leaves off again…sigh…I know it wasn’t possums because they were too busy laying on the bird netting on the top of the bean bed reaching their hairy little arms through to pinch whatever vegetation they could manage to grasp…the trade-off here is that I don’t like using poison on my garden and the enormous slug that is apparently the reason behind my now skeletonised kale can be taken in triumph out to the henhouse where the duck will dispatch it with loud squishy joy (a degree of personal human joy can be obtained from said “squish!” so double bonus there!) and I cling steadfastly to my city dude attitude that one day we are going to be able to live with our native brethren in harmony because Serendipity Farm will be so cram packed FULL of food that neither of us is going to make a massive dent in its productivity. The trade-off is trampolining possums with rope burn on their arms and wallabies that are brave enough to circle the “unnecessary” bed and are picky enough to only eat the newly emerging leaves of what they grazed down prior to this present buffet style munching episode.


Firstly I have to say “THANK YOU; THANK YOU; THANK YOU!” to Jessie from the wonderful “Good life” blog Jessie sent me some of her sourdough starter that she makes her gorgeous loaves with along with some kefir grains. I was over the moon that they only took a day to get here and I plonked the kefir grains straight into some milk and Steve headed over on a mercy dash to buy some organic rye flour from Beaconsfield. Jessie also made that lovely black dishcloth that you can see underneath the jar of milk and happy little kefir grains doing the backstroke. I got it this morning (hence the green smoothie behind…note the spoon that Steve made me for my smoothies, extra long and has a pointy end to liberate “bits” from my vitamix). Take careful note of the 3 almonds in front of “Audrey” (my new sourdough’s name because she is going to want me to “FEED HER SEYMOUR” ASAP…). They are the result of a very caring man who decided that they looked like they were “on the turn” and that he would save them from dying…sigh…it looks like Jessie’s children aren’t the only ones prone to picking unripe almonds from trees 😦


After the mercy dash we have 2kg of rye flour to feed Audrey…


Audrey ensconsed in Herman’s old pot after being fed and watered. She is VERY happy by the way Rabid! It is a warm day here today and she has crept right up to the top of Herman’s old pot! I am going to feed her twice a day as a precaution against vinegar bricks…I now know that it wasn’t Herman’s fault…it was MINE! I should have been feeding him twice a day to encourage yeast growth, once a day encourages lactobacilli that make your bread sour and they must have been inhibiting the yeast as my bread didn’t rise enough…result…vinegar bricks. Maybe Audrey will be able to give me something that Herman couldn’t…an edible loaf of bread ;). Steve said “I don’t even want to look at it ok?” He has bad memories of us both being enslaved to Herman and his kin…around the clock nurturing that took over our lives! Now I have Audrey and the information that I need to ensure “I” don’t stuff it up, lets see if this little black duck can’t turn out something resembling “edible” :). I am over the moon Jessie! You just made my day, my week and my month and I don’t even care that I am going to be Audrey’s indentured slave until I can wean her off her rye and get her back into the fridge where she belongs…she has earned her warm spot and her fast raise for the next few days 🙂


I don’t know where our local grocer gets these Mainland mangoes from but for $1 each, and supporting an Aussie farmer I am there!


This is what they look like after cutting away the seed and freezing them ready to be added to my breakfast green smoothies. The seeds have all been put into the compost heaps all over Serendipity Farm as an interesting experiment. I figure that if mangoes fell from trees, they would do so in hot and humid conditions not all that different to my compost heap so lets just see what happens…at the worst, the seeds will rot down into the compost, at best I get a mango tree…a win/win situation!

At the bottom of this philosophical ethos, I guess what I am trying to say is that I have chosen to live like a penniless student hippy and the trade-off is that I can live how I please. I can experiment with my vegetable garden and I can take the time to “feel” this space and work out what I want and where. I can research long into the night and I can get up early and do the same thing until lunchtime if I wish. I temper my efforts to learn everything that I can about our world and everything that is pertinent to what we are doing with studying to advance our “worth” to society. I am able to spend the time working out which plants are going to be right for our situation and our requirements. I can download PDF’s and head off on as many tangents as I like to find what I am after and to me, that ability is worth our “penniless” label. Money is pretty overrated. I can hear the son and heir scoffing now. He is a money man…he deals in it and his job pretty much revolves around the acquisition and hoarding of it. If you choose to live simply and think laterally you would be very surprised at how little green folding stuff you actually need. Rabid, my erstwhile idealistic heroine of Ballan who has more energy than the Eveready bunny and would give my chin out mum a run for her money with her stubborn refusal to give in, has recently opened my eyes to the power of bartering. Bartering has been used for millennia as a way for we proletariat peasants to access the goods and services that we need without the requirement of ready cash. Rabid likes Steve’s spoons… Rabid lusts after a little spoon of her own…Rabid sends sourdough to a lustful Narf7 and suddenly a world of possibilities opens up… I love sharing. I really do. I don’t know why, but it is part and parcel of “me” and Steve is learning how much happiness can be gleaned from generosity. By the way, does anyone out there want any Cape gooseberry seed? This plant is a marvel for drought ridden areas and will grow just about anywhere. The chooks love to eat its large leaves and adore the fruit. I love the fruit and it is related to tomatoes and tomatillo’s but if you let it ripen it is sweet and tasty. You can even make jam and chutney out of them and they grow like weeds. I love how they keep popping up everywhere courtesy of the chooks and their past pilfering of the lower fruit on one ancient perennial shrub that has been here metastasising since dad was alive. Let me know if you want some (anyone in Australia that is) and I will start drying some. I have them growing in the garden and the compost and can spare a few seed ;).


Not only are the cape gooseberries in the main garden, they grew all through the compost that we used to make the first set of garden beds and you can see one growing maniacally on the left of this shot…does this garden/jungle have any sort of order?! Not really…this is the result of 2 people hell bent on preventing the possums and wallabies from scarfing their produce…so hell bent that they have made it a virtually impenetrable fortress…and that includes for themselves! ;). The lettuce has gone to seed but I am going to collect it for lettuce futures and you can see the clover growing, I just left it because it is nitrogenous. I love how the veggie beds are evolving and doing their own thing (because that means that I don’t have to become a middle aged contortionist and slither sideways into them to correct anything that has gone wrong! 😉 )


The trade-off for having a maniacal rocket plant is that it is rocket in the bank. I get to save the seed, the rocket keeps the soil covered and moist and NOTHING eats this bitter plant when it has gone over to the dark and seedy side The rainbow chard are also doing well and I will share some more garden shots with you on Saturday


This is a teeny little compost heap. Well fortified and apparently of no interest to the possums because it didn’t have anything pinched from it last night. I have decided to kill 2 birds with 1 stone and make lots of little compost heaps all over the place where we want to plant trees. I figure that they will soften the soil, attract worms and add nutrients to the soil where we are going to plant in autumn. I think I am starting to learn a few things!


The lengths we have to go to just to keep compost inside our compost bays but as you can see, “things” are growing in them. This was the last half 10kg sack of spuds that had gone stringy and are just starting to grow through the layer of leaves. I have also planted mango seeds (you never know…) and adventitious pumpkins are sprouting all over the place. The other large compost bin full of potatoes has been hit hard by the slugs but they are soldiering on regardless. I “found” some jerusalem artichokes out on the nature strip (and some comfrey but that is for another walk with the dogs 😉 ) and brought a couple of them home and put them in the centre of the big compost heap…again… you never know!


Here is one of the culprits who are eating leafy things in the veggie garden…this one made a most satisfying noise as it slid down duckies happy beak!


Some of the veggies that we harvested this morning…thank GOODNESS I have a recipe to make “Zucchini Cream” out of that monster zuke!

Compost is another one of my trade-offs. I spend the time making round wire mesh compost bays and I spend the time putting my fruit and vegetable scraps into a bucket in my pantry and supplement them with the vacuum cleaner emptying’s and paper and cardboard snipped up as it becomes available. I cut up all of my cardboard boxes and use the little $4 paper shredder to shred all of the newspaper etc. that we are able to find. I have been known to pinch extra I.G.A. catalogues when we are in Beaconsfield as they are made with thick newspapery paper that is great for the compost heap. 1 ½ years ago I could have cared LESS about composting…composting was something that mum nagged me to do and thus went straight into the “NUP” basket. Now I lust after leaves in the park underneath big deciduous trees, I twitch when I see people carting green waste branches to the tip, I can’t even begin to imagine throwing paper and scraps into the bin where once it was something I did without thinking about it. The trade-off for this vigilance is that I get amazing compost to put into my gardens and to feed this poor dry ancient topsoil. Swings and roundabouts folks, there is always an up, and a down and it’s our place to find the best balance between the 2 that we can whether that involves learning to suck it up when you find yourself with a bean cube rather than a mass of foliage and knowing that if you take that problem and find a prospective solution, next year you will be triumphant. Learning and constantly finding new solutions, not only keeps your brain active but fills you with possibilities beyond what you thought possible. If you aren’t a materialistic person you might just find that living with less and going lateral feeds your soul. It has certainly opened up some incredible doors for me :o)


An ENORMOUS pile of ex-fish farm netting 🙂


A photo that Steve took from next to the veggie gardens…can anyone…ANYONE tell me how photo’s make things look so much better than they really do?!


This is a $2.50 “drinking coconut”. Back in the day I would have consumed the juice, eaten the meat and tossed the rest into the bin…not any more!


The liquid and the meat go into my morning green smoothie…


I also get this empty shell, that  I dried out completely, that I can make a bird house out of or a simple coconut bowl…either way, this valuable resource won’t be wasted…


Even the white fibre on the outside of the coconut was chipped away and will go into the compost to enrich it’s suite of organisms… where once $2.50 wasn’t worth all that much, It most certainly is worth MUCH more in the sum of its parts now 🙂

I am starting to think about seed swapping again. Saving seed and swapping seed must be one of the most fundamentally fulfilling things that we can do. Not only are we “Sticking it to the man”, one of my favourite bolshie pastime, but we are feeding a tradition that goes back to our very human roots… survival through spreading the love (and load) around. Diversification is the means to survival. Monocrops are not the answer to our food problems. I would have thought that the great potato famine would have stood as testament to that. Back in biblical times there was famine and we need to learn from those lessons and not rely on single crops to be our saving grace. Monocrop’s are designed to line the pockets of the über rich and nothing to do with producing nutritious food for humanity. We need to diversify and work with what will grow best in our own little neck of the woods and learn to be satisfied with our lot, something that in the artificial world that humanity now manages to inhabit is an entirely foreign concept to mainstream thought processes…we are taught that we can have ANYTHING so long as we work hard enough…no we can’t folks. We can manipulate our environment just so much before it goes on the blink and refuses to do what we ask it to do any more. We need to work “with” rather than just take and that’s what we need to be learning now, how to solve the industrial sized problems that humanity has been forcing the world to live with for the last century. We CAN do this; it just involves that awful word that so many of our children would rather eat their left food than do…”work”. I, myself am not ashamed to admit to being incredibly lazy. I was one of those people contemplating the benefits of life without a left foot but I changed and if I can change, so can anyone. Again, all it took was a good hard honest look at how I was living and a strong desire to do something positive. I am NOT of the school of thought that “we are going to hell in a hand basket, let’s just group together and moan about “the end days” with sackcloth on our heads”…not THIS little black duck! If I am going out…I am doing it whilst trying to do something positive. If you can’t pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again it’s pretty much game over and I plan on living this life to my full potential for as long as I can and as happily as I can. I want to leave a positive legacy, led by example, for my children of just how important it is to keep going and learn to live within your means and be satisfied with your lot. In saying that, I am not talking about being stagnant. I am talking about exploring the parameters of the life that you have been handed and doing everything that you can with it…go as far to the left and right as you can and put miles on that life before you have to hand it over to be checked in.


Before ANY of my facebook friends do a double take and say “I SWEAR I have seen these last few photo’s before?”…yes you have and yes I AM going to use them here in the blog…whatchagonnadoeh? ;)… I found these empty water bottles on a walk and decided to title this photo “EPIC fail”…


If you haven’t already got them, you should get these babies soon Jessie :). I LOVE bartering! Bring it on! 🙂


“1 more photo…just ONE more photo and I SWEAR…”…


Everything except for the cheese came from Serendipity Farm :).

I suppose it is all about that precious thing that makes humanity such a wild card…our ability to choose our own pathways. Our choices can change the world. Whether we know it or not, every action has an equal and opposite reaction and what we do DOES matter. I am talking science here folks, not hippy mumbo jumbo…call it “the butterfly effect” if you like. We are all here for a reason and it’s up to us how we choose to live. Steve just phoned and told me that David, the owner of “Wholesome House” our wholefood establishment of choice asked him about his wooden spoons! Steve is starting to see that his hobby could actually pay off. David is interested in stocking Steve’s spoons! We will take a selection of them in for him to see and we will see what happens from there. I guess you just have to be willing to explore those parameters and be brave enough to occasionally go out on one of those limbs on the boundaries. I have been thinking more and more about community. About developing all different kinds of communities, online, through the blog, locally and globally. Forging relationships with other people isn’t hard. Keeping relationships with other people is much more difficult. We aren’t taught how to negotiate, to listen and to suck it up these days and dealing mano-a-mano with other people isn’t as easy as it once was. Back in the day (say a century ago before industrialisation…) you HAD to get along with the other people in your community. You might not have liked them but each and every one had a place and a job within that community. You learned to live with each other because you HAD to and that is an incredibly valuable lesson and part of the reason why humanity survived and metastasised into what we are today, our adaptability. Industrialisation allowed us to play God. It gave us a false sense of our superiority and we ran amok. The problems that we are all having to face up to are a direct result of corporate greed and our insatiable desire to elevate ourselves above the rest and we are going to have to learn to live with less and accept the consequences of our actions BUT we can learn to do this with grace and hope and we can leave a better world for our children and their children. We just have to be willing to accept the trade-offs.

37 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kym
    Feb 06, 2013 @ 19:40:45

    I would like to try those cape gooseberries please. I hope they will grow here, and those mangoes, wow they look fabulous. I love mango. Bruce is allergic to them so I get them all to myself, mwahahah. That slug is huge! I haven’t seen any that size before. Something is eating my basil!! I will be spraying with pepper and garlic and see if that works. I am very envious of your vege haul, looks like an ad shot. That green smoothie looks so well green! I will have to try one when I come for a visit. I might start glowing, in the dark 😀


    • narf77
      Feb 07, 2013 @ 04:58:05

      I will dry you some cape gooseberry seed like mum used to do (on some paper towel) and will let you know when I am going to send it :). I don’t know about glowing in the dark but I certainly feel good! ;). Like I said, I don’t know what photo’s do to things, but they certainly make them look a whole lot better than real life! You also didn’t see that one of the zucchini had been chewed by a possum! 😉


  2. rabidlittlehippy
    Feb 06, 2013 @ 20:03:08

    Life is a trade off. No matter who we are and what we do we trade something of ourselves for the life we want to lead. Be it trading the hours between 9 and 5 to pay for our home and family or the freedoms we have when single to have a family or a full night sleep and bladder control traded off to have children there is always something for something.

    I cannot tell you how excited I am to see the picture of your kefir and sourdough having arrived safe and sound (I wasn’t sure if they would pass customs or not) but to avoid becoming a slave, once Ms Audrey is fed up and at a quantity of 2-3 cups, make her home in the fridge. I feed Bertha maybe every 4 days. I fed her up just after she “birthed” Audrey and Audrey’s as yet unnamed sibling who has migrated to the beautiful Blue Mountains. I wasn’t game to feed Audrey before posting in case she exploded on her travels although it does appear she has been at least a little incontinent. 😉 As for the kefir (named Kiefer) in our house, I am more of a slave to his needs than Bertha’s. Bertha is the quiet servant in the background who serves us well and does her work dutifully whereas Kiefer is the demanding son after his inheritance. Fortunately my kids like to clean up after him and they drink as much as he can spare. And no thanks are necessary. I eagerly await the spoons that I have so long lusted after and I cannot tell you how profoundly glad I am that I was able to swap something for a spoon! The dishcloth is only my second attempt at making them (using the only cotton I had which is some beautiful black organic cotton that I bought insufficient balls of to make anything significant) so please excuse the dropped and picked up a row later stitches and uneven edging and missed pattern lines. I ran out of time to make another perfect one for you. I’m sorry. 😦

    You are spot on regarding mono crops. Companion planting works for a reason and surely, a little extra work at harvest time owing to the diversity planted will be far outweighed by better crops, less pesticides and greater opportunities for sales (selling tomatoes and basil at the same time means bruschetta or pasta sauce to me) but the ease of driving a huge machine through a field that has been set out and designed specifically to cater for the wheels of the fossil fuel guzzling monstrosity seems to unfortunately appeal. I am just starting to learn about all of this permaculture stuff and reading up on companion planting is fun. I too am naturally lazy so it’s been challenging changing that part of myself and I am heaps better than I was. I make so much of our food now from scratch instead of buying it conveniently pre-packaged and ready-prepared so I know I’m doing better already. Now just to tackle cleaning the house and focusing more on the garden although I am beginning to really enjoy a quiet pooter in the garden. I put in 2 knocked-up trellises for beans and peas, planted 3 comfrey near my banana (they love it) and sowed my brassica and some onion seeds today. Bring on Autumnal planting (and yes, sounds much better than Fall planting 😀 )!

    Oh my… :O 😀 JUST saw the pictures of the 2 spoons. They are beautiful and I shall perch myself on the letterbox (if it will bear my weight) to snatch it greedily (with a thank you) from the postie before ripping off the wrapping to admire them. 😀 I cannot wait! 😀

    Wow, you have me thinking deeply with your community theory and I think you are spot on correct. Once we had manners ingrained deeply into our very make-up and even if you disliked someone you were at least polite about it. You didn’t just tell someone to sod off and you would never dream of not even knowing who your neighbours were. You’ve also challenged me so I have some thinking to do. 🙂


    • narf77
      Feb 07, 2013 @ 05:13:49

      I might have to change Audreys name to “Rabid little Audrey” because she LOVES her food! She was less incontinent than Herman was when I got him in the mail…he had managed to extricate himself out of his container and most of the way through the box and the lady at the post office kept saying “I can smell something strange around here?” ;). I plan on making coconut kefir once the grains get strong enough but first I am going to build their numbers up in regular milk. You can make coconut kefir or nut milk kefir with regular grains…next step is to get in touch with Dom and get some water kefir grains. Then I can make all kinds of weird and wonderful alternatives to soft drink. Maybe I might even find a Kombucha momma! I thought that my dishcloth was beautiful :). I think handmade things should look handmade and not like they came from the throes of a machine.
      I think that the entire modern generation is lazy. We have had it too easy and we also have incredibly short attention spans thanks to our modern technology and having what we want, when we want it immediately. Moving to the country and having to learn to wait and watch and take the time to do things properly has been a real eye opener! I must admit, trading off my laziness to becomeing a “Doer” has been wonderful! I feel so much more accomplished and worthwhile now :). I found some comfrey running amok next to the river and figure I might rehouse some of it on Serendipity Farm 😉
      When the effects of peak oil hit home, we are going to have to rely on community a whole lot more. Suddenly, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker are going to get jobs again. We will need local business because it will be the ONLY business that is sustainable! Back to small towns and dealing with the locals and perhaps even learning to respect everyone for what they are worth all over again. “Respect” wasn’t something that people just “did”, it was a learned response because of humanities living conditions. We can re-learn how to value the aged :). We are well set up for post peak oil conditions here, tiny towns dotted all over the place and a small area that needs to be covered (on bike? 😉 ) and rather than see things as “WOE!!!” I choose to see opportunities…imagine how valuable you are going to be if you can “do” things? How many people specialise in 1 thing and can’t do a whole lot more these days? We are all part of a big machine that fosters enormous cities full of humanity…once the cities can’t afford to run any more and society is forced to simplify and regroup, the people who “know things” are suddenly going to be the most valuable resource around! As I said…THIS little black duck is going to be positive about it all 🙂 I hope your spoons get there soon, Steve sent them on Monday so I would imagine that they should get there today 🙂


      • rabidlittlehippy
        Feb 07, 2013 @ 14:40:57

        I am eagerly and fearfully awaiting peak oil and with the raving about the shale oil “found” near Cooberpedy I am fearful and excited that it’s sooner than I thought.
        Peak oil has the potential to bring out the best and the worst in people and I am hoping that we are prepared to meet it and help others meet the challenges too. I am eager as I believe the changes we see will be kinder to society and Gaia alike (once the dust settles) and fearful that we will not be off grid and as ready as I would like to be (solar power and water tanks and goats) but what will be will be and we will make do with what we have.

        I have to agree with the laziness too. I think about what women in the olden days did. ALL wood fired stoves, the long dresses and petticoats, even on those 40+ degree days, kneading all bread by hand (oh I do love my Thermy), washing in the copper, wringing it out by hand and cloth terry towel nappies. And for some, if you wanted a new dress, go plant your flax, harvest, prepare, card, spin, weave, cut and then finally hand sew your clothes. For the men, building everything by hand, hand sawn and chopped trees, no nail guns, no power drills, flour milled by wind or horse power, mining by the power of pick in hand, no elevators to get down to your level but however many levels of ladders, hand pumped water or well drawn, fighting bushfires with wet sacks and maybe a horse drawn furphy of water. You want to contact someone and organise an outing? Write them a letter and wait. Can;t change your mind last minute either. No tomatoes to eat in winter, no cherries unless you have your own tree. Childbirth? Absolutely no chance of pain relief, just intuitive knowledge passed on by our mothers and aunts and more recently, doctors. Yes, it was a much harder life and I don’t believe we have the strength to keep up with our ancestors, despite the advances in modern nutritional understanding, technology and everything else.

        Off to check on the letterbox. Here’s hoping. 🙂

      • narf77
        Feb 07, 2013 @ 14:59:28

        I love the process of kneading the bread…getting yourself right into the roll and fold…you don’t really even need to knead bread apparently…I found a site where they just kind of lift it up and slap it down a few times and that’s it! I remember the farm that we lived on till I was 10 and it was about as off grid as you can get. We did have electricity but I remember 3 enormous water tanks on stands that the frogs lived in and occasionally mum would turn on the tap and half a decomposing frog would slither out…we had to use tank water for everything, we had a long drop “Dunny” and we watered the gardens with dam water and mum actually had to use a copper and a copper stick! Not so far from “the old days” and decidedly hard work! Same goes for my grandparents. My dads dad moved down to Denmark Western Australia with a war grant of land and they had to clear the land with horses and hand saws and those trees were MASSIVE! As I said in my post…it is only about 100 years of human greed that have screwed up the world to the point where we are now…industrialisation may have appeared to be a good thing, but how many major wars did it spawn and how many men got rich off the back of the environment to it’s detriment. It isn’t that long ago but we have lost the generation that lived comfortably with their lot and with less. We need to ensure that we learn as much as we can from them (books etc.) because they were the keepers of the processes…man made processes won’t last, we need to be able to adapt and remember. I don’t think we need to fear…remember 2000 and the Millenium bug? (Y2K)… everyone was stressing about that and we just soldiered straight through it! If I am being honest, and I usually am ;), I think smaller communities, simpler lives and real jobs as a result of peak oil can only be a good thing :). I think it is more a matter of “having” to cope with our grandparents lives…there won’t be much of a choice.

  3. christiok
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 07:03:20

    I love your vegetable garden goal to live in harmony with the slugs and possums and wallabies. No war zones on Serendipity Farm! And the trade-off is indeed barricading…and producing A LOT! Also, LOL … “I don’t even want to look at it ok?” re Audrey the sourdough starter. Steve is so clear.:) You are time-rich, Fran, and so are we. It’s a good tradeoff and I do feel rich. “Money is pretty overrated,” especially to us older folks. Also, interesting idea about having lots of little compost piles…..hmmm. I didn’t know you could put the vacuum cleaner stuff in compost…does dog and cat hair ever disintegrate??! I’m with you on the importance of developing our communities, Fran, and consider you and Steve long-term friends. With love from Olalla.:)


    • narf77
      Feb 07, 2013 @ 07:12:14

      I also chop up small branches to add Christi, it aerates the soil and allows root growth and our veggie garden beds are built on a base of chunky chopped up native branches and they seem to love it :). A few dog and cat hairs are great for the compost heap. Most of our vacuum cleaning results are from Earl and Bezial! For short haired dogs they certainly know how to shed! The compost idea was recent and putting 4 haybales around the base of each tree that we plant will allow us to keep the moisture in our soil over our extended dry summer AND enrich the soil, AND protect our trees more easily from possums (we can shove some polypipe into the haybales and throw over netting…) AND we can plant directly into the bales with groundcovers like strawberries and endemic edibles which really excites me :). I am sorry to hear that you did your ankle in :(. My back is playing up and so we are again, sharing our war wounds symbiotically over the ether :). Extra love and a BIG hug from Serendipity Farm and “healthy vibes” for the B.O. 😉


  4. Allotment adventures with Jean
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 07:24:29

    Hello Fran. This post has given me a lot of food for thought. Everything does have it’s trade off. Retirement four years ago came with a huge drop in the ‘folding stuff’ but time to explore other things. There is so much going on at my library, I’m in love with my allotment and all my fellow allotmenteers who are so generous with their advice. I have time to look after my grandsons. Time to write. Wonderful.
    Your veggie garden is growing like Topsy, you must be thrilled.
    I read with interest about your kefir and your Audrey. I am developing a real passion for fermenting foods. I have sauerkraut, fermented carrots with my home-grown garlic and yoghurt. The yoghurt came out a bit stringy but I’m off to a preserving food workshop this morning and I’m taking my yoghurt with me (as you do). Perhaps I can at least strain it and use the whey. Who knows. I’ll find out. I like your little smiley faces you use in your posts and comments Fran. I would love to know how to do it.


    • narf77
      Feb 07, 2013 @ 07:56:12

      Good idea to take the yoghurt with you Jean, that way people in the know can say “AHH! that’s just (such and such)…!” To do a smily you just click the : key and the ) key next to each other and wordpress makes the smily for you when you click “reply” or “comment” and the winky is ; and ). I have been getting excited about fermentation possibilities as well and have been cramming my overstuffed rss feed reader with some wonderful blogs that make me “SQUEE” with excitement (I LOVE that word 😉 ). I hang about on the etherwaves looking for signs of big possibility waves… I am addicted to sustainable life and soul feeding possibilities and like you, I LOVE to learn. Libraries are havens for brain food and they are free! My trade-off for the folding stuff is that I get to live the life that I want to lead at a much earlier age than most people do. You are learning the true value of community and have found that sharing your life with like minded people and constantly learning new ways to do things is addictive AND rewarding. The folding green might buy you means to an end but it can’t buy you the experience of the processes that give life its colour, flavour and texture…they all come from starting… progressing and finishing and can’t be bought for any price :). I wonder if something in the garlic made your yoghurt go stringy? Garlic has antibacterial qualities and actively kills a lot of bacteria…I wonder if it knocked out your lactobacillus? The garden is growing like topsy thanks to it’s own devices. My only imput is the occasional pinching of leaves or roots or fruit and a steady stream of water. Aside from that it is doing it all itself! I let it fall over, lay on the ground, mass with the clover and adventitious wheat and interplay with all of the pests and beneficials that flock to the oasis of green and aside from wallaby and possum invasion everything is working in harmony and forming it’s own little biosphere :). Again, another chance to learn from life processes…I sometimes think I am a living computer…born to process things and churn them out the other end…NO idea what I am processing for but I am sure that it will come in handy one day 😉


      • Allotment adventures with Jean
        Feb 07, 2013 @ 09:02:49

        Thanks for all the tips Fran. Incidentally, the garlic is in the carrots. The yoghurt is made just with milk and the starter.
        I agree with you about local libraries I’m a big fan. I’ve written a post about what’s on at our local library in my Retirement blog today. Click on this if you are interested

      • narf77
        Feb 07, 2013 @ 14:42:26

        LOL! I read it as “Carrot, garlic and yoghurt”! I thought you were being extremely adventurous there Jean ;). I am off to check out your post…we just got back from taking a poor Tawny Frog Mouth that had been hit by a car to a vet in Launceston and I need to catch up with my day plans 🙂

  5. cityhippyfarmgirl
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 11:37:50

    sigh…just look at the size of that sucker of a slug. No wonder the ducks made delicious slurping sounds.
    Hope your new starter stays bubbly and happy. (Mine smelt like week old man socks the other day…not quite so happy.)


    • narf77
      Feb 07, 2013 @ 14:43:57

      I hope so too…so far, so good! I learned that you have to feed it twice a day to minimise the sour flavour and I am going to put it into the fridge tomorrow morning after I feed it…stasis 😉 It certainly smells like a good starter 🙂


  6. Deb Cameron
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 12:16:57

    It was lovely to see so many comments from you on my blog. My bearded wonder and I are recycled hippies as well. One of our homes is on the Tamar as well at Rosevears, so we have a river house and a beach house. We will be selling the river house later in the year as we are downsizing for our retirement. We are trying to fit as much food into our 600sq mtrs as possible as well as having all the flowers that I can’t live without. We have made the beach house garden easy to look after in our dotage. We are not doddery yet but we want to still be here when we are. Look forward to regularly reading your blog.


    • narf77
      Feb 07, 2013 @ 14:47:16

      I didn’t think I was doddery until I moved here! We are on a pretty steep slope and both of us have had some pretty spectacular falls (mainly in winter when the slime is about…)…we are VERY careful now ;). We live out near the Auld Kirk Church and often come home via Rosevears as its a pretty drive. I love flowers BUT have had to learn to put food plants first and then flowers second…I am learning to garden the Italian way. They bung everything in together to confuse the pests and their vegetables are magnificent :). Glad to find another fellow veggie gardener and recycled hippy on the river in our own little patch :)…are you going to keep blogging once you move? I hope so! 🙂


      • Deb
        Feb 09, 2013 @ 22:04:03

        I have already moved but do spend the odd weekend back on the Tamar as the bearded wonder still lives there. He has a picture framing business in Launceston and when he sells his business later in the year, he will move down to be with me at the beach house. So at the moment we are traveling a great deal. I have 2 blogs, one is a photographic blog and the other is my frugalista blog.

      • narf77
        Feb 10, 2013 @ 04:29:57

        I haven’t visited the photographic blog yet (but that will soon be remedied 🙂 ) and love the frugalista blog :). Steve and I met on the internet. He was in the U.K. and I lived in Western Australia. We met after a year of online chatting and after he went back to the U.K. we spent another year waiting until he was able to come out to Australia so we know what it is like to maintain a long distance relationship :). I love the idea of a beach house. Out here on the river it feels salty and beachy without the sand and as I have always lived somewhere near the sea it is where I feel most complete :). Travel certainly makes the time that you can spend together a whole lot more precious and you will soon have your new life down south :). Are you going to keep your blog going? I certainly hope so! I might be selfish but its a wonderful blog that makes for a most entertaining read 🙂

  7. foodnstuff
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 13:03:47

    Are you sure that slug was eating your plants? It looked like what I would call a native species and they’re supposed to be carnivorous, i.e. they eat plant-eating slugs, amongst other things, and not plants. I’d better do some more research.


    • narf77
      Feb 07, 2013 @ 14:48:31

      Oops! Maybe I shouldn’t have given it to ducky!!! 😦 Not all slugs are tarred with the same feather…some can actually do some good!


      • foodnstuff
        Feb 07, 2013 @ 17:11:58

        OK I checked and stand corrected on that one. It looks like a leopard slug and is introduced, so ducky was correct in downing it. But there ARE native slugs and snails.

  8. Joanne
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 23:17:59

    I wish we got mangoes like that here! They are downright gorgeous!


    • narf77
      Feb 07, 2013 @ 23:24:57

      I have NO idea where the green grocer is getting them, from mainland Australia somewhere but to get mangoes like that for $1 each is a real bonus and makes my morning green smoothie taste all the sweeter :). It’s not often we Aussies can make you guys jealous! 😉


  9. sweetveg
    Feb 08, 2013 @ 03:02:26

    It’s so fun to read about your farm! Gorgeous spoons, by the way. I left you some info about koji over at my Homemade Amasake Post. I am not sure if you have seen it. Cheers! 🙂


    • narf77
      Feb 08, 2013 @ 04:57:34

      I haven’t seen the info yet, I had best head back and read the comments in your back posts :). Cheers in advance for info about koji. It’s something that I would really love to use here on Serendipity Farm as I want to make all kinds of Japanese (and Korean) ferments with it :).


  10. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
    Feb 08, 2013 @ 03:08:59

    “Serendipity Farm will be so cram packed FULL of food that neither of us is going to make a massive dent in its productivity.” Beautiful thought that I will hold in my heart for you. As always, great post and photos.


    • narf77
      Feb 08, 2013 @ 05:01:11

      Thank you Paulette :). I might be idealistic but there is science backing up my ideals! I know that possums have a large territory and that they guard it fiercly and that wallabies won’t do a lot of damage if there is plenty of vegetation for them to graze and they also form small groups after a few years. I figure that once our food forest is up and running and I put in lots of superfluous fruits and veggies (like jerusalem artichokes, canna lillies, cherry plum trees, lots and LOTS of grape vines and kiwi fruit vines etc.) that we don’t mind getting raided, the natives animals and birds can feast to their hearts content and there will still be more than ample for us. I was born to share 🙂


      • The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
        Feb 08, 2013 @ 05:18:11

        I completely agree with what you wrote. We don’t need science to show us what nature and life are already doing. The symphony and harmony of life coexisting, sharing, is the most lovely concept I can imagine. You’re in that process which I think is a large reason I have gravitated to your site. 🙂

      • narf77
        Feb 08, 2013 @ 05:28:07

        I think that when you broker the edges of humanity with both science (learning and education and up front common sense) and the unknown (everything else 😉 ) you walk that amazing, exciting tightrope that we humans call life. The precious thing that gives us our one true claim to fame, our choices. Every single one of us holds the future in our hands and we owe it to the world, to our future generations and most importantly to the universe, to live like we are supposed to be living and stop treating this world like our own personal pleasure generator. I love the ethos “live simply so that others may simply live”. So pertinent and SO true! We need to learn what constitutes reality because we humans live in an entirely man made reality that is alien to the natural world and that is totally unsustainable as we live it today. There is sheer unmitigated beauty in withdrawing from this race to oblivion and finding your place alongside the rest of nature and living your fate as you should be living it. Nothing satisfies the soul more 🙂

      • The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
        Feb 08, 2013 @ 05:56:48

        Good stuff, kiddo. You sure you’re not channeling Thoreau? lol Seriously, love what yo wrote. Thank you lovely human/huwoman. 🙂

  11. Chica Andaluza
    Feb 08, 2013 @ 20:21:22

    Another great post here! Yes, life is about trade offs and I guess you can set the parameters with regard to how far you go with it. We do the same in Spain, we’re not totally self sufficient but as far as possible we are and we love the live we have and the way we make it work for us – I think you feel the same! Gorgeous mangoes, my very favourite fruit. Do you put them in the smoothie with the skin too? Much easier if you do! On an tangent we are just planning “our” kitchen and I have set my heart on wooden work tops and am hoping we can find some reclaimed wood – are they practical or is that too dull a question?! Just loved the look of yours! Good luck to Steve with the spoons..sounds like it could be a good way to make a little of the necessary evil (money) but having fun and using local scrap wood while you do.


    • narf77
      Feb 09, 2013 @ 05:04:37

      I actually like mango skin so I throw it all in, I figure with all that red there has to be some benefit ;). Make sure you find some really hard wood. Not hard where you are but here in Australia, it’s predominately pine and pine worktops don’t work… we know, we did them in our home in town ;). We used bamboo here and it is serving us well but oak or any of the good hard woods would make an amazing worktop. I have seen some really gorgeous worktops in hardwood and am getting excited in advance to see what you come up with :). It’s great fun sitting in your computer chair watching someone else do all of the work…it somehow adds something to a renovation that you seem to miss when you are in the thick of doing it yourself ;). “Oh…you missed a spot on the ceiling…” 😉


  12. thinkingcowgirl
    Feb 10, 2013 @ 07:26:24

    You’re in the vanguard of a new wave of people trying to make it on the land and as you’ve rightly pointed out, sharing the burden with a community makes it much more doable, whether that’s sharing ideas and photos via the web or literally sharing actual things like seeds and labour. Lots of people have given up in the past because it’s really tough and they have become more and more isolated. Hurrah for the internet! Feeling connected to and encouraged by like minded souls is as good as getting paid. 🙂

    Your veggies are stupendous.

    That slug is a beast! Have you heard that they hate copper? Though I think the price of metal is through the roof at the moment because of the accelerated ‘growth’ of economies like china…so maybe not the right material!


  13. Littlesundog
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:26:06

    After reading this wonderful (as always) blog post yesterday, and then getting sidetracked… here I am reading the whole post again AND finally I got through all of the comments… and well, frankly, I’m speechless! I agree with everyone and everything, and as usual, I just love the way your conversation winds in and around every nook and cranny of Serendipity Farm, stopping only to feast eyes on those lovely photos (sometimes mouth-watering!) .

    I got my Valentine’s spoon in Saturday’s mail! My goodness, it’s a work of fine art! So smooth and gorgeous. And bless you both, that little wooden heart was a perfect touch!! How shall I care for it? Any tips on keeping it in tip top shape for many decades to come? I also noted it cost you a small fortune to send it to Oklahoma. You two are fabulous beyond words… and Earl’s got a special place in my heart too!


    • narf77
      Feb 13, 2013 @ 05:16:42

      Earl sends a wet slobber your way, don’t worry about the postage, we love sharing and to keep the spoon in tip top condition we make a mix of melted bees wax and edible oil but you can just wipe it with a little walnut, almond or olive oil if you like :). If you don’t use it, it will be fine but if you do use it, just wipe it over each time with a little olive oil (after you wash it) and it will be a longstanding member of your kitchen with conotations to Serendipity Farm and Tasmania :).


  14. Sophie33
    Feb 20, 2013 @ 04:29:20

    Such a lovely post & a lovely read too! Great pics too!


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