A Tale of 2 Sourdough’s

Hi All,

Barter is a beautiful thing. I recently swapped 2 of Steve’s lovely handmade spoons for a new sourdough starter and some kefir grains. It’s great sticking it to “The Man” and no “man” deserves sticking it to more than our supermarkets folks! How do penniless student hippies get the extra’s that they want? They barter for them! Aside from being a means to an end, bartering is fun, sustainable and bolshie, all of my favourite things rolled into 1. I know that supermarkets don’t sell sourdough starter and kefir grains but they do sell white crappy bread at $1 a loaf that lures people with reduced incomes to their doom and drags farmers down with them. Milk and other dairy products are also heavily discounted, to dairy farmer’s detriment, and intensive dairy farming with minimal returns result in cost cutting farmers and something’s got to give.  My first sourdough effort resulted in something orange and funky that needed to be flushed down the loo A.S.A.P! I got given Herman’s grandfather by a fellow blogger and after coaxing him back to life from his long journey from N.S.W. he rewarded me by 2 months of slavetude and vinegar bricks. Herman had the misfortune of being fed only once a day and was teaming with lactobacilli, the bacterial quotient of the symbiotic relationship that results in a good sourdough. Thanks to being lactobacilli heavy, he was concurrently yeast challenged. It’s a bit like a seesaw relationship, too much of one means not enough of the other and you have to make sure you juggle your sourdough bacilli with yeast initially until your starter stabilises and becomes strong enough to develop its own robust personality. Herman was sour. Herman was past sour, he was positively vinegary! He couldn’t raise the skin off a rice pudding either and so Herman is in stasis on my pantry shelf in a vacuum sealed bag. I don’t blame Herman, I blame myself. I didn’t realise that a balance needed to be established and Herman was the result.


My cinnamon muffin mise en place with the glass of cultured kefir and my breakfast smoothie spinach


A closeup of the cultured kefir which is a lot like yoghurt. The difference between yoghurt and kefir is that yoghurts culture is eaten along with the yoghurt, kefir grains are fished out and reused over and over again and can be used to culture just about every kind of milk aside from UHT milk (what does THAT tell you? 😉 ), goat, sheep and non dairy milks as well.


Here’s the fermented starter, flour, milk and rolled oats for the cinnamon muffins. You can see that the mix has bubbled up and looks somewhat like pikelet batter


The resulting muffins looking and feeling more like cake than robust sourdough muffins


A closeup of the fine texture that the fermented sourdough gave to these muffins


The miracle chocolate cake…once separated oily ropey gunge, now combined and smelling amazing! Sourdough magic 😉


As dear old Mr M Loaf once sang…”2 out of 3 aint bad”…and he was right 🙂

Now that everyone knows that I am unbalanced…lets proceed! Herman in stasis and me swearing to never dabble in the sour arts ever EVER again lasted about as long as a first time mothers pledge to never EVER have another child…the memory softens and gets a sepia tone to it and suddenly you are pregnant all over again or in my case, begging for sourdough starter from Jessie, a.k.a. “Rabid” from the wonderfully sustainable blog http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ and a chunk of her brains. Well, little white brain like kefir grains to be more specific ;). Not only did Jessie send me a lovely hand knitted black organic cotton dishcloth (that is too nice to use 😉 ), she sent me the daughter of Bertha that she split with another lucky recipient and some kefir grains. The kefir grains have decided to band together in a mass and spend their days backstroking around a glass of milk until it sets where they call out to me telepathically and I change their milk for fresh milk. I used the cultured milk to make icing yesterday and apparently it tastes lovely. I will give them a week of happy backstroking before I introduce a new medium into the equation and let them take a float in some home-made coconut milk. Variety is the spice of life kefir and life on Serendipity Farm is about as spicy as you can get! I had fed Audrey twice a day for 2 days before I decided to actually use some of the discarded sourdough and following recipes closely I mixed together the flour, milk and starter for a batch of cinnamon muffins, a chocolate cake and a batch of English muffins. The remaining starter was fed a cup of rye and white flour mixed a cup of water and after it rose up in her jar she was put into the fridge. I am going to rename “Audrey”. She deserves to have a much more favourable name because when she was initially named I envisaged a hungry tyrant who would lead me to baking’s dark side and it would ultimately end in tears…to the contrary, this new starter is malleable, compliant and most charmingly willing to please!


Bezial was hot and bothered on our walk on thursday so we let him off his lead for a swim and here he is fishing, a much happier and cooler dog 🙂


We found this poor tawny frogmouth in the road on our walk. Steve thought that it was dead but when I went over to investigate it was still alive.


We took the poor thing in to Launceston to the vet who told us that he was too far gone to recover and he was euthanised. I was in 2 minds whether or not to share these 2 photos with you but decided that he deserved to get his 15 seconds of fame. R.I.P. Mopoke 😦


We took this photo at a little park in Launceston where we stopped to give the dogs a drink of water and a bit of a walk after taking the Mopoke to the vet’s. This shop specialises in high quality fake flowers and Christmas decorations…very specialised but they must sell enough because they are still there.


This is the bark of a gorgeous old Pinus pinea (Italian Stone Pine) in the same small park. We have several small ones that we grew from seed collected from another specimen. These trees produce cones that contain the edible nuts sold as “pine nuts”.

I got up yesterday morning and had a little peak and the separate bowls of fermenting milk, flour and starter to find that the ensuing mass had indeed risen and was rippled with bubbles and smelled yeasty and only slightly tangy. If I had used Herman the whole lot would be curdled, it would smell like malt vinegar and would take your breath away and it would be flat as a tack! We were already ahead! We headed out to walk the dogs and when we got back I started to bake. Steve headed out to the shed to make a spoon when he was interrupted by a local calling out to him from over the gate and he headed down to have a chat and was offered several trailer loads of spent horse bedding hay for our garden beds. All we had to do was go and pick it up. Sorry Steve…I am too busy, it’s going to have to be you ;). Steve does all of the cooking in our covered bbq and is quite proficient with it. I have never cooked anything in this bbq and was to be left alone with it to cook my sourdough creations so if something was going to go wrong, it would go SPECTACULARLY wrong! The bbq was behaving itself and I was able to mix up the cinnamon muffins and after 20 minutes (turning halfway) the muffins were ready. They smelled amazing! They had a light and fluffy texture that I wouldn’t have thought possible from sourdough products and in addition to their flour, milk and starter overnight ferment they had rolled oats. After a night the rolled oats had virtually disappeared and the resulting muffins were more like a light spongecake than a robust muffin. That would be a “tick” for recipe 1…I pulled down the homogenous mass waiting to be made into chocolate cake. I mixed the chocolate part and stirred it into the homogenous fermented mass and dubiously poured it into a baking tray (it is a big cake). It had started to separate, had greasy blobs all around it and generally looked like a failure waiting to happen. Being the stalwart that I am, I decided to bake it anyway and after 15 minutes cooking I headed out with dread to check it. Feeling sure that it would have bubbled over and set the bbq on fire I was pleasantly surprised to find a “chocolate cake” doing the right thing under the cover. After 35 minutes of low heat the chocolate cake was finished and set out to cool on a wire rack…that would be tick number 2


I found this “thing” on my walk with Earl yesterday. We took a bit of a detour down the Batman Highway to check out a source of Foeniculum vulgare (Weedy fennel) seed but it was still in full flower and no seed yet but we DID find this. Steve thinks it looks like it came from an irrigation system. No idea but it is huge…it is metal…and it is mine! It looks steampunk enough to carry one of my more spiky succulents or cacti 🙂


We went through the overflow pantry cupboard in our middle spare room on thursday and ended up finding several ancient containers of goodness only knows what. One smelled of garlic and was riddled with weevil tunnels…(Italian weevils are a problem on Serendipity Farm 😉 ), another contained Macca powder that had suffered the same weevil infestation albeit a long LONG time ago. These weevils are the equivalent of biblical humanity to their modern day weevil equivalents. The white stuff is some sort of African processed cereal product made from maize that I bought and tried once only. Maybe African’s actually like the flavour of wallpaper paste? The darker brown is from some forgotten (also weevil infested) zaatar and there was a jar of ancient breadcrumbs that joined the throng. I poured a kettle and a half of boiling water over this mass and served it up to the chooks for breakfast. At least SOMEONE enjoyed that garlic, macca, zaatar flavoured wallpaper paste!


This is the lush foliage of one of the cape gooseberry plants on Serendipity Farm. You can see the green fruit capsules hanging like lanterns from this perennial plant. The offer is still open to anyone (aside from Kym who has already taken me up on the offer 😉 ) who would like some of the seed to grow in their gardens. It produces edible berries that can be eaten raw or cooked and it will grow in the Gobi desert it is so hardy 🙂


The fruit is inside the husk


1 of our transplanted artichokes (showing signs of predation) that might just make it. The rest of them have disappeared 1 by 1 into various chicken, possum and wallaby craws


I found this little fellow in amongst the carrots that our friend gave us recently. I couldn’t bring myself to chop him up. He is currently sunbathing in the lid of my recent coconut conquest 😉

I then attempted to make the English muffins. It has now become apparent that you need to make a somewhat stiffer dough for the muffins and Jessie has given me some hints and tips for making them next time. This time they were more like pikelets or flatbread and although Steve ate a couple of them with some butter I know he was doing so because he was hungry after hauling all of that hay rather than a genuine desire to eat the results. I just processed up the cold remainders to put into the dehydrator to dry out and make breadcrumbs. No waste here :o). At the end of the day I was completely enamoured of my new starter. She is currently hibernating in the fridge where Jessie told me she can wait it out for 4 days before needing to be fed again. She deserves a place of honour for her efforts and my recent bartering has opened up a world of yeasty possibilities, hours of happy researching and a plethora of recipes and experiences waiting to be discovered thanks to a mutual swap. Life doesn’t have to be tough and there are many ways to skin a cat. We need to be able to step back and think about other ways to get what we want if the folding green stuff is remote or completely absent.


This trailer load of old horse bedding hay got forked into the chook yard for the hens and Yin to fossick through to their hearts content.


The rest got dumped next to the existing vegetable garden beds


Garden bed futures…I just realised that our veggie garden area is looking a bit “Tip Like”…time to get on top of that pile of junk Steve! It is all metal and apparently in demand. We owe some of it to our friend in the witness protection’s welder partner and we will use some of it in future ventures but for now we are going to stack it up nice and neat so that we might look like we are growing illicity crops BUT at least they will be neat! 😉

It has been exceptionally windy on Serendipity Farm for the last few days which has reinforced my desire to one day install a small wind turbine to harness the power of the wind. Tasmania is prone to windy gusts and this phenomenon has been given a name, “The roaring 40’s”, which is also the name of a large wind farm in the states north east. I am really interested in alternative energy and as the technology becomes more and more mainstream the prices of sustainable and renewable energy should reduce. We are waiting for a reduction in price before we jump onto the bandwagon. We don’t want to be lumbered with a substandard solar hot water system because of unscrupulous producers racing to take advantage of the windfall that government subsidies dropped into their laps. Many Tasmanians’ raced to sign up and are only now finding out solar powers limitations in our state where summer tends to be peppered with cloudy days. You need to tailor your requirements and make sure that you aren’t hoodwinked by savvy salesmen and green wash hype. Do your homework. Our friend in the witness protection is a case in point. Her home is completely off grid. They rely on water from tanks, mobile phones and a large shipping container bank of solar panels to power their home. The solar panels can’t generate enough power for the requirements of her family and her partner, a welder, has had to put a water jacket in the back of their solid fuel heater to ensure they have enough hot water for their needs. I downloaded tutorials for how to make your own wind turbine but wanting your own wind turbine is a far FAR cry from being able to build one. I know my limitations and electronics and I are not good bedfellows. It’s another one of those “wait” opportunities to learn patience…it’s a pity that patience and I are not good bedfellows either!


Bev from the wonderful permaculture in practice blog Foodnstuff http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/ has asked Steve to make her a sugar spoon. He decided to try something new and this lovely rounded celery top pine spoon is the result


This is the back of the spoon


The angle of the handle and bowl detail. Steve is really enjoying where making spoons is taking him and has been developing lots of ideas for spoons for his website that we will be creating this year. You will be the very first people to see our website designs. Stay tuned folks, it is going to be a most interesting year! 🙂

That brings us to the end of today’s post. I have lots of photos to share with you and they should have finished uploading into my blog by now. Time to tack this post into the appropriate space and dust it all off for you to read tonight (or yesterday if you are in the Northern Hemisphere 😉 ). Have a lovely Sunday and see you all again on Wednesday :o)

36 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. brymnsons
    Feb 09, 2013 @ 19:12:38

    I’ve been thinking about what to swap for those seeds and thought I might make you some pot holders. When I was sorting out my sewing room I found some chooky material and thought of you. So if that meets your approval I will sew them, pronto 🙂 Poor Mopoke, at least you tried to save it. Happy yeasting x


    • narf77
      Feb 10, 2013 @ 04:35:10

      Happy yeasting indeed Kymmy. When you get here I should be a pretty dab hand with the stuff and we can bake some goodies together and I can send you home with some starter (dehydrated and vacuum sealed so it gets through 🙂 ) of your own if you like. You are also going to make yourself a couple of spoons with Steve so that you can take them home as well :). You don’t have to swap anything for those seeds Kymmy but those pot holders sound impressive and you sew beautifully. Sewing is one of those things that I just didn’t “get”. Madeline has a sewing machine that we bought her a few years ago and she is amazing with it even though she never had lessons. She made the most amazing costume for an anime cos play with a long red and black velvet jacket, belt, trousers etc. all by just looking at a small model and got lots of kudos for her efforts. If I had tried to do the same thing it would have been severely ridiculed ;). I felt bad knowing that the mopoke was put down but at least he wasn’t laying in the road at the mercy of more cars. Tasmanian’s aren’t all that kind when it comes to native animals.


  2. Angela @ Canned Time
    Feb 09, 2013 @ 22:12:11

    You’re cruel to show us those fresh baked Muffins and Chocolate cake while I’m starving here at 6am and it’s 20 degrees outside. Nothing in my fridge like that this morning. And thanks for sharing the bird tale. I’ve never even seen or heard of a frog mouth. It looked a little like an eagle mated with a large crow.
    Enjoy your warm weather….


    • narf77
      Feb 10, 2013 @ 04:49:48

      I thought I was the only one who got up early and read my blogs ;). I am sometimes drooling over delicious recipes at 5.30am so I guess we can form a club of starving Marvins :). A tawny frog mouth, or mopoke as we Aussies call them, is a distant relative of the owl but isn’t a raptor (eagle). They are amazingly camoflaged against tree trunks and are very difficult to see when sitting on a branch. I can’t wait for the cooler weather to kick in. I guess we are spoiled on Serendipity Farm because our winters are nowhere near as bad as most winters that I read about. It gets cold but rarely under 0C (32F) and we might get a teeny bit of frost once a year so we can grow all sorts of things that won’t grow 50km inland in Launceston (our closest city where my daughters live). We get snow on the mountains but we aren’t near any mountains and live directly on the river with a rocky steeply sloped vista that faces north so all of our conditions restrict frost. We have some trees and shrubs growing here that really shouldn’t be growing in Tasmania and when our horticulture lecturer came out to visit he was in awe and very jealous of our growing conditions so winter is just colder for us and a perfect opportunity to plant out our remaining potted trees from our original collection of 900. We have about 400 left to get into the ground and most of them are hardy conifers and food forest trees. We have a lot of brachychitons (native bottle trees) that all have edible seeds that can be ground up to make a type of flour that the Aboriginals used before colonisation and that we have been hardening off to get ready to plant. This autumn/winter is going to be exciting because we will be starting to plan out our food forest and it will be another “beginning” :).


  3. Deb
    Feb 09, 2013 @ 22:17:11

    I have solar panels at both houses and recently had a credit for $260 from Aurora for the beach house which off set the other house giving me a total bill of $115 for the quarter so I was pretty pleased with that. Have solar hot water as well. At the beach house I would love a wind turbine as sometimes the wind just whistles across the bay, but I am still researching and need to find a quiet one as we have neighbours that we would prefer not to disturb. I drive past the Auld Kirk often on the way to Rowella to visit my brother in law who lives at Waterton Hall.


    • narf77
      Feb 10, 2013 @ 05:06:22

      Hi Deb 🙂 I was talking about those cheap solar panels that were advertised heavily on television that people jumped to buy because of the good government subsidies. I dare say you purchased good quality panels but the lure of cheap panels hit a lot of Aussies hard. They didn’t do their research and are paying for it now. Our friend Corey bought top notch panels and helped fit them to his roof. He did a lot of research about the pathway of the sun overhead, the placement of the panels and how to maximise their efficiency. He also bought the best quality that he could afford and paid over $30 000 for his panels (and that was AFTER the government subsidy!) so he got what he paid for, quality”. He also got good results and like you, he was able to make good savings on his electricity. My caution was for the Tasmanian’s who just jumped on the bandwagon without doing their homework. We have a lot less sunshine than mainland Australia and over winter (where you need your hot water more) we get a lot more cloudy days so it isn’t as cost effective over our long winter months. A wind turbine doesn’t rely on the sun and as most of Tasmania (especially the south! 😉 ) is prone to The Roaring 40’s, it is a perfect solution for renewable energy that hasn’t really been explored down here. We have a wood burning oven with a water jacket which sorts us out for the extended winter (for us that’s about 7 – 8 months of the year) and our enormous stainless steel hot water system can be linked straight into solar panels BUT as penniless student hippies we are not in the position to purchase the good quality panels that we would want to install. We prefer to save up and buy the best quality that we can to make sure that what we buy lasts and so we are on an hiatus till we can :). The wind turbines are getting quieter and quieter. Take a look at this amazing art installation that doubles as a turbine, it would be perfect at your beach house :).
      and here is another one that might fit the “quiet” bill…
      Technology is changing incredibly rapidly and is starting to be funded by big business. Solar paint for an entire roof is now possible and who knows how tiny solar panels might become in the next few years. I choose to wait a little bit because technology is always most expensive when it first comes out. After a few years it gets considerably cheaper and you can pick out the best quality at a lower price :). Steve took some river shots of beautiful Waterton hall a few posts back. We didn’t even know what it was and had to ask a fellow “river rat” about it and he told us. We loved the building and the architecture (my daughter is a draftsman) and were enarmoured of it’s hidden and secret position on the river. We lived right next door to the Auld Kirk. We have 3 enormous Christmas Baubles (that we MUST take down!) over our front gate and a large wooden sign that Steve made that says “Serendipity Farm”. We have a lot of work to do on our property but hopefully we have a lot of time left to do it in :). I am really glad that I found your blog and am able to converse with someone who knows our area and who understands our growing conditions (and our custom laws! 😉 ).


      • Deb
        Feb 10, 2013 @ 21:51:12

        Fran, our system produces around 13-15 kwh even on the dullest day and up to 22-24 kwh on a bright day. So works efficiently in daylight and doesn’t necessarily need sunlight although that’s when its operating at its optimum. Now seeing that Tasmania has long twilights our system doesn’t go offline till about 8pm during summer, when most of the mainland has already got dark by then. We have 15 daylight hours near the longest day compared to 9.5 up north. We didn’t pay an arm or a leg for our systems and yet they continue to astound us with their efficiency. I really liked the wind turbine in the first link you sent. It looks like a piece of sculpture.

      • narf77
        Feb 11, 2013 @ 05:19:19

        Cheers for that info Deb, but I don’t think that solar is going to be our choice until the panels get better quality and cheaper. It also doesn’t work over winter and our winters are extended so I, personally, don’t think that the expense will be recouped as readily as on the mainland. The turbine idea is more relevant to us because of the wind and the wind is permanent ;). The prices of turbines are coming down and are relatively approachable (without having to sell the first born…he wouldn’t be happy! 😉 ). That art turbine was lovely wasn’t it? Too good for Serendipity Farm! ;).

  4. Joanne
    Feb 09, 2013 @ 23:41:55

    I totally wish bartering was a legit thing here in NYC…but unfortunately not so much. The sourdough starter looks like it makes amazing loaves!


    • narf77
      Feb 10, 2013 @ 05:11:07

      I am STILL in awe of that starter. Poor Herman soldiered on but as he was predominately vinegar he didn’t have much success ;). I bet you do have an underground bartering system in NYC, you just don’t know about it :). I am constantly reading about how amazing you Americans are at negotiating your cities and being inovative and have great kudos for how you are changing and modifying your cities. I bet there are freecycle, freegan groups and bartering communities everywhere that you would have to go hunting for but what an adventure! I recently found an amazing American company who are making garbage bags with a clear panel on them so that people can put their unwanted items that are still good into these bags. If anyone wants to fossick through them they can (legit) and anything left in the bag on collection day is taken away to local thrifting stores to be sold for charity. It is a win-win situation! I crave the day when we Australians stop feeling so rich that we can just spend our way out of anything. Recycling, reusing and repurposing are the new black and once the rest of society get onto the green treadmill like the hipsters have (albeit in a fatter and more trackpanted manner most probably with a baseball cap and a beer gut 😉 ) we can start to make some real changes to our world 🙂


  5. athursdayschild has a long way to go and much to be thankful for.
    Feb 10, 2013 @ 00:50:01

    Love your spoons. Wish we lived closer. I weave. Used to swap my weaving for other people’s work at art and craft shows. Love bread, but I’m lazy and just buy it. But I also try to go days without eating it. We do plan on going to Trader Joe’s today, which is 1 1/2 hours away for us. It’s going to be our Valentine’s Day excursion which will include a restaurant we love. It’s mostly vegan, and they make their own tofu. I think I might have an article on my weaving on my blog.
    I’m a little lax in the blogging area. I’ve actually been trying to write something about serendipity and all those related things for the last month, maybe a book, who knows.


    • narf77
      Feb 10, 2013 @ 05:22:10

      I LOVE weaving. My grandmother got our crafty grandfather to make my sister and I small personal looms when we were children. My grandmother was an amazing woman who gave us ample opportunities to learn how to make and do things for ourselves. She made us small nets out of a pair of her stockings and some old wire coathangers that we would race down to the sea (on her property) to fish for small shrimps in the water and would bring back and cook. She taught us how to “think” outside the box. Weaving is a wonderful craft and a lot more useful than many crafts that we utilise today. Steve has regular wooden spoon prize draws on the blog and now that you are following you can enter them. He has plans of getting his spoons to dominate the world and wants one in every single country ;). I baked bread all last year and got quite good at it. Over the summer, when Brunhilda (our 4 oven wood burning stove) is on hiatus and we just buy those cheap supermarket loaves (SHAME on us 😦 ) but I don’t eat bread and Steve only eats it rarely. We buy it to feed our chooks! Now that I have this new starter the possibilities are starting to open up to me and I have visions of wonderful crusty boule and rustic loaves being produced from Brunhilda’s amazingly hot bosum and placed reverantly on the table. The truth of the matter is that I will probably burn, deflate, stress and have daffy duck tantrums over my efforts first up…its a story that tends to be repeated in my endevours but I have learned to be resolute and to keep going…a benefit of aging ;). I would LOVE to read a book that you wrote! I have yet to take up Paulettes offer to send me some digital copies of her work. I don’t have a lot of time over the summer to read and have been trying to chip away at a Patricia Cornwell novel for the best part of summer. I adore reading and spent most of my childhood nose deep in books. I read EVERYTHING back then and all of my children are avid readers. I think reading liberates your mind and allows you to explore your worldly and mental parameters. Blogging is my way to allow my muses to blow off steam. I have been blessed/cursed (not quite sure which one it is 😉 ) with about 1000 muses all screaming in my ear to WRITE SOMETHING DUMMY! So I seem to have a constant stream of dialogue flowing through me at any given time. I think I was born to translate my brain and not always to my benefit. There are too many words tangled up inside my head that have been desperate to get out for too many years and I am still working through the backlog ;). I am going to have to hunt through your blog now and find those weaving tales :). Love your blog and am really glad that we met 🙂


  6. thinkingcowgirl
    Feb 10, 2013 @ 07:51:46

    Ooh what are you going to do with your found object??! Let us know. I love seeing all the pictures.

    We’ve got solar tubes on our roof for the hot water system…it’s worth it as in the summer we don’t have to heat the water at all, even on a dull day. If you want a really deep hot bath you have to wait for a hot day but mostly fine for showering and washing up. Even in the winter it heats the water a little which cuts down on the power needed to heat it up. It wasn’t that expensive…I think panels are more.


    • narf77
      Feb 10, 2013 @ 20:40:27

      Never heard of tubes? Now I am going to have to check :). We have Brunhilda that heats our water more than enough and we run her about 8 months of the year. The rest of the time we have gas (tee-hee 😉 ). I would love to install a wind tubine (wind…gas…tee-hee) but at the moment it is a bit out of our reach. Might have to make my own…if I do, you guys will be the FIRST to read about it 🙂


  7. foodnstuff
    Feb 10, 2013 @ 12:12:24

    Do you get cucumber beetles down there? They turned my cape gooseberry leaves into lace doilies. Yet they ignore the cucumbers! Go figure.

    My spoon is famous! On the Web for all to see!


    • narf77
      Feb 10, 2013 @ 13:41:25

      Lol! Famous and adored…you are the ONLY one who has one 🙂 (well, is “getting” one 😉 ). We don’t have cucumber beetles (another bonus to carry with me when I am freezing my bum off in winter muttering about living in Tasmania 😉 ) and the cape gooseberries are prolific and EVERYWHERE! The chooks ate their weights worth when they were roaming free and deposited them everywhere with a nice nitrogen rich bundle for when they germinated so we have almost a plague of them here. I don’t mind as it’s something for the possums and wallabies to eat other than my plants 🙂


  8. rabidlittlehippy
    Feb 10, 2013 @ 21:25:53

    If Cape Gooseberries are frost tolerant then ship some over for me. 🙂 If not, I'[m not sure my greenhouse has room for anything more. 😦
    TRY using the dishcloth. I’ve just knitted my 3rd (addicted much 😉 ) but only just tried using one this morning and they are brilliant! If you can knit, give it a try. I’ve tweaked the pattern this last time as I’d read something I wanted to try for a neater edge and it looks a lot better but I’ll need to see if it affects the usability. I’ll share the pattern when I’m satisfied. 🙂
    I am so stoked at how happy Audrey has made you. It makes me laugh but I know how proud Bertha made me when we figured out how to work in harness together. Check on her in the fridge though and make sure she is doing what she should. Bertha only ever comes out of the fridge when I’m making up dough or pancakes or whatever she is needed for and then goes straight back in. If you fed her and gave her time to eat on the bench, feed her sooner than the 4 days. 🙂 Bertha goes back in the fridge as soon as her food is added and she munches laconically as she reclines on her chilly top shelf. 😉 I am curious though, why don’t you eat the bread you bake? Sourdough is sooooooo good! I had the last 2 slices of my super sour loaf (4 days of no-kneading itself in the fridge makes fr ZING!) with ricotta spread on top for dinner tonight. Nommy!
    We get lots of frosts here. Our neighbours assure us they even had what could pass off as snow one year and a -4C as the lowest recorded. Hence why we’ve named out house “Carvae”. It’s Latin for “The Hollow” which is where our house sits. Not quite at the bottom but not far off it. The mists creep up from the Werribee River which runs about 100m or less from our back fence (past the neighbours property and the walking track) and I love it. As much as I hate being cold, I am looking forward to having Ignisa warm and heating up our water. We have solar hot water with the wood-fire as second heating option, gas boost and finally electric boost. We switched off the electric boost to see if it was needed and so far so good. The water is still gathering enough heat from Soleil to be too hot to shower under without a bit of cold. 😀 Just 1 step closer to damning the man. 🙂 Solar is a big one though – $30K is a HUGE outlay and I’m not sure you’d ever make it back. I want a battery though to keep our excess energy. Why sell the stuff at penn’orths for them to sell back to us at a pound? Stinkers. 😦 If they want to sell green energy then they can make their own, I ain’t helping them make a damn cent (ok, angry much? 😉 Rabid moment, sorry).
    Well, off to knit another dishcloth. Totally hooked, or should that be needled. 😉


    • narf77
      Feb 11, 2013 @ 05:14:46

      It sounds like “frost” is your lot! I guess you will find out just how frosty you get this year ;). Its a REAL pity that we don’t live closer because I have a plethora of walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnut trees that you could have that LOVE frost. Maybe hazelnuts would be the best option because they don’t get very big and are very productive. I don’t eat the sourdough at the moment. I am on a green smoothie challenge and am getting myself “healthy” before I get back into grains etc. Here in Tassie we wouldn’t make our money back for the solar panels…yet! It is starting to be spread incredibly laterally and there is a roof paint that contains small solar collectors that is coming onto the market, and besides, I want a turbine :). NO shortage of wind here! (and if the roaring 40’s can’t give it, I am sure I am full of hot air anyway 😉 ). I can “knit”. Not a jumper or a pair of socks (brings out the cold sweats!) BUT I can make a scarf or a blanket and I can knit and perl so that’s a start! I crochet (according to my grandmother, I do it backwards in the German way but hey, that’s what genes are for! 😉 ) a bit but would love to get good at knitting. I have tension problems and Earl problems. Forget cats with wool…have you ever seen an Earl with a ball of wool? Forget cute…it’s frankly terrifying! He grabs it, he snicks it neatly off where it is too short to attempt to join it, he unravels it at an alarming speed while he runs maniacally around the house looping it tightly onto ANYTING that has sticky out bits. His preference is for ornaments, chairs and anything else breakable. He then pulls it all tight and “CRASH!!!!!!”. His work, is now done!
      If the dishcloth is reasonably easy to follow (the pattern, not the cloth, although Earl isn’t above pinching a dishcloth!) I have some alarming yellow balls of cotton that I picked up for nothing at the Beaconsfield op shop I could practice on (I have been using it to tie up my bird netting whenever the possums slither on top of my bean bed…it doesn’t work…our Serendipity Farm possums are EXTRA slithery 😦 ) but I could spare some for a chance to learn something new :). I didn’t realise that I had to put my new girl in the fridge as soon as I fed her! Best hook her out and feed her today although I was going to bake with her in the next couple of days and was taking her out today to start feeding her up. Hopefully she will be fine, but a few days at room temp with some nice organic rye (might even grind her some white as well 😉 ) should make her sing. She was certainly happy when she got here. My joy is a bit like most people starting out on a new journey when they work out that they can actually do something :). I LOVE processes and working “with” a starter rather than being an helpless slave (which I was with my vinegar starter Herman) is am amazing revelation. I will think of a new name for her today, for she is indeed a “her”. I haven’t named the kefir grains yet but they are growing amazingly! They have all matted together to form a nice chunky raft of grains and are setting their milk like good little children. Today I am making some coconut milk to give them a taste of Asia. I will allow them to set one batch first up and then will plop them back into some milk for a couple of days. Don’t want to stress them but they certainly are robust! I can see the day coming soon when I give away kefir grains myself. You can eat them and if no-one here wants them I will blend the odd white wrinkled brain up in my green smoothies ;). Have a great day doing whatever it is that you are doing. We just realised that we haven’t gotten our land tax for our house in town yet and are ringing up to tell them to get it out STAT! No WAY I want to pay 2 of the damned things in June! I am tempering the pain with an enquiry about a large pile of wood chips at the junction of 2 roads that has been sitting there for almost a year and I WANT IT! I figure no-one is going to use them and they were chipped after the massive storms that we had last winter that took out power lines and trees. There are at least 3 trailer loads there and the worst council can say is “no” :). If you don’t ask, you can’t get. My bolshie side says “bollocks!” at feeding money back to the government at a miniscule rate and that is what I want a turbine for, to damn the man! Might end up making a prototype yet…this little black duck isn’t above attempting 😉


      • rabidlittlehippy
        Feb 13, 2013 @ 08:42:12

        I believe we start getting frosts here from March! Urgh! Since the leaves are already beginning to turn on the trees I think that is likely to be right. I’ve just had 2 female pumpkin flowers too which I fertilised so I am trying to think of a retrofit frost keeper-offerer for my pumpkin patch. I’d love to be able to harvest them. It will be a trip to the transfer station methinks. 🙂
        If I ever come over to visit (it’s a possibility) then I would love some of your nut trees. I don’t know that we will be here in 5 years and so probably won’t enjoy harvesting but isn’t that what it’s about? Live for today but plan for tomorrow.
        Give the turbine a try. Anything to damn the man right? I’m keeping myself aware of the wind here but being in a hollow I’m not sure we’d realise enough here to be worthwhile. I have seen small water turbines though that can be run within a k or 2 of a running water source. Let me see if I can find the link… http://www.platypuspower.com.au/ micro hydro power! It doesn’t dirty the water, it doesn’t use the water up so it won’t deplete river levels like irrigation does but it does harness the unused energy of the river just flowing past. We initially thought our creek might help us out there but it’s really just a glorified storm water drain so it’s been dry all summer apart from a stagnant pool or 2. It might provide enough in winter when solar panels wouldn’t be helping much but we will have to see. We’re also close enough to the river but not sure we’d get the necessary council permission to dig the necessary channels. Still and all it’s a brilliant concept I reckon.
        The solar paint sounds curious I can tell you and I did some thinking (without even checking out the web) and it makes me wonder. The little panels must be double sided or the upside down ones would be useless. My builder says you’d need to paint the roof every 5 or so years. Conventional paint needs a 5 yearly touch up to keep it looking good so I would imagine that to keep the panels efficient you may need to repaint as often. Might make the viability a lot less so at this stage but I ADORE the concept. 😀
        I’ll email you the pattern for the dishcloth. You need to know how to cast on and off, knit 2 together (K2tog) and yarn over (yo). I’m up to number 6 or 7 now and we love using them. Yellow would be a great colour too. I used 4ply cotton but I reckon 8ply would work too for a thicker cloth. I also used 4mm needles but I would use 5mm for 8ply. Well, off to do some more knitting. 😀

      • narf77
        Feb 13, 2013 @ 14:30:28

        Where are you planning on moving within 5 years?! That’s a most temporary move however if you are planning on a move further out into the country I can understand the briefness of the stay, sort of a bridging house :). We don’t really get many frosts here and if we do, you can see snow on the mountains and Launcestonians are all wearing fur coats and complaining loudly about how cold it is. Thats a great idea! Sort of a windmill on a stream idea but damning the man even further because we actually HAVE hydro here so why it costs us so much more than anywhere else to have clean green watery power delivered to our door is a mystery! Tasmanian “efficiency” (said with my tongue stuck firmly in my cheek!) methinks! Our front gate is just across the road from the river so we might be able to make that idea work, and we have a drain that leads from our side of the road to the river (stormwater) so we could probably take avail of that to install it…what a great idea! Consider yourself mentally hugged! :). I am “up” with the whole “knit” concept…I can cast on, off, I can knit, perl and even gave a cable stich a go (once…only once…) and I can knit a front and a back for a jumper and 2 sleeves BUT then I get to the collar and cuffs and that’s all folks! ;). Isn’t it amazing how exciting doing things and making things for yourself is? I am just about to post my post about how excited I have been the last few days with baking sourdough pizza, making our own cordial etc. and how great it feels. I think my post is a mamoth post so I might just have to prune it down a bit (they keep growing like topsy, must be all of the bullsh#@ I keep feeding them with 😉 ). I am TOO EXCITED for my own good! :)Enjoy your knitting…Earl really loves it when I knit. The last time I did so, he managed to get completely tangled in a whole ball of wool as I was trying to crochet a rug…sigh…I tend to give him his own ball to play with to try to keep him off mine but he soon wants ALL the wool and grabs the ball and runs…not great for tensioning! 😉

      • rabidlittlehippy
        Feb 13, 2013 @ 16:28:45

        This house is a stepping stone. It may become the ever after house if we are unable to maintain more but we weren’t stepping out onto 5 acres without first testing the waters so to speak. Initially we had planned to rent in the area for 12 months to see if we liked it but rental properties are rarer than hens teeth and our plan, as plans tend to do, evolved.
        Your posts are always eagerly anticipated here although I make a point of only opening the email to read when I know I have the time to read and comment and do your posts justice. 🙂 They are wordy but I hate reading short posts. There’s nothing to sink your teeth into!
        Looking forward to reading about your souring adventures and I am so excited to have another yeast beast to talk with about it all (if you can have curd nerds, surely you can have yeast beasts 😉 )
        I emailed you the DIY Natural blog link for the knitted dishcloths. The only change I have made is that instead of knitting the very first stitch on each row I just slip it onto the other needle. It makes for a neater edge although you can’t use it when it comes to needing to sew edges together. I too tried cabling once, well twice really. I cabled a pair of gauntlet gloves for myself and they look brilliant. 🙂 Time for a new warmer pair before winter though I reckon. And like you, our boys like to play with yarn too, well Maxxie does. I’ve learned to make sure all yarn is packed up for the night and I wedge my knitting down the edge of the couch at night where he can’t get it. Keeps my other boys, Jasper and Orik from pulling my knitting apart too. So far Allegra has kept clear of my knitting.

      • narf77
        Feb 13, 2013 @ 16:38:41

        Earl can smell knitting and crochet from a mile away… he is ALWAYS up for a bit of a romp with some yarn. I have a photo of Bezial in his youth after he found my knitting bag and got into it, totally covered in multicoloured wool and running wildly around the loungeroom with it all over him. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry so I just laughed… you KNOW how it is! ;). I am addicted to sourdough! Audrey is here to stay and her name IS Audrey. I went hunting to find another name but it just doesn’t fit…she is what she is and Audrey, like my friend Kym says, a very elegant name and she is, indeed, a most elegant sufficiency. Made a pizza last night for Steve and he ate the whole thing! He loves the mild flavour as Herman was pure vinegar and Audrey overran her container in the fridge she was so greedy ;). I am really enjoying souring this time :). I hate moving. We moved so much (the kids and I) when I was with my ex husband that we no sooner put roots down than we were upping sticks and moving on. It made me a bit wary of making friends and I think it was the death knoll on my relationship with my ex. He moved us inland and I need to be close to the water. I used to walk around in the red dirt with a sea of dry paddocks and nothing but the heat and swore I was out of there! I am not good quiet country stock…you should teach Allegra to finger knit. She would love it :). I remember my gran teaching my sister and I to fingerknit and we thought that we were amazing :). She also made us looms and taught us to weave, she was a very interesting and innovative woman :). Glad you like big posts because my muses won’t let me type small ones any more. I know I have readers who no longer read my posts because they are so long but bollocks! I am not doing this for anything other than the share factor and if photos are all people want, there are lots of more photogenic blogs out there ;). See you at 6pm. I am in the middle of posting, putting photos into my post and making spring rolls and coaxing dogs to eat their tea…harder than getting kids to do it! sigh…have a great evening 🙂

  9. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
    Feb 11, 2013 @ 01:41:55

    That’s a great barter you did. The results look so delicious. RIP Mopoke.


    • narf77
      Feb 11, 2013 @ 05:31:41

      It was very sad to take the Mopoke on a 50km trip to have him have to be euthenased Paulette :(. He wasn’t in a good way and one side of him didn’t work properly but we couldn’t allow him to die painfully. That barter is FULL of possibilities Paulette and I am pulling the sourdough out of the fridge today and firing it up to see if it can tango! I want to bake a loaf of sourdough bread. I KNOW it isn’t going to be amazing BUT it won’t be a vinegar brick which is a start for me :). The cake is apparently scrumptious as Steve has been working his way slowly through it. The muffins are in the freezer (for when that gorgeous cake runs out) and the flatbread/muffins got shredded in the food processor and are going to be put into the dehydrator when I remove the steak dog treats that we have been drying overnight so that nothing gets wasted :). I love to swap. Swapping removes the power from big business and puts it fair and square back into the range of “possible”. It develops a sense of community, of good relationships and of learning to share and listen to other people. The internet has made the world a MUCH smaller place and I can send things all over the world to people that I would never have met if I wasn’t able to use this format. I owe the internet a lot :). Have a great monday and whatever you are doing, do it well 🙂 (well…it’s monday here anyway 😉 )


  10. christiok
    Feb 11, 2013 @ 15:42:57

    I am just in awe that you can bake so well in a barbeque! I mean…wow. I suppose that’s what you do with Brunhilda, but it still rocks my electric oven world. Molly was here this weekend and took her spoon back to Seattle with her. She LOVES it! Spoons of love across the globe. 🙂


    • narf77
      Feb 12, 2013 @ 04:43:25

      That made Steve smile Christi :), he loves that Molly loves her spoon as much as you loved yours :). The bbq was one of those life lessons. When we moved to Serendipity Farm (back when it was called “Highfield Gardens” 😉 ), the oven was broken and we couldn’t afford to get it fixed or buy a new one at the time so we decided that we would learn to use our covered bbq as an oven. We cooked loaves of bread, we cooked all of our meals and we cooked Christmas Dinner in it one year (the most PERFECT duck fat potatoes 🙂 ) and It was a case of having to learn rather than being clever and wanting to do something different. When we inherited a bit of money from dad we thought long and hard about how to do this place up and what we could and couldn’t do without. We really liked cooking in the bbq by this time and so we bought Brunhilda (for the 8 months where it is cool enough to use her for an oven), a small gas stovetop for summer use (keeping the house cool) and we kept using the bbq as our summer oven of choice. The house doesn’t get overly hot, its fun and we don’t have any electrical cooktops or ovens (aside from the dehydrator that uses a lot less energy). So it is a win-win situation for us 🙂


  11. Chica Andaluza
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 02:47:32

    Wonderful – what a busy, busy time you’ve had! We do a lot of bartering in Spain with our chickens, eggs and veggies and then Big Man does a bit of hauling with his lorry and crane and then we get firewood for the year. I teach and we get meals, we trade olive oil for wine…fabulous! will have to look up the Cape gooseberries and see if they’d grow in Andalucia. I know the chinese lanterns which look similar but don’t produce fruit love it in my garden! And well done with Audrey and the baking, looking spectacular 🙂


    • narf77
      Feb 12, 2013 @ 04:52:42

      If the Chinese lanterns do well, the Cape Gooseberries would thrive! You are WAY ahead of us with the bartering and I bow to your bartering skills (and the big man of course 🙂 ). I would like to eventually barter a lot of things with the locals. Spain isn’t the only economy that has taken a battering. Australia is in a good position but you could consider Tasmania as Australia’s Spain or Greece, we have a lot of unemployment, no scope for emplolyment and a lot of people on the dole. When money gets tight, bartering opens up a whole new economy that allows people to live better for less and gives a community back it’s pride and courage. Audrey has done so well (pizza dough in the fridge along with 2 loaves of bread ready to cook tonight) that she is going to get renamed. We named the kefir “Kid Creole” because I will be using it with my coconut milk. Steve thought up the name because he rememberd “Kid Creole and the coconut’s” an old band from last century ;). Still working on a good name for the sourdough yet as she really deserves it and I will be sharing the results of anything that I cook with it as I bake because my sourdough cooking is still in it’s infancy and I am a doting mum 😉


      • Chica Andaluza
        Feb 12, 2013 @ 08:49:27

        Love the way you two think – Kid Creole – brilliant! Think the bartering round where we are is a revival of the old ways for exactly the reasons you mention. The economy is shot and unemployment is sky high so it’s back to the old ways. We find it works for us. Looking forward to reading more about the baking 🙂

  12. Littlesundog
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 13:39:00

    Well you know me, the nature lover, I was fascinated with the tawny frogmouth. I had never heard of this bird, so to Google I went and watched some YouTube video and read up on them. I feel bad for this fellow you found, but at least he knew kindness and caring in his last moments. You both are the most awesome people… your words are a delight to read, and the message is always positive. Thank you for making my day today. I always feel like I got a boost of LOVE after reading your posts!


  13. brymnsons
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 20:57:46

    I rather like the name Audrey as it reminds me of Audrey Hepburn, and she was all class 🙂 Pot mitts are done! I will post them asap. xx


    • narf77
      Feb 13, 2013 @ 05:32:05

      I am drying out your seeds and will send them ASAP as well Kymmy :). I loved Audrey Hepburn and you are right she WAS all class :). I would say that she was the most beautiful woman of her time (in my opinion). BUT this sourdough starter is plain, and lumpy and compliant and precious and my friend and Audrey just isn’t cutting the mustard for her…I will be finding a new name for her today :). I am really looking forward to my pot mits! You are wonderful with a sewing machine and I bow to your talent girl! If I used Madeline’s sewing machine to make you something vaguely approximating a pot mit you wouldn’t be able to go out your front door for a week you would be laughing so hard and bed ridden! I guess we can’t do everything! 😉


  14. Debi at Life Currents
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 11:33:02

    Gooseberries look very much like tomatillos. And, I have a sourdough starter that lives in my fridge. I don’t feed, water, bathe it nearly enough, but it always tastes good when I use it. I want to try many more unusual things like cakes and pancakes and such. I’ve really only used it for lovely loaves of bread. The bird is/was beautiful. very sad that it passed. We will visit the northern part of the U.S. soon and there are bald eagles there. Maybe I’ll try to get a good picture for you and post it on the blog when we return. Nothing as awesome as me holding it like you were. I’d fear it would injure me!
    Artichokes are one of the plants I really want to try to grow this year!
    Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! 🙂


    • narf77
      Feb 14, 2013 @ 13:40:30

      I have to say that artichokes are the EASIEST thing to grow! They grow like thistles because they ARE a member of the thistle family and are just as hardy. The only reason that our artichokes are dwindling is that the local native animals are hungry this year due to it being an extended dry season and are coming in from the bush to eat our lush gardens. Lucky mine ISN’T lush! 😉 but they are still coming and picking off what they think might be tasty and apparently thistley as they are, artichokes are on the menu :(. I would LOVE to see a bald eagle! You might get the chance to have one sit on your arm! How exciting would that be :). I would love to read about it on your blog 🙂 Right back atcha with the valentines day, although we don’t really celebrate it here. I had a little early morning valentines when I made my cup of tea at 5am this morning, as I was just about to put the soymilk in, I noticed a tiny little frothy heart shape in my tea :). How fortuitous eh?:)


  15. Debi at Life Currents
    Feb 16, 2013 @ 06:32:57

    We’ve become very accustomed to seeing the eagles. The first time we saw one flying over the grocery store, we knew they were pretty common. This little video was taken on our patch of paradise in Washington. http://youtu.be/9psbCp9WuFU
    I’ll definitely take some new pics of the place up there and post them after we return.
    What a great Valentine’s Day surprise. 🙂


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