When chaos comes to town

Hi All,

It all started with one small Camellia sinensis and a chance chat with fellow blogger Jessie a.k.a. “Rabid Little Hippy”. If you are a horticulturalist or, indeed, a gardener, you have a pretty good idea what a Camellia sinensis is. If you are someone who could care less about gardening you may not be aware that this humble little shrub is the stuff that wars are made of. Camellia sinensis is the starting point for the elixir of life…tea. I drink several cups in the morning. I have been drinking tea since my tea drinking grandmother introduced me to it when I was 2. It is a tradition that has been passed down through the ages and that my sister and I are wholeheartedly addicted to and woe betides ANYONE that comes between us and our first cup of tea in the morning. It is our wake-up ritual and our collective sigh of acquiescence to our early rising habits (hers natural, mine entirely artificial 😉 ). A good half of the world wakes up to it each day and uses this humble brew to ignite their wavering brain cells to greatness. I would like to think that Mr Leonardo Da Vinci was fond of a cup or two…perhaps Mr Einstein? Even Mr George Bernard Shaw was most probably prone to a sip or two before he launched into the mental minefield that elevated him to his own personal form of greatness. Life without tea is unthinkable…as Fezzik from the wonderful movie “The Princess Bride” would say …life without tea is “Inconceivable”…but is it?

Sketti Doritos

Remember Steve’s “Sketti” meal from the last post? 😉

Tamar NRM Bush Tucker Gardening Workshop

I just signed up with Jenny (how relieved am I that I no longer have to say “friend in the witness protection!” to attend this Tamar NRM workshop and will make sure to take lots of photos and to post all about it for you all


Don’t you love natures way of dealing with aphids? Let something else make a meal of it…cycles and circles

We have all heard of the principal of “Peak Oil” and whether we choose to deny its existence or not, if the oil companies are buying up patents for any kind of clean energy producing systems as fast as they are being invented, this little black duck has stepped on over into the “believer” camp. What IS Peak Oil? In a nutshell…it is the opinion that we are well past our due date for using up our available reserves of oil on this planet. Oil makes the world run. We are so used to its black liquidity greasing our economic system that the mere thought of it not being available is the cause of most of our modern day wars. What happens when the oil runs out? Most of the processes that keep society running will cease folks. Peak Oil has spawned a massive market in prepping. There are people all over the world digging shelters, hoarding and there are vultures sitting on the fringes making money hand over fist out of people’s terror. I choose not to weigh into that fear here on this blog, needless to say there is a LOT of fear and it is spawning an industry.


Gardening smart involves finding what is going to do best in your conditions and planting within those parameters. Rhododendron’s might be pretty, but they are some of the hardiest shrubs around and can take a long dry summer where some of our conifers died. Do your homework and you can have a lovely garden that is completely functional within Permaculture parameters 🙂


Using plants that are native to your country as well as to your local region will give them the best chance to grow successfully in challenging conditions.


There is always room for “pretty” things especially when they attract bees and butterflies and other pollinators

I choose to be positive about the inevitability of Peak Oil. Yes we will be without the ability to head down to our local fast food franchise and buy ourselves a burger and fries. Our ability to produce food in massive factories is going to stop. Where we now put our food production into other people’s hands, we are going to have to think about where our food comes from. Is this a bad thing? I choose not to think so. I turn 50 this year. I remember life (last century 😉 ) when there were no supermarkets. I remember corner shops and butchers and bakers and small hardware shops and I remember towns being important. I remember that most people had a job and Peak Oil might just return us to full employment. No fast food = a chance to get our health back on track. To get a burger is going to cost more in time and effort and is going to involve taking back those extraneous processes and doing some of them ourselves.


Shrubs with hairy and thin leaves are better acclimatised to survival in dry conditions and we get 4 months of extremely dry weather over our summer so this exotic plant is perfect for our conditions.


“Weeds” are just useful plants growing in the wrong place folks! These dandelions might be taking advantage of Earl’s free nitrogenous injections but the roots will be perfect for making a coffee substitute and should we ever be able to wean Earl of his desire to “decorate” them on a regular basis, the leaves are very nutritious and wine can be made from the flowers


This Liquidambar styracaflua might have pretty leaves but its common name sheds more light on how useful this attractive deciduous tree might be. They are called Sweet Gums and like Maples, their sap can be used to produce a natural sweetener

Humanity has specialised itself out the wazoo. There are people employed to answer telephones. Their whole life revolves around moving voices from one place to another. Peak Oil may just restore some reality about the processes of life that are truly important. What about that little Camellia sinensis? Well this little black duck doesn’t want to give up tea any day soon. Tea is a product that tends to be made in foreign parts. It IS produced in Australia but there isn’t a lot of it and when Peak Oil strikes, the important economic rule of “Supply and Demand” steps in. With half of Australia’s population drinking tea, the demand is going to be very high and the supply very low. Think “sailing ships” folks… without that black iquor keeping our wheels of trade thrumming under our mental thresholds we are going to have to rely on good old sail power (or at least something green that approximates it) and that takes time. The concept of having to wait is going to be a very hard one for modern society that is used to being delivered what it wants instantly.


This has absolutely nothing to do with Peak Oil but isn’t it a pretty picture?


Preparing the first paddock area for the beginnings of our 14 metre x 12.5m fully enclosed vegetable garden. That’s 4 times bigger than we had this year and I was able to live predominately from our 7 small garden beds this year despite significant possum and wallaby predation. One day the entire first paddock will be enclosed and we will grow a good proportion of the food that we need ourselves


The sheoak in this picture took it’s revenge on the veggie garden to the left of this shot and dropped it’s canopy right on top of the garden…luckily nothing tall was in the bed and the silverbeet underneath the branches sustained very little damage.

I own a single tiny Camellia sinensis. I have plans for that little Camellia sinensis. They involve me taking cuttings and growing more. I plan on having my own little mini tea plantation on Serendipity Farm. I have saved articles about how to process tea…which bits to use…how to ferment it to get the best out of it and this little black duck won’t be without her tea come the revolution. I have also tucked away how to make a coffee substitute using acorns or dandelion root. Tasmania is full of oak trees and acorn coffee is something that should be easy to make if the need arises. Aside from a Camellia sinensis I also have a coffee plant. I know that Tasmania isn’t a prime location for this tropical shrub BUT enter my optimism and as the weather situation starts to heat up; this little coffee plant might just feel more at home on Serendipity Farm. For now it lives in the glasshouse but who knows…


This is an Arbutus unedo or Irish Strawberry tree. There are a lot of food producing plants growing locally and the more that we know about them, where they are, what can be done with them and how to prepare their yields for maximum benefit the better off we will be


This is what the fruit of the Irish Strawberry tree looks like on the shrub. I decided that it was wasteful to leave this fruit to rot on the ground and so I harvested some


After collecting some of the fruit I chose some to dry out to attempt to harvest the seed and grow some more Arbutus because this particular tree produces very tasty fruit which isn’t always the case.

I took Earl for an afternoon walk the other day. He was twitchy and I was up for an additional walk. Sidmouth in autumn is a lovely place to be. As I waited for Earl to sniff and urinate his way along Auld Kirk Road, I ruminated about my little Camellia sinensis and the value of at least knowing how to do things for yourself. I am a vegan. I don’t eat meat, dairy or eggs. I don’t eat honey but that’s not because I am vegan, it’s because honey is a prohibitive price and I prefer to make my own date paste as a sweetener. As I dragged along behind Earl acting as ballast I realised that “come the revolution” we horticulturalists have a prime roll to play. When humanities “needs” come to the fore after oil ceases to flow, food is going to become something that we all have to think about. Steve and I are in the process of building a very large fully enclosed vegetable garden. Today we will be collecting some of what we need to build it over the next few weeks. It’s the beginning of several interconnected large fully enclosed areas that we are going to build to produce as much of our own and our daughter’s vegetables and other crops as we can. If Stewart and Kelsey move here, we can produce food for them as well. Food will go from being something that is artificially kept at low prices by government subsidies to its rightful place as one of our primary needs. As a vegan it should be easier for me to adapt to life after Peak Oil


Preparing the fruit to be washed ready to turn into jam


Good stainless steel non reactive saucepans and stockpots are a very wise investment as they last a long time if cared for and don’t leach anything into what you are cooking


Mum gave me these when she visited last Christmas. It’s a small jar of cumquats preserved in brandy syrup from her own small cumquat tree. Preserving fruit like this is one way to extend the harvest of fruit and to make it available long after it’s season is over. I decided to use these “mumquats” to add a bit of bulk to my jam

I say “easier” because I don’t need milk from a cow to put into my beverage of choice. I don’t need eggs from a chicken (thank goodness because our girls are skating on thin ice regarding egg production at the moment) to make my cakes and I don’t need any form of animal flesh to grace the centre of my dinner plate. I am not prothletising here folks, I am just stating fact. “Come the Revolution” this little black duck is perfectly happy to live on vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes. That brings us to the point and we have to ask ourselves “how much food do we need?” You only really start to realise how tenuous our food security is when you start to work out the true cost of the food that we consume.


I processed the cumquats to add flavour and nutrients to my jam


After cooking for 10 minutes the jam/cumquat mix had to be sieved to remove the small woody seeds and tough skin of the Arbutus


after straining the mix the resulting smooth pulp was put back into the stainless steel pan and the brandy syrup was added and a little sugar

That burger, fries and coke that cost us under $5 at our local fast-food restaurant costs a whole lot more to replicate at home. If you don’t believe me…try it. After you head to the supermarket and pick up the ground meat, the burger buns, the bag of salad, the tomatoes, the jar of pickles, the container of sauce, the container of mustard, the breadcrumbs for the burger, the egg to hold the burger together and you factor in the electricity cost to cook the burger, the frypan you need to cook the burger and your own time to make the burger (and that’s JUST the burger folks…don’t forget the fries and the coke…) you can start to see just how unrealistic our food costs actually are. Why is it so cheap? Because most of what is going on behind the scenes involves mass production, cost cutting and government subsidisation to keep the prices artificially low. We need Calories, calcium, protein and replacements for dairy (think spreads and oils and avocados and nuts), starches (chestnuts, potatoes and acorns) and we need to think further afield for how to process these things to get the food on our tables that we need to survive. We don’t need “fast” we need reliable.


This is what the puree looked like after the brandy syrup and sugar had been added and it had been simmered for a further 10 minutes


Here’s the finished batch in a sterilised jar. It didn’t quite fill the jar so we are keeping it in the fridge. The results are very fruity and a good way to use up fruit that might not initially be considered “edible”


Please ignore the flour coated shirt, the bright red track pants and the terrible split ends and completely unbrushed hair…Steve wanted me to include this candid shot as he said I was the most animated “spoon rest” that he had ever seen 😉

As I said earlier in this post. I am NOT here to scare people. I want to show that we CAN produce our own food and we can do it well and for the most part, Peak Oil might just be the making of us. At the moment we think of the “Individual” we think of ourselves as solitary units but back before the Industrial Revolution where all of this oily stuff started to be used to form international networks of greed, society consisted of small communities that fed large cities. The size of these communities was limited by their ability to produce humanities needs and most of what this society needed was produced by their own hard work. Butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and farmers were all important. Corner shops (think Arkwright’s shop in “Open All Hours”) were the hub of a small town and everyone in that small community worked together to keep it going. Community is going to become MUCH more important after Peak Oil. Do you know you neighbour? What does your neighbour do for a living? I think Frank was a tugboat driver…Adrianne his wife is a registered nurse, Noel, behind Frank, is a retired Quanta’s pilot and Glad on the other side is pure Chutzpah on a stick. After Peak Oil, what you can actually “DO” is going to become more important. What you “Know” is also going to become important. Why do I want physical books instead of downloading them from some remote “cloud”? Because I like to keep my information close at hand and would rather know that I can physically pick it up and flick to a page to isolate said information rather than having to rely on a tenuous system of delivery that might simply disappear at any given time.


Making meat stretch further is the name of the game as it keeps getting more and more expensive. I am vegan but Steve is Omni and last nights tea was conjured up from Steve’s school childhood. He decided that he wanted a “Mince Cobbler” for his tea. Not entirely sure what it was but it figured in school lunches and he had fond memories of it so we set about recreating a childhood memory…


After cooking the minced beef with veggies to extend the meat it was thickened and a spicy scone topping was made to soak up the gravy and to further extend the meat proportion of the meal whilst adding filling carbohydrates and making this a one pot meal.


After removing the mince cobbler from the oven it was apparently a great version of what Steve remembered and was very tasty to boot.

I have been collecting recipes and food production processes for more years than I care to admit here. My children could all tell you about me scribbling down recipes from library books, pulling out pages from magazines etc. and I have ring bound files in our spare room full of recipes. I love processes. I love to know how they work. I used to think that I was just a bit of a nosy little black duck but now I think it goes deeper than that. I know how to make non-dairy spreads for my home-made bread that are healthy and that approximate butter. I know how to turn beetroot into a sticky sweetener that for the want of a better word we shall call “molasses”…you can do this with any sweet vegetable and if granulated sugar suddenly disappears from our shelves we need to know how to approximate sweetness ourselves. I know how to dehydrate fruits and vegetables to extend the harvest and I know how to do it without electricity. I am growing date palms, fruit and nut trees and various perennial food producing plants and am in the process of planting them out with the eventual hope of creating a food forest that covers the 4 acres that encompass Serendipity Farm.


One way to make your food budget go further is to make as much of your own food from scratch as you can. You can customise what you cook to your families tastes and you can eat better for less. I choose to use butter to make Steve’s shortbread because I think it is healthier than other alternatives


Frugal recipes using dried fruit as sweeteners are great ways to add little luxuries to your menu and this recipe came from an old Country Women’s Association cookbook from 1954 where frugality was a lot more important than it is today


Baking many items to use the heat of your oven more efficiently can save a fair bit on heating and cooking costs

I know how to grow and prepare most of the calories, sweeteners, protein etc. that we need without having to resort to raiding the farmer’s paddocks at night by using legumes, nuts and grains that we can grow here BUT can I grow enough food for our needs? That’s where community comes in. “I” might not be able to grow every single thing that we need but if you spread the food production around a community, the problem starts to ease. Specialisation isn’t a bad thing and we all have abilities that lend themselves to different things. What I am trying to say here is that we CAN do this. We just need to be educating ourselves about the pro’s the con’s the whys and the wherefores. With a few chooks, a small dinghy, a well-planned garden and a well thought out food forest we can produce almost all we need here. We can add various natural systems and cycles to make Serendipity Farm pretty self-sufficient and we are in the processes of integrating these cycles. Composting, worm farming, water harvesting, vegetable gardening, protecting our orchard, planting our own food, integrating all of our systems to maximise potential and minimise hard graft…all possible using permaculture and our horticultural knowledge but most importantly, using what we are learning to give us back hope and choice


I used some home made coconut flour in these Monte Carlo biscuits to use up something that was a by-product of making non dairy milk. Using as much of your food as you can reduces food waste. What can’t be used by us goes to the chooks…what they can’t eat gets returned to the soil via the compost heap and its wormy and micro-beast inhabitants


Baking on a Saturday allows me to take note of what I need to be purchased on Monday’s shopping list


I used some of Christi’s amazing home made jam and some homemade vanilla buttercream to sandwich the coconutty biscuits to form classic Monte Carlos

I would like to thank Jessie for putting this tiny seed into my mind. Up till now I have been pushing “Peak Oil” into the too hard basket in my mind. I have been skirting around the outside of this issue. I know it is coming, I just chose to avoid it whilst increasing my knowledge base as much as I can. Steve and I have learned to be problem solvers. If you are an aging penniless student hippy who lives on 4 acres 50km away from the nearest city you HAVE to learn to solve your own problems. I choose to see the problem of Peak Oil as just that…a problem to be solved. I can’t see the point of running around panicking or hiding under the bed or putting your fingers in your ears and yelling “IM NOT LISTENING” as loud as you can to try to drown out the inevitability. In my mind it’s something that is just going to “happen” like birth, death and taxes…it’s there folks and we just need to start thinking about how we can shore ourselves and our communities up against the worst effects of it. We humans are incredibly resilient. We have been able to circumnavigate the earth; we have been able to tunnel, to elevate, to be incredibly inventive and to increase exponentially to our own detriment. Peak Oil might just be our saving grace and is the equivalent of a set of reigns pulling in the cart horses before they run headfirst over a cliff…dare I say it…humanity might just NEED Peak Oil.


Steve using a romantic fuzzy halo around his Monte Carlos


You CAN have your cake and eat it too, you just have to plan, to educate yourself, to learn how to do things for yourself and develop problem solving skills folks… Monte Carlo’s are the result of planning, organisation and processes

Well here we are at the end of the story folks. Nowhere near as entertaining as The Princess Bride. If you haven’t watched The Princess Bride go and watch it or forever know that you missed something special in your life. Wednesday’s post won’t probably contain anything at all about Peak Oil. This is my reckoning, right here. This is where narf7 tells it like it is and after this, it’s all how to get around this massive global problem…it’s all water tanks and Brunhilda and building gardens and shoring up futures and positive hope and how to and D.I.Y. because THAT’S where the future lies…in educating ourselves and learning and finding ways to do what we need for ourselves and in being optimistic that the collective process of man are SO much more than the collective processes that we actually need. Have a great weekend and know that our Peak Oil future really is in the hands of the individual :o)

45 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bread & Companatico
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 18:53:35

    I loved the princess bride, think I have watched it a dozen times when I was a teenager. so soft and funny. I love comedies with a light touch (and hate slapstick).
    that jam must have tasted gorgeous, can’t stop imagining it over some bread. but those cookies too… wow… so much careful work, fully rewarded by the professionally looking outcome. brava!


  2. LyndaD
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 19:11:48

    I cant make up my mind now if im going to live with Jessie or you . Those biscuits are pushing slightly in your direction (that and the fact you live in paradise). You are both so knowledgeable and thank you for blogging and passing on not only the information but inspiration and motivation. I think we can do it too. I dont like scare mongering and think if we can by-pass all the nay-sayers that insist on telling us we are nuts (we will see, wont we) and start working together as a community – we will do well. Hey, guess what arrived in the mail this week. The Victorian Kitchen Garden (BBC) 13 part series of a year in a walled garden. Its pretty dry but very informative and told by an old Head Gardener in one of the big estates that use to produce all the food for the Big House. I could send you a copy. It was done in 1989 but i was told about it and started the hunt. A walled garden is amazing. Those walls are so productive in themselves. Each wall, sth, nth, wst, est has different functions at different times of the year. I think you are going to have to get yourself a horse, and a cart. How fun would that be but also ready straw and manure & transport to your local town or neighbour. The things this man does with manure. Cold Frames, Glass Houses etc. Perfect for Tassie climates.


  3. LyndaD
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 19:47:58

    Im thinking of taking up lead lighting as a hobby. In the DVD he used old mini green houses that ive never seen for sale. They would be so cool, in cold climates but also to keep birds off young plants.


    • narf77
      Apr 28, 2013 @ 04:36:29

      Great idea. I used to do lead lighting but gave it up because glass was pretty expensive (at least the glass that I was working with was 😉 ). You can use old window frames to make some amazing cold frames as well. We don’t really have a problem with birds on our young plants here, more possums and wallabies. There are no foxes here so they are the top of the food chain and eat everything that isn’t nailed down.


  4. rabidlittlehippy
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 20:57:44

    Ok, that’s just freaky! I watched Princess Bride this afternoon! 😀 I do need to correct one thing though. Fezzik was the brute strength, Inigo the steel and Vizzini the (inconceivable) brains. 🙂
    You’ve hit the nail on the head with peak oil. What oil and coal and other fossil fuels provide us with is a way to change the concept of time. Harvesting a field by hand required either many hands and even then took a day or more for a field or it took one man a week or more. Nowadays, the same sized field would take maybe an hour? It’s time. Tea still grows at the same speed but its drying time is no longer 100% dependent on the sun, the shipping time is no longer dependent on fluctuating and inconsistent winds and the storage time to keep tea “fresh” has been lengthened by being able to wrap the leaves in fossil fuels to expel air. Fuels are time changers. We will have to learn to deal with the real time things take when fuel costs reach grossly unsustainable levels. And I’m not sure that this is a bad thing at all either. 😉

    If per chance you have some spare seeds for your Irish Strawberry… AND it tolerates heavy frosts and cold temperatures… AND if I have something to swapsie for them… 😉

    I must admit I see peak oil as a puzzle for my family. I am gathering to my breast the pieces of the puzzle in the form of information, utilities and tools. I feel that we have several large pieces of the puzzle still missing but many of them can be gathered this year and all bar 1 worked around (we NEED that water tank). We are building our food forest garden, gathering wood, planning to plant some of our own firewood trees (those wonderful she-oaks you talk about provide some of the hottest burning timbers on the planet) and we have animals that are raised in such a way that we can continue to keep them and raise them even without available grains for feeding. We too are omni’s and I feel that we can at least keep chickens and hopefully soon fish, via aquaponics, in our diet. We also have friends with large amounts of land that they are willing to share the use of with us and once we’re set and settled here I am hoping to be able to utilise that generous offer. Even if not, we have the space we need to survive and possibly even thrive. 🙂 Although not quite yet. 😉

    Food will become the new liquid gold. If you own a couple of horses and horse drawn ploughs, farrowers, broadcast sower and then harvesting machinery then you will be in a position of great power. If you own an orchard or a food crop that you can grow in sufficient quantities for trade or sale then you will be able to access other foods. If you have space then you have the ability to be able to step back and provide for yourself and family and maybe even friends.
    Our neighbours include bankers, truck drivers and an ag specialist who deals with farmers and chemical sprays and fertilisers for brassicas (his general gardening info has been helpful at least) so there’s not much to help there but around town we have other friends with skill sets to share and benefit the community. Gathering those skills are another part of the puzzle.
    Well, I’m off to continue knitting Allegra’s jumper (I wish I had a spinning wheel and the time in which to learn to spin and weave). Another skill I’m grateful to have. 🙂


    • narf77
      Apr 28, 2013 @ 04:43:10

      OOps! Time I watched Princess Bride again :). Are we going to see Allegra’s jumper when you have finished it? We have been busy working in the new veggie garden area so haven’t had much time for anything else lately. I will send you some seed when it dries out. Arbutus unedo grows like topsy anywhere. It is a lovely shaped tree and the wood is beautiful as well as being incredibly hard. They grow wild in Olalla on Christi’s property and recently her husband attempted to make a ladle out of one of them. Its very cold in Olalla Washington state so I figure Ballan hasn’t got anything that an Arbutus unedo couldn’t cope with 🙂


      • rabidlittlehippy
        Apr 28, 2013 @ 08:34:38

        POIFICK! I shall add Arbutus into my forest garden. 🙂 Thank you. And yes, I shall definitely share pics of the jumper when done. It’s a beautiful pastel variegated yarn (acrylic) in pink, purple, blue, green and yellow and she loves it. 🙂
        GTG, I can hear chickens on the deck… Means they’re eating the sweet peas again. 😦

      • narf77
        Apr 28, 2013 @ 11:52:39

        I can hear a solitary duck quacking till she is hoarse… wish we lived closer, you could have her :). AND it would be much easier for you to just decamp and come to visit with the hoppers when you were going mad and needed a cup of tea and a couple of bickies that you didn’t have to question 😉

  5. Angela @ Canned Time
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 21:19:16

    What a lovely and loving post. I’m also a “preparer”. But not nearly as effective as you and Steve, your growing space and knowledge are both truly envied ♥
    Living in D.C. it’s impossible not to consider daily the impossibility of it all falling apart, and soon. When strangers get arrested for assaulting each other over miner traffic violations, it’s hard to see us all playing nice when it comes to food and survival. It won’t be pretty and your advise on preparedness is wonderful.
    I’ll beat you to 50, next Thursday to be exact. It’s not so scary when you’ve taking care to feel your best and eat lots of veggies and fruits. I feel so much better now than I did in my meat eating 20’s I hardly think of the age change.
    I’d be so pleased if you’d allow me to post this one on my own site. It’s so well thought out and illustrated, and it needs to be shared with all who’ll listen out there.
    I know all your work to prepare takes so much of your time and attention but know that you are truly blessed in having such space and knowledge to do so. I have room for a Dogwood tree, some Hydrangeas and a pot I grow basil and dill in GGGGRRRRR!!!! 2 years ago, I got so desperate to grow veggies that I innovated growing space by painstakingly placing pots all across the bottom edge of our bedroom balcony roof each day to get the plants some sun. No success….I got one small bell pepper ripened, a handful of cherry tomatoes and not much else after months of time, watering and strategizing………You are so blessed!!
    Thanks so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge. It IS appreciated 🙂
    Enjoy your weekend baking and creating!!!


    • narf77
      Apr 28, 2013 @ 04:48:07

      Feel free to repost Angela, I would be flattered if you did :). What I am trying to share is the message that if Middle aged penniless student hippies with a moth eaten savings sock that breathes additional moths whenever it is shaken can do something positive to make real changes to their lives, anyone can. Sometimes gardening is one step forward and 2 steps back to be honest and even though Steve and I are both horticulturalists, we sometimes get overwhelmed by everything that we have to do just to grow a few beans! It’s all about getting the natural cycles flowing together and once that alchemy happens, you can pretty much step back and just steer occasionally when you need to. Nature has been doing this for millennia and we think that we know better ;). You beat me to 50 (so did my cousin…just remembered she has had her birthday this month 😉 ) but as you say, I certainly feel a whole lot better on my plant based diet than when I was grossly overweight as a 25 year old. Glad you liked the post even though I should have made a PDF out of it…it was HUGE! 😉


      • Angela @ Canned Time
        Apr 28, 2013 @ 06:29:31

        Thanks so much Fran, just posted and excerpt and linked back to your full post. Hope that’s okay. It’s a wonderful read and I thank you for sharing with all of us each week.
        Enjoy your garden for me, won’t you?
        Take care 🙂

      • narf77
        Apr 28, 2013 @ 11:50:12

        I am spending Sunday doing sweet nothing inside basking in Brunhildas warm glow and enjoying my day :).

  6. gardeningkiwi
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 21:49:01

    Hi Fran. The timing of this blog couldn’t have been more perfect for me. I have just come home from the first part of a two part workshop on Local Food Resilience. I click on your link and you are pretty much echoing what I have just spent the last couple of hours being involved in. I have another day tomorrow and there is a lot to take in, so I’m not sure where it will take me, but for now… Well I grow veggies so I’m heading in the right direction. Cheers Sarah : o )


    • narf77
      Apr 28, 2013 @ 04:51:30

      That’s the important part of the message I think Sarah, doing “something” is better than sitting there feeling increasingly more scared about our changing world. Your veggies are an amazing place to start as are your fruit trees. Shoring up our food supply for the future and learning how to do things for ourselves is an incredible boost against climate change depression. Its all about how you look at it and the more you learn how to do things yourself, how to bypass mainstream solves and produce your own the happier you will be :). Will you be posting about your Local Food Resilience meeting? It would be a very interesting post to read :). Have fun at the next part today 🙂


      • gardeningkiwi
        Apr 28, 2013 @ 17:02:40

        Hi Fran. I thought I’d share with the like minded how day two went at my Local Food Resilience workshop. For a start it is useful to develop local food connections to make sure all aspects of the diet are covered in case something happens, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be peak oil or economy collapse. The earthquake in Christchurch was a classic example of food being unavailable for an extended period from the “normal” supply chain.
        So the main things that stuck with me – and we covered a lot of ground was focus on what you can grow / make, followed by neighbours and communities sharing / trading / selling and working together and then looking at local producers and farmers as well; and between all the groups your local area should hopefully meet all needs, and if it doesn’t then the community needs to get together and find a way. Living where we do there is a significant gap in the “staples” grains etc. It’s about knowledge. Knowing who does what, where so that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
        It was really interesting and my head is still swimming with it all, however the thing that surprised me the most was how much of it I already knew, but most of the things I know are global things – like there is a new food forest in San Francisco for the public to use, etc because of what I read in blogs, watch on You Tube and pick up off this curious internet. I didn’t realise it had a label like permaculture or anything, I was just drawn to it because it interested me. At the end of the day I’m just a mum trying to feed my family and taking responsibility for the land I have been blessed with… and I love to garden and I love to write.
        I’ve had a huge day, met some lovely people and have a lot to think about.
        Its nice to have folks to chat to about this sort of thing who “get it”.
        Cheers Sarah : o )

      • narf77
        Apr 28, 2013 @ 17:50:56

        Here in Tasmania we are in pretty much the same boat as you guys are in New Zealand. There is a small spelt producer just up the road from here and we have a salmon farm, a large dairy, lots of beef and dairy cattle, a large organic walnut farm and lots of vinyards and small hobby farms in various production. We also produce lots of root vegetables here in Tassie, especially potatoes, carrots, onions and beans and peas. The problems that we will have are that we are isolated here and although mainland Australia can pretty much cover itself with anything that you could want, here in Tassie we are going to have to learn to do without a fair few things BUT on the flip side, there are less of us relying on a lot of food that tends to progress it’s way to the mainland so we are food rich here ;). I, too, am incredibly grateful to the online community and think we follow the same blogs ;). So glad that you “get it” along with us 🙂 That’s what we are doing…trying our best to do what we can and share the love and the knowledge around :). Cheers for the great insight into your Local Food Resilience Workshop and my dear constant readers will love the insight and the share :).
        Cheers Fran 🙂

  7. thinkingcowgirl
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 22:23:23

    What a visual tease. Shame we can’t just reach out and touch, sorry, grab…
    Totally agree about tea, life is inconceivable without! When the meltdown comes it will be as precious as gold…not unlike how it started out. I read the book The Princess Bride, it was fantastic…so the movie is a treat in store.

    When I was little I used to ask my dad what he did. He said ‘sums’. This satisfied my 6 year old self and beyond. It was only later that I found out that he was working out when world oil supplies would run out. He worked for the government (civil service) back in the 1970’s so the powers that be were already well aware of this problem. They were also doing a massive amount of research into alternative energy…haha that was until Thatcher came into power and pulled the plug on it all – she was totally pro nuclear. My dad became very disillusioned (he marched in the 60’s with CND) with the short sightedness of it all and took early retirement…in the days when you still got a hefty pension! Anyway he/they reckoned about 2050 unless some major new source was found.

    It’s great that you’re doing all this stuff with growing your own food, it’s really inspiring. And you’ll have so much knowledge to pass on to those that are too unmotivated at the moment.

    One thing, you might find that in times of national crisis, your land can be summarily repossessed by the government – ownership system is also not immune to breakdown either in times of famine pressure. Sorry, but that’s the reality. 😦


    • narf77
      Apr 28, 2013 @ 05:00:51

      Our local government couldn’t organise a riot in a hen house ;). Tasmania is teetering on the edge of our local government going bankrupt and they don’t have the military or police backup to be organising wholesale repossession of land, let alone implementing the infrastructure to farm it. Besides, our property is completely unsuitable for mainstream farming. It’s more like a Greek island covered in rocks and thin soil than anything productive and there are plenty of farms around us that would be hauled off into service before they got desperate enough to even contemplate something as unproductive as Serendipity Farm (I have thought about that 😉 ). Sometimes it pays to live in a tiny state where the government is contemplating lowering the state speed limits because they just had to admit that they can’t afford to pay to keep the roads maintained… I agree with you about the ownership system as well and think that is where united communities start to become important. Peak oil and a lack of fuel to run cars means that living 50km out of the city might not be such a bad thing ;). I am very impressed about your dad :). He sounds like a dad to be incredibly proud of and someone to really aspire to live like. What an amazing man! Glad, next door, our 90 year old neighbour lost her husband Ted just before my dad died in 2010. He was 96 and was one of the scientists that developed that weird bouncing bomb in the U.K. I think I would rather be known as someone that worked to enlighten people to the true state of the world than someone that tried to blow it up! The more enlightened we are the less chaos we are going to find ourselves in methinks but chaos is going to be the order of the day when the “ME” generation, used to instant everything has to slow down and realise that there is no “I” in “Team” 😉 Sharing is going to be the hardest lesson to learn!


      • thinkingcowgirl
        Apr 30, 2013 @ 18:15:27

        You’re right sharing is the way forward. Hopefully we will all prove adaptable in that direction – needs must.

        It’s all very slow in Cornwall. When I go to London I really notice how much I’ve slowed down. Take eating for example, my friends are very generous in cooking for me but I’m only halfway through my meal when they’ve finished theirs!

        Glad to hear Serendipity is immune to intensive farming! Sadly not the case for ours – damn that rich land 😉

      • narf77
        Apr 30, 2013 @ 18:57:19

        Time to slosh all of that stinky weed tea, liquid manure etc. around if any officials ever come sniffing around to reclaim land 😉 Might even be time for some wonderfully fecund fish guts tea? 😉

  8. Littlesundog
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 00:42:58

    Fran, I loved, loved, LOVED this post! Your message was well written, and your thoughts were conveyed is a kind and expressive way. So many reads on sustainable living get a bit overwhelming and even radical at times. While each of us are at varying levels of learning, I think “thinkingcowgirl” said it well about passing on your knowledge to those who are “unmotivated” at the time. Realization comes in its own time. How we were raised has a lot to do with it too. I find myself thankful that my parents taught us about planting gardens, and how to cook and mostly, how to use common sense to survive.

    I loved the photos in this post as well. I’m half salivating (all this yummy food you photographed), and my mind spins with ideas to incorporate in my already busy life. You amaze me my friend! I truly admire your ambition and life’s work!

    That Irish Strawberry fruit looks divine! And Steve’s fuzzy photo of the Monte Carlo’s… I just kept staring at it wishing those were MINE to nibble on!! Fantastic!


    • narf77
      Apr 28, 2013 @ 05:11:54

      I was a bit worried that my message might be a bit side left for some of my dear constant readers but have been buoyed by your positive reactions. I wanted to show that if we can do it, anyone can. Steve and I are middle aged penniless student hippies who might have our own little patch of land but don’t have a whole lot more. Learning to do what we can with this place has been a real eye opener and has taught us more in the last 2 years than I recon we have learned in all of our sheltered lives! The fruit on that Irish Strawberry tree was delicious! I can’t believe that people don’t eat them more often and they are just left to rot on the trees for the birds to eat. I guess I was just trying to say that we SHOULD be using these things. It’s immoral and a sign of how far we have distanced ourselves from our food chain that people don’t collect these wonderful food sources and preserve them for later. I guess the world is starting to change and people really are becoming aware of how tenuous our food production system is and so many more people are starting to grow their own food and learn how to do things for themselves. Its a very positive thing to see communities getting together to form community gardens and solid groups of people working together for positive change. That’s what I wanted to share in this post, there IS a positive side to all of this and we need to be hitching ourselves to that road train and learning everything that we can for positive transition. Glad you liked the food shots. Photoshop is certainly helping us with making food look yummy ;). Christi’s jam turned those Monte Carlo’s into something incredibly special…2 people on either side of the world created those biscuits :).


  9. Trackback: | ‘When chaos comes to town’ – from theroadtoserendipity.wordpress.com
  10. Linne
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 08:33:42

    Reblogged this on A Random Harvest and commented:
    A thoughtful and hopeful post; I’m interested in how other readers are working towards a healthier future for us and the planet. ~ Linne


  11. Linne
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 08:34:29

    Narf7, I’ve re-blogged this post. All I can say is A-MEN!!! We are definitely on the same page . . . thanks so much. ~ Linne


  12. cityhippyfarmgirl
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 09:48:37

    I haven’t seen the irish strawberry before, I’d be interested to taste the lovely looking fella.
    Knowing what to do with food, how to extend the season, even how to stretch out a meal to fill hungry bellies takes years of practice. Skills that are incredibly important, (and have increasingly being lost) as who knows what lies round the corner. I often think about this and am damn thankful I know enough to get by…ALWAYS room for more learning though!
    Great post.


    • narf77
      Apr 28, 2013 @ 11:54:50

      Cheers for the great comment. Arbutus unedo has a tasty enough berry but other members of the Arbutus family have even tastier berries. There are lots of exotics and deciduous shrubs and trees that have useful fruit including the Cornus family. We have just lost the ability to recognise them and use them accordingly. That’s what I am trying to do, to find out which ones are useful and how to use them effectively to make maximum use of their qualities. Glad you liked the post 🙂


  13. foodnstuff
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 12:31:24

    Agree that Peak Oil is a good thing, especially if it reduces the human population to sustainable levels (the experts think about half a billion people). If the ‘crash’ is slow enough for us to adapt, well and good. If it’s an ‘overnight’ thing, millions will die in very short order.

    Remember, you need to get ALL of your needs from your own property. I’ve been growing my own food for 10 years now (albeit getting better every year) and I’m still providing only 20% of my food needs from my garden. Not good enough!

    Pray that there’s not war in the Middle East. If oil supplies to Australia are interrupted, we have only 3 weeks supply to keep us going. Unlike the US our pollies don’t think we need a strategic petroleum reserve (3 months supply).

    Keep a year’s supply of food in the cupboard; keep you car’s tanks always full; keep a huge seed bank for growing your own; keep some cash in hand and out of the banking system; and PRAY it comes slowly.


  14. christiok
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 13:08:11

    Rhododendron is Washington’s state’s flower. They are gorgeous plants and grow really well here.

    And I’m totally with you on Peak Oil. I usually define it as the end of CHEAP oil. And your point about the actual costs of the foods we consume is well made. You and Steve are making huge progress! It took us several years to get our gardens and hoophouse built, believe me. You horticulturists truly are the prophets and healers of the future.

    I checked out The Botany of Desire and am rereading the first part about apples, and how the human desire it sates is Sweetness, but it’s also the source of alcoholic cider, which is a nice thing to have around when grain isn’t easily grown.

    Those biscuits do the jam proud! They are gorgeous. Love from Olalla.


    • narf77
      Apr 28, 2013 @ 14:31:56

      Hugs back from Sidmouth and those biscuits wouldn’t have been anything without that gorgeous jam :). We have lots of apples and pears in Tassie, as well as lots of pinot grapes so at least we can all get heartily drunk come peak oil 😉


  15. Roz Takes
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 16:04:33

    Shame Fran, tea has been grown in Australia since 1884 mostly in Queensland and Northern New South Wales re Madura Tea, Nerada Tea and now Green Tea from Victoria.

    Actually Captain Cook noticed that the Aboriginal was drinking a brewing from the Leptospermum tree and noted that it resembled tea hence the Te Tree. Perhaps you could plant some more Leptospermum.

    I am not particularly worried about Peak Oil as I am sure plans are underway to replace oil with Uranium.
    However if such as you describe did occur I forsee this:-

    If Labor is in power they will confiscate all foods grown and divide it between the masses whether they helped grow it or not.

    But if Lib/Nat are in they will confiscate everything and divide it 80% to the Gina Rineharts et al ( because ,well because…I never could understand that Policy) and 20% to the rest.

    If by chance The Greens should be it, you won’t be allowed to clear anything for Food Production or fish the rivers or oceans.

    No, I am not even going to go with Family First.

    Love the Blog by the way.


    • narf77
      Apr 28, 2013 @ 17:53:23

      You made me laugh out loud with the political party summary…I have decided to throw a donkey vote this year because there isn’t anything between the parties and they are all bad. Mainland Australia has tea…we don’t down here :(. Just imagine how crabby I am going to be having to drink dandelion tea and Steve having to go without his coffee (also not grown here!). My guess is that caffeine withdrawal will kill more people in Tasmania than anything else that Peak oil can throw at us! ;). Cheers for the blog love and hugs to you from Tassie 🙂


  16. teawithhazel
    Apr 29, 2013 @ 08:42:12

    i reckon climate change is the ‘big one’ but just in case it’s peak oil i’d better get that tea plant growing..or should i say plants..with my habit i’d need a mini plantation..x


    • narf77
      Apr 29, 2013 @ 08:52:47

      Can I come live with you? Camellia sinensis doesn’t do all that well here…Can Steve come too? Coffee doesn’t grow well either! 😉


  17. teawithhazel
    Apr 29, 2013 @ 09:30:22

    yep..steve could pull down the shed to put in the tea and coffee plants while we brew up!


  18. Somer
    May 01, 2013 @ 04:30:03

    I love this little insight to your life and home. Just lovely Fran!


    • narf77
      May 01, 2013 @ 04:36:49

      Hi Somer, nice to see you upside down in Tassie ;). I am up and trawling Ethical Oceans site. Wonderful recipes and too many new good blogs to stuff my RSS Feed Reader with! Cheers Annie! 😉 Have a fantastic day/night (whatever it is where you are 😉 ). its 4.36am here.


  19. dwayland
    May 01, 2013 @ 07:19:33

    When Dan and I got married, we had the minister do the part from the wedding… “Mawage, and Wuv, two wuv… ” You could hear half of the attendees laughing and the other half thought he had some sort of speech impediment. Great movie!
    I try to be self-sufficient, but am nowhere near your level! Maybe once I move to the boonies I’ll have to work at it more. For now, there’s places within walking distance, so I’m sure that makes me lazy in some respects.
    I learned to cook from reading library books. I would copy the pages out and put them in 3 ring binders. Pages torn from magazines as well. I have more recipes and 3 ring binders than I’ll ever be able to use!
    I really want to try making dandelion jelly. The biggest hurdle is the husband – not as adventurous as me. I’d love to make sweetener with the Liquidambars. That would be awesome!
    And, a final note, I’m working on remaking some of the dishes from my (and Dan’s) childhood. One includes apricot jam over chicken. Your jam looks super yummy!
    Happy Week to You! 🙂


    • narf77
      May 01, 2013 @ 09:18:44

      We, too, were lazy urbanites till we moved to the country and life got complicated. No more supermarket 4 houses away from us that we could walk to at 8pm to get a carton of milk and we had to learn to plan. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention 😉


  20. dwayland
    May 02, 2013 @ 12:05:36

    Yes indeedy! I thought of you when I saw this today. And, not to make your RSS reader bulge even more, if you don’t already know about Punk Domestics, you should… http://www.punkdomestics.com/category/tags/flowers?


  21. athursdayschild has a long way to go and much to be thankful for.
    May 10, 2013 @ 00:09:14

    I can so see you having a tea/coffee/bakery shop. We have sassafras on our farm, and I love that tea. That was the first tea I ever drank. The Native Americans used it as a blood purifier and spring tonic. My daughter served as an intern for All Things Considered, NPR, in Washington DC right after college, and got to meet a lot of famous people. Princess Bride is one of my most favorite movies. One day Christopher Guest came in for an interview along with Eugene Levey and Michael McKeon. They were there for a promo for Mighty Wind. She always took care of the guests, escorting them in, etc. She said they were really nice. In fact, she has met a lot of big names, and except for one she told me about, everyone was really nice.


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