Of Ferments, Foments, Fizzing Synapses and the odd good book

Hi All

I have noticed that a lot of the blogs that I am following are starting to delve into the subject of thrift and frugality. As a penniless student horticultural hippy I am more than aware of the value of thrift and am not only immersing myself in thrifty pastimes but am incredibly excited and rewarded by finding as many ways to live as frugally as possible as I can. I spend a lot of time hunting out how to do things myself. I decided that my “special” thing would be that I knew stuff. Not anything that would get me that million dollars on a game show but useful stuff like how to make milk out of nuts, how to start a fire with knicker elastic and a stick and how to approach a grumpy dog without having your jugular ripped out…you know…”useful” stuff.


Thinking about cutting my long hair short…I reckon I would look just like Audrey Hepburn…


See…EXACTLY THE SAME! Told you so 🙂

I think that the power of not being wealthy is that you have to learn to rely on your wits to get you what you want. You have to learn to plan, to organise, to save up and to find alternative ways to get to your goals. I also think the most important thing about being on a low income is how you look at your situation. Steve and I might be living below the poverty line but we certainly don’t feel poor. We manage the money that we do receive well and I feel positively rich. I was gifted a good education (what price that?!) and am able to head to my local library and find books on almost anything I need to know. Whenever I want to find out how to do something I can head straight to the internet and there will be a tutorial or pdf somewhere with my name on it that will give me the information that I need to know for the task.


That innocuous little pile of “stuff” in the shadows there is netting that we cut to start the long and laborious process of covering our garden bed


My able assistant showing you how we have to unroll the massive heavy (did I say HEAVY?!) rolls of rainwater soaked fish-farm netting so it could dry out enough for us to cut it in half to use to cover the top of our fully enclosed veggie garden


I am not just performing my morning Tai-chi routine here folks…I am tying up hundreds of metres of nylon rope in the hope that it will hold up the weight of the heavy fish farm netting

Steve and I are both problem solvers. We are diametrically opposed in just about everything and even that has its benefits…we tend to be able to see all sides of a problem (when we can stop bickering enough to unite our efforts that is 😉 ) and usually, not always, we can nut out a way to at least stem the tide till we can afford to do the job properly. I have a bucket list of wants. At the apex is a wind turbine, closely followed by a HUGE rainwater storage tank. After that I have various smaller wants that mostly revolve around us doing things, planting, plotting and most importantly “DOING”. The numero uno of everything that matters.


“Check it out Leroy!” part 1 of 3…


You can see it better from directly underneath this  portion…16m long and 5.5m wide (remember this is only one third of the total size of this MASSIVE great garden area. You can see the old veggie gardens dwarfed underneath this part of the garden

As a seeker of the truth of useful stuff I have a most amazing series of hard-drives cram packed to the brim with what I have found. I have been doing this for years and it’s only comparatively recently that I have started to put what I have learned into practice. Jo, from “All the blue day” recently asked her readers how they had been living more frugally. I commented but it got me thinking about what we do, that we no longer even think about that is frugal. I like to make as much as I can from scratch. That makes good business sense to me. Take out that useless middle man (BASTARD!) and you are left with a lot more money in your pocket so narf7 is on a mission to cure her penniless condition by making as much as she can out from raw materials and recycled “stuff” herself (and apparently talking in the third person makes it even better…)


I found a very clever idea on Pinterest for half burying wine and beer bottles in the ground upside down for a most aesthetically pleasing and thoroughly sustainable garden bed. “STEEEEVE…GET DRINKING!” 😉


Some of the seeds that we bought today to start planting out in our veggie garden as soon as we get it under cover and the beds sorted


A selection of little babies to go into the garden…can you see their little smiling faces? No? Well you aren’t looking hard enough then! Picking up tomatoes and eggplants next week as we like to plant them straight into the garden as soon as possible

I make my own sesame milk for my tea. I used to make almond milk but almonds are expensive and so I started to do a few experiments and sesame milk is my new go-to milk sweetened with a little homemade date paste to give it a rough approximation of regular milk in tea. Aside from that I now culture kefir and kombucha, both of which add valuable probiotics into my non-dairy diet. I can make a very good approximation of yoghurt out of seeds and nuts but now I am delving deeper and have found that I can make a tangy cheese out of cooked beans and my spent sesame seed husks from making milk when cultured with a bit of non-dairy kefir tastes amazing when you dip raw apple slices in it. I am UBER excited about the fermentation process and how invisible industrious little critters can be beavering away in the background making our food digestible. By the way, did you know that our bodies contain more microbes than cells?


I buy raw buckwheat kernel’s so that I can process it freshly as and when I want buckwheat porridge for my breakfast. That way it is both cheaper and better for me as the nutrients are retained inside the grain. In the background you can see a little bowl of soaking soy beans for my homemade organic soymilk kefir.


I used the last of Brunhilda’s winter latent heat to cook all of these dried, pre-soaked beans so that I would have some beany material to experiment with over the next few weeks. I am going to perfect making fermented beans to add even more probiotics to my already seething bacteria laden body 😉


Sometimes my endeavours to make everything myself backfires…

I also attempt to grow as much of what we eat as possible. Living 50km away from the city we shop once a fortnight and we shop well and if we run out…too bad. We are in the process of attempting to grow a food forest on Serendipity Farm to shore our future but the “penniless” bit gets in the way somewhat. Where regular people head out to the nearest Bunning’s we have to get clever. That’s where 4 years of horticulture and decades of watching my mum and Grandma take cuttings, grow from seed and just generally “make a garden from bugger all” comes in. We have figs, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, avocados, carob trees and lots of other food bearing shrubs that we have grown from seed or cuttings. Sometimes if you want something you have to go about getting it another way than the accepted norm. There is usually a way to get what you want but you might just have to think outside that box or learn to do things yourself or stand on your head to see things from a different perspective to get it


Last years cuttings and seeds that are this years transplants into our garden. Learning how to grow your own food and plants is a fantastic idea if you are monetarily challenged


Our friend who used to be in the witness protection but who outed herself and became “Jenny” gave us a stack of raspberry canes and 2 Marion berries today from her garden to transplant into our garden. Aren’t good friends wonderful? Jen has been our friend since we all did horticulture together in a local Polytechnic. She says that we are the only people that she would let into her house when it is messy (not that it ever is 😉 ) and the sentiment is mutual…THAT is friendship folks 🙂

If we need something we try to make it out of something that we already have. Enter Steve the amazing. I SWEAR his mum pinched him from a gypsy because this guy can MacGyver his way out of anything and can make pretty much whatever we need here with bits of wire, a bottle cap and some tree sap and what’s better…it lasts. Our temporary dog compound around the house to stop Bezial from wandering when we first moved here 3 years ago has stood the test of time. It holds Earl the fearless in and away from the feral cats that meow and spit at him through the gates so it must be strong. We are in the process of building a fully enclosed vegetable garden the size of a decent tennis court. Another means to an end. I also saw a lovely homemade basket woven willow cloche for preventing chooks from scoffing your preciouses that I am going to start making ASAP so that I can grow things in the garden again (who says Pinterest isn’t useful? 😉 )


Despite Steve’s little joke with the sharp knife, this ISN’T what it looks like…no still beating heart was held for a single moment by this good vegan (can I still stay in the vegan confraternity this time?…Please?…) what you see before you is the squished husks of a couple of kilos of blackberries that we only remembered that we had when we were cleaning out our freezer in the shed. What to do with a couple of kilos of blackberries? Why make WINE of course!


Part 2 of the wine making process. Part 1 was squish and soak in water for 24 hours…part 2 is where you sieve out the seeds and pulp over sugar into a sterilised container. Our container is somewhat larger than this small batch of wine needed but we are ever hopeful that one day we WILL fill a container and the “craic” will go on for weeks!

I make bread and just about everything else that we eat here from scratch. The more you bake/make it the better you get at it. I sub a lot of vegetarian options to reduce costs because meat is expensive and Steve could care less because the things that we cook taste delicious with or without meat. It’s all about sauces, spices, herbs and finding the right flavour bases (which we also make ourselves). We are not scared to delve into other cuisines and have found a wealth of amazing recipes, techniques and food ingredients this way. My current adoration of fermentation came from messing around with ferments myself but then reading about homemade miso, tempeh etc. and learning that fermented soy products are the only healthy way to consume soy…and why stop at fermenting soy? Just about every bean, grain, fruit and vegetable has some way to culture it and when you think of all of those little internal microbes you realise that adding a few more to the mix might just add something positive to the balance.


“I Spy with my little eye…”


“Itsy bitsy spider but she is flipping’ HUGE!” That will teach us to leave the fish-farm netting rolled up and out in the elements for months without touching it!

I spend a lot of time researching (from 3am till 7am) and then putting into practice what I have learned. I read a lot. I take books out of the library and read them. I am currently reading a book about creating gardens from bugger all (a good book indeed!) and the traditions of community when creating gardens. I am also reading Patty Smith’s autobiography and it’s an amazingly good read. I couldn’t tell you what she sang but I now know a whole lot more about this fascinating complex lady. Reading feeds your imagination and your soul. I am having some amazing dreams and remembering them now. Just needed to fire up the old brain box again 😉


We took the dogs to the dog park. Note Bezial standing to the left doing NOTHING but sniff the same blade of grass for well over 15 minutes…may as well have a nap…


Me attempting to stop one of the dogs noticing that this wonderful tree trunk is VERY close to the external fence and performing parkour moves before we could catch them…I don’t think that Beaconsfield is ready for Earl in full parkour

Our studies are also fermenting exciting possibilities. We now know how to knock together a rudimentary website. Nothing fancy at the moment but we are fast learners. Keep your eye on this space. We plan on turning Serendipity Farm into its own little blog space in good time. I am also getting a niggling feeling like I am neglecting our local community in all of this research. What if I was to start a group of like-minded people in the local area? Predominately we could get together over crafts at the local hall or perhaps we could form a baking circle? What about if we started a gardening group/club and shared our information and plant material? What about if I headed over to the local community centre and showed people how to do more with less? What if? What about? It all boils down to taking all of this amazing information and sharing it and THAT dear constant readers is what narf7 is all about. That’s what this blog is about. I have an omnipresent overwhelming NEED to share. I think I was born to share. Imagine how exciting a community of like-minded people could be? Take your stagnant little suspicious neighbourhood and turn it on to possibilities…Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is showing small communities how to get off the grid entirely with wind turbines…a large wind turbine is too expensive to even contemplate for a family… for a couple of families…but what about an entire community? Can you see the possibilities?


This is the only way that Steve can get the dogs to run around in the dog park…note the bag of dog treats in his hand…


You can see why these 2 are particularly active if you look to the right of this shot…sigh…


Earl after running around like crazy, “smiling” up a storm

I am all about the excitement of new possibilities and not giving in to the depressing morass that society has found itself bogged down in lately. I am not an ostrich, I KNOW that we need to be aware of Global warming and the current crazed economic threat of world monetary collapse BUT I can’t personally “do” anything about that…I CAN show people how to do more with less. I vote with my feet and my moth filled wallet and I can learn to do more with less. So can you. Have a great rest of the week folks. Get stuck in to trying to do what you can with what you have. Make it a challenge, not a chore and see how your life and your degree of satisfaction increases exponentially with the results 🙂

Confraturnity of Chrones

I just wanted to share a gorgeous image that my sister shared with me on Facebook. THIS is a life well lived folks and what I am aspiring to with not only my wonderful sister Pinky, but each and every one of my fantastic confraternity of prospective crones. A reprobated and bolshie old age to each and every one of you 🙂

48 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rabidlittlehippy
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 21:24:49

    I think there is no greater wealth in the world than being abe to read. If you can read you can do anything because you can learn! I love the fact that you read up on just about everything and because of your linky love emails you’ve instiled in me the same passion! I love to read but never before have I loved to research! 😀
    For most people ‘bugger all’ means nothing. For you and Steve I swear it means ‘opportunity’ and ‘chance’ and ‘BRING IT ON’! You guys achieve more on bugger all than most people do with finances, opportunity and motivation. Therein lies the TRUE inspiration in you two. 🙂
    Speaking of frugal, you’ll love what I got up to today. 🙂 Post to come! 😉
    Veggie gardens looking great. Have you reached the point where they create their own motivation yet? Wish I could drop off the 50 or so wine bottles I have here. And to think, I don’t drink! 😉 Been stashing a while with no idea what to use them for but think I might know now. My only concern is them getting stood upon by the kids or kicked and broken etc.
    Anyway, off to do more frugal… If I told you what it was I’d have to kill you! 😉


  2. Angela @ Canned Time
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 22:51:14

    Great words of wisdom so early in the morning Fran, thanks for your motivation and knowledge 😉
    I do try to make my own although spoiled rotten here in the city. No room to grow besides pots and such but we try to use the basics we have to purchase wisely as well as healthfully! Just bagged up a boat load of buckwheat that’s been sprouting all week to use for bread and smoothies….yummy frugality is my motto!
    Love the veggie garden progress, much envied as you know!
    Have a productive week there and enjoy the warm sun!


    • narf77
      Oct 31, 2013 @ 03:30:09

      Just noticed a relative in Western Australia complaining because they just had their first 35C (95F) day in Perth (the capital city). Perth regularly hovers around 43C (110F) for most of summer but starting in October is, as she so succinctly put it “a bit rich!” ;). Tassie is a whole lot cooler and so our sunshine tends to be tinged with a lovely cool edge, my favourite kind of weather. Cool enough to get out and “do” everything you want to do but the sun is shining, the sky is blue and at the moment, the grass is green…a lovely time of year on Serendipity Farm :). Everyone, no matter where they live, can be frugal. I get a whole lot of inspiration from your wonderful blog. I love your inventive spirit and some of your recipes are pure genius and incredibly inspiring to me to get my brain around new ways of doing things. I have hurled myself into ferments at the moment and am heading sideways back researching bean and legume ferments. A most interesting premise and something that Asian, African and other countries have been doing for centuries. It’s all about opening your eyes up to possibilities and I LOVE possibilities that teach me new things and that get me started on another interesting and promising pathway 🙂


  3. christiglover
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 03:26:19

    Feeling rich is the best. 🙂 We are checking in with our charter, too — what we are doing and why. Sharing is where it is at, I agree. And your tennis court sized covered garden is sooo impressive. You are cutting net and we are cutting hardware cloth/wire mesh to cover the surface of the new deck so we won’t slip and break bones. It’s tedious and makes the elbow and hand ache, but it works beautifully. Here’s hoping your covered garden keeps out all those pesky critters. Hugs to you and the entire Serendipity crew.


    • narf77
      Oct 31, 2013 @ 04:00:05

      Work and progress is de rigeur whenever you live out in the sticks and there is always something that needs to be done to make something else happen. I swear, most of the time we spend doing other things so that we can get to the thing that we actually WANT to do! ;). Great idea about preventing the broken bones. We are going to have to construct a pathway up to the veggie garden. The terrain is trecherous thanks to a host of small mammals called “potaroos” or as the local’s call them “Paddy Melon’s” (no idea why) that love to rootle the grass roots and leave small holes everywhere through the lawn. Not as destructive (or sub soil) as moles but they certainly know how to trecherise up an area! We are moving our compost heaps to the veggie area and everything is going to be concentrated to the same place (the glasshouse is right next to the veggie garden so we can propagate and plant). Another chapter in the lives of the Serendipity Farm Slave Corporation ;). I feel your pain with the sore hands and aching elbows…I got a blister on my fingers (cheers Brunhilda 😉 ) and had to cut what felt like miles of ex fish farm netting and de-rope it and the salty residue (it’s a salmon farm) wore into my blistered hand… OUCH! The thing is, it might be a pain in the butt when you are doing it but do you feel as awesomely tired and accomplished as we do at the end of your day? There is NOTHING like sinking into bed to sleep the sleep of the righteous when you have been working all day 🙂


  4. quarteracrelifestyle
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 06:33:11

    I love this post Fran 🙂 We speak the same language however you are so much more adept at speaking it lol.

    Roger (aka McGyver!!) will relate so much to this post. He is also a great learner, he has had 47 jobs and all so he could learn how to do something different because he has always felt that one day he would need to teach others, in other words he has always had this idea one day “the shit would hit the fan” and he needed to know how to build and grow food in order to share that knowledge.. He’s done all sorts of farming and crop growing, worked in yogurt and cheese factories, he’s worked in construction, irrigation, bridge building…all sorts. He had never been on a computer till he met me but Google is his best friend now. I do not necessarily share his thoughts about the future but appreciate his quest for knowledge and his intellect and capacity for learning, I do not learn so well.

    Me, I am and always have been on the bones of my behind, the only difference is now this is how I choose to live, for quality of life. Whereas in the past I thought of it as poor now I have found ways to live very abundantly on little…I have learned that. I wish I could impart to others that we can do so much more for ourselves than we often think we can.

    So wish we could grow avocado and cacao, am very envious there and well done on your caged garden, what a mammoth task!


    • narf77
      Oct 31, 2013 @ 07:02:57

      Not cacao, carob a very different critter indeed and no idea if the avocados will survive here but we don’t get much frost so they might, we grew them from seed so nothing ventured, nothing gained is how I look at it. I tend to think you only live once and whether the shit hits the fan or not, I want to live my life as best I can and share whatever I can with anyone who would like to know. I admire and am in awe of Roger and his 43 jobs! The man is a wealth of work!!! Is it warming up over there? Frigid this morning but sunshine promised and lots of nets to cut and wrangle over the top of our veggie garden so no rest for the wicked, best get up and at em’ before the sun gets too hot 🙂


      • quarteracrelifestyle
        Oct 31, 2013 @ 07:30:22

        Ah ok, carob sounds good too 🙂 Things get translated in my mind. We can grow avocado bushes here but they don’t fruit, where we are is too cool.

        Yes, I agree you only live once, I am keen to see your site or blog as it evolves.
        Love the new do by the way Audrey 🙂

      • narf77
        Oct 31, 2013 @ 16:40:39

        Nah…still got the natty dreadlocks all down me back at the moment…just “thinkin'” about getting it cut. That was me back almost 10 years ago when we went to the U.K. and red hair was all the rage. I love reading your blog as well…you always challenge me with recipes and wisdom. I reckon we were cut from the same cloth (most probably hessian 😉 )

      • quarteracrelifestyle
        Nov 01, 2013 @ 04:06:05

        Nothing wrong and everything right with Hessian 🙂 🙂 It’s a beautiful, functional, sturdy fabric lol. Team it with a bit of lace and it’s a thing of beauty….if only I could find the time and motivation for lace!!

        Thanks Fran but you lead the stakes in wisdomness, I feel you are sitting on a whole lot of healthy information and food creativity that I would love to hear more about.

      • narf77
        Nov 01, 2013 @ 04:14:05

        That’s my passion, learning about things that interest me and I have always had a passion (healthy and often unhealthy 😉 ) for food and more importantly, interesting ways to prepare it. I have spent years (since my son was small and he is now 31) initially (pre-internet) writing out books and books of recipes and preparation methods for ethnic and unusual ways to prepare and process food. I love to learn about how to do things ourselves. It takes penniless student hippies from “I can’t afford… I am poor…sad panda face…” to “I can make it, I can make it BETTER than I can buy from the shop and I am all the more satisfied with it and more importantly, I can share how I did it so that other people who are feeling impotant can also do it”…THAT is the power of the internet, the ability to find out how to do things yourself and to share with other people you will probably never meet. Incredibly powerful stuff and I am trying to find out as much as I can before they manage to make us pay for every bit of information we get…BIG profits to be made if the internet can be wrested from the domain and made “pay as you go”…sad but true and something that they are trying to do so my early mornings are part delight at what I find and part urgent cramming away for “winter”… there are always library books but you can’t get them at a click of a keyboard 😉

      • quarteracrelifestyle
        Nov 01, 2013 @ 04:19:22

        You must be an amazing font of knowledge by now!

        I merely potter, you could do so much with this. Write your own books….have confidence in yourself and what you can share 🙂 You could be penniless no more!!

      • narf77
        Nov 01, 2013 @ 05:23:40

        I kind of like being penniless…it keeps me on my toes and my brain synapses flashing and I have learned that the greatest degree of happiness comes from being satisfied with who you are and what you have. It doesn’t hurt to strive for more, but make sure it’s within the ethos. I have personal experience of someone who was inherited a huge amount of money and a year and a half later it is all gone and they are living on centrelink benefits. Money doesn’t equal happiness or the ability to use your mind wisely. I would love to be able to afford to get a HUGE rainwater tank or put in a wind turbine but you know what? Planning and thinking of other ways to get what you want is most of the fun! I am researching how to make your own watertank from cement and chook wire and rebar at the moment…watch this space (Steve is shaking 😉 )

      • quarteracrelifestyle
        Nov 01, 2013 @ 07:29:48

        Yes I agree with you, money does not buy happiness and we are also content just to be creative with what we have.

        I have seen those tanks, good luck with that 🙂 No easy mission but I imagine extremely satisfying.

      • narf77
        Nov 01, 2013 @ 15:56:23

        We will find out whether the effort is worth the rewards but at least we will learn a new skill :). Have a great weekend Wendy and I ope the sun is shining for you this weekend 🙂

      • quarteracrelifestyle
        Nov 02, 2013 @ 06:05:03

        You have a good weekend too Fran 🙂

  5. Littlesundog
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 12:25:14

    Wonderful post, Fran! Isn’t it great how we’re always learning, questioning, and investigating life? You, my friend, can run circles around me all day… how DO you do it?


    • narf77
      Oct 31, 2013 @ 16:46:27

      Ask Steve…I am too tired ;). We managed to get the second part of the roof on the covered garden today and tomorrow we get the last part on. Steve will be sinking a couple of poles in the ground so that we can extend it out to enclose the glasshouse so it’s actually part of the garden and will be useful for propagating more veggie and fruit seeds and I just got some raspberries and a couple of marionberries gifted to me yesterday so we have fruit! Now I just need some blueberries and we can make antioxidant wine…you must be able to drink bucketloads of it if it has lots of antioxidents in it ;). We have SUCH plans…we are going to increase the dogs compound around the house to encompass the fruit trees so they get more room and the possums have King Earl to contend with should they be foolish enough to venture in… lots of ideas and so much to do but at least we aren’t bored ;).


  6. Jo
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 13:07:23

    What a glorious post Fran! Your enormous enthusiasm just bubbles through your writing. I love it. Whatever is in those fermenting superfoods, I want it!
    Thankyou so much for the lovely yellow-yolked chooky eggs that the egg fairy left on my doorstop Monday morning. Such a pity Steve didn’t see the big bag of lemons I had left for him not two feet away…. Ah well, next time! And if you want us to empty any bottles for you, just say the word, we are always glad to help!


  7. Sincerely, Emily
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 13:25:30

    Oh wow – you look exactly like Audrey!!! Your hair is short! It pays to be frugal – if that makes sense. In fact my husband get s a good laugh if I spend money on something. I have been saving wine bottles for artsy things around the yard. I have a few of those bottle upside down and stuck in the ground. they look neat. I also have put some on the top of rebar that is cut at different heights. it has helped keep the deer out of the area off the deck where I start plants. Frugal! I have to ask people to save me wine bottles and they do. I don’t have a Brunhilda to cook on, but I do soak and cook dry beans instead of buying cans – saves so much money and no cans to recycle. I will cook a big pot and divide them up into bags to freeze. What experiment were you doing that backfired and why isn’t Earl lapping it up off the floor for you? Oh, do the dogs like the kefir and kombucha?


    • narf77
      Oct 31, 2013 @ 16:52:39

      I was making my homemade sesame milk and didn’t bother to check if I had clicked the lever down to low again…it was on high…it went EVERYWHERE! Earl isn’t all that enamoured of sesame milk ;). That was 10 years ago when we went to the U.K. not now…I still have long hair (at the moment) but am contemplating my options. I LOVE being frugal. I see it as a challenge and every time I manage to learn something new about how to make things myself or fix something broken or save something I feel like I won the lottery :). They say that simple things amuse simple minds and I guess that’s the truth 🙂


  8. Deb Cameron
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 14:32:36

    can you tell me where the dog park is? I’m always looking for somewhere to take Django when I’m up north.


    • narf77
      Oct 31, 2013 @ 16:54:08

      They just built it in Beaconsfield Deb. It’s in the park just before you get to town (where the tank and the skate park are). It’s a decent sized area and Earl and Bezial love to sniff their way around it. Just watch that tree stump that they conveniently left right next to the fence as if Django is at all athletic and if he spots another dog outside he might want to go and visit. Bezial wouldn’t bother but Earl might just have gone A.W.O.L. 🙂


  9. Lynda
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 21:54:26

    I bow to your superior frugality and intelligence, as always. As you say, needs must and i admit that i was much more frugal when Hubby was unemployed than now, when we are both employed. How easy it is to slip back into old ways. I see this as a time when we can really get stuck into our mortgage but it seems that when you have it, someone else wants it. I live in a street with about 4 speed limits and well, sometimes (for many reasons) you are not concentrating. We both bloody have fines this week for $180 each for being 3km over the limit. Which bloody limit!!! We work hard for that money and to just give it away hurts. You can tell I am slightly annoyed as ive use the “bloody” word several times. My mother would say, “where is the blood, i dont see it”. Then of course the water heater broke for good after 18 years this week. I should be thankful it did so when we can afford to replace it but i was planning on putting that on the mortgage.

    I seem to go through stages of being focused on one thing. At the moment its decluttering the house which means im giving away stuff. Giving makes me happy. Other times ill focus on cooking up a storm and putting away frozen meals or Ill go through a social stage, where i want to be out and about and yet at other times ill want to hibernate away at home. Do i degress from our discussion. A bit i guess, but what i am trying to say to say (very badly) is that being frugal still requires a lot of effort and conscious thought for me. Its not a natural thought process. Sometimes i feel like a bit of a fraud being part of this group of blogs I follow. For many this lifestyle is not only by choice but also an absolute necessity and i honour that. My constant friend (guilt) makes me think that i should just read about your amazing journey and not make comments (as of late).

    I am most definately intimidated by your abilities, what you achieve with so little and your constant ability to motivate yourself and find joy in everything you do. Even when things have been hard, you are able to laugh about it. You are an excellent example to many and a great mentor to me (whether you intended to be, or not). Can you see my truth Narf, in this waffle above? Its important to me that you can.


    • narf77
      Nov 01, 2013 @ 03:47:05

      Hi Lynda :). I think the most important thing is that we are all sharing. It’s not that we are all the same because we most certainly aren’t and I think that is what attracted us all here in the first place, the possibilities of community with people that we don’t know and who have very different lifestyles than we do. Blogging lets you be who you want to be. For me it is an out for my muses. I spent 34 years stifling myself, being something I thought that I “should” be and trying to squeeze into a box that wasn’t narf shaped and finally I gave in and admitted to myself that I was miserable. I left my ex, I headed off to get myself a life. I know I keep saying “you only live once” but to borrow the words of a wise friend we “bloody well” do! I had wasted 34 years (not entirely but by my acquiescence to everyone else’s wants and needs and my complete abrogation of my own I may as well have…) and I wasn’t going to waste another minute if I could help it. I am NO wonderwoman Lynda. I am just an angry little black duck with a chip on her shoulder. I come from frugality and I learned it at my mothers knee so it isn’t hard for me, it just comes naturally. I don’t have abilities by the way, I just read copiously and spend from 3am till 7am on the computer researching my interests. I am learning for the future and I am usually one step ahead of what we need to be doing here at any given time. Guilt is a terrible thing. Most people wear it wrong. If you didn’t actually do what you are feeling guilty about you shouldn’t pick it up and run with it. I have spent 14 years trying to tell Steve that but he is Catholic, it comes with the territory apparently. If I “do” something that hurts someone else or that I know is wrong then I feel guilty but if someone implies that by my lifestyle choices I SHOULD feel guilty then bollocks to them! Everyone has a reason Lynda and unless you kill your neighbours and bury them in your compost heap I don’t think you have any reason to feel guilty about anything. I guess the little raggletaggle community that we have forged here is aimed at sustainability and frugality. I think there is a simple nobility in taking control of your life and trying to do the best you can with it and as far as I can see, you are doing just that! Your amazing tutorials about the workshops that you go to are wonderful. You can organise your way amazingly well and who cares if you aren’t growing avodado’s on your rooftop! This isn’t a competition here, this is a community of like minded folks who are learning how to do things, to see the possibilities and to share what we are doing to make the load easier to bear. Sometimes, when I am feeling like a complete and utter failure, someone comes along and makes my day just by a positive comment or by legitimising what I am trying to do with their approval. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get me up and motivated to get out and facilitate change here where there is SO MUCH change needed. It’s often a case of having to do 3 things just to be able to do the thing that you want to do…I guess that’s progress…3 steps forwards and one step back. It’s a huge learning curve but I am “learning” and for that I am eternally grateful to all of you for sharing what you are all doing and how you are doing it. That’s what it’s all about and if I can help someone along the way then all the better. Sharing is everything 🙂


  10. brymnsons
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 23:32:04

    I like those bottle borders Fran. That looks very funky. I would be a little worried about them breaking, but they would be easy to replace. We will have to visit that bottle shop again when we visit. With Bruce there as well you will have a new stash of bottles in no time 🙂 . It’s been hot over here. Had a cool reprieve today. I’m in Perth at the moment, looking after Chris. He had to have a knee reconstruction, so I’m the driver, nurse and cook lol. Fancy leaving a tree stump next to the fence, they didn’t think about that one eh. Good luck with the vege garden, it looks like a lot of hard work. You will be pleased as punch when it’s finished, can’t wait to see it!!


    • narf77
      Nov 01, 2013 @ 03:50:36

      Cathy’s daughter Sabrina had to have the same thing done but her’s was an old ballet problem if I remember, a bit more “romantic” than Chris’s ;). I guess he won’t forget to remove stumps from now on eh? ;). I read that it was 35C in Perth the other day…bollocks to that! We should have most of the veggie garden up and producing by the time you and Bruce get here and we (fingers crossed) should be producing at least a nice salad and a few tomatoes to grace our plates with our bbq’s. More bottles will always be welcome. I want to make a bottle wall as well, facing the sun so that the sun shines through the coloured bottles…I also want to make a weather vein…and a hydro electric power plant…and a wind turbine…and build a composting toilet…but time is short so I might just focus on the garden for now ;).


  11. thinkingcowgirl
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 00:15:47

    The picture of the two women is brilliant…so tired of seeing people do terrible things to themselves in the name of youth! I had a weird crop done a few years ago, short on one side long on the other…definitely not the gamine audrey look 😉

    Glad to see the vegetable garden coming to fruition after all the planning. I can imagine how heavy that netting is. It’s a funny thing about community, we’re so used to mixing with ‘our’ kind of people that we forget that usually the real community is right on the doorstep! I saw an interesting programme about Japan the other day and how the birth rate is falling dramatically. It was basically saying that when people become too affluent and comfortable they stop wanting to strive and that includes making a new generation. Apparently it’s easier to have online relationships (particularly for the men who are very fond of these sweet virtual girlfriends) than get down to the nitty gritty with real women. So being frugal is obviously the way forward! Actually it’s a real crisis because there will not be enough in the pot to support a huge aging population. I wonder if this is how civilizations die out?

    I made a pledge that I wouldn’t buy any new clothes this year and I’m 10 months in and it feels really good…so much more time for writing poetry 🙂

    You do seem to have an incredible amount of energy it’s amazing and an inspiration. I really think you should write that book 🙂


    • narf77
      Nov 01, 2013 @ 04:01:33

      I think the energy isn’t mine. I think it is positively beaming out of all of those new little bacterium that I am ingesting every day now ;). They say that human body is composed of more bacterium than cells so I figure I may as well keep them happy ;). I do have a lot more energy than I had before but part of that is getting up at 3am and spending 4 hours doing what I love (researching) online. I get 4 hours of “me” time a day without compromise (except for when the dog decides to rain on my parade 😉 ).

      I was one of those “sweet virtual girlfriends” for about a year till Steve and I met and he realised that there was nothing sweet about me ;). I guess he figured he had invested too much time in me to back out so here we are today…I’m still not sweet ;).

      The most curious thing is that while the affluent are reducing the population the welfare belt are pumping out kids like there is no tomorrow. It would seem we are doomed if we do and doomed if we don’t. I agree about civilisations… overpopulation of any species results in famine, war and serious problems. The only book I would ever want to write is a book full of the amazing things that I am finding out every day but I figure it has already been written, people just have to go out there and research the chapters and I am too busy to write anything (let alone read…I am languishing away here with Patti Smiths amazing autobiography and Keith Richards enticing life along with a sterling copy of Clarissa Dickson Wright’s “Spilling the beans” that I think is probably going to eclipse them both and I am TOO BUSY to even pick them up…sigh…) but busy = satisfying and satisfying = happiness so I figure the books can wait a bit :).

      I hope everything is going well for you over there. I know it is autumn and it must be starting to cool down. That photo of me with the red hair was taken in the U.K. when we visited back in Christmas 2005. I have photos of me as a kid with the saddest attempt at Farrah Fawcett Majors hair ;). The things we do to try to keep in step with society eh? I gave up trying to keep in step (aside from keeping my nose hairs to a minimum…my leg hairs are a different story 😉 ) a while ago. If you don’t like me folks…”move along…nothing to see here!” ;). Have a great day/week/month till we meet again 🙂


      • thinkingcowgirl
        Nov 02, 2013 @ 00:03:19

        Haha at least you were a REAL sweet virtual girlfriend…the ones in Japan are not, and they worryingly look a bit like babies!

        Yes cold and rainy now, have had to go through transition period 😉 You’ve got me thinking about the fizzing bacteria…

      • narf77
        Nov 02, 2013 @ 04:07:39

        Steve is a naturally, most suspicious, Englishman who approaches anything new and exciting with trepidation at the best. He will happily quaff a large glass of second ferment Kombucha so that should tell you something about how nice it is. It’s been around for millennia and was first made popular in the 70’s by the whacked out hippies. I am now a whacked out hippy so feel the need to carry on the tradition. I got a free SCOBY from our local health food man (and swapped him some kefir grains for his trouble 😉 ). It looked like a thin placenta floating around in a cup of tea. Not initially something that one would think to pop into 3.5 litres of cold sweet black tea but apparently it is addicted to the stuff. Aside from looking like a happy jellyfish lumbering around (well…sitting still, but you get my gist 😉 ) in the large jar of tea you just put it in, it floats there, it ferments the sweet tea over a period of a week and then you provide it with more cold black sweet tea and use the first batch. I second ferment it which is a very easy process. You put the SCOBY into a bowl and add about a cup and a half of it’s fermented liquid. You then pour off all of the fermented liquid that remains in the jar into a large bowl. Add the cold sweet black tea that you prepared the day before (first time I forgot so this process took 8 days 😉 ) and tip in the SCOBY and it’s cup and a half of fermented liquid (balances out the acidity and prevents mould) and cover it with paper towel and let it get going again. You then tip 1 litre of natural juice or some ginger syrup or whatever you damned well please really, into the bowl of fermented juice. I then pour it into several litre bottles (be aware that this stuff is still fermenting…) and let it sit at room temperature for 2 more days and then put it into the fridge. I have had a small baby SCOBY form on the top of just about every bottle I make. I just tip it off and put it in the compost but if you have a mad clamouring of mates who want to try this themselves, you can give them a SCOBY, no problemo! I have heaps of energy, I use about a litre a day in my morning smoothies (summer tradition here to have weird concoctions in the morning) and at least another litre through the day straight from the fridge. Great stuff! Entirely customisable to your tastes, you can drink it sweet (earlier) or tart (leave it a bit longer), it’s just like making ginger beer except you have that big jellyfish to keep happy. Another thing, that jellyfish grows alarmingly and you apparently have to peel off the underling SCOBY when it gets too thick. I haven’t done it yet but am thinking it is just about time to do it. You can use the SCOBY in your compost, you can feed it to stock or chooks (nutritious apparently), you can candy it, make it into jerky or eat it in a salad or sushi. I chewed one of the small ones and it tastes like eating the skin on the side of your fingernails when you are nervous…not the most exciting thing and alarmingly like eating flesh. I dare say it could have some interesting uses if whacked out hippies could be bothered getting creative… I have seen a most inventive woman who has turned SCOBY’s into a business. She has tanned them and made them into “leather” jackets and handbags! Clever woman… too clever by far ;). Let me know if you get hold of one and make it. It is, at the very least, tasty and if that is all it is, it is worth brewing 🙂

      • thinkingcowgirl
        Nov 07, 2013 @ 05:52:27

        Wow, thanks for the comprehensive instructions. Now I wonder where I can get this SCOBY…

  12. Chica Andaluza
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 07:56:01

    I loved this so much Fran – although we are not able to be quite as self sufficient as you, so much of what you write resonates with me. Not so many years ago I had a “proper” job, travelled the world, wore heels and earned lots of money. Now I dress like a builder, don’t own a suit, fall over in heels and grow my own veggies and bake my own bread. Happier now than then? You bet! Our lives are so rich and good, but moreso because we appreciate what we have and don’t mourn what we don’t have. Oh yes, wine helps too…so am happy to help out with the wine bottle garden floor 😉


    • narf77
      Nov 01, 2013 @ 16:01:09

      I just had an amazing idea! Wouldn’t it be fantastic for each of my wonderful “dear constant readers” to have a spectacular meal at home with a good bottle of local wine and then send the empty to me to put into my “garden of the world”…I LOVE IT! Now I just have to cadge wine bottles off my international mates…consider yourself warned ;). Have a great weekend. I figure you did your bit for consumerism in the first part of your life (high heels… REALLY???!!! 😉 ) so now you get to rest on your laurels and live the life that you want to lead, ballet, big men and all :). Hugs from Sidmouth where the sun is shining, the port is flowing and I am just about to get up to my armpits in a “Friday night” Stromboli for Steve…wish me luck. You never know what a port sodden woman will think is de rigeur when making her husbands Stromboli…”washing up sponge…he would LOVE IT!” 😉


      • Chica Andaluza
        Nov 02, 2013 @ 02:55:13

        I love your idea and hope the stromboli goes well – I’ve never baked a washing up sponge but I have set fire to many a tea towel 🙂

      • narf77
        Nov 02, 2013 @ 04:09:29

        I have done some terrible things to tea towels and am most probably on the linen manufacturers hit list. I have strained things through them…stuck them on top of things, have used them to flick at blowflies, dogs, husbands and kids. I have hurled them all over the place and still they come back for more. They are much more amenable than sponges to daily abuse. Sponges tend to stick to things like they don’t want to play. I choose tea towels any day 😉

  13. Namita
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 00:36:36

    Hello Fran,
    Whenever I read your posts, there is so much that I can relate to. One of your last posts, about the death of your finches really moved me. Yes, every strand of grey hair that makes appearance, falling energy levels, inclination to live a peaceful life all make us aware of the fact that time is moving ahead leaving its impressions. Recently, one of the oldest carps in our fish pond died. Our dog Prince (who resembles Earl somewhat in appearance and very much in temperament) is ailing. A ferocious dog who is now weak stares at us helplessly. All these are reminders of the transience of our existence. Well, life goes on…..
    I also loved this post on frugal living.
    Keep inspiring us Fran……


    • narf77
      Nov 02, 2013 @ 03:52:07

      I am so sorry about your dog Prince Namita. Dogs aren’t just pets, they are part of our families and I don’t even want to think about when either of our boys starts to ail :(. Please give him lots of love and hugs from us here on Serendipity Farm. The garden is almost completely enclosed now and we are adding a few things onto it so that we can enclose our glasshouse as well and can work in the glasshouse from within the veggie complex. It is all very exciting and should be a lovely big safe area to grow our veggies without furry little possum and wallaby and chicken invasions when we aren’t looking.


  14. Sue Dreamwalker
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 07:41:01

    Brilliant, I am with you all the way on your fermenting, and some years ago now we had a bumper strawberry crop, Strawberry wine is the best tasted along with Rhubarb which was out of this world it took around 2 yrs to clear but oh boy was it worth the wait! ,,, So my lips are a licking at your blackberries ..

    I really enjoyed your post thank you for sharing 🙂


    • narf77
      Nov 06, 2013 @ 03:48:23

      I have to laugh! First I have to apologise for how long it has taken me to reply to this comment…Steve and I have been out building a huge fully enclosed veggie garden from scratch using only what we could salvage to great avail and the laughing bit is that I just wrote out a HUGE reply to your wonderful comment and then clicked “cancel” rather than reply! I can only put it down to being a bit tired after all of our recent efforts ;). My mum used to make rhubarb champagne which was the ONLY rhubarb product that Steve would let past his lips (aside from the U.K. sweets/candies “Rhubarb and custard” that can’t really be counted 😉 ). We have the blackberry wine fermenting away like crazy in Steve’s music room at the moment. It’s just about time to take it out to the shed and let it do it’s thing. Lots more wine to roll off the presses here and I want to make some beer from scratch, sprouting the barley myself and hunting down some local hops (they grow well in our region). I have a couple of hop vines myself but I hope they made it through the heat last year and come back this year as they can have a permanent home in the new fully enclosed garden. Feel free to drop by Serendipity Farm blog any time you like, you are always welcome here, we are pretty friendly 🙂 (note to self…DON’T click “Cancel” this time! 😉 )


      • Sue Dreamwalker
        Nov 07, 2013 @ 01:19:30

        Your Beer sounds good made with home grown barley.. In our younger years we did a lot of brewing beer and would have 5 gallon barrels on the go, along with Stout, which I would drink as a nursing mother to my then baby daughter, 🙂 who had no problems sleeping.. LOL.. But back in the 70s when she was born, in maternity hospital we would get a free can of Mackenzie for those who were breastfeeding…
        Thank you for taking the time out to reply, and I thought I was the only one who could write long replies and then lose them… 🙂 So good to know a fellow brewer, gardener, and one who has butter-fingers as well 😉
        Hugs Sue

      • narf77
        Nov 07, 2013 @ 03:30:26

        I had my first (the son-and-heir) in the early 80’s and back then they stocked the fridge with stout so we could drink as much as we liked…I wonder if they monitored the mum’s to make sure that those in denial weren’t imbibing a little too liberally? I hate the stuff so after an initial stout moustache I gave the rest of the can away and abstained from that point forward but Steve is from Liverpool and adores the mucky brew :). I am a magnificently accomplished gardener on paper but in practicality my unqualified mum, grandmother and brother all run rings around me. I am learning to put what I have learned into practice and it’s not as easy as they would have you believe! I might have a couple of horticultural diploma’s tucked under my belt but they are being threatened by aphids as we speak ;). Steve’s blackberry wine is coming along nicely. We managed to keep a couple of toddlers that visited yesterday out of the brew so we are doing well. I have a butter brain to match my butter fingers but that’s what being 50 does to you I guess ;).

      • Sue Dreamwalker
        Nov 07, 2013 @ 03:44:27

        Yes, our state of Age gets lots of Blame LOL 🙂 and loved your recounting your own experience of Stout… I often thought in later years as my teen daughter loved night clubbing that my own Liberal use of our home brew may have contributed to her love of that same taste for anything that came in a can or bottle over the bar…
        I am pleased to say those teenage nightmares years are well past, and she is now managing a Health Food Store and is a Vegetarian, who at times puts ME to shame LOL… 🙂

      • narf77
        Nov 07, 2013 @ 04:08:13

        I have 3 children that managed to survive my parenting. The son-and-heir has just returned to the roost (got a job in accounting in Launceston city) and has moved in to the unit at the back of my daughters home in town with his Texan sweetie Kelsey and my 2 daughters who are best described as artistic foodies who dabble in the unusual seem to be doing ok. I guess that’s all we can really hope for, that our kids don’t turn into serial killers and force us to have our aging mugs plastered all over the local rag…those paparazzi ALWAYS manage to get photos of you without your makeup on! 😉

  15. Spy Garden
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 19:26:47

    Great post. Garden is looking good!!!


    • narf77
      Nov 03, 2013 @ 03:18:09

      The garden is growing like topsy. It’s gone from 203m2 to 238m2 in a day…I think it has a life of its own and is making us its willing slaves! Can’t wait to assemble some garden beds, dig some soil and get our little seedling babies that we recently bought (too late in the season to grow most of them) into the ground. I have a couple of yacon plants to go in, lots of raspberries and a couple of Marionberries from a friend as well as the usual suspects. No possums shall enter! The chooks got in through a net left open (so we could get in) and rearranged the huge pile of spent horse manure that Steve and I shovelled earlier in the year but at least it is still “inside” the compound ;). Keep your eye on this space…


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