Serendipity Farm is all tied up with string

Hi All,

I overran my last blog post and I am still full of words so I am bleeding them into Saturdays post and its still Monday morning! After a delicious relaxing few luxurious hours of winding my way through other people’s blog posts and pinching their wonderful shiny results like the quintessential magpie that I am, I decided to vacuum the lounge room. Bernard and Manny, our two Javanese Finches, live in a luxury high rise condo that we bought for them last year to allow them to be as free as two movie loving television addicted small birds can be. They can fly around…they can swim in their drinking water (and often do) as well as fly over with their wet little feathers and roll in their seed to make small flying seed covered morsels to torment Earl. In the process of their day to day eating marathons these two little birds that would weigh all of about 70g each managed to dislodge an incredible amount of spent and unspent seed all over the carpet that spreads everywhere. I am able to ignore it for only so long and every Saturday I vacuum it up. I forgot to vacuum it on Saturday and so decided to do it today. Vacuuming isn’t an easy thing to do on Serendipity Farm. I tend not to vacuum much and rarely pull out the vacuum cleaner unless it’s my regular Saturday seed cleaning event or someone is coming to visit and our dust bunnies are almost up to our armpits. I tend to use our good stiff broom to sweep up the detritus that hovers around the house attempting to drown us in dog hair and carpet fluff and dump it into the compost bucket to be removed when filled with vegetable scraps and carpet detritus. It’s a cycle that repeats itself and is becoming something that I don’t mind doing. I get exercise from the sweeping and I do it throughout the day so it could be considered “regular exercise” on the surveys that I occasionally get paid to do online. It’s amazing how you can manipulate “the man” and his survey companies 😉

“What HAVE we here eh?”…

“That would be prime dog steaks!”

Take some of that prime dog steak and slice it thin and then dehydrate it for a few hours on “Jerky” setting in your you-beaut 9 tray dehydrator that you rarely use

5kg of dog steak turns into a large container of dog treats that make our boys happy and we know exactly what’s in them

Aside from not wanting to spend money for electricity to vacuum, we have a resident vacuum cleaner hater. Earl considers Mr Vacuum Cleaner to be his arch nemesis. For anyone not in the know… a nemesis is your enemy…an arch nemesis is a mortal enemy. Earl HATES Mr Vacuum Cleaner and tries to kill him on any occasion that he sets foot in Earl’s peripheral vision. Too many times we have had to extract Earl’s determined jaws from the end of Mr Vacuum Cleaner and the head is permanently covered in dog bites. If you take off the head bit and attempt to suck in corners with the hose it drives him even wilder! Steve is over re-bending the hose back into a circular hose shape able to fit the head back onto it rather than the oval shape that Earl would have it. Again. We could lift Earl off the ground with the determination that he puts into his hatred for Mr Vacuum cleaner much to the bemusement of Bezial who hovers around waiting for a game of “suck me- suck you” accompanied by the odd bark or two just so that the vacuum cleaner knows who is the boss. I think it knows who the boss is as it bears the scars of its tangles with Earl. Earl bit the plug off the cord (don’t say HE doesn’t know how to kill something!), Earl ate one of the hose fittings…Earl is dogged in his determination to eliminate Mr Vacuum Cleaner from Serendipity Farm and so vacuuming is an event to be planned and not something that you want to undertake spontaneously like I did this morning. You need 2 people to vacuum. One to vacuum and the other one to distract Earl from scratching the varnish off the doors that you have to shut when you vacuum. Have you ever seen videos of guard dogs slavering in mortal rage at something? Well that’s what Earl does to the space under the door when you shut it and stop him from dealing with his mortal enemy. I swear the resulting spit could be marketed to the U.S. military as some kind of biological weapon it contains that much venom! I was clever. I shut all of the doors while Earl was out lazing about in the sun on the deck. I snuck Mr Vacuum Cleaner from his hidey hole in the middle spare room to the lounge room and still Earl basked…I plugged it in and I started vacuuming and totally ignored Earls barking and scratching at the door and Bezial even got to feel superior as I let him in the side door while Earl was doing his best to scratch his way into the lounge room under the door and Bezial lay on the floor watching me vacuum clean until I finished where this very clever dog got up, walked over to the side door and in no uncertain terms asked me to let him out. I curiously let him out and packed away the vacuum cleaner, let Earl in whilst carrying Mr Vacuum Cleaner into the middle room again as Earl hunted for his nemesis (he could care less about Mr Vacuum Cleaner in his latent non-sucking form) and then looked out of the side door at Bezial facing the river and promptly forgot that he had heard Bezial in the lounge with me and rather than making Bezial pay for his cheeky ignoring that Earl is the supreme ruling dog, he headed out and gave Bezial a quick slobber on his nose and they both set off hunting for the enemy. I will NEVER underestimate Bezials cleverness again! That dog can think! Earl…you are a clever boy but your impulsiveness leaves you open to stupidity!

We have started making our own drinking chocolate mix and we get this bowl full for the same price as that container. I think we win!

A pumpkin spice bundt soaking up a whole lot of Mayan spice drizzle consisting of brown sugar, water, nutmeg, cinnamon and chilli powder. No pictures of the final cake with chocolate glaze because it curiously all disappeared! 😉

A small leaved azalea that has just decided to flower

The outdoor cliveas putting on a lovely show

The things we do! I have just been sitting here for the best part of an hour to try to identify a lovely small tree that we have in our garden. I knew that it was an Australian native but then had to go hunting for a key somewhere to try to identify it. This small tree was on the chopping block last year but I just liked it and decided to crown lift it and tidy it up a bit and leave it. It is rewarding my clemency by flowering magnificently this year and it has put on quite a bit of growth. I just found out (fanfares here folks…fanfares for the common man!) that it is a Nematolepis squamea or a Satinwood. It has a lovely shape and is massed with small white flowers at the moment. I love it when I manage to find something that I am trying to identify. I can be most stubborn at times but the stubborn comes with a bad temper and a large vocabulary of words that should NOT be spoken in pleasant company so after an hour of researching I tend to be a bit of a coiled spring. I remembered to look this plant up today because we were out in the garden effecting change. The type of change that makes the possums unhappy but the native birds and us VERY happy. We put a temporary fence around Steve’s weeping maples because despite their best and most vigorous efforts to grow exponentially, the equally determined possums are harvesting them nightly for their tender leaves and making Steve’s vocabulary bluer than mine (and that is saying something!). Despite it looking and feeling like it is about to snow outside, we decided to stop the decimation of the maples and bollocks to the rain/snow/hail whatever nature wants to throw at us. Within 5 minutes of erecting the barrier the native birds bombarded the water baths inside because they suddenly realised that the cats couldn’t creep up on them either! We might even make a small (more attractive) permanent fence around the maples if it makes everyone who matters happy. The chooks won’t be happy either but as creatures that have far too much free reign on Serendipity Farm that’s just TOO BAD and they can get used to not being able to rootle around the base of Steve’s maples.

The lengths that maple lovers will go to to protect their precious babies.

Satinwood flowers

Nematolepis squamea in full flower and something that I am very glad I spared last year when it was half this size and spindly

Acer palmatum “Atropurpureum” planted out last week and obviously happy to be in the ground

A large Eucalyptus viminalis absolutely covered in Pandora pandorana, a native climber, looking magnificent

I have noticed that the blogs that I am following on my rss feed reader are starting to become more active. There is a direct correlation between the northern hemisphere cooling down and blog activity. Not only are they becoming more active, but they are also posting more delicious recipes. After getting up at 5am (tomorrow 6am…go figure daylight savings!) this morning to read today’s posts I couldn’t help but become tantalised by all of the wonderful recipes for pumpkins, apples, pizzas, calzones and all things cooler and autumn. Now just to stop my northern readers in their tracks BEFORE I get corrected…we call it autumn here. We like the name. It suits Australia because unless you live down here in Tasmania or somewhere high up in a mountain, most of our plant species are most definitely lacking in the “fall” of their leaves. We don’t have a lot of native deciduous trees, in fact, here in Tasmania, one of the coldest states; we only have 1 native deciduous tree Nothofagus gunii. You can keep your abject theft of English classic recipes (renamed most confusingly to annoy us) and in return, you will let us call autumn autumn ok? Cheers :o). Back to the blogs. I found some amazing recipes this morning and at 5.30am when the sun is just starting to rise and you are wide open to sleepy suggestion an rss feed reader full of recipes tends to send your mind in specific directions. I want to bake. I want to crank Brunhilda up and bake. She has been having a bit of a hiatus of late and was just getting used to napping all day when it’s gone cold again and we are calling her back into the fray. Steve is going to have sausage rolls tonight. I wanted to make calzone’s but Steve is a man who likes what he likes and sometimes my ideas for his degustatory delight are not HIS ideas for something that will titillate his tastebuds. I am an adventurous cook. If I had my way we would live like bohemian’s eating all sorts of weird and wonderful things and sitting around talking late into the night about all things intellectual. Steve could care less about bohemians and intellectuals and so I have to harbour my latent bohemian urges indefinitely.

The beautifully coloured new growth on a small pieris on the side of the driveway

A banksia that was on its last legs last year before we cleared around it and pruned it

One of the wilderness Camellia trees down in the jungle garden portion of Serendipity Farm

A native cyclamen (Cyclamen repandum) growing down in the wild part of Serendipity Farm

Steve is off taking me some pictures of “stuff” for the blog tonight. I dare say said “stuff” is going to be dark. It hasn’t rained today but it has been cold and dark and threatening and a great day to hang about inside. Steve read the last bit of my post while I was in the loo and decided that he would check out what a calzone actually was. To his amazement, it was something that he thought that he might actually like and so I am now charged with making him calzones for tea tonight. That means that I have to stop typing and head off to make some calzone dough.

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/399/calzones

Thank GOODNESS that Brunhilda is on because dough proves so much better on the proving rack situated above Brunhilda’s beatific warm wafting heat layers and so calzones started at 3pm are something that fits within the realms of possibility rather than vain hope. I need to head off down the deck stairs to harvest some of our mushrooms and remove some frozen sopressa that has been sitting in cryogenic isolation since the son and heir and Kelsey’s visit along with some frozen bacon. Add some Italian mixed herbs, some grated cheese, some onion and garlic and some left over salad leaves and I think we have a meal in the making!  Steve has requested wedges with his meal so I will rustle up some Carlingford potatoes to grace his plate in large chunky well-seasoned splendour.  There isn’t much difference between having fussy kids and a fussy husband…they both need coaxing and a degree of creative bargaining to get them to try new things 😉

Some of the plants that we planted out recently looking as pleased as punch with their new situation

The first three hatchlings of the spring on Serendipity Farm

Mummy feral showing her 3 babies where to hide whenever the terrible humans make an appearance

Pear futures

Tomorrow is our anniversary. It is also Steve’s mum’s birthday. It’s entirely coincidental that our anniversary is on Pat’s birthday but Happy Birthday Pat! Thank you for being Steve’s mum :o). Without you, this whole crazy adventure wouldn’t have happened. I hope you have a fantastic birthday and that you know that we are thinking of you from the other side of the world. Everything about Steve and I is unconventional. We met online, we were able to maintain a long distance relationship for 2 long years and if you looked for the opposite of textbook marriage you would find us. We eloped quietly and with purpose after a year of living together to make certain that this was what we both wanted. After we married (in the church behind the house that we were living in at the time) we headed off to do battle with the immigration department but it was more of a “hand over some cash and wait a bit till we get around to your case…” than anything stressful. Steve and I had done our homework. We made sure of every scenario before we applied for Steve’s residency and bypassed a whole lot of problems that other people trying to do the same thing were encountering. Two years after Steve applied for residency in Australia (almost to the day) he got a letter saying “Cheers for the money, you can stay”. We didn’t have any dramas, any problems or any hassles. We were some of the very lucky ones and I suggest that anyone trying to duplicate our success, looks into every single eventuality with discipline and determination and covers their bases at all times. It worked for us! Steve has been here 13 years now and its anniversary number 12. They suggest that your 12th anniversary should be linen or silk. It’s quite a long time on the wedding stakes so you could be going one of two ways…silk for a well-honed and well kindled relationship or linen for your shroud! I choose silky linen as nothing is perfect in this life. There might be moments when I would cheerfully throttle him but I dare say he has had to stifle his natural instincts to euthanise me more than once and so I am going to call it even. A clean slate and a springboard into the next 12 years.

This atmospheric shot shows what todays weather was like taken when Steve was upside down taking photos of the cherry blossom futures

Steve’s calzone and crispy homemade potato wedges…Steve approves! 🙂

Skeeter pee futures!

This beautiful Zelkova serata is my bet on tonights possum degustation event to spite us for preventing mass guzzling on Steve’s weeping maples…sigh…

We are going to have a delicious Asian feast for our anniversary meal. We will need to take a drive to Exeter for some more booze because we had fun working our way through our anniversary booze and the cupboard is sadly bare. I might even make a delicious vegan cake that was nestled in my rss feed reader this morning. It looks heavenly and no-one would complain about having an enormous slice of it placed reverently before them on a special occasion. It’s one of those transcendental moments when vegan shmegan “I want that cake!” I love finding vegan recipes that make Omni’s squeal with delight. This is one of those moments. Savour it my vegan friends, it won’t happen often!

http://www.maplespice.com/2010/03/double-chocolate-mousse-layer-cake.html

I am creeping up to meeting my regular post size and might just nip it in the bud for today. It’s after 3 and I should be getting that calzone dough made. It takes time to be a creative genius and I need to meditate a little to reach Nirvana before I attempt the perfect calzone. Tonight I am going to read. I will sit, basking in Brunhilda’s warmth after shoving Bezial to one side of his couch and ignoring the “evils” that he will be radiating at me. No doubt I will be fast asleep when you read this post, nodding off to la-la land to sleep perchance to dream but my dream will be peppered more with foreboding terror than kittens and bunnies because I am reading Gillian Flynn’s first book. I read her last one and am sampling the beginning of her career…let’s see if she has grown any? I also have Water for Chocolate and might even curtail my horror/suspense for a day and read this slim volume that approximates a chick flick in paper form. Wish us luck with our possum defences. We are certainly going to need it and I hope that you all have a wonderful next few days till we settle down to share some time together once again :o)

Just before I go I am going to start adding what I am listening to when I post my posts. I am blatantly stealing the idea from Green Giraffe who is an Aussie vegan food blogger that I admire immensely. I am sure that she won’t mind me pinching her idea as my soundtracks are NEVER going to be as retro and funky as hers 😉

Today I was listening to The Best of Bowie and rocking with Steve to some old school androgenous rock…one rock to rule them all! (As I post I must admit I am listening to Back in Black ;))

Hermits with soil samples unite!

Hi All,

It’s Tuesday and another blog post deadline is looming. Stewart and Kelsey made a short stop on Serendipity Farm and it was lovely seeing them. They spent a lot of time wandering around in the dark looking at the stars and watching possums, bandicoots and wallabies scooting around in the undergrowth no doubt on their way to eating one or other of our tender shooting deciduous plants. We spent yesterday recovering and realising that we are indeed the hermits that our friends prophesied that we would become living out in the sticks and only venturing into town for “supplies”. A week of tidying and a whirlwind but wonderful visit later and Steve and I are feeling shell shocked. We had to head off to our friend in the witness protections place today to get another load of wood and to head over to Steve Solomon’s house to get the results of our soil tests and his customised prescription to remedy our obviously denuded soil. When we arrived at our friends place we noted that she was striding with purpose from her boundary fence with a large metal mallet. Living in the country can sometimes do strange things to a person and we approached her with caution but we didn’t have to be alarmed, she arrived muttering about how shooters hunt on her property and don’t shut the gate. They had broken the fence to get through (must be fat hunters) and she had been banging a metal star picket into the ground to hold the gate closed and stop her donkeys from raiding her vegetable garden. The things that people living in the country have to contend with!

Stewart and Kelsey relaxing on Sernendipity Farm

A group cuddle

Kelsey and the infamous American style Pumpkin Ale that is languishing at the back of our fridge for when I next feel like baking a beer chocolate cake

And what do we have here?

That would be a white forest cherry cake!

The travellers heading off to warmer climes 🙂

She heard on the grapevine somewhere that possums and wallabies won’t eat your plants if you situate stuffed toys all around them. Her garden now looks like some sort of demented landscaper has designed it with stuffed toys hanging by their necks from all sorts of odd places. Her little granddaughter had helped her to hang them by the neck. Life in the country is about as real as you can get. We left Steve with a massive log to be cut up and we headed out of the gate to Mr Solomon’s place for our results. We arrived and found Steve minus his bottom teeth thanks to some sort of denture accident but despite the loss of his lower mandibles speech mode we cobbled together the gist of what he wanted us to do. We purchased a sack of Soft Rock Phosphate from him and a large sack of dried wakame in lieu of kelp at a significant discount ($8 a sack for the wakame and $40 a sack for the kelp) with essentially the same nutritional rundown and the wakame has the added bonus of being extremely tasty! We got a printout of our initial results from the American soil analysis company and Steve then took those results and reworked them to be pertinent to a 10 square metre garden plot. My witness protection friend’s soil is quite denuded but nowhere near as much as he had expected. Because of the clay in her subsoil her summer hydrophobic soil is able to hold onto a reasonable amount of nutrients and our soil profile was even better. We both got Steve’s prescription for what to add to our soil and in what quantities. We had a bit of a laugh with him and he said that he was glad that he had met us and that we were “his type of people”. Always glad to make a new friend especially when he wants to assist us both with our gardening ventures in the future.

Meet Tilly. She used to be Nat’s dog and now she lives with our friend in the witness protection. If you lean on Nat, you might discover our friends identity but you have to get past Tilly first 😉

Our friend in the witness protection’s long suffering possum and wallaby scoffed back yard. Note the close proximity to native bushland and the strange collection of stuffed animals in grotesque poses

This is the first time that the rose situated directly underneath Mr Ted-E-Bear (complete with bow tie thank you VERY much…) has managed to keep its tender little new leaves since our friend in the witness protection planted it.

A teddy in a waistcoat taking one for the Gipper

Our friend in the witness protection just so happens to work in a gardening centre and can use her staff discount to avail herself of the necessary nutrients required for our soils. We have decided to buy in bulk and split the cost. I am going to buy 2 more sacks of wakame from Steve, myself, so that we can top dress the soil with pulverised dried wakame and he also said that we should use spent mushroom compost to add organic matter to the soil to increase the soil carbon. No problems with that Mr Solomon and your prescription fits in nicely with our own thoughts on what we want to use to improve fertility and vitality in both of our soils. We can also harvest mushrooms from our spent mushroom compost value adding at the same time. I love it when a plan comes together! We then bid Steve and his denture free lower mandible arividerchiand adieu and drove back to our friend in the witness protection’s property where she dropped me off at the gate where Steve was sitting in the car waiting for me to return with a trailer loaded down with wood, a most satisfactory situation! We drove home just in front of a massive black cloud that was hell bent on raining on our parade (and our load of wood!). We just made it home and the cloud decided to take a left at Albuquerque (no fun in us beating it home…off to find more mischief somewhere else) and leave us alone for a bit and so we quickly toted our wheelbarrows off to the woodshed to get ourselves some nice dry wood and on the way we decided to plant out the lovely claret ash that our good friend and lecturer in horticulture at our Polytechnic had bought for us when my mum died earlier this year. My mum had a massive big claret ash at her loved home in Denmark and couldn’t take it with her when she moved to her new little flat and she always talked about how much she loved it. We were going to buy one and plant it in her honour but Nat beat us to it when she read about our ideas. We hadn’t gotten around to planting it yet (slack…I know Nat!) but in honour of mums birthday today we decided to get stuck into our stone ridden soil and put the effort in to honour mum and give her a belated birthday gift. The place that we chose was near a regular green ash tree and overlooking Glad’s property with a nice view of the river. We can see it from the deck and when the ash starts to change colour in the future we will think of mum.

On a whirlwind visit to town after visiting Steve Solomon and our friend in the witness protection I noticed this lovely pattern painted by nature in Princes Square

Lacy tree shadows are a much better picture to share with you than what Bezial and Earl were doing ON said lovely deciduous trees…sigh…

A pretty display of Polyanthus in the park

I hate the gaudiness of Petunia’s but can’t resist Polyanthus

I can’t think of a better way to herald in Spring in earnest

Steve is wailing away to Jimi Hendrix who died on mum’s birthday (September 18th) 42 years ago. The dogs are tucked up on their respective chairs next to Brunhilda and I have our evening meal on the go. We were going to dispatch “Chicken” and “Stock” today but as it’s about to rain cats AND dogs we decided to give The Dalton Boys another day on this earth. We will be putting in a sterling effort tomorrow to work out where we are going to build our series of polytunnels behind the house. We dropped in on another friend who has been away this morning when we noticed them home on our walk with the dogs and they are going to get us some thick netting from the local salmon farm so that we can build our gravity assisted chook run. We will use terracing to ensure that our furious digging poultry can’t redistribute the hay that we put into it down to the bottom of the run in a day. Over the course of spring and summer we will be dealing with all of the debris constructively and we will be getting creative with our resources. I envy people who have water tanks and that is going to be our next big spend but we need to save up for them first. I have some ideas about market stalls and things that we have been tinkering with but that is going to have to wait a little bit as we have a pretty full few months ahead of us working out how to enclose our restless unsuspecting chooks and regain Serendipity Farms gardens and the ability to mulch and have the mulch stay put! After we planted mum’s claret ash “Chicken” was hovering around scratching the soil and pecking up slaters that had spilled out of the bottom of the bag and the remaining duck was feasting on a few foolhardy snails who thought that they were safe under the lip of the tree bag. I am under no misapprehensions that “Chicken” is going to do his level best to uproot the ash and will put some stones around the base tomorrow to ensure that they don’t tunnel mine down to its emerging spring roots.

Isn’t this a beautiful colour?

Either “Chicken” or “Stock” (not sure which) rootling around in the newly turned earth that contains the lovely claret ash that Nat bought for us when mum died earlier this year. We decided to plant it in honour of mum’s birthday. Thank you so much for your amazing kindness Nat and a huge hug to you for losing your dad last week

You know its really spring and not just a freak weather event when your grafted Japanese maples start to leaf up

This is how real men buy their spuds…by the 10kg bag and I applaud Steve’s cleverness as 10kg of King Edwards for $6.95 is a bargain in anyone’s neck of the woods

What have we here?

Is it catching?

Sigh…it would appear that “Clucky” is the new black on Serendipity Farm

Today was spent dealing in futures…it rained and thundered so any work was to be considered “future” and put on hold. We walked the dogs and swapped some plants and eggs for some netting to make our gravity fed chook run. We measured out the area that we are going to build our polytunnels in and decided to use the space in between the polytunnels as a covered area where we can harden off small plants out of the curiosity sphere of our native woodland scamp’s hell bent on scarfing their tender little shoots. It rained all afternoon and aside from trying to work out why my Facebook page seemed to not want to load when Steve’s was fine (sorted out now) we didn’t do much else.. We worked out the logistics of our polytunnels involving arcs, diameters and radii and gave ourselves headaches but at least we know that the materials available to us are going to be suitable for making polytunnels. I consider that a good day! It felt like a decidedly strange day all-round and after I post this post I am going to head off to ether land and do a bit of online distressing. I might even play a bit of Zelda as I had a nice early tea and am still awake which is always a bonus for me. I note that my posts are starting to creep up in the word count again but I am trying to keep a lid on their size. I will head off and post this one now as I know that there will be lengthy and wordy captions for my photos and it feels like cheating on my newfound desire to keep these posts lean and pertinent. See you all on the cusp of Saturday :o)

Before we go, here are a few of the projects that we took on in the week before Stewart and Kelsey arrived on our doorstep. Firstly this sad old rusted out mailbox might be only hanging on by the skin of its rust but you certainly wouldn’t know it from it’s schmick new look!

Our Hakea elk got attacked by some possum marauders and sustained an antler malfunction but he is still greeting visitors on Serendipity Farm

A close relative of the rusted out mailbox was the daggy old metre box but who could miss it now?

Last but by no means least the old dishevelled gas hot water system that hasn’t been used all winter now has a nice new paint job to match the metre box

The New and Improved Earl…

Hi All,

Just a very quick post to give you a look at the new and (VASTLY) improved Earl.

Here is our new dog/lion. As you can see he is a very good dog.

“NO! BAD DOG!!!”…sigh…it looks like Earl has been teaching our new dog his bad old dog tricks…

Here is Earl teaching the new dog what happens to new dogs that attempt to learn his old tricks and try to take over his turf…

Oh well…

Back to the drawing board…

A Fracoon is eating my library books!

Hi All,

My daughters took one look at our new pup a year ago and said “It’s a Fracoon”. A fracoon is apparently a cross between “Redd Fox” from the Nintendo game Animal Crossing and a racoon. Earl has proven to be a worthy combination of the two. Redd Fox was a dubious ‘merchant’ in the game and whenever you bought something from his nefarious shop, you were always aware that it might not be quite kosher (if you get my drift) and ran the risk of being ridiculed for buying a fake. Foxes are nefarious creatures that slink around looking for something to eat or some trouble to get into and raccoon’s reputations precede them. They are gregarious, brave, inquisitive and little demolition derbies on wheels, much like our Aussie brush tail possums. Earl is all of the above in a much bigger skin. Like foxes and racoons he has his cute moments. Earl isn’t a bad dog…he is a bored dog. Steve and I walk both dogs at least 5km a day which takes us over an hour. Bezial is fine with this and spends the rest of the day lounging around on the deck or moving from sunbeams to a bit of shade. Earl is another kettle of fracoons and we just have to amuse him throughout the day. I have foiled the library and have purchased a copy of “A Covenant with Death” by John Harris from an online second-hand book seller and it is winging its merry way across the Tasman as I type this post and once it arrives I will take it, along with the shredded remnants of a young dog’s inquisitiveness and face the music at the library. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are going to start suggesting library books to me. You know the kind…the tattered yellow dog-eared kind with more sticky tape on them than book because so far, the library has been coming out of the “Fracoon book cleansing” events on top. Earl’s first attempt was a hardly read copy of a hard cover book about edible food forests. It was replaced with a brand new copy sent out from old Blighty post haste. This second book was from the early 1960’s. Some might say “a 60’s book is a classic so would cost more to replace”. I would say “this book could be found for 20c at an op shop if I had the time and the ability to hunt through the shelves in Launceston” but I don’t and so the online option where the book was actually removed from someone’s market stall at the Melbourne Markets had to be effected. This book is shiploads better than the copy that Earl segmented and so again…the library comes out on top. I hope that Earl (and I) have learned our lessons now. Library books are NOT worth eating or leaving anywhere that fracoons can find them.

This is the very first Garage Sale house for us. We started at the opposite side of the run of houses and were going the opposite way to just about everyone else. The story of our lives! Doesn’t this place look more like Vermont than Australia? Steve got his backpack sprayer here. Perfect for seasol, worm tea etc.

Garage sale number 2 and the start of a trend for various kinds of boats for sale. We even saw an unattended boat on the side of the road with a “For Sale” sign on it…

“The Others”… Have any of you seen a U.K. show called Mr Bean? In it, we can only assume an alien abducted (and rejected summarily) ausbergers man navigates his way through the “normal” world leaving an hilarious trail of debris behind him. There was an episode where he went on holiday and for some reason, singled out a man to compete with. This family are our “man” and we are playing the part (most magnificently I might add…) of Mr Bean. Brett and Sandy are locals that we know quite well. We don’t see them very often and usually only say hello to their dog Tommy while he is barking at us walking the dogs. We last saw them last year at the progressive garage sale where we rose victorious in our quest and bought the bargain of the day that is still spoken about in hallowed circles. Today we were chatting with them about how to defend yourself against marauding dogs when walking your dog on a lead. We said that we were going to buy a pair of telescopic walking poles from Ebay specifically for the purpose. Brett said “That’s a bloody good idea!” and as we both drove off in a cloud of dust it was on! later on they overtook us and we met them coming back the other way with a victorious Brett waving a telescopic ski pole out of the window saying “It only cost $3!”…Touche Brett and Sandy…Touche…for now! There’s always next year…

The next garage sale was a thinly veiled attempt to draw unsuspecting people in to a photographic gallery. We decided not to subject you to the pathetic items on display whilst the owner ushered us all into the gallery…we took photos of his goats instead. They were MUCH more interesting and attractive and I bet they were a heck of a lot cheaper! Goat 1

Goat 2

Steve and I have been working on one of our latest projects in our landscape design diploma. Today we will be making blocks in AutoCAD to place into our plan so that we can give our lecturer a “Concept Plan” for when we next see him. We have been looking online for concept plans to see if we can’t tailor AutoCAD to do what we want it to do because as technical and detailed as it is, it was never designed to be an artistic application and our results look unpolished. We discovered that many landscape designers use other, more artistic, applications but we are not in the position where we can pay for another computer program to make our plans “look pretty” at the moment so we are doing what we do best and thinking laterally. Studying from home allows us to make a whole lot of silly mistakes using AutoCAD and because our lecturer isn’t right here with us we pretty much mess about and see if we can’t solve our own problems before we send off a volley of “HELP” messages to his inbox. We often come up with solutions that our lecturer might not otherwise have had to deal with and so we learn more about what we are doing than we would otherwise do if we were sitting in a classroom of students watching the board. Studying from home is really great for us. For the first 18 months of our horticultural adventure we had to attend class daily. We lived 4km from the city centre at the time and had just signed up for our diploma in horticulture when my dad died suddenly and everything changed. We moved from 4km away from the city to 50km away from the city. Because we were penniless hippy students we were unaware how our inheritance of 2 houses would affect our student payments and so we spent the rest of 2010 cramming in as many units (5 in all) as we could (the most expensive units in the diploma) to ensure that we wouldn’t have to pay full price for these units the year after. Tasmania’s low priced houses allowed us to keep both houses and still fulfil our student payment obligations and so life didn’t suddenly become massively complicated and we were able to move here and carry on studying as we had before. We are so very glad that we had been studying horticulture because without that lifesaving backbone we would still be huddled under the bed hiding from the massive vegetative problem we inherited. We are using our property for our sustainable landscape design. It’s given us a degree of personal satisfaction to use what we already know and supplement it with permaculture principals using information gleaned from as many of the incredibly generous people out there who live a permaculture life and who are willing to share their trials and tribulations with the rest of us. We learn from their mistakes and are able to use their hard work to our avail. One day we will help community groups to design outdoor spaces that suit them using what we have learned. We hope to barter our way through life as we turn Serendipity Farm into our own personal little oasis of permaculture bliss. I dare say I won’t be writing “The Serendipity Farm Little Book of Calm” any day soon, but things are starting to feel like they are working together around here for the first time in almost 2 years. Cycles are starting to integrate and we can see a light at the end of this most chaotic of tunnels. We are growing our own nut trees, fruit trees, edible fruiting shrubs and as much as we can to help us to turn this property into an edible food forest for the native animals and for us. Our lecturer is jaded about country living. No doubt he was once a bright eyed bushy tailed (sorry Nick…I just made you sound like one of your arch nemesis possums there!) horticulturalist out to save the world but things wear you down and the native wildlife here is most persistent. Wonderful ideals can come tumbling down or can be worn down slowly until their shell is as smooth as a cynical rock. I don’t blame him for being sceptical about our food forest idea. It’s easy to throw ideas around like Earl throws feathers from one of his plucked victims but I never do anything by halves. I have a burning need to research things and find the best possible outcome and one day, we will be able to live with the possums, indeed, they, being the territorial little bully bruisers that they are, will do our work for us. One family will rule them all and will keep the rest from scavenging everything that grows and there will be so much food here that one family won’t be able to eat it all. That’s my aim and over the next few years we will see if I end up victorious or jaded. Either way my stubborn willpower won’t allow us not to have our edible food forest. It might just look like a Steampunk garden covered in old smooth metal and strange gnarled structures designed to minimise damage by the natives. Either way we will have a garden worth visiting.

The outside of the Deviot Hall, the recipient of the proceeds of the garage sale fees today.

This startled looking lady was a stallholder inside the hall. I bought a pair of Dutch canisters from here. The canisters were for “Suiker” and “Koffie”…

This most suspicious man seems to be in quite a few of my photographs. It’s lucky that he was standing right there in front of this large Eucalyptus viminalis. As you can probably guess, this next garage sale was not all that photogenic…

We purchased a most interesting “lion” at this house. At least we THINK it is a lion…it was only $2 and a fitting plaything for the boys to dismember after our day out hunting for bargains

It’s just on dawn and I can hear Little Red (rooster) Big Yin’s first male progeny giving it the old college try outside and alerting me to stop typing and get his bread chopped. Steve and the dogs are still in bed. I like having an hour to myself in the morning and no sooner do I get out of bed than Bezial (who vacates the bed in the night) is waiting wagging his tail to hop into my nice warm patch and be covered over by the doona. I take Steve in a cup of coffee at 7 and we work out what we are going to do with our day. Today we will be walking the dogs early and we will then design some blocks for our concept plan in AutoCAD and after that we are going to cut a path through the weeds at the side of the house from the steps to where we have our potted plants around the side. We have been wondering why we haven’t done this sooner but we tend to flit around from project to project on Serendipity Farm to keep us motivated and this project has been on the back burner in the “not important or not dire” pile. Up to now we haven’t had the luxury of choosing, we have had to tackle the weed problem, the grass problem and the firewood problem as matters of importance. We DON’T want a fine from council for being a fire risk, we don’t want to perpetuate the weed problem that we have here and spread it to our neighbours (any more than it already is…) and we don’t want to be cold in winter so we needed to deal with those fundamentals first. Now we have the relative luxury of being able to choose and this pathway is one of our first choices because it will mean that we don’t have to walk 150metres to reach somewhere that is actually 10 metres away, just totally inaccessible thanks to tangled and massed vegetation. It will make our lives a bit easier and I am all for that!

I might only have bought a freaky handmade lion (that has since gone to meet its maker) but I fell instantly in love with this tiny bulldozer! Nothing would give me jip if I had this little baby on the property…not rocks…weeds…Earl…NOTHING would stop me! It’s just a pity it wasn’t for sale…

Many houses in Tasmania have apple packing sheds on the property. Tasmania is predominately an apple growing state and this old packing shed only opens once a year for this garage sale. I bought an Inkle loom and some world music CD’s from here last year and this year I bought a double disc DVD of Bill Grainger (an Australian Cook for everyone out of the loop) for $1. I just really love these steps…

And this bit…

And this bit too! See you next year Apple Packing shed…

Isn’t this ornamental grape lovely? That black coated woman in the background is me attempting to get Steve to think about letting me have some old wooden doors and a window sill for $5 each. We didn’t end up getting them and thank goodness because I have NO idea why I wanted them!

We made a few blocks, we cleared out a pathway and as we usually do, we were not content to leave it at that and headed off tackling blackberries with our swashbuckling secateurs and our trusty small pruning saw. We lopped 15ft tall roses that should never have ventured above 5ft, we removed enormous boneseed plants, weeds from South Africa (as are most Aussie invasive weeds because they LOVE it here) and had to be very careful wherever we trod because the 3 latest silver laced Wyandotte babies and their 2 mums and Effel and her remaining 7 babies were everywhere! As usual, we managed to carve a way through the wilderness to make it easier for us to go from the steps to the potted plant area around the side of the house and in the process generated 3 trailer loads of debris (mostly boneseed, blackberries and enormously overgrown Buddleia davidii). Once we removed the overgrown Buddleia shrubs on the side of the deck we opened up a newfound gap in our Earl proof garden defences and we had to fix it up post haste! Earl had a bit of a nibble on the new fortification and decided that the taste and texture of thick weldmesh are not something that he is going to ingest any day soon. Owners 1, Earl nil. The petition that I started on Avaaz a few weeks ago when foaming at the mouth (a regular occurrence for me whenever I watch, listen or become aware of “news” in general) at a news bulletin about our state leader telling us how we NEED that (bloody) pulp mill for Tasmania’s future…eh?! If we are relying on it, Tasmania is totally bollocked as far as I am concerned. I no sooner settled down (still foaming and muttering) to the PC when I noticed a post from Kosmos9, a blog that I follow, sharing a site where normal people can make a difference by starting a petition. I threw myself into it with great gusto and set about transferring all of that froth and angst and frustration into that petition. I got an email from one of the Avaaz volunteers who is an Aussie living in Sweden and who helped me reformulate the petition into a smaller, more condensed (less foam and more meat ;)) petition and now the petition has been noticed by most of the local anti-pulp mill groups and it went from 10 signature’s to just on 400 in one day! I hope EVERYONE signs this petition. We are unable to get the media to be unbiased regarding this matter and so those of us who don’t want this mill (most of Tasmania’s population) are simply ignored and don’t have a voice. We are told blatant lies in the media that we can’t counteract because we are stifled whenever we try to have our voices heard. One can only think that the media in Tasmania is bought and paid for by big business along with both major political parties in our state. This petition was my one way of sharing my angst with the rest of the world and it looks like the rest of the world is actually starting to listen! Cheers to anyone reading this blog who has signed my petition. You are giving us back our voice and a degree of hope that we might be able to do something about this injustice. There are over 500 signatures for the petition now and growing (hopefully exponentially).

When we pulled up in the driveway of this house there was a little covered stand loaded up with jonquil bulbs, enormous organic grapefruit and small sage and chive plants in recycled newspaper pots for “donations to the famine in Africa”. I knew that I was just about to meet some kindred spirits and on meandering down their driveway and seeing this totem pole, it bolstered my opinion of them no end. It also gave Steve the idea of making his own totem pole

This is a permaculture garden with a large almond tree in the centre and various annuals and perenials as well as edible plants and vegetables. The owners told me that they wanted to reach an eventuality where they had minimal human input with the garden. Good luck with that guys 🙂

I just loved this little gargoyle on that stump. It personified exactly how I feel sometimes when I head out into the garden and have to start thinking about where to get stuck in…

I didn’t like the woman running this garage sale. She was somewhat snooty and very overpriced so I headed out to where she actually had something interesting and took a photo of this possum fortified veggie garden combined with a chook house and a weather vane. I really appreciated her chook yard…I didn’t appreciate her!

Heres the other side of the chook jail with a wistful rooster peeking out…

We got up bright and early this morning to go to the annual progressive garage sale that we went to last year totally by accident. We were heading somewhere with our trailer when we noticed the garage sale sign and found out that lots of houses were involved. It’s a great idea and allows everyone to sell off their unwanted items at the same time so they don’t have to pay for the publicity and there are more people out and about than might come for a single garage sale. We walked the boys early and packed them into the car with the lure of “walking at the beach”. For the next 2 hours we got in and out of the car and had to shove an ever more reluctant Earl into the back. I love garage sales and have the opinion that I don’t have to race from door to door because I might miss something (as many of the people we saw were doing) because if we were meant to get an item, it would be there for us. I took lots of photos to share with you whenever I could. We cashed up $50 into coins and smaller notes because there is nothing worse for someone having a garage sale than people wielding $50 notes. We still had $23 left when we got back and bought heaps of unique and interesting things and met some really interesting people. At the final garage sale I met a lady that I had met in the Exeter Library who had a common interest in sourdough bread making and she told me that she has just succeeded in making a great starter and is going to give me some! We found an amazing seed pod on a Eucalyptus conferruminata and its currently residing in the cooler of our 4 ovens so that we can see if we can get some seed from it. I had a really good time wandering around other people’s driveways and gardens and was more interested in what people were growing than in what was for sale! I got a most eclectic mix of items and am most happy with what we bought. Steve got a backpack sprayer from the very first garage sale that we went to for $5. It is a step up from the small spray pack that we are currently using that came with seasol when we purchased it. I love getting bargains and re-using things that other people no longer want. We bought a wonderful handmade wall tile for $2 with a wonderful representation of the sun on it that is now hanging out on our wall on the deck. At the end of the garage sale line we got to Paper Beach and it was blowing up a storm when we got the long suffering dogs out of the car. They won’t be in such a hurry to get into the car next time!

This was the last garage sale of the day and I loved this metal pelican statue. We skipped a few garage sales and I didn’t take photos of some of the others which is very lucky because otherwise this post would be bordering on a novella again wouldn’t it!

This is the flower of the Eucalyptus conferruminata that I mentioned earlier.

And the magnificent seed pod (my daughters who have just started reading these posts again are rolling their eyes and skipping over this bit saying “MORE PLANTS”…)

Sorry about the lack of focus on this spent flower bud but apparently my camera can only focus on the foreground OR the background and its the backgrounds turn this time…sigh…

And lastly the leaves of this most beautiful and interesting of Eucalypts

In keeping with my need to make my posts smaller I will finish up here for the day. Hi to Kelsey if you are reading this post. I was really glad to meet you and I hope you have a fantastic life changing holiday. To everyone else, have an awesome week and see you hump day…

Here are some of the bargains that we got… the 2 glasses cost a total of $1 and are hand blown glass and that reed thing on the right hand side is a pot with a handle from Papua New Guinea for my “reeds of the world” collection. I don’t really have a reeds of the world collection but apart from making me sound interesting, I might just have to start one now!

I met many interesting people while garage saling and Steve met a real fun guy…you can see him at the very front of the photo…fun guy…fungi oh come ON people! We all need a little lightness and laughter in our day 😉

How to steal a life…

Hi All,

I was going to call this post “Put Henry in the Curry” as a tribute to Spike Milligan’s skit that is most probably politically incorrect in some people’s eyes until you realise that Spike was born in India and is therefore poking fun at himself. I changed the name of the post because I just realised that today is ANZAC day. To many of you, ANZAC day isn’t anything that you would stop to think about. I couldn’t be bothered to paraphrase this as it said it all in a nutshell…good old Wikipedia!

“Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in military operations for their countries”

I recently finished (as did Earl but my digestion was mental and Earls was most decidedly physical) “A Covenant with Death” which really made me think about war and why we seem to keep doing this to ourselves. In truth, most casualties of war are the lower and working classes and the safest place to be in a war is inside an officer’s uniform. I was thinking about this early this morning when I was idly tossing some grain to the hen that inhabits the side garden with her 3 chicks. I say “her” chicks, she stole them from another hen when she failed to produce any eggs herself (after we pinched all 17 in a fit of pique to stop the exponential explosion of hens on Serendipity Farm). She now trots around with someone else’s babies, masquerading as hers. The other hen has sadly given up trying to get her babies to return to the correct fold and this other hen has effectively stolen her babies. I realised that there are many ways to steal someone’s life other than identity theft and war and chick theft both result in someone having a broken heart.

Now that I no longer use pictures that I filched from the interweb for the purposes of making my posts interesting, I discovered, most sadly, that this is the closest thing that I have to a photograph of anything French to tie in with the war theme of this post and keep it relevant in my posession. This is French goose fat. Not only does it have nothing whatsoever to do with France or the war, it’s nothing like as delicious as everyone says that it is and was a bit of a waste of $16. Go with duck fat people, its MUCH better value and far tastier (in Steve’s humble opinion)

Last night we made a huge pot of home-made chicken stock. In my past lackadaisical life where food came from magic supermarket fairies and I never had to think about the ethics or logistics of its production stock making was shoved (very quickly) into the too hard basket. A lot of things got shoved into the “too hard” basket and I am only just starting to discover that the “too hard” basket is a most interesting place to delve. The stock turned out rich and golden and had a heady scent that was totally absent from boxed stock. We then converted this rich stock into Mulligatawny soup. We ground the spices, garlic and ginger and used Korean red chilli paste to add heat and flavour. We try to do as many things as we can ourselves to cut out the middle man. The middle man and I have a Superman/Lex Luthor thing going on. I would like to think of myself as Superman in this equation although Superman didn’t have as many fits of pique as I do and most certainly saved the world on more occasions than I can remember myself doing so but you have to start somewhere don’t you? My world saving ability is to think laterally, to problem solve and to vote with my consumer dollar. We recently had a conundrum. A REAL conundrum for someone who has just returned to the vegan fold in that we had to do something about our burgeoning rooster population that was threatening to take over and wreak havoc on our previously utopian hen house. Something had to be done and we were just the superheros to do it! Henry (Rollins) was “removed” in the night. Over the course of the next few nights his henchmen Trogdor and Big Bertha (the gender confused chook) also met their fate. We discussed how to make the most of our newfound rooster futures. Henry is the only rooster that we have been utilising at this point of time because as the most active for the longest period of time we decided (using logic as our guide) that he would be the toughest (if tough was going to factor into any of them). We have been experimenting with this free range grain supplemented meat and have found it to be a very different proposition to shop bought chicken. Being new to wholesale rooster slaughter we still feel a bit bad about having to kill them but good about taking responsibility for the consequences of owning hens (and in our case roosters). We might just be able to step over that line that will take us from urban existence into true country sensibilities but for now, we are at least happy that we are making the most physically and ethically with our newfound rooster population. We might need a new Mulligatawny soup recipe however, we have a large pot of very heady overwhelming cardamom and ground clove flavoured soup that we are going to have to doctor to make it edible. Oh well…back to the drawing board! Check this out remembering that this was from the early 70’s and life wasn’t full of litigation and political correctness like it is now…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0n88tZQc4Q

Steve was messing about in the shed with some miniature callistemon seeds for the third (and he says final) attempt at getting some to survive beyond seedlings when I heard him calling out to me. I went out to find him clutching one of the bags of potting mix that we had put our hazelnuts and walnuts collected and then stratified a few weeks ago and got as excited as he did when I saw that 2 of the walnut’s had sprouted! I had assumed that they wouldn’t sprout until spring but I was wrong. Given the right conditions (moist potting mix, a series of nice warmish days and a nice dark place to fester a.k.a. one of our eskies…) these babies have decided to germinate in record time and I have to consider that it may be partly because the seed was collected locally and the conditions are perfect for their development. I hope that this burst of activity carries on and we end up with a nice selection of small Juglans regia to choose from when deciding what to plant out on Serendipity Farm.

Here are our walnut futures. There is something amazing about growing your own food and growing your own fruit and nut trees is a step on from that. Wish us luck with these little babies and their little hazelnut buddies that seem to be a bit sleepier than their walnut mates

I have no idea what this little fungus is called. I have been hunting for you and have found some photos of it on a website but not its botanical name. All I know is that it is cute, looks like a flower and puffs spores from the centre making it most probably a puffball family member. I just have to add this bit because I just found out that this is an “Earthstar” fungus and thought that it was fitting that a little fungus with this name would land on Serendipity Farm :). Hows that for 3 years of Horticulture eh? I am a closet mycologist and Tasmania is full of fungi. Check out this link to see some real beauties…

http://www.realtasmania.com/topic/606-mushrooms-fungus/

This is a type of crocus. I am way WAY too lazy to head out to the other side of the house with a torch clutched in my hand to see exactly which crosus this is. You can be sure that it is the best crocus that I could purchase for $2 from a local nursery and appears to be paying me back for my spendthrift ways by flowering before it gets consumed by one of the many vertebrates intent on scoffing our potted plants

Isn’t this little girl turning out to be pretty. I love the furry feet and her colouration. She is perched precariously on a recently felled sheoak sapling that was threatening to short out the entire neighbourhood by reaching vicariously for the nearest power line. Sorry little guy but some life lessons are harder to learn than others and yours was pretty tough!

I started reading Flaubert’s parrot today. I had laboured through the heart wrenching “A Covenant with Death” that had me lying awake late at night thinking about the futility of war, how short life is and reminding me that my sisters birthday was the same day as Adolf Hitler’s which in turn allowed me to race to the PC and wish her happy birthday just before it was too late. There are some merits to being in a time zone 2 hours ahead :o). I was under the impression that Flaubert’s parrot was going to be a bit of light quirky entertainment however it appears I was wrong and despite the promising and glowing reviews on the cover, this book just isn’t “me”. Never judge a book by its parrot. I have 3 other books from the library sitting alongside Flaubert’s parrot. One from the list… “Women of the silk” which is about Chinese women working in a silk factory that form a collective voice to question their working conditions. The other 2 I found on a random website that I initially found a recipe on. The poster had mentioned in the post that they had formed an online book club and being the nosy and adventitious person that I am I had to take a peek at her book choices.  Most of the books were non-fiction (a curious choice of reading material for a book club) but 2 of them stood out and called to me. I decided to order them post haste and “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” and “The Dirty Life” arrived today. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was written in 1938 the same year that my mother was born. The cover gives me a sneak peek at what I am about to ingest “Miss Pettigrew is a down-on-her-luck, middle-aged governess sent by her employment agency to work for a nightclub singer rather than a household of unruly children. Over a period of 24 hours her life is changed – forever”. Sounds interesting doesn’t it. The other book is a true story about the chance meeting of the author and her future partner over a farming interview and a deconstruction of her sensibilities. It’s amazing how I have gone from wandering the wilderness without prose to guzzling my not inconsiderable weights worth of delicious literature and it’s all thanks to Mary Anne Schaffer and her novel “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and how it did more to heal me after my mother’s untimely death earlier this year than anything else. Ms Schaffer never lived to see her novel published but she has certainly touched many lives with her beautifully written treatise about love and war all tangled up with stoic good humour and the resilience of the human spirit in extreme duress. I will continue my newfound love affair with literature for the foreseeable future and have no intentions of giving up this fantastic new vice. Who needs chocolate…books are MUCH more indulgent and have the added benefit of being totally calorie and fat free :o)

Here are a couple of the glasshouse babies that needed repotting recently. As you can see they are an interesting and exotic lot living in harmony in the glasshouse. The two Dracena draco (Dragon’s blood trees) had filled their pots with roots and the little Araucaria bidwillii (Bunya nut trees) at the very front is one of  3 that we grew from 3 seeds smuggled back from the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in 2010. Along with it’s 2 siblings it is doing fine in Tasmania and it’s 2 siblings have been living outside the glasshouse (horticultural experimentation) for a year now so it looks like we might be able to plant them out and have them survive in our local environment. The yellowy green leaves in the background belong to several Michelia champaca or Golden joy trees. We were informed by the source of the seed that these plants wouldn’t grow here in Tasmania but these are only half of our results and the rest have been living outside along with the 2 remaining Bunya nut trees. We get milder temperatures here because we live on a rocky steep sloped block right next to the river which keeps our temperatures more stable and less likely to vary wildly than inland. This means that we can grow things here that are simply daydreams in other areas of Tasmania

Here they are all potted up and ready to grow on a bit before they get repotted again. The joys of being a horticultural student!

I read somewhere once that a dog’s intelligence is equal to that of a 4 year old child. That most probably explains why we are confronted by a most petulant pair if we decide to deviate from our early morning ritual in any way as the average 4 year old loves their rituals. This morning we decided to wait for a little bit before we walked the boys. I had just gotten notice of the imminent arrival of my 2 new library books and it seemed sensible to kill 2 birds with one stone and pick up the books in Exeter and walk the dogs there at the same time. The dogs take an inordinate amount of interest in my personal activities in the morning. Steve can walk in and out of the gate…he can put on a hat…pick up the dogs leads…he can dance the hokey pokey but nothing that he does is of any interest to the dogs because somewhere in the recesses of their minds, their walks are initiated by me. Steve is always ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice and so the dogs have learned to watch for me heading to the bedroom to put on my shoes. I am shadowed by both of them intent on watching each lace tied and often accompanied by sighs and whining. I then have to head to the bathroom and put my hair up ready for the walk. Bezial is so tuned to this part of the walking equation that he doesn’t even bother heading to the bedroom and waits for the bathroom phase of the equation before he bothers to turn up and complain. After this stage it is straight out the door and a short wait at the gate before we are off adventuring! Imagine having two 4 year olds forever…permanently and perpetually 4…ARGH!

Hows this for a bunch of keys? If you are missing any keys for your property, your suitcase, your car, your shed, your tower that you locked Rapunzel up in, they are most probably here in this bunch. Steve thinks he has the key to the highway in this lot and about the only key missing is the key to the city…and that is one key that NO-ONE is ever going to give we leftist mad horticultural hippies any day soon 😉

Look what I made the other day. Steve requested his oat biscuits in slice form (because he is too lazy to roll all of those balls…) and here is the result

Then I made this tray of blondies. No idea what blondies are apart from chocolate free brownies apparently. I made them so the dogs would stop begging for Steve’s brownies that I also made…they contain dates for sweetness and Steve and the dogs ate them all first because they were apparently heavenly

And here are the brownies. I asked Steve whether or not he wanted cakey or gooey brownies and he chose the latter so that’s what he got! This recipe didn’t fail to deliver him a most delicious squidgy treat

Chestnuts? Why is she showing us chestnuts?…keep reading dear constant readers and you shall find out!…

I have a predilection for chestnuts. I am not ashamed to admit this to you all and am just about to indulge in a chestnut feast for my evening meal. I like to cut a cross in the top of them, steam them until they are tender and peel the shell and indulge whilst watching television. The shells then go into the compost bin where I can feel sufficiently happy that I am not contributing to the landfill problem but in doing that, I need to remember not to become one of those smug bastards who think that because they install energy efficient lighting it means that they are somehow better than anyone else. It’s so very easy to tip into “smug” but that robs you of all of the simple pleasure that you can get from feeling at one with the world and knowing that you are trying your hardest to leave the smallest footprint that you can. We have been working on our latest sustainable design and incorporating all sorts of interesting ideas. Our lecturer told us about a company that makes retaining wall units out of concrete that are also water storage devises. You can make walls, seats and even raised garden beds that also hold water to be used however you see fit. A really fantastic idea and you can check it out here if you are interested.

www.landscapetanks.com.au

Really great if you have a small space and you need a dual purpose module but not really my cup of tea. I like more natural looking things and Steve and I found this local producer of tanks and raised garden beds and are going to use them in our design

http://www.raincatcherstas.com.au/

We have been trying to use Adobe Illustrated cs4 to make a more natural looking design but we don’t have a year to learn the intricacies of Illustrator to apply to our course. Anyone out there wanting to give us a few tips feel free!

I am truly suffering for my newfound desire to make you all happy with a smaller post. I have to keep stopping myself from wandering around all over my mental landscape of thoughts that often look a whole lot like something from a 60’s Beatles movie. I need to learn literary discipline and learn how to condense my words down to find their simple, no doubt intensely flavoured, essence but much like Illustrator and AutoCAD and learning how to knit cable (and socks on 4 needles for that matter) and making stained glass windows and being patient and not losing my temper, I am going to have to shove literary discipline into my failed crafts cupboard along with everything else clambering to get out and push HARD to shut the bulging door. One day they will all burst out and fill up the house like that expanding foam stuff most probably suffocating me in their delight to be free. Until they do, and I have to use Earl as a life raft, I am going to keep stuffing my failures into the cupboard to be dealt with at a later date. See you all on Saturday when Anzac Day will be another year away and I won’t have to feel so sombre and unworthy of those brave young men dying so that I can choose to spend my life scratching my expanding derriere whilst watching people hunt alligators in a Florida swamp on an oversized television. To say that I am feeling guilty is a VAST understatement…

I just have to add something here that makes me feel really “chuffed”. I just checked my emails while I was waiting for the photos to load for this post and found that 10 people had signed my Avaaz petition against the gunns pulp mill (they DON’T deserve capital letters!). One of those 10 was Dr Warwich Raverty whom I hold in high esteem…he signed my petition! I am feeling star struck in the most environmental of ways! Please read this small article to get more of an understanding of what my petition and Dr Warwich Raverty are about. I am going to have a bit of a lay down to recover my composure!

http://tapvision.info/node/117

And should you feel strongly enough about big corporations nefarious dealings with government in order to effect their own needs whilst totally negating the desires of the people and the environment please feel free to check out my petition at Avaaz and sign it. The more people that sign the better. Thanks in advance for your support 🙂

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_the_Tamar_Valley_Pulp_Mill_from_being_built/

Why hippies are thin

Hi All,

Have I piqued your interest yet? Over the last (almost) 2 years we moved from relative bliss in the suburbs, totally devoid of any understanding or care about where anything came from and just predating shopping centres at all hours of the day and night whenever our stomach’s rumbled or we felt like bedecking our intestines and arteries with some form of tasty chemical indulgence and got thrown into the abyss of country living. We didn’t have time to blink, let alone adjust to our situation; we were thrown in running and immediately started trying to reclaim Serendipity Farm from the clutches of chaos. I have discovered many important truths since we got brave enough to come out from under the bed what seems like eons ago and would like to share a few of them here with you now.

1. Everything wants to eat you or your possessions in the country. Termites, rats, mice, possums, wallabies, rabbits and in our case “Earl” all join together in a ferocious free for all as soon as you open the door and attempt to ingratiate yourself with any degree of wilderness and settle down out in the sticks

2. Life runs on a parallel time frame in the country. This is to be confirmed, but somewhat like the unseen university in the Discworld…country living has its own peculiar time portals that swallow you up and spit you out the other side confused and wondering why it is dark and where the day went…or I may have just been taken by aliens…either way, confusion reigns

3. Unlike living in an urban environment, your house in the country will instantly form a tiny microcosm where everything starts looping in cycles. In the city you feel small, in the country you are suddenly aware of how very important these little cycles are and your place within these cycles

4. You have to learn to think laterally when you live in the country. You also have to learn to think on your feet (sometimes concurrently with thinking laterally…no mean feat!) and you also have to learn to amuse yourself because the only other person here is watching The Swamp Men on television and isn’t likely to stop in the perceivable future

5. Last but not least…(this is where the title comes into it…aren’t you glad you kept reading?) everything takes a zillion more steps and 100 times more effort in the country when you are penniless student hippies (as most hippies are) and can’t just buy what you want or pay someone else to do it for you. Simply getting warm involves a trip up to the back block to collect some of the firewood that you hadn’t gotten around to moving down to the wood shed yet after chopping down the dead tree, chain sawing it into logs and splitting with a block splitter, isolating some kindling wood (usually whilst doing some form of callisthenic exercise involving bending and stretching up trees and under shrubs), running the gauntlet of getting the firewood past Earl who isn’t called “The eatinator” for nothing and then rubbing 2 sticks together for about 3 hours. Ok…so I fibbed about the last bit and we do use the occasional match (shock HORROR…send the environmental police around…sigh…). To get food you have to grow it yourself…to have a roast chicken you have to “first kill your rooster”. In the city you can live an idyllic life so far distanced from the origins of your food and without an exertive care in the world. You can reach for the telephone and all manner of piping hot (or its free!) comestibles will wend their merry way right to your doorway. Sugarplum fairies (or their corn syrup equivalent in the U.S.A.) lure you at every café, lunch bar and supermarket but out in the country you have to make your own and you are suddenly confronted with exactly how much of what is entering your digestive tract in the form of hidden fat, sugar and chemical enhancers. When you live in the country you either bury your head in the sand or you fess up to your previous life of sloth and degradation and start finding ways to turn it around and all of the “ways” involve hard slog and nutritional change. Enter the thin hippy. People who care tend to be thin. Do you know why? Because they are so busy racing around after causes, events, volunteering, eating on the run, thinking about their food and trying to eat ethically to put on weight. Hippies are thin because they are living nature how it was meant to be lived and whether or not they end up with a bit of diarrhoea from eating something unwashed, or left out for more than 10 minutes or that hasn’t been scrubbed within an inch of its life or doused in Dettol doesn’t matter because if you grow it yourself, and you embrace sustainable permaculture principals you can put a handful of that fecund dirt into your mouth and eat it and it will probably do you good! There you go…hippies (the lucky buggers) are thin because they are so active and vital and caring and concerned that they don’t even care about how much they weigh and so Murphy leaves them alone. No fun in shoving kilos onto someone who needs them is there?

I promised you a couple of photos of Targa. Steve was right on the corner when this car span out and got bogged. They had to sit out this stage of the time trials and were not all that happy about it!

This was supposed to be Steve’s moment of glory…his 15 minutes of fame…but they never used the footage of him jumping up and down, waving like crazy at the camera or of Serendipity Farm (which is where the helicopter is hovering in this picture). Steve says “Bollocks!” I say “Thank goodness! Did you even LOOK at yourself when you headed up the back paddock with the camera to take a few photos?!

Look at those eyes…latent suspicion and violent tendencies along with ninja stealth when it comes to hopping into my poor long suffering succulents…

The following pots are the sole remaining cacti and succulents that we could save from these marauding hyenas of the veld (a.k.a. ducks)

I used to have so many amazing cacti and succulents that I couldn’t even count them. Each one sourced locally and hunted in various nurseries, horticultural shows and small pieces given lovingly (and sometimes taken surruptitiously) by friends. You will notice that most of what remains is heavily armoured. I swear the ducks have been formulating a plant to remove the spines so we repotted them and put them up out of the assassins reach.

We are continuing on in the garden attempting to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Does that sound a bit like sour grapes? You are darned tootin it does! It seems like the more effort we put into removing years of neglect, the more like a barren wasteland Serendipity Farm is becoming. We have huge piles of debris littering the landscape; we are constantly followed by small members of the poultry confraternity standing in the arches of our boots waiting to catch all sorts of disenfranchised evicted creatures from their resting places in the shrubbery. Our 2 ducks, who until now have been somewhat suspicious of us and who have managed to maintain a significant distance between themselves and our person, have now decided that we are worse than Hitler because we have been removing all of the vegetation that they previously hid in whilst making surreptitious raids of my succulent patch. We have dispatched yet another rooster to that great roasting pan in the sky for attacking Pingu and pulling out heaps of feathers and forcing Effel to subject to depraved sexual acts. Goodbye Trogdor. I am sure you will make a very tasty roast dinner. I have noticed something very interesting about our poultry population. Big Yin is an amazing rooster. We couldn’t hope for a better one. He looks after the flock, he finds food, nests, shelter and anything else for his girls and makes sure that they get all of the choice titbits that we toss out to them throughout the day. As each new rooster gets old enough to start acting like roosters are prone to do, and we dispatch them summarily, the next rooster in line, who has until this point remained latent and benign and who hasn’t done much more than crow takes up the flag and starts roostering for all they are worth! No sooner had we dispatched Henry (rollins) the initial rooster who was causing problems in the hen house, Trogdor, who had up until that point been so benign that we had considered he might be gay, stepped up to the mark and became Big Yin’s chief nemesis. Now that Trogdor is out of the picture, Big Bertha (yeh…I know…good pick…sigh…) is crowing for all he is worth, molesting all and sundry and has just signed his gender confused death warrant in the process. We then have another quandary with Little red. He is the first of the feral chooks that live “elsewhere” to the chicken coop and we are going to have to hunt him down with a torch one night. Is it just me that takes great delight in reading my blog spam? I get quite a bit. Some days I get more spam than I get views! Lately I am getting some hilarious spam that I enjoy over my early morning cup of tea and guffaw outrageously at. Do yourselves a favour and have a read of your spam…it just might make your day :o). Here are 2 examples from my spambox (like a lunch box but with the vegetarian equivalent of spam luncheon meat…perhaps seitan?)…

“You know therefore considerably when it comes to this topic, produced me in my opinion consider it from a lot of varied angles. It’s like women and men aren’t interested unless it is something to do with Girl gaga! Your individual stuffs excellent. All the time care for it up!”

And how about this enlightened comment…

“Great beat! I wish to apprentice while you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear idea”

If anyone out there can enlighten me to what either of these comments actually mean I would be most interested to find out. Here’s one I actually sent on to share with my daughters the other day…

“You might want to revitalize your best then you will likely have large amounts with high supplement in the male body. Growth hormone is definitely a necessary lifestyle deliver by way of our company’s pituitary gland which may be the culprit for much of our maturity.”

There you go! I thought about hooking up to their company’s pituitary gland but then realised that it was the culprit for my maturity! See what you are all missing out there? Who needs to buy newspapers and turn to the funnies, these are MUCH funnier than that…

“Now you see me…now you don’t!”…one of Effel’s babies showing how well they can camoflage in with the endemic vegetation and why, despite her best efforts, she still has 8 of them.

Most people (at least in Tasmania) would see this pile of tyres that we inherited along with Serendipity Farm (and quite a few more to boot) as a problem. We don’t. We are going to have fun working out what to do with them. We could make a tyre garden. We could use them to make steps (found a site online that shows us how), or a retaining wall…or even as the basis for a wall filled with our local rocks and sand. There are so many ways to use old tyres so why are local Tasmanian’s throwing them into every ditch that they possibly can? Because they have to pay $5 a tyre to dispose of them at the local tip, THATS why…sigh…

This is what we have had to do to protect anything vaguely succulent in nature. Even euphorbia’s, with their irritating sap, are not safe from those feathered assassins…just take a look at that rectangular teracotta pot…the day before it was green! Today it is picked down to the brown base.

It’s Friday morning and we are having an unusual early morning off from walking the dogs. Today we are combining picking up my book requests from the Exeter library, hauling a mass of vanquished blackberry foes to the Exeter tip green waste centre and walking the dogs in one of their more preferred locations all at the same time. We have learned that multitasking saves time and money. One trip for 3 requirements makes me feel good. We had to learn that lesson the hard way when we first moved here. We spent so much time racing back and forwards between the city and here and we seemed to be constantly on the go. Now we wait, we plan and we make sure that we do as many things as we can whenever we get into the car. We have spent the last month really getting to grips with the tangle of foliage on Serendipity Farm. We know that autumn is the very best time to plant out our potted babies and so we are removing as much of the weedy neglect as we can to find space to give them the best start for the coming year. We have learned a lot about ourselves in the process and are starting to fall into our own routine. We have the peculiar distinction of being parents that leave their children. We left my son living in the rental house that we lived in when we moved here. He was working and inner city rentals were both expensive and difficult to find so he was happy to take over the lease. When we moved out to Serendipity Farm we left our two daughters (both adults before you start to phone social services…) in our house in town so rather than have our children move out on us leaving us empty nesters, we emptied ourselves out of the nest! We were in the most privileged of positions when my dad died to inherit 2 houses. My brother and sister both got 2 houses of their own and before anyone starts envying any of us, every single house came with an overwhelming list of repairs, neglect and mounting cost so each of us had to earn what we have inherited. Far from being ungrateful, I know that we have been given a very precious gift and that as penniless hippy 40 something students we would never have had the opportunity to buy a house let alone end up debt free like we are today. We love our life out here and are starting to get a feel for being 2 people out in the wilderness. There is something quite terrifying about being left alone with your partner. I think that is when many marriages start to fall apart and when a mans shed becomes more important than it has ever been before. That’s when there is no-one else to focus on and suddenly you are confronted with each other with no-where to hide. If you throw retirement into the process you get, most probably, the very first time that either of you have had to spend extended periods of time together and someone that you can share a house with for half a day quite easily can become “the enemy” overnight. You just have to watch “Keeping up appearances” with the ubiquitous Hyacinth Bucket (“Boo-kay…it is pronounced BOO-KAY”!) to see just how terrifying retirement must be to a couple. Again, Steve and I spend 24/7 together. Retirement will be much like school holidays…we most probably won’t notice it like we didn’t notice them so again we buck the system.

“Ok, so your back from town…these are in bags…and they appear to be some sort of food…”

“Wait a minute! There’s nothing tasty in these bags!”

2 distinct varieties of Jerusalem Artichokes that I picked up in one of our local green grocers when we were in town on Friday. I am most excited about being able to get really big interesting looking specimens like these and will be planting them out as soon as they start to sprout a little bit. I picked up 3 wizened tubers in a pack at Woolworths a few years ago and planted them out in our house in town. As I type this the girls have harvested tens of kilo’s of these tasty (albeit flatulence inducing but whats a little fart joke between friends?) tubers that have the added benefit of having pretty sunflower like flowers, being perenial and dying back so you can slash the stalks and use them for mulch and in having the ability to reproduce exponentially much to the Canadian’s amazement. They are classified as “weeds” in Canada. Obviously the Canadian’s are not able to take a (fart) joke…once you have these babies, forget about caring for them…they look after themselves and you won’t ever go short of nutty crunchy delicious tubers as they seem to be able to grow in any condition known to man

“Ok…theres nothing tasty in this lot of toys that they brought back from town…you know that someone is going to get the blame for all of this mess…”

Apparently Bernard and Manny (the Javanese Finches in the cage over to the right of this photo) did this. They have taken full responsibility and wish it to be known that they are ashamed of themselves and will clean up this mess post haste. They apparently did it alone with no help whatsoever…

There is nothing like living in the country to remove all pretention from a person. When your lower body is covered in mud and chicken manure, your arms are scratched up with hand to hand blackberry combat, you look like a brown zombie (who remembers sunscreen when you need to get up and going early before the sun is up) and you are starting to regret not listening to your lecturer when he said “don’t forget your earplugs when you use the chainsaw” because much like Pete Townsend, you are starting to have problems hearing people. You go to town looking peculiar because you have attempted to scrub your skin free of dirt and debris that has plastered itself violently all over you in your heady pursuit of finding something ordered in a sea of chaos and you turn up looking wide eyed and innocent in the middle of the city. Simple country folk. I no longer ask Steve “does my bum look fat in this?”…I say “can I get away with this…” or “are there any holes (Earl), stains (no end of creatures and situations want to stain everything that we own) or fraying (treacherous blackberries!)?” It’s no longer a matter of “I need that new shampoo to make my hair look like golden tresses” its “did I wash my hair? Are there any leaves in my hair? “Could you just get the scissors and trim it straight across the bottom for me?”…country life certainly changes a person and woe betide anyone who chooses to attempt to maintain their idealistic romantic notions of picnics in the fields and picking wildflowers and drinking wine out on the deck whilst gazing into the eyes of your lover because the chickens have been in the paddock first…the wildflowers are classified weeds and you had best remove them QUICK before DIPWE catches you with them on your property and your lover has already gulped his glass of wine down in one swig, is too tired to focus on your eyes and you both look like you have been dragged through a blackberry patch backwards (curiously…that saying is incredibly pertinent to our current situation!) and you BOTH have a headache. Much like Tom and Barbara Good from “The Good Life”, we are discovering that country living isn’t quite so idealistic and nostalgic as many wistful city dwellers might have us believe. In saying that, I wouldn’t give up what country living has done for us. We have a degree of freedom that we never had in the city. If I want to throw off my clothes post haste and hunt for leeches on the deck, so long as I don’t choose to do it at 12pm when the Tamar Cruiser wends its way past us on the river delivering its amplified speech about the Auld Kirk Church, I am safe to do so. We can start, finish and “do” whatever we want around here. We can eat what we want, when we want to. There are very few rules and regulations that have to be enforced and we are quickly discovering so much about ourselves and our place in the world and together that we would never have learned whilst surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city.

Another pile of vanquished blackberries off to the hoosegow  to do the time for crimes against mankind

And here they are effectively “zipped” (old school computer talk for condensing to all of you young hipsters out there…) and ready to dump at the Exeter Green Waste Centre. Here we are parked at the Exeter Library where I just picked up Flaubert’s Parrot and Women of the Silk to read over the coming week. I have a few more books in transit, I am getting greedy in my lust for literature…

I hereby swear never EVER to leave a library book lying on the kitchen table and head outside to see what Steve is on about. Earl took advantage of my 5 minutes respite from reading to ingest some literature of his own. Earl is now semi filled with war, death and “The Push”…sigh…the only thing that I have going for me this time is that the first entry in the fading yellow paged cello taped paperback copy of “A Covenant with Death” by John Harris was 1964, making this book almost as old as I am! Steve was actually born after this book entered library circulation and so I am going to argue my case if faced with a hefty bill for replacement. It seems fitting that a book has been dispatched today as we suddenly discovered 2 new roosters. That only leaves 1 of the heavier chickens that we imported in limbo as to its sex. My theory about roosters is gaining momentum as each time we dispatch a rooster, another “hen” steps up to take its place. We now know who is a hen and who isn’t apart from the younger ferals, Effel’s babies and the silver Wyandotte’s 3 who are now shared between a golden laced Wyandotte and the silver Wyandotte. We just took an afternoon wander around the property with Earl on a lead and Bezial free ranging. Wherever we have cleared in the last month is now able to get rainfall down to the soil and everything is looking happy and green. We are starting to work out what plants we can use from our large potted stash, and which plants we are going to have to get rid of. We donated 3 roses to our Polytechnic yesterday because they are simply possum fodder here. We are in the process of repotting all of our stock that we have grown including all sorts of maples (sourced from seed from all over the place) and all sorts of conifers (sourced from seed and cuttings from all over the place). Steve potted up some of our glasshouse specimens to give them some more room to grow and I dumped the remaining potting mix and left over tomato stems into our compost heap. I will be topping it up with spent chook roost hay covered in nitrogen rich manure when I clean out the hen house tomorrow. Bernard and Manny, our Java Finches, are getting their cage cleaned out as well and their spent hay will be added to our compost. It is now second nature to throw “anything that was once living” (apart from meat grandma!) into a smaller bucket in the pantry to be tossed out into the compost heap when it is full. We phoned up a local machinery hire agency and we can get a large chipper/mulcher for a weekend for $95. We have some BIG plans for that mulcher and hope to eliminate our massive great pyre of decaying branches down in the teatree gardens as well as crown lifting and mulching tree branches all over the property. We will remove the Photinia x fraseri “Robusta” that are on the dividing fence between our place and the graveyard at the Auld Kirk church and will mulch them all into a large heap to rot down and use in the garden elsewhere. We checked what had once been a large pile of oak leaves that we raked last year for Glad next door and it has rotted down to a very small amount. We will top it up this year with year 2 of raking and being neighbourly and will use the leaf mould on the garden as it becomes available. I love being able to reuse waste on site. The only thing that we are taking to the tip (vegetative matter wise) are the blackberries. One day, when the blackberries are at a manageable level we will be able to make weed tea out of them but we don’t have a large enough vat to tackle the vast amount that we are dealing with at the moment. We need to isolate some plants for our garden starting with a source of Moringa olifera or drumstick tree. This tree is amazing. You can count the things that this tree ISN’T good for on one hand. We would also like to give neem a go. I know we are not tropical but we do have a range of plants growing here that shouldn’t be happy to do so including Jacaranda’s, Brachychitons and 2 Sydney red gums that should be roots up in Tasmania let alone thriving like ours are. We would like to see if we can grow as many of our own insecticides, food trees, medicinal plants etc. on site. I look forwards to hunting them down and sourcing nurseries and individuals with stock that we can buy swap or take cuttings/seed from.

Here are the veggies and the 15 (hand counted) whole peppercorns ready to be put into the stock water when the carcass has been simmering gently for an hour and fifteen minutes. 45 minutes later we had very unphotogenic but probably heavenly stock

The last of our elephant garlic that we grew this year. Juicy, hot, spicy and incredibly fragrant it was really something compared to the cheap imported garlic that is available in the shops.

Colours…we need coloured food for antioxidents and for visual appeal. I don’t like chunks of carrot so we tend to use a vegetable peeler to make long quick cooking strips that are perfect for stir fries

This pile is waiting to be turned into Steve’s special fried rice

Ok…so this home made black bean sauce doesn’t look all that tasty…that is a BIG understatement, but this fragrant paste is redolent with flavour, heat, texture and low food miles using our own garlic, chillies, local olive oil and only the black beans (salted) were imported. I dare say we could have found an Australian source if we tried or I could turn to my trusty typed out copy of “The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition” and make my own! I love a challenge especially a food challenge. I once made a man with Coeliacs who was also unable to have dairy a vegan pizza made with spelt (he didn’t react to spelt) and home made vegan dairy free cheeze. He hadn’t had pizza in 6 years and apparently ate most of the enormous offering all by himself with no reaction whatsoever. As I said…I LOVE a challenge 🙂

Steve cooking up the veggies and black beans for the brown rice fried rice

Check out the colour in our home grown free range eggs…I almost needed sunglasses to make this omelette for Steve’s stir fry

This chicken has been marinating in chilli flakes, sesame oil and some mirin overnight in the fridge

Brown rice black bean fried rice…absolutely delicious!

The eggs are still this colour when you cook them. Here they are waiting to be divided into 2 portions. One for Steve’s meal and one for the dogs to share. The utensil here is an Australian designed and made “Chopula” made by Dreamfarm, a forward thinking sustainable company who really does care about all aspects of their production. I love this egg slice. It will sit on the bench when not being used without leaving any of its current occupying foodstuffs on the bench. It will hook on the side of the pan when you are cooking and you can chop, slice etc. whatever you are cooking and the shape allows the easiest flipping of a frypan full of pikelets that I have ever experienced. Hell yeh I am promoting this amazing tool! Do yourselves a favour and buy yourself one. These guys are not paying me to promote them, they just deserve it they are so good 🙂

I have just discovered (purely by accident) a site where I can get a like for like copy of A Covenant with Death sent to me for $12. Cheers Jennifer of Parklea books! She might have had to lift it from her market stall but lift it she did and as soon as I can verify her account details the $12 will be wending its merry way to Jennifer and that well-aged paperback will be handed in along with my freezer bag of torn shreds (Earl never does anything by halves…) as replacement all before I have to suffer the injustice of not being able to take any more books out of the library until I replace it. Steve and I decided to cook today and to take advantage of the stove being on to do as many things as we could. We used some of the first rooster to make a chicken stew to be frozen and used later on. We put the rooster carcass and wings on to gently simmer and made a large pot of free range stock with surprisingly little fat despite me leaving the skin on the carcass. We then made a crunchy oat slice for Steve (and the dogs) and cooked a large pot of brown rice and dried it out in the warming oven for my meal of fried rice tonight. Into the fried rice went diced onion, diced yellow (hydroponic) capsicum, the last of our fresh garlic that we managed to wrestle from the wallabies crushed, some chopped mushrooms, some carrot and lots of secret sauces etc. that Steve throws in at the last minute to make something truly delicious. He had stir fried marinated chicken with home-made black bean sauce. We like to do as many things as we can ourselves and after seeing a recipe for black-bean sauce online I decided to try it. The result is salty, hot and sweet and absolutely delicious! We have various pots of food cooling all over our kitchen so that we can prep them and fridge or freeze them depending on their future use. Steve has a whole bowl of left over stir fry and will have that tomorrow night with some of my brown rice fried rice and who knows what I will have…we tend to wing it! I was going to watch some television tonight but remembered that I had to post so you saved me from brain numbing. I am instead going to play Hammer Heads, a most interesting hybridisation between whack-a-mole and gnome warfare. One day I am going to beat the king. Until then, I can but keep trying to whack my hardest and give it the old college try. When I get bored with that I can read Flaubert’s Parrot or sit by the fire with a big cup of tea and simply ruminate mentally about life, the universe and everything (hopefully I don’t get sued by Douglas Adams for that!) Have a great week and see you on Wednesday. Hopefully I will have done something by that stage to share with you as our weather is apparently going to be drizzly for the foreseeable future. Not that I mind, I LOVE the rain :o)

Hello Hump Day!

Hi All,

I just finished off my mammoth post for last week. I dare say it will take most of you a few days to read it but as I am now only posting once a week, I have to cram it all into a single post. We seem to be very busy here at the moment. Partly of our own choice and partly because that is what life is throwing at us at the moment. I would LOVE to be a totally proactive person. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to instantly come up with solutions for everything that life hurls at you on the run while you are formulating a plan to get the best possible outcome from said situation? I tend to be the quivering wreck in the corner not coping very well at all thanks to my tendency towards reactivity rather than proactivity. I didn’t think you had a choice…I thought people were born proactive, or reactive but I am starting to see that it’s all choice. I am choosing to expose myself to all sorts of interesting premises at the moment. I am checking out world issues that are pertinent to who we are and how we choose to live. It’s very interesting to realise that the world doesn’t revolve around you and that you are only one tiny ant in the massive great nest we call Earth. It’s not only humbling but somewhat terrifying as well when you realise what a very small voice each individual has. That’s where we need community and like-minded groups of people. One person has a small voice that can usually be ignored. An entire community all chanting the same chant are quite a lot harder to ignore and social media allow us to be more aware of events and situations as they occur and allow us to lend our personal voice to our chosen causes. It’s no longer that easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes. If anything, it certainly allows you to open your eyes to all sorts of situations that you may never have been aware of. As a quintessential magpie I like to learn things and social causes are something that appeal to me.

Here is the back block of our property. As you can see, its dry, arid bushland and it’s only saving grace is that it is a direct shortcut to the road at the back of the property and Steve was able to hightail it up there at short notice when he heard the Targa cars racing by and get some photos for you all to see on Saturday. At some time in the future, this area will be planted with olive trees, figs and further down, grape vines.

This used to contain seasol. Now it contains seasol, worm pee (yes…apparently they pee…), powerfeed and various secret natural ingredients that if I told you what they were, I would have to kill you. We are using this potent mix to give our planted out potted babies the best chance at adapting happily to their new surroundings

This is what is hiding behind the reed screening that we put up to shelter the hens when they are foraging in the colder months. We stacked some hay bales that we use for bedding in their coop (and for compost fodder when it is spent and full of nitrogenous delights) and you can see the hens are enjoying their new secret space

“HA! I found you!”. This nest must be the new communal nesting place because I liberated 9 eggs prior to these 2 appearing. I dare say they will find somewhere new tomorrow to stop me from pinching their eggs but for now I am feeling smug! It’s not often I manage to find where these wily girls are nesting

Ok, now that was how I “used to” post… I am going to have to find a happy medium between 11 000+ words and Dot point with photos…

Here is an “honest” photo. Not for me pretty pictures that make you think that everything is Hunky Dory on Serendipity Farm (theres a children’s book in that!). This is the true state of affairs. This area is under the deck, just around the corner from the last pictures and when we get a spare day we are going to make a walkway through here up to where we have the remainder of our potted babies to be planted out. Why haven’t we done this before today? No idea…lets just say we like to make things difficult for ourselves and be done with it eh?

Here’s a prime example of what we want to have growing all over the place. Not necessarily  bergenia x schmidtii (Elephant’s ears), Tulbaghia violacea (Society garlic) and Helleborus foetidus (the delightfully named “Stinking Hellebore”) but carefully chosen water wise and suitable edible food plants for our edible food forest. These plants are forming a mass of green mulch that keeps moisture in the soil. I am not interested in clean lines in my garden, I am more interested in being able to keep the moisture in the soil and constantly increasing the nutrient quotient of our denuded dirt. We are using permaculture principals and weaving in any and everything that makes sense and that will assist us in what we want to eventuate here from all sorts of integrated natural systems. This is my nest and this little black and white bird is going to feather it however she sees fit. Some things will work, some wont. Swales would be a nightmare here as we can’t dig our soil thanks to masses of volcanic rock. Thinking outside the box is our newfound strength and we are using our horticultural knowledge and scavenged information from the 4 corners of the globe to effect change

Here is a small sample of what we are just about to launch ourselves into clearing out in the garden on the side of the house. Blackberries, banana passionfruit (this one even has a fruit!) and osteospermum daisies, which to some people are their idea of “pretty flowers” but to me are right up there with boneseed and ragwort as invasive weeds. Once we liberate this side garden I can plant out my cold climate shrubs and we can start reducing our potted plants and our need to waste heaps of water on them in the summer time.

This information was taken straight from The Australian Native Plants Society to explain what this pot of salvaged plants are. We retrieved 5 pots of them from one of the garden areas that we weeded out and rather than discard them, we are going to plant them along the fenceline in our veggie garden as natural food sources and habitat for native birds and wildlife.

http://www.anpsa.org.au

“The drought tolerant, thorny, straggling native raspberry (Rubus parvifolius) and the more compact mountain raspberry (Rubus gunnianus), with its distinctive red blackberry-like fruit, are the only two Tasmanian examples of the twelve native raspberries in Eastern Australia. For optimum development of their tangy sweet fruit, they prefer the moister sections of your bush tucker patch. A quenching and therapeutic tea can also be derived from drying their young leaves or ‘tiny tips’.”

And here is another example of finding something on site that we can incorporate into our edible food garden/forest

This little baby is a coprosma quadrifida or native prickly currant bush. The jewel red fruit are prize bird food and the thorny nature of this shrub creates habitat conditions for nesting birds. If you would like to see a bit more about this plant you can go to the Australian National Botanic Gardens site…

http://www.anbg.gov.au/apu/plants/coprquad.html

First check this out! I found this when I was hunting through the amazing Green Shopping U.K. store where I downloaded some free e-books on permaculture. I don’t know about you, but I feel very guilty throwing batteries out. We have rechargeable batteries but this is a whole new ball park!  I couldn’t believe that batteries would run on water…

http://www.green-shopping.co.uk/clearance/h2o-replacement-batteries-pack-of-two.html

But here is the blurb and you can see for yourself…water batteries! Now I just need to get me some…

http://waterbattery.com/

We are surrounded by chickens…seas of them. We let Effel out with her 9 babies and she promptly got one of them dispatched to the next world. At the moment she has 8 with her still and we figure that it’s survival of the fittest out there. The silver Wyandotte still has 3 babies in the side garden and as long as she stays there I dare say she will keep them. I think one of the second batch of feral chicks that Houdini raised outside the normal hen societal model (the mainstream hens that head to the coop each night…) has gone the same way as Effel’s baby. It’s a pity because it was the only Wyandotte of the lot and most probably a hen. We have 4 roosters that are going to have to be dealt with at some day in the future in that bunch. Steve is in Launceston today doing the fortnightly shopping. When you live 50km away from the nearest shops you tend to really think about your shopping requirements and make sure that you have enough to last you through. I find it interesting to see how our shopping habits have changed incredibly since we moved from Riverside 4km away from the City centre. We are spending a lot more time at home and a lot more time away from “normal” people. I can’t say I miss wading through the masses at the supermarket checkout or my heightened stress levels whenever I ventured out in the car. Tasmanians are NOT known for their ability to drive well or use their indicators and I am not known for my saintly patience and ability to acquiesce to other drivers especially when they are obviously idiots…I rest my case!

“What have we here eh?…that wouldn’t be a glass of Earl’s favourite drink now would it?”

“Pa must be off the wagon…”

I made a spiced pear cake last night, partly to use some of the windfall pears from our tree in town that have suddenly approached magnificence and have attained that fragrant sensual perfume and taste that only a pear can get…loaded with ethanol and ready to turn any banana in their sight… I still have quite a few left and don’t want them to head over to the dark side and as Steve had a pot of cream wearing a hole in his desert pocket, I decided to make this cake to kill 2 birds with one stone. Here is the recipe I used if you would like to try it. I didn’t use the raisins…not because I am raisonally prejudiced, but because I didn’t have any. I also used only regular S/R flour rather than the ½ cup wholemeal and I totally forgot to add the baking soda at all but despite my messing about the cake was a success and Steve had a large portion smothered in thick cream and proclaimed “There’s nothing wrong with that!” which is high praise indeed from a man who is not totally enamoured of food like I am and who eats his meals without savouring each bite. I guess there are people like that out there who eat food because that’s what humans do. I am NOT one of them. I am one of the rounded, passionate, savouring people who like to smell, taste, feel and experience their food and can’t be dealing with bad food on any level. I guess Steve is just lucky that he is married to me and the food that he takes for granted when he is shovelling it in whilst watching television is prepared with flavour at its very core. There are lots of interesting recipes on this New Zealand site. New Zealanders are very similar to Tasmanians…isn’t it lucky that I don’t have to drive on their roads?

http://www.nzwomansweekly.co.nz/food/recipes/spiced-pear-cake/

Never one to do anything by halves, I decided to make good use of the heated wood stove ovens and the 4 litre ice-cream container full of poached quinces that I had left over from my quince poaching event last week. Steve was born in the year of the Dragon and has the luck of a Dragon to boot. Whenever I go hunting for recipes I inevitably find what I am looking for through sheer hard slog…wading through acres of mediocre sites to find one gem in the pile. Steve heads off to find a recipe and “BAM” he not only finds amazing recipes first go, but he finds a truly wonderful site along with it. After making the recipe for “A poached quince cake” I did what I usually do and went for a bit of a look-see at the rest of the site. I felt an instant alignment with the woman who owns this blog. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that what happens to us is meant to happen to us. I know that everything happens for a reason and just because it looks and feels like the most devastating thing that we are never going to get over, doesn’t mean that something incredible isn’t born from the ashes…indeed the pain of said event gives birth to the conditions for newfound happiness. We both lost a parent in January this year and I urge you to read this persons tribute to her father. Her honesty and her rich sense of the English vernacular are translated into the fabric of her posts and if I can only work out how to follow this blog I will!

http://elegantsufficiency.typepad.com/the_elegant_sufficiency/2007/08/a-poached-quinc.html

I made the cakes and I must admit here that I also omitted the walnuts and raisins from the poached quince cake and added a cup of chopped dates instead. Again, work with what is on your pantry shelf and the walnuts are out stratifying in the dirt for next year’s trees and the raisins simply didn’t exist so dates is it quince cake! The recipe hints and tips mentioned that this cake was somewhat dry and I HATE dry cakes. I upped the quinces to about 2 ½ cups and liberally doused the cake with the fragrantly perfumed quince liquor that I had saved and sieved from my batch of oven poached quinces. The poaching recipe that I used was just a nondescript recipe from the prolific recipe author “anon” that is responsible for many interesting recipes that I find online. I must admit…anon appears to have produced the very same recipe for poaching quinces as Dame (surely she is going to get a gong in the next Queens Honours list…) Stephanie Alexander…curious that eh? I wonder if they were both working on the same recipe at the very same time! What are the odds for that? 😉 Steve also sampled a decent sized segment of quince cake and decided that he really couldn’t describe the flavour of quinces if asked. I dare say some elderly lady in the supermarket is going to one day approach him and say “Hello dear…can you please describe the flavour of poached quinces to me… I can’t quite remember?” and he will be able to give her the description that he gave to me last night “something like tarty Turkish Delight”…hmmmm not too sure if that would make me want to eat them or dip them into chocolate and set about selling them to the general public? Either way Steve was not only satisfied, but actually happy about the cakes and the chance to serve himself chunks of both of them in the near future, warmed through and drizzled with cream, custard or ice-cream. Who wouldn’t think “There’s nothing wrong with that” under these circumstances…

Phase 1…”first make your quince cake”…

Phase 2 “reduce your quince poaching liquid”…

After this phase you have to pour your poaching liquid/syrup over the cake and wrestle it off your husband who has cut himself a massive wedge to “sample” before you can take a good picture…sigh…

The dogs are restless…this happens every second Monday when Steve heads off into town to do the fortnightly shopping. By now, even Earl the reactor (I sometimes think we should add the word “nuclear” in front of reactor…) should be able to work out that today is different to other days. The day that they have to lay inside bored out of their gourds staring up at their most boring female owner and waiting for the interesting one to come home also coincides with a sudden increase in doggy treats, nice fresh steak for their dinner and a whole lot of interesting bags and smells to accompany the bags. There might be little brown bags of cumin seed, coriander seed or even Italian mixed herbs to sniff…grabbing the toilet paper bag is always fun…if you can actually rip it and all of those little cylinders fall out its extra credit on the fun quotient watching the owners running about trying to retrieve them and you might even find a forgotten one under a chair later on that you can digest at your leisure. The best part of today is that it heralds a doggy walk somewhere other than usual. There’s a bit of extra petrol in the car and ma has gone a bit stir crazy so we are most probably going to head off to Beauty Point for a nice splash in the sea and a run up the beach. Hopefully the local dogs are all out on the road verge like they usually are and we can strain at our leads and bark furiously as our owners jump around on one leg trying to stop the local dogs from “having a go”… we strain forwards on our leads for half of the walk till we realise that we have turned around and are heading back to the car when it becomes incredibly necessary to pull back on our leads and make our owners drag us. Who wants to go home to lie on the deck in the sunshine, above the chickens and cats lying below being fed choice titbits and having our bellies scratched? We want more! We are thinking about forming a union and going on strike…no more barking at the cats on cue… no more random jumping on our owners in the night… no more pillow ripping until our demands are met! We will lay together, eyes baleful and tails pathetically down (STOP WAGGING YOUR TAIL EARL!) and will force them to give us our demands…

  1. The fridge will be left open at all times
  2. The gate will also be left open at all times
  3. Earl will be allowed to eat the new leads
  4. The chickens and cats will become “on” limits rather than off limits
  5. Food will be served at 30 minute intervals 24/7
  6. The car door will remain open so that we can hop in and go for a drive whenever we want
  7. Walking will be mandatory and compulsory and will be undertaken as soon as the 30 minute feeds have been eaten

If our humans refuse to give in to our demands we will be working to rule. We will only bark when they are watching something good on television and any burglars are welcome to help themselves unhindered by doggy alerts. We will play and jump all over them in the middle of the night and we will sit near the door and stare at them for hours on end to be let out, only to sit on the other side staring to be let back in as soon as we are out. We will also beg pathetically at every single meal no matter how disgusting (read “vegetables”…ECH!) it is just to remind them what good dogs we are and how very VERY bad we could actually be…

Interesting paper bags…

Here’s another good food blog that I found late one night and can’t for the life of me remember hitting the “follow” button for. It’s one of those lucky finds that I am actually glad I clicked because this blog makes eating vegan food feel like a sinful indulgence. Check this recipe out and you tell me that you wouldn’t like to take a slice of this…

http://tasty-yummies.com/2012/04/13/kalamata-olive-and-herb-socca-with-roasted-vegetables-gluten-free-vegan/

Beth looks like a quintessential vegan in her photo and she uses wholesome organic free range things. She is not a vegan but her vegetarian and vegan choices are all something that I would love to have placed in front of me on a regular basis. I checked out her website for her graphic art and was most impressed. Funky, Retro and very Vegan in flavour and by the look of it, an up and coming force in the graphic art world. Good luck Beth and cheers for the delicious recipes. Here’s the graphic art design website if you want to check out Beth and her hubby’s art work

http://heroandsound.com/

I just hit 2465 words. That’s about a fifth of my big post on the weekend and so I might just stop posting now. It’s going to take me a while to learn how to condense and compress my posts. Some of you might just say “Zip it!” (Physically and metaphorically) but that is most difficult for me because I am verbally and post verbose and it’s hard for me to change. I hope this little taste of Serendipity Farm mid-week has found you all hard at work doing whatever you do. I hope you haven’t succumbed to the Hump Day blues and that you are all focussing on your weekend ahead. Here on Serendipity Farm we do what we choose every day. We don’t have weekends because every day is our weekend. Before you all start to get irate and jump up and down at the injustice of “some people” having all the luck…there has to be SOME good points to being a penniless hippy student living on the bread line and that is our solace. See you all on the weekend and remember “Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do” (so you are pretty much free to do whatever you like so long as you don’t take anyone else out with you when you crash ok? ;))