It rained on our parade…

Hi All,

Buggery bollocks the net’s gone down. My apologies to anyone sensitive reading this post but I have intentionally limited my angst to that initial sentence so it’s hopefully all uphill from here. It’s 4.46am and I have just written an entire post, I have resized 15 images for last Wednesdays post and am starting on today’s post last Wednesday. I like to make the most of my time but this is ridiculous! Last Wednesday I was typing Saturday’s post about Peak Oil. Who knows what has happened in the last week? I am guessing that Steve and I have done “something” regarding our proposed large fully enclosed vegetable garden. I am hoping that we did or this post is going to be an epitaph to our laziness or to how much rain Tasmania can spawn in a single week. I am going to turn our modem back on now after an hours rest. If it decides that it is going to play ball and connect us to the net this is going to be a very short paragraph and I will be off surfing the ether for recipes, processes and my addiction to knowledge. If it doesn’t…you might have to suffer a post spawned by the frustrations of a knowledge addict.

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This is what happens when you get up at 3am and forget that you didn’t put a screw cap on the container with your homemade non-dairy milk…sigh…

We are seeing a lot more grey herons hanging around the shoreline at the moment. It must be nesting season

We are seeing a lot more grey herons hanging around the shoreline at the moment. It must be nesting season

Sigh…the net is incommunicado and narf7 has been relegated to typing. Brunhilda has been sparking away since I got up at 3am this morning. We both slid back into our morning processes with consummate ease and now that I get up so freakin’ early, she barely has time to settle down into slumber before I am prodding her with the poker and asking her to boil my kettle for another day. “Chicken” and “Stock” are both loudly progressing themselves even closer to the dinner table as I sit here typing and my second kettle of the day is just about to boil. I am going to sit it on the edge of the cooktop where it can gently tick away. My grandmother taught me to put a smooth well boiled pebble into my kettle so that you know when it is about to boil (and so you can catch it before it starts to scream at the top of its lungs…a good thing when the rest of the household is fast asleep and entirely uninterested in how many cups of tea you want to cram into your early morning sessions…) and it’s a little tip that keeps grandma around in a small way. I think of her when that little stone starts to tap and as it keeps the beat slowly throughout my day.

A little bit later on and the sun is just starting to come up on a gorgeous chilly autumn morning

A little bit later on and the sun is just starting to come up on a gorgeous chilly autumn morning

Our neighbourhood has suddenly started showing off

Our neighbourhood has suddenly started showing off

Last Tuesday we visited our friend in the witness protection. She gave me carrot; broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower seeds and she also gave me some seeds that look like round emerald green pearlescent cake sprinkles. She has no idea what they are…”I” have no idea what they are. I have my suspicions that they ARE cake sprinkles but I am going to try them in a pot and see what grows. She also gave me some seed from a plant she purchased at the nursery where she works. It’s called a “Rocoto Tree Chilli” and promises to be a perennial tree that produces chilli’s that grows in temperate climates in full sun in a wide range of soil types. Its botanical name is “Capsicum pubescens” and apparently the fruit it produces is hot. Aside from the usability of the fruit, the plant is apparently hardy and there are stories about a man “living down south” who has one 8 metres high and 2 metres wide…I get the feeling that this plant is something akin to our own Cape Gooseberry that lives happily on Serendipity Farm and I figure it might self-seed all over the place but I have NO problem with an edible condiment that wants to keep on keeping on with very little input…some might offer up the word “weed” but we don’t call things weeds here on Serendipity Farm (not since we learned that constant weeding is NOT something that we wish to do for the rest of our lives) and choose to see as many benefits in our fast growing botanical cell mates as we can.

The solitary artichoke that didn't get munched to the ground by the wallabies with cat for size comparison

The solitary artichoke that didn’t get munched to the ground by the wallabies with cat for size comparison

I love this little house and it's for sale folks! Anyone want to move to Sidmouth and be narf7's neighbour?

I love this little house and it’s for sale folks! Anyone want to move to Sidmouth and be narf7’s neighbour?

Our friend in the witness protection and I huddled over Peppino shrubs and her exponentially increasing Tree Chilli plant and her cuttings that she took recently and we gravitated to her veggie garden and over to her unprotected garden where the neighbours cows and bull decided to crush half of her hard work in planting out conifers over the last year…curiously, they only crushed the half that were growing…the half that the possums and wallabies and rabbits decided weren’t palatable enough to predate and strip and so her garden is suffering a bit at the moment but her garden is like our friend…resilient, stubborn and optimistic and we are going back yesterday (remembering I am typing this last Wednesday and am projecting into the future…) to take lots of cuttings of hardy pentstemon’s, tree chillies, peppinos, and collect a tray of young leeks that she grew for us. We will be giving her chives and PDF’s and a barrel of biscuits that won’t even go halfway to repaying her kindness or the load of wood that she told Steve to get while we are visiting.

Steve insists that these are "my fishnets"...who thinks he would make a good Frankenfurter?

Steve insists that these are “my fishnets”…who thinks he would make a good Frankenfurter?

We discussed my fear of Earl and Bezial bowling over my high school bestie Kym who is going to visit from Western Australia for a week to celebrate us both mutually hitting the grand old age of 50. We even considered sending our friends partner off to stay with Steve and the dogs for a week and pretending that our friends house was ours just so that we could circumvent the badly behaved larger dog problem in the first place but hopefully Kym is made of sterner stuff and can understand that our 2 dogs might be badly behaved…they might have as much training as our chooks do and they might pay attention to us about as much as my children do BUT after about an hour they will settle down and ignore you like they did with my mum when she visited. If you AREN’T made of sterner stuff and you don’t think you can handle an hour of dog slobber and jumping Kymmy we might have to go back to plan A! 😉

1 roll of fish netting off to be cut up for our garden

1 roll of fish netting off to be cut up for our garden

After we headed into town we took some photos to illustrate the HDR function in Photoshop. What is the HDR function in Photoshop? Beats me folks, but it involves setting up a tripod, taking a “normal”, an “underexposed” and an “overexposed” photo all of the very same thing, all without moving the camera in the least and using the HDR function in Photoshop to blend the photos to arrive at something that looks like a black and white or sepia photo that has been hand coloured. I think I showed you some of them last Wednesday… (See how I cleverly pretended that I am actually here rather than back there typing this out last Wednesday? 😉 ) and they remind me of Victorian hand coloured photographs that my nana used to have in frames. I quite like them and the dogs behaved while Steve took the photos and I held them both. Their combined weight now exceeds mine quite significantly and should they have suddenly become aware of the presence of a cat per-se, I think Steve might have been able to take some entirely hilarious photos that he could have sold to the local newspaper. Thank goodness the feline population of Launceston decided not to make an appearance.

"I SWEAR I can smell fish!"

“I SWEAR I can smell fish!”

After we took our photos we picked up another bottle of hot sauce (my latest addiction) and headed home where Steve spent the afternoon manufacturing a new dog door for the back door and devising a way to make it unavailable to nefarious enterers when we are not here. Just a small aside folks…if anyone IS considering waiting till we head out and attempting to crawl in through the dog door I think I owe it to you to admit that we often leave our dogs behind when we head out. They like being warm and laying on the floor in front of Brunhilda and Earl loves to run at top speed out the dog door. Should anyone be foolish enough to want to crawl through a large dog door that hasn’t been secured at the back…they might ask themselves “why haven’t the home owners secured this dog door and why am I able to enter this establishment via said dog door so easily?” they might be able to get this thought out before Earl crashes headlong into them at 100+kph and they get to meet both Earl AND Bezial…I just thought I would give you a sporting chance 😉

Free steel poles to be concreted into the ground as part of the new veggie garden

Free steel poles to be concreted into the ground as part of the new veggie garden

It’s now 5.35am last Wednesday. “Chicken” and “Stock” are getting nearer to meeting their maker and I am starting to think about what I can do for the next hour and a half before I wake Steve up and we start our day. We have big plans for today (for “today” insert “last Wednesday”) and will be cutting sheoaks down, collecting large steel poles from a friend’s house, digging holes and humping stones from one place to another to be used in building the keyhole gardens and spiral gardens that are going to be created inside this large fully enclosed garden. Our friend in the witness protection is giving me lots of raspberry canes to grow. She is also giving me a “Youngberry”. Not too sure what a “Youngberry” is but it has very large berries on it and everything in the whole wide world wants to eat it because it is so delicious so I figure I might tack myself onto the end of that tasting conga line and graciously accepted her offer of a sucker. She is also giving me lots of perennial plants that have grown in her lawn over the long hot summer that we just had and that just elevated themselves into “must have!” status on Serendipity Farm. If they didn’t get eaten on our friend’s property, they are magic and are plants to be treasured at all costs. Sometimes you have to outthink your enemy. If we want a garden full of flowers we have to plant things that “the enemy” can’t stand. “Fool me once!”

Steve's maples still have a few leaves left by the possums to start putting on a lovely show

Steve’s maples still have a few leaves left by the possums to start putting on a lovely show

Steve and I are going to attempt to cut our way through about a kilometre of ex fish farm netting today. We have to circumnavigate our 175m2 fully enclosed veggie gardens with something that seals and dolphins can’t bite through. We figure if aquatic mammals can’t beak their way into it, possums and wallabies have NO chance! The weather has been perfect here lately. It’s lovely and cool and bracing outside but the sun is shining and the skies are blue and it’s easy, and a pleasure, to work for hours out of doors. We have even been having the odd rain shower but rain in Tassie works on Tassie time. It rains at night and on the weekends and rarely before 10am (when most native Tasmanian’s like to get out and about as a rule ;)) so we can have the dogs walked before it starts drizzling for the day.

On fire under the deck

On fire under the deck

It’s very exciting to be underway on the veggie garden…exciting and daunting. I now have to figure out how to fill these garden beds cheaply. We are going to use hugelkultur principals by using up the branch wood and sticks that we cut from the trees that we had to remove from the new garden area (after chopping them up to facilitate faster breaking down) as the basis for our garden beds. It worked really well in our other garden beds as most of them have chopped up chunks of wood in the base before we topped them with the wonderful black gold locally produced compost as our growing media of choice. Hay and straw are readily available, I just have to source reasonably priced versions of the two and now that autumn is definitely up and running, there will be lots and lots of autumn leaves to take advantage of. Lucky I LOVE to rake and collect them :o).

Franks 37 tonne behemoth in the river in front of our properties

Franks 37 tonne behemoth in the river in front of our properties

The next few weeks are going to be filled up with the logistics of building the veggie garden and planting out our food forest. I am just about to use Google Earth to map our first paddock to find out the area that we have to use for our initial food forest. After I do that, I can plot it into AutoCAD and can use it to start really planning where our trees and shrubs are going to be planted. Being a penniless student hippy is certainly teaching me more about patience than life up to now. When you are forced to wait for what you want and need there are life lessons contained in every step. Nature and a moth eaten sock under the bed don’t care if you have a temper tantrum because you don’t have what you want or need…they just ignore you thrashing on the floor and it’s quite humbling to arrive at the other side of a good “whinge” to realise that life doesn’t revolve around “YOU” like you thought it did 😉

Franks boat and the Batman Bridge in the background

Franks boat and the Batman Bridge in the background

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Sigh…like vegan narf7 is going to eat muscles and oysters!

I guess that might be all for today folks. I know I have been thrashing your eyeballs with large posts lately and don’t want to alienate my dear constant readers. I love you all for staying with Serendipity Farm even when it becomes a 2 cup of tea matter to read a post. I hope the new, smaller paragraph; format is helping somewhat with the reading. Have a great “rest of the week” and see you on the weekend where hopefully some progress has been made on our netting cutting and we might be ready to start digging holes. We have to see our friend Jenny (SO liberating to not have to type “Friend in the witness protection” now 😉 ) soon to get a load of firewood and some cuttings including; pineapple sage, Chilli tree (Capsicum pubescens), Peppino (Solanum muricatum), a new mint that I don’t have and some Young berry which I found out is a strain created by crossing the Austin-Mayes dewberry with a blackberry and raspberry hybrid known as the Phenomenal, and it has since been given the botanical name Rubus cecaesius.

3 narfs on a sofa. One of our media tasks

3 narfs on a sofa. One of our media tasks

"Excuse me...could you see your way clear to showing me how to make this thing work?"

“Excuse me…could you see your way clear to showing me how to make this thing work?”

In return I will be baking some batches of home-made biscuits and will be giving Jenny a large clump of chives. Jenny was a class mate when Steve and I studied certificates 2 and 3 in horticulture on campus in Launceston. We became great friends and share a love of plants that all 3 of us didn’t realise we had until we started our courses. We support each other whenever the possums and wallabies eat away at our inspiration and our hope and set each other back on track and ignite our horticultural passion over a cup of tea and a good chat. See you Saturday folks :o)

A hand full of oca and a head full of rising sap

Hi All

Today is the first of spring and the weather has turned on a most magnificent day for it. We had a nice sleep in (7.30am) by ignoring the chickens scolding us underneath our bedroom window, the cuckoo shrike tapping  on the kitchen window and calling out, the dogs alternately hopping into bed and hopping out in anticipation of their walk and got out of bed when WE wanted to. We then fed some bread and butter (our chooks are connoisseurs and will only eat butter) to the chooks and the feral cats; let Pingu out for a few more chunks of bread and butter and then the rest of the coop for a mass orgy of bread and butter flying in the air. Sparrows, cats, chooks, duck EVERYONE had some and then we headed out to walk our boys in the beautiful spring air in Exeter. We parked the car and headed off for a nice long walk and then dropped in to drop off a few “Barbara” pumpkin seeds to the local nursery man who was most grateful and gave me a hand full of what we call “New Zealand Yams” but on further research, their real name is “Oxalis tuberosa” or Oca in their native South American Andes homeland. The New Zealanders are prone to pinching things and renaming them after themselves starting with kiwifruit, a native of China and Pavlova, Lamingtons and ANZAC biscuits ALL of which originate in Australia and now Oca from the Andes…I won’t be hearing that you don’t pinch things you Kiwis! I think you have been learning from your native Kakapo flightless parrots. I watched a Discovery channel programme about them a little while ago that showed how they might not be able to fly, but they can certainly steal things! Australia might be founded on convicts but you have no excuses for pinching things but we do forgive you because your economy is totally stuffed and heck, most of you are heading over here to become Aussies anyway so I guess we will go easy on you for the while…but we are watching you…

More mushrooms growing after we have already harvested a kilo of nice big mushrooms from our freebie bags. After they finish shrooming, we can use the mushroom compost for our garden

One of the feral cats has decided that she likes Steve and follows him around meowing. He does feed them every evening so I guess it might be cupboard love, but she seems particularly taken with him

Serendipity Farm is emerging from its week of drowning and aside from it now being leech heaven around here, we are hoping that the sun will dry it out a bit over the weekend

Its the first day of spring! Time to wash the car and clear out the boat ready to launch it on that lovely water in the background…

While I was at the nursery in Exeter I took advantage of their kind offer of a bag of red wriggler worms for free. Our compost heap does contain worms, however they are the enormous native kind that breeds slowly and that just slug about waiting for blackbirds to eat them. Red wrigglers are adapted to living in compost heaps and the small bagful that I placed carefully into our overladen heap should be incredibly happy to be relocated. Their home at the nursery was seething with comrades but here on Serendipity Farm, they will be pioneering their way into history. Once they breed up we will start a worm farm to collect the worm tea for use on our plants. So many ideas! Steve found me heaps of online information about permaculture the other day and I have been immersed in videos of hope and sustainability. There is nothing like being a penniless student hippy to make you realise that consumerist gardening is not for you! Who can afford to populate their gardens with purchases from mainstream nurseries (and indeed, who would want to!). Our pathway in life gives us lots of time but precious little payola to spend but never people to let problems stand in our way, we negotiate our way around the outside like gyrating, belly dancing hippy buffalo girls and find a lateral way to solve our problem. No money for plants? No worries! We haven’t just spent the better part of 4 years studying horticulture for nothing you know! We learned how to grow plants from seed, from cuttings and how to bud, graft, layer and many cleverer hints and tips to allow us to grow our own.

Thursday over at Beauty Point walking the dogs in the sunshine aren’t we lucky to have such lovely places to walk our dogs?

A clever way to enhance a standard wooden fence

The rest of the fence is the same and most certainly makes this home one to remember on our walk around Beauty Point

We fixed up the glasshouse and have a heat bed of our own to get our cuttings to strike and our seeds champing at the bit and we have the will and the desire to find solutions to our planty problems. The gazillion strawberry plants languishing at the Exeter tip that I waded through mud (after asking permission from the tip guy) to save from a waterlogged death are all potted up and flowering like crazy. I planted the oca in with the strawberries so that I know where they are and aside from the strawberries there is a tiny little Babiana corm that I found amongst the debris and planted and that is now sending up greenery to greet the sun. I love gardening. It’s one of the most positive things that you can do. It’s a way to feel the cycles of the seasons and immerse yourself in the natural world and as the spring sap rises in the deciduous trees and shrubs I can feel it bubbling inside me and rising in unison, full of possibilities and the excitement that comes with effecting change.

Myvanwy doing what she does best. She is a hybrid of Herman and Ethel Merman and is a 75% all white hydration. She appears to be rising magnificently and taking her time to fall so it looks like there is a lot of happy yeasty activity going on in that nice tall glass jar. She is raising at least double every time we feed her and so Miff, is going to be our next baking event. Anyone laying bets as to how she turns out?

Steve’s delicious creation soup the other night.

We found a packet of cloud ear fungus that I must have bought in a past life hiding up the back of the cupboard the other day and decided to use it in our cooking. You soak it in warm water, cut out the bit where it joins to the tree and it is crunchy and vaguely seaweedy. Delicious and we will certainly be using the rest of the packet soon

A young currawong looking through our bedroom window wondering if he might just move in. I know life here is paradise for animals but inside is off limits matey!

I have grand plans for how to slow the rapid descent of water from the sheoky dry bit up the top of the block down to the marshy melaleuca infested area down at the bottom of the property. I am going to build a hugelkultur garden bed. We can’t dig the usual swales that permaculture suggests to perform this task, but if you look a little outside the box you can usually find an answer and hugelkultur seems to be ours. You can start with biochar logs (slow burned to get a honeycomb pattern in the charcoal) or you can start with regular garden debris and we have a depressing amount of garden debris littering Serendipity Farm. I think that the true value of permaculture is being able to use what you have available to effect change rather than having to wait until you have enough money to do it. I can “take a frown and turn it upside down” and those piles of debris that were hanging about waiting for me to hire a mulcher or tote them off to the tip are now a positive asset on Serendipity Farm. I can cut them up, lay them in a long line, cover them with chopped up branches and dead plant matter, I can head off to our friend who has given us all the topsoil that we can handle and get trailer loads of soil to spread on top of our branches along with bagged manure (probably sheep) and then cover it all over with some large bales of hay and I can plant fruit and nut trees and other edible shrubs and herbs directly into it. It’s all about looking at the reality that you have in a different way. Seeing what you have as positive and learning how to use it to your advantage.  I no longer look at the tangle of debris down in the garden as being a massive pain that has to be hacked away in sections, but somewhere that is going to protect our young fruit and nut trees until they grow enough to be able to stand on their own two roots. I am also carving what has to be done into small manageable portions. Instead of being totally overwhelmed with 4 acres of hassles, we now have 4 acres of future edible food forest just waiting for us to wade in and make it happen. We are going to use everything that we have learned to give us what we want here including vertical gardening, aquaponics, hugelkultur gardening, permaculture, biodynamics, xeriscape gardening…all SORTS of things that just typing out here make me excited. I love learning and even more than learning…I LOVE putting what I learn into action and having something to show for those hours spent hunting for the elusive, precious information in the first place. Life is good people, let’s live it!

A lovely little Acer rubrum, a waterwise small tree, one of many that we managed to get to grow from some seed that we bought online. We now have lots of little shrubs all budding up and needing to be repotted. Might be time to do some giving away, planting out, swapping and THEN with the few that are left, we can repot…anyone else out there procrastinating about repotting?

Where the Acer rubrum is hiding amongst his compatriots…one small stand of many small stands dotting Serendipity Farm and all needing our care and attention in the near future

A lovely Nectarine blossom on one of the fruit trees out the back. This is a lovely yellow nectarine and we have a delicious white one next to the chook yard. Here’s hoping that Big Yin doesn’t show his girls how to jump and eat them all like he did last year…

We had our fortnightly visit to see our lecturer the other day and got to paint our assessment model so we are now officially able to share it with you here. We are suitably proud of our efforts and our lecturer seemed to be pleased as well so it was a win-win situation as our lecturer now has 2 models to use for the upcoming Polytechnic open day to show what our course (only offered this year for the first time) is all about. Steve and I didn’t have to learn how to use AutoCAD this year so we could get stuck straight into model building which fitted in nicely with the open day because all of the other students in the course are still getting their heads around the dreaded AutoCAD and without us there wouldn’t have been any models to share. Nat made a flitting visit and it was great to see her. I told her that I would put something about her in the blog because the poor girl doesn’t get to even look at the blog much as she is so busy these days. Her class will be putting on a floral display at beautiful Entally House soon and I can’t wait to see it when it’s done. All of the annuals have been grown especially for this event by her students and it’s an amazing chance to learn how to grow for a specific event and how to pull it all together. Good luck Nat, but you don’t really need that because you are fantastic at organising and are a true asset to the Horticultural department at Polytechnic. Our friend in the witness protection gave me a whole lot of Hippeastrum bulbs a little while ago. She had been keeping them in her polytunnel but we have just stuck them outside in the sun. They are happy enough and hopefully they will flower this year. Our friend is a very generous person and we like to be generous to so sometimes the give and take can go on for a long time with a single gift starting it all off :o). I am off with her to a soilweb presentation in Launceston on Wednesday while Steve stays here with the dogs. I have all sorts of information about permaculture to give to her as I know that she will be as excited as I am with the possibilities that it brings to our lives.

Our original (practice) model construction on display inside the Horticulture Department at our Polytechnic

Our final model painted and ready for submitting to our lecturer with yours truly hovering around anxiously in the background with a paint pot in case we missed a bit…

We passed our model making 🙂

Spring appears to have awoken more than the plants. Steve has been following “The Bearded One’s” stick drawings on Christi’s Olalla Washington farmlet.wordpress.com blog for quite some time now and he decided that he was going to put some drawings of his own on my post for today. I watched him feverishly crouched over his piece of paper (shielding it from my inquisitive eyes whenever I went too close) and when he finished with a final flourish and presented me with his magnificent creations I told him not to tell me what they were (which should tell you that they need a degree of interpretation to say the least!) so that I could attempt to guess. Here are his pictures and firstly my interpretations and then what they are actually meant to be…

Err…

My interpretation of the first picture: I think that this looks like one of the young roosters that has broken into the shed and has invaded the chook feed. They are constantly hungry and hover around under the deck avoiding Big Yin and his deft attacks, crowing, jumping on any passing hen and tomorrow night, they will actually BE their namesake…”chicken” and “stock”!

Steve’s actual description: He said this was originally a self-portrait (no…he hasn’t drunk his 2 bottles of Guinness that he picked up in Exeter this morning…) and then he changed it and it is now “The Cockatrice of Doom”…I think that Steve is having flashbacks to Nam!

Hmmmm…

My interpretation of the second picture: I have been eating a lot of kimchi and lots of cooked beans lately…I think that this is Steve’s way of telling me to not only stop nagging him about his Guinness habit but also to lay off the farty stuff. He is obviously holding me down and I am trying to elevate him from his one true love…Guinness…

Steve’s actual description: I am full of the lightness of spring and he is thoughtfully grounding me and stopping me from flying away. The large pint glass of Guinness in MY interpretation has been replaced with the 20 litre bucket of skeeter pee (lemon wine)…at least I got the booze bit right!

Eek!

My interpretation for the third and final picture: THE ZOMBIES ARE COMING!!! They are rising along with the sap from the graveyard next door and they are apparently armed and dangerous! They have a couple of pigs in tow (for sustenance?) and have attracted some blowflies as they lurch towards our home and our certain doom…(note to self – I must stop watching the Crime Investigation channel before I go to bed…)

Steve’s actual description: We are walking hand in hand through the spring garden where the roots and shoots of the trees are awakening (at least ONE of us remembered our horticultural studies…), the birds are flying above us and our two dogs are with us and Steve has plus fours because he can’t draw board shorts very well…

Ok so I kind of got it a bit wrong. I got it HEINOUSLY wrong. You know those shows and quizzes where you are supposed to guess what your partner has answered for a specific question? Well I don’t think that I will enter us in any of those shows aside from the entertainments value as we are guaranteed NOT to win. We are totally the polar opposite of each other and that is more than obvious by our answers BUT Yin and Yang we are. I am starting to sound a bit like Yoda there so I think it’s time to call this post sprung! See you all on Wednesday when I will have been to a Tamar NRM day all about soil with our friend from the witness protection and I will be all hyped up on mountain dew and knowledge…my favourite state of being! See you all then :o)

The Sidmouth Kimchi Queen

Hi All,

Well its official…I just fell under the spell of fermented foods all over again. My daughters will be grimacing as they read that sentence because I have been known to dabble in the fermentative arts on past occasions. I had a failed crafts cupboard for all of the crafts that I started and then my interest dwindled and slowly died for the evidence to be placed into storage in said cupboard. It’s just lucky that I don’t have a failed fermentation cupboard or the contents would be heinous to say the least! I made yoghurt, kefir (both milk and water) and let’s not forget the contents of my fridge crisper that must surely contain some long established microbial/fungi symbiosis that could split the atom. I have had a brief hiatus dabbling only in the more acceptable art of yeasty goodness of late but always…fermenting and brewing (forgive me…I couldn’t resist…) in the back of my magpie homesteading brain the desire to create bubbling pots of strange smelling creations lays latent and smouldering…I dare say it’s something primal from the beginnings of food storage. I dare say our ancestors learned to eat things that had turned to the dark and fuzzy side as they didn’t really have any alternatives and after a while decided that green and fuzzy or bubbly and even solidified and stinky wasn’t half as bad as it could have been and thus began humanities quest for preservation utilising our teeny little mates bacteria and fungi. Many times they form a little partnership to share the raw ingredients and occasionally one will start the project, and then they will hand the half-finished result over to their industrious little mate to finish it off. Without this active desire to change ingredients into other ingredients through the digestive systems of miniscule creatures we would have no alcohol, no cheese, no bread and umami would not exist.

With the crisp cold mornings that we have been having lately we headed off to walk at the boys favourite spot for their morning trot “Bonnie Beach”. We saw this pair of birds as we got out of the car.

I went off road with Earl and didn’t heed the warning signs with this (now obviously…) strange patch of ground. Steve made me keep my foot in so that he could first laugh, and then take photos to put on Facebook…

The end result was a shoe full of wet ash and clay that I stoically decided to ignore and carry on with our walk. The further we walked…the squishier the action of my feet made the new contents of my shoe and when I got home it took AGES to get the emulsified mass washed and scrubbed out of my trainer

I have been ruminating about making some generic “fermented things” for a while now and up until I actively took out Sandor Elix Katz book “Wild Fermentation” from the library (again…) it had stayed on the backburner raising its head occasionally as I muttered about “Must get some more kefir grains” and Steve would nod his head absently pretending not to hear me because most of the time my mutterings rarely amount to much but this time I decided to do something about it. I made Kimchi. I had a large quarter of a cabbage sitting in the fridge that was calling out for me to do something with it. I usually let cabbage take its natural course and turn into liquid plant fertiliser in my vegetable crisper (don’t you all say EWW! You KNOW you do the same!) But this cabbage kept lightly touching my hand as I delved beyond it to grasp the more familiar and desirable paper bag of mushrooms…red capsicums…spring onions…It must have felt so rejected :o(. I decided to use this small chunk of cabbage and what better to make of it than kimchi so that I could kill 2 birds with one stone. I collected together all of the ingredients along with my old standby sprouting jar that Steve had doctored for me in the past (another fad…) with metal mesh on the top so that the sprouts could simply be rinsed through the top of the jar. It was sitting on the top shelf of the pantry (along with the soy milk maker…the pasta maker…the mandoline and the high rise electric sprouter…I guess you could call it my failed fad cupboard: o) and was ideal for making kimchi. I will let the photos tell the story…

Garlic, ginger and Korean red chilli paste (no added preservatives) and a bit of white miso to help the flavour and the bacterial development

Hey…lets have a really CLOSE look at the resulting paste. This is the part that makes the cabbage kimchi and not sauerkraut…

This is my salting station. The veggies have to be soaked in quite a strong brine made from water and seasalt and here you can see the salt being weighed out before adding to the bowl

The salt needs to be totally dissolved and if you look carefully you can see the undissolved salt in the bottom of the bowl. I like to use a whisk to do this as it seems to take less time

The main reason for the recipe…here is the sliced up quarter of cabbage that I decided to use. The recipe called for Chinese cabbage but I didn’t actually HAVE Chinese cabbage and I am NO racist…so here we have common English cabbage and the kimchi is just going to have to live with it!

The recipe called for cabbage and carrot and radishes (which I also didn’t have…it being the middle of winter here in Tasmania made that somewhat difficult…) but it did say that you could put pretty much whatever you liked in it so I put some red capsicum…will I?…should I?…Yeh! Why not…

At the risk of ending up with Barbie pink kimchi I decided to add some purple carrot that had been languishing alongside the cabbage for more time than I would like to admit to the mix and it certainly perked up the colour a bit.

The vegetables needed to be submerged under the brine and this was the only plate that sit low enough in the bowl so I had to wing it…I added a bit more brine to make sure that all of the veggies were covered

The recipe said that you could add fish sauce (nope) and seaweed…NOW your talking Mr Katz! I knew that I had some seaweed in one of my ethnic food storage bins and went hunting through and found these 2. The lower seaweed was kelp (for my vegan sushi efforts) and as always the top packet was in an Asian language which I can’t understand so lets go with that one eh?

Hmmm…I wonder what kind of seaweed it is? They have kindly added “Dried Seaweed” to the top so that I know its not loose leaf tea but the actual variety remains a mystery…

After some further inspection I noticed the above directions and was able to identify the seaweed…WAKAME! My favourite seaweed and most DEFINATELY going into my Kimchi 😉

Aside from being the tastiest of all seaweedy comestibles, this particular brand is actually Korean which is the birthplace of Kimchi so its doubley fitting. This is what Wakame looks like when you first put it into water…

and this is how much wakame eventuates after a very short soak…BONUS!

Next we need to get some onion chopped up finely to add to the paste…

Heres the wakame, the onion and the paste ready for the vegetables when they have finished their stint in the brine.

Here they are mixed together ready to add to the soaked veggies when they come out of the brine.

I decided to warm the large repurposed jar that was once an ex delicatesen jar of Sundried Tomatoes in a past life to discourage any existing greeblies that might take up residence unheeded in my precious kimchi experiment…if it goes bottom up I want it to at least be because of something quantifiable so that I can work on it next time…

Steve used silicone to fix this bit of metal gauze to the top of the jar so that sprouts could be rinsed in situ and this makes a perfect non airtight jar to make kimchi and other fermented things in to stop the risk of the jar exploding…never a good thing!

Here’s the finished result with 2 small ziplock bags filled with water weighting the kimchi vegetables down underneath their resulting brine. This book has now become a “must buy” book and the more I look at the amazing fermented things inside it, the more I want to make them. I can actually feel Steve twitching as I type that :o). The small pot covered in the background with another little ziplock bag contains little cubes of cheese that we give to the Cuckoo Shrikes that come on a regular basis throughout winter to supplement their diet when the insects are conspicuous by their absence.

The kimchi’s current residence on my custom bread proving rack above Brunhilda where it sits snuggly festering in its own little warm haven… hopefully by the time I post again I will be able to use some of it

After making the kimchi I blended up my soaked (overnight) almonds to make the almond milk for my tea for the next few days and the sesame seeds to make the sesame milk for my morning porridge. I then put the left over ground up nuts/seeds individually into a baking paper lined tray and slid them into Brunhilda’s coolest drying oven to sit overnight and dry out slowly. Tomorrow I will remove them and will grind them individually in my Vitamix blender and turn them both into flour to be used in a future baking project. I like being able to make my own staple foods, it makes me feel sufficient. That’s NOT self-sufficient…just “sufficient”.  It’s now Wednesday evening and I have to post this post. “EEK!”…where did our week go? It went the same place that last week went…into the fervent world of AutoCAD and plan production and we arrive at this point tired but very happy with our progression from hair pulling incomprehension to actual understanding and utilising the potential of this difficult program to give us some pretty classy results. Our latest planting plan looks like something that we would see in a magazine and that, my dear constant readers, is what it’s all about :o). I would also like to thank Spencer from the amazing blog Anthropogen (Check on my blogroll as it’s one of my must read blogs) for sharing some quality precious information with us here on Serendipity Farm. Spencer has been dabbling in growing some of the trees that I lust after here on Serendipity Farm and I am watching the progress most carefully as Spencer lives in Greece and Greece and Australia are not all that far apart in their temperature variations. I have met some really amazing people through blogging that I would never have met if not for learning how to blog. My life would have been less rich and most definitely the poorer for not having met you all. Cheers for inspiring me to blog in the first place and for giving me the will to carry on. If you guys can do it…I can! :o)

We use the coolest of Brunhilda’s warming ovens to thaw the dogs meat from frozen and to dehydrate things overnight like this pulp left over from making the almond (on the left…I leave the skins on so its darker than it could be) and sesame (on the right) milk. The next day its dry and has a decidedly malty smell. I store them in separate jars in the pantry for future use. Dehydrating things allows you to extend their storage period and I love not having to waste the pulp from nuts and seeds as they are not cheap and using everything involved in the process is a much more sustainable outcome

Here is what Earl thinks of my kimchi making exercise…

And if Bezial’s expression here is anything to go by he would rather have been left asleep than forced to share his disdain with the world…

The sun was just coming up and Steve took this interesting shot on one of our early morning dog walks

We took this photo of a little native fern ensconced between 2 lichen covered rocks along the way on our walk

One of the old dead trees along the Auld Kirk dirt road on the way home from our walk that possums use for habitat. You can see the river down the steep bank in the background

Another cold morning on the river. This shot was taken just over from our front gate and shows you how pretty where we live actually is

The view back down Auld Kirk Road towards where we live gives you a good idea about where we head off to in the mornings when I say that we are walking the dogs.

My kimchi is sitting up above Brunhilda as I type this on the comparative warm haven of my customised bread proofing rack. I have tasted it daily as instructed by Mr Katz and have really noticed the flavour changing from predominately “salty” to a more complex mix of salty and tangy. I don’t like buying things that I can’t make myself and probiotics are one thing that I refuse to pay money for when they can be produced at home. Kimchi promises to satisfy my desire for savoury flavours whilst giving me the added bonus of being actually good for me. Next step is the more down to earth Sauerkraut to see if my German heritage emerges with a “Wunderbar!” It remains to be seen… Again I think that I will let the multitude of photos tell you a bit more about the last few days as I have over 30 photos to share with you. We seem to spend our days walking the dogs and studying in between rain showers and the odd bit of Zelda (me) and television (Steve) but they say that a photo can speak 1000 words…I am sure that you will be glad of the opportunity to see if they do :o) so I will finish up here for today and leave you all with this little reminder of why I love Brunhilda so VERY much…

Lastly…heres another great reason why I love the multifunctionality of Brunhilda. This coolest warming oven is perfect for drying off wet items without heating them too much…its perfect for dehydrating and in this case…for making “Shoe” pastry 😉 Oh go ON! You know you liked it :o)

The day that I graduated from my sponge cake “L” plates

Hi All,

Is it just me or do your senses become more finely attuned in winter? Aside from the obvious “cold neurons” going off at random intervals everything seems to be condensed down and sharper. I guess it’s our traditional time when we hibernate. I am not averse to staying in bed for the winter but it would seem that “The Man” wants me out of bed and actively studying for the future. Its Thursday already and Steve and I are wading through the mire that accompanies a Landscape Design. As with most things…it’s an iceberg. That lovely plan that arrives on your desk (along with a not so lovely discrete bill that you probably (trust me) don’t want to open…) is the culmination of some poor sods hard mental labour. We really don’t think about how hard someone has to work to get something like that onto our desks until we actively try to do it ourselves. The same goes for the production of food…how hard is it to keep everything that wants an advance sample of our fruit, vegetables and grains away from our food without rendering said food inedible? A life of conundrums and questions besieges me and occasionally leaves me mentally exhausted. When Steve and I started out on our horticultural journey it was with very tentative feet. We were not entirely sure if our decision to work with plants was going to be wise. It was Steve’s first venture into even considering plants as anything within his peripheral view and he was a bit incredulous to say the least as to whether he could find much about them to keep his mind active. 2 months later this man planted a tiny Sequoia Gigantea seed that grew and the rest is history. Today both Steve and I have succumbed to our plant masters and are their willing and compliant slaves. We tend them…prune them…water them…sometimes mindlessly following their silent but endless requests but at all times rewarded generously for our servitude.  We have melded with the plants and it changed our lives.

What happens to Brunhilda with her first few chunks of wood…I call this “tea futures”! This is an amazingly good stove and I can’t praise it highly enough. We have had this stove burning now for about 4 months without stop and haven’t had to use that packet of late autumn firelighters that we bought aside from it’s initial lighting. It slowly simmers all night and rises like the sturdy, reliable, little black phoenix that it is every single morning no matter how many embers remain in its toasty little fire box…”I love you Brunhilda!”

Obviously I am not the only one who loves Brunhilda. After their morning walk the boys can usually be found (especially Bezial) in the positions that you see them here. Earl is only still because I bribed him by giving him Steve’s music room door wedge…Bezial is entirely content and when I think back to this time last year and remember the 2 of them huddling next to a teeny tiny little 1 bar gas heater that was our ONLY source of heat I can see why Bezial is luxuriating in Brunhilda’s heavenly wafting heat. By the way…the ONLY reason that lime green wood basket is still alive is because I cut off its handles and it’s full of wood. Earls inquisitive beak can’t get a grip on the sides and so it remains alive so long as we remember to fill it up with wood on a regular basis

This is the kind of photograph that you get when you have told a dog that he is too fat and that you are going to put him on a diet. A diet that doesn’t include fresh spongecake with cream.

Occasionally we find it necessary to poke Earl gently to ensure that he is still alive… does this look alive to you? “POKE POKE POKE!”

Bezial in the throws of Brunhilda love…we should leave them alone now to enjoy each others company…

We have a forecast of rain…rain and more rain for the next few days. The potted plants that we selected for rehousing last week are all still alive and the Luculia is positively glowing. It didn’t drop a single flower bud and is now a mass of soft pink tubular scented heaven right outside our bedroom window. The irony is that Luculia flowers in winter…and the likelihood of us having our bedroom window actually open in the middle of a Tasmanian winter is as slim as Posh Spice. The rest of our potted plants are sulking in their over cramped pots and wondering just what they have to do to get planted out. We have no inclination whatsoever to get out into the garden in the freezing cold and rain so it won’t be for at least a few days. Our studies have taken over from our plant overlords at the moment and I never would have thought that I would hear myself say this…but I am actually enjoying the process. Familiarity breeds more than contempt in my case…it breeds a rare form of happiness that comes with the ability to understand and actually follow the process. AutoCAD is a program full of landmines that are just waiting to pull the rug out from under any unsuspecting (read overconfident) person attempting to use it for any purpose other than a door stop (in its unopened package that is…). We learned early on that AutoCAD is a law unto itself. It will do what it wants…when it wants and our particular version appears to have a very strong will indeed. If we forget to save anything it WILL freeze and make us do it all over again. We have taken to kidding ourselves that we are grateful for the chance to do some more practice…remember “there are NO learning experiences in perfection…” that’s what we tell ourselves through gritted teeth in a vain effort to show AutoCAD that it can’t beat us and make us cry. This year these moments of confrontation have been few and far between because we no longer fear AutoCAD and are able to navigate our way through the endless seas of “process” to at least find the ballpark that we want to be in if not the actual fix for our problem. I guess we are learning and learning from home gives you the best opportunity to really learn because you have to sort things out for yourself for the most part. I mentioned in my last post that we had put in an expression of interest to undertake an Art course next year. We realised quite early on in the piece that AutoCAD is a fantastic program for creating exact plans but it is lacking creative flair and it’s difficult to create concept designs (the “sell” part of the equation) that are aesthetically pleasing. We therefore decided to learn how to turn our plans into eye candy and that’s why we are going to attempt to crash the Arts department next year. Do you think that they will be ready for the Pimblett’s? Probably not…but ready or not…here we come!

Proof that we do pound the pavements in order to give our dogs some form of exercise each day. Not that you would know it in Bezial’s case…

The boys eating their greens…when they find a good patch of grass it’s actually quite difficult to get them to stop eating. They are like mini cows

A nice shot taken from one side of Devil’s Elbow (the Rowella side) to the other (The Kayena side). We certainly live in a pretty place and are very spoiled with the scenery when we walk the boys

This photo was taken later in the day because in most photos you don’t get to see the detail of that bit of land covered in trees in the background but at a certain time of day in a certain light you can…I just wanted to share it with you all 🙂

We noticed (well Bezial the water dog noticed…) a little pathway down to the riverbank and decided to head down to see what there was at the end of the little track and found this delightful vista. Bezial proceeded to drag Steve into the water and Earl stood on the shore sniffing a dead oyster…dog heaven!

With the removal of the last 4 official roosters (I know that Effel has at least a couple overwintering in her flock) Big Yin has decided that he must have some sort of amazing powers as he just starts getting cranky at an emerging young rival and suddenly it’s gone. Using his amazing powers of chicken deduction 1 + 1 = KING OF THE WORLD and he has gone on an unprecedented nest building frenzy in a vain effort to increase the flock and fill it with little Yin’s. No doubt there are nests everywhere out there. We can hear chickens all over the place talking to each other in their nefarious chicken whispers. Big Yin can be heard making his “check THIS out baby…” sounds when he has rolled a bit of grass into a circle and thinks that it is nest worthy for his latest paramour. I must admit that having seen rooster activity on a somewhat large scale now Big Yin is an amazingly good rooster. He hunts for food for his flock, he warns them whenever there is danger and he gives the tasty morsels that he finds to his prize girls. He doesn’t hurt his girls either, unlike (tasty) roosters past and has earned his lifetime security here on Serendipity Farm. The problem that we now have is that our hens are getting wily. They no sooner start laying somewhere and we start collecting the eggs than they head off somewhere else and start laying there and Big Yin is ever ready to up sticks and make them another nest more remote and inaccessible than the last. I can see the day that we are actually overrun with chickens. Roosters will be crowing at all hours of the day and night and I will surreptitiously slip an anonymous note into Frank’s (who has been killing roosters since he was 10) mailbox saying “go nuts! You know you want to…”…until that day we will practice hunting eggs and will ready ourselves for spring and the oncoming onslaught of clucky chooks. I dare say most of our fecund flock will be laying low like brer rabbit in some form of briar patch but we clever humans have been active and have minimised those briar patches so that we can head straight to the remaining patches and be assured of at least 1 chicken occupant! We extracted Effel from her own personal briar patch just before winter set in and we can do it again chickens! Consider this war!

What to do with all those eggs? Make a sponge cake. The very first stage of making a spongecake…”First line your tin”…

At this stage I wanted to make sure that you got the gist that I am a darned good cake tin liner. This was to take your mind off the fact that I was, in fact, making an unassisted spongecake for the very first time…I have made spongecakes before and they have been sad sorry flat excuses for something edible that even the chooks refused. I wanted to break my losing streak and so put myself out there yet again to possibly fail…”Isn’t this tin lined beautifully?”…

These are the real reason why I decided to make a spongecake. 4 pristine duck eggs from our 2 girls given to us by Nat’s stepdaughter and suddenly starting to produce these. I know that duck eggs make amazing cakes because mum TOLD me that they did. I decided to find out for myself…

This mixer might be my handy dandy go to mixer that facilitates the manufacture of cakey goodness on Serendipity Farm but one day I am going to drop this thing on my head and kill myself! Perhaps a rethink of where we are currently storing this heavy metal mixer might be on the cards in the near future…

Notes about duck eggs…they are somewhat cloudier than hen eggs…the yolks aren’t quite as yellow…there were more whites in them and lastly the whites were harder to separate from the yolks but these eggs were uber fresh so perhaps that had something to do with it?

A juxtaposition in the cost of an item. The blender (admittedly only the base is present in this photo) cost just on $1300 and the packet of sugar was so cheap as to be negligable. Just a note to readers in the U.S. our sugar is manufactured from sugar cane where yours is mainly corn based or beet. The blender is amazing, high speed and can turn this sugar here into icing sugar in a matter of seconds. It can also (using the additional expensive goblet) turn grains into dust in a similar time frame. I bought this years ago and have only just started to use it to its full advantage. One of those “why on EARTH did I spend that…oh wait a minute THAT’S why!” moments. I also wanted to point out that buying sugar in a paper bag is better for the environment however the day that they make paper from bamboo is the day that I am going to be one happy camper…let’s all stop cutting down trees for newspapers eh?

This is the first sift of the dry ingredients (1 of 3) and has been undertaken using one of the sieves that I found in a cupboard after we moved in. I would like to continue using these older kitchen items as aside from being made to last, it gives a continuity to my dad’s partner Val who never had any children of her own.

If it acts like a spongecake…it sounds like a spongecake…it smells like a spongecake IT’S A SPONGECAKE! :)…Wait a minute…”thats not a spongecake…THAT’S a spongecake!…”

No words people…just get a fork!

By the way…the cake is curiously decorated because one half is Steve’s (thus the chocolately maltesers) and the other half has been designated “the dogs”

I was just thinking about winter again and how in winter we tend to become more insular along with better insulated. We look inside ourselves and the cold weather constricts our physical and mental boundaries. Come spring and everything starts to become active again and we look outside ourselves but in the middle of winter when it’s cold and rainy and bleak outside there is nothing so desirable as a nice warm spot and a good book. I have fallen by the reading wayside of late. I haven’t even finished my copy of “Tuesday’s with Morrie” and I have to take “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” back on Friday unread. I am drawn more to homesteading books at the moment and a fantastic book that I discovered entirely by accident whilst reading a blog feed was “A Householder’s Guide to the Universe: A Calendar of Basics for the Home and Beyond”. By one “Harriet Fasenfest”. I have mentioned Harriet before albeit fleetingly and mostly because of her chuckle inducing name but this lady is no one trick pony and this book is gold! I have taken to channelling my envy and lust for buying books into a more productive (and less expensive) hobby of trying to gain access to these books through the library. Most of them soon lose that glittering “MUST HAVE” promise when you have waded through the bampf and found them more hype than hope. This book, however, is amazing. It’s one of those books that are actually worth lusting after and indeed pulling that moth eaten sock out from under the bed and extracting the readies to purchase this gem for yourselves. Aside from being one of the most elegant over 50’s women, Harriet has an amazing ability to write what we want to hear. No garbage…full of good humour and actual knowledge gold. What more could you want? (Take note girls who are reading this…my birthday IS coming up soon and aside from wanting a renewed subscription to “Feast” (cheers in advance Bethany…) this book would be most gratefully accepted as a token of your undying love Madeline. Go to “The Book Depository” as it ships fast, costs less and there is no shipping)…I love having adult children ;).

What do you do when you have been given a pile of lemons and you don’t actually use lemons for much and they have been sitting in a bowl for a week and are dangerously close to going over to the dark side…you preserve them for future lemony needs is what you do… first you get yourself a microplane and you remove the zest…

Aside from a boon for the compost heap, these lemon skins made the house smell amazing

Some more tools of the trade with the end results that I batched up into small bags and stored flat so I can chip some off whenever I need it. I love it when my practical side broadsides my lazy side and it is happening more and more often these days. The feeling of putting something aside for future use is exciting and hits just the right spot in this little black ducks homesteading heart 🙂

This was Steve’s tea last night…one home made chicken and mushroom pie in home made cheesy shortcrust pastry accompanied by oven fried chips in olive oil…all of the “Goldens” on one plate! Slather it with salt and vinegar and you have an expat’s chips shop dream on a stick 🙂

Ok it’s time to head out into the oncoming rain and possible hail, sleet and snow to walk the dogs. It’s not worth trying to reason with those seal eyes Steve…just get on your jacket and head outside.  It’s now Saturday so I guess you figured that we got back from our walk in one piece physically (but perhaps not always mentally). I am going to make this post a bit less wordy today because I have a lot of photos that require “ploise asplain” sotto voce Pauline Hanson style. To those of you who are not aware of who Pauline Hanson is (and let’s face it guys, most Aussies would rather forget her) she was a politician who was the face of a political party called One Nation. Her party was so popular because many Australians were feeling very frustrated about the liberal politics that were allowing Australia to be hurled down the politically correct line without thought of consequences but the party took it too far and ended up being more of a sad joke than a force to be reckoned with. Pauline was most noteable for her “Please explain” statements whenever she wasn’t quite up to scratch with what was being asked of her and she came off looking like a quintessential “Dumb Broad” and most certainly didn’t do women in politics ANY favours in their desire to be taken seriously. I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason that she was allowed to advance so far up the political ladder was so that she could be used as a reason why women shouldn’t be allowed into the upper echelons of politics…so…what have we done over the last few days?

  1. Walk the dogs…we ALWAYS walk the dogs…
  2. Study our brains out including plotting out a planting plan for our latest Diploma design that we are suitably proud of and will attempt to share with you AFTER our lecturer gets it first
  3. Cooking and preserving all sorts of things

That would be about it aside from playing Zelda (me) and watching horror movies on the television (Steve and Earl) and sulking (Bezial). We haven’t had time to solve world problems, find a solution for peace in the Middle East or re-inventing the wheel but we HAVE found a fix for Brunhilda’s metal firebox handle that has burned us for the LAST TIME! We have stayed cosy and warm through these short winter days and long winter nights and we have been industrious little beavers with all sorts of fixes etc. I have attempted to give my daughters strong mental and blog posty hints about my rapidly advancing birthday wish list and hopefully they have heard me…if they haven’t…here is a VERY good reason for you to get me the Harriet Hasenfest book “A Householders Guide to the Universe” from The Book Depository Madeline…Its under $20 with free postage and you can’t get a cheaper gift than that (aside from a bag of flour but you just KNOW which one I am actually going to like ;)).  Please feel free to ignore that bit of gratuitous gift wrangling…it’s one of the perks of being the mother of adult children…you get to give them a taste of what it was like when they were kids “MUUUM I NEED a Dr. Dreadful kit…I NEED a Stretch Armstrong…”… Cheers girls 😉

I think that making things for yourself is only hard until you get into the habit of doing it. Here we have the fixings for sesame milk (in the jug on the left) along with the wine bottle that I am storing it in until I can find a suitable container at the local thrift shop…almonds soaking for almond milk (my new tea topper of choice) and the container at the rear has the feral chooks bread cut up ready for early morning degustation and the crust free butter sandwich on the top is Pingu’s breakfast treat. They all get left overnight to be used and processed the next day…easy peasy!

2 of the “Must have” books on my list of “To Buy” books in the near future. I take them out of the library…I go through them with a fine toothed comb (my mind…razor sharp lol) and I ascertain whether or not the information contained within is valuable and precious enough for me to want to hock my right leg and if it is…I buy it…if it isn’t I take what I want (typing 101 and fast fingers Fran) or I just drop it back to the library with negligable cost to the moth filled sock under the bed. I have also found The Permaculture book of Ferment and Human Nutrition has been reprinted! No more lusting after this amazing tomb for me, I can buy myself one for my birthday…I LOVE books! 🙂

Even with his winter wool Steve’s large head is NO match for Earl and his enormous bonce. He accidentally headbutted me this morning…Earls love knows no bounds and he gives it generously…and I am lucky my nose wasn’t broken. Every single part of Earl is solid and weighs a tonne. Here you see him assuming his night time position on the back of Steve’s sofa unless he manages to wedge himself between Steve and the chair and lay full length between the two. Uncomfortable for Steve but HEAVEN for Earl 🙂

Well that’s it for today guys…we have some projects on the burner that I can maybe share with you on Wednesday but for today that’s all folks! Have a great weekend and I hope that Monday finds you

  1. Alive
  2. Happy
  3. Fully functional and able to get out of bed
  4. Finally and most importantly in a good mood and fine spirits ready for doing whatever it is that you are doing this week

I did tell you that this post was going to be photo intensive…I have 2 photos lastly that I would like to share with you. My mum died in January this year and it was particularly difficult to take in because she had just spent time with us over Christmas and then suddenly she was gone. She filled her suitcase up with home made Christmas cakes and preserves and when she died I didn’t have much of “mum” in my life any more. She had been my champion blog poster and is still the third highest on the list and loved all things Serendipity Farm. I had 2 little pots of jam that she had given us…1 she had made the week that she came over here that I couldn’t bring myself to use. I remembered them languishing on the back of the second shelf down in the fridge and decided that mum wouldn’t want that “sunshine in a jar” strawberry jam cram packed full of her own home grown strawberries and gelled to within an inch of its life (thanks to a batch that had been watery the attempt before…) to be stuffed to the back of the fridge…she would have wanted it out there on the counter top, slathered all over some heavily buttered toast and so today I let go of my need to keep my mum in a small jar and opened her memory up to be part of the day to day machinations of Serendipity Farm…welcome back mum…I missed you 🙂

Anti Pulp, please don’t sue me Jarvis Cocker

Hi All,

Despite my vehement desire to stop the proposed bell bay pulp mill the title of this post has NOTHING to do with this issue. On our walk this morning (time machine people…remember the time machine…) we ran into our long suffering neighbours Frank and Adrian who asked us if we had noticed a whopping great tree falling down right on the boundary fence between our place and theirs…our tree obviously…sigh…no, we hadn’t noticed and when we just went up to take a look at the tree it was completely rotten to the core, had a mangled and long dead possum skeleton in one of the knot holes (habitat?!) and someone out there is looking after us because it caused the bare minimum of damage to anything at all. Remember…the possum is skeletal and so departed the earth a long time ago so it can’t be counted as collateral damage. We figure the tree must have fallen down on Saturday when it was incredibly windy and we were out for 4 hours at the progressive garage sale because something that big falling down would have made a rather loud “CRASH!!!”… We can’t use much of it for firewood because it is rotten but we can heap up the logs in the corner of the property to rot down and improve the soils cation exchange (organic matter + topsoil = happy days…) and provide a little pile of habitat on Serendipity Farm although I don’t think that many of our invading hoards feel the need for natural habitat to be honest…they just move on into anything that will fit them. We are starting to feel lucky to have a few feral cats about as they are catching rats and mice that are attracted to the chicken food and this time last year we had to use baits…no such problem now! As I said…there are good points and bad points about everything.

This is the long dead tree that fell on the dividing fence between our property and our long (and still) suffering neighbours property

Here is the same tree after a bit of time and some hard yards with a chainsaw and returned to the property from whence it fell

As you can see, the centre of the tree was effectively mush and despite not getting much in the way of usable firewood from this decomposing beauty, this delightful “mush” will rot down quickly when the wrens and hens have finished picking at it and will improve the soil in this area

I decided to shield your eyes from the skeletal possum that was well past its mumification date and will just let you use your imagination should you wish to pursue that train of thought. Here is Effel and some of her lovely blue laced Wyandotte babies. As you can see…following me everywhere I go because “Human = food” appears to have paid off this time

We found several of these large borer grubs and Effel and her 7 babies had a feast that will ensure that I have 8 little shadows whenever I venture out into the wide outdoors

We headed off to Beaconsfield to delight our dogs this morning (Sunday TIME MACHINE REMEMBER!). We decided to park in the local school car park and as we headed off with the dogs I noticed that the fig tree that I normally predate had some figs on it. I have no problems eating fruit overhanging fences in Tasmania because the locals don’t seem to eat much fruit. I know…why would you have fruit/nut trees if you don’t actually use the fruit/nuts? No idea people, but their loss is my gain! I picked a couple of last figs to nibble on our walk that the birds hadn’t nibbled before me and noticed a spindly fig branch sticking out of the weeds underneath the tree. I tugged it to pull it up out of the weeds because it might not be “my” plant, but I still care about it and when I tugged it I noticed roots on the stem…layering… interesting folks! We walked the boys around Beaconsfield and I collected some more walnuts from underneath the tree that I got the last lot that are sprouting from. Again, the householder wasn’t interested in harvesting these nuts as they were lying on the ground and most of them had been eaten by rats. I collected what I could and they are now stratifying in the shed along with their second batch of friends (the first 5 that have sprouted are now overwintering in the glasshouse) and a bag of hazelnuts. We got back to the car and I headed back to where the fig tree was located and managed to find 3 long branches with roots on that I could remove from amongst the weeds. I used one of our faithful and always useful doggie doo bags to put the rooted cuttings into and filled it up with leaf mould from around the base of the tree. I can’t tell you how many times we have walked down the road with a large bag of something other than nefarious dog poo! We got back home and put the cuttings and roots into a bucket of water with seasol and Auxinone in it and then potted them up and staked them using the water that they had been soaking in to water them in. They will also overwinter in the glasshouse and hopefully will develop a good set of roots. Taking root or aerial layered cuttings allows you to jump a few years on with fruit and nut production when a nut tree usually takes 10 years to produce nuts from plants grown from seed or cuttings. A good substitute for Auxinone, if you can’t find it, is to use Berocca tablets dissolved in water. When accompanied by a good splosh of seasol, the Auxinone/Berocca’s give the rooted cuttings a better chance of survival and we get very few die on us so hopefully these tall cuttings will like their new home. At least they are vertical now rather than horizontal!

Here are those 3 figs in their new home where they will overwinter until spring later on in the year. Behind them we have our 2 bananas and their “humidity generator” a.k.a. a Monstera deliciosa that allows them to have their own little humid microclimate. They lived through last winter without their new friend so hopefully they will arrive in spring as happy little customers. We tidied out the glasshouse to prepare it for winter and its inhabitants for receival of the maximum light that they can get over the next few months

We are opportunistic whenever we see cutting material that we can use to grow plants for Serendipity Farm or for swapping with nursery owner friends for plants. The same deal goes for seed. There is something really primal about collecting your own seed and growing plants from cuttings. I dare say it harkens back to the days when our survival revolved around our ability to hunt and grow our own food.  I love waking up when it is still dark and quiet in the house and slipping quietly out of bed and heading into the kitchen where I can settle down to see what the world delivers me right into my inbox. I subscribe to some very interesting blogs and am usually not let down by the content of my early morning mental breakfast. I like to learn things. I was born to learn more than my fair share for some reason and where some might crave that first cigarette or that last piece of chocolate, I crave knowledge. I must add here that I crave knowledge for things that interest me! Should anyone want to indulge my quest for knowledge by sending me their old university mathematical physics or chemistry  textbooks they will be returned with “Not at this address” scrawled in bright red crayon (after I eat the first red crayon that is…). There are elements of all of those most noble of mind breaking concepts that not only pique my interest but actively make me swoon but too few to list here and so we will forget about them for the moment. I choose to learn what my mind needs to take in new concepts and sometimes that is maths…so I learn the bare basics to get me through and wing it as I go along.

Now I don’t know if you are in agreement with me here, but I get the feeling that there is something that smells VERY interesting on this bit of driftwood…

Steve took a few arty photos when we were at the beach the other day. I quite liked this one

And I REALLY liked this one

I am typing while I wait for my “dog pikelets” to cook. They aren’t actually my dog pikelets…I am home alone dog sitting while Steve does the fortnightly shopping 50km away and have 2 sulking dogs who haven’t had a walk yet. Much like children, dogs can be somewhat distracted from actively sulking by waving food under their noses and so after heading out to let the chooks out of their coop and having feral cats follow me the whole way looking pitiful and having seen them catch rats the other day thus earning at least something in return I decided to give the chooks, cats and dogs a bit of a cold morning treat. I headed in to the cupboards and discovered that there wasn’t all that much there that would interest a cat, dog or even a chook. We have reached that time of the fortnight where shopping becomes less of a chore and more of a necessity. I had to get creative with what was available…1 large container of out of date thickened cream (still smelling fine…)…3 free range eggs that our hens have decided to spring on us of late…1 tin of tuna found at the back of the cupboard…2 semi floppy carrots found in the crisper (note to self “CLEAN THE CRISPER”!…sigh…) add a bit of Self-Raising flour and a bit of left over lard from making pork pie pastry to fry it all in. An instant human heart attack but bliss for animal-kind. They don’t look all that bad and 4 of them have disappeared into the dogs so I think I am on to a winner. Consider that my recipe for hump day. Technically these would be fritters rather than pikelets but I have the ump with New Zealand (home of the fritter) at the moment for selling themselves to the highest bidder (in this case China) and for allowing themselves to be the food laundering capital of the world. Your reputation is plummeting New Zealand and if I check a label and see “New Zealand” on it, I won’t buy it because it is a veneer for “Chinese Import”. Almost all of our frozen vegetables are routed through New Zealand from China to give them a fake façade of clean and green and New Zealand is allowing this to their own detriment. That’s why these are pikelets (still semi-New Zealand but like Pavlovas and Anzac biscuits… WE MADE THEM FIRST! ;o).  There you go…I couldn’t let a Monday go past without having a bit of a rant albeit a small one (I will say this for the last time this post… Time machine people…that is how I can jump around from the past to the present so easily…)

I decided to use the 4 teracotta froggy pot stands that I bought for 20c each at the progressive garage sale on Saturday to good use in the kitchen. This little setup reminds me of  the  Discworld which consists of a large disc resting on the backs of four huge elephants which are in turn standing on the back of an enormous turtle named Great A’Tuin as it slowly swims through space. In this case… it is a disc of Huon pine resting on 4 small teracotta frogs who are in turn resting on my butchers block as it slowly wheels around my kitchen. If you don’t know what I am talking about here… you really REALLY need to get yourselves a complete Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett and settle down for one of the most entertaining, humorous and enlightening journeys of your life

This is Steve’s $5 backpack from the progressive garage sale. We have been filling it with water and allowing it to soak to ensure that we won’t be killing off any of our precious babies with any prior contents. We will be using this backpack sprayer to apply seasol, powerfeed and worm tea along with compost tea…weed tea…liquid manure…anything natural that we can manufacture on site to give our garden an edge

I found this fossil on the beach the other day. No idea what it is but Steve swears it is an octopus… hmmm…does anyone have the heart to tell him that octopi do not have anything to fossilise? No… I thought not…lets just keep it as our little secret 😉

I am trying to be more proactive than reactive. It’s quite difficult because I think I was born to be somewhat reactive (as my posted rants about all things that push my buttons would tend to allude to…) and so this is new territory. When you wake up and the very first song that you hear on the clock radio is “Born to be alive” by Patrick Hernandez and it gets stuck in your head and you spend the morning singing an ancient disco song to a most ungrateful of audiences (if dogs could put their paws over their ears these 2 would…) you soon realise which side of the proactive/reactive fence you tend to reside. I would love to be one of those “Doers”. One of those people who jump out of bed fresh and ready for the new day. They have all of their ideas condensed down into perfect little dot points of action and after a healthy pre-planned vegan super food breakfast they race off to tick off their lives in sequence arriving at the end of their day satisfied, satiated and successful. I have been delving a little bit deeper into these sort of people and have made a startling discovery… they simply don’t exist! Behind every good man is a good woman and behind every “proactive” go getter/doer there are a team of hidden supplicants facilitating their every move. As much as I love Richard Branson, I dare say he just has to postulate an idea and it eventuates with a click of his fingers. Who wouldn’t be happy and always with a smile on their face if they merely had to suggest to make something happen with only the idea as “work” for the day? I know that there are people out there who are able to strategically work through their day arriving at the end satisfied and happy with their lot and they tend to live in the sustainable community living a hard life with all natural hippy rewards but perhaps somewhere along the way they learned to be a whole lot happier with a whole lot less? What I am trying to say is it’s all a matter of how you choose to see things. If you take a good hard look at what you actually have (not what you owe a stack of credit on folks…that doesn’t belong to you!) and make your peace with what you can and can’t immediately afford and learn to live within your means life can take on a whole different slant. Do you really need that investment home? Do you need all of that pre-made food that minimises your time spent in the kitchen to microwave…ding…eat…? What are we actually racing about attaining all this wealth for anyway? I read once, (I have actually read more than once but this is leading into a story and not a literal quantification of how much reading I have accomplished in my life ;o) that if someone gets an increased amount of money to live on…even one significant enough to allow them to save a lot of extra money…most people will simply adapt (more quickly than they would like to admit) to increasing their spending to absorb this amount rather than saving it. It’s natural human nature to want more and we are buying in to an ever increasingly powerful media and advertising sector that seem to be dictating trends rather than trying to get us to follow. We are eager to jump into buying a new car even though we only bought our old one 3 years ago…we need a new bed…a new toaster a new partner! Everything is geared at trying to get us to hand over our readies (whether cash or credit) to pay for something that if we really thought about it, we most probably wouldn’t buy. It’s a lot easier to be sanctimonious about people spending money when you don’t actually have any to spend yourself I will admit. There are entire multinational corporations of people selling “futures”… things that haven’t even happened yet! It is so very difficult to hear yourself think these days because everything has advertising in it including our emails (is anyone else heartily SICK TO DEATH of that bloody grey monkey on the incredimail advertisement’s?) and so the further you can take yourself away from the madding crowd and the more you are able to learn to hear that little inner voice telling us what we REALLY need rather than what society is telling us that we “need” the more likely we are to arriving at some point where we can be grateful, thankful and happy with what we have in our lives right here, right now. Our own private nirvana in our lifetime :o). GO AWAY PATRICK HERNANDEZ!…sigh…it seems that whatever song I wake up to on the radio in the mornings tends to stick in my brain for the rest of the day. I can be sweeping the floor and suddenly find myself whistling that song…throwing bread out to the chooks and I am humming it…I will be collecting the wood up in the paddock and loudly singing it sorry Frank (our neighbour) and today’s menu item is “Born to be alive”…a song that I didn’t even like when it first came out last century and am cursed to vocalise for the rest of the day.

Earl looking a bit the worse for wear after a particularly vigorous race full pelt around the house

If you look REALLY hard you can see Fatty, Felix’s sole remaining kitten peeking out of the conifer

The sight that greets me when I take Steve in his cup of coffee at 7am most mornings

I have mentioned before that I learn more about the real world by wandering around paying attention to what is going on around this 4 acre property than I have up until now in my life. I was throwing out my tuna/carrot/lardy goodness cakes (to keep me getting spammed by the Chinese-New Zealanders about just who invented pikelets/fritters…) to the waiting throng of chooks, sparrows and feral cats below whilst passing morsels sideways to the waiting dogs, when I started to notice interesting societal things about our little ecosystem we call Serendipity Farm. The cats have had to learn to get along with the chooks because it became pretty obvious that if you stalk a chook you get a piece of wood thrown at you. Not only do the cats not attack the chooks (apart from the odd fluff ball that doesn’t stay close to mum and who disappears “somewhere” in the ether) but they are actively afraid of them! This is NOT normal. Chooks are supposed to be afraid of cats but on Serendipity Farm where nature gazes from below up at a benefactor with attitude they learned pretty soon that the cats were not going to mess with them and have turned from terrified cat snacks into bullies who will steal food from the cats mouths. How out of whack are we?!  From the very first group of 8 point of lay chooks that we bought last year and that chased a terrified Felix down the pathway in blatant avian angst our chooks have attained a level of induced fear that would rival a biker gang in human terminology. They strut…they peck…even Pingu runs into the throng of cats and delivers savage blows to the top of their hissing heads should they dare to even LOOK at her. Our chooks are more dangerous than our dogs! Forget Bezial and Earl any burglars out there… you would be sneaking into the danger zone the moment you stepped onto the property. Be afraid… be VERY afraid!

All of this society 101 has sprung from several people over the last week telling us that they envy our lifestyle. Steve and I just turn to each other in wonderment whenever anyone would even think of wanting to do what we do every day. I guess it’s the grass is greener meets the photos that we post on the blog. No-one likes to portray the bad things about their lives and so we tend not to post anything depressing or sordid that might perhaps make someone think differently about us. My dad died on July 7th 2010 leaving us more aware of our mortality and suddenly able to call a few acres of land “mine”. “You lucky bastard!” (Said in Michael Palin’s voice from “The Life of Brian”…) and here it is if you are the poorer for never having discovered Monty Python so far… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EI7p2p1QJI Yes…we ARE lucky and we will always be grateful to my dad for giving us something that we would never have had otherwise but right there is where the scene of happiness and joy starts to fade into reality and hard work. Nothing that is worth having is easy people! We tend to look to the future to deliver us from our lives today and some of us spend our lives waiting for “the kids to leave home”, “retirement”, “that winning lotto coupon” rather than taking stock of what life has actually dealt us and learning to not only accept and live with it but find real happiness in our own personal circumstances. How many of you have watched documentaries about native tribes out in the middle of the South American jungle who despite their lack of anything that we would be able to identify as “wealth” are all smiling, curious and most happy members of the human race with the strongest whitest teeth I have ever seen. I wonder how people living a subsistence life can be so very happy? Is it because they are living close to the earth that feeds clothes and sustains them and they have discovered their niche within this endless ancient balance of cycles. They are living how we all should live. Simply, with few needs and it’s only when you start introducing societies “wealth” that problems start to occur. I dare say I am glossing over the squabbles, the human vices and the general need that we humans have to stuff up whatever we are given that would be present wherever 2 or more people group together to coexist, but in general they would deal with it themselves and they would be very aware of the consequences of their actions. I find it laughable that we in 1st world societies have so much and are always hungry for more when these simple people are very content with their lot. Serendipity Farm is our chance to make a difference to our own little plot of earth and see if we can’t leave it better than when we arrived on it just under 2 years ago. The process of change that we are taking and where we found out how to go about changing for the better is what this blog is all about. I am trying to be as honest as I can about our lives but am as guilty of the next person in omitting some of the more nefarious things or glossing over them with humour. Life is tough enough without being constantly faced by negativity and so I try to temper reality with humour as often as I can.

3048 words! How did I get to 3048 words! I only just sat down! Sigh…surely that word check on the bottom of Word is fibbing…I often wonder if there will ever be an end to the need to splash what’s inside my head onto a page. I don’t think that my muse (who is a combination of Billy Connelly and Leonardo De Vinci with a little smattering of Albert Einstein (probably the dyslexic bit…) thrown in) wants to give up any day soon so other than writing a “Dear Abbey” column, I guess you guys get it all :o). Thanks for listening to my outpourings. I sometimes think I should be paying you all for taking the place of a psychiatrist but to be honest, that should be something that our state government does for the safety of our state so you lose out this time. See you all on Saturday night/Sunday morning (depending on which side of the Equator you are) where we can take up this session where we left off…till then…”Domo arigato Mr Roboto” (because I can’t spell Sayonara)

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 😉