The Mis en Place of life

Hi All,

This is post number 3 that I have up my sleeve…what a luxury! I have been guilty of only having about a quarter of a post ready to post on the day that I am due to post it. Not only that, but I have also been guilty of realising that the day got away from me and that I have 1 hour to post…as a natural processes person I take great delight in the deliciousness of order and progression and I try to do as many things as I can to smooth the way through our days. I love prep. I love to get things ready and sort things out and am a maestro of mis en place when it comes to recipes. I learned it the hard way and getting everything that you need ready before you start something is a wise lesson to learn. Another wise lesson is to clean up your previous mess before you start a new task. My grandmother always pushed “Clean up as you go along” as her mantra. It stuck. I hate a great pile of dishes to do after I cook so as I cook I wash dishes and wipe them at the same time. At the end of the process there may be some dinner dishes to do but not many. I hate waking up to dishes, or a messy kitchen. It’s a new day after all and a new day deserves a clean start. I know that some of my processes annoy Steve. I can only imagine what his flat in the U.K. looked like but I have a good idea ;). Steve lived on his own and was able to drag a doona out to the couch whilst watching television. He could leave his guitar and amp in the lounge room where it would remain (un-chewed by Earl) until he felt like playing it next. He could dump his clothes on the floor until he ran out of them and could head down to the Laundromat just around the corner to throw a load of washing into the machine and the pace of his life was completely centred on his own processes. We have been together for 14 years now (16 if you count the 2 years we spent in an extremely long distance online relationship) and he still doesn’t get why he can’t just throw his clothes on the floor by the bed when he wants to sleep…”it’s not like I am dropping them in the lounge is it?”…but for once, Earl is coming to my rescue. Earl has started to invade Steve’s deftly dropped clothing…I have an early morning disclaimer here…I did NOT train Earl to demolish any of Steve’s carelessly dumped items…he learned how to do it all by himself! ;). Earl has started pulling things out of Steve’s pockets. Steve really only has himself to blame because he leaves bags of dog treats in his pockets and Earl is always ready to find food. Earl is also ready to extract anything else out of pockets that have been carelessly left at Earl’s beak level and he is VERY good at it. Steve wakes up to find chewed up sweet wrappers (minus the sweets 😉 ), dog poo bags that have been deftly rendered useless (Earl has a problem with us picking up his deposits…he deposited them for a reason and is annoyed and somewhat disgusted that we pick them up after he carefully places them at the topmost point of grass clumps and bushes and low walls…) and obviously the dog treats disappear (that goes without saying) and Steve has a habit of cramming his pockets with all sorts of bits and pieces and Earl has now taken to bypassing sticking his nose into Steve’s pockets and just chews right through till he gets what he wants to amuse him. You can’t blame Earl, you have to look squarely at the person dumping their clothes on the floor and you REALLY have to wonder why this person is STILL DOING IT AFTER EARL ATE HIS PANTS!…stubborn willfulness won’t put the ass back in your pants Steve 😉

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I LOVE having a post up my sleeve 🙂 Here is a photo up my sleeve to match the post up my sleeve. We think that this is some kind of funky ferry but whatever float-a-ma-jig it is, it’s most certainly interesting

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We took the dogs to the dog park today. We took a tennis ball and a rope ring and all the good intentions in the world. Earl tried to slip under the gate and run away and Bezial stood still for 15 minutes sniffing the same blade of grass for the entire time…After we got disgusted with them (the YOUTH OF TODAY!) we got back in the car and noticed this pretty picture so the effort wasn’t entirely wasted on our plebian dogs! 😉

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Check out the olde worlde last century chalk folks! I am getting school memories just looking at it 😉

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May as well stick with the boaty theme of this first set of photos and post a pic of the tug that zooms up and down the river. I say “zooms”, it actually “Chugs” very VERY loudly

Ok, fingers crossed…I am just about to turn the modem back on after a 20 minute hiatus. If it is stuffed we are going to have to head into town soon and get another one because our studies demand that we have an online connection. I will let it do its thing (blinky blinky green lights blinky blinky and a bit more blinking) for a while and will then test and see if I have the net back. This could change our plans for the day and we might have to take an emergency trip into the city to buy a new modem. I hope not, we are saving at the moment. We want to get ahead with our bills and save some money for emergencies and for when bills that are unexpected come in. Penniless student hippies live pretty close to the breadline…in fact; most of us live UNDER the breadline. We are not complaining, we choose this life and are prepared to bypass all sorts of wants and desires in order to keep living the way that we live BUT “The Man” demands a pound of flesh on a regular basis and we don’t have much choice but to pay at the moment. That means “money” and even though we don’t receive a lot of money as students (we get even less than people bumming around doing nothing on the dole) we are still able to save up and we found a plan that if we stick to it, we should arrive at the other end of it with a significant amount of savings for a “rainy day”. Like most other things in life I have a “better safe than sorry”. For a girl who rebelled against her grandmothers “tyrannical rule” on a constant basis, I think I am starting to turn into her! Those early lessons keep coming back “better safe than sorry”, “clean up as you go along”, “don’t put your shoes on the table or you will never be able…” (“Able” to what gran? I had 3 kids after loading up the table with shoes and your method of birth control SUCKS! 😉 )…all sorts of little wisdoms that annoyed the heck out of me when I was forced to comply but that keep coming back to me now as solid proof that my grandmother was a wise and wonderful soul. I didn’t appreciate you enough gran, you really knew your stuff! I think I might be like her…It has only taken me almost 50 years to admit that and she died last century (makes it sound like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? 😉 ). Time to test that connection… (Fingers crossed… 😉 ….

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Here’s the nectarine tree at my daughters house in town AFTER I spent 2 hours removing blackberries from it’s protective circle

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Here is the pile of blackberries removed and on a tarpaulin so that the rotten things don’t invade Poland and start growing from pieces. “Fool me ONCE!” 🙂

Well it looks like it’s either the modem has died or Google has decided to deposit one of Earls mighty dumps on my head for daring to use a tag in last night’s post called “Better than Google Reader” ;). Either way it’s just you and me this morning and those 300+ blog posts are just going to have to wait. I made a wonderful sourdough carrot cake last night. I have made it 2 times now and both times it was amazing. The funny thing about it is that the recipe states that the cake is “nothing special, just a wholesome cake to eat with a cup of tea”… I have never made a carrot cake (before this) that worked. My carrot cakes were always too moist and gluggy and the texture was wrong. This cake has consistently given excellent results and has Steve actually asking me to make it. I threw some ground ginger into the mix along with lots of cinnamon last night and Steve tasted it and pronounced it wonderful (even though he doesn’t like ginger and has NO idea it is in there 😉 ). I love experimenting with recipes and this one is a completely different recipe to the sourdough chocolate cake recipe that I have been baking. In last night’s version I cut the oil back to ½ cup and upped the amount of kefir (not actually called for in the recipe) and added 2 tsp of organic vanilla extract to the mix. I think the trick is in grating the carrots very finely and squeezing them out to get a dry pulp to add to the mix. Whatever the processes, the end results are stellar and my new go-to snacking cake for Steve to have with a coffee. The dogs love it as well and actually beg for it. I took my desire to offload the enormous quantity of mature kefir that I have been amassing of late to a new level. I used a cup and a half (I still have over 2 litres to use up) of very thick mature kefir (it looked like very thick sour cream or Greek yoghurt) in Steve’s quiche last night. I was prepared for a backlash because Steve is VERY suspicious of new things in his favourite recipes but he said that he couldn’t taste anything different and kefir has just elevated itself into a usable commodity on Serendipity Farm…”YIPEE!” I can now add it to all sorts of things with impunity :o). That means that if I want to make a creamy potato bake with bacon, capsicum, caramelised onions, garlic and cheese, I can opt out of paying for sour cream and can use copious quantities of kefir in its place. My little grains work overtime to produce this unctuous thick rich probiotic stuffed product and I owe it to them to use it in abundance. Unlike Jess (Rabid from www.rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com ) I don’t have 3 kefir loving mouths to consume my kefir as soon as the grains produce it and I have to think how I am going to use it. With Steve’s newfound acceptance I can use it with impunity and might even make some kefir icecream after I toss the icecream base into the freezer overnight. The amazing thing about kefir is that it doesn’t go off. It contains in excess of 60 different probiotics and seems to be able to ward off any other invaders so long as I keep it in the fridge it is fine. My stockpile is going to disappear rapidly now that I know I can use it and Steve won’t reject the results with suspicion.

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We decided to open up the computer desk to get maximum space today and ended up making room for a large pine box that we can store things in as well as dealing with the cables that were snaking out all over the place behind the P.C. and making a haven for dust. Much better 🙂

I think I need 10 points and maybe a factotum gold star for not hyperventilating about my inability to use the net today. My early mornings are actually tied up in online use and this morning I am sitting here in the dark tapping blog posts to my dear constant readers rather than expunge my readers exponentially increasing backlog of posts (just typing that made me think I need a paper bag!). I guess Steve is going to have to use his techy skills when he gets up. My instinct is to give it a whack but I will curb that instinct because technology and “bashing” tend to result in dollar signs ;). We have been working a bit ahead of our course because we finished and handed in all of our work early (can anyone say “big fat factotums!” 😉 ) and rather than sit here twiddling our thumbs we are working through our next unit. I know we aren’t meant to be doing this till next term and that we have an assessment that we have to complete on this Design unit but we haven’t been given it yet and so we will continue to work through our next unit on Photoshop. We are enjoying it immensely and are learning a lot about digital manipulation of images. Yesterday Steve was able to help my brother sort out a problem using what we have learned so far. My brother is going to attempt to sell some of his lovely photos at the local markets where he lives on the weekend. He has been paying a premium to print out A0 poster sized prints at the printers but couldn’t work out how to get more than 1 panorama on an A0 sheet and was only using ¼ of the sheet in the process. Steve sorted it out for him yesterday and now he can get 4 panoramas on an A0 sheet and is saving himself $90 a sheet. It’s great to be able to put what you are learning into practical use and help people at the same time.

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Looks like it’s gutter cleaning time again… 😦

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“Hmmm How did you get up that ladder eh?”

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“It certainly looks like a lot of fun…”

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“Ok, I recon I could handle it…”

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He didn’t manage to climb the ladder but Steve did along with his trusty muck bucket and blow-a-ma-jig

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Isn’t it funny how last year this was disgusting to me and this year I see it as a precious resource? It’s all a matter of how you look at things :). Notice that black “thing” (that’s about all it could still be called…) on the right hand side of the bucket? It is one of a pair of “black things” that Steve fished out of the gutter and then was able to identify as some of his socks that he obviously put up on the gutter in order to prevent Earl from predating them…the problem with that very clever idea sir, is that you forgot about them and they got blown into the gutter where they have been mouldering for the best part of 8 months 😉 Needless to say they now reside in the bin! That bucket was a “found thing” that we discovered on our walk discarded amongst the bushes today. It’s an old oil bucket that blew over from the Exeter Show recently and that Steve eagerly took receipt of and will be stowing in the Mumbly Cumumbus as his new bailing/fish bucket

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Apparently the roof is Steve’s domain and this mess blown down onto the deck is mine…funny how no-one talked about this “Domain” stuff prior to Steve heading up the ladder with his blow-a-ma-jig eh 😉

When we were at our graduation ceremony last week, we had a chat to Meg, the team leader of another course who was helping out on the night to take registrations and direct graduates in the right direction when they arrived at the ceremony. Meg is a wonderful generous person who works with disabled and indigenous people to teach them how to create horticultural spaces. She specialises in environmental science and is perfect for the job. She is eminently qualified and her caring nature makes her ideal for helping people to use what they have to facilitate positive changes in their lives and make the most of their situation. Meg loves Steve and I and we love her right back. I think Meg has romantic goggles on and thinks that it would be wonderful to work with your partner and study/learn together. That might be the case if you weren’t exact opposites and had NO idea how the other person can even function with brain/thought processes like that! Steve and I are slowly learning to adapt to each other’s processes but they are as foreign and alien to each other as to be bordering on crazy and as we both think that we are right in our own processes, it can sometimes be a difficult process in itself to unite and learn anything together. We have learned to break down the task into what Steve does best and what I do best. I research best…I type best…I am good at problem solving and Steve is technical and stubbornly keeps going till he works it out. Together we are formidable in both the French meaning of the word AND the English version ;). If we can’t get the net back today we are going to have to find a solution for this problem. Hopefully it is just the network and isn’t anything to do with our connection per-se but it’s been a long time since we had to phone up Dodo and try to wade through those Indian accents to get to someone who isn’t in automatic damage control and who insists that the problem doesn’t lie with them…let’s just hope that the problem can bypass the need to phone Dodo. I feel a headache brewing if it can’t…

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The meat and onions and garlic cooking for Steve’s “BEST EVER” chilli recipe just before the red wine goes in…

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Some of the other ingredients and the recipe. This chilli is truly unctuous and gorgeous and we haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like it yet. We used to make this in HUGE vats when we volunteered at the local Salvation Army kitchen to help feed the homeless. Steve’s chilli is still talked about long after we stopped working there (and they have probably forgotten who we are but that chilli speaks for itself 🙂 ). We will make you some when you come Kymmy 🙂

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Not the greatest photo but this chilli bubbles away to an unctuous thick delicious flavoursome pot of heaven and served with some steamed rice and some oven wedges (home made of course) it will be Steve’s happiness tonight 🙂

It is 6.10am and I have managed to write 3 posts all bordering on the gargantuan this morning. I could keep typing posts but I fear they would be obsolete before I posted them! So I am not too sure what I am going to do now with the next hour before I wake Steve with a cup of coffee and wait 30 minutes while he wakes up slowly before I dump the problem with the net on him. I have lots of things that I can do today that don’t involve the net. We have the lizard piles of wood to collect up (and maybe a lizard rescue might be on the cards) and deposit under the deck and out of the weather (should “the weather” ever decide to come that is 😉 ), I have plans to use as much of my kefir in cooking today as I can. I need my fridge back! Kefir and sourdough starters don’t mix well. I only found out the other day that kefir makes a perfectly good starter all by itself! I didn’t realise that kefir has lots of yeast and that it can be used to raise a loaf of bread and might test it out one day. I know that when I add it to sourdough cakes in place of milk, the cakes always rise well and have an excellent flavour so perhaps I can take advantage of this in some of my recipes. I want to get hold of some water kefir grains in the near future and will be converting half of Kid Creole’s coconuts into true coconut milk loving babies. If they die I will just keep trying to convert more as Kid produces them. He seems content to repopulate the earth with his progeny at the moment so that isn’t an issue. I have been researching and it is entirely possible to convert kefir milk grains to coconut milk grains or soymilk grains… it just takes persistence and a slow progression. I make my own coconut milk (out of coconuts…what a coincidence! 😉 ) and as such, I end up with coconut water as part of the equation. I would like to use it productively to make water kefir and so I might have to send a quick missive with accompanying moola off to Dom in South Australia to avail myself of some of his amazing water kefir grains. I want to experiment with various juices (including the über sweet carrot juice I squeeze from the carrots that I use to make Steve’s sourdough carrot cake staple) and fermenting them.

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On one side we have Steves oven wedges marinating in olive oil, chilli, pepper and salt and ready to go onto the bbq after the dessert on the other side is cooked

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This is the way that I cook apples now. I prefer it to using water or juice. I thinly slice the apples and fry them gently in butter, cinnamon, mixed spice and a tsp of organic vanilla extract till they are tender and then I add 1/2 cup of sugar (you could use rapadura or coconut sugar or honey or whatever you like here) and after a few minutes cooking in the resulting syrup I remove the apples and reduce the syrup to a thick caramel that I then pour over the apples. The results are superb and so far removed from apples stewed in water they could hardly be considered the same thing. I call them my “toffee apples” and use them as a base for my crumbles and for tonights dessert which will be covered in a light vanilla sponge and served with custard. Steve has earned his chilli and dessert tonight with his antics on the roof 🙂

I have been stretching out my posts in order to ignore having to deal with the fact that the modem is not working properly. It might be something to do with the weather (although I am bordering on my mother’s steadfast desire to cling to superstition there! Whoa neddy! 😉 ) but my guess is that our network is down and that an unmarked white van will turn up at the little wooden box up the road that is ostensibly Telstra’s and that Dodo has to share with them and will do a bit of fiddling around and hopefully the problem will be solved. I dare say you will know if we get back online by the presence or absence of posts ;). I am going to leave it there for today folks. It’s now 6.21am and the rubbish truck just took our rubbish and soon the recycling truck will be rumbling past to collect our recycling as well. It is still dark but I can spend the next 30 minutes getting ahead of my processes thus allowing us to launch into our day a bit earlier than we normally would. I hope you all have a wonderful day and weekend ahead of you and that you are able to spend some quality time doing what you truly love to do. See you all on Saturday  :o)

No Sticks today, the sticks have gone away…

Hi All

Well maybe there is room for one special guest stick from the lovely Nat at Polytechnic…she would like it to be known that this is a self-stickature  and that she is amazing at growing flowers (and apparently teaching Horticulture at the Alanvale Polytechnic is a hair raising experience!…;) ).

With the last few sunny days I can feel the earth waking up on Serendipity Farm. I can feel it yawning and stretching and basking in the new warmth and light and everything is starting to turn green and burst into leaf and flower. The birds are pairing up and we get a little scraggy blue wren and his partner on our kitchen window looking for cheese along with the cuckoo shrikes and sparrows. Our chickens are determined to go clucky and Bezial discovered a nest with 26 eggs in it yesterday when I was out pulling the nodding blue forget-me-nots out of the garden and reminding myself about how I had left a stand of them in the lawn where my dad couldn’t see them when I mowed the lawn for him a few years ago because “they are so pretty”…talk about make your bed and at a later day having to lay there covered in sticky forget-me-not seeds! Consider lesson learned God…I won’t be making that mistake again! ;). Steve and I have been venturing out into the garden and tentatively touching things, looking at things and feeling our way back into the outside world of Serendipity Farm. Glad and her daughter Wendy next door have spent most of winter burning off their debris and yesterday, when we were out raking, they were burning off the long grass before it becomes a fire risk and we had a chat over the fence. It’s nice knowing and liking your neighbours.

Things are starting to green up in the side garden…sort of Armageddon with hope

After we removed all the sticks from the lawn, raked all of the leaves up and Steve whipper snipped

We also did the small grassed area in front of this side garden

AND the garden in front of the deck…

Aside from the stair rails needing a bit of TLC, the garden area is starting to look pretty good

We spent the day raking the lawns to remove the sticks dropped from the large eucalyptus trees above. We collected them all and burned them on a small fire site next to the house. I pulled out forget-me-nots while Steve whipper snipped the Vinca major that has had too long ruling the garden and whose days are numbered. We took stock of where our efforts from earlier in the year had left us and took up where we left off. I can honestly say that there is no more solid sleep than that which comes from a hard day’s work where you get your hands immersed in the warm soil. I slept like a log last night. Today we are going to burn off a pile of dead blackberries and some debris left over from an earlier wood collection run that litters the second smaller garden down from the house. It’s not visible from the house so it’s easy to just forgedaboudit BUT should someone venture down into the second garden they would see carnage.  Why are we tidying up like maniacs? Because the son and heir is bringing his new partner back to Serendipity Farm to meet us. Someday this will all be his and perhaps hers.  I want them to see beyond the piles of their parent’s debris and see the wonderful possibilities that Serendipity Farm holds and I want them to love this little piece of land stuck out in the boondocks on a river somewhere at the end of the earth like we do.

(I wish Steve had been out in the boat and caught some fish BEFORE he smoked it…)

Just a little whipper snip and everything starts to look a whole lot tidier

Some of the greenery that we uncovered in our recent assault on the side garden

Where we pulled all of the weeds out and replanted with dwarf conifers, grasses etc. is starting to look lovely, mostly thanks to the arrival of a host of spring bulbs

The Japanese maple above the steps is just starting to come into leaf. All we have to do now is find a way to stop the possums from scarfing the tender new leaves and everything will be fine!

The Blackwood trees are all out in bloom and there is a stark difference between their hard toughness and their soft fluffy lemon yellow blooms. It’s almost as if God gave them something soft to balance out their hardness. The more I look at nature the more I see these patterns of balance and the more I learn about life in general. One of the trees that we cleared out underneath has apparently succumbed to the chickens nefarious scratching’s and endless dust bathing under its canopy and is starting to die. We will remove it and store it for next year’s firewood and will plant something a bit more water and chook wise in its place.  The chickens don’t know it yet but their reign of terror over Serendipity Farm may soon be a twinkle in Big Yins memory. We have plans for a deep litter chook pen based on this wonderful idea at Milkwood Permaculture my “go to” place for all things regarding applicable permaculture that can be used on Serendipity Farm. This set up got my brain churning and the fact that it relies on a sloped site and the chickens doing the work to fertilise straw for future composting really struck a chord with me. They called it a “Gravity Chicken Run” and as gravity is always trying to grab whatever it can on its swift decent down to the gate at the bottom of Serendipity Farm I figure why not get it to work for us?

http://milkwood.net/2012/06/13/meanwhile-in-the-gravity-chicken-run/

Bezial allowed me to take this shot so long as I included telling you that he is the rightful dog on Serendipitiy Farm and that all other canine creatures are facimilies rather than having any claim to the throne.

The third pile of blackberries that we threw onto day 2’s fire BEFORE I realised that I was wasting photo opportunities and raced to grab it

The second small lawned area down from the house. As you can see we may have left some of this debris here for a little while…

This was after we removed the three loads of blackberries so imagine this heap about 3 times bigger and you can start to get a picture of why we procrastinated about dealing with the second lawn

Ok, I am starting to twitch!

I get very excited whenever I go to Milkwood.net and I end up spending ages there. It’s my own private permaculture porn site where I can fantasise my brains out about how we can change our land to give it the best possible chance of surviving and flourishing into the future. This post has been pinched. Don’t bother to sue me Nick and Kirsten as penniless student hippies have nothing that you want. Just be happy in the knowledge that what you put out there into the ether is taking root down south and growing. We have decided to use the 9 old railway sleepers that we were given by a fellow penniless hippy in exchange for a bit of work that we did for him to make ourselves a polytunnel up next to where we are going to build our gravity fed chook run. The only thing stopping us from doing what we want is a severe lack of the folding green stuff but my last month and a half of sustainable learning (thanks to the free lectures from Tamar NRM) has given me all sorts of ideas for how to deal with a lack of money by using our smarts to give us what we need. No seeds…go to the seed swap day and swap some of those plants that you no longer have a use for…no materials? Do some work for fellow penniless hippies and suddenly “stuff” may just be a possibility. We are taking up Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s creed and bartering our services for “stuff”.

The garden might be a bit chaotic but that lawn is starting to look alright…

That dead looking tree actually has a path leading down to it that will have to be cleared out in the coming weeks

Looking back towards the house…we might grow some kiwifruit over this arch in the near future

This pathway leads down to a pond that we are going to resurrect and use as part of our edible food forest. We have some blue bamboo that needs to be planted in water and this might be just the place to put it. As you can see we have some serious clearing and replanting to do on Serendipity Farm but this year might just be the turning point (I certainly hope so!)

This is a Serendipity Farm “Where’s Wally”…find a chicken, a duck and a cat

I sent off a missive to the dear Amanda, the unseen, unthanked backbone of the Tamar NRM team who intercepts the emails, caters for the “do’s” and hovers about in the background just waiting for someone to ask for something. She once sent an email saying “I sleep here in the office and I never go home” and I am starting to think that might not be too far from the truth! My missive was effusive, ecstatic and most generous in thanking the Tamar NRM for the amazing series of free lectures and wonderfully catered lunches that I have just attended and I felt that she deserved some of the credit for the smooth progression from one event to the next. She sent back her own missive asking me to write an article for the next Tamar NRM newsletter so stay tuned folks…narf7 is going postal!

It doesn’t take our hoards long to find a patch that was previously occupied by debris, currently occupied by thin air and scuttling, startled insectivourous life

Duckies new best mate Yin who has had to adapt to being tailed by Ducky or suffer the quacks of outrageous fortune

A rare case of afternoon sunshine on Serendipity Farm

One thing that we can’t swap is our weather here on Serendipity Farm. We are situated in a zone where rainfall tends to be somewhat sparse. We need to get rainwater tanks from somewhere but rainwater tanks are one of those things that need to be put into the “future” basket because the moth eaten sock won’t run to rain water tanks. Neither will it run to the small personal wind turbine that wants to be built here either and as serious as I am about doing things myself, the instructable that I downloaded for how to build your own wind turbine may as well be written in Japanese because my technical ability runs to zilch and none. Who knows where the future will take us but one thing is for sure…we are at least taking hold of the reigns and trying to direct the workhorse in the direction that we want to go.

“Anyone for a Melaleuca Chuppa Chup?”

Henny Penny is NOT amused! “Put me down you blighter!” How ungrateful after Steve just saved you from the lusty intentions of “Chicken” or “Stock”!

I am in the process of learning to write smaller posts. I am a naturally generous person and cutting my posts down feels like not giving you bang for your mental buck but I realise that most people don’t have an hour to read a post and that my posts are definitely off the chart when it comes to average post lengths.  After all of these years of mangling the English vernacular I have decided to attempt to harness my verbosity and like Serendipity Farm, direct it where I want it to go. I can’t promise you that I won’t fall back into my large post ways especially when I have a lot to share with you. Enthusiasm…thy name is Fran! BUT I can promise you that my posts will be pared down a bit. I can nibble off the bampf and I can actually read them and edit them a bit and see if that enthusiasm can be channelled into some sort of directional flow. I am looking at the word count at the bottom of the page and it says 1343. That’s roughly half that of my usual posts. My brain is champing at the bit to flow where it will like a meandering stream but I am going to nip it in the bud today. I think I will give you all a hug (we all need a hug when we break bad habits) and love you and leave you there! I know! I did it! See you on Saturday when Stewart and Kelsey are rocking up to Serendipity Farm and I may be allowed to take some photos to share with you…then again…I might not 😉 Keep your fingers crossed that the son and heir is feeling magnanimous about the world and willing to allow me to snap him for posterity. Wish me luck! (He hates his photo being taken so I am certainly going to need it ;))

Herman and Ethel Merman run amok on Serendipity Farm

Hi All

“Bojon”c. 1900. Probably combined and condensed from Bo-hemia +   Hun-gary. Used as a pejorative.
A very stupid person of Central/Eastern European Slavic descent who works   with their back instead of their head. Fit only for manual labour, the bojon   nonetheless frequently finds him/herself in political office, especially in   areas of heavily bojon dominated constituency in the USA, as well as the   backward, shithole areas of Europe where they originate. The bojon is   characterised by a very brief attention span and being unable to perform   tasks requiring much mental agility. Ideally suited for repetitive tasks, as   long as it doesn’t involve anything very important.“The stupid bojon was unable to pour the piss from his   boot, even though the directions were clearly written on the heel.”(appropriated from urbandictionary.com)

I love the word Bojon. I discovered it last night when hunting for sourdough recipes on a wonderful blog called The Gourmet Bojon. I had NO idea what a Bojon was and the assumption was that “Bojon” meant great unwashed unemployed masses and it struck a chord with this penniless student hippy. Aside from that, the blog was both humorous and very well written and is now tucked up to bed in my rss feed reader for my next mammoth perusal. Check it out here if you have a few spare moments and a yen to dabble in some pretty amazing recipes…

http://www.bojongourmet.com

This mornings breakfast consisting of oats, chopped dried dates soaked in boiling water with home made almond milk and a dollop of pure sunshine a.k.a. Christi’s precious peach and rhubarb jam 🙂

Not a patch on my breakfast in their present state but soon…these little seed kipflers will be planted out in bags and are the beginning of our potato futures on Serendipity Farm

The surreal screen saver that greeted me this morning…Steve has been messing aboot!

I have been replying to comments on the blog and only I could make a comment that was almost as long as a blog post! I think I am going to have to channel all of this verbosity and literary enthusiasm into writing of some sort. I could drain that bubbling spring and see if what eventuates is less verbose and more pointed and pertinent, condensed, LOL see what I mean? I use too many words to get to my point ;).  Saturday was a bit of an anticlimax to me. The permaculture meeting that I attended was interesting and somewhat informative but was more along the lines of a get together over a cup of tea and a bit of an informal chat and lunch. I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the effort that the lady facilitating the meeting took BUT…I am a bit past talking about things and want to get stuck into “doing” on Serendipity Farm. I can find out things out of books by buying the book myself. I can check out blogs and I can educate myself online without having to take 140km round trips that eventuated in a sense of deflated excitement for something that didn’t quite hit the mark with me. As Steve would say “It wasn’t quite what I was after today” and I would have to agree with him.

The results of 9 trays of sourdough starter turned into sour little crispy shards

A closeup of the sourdough “crisps” looking a whole lot like Lavash bread

The process of turning sourdough crisps into salt and vinegar scented sourdough starter powder for sourdough futures and for sharing with friends and family

As this IS my year of living honestly, the second deflation of the day was the sad homogenous mass that awaited me when I got home that refused to raise much and that when baked could have been used to construct the foundations for a mud brick house. I am talking about the sourdough bread that we baked. One of the loaves was reasonably easy to cut and could possibly have been eaten without having to check in to the dentist’s emergency department soon after attempting. The remaining 3 were decidedly terrifying in weight, height, texture and taste. I have to admit to adding about 3 times more sourdough starter than was called for in the recipe (thanks to my frugal heart, my desire to use the starter rather than throw it out AND my fear of what might bubble up out of the septic tank should I be stupid enough to flush it…), using up all of the various packets and bags of flour left on Serendipity Farm (some of it expired last December…) and just about every single process involved in the production of said bricks being ignored . What did I expect? Vinegar bricks is what we got :o(. The vinegar bricks were cut up this morning (Sunday) and strewn in the compost heap in a vain attempt to initiate a few new suites of “organisms” in the mix. I think it is somewhat telling that they are still in the compost heap and even the sparrows are shunning them. After some online research and the addition of several new blogs into my rss feed reader, we are now enlightened members of the online community about sourdough. We have a few adjustments to make to our starter and a couple of new recipes to follow and we should be able to produce something at least edible next time!

Little grape hyacinths that were lazily dumped on the ground to be dealt with later, still in their heap on the ground but flowering against the odds… “way to make a girl feel bad guys!”

Aside from the wonderful crop of Oxalis growing in the pots, these orchids are really enjoying their freedom in the mottled sunshine

Aren’t they beautiful? Very exotic looking but one of the true tough survivors on Serendipity Farm

I wish I had attended the Tamar NRM (natural resources management) Sustainable Living seed swap day before I headed to the meeting because I could at least have collected some free seeds that we could have used in our vegetable garden. I think I am going to have to call yesterday a bit of a dud. Never one to be kept down by a dud day, I got up this morning full of renewed energy and excitement about turning Serendipity Farm over to the Permaculture side. We have decided to move our veggie garden into the external chook coop that is protected from wallabies, rabbits, possums AND chooks (who do the most damage of all 4 if you ask me!) and extend this compound out to form a large area for veggie gardening in. If you can’t beat them…join them! That’s what we are doing…moving our veggie production inside the chook pen to stop them from scratching and pecking their way into the record books for vegetable destruction. They can stand and stare into the compound with their sad little chooky eyes and watch those delicious vegetables grow bigger and riper and the ironic thing is that when the door was open to this area, they never set foot inside!

A little Camellia Reticulata discovered in the undergrowth and free to flower in the sunshine note the clivea underneath

A little flowering quince (Chaenomeles) coming into bloom with a little flowering chook hiding underneath.

One of the natives dropping in for a visit.

It’s been raining for the last few days on Serendipity Farm but we don’t care! We have been holed up slaving for “the man”. In this case, “the man” is our lecturer Nick and we are his beavering slaves. We had procrastinated enough about not doing our Job Specifications for the unit that we are currently undertaking and the memory of manipulating our way around the vernacular and jargon of “the industry” has us twitching at the thought and the Job Specifications are penultimate only to the actual costing of the job where we find out that all of those lovely sustainable touches that make everything more simple and natural actually cost twice as much as doing it old school. The planting alone amounts to $14 000+. Isn’t it lucky that it’s only theoretical? We may be only working on this plan for our Diploma but our lecturer gave us freedom and said “knock yourselves out!” with our plans and we have discovered some amazing products, wonderfully sustainable practices and now have several plans up our sleeves should we ever come into any form of ready currency in the near future.

A bank of mushroom compost and some wood futures (sensibly stacked under the deck close to the house) along with hay for the chook roost

After abandoning Herman’s sour building material offspring earlier in the week, I found a fantastic blog that walked me through the process of sourdough excellence from start to finish and as usual I have been overcomplicating things. The blogger actually said that they don’t even measure their starter, flour or water and just give rough approximations in their bread making. I have been messing about with hydration levels (whatever they are…) with the remaining 3 sourdough starters that I have left. Herman, my original, is still half rye and half white because I am aware that should I kill the other two, I won’t have a starter left so he is being maintained “old school” so that I can fall back on his regular rise and fall should something strange hybridise out of the others. From Herman sprung Ethel Merman, the unbleached organic sister of Herman and mother to Myvanwy (Miff for short) who is a 75% hydrated variant of her mum. Both Ethel and Herman have a steady rise and fall but Miff seems to be bucking the trend. I would have thought that less water would make the process slower and shorter but I would have been wrong! The flour rich sourdough starter goes up and stays up much longer than her predecessors and actually looks very yeasty in comparison to Herman and Ethel who look more “doughy”. I also read that the strongly vinegar smell that I have been concerned about is just a starter phase that most newbies (consider me numero uno newbie on the sourdough starter block!) mistake for their sourdough starters declining and is the cause of many a good sourdough being flushed into the sewer system. The acetic acid bacteria clean out all of the bad bacteria and lay the path for lactic acid and yeast which are the desirable proponents of sourdough. Herman, Ethel Merman and Miff all have a nice fruity yeasty slightly lemony smell now. I expected Herman to still smell vinegary but he has changed. It’s great fun messing about with fermentation. I still haven’t worked out how to stop things from going mouldy in my vegetable crisper. Most probably use them within 6 months might be a good start…

Mushroom futures!

I am going to let you off easy with a shorter post tonight. I don’t even know if I have photos to accompany it! I am usually very regimented about sorting everything out early but sometimes it’s good to fly by the seat of your pants and wing it! I am looking forwards to Christi of http://farmlet.wordpress.com/  blogging fame’s post because she is going to tell us all how to make the heavenly heady concoction she humbly called “Peach and rhubarb jam”, sent to me recently that we are just about to run out of and are doing paper, rock, scissors over who gets to scrape the jar out with their finger…I am just about to head off to the net to see if there is a way that I can cheat to beat the odds! See you all on Saturday when it’s supposed to be a sunny day and Earl has bagsed a nice long walk on the beach :o)

An ounce of sustainablity is worth a pound of prevention…

Hi All,

It’s almost Wednesday again and I find myself scrabbling for time to post. I must admit, most of my free time is currently being monopolised by the Wii game Zelda Skyward Sword. It’s been a fair while since I found a game like this that I can actually play! Technology and gaming seem to have decided to bypass my motor neurons in every stage of game development increasing flipping between screens, weapons, items etc. and decreasing the amount of time spent hunting for bright shiny things which, if I am pressed, is pretty much the only reason that I like to play games. I get tired of them very easily and would rather spend time reading than gaming. In saying that I haven’t finished “Tuesdays with Morrie” yet, or “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” which I took out on a whim. Reading is such a romantic retreat from real life that I love to take every opportunity that I can to explore my imagination. With the cold weather around here it is very tempting to put everything on hold and call an immediate hiatus to all things “gardening” and “outdoors” but ironically this is the best time to garden. Steve and I have a few days of fine weather this week with no studies that we have to do and so we have set aside the next few days to plant out all of my beautiful cold climate shrubs so that they will survive the summer with less water and so that they will be able to stretch out their roots and be “real plants” in the soil. No more potting mix (and subsequently, no more annual potting up…) and I have started tuning my radar to isolating cutting material, plants and seeds for our Edible food forest.

“GET OFF THOSE!”…damned rabbits are EVERYWHERE…

The reminder of roosters past…lest we forget

After a year off from propagation I can feel my horticultural bones starting to emerge from their enforced sleep and shaking me gently to remind me that penniless hippies NEED to produce most of their own plants and so I took advantage of some of my time in town to prune back the large Muscat (Vitus Vinifera ‘Poloske Muscat’) grape vine that we planted when we first moved to Tasmania and lived in town. It has done its level best to take over the fence between our place and Margaret’s home next door. I removed the honeysuckle and jasmine from the fence as they are invasive garden destroyers here and had started taking over not only the small side garden but the jasmine had migrated, via runners, across a length of concrete to another garden further on. There is no stopping jasmine! I decided that since I was pruning the grape vine to facilitate us digging it up soon and bringing it back to Serendipity Farm, that I would take some cuttings from the canes and not waste this chance to grow more Muscat grapes. While we were attending Polytechnic on a daily basis in Launceston, we learned as much as we could from anyone who would talk to us about all things horticulture and we spread ourselves around with learning as much as we could about all forms of propagation. We used to talk to the head of the viticulture department as wine is one of the major exports of Tasmania (especially Pinot) and after each course, the students would prune the small vineyard and Mark would use the pruning’s to teach the next group of students how to grow grapes from canes. He gave us some good pinot grape canes and some American table grape canes (not sure which variety) that we got going in our garden. I gave the table grapes away at the time but kept the pinot and we still have a pinot grape vine struggling along in the front garden. He taught us how to take the cuttings, how many nodes to look for, how to cut the top of the cane at an angle and leave the bottom straight so that once the canes have overwintered, had formed callous and were ready to plant out that it would be easy to identify top from bottom. With all of this acquired knowledge I took 30 cane cuttings from the material that I had to work with and stored them in damp newspaper till I could get them into some damp sand to overwinter. Hopefully we get some callous (precursor to root formation) starting and I can plant a selection of Muscat grapes along the fenceline between the church and the veggie garden giving everyone the best of both worlds. At a later date Steve and I are going to plant out a few rows of various grape vines in the top area of the property. It gets full sun and has been cleared of trees by past owners and is on a steep slope so it is perfect for growing a few grapes with the eventuality of us being able to make our own wine.

So you want to grow some grapes from canes eh?

First source some canes…Grape preferably…

Find a recepticle to contain the canes (we used a large plant pot…) make sure it has holes in the bottom and you have a compliant and willing (compliant is more important that willing in this case…) helper to hold the canes while you pour in the sand…

Did I mention the coarse river sand? No? Well perhaps I should have…you need some at this point…

Pour enough sand from your bucket into the recepticle holding the canes so that they are well covered

Shake your pot a bit to settle the sand, water them in well and set to one side with the rest of your potted plants out in the open until you feel like checking to see if any of the canes have produced callous. If you want to know more you can sign up for one of the short wine courses at your local TAFE/Polytechnic…you just exhausted my experience in growing grapes.

That brings me back to my slowly awakening desire to propagate again. My tip find strawberries are behaving like ferals and are going crazy in the shed. I potted them up expecting a large rate of attrition thanks to their languishing in the tip for goodness only knows how long and then spending a frozen night in our trailer and another 2 days lying neglected on the floor of the shed. Nothing kills them! When you take something that has been neglected and show it a bit of tender loving care it rewards you exponentially and my tip strawberries are no exception. Even the teeny tiny little “buddling’s” are greening up and taking off. We have a steep rock wall around the side of Steve’s shed that was previously covered with weeds and African daisies (Osteospermum) that we pulled out and discovered the precarious nature of this area whilst at the same time working out where the cut and fill was taken for the house plot. Our soil is a sad mix of reactive clay laying on bedrock of volcanic stone and covered with silty shallow topsoil due to our proximity to the river. We can ameliorate the soil and make it a whole lot better, but silt has the next finest particles to clay soil (that’s what causes it to be so densely packed) and tends to wash away at the first sign of water and strangely become very hydrophobic (water runs off the top of it) when it becomes dry…which it does VERY easily and so you can see that combining this sort of topsoil with a steep slope is going to lead to problems with soil migration. We were going to plant alpine species in between the rocks to hold the soil in place but Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is considerably harder to source here in Tasmania than strawberries from the tip and segue right back to the strawberries. They are extremely hardy…they love full sun…they produce runners and make their own new plants (the lazy food gardeners heaven) and the produce an edible crop and love to grow in crevices. The ducks think twice before heading down steep slopes and so the strawberries should require only minimal protection but we will ensure that they are covered with some mulch and protected from possums until we have enough strawberries to form a dense mat. I love finding edible free solutions to our gardening problems that arrive at a win-win situation for both us and the wildlife around here.

One of the pots of strawberries that show no sign of shuffling off this mortal coil any day soon

The sign posted between the Exeter Thrift/Op shop and the golf course next door…I guess it’s one way to stop people wandering onto the greens!

A mans dog needs a mans drink! (Any representitives of the Guinness corporation reading this post can feel free to contact me about sponsorship money 😉 )

I spent Monday checking out the height and width parameters for my cold climate shrubby babies that have been living in pots for about 3 years now. When we first got bitten bad by the horticultural bug we went on a mad propagation and collection run that encompassed all kinds of plants. I started out with cacti and succulents that the ducks recently took great glee in eating almost to extinction and branched to other exotics (living in the glasshouse) and finally settled on cold climate shrubs before moving to Serendipity Farm and getting serious. Having both Steve and I fall victim to horticulture meant that there was no-one to put the brakes on when it came to propagation and collecting and we spent a lot of time and initially money on increasing our potted plants to the vicinity of 900 (300+ conifers alone) and whilst it was quite easy to keep these babies happy in town, out here on Serendipity Farm it’s a nightmare! We have to fight off the possums, wallabies, rabbits and anything else that feels like a snack (including Earl) whilst trying to minimise our potable water usage and our precious babies have slowly been falling by the wayside as the real world interjects itself and teaches us some life lessons. No more precious babies that can’t take a period of water stress…no more cossetting plants and no more wasting water on them. If our potted plants can’t take the lean times then they can’t live on Serendipity Farm. We have been giving away plants to our city dwelling friends to save them from the possums and everything that is left in our collection is hardy, water wise and able to survive out there in the garden because it’s been sitting there and surviving all of the unprotected night time raids for over a year now so we can be confident that it should survive planting out in the garden.

Some of my thrift shop bargains sourced in Exeter

My $3 glow in the dark strip designed to stop cars from squishing me in the dark…now I just need to source something that will get me out of bed and actually “walking” in the dark…

“Bargain…”

An attempt to justify paying $3 for something that I know I am most probably (still not giving up on it…) never going to wear

This hand made non tip pottery mug was my idea of a way to stop the dogs from tipping over Steve’s coffee in the loungeroom…Steve has a London mug that he is choosing to use at the moment in patriotic fervour (that won’t last long…) and so it’s not being used. I wonder if it works?

I sadly also discovered that in our horticultural zeal to isolate and collect many species of conifer, that many of them grow HUGE and that 4 acres isn’t enough to do them justice. We will be (sadly) giving away a fair few of our conifers to ensure that our collection is able to be integrated with our food forest ideals. We have several conifers that yield edible seeds and indeed spruce needles can be used to make a vitamin C rich tea (no scurvy for us!) and there is room on Serendipity Farm for our Bunya nut (Araucaria bidwillii) trees that we grew from seed collected in Carlton Garden’s in Melbourne where we attended our very first International Garden Show. Most of our other conifers are water sucking atmospheric generators that future generations (you know who you are…) will stand at the bottom of looking up into the stratosphere wondering at the mind that thought it possible to plant Giant Sequoia’s at the entrance of their property when said Sequoia has now taken over the entire driveway and is threatening to uproot the house. The reason why people (who shall remain anonymous as is their constitutional right according to the law…) would want to plant a Giant Sequoia next to the entrance of the driveway is because said anonymous person grew that Giant Sequoia from a teeny little seed. That teeny little seed was the ONLY BLOODY SEED out of the entire packet of “Bonsai Mix” that grew and by HECK it is going to be planted next to the gate so help me them!  We shall speak no more about the subject…I said NO MORE!

Sequoia gigantea grown from seed in his first horticultural certificate course and soon to be planted with pride and joy at the front gate…take note Stewart…we are putting a caveat on this tree so you have bollocks all chance of removing it! 😉

I cleaned out the freezers on Monday because I like to torture myself. There was no room left in either of them and “stuff” needed to be frozen so I was forced into it. The main problem was that since we had killed and subsequently gotten the most out of 11 roosters over the last 3 months or so there was an inordinate percentage of freezer space being taken up by chicken stock. I have discovered, since waxing lyrical about the benefits of chicken stock, that we tend not to use it much. This has resulted in a glut of chicken stock in every orifice of the house that is somewhat cooler than room temperature and it was breeding exponentially. Having completed with a “PASS” certificates 2 and 3 in commercial cookery I am MORE than aware of the dangers of chicken stock when not kept at a specific temperature over extended periods and after adding up the dangers and needing more than my 2 hands and both my feet to count them I decided that desperate times called for desperate measures…something had to be done about that chicken stock! At this point of time the super hero usually appears and “BIFF KAPOW’s” something and everything is sorted out and Gotham City is saved. The superhero wasn’t available on Monday for some reason so a tired addled sleep deprived Zelda addict had to work out a solution all by herself…not a pretty sight especially on a Monday morning. I came up with a brilliant solution if I say so myself. First you analyse the problem…”no space thanks to tonnes of chicken stock”. Next you remember that your life mantra is “Think smarter NOT harder” (that’s the one that I share with the public…my REAL life mantra is “Shit! Maybe no-one will notice?” but that is another story…) and so I slowly formulated an excellent plan. I had only recently been reading my rss feed reader. Yes, I am THAT clever 😉 and realised that the solution was right in front of my eyes…

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/homemade-bouillon-recipe.html

No…I am sorry. I have spoon fed you enough! If you actually want to see what it was that I did, you are just about going to have to go to that website and take a look you lazy bollocks!…I will wait here while you do… (Insert elevator music and wonder if they play “The girl from Ipanema” in Korean elevators…)…ok so I KNOW that you didn’t go there…look maybe this will help…

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

Can ANYONE tell me why elevators chose to use this song?!!! Just watching Astrud makes my eyelids start to droop! I guess it was last century and who can guess at what olden day’s people were thinking about when they wrote music like that…

Ok I made concentrated stock! Easy peasy. I turned a kitchen sink overflowing with bags of stock into an eighth of a stockpot of gelatinised rubber that the dogs will do tricks for. I am going to bounce it all off the deck down to the waiting chickens and feral cats and see if I can’t skim some down to the Tamar River. Again…we shall speak no more of this!

I found this website online and you can get this fantastic catalogue on recycled paper sent to you once a year. I doubt I could source the seeds through this guide but its full of hints, tips and other fantastic “stuff” to help people who want to live sustainably and thats us!

What I am reading at the moment…(I LOVE you library!)

The latest copy of Feast magazine (FAR better than Delicious magazine you ABC snobs and MUCH more interesting) accompanied by my bucket cup  of tea that enhances my reading pleasure (durex for the mind)…by the way dearest daughter Bethany…if you are reading this post, I really REALLY would like you to renew my subscription for my birthday for another year 🙂

Ok we are getting close to me having to wind up this post and I haven’t told you everything that happened since Saturday. Here is a quick rundown…

  1. Fatty ate one of Effels babies and is skating on thin ice even though it was a rooster (it’s the principal of the thing!)
  2. We went to Exeter and I got bargains from the thrift shop that I will share pictorially and kill 2 birds with one stone
  3. Steve is very tired of his shed being liberally coated in nitrogenous chickeny deposits and is about to integrate Pingu into the main herd post haste…
  4. I can’t bring myself to clear out any of my hard sourced blogs from my rss feed reader even though I can’t hope to read all of the posts that I get a day in a 24 hour period let alone fit anything else into my day. Sorry to anyone that I usually comment on regularly… you now know just what it takes to get me to shut up…DON’T tell Steve!

There you go. A couple of manic days in the life of “Us”. I hope you liked it…I can honestly say that it’s kind of too bad if you didn’t…it’s in the public domain now and I guess you are stuck with it. My daughters “Madeline and Bethany” now have to read this post because their names have been mentioned and my son is having a ball dressing up as an ancient Sumerian Godlike creature and getting in the Roswell times whilst wearing a pair of “Butterfinger” underpants given to him by the purveyors of this diabetes inducingly sweet American treat. I am totally engaged by Stewart’s American holiday and it certainly appears that he has been packing it to the rafters with non-stop memory inducing episodes. He does appear to have inherited his grandmothers ability to take photographs of nondescript road scenes and blurry road signs (they say that it skips a generation…) but his whirlwind tour of the USA is just about over and he is heading across the Atlantic ocean and then a hop-step-and a jump across the Irish sea to Ireland (Not much of a quiz question that one is it?). I hope he has an amazing time and his memories are burned into his mind so that he never forgets. Ok, so photos might be a good alternative…I was being metaphorical there! (Sheesh you guys are a tough audience!). You got off lightly today because I now have to go and tackle that behemoth also known as “RSS Feed Reader”. I am going to have to tear out my ongoing desire to hoard each and every blog that touches a nerve and keep a core group of blogs that feed my soul. Please don’t take offence if you never hear from me again. I didn’t dump your blog…I just couldn’t find a way to separate myself from ANY of my 729 (and growing every day) blogs that I am currently following and decided that hoarding blogs is NOTHING like hoarding rubbish or cats. See you Saturday when I might just have collected enough colourful gems to save Spain, Greece AND Ireland (I owe it to Stewart and Kelsey) in Zelda. Whatever you choose to do in the meantime…do it well people and don’t skip bits…you only get to pass this way once…you may as well enjoy the ride :o)

Is this the way to Tamarillo?

Hi All,

“Every night I’ve been hugging my pillow…”… mad? Possibly, but most definitely a good segue into my Saturday post. I am just sitting down now at lunchtime Saturday to get started on this post. The title is related by proxy…We went for a walk with the boys like we do pretty much every day. Yesterday was a bit different because we had to go for a meeting with our lecturer and so Steve walks Earl nice and early while it’s still dark and Bezial usually declines the offer of a walk because he is well aware of what day it is whenever Earl gets walked in the dark. Bezial is a very clever dog who is able to work out what we are doing by “the signs”. If walking in the dark is involved, he is going to be left alone with Earl for a bit. If I walk to the bedroom and get changed and put on my walking shoes he is going to go for a walk…but only if I go to the bathroom and brush my hair and put it up…AND pick up the leads on the way past the door…all sorts of signs and portents rule Bezials waking life. I am not sure what rules his sleeping life but I think he is a jaguar on a limb as we often see one of his feet twitching as he attempts to sleep run. They got their walk nice and early this morning and we met a little 7 month old Bow nosed terrier called “Oink” and had a ball frolicking. They don’t get to play with dogs much because most dogs are either scared of them or up for a fight. Bow nosed terriers are the exception. They are lovely well-tempered dogs who love to play and the boys have a new mate on the block. After we headed off from meeting Oink, we walked down a small gravel road and up a hill to make sure that the boys get some good walking time and on the way up the hill I found 2 ripe tamarillo fruits lying on the ground. I keep my eyes open for “stuff”. I like found things and collect old rusty bolts, bits of broken pottery and rumbled glass (on the beach) and use them in my attempts at artistic interpretation in my succulent pots and around the garden. The tamarillos were picked up, pocketed and are currently sitting waiting for me to cut them open and spread their seeds out on some kitchen towel to dry and then I will attempt to grow some. I don’t personally like tamarillo’s much but some of their cooked by products are nice. I don’t mind planting things that the native critters and birds can feast on as the more diversity that we get here the better as far as I am concerned. I have the utopian dream of one day producing so much food here that not only can we share with others, but the wildlife can share with impunity. Bring it on possums…I will stuff you to bursting with kindness :o)

Here are my 2 little tamarillos that I found…I don’t think that I have mentioned them yet apart from the tantalising post title…well…when I DO talk about them you can picture them in your mind…

“Word”

Its amazing how quick the weather can change around here. This was thursday. Sunny and bright and briskly cold. Today it is grey, rainy and windy. 4 seasons in one day is a complete understatement for Tasmania!

I take advantage of thrift shops and tip shops to buy things that are not only cheap but are also recycled and often unavailable these days. I found some amazing heavy ceramic bowls yesterday in a thrift shop for 50c a bowl. Steve and I bought 2 bags of toys for the dogs that amused them no end when we got home for $1 a bag. I bought 12 bottles of candle votive oils at the tip shop for 50c and use them in our oil burners to scent the house. I see it as sustainability. I am not wasting resources to buy “new” things and am learning by all sorts of means how to recycle, repurpose and reuse. I can thank Rhianna of http://envirorhi.wordpress.com/ for my newfound epiphany for reusing etc. She showed me how to use rss feed readers and I have been stuffing my reader full of amazing sites ever since. The flip side, Rhianna, is that I find it hard to get through all of them and haven’t been to your site in days! With some amazing repurposing sites, Instructables, my “Go To” site for learning how to do pretty much anything and Google, I am able to find out everything that I need to reuse just about everything. I am thinking about building a composting toilet out the back. As far as I am concerned, using precious water to flush the toilet is the stupidest thing that we Aussies, living in a water stressed climate, should be doing! Composting toilets result in no water loss, friable compost and reduced sewerage problems. We should all be given the incentive to install them wherever practicable. I was able to download some very good plans online in a series of PDF’s to allow me to make my own composting toilet and am seriously considering flouting our laws to make and use one. Water rates are skyrocketing this year and as penniless sustainable hippies we think that it is ludicrous that we are not being offered alternatives to the current system of water wastage involved with out of date sewerage systems. We could save an enormous amount of precious potable water if we changed over to these systems. Much like growing hemp. Tasmania is in the process of considering making the growing of hemp legal for seed and fibre. Hemp seed is a delicious source of Omega 6 and Omega 3 and lots of other tasty goodness but we have to import it from Canada at an exorbitant price and it has to be crushed and marketed as “Pet food”… Tasmania is crying out for industries to employ unemployed and underemployed people and yet we are not getting behind the growing of something that has a fantastic intrinsic value! You would have to smoke the equivalent of an entire field of the stuff to get a mild high so what’s the issue? I would imagine it’s something political…or big business…

Bezial would like to mention here that he is HEARTILY sick of Earl (a.k.a. “Dumbass”) being overrepresented on this blog. He is too well behaved to start acting in a naughty manner to get more attention but you just never know so we had best get posting photos of him or else! Oh… and we need to paint the deck!

Yeh…you really DO need to paint that deck…

Can we come down and frolic amongst all those chickens and feral cats please?…Pretty please?…

The tamarillos being most fortuitously discarded (probably fell off the back of a trailer taking their parent to the tip) made me think about our throwaway society and how dangerous that premise is. I was watching one of those animal rescue shows the other day while I swept the house. I can’t sit down and watch as I end up in tears and wanting to adopt every dog in the pound with Steve having to wrestle the phone from my plaintive fingers so I “sort of” watch while I am otherwise occupied. I do the same thing with television. I “listen” to television while I am in the kitchen working on posting, typing out recipes or studying. Anyhoo… they were talking about an elderly lady who was a hoarder…she hoarded pets…she hoarded “stuff” and she hoarded bags of garbage resulting in her not being able to move in her house. I am not talking about hoarding when I say we should be careful about what we throw out. Hoarding is a mental condition and seems to be a result of war time deprivation in some baby boomers…my parents both tended to hoard things that they were never going to use and I put it down to them living through W.W.2 and being subject to thrifty parents who drummed into them that they should never waste anything. So many of their generation took it literally and hoarded jars of rusty (unusable) screws, jam jars, old plastic bread wrappers and had wardrobes full of them because they were never actually needed in the affluent conditions that followed. We have inherited their rubbish in more ways than one and it’s up to our generation to try to make the best with what they left us. Rather than hoarding for the sake of not throwing things away we need to learn a new lesson. If you don’t want it and can’t re-use it, give it to someone who can. Stop hoarding and start sharing. Unless you are going to use it you should clear it out of your life. I think that ethos should spill over into our day to day lives and when we share, we enrich other peoples and curiously, our own lives.

Here’s one of our thriving  Eucalyptus viminalis (Manna or Ribbon Gums) against the lovely blue sky. I think Steve must have taken this shot whilst laying on his back in complete submission to the work that he had just done…

This is the latest area to receive the “Pimblett scud missile drop” on Serendipity Farm. It looks quite pretty here but under all of that purest green is a seething sea of jasmine roots strangling everything

This area contained a nest of eggs WELL past their useby date (lucky we found them as they are pretty close to our olfactory zones) and a mass of overgrown jasmine and several dead and straggly plants. We spent a day working in this area and tidied it up. It would be lovely if when we finished the area looked like a lovely manicured garden but it looks like a tonne of agent orange got dumped in the near vicinity…sigh…take note ANYONE with anything to do with horticulture…you are NOT allowed to set foot on Serendipity Farm until it starts to look a bit better!

This is the same area a bit further back. It doesn’t look like this now…the pile of debris has quadrupled and we HAVE to take a green waste tip trip on Monday or face certainly being crushed by a mountain of debris in our sleep…

This is looking through the area that you saw in the last 2 pictures back out over the driveway. Our chicken avengers are on duty ferreting out anything that is stupid enough to move so we left them to it and headed inside broken horticulturalists…

This area is cleared of blackberries and my nemesis Osteospermum (Marguerite) daisies. On our walk around Rowella the other day I noticed that someone had actually bought a punnet of these…BOUGHT! They should be listed on the declared weed species list ASAP in my opinion!

My little ripe discarded tamarillos are my gain. I am able to use them to my advantage. No-one cares if I found those tamarillos (well…perhaps the possums that might otherwise have eaten them…) and I am going to use them to propagate something that I otherwise wouldn’t have done for our property. Life is full of little opportunities that constantly present themselves for our choosing pleasure. It’s up to us whether we choose the road less travelled with its scary possibilities or stick to the safe well-worn highway and perhaps never reach our full potential. I keep reminding myself that we only live once so I am going to do the most that I can with what I have left. We want to leave something positive out of our being allowed to stay on the earth for so long and do what we can to give something back where so very much has been taken. Kudos to the people trying so hard to fight for the earth…we “Hippy Loraxes” are passionately and headily in love with this world and want to give it every chance that we can to rest and regenerate. All that from a pair of small ripe tamarillo’s laying on the ground…funny what makes us think isn’t it?

The front of the house is starting to look a bit better at least a bit more civilised. That’s as close as you are going to get to me being in a photo and Earl is just an attention hog. The best thing (apart from our wood burning stove Brunhilda that is…) that we purchased last year was this little trailer. It has paid for itself several times over and we will be hopefully picking up a small 2 seater couch from a thrift shop that we saw the other day on Monday with it after we dump a load of blackberries and debris at Exeter Transfer Station. I was watching Tom and Barbara sitting in front of their wood burning “range” in an episode of The Good Life and realised that a couch near the fire would be a true assett…somewhere to sit and read a book in the dead of winter where you stick your foot out the door and pull it in 10 seconds later laden with chillblains, or somewhere for Bezial to stretch out in blissful solitary somnolence at night time as Earl is hogging our bed and snoring upside down (sigh) so a couch it is and we saw one for $30 at one of the thrift shops and if its still there on Monday, we are going to buy it and install it right smack bang in front of the wood fire stove and I am sure that I will spend the rest of my life fighting to get a seat on it…sigh…

Check out some of the liberated bulbs that are starting to emerge all over the place on Serendipity Farm. Most of them have been stuck under a mountain of overgrown weeds and shrubbery for the last 20 years and I doubt that has stopped them emerging stoically each year to do their thang and die back unseen. This year they can sample the sun on their blossoms…they can emerge into sunlight…they can photosynthesise with impunity and they can return to the earth spent and satiated with the knowlege that their bulbs are storing up next years spring hope.

Steve took this photo with his phone of 2 horses that love him. He faithfully collects a pile of long green grass from ditches along our Rowella walk to feed these 2 and they run up to see him every time he appears. Steve didn’t have much to do with horses before he came to Australia like many city people and its great to see him getting up close to them and enjoying stroking them and they love him right back :o)

I am in the process of typing out some recipes from a really good cookbook called “Food for Friends and Family” by Sarah Raven. A U.K. cookbook writer of the type of food that I love, hearty, real and delicious. Much like Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson and Simon Hopkinson she carries on the long tradition of reminding us that simple is often much MUCH better. Soul food is what comes to mind when I tap furiously at my keyboard not wanting to lose a single delicious literary morsel and I go to bed red eyed and tired with cranky fingers after a marathon typing session but rich with future possibilities for our adventurous cooking episodes in Brunhilda our mammoth wood burning stove. I can’t tell you how many recipes have trickled from cookbooks through to various tombs throughout the house through the years. My children will all remember me scribbling furiously before computers came along and made me less liable for the endless reams of paper needed to create the books that I filled exponentially. I think it might have been my way of collecting knowledge but at the time it was a burning addiction and my ability to pinch recipes worthy of my culinary tastes from websites all over the world is only hampered by the occasional party pooper who makes it hard to copy and paste. That’s when I am reminded about how much work used to go into assimilating the massive collection that I have today (perhaps I DID inherit a desire to hoard from my parents!)

Like I said…4 seasons…is fog a season?!

Underneath the beaches laden with smooth pebbles that are endemic to Tasmania there is dark volcanic sand. This is one of Steve’s “artistic” shots. You won’t get many of them from me because they involve contorting yourself into somewhat unusual positions to get close to the ground…you may be my dear constant readers but you wouldn’t want to put me into hospital would you?!

Same beach and looking a lot like caruso beach in Denmark where I come from…the only new thing is “Old Klunka” the tractor that some bright spark uses to tow his kayak down for his morning splash

Moss…nothing unusual about moss…I am in the process of harvesting a bit from every moss habitat that I find to populate Steve’s new Maple garden…wish me luck…I should be finished sometime mid 2050…

This is to show you all what we have to deal with when it comes to our soil…actually…these people are LUCKY (much like the “you were LUCKY” Yorkshireman Monty Python sketch…) because they don’t have their clay stuffed full of rocks. There is about 1mm of topsoil…10mm of silt that turns abruptly into reactive clay. Reactive clay is the sort of clay that swells and shrinks…so its the sort of clay that can break your house…in winter it sends underground water shooting along its surface and erodes everything in its path…maybe we are LUCKY to have the rocks to hold it together?!

As a horticulturalist you have to be able to act like Sherlock Holmes when it comes to “What happened here”?…I deduce that the dodder (Cassytha melantha.) that has tangled around the base of this long deceased eucalypt had something to do with its demise…whatever it was it did a good job!

Thank you to all of my dear constant readers who are commenting on my posts of late. I realised that I get as much out of posting for you as you do reading my posts (hopefully “something”! 😉 ). I have been learning heaps from Anthropogen lately and Rhianna has been posting some amazing recipes that I can’t wait to try. I recently discovered Joan in Queensland with her allotment gardening and can’t wait to read about her trips to her allotment and what she is up to. Blogs are only as worthwhile as the informative sharing that goes on and it’s up to us to make sure that the good ones are kept alive, well and thriving. That wasn’t self promotion there folks…my blog is more my need to verbally talk my way through my mind than it is to gain kudos in any way :o). Best I get it out here than have you all read about me in the world news…Christi in a tiny little town called Olalla in the USA has an amazing blog called “Farmlet” and has a very close ethos to what we are doing here on Serendipity Farm. I found her wonderful blog http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ when hunting for pictures and instructions for how to make a hoop house to extend our growing season. I had plenty of hoop house Instructables but Christi and her husband “The Bearded One” of the deep booming baritone fame and stick picture aficionado had not only made a hoop house, but had used branch wood to do so creating a charming and most functional customised unit out of very little. Reusing and recycling what they could. She has been rallying against a Pebble mine at Bristol Bay, again big business lobbies their way into profits over the environment and our future. I just looked up what a pebble mine is having decided that no-one aside from landscape contractors could make money out of the obvious connotation and found out that a pebble mine is…

“Pebble Mine is the common name of an advanced mineral exploration project investigating a very large porphyry copper, gold, and molybden”

Yup…that’s why the USA wanted Alaska in the first place, to plunder it dry of its resources. If you have a look at a map of the world you will note that Alaska should surely be part of Canada NOT North America. I haven’t had much to do with learning anything about the logistics or geographical topography of the America’s but since my son is heading over there in a few weeks’ time I decided to check out a few things. We learn very little about the U.S.A. in our schools in Australia and I had to look up where several places of interest were and that’s when I realised that Canada is right next to Alaska and surely should be the caretakers of its beauty and wealth? I have to thank Christi again for allowing me to find this bit of information out. When I was checking out Olalla on Google Earth (I like to see it as being curious Christi and NOT stalking you ;)) aside from finding “AL’s Café” obviously the local shop, I noticed how very close to Alaska Washington was. I also discovered that Washington is on the West coast of the U.S.A. See…blogging has allowed me to learn more about North American geography in a couple of months than I learned in years at school. Well done Christi and The Bearded One for standing up for the earth. Consider yourselves honorary penniless hippy Loraxes and know that we might be on the other side of the earth but we are there with you in spirit, placards in hand and tennis rackets at the ready to defend our precious earth and the resources of our future generations. By the way…you live in a very pretty part of the world and it must be damned cold up there being so close to Alaska!

How small is the world now? I can talk in real time with someone on the other side of the world…I can tap away in Facebook to my family who live 3800km away from me and I feel like I am so close I can touch them. I have friends that live in Perth WA (Kymmy and Bruce) who I can send emails to, talk on Facebook to and who read my posts faithfully every time. I can meet people from all over the world who are able to give me precious information about what we are doing here like Spencer from Anthropogen. I can comment on a cookbook writers Facebook page and she replies to me with warmth and humour…the world is a MUCH smaller place now that we have the ability to share in an instant. I am able to isolate and quantify information that otherwise would have taken me ages to find in library books and text books in seconds online. Googling no longer has Cookie Monster connotations, it’s all about learning and finding and understanding and feeling incredibly privileged to be sharing with you all. I would hate to see the internet become contained and the information that we currently take for granted become like aps are on a paid basis. The internet has been the most important and influential tool of our generation. Steve and I were talking as we were travelling between our home in tiny sleepy (smoky) Sidmouth to the big sticks of Launceston for our meeting with our lecturer yesterday about how different our lives are from those of our children. When we were kids (ITS HAPPENING!…I am talking like my parents…sigh…) we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have mobile phones…we were watching The Good Life and marvelling at the lack of automated CAD programs and how they had to design and draw on paper and draftsman boards. How could they live without CAD! Everything is so fast…instant messaging, instant communication and instant noodles…we are all constantly on the phone…on Facebook and online…I guess this has all been thrust on us in a very short space of time and we are going to have to learn to regain our spare time by learning to minimise our exposure to “instant”. I am personally glad that we have such a small world. I love how no-one can contain information and that we can all find out about the atrocities and shame of political corruption and that of big business. You can’t hide…everyone can see you and what you are up to. Forget the big brother fear; big brother is being subject to its own scrutiny by the likes of humble old “we”. Undoubtedly this will all change soon. Someone out there wants to make the net pay. To do that we have to be corralled into paying for information that we currently get for free. My guess is that it will be along the lines of Apple making their IPhone and I pad users pay for aps. I am going to spend every single day up until then finding something precious and saving it so that I won’t have to pay for my laziness in more ways than one in the future! I just hit 3000 words and that’s my cut off…I can’t be subjecting you all to my endless ponderings and I need to get stuck into typing out the rest of that amazing cookbook.  Spend your weekend wisely. Wind down, chill out, enjoy what you are doing to the max and recharge for next week. Thank you all for reading my posts and for giving me some of your precious time to ponder alongside me about our common human condition. See you on Wednesday when we might go fungal for a change :o)

Putting the AGRO in Agroforestry

Hi All,

Has anyone else noticed that Agro comes first in the word Agroforestry? That is NO coincidence folks! As a very wise sage (one might think equal to heaven…) once said “Before you can have a cookie you have to lift the lid…” much like the delicious reward of that cookie (white chocolate and macadamia you say?!), developing a smallholding food forest comes with a huge degree of Agro before you get the reward of that forest of food. I have been scouring Anthropogen.com to find out as much about agroforestry and edible food forestry as I can. There isn’t a huge amount out there about food forests because to be honest folks…the people doing it are too busy bums up in the air planting, tending and planning to be sharing information with interested bystanders. I have never been one to jump in without a plan and with the dubious honour of being horticulturalists (AND prospective landscape designers…) we have to be seen to know something about what we are doing. In past posts people have commented about how lovely it is here. I think I must have been gilding the lily somewhat and only showing you the pretty bits. We have some solid undergrowth and some massively overgrown plants that are tough, mean and angry about having been neglected for 20 years. Some of the blackberries that we have been dealing with should come with health warnings on them as not only are they thorny and hard to remove, but lugging great swathes of them over to the trailer usually results in at least one of us spending the next few days feeling the love.

Here is a photo of Earl that Steve messed about with on his mobile. I quite like it…Steve says it is “Olden Days Earl”… there were more than one of him!!!

Earl…or who we like to call “Mr Big Head” looking decidedly like a shark…but the best bit you can’t see…he had his arm on the arm rest of the car while I was taking his photo basking in the delicious cool air after a long walk…one HAPPY dog 🙂

“Poke…poke…poke…press…poke…can we PLEASE go for a walk?”…

“I don’t CARE if it is the start of winter…DOGS DIE IN HOT CARS!”…

“Wheres the bus?”…

Today (Monday) we decided to tackle path renovation 101. We had discovered a rock bordered path leading into an enormously overgrown English May bush (Spiraea thunbergia) and as most of this week is supposed to be relatively rain free, we decided to get stuck in and see just where that pathway went. As usual we ended up generating an ENORMOUS amount of debris. Some of the English May bush had thin spindly branches that measured in excess of 5 metres. You can’t help but feel a sense of compassion for something that has had to go to those sorts of lengths to survive and that has had the tenacity to keep going. That feeling lasts all of about 10 minutes until you have to start cutting, hacking, lugging and toting and then the air becomes colourfully redolent and plant love flies out the window. We knew that we were going to meet up with some of our arch nemesis Mr Blackberry…but the blackberries that we had to deal with were mostly dead and spindly. Dead blackberries are more dangerous than their live counterparts because apart from splintering into shards of spiky debris, they hurt more when they stick you. Spindly blackberries are also bollocks. It’s hard to see them…they lay on the ground pretending to be “other things” and you generally miss one or two of them resulting in massive plants in a year or so. We did 2 ½ hours in the garden and created 3 full trailer loads of debris and a small clearing in the undergrowth. Steve sometimes gets discouraged by how much work we have to do just to accomplish a small task. He spent time crown lifting trees so that we could liberate other shrubs underneath so that we could get inside the shrub to the blackberries hiding within. I don’t look at the big picture…I just look at that 1 square metre of “stuff” in front of me and lay waste to it…when I have finished I work on the next 1 square metre and eventually there won’t be any more left. It’s a bit like being a parent. None of us would survive the act of raising children to adulthood if we didn’t first master the art of selective deafness.

We reported a set of stone steps as being dangerous to the West Tamar Council and the very next day this sign appeared! The little hominid in the picture is doing exactly what I did when I stepped on the lowest step…

 Isn’t this an awesome picture? I won’t try to make you guess what it is…it is actually a steel girder that has rusted away and weathered and is part of the original Beaconsfield Mining days back in the 1800’s

I love this photo…it gives me the impression of the age of mechanisation rusting out and ceasing but the trees are still there waiting for all the chaos to die down…

I always check out the blogs of people that like my posts. It’s not megalomania, it’s my natural curious (some would say “nosy”…) nature coming into play. I would like to know what sort of people find Serendipity Farm an interesting and indeed worthwhile place to drop by and take a visit…share a first cup of mental tea/coffee in the morning with me before the sun comes up…I am CONSTANTLY amazed by the people that click “like” on some of my posts. Obviously the picture that randomly pops up for the post is going to attract some readers but reading and liking are 2 completely different things. I think that is what keeps me blogging, knowing that I am making a connection with people out there somewhere in the ether and whether our lives have ANYTHING in common or not, it doesn’t matter. Right there inside someone else’s head I made sense on some level. Now THAT is something special. I click “like” because a post predominately affects me, moves me, sometimes enrages me and often enlightens me…my click is my “bravo!” It takes a lot to make me click and even more to comment. Whenever I get a “like” or a comment it validates this blog and my thoughts about life and the world. It gives me some solace that there are people who think like me out there and that I am not the only one who wants to find ways to make life full of colour and depth. The world is full of uncertainty at the moment. I saw on one of Steve’s apocalyptic documentaries where a scientist said “the natural human tendency when disaster happens is for humans to find each other and group together”… he was talking about alien invasion at the time but I think that whenever times get tough, that’s when we seem to find the best and worst in people. I would hesitate to add that I personally think that without hard times we never really understand how very lucky we are to be living where we are and being who we are. We might all be totally different people but we share a common goal and to all of the people out there who click “like” on my posts, thank you from the bottom of my heart for seeing something in my words that resonates enough for you to tell me that you like them :o)

We had just walked the dogs and noticed this little gem just waiting to be photographed. As you can see this road leads to the tip/waste transfer station…looks like someone didn’t want to pay the $5 to complete the “waste transfer” to me and lends a whole new meaning to “Your bike is rubbish…” 😉

This is the first stage of the dogs getting a walk in the morning…I head to the bedroom to put on my walking shoes…can you see the happiness in their eyes or is that wary disbelief…I have several more stages to go through before I get out the gate…

Its Wednesday already! On Monday we headed out into the garden after walking the dogs to take a look at what stage we are at in our Serendipitous redevelopment. We realised that it won’t take too many days to clear out the undergrowth in the densely covered area of the garden that no-one has set foot in since most probably 2004 when I came to visit my dad after his partner died. I headed down into that area of the garden and remember there being pathways lined with the rock that predominates the entire area let alone Serendipity Farm. It’s a total PAIN to dig this soil but when you are looking for free foundation materials to make raised garden beds…dry stone walls and retaining walls there are no shortages of these weathered rocks and yet again I am reminded that everything has its uses. I remember wandering down into the garden past a large palm and it was already overgrown with buddleia. I just took 20 minutes to get up, take some photos of the morning sunrise, make Steve his first cup of coffee and take it to him and predominately to try to find out what that buddleia actually is that I was talking about. I can’t find it! It would seem that Buddleia davidii is the go when you are after “Buddleia” in an internet search and as persistent and dogged as I can be about internet searches, even I know when to give up and head to the horticultural books! The Buddleia in question is more of a small tree than a shrub and has the most incredible scented flowers that are not like the classic davidii shaped flower at all. They are clusters of flowers on a branch. I will let you know what they are as soon as I can find them…sorry about that little “aside” there, I have a strong need to know things sometimes and that was one of my “need to know” moments ;). Consider it a brief segue back to my story. I wandered around this garden enchanted by how overgrown and wild it was. Since 2004 the garden went wild. I dare say my dad no longer had anyone telling him to get into the garden so he didn’t. My memories are the only thing that tells me that there are pathways, benches, and most importantly “form” out there in that jungle and unlike Steve who often finds himself overwhelmed and bewildered in this area of the garden, I am able to use my memories to guide me to where the good stuff is.

This is one of Effel Doocark’s babies that are now our constant companions whenever we set foot into the garden. We can be completely alone when Steve starts up his chainsaw and within a few moments we are inundated with small chickens and a very determined Effel. They are getting a bit tamer as we are making the effort to pick most of them up. This little girl is quite tame and finds herself being picked up more than the others. Isn’t she cute?

This was big red rooster…now he is Zac Brannigan rooster…if he keeps threatening the female members of the flock he will be chicken lasagne! “We are watching you sunshine!…”

Here is one of my little  Ceratonia siliqua (Carob/St John’s Bread) that I managed to grow from seed. We are going to plant them out on the property and make good use of their leguminous properties as well as their pods. There are many uses for carob and they are a most useful tree to plant if you have room on your property. Now if I can only get my hands on some Moringa oleifera I will be a happy little sustainable camper!

I wonder why whenever you get stuck into clearing out an area of the garden, the resulting “cleared bit” is a whole lot smaller than the generated debris? It’s a bit like the Tardis of Dr Who legend in that it would appear something wasn’t quite right when measuring up the equation. Our lecturer (poor long suffering Nick…) has had to steel himself to understand that my mind is on a need to know basis and whenever you are trying to introduce new and exciting premises…it needs to be shown why it should be putting all of this effort into thinking about said premise in the first place or it simply isn’t going to happen. Nick told me that whenever you alter one side of an equation, you need to adjust the other side accordingly…I saw it mentally as a see-saw effect and luckily I am the sort of person who’s mind is constantly seeking equilibrium and so this made perfect sense to me. Trigonometry…you are now my friend. Not so sure about Calculus though… when viewing the enormous piles of debris generated and the small space cleared my ordered mind found something askew in that equation. I guess I am thinking in two dimensions rather than the 3 dimensions that are actually present and as the third dimensional portion of Serendipity Farm appears to be stuffed to the back gills with overgrown exponentially increasing plant matter, I can let my mind rest somewhat easily. You can only teach an old dog new tricks that make sense to it. If you want to travel outside that box, you are going to have to do some SERIOUS work Nick ;). I have to say one thing here. I doubt that my lecturer reads this blog so I can say it with impunity. Despite having to teach mature aged students who started off being able to share their horticultural knowledge on a 20c piece, he has risen to the occasion remarkably. He is one of those lecturers who are willing to take the journey with you to learn. Whenever we come across a problem with the software that we are using or a conundrum about our course we know that he will be on the case for a solution as soon as we step outside the building. He is a fellow lover of knowledge and information and despite us being very different people, Nick goes the extra mile to actually teach and for that sir…I thank you from the bottom of my heart :o)

This is a lovely small kalmata olive (Olea europea) tree that is one of many situated right on the fenceline at Marion’s Vinyard. There are many other varieties of olive represented in the trees planted along the side of the road and I collected a selection of them so that we can try to grow some here on Serendipity Farm. I am more than aware that olives grown from seed are a very long term proposition and that taking cuttings is a much quicker way to get yourself an olive tree (as well as an exact copy of the olive that you have isolated) but you know what? I like a challenge! I will be taking cuttings next summer from these trees but for now I will plant the seeds and see what happens.

My little money bag of olives. If I can get some of them to grow, this might be a most fortuitous place to be holding them 😉

This is to show you the different types of olives I have. The vinyard owner most kindly has a sign up telling people the types of olives and which trees are representitive of those types alongside the roadside planting so it will be nice and easy for me to identify my cuttings (so long as I remember to label them accordingly…)

On Tuesday we walked the dogs and when we got back we discussed what we were going to do for the day. Steve has wanted to get his weeping maple collection planted out and so we decided to do that. We set about removing as many rocks from the small garden surrounding the bird baths as we could before Steve set about digging some “root growth zones” (a.k.a. “holes…) to plant them into. He swapped between the shovel and a mattock for the task and we removed lots of large rocks from the area. Maples have shallow root systems that like to spread out a lot with lots of feeder roots. This is because they are understory small trees and needed to adapt to their cramped soil conditions. They also don’t like wet feet and need to be planted out in free draining conditions. Our soil isn’t the most ideal soil in the world consisting of a reasonable percentage of silt but thanks to the 20 years of neglect, all of the leaves that “should” have been raked up have fallen and decomposed in the garden and have added some much needed organic matter to this thin denuded soil. The rocks will actually help us with Steve’s maple garden, they will ensure that the soil doesn’t get compacted no matter how many chickens decide to get stuck in and stomp the area into the ground and we used some of the smaller rocks to form a small cairn around each of his precious babies to stop the advancing hoards of chickens from scratching the living daylights out of their newly planted root systems. Being a gardener means having to weigh up the positives and the negatives and trying to get them to work for you…We planted out some really lovely specimens that will become a truly lovely display in spring through to autumn. At the moment they look like a garden of sticks. Their branching is so fine that you can’t even see most of them from the deck but we know that they are there and we also know that they will be delighted to be planted out and ready to take off at the first signs of spring.

Today we decided to head off and do some more blackberry killing in the side garden. We are on a quest to reduce the blackberries on Serendipity Farm to the minimum. We know that the birds are going to constantly bring them here but we will be watching for any signs once we remove the large outbreaks that have been reproducing exponentially for the last 20 years and will nip them in the bud as soon as we see them. The most tiring thing about removing blackberries is trying to ferret them out from the ingenious places that they manage to grow. We killed one today that had actually grown up an irrigation riser and had to be untied from the riser before we could extract it from its hiding place. Blackberries are clever…who needs a rudimentary brain stem when you are able to grow in so many ways. I do appreciate their delicious sweet fruit but I can head out and harvest it in the bushland and waste ground around Sidmouth and Beaconsfield and we don’t need the double edged sword of blackberry vines on Serendipity Farm. Tonight we are going to watch some episodes of the U.K. sitcom “The Good Life” that we managed to get hold of from a boxed set so we get all of the extra and special episodes. I remember watching this when I was very young and loved every single episode. It was like Fawlty Towers…witty, incredibly funny and so far from Steve and I with our humble “farming” endeavours but so close with the honesty that is so very refreshing in U.K. television programs (well…some of them…). That’s what many people simply don’t get…the best humour is tinged with pain. That’s how you appreciate it to the max and revealing something sad in the middle of the humour makes you remember it and feel it more than you normally would. You “engage” with it more… like in the final Black Adder where they all went over the wall to certain death…in the movie 4 weddings and a funeral with the death of one of the main characters… wherever there is pathos and humour there is more of a connection. Tom and Barbara Good are true pioneering spirits for the sustainability Movement and were years before their time. I truly love this show and am going to have a great time watching every single episode. See you all Saturday and have a really fantastic evening…I most surely will :o)

And by the way Kymmy…what was at the end of that path was a WHOLE LOT MORE HARD WORK…sigh…

Forget “Seize the Day”…SEE the day is a good start…

Hi All,

It’s Sunday early evening and we are just about to dispatch another couple of roosters. We have been putting it off for a while because apart from being softies at heart, killing animals doesn’t give us any sort of satisfaction. The roosters have forced our hands this time as they are starting to crow at strange times of night and right through the day and our neighbours are starting to twitch. Steve has been working on turning an old heavy wire crate into a cat trap for catching Felix and then some of the other ferals. Felix is first because she is showing signs of being pregnant again. This would have been her 4th litter and again, our hands are being forced because we can’t let the cat population explode exponentially and so we have to sort the problem now. Well…its Monday morning and I will spare you the gory details, but needless to say, Frank had 2 less roosters crowing over his early morning mutterings and we have 4.5kg of dressed chicken in our fridge waiting to be turned into mince (to ensure its tenderness).

“I am invisible…you can’t see me…”

It would appear that the desire to lick the wooden spoon is not purely a human tendency…

Steve’s amazing spongecake made with our own homemade caster (well…icing) sugar

I realised that living in the country, especially if you get up early enough to see the sun rise (even if it IS only in your enormous monitor reflected from the window behind you ;)) is very different to living in an urban environment. When I used to live 4km from the city centre I would get up…put on the kettle…look outside my kitchen window at the neighbour’s yard and think to myself “Hmmm…I wonder if Margaret is going to use ALL of those oranges?”… Then I would return to my head and start planning out my day. Now I get up before the sun rises. Not because I have to milk any mental cows mind you…country living isn’t THAT different to my previous urban/e existence…now I CHOOSE to get up early because we have the luxury of being able to enjoy our time rather than cram it full of all sorts of side issues. I get up…I turn on the light…I head to the lounge room and feel for the black dog in the dark who is wagging his tail to direct me to him…we share a few private moments of interspecies happiness where he gets his ears scratched away from the prying eyes of Earl and I get to feel the joy of being someone who is wholly and totally loved by something who could care less whether I have wrinkles or have a spare tyre I could balance a cup of tea on. I must admit that he then sloops off the couch…pitty-pats his way into our bedroom where he jumps straight into the warm patch that I just left, lays his big black boofy head on my pillow and luxuriates in my exit.  I slip on my slippers…bought for me by my son and aside from a few early nibbling’s when Earl was a pup, have survived admirably to do what their name would suggest that they do. I can walk to the kitchen in the dark…I pride myself on knowing exactly where everything is and aside from the odd dog toy left on the ground as a reminder that pride comes before a (literal) fall…I can manoeuvre around Serendipity Farms interior in pitch darkness surprisingly well. The reason I mentioned that was because my traverse from the lounge room to the kitchen is usually done with my eyes shut yawning. I head over to the fire where I can tell simply by resting my hand on the firebox door whether or not I am going to be able to get it to go without the aid of my grandads patented method of fire ignition…

1. Get yourself some sticks. Some of them will need to be bigger than others…

2. Get yourself a good fire lighter (Grandad would have used something more organic but we cheat and use a patented block…we are working on our own sustainable variety but for now it come from Chicken Feed…to the felt hatted poncho wearing brigade “Wachagonnadoaboudit eh?!”… 3. Lay 4 of the thickest sticks (substantial enough to ignite without going up in a “POOF” of smoke and lending a flamey base to the proceedings) in a square on the base of the firebox

4. Next, lay 4 more sticks slightly inside the perimeter of the base 4 sticks…we want to make a sort of Scottish/Australian grandad stick pyramid here…carry on until you have created a stick pyramid to be proud of

5. Drop your firelighter of choice (I think Grandad would have used a ball of newspaper with a bit of kero or metho on it…don’t quote me on that!) into the centre

6. Take a moment to survey your tower of sticks…may as well enjoy the process…

7. Light your incendiary of choice (I tend to use matches but feel free to rub 2 sticks together et al…) and drop it directly onto your fire starter (feel free at this point to drop it onto Keith Flint of the Prodigy should he be hovering near by…I NEVER liked that man much! “I’ll show you bloody firestarter sonny…)

8. Watch as your precision built grandad tower slowly ignites and gives you the satisfaction of hundreds of thousands of years of primal human existence thanks to the glory of fire…

It’s no wonder there are so many pyromaniacs!

Now, once the fire is crackling and I have filled the kettle up just enough for my first cup of tea of the day. Depending on whether the fire was still hot or not I put the kettle on to hum on the stove top or on our little gas stovetop (prospective problem solving 101) …I sit down here and after checking my now sad inboxes (everything goes to rss feed reader now) for the odd Telstra bill I settle down to just on an hour of uninterrupted interaction with my brain and some very interesting and clever people out there. I owe Rhianna so much for putting me onto reading my favourite web pages via rss feed reader. It’s like being handed the key to the online cities of the world. Whenever I find a delicious website…I whack it into my feed and suddenly it’s like Christmas with a new jewel in my crown. Some websites don’t have rss feed readers…I have to whack their site addresses into my patented “favourites” word document where I can head to whenever I want to find some of my more obscure (read “conspiracy theory” and “plain mental”) blogs where technology is to be feared and put under a degree of suspicion, but by and large most websites are coming to the party with rss feed.

Can you guess what the weather is going to be like today?

As the sun rises slowly and is up enough to give me an idea of just what the day holds (weather wise at least…) I realised that I no longer wonder how long Margaret is going to wait before she pays the boy next door to mow her back lawn…I don’t have to think about my neighbour (apart from Frank who might be planning a night time raid on the bastions of Little Red to make him “disappear” before he starts his 5am crowing in earnest). I get to look out over the river and really see it…allow it to bleed and blend into me and form the beginning of my new day. I have never had that luxury before. Now I can delight my soul with sunshine, I can feel the weight of the grey day and I can adjust my sensibilities accordingly because what is happening outside is extremely pertinent to what I am going to do with my day. I can’t just phase it out as I hurriedly cram a bit of toast into my mouth “bugger! Butter on the floor…never mind the dog will eat it!”… as I race out the door and into the car with my mind full of what I have to do and driving while under the influence of heavy thought. Now I can feel my day…I am totally aware of the weather, the colour and timbre of my mornings and most poignantly, I am really starting to understand how important it is that we are able to soak up and absorb, indeed submerge, ourselves in the real, natural world out there because we have removed ourselves so very far from what is real that modern society is like an ants nest built in an apartment building…it’s out of place and totally wrong. It’s no wonder so very many of us get up and feel like we are out of sync. It’s also no wonder that we have distanced ourselves from nature and have allowed big business to desecrate our environment in the name of “progress”. We can’t all move to the country and have Narf77 epiphanies on a regular basis, but we can stop what we are doing and turn our minds inwards and slowly start our days actually thinking about what matters rather than what routine and society has lead us to believe is normal.

Here is an interesting situation…these bales of cardboard used to be picked up by a man who the IGA paid to remove their waste…now, some bright spark has decided that they don’t want to pay for this removal any more…that they might even be able to make some money and these bales of cardboard are for sale to anyone willing to part with $20 a bale…this fenceline used to be clear of bales of cardboard…I think that the economy in Beaconsfield might just be echoing the economy in Spain and Italy!

A lovely sight to a horticulturalist…a nice big steaming pile of fresh woodchips in the local nursery.

Earl listening most intently to Steve’s new ring tone “Bad to the Bone”…

 

There is some sick dark part of me that keeps doing this to Bezial, just because I can…

That sick dark part of me has to remain latent whenever dealing with Earl because where “I can” with Bezial…”I most definately CAN’T” with Earl…

How could you be scared of this rambunctious little tyke? Well for some reason, he and his big brother terrified the electricity meter reader today…must admit to not caring much! Sorry dude…you want kudos, go get yourself a better job! 😉

Today’s post is somewhat experimental. Nothing unusual in the content but we are posting it to both of our blogs. We want to transition “The Road to Serendipity” to “The Odo Life” smoothly and with minimum hassle to you all. I would love you all to come with us over to BlogSpot where we are setting down roots towards a greener and happier future. The writing has been on the wall at WordPress for quite some time now and they finally pushed too many of my buttons at once and much like Mary Poppins, I have packed my suitcase and I am off. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that free blogging will one day be something that we remember wistfully along with free internet but until the day that the noose closes on our current freedom, I will be taking full advantage of the ability to hunt, find and share information on these amazing world-wide highways of knowledge.

This is an egg. Nothing special about eggs you might say…but this one IS special. You see this egg is the very first egg that our little rescue chook Pingu has laid us. We know she laid it for us because it was laid on her own personal heat bed in the shed where she sleeps at night (she can’t be doing with “chooks”…they scare her). Thank you Pingu. You might not be going to ever be completely normal as a chicken, but we don’t care. None of us can lay claim to normality and you fit on Serendipity Farm like a hand in a glove 🙂

The new blog will be a bit more eclectic than this one. I wanted to be able to share all sorts of things with you and along with my rambling posts; I would love to be able to share recipes with you. Not Master Chef type recipes for food snobs, but foundation recipes for various items that you might not think possible to be made at home. Sharing knowledge is an incredible way to learn more than you could ever think possible. I don’t have time for selfish people. I love to share and I love to find out how to make and do things. My most prized websites are places where people share their ideas freely and close behind them are my weird and wonderful sites where I get to see things that I might otherwise never see. We have a pot of stock slowly bubbling on the stovetop…we made it with 2 of our rooster carcasses that we dispatched last night. We got the recipe from someone kind enough to share it with us online. Steve made a tiny little magnetic planter out of an expired driver’s license. He planted a tiny succulent in it and has it on the filing cabinet in his music room. We found out how to do it from someone online. Sharing makes everyone’s lives richer and it’s about time it made a comeback in our societal desires. The 80’s were a decade of “ME” and “Greed is good”. Who could forget Gordon Gecko? Since then we have had to absorb certain truths about our human footprint on the earth. No-one likes to have unpleasant things happen to them and we have to take our heads out of the sand and deal with these environmental issues before they come back to bite us. In saying that, we are trying our hardest to find ways to simplify our lives and minimise our carbon footprint. We may have downsized our desires in the process but we have come out of is curiously lighter and even more curiously happier. We occasionally feel like we are dancing on the edge of some fundamental majestic truth when we are working with the earth rather than fighting it. These moments are few and far between to be honest. The more we transition Serendipity Farm to a sustainable environment the happier we get. Needless to say, the more we clear out the dense overgrowth of weeds the happier we get. It really doesn’t take much to make us happy these days!

It is amazing what a bit of regular rain will do to a vista…only a month ago this area was dry earth and from “somewhere” the grass has appeared. If you look closely you will see a Tree Dahlia (Dahlia imperialis) an herbaceous perennial that we almost removed without knowing that the dead bamboo like stick that remained after we removed all of the debris around those 5 tree trunks would ever grow back. There is something to be said for “We will pull that stick out another day” sometimes when you don’t know what you are dealing with! 😉

Again, this area looks much MUCH nicer since the rain softened the hard bare earth and gave everything a lovely hint of verdant green. I love watching the seasons take the palette of Serendipity Farm and change the hues, textures and colours accordingly

I managed to take these 3 photos in the space of 20 minutes in between grey rainy showers. The area with the 2 bird baths is where Steve is itching to get into and plant some of his weeping maples. Every time he heads for the door the rain starts again. Oh well…at least when he DOES get out there the soil will be nice and damp and easy to dig…if he can get through all of the rocks that is! Might be time to use our problem solving, lateral thinking skills and use some of the prodigious amount of rocks all over the place to mound up this area…import some good topsoil from Exeter Landscape Supplies and give the maples the free draining soil that they want…at least we learned SOMETHING in our past 3 years worth of horticultural adventures! 🙂

Part of living with nature rather than fighting it is that we are much more aware of our place in the world. The weather has been changing rapidly and it already feels like winter here in Tasmania. We have had our wood fire ticking over for about 2 weeks now and are finally starting to learn its intricacies. Steve made a heavenly light sponge cake on Sunday that we baked in the wood stove. When we first had the stove installed it was very different to baking in a “normal” stove. The stove reacts to wood being added more slowly than turning a dial to a temperature…once it builds up it quickly overshoots your desired temperature if you are not monitoring it carefully and what was previously ideal for cake baking, can soon turn into a blackened burnt sugary smouldering mass that even the possums reject as inedible. Last year we had all sorts of problems with the ovens being too hot. This year we have learned how to trickle the heat and keep the stove in a lower heating range, saving on fuel as well as rendering the house a nice ambient temperature rather than hotter than the Sahara on a mid-summers day. The benefit is that a lower temperature enables us to cook pretty much anything that we want to.  Steve’s sponge cake is a perfect example of that. They are notoriously hard to get right and his example was (dare I say it) as close to perfect as I have seen. The cake made a delicious “Whoosh” sound when it was cut as all of the air escaped from the millions of tiny bubbles and both Steve and the dogs appreciated a large slice of creamy jam filled heaven. I didn’t have any caster sugar for the cake and decided to make my own. I have talked previously about my “you beaut” $1200 blender that I bought in a richer time. I must admit that aside from being appalled that I spent so much on an electrical appliance this blender is a stayer and was probably worth the price I paid for it. It turned regular sugar into icing sugar in 5 seconds flat. We decided to use the icing sugar as caster sugar and the sponge cake of incredible lightness became a reality. I guess that is how new recipes are made and people get to try new things. When someone is willing to take a risk that something that they are just about to attempt might go horribly wrong. I took that risk…I learned

1. 2 seconds is enough in my Vitamix blender to turn regular sugar to caster sugar

2. 5 seconds gives me icing sugar so I no longer have to buy icing or caster sugar only the cheaper regular cane sugar

3. $1200 might be a HECK of a lot to spend on a blender but sometimes when you want something that is going to last, AND be consistently reliable, you might just have to dig a bit deeper into your pocket

4. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You might just get some fantastic results and at worst, you learn a good life lesson

5. Share what you find out with everyone else. Your success might be someone else’s salvation

There you go…Narf77’s secrets of success…or Fran’s ramblings…your choice :o). BlogSpot is very different to WordPress…the jury is still out as to which format I am going to stay with/go to. I love the sharing on WordPress even though it seems to be going to the dogs and BlogSpot is still the great unknown and doesn’t appear to have much in the way of allowing people to find your blog…I assure you that I will let you know well in advance if we decide to abandon this blog and head over to the bright side at The Odo Life. See you all on Serendipity Farm on Saturday night. We will be watching Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows with popcorn, our feet up and our pyjamas on. Hopefully Saturday will find you as happy as we will be. See you then :o)

Cock a doodle DON’T!

Hi All,

As you can most probably tell by the title of this post…our growing rooster population has reached climax and needs to be dealt with post haste. Our neighbours appear to be avoiding us and with a house situated closer to the hen coop than ours is, I dare say I would be making night time raids with my strangling hands on if I were Frank…it’s time to get brave again and wield the hatchet of doom. A couple of the roosters will be no problem to dispatch. They are greedy, nasty and have started to mistreat the hens and so they will be dispatched, minced and turned into dog food. Earl will get to eat them one way or another! Big Yin will remain…sorry Frank but 1 rooster can hardly be construed as a flock…little red who lives somewhere in a giant conifer with his 4 non-conforming sisters will need to be dealt with very soon as he has started to make his voice heard before 5am. It only gets light here around 7am so you are holding your own sword of Damocles above your head little Red! After we dispatch our 2 greedy guzzling rapist roosters and little red we will have to consider Big Red. He is a lovely rooster…appears to have his head screwed on straight (unlike the majority of rooster kind who appear to be born with only a rudimentary brain stem that constantly signals EAT EAT EAT much like a European mother…), is respectful (at the moment) of Yin and doesn’t show any signs of being a rapist. Like dealing with the feral cats…that makes it SO much harder when you are dealing with a reasonable creature rather than something unlikeable. I guess that is what it means to live in the country. Sometimes you have to act and react in ways that your urban cousins might find irksome…you yourself might find irksome…but the word “irksome” is in and of itself a terribly urban word! Death is something that you have to get used to when you decide to live with animals and death by your own hand is right up there with some of the tougher decisions that you have to make.

This pile of debris has been sitting on our “Fire Site” (aren’t we lucky? We get a small patch of earth dedicated to setting things on fire…) for about a month. Its very satisfying to set fire to a heap of nasty blackberries and old rose canes

Nothing like a nice big blaze to get the fire plane out having a bit of a look…

The fire was starting to die down in this photo and we have since removed all of that banana passionfruit from that poor long suffering shrub. It’s a hebe!

this is to show all of you planning on planting out Pittosporums just what happens when a fire is almost out and you throw a freshly cut Pittosporum sapling onto the dying embers…I would never have thought that anything could go up like Pittosporums can. There are so many people planting them out all around their houses and this should show you why that is a very VERY bad idea!

We are off into the garden again today. Yesterday we removed a patch of Osteospermum daisies. My father would be turning in his grave…”what did you pull them out for…they were bloody flowers you stupid woman! And you call yourself a horticulturalist…” Osteospermum daisies, when allowed to run rampant for 20 years are a terrifying thing. Some of them were over 2 metres long and had covered vast areas. Now that we have removed them we now need to ensure that the large areas of uncovered earth are covered as quickly as possible. We are thinking about using a green crop to add some much needed nitrogen to the soil and allowing it to reseed as it sees fit. Some native grass seed might also be a good idea. Unlike the side garden that we demolished last week, this area of the garden has been totally untouched for a very long time. It has tree cover (large Eucalypts) and undercover trees (mainly Syzygium luehmannii /Lilly pillies and some overgrown Pittosporum) with very little shrubby growth because of a lack of light. We have been opening the area up to light, now we have cleared the soil of weedy overgrowth we are going to get a massive influx of weed species, notably forget-me-nots (OH what a fitting name!) unless we act now to ensure that we get groundcover and grassy species that we want in the area. We are intending on opening this area up to planting with edible plants of all sizes. We have been researching species that will cope with our conditions. We have an extended dry period over summer that can last for up to 3 months and in winter we get plenty of rain. We are lucky because we live on a steep rocky slope and directly next to a large water source which keeps the temperature on site from delivering us frosts so we can grow things here that people slightly inland from us can’t. We keep coming up against problems associated with our lifestyle choice. Penniless hippies can’t just head out to the local nurseries and buy up big on edible plant species and so we have to grow our own or find a cheap source (read “barter”). Some of the more interesting and international species we are going to have to source but anything easy to grow we will be doing it ourselves. We have collected walnuts (Juglans regia) from 2 local sources and some of them have started to sprout so we should get at least some walnuts to plant out in a couple of years. We already have some chestnut trees, some hazelnut trees (with more stratifying) and 4 loquat japonica that we sourced from seedlings growing on an embankment. We always have our eyes open for sources of seed and cutting material for our edible food forest, preferably those that have had hard lives and that will find living on Serendipity Farm heaven (much like the animals that move in…). Having been in horticulture for quite some time now we are under NO false apprehensions that this is going to be an easy job. We just know that it is something that we should be doing. Food security is definitely something that all of us should be thinking about. If we can plant some olives, some nut trees, some fruit and a good vegetable, herb and spice selection then we can minimise future shortage problems and can free up the system for those people who can’t grow their own food. Idealism doesn’t enter into it. Next on the agenda is minimising our reliance on fossil fuels. My next goal is to save up for a wind turbine for the property. Tasmania is a very windy island. Some of it is to do with our politicians and their overinflated egos but most of it comes from us being an island on its way to Antarctica girt completely by sea and as we spend most of our year under cloud cover, solar is NOT the way to go. I shake my head whenever I see people installing solar panels in Tasmania. Our friend (who must remain anonymous) is completely off the grid. Not because she wants to be, but because at only 15 minutes inland of Launceston city, power, phone and water infrastructure are simply not available to her and so she relies on a mobile phone, an enormous tank (for rain water collection), 2 dams (for garden and animal water) and solar panels with a massive bank of batteries. She told us that solar energy is very overrated when it comes to a place like Tasmania. Her house is completely free of vegetative cover and a check on Google Earth shows it’s pretty much free of vegetation for about 2 acres around her house. You would think that a large bank of solar panels would deliver consistent power but Glen (her partner) has had to retrofit their wood fire to heat water because there simply isn’t enough power generated to allow them the luxury of hot water. Even in summer the system doesn’t deliver all of the family’s needs. Wind turbines are most DEFINITELY the way that Tasmanian’s should be aiming to deliver their future power.  I found this wonderful creation and can’t wait till power generation can be delivered consistently and reliably by artistically balanced systems like these…

http://www.treehugger.com/wind-technology/enessere-wind-turbine-sleek-works-any-direction.html

How beautiful is that? One day we will be given a choice with how we power our houses and we will be able to choose to go off grid and save the government billions in infrastructure costs. Until then, we are going to have to do what we can to minimise the costs as they appear to be growing exponentially! I might even have to make my own! Hey…I have instructions you know…

http://www.instructables.com/pages/search/search.jsp?cx=partner-pub-1783560022203827%3Anpr2q7v5m6t&cof=FORID%3A11&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=wind+turbine

Good old Instructables…not only do they tell me how to make a rubbish bin out of coke bottles, how to knit myself a pair of slippers and how to make cheese but they tell me how to use quantum physics to make myself a wind turbine…man I LOVE that site :o)… (Now I just need an Instructable to explain quantum physics to me and I will be A-OK!)

This is the view from the pathway behind the garden on the side of the house. Everything that goes dormant is losing its leaves and the grass has turned from a dull brown to green again. This garden was full of the most overgrown Diosma plants that I have ever seen. Steve and I took 2 days to remove them. We have just cleared out this garden so that we can start planting out my cold climate shrubs (some of which are in the photo off to the right)

This photo was taken from the same position but looking back the other way. We have been doing some serious removal of vegetation of late and it is starting to pay off

The garden over to the right of this photo is the garden we just cleared out so that we can plant. Hopefully the rain refrains until we can plant out my poor long suffering cold climate shrubs.

Looking down from the deck over the lawn and garden towards where I took the first of the “garden photos”. Isn’t that maple lovely?

Same spot but facing the other direction towards the river…I think this maple is paying us back for saving it from a massive overgrowth of jasmine when we first moved here 2 years ago. It was totally engulfed by it and we didn’t know if it was going to live it was so bare of leaves.

Its Saturday already…where is autumn going?! I was going to have just about everything planted out by the end of autumn and at this rate I had best work 24/7 to do it. We spent the morning sorting through all of our potted plants, separating them into piles of “maples for the front garden”…”Fran’s cold climate deciduous shrubs etc.” for the side garden and those plants that will have to be repotted and hang about in a pod until we can sort out what to do with them. Some of them will be planted out in the 1st paddock area behind the house. We have plants to extend the dogs run up into this area and where dogs are concerned…the more trees the better! We bought some Larix decidua a couple of years ago…40 to be exact. What on EARTH would anyone want with 40 Larix decidua (larches) you might ask? Well…we were going to graft them. We had a source of some very nice scion wood at the time and were assured that we could use Larix decidua as rootstocks but on closer inspection the union would only be short lived at the best…we no longer pay much attention to our “source”! Needless to say, we have a fair pile of Larix decidua wanting to stretch their feet despite giving a Larix away to every visitor that we get…”Here Jehovah’s Witnesses…we don’t want your pamphlets but we would like to give you one of these fine Larix decidua’s…could you please tell the Mormons to head on up and take a couple as well?”…sigh… so we are going to take our Larix decidua’s that life handed to us and make Larixade. More accurately, a Larix grove. We have some amazing conifers in our collection and most of them will find their way onto the property somewhere. We will have that amazing conifer vista one way or another Christi ;).

Heres where my mass planting of shrubs will be most prevalent. The chickens are doing their bit to soften up the earth ready for planting. Now I just have to hope that the rock problem that is all over the property doesn’t manifest itself in this bit!

This next set of photos is to act as proof that we actually are studying our Diploma of Landscape Design…Here you can see the theodolite, the staffs and the tripod used to house the theodolite needed to take horizontal and vertical levels. What you DON’T see is the amount of algebra and trigonometry that I had to learn to facilitate understanding all about triangles etc…truly terrifying!

Here you can see Nick our lecturer (with his permission) and Steve setting up the tripod ready for the theodolite to be set up so that we can take some levels. We are in the process of learning about vertical levelling because we already learned about horizontal levels in our last Diploma. The area that you can see here is adjacent to the Polytechnic where we occasionally have a lecture. We study from home and wouldn’t have it any other way!

You can count yourselves as VERY lucky to see this picture. I HATE having my picture taken let alone showing anyone else so this is one of the very VERY few online photos of me. Again, its just here to prove that I actually am doing what I say I am doing…now I just have to convince Nick that I am doing what I am doing and I am half way there! You can also see that autumn has hit home hard here and I was the only one dressed warmly enough to be out in the field.

After lugging pots back and forth, weeding the pots, pruning off any dead bits and thinking about them all (by far the hardest part of the equation…) we managed to reduce our potted specimens by half. Now all we have to do is set aside a day to pot out the lovely weeping maple collection that we amassed 3 years ago and get stuck in digging mole holes all over the side garden to plant out all of my gorgeous cold climate shrubs that have been just hanging on for this day. I want to ensure that this area is mass planted to give it the best chance of surviving and becoming relatively self-sufficient. We found plants that we didn’t remember we had as well as some that we had given up for dead that have returned to the land of the living. I just know that once I plant out everything in my cold climate section (which is a terrifying event that will take at least 3 days) I am going to want more. Andrew of Red Dragon nursery fame got me addicted to cold climate shrubs. Now I have something that is going to make the side garden something quite special. Lots of beautiful scented flowering shrubs to perfume the air and no doubt they will be ecstatic to get their feet out of their pots and into the earth. Once we plant out the maples (I need to agree to doing this first as to be honest…its really Steve digging the holes and so I need to humour him by letting him get his babies into the ground first…) and all of the shrubs, ground covers, bamboos, bulbs and perennials in the side garden we will be left with quite a substantial amount of pots left to work out what we want to do with them. Earlier on in our horticultural career we both went a bit mental about collecting. Steve has several Chinese elms that we have NO idea what we are going to do with. We have a really big collection of conifers that will need to be planted or given away. We are trying to reduce our potted plants down as far as we can to minimise excessive summer watering. We have done really well to reduce our electricity reliance (and bill…) and minimise water usage but potted plants tend to die if you don’t keep them hydrated. We had a long hot summer that was also very dry. Very little rain (we were starting to wonder what rain was for a while there) and it became very apparent that we were using too much precious water on our potted plants. When plants are mass planted in the ground they are more able to survive extended periods of water stress. Potted plants can die in a matter of hours depending on how lush their leaves are. We no longer want anything that is going to become possum or wallaby fodder in our garden. When it comes to edibles, we are going to get creative. If the possums want to scoff garden plants then it’s bad luck to the garden plant. It needs to be able to survive here to stay here.

Here is the building where we study in Launceston. It has the dubious honour of being called “G Block”…we spent the first year and a half of our horticultural career sitting in the classroom on the right before we were able to study from home. I LOVE studying from home :). Its the very best way to study so long as you are disciplined enough to make sure that you do what is required of you. I think being mature aged students has given Steve and I an edge for the discipline needed to put the time in each day to make sure we study what we need to for our meetings. I hated sitting in a classroom with other students because everyone learns at their own pace and if you can pace yourself, you are not wasting your, or anyone elses time.

Steve took this photo this morning. It was dead still outside and the smoke from our rekindled wood stove was drifting down the slope and into the garden…he titled it “smoke on the water” being the old rocker that he is but I know for a fact that it never made it to the water…it kind of hung about until it dissipated into the ether leaving  that amazing early morning smell of warm future possibilities that only wood fire smoke can do

This is a sweet potato thief. I was showing him my wonderful sweet potato and he lulled me into a false sense of security by being cute. I relaxed my grip on my sweet potato for 1 second…and he grabbed it and ran off! Steve was NO help whatsoever…he was laughing hysterically as Earl zoomed all over the place with me in hot pursuit…Bezial tried to help but as Earl only had a boring sweet potato his heart wasn’t in it and he soon stopped and returned to his nice warm seat near the fire leaving me to try to catch the canine equivalent of a racehorse on steroids… I got my sweet potato back after a long chase and a stint under the bed…it was full of doggy toothmarks and even though I scrubbed it really REALLY well…it still tasted suspicious when I steamed it…

I have been hunting for all sorts of plants (especially trees) that will serve as foundations for the garden as well as having edible or medicinal properties. This garden is going to be cram packed with edible specimens…so many that the possums and wallabies may even send themselves to an early grave in their efforts to consume a small proportion of its bounty! We have plans to remove a large hedge of Photinia x fraseri ‘Robusta’ that was allowed to engulf the fence between the church and our property. We will be planting grape vines, kiwifruit and various other edible low shrubs and vines along this fence to replace the hedge. Thank goodness that we chose to study horticulture before we inherited Serendipity Farm because otherwise we would have had no idea how to make all of this work. When problems arise, we know where to look to attempt to solve them. Apart from constantly being tired these days, we are gaining a degree of satisfaction that we hadn’t been able to gain before. I love country living. I just wish that Earl would settle down like Bezial did so that we could let both dogs out with us when we work in the garden. One day they will be able to walk freely around, but until Earl learns that chickens + teeth = “BAD DOG!!” it’s only going to be a pipe dream. Have a really great Sunday everyone. Enjoy yourself doing something that makes you happy and make sure that whatever you are doing is worth it. See you on Wednesday when we will have (probably) managed to get The Odo Life (our alternate blog) up and running with its first post and you can all check out what Serendipity Farm looks like from inside my head…if you are game that is! 😉

How to reuse, recycle and repurpose just about everything!

Hello Possums,

I just read a book about a 91 year old Tasmanian icon called Marjory Bligh. She has been rumoured to have spawned Dame Edna and Barry Humphrey’s always buys some of her books whenever she releases them. I used to subscribe to Grass Roots magazine, which to those of you living anywhere other than Australia is a 70’s alternative lifestyle and homesteading/smallholding magazine, and remember reading letters to the hints and tips and questions and answers page from Marjory. Like me, she is a last century woman but her experience of last century is MUCH more extensive than mine. The book was about Marjory and wasn’t all that interesting to be honest. What got me excited were the hints and tips that littered the pages and I typed most of them out and saved them. Marjory is the doyen of knitting and crocheting things out of bread wrappers, supermarket plastic bags etc. She came from the depression years and as such learned that everything has a value. You might not be able to see that value when staring straight at the item in question, but it’s there. Much like blowflies and mosquitoes…something somewhere out there loves them! So I decided that my shame that I currently feel whenever I have to throw out plastic bags is going to be quelled. I have started to collect them and go hunting for not only repurposing ideas but repurposing ideas that actually result in something desirable. That’s the secret folks…anyone can crochet a bathmat/hat out of a bread wrapper but it takes artistic flair to make something that people covet. THAT is my ultimate aim and so off to Instructables to hunt for a few patterns. Again…I LOVE this site. I love it so much I subscribe to it on my rss feed reader and look forward to seeing just how inventive some people are able to be and take magpie delight in collecting the shiny results of their hard thought out labour. I collected a home-made kayak the other day…well…the instructable for how to make one from start to finish…I also got to read the comments that enlightened me as to how to make this even better. I was also able to isolate a most interesting series of Instructables about laminating plastic bags to get a thicker plastic product that you can use for making more durable items…now THAT is a skill that a repurposing magpie might just like to learn!

I can get lost in that site! Here are a few examples of why…

First up…who wouldn’t want to make a purse/wallet out of an old juice or milk carton?

http://www.instructables.com/id/Recycled-coin-purse/

And after we have spent the day slashing and hacking at our honeysuckle problem, we can sit down to a glass of our ultimate revenge!

http://www.instructables.com/id/Honeysuckle-Infused-Vodka/

Try this one…”You too can make yourself a torch out of a coke can and a box of cornflakes…

http://www.instructables.com/id/Torch-made-from-coke-can-and-cereal-box/

Here is another example of total irony…a rubbish bin made out of rubbish! Gotta have one of those…

http://www.instructables.com/id/Trash-can-made-of-plastic-bottles/

We had a visit from our friend who must remain anonymous and she brought us some firewood and came to see what we have been up to on Serendipity Farm. She brought some photos with her to share with us of her adventures since we last saw her. In this photo we get to see Glen her partner. He is not in the witness protection programme and as such is quite happy to share his delightful countenance with us all here. In this photo we can see Glen and a friends little dog who apparently not only loves him, but looks remarkably like him…

I wanted to share a photo that made it to the paper of our friend and some fish that she caught in Strahan on the West Coast when fishing. I had to maintain her anonymity and so allowed Steve to head over to Photoshop and attempt to give her a new identity…hmmm not too sure whether Marilyn would have appreciated fishy fingers Steve…methinks its back to the old drawing board

Looking exactly like your partner is somewhat kinky and not to be encouraged in any way shape or form!…(imagine the kids!!)

This is getting warmer and the pixelated look is somewhat better than looking like your old man but we decided on the next one with our friends approval…

WONDERFUL! I dare say our friend will be probably heading off to her plastic surgeon in the morning to effect these changes…well done Steve, you have a career in plastic surgery design! (the lord only knows…it pays more than landscape design…sigh…)

I could go on forever here (and those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that I am NOT exaggerating there 😉 ) but if you want to get as excited about reusing and repurposing as I do and feel sufficiently happy that you are doing everything in your means to helping ease congestion at the tip whilst creating something new and unique, check out the “Green” section on Instructables. And for any new readers who are not aware of Instructables…here is their address…

http://www.instructables.com/

Steve and I decided to start a new blog using Google’s alternative to WordPress. It would appear that Google is on the brink of taking over the internet highway and always the thinking person’s magpie; I am going to ride the crest of that ever encroaching technological wave until it flattens WordPress into a mangled disassembled heap. Do you think I might be a little bit angry at WordPress…DO YOU THINK?! I can’t believe how WordPress have hurled their non-paying bloggers into the ether totally unprotected by anything…we are free falling and those who are not willing to grab hold of someplace else are about to land in a painful heap. I lost half of the blogs that I follow and half of my subscribed readers thanks to their new updates. They didn’t warn anyone…they didn’t test these updates…they have also cast all non-paying bloggers off from being able to ask any questions about blogging apart from the forum where long suffering volunteers have to field the angry protestations of exponentially angry bloggers. I started to get 100+ comments from blogs that I follow thanks to Word Press’s new “you must untick the box underneath the comment that you make or you will get every single other post posted to that article”…we were not told that…we just had to work it out ourselves folks…I guess it would take up too much bandwidth to tell all of the free bloggers out there so to heck with them…let em’ work it out themselves! Ok WordPress…I have given you a fair bit of my mental blood sweat and tears since last October when I started blogging. I have NO idea how hard this must be for everyone who has been with you for years but consider me a big hairy magpie rat that is leaving your sinking ship… We are off to BlogSpot.

I decided to take the easy way out and share a few of my friends (the one who must remain anonymous…I don’t think I have any normal friends!)  photos with you today. I will save more of Serendipity Farm and what we have been doing for Saturday. For now enjoy these lovely squid. Aren’t they beautiful?

This water is stunning! Almost as lovely as the red squid…

We have worked our way most carefully through the minefield known as Adobe Illustrator cs4 to create a picture for our new blog. We wanted to be “clever” and call it “The Odd Life” as juxtaposition with the wonderfully wry and truthful 70’s U.K. television sitcom “The Good Life” where Barbara and Tom turn their ¼ acre house and garden into a sustainable plot along with utilising the methane from their livestock to heat their home and generate power. I loved that show…EVERYONE loved that show. It was hilarious…it was ground breaking…it was (like many good U.K. television programs before and since) WAY ahead of its time and apart from that it launched Felicity Kendal as rear of the year and the countryman’s idea of a “good sort”. We tried all variants of “The Odd Life” until we arrived at what we thought was a witty alternative involving both the “Odd” desirable quotient combined with our newfound skills as landscape designers who occasionally have to turn to the use of Theodolites. So together they became “The Odo Life”…I am NOT going to spell it out folks! 😉 Anyway…at a day in the not too distant future (when I overcome my laziness and get my act together to do a first post and share the new blog with you all…) we will head on over to Google without a passing glance back at the WordPress titanic that attempted to swallow us into its sea of ineptitude. I am not ungrateful for the 8 months of use I got from their site. I never once complained to them about how infuriating their site was when posting regarding photos going missing…entire posts disappearing and having to be posted again…all sorts of irritating things that I would have to jump through Word Press’s hoops to attain and all because it was free. I have discovered that WordPress isn’t the only free fish in the sea and have decided to attach myself remora like underneath the good ship Google…”Long may she sail”! Goodness only knows I am too lazy to have to swap blogs more than once!

Here are a couple of photos that Jenny took for me to show to my mum over the school holidays. It had become a bit of a running joke that mum collected weird and wonderful pictures of toilets and Jenny captured this toilet in Strahan while on holiday in January. My mum died before she could see these pictures and Jenny hadn’t the heart to share them with me before now. These are for you if you are still reading the blog wherever you are mum…I am sure that you would have loved them for your collection :). This one shows the way to the toilet…

And here is the ancient Thunderbox itself. Thunderbox is an Aussie word for outdoor long drop toilet. This one was the sole toilet for all of the fishing boats in Strahan for many years! As most fisherman love to imbibe liberally whilst out on the briny sea can you only imagine how many of them didn’t quite make it to the toilet and how many of them found themselves sobering up VERY quickly in the cold Tasmanian sea? 🙂

I have been using Facebook again sporadically for a few weeks now. I love how I can find all sorts of interesting things that I couldn’t otherwise find via social media sites. I can share websites and interesting articles with friends and family that I might not bother to share otherwise thanks to the ability to “click” and share…sometimes I dare say my friends and family would rather that I didn’t just “click and share” but you know what? Learning is good for you…it keeps your brain mobile and active and when your brain is active and alive, the rest of you tends to follow. That’s my theory and I am sticking to it! I am now adding interesting sites to my Google reader via RSS feeds and it’s so much easier to head on over to Google Reader and read what I want, when I want rather than be bombarded by emails informing me about posts. It took a little bit of getting used to but I now prefer it. It does, however, make my inbox a bit of a sad place now as most of my family and friends are not regular communicators and if I didn’t occasionally head over to Facebook I dare say I wouldn’t hear from them. I guess living 3870km away from most of your family makes it possible to allow them to sink into the distance quite easily. Social media has allowed us to rediscover our family and distant friends that we had lost touch with. I met Steve’s friend and flatmate Tony’s wife Pim who Tony met on a worldwide trip in Thailand 20 odd years ago and who have now been married for 20 years. I would never have had the chance to meet her and share a most refreshing friendship if not for Facebook and other social media making the world a much smaller place. It would have been MUCH easier for Steve and me to communicate. We met online back in 1997 when the U.K. was still a HUGE distance away media wise and had to put up with massively expensive sporadic phone calls and using a slow dial up network that often dropped out and with tremendous lag times just to keep in touch. Now you just hook up to Google Chat for free and buy yourself a nice cheap webcam and you can talk to whoever you like wherever you like for free with almost instantaneous speeds. The world is a much smaller place thanks to social media and for that I am thankful. We can also find out about all sorts of events and happenings that we might otherwise never hear about. What was once something endemic is now capable of becoming viral if it holds enough interest to the average Joe. I can head on over to Project Gutenberg whenever I want to check out a free eBook. With over 36 000 of them available both fiction and non-fiction I can surely find SOMETHING that interests me. I can find out pretty much anything that I want to so long as someone else has been kind enough to share the information. A last century magpie like me who has point blank REFUSED to learn how to use the Austar remote could be forgiven for ignoring the information highway completely but I love it. I love learning things and am amassing a small fortune of information pertaining to our interests and what we are trying to do here on Serendipity Farm. Life is constantly evolving and our ever changing world is constantly updating. I love that I too can constantly update along with it and can choose…the word “Choose” being the operative word here (at the moment) what I do and don’t want to learn. Here’s hoping that we can keep the net free, open and honest and that the powers that be (including my new massive mother ship zeppelin of choice Google…) remain stymied in their endeavours to make it the biggest cash in opportunity of the millennium. Knowledge is power and choice is the weapon that delivers it to our waiting ears. We need to make sure that this ability to learn what we choose is not taken from us in the name of exponential profit growth.

This is a small cruise boat that you can take a tour around Strahan and that runs rings around the little boat that takes tours up the Tamar…

Isn’t Strahan pretty? We might have to head over there one day when we get a few spare minutes.

Lastly, this is a photo taken directly in front of our house. The little lighthouse is in Glads (our 88 year old next door neighbour) front verge and we are directly to the left (in the photo) of there. You can’t really see us but you can…if you peer…see the top of our house. This photo was taken on our friend and Glens boat on a trip up the Tamar River. Ok, thats your bloomin lot for today folks…

I wonder if any writers out there would like to buy some of my never ending supply of words? Anyone wanting to take advantage of this constant stream of concepts…ideas…crazy adventitious sharing…I am open to offers. I prefer to barter so if you have something of interest let me know. I could probably part with about 50% of them and STILL have enough to tide me over for the next 50 years. After that I doubt that anyone would want to listen to me anymore anyway so it would be a bit like a 99 year lease where (in this case) the words revert to the state. Good luck with making sense out of them “The State”…my muse appears to be a little psychotic at times and tends to channel the more mentally alternative members of the afterlife so you might be buying in to a little more than you bargain for but what price words when you are stuck with writers block eh? I sometimes feel like a human sponge…I sit down with an enormous cup of tea (can’t be having to get up halfway through…) to my newfound rss feed reader (in this case Google) and wade through all of the exciting word porn that gets delivered right to my waiting mind. It’s like allowing a small child into one of those enormous pick-and-mix sections in one of the larger more upmarket department stores where the sweets are less likely to make them glow in the dark with a 20 litre bucket…a large scoop and free rein for a day. Not only would the child eat more than the 20 litre bucket that they would no doubt fill to the maximum, but the resulting illness from overindulgence would last a week. The headiness of me being able to read all of my favourite blogs and web pages (aside from a few of the really crazy ones that don’t have rss feed because the government or aliens might get track of where they are that is…) has rendered me somewhat static. The dogs hate it…Earl Sits at my elbow nibbling the oversized jumper that I am wearing trying to get me to take him for a walk. Steve sits in the lounge room a happy man because he can watch whatever he likes with impunity because I am not there offering verbal insults to his favourite obese American Redneck populated Alligator, hog and storage shed hunting television programs and Bezial can bask in front of the fire knowing that at least one family member is here in bodily form albeit mentally no longer in the building. Knowledge is more than power for me. It’s like mental food. It feeds my mind and when I occasionally find the mental equivalent to that never ending free upper class pick and mix buffet for my inner child it delights me for days. I am a cheap date. Give me a bowl of good home-made soup, an enormous screen and the ability to hunt for my mental stimulation and I am yours. Steve says that “You might not want the results”…I think that is his way of saying he still wants me around…that’s love for you :o)

Again my posts escape and run amok…it’s a bit like being taken by aliens…you suddenly arrive at the spot where you were only minutes before feeling somewhat abused but not quite knowing how or why…I get to this point in my posts knowing that I have posted but no idea how I managed to get to 2500 words so quickly. I just love sharing with you all. I think we are just about to start taking some hard wood cuttings this week. Steve wants to get some scion material from a heritage listed weeping elm in town and a small weeping birch in one of the malls to graft onto his rootstocks. I will be taking some cuttings from a wonderful cold climate shrub that I fell in love with hanging over a garden fence in Beaconsfield called Stachyurus praecox. We are also going to take some Washington Hawthorn cuttings now that they have lost their leaves and are ready for hard wood cuttings. We haven’t had the inclination or time to actively pursue our previous horticultural zeal for plant propagation but we are slowly getting back some time to want to grow plants again. “Break out the heat bed and make some room in the glasshouse Steve…Fran’s green thumb is back!”Stachyurus praecoxStachyurus praecox I just have to leave you with this little Green Instructable that tickled my inner irony button. I love how re-using saves the planet AND your wallet and this little Instructable might do more to protect you from the credit crunch than you might immediately think 😉 See you all on Saturday and until we get to share some mental space again…remember to use your mind…like everything else that we are given in life, it needs exercise or it ends up sluggish and overweight and the LAST thing you want to be known as is “Fathead” now isn’t it? :o).

http://www.instructables.com/id/Credit-Card-Flower-Box-Fridge-Magnet/

Finally you get a short post!

Hi All,

I woke up in a deep blue funk this morning. I think it was a combination of WordPress messing about with my posts and with its format in general and having to cancel following all of the blogs that I followed due to a massive increase in comments flooding my inbox from other people commenting on posts where I had commented on other people’s blogs and reading too many “Doom and Gloom” environmental posts in the last week. It’s not hard to get downhearted when life seems to be gloomy and grey wintery days do nothing to make you cheer up in a hurry. Steve was on a roll and as usual, when one of us is down, the other one is on the way up and he decided that we were going to tidy up around the house today. I would rather have gone back to bed but being the good wife that I am I headed out to shake off the blues. It was the best thing that I could have done because not only did it make me feel like I was doing something positive, but I remembered something that my mother, who died earlier this year, had told me about gardens that made my day. She had told me many things and back when she was alive I was guilty of listening with my ears shut like most of us are prone to do when our parents instruct. This little pearl of wisdom came back to enlighten and delight me when I had resorted to using secateurs and a pair of loppers to reduce a mass of vegetation down to wheelbarrow loads of smaller bits. I hadn’t gone mad…I had just given up on trying to get our mulcher to cooperate with my wishes. Anyone want a mulcher? It’s free! She told me that when you make raised beds, you could start with a thick layer of chopped up garden waste. I had an enormous pile of chopped up garden waste and suddenly realised that what had been causing me a headache would actually become a solution to some of our problems.

I got Steve to take a photo of the jungle vista off the side of the house near our bedroom window. As you can see its a teensy tiny bit overgrown…

We had removed a bit of debris previously that you can see in the foreground to clear a way through to our potted plants from the front of the house but what remained had to be dealt with and so we decided to tackle it…

This is the point at which we stopped for a mornings cup of tea/coffee and Effel and the babies “Doocark” set about tackling the newly exposed damp earth with rank abandon

This is to show you a few of the piles of green waste generated as we hacked, heaved and pulled out the years of overgrown plants and weeds. There are some nice plants under all of this rubbish, the poor things are somewhat shell shocked…

It’s just gone 7pm on Saturday…Saturday is the day that I post. This is as far as I have gotten on my Saturday post that needs to have been posted about…an hour ago! It looks like you might actually get a shorter post today. I have just spent an hour and a half making an Indian meal consisting of sweet potato and black bean patties, Bombay spicy potatoes and a nice veggie curry with coconut cream. I cooked brown rice to go with it and tomorrow we will make brown rice fried rice for our tea. I used the last of our 10kg bag of potatoes and as I was tipping out the remaining dark red topsoil into my compost bin I realised how far I have come with recycling, reusing and making do. When you live in the country you have to be careful that you plan your shopping trips well. Petrol isn’t cheap and the difference between petrol in Launceston and petrol in Beaconsfield is just over 10c a litre so you really don’t want to be having to put more fuel in at Beaconsfield. We have learned to make do and after a particularly disastrous start to the year where our savings plummeted to zero, we have been living more carefully than usual to regain a savings base. In the process we have eliminated a lot of waste…we have given up drinking and have both lost a significant amount of weight. We have learned to be happy with less and to enjoy saving our money for a rainy day. We have been inventive about what we are eating, buying less meat and less processed food and substituting fruit, vegetables and a large proportion of vegetarian meals. I read a blog post the other day about people going into debt to maintain their standard of living. I think that we all need to be aware that there are other options to going into debt and one of them is learning to live within our means. Power bills are going up and water prices are going up. How can we manage to save when it seems like there is always some sort of official hand stretched out waiting for any spare change that we get? We need to think smarter, not harder and that includes occasionally thinking about eating less expensively, only using hot water when it’s really needed, walk or cycle instead of drive (if you don’t live 50km away from the city that is!). We walk the dogs all around Sidmouth and they enjoy their morning walks. We noticed that our hot water cylinder was overflowing today. We have gotten so used to minimising our use of hot water that we haven’t been using all of the “free” hot water that our wood stove has been delivering into our enormous storage unit. It doesn’t take long to change bad habits and it doesn’t take long to get used to living sustainably or at least a bit more carefully. Grow some veggies in containers or make a garden. Make some of your own biscuits, find a recipe for some of the basic items that you purchase on a regular basis and apart from saving money, you just might get a sense of satisfaction out of living carefully and frugally that you wouldn’t have thought possible.

Here is the view of what we had done at the end of day 1. By this stage we no longer had any strength in our arms and were tired of small chickens taking up residence on our boots whenever we stood still for any length of time

We moved out of the garden (after finding a bench and a frying pan) and the chooks moved in to take over …

As you can see we removed a large amount of overgrown jungle and ended up with a hacked barren wasteland…I guess that gives us all the more room to plant out our potted babies

Heres the new view from our bedroom window. The wrens and blackbirds are most possessive about the newly exposed area and are hunting for insects all through the bark. The possums are as shell shocked as the remaining plants and the feral cats no longer have cover to hunt for the native birds. Now we need to whipper snip the area to reduce the Osteospermum daisies to mush and we can start preparing the ground for our plants. We can now see right through to our glasshous, to Glad’s property and to the driveway.

We spent the last 3 days in various stages of reducing the side garden to looking like a bomb went off in the vicinity. It’s very difficult for someone who loves plants to hack away at them mercilessly. To chop perfectly good shrubs off at the base and to completely remove what were once beautiful roses because of 20 years of complete neglect. I don’t think that my father and his partner realised what it means to take on a large garden and assumed that it would look after itself. It has to a degree. The falling leaves, bark and debris have formed a thick layer of mulch that has managed to sustain the garden through the hot summer months where rain is very infrequent and the thick coverage of banana passionfruit, blackberries and other weeds and dense infestation of boneseed, cotoneaster and pittosporum have kept the moisture in the soil. We waded in with our welders gloves and tackled the lot in one fell swoop. We have more piles of debris than you would imagine could have been taken from the area that we have dealt with. Some will be burnt. Some will be returned to the soil as mulch and some will be carted off to the green waste station at the tip because of its nefarious ability to grow from small pieces of debris. As we were pruning some of the shell-shocked remaining plants we heard our neighbours daughter Wendy calling out to us. She gave us an enormous box full of Muscari botryoides (Grape hyacinths) that I am going to install underneath the stairs around the large Japanese maple and an even larger box of red Fuji apples from her small tree. We in return handed her a dozen eggs and a bunch of proteas cut from a newly liberated large shrub. Sharing is one of those things that make living in the country a very satisfying and rewarding experience. I love bartering and sharing. We brought the boxes back and after installing the Grape hyacinths in a large heap under the stairs we brought the apples in and I promptly forgot about them. Later on in the day when we had finished the garden work I was hungry and decided to try an apple. I don’t, as a rule, like apples much. They are not one of my favourite fruits but the box was sitting there, I was hungry and I was too lazy to head off and make myself anything to eat so an apple it was! I cut it into small slices and absently tried a piece as I was sitting looking at the computer screen and couldn’t believe how delicious it was. I have never tried an apple like it. It was incredibly sweet and fragrant and almost bordered on a ripe pear in flavour. Bernard and Manny, our Javanese finches, started fighting over the 2 pieces that I gave them as soon as I put them into their cage. I am an apple convert! So long as I can eat Wendy’s Fuji apples, I will eat apples happily all day long.

Here you can see the selective nature of possums. The lush green mass of vegetation is a very happy and healthy clematis. The green sticks are what used to be a lovely yellow banksia rose. Possums LOVE roses. Every single rose that we exposed in the side garden has been savaged by the possums. I am starting to think that roses and Serendipity Farm are NOT conducive to happiness…

All thats left of a large English holly (Ilex aquifolium) that was growing alongside the driveway and that vindictively scratched the car every time we drove past it. Finally it has berries!

“First chew yourself a nice comfortable hole in the blanket…next insert head…now sleep…zzzzzzzZZZZZZZZ”

The Indian feast is consumed and now I have to work out what I am going to do with my evening. I could sit in one of the armchairs near the wood fire and read…I have a book about organic and sustainable farming that I could read or another one of the Mary Anne Schaffer bucket list…Or I could watch television with Steve. He has lots of television programs taped for us to watch together. I could sit here and play a game of Hammer Heads…a most disturbing computer game where the object is to hit garden gnomes on the head and collect money. I could start crocheting something with the luminous yellow cotton that I picked up at a local thrift shop for $1 for 7 balls. I have NO idea what I am going to do with it but that doesn’t matter. With me, it is the act of crocheting that allows me to relax in the evening rather than the eventual item I have crocheted that is my reason for crocheting. Steve said that I could make him some socks…Steve has NO idea how hard it is to knit socks! I have NO idea how to crochet them and so that idea has been shoved into the “Too Hard” basket. I am ruminating about joining some community gardening groups…perhaps volunteering in some form or other…I get restless when I don’t think that I am helping or doing anything really productive towards my local community and have rash fits of joining things quickly that I later live to regret. Bezial is sitting here giving me seal eyes because he wants me to give him a piece of date brownie (made without cocoa so it is technically a “blondie”). He and Earl LOVE it. I doubt that their undying love has anything to do with the dates, the flour or the sugar involved and has more to do with the large amount of butter that is in the recipe. Either way, Bezial spends most of his days following me around or pushing his nose onto my arm to make me look into his seal eyes. Occasionally they work, so he is clever enough to realise that there is a chance that seal eyes might work again so he wears them permanently. I can’t handle the seal eyes for much longer so I may just leave this post here now. Have a great evening, morning or what is left of your weekend. I might have some more to tell you about our prospective move from our blog here at WordPress to our new blog over at Google. For the moment we will remain here but prepare yourselves for a move to the dark side people… wish us luck!

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