Invasion of the Choko

Hi All,

It’s 3.13am Thursday morning and I have decided to tap away here for a little bit because I am waiting for my RSS Feed Reader to load. After it reached 525 posts and my eye started to twitch involuntarily I decided to head off for a bit and distract myself. Steve and I are juggling studies and dog walking with our annual winter wind-down. I have almost knitted a pair of gauntlets. I live in the knitting world between day and night. I spend a few short moments of my time knitting furiously before I start to fall asleep and have to lay my needles down and go to bed. Usually I am pretty tired by this point and have to make sure that my half asleep brain remembers to put the knitting back into my knitting bag and hide it in the spare room. There are always a pair of eyes watching me when I knit. I must admit, the pair of eyes has learned not to jump on me and steal my wool while I am knitting. I figure the pair of eyes turning 3 this year might be part of it but it is a small victory and something to be celebrated. When I was untangling the wool that I got from my daughter earlier in the week (and no Bethany, you STILL can’t have it back! 😉 ) he trotted past the tangled heap on the table and did a classic double take. He trotted back in a most interested way and after I told him “NO” he trotted off to a safe distance away (obviously my “NO” has a personal space…) and proceeded to watch me like a hawk for any signs that my defences were down and he could launch in to take possession of the delicious tangle of fun on the kitchen table. Alas…my defences didn’t drop and he didn’t even get to sniff the wool.

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As soon as Earl realised that I had picked up my camera to take a picture of him completely upside down with his legs in the air, both he and Bezial decided to turn away…party poopers!

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Steve thinks I am not going to use this photo and the next one. Earl is looking decidedly demented in this shot 😉

Earl isn’t like other dogs. Earl is as close to a wild dog as you are going to get without adopting a wolf. Up until now we have often felt like we are walking a tightrope with him because he just did what he wanted to do and we didn’t know how to deal with it. There were times when we first bought Earl when I would look into his eyes and see “alien”. He just felt completely and utterly foreign to me. Not a dog, sort of a bunch of muscles from mars. After numerous attempts to try to train him he seemed untrainable. It would be easy to think that Earl was stupid. He doesn’t listen, he eats the furniture and even after the humans go spare he still does what he wants. Nothing worked and unlike Bezial, he didn’t learn from his mistakes, he just kept making them.  He obviously thinks he rules the roost but something has happened to Earl over the last 6 months. He has decided that he loves us. He even loves his fat old sofa buddy Bezial. In allowing himself to love us he has also allowed himself to start fitting in to the hierarchy here. He is starting to listen to commands. “NO” is something he understands now. I don’t ever think he didn’t understand “NO” I just think he chose not to worry about it. Now he wants to please us and get cuddles and have us say “Good Dog!” and pat him. Earl is an attention hog. He loves nothing more than being loved and it’s lucky that Bezial could care less about cuddles because Earl is always there to lap up any attention that anyone wants to give him.

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I think this is priceless…all 3 of my boys looking completely and utterly doo-lally! SHHH! Stop laughing…Steve will hear you! 😉

Now the following image isn’t going to make an OUNCE of sense to anyone outside of Australia and of a “certain age” but here it is anyway…doesn’t Milo bear a canny resemblance to Steve in this image?! 😉

Milo with guitar

If Steve EVER finds this post it could be enough reason for a divorce! 😉

Where I said earlier that it would be easy to think that Earl was stupid I meant that he never seemed to learn anything. We spent 6 months trying to teach him the benefits of shaking hands. He eventually learned it and if you pull out a treat bag that little front paw is straight up in the air. Earl is the least “stupid” dog I know. What Earl is, is his own dog. He might have a feral edge a mile wide but that edge is completely tempered with how a dog should act. The problem is that Steve and I aren’t dogs and Bezial doesn’t think that he is one either and Earl is trying to teach us the ways of the pack. Obviously he is top dog in his pack order but after 3 years he is starting to see that there are benefits in allowing the pink hairless ones to think that they are the boss. There are some quality games to be had when you drop the toy that you are holding. Dropping prey is foreign to a dog. Why would you drop your hard won fluffy squirrel for another dog?! Earl recently showed me how clever he was. He often brings a toy in to the computer in the afternoon and presses it gently onto the knee of whoever is using the computer at the time. It’s his way of saying “a game would be nice around about now, you obviously need to check off that seat before you start to resemble Bezial…” it is also the precursor to his long and convoluted series of stages that he goes through before his meal. He brought the toy to me and pressed it onto my knee looking up at me with enormous doe eyes. Earl is VERY good at doe eyes. Nature gave him Chinese eyes but he has learned to open them wide and can melt hearts with those eyes. I think it’s the fact that you don’t expect that adoration and innocence from that body.

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Admittedly this doesn’t look tasty. It looks like something that might once have been tasty but that has passed through the digestive tract of the enjoyer and is on it’s way to the sewer. It is, however, delicious! This is date paste that has had a good slug of Jack Daniel’s, a splosh of Hazelnut liqueur, a glug of Stones Green Ginger Wine and a gargle in some delicious maple syrup (all with the complete acceptance of my daughters who owned all of these ingredients 😉 ). It tastes like scrumptious smooth fruit mince and I am going to make some coconut vegan vanilla ice-cream and swirl some of this gorgeousness through it.

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This is a choko that has broken it’s banks and that is growing. I am happy for it to grow, in fact, I am ecstatic! Jean of the wonderful blog “allotment adventures” has been waxing lyrically about choko’s for a while now and has reignited my memories of these humble tasteless vegetables. I have eaten them boiled and this is what turned me off them BUT I have also enjoyed them immensely without even knowing that they were in what I ate. They are carriers of flavour, sort of the green vegetable equivalent of tofu (except nothing like it 😉 ). They work well in jams, marmalade and eke out the prize tasty ingredients by being content to stay in the background while the prized fruit shines. Love them or loath them, Serendipity Farm is about to have a choko vine :). Those strange looking things underneath the choko used to be red Jerusalem artichokes. For some reason once I put them into this bowl and they all deflated! The white stuff is not mould but is flour (Steve is a messy cook 😉 )

Earl and I have a special bond. Apparently he sees me as his property. He knows that as “property” I have my disadvantages. One of them is that I go ballistic at a moment’s notice. To own property like me you need to be dedicated. I am like owning an old degrading WW2 bomb, I am unstable and I am dangerous. I might look barnacled and benign but beneath my pock-marked surface I am ticking and Earl knows it. I would like to think that he has decided that I am his mistress. That I rule the roost here and that I am to be listened to but I fear I am barking up the wrong tree and Earl has just decided to let me do what I want to do so long as I keep scratching him in the right places, cuddling him and telling him he is a good boy and I let him sleep at my feet on the bed. There is a whole lot more to Earl’s love than that. I am doing him an injustice there. When Earl loves, he adores. If he was a human he WOULD be a Viking. He would be all man muscular and handsome and when he fell in love it would be that amazing real deal. There would be roses and feet being swept off and forever and lots and lots of fluffy squirrel donations but he isn’t a man, he is a dog and that makes him a little more manageable. He is satisfied with his lot aside from a constant need to be the cream that rises to the top. He knows that Bezial was here first and that Bezial has a part of Steve’s heart that he will never be able to fill. I give Earl that love that he craves and as the only “bitch” in the family I qualify for his undivided attention and Earl IS learning to fit in now. I wouldn’t trust Earl with anything other than a human but with a human I would trust him implicitly. Earl is the sort of dog that you could send your 10 year old child off with and KNOW that nothing was going to happen to them. He instinctively knows how he is supposed to act. There are no fears in Earl (aside from squirty water bottles and a strange terror of noises that come out of mobile phones that send him running) and I know that if any of us, Bezial included, were ever to be attacked he would fight for us to the death. I know that like I know the morning will come. I love Earl and my early fear of his animalistic alien-ness has mellowed to acceptance and real love. We have an understanding now that runs much deeper than the here and now and Earl and I navigate through our day’s one fluffy squirrel at a time.

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Lastly…you tell ME how you pronounce that without the library lady jumping over her desk and washing your mouth out with soap! 😉

Sorry about the bad photo but it was raining and a bit dark today so the flash kept going off. Here’s todays library haul. James Wong is a legend and the other 2 books are some recipe books that I have been interested in messing about with. The black book has some most interesting recipes in it “crack pie” and “cereal milk ice cream” are only 2 of the choices but I am having fun going through the yellow book that has recipes for making your own ramen…now who wouldn’t want to know how to make good quality ramen!

It’s windy and rainy and thundery and lightning and absolutely LOVELY! It’s great to have a bit of foul weather for once and to know that it really is winter. The weather worldwide seems to have become somewhat confused. Steve and I have been so grateful that we bought Brunhilda when we did. She is certainly paying for herself now with endless hot water, free cooking and house warming. We have been cracking through our media course and are learning heaps about Adobe Flash and have recently been animating household objects. Steve animated his coffee cup and I animated a set of 3 Babushka dolls that I picked up somewhere. Lots of fun and another feather in our caps should we ever need to look like Indian Chiefs. I am lusting after getting out into our new veggie garden. I need to source some hay but at the moment we are starting to prep ourselves for the impending visit of friends and family for my rapidly approaching “big” birthday. There is snow on Mount Wellington Kymmy! We can go up together and make a snowman. I want to post a picture of Kym and I making a snowman and throwing snowballs at each other (not sure how I am going to take a photo of us BOTH throwing snowballs but hey, leave it with me! 😉 ). My sister Pinky is coming over as is the son-and-heir and his Texan sweetie Kelsey so there will be quite a few more than usual hovering around Serendipity Farm.

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Here’s my gauntlets so far. It’s just about time to swap over to that brown wool so I am going to have to bite the bullet and cast off!

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These are my daughter Bethany’s. I forgot to take them off when I borrowed them the other day and only remembered halfway home so Steve will be taking them back on shopping day. I wonder if anyone out there would know where I could find a pattern (and the knitting ability) to make a pair of these? I LOVE them!

Steve headed off and took a few motion blur images of Glad’s little waterfall that runs through her property. She was out raking leaves (not bad for 91) and said “Knock yourselves out!” when we asked her if she minded us taking photos. She recently burned the junction where the waterfall meets the outflow pipe (into the Tamar River) to remove all of the oak leaves that were clogging it and its lucky that she did because this recent rain has caused the stream to flow wonderfully and it would have backed up into her garden if it was full of leaves. The roosters are crowing in unison under the deck. I wouldn’t care so much if they weren’t situated directly underneath me. They are big roosters and those large lungs are apparently there to increase the noise. We just discovered that one of the smaller “hens” is a rooster. It is going to be a most beautiful rooster because it is a cross between Big Yin (a standard golden Wyandotte rooster) and one of Effel Dookarks offspring (She was a blue Wyandotte) and it has a lovely grey tail. We might even keep him and see what he looks like. The other 2 are living on borrowed time. We were recently given the bones from a piglet purchased from a local producer by our friends. They were ostensibly for the dogs but Earl is “funny” about bones and when he saw how many bones were on offer he started to strut around and we decided to stop a problem (with Bezial) before it occurred. He got a couple of bones (that he promptly ran off to hide with his nose) and the rest went into a stockpot with lots of water while I was away. If I had been here, I would have done something with them but Steve just let them simmer till they reduced down to about ¼ of their original weight and the next day they had turned to jelly. The dogs didn’t want to even contemplate eating it. They are VERY fussy for big dogs. The feral cats got it all and enjoyed every single jelly filled mouthful. I think Steve just made instant canned cat food…”Jelly meat anyone?” 😉

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Here’s the back of them. Note the cute mitt conversion kit that…

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Flips over when you need your fingers to be warm

I am just finishing off todays post whilst waiting for my RSS Feed Reader to download todays haul. I have dumped a few peripheral blogs that I no longer read and am tailoring my blog feeds to what I am now interested in. My interests tend to evolve on a regular basis but revolve predominately around vegan food and recipe blogs and baking sites along with some gardening and environmental sites. Most of the blogs that I follow post infrequently which is amazingly lucky for me because I have so many of them. I have almost managed to get back to a maintenance level where I empty my feeds every day. It takes me about a week of intensive shuffling to do it after a weekend away. I am going to have a LOT of feeds after my week with Kym but there is an option called “The Panic Button” that you can press that eliminates all posts older than a specified date (you choose) so I might just have to get ruthless on them or die trying to eliminate them. My choko is sprouting nicely, my gauntlets are almost finished and now I found a tutorial reminding me how to cast off, I should be able to finish them soon :o). That should tell you how long it has been since I last knitted! We are enjoying using rainwater in our kettle to make our daily beverages now. I also use it to make my kefir. I have been batching up my excess non-dairy kefir and freezing it in ice-cube trays ready for warmer times when I can get back to drinking green smoothies for breakfast without sustaining frost bite of the lip.

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These are my lovely rainbow wool socks that my son bought for me one mothers day a few years ago. Earl “redecorated” them :(. I am in the process of pulling what is left of them apart, re-joining the hand dyed wool together and then I might just attempt to recreate a pair of those lovely hooded mitts. I know that they will probably be HUGE and I won’t be able to do or feel anything with them but as they are chunky wool, at least I won’t have cold hands!

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The biscuit barrel is starting to get low…time to bake some more! That’s my non-dairy kefir doing its thang next to the bickies

I just found an excellent blog site (that I promptly added to my feed 😉 ) all about making and using worm wicked water beds. An excellent resource and here is the website for anyone interested in this wonderfully water-wise way of vegetable gardening…

http://www.jas49580.blogspot.com.au/

And here’s another great blog with free PDF’s about soil mycology and how to build and use water wicking veggie garden beds. You can now get an idea why I never manage to get entirely through my RSS Feed Reader…I keep finding new and amazingly useful sites! 😉

http://www.wickingbed.com/

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This is one of Steve’s sponge cakes. He just tossed this one together for a friends birthday tomorrow. He will be taking orders when he recovers from the effort 😉

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I KNEW this choko had designs on taking over Serendipity Farm! This image was taken this afternoon…the image at the beginning of the post was taken about 2 hours earlier…it is growing exponentially! By Wednesday we will all be trapped inside and it will be demanding to be fed…actually…look at the end of it. it bears an uncanny resemblance to “Audrey” from The Little Shop of Horrors!

It would seem that I have fallen prey to the dreaded lurgy folks. Not bad, but definitely making me feel tender and sniffy. How lucky am I that I can settle down next to Brunhilda and fall asleep over my knitting or a book. Steve is off hunting Aurora Australis somewhere in Deviot. Apparently there are sun spots at the moment and that means a greater than average chance (60% if you care) of seeing the Aurora Australis from the Southern states of Australia. As Tassie is about as far south as Australia gets (apart from our vested interests in Antarctica…) we have a good viewpoint. Steve has plans for taking some time-lapse photography tomorrow involving the river and some yachts. This wind brings the yachters out en masse. I think I might be just about to call this post done and dusted folks. Today has been “smooth”. Not bad to be smooth when you are sick, just coasting along and nothing major…just “smooth”. Tomorrow will hopefully be just as smooth and won’t have me crusty and with a handkerchief permanently welded to my nasal area. Wish me luck and see you on Wednesday :o)

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At least if the choko manages to eat me, it will get its just deserts! 😉

Brunhilda feeds tonight…

Hi All,

You can’t stop a behemoth. By its sheer solidity of purpose it has a primal desire to flow from one state to another and good luck stopping it. Brunhilda is one such behemoth. She affects a type of reverse hibernation where she sleeps all through the bustling summer months when everything else is up, procreating and turning green. Brunhilda settles down into her long slumber in mid-October when the frosts officially cease but I have my suspicions that it might be slightly later this year. The berries on the cotoneaster and the hollies are both copious and incredibly bright red so I think we might be in for a long winter. Brunhilda rises to the call of the cold. She opens her door and yawns for the first taste of kindling and the behemoth awakes. From that first flickering flame Brunhilda is constantly in a state of fire. She “ticks over” or she burns like a funeral pyre and in between she gives us something that money just can’t buy, she makes our cold winter house a home. Brunhilda has been going since early May and aside from a few hairy moments when one or other of us forgot to add her fuel of choice and she threatened to go on strike she hasn’t gone out. After you set a behemoth on its way you have to step back and let it do its thing. We put in the fuel and she walks her primal pathway. We reap so long as we pay. It’s a pure case of symbiosis and I love it!

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I am not the only one that has complete and utter adoration for Brunhilda and all that she stands for…meet her humble servant Bezial…

Brunhilda prefers nice dry wood. She is a creature of comfort, much like Bezial who prefers steak and butter and like Bezial we have to temper her desires and she gets her version of broccoli in wood that might not be completely dry. We know that so long as we mix the slightly damp wood with lots of dry we won’t have any problems and it is amazing to see Brunhilda and her tongue of flames turn something that was a tree last year into ashes. You learn a lot about life if you observe its cycles and fire is no exception. I love my winter cycles. They seem so much more real because the cold hones your perception and forces you to focus. We collect our wood like squirrels and we stack it in well-ordered piles on the deck and we slowly feed it into Brunhilda as she works her way through the pile. When we bought this particular model of Aussie made oven I wasn’t sure whether we had done the right thing. Aside from being very expensive (although nowhere NEAR as expensive as her imported brethren) we were going out on a limb to try and support an Aussie business and there wasn’t a whole lot of information out there about their range. It would seem that people like imported Aga’s and Rayburn’s. Brunhilda is not related and where her imported cousins can be colour coordinated with your kitchen there is a degree of bolshiness about her little black attire that reminds you that a stove is supposed to heat, cook and maybe heat your water if you thought about it in advance and decided to spring for the hot water jacket…

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Steve bought these 2 filters and 3 in that little wallet underneath the box at the rear for $15 total. No postage and they got here in just over a week from Hong Kong. Steve has been buying online camera equipment now for a couple of months and so far everything that he has purchased has been a lot cheaper and a lot better than he would have imagined.

From the moment we lit Brunhilda she has been reliable and frugal with her appetite. We feed her, she burns. Because of the unique firebox position in the middle of the 4 ovens, the heat gets retained better and so long as Steve stokes her up before he goes to bed she is waiting for me to give her breakfast when I get up at 3am and open her up. We don’t need firelighters, she just keeps going and my first cup of tea is in line with the first cuppa’s that our pioneering women drew their daily strength from in the past. When you bypass the instantaneous ability to flick a switch or click a gas jet you take on a role in the processes that requires you to keep up your end of the bargain or the cycles stop. You can’t be lazy and take a holiday from hauling wood or stoking Brunhilda because you won’t be able to heat the house and fuel yourself with those soul warming cups of tea and so we become part of the cycle and the process and there is a wonderful degree of fulfilment that comes with stepping in and taking up that yoke.

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I think I might just have to buy this book. It is excellent. James Wong shows us all how to grow some pretty amazing edibles and 3 weeks worth of reading has made me want to own this book.

Yesterday we put up 2 more nets around our huge enclosed garden. We can see the scope of the area that we chose now and I am getting really excited about the possibilities. Where before it was all in my mind, now my idea is coming into fruition. It might not be pretty but it will stop the native wildlife from scarfing our precious food crops and what price that? Again we come back to cycles and our part in those cycles. How can we appreciate what we get if we haven’t had to take part in the process? Handing over a few dollars for a whisk from Shiploads (our equivalent to Wal-Mart apparently…) doesn’t give us the satisfaction of being part of the process. Some poor worker slaved on a factory line in China to make that whisk and its $1.97 price is completely unrepresentative of the true cost of its manufacture. I didn’t just pull “whisk” out of the atmospheric dictionary dear constant readers, I just bought one. I know…”SHAME ON YOU NARF7!”. I supported slave trade… I consumed… I did a bad thing…did it count that I thought about what I was doing?

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This book was in the car ready to be taken back to the library (unread…we have been VERY busy…) when I had to wait in the car for Steve to pick up some plumbing gear from the Beaconsfield hardware shop and so I started to read it and decided to take it out again. It’s a very interesting subject…not sure I would be willing to leave my body to Mr Bass when I die after reading what they do to human remains but kudos to the people that do, a lot of crimes have been solved thanks to the research and macabre generosity of people with their earthly remains after they no longer inhabit them…

While I was twitching that whisk around in a bowl of homemade soymilk and some homemade date paste that I was turning into food for my kefir I was thinking about how we really don’t appreciate the things that are available to us because we really don’t know what cost they truly represent to us. The up-front $1.97 is just a fraction of what any of us earns. Even penniless student hippies that get paid by the state to pretend that they are not actually unemployed, but are productive members of society get more than enough money to justify paying out $1.97 for a whisk but behind that heavily subsidised miniscule price there is an incredible price to pay for the ability to stir some soymilk. Raw resources are being taken from the ground in alarming rates so that we can have whisks, plastic funnels for $1.76 (a set of 2 folks…who WOULDN’T want them…), 3 sieves that fit neatly inside each other for a bargain $1.52 and more…who cares that they are flimsy and will fall apart…just throw them into the rubbish bin and buy another one! That’s the cycle of consumption folks and narf7 doesn’t want to support it. That’s why we spend our days lugging wood and feeding it into Brunhilda. For our part of the equation/cycle we get so much more than a heated house, 8 months of free hot water on tap, 4 ovens to cook just about anything we want to at the same time and our knickers dried in front of the fire, we get the exercise of cutting the firewood and carting it from its resting place to Brunhilda. We get the incomparable joy of waking up knowing that all we have to do to make our home cosy is to take our place in the cycle again and there is something truly primally satisfying in taking up that yoke

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See that “pile” just behind those white poles there? That’s narf7’s hard slog from 8.30am till 1pm. As you can see it’s a large pile of horse dung and it was in mid compost when I hauled it to it’s new residence (inside the structure). Note we have covered it with some ex fish farm netting in a vain attempt to stop the chooks from moving the entire pile back outside the fence perimeter. Lets just say that I wouldn’t be pleased if they did!

Today I take on another process. This one will give me more exercise than I could hope to get in a single day but I am less inclined to yoke myself to this process than I am to stuffing some wood into Brunhilda’s gaping maw. Today I shovel 6 trailer loads of composted horse poo from one pile to another pile 2 metres away. I need to do this so that when we put up our final net wall for our fully enclosed garden the enormous pile of dung won’t need to be manually barrowed all the way around to the other side of the enclosure where the gate is going to be situated. There are benefits to shovelling dung. Exercise is the predominate benefit (although 2 days later when I am aching from my efforts and my lats are reminding me of my impending 50ness I won’t be so chipper about the whole thing) closely followed by job satisfaction and the equal satisfaction that I am going to get from stopping the chooks from spreading the 6 trailer loads of manure to the 4 winds. They have taken their task most seriously and the pile has been somewhat levelled by their determination. Once inside the enclosure the chooks will have to stand around outside and look in as wistfully as I hope the possums will be looking in come spring.

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This is a native Tasmanian Grey Shrike Thrush. He decided to check Steve out when he was testing his new filters on the deck. This particular Shrike Thrush comes on a regular basis for small cubes of cheese that we leave out for the wrens and Shrike Thrushes. The sparrows weren’t invited but gate crash on a regular basis

After shovelling the dung I have another mammoth task that needs to be taken on before I can start creating the garden beds that will give us a huge degree of food choice this growing season. I have to chop up the branches and leaves from the sheoak and wattle trees that we had to remove to create the garden. Trees are clever things folks. Never let it be said that they are just “vegetables” in disguise. They have a primal need much like Brunhilda does and if you allow them to coexist with your vegetable garden they are going to take as much advantage of your tender loving care for your vegetables as they can. You are going to water your veggies and the surrounding trees are going to respond like ferals and send all of their available roots over to freeload. Fertilising your garden? “Cheers!” say the trees and promptly pinch your soil ameliorations before they get a chance to settle. Trees are most adventitious at surviving against the odds and if you turn the odds in their favour they are going to take whatever you give them. I am all for the trees. I love trees and Steve and I plan on populating Serendipity Farm with a plethora of them BUT to get the productive and useful trees that we want we are going to have to sacrifice some of the hardier foundation trees that have sprung up on Serendipity Farm

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This is our back block. It was cleared back when Ida owned the property and all of the trees that you see here have grown over the last 20 years. Most of them are wattles and sheoaks with the odd young eucalyptus

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Here’s where some trees have decided to die in the back block and are being harvested for their tasty firewood…Brunhilda approves

When I say foundation tree I am talking about seral behaviour. “Seral” is like viral folks. They just take off running and when we humans do our thing and clear huge tracts of land the seral community starts right back in where we left off and the earth tries to heal itself. Have you ever wondered why all of those pesky weeds spring up whenever there is a bare patch of earth or why your outdoor fire patch seems to grow the best weeds? Nature hates bare earth. It is foreign to survival and needs to be covered and so she allows those little freeloading weeds to get active for a season. What makes them pests is also what allows quick ground cover and their short lived vigour (thanks to huge amounts of available sunlight caused by a sudden lack of trees) allows some of the smaller shrub species to get a foothold in the soil amongst them. Once the shrubs start to grow some of the trees on the periphery of the area can shed some seed inside the weedy vacant lot. Once a few small trees start to populate the area nature is back on track to regaining control of her cycles. We just don’t see that these “weeds”, those ugly native shrubs, that prickly ground cover and those boring sheoak’s that shed their needles on anything that walks past them are doing an amazing job at keeping the moisture in the soil, nitrogenising the soil (sheoak’s and fast growing wattles are all nitrogen fixers) and are doing it extremely tough so that those tender useful species that we humans so covet for their ability to feed us can survive in the cycle of events.

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The branches you can see on the ground are part of Steve’s latest barrow load of wood. Today has been particularly lovely. Sunny with gorgeous blue skies but nice and cool, perfect for a shovelling narf. The lovely manicured lawn with the pretty orange coloured tree in the rear of the shot is our neighbours to the back. They would like us to clear our entire back block so that they have a better view of the water. We would like for the back block to not slide down the steep slope in the next rains so we tend to ignore them much to their disgust. It must be difficult to have awful penniless student hippies living in front of your prospective perfect view… 😉

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These little shrooms were sheltering underneath this spiders web underneath where Steve was chainsawing tonight’s firewood and they managed to survive the onslaught…kudos shrooms!

I love to learn. Shovelling horse poo and manually cutting up entire trees to line raised garden beds might not be everyone’s idea of a school room but to narf7 it is a precious opportunity to learn at the coalface. Yesterday while we were hauling ex fish farm netting from where we had stored it under the deck after cutting it in half for our purposes I noticed that the ground was unusually damp next to our glasshouse. It might be winter here in Tasmania but we haven’t had much rain over the last few days and this was more than dew…it was positively squishy. I mentioned it in passing to Steve on our first trip up and he muttered something about a tap and we didn’t think any more of it. On our second trip up to the garden hauling a larger net we were going slower and Steve looked down at the tap that he had been muttering about and was somewhat alarmed to notice that the large piece of white polypipe that surrounded it was half full of water and I was positively duck like in my squishing around the area and suddenly Steve had one of those forced life lessons that no-one really wants to take hold of…it was time to dig up the pipes.

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Check out Steve’s fixing job with assistance from some wayfaring plumbers. He hasn’t filled the assembly back in yet as we are waiting to see if it leaks…fool us once!

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Here is my choko. If you check the end it is starting to sprout and after some research that took us to permies.com (one of my go-to places to find “stuff” out) we found out that after it shoots we can plant it out. We will have to protect it from the marauding possums (remember the top of the fully enclosed gardens won’t be put on till spring) by covering it with some ex fish farm netting but this little baby is going to love climbing up and going nuts. Lets see if we can keep the choko cycle going 🙂

Serendipity Farm has been home to 3 “families”. None of them has had children living with them. The first family was an elderly couple who bought the land from their friends (Glad and her deceased husband Ted) and who lived in a caravan in the shed until the house was built. They are the creators of the gardens here and apparently the gardens were something to see back when they owned the place. The husband sadly died a month after the house was built but Ida lived here for many years and it was her love of interesting plants that forged the remnants of garden that Steve and I spend our days trying to find. Next came my father and his partner Val. They fell in love with the property and bought it from Ida and promptly realised that gardening was NOT their forte. By the time Steve and I inherited Serendipity Farm, the once delightful terraced gardens were jungles of overgrown struggling survivors and adventitious weeds.

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In my last post I talked about dehydrating kefir grains. I have way too many to keep using and don’t want to euthanise them so I decided to dry them (according to Dom’s instructions here… http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/sharing-kefir-grains.htm ) and I just wanted to show you how my experiment went. Wendy, you will get your grains soon. We went to Beaconsfield yesterday with the duel purpose to post your grains and return my library books but in the rush to get out of the door I completely forgot to bring the grains! The very next time we are someplace with a post office we will post your grains 🙂

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The image above and this image show what the excess grains looked like after washing them carefully in rainwater (I actually HAD rainwater… “Squee!” 😉 ). I decided to put a bit of baking paper onto the mesh screen from my dehydrator as the grains were still wet and dripping. In the end I didn’t even use my dehydrator I just dried them out on the bread proofing rack above Brunhilda

The property is littered with taps. I have NEVER seen anything like it. Ida must have never wanted to be more than 20 metres away from a tap because for some reason, the entire property has been dug up and black irrigation pipe laid down in the past. The problem is that around about now, that pipe is rapidly starting to degrade. If the pipe had degraded when my well-heeled fathers partner Val was still alive, it might have been replaced but once we penniless student hippies inherited, we suddenly became the keepers of the pipes. Steve has already had to do some serious digging to fix a pipe that decided to explode down in the garden in front of the house. Aside from being somewhat annoying (more so for Steve who actually had to do all of the digging and fixing bit) we were able to fix it quite quickly. The problem comes from the fact that the water mains is right up at the top of the property, up a steep hill and at least an acre and a half away from the house…a heck of a long walk to turn the tap off…then back on…and then off…and then back on again and just that bit too far away for anyone to hear what the other person is yelling to them. It is one of the ONLY times that I am glad we have a mobile phone!

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You can see that the smaller grains have dried out quicker than the bigger grains. As the grains dried out I put them into a small bowl that contains some organic milk powder that I purchased a while ago and keep in the fridge.

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A closer shot to show you how the grains look as they dry out. They get very yellow and start to smell vinegary

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Most of the grains had dried out enough to be put into the milk powder by this stage. Only a few of the larger grains were still slightly soft and needed a bit more dehydrating. You can see how much smaller the grains are now that they have shed their moisture

Today I shovel poo…yesterday Steve had to mend a pipe. We took my overdue library books back to Beaconsfield and we paid out for overpriced plumbing equipment from the local hardware store. We might have paid more than we would have at the large hardware behemoth (my word of the week… you aren’t the only one who has Wednesday words Linnie! 😉 ) Bunning’s that we Aussies are completely and utterly addicted to BUT we supported a small business and while Steve was wandering aimlessly up and down the plumbing resources section with his out-dated tap assembly in hand he met up with 2 plumbers collecting a few doodads and doohickies that they needed for a local job. They noticed his furrowed brow and his damp appearance and decided to help a poor (obviously clueless) hippy. After asking Steve what he was after they quickly ascertained what he needed with a few questions and set about assembling the puzzle of components that Steve needed for his job. Within 5 minutes the 2 of them did what would have taken Steve about 30 minutes of frustration to do and he is eternally grateful to them. That small section of tangled pipes and brass and pressure valves is now safe and updated but there are thousands of metres of aging pipe that still remain and we are afraid…we are VERY afraid…

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Here’s the finished kefir grains in stasis in their milk powder. Wendy will get most of these and if anyone else is curious about kefir or would like to try some please let me know. From now on my excess grains will be “free to a good home” anywhere in the world 🙂

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This last photo for my post is to show you my 5kg sack of “juicing apples”. Can you see anything wrong with them? Neither can I! I have eaten quite a few already and still nothing to show me why they were separated for different treatment aside from them being somewhat smaller than what you would expect. For $5 for 5kg I will take small thankyou! You can also see the kefir grains and my enormous glass jar that I was given by a previous employer along with many more. I worked in a deli and they got lots of huge glass jars containing antipasto ingredients and didn’t want them. I got a lot of lovely big jars and still have some to this day. I can’t remember what was in this jar but pretty soon it will be full to the brim with 2 enormous cabbages and 1.5kg of shredded carrots worth of kimchi. The folded blanket to the rear was a gift from my wonderful daughters. I wrap it around me every morning while I am waiting for Brunhilda to heat up the kitchen after her overnight slumber. It is MOST appreciated and Bezial says that if I put it down anywhere lower than the table he is going to steal it 😉

Bezial just got up and decided to take advantage of his sofa in the prime position right next to Brunhilda. Her balmy warmth is his until Earl decides to brave the day and shoves him from his lofty position. Today I shovel poo and I make kimchi in a huge jar that I forgot I owned till I went hunting in the empty granny flat behind our daughters home that is littered with leftover “stuff” from our moving here and our emptying out dads “stuff”. I carried the jar reverently home and pulled my precious cup of remaining kimchi out of the fridge ready to inoculate my new batch. I have to chop up 2 large cabbages, about 1 ½ kilos of carrots need to be shredded and a whole lot of garlic needs to be crushed to be added with lots of chilli and ginger to form the basis for what is going to ferment and bubble away in Steve’s shed for the next few months. Steve won’t let me keep my kimchi in the house after I added sea vegetables (for added nutrition) to my first batch and it smelled like a dead fish on a hot tin roof. Sadly it will fester away in the shed but I am happy in the knowledge that no matter where it rests, it will do its thing and I will someday take my place in the process and reap the benefits of being part of another small cycle of life. See you all Saturday when that pile of hard work will be merely a muscle memory and where my kimchi will already be starting to “BLOOP” its first fermented sea scented burps of life…aren’t cycles wonderful? :o)

Finally here is Steve’s latest animation complete with sound. We have certainly come a long way with Flash ;). Hopefully you can all see this, Steve is rightfully very proud of his little project 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocA6y8O3Dlg&feature=youtu.be

 

When someone else’s memories cost you 22 dollars

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The first garage sale house of the day , isn’t that a lovely maple

Hi All,

Fran is very busy today so I am posting the photos and captions for them ok so its my fault not hers 🙂

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Garage sale dogs like junk yard dogs but they are after the junk 🙂

What is it about “artefacts” that makes us curious and want to fossick around? It’s the same thing that has us wanting to pull up the collective psychiatrists couch whenever people reminisce and say “tell us more…” Today’s post is all about “What I got at The Progressive Garage Sale” a small thesis of less than (I PROMISE) 2800 words but my introduction is about the value of collective memories and how important they are to society as a whole (and that, I am reserving for my REAL thesis! 😉 ). I got a memo that my sister Pinky of http://cathyandchucky.com/ blogging fame had posted another post. I love using an RSS Feed Reader; it does all the hard work for me and keeps my email account free of post reminders. In her latest post she shared a magnificent chunky lamb shank soup that she has been making for many years. I remember the torn out page from the Australian woman’s weekly magazine that she took the recipe from being carefully folded up and covered in indeterminate stains. I wrote the recipe out myself because this soup is a winner. The mug that she used for her soup was one of the enormous mugs that I used for my (buckets) cups of tea while we chatted. Pictures and “things” are what memories are made of.

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This is where we bought our computer throne from a few years ago (see past posts)

In saying that, I just bought a stack of past and future “memories”.  I paid $22 Aussie dollars for a whole stack of other people’s memories that I can only begin to wonder about. Our adventure began a few weeks ago when we remembered that pretty soon the annual progressive garage sale would be upon us for another year. We stumbled across the very first on 2 years ago when we were heading out to walk the dogs. If it wasn’t for the very first progressive garage sale, we wouldn’t have Big Yin and his original cohorts. We bought them as teeny little chicks and today they are the equivalent of Somalian pirates on Serendipity Farm…no sooner do you set foot outside the safety of your back gate and attempt to navigate the high seas of Serendipity Farm then you are set upon by wayfaring pirates attempting to rob you of everything of worth. The first year we spent a fair bit at the progressive garage sale. There were lots of vendors and plenty of bargains to be had and our chooks (8 in all) added to the cost. Last year we spent $27 and ended up with a higgledy piggledy mass of “stuff” to delight my hoarding heart. This year we spend $22 and despite the few vendors who had decided to take part we were still able to arrive back home laden with goodies

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Fran caught unawares by my lens 🙂

We had contacted the lovely Lisa of obvious Scottish heritage who runs the Artisan gallery and who appears to be the poor lost soul that got stuck with organising this massive event each year. Last year she had a list of garage sales that you could print out and head directly to with a short list of what they were offering. This year she was a bit savvier and only gave the list out on Friday evening. The problem is that here in Tassie we have more than our fair share of “traders”…markets, antique sellers and general EBay vultures who like to predate garage sales, auctions and house clearance sales with a view to robbing them blind and making the maximum profit. They descend on garage sales 2 hours before the assigned time and try to get the very best for the very cheapest. Vendors are sick to death of them but they are like seagulls at the tip, unfortunately inevitable.

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What a lovely garden this is in autumn

This year, a group of local Kayena dwellers decided to tag onto the end of the garage sale and we headed up to check it out. I managed to get an Italian glass litre wine carafe for $1 that I am now using for my homemade non-dairy milk. I also bought a stainless steel teapot/jug, a copy of a wonderful Permaculture book and a 1971 “Mrs Beeton’s cookbook in colour” for 50c each. I noticed a stone bottle that now lives in Steve’s room for $1 and I got about 10kg of various types of apples for $3. All in all a very good start to the day. I decided that if we didn’t get anything else in the entire garage sale, this one stop was worth driving to. Aside from getting some great bargains, we met the man that bought my brothers property over in Kayena and who owns the local school bus route. He and his wife are very nice people and he told me that whenever I fancy some horse or cow manure, I just had to call and he would let me collect as much as I like! Considering this man owns most of the farmland in Sidmouth, Rowella and Kayena (along with a share in the local dairy) I figure the supply might just be big enough for my aspirations! ;). Apparently the vultures had turned up to this garage sale at 7.30…sigh…

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This is all the house the chair came from , its nice eh

We continued on to the next garage sale at Iron Pot Bay winery. We arrived at 8.55am and slowly walked down the driveway to be met by an irate elderly man who told us in no uncertain terms to “PISS OFF!” We thought that he was joking at first, but after he told us that “This bloody garage sale doesn’t start till 9am!” and I said “Ok…so we will just wait here then…” and he said “no you bloody well won’t! You can head right back up that driveway quick smart!”…O…K…SOMEONE woke up on the wrong side of the bed! I dare say the vultures had been predating since 7am and this elderly gentleman had just about had enough! Steve wasn’t in the mood to be garage saling at this residence after our less than lukewarm welcome so we headed off to the next stop post haste!

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not sure why the time is this but it must mean something to the owners

We arrived at the next garage sale (after checking that it was AFTER 9am…fool us once! 😉 ) where we got my blackwood throne (my computer chair) for $2 last year and managed to score a large cray pot for $5 and a wonderful wrought iron old single bed head for $2. We couldn’t take them with us because we had the dogs with us (they were “supposedly” behaving and we would take them to the beach as a reward for all of the stops…) and so I waved goodbye to my bargains and Steve was going to head back to pick them up after dropping us at home after we had finished garage saling and walking the dogs. The rest of the garage sales seemed to be condensed into a single neighbourhood and we walked to most of them. I could hear a grumpy man armed with what must have been most of the garage sale that we were heading to saying to his wife “she TOLD me I could have it for $5!”… It would seem that the antique brass plaque that he was toting might have cost him a teensy bit more? Oh how TERRIBLE sir? 😉

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Liquid ambers at there best

I was more interested in taking photos of the delicious autumn colours than I was in hunting. I was already more than happy with the bargains that we had bought and by the time we arrived at the Deviot Hall we met Jenny, our friend from the bush who had just found a small folding table and 2 enormous wisteria poles for a bargain price. She was going one way…we were going the other and so we headed off to see what was still on offer at either end of the spectrum. After finding a few more small bargains including a nice stainless steel “Coffee” canister that now contains my tea-bags (tea thieves beware!) we headed off to the beach much to the relief of Earl and Bezial who were WELL over our ridiculous need to stop and start every 5 minutes when it was more than obvious we were headed to “THE BEACH!”

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Pretty house isn’t it

By the time we got to said beach, the dogs were overexcited and practically jumped into the front with us before we stopped the car. We had a lovely “drag” around Paper Beach and I collected some lovely smooth beach pebbles. We might not have lovely white sand like the beaches in Western Australia (or the East coast of Tassie for that matter…) but what we lack in pristine white, we make up for in gorgeous smooth pebbles and rocks. Swings and roundabouts…  I have been surreptitiously collecting the odd pebble here and there whenever we walk on the beach and put them in my potted plants and dot them around our home. I am a quintessential reformed pack rat who has a need to collect. I try to give away as much as I collect now to redress the balance quotient but the need is still strong in this (not so) young padawan.

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Wish our drive was like this oh and that’s our cray pot in the shot 😉

We arrived home triumphant and while I took photos and then put our bargains to work for us Steve headed back to pick up our craypot and bed head. The craypot is not situated on our deck stairs and the bedhead is going to become an ornate gate down in the garden dividing one secret garden from the next. The only thing that hasn’t quite found a place to live yet is a small watercolour painting that I picked up for $2. I just liked it. Someone had gifted this original artwork to someone else and it has an inscription on the back…more memories that obviously weren’t all that important any more. Time to create some new memories with my bargains and take them off on another tangent on Serendipity Farm and as most of them won’t be being used for the purpose for which they were created; at least they will get a second chance in the great memories sweepstakes

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colours of nature are so bright

It’s raining on Serendipity Farm. Nothing unexpected about rain in autumn but this is our first real rainy day in ages and it came smack bang on the day that we were all going to head into the city to accomplish an amazing array of “stuff”…does anyone else get the feeling that someone out there has a great sense of humour? ;). The dogs are now sulking because they were expecting to go to town and have a ball and I am sulking because “I” was expecting to go to town and have a ball but in the end, the trailer got disconnected and poor Steve had to go to town and do everything himself. There are benefits in that he will be back a good 3 hours before we would have otherwise been back and when he gets in, I can take over putting things away, unloading groceries and dividing up the dogs meat into meal sized portions for the freezer. As carbon savvy consumers we tend not to use our car much these days. We walk the dogs locally most of the time and only use the car if we need to go further afield than our 2 feet are willing to take us. A 100km round trip is out of the question and so sulking dogs and a less than impressed “Fran” remain at home.

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More hunters

Steve will be pricing up timber for making 2 custom low seating units either side of Brunhilda. We don’t want to waste space and are designing wood storage into these units. They will be predominately for the dogs to use as beds over winter but will be great for stretching out and reading a book on our cold days. This rain might have forced me indoors but it is also soaking the rock hard soil where we need to dig holes and will make our job tomorrow a whole lot easier. Steve and I have trepidations about digging holes on Serendipity Farm. We know, from past experience, that digging a “hole” is a whole lot harder than it might initially sound. Our soil is littered with rocks of various sizes and 20cm down we have solid yellow clay that you could make pots out of. It’s probably what has kept us on track with our studies…we had 2 choices…”study” or “dig a hole”…studying won! ;). We can’t put it off any longer and as founding members of the Serendipity Farm procrastinators society we have both agreed (after a few cups of tea, hanging a load of washing out, baking some biscuits and tinkering around in the shed…) to get stuck into digging some holes. Once the holes are dug it will be somewhat smooth sailing, it’s just the digging of the holes that has us twitching.

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Apparently these people camped out in anticipation lol

I have 35 photos to share with you all today so I might just leave this post a little shorter than usual. I am going to head off now and do something positive with the rest of my morning before Steve gets back home. I might do some dusting…the spiders have been getting cheeky lately and I think it is time to remind them that we have a mutual agreement…I let them eat our flies and they keep their webs to the corners of the room…I noticed one festooned across the ceiling yesterday so time to make the advancing hoards retreat! See you all on Wednesday folks :o)

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Some spoils of the hunt

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Treasure and some nice apples

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22$ can go a long way

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Ahh crays ahead

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This will become a gate one day soon

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Apparently I like pot ….

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Finally finished and Bezials happy

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A very pretty vine on our way to the beach

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Beach stones Fran loves stones

A little reminder of winter in the middle of summer …

Hi All,

There is beauty in a rainy, grey day folks. When you look outside and the whole garden resonates and shimmers in heat stress and you can see the leaves curling up in an attempt to save that life giving sap a day of cloud crying is a blessing. I am sitting here listening to the rain fall on the tin roof. It’s a glorious sound and I can almost hear the garden singing Vivaldi’s 4 seasons (all of them!) as it steadily pounds the roof…”Keep it up chaps…you are all doing very well!”…funny how the rain brings out the old Blighty in me ;).  I love rainy weather. You won’t find me complaining about it (aside from how the leeches suddenly reconstitute from their benign one dimensional stasis and turn into 3 dimensional sluggy vampires…). I have my wonderful winter rituals carefully tucked away, wrapped in mental tissue paper because these precious processes sustain me through the cold winter months. I love waking up nice and early in the dark…to be honest it doesn’t get light till quite late in winter so this could be accomplished even if I slept in, but there is something magical about getting up hours before the rest of the household…special time to yourself and most precious to me now. Soon, I won’t have to spend this time alone. Brunhilda, who is currently semi naked and being painted and primped ready for her coming 10 months of solid hard work, will be my constant companion. I missed her. I missed waking up and throwing a few sticks onto the slumbering behemoth that is “fire” on Serendipity Farm. I totally “get” why cavemen were so enamoured of it…fire is the bomb people! That early morning crackle of the first few tinder dry twigs as Brunhilda has her breakfast and rev’s up for the day. We learned how to feed her slowly and regularly last year. In our first year she suffered indigestion thanks to our constant stuffing and her constant overheating…last year we honed our relationship with Brunhilda and we know how to keep her lean, mean and keen… I can’t wait till that crackling companionship returns. This morning it is dark, raining and cold and I feel the lack of crackle keenly. I get to keep the kettle on the side of the stove…I fill it up at night before I go to bed (I LOVE processes 😉 ) and just move the already warm kettle to the flame and suddenly that first and only cup of tea becomes part of the process of awakening and lends my winters days a real sense of being grateful for my lot. Our water heats through the back of Brunhilda…we don’t have to worry about gas bottles…she does it gratis. She will allow me to dry things out and keep things warm in her lower ovens…she is a most gracious friend. She never once let me down last year…she never once refused any of my requests…she may have added her personal touch of a bit of “caramelisation” but to her credit, I should have read her better…we share a mutual relationship together…Brunhilda and I are mano-a-mano, kindred spirits and our symbiosis is what makes winter on Serendipity Farm a privilege rather than something to be endured…that’s Steve’s job…”winter endurance”…well SOMEONE has to chop the wood! 😉

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A weedy Passiflora caerulea (Blue Passion Flower) that we found recently on a long walk…the fruit is juicy and sweet but quite bland

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The vine we picked the passionfruit from

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Our friend in the witness protection gave me a large bag full of snow peas from her enclosed veggie garden. Some of them had gone over to the dark side and I decided to keep them for seed to grow next year. The stapler and tape are most probably what Steve has come up with to graft my poor jam spoons 😦

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A nice bright hippy shop…our friend in the witness protection and I (and Steve for that matter) are all old hippies and this sort of shop attracted us in like moth’s to a flame…

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A lovely little street display to lure passers by into a small garden shop

Steve’s birthday (Sunday) was spent doing what he wanted to do including alternating between playing his guitar whilst watching television and wandering out to the shed to make teaspoons out of wood. He is truly addicted to making wooden things and has plans for all sorts of creations. He recently saw a gardening dibbler and wants to make them now. I, for one, am not complaining. I tend to get the prototypes as part and parcel of his efforts and have some pretty interesting things that his most creative mind has come up with including a wonderful enormous teaspoon with a carved bowl on one end and a spike on the other for negotiating my VitaMix blender. He is working on making me another long teaspoon but this one will have a small bladed scraper on the other end to allow me to get the little bits out from underneath the blade (that take so long to remove)…it is positively blissful having a talented husband who can make things :o). Steve also spent yesterday dictating what he wanted for his birthday tea…”I want fried rice…and I want curry…like in the fish and chip shops in the U.K…and I want sticky date pudding for dessert…” Expat’s tend to get teary eyed at things that they used to buy from the local “chippies”. We get fish, and chips and the odd dim sim and potato cake from our local fish and chip shops but in the U.K. they had pickled eggs, pickled onions, curry sauce to go with their chips and all sorts of odd things! Never one to shirk my duties we fired up Brunhilda and made the lot! Steve had a great day and will most probably have a hard time getting out of bed as he had as much red wine as a teetotal wine lover could imbibe without falling over sideways…birthdays are barleys apparently! 😉

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This Asian beauty was parked out the front of a small country shop that we passed on the way to Wychwood…the locals are certainly “characters” ;)…Rose Porteous anyone? It would appear to be her shoes…

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A little leaf hopper that fell in love with my finger when we stopped to admire some gorgeous Rugosa roses in a small park…

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Isn’t this a glorious garden bird feeder? I fell in love with the garden art placed strategically and most tastefully around Wychwood

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Another beautiful castle bird feeder complete with copper turret

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The small kitchen garden at Wychwood which was a mix of traditional and interesting veggies along with lots of beneficial attracting plants and flowers

It’s raining in Queensland and they are drowning in the results. I read a few Queensland blogs and it seems so ironic that on Saturday they were bone dry and one blogger was about to sell her cows and suddenly it’s time to build an ark. Australia isn’t an easy country to farm in. You can try to find a property where the conditions are somewhat even but then something happens…drought, flood, fire and you lose everything. Farmers have to be the most optimistic people alive. They keep on keeping on long after the ever ready bunny batteries have run out and they deserve more than what they get because they truly are the backbone of our world. It is a bitter irony that people are so removed from their food supply and have no idea that the plethora of items available on their supermarket shelves once started life as an ingredients list of humble primary produced items (unless they are aimed at children and then they are usually 100% man-made from artificial chemicals and glow in the dark…) Today I did it. Yes…”IT”. I actually managed to get through my rss feed read blogs nice and early with time to spare to tap away at this post in advance. How did I do it? I woke up at 4am! I am already considering continuing on with waking up at what will be 4am in April when the clocks go back. I find myself scrambling to get through my rss feed reader blogs, answer the comments for the blog and write lucid and relevant comments for particularly beneficial posts on the blogs that I follow and 4am seems to be the magical number that keeps recurring…4am isn’t for chumps…it is for dedicated maniacs who are addicted to lists and doing things the right way…I have to blame the latent German in my genes. It has been watered down with good old Blighty tempering and a smattering of Scottish blood but the German is strong in this specimen young padawan and my list making, tidy, clean line desires cannot be denied. “You put that back in the cupboard wrong!…Why oh WHY did you leave that there?…no…you have to do “X” before “Y”…” sigh…I love order and I hate chaos and often my order collides with Steve’s need for chaos and the inevitable result is explosive (on my side) and a visit to the shed (on Steve’s side)…no wonder he has started making wooden things! 😉

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A most interesting grass maze located near Mole Creek at the outer edge of Wychwood

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I purchased some organic turmeric from a local health food shop and FINALLY it is starting to grow!

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My little Moringa oleifera looking decidedly happy with it’s lot in the heat of the glasshouse

Steve and I spend our lives together pretty much 24/7. We have been living like this since he moved here from the U.K. We are both reclusive hermits and obviously reasonably well suited or we would have killed each other by now. No retirement problems for us…our friend in the witness protection has been having some pretty spectacular fights with her partner but when talking about them on our recent road trip she made an interesting correlation…”I just noticed (she said)…that all of our big fights just so happen to coincide with Glen being home for an extended period of time!”… Is it any wonder that so many people end up divorced when they retire? Steve and I are learning to accept that we are complete polar opposites. I can’t even begin to fathom how his brain works, but work it does and he seems to be able to navigate some pretty choppy water with that brain whether I can understand the processes or not so I am willing to concede that there are other ways of doing things than the way that my mind takes me when I process my information and churn out the results. The problem is that we both think that our process is the best…we spend a lot of time trying to push our idea and in the process completely miss out on the opportunity to join together to form a formidable self-contained yin/yang idea that would knock the socks off the project that we are making. One day we will learn, but for now, we are still in “work together” kindergarten and making very VERY slow progress 😉

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Nothing gets wasted on Serendipity Farm and that includes avocado seeds. These 3 small trees are all the result of previous avocado consumption and go to show just how easy it is to grow them. We have quite a few home grown avocado plants that we will plant out in Autumn

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I found this picture on a blog that I follow…After I got up off the floor from rolling around there in hysterics I asked if I could use this photo in my blog…guess whose chooks are going to be wearing beanies in the latest fall colours this year…

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Ah the elastic band spine of youth! 😉

I have a cure for all you insomniac’s out there…get up at 5am, walk all over the place and go to bed after 9pm. Simple really. If you think that 5am is NO place for a civilised hipster like yourself to be inhabiting you are where I was a few years ago. I didn’t surface till 8am when I expected a cup of tea in bed, about 30 minutes “eye time” (our expression for lazy bollocks that doesn’t want to get up yet) and the pained expression of dogs who know that a walk is just around the corner but who have to be a little bit polite as otherwise those morning dog treats might dry up and blow away… now I not only get up and have 2 hours to myself…2 precious hours where I can read whatever I like when my mind is active and raring to go…but I fill that mind with all sorts of possibilities…I have my morning processes sorted out before I deliver Steve’s morning coffee after 7am and am raring to go…I even beat the dogs to the punch line! We walk the dogs for at least 1 1/2 hours a day and where I used to be a “STEEEEEVE…can you take these to the shed? Can you get me “such and such” can you put this compost in the compost bin?” Now I walk there myself. Steve doesn’t need the exercise, he has spindle shanks that will never see an ounce of fat but my legs need double the attention being my chief fat storage areas and stubborn fat releasers at that…so I walk to the compost bin up next to the veggie garden…I walk out to the shed, several times because I am always forgetting to bring something from or take something to the chest freezer out there, I walk down the driveway with Earl who needs more than a single walk or he eats furniture (or at least threatens to…whoever said that dogs are stupid…doesn’t have a dog!)…I walk back up the driveway (2 times up our driveway in a day is enough to make anyone knackered!)…I sometimes just go out for a walk around the place just for fun! I don’t even wait to go to bed before I am asleep…”Wake up Fran!”…that’s Steve’s Hue and Cry these days before I stagger off to sleepily brush my teeth (too tired to even consider looking for wrinkles in the mirror BONUS!), head to the foot of the bed (Bezial has already stolen my pillow at the top of the bed and no point arguing with a 40kg Amstaff who is sulking for the queen…too tired!) where you have left a pillow (happens a lot…sigh…) and flop into bed…Wait for Earl to trot in 2 seconds later and you might or might not remember Steve giving you a kiss goodnight but within 3 minutes you are out like a light…Insomnia…you used to be shackled to me…you ran roughshod over my nights where you pounded me with my secret fears (December 2012…old age…death…) but I don’t have time to lay awake contemplating my aging lack of a navel (don’t ask…just believe me…I have NO belly button 😉 ), I am out like a light…and not only do I not need sedatives, but falling into bed and blissful sleep is delicious! Truly folks, if you have exhausted your body and given it more than enough food for thought at 5am it rewards you with the most amazing sense of blissful achievement coupled with the heady beauty of “rest”. Cheers old books, whoever coined the phrase “Early to bed and Early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” was giving truly sage advice…(aside from “a man” and “wealthy” I totally agree!)

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Serendipity Farm cucumbers…99% water…1% purest “Green”…

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Steve found a recipe for making lightly pickled cucumbers and this is the result…they are really tasty and well worth donating a percentage of our purest green to

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Steve has taken a left turn at Albuquerque and has headed off into teaspoons and spice spoons and has visions of plant dibblers, tatting shuttles, earings, pendants and some amazing wooden guitar picks…he gets bored easily 😉

Well it’s a nice early post from me and it’s chilly outside and Brunhilda is lit and everything is right in our world (for the time being…) so I might try to hold my eyelids open and read a Patricia Cornwell or Ruth Rendell book…I have both, taken out of the library on a wistful whim that I might have time to read them and both calling me from their lofty position in the spare room. Reading is good for your soul…about time I did more of it :o). See you on Saturday when I will share the lengths at which 2 penniless hippies will go to in order to stop a small battalion of most determined chickens from escaping from Alcatraz…

The rambunctiousness of Ravens

Hi All,

Does anyone else feel like they won lotto when they go to the library? It’s a treasure trove of knowledge and literature and my go-to place to withdraw myself a bank load of mental dollar bills. The library ladies both know me now…I used to attend Polytechnic in my first year and a half of studies and Helen; one of the library ladies was a “minder” (for want of a better word) for a disabled young man who was a bit of a handful. I think working at the library would be a gentle breeze after trying to manage a most determined, exuberant and often aggressive young man. The other library lady (whose name I am not privy to…) is also very nice. She knows me because I am the library patron who can’t be seen as she enters the doorway because of the staggering tower of returns that she is balancing precariously in a circus worthy attempt to have them all arrive on the library counter in one fell swoop…”Hello Fran”…and I am in! Aside from Nigel Slater’s entire back catalogue that I pre-ordered on my best friend “TALIS” (the state-wide library website where you can peruse to your heart’s content and order whilst wearing your pyjamas, eating toast at 6am and scratching yourself in a most satisfactory manner…all frowned on in the actual library but completely allowed when utilising TALIS)…The tiny space contains adventitious books…books that have been ordered and returned to the library in a most clever sustainable practice that the states libraries have decided to embrace where the book stays in its orderee’s library until it is requested again…I am severely tempted to order my 15 allowable books, Steve’s 15 allowable books and borrow my daughters 2 cards as well and keep ordering books to see just how many books the tiny rural kiosk of Exeter could physically handle but aside from being a reasonably nice person, I am far too lazy to apply myself with fervour to a task that doesn’t actually result in anything other than the annoyance of the library ladies and a breakdown in the relationship that I have built with them.

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As we were walking the dogs just outside our front gate we noticed the black “pirate ship” motoring underneath the Batman Bridge and decided to watch it head back out to sea. Apparently it is heading down to the Hobart wooden boat rally but it certainly cut a fine figure through the water on its way

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Bezial’s old walking haunt “The Swamp”. Just mentioning it makes his ears prick up and his tail wag and the other day we walked the boys around this wetland area that is subject to regular high tides that cover these pathways and keep the vegetation lush

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Steve, Bezial and Earl walking nonchalantly past this wonderful Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) pretending that Steve isn’t at ALL interested in whether or not it has any seed pods on it this year as he may or may not have taken advantage of its seedy goodness in years past…

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Not quite “flame” but an example of the brillian colour of the flowers that bedeck the entire tree and make it a stunning street tree

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Seed pods! Steve may or may not be predating these seed pods on an indetermined day in the near future (is that vague enough do you think? 😉 )

I was able to take “Vegan Pie In The Sky” out again because it is a wonderful eclectic collection of delicious vegan desserts that certainly piqued my interest. I also took out another book again…The book is called “The Wilderness Garden” by one Jackie French. I have talked about Ms French before. She was a doyen of organic wackiness back in the 80’s before organic became the creed of the hipster. She wore weird hats made of vegetables and was larger than life…another larger than life lady whom I admire immensely is Ms Dawn French (note the last name…)…both ladies were once larger than life and have minimised themselves down to postage stamps…both ladies have out of this world senses of humour and each sports a healthy attitude of themselves and appear to be optimistic about the world around them and both are writers…what is the difference between them? Well 1 can write amazingly well and has a plethora of extremely useful tomes for the adventurous gardener and the other one can’t write herself out of a paper bag…I am sorry Ms French (you KNOW which one you are)…I am still smarting for having my faith in your ability to write so cruelly dashed by the sad piece of pulp fiction that I forced myself to read a chapter off not so long ago…my sensibilities STILL hurt ma’am!…the other Ms French had me enthralled from the moment I set my eyes inside The Wilderness Garden…the problem was I was first setting eyes on this wonderful book whilst sitting in the car waiting to take it back to the library! Christmas…you robbed me of my reading time! When I realised just how precious this book was to me I asked the library lady if there was a chance that I could renew it and apparently I could because I have this precious piece of life changing literature sitting in front of me on the computer desk as I type this post and I am gloating for all I am worth! It’s one of those “I am going to have to buy this” books. It deals with turning your property into a food forest for yourself and the local wildlife and living in harmony with the insects, the birds and the cycles…it promises no more fighting nature. Indeed it positively radiates with natural harmony and it also promises something more precious than integrated cycles…it promises that once the garden is established, it will be drought hardy, it will be extremely diverse, it will handle temperature extremes, it will allow us to grow a range of tropical plants on our property and most importantly it WILL work here in our Australian conditions… and you know why I have faith that it will? Because Ms French has been walking the walk for over 40 years now and knows what she is talking about.

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An avenue of very healthy looking trees in a back alley in Launceston

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Bezial having an adventitious drink of water from this fountain outside the library in Launceston

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Earl discovering that jumping up onto this “bench” might not have been such a good idea after all…

I will be immersing myself in The Wilderness Garden…I will be doing what Ms French endorses and I will be reporting back to you all with my results. You might have to stick around for a while though… it won’t happen tomorrow or next week and indeed some of the processes outlined in the book take years but it promises progress, honest cycles of fecundity (what a wonderful word!) and a sense of harmony with those cycles that is redolent with what we humans are supposed to live like. Ms French lives on just about 2 hectares (the same size as Serendipity Farm). She grows approximately 270 different kinds of fruit and the woman makes sense! Everything that flies from the page fits with my ethos and how I feel about the world. Ms French, you are my new gardening guru! Move over Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall… this lady is singing my song, in my country and with my conditions… consider this rat a ship jumper!

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I completely forgot about these senna seed pods and this little succulent that I collected ages ago…it just goes to show you how resilient succulents are!

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Redwood island where Steve likes to fish. You can disembark onto the island and fish from their if you like and it’s a lovely spot to have a picnic

You learn a whole lot about the world around you when you take the time to stop what you are doing and observe it. We knew that it was going to be a big year for the red-eye cicadas because of their breeding cycle and we were not disappointed when they started tuning up the band this year for their massive month long chorus of clicking. When we first noticed this phenomenon 5 years ago when dog minding for my father while he was still alive we only associated it with the heatwave that came with them. This year we have the obligatory heatwave but we also have time to pay attention to this most interesting cycle and how it benefits the local wildlife, specifically birds. I know that red-eye must taste alright because I found a dead one that I was going to take some photos of and Earl ate it. We had seen an influx of Australian Ravens on Serendipity Farm and thought that they were breeding but it would seem that they were here for the sexagenary cycle (5 year cycle that they maintain along with the Chinese…) of plenty. Not only had the raven population suddenly increased, but we started noticing other birds of prey…3 kookaburras, a plethora of cuckoo shrikes, butcher birds and their young and even an adventitious young hawk, all climbing around in the tree canopy to take advantage of the red-eye feast. Like Earl they appear to be particularly fond of these large black cicadas and the hawk had a very interesting way of flushing them out of hiding under the leaves…he beat his wings and cicadas flew out everywhere giving him time to pluck them out of the air around him while he sat on his branch munching. The ravens are particularly funny to watch. Aside from their constant communication, they are a very ordered group and mum and dad spend a lot of time coaxing their young to hunt for this free bounty of fat and protein. I have an affinity with ravens. Any bird with obvious intelligence is alright by me and ravens have it in bucket loads. Just head over to Youtube and check out “Ravens” and you can see some amazing birds using their minds to solve problems.

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An interesting selection of “stuff” in a wheelbarrow

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A nice big roll of ex-fish farm netting that needs to be cut in half with that little sharp knife inside that blue pouch so that we can protect the maple garden from predatory possums and wandering wallabies

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Back to that wheelbarrow of “stuff”…I have already planted out the red clover and am just about to take advantage of a little curveball that a glut of potatoes handed me…

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What happens when you forget about a 10kg sack of potatoes in the back of your pantry. After opening the bag and seeing their little tendrils waving at me I decided to make the most of the situation and use the new compost heap to grow some spuds! I used that wheelbarrow of organic compost to cover them…

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The spuds are now covered in organic compost and dead grass clippings and oak leaves and have been well watered in…lets see what grows 🙂

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Here’s that red clover in it’s heavily fortified tyre home. It didn’t even wilt after being yanked out of the ground in the heat of the day, stuck in a dog pooh bag full of water in the laundry sink for a day and then planted out. Hopefully it spreads its seeds far and wide and we end up covered in red clover!

I have been following a blog site about using container gardening to eliminate hunger. I love proactive blogs that tell you how to change your situation with a bit of spit and elbow grease and usually using items that have been discarded and that are usually free. Knowledge can give you a whole different perspective about what is and isn’t “worthless”. I love finding creative and attractive ways to reuse and repurpose items that would otherwise go into landfill. If you would like to see this amazing blog you can check it out here…

http://desertification.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/food-gardens-found-with-google-earth-science-daily/

and this Facebook page shows a really great re-purpose for wine bottles that we have been hoarding in our small shed in an enormous pile for ages now and that threaten to render us senseless whenever we are foolish enough to venture into the shed to get the lawnmower…we are NOT on the wrong side of alcoholism…we are just cleverly creating prospective art gardens 😉

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=340087336078044&set=a.233384676748311.57857.201890633231049&type=1&relevant_count=1

Steve and I recently saw an ad on a local noticeboard selling “craft wood”. It wouldn’t have interested us in the past but with Steve’s new-found interest in all things woody we took down the number and phoned up. The man that answered the phone is leaving the state and wants to offload his collection of craft wood so Steve will be heading to see him on Monday to potentially stock up on some lovely spoon futures. The seller has different kinds of wood including an orangey yellow wood called Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) that comes from Texas. While we were walking the dogs in Exeter we noticed a large shed at the back of where they have monthly market days where the Tamar Woodworkers Guild meets. Steve is thinking of looking into joining them…after all…who wouldn’t want to join a guild? The only concerns that I have are will he need a jerkin and tights? If so, he is on his own…I can’t sew for peanuts ;). We went to the tip and dumped some more rubbish (yes…it really WAS rubbish 😉 ) and I headed into their rusty container that doubles as a tip shop and found a lovely little glazed clay pot that someone had made with love and care. I can’t believe that anyone would throw out something like that and when I asked the tip manager how much it was, he said “to you…its free!”…so I have another little pot/bowl to add to my hoarded collection and another perfectly useful and attractive item is saved from landfill to my benefit. One day our children’s children are going to dig through our waste piles looking for useful things. They are going to marvel at what we threw away…

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The beginnings of a chunky oak spoon that Steve made for me

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Side on to show you how chunky it is. I like chunky things…they feel solid and reliable and real and I requested “chunky” when Steve asked me what kind of spoon I would like

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I think you will agree it turned out to be a lovely spoon. I especially like the wood markings in the bowl that look like an eye

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Steve’s hand holding the spoon to show the “chunk” 😉

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Steve decided to have a go at making some more “chunkies” from oak including a spatuloon and a spreader that also cuts cheese.

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Here they are finished with a nice rub of orange eco-oil and I really love them :o)

That’s it for today folks…here in extra sunny northern Tasmania it is hot…for Tasmania it is HOT. We don’t get a lot of “hot” but when we do, it tends to be oppressive and coupled with hideous humidity thanks to our endemic greenery. Its days like these where I remember why I don’t live in Tropical far north Queensland! Have a great weekend folks and see you on Wednesday for our cuppa and chat…hopefully it has cooled down a bit by then and we are back on track with our milder than the mainland summer :o)

Bolshie broads and the lessons in a spoon

Hi All,

Steve is up to his eyeballs in wood shavings. He is out in the shed producing spoons out of Serendipity Farm wood. We have been hunting through our wood piles and have managed to find some Cotoneaster wood that is an amazing light fine grained wood much like oak and very hard. Steve is working on one Cotoneaster spoon now and has enough wood for another one and after that he will be working with some native Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis) that we plucked from our huge wicker man pile of wood in the teatree garden. Native Cherry is beautiful pink wood and if the moth larvae have left it alone it should make some very attractive spoons. We have been thinking about the dog’s diet lately as they seem to have fine-tuned it specifically to straight beef steak and each night we offer them a slight variation they turn up their noses and choose not to eat it. The food that we are offering them would be snapped up by most dogs, our boys are just spoiled and we are doing them no favours in the health stakes allowing them to continue eating only beef steak. Dogs, unlike cats, are not designed to eat only meat. They are NOT carnivores and are omnivores like we humans. In saying that…Earl is quite certain that he is the exception to the rule! Bezial is partial to mashed potato so long as there is a LOT of butter folded in. We have decided that we are going to have to do battle with the dogs on their stubborn and steadfast refusal to back down whenever we try to introduce fibre into their diet. We headed over to Georgetown today to pick up a large sack of dog biscuits. Little do the boys know but there are worse things than potatoes… they are just about to be introduced to the dog biscuit diet. For the next 2 weeks they are going to get dog biscuits for their evening meal. I am assured that dogs will only refuse their food until they are really hungry and the only thing wrong with our two is that they are incredibly spoiled and strong willed. Much like children, you have to give them boundaries and our boys are just about to learn an important lesson, refuse your meals at your own expense. Tonight they dine on Dr Harry’s finest ;).

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We visited our daughters today and Beth showed me some photos that they took over Christmas and was kind enough to allow me to share them with you on my blog…this is Qi. She is the queen of her street and God help ANYONE walking past on the footpath that she doesn’t like. Here you can see her performing a most useful trick for the camera…this trick has been known to get her all manner of tasty treats in the past… if it aint broke…don’t fix it!

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One of Bethany’s chalk drawings on a blackboard in her room…both girls are very talented artists

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Qi waiting for her Aunty Madeline to return from the shop before she is presumably allowed to get stuck into those presents under the tree!

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A white chocolate cake Buche Noel complete with chocolate acorns and a chocolate maple leaf on top

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Christmas dinner well underway…

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A mustard glazed ham covered in fruity goodness

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This cake has NOTHING to do with Christmas but everything to do with carrot cake deliciousness…it would seem that the girls artistic abilities drizzle over into their culinary triumphs as well :). Well done girls! I would sink my teeth into this beauty any day!

Another spoon has found its way out of a chunk of aged Tasmanian oak and into spoon form. Steve has decided to share his spoon making with me and has bravely taken on the task of teaching me to find spoons inside wood. He makes it seem so easy…a line here…a shave there…a bit of a look and the application of an auger bit or a hand held rasp and suddenly there it is…beautiful in its simplicity with smooth sides and wonderful grain. I have decided to make small spoons. Until today, I had wondered why you don’t see small wooden spice and condiment spoons apart from those mass manufactured Chinese imports but I now know that the return that you would get on them is far outweighed by their fiddly nature. I like fiddly things. I like untying knots in things, unravelling wool and Christmas lights. I like the process of taking something exasperating and releasing the calm. It’s a pity I can’t find it in myself to do the same thing but that is another story ;). Making smaller spoons allows me to use the offcuts from Steve’s bigger spoons, minimising the waste and allowing the wood to yield a lot more bang/spoon for our metaphorical buck. While I was digging through Steve’s offcut bucket I noticed a very large spoon blank that had been partially formed. When I say large…this blank was 2 ½ feet (76cm) long and extremely chunky. Steve had apparently discovered a bit of a flaw where the spoon basin meets the handle and tossed it (in his own words) “into the too hard basket”. I looked at this behemoth of a spoon and immediately felt an instant camaraderie. I, too, am a bit of a handful spoon. I am a bolshie broad. I don’t fit easily into societal moulds and bits of me hang over the side protesting loudly and waving banners and the spoon inside that massive chunk of wood called out to me and the deal was sealed. Forget those little spoons for a bit, my very first spoon is going to be a massive great Blackwood ladle. I used our Dremel and a special carving bit to remove all of the spoon that didn’t want to be there…I know it didn’t want to be there because I asked it. The spoon guided me around it saying “Don’t take that bit, I need that!” and “gently…gently…GENTLY! Can’t you understand spoonese?”… As I carefully pared all of the bits that weren’t spoon away, saving the sawdust for using in my compost bucket to minimise smells and maximise the suite of organisms that infest our compost pile, I thought about how Steve goes about making his spoons and how very different our processes were. We both let the spoon talk, but Steve let the spoon “out”…I think I have a bit too much of my German heritage in me to let some mad artist take over the status quo and I like simplicity, order and symmetry. Steve’s spoon has curves, angles and wends its way into being. My spoon is solid, heavy, deep and should last centuries even if it gets used to repel boarders on more than one occasion.

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A chunk of dry cotoneaster we culled from Serendipity Farm. Steve uses his chainsaw to cut a sliver from the side of the log and then runs it through his thicknesser to make a thick plank. He then draws a spoony outline onto the wood and cuts out the shape with his jigsaw

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After some serious rasping and shaping with an auger bit on an angle grinder he removes all of the bits of spoon that aren’t “spoon”…

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Almost finished aside from the handle and the final sandpapering

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Hows this for a massive great chunk of Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood)? This is MY spoon/ladle and over the next few weeks I will be slowly allowing it to take shape (or…I will hurl it in a fit of pique across the shed where it will remain until some rodenty creature adds it’s own mark to my shame! 😉 )

I love to think of the spoons that we are creating heading off into the kitchens of friends and family. I love to think of the continuity and the simple day to day use that these spoons will be part of. Stirring preserves and jams while the kitchen resonates with discussion and music or simply being part of it all…these spoons will see kitchens that I will never see…they will be privy to amazing celebrations and the darkest moments in someone’s life. Babies might cut their teeth on the ends of these spoons, harvests will be put up, and stews will be stirred, strange regional specialties that I can only marvel at will be spun into existence and all from a chunk of Serendipity Farm wood that was destined for the fire. I thought about attempting to embellish them but something stopped me… most probably the inner German who likes things simple, unadorned and classic and that wants these hand crafted spoons to find their own voices and speak for themselves. I can see this becoming something that Steve and I can share. We are so very different and our interests are incredibly variable but this is one thing that we can do together, side by side in the shed and sharing a common bond of creation. It is going to take a LONG time for my ladle to emerge. It has promised to fight me every step of the way but in so doing, it promises to give me some precious life lessons in that process. I sometimes think that we bypass so many opportunities to learn and grow in life because they are tossed into the “Too Hard Basket”. It might be time for us to go back there and pick something out and give it a go…see if you can’t find whatever it is that exists inside your chosen chunk of life and pare away everything that isn’t it. In so doing, you might just find something precious

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This is the spoon that Steve made for Christi to give to her daughter who is getting married. It’s made of Tasmanian oak and has a very classic shape. It’s hard to get too artistic when you don’t know the person that you are making the spoon for and although this spoon started out with some “interesting” collar bones that Steve swears the spoon told him it needed, my Germanic need for Art Deco simplicity came to the fore and said collarbones are now only a memory (you can thank me later Molly! 😉 )

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The chunk of aged Tasmanian oak board that Steve used to create this spoon…another reason why we should take to heart the lesson “you should never judge a book by it’s cover…”

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We ran out of Eco oil (a blend of edible orange and tung oil) to finish the 2 spoons that Steve made but you can see them here with Christ’s winning spoon almost ready to be finished and sent and being guarded by Mr Steve Vai himself 😉

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And here they are after a nice rub over with Eco oil. It really brings out the natural beauty in these spoons. The first spoon is the cotoneaster spoon, the second is the Tasmanian oak spoon and the third is Christi’s winning spoon in Blackwood. We will send them next week and I hope that you enjoy them girls 🙂

I got the book that I won from Emily over at “Sincerely, Emily” in the mail today. If you would like to see a cracking way to use up some of your zucchini’s this season, check out her latest post that pairs potato and zucchini in a most scrumptious, innovative and healthy way…

http://emilysincerely.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/zucchini-and-potato-au-gratin-sort-of/

It’s a lovely book full of weird and off the wall creations that really makes my heart sing because I can’t be abiding with boring things and I love to create customised recipes because life is too short to eat lima beans if you don’t like them. I, personally, LOVE lima beans but I do understand that there are some of you out there (mad, foolish people that you are) who don’t and so I won’t go hunting for a lima bean recipe to share with you from the book but on opening the Index I get instantly excited by the possibilities. I might be the Sidmouth equivalent of Letitia Cropley (if you don’t know who I am talking about, head off and watch “The Vicar of Dibley” for goodness sakes… you are missing out severely if you don’t!) but there are amazing combinations in this book that I haven’t even heard of and I had heard of Gremolata before the chef that taught me commercial cookery so that is no mean feat in a book! I am going to treasure this book because it doesn’t only instruct, it educates. It doesn’t only share; it gives you the impetus to try new things…to experiment and in so doing, to create new recipes of your own. That’s what makes the cooking world go round folks and “Put ‘em Up!” A comprehensive home preserving guide for the creative cook from drying and freezing to canning and pickling by Ms Cherri Brooks Vinton is one of those rare tombs that you simply don’t want to put down let alone lend anyone. Please don’t ask me for a lend of my copy because I won’t be letting it out of my sight for a good few years yet. I have too many things to learn from it like… “What the heck are ristras?”…and “Heirloom watermelon jelly?” …and “Agua Fresca?”… and any book that talks about probiotics and kimchi in the same breath as “red hot vodka” and something as lascivious as a “Strawberry Blonde” (whatever that may be…) is one that is going to be kept in the kitchen, just out of reach of Earls questing mandible’s and right there where I can find it, amongst my wooden spoons ready for duty at a moment’s notice. Thank you SO much Emily. You have given me something wonderful and this coming harvest surplus is going to be such fun to preserve :o)

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My wonderful new cookbook and Emily’s lovely personal note to me included 🙂

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We picked up a few bags of soft toys for the boys to deconstruct on Christmas Day and included in one of the bags was this sock monkey… every man needs a sock monkey in his music room so Earl didn’t get to sample this one…”better luck next time Earl! You are going to have to be content with raiding the clothes hamper and stealing Steve’s dirty socks”

I am officially terrified of our vegetable patch. Steve, who just watered the veggies, is in agreement. The tomatoes have gone mad and have not only invaded the “Poland” of their neighbouring tomato bed but they have both joined forces and are threatening to go all Genghis Khan on the poor lettuce bed. Beetroot that are supposed to be “medium” are now exploding from their bed and the spinach that we were expecting to be lucky to get a few bunches from because it was so slow in taking off, has taken off with a vengeance and is rivalling the silverbeet (Swiss chard) for height and stature. I am not really complaining because aside from going exponential on our derrières the veggie garden is producing edible vegetables. I can only put it down to using compost as the base of our garden beds, lots of small chunks of decomposing wood for air and room for roots to grow and the wonderful black organic compost that we picked up in Exeter as the soil substitute that having to build upwards forced us to utilise. It has certainly excited us regarding vegetable growing and eating and its true folks…home grown veggies taste MUCH better. Steve is eating things that he would have turned up his nose at in the not so distant past and is eating them raw in salads. He didn’t even realise that he ate spinach and perpetual spinach in a salad the other day, he just raved about how tasty it was. You want your kids to eat their veggies? Try growing them :o). Our newfound excitement at being able to eat what we are growing notwithstanding, our terror is still rising. How much bigger can zucchini plants get! I have already cut off their Samson like locks army style in an attempt to allow my poor eggplants to get a bit of light and within a week they were towering over the poor huddled eggplants cowering beneath their enormous elephantine leaves. Not only are they growing faster than is physically possible, they are armour plated and cutting their leaves to put them into the compost heap without wearing gloves is a painful lesson that I will only have to learn once. Our cucumber crop is promising to be amazing as each of the 6 vines is covered in flowers with tiny little Lebanese cucumbers at the bases. I can hear my daughter Madeline applauding as I type that sentence and she will put our excesses to good use sliced thinly with some rice wine vinegar, mirin and sesame seeds. Our corn is magnificent, our silverbeet tastes delicious, our beans are going gangbusters and all in all we are having a great vegetable season.

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In the breeding season the local Cuckoo shrikes are hard pressed to find enough to eat while they are cramming their noisy brood full of insects and we give them a bit of cheese to help them out. Here you can see the rare large spotted nosey bird hunting for cheese…

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While we were in Launceston today I took a heap of photos to share our beautiful city with you all. I don’t get to go there often now and I really do appreciate it’s beauty. While I was taking a few shots of the Japanese garden near the library I noticed someone taking photos and realised it was me! Can you see how tired Earl is of me stopping and taking off the lens cap? 😉

Steve is going to head off and go “floating” again on New Year’s Day. I knew that he would love pootling around in his aluminium dinghy if he took it out a few times. There is something soothing about skimming a large body of water with only a thin skin of aluminium between you and a cold splash and it’s great fun to steer your little coracle between the drifting jellyfish that the tide wash up and down the river twice a day from the sea and back in a never ending cycle of jellyfish waltzing. You can be master of your own possibilities and should you manage to catch a fish you can get your wife to fillet it for you and cook it fresh from the boat…like veggies from a veggie garden to your plate, fish from the boat tastes amazingly good…unless you caught blowfish in your ignorance… Steve used to enjoy catching fish when we lived in Albany Western Australia. I worked strange hours as befits a cook and he would drop me off at work and head off fishing till it was time to pick me up and head home. He spent many a hot summer moonlit night with only the city lights and the sounds of the humpback whales singing their sea shanties in the harbour to keep him company. He would drop me off early in the morning on my day shifts, before the sun came up, and would make a beeline for the aptly named “Salmon holes” where accompanied only by a little Chinese fisherman who couldn’t speak a word of English but who using sign language to ask Steve for his unwanted fish heads and for a time they shared silent communion with the waves and the dolphins in the breakers and the sea, he would catch his bag limit of 7kg Australian salmon and then face the daunting task of carrying them back up the almost vertical steps half a kilometre (straight up) back to where the car was waiting. Salmon fishing is an Aussie male rite of passage. Something that “the blokes” do and that needs to be accompanied by an esky bedecked with beer and bait and tales of “the mongrel that got away” and “I bloody nearly had it!” echo semi-convincingly around the pub with your mates after a day of sunstroke and sunburn. What more could an Aussie bloke want? Aside from a bbq to slap the catch on when they got back and a doting wife with a fridge full of amber ale to keep the stories growing exponentially long after the sun has gone down and half your mates are asleep. Steve is new to blokish behaviour but it certainly hasn’t taken him long to embrace the amber fluid in its chilled form and I haven’t heard him “whinge” in a long time…”we will make a bloke out of you yet young ex-pat Stevie boy!” 😉

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/images__by_christof/6232517839/

Christof in Oz’s photo of the steps leading down to where Steve caught those salmon “You’re legs are like coiled springs young padawan!” 😉

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Generic touristy shot pinched from the interweb of the walkway running along the top of the cliffs above where Steve used to fish for salmon…beautiful, amazing scenery, good fishing and subject to random king waves that have swept many unsuspecting fishermen to their deaths in the past few years.

Well it’s time to wrap up this post and head off to embrace the weekend. It will be 2013 the next time we meet. We managed to all mill together over 2012 and we survived the Mayan apocalypse en mass…we learned, we grew and we shared and 2013 can only give us more opportunities for the same. I can’t wait to share it all with you and I just want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for coming along for the ride on Serendipity Farm…I know I tend to take you in the old 60’s land rover with the bung suspension and I tend to go through the back paddocks and hit every damned pothole on the way but you have to admit…sometimes I find something special to share with you and you are the very first people that I want to share it with every single time :o). See you on the Boxing Day equivalent of New Year’s Day…you would think that some entrepreneur out there would have cashed in on the possibilities but for now, your poor long suffering wallet is safe from New Year’s Boxing Day 😉

Hava nagila!

Hi All,

Aside from being a most catchy song that I have NO idea what the words are and would no doubt make a fistful of Jewish people collapse hysterically laughing on the floor should I EVER be stupid enough to attempt to sing my erstwhile version in their close proximity, the name Hava Nagila means “Let us rejoice”! I have SO much to rejoice that I often feel guilty for having the odd whinge about how rocky our soil is and how many weeds we have here on Serendipity Farm. I just got back from a visit to my daughter’s home in Launceston. I had a really great time with them both and we spent a large proportion of the time that we had together cooking. My daughters are amazing cooks. Neither of them has ever studied technique or worked in the industry but they are very adventurous and tend to pair some very interesting ingredients that I would never think could possibly work together but incredibly…they do! The first night we had chilli. I had vegan chilli made with some ingredients that I had brought along with me (oh ye of little faith! 😉 ) and it was delicious. I think there is still a bowl of it in the girl’s fridge and I am sure that they will find something creative to do with it. On night 2 we had an amazing feast. The girls have recently become enamoured with all things Korean and had purchased some Korean cookbooks and some mixed cookbooks with Korean recipes in them. We decided to have a go at some of the recipes and ended up spending a marathon 5 hours preparing and cooking 12 dishes that were all amazing and that teamed up to make an amazing feast. We made cucumber salads, spinach side dishes, 3 different kinds of “pancakes” ranging from a very normal pancake type batter topped with spring onions (which we couldn’t buy at the local shop and had to sub the next best thing…leek…so from hereon in, wherever I specify “spring onion” you will have to insert “leek” 😉 ) and chillies through to a very inventive recipe using dried split green peas (which we couldn’t find in their local small supermarket on the day we wanted them but found the day after…go figure!) and rice cooked together then pureed and combined with various finely sliced vegetables and cooked like pancakes. The girls eat meat and so made some rice balls filled with smoked salmon and avocado which are technically not Korean and were based on a Japanese recipe BUT they were amazing and I had oyster mushrooms, pickled ginger and avocado in mine. They also had some marinated Korean chicken drumsticks and a pork dish that I can’t quite remember what it was but it looked good. We ended this marathon degustatory event with some simple but incredibly delicious yeasted pancakes that looked more like doughnuts without holes and that were stuffed with crushed palm sugar, roasted peanuts and cinnamon and that were amazing.

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Steve says that this truck is a transformer…the only thing that I can see it transforming is an empty space into a space full of wood chips…

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Another “Steve” shot…apparently this is ANOTHER transformer…I think we are being overrun by them!

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Right behind a new estate in Exeter are the remains of an old abandoned orchard. Steve, Bezial, Earl and I went exploring today and found all different kinds of apples, pears and even a nectarine tree out in the open and just waiting to be scrumped by possums and wayfaring Sidmouth Scrumpers

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By the look on his face, this scrumper has had enough of wandering around old abandoned orchards and wants to return to the civilisation afforded by 2 streets back to the main street 😉

On night 3 we could have been forgiven for having something very simple but not us! We went the way of the home made pizza. The girls used a cookbook that mum had given us last year full of homemade pizza recipes and as I have had more experience cooking with yeast, I made the dough. We made 3 batches of dough because we made a pizza for Steve (because he had obviously been a bit jealous of our cooking exploits over the weekend) and one for the girl’s dog Qi who has an adventurous palate for a dog and who gets very interesting meals. The girls made an almost “regular” type of pizza topped with chicken, a spicy hot salami, pine nuts and “other things” that I didn’t really notice as I was busy slathering tomato paste on pizza bases and ensuring that the cheese flow kept going. They also made an interesting combination of prawns, chicken, various other things (again…applied while I was otherwise occupied so I would only be speculating about exactly what went on) and coconut. I don’t think that Beth was enamoured of this pizza but Madeline seemed to like it. Qi got a meaty pizza and Steve got his favourite things (hot salami, chicken, onion, capsicum, chilli, mushroom and vintage cheese) and he has stashed it in the freezer for a delicious quick meal for the coming week when we have to finish off the chook pen and are too knackered to cook (smart man! 😉 ). I typed out lots of recipes from the cookbooks that the girls purchased and they gave me a couple of CD’s by a Korean band called Winterplay that do some really good covers of popular songs and I will be listening to them whilst trying to wade my way through my 1000+ rss feed reader blog posts that struck terror into even my seasoned mass blog reading heart when I got up this morning. If you would like to hear them and check out just how good this band is you can hear them covering “Don’t know why” a Norah Jones hit and can see why I really like them

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVhzK01Jmq4

That’s my bit for spreading the love people…I would have NEVER heard of this wonderful band if it hadn’t been for my adventurous daughters and their adventurous palates…it’s time spent like the weekend that I just had that reinforce the value of family and of simple time spent together. No matter how ragged or crumpled your family is, it’s the closest thing to “you” that you have. Spend time with your children…spend time with your parents…heal those wounds (if there are any to heal) and get back together with the people that really do matter the most, your own flesh and blood and the people that will tell you the truth (sometimes with great gusto 😉 ). I love you girls and can’t begin to thank you for that wonderful weekend…even Bella Lugosi in Chandu the Magician, a 1932 movie that we watched to fill the Bella free zone that Beth needs to quench on a regular basis. We even watched Lilo and Stitch which I really hadn’t watched before and that I enjoyed disproportionately to what I thought that I would. I especially love this drawing that was on the fridge and that we have used as a family in joke for years without me even having watched the reference for this joke…

http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=2vmiiw4&s=5

In a word, I did all sorts of things that I don’t usually do. I adjusted to Madeline’s stringent washing up rollcall and exactly how to put it back where it goes…I slept with Qi and learned how to contort my middle aged body into the human equivalent of a pretzel to accommodate her desire to spread out over as much of the bed as she could possibly take up and I adjusted my getting up time to fit in with the girls going to bed time. Who would have known…a change really IS as good as a holiday :o)

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Stage 1 of banksia flower development…

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Stage 2…

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and finally stage 3

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If you can avert your eyes from the insect nuptuals going on towards the top of this shot (I can’t pinpoint it exactly for you because I am averting my eyes!), this is a bottlebrush flower

Peter Cundall, Mr organic garden show ABC television presenter himself and who lives not too far away from Serendipity Farm told us that this was going to be a bit of a stinker this summer in Tasmania. Stinker as in heat…not as in smell. I tend to agree with him because things run in cycles and they tend to be 4 yearly in Tasmania. We have mild years and hot years and this just so happens to coincide with our first year in Tasmania where our first full summer was a real eye opener because we thought that we were going to be cold and we discovered just how hot it can be here and our first winter was so cold we got chilblains and didn’t even know what they were.  We are more aware of the seasons here now and know it is going to be hot when we start seeing the cicada husks stuck to the
grass. This year we can hear them getting the band tuned nice and early and by the time mid-summer gets here they will have coordinated themselves into a wall of united stomach rasping. We won’t see them for at least 4 more years because their life cycle takes that long for them to reach adulthood and emerge from under the ground. At least the native birdlife get a “Hava nagila” moment of their own with plenty of free clicking protein for all!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psaltoda_moerens

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Aside from me looking like I am doing some sort of a sailors hornpipe dance you can begin to get an idea of how lucky we were to get not 1 roll, but 2 of these rolls of ex-fish farm netting. There are about 50 more of them up for grabs and we will be putting our hands up for as many rolls as they would like to let us have. We have also removed that blue rope and are storing it in Steve’s shed for posterity…(I think “posterity” is like “hoarding” 😉 ).

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Looking back the other way towards the house. We will get 4 x 2.5 metre x 20 metre lengths of this netting that should be enough to enclose our wayfaring chooks and keep them from digging halfway to China in their endeavours to have dustbaths all over Serendipity Farm

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One of the Brachychitons that we liberated from anarchy and chaos earlier in the year that hadn’t flowered in years and that is absolutely covered in flowers this year. Now all we have to do is pull all of that dead dodder from around it’s leaves and it might stand a chance of surviving for a few years more

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A cicada husk…one of many (it’s going to be a noisy Christmas this year on Serendipity Farm!)

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A close-up of garnet particles used to sandblast the Batman Bridge before it gets repainted

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Christmas wreath (and all sorts of other project) futures!

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Harvested willow…the rest is up to me!

It’s suddenly Wednesday and after heading over to Exeter to send Steve’s mum a calendar and pick up some library books and giving the dogs a good walk in the process we spent the day productively by measuring one of the large rolls of ex-fish farm netting that we got a little while ago. We were told that it was 20 metres long by 10 metres wide and after measuring it we think it’s probably a good estimate. We should have enough in a single roll to complete our chook shed reno and the other roll can be used to fully enclose our vegetable garden. We have been promised more of this precious commodity in the near future and we are going to get creative with it and use it to protect our small possum weary orchard and other areas that we don’t want the possums to invade. We cut a 2.5 metre wide strip from the first roll using the knives that we bought for grafting. We haven’t grafted much with them but we have at least used them for something! In the process we liberated 20 metres of strong thick nylon rope and tomorrow we will liberate 20 metres more. No idea what we are going to do with all of the rope but you can never have enough rope out in the country ;). After we finished cutting the rope from the netting we folded the netting up and set it aside…part 1 of the chook shed. By the time we finish we will have 4 x 20 metre long segments that we are going to attach to poles that we have already installed where we want to re-educate our chooks into who is the boss around here. It was getting pretty warm under the hole in the ozone layer that is our bright blue sky here in Tasmania so we headed off to put some stakes into the veggie garden to hold our rapidly growing tomatoes and prevent them from lying against the bird netting and being nibbled by waiting varmints. I guess the varmints are pruning the wayfaring branches for us but for now, they have been trussed up and the varmints are going to have to wait. I took a few photos of how our vegetables are going and it’s amazing to see how quickly vegetables will grow when you give them enough sunshine, food and water. The only thing that grows faster is the weeds :o(

We headed over to the East side of the Batman Bridge where there is a free camping ground and a large willow tree just waiting for clever locals to harvest to collect some willow canes to make our Christmas Wreath from. I had a bit of an altercation with a local redneck who had been racially abusing some Chinese tourists but nothing that Earl and I couldn’t handle ;). I heard on the news today that 52% of Tasmanian year 8 students are not able to meet the benchmark for mathematics. That joins our dubious honour of having 1 in 2 native born Tasmanians who can’t read or write adequately. Education needs to be pushed hard in this state. I guess it has worked to our politician’s advantage, up until now, to have an uneducated and unquestioning public who leave politics to the “experts” but now that the forest industry is on the verge of total collapse it is rapidly becoming obvious that most Tasmanians are ill equipped to do anything other than cut down trees with chainsaws and a subclass of bored, unemployed rednecks is going to be a significant problem for tomorrows politicians and the heinously understaffed police force that was cut to the bone recently in a vain attempt to reign in the budget deficit. I sometimes feel like banging my head on the wall when I (stupidly) watch the local news. I am not a particularly politically motivated person but blind Freddy could see just how inept and self-serving our politicians are and the really REALLY scary thing is that there isn’t any viable alternative for us to vote for. It’s equally as scary how quickly I can turn rabid whenever I consider our endemic politicians so I might just stop RIGHT THERE for today :o)

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Some Serendipity Farm “Yellow Nugget” cherry tomatoes

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One bed staked…

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and the other…

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Can anyone “splain” to me why this tomato plant seems hell bent on only growing horizontally? Nick (our ex-long suffering lecturer) took a most entrepreneurial view of our crazy tomato predicament and said “save the seed…make sure it stays true to type and only grows horizontally and then sell it for vertical and hanging baskets…make a fortune!”…cheers Nick, but I think you have us confused for entrepreneurs rather than lazy bums…(our subterfuge worked! 😉 )

We are still getting used to having time on our hands to do things other than study. It has been lovely to get stuck into working around the house and we have even started using the calendar that comes with using Google as our home page to keep us moving in the right direction. I picked up Dawn French’s first fiction work today from the library and am going to give it a whirl around the dance floor and see how she twirls. I also picked up the cold climate permaculture book about Hepburn Springs by David Holmgren because I now have time to read it from cover to cover like it deserves. Helen, the library lady, had put a book aside about making your own beauty products for me. She sometimes sees a book that she thinks that I might like and puts it on the shelf along with my ordered books. Cheers Helen, I like the look of some of the recipes inside and goodness only knows I can do with a slather or two of natural unguents if they will lend me an air of respectability once in a while ;). We have a full week of sorting out the chook house and then finding homes for 20+ hens. If anyone wants some prime year old egg laying (if you can find them 😉 ) hens, let me know. I had entertained giving them the chop and filling our freezer but entertaining and doing are 2 very different things. Roosters can be rationalised but hens in their prime cannot. After we make the chook coop we will be hurling ourselves headlong into all sorts of projects that we isolated from our Tuesday meeting where we had a bit of a confab about what direction we wanted to go in (preferably forwards) and how setting a few goals might actually cause us to follow through on a few of our plans.

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The rocket, lettuce, perpetual spinach, capsicum and chilli bed

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Not too sure what you do with perpetual spinach but at least we have one! 😉

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Aren’t lettuces pretty?

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Can you see the adventitious little tomato plant that grew from last years compost placed reverently in this garden bed? We think that it is one of Wendy’s lovely heritage tomatoes and it has a sibling in the next bed going great guns. I will let you know what they turn out like…by the way there is an aphid on the tomato…it won’t last long because the veggie gardens are seething with little lizards that seem to be doing a sterling job on cleaning up the tiny grasshoppers that have been attracted to the veggie garden like moths to a light. A fine example of integrated pest management at it’s finest 🙂

It’s time to think about posting this post now and after I do, I will head up to the veggie garden and will pick some mushrooms, some lettuce, some rocket and some spinach to make Steve a side salad to go with his evening meal. Living close to the ground is about as rewarding as it gets and I am going to have to get pretty close to the ground to harvest that lettuce! See you all on Saturday when we may just have that chook yard sorted out and I might just have some photos to share with you of some stunned looking enclosed chooks and Yin with his beak through the netting protesting his newfound confinement…Tasmania is a penal colony of old sir…get used to it! 😉

By the way…anyone who would like to have a chance to win Steve’s hand made spoon has 10 days to let us know. At the moment there are only 10 people in the draw and Earl thinks that they are pretty good odds. We have a lot more walnuts than “10” so please feel free to enter the spoon draw…only 10% of you want to win? Think of Steve’s pride! 😉

If you can’t beat them…EAT them!

Hi All,

We recently did a bit of research on the subject of Armillaria luteobubalina because we had to answer a few horticultural questions to satisfy one of our Diploma of Landscape Design units and discovered that this humble fungus is not something that you would want to encourage in your garden. We completed the question about this innocuously named “Honey fungus” and how there isn’t really anything that you can do about it once you have it on your property short of plant perennials and find some sort of woody tree that it can’t stand to inhabit. Here is a link to a Wikipedia page explaining it in simple common or garden terms…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armillaria_luteobubalina

By the way my dear constant readers…anyone… ANYONE out there who scoffs at using Wikipedia as a source of horticultural information and a springboard for further  adventures into your area of interest is a horticultural snob. Wikipedia may have its disadvantages when it comes to many things but the people drawn to writing pages regarding horticulture and other scientific studies do it for love and do it because they know a LOT about their chosen subject and actively want to share it with the rest of us. Don’t use it for your thesis but DO use it to find out about what you are interested in and as somewhere to start your subject hunt. I read a post this morning about honey fungus and their edible properties. The post was pertinent to the US, the UK and Canada BUT after our recent scavenger hunt for information about Armillaria luteobubalina I noted the “honey fungus” and the “Armillaria” and how many of them were edible and thought…”surely A (honey fungus) and B (Armillaria) = C (Edible)”…hmmm more instruction needed! First stop Wikipedia…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armillaria

I found out some interesting things about Armillaria luteobubalina including “unpleasant flavour” being one of them HOWEVER on further hunting I found that cooking the mushroom reduces the bitterness and it is completely edible…edible you say? Turn a frown upside down…when life hands you lemons make lemonade…if your garden becomes predominately Armillaria luteobubalina ridden and all your trees fall down EAT the fungus and at least get some degree of satisfaction regarding the situation…there you have it. My creed for life. If it aint broke, don’t fix it and if you can’t beat it…EAT it! 😉 The same goes for those weeds that you can’t eat…make weed tea out of them and steal all of the delicious nitrogen that they stole from you back plus all of their hard formed nitrogen that they were stashing for spreading around in their wanton weedy ways. Don’t take it lying down people…find a way to turn situations to your advantage even when the chips are down. I don’t recommend doing what a Northern Tasmanian man did a few years ago and feed your murder victim to your pigs…apparently pigs are a whole lot more fussy than we have been led to believe in movies like Hannibal Lector and turned up their noses at said murder victim…might be easier just to eat him yourself…

Spot the rooster in this photo…you get 10 points if you spot Big Yin and 50 points if you spot Bob his numero uno chick

Steve’s cactus “Bob” (Marley) that despite being stuffed into an olive oil can seems to be extremely happy with his lot

Some more cacti flowering happily in the late spring sunshine

I just started and finished a very slim book that was cram-packed full of pause for thought. I often get shoved by the universe into doing things that I otherwise wouldn’t do. I had never heard of Kurt Vonnegut prior to seeing an article about him on a blog that I follow and decided that I might like to read some of his work because for some reason it appealed to me. I decided to choose a book blind from our local library…I chose by name…”Like Shaking Hands with God” arrived on Wednesday and I picked it up yesterday while I was eating my breakfast, finished half of the book by the time I put my spoon down and finished the book later on in the day whilst sitting outside on the deck with a cup of tea after weeding the maple garden and laying down mulch to protect the soil. I couldn’t put this book down. It was sub-titled “A conversation about writing” and was based on a series of Author/Audience meetings that took place back in 1999 between Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer. I had never heard of Lee Stringer either but will most certainly be seeing if I can get hold of his book “Grand Central Winter” about his life on the streets. What hit me in my mental solar plexus about these men was their complete and utter honesty about the life that they had been handed and how they spent their lives sharing the world through their writing and their experience. I wonder how many other amazing authors are out there that I have NO idea exist. Cheers universe for letting me discover these wonderful writers and thanks for the shove in the right direction :o).

Some of the rescued Tip strawberries enjoying their sunny spot on Serendipity Farm

Our very own integrated pest management brigade 🙂

Look how much the hazelnuts and single walnut (in the largest pot) have grown since wednesday

It’s a beautiful 25°C late spring day today on Serendipity Farm. Steve was going to whipper snip but his own fortune shoved him and the whipper snipper decided not to play ball today. We have loaned “Betsy”, my whipper snipper, to our daughters to render their jungle somewhat less jungle-like and so he couldn’t use Betsy to finish the task so we headed down to the front gates and the river bank where the duel daily rushing tides conveniently pull all of the floating debris right opposite our front gate and we collected some driftwood to make ourselves a Christmas tree. We got enough so that I could make a Christmas wreath out of driftwood as well and all I have to do now is work out how the wreath has been put together and replicate it for Serendipity Farm. We just spent the rest of the day making our tree and it has been Earl approved. He promises to pretend not to notice it at all until we stupidly leave him to his own devices one day and he re-enacts the wreck of the Hesperus with the vengeance that only a 35kg termite can wreak. I guess we have been warned… We reused our Christmas star that I made 4 years ago when we first started making our own Christmas trees using various deceased woody portions. We plan on making quite a few of our own beach tree decorations to hang on our new tree and hopefully it makes it to Christmas day without suspicious nibble marks or outright disassembling by “He who must be watched”

Time to plant out these purple king beans

Tiny little Cavello nero

“Come and get it slugs and snails…what’s that you say? Snail pellets in the barrow? No surely not! ;)”

I have been watching “Hoarders…buried alive”. I have a degree of commiseration for the hoarders that obviously have mental problems but then there are the divas that just can’t be getting their nails dirty who put on a face to the world and who live in a jumbled chaos of clutter. The first part of their road back to normality is for them to admit that they have a problem and most of them simply don’t think that they do. The majority of them are being forced into parting with their blissful hoarding ways thanks to complaints from the neighbours (how inconsiderate? 😉 ) or threats of demolition by their local building authorities and so they tend to be somewhat less than appreciative and helpful in the process. I have to admit something here if I am ever going to have a degree of normality in my life (highly unlikely but here goes…) I am a hoarder. There…I said it! Steve claims that my small stack of plates and bowls constitutes hoarding but I am not talking about how many plates I have in my easily closed cupboard, I am talking about my addiction to hoarding information, especially recipes that I find. I hunt information and recipes like a woman possessed. I just checked my recipe folder and it’s probably time to send it to one of our bulging hard drives because it has 2.48Gig of squirrelled away Word documents. Now I KNOW that I am never going to make my way through actualising these recipes BUT I don’t care. They are mine…I hoarded them…I need them for tomorrow. Good luck loosing my grip on them because my hoarded pile isn’t visible unless you check properties on my folders and count the number of burned CD’s that I have full of past hoarding events. I used to take books out of the library and carefully copy out recipes that I wanted to keep back when my children were small and I guess it was my way of taking control in a life that felt somewhat meaningless. I was a stay at home mum and always felt guilty for doing so even though I loved being available to my kids and all stay at home mums will agree with me when I say that there is an undertow in the community (well there definitely was back in the 1980’s!) that stay at home mums were cop out bums. I had the time to read to my children and they are all prolific readers today with wonderful imaginations and enviable problem solving skills. I may have spent a degree of my time trying to find some purpose for my life due to feeling adrift and writing out recipes gave me something to focus on. My failed crafts cupboard just made me feel worse but writing out a steady stream of recipes “for posterity” made me feel like I had actually accomplished something with my time and my life. Everyone needs a goal to work towards and mine was writing. I transferred it to typing and am much better and faster at typing than I am at writing. I was able to transcribe entire books in much less time and typed out an entire copy of The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition in 3 days because back then, it was out of print (please no bright spark tell me that it is back in print and only costs $50 because I already know and it will make me twitch 😉 ). I love the act of completion and have since learned to enjoy the process as well. We all need goals in life to give us satisfaction and to show us that we are progressing. My recipes show me that I am getting somewhere and should the entire system shut down and everyone wants to know how to make their own healthy margarine I am your go-to woman!

A nice big chunk of Tasmanian native blackwood ready to create a magnificent spoon for some lucky dear constant reader of the blog

Christmas tree futures

MORE spoon futures…and spatula futures…and small wooden box futures…and little herb spoon futures…

It’s Saturday and I have most of my post completed so I can share a most interesting thing that I found out this morning when reading my rss feed reader. Christi from the wonderful blog Farmlet who lives in Olalla Washington, who is doing what we are doing but on polar opposite sides of the globe (I am SURE that there is some sort of time continuum thing going on 😉 ) will most probably know what I am going to talk about here but to the majority of us, and I am guessing that a fair few of my dear constant readers in the U.S. included, will have never heard or seen what I am about to reveal to you before. Have I got you curious? I was reading a post this morning from one of the “Living sustainably” blogs that I follow and the poster was talking about sustainable thanksgiving mains choices. Now I am heartily over Thanksgiving guys… I have had so many pumpkin pie posts in the guise of vegan, paleo, raw and plain old decadent and dairy ridden that I would rather eat one of Steve’s feet than have to read about another one. It’s my own fault for following 390 blogs in my rss feed reader, most of them U.S. and most of them to do with food now isn’t it? I started reading about “the usual” Thanksgiving foods and was working back through what was truly sustainable when I got to number 3 and couldn’t for the life of me work out what they were talking about! A food that I have NEVER heard of? Time to go hunting! My interest was further piqued when I read that this food was sourced from Puget Sound which is right next to where Christi lives! This “food” is apparently harvested and sustainable but I don’t know how sustainable it is when this giant mollusc can live for 169 years but it was number 3 on the sustainable Thanksgiving list right after “Heritage Turkey” so if you live near Puget sound and you fancy something that looks suspiciously phallic for your next Thanksgiving meal knock yourself out…its geoduck all round! Check out what geoducks actually are in the following link and the link after that has a good photo of something that is apparently edible and makes me take back EVERYTHING that I have said in jest about how folks in Louisiana will eat anything…Christi…your countrymen just shot straight past the hillbillies and hit first place! 😉

http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/pugetsound/species/geoduck.html

http://geoduckrecipes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/geoduck-size.jpg

If being born in a stable was good enough for Jesus…it’s darned well good enough for our Christmas tree!

Hows this for an action shot…drilling the hole at the top of the “Christmas Tree” to insert the star

A 35kg termite and his sidekick

Emmmmm!

Nothing to do with me!

I forgot to tell you that we got accepted into our chosen arty course for next year. We think it might not have been the course that we initially wanted to do. Steve swears that the course that we were aiming at is a completely different course offered from a completely different Polytechnic (I.T.) but after talking to the lecturer and checking out the website we are very excited about learning all about making our own websites and will probably take a year off to study the other course that we initially were going to sign up for after this course. It’s good to take a bit of a hiatus from intensive study in one area because it leaves you refreshed and multi-skilled. We decided to learn how to produce our own high quality websites as part of our business plan. Through our studies we have discovered that landscape gardeners appear to be lacking in the computer skills department. Most landscape gardening sites are pitiful links through sites like HotFrog and give prospective customers (and students trying to find out information) massive headaches trying to find them. You have to phone up to get any information whatsoever and most of them don’t answer the phone to you anyway. This isn’t just a Tasmanian problem, we discovered it bleeds over to the mainland and trying to find an herb wholesaler with a web presence was like trying to find a speck of sand in a sand dune. We are determined to be successful when we eventually start our business and as such we want to be as proficient with as many areas of our chosen field as we possibly can be. Perhaps Jack of all trades master of none may apply BUT at least we will know something about every facet of our business which can only be a good thing. After learning how to produce a quality website and web presence we can head over to the other course and learn how to produce quality concept plans using the Adobe 5 suite and then it’s off to university with a diverse range of qualifications that can only help us to give Landscape Architecture our most sterling effort. “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well”…see…I DID listen Gran 😉

An elderly auger bit that a friend gave Steve that despite its aged look still has a whole lot of life left in it

The Auger bit in action taking out a nice spoon sized portion of this incredibly tough wattle wood…this is one wooden spoon that WON’T break

“Oh Tannenbaum…oh tannenbaum…”…

Ok, it’s time to head off and make Steve something scrumptious for his tea. It’s really just shepherd’s pie but he LOVES it and would eat it every day if he could. Sad, but if it makes him happy, it’s his :o). He is working on producing the spoon that I am going to give away to one of my wonderful constant readers who comments on the post directly after I get 100 followers. It’s getting close folks and I won’t be doing the stupid “like my Facebook page…like my twitter account (not that I HAVE a twitter account)…etc…) it will be Earl…choosing your number…from a hat full of numbered walnuts. How much more random could it be than that?! See you all on Wednesday and have the best weekend possible in your neck of the woods :o)

I have a couple of photos left over so you get a bonus. Here we have 2 little carob trees that we grew from seed. We have another one and hopefully we get at least one male and one female because they are dioecious and you need both a male and a female tree to get pods

I didn’t realise how much active snarfing went on in my now heavily fortified compost heap when I wasn’t watching! Everything is now growing like crazy and we have King Edward, kipflers and various pumpkins growing in it now that they are protected from chicken and possum enslaughts

Pumpkin futures! I LOVE pumpkin 🙂

“What’s the name of that garbage monster?”…

Hi All,

“Is it Elmo?”…”Oh THAT’S right…it was Oscar”. That’s what my dear Sesame Street deprived husband said to me on our walk with the dogs this morning. We were just about to pass a notorious dog house where said “Garbage monster” lived and dragged our two past an enormous hairy adolescent of a German shepherd with his voice breaking with excitement to see our boys. I hate to break it to you babe…Earl is the garbage monster! We then carried on our walk only to see a group of extremely tall and thin kids with their dog off the leash…sigh…we turned around and headed back the other way till we were just about to meet up with another Saturday dog walker and did another about face in the other direction and returned back to where we had started. On the way back to the car we met Buster…I can only begin to imagine the thought processes going through Steve’s strange mind that are going to give him his memory cue for that one! At least it gives me entertaining blog post titles to lure the unsuspecting in! 😉

As I just used Steve to shamelessly promote todays post so I had best give you an action shot of him making a mountain of wood futures

When I get out of bed in the morning my warm spot is immediately predated by a heat seeking missile

Earl contemplating a career as a prize fighter

On Wednesday I mentioned that we had berries on a Mahonia shrub in the jungle part of the garden and Spencer from Anthropogen, my go-to place for learning EVERYTHING about practical useful horticulture (in opposition to horticulture that is a bit of a waste of time and that results in things that you can’t use or eat) mentioned in his comment that you can make jam out of them. Always the sceptic I decided to head off and take a look…Mahonia aquifolium’s common name is Oregon grape and as the blackbirds are eagerly hovering around these bright blue berries I figured that I might harvest them and see if I can’t make a small pot of jam out of them. Here is a good website with a great recipe for jam/jelly and some hints about combining the fruit with milder carrier fruit to mellow its flavour…

http://s158336089.onlinehome.us/OregonGrapeJam/OregonGrapeJam.html

We have some Myrtus communis (common myrtle) shrubs on the property as well and aside from making jam from the fruit, it is apparently good for making a type of booze and anything booze is alright by me! Thinking about it…maybe Mahonia could be turned into an interestingly coloured wine? Anyone for blue wine? Talking about blue things, we have seen an influx of the dreaded huge blue ants which form the stuff that Steve’s nightmares are made of. He was once bitten on the foot whilst whipper snipping by one of these nasty critters and aside from being amazingly painful the bite took ages to go away. The ants are not actually ants but are wingless female flower wasps. Here is a website with a picture of one of these beautiful but painful insects to check out for yourself…

http://www.whatsthatbug.com/2010/11/21/blue-ant-from-tasmania-is-flightless-female-flower-wasp/

That’s my “something new I learned today”.  I dehydrated some bananas that I bought for 99c a kilogram the other day. The local grocer that we buy our fruit from doesn’t wait till the bananas go black before he puts them out cheap so they are great to eat immediately or to freeze or dehydrate for later use. I was thinking about how to use dehydrated bananas other than eating them and decided that I am going to partially dehydrate some bananas to the approximate texture of dried dates and then I will puree them and add them to some home-made nut butter. I am also thinking about adding some cocoa to the mix to see how that pans out. Today’s bunch got frozen after I skinned them. I then snipped the skin into fine chunks for our ravenous compost pile to consume. I say that the compost pile is ravenous, but really it’s the small handful of leaves and red wriggler worms that the owner of “Inspirations” nursery in Exeter gave to me. He must have given me about 20 worms and I laid them reverently in the compost bin, covering them with some dried oak leaves and a kitchen scrap bucket load of various choice scraps. I came out later to see the entire compost bin seething with chooks all pecking away like crazy and immediately lamented my 20 red wrigglers, writing their eulogy as I yelled at the chooks and did windmill things with my arms in a vain effort to dissuade them from eating every last one. I figured that the compost heap was now worm free aside from the odd huge native worm that bumbled its way into Nirvana. I was wrong! At least 1 worm must have survived and went exponential on our compost heap in a big way because all you have to do is life a little of the top layer of compost and you get to see a seething mass of worms in various stages of development from teeny little thin whipper-snappers to strapping red gyrating teens. The nursery owner did warn me that they breed exponentially and now I get to reap their composting rewards and they get my buckets of scraps to fight over with the chooks.

The ubiquitous worm laden compost heap complete with an entire dead lavender shrub disguising the baby pumpkins that are growing behind it until they get so big that the chooks can’t possibly hope to quell them

Wednesday’s Mahonia berries are Saturday’s empty stems

Unripe Mahonia berries that will be harvested BEFORE the birds predate them as soon as they are ripe

The extent of my haul of Mahonia berries 😦

I put the two plastic bags that the bananas had been languishing in into my plarn bag and noticed that it was now full of all kinds of plastic bags and ticked the “to do on Saturday” box in my head initiating a plarn manufacturing day in advance. Little did I know that the garbage monster had plans of his own and his plans were for earlier on in the week! Needless to say…never leave your dog’s alone with an unattended bag of plastic bags that you intend on recycling creatively because you may have to change your “plarns” (sorry, I couldn’t resist that ;)). Earl recycled most of my plarn bags into unusable shards and the rest of them are still waiting to be processed by Earl’s internal plastic recycling depot and I am NOT going to make plarn out of them! I read on a website that living sustainably starts a chain of events in your life that can completely change the way that you live and how you see things. I completely agree. All sorts of cycles start coming out of the woodwork and I am constantly amazed at how many ways to recycle, reuse and repurpose things there are. As a natural born skiller (again…sorry…I am full of them today! ;)), I have a driven urge that is apparently the fruit of generations of thriftiness that runs in my blood like ginger beer. Talking about ginger beer…I must get a plant on the go! I keep seeing opportunities to make and do things and I am finding it increasingly hard to just make it to the end of the day having followed my goals because I am always deviating out sideways after finding something new. I thinned out my rss feed reader and rather than making my life easier, it’s actually made it harder! I have so many great blogs that I am actually reading every single post and am commenting on them all because they are all amazing resource rich sources of information and I am always incredibly grateful to those bloggers who yield quality stuff. I am getting up at 5am and have 2 hours to wander lonely as a cloud to find that sea of daffodils BUT those daffodils side-track me like crazy. It’s not MY fault that those amazing vegan food blogs are just about all participating in Vegan Mofo and keep linking to other great vegan food blogs that I just HAVE to stuff into my rss feed reader (like the hoarding pack rat that I am…sigh…) and that the rest of the quirky crafty homesteading mix that I have padding out the vegan stuff is equally as prolific and productive with their amazingly useful posts. I am going to have to spend this entire weekend working slowly through the 840 (yes 840!) posts that are mounting up exponentially in my rss feed reader and I want to read every single one! I keep a word doc open and ready to filch the mouth-watering recipes and how to’s and precious gardening information and by the end of my 2 hours word is ready to go back to bed for the day. I hit 7am (Steve’s time to wake up) running and have started a new tradition of thinking of some amazing music for him to wake up to and heading on over to Youtube, finding the entire album and turning it on as I bring him his morning cup of eye opening java. I am usually a very happy camper to be full of hours of acquired knowledge and information and carefully cribbed amazing recipes and bounce into the bedroom with coffee, wonderful music and a bleary eyed husband and his 2 furry bed mates. I think I am becoming one of those dreaded morning people!

Bananas ready for the freezer

My compost bucket with snipped banana skins to allow them to decompose more quickly

More banana peels to snip and 2 plarn futures bags…well they WOULD have been plarn futures if Earl hadn’t decided to intercede… I love being able to find ways to reuse everything that comes from our purchases and am looking forwards to heading even further afield to find more interesting ways to reuse, repurpose and recycle as much as we can on Serendipity Farm

When I was dejectedly stumbled around the garden after finding the Mahonia stripped bare of all of the succulent blue fruit that I had just decided to harvest I noted the seed pods on an incredibly overgrown and tumble-down Cassia bicapsularis/Senna. The tree is apparently incredibly hardy and this one has seen MUCH better days. I decided to collect some of the seeds and grow some more for Serendipity Farm. Aside from flowering in the winter and being a lovely looking tree, Cassia’s are leguminous and fix nitrogen in the soil and this particular variety are somewhat fast growing so they can act as foundation trees to support other slower growing trees and because they grow faster they can be cut and used as mulch. We also discovered a Kowhai/Sophora tetraptera, another leguminous small tree by complete accident when Steve noticed it flowering. It has very distinctive shaped and coloured flowers. I wonder why many leguminous trees and shrubs have yellow flowers? Genista monspessulana/Canary broom and Cytisus scoparius/English broom that has developed a curious red centre on many of the self-seeded weeds in the area also have yellow flowers as does Ulex europaeus/Gorse. Thank goodness we don’t have gorse on Serendipity Farm! That’s one weed that we really don’t need! This garden is constantly revealing little parts of itself as it evolves. I got to peek into the jungle part of the garden by braving some menacing blackberries and by turning sideways and peering through the hugely overgrown Phoenix canariensis/Canary palm that prevents entry to this part of the garden. I noticed a most interesting looking vibernum and on doing a bit of research, I discovered that there are many viburnum’s that have edible berries and some have leaves that can be used to make teas. I think that the vibernum that I discovered was Vibernum rhytidophyllum from a bit more research.

The distinctive flower of the Kowhai a leguminous tree that we recently found in our garden thanks to this flower

After a while it gets easier to work out what is leguminous and what isn’t. The leaves on the Kowhai are a dead giveaway where the flower isn’t really all that pea shaped

The plant (taken with a zoom lens) that I suspect is Vibernum rhytidophyllum amongst the jungle down in the lower garden area

It looks like Tasmania has decided to shuffle in some last bastions of winter for a couple of days. I don’t mind because I like when the garden gets watered for free and Brunhilda gets to make an appearance for a while and I don’t have to turn on the gas hot water system for a few more days. Steve has been busy fixing the front gate that has been warped by a large tree growing against one of the gate poles. He also fixed the water pipe that we burst the other day when we were planting our maples. I am so very lucky to have a husband who is “handy”. He might want to run at his days like a bull at a gate but he certainly knows how to redeem himself :o). I need to mention here that I finished “Gone Girl”. I loved the book and the interesting premise of the book but the ending was a bit weird to say the least. I had to suspend my sense of disbelief a bit but aside from the strange ending Gillian Flynn has written 3 books that I thoroughly enjoyed and will be reading anything else that she chooses to publish. I still haven’t read Like Water for Chocolate but I dare say I will find 5 minutes to shove my nose into it someday soon. My main problem now is that getting up at 5am renders me zombified by 8pm and completely unable to read anything more than a few sentence’s before I find myself waking up with my chin on my chest. At least I now earn the drool on my shirt with spring giving us so many opportunities to work hard on Serendipity Farm

I just wanted to share a few photos with you of the jungle area of the garden…

The pink coloured tree in the background is a Circis siliquastrum/Judas tree that is struggling to be seen amongst this seething mass of impenetratable vegetation

My sideways, upside down on one leg squinting shot of the garden taken just before I was heartily yanked by a wayfaring blackberry and forced to retreat from the jungle garden post haste

The mushrooms have started to slow down now and I think that my days of free mushrooms are limited by whether or not we pick up some more mushroom compost when we next head into town. The spent compost will be used to top dress garden beds as mulch. I was reading a blog this morning that talked about how restaurants are lamenting how difficult it is to minimise food waste because companies that haul away their food waste for composting charge too much. I wonder why all of the restaurants in a suburb (or even a few suburbs) don’t get together and try to do something about the problem. If companies can make money out of hauling away someone else’s food waste, surely the restaurants could as well? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to start their own communal compost heap somewhere and pay someone themselves to haul away the waste, compost it and sell it on? Thinking about it a little more, perhaps they could supply community gardens and a percentage of the produce could be returned to the restaurateurs to be recycled into their profit margin? I wish I had more food waste to compost as one day my red wrigglers are going to start lining up at the back door demanding I open the fridge for them. I think I might start a real worm farm soon. The compost heap is almost ready to be plundered for its black gold and I am going to have to evict the worms en mass. Beaconsfield tip shop often have ceramic baths for $20 and I think it might be time to head on over for a tip run in the near future to see if we can’t get ourselves a nice pink (strangely most baths thrown out are pink!) prospective worm farm. Another cycle forming on Serendipity Farm to integrate with all of the other cycles. Steve watered the glasshouse with some Powerfeed and worm tea the other day and pretty soon we won’t have to buy our worm tea, we will be able to make it ourselves.  It’s this myriad of cycles that has me excited for the future and once we manage to tame these cycles we should be able to ride the waves of change on Serendipity Farm. Nothing like a bit of proactivity to give you back a sense of equilibrium :o)

One of the lily of the valley’s that have been sprouting up all over the place lately along with the Soloman’s seals

Steve’s weird choice of foodstuffs that comprised 2 spinach and herb wraps consisting of French onion dip spread, roast pork, fresh sliced tomato, baby cos lettuce, sliced tasty cheese, omelette chinese style and some dijonaise all wrapped up and consumed with happy expat gusto. Glad I can make you happy babe but please…NEVER expect me to eat them with you! 😉

“Yeh…I did it…what are you going to do about it eh?”…a lesson in how dogs amuse themselves if you don’t leave them enough plastic milk bottles to work on till you get back…”Goodbye plarn futures till I build you up again!”

It’s just about time to post this post and I am still sitting here tapping away. I have had my tea; I have watched Gok’s wonderful cooking show. Anyone apart from me think that Gok is the Asian equivalent of Nigel Slater? I am ready to trawl the net tonight to find all sorts of quality information and so I bid you adieu for now and wish you all a wonderful weekend and remind you not to forget to listen to some good music when you can, it adds a magnificent piquancy to life and can take you to those mental and emotional places that nothing else can. See you on Wednesday :o)

Cat Stevens is a never-ending cup of the purest unadulterated pleasure and this is what I played first thing this morning to wake Steve up and to fill my heart with simple clean pure joy

The very best of Cat Stevens the full album…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxD6faPrY1M

The best bangers and a mighty tasty calzone

Hi All,

Earl and I braved the highway today for a long walk home. Steve and Bezial are having a bonding day in town and Earl and I are spending a nice quiet morning at home. I quite like the idea of pottering around not doing very much but apparently Earl isn’t all that enamoured of this situation and is sitting on his recliner looking decidedly morose. Steve headed off to town to his awaiting hair appointment with Bezial and dropped Earl and I off up the road next to an apple selling stall and we had a cold but enjoyable stroll home veering off the side of the road whenever a large road train thundered past. I am very glad that Earl isn’t scared of loud noises or walking while traffic zooms by. We arrived home and Earl raced through the house excitedly looking for Steve and Bezial and returned looking quizzical which turned into deflated and now, as previously mentioned, he has receded into morose. Steve just phoned to tell me that Bezial had half a breakfast subway and a frolic with Qi at the girls place in town while Steve was getting his hair cut. Not one to be outdone, I promptly cooked Earl 5 eggs for his breakfast and I dare say the dogs will both sniff each other to detect illicit treats that have passed their lips while they have been apart. With a bit of luck Steve will be able to get some bones from Nigel’s Gourmet Meats on Tamar. Nigel makes the BEST sausages in the world. There…I said it. I just told you that any sausage eaters in your midst need to be EXTREMELY jealous because his bangers are the best. He makes the best Thai chicken sausages around and Steve recently had some amazing pork and black truffle snags that would make the queen drool. Nigel also produces the very best dog bones and Steve will be dropping in today in the hope that he has some left for the boys to share later on this afternoon. I will get another Gillian Flynn book to read…this one is called “Gone Girl”. I really enjoyed her last 2 books that I read and only discovered her through a food blog that I read.

This was the only “person” at the counter when we went to buy a whipper snipper head recently…he stared at us…we stared at him…not to sure what kind of customer service this was so headed on over to another counter!

A gorgeous big Japanese Maple on our walk around Kayena that we do on a regular basis with the boys. I love this house, this tree and this garden. What’s not to love?

Another one of our walks…this time up a steep hill near where we live. We are hill daredevils now! This road leads nowhere BUT it’s a pretty nowhere so we might just take a right here next time we are huffing up the hill…

I have been procrastinating about reigniting Brunhilda. We are on the dregs of dry wood in our woodshed but the weather has taken a turn for the worse and its cold today. I have wrapped myself in a doona as I type and Earl is out on sentry duty on the deck waiting for Steve and Bezial to come home. The weep-weep bird is back along with a particularly annoying new bird that sounds like a cat in distress. It would be bad enough with one bird making punitive cries all day and night but there are two of them singing/crying in unison! I was shaking out the blanket on Earl’s chair this morning  in a vain effort to minimise the hairs floating all over the place in all of the rooms and noticed Adrian next door wandering around looking for something. I think she was trying to find the source of the crying. Hopefully she realises that it is a bird and not something terrified or hurt which is what it sounds like. I just finished a rough draft for the article that I have been asked to write about the Tamar NRM. I can’t praise them highly enough for the recent series of free events highlighting sustainability and natural resource management. Back in the day it was called “farming” and “how to make do with what you have” but as trends change, so do the names that support said trends and everything is green in the state of Tasmania. We just heard that Tasmania has the worst jobless rate in Australia. I am not surprised. There isn’t much going on in Tasmania at the moment and the government seems hell bent on pushing unsustainable quick fixes as our future rather than supporting slow growth via quality food production and clean green tourism and businesses. They cling onto the past with a tenacity verging on panic. No-one wants to say the obvious that Tasmania has lagged WAY behind the rest of Australia thanks to its parochialism and nepotistic desire to cling to the past. The Tamar NRM is showing people how to make positive changes in their lives. Whether you have money or not, you CAN make small changes to how you do things that will add up to a cost saving to you and less of a drain on the world as a whole.

I need to thank Spencer from the wonderful resource http://anthropogen.com/ for sharing a fantastic link with me this morning. I actually subscribe to this blog but somehow missed this amazing article that is completely pertinent to our situation here in Temperate Australia. Here are the two links that caught my eye and got me excited…

http://permaculturenews.org/2012/09/06/perennial-food-plants-food-forest-gardens-and-food-security/

What a fantastic idea and a wonderful way to create a sense of community through ensuring our ongoing food security. That initial post led to this next one which is the first of (hopefully) many land owners sharing what they are doing to shore up their food supplies on their land

http://permaculturenews.org/2012/10/11/food-from-perennialising-plants-in-temperate-climate-australia-for-september-2012/

Its articles like these that keep me fired up for what we are doing on Serendipity Farm. Last week I became incredibly enthused with water wicking. I heard about it initially through Bev at http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com that uses water wicking beds to combat using precious potable water on her vegetable beds. Water wicking promises up to 50% less water used to grow vegetable crops whilst increasing the yield and quality of vegetables thanks to a much more efficient watering system and more readily available water to be used by the plant on call. I learned that you can create a wicked water bed next to your fruit trees and alongside young trees that need initial watering until their roots are able to seek water lower down in the soil profile. The more I learn about these amazing ways to do things that are more efficient along with less energy intensive the more excited I get about applying these ideas to Serendipity Farm. If you are after some quality information for free, check out these resources through http://www.soilandhealth.org/ thanks to Steve Solomon and now Justin Crawford. Its people like these and the many bloggers out in the ether sharing what they learn and know with the rest of us that facilitate a growing grassroots community of resilience and hope. Cheers to all of you and thank you SO much for your efforts. They truly are appreciated by us all :o)

It was a lovely day today on Serendipity Farm. This photo was taken by Steve as he walked Earl. The road goes right up to the edge of the river at this point and gives a lovely photo opportunity most mornings as we set off

I really like this shot of the river…Steve’s phone probably takes better photos than our camera!

It’s a magnificent sunny spring day here on Serendipity Farm. The sun is shining…the sky is bright Microsoft blue and everything is happy and sparkling. The local art group has chosen today to park at the Auld Kirk church next door and are drawing and painting this lovely day for posterity. Our chooks are suspicious of them and are protesting at more humans interrupting their clucking and scratching. Someone has a little Chihuahua type dog and Earl and Bezial have their ears cocked listening whilst pretending to be asleep and basking on the sun warmed deck. Our American hippy friend is apparently going to come to our house and use a Geiger counter to show us how bad our lights are for us…hope he doesn’t go too close to the computer, the fridge, the television and Earl or that sucker is going to go off the dial! Our American Hippy friend sees conspiracies behind every hedge. I prefer to save my conspiracies for when I give a damn about something as much like anything else, the novelty wears off pretty quickly if you immerse yourself in something constantly. He dropped off a couple of conspiracy D.V.D.s for us to watch and one about food forests which I might even watch. He rode his loud old motorbike (that we can hear all the way from his place) up and didn’t even come inside. We had even managed to find a Frank Zappa album in Steve’s collection to add his sort of ambiance to his visit. He was run over by a truck in Nam (or somewhere like that) and has a built up shoe and a strange way of walking but for a man of his age he is most definitely NOT boring. He has a long dreadlock ponytail, an unusual way of looking at things and wants our pile of old steel up behind the house. He can share it with our friend in the witness protection’s partner. The boys whined on the deck while he was here because for some reason they absolutely love him. Bezial thinks that he is his best friend EVER something that was reinforced into Bezials food controlled brain when he bought the boys some pig’s ears and was forever forged in Bezials mind as “A Good Sort”. He is our sort of people. Not completely “right” and definitely not someone that you would take home to meet your parents.

What a lovely part of the world we live in 🙂

As you can see, the road really DOES go right down to the river and this is taken on the border of Glads place next door and our property

I am sure that our respective neighbours will someday come to understand that Steve and I are not manufacturing crack, growing dope or plotting to relieve them of all of their worldly goods. I actually got to talk to one of the more upper crust neighbours who are terrified that our boys are going to eat her fluffy little “Nelson”. I was walking Earl because Bezial has a dicky digit and both he and I need the exercise or bad things happen. I just “happened” to let slip that we are studying our Diploma in Landscaping…not something that I would usually care to slip into the conversation (not being a wanker by choice) but this lady holds sway in the local vicinity and my little ploy appears to have worked because today, Steve was walking Earl on his own (Bezials digit is still dicky) and the middle classers who own the 7/11 on the corner (really an expensive environmentally correct house but it looks just like a 7/11 to us ;)) actually “spoke” to Steve! Normally they would rather walk into the house as the pit-bull toting rednecks wrangled those monsters past…maybe they need a hand with their lavender and rosemary hedges and their dry stone walls and their climbing roses? 😉 Best not ask us then!

Steve took this photo today as he was standing on the deck having a coffee

Looking back towards Glad’s place. As you can see, spring is making everything green here now

Gone girl tastes too good. It’s rich and creamy and I know I am going to “eat” it too fast for my own good and get sick and when I get to the end after rushing/gulping it down in one long marathon, sneaking it into the toilet and carrying it myopically into the bathroom when I am brushing my teeth I am going to be disappointed that I didn’t make it last…sucking the last of the marrow out of its bones and I will be sad. Was that poetic? It’s how I feel when I get a good book and can’t stop being greedy about it. I am a greedy person…generous AND greedy and I love to share my greed. I love how Gillian Flynn writes…she directs you like you are dancing with her and her hand is on the small of your back expertly ferrying you around the dance floor till you arrive at the winner’s podium shocked because you can’t even dance. Authors like that are rare and I am feeling a bit shell shocked that I have only just started her third and most recent novel and I am already lamenting “The End”. I put the book down (with difficulty). I just had to smile because I spelled “difficulty” correctly. The ONLY reason that I can spell that word is that my grandad taught me a little rhyme to remember how to spell it and even though I learned that little rhyme about 40 years ago, it has stuck with me and that word has never tripped me up. I guess one word is better than none! I think I might have to stalk Ms Gillian Flynn and see if I can’t get her to write her next novel A.S.A.P. because the book that I am reading was only printed in August 2012. As nice as she was to write a book for my birthday, it doesn’t make up for the fact that I am going to have to go cold turkey pretty soon so she is just going to have to write faster. If any of my American dear constant readers live anywhere near Ms Flynn, please feel free to head over to her house and tell her that I would like her to write another book… better still…how about she does what they did with the back to the future trilogy and writes 3 at once? Just sayin’…

This little seaplane often comes in for a landing on the river here

Going…going…

Gone!

It’s now just on 5pm and I have a batch of Italian herb bread dough on proving to make Steve some more calzones for his tea tonight. He must have liked the last lot because they are all gone, even the two that were frozen for later consumption. I ran out of sopressa so it’s all bacon, mushroom, capsicum and spring onion with cheese today. For some reason the bread dough was completely different this time to when I last made it. I am not phased because murphy has my name in his book of laws right up there on the first page and constantly feels the need to update me with his erstwhile laws right in the middle of doing just about everything so I am used to things going a bit skewwhiff. It smells good and that’s enough for now!  I might finish up this lazy post pretty soon. I have meandered through the day in a bit of a haze. Unlike most of Australia, Tasmania is still pretty cold through the day and as the last day of the Launceston Royal Agricultural Show has just about come to a halt we can plant out our tomatoes tomorrow! That might sound a bit strange but it’s a tried and tested date that all Northern Tasmanian vegetable gardeners adhere to religiously. If you plant before then…you are a “bloody idiot”! We were bloody idiots way back when we first moved here in 2007 because we didn’t know any better. We made a lovely veggie garden and planted out a multitude of unusual tomato varieties in complete blind ignorance. We didn’t even know to stake them and so we ended up with frizzled dead frozen tomatoes that had to be replaced (muttering and complaining) with more multitudes of varieties because most of them died. We flouted the “after the show” rule and lived to pay the price. Older now, and one would hope wiser, we are preparing to plant our tomatoes, capsicums, chillis and a small punnet of lettuces that Steve bought the other day at one of the local hardware shops (actually Woolworths in “local” disguise) car park sale. Our friend in the witness protection, who works at said hardware shop, was run off her feet and unable to say much because she was being trailed by elderly ladies and buffeted with questions from all sides.

Steve got all artistic today

and again…

Last weeks calzone fillings and a close approximation of this weeks calzone fillings 😉

And so our time together has come to an end…it’s actually come to an end because my calzone dough has risen up nicely and needs to be given a bit of a thump to remove some air and then I will cut it into 4, roll it out into nice 20cm circles and will cover half of the circle with filling, scrunch up the edges in a rough approximation of something that I saw on a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall program (so it must be kosher…), brush it with egg wash and shove it into a nice hot Brunhilda oven to bake. Steve is out trying to stop Felix from scarfing our feral chooks 3 little babies. He can’t sit out there all day and the mother is going to have to take her chances with a proven chick killer. It never stops here on Serendipity Farm! See you on Wednesday :o)

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