So this is Christmas…well, Christmas Eve

Hi All,

Every radio station this side of Cooee (a real place that has a population of 574 AND is in Northern Tasmania 😉 )  are playing Christmas songs on repeat and most of those repeat cycles contain at least one John Lennon “So this is Christmas”. More an admonition of our communal lack of effort than a Christmas song (cheers 7LAFM!) but still considered Christmassy. I know that many of you don’t feel very Christmassy in the least. I know that for many people, Christmas is just an excuse to have a few days off, drink some seriously expensive booze and quaff their weights worth of expensive and rich food. I know that people spending Christmas alone or in difficult circumstances might be feeling considerably left out and today, in my little Christmas Eve sermon (for verily have I been given the task of cheering you all up and so sayeth the Lord! 😉 ) I wanted to remind you all that you are all part of an amazing online group of friends, some of whom become online family. Whether you feel included, excluded, excited, underwhelmed, overwhelmed, blissed out or knackered out Christmas is a good time to take stock of where we have been, what we have done and to hitch up our belts and think about where we are going for next year. Seriously though, you would think that they would leave a bit more than a week between Christmas and New Year to get all of that sorted out, especially as we have all been flat out like the proverbial lizard drinking getting Christmas sorted out and all need several nana naps in order to get over it so poor old New Years is a bit of an afterthought…

Another year, another tangle of lights...

Another year, another tangle of lights…

Look what I found at Hollybank. A bank full of holly berries. Not so special you might say but red holly berries in the middle of summer? I call that a Christmas miracle ;)

Look what I found at Hollybank. A bank full of holly berries. Not so special you might say but red holly berries in the middle of summer? I call that a Christmas miracle 😉

I used a willow wreath that I made from harvested canes last year and turned it into a holly wreath :)

I used a willow wreath that I made from harvested canes last year and turned it into a holly wreath 🙂

Then I hung it on the back door...where I realised that it looks like a set of shark jaws...er...

Then I hung it on the back door…where I realised that it looks like a set of shark jaws…er…

I made this doll for a very good friends little girl who apparently loves it.

I made this doll for a very good friends little girl who apparently loves it. She is 50cm tall and her tail comes off to reveal…

A most fetching bikini :). Still haven't learned how to make attractive mouths. Anyone reading this who can help guide me in the right direction please feel free to comment :)

A most fetching bikini :). Still haven’t learned how to make attractive mouths. Anyone reading this who can help guide me in the right direction please feel free to comment 🙂

Still, whether we are ready for it or not, it comes. I am particularly blessed to have been allowed to exist on this small blue revolving planet out in the middle of space for more than half a century. I feel incredibly in awe that for some reason I have managed to enjoy most of my life. I might not be “living the dream” but I am living MY dream which I think is more important. I just want to remind you all that no matter who you are, or what your circumstances are, there is always some poor sod out there who is worse off than us/you and that we have so much to be thankful for, right here and right now. And you can just about shut up John Lennon with your admonitions, we internet mates look out for each other and we do care. Another year older? Cheers John, but you know what? That’s another chance at another year and I am sure that our elderly 92 year old neighbour Glad is counting and enjoying every single day of it.

All the Christmas day food prep is now done. The flowery icecubes for the boozy punch are frozen...

All the Christmas day food prep is now done. The flowery icecubes for the boozy punch are frozen…

The strawberries for Stevie-boys homemade strawberries and cream icecream and for the punch purchased from just over the river (can't get much more local than that...)

The strawberries for Stevie-boys homemade strawberries and cream icecream and for the punch purchased from just over the river (can’t get much more local than that…)

8kg of cherries bought for $2 a kilo and most of them have disappeared never to be seen again ;)

8kg of cherries bought for $2 a kilo and most of them have disappeared never to be seen again 😉

The cherries came from a cherry farm over the river right next to the strawberry farm. We are so lucky to live where we live

The cherries came from a cherry farm over the river right next to the strawberry farm. We are so lucky to live where we live

Talking about Glad, she is just about to receive a large Stevie-boy original pork pie to tuck away (hide) in her fridge for after she gets trotted around to all of her family members tomorrow and she can return home, put her feet up and do what SHE wants. So much of the festivities revolving around Christmas involve trotting off to visit people that you may or may not really want to deal with. I guess it’s a good reminder that we have to sometimes suck it up for the greater good. I will note that Christmas is one of the worst times for family arguments to get started so watch out for those family members that are most antagonistic towards each other and add lots of water to their booze (at least while they are at your house, they can behave! 😉 )

Steve had 10 spare minutes and a hankering to use his nail gun so he knocked up this bench out of a slab of pine a friend had given him and a strut of ash. The dogs approve

Steve had 10 spare minutes and a hankering to use his nail gun so he knocked up this bench out of a slab of pine a friend had given him and a strut of ash. The dogs approve

The dogs are very confused about all of the activity around here... the baking has them particularly suspicious

The dogs are very confused about all of the activity around here… the baking has them particularly suspicious

This is the end result of churning together 2 cans of coconut cream, 1 cup of raw sugar and some vanilla and it's absolutely delicious. The best vegan ice cream I have ever made and I can't wait to experiment with this recipe to make all kinds of variations

This is the end result of churning together 2 cans of coconut cream, 1 cup of raw sugar and some vanilla and it’s absolutely delicious. The best vegan ice cream I have ever made and I can’t wait to experiment with this recipe to make all kinds of variations

Coconut ice cream motion blur! ;)

Coconut ice cream motion blur! 😉

We make pork pies every year for Steve and for our neighbour Glad who is 92 and her daughter Wendy who are both expats from the U.K. Christmas just isn't Christmas without pork pies apparently. They can live without the snow and the hot Christmas dinner but Christmas without pork pies? Sacrilege!

We make pork pies every year for Steve and for our neighbour Glad who is 92 and her daughter Wendy who are both expats from the U.K. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without pork pies apparently. They can live without the snow and the hot Christmas dinner but Christmas without pork pies? Sacrilege!

A gorgeous homemade Christmas pudding that Glad gave us this year from her secret recipe :)

A gorgeous homemade Christmas pudding that Glad gave us this year from her secret recipe 🙂

Spooning the heady rum syrup over the rum baba

Spooning the heady rum syrup over the rum baba

Stevie-boy and I are able to spend Christmas Day tomorrow here on Serendipity Farm that has been newly shorn and that looks adorable despite Steve doing some serious damage to the whipper snipper that requires a lot of internet trawling to find new parts. That’s for the New Year though so I am counting my blessings that we managed to get most of the whipper snipping done and make Serendipity Farm look pretty. We will be sitting out on the deck having a most leisurely Christmas thanks to lots of organisation (Steve and I specialise at being organised) prior to the day. Everything has been made except for the homemade mascarpone cheese that I am attempting to make this year. A tiny container of the unctuous stuff costs 4 arms and half a leg so this year, narf is going to make her own AND copious quantities of it if the recipe serves me right.

I received this absolutely lovely bunting from a lovely fellow blogger called mommermom. Isn't it gorgeous and aren't I a lucky narf? I never cease to be amazed at how lovely people who don't even know you can be :)

I received this absolutely lovely bunting from a lovely fellow blogger called mommermom. Isn’t it gorgeous and aren’t I a lucky narf? I never cease to be amazed at how lovely people who don’t even know you can be 🙂

Stevie-boy got a new 50mm lens from the girls for Christmas (early) and has been using it to take some most lovely photos of things around the garden...

Stevie-boy got a new 50mm lens from the girls for Christmas (early) and has been using it to take some most lovely photos of things around the garden…

Remember my red clover from last year? Well this is "son of red clover" ;)

Remember my red clover from last year? Well this is “son of red clover” 😉

Pretty and most hardy climbing geraniums

Pretty and most hardy climbing geraniums

A lovely mass display of climbing roses

A lovely mass display of climbing roses

This glorious buddleia flower

This glorious buddleia flower

This one is especially for you Linne :)

This one is especially for you Linne 🙂

Natural pest prevention

Natural pest prevention

And an arty shot of our newly installed and decorated Christmas tree avec lights :)

And an arty shot of our newly installed and decorated Christmas tree avec lights 🙂

I made a rum baba yesterday. It’s a heady mix of buttery brioche soaked in enough rum syrup to satiate a crew of pirates. We cooked Steve’s choice of a very large chook and a roll of pork (sorry vegan mates but sometimes we mixed couples have to compromise), Steve’s famous pork pies that he is going to share with friends and neighbours, coconut ice cream for me (that tastes AMAZING) and strawberries and cream ice cream for Steve that also tastes amazing but his uses cream and eggs and mine just uses cans of coconut cream, a bit of sugar and some vanilla. I froze some flowers in an ice cube tray for prettying up our boozy Christmas punch and have been freezing home grown berries to add as they ripen. My blueberry bushes are covered in blueberry futures but they aren’t quite ready yet. We picked up 8kg of “jam” cherries the other day for $2 a kilo and after picking out the damaged cherries (and cutting out the damage and pureeing and freezing them) we were left with almost 5kg of perfectly good cherries that have been slowly scoffed by yours truly over the past few days. I am claiming to be eating them all to lose weight…SHHH don’t tell Stevie-boy that I am eating them because they are delicious!

We went to Hollybank recently as a special treat for the dogs. I was warning them not to shake as they were both sopping wet after an impromptu swim...

We went to Hollybank recently as a special treat for the dogs. I was warning them not to shake as they were both sopping wet after an impromptu swim…

I think this is supposed to be a bull but both Steve and I thought "KRAMPUS"! As soon as we saw it so it is officially the wooden Krampus from now on

I think this is supposed to be a bull but both Steve and I thought “KRAMPUS”! As soon as we saw it so it is officially the wooden Krampus from now on

A woman can't even take a photo without someone else photographing her! ;)

A woman can’t even take a photo without someone else photographing her! 😉

Earl found the small plastic rum bottle (empty) used to make the rum syrup for the rum baba...

Earl found the small plastic rum bottle (empty) used to make the rum syrup for the rum baba…

A lovely shot that Steve took of Bezial

A lovely shot that Steve took of Bezial

And an equally lovely shot of Earl :)

And an equally lovely shot of Earl 🙂

The tree is up, the decorations made, the front gate is adorned and the big balls of great happiness are back up after languishing on the ground next to the front gate for almost a year. One of them was full of water and when we hung them up and were decorating the gate we were subject to a slow trickle of water sprinkling down on us. I think that the Christmassy feelings come from the preparations and the processes that are involved with making Christmas yours. It’s my theory but I have found that whenever we throw ourselves into making everything for Christmas, we have a sort of timeline in our mind that sets off a chain of Christmassy feelings. We have cinnamon salt dough ornaments scenting our house. We made them last week. We have Earl reminding us of the joys of Christmas for the young and reminding us of how we have to be careful NOT to put anything under the tree till tonight as he has already removed and almost unwrapped one gift (fool us once bucko!) and we found him with the small plastic rum bottle that we used to make the rum baba chewing happily on the lid…sigh…kids!

Moody Christmas chook and pork roll

Moody Christmas chook and pork roll

Raining and it is just about Christmas...

Raining and it is just about Christmas…

Lucky really as yesterday we had to light Brunhilda to cook all of the christmas fare.

Lucky really as yesterday we had to light Brunhilda to cook all of the Christmas fare.

Aren't these lovely? I got them from that most sterling and gorgeous of bloggers Ms teddyandtottie. She was so gorgeous that she couldn't work out who of her dear constant readers to give a prize to so she gave us all one! HUGE hugs Ms teddietottie, don't they look lovely? :)

Aren’t these lovely? I got them from that most sterling and gorgeous of bloggers Ms teddyandtottie. She was so gorgeous that she couldn’t work out who of her dear constant readers to give a prize to so she gave us all one! HUGE hugs Ms teddietottie, don’t they look lovely? 🙂

We have been busy for the last week whipper snipping the grass down and tidying up. Serendipity  Farm now looks like a park. We have to watch out for campers and picnickers ;)

We have been busy for the last week whipper snipping the grass down and tidying up. Serendipity Farm now looks like a park. We have to watch out for campers and picnickers 😉

I guess I really shouldn’t tax you too much with this post. I just really wanted to give you all a great big narfy cyber hug and let you all know how much I truly appreciate you and your decision to tag along each week to visit us down here in farthest flung Tasmania on Serendipity Farm, home to reprobates and the abnormal. Stevie-boy and I might be serious hermits who adore our own little space but knowing that there are good friends out there in “the rest of the world” is an amazing thing. Here’s to a wonderful time over the next few weeks. No matter who you are, what you celebrate, IF you celebrate, I hope that this week and the lead up to our brand spanking new year is a great one. I hope that 2015 dawns on us and gives us an incredible opportunity to live, to learn and to grow and that we are all able to be here to collect our thoughts come Christmas 2015. HUGE hugs to you all and see you New Year’s Eve 🙂

Happy Stevie-boy with a wonderful set of earrings that Ms rabbidlittlehippy sent to him for Christmas. He loves them!

Happy Stevie-boy with a wonderful set of earrings that Ms rabbidlittlehippy sent to him for Christmas. He loves them!

Merry Christmas to you all and we will raise a glass of Christmas cheer to all of you tomorrow :)

Merry Christmas to you all and we will raise a glass of Christmas cheer to all of you tomorrow 🙂

And so we meet again…

Hi All,

It only seems like yesterday when I was tapping away, tongue sticking out of the side of my mouth, attempting to amuse bouche you guys and here we are again with a new blog post knocking around inside my brain and a deadline of “NOW!” So what’s a girl to do but go all freestyle on your derrières and just wing it with the muses. This week has been a whirlwind of secret crafting business tangled up with gardening and a good dose of telling Stevie-boy what a good husband he is. It’s around about this time of year when everything comes together in the small time and space continuum vortex that is Serendipity Farm and all of the things that I have been putting off all year rise up like phoenixes (or the ghosts of Christmas past more appropriately) to wave their talons/apparition fingers at me and tut in whatever language phoenixes/ghosts tut in.

#Earl loves bloons

#Earl loves bloons

#Earl loves bloons AND walking on the coffee table ;)

#Earl loves bloons AND walking on the coffee table 😉

Stevie-boy, ever the creative genius, has made our youngest daughter Bethany (or Beenz as she has been tagged for a while now) something wonderfully special for her Christmas gift this year. Those of you dear constant readers who have been trying to make head or tail of my blog posts for a while now will know that we are both working on secret Christmas gifts for our daughters as part of a “give us something we like and you might win a $50 booze voucher”. Initially it was that booze voucher that piqued our sense of intrigue but that lasted all of about 10 seconds when the competitive part of the challenge stepped in…”there be WINNING to achieve here folks!” And thus it began…

It's not all about Earl today. This lovely photo of Bezial was photoshopped by Steve

It’s not all about Earl today. This lovely photo of Bezial was photoshopped by Steve

Happy first day of Summer Southern Hemisphere! ;)

Happy first day of Summer Southern Hemisphere! 😉

Stevie-boy listened to my idea for my gift and said “might as well not bother, you have it in the bag”. Which was a great ego boost but to be honest, I didn’t even know if I could create what was inside my head. As I started working on what I have created for Madeline (we got given a daughter each) Stevie-boys competitive streak started to rise up and suddenly he was full of ideas and waving things around in front of my concentrating nose and there were many interruptions to my concentration where I had to “ooo” and “ah” with sufficiently admiring sounds in order to get back to what I was doing. As his creation started to take shape I started to feel the tables flipping and suddenly there was a real competition! Stevie-boy, being Stevie-boy went at his creation like a bull at a gate. He has tamed his desire to finish everything “yesterday” though and is now much more aware of aesthetics and has honed his desire to create quality items rather than “quick” items. I must admit to playing a big part in this transformation…me and my desire to not have the house fall down around us…

Stevie-boy on Saturday faced with this mountain of banana passionfruit that all needed removing

Stevie-boy on Saturday faced with this mountain of banana passionfruit that all needed removing

Most of the banana passionfruit removed and now we just have to remove the dead shrubs under the passionfruit and cut the remainder down to hedge height

Most of the banana passionfruit removed and now we just have to remove the dead shrubs under the passionfruit and cut the remainder down to hedge height

So Stevie-boy’s gorgeous creation is sitting in his music room all finished and ready to be gifted. It is beautiful. I will share it with you in the blog post on December 17th which is immediately after our little familial un-Christmas Christmas celebration as our children are celebrating with their dad and his family who are coming all the way from Western Australia for the occasion. We will have our own delicious Christmas sitting out under the shade of a (not) coolabah tree looking out over the river and giving constant thanks for the circumstances that landed us here on Serendipity Farm.

Narfs breakfast beans

Narfs breakfast beans

The "Dead possum" lily is back for another year. Our friend Jenny just bought one of these. We have hundreds of them that return to reak of death just on Christmas.

The “Dead possum” lily is back for another year. Our friend Jenny just bought one of these. We have hundreds of them that return to reak of death just on Christmas.

My gift creation isn’t so easy. Not only have I had to learn several new skills in order to create this gift, but I have also had to take those newly learned skills and riff on a theme. What I am creating is pretty out there and I have to adapt things from all over the (most wonderful) sharing caring colony of crafters and their wonderful “free tutorials” and then change them to suit my needs. I am quite pleased with the results and everything is starting to come together nicely but it aint finished folks and I am starting to twitch because today is December the third and I need to be finished by this weekend as I have other projects to get stuck into ASAP and this one is starting to take on epic proportions. I can’t wait to share our creations with you and our daughters gave us an amazing gift when they thought up this challenge in the first place. They gave us the gift of actually thinking about the person we are giving a gift to and really homing in on what they like and both Stevie-boy and I have learned a lot in the process so we all win in the end. Stewart and Kelsey have both been given a giftee as well and I know what Stewart has got Madeline  and she is going to be hard pressed to choose between his gift and mine (so that is why I am going to have to slip sleeping pills into his morning coffee and render him AWOL on the day! 😉 ) NO idea what Kelsey is contemplating but now she is a most honorary Aussie (her visa to stay came through…”HOORAY!” 🙂 ), she can stop worrying about heading back to frozen Texas (does it freeze in Texas?) and can spend Christmas Day sweltering away like the rest of us southerners ;).

A wasp is moving in to our bug house! :)

A wasp is moving in to our bug house! 🙂

Stevie-boy is finishing off cutting up last years logs ready for our next load to be delivered.

Stevie-boy is finishing off cutting up last years logs ready for our next load to be delivered.

Stevie-boy deserved a beer after this! :)

Stevie-boy deserved a beer after this! 🙂

So what else has narf been up to (apart from twitching about the rapidly approaching gift giving celebration day that is…), well the garden has taken up a good part of our week. I have been carrying on with my newfound idea to shove all kinds of veggies etc. in all kinds of places. The thing about pests is that they tend to flock when they get a sniff of something in a row. I don’t know what it is about pests but they appear to be regimented and like mass plantings. The problem is, most veggie gardeners love nice neat rows of things as that makes it easier to garden, to harvest and to keep tabs on what you have in your garden and what you can plant in the recently vacated soil. Not for narf, this nice easy life that is “rows”. I have planted out beetroot, okra (the few that the slugs didn’t scoff… see, slugs eat it as they need to replace all of that slime!), Roselle’s (that are developing a gorgeous rosy colour on their little round leaves), beetroot, a single tomatillo (that will be joined by a few of its brethren soon), lots of silverbeet and spinach as they are two of my most consumed foodstuffs over the summer period, 2 cucumber plants (gifted from a friend) and 3 very sad Roma tomatoes from the self-same friend who had just plonked the plants into her small pond and left them there for over a week. Tomatoes are survivor’s folks. These tomatoes were living a semi aquatic lifestyle! There is a whole lot going on in narf7’s garden but only the potato onions and the radishes (yes “radishes” Madeline! 😉 ) are in rows. Everything else is scattered all over the place like a particularly fecund Salvador Dali or Picasso painting.

Steve has been messing around in Photoshop with this lovely original image taken at Hollybank, a lovely reserve 15 minutes east of Launceston.

Steve has been messing around in Photoshop with this lovely original image taken at Hollybank, a lovely reserve 15 minutes east of Launceston.

This version is a reflected version with a soft glow

This version is a reflected version with a soft glow

This version is a reflection in "water"

This version is a reflection in “water”

This one reminds me of the Blair Witch forest!

This one reminds me of the Blair Witch forest!

This is my favourite version. Its haunting but lovely. Isn't Photoshop amazing if you learn how to use it well?

This is my favourite version. Its haunting but lovely. Isn’t Photoshop amazing if you learn how to use it well?

In my first year of gardening I tried to create garden beds but the possums and wallabies caused them to be covered to the back gills with bird netting, wire, chook netting and sticks and although the harvest was pretty good, most of it went to seed as the cruel irony of all of my protective devices was that “I” couldn’t get into there either! Year 2 saw us with Sanctuary but my “get-up-and-go” had gotten up and went. I wasn’t in the mood to vegetable garden and it was only through my friend Jenny and our compost heap contents that anything grew in Sanctuary at all. We shall call it “The year of the pumpkin” for that very reason and the pumpkins took over and ruled the bit of Sanctuary that the possums couldn’t reach. The possums ate everything green as well as quite a few pumpkins and until we managed to completely stop them from gaining entry, they had free reign. Not THIS YEAR possums! This year Sanctuary has been fortified with plastic coated wire clothes line. It looks like a green oasis of possum envy and I have had the incredibly satisfying experience of planting out citrus trees, seedlings and all sorts of berry bushes underneath a sea of seething and most envious possum activity. I know they are up there because their little deposits are fertilising Sanctuary 😉

 

Steve's prototype most awesome new Christmas tree. We haven't sprayed it green yet but it has spacers between the "limbs" and we can move the limbs around to wherever we like

Steve’s prototype most awesome new Christmas tree. We haven’t sprayed it green yet but it has spacers between the “limbs” and we can move the limbs around to wherever we like

And one of the best bits (the bit that makes Steve call this his "Ikea" Christmas tree) is that it folds flat for under bed storage for the rest of the year! :)

And one of the best bits (the bit that makes Steve call this his “Ikea” Christmas tree) is that it folds flat for under bed storage for the rest of the year! 🙂

I have been experimenting by planting things like silverbeet, spinach and the odd Roselle directly into small heaps that I have put compost on one side of and spent horse manure and lots of oak leaves on the other. I learned that a big pile of well-aged horse manure is like gloriously fertile soil to most plants. I also learned it dries out pretty quickly though so adding extra’s to it is part and parcel of working with this wonderful medium. Enter the oak leaf mould and the compost. My experiments have me seeing if adding compost to the higher side of the pile (everything is on a degree of slope on Serendipity Farm aka “Slippery Slope” Farm 😉 ) will cause nutrient run off down to the rest of the pile. I have 3 smallish piles in between all of the citrus trees as I know that they are heavy feeders and I am attempting to kill a whole mess of birds with a single stone. I have a very large compost heap full of compost, horse manure, oak leaves and a lot of dried grass from Glad’s back paddock next door, on the other side of Sanctuary in which a small but most determined crew of red and yellow raspberries is going it’s best to take over the world. I know that they won’t be able to achieve world domination because they have an even bigger and more determined patch of Jerusalem artichokes surrounding them to get through before they can conquer Sanctuary. “Good luck with that raspberries!”

Jenny's raspberries that grew from a single raspberry plant that she planted last year (note to self WATCH those raspberries inside Sanctuary! ;) )

Jenny’s raspberries that grew from a single raspberry plant that she planted last year (note to self WATCH those raspberries inside Sanctuary! 😉 )

Everything eats Jenny's plants but what they don't eat I pay close attention to. If they don't eat it at Jenny's place, there is a very good chance that they won't eat it here! Guess who is about to buy some dianthus...

Everything eats Jenny’s plants but what they don’t eat I pay close attention to. If they don’t eat it at Jenny’s place, there is a very good chance that they won’t eat it here! Guess who is about to buy some dianthus…

And some penstemons...

And some penstemons…

And How about elderberries. Jenny has a particularly nice selection of these beauties. Nothing eats them because aside from the fruit they are completely poisonous :)

And How about elderberries. Jenny has a particularly nice selection of these beauties. Nothing eats them because aside from the fruit they are completely poisonous 🙂

The excitement of propagation has returned and poor Steve had to dig a “root growth zone” (aka “hole”) for me to plant out a new Emperor mandarin that our friend Jenny gave us to add to our growing collection. She has also gifted us a couple of cherry trees as the native wild life at her home just hoover anything fruity down. We are working on creating a Mediterranean garden for her as they won’t touch figs, quinces etc. and so I am thinking that the best bet for her is to plant what the possums can’t stand. You have to work within the parameters that your situation hands you sometimes and then when you have the basics set up, you can start fandangling with the principle of the thing. That’s how we gardeners roll. We are never happy to call it quits because there is always something new around the corner that piques our interest.

A lovely rose at Jenny's house

A lovely rose at Jenny’s house

And the reason why it is still alive ;)

And the reason why it is still alive 😉

We visited Jenny yesterday and gave her a sack of small agapanthus that we crowbarred up from near our front gate. When we were studying our Diploma in Landscape Design we had to come up with a plan each for a Design and we ended up using Jenny’s place as our Design. We came up with a lovely rosemary, lavender and agapanthus series of low hedges surrounding a potager style garden full of things that possums and wallabies and rabbits (and now native crayfish!) wouldn’t like to eat. It was a challenge but the real challenge is that Jenny wants to actually create this garden for reals! So thus finds us crowbarring up agapanthus babies for the near future and sharing the things that we can and can’t grow between us. It is awesome having a good friend who just “gets” us and our crazy desire to be plant slaves and to be like Dr Frankenstein when it comes to grafting all kinds of strange things onto other strange things (cue the thunder, lightning and crazy laughter…)

Lambs ear and (the dreaded) osteospermum daisies and wallflowers. There are a lot of plants that our native animals find unpalatable, I just have to find out which ones they are and plant them :)

Lambs ear and (the dreaded), Arbutilons,  osteospermum daisies and wallflowers. There are a lot of plants that our native animals find unpalatable, I just have to find out which ones they are and plant them 🙂

This is what happens when Jenny tries to plant out fruit trees...

This is what happens when Jenny tries to plant out fruit trees…

The old "stuffed toy to scare the natives away" obviously doesn't work ;)

The old “stuffed toy to scare the natives away” obviously doesn’t work 😉

Visiting friends has benefits, especially when they don't like broad beans :)

Visiting friends has benefits, especially when they don’t like broad beans 🙂

Oh dear. I have manically arrived at a long blog post again. I can’t say that I am sorry as I am not. I love sharing what excites me with you all. Pretty soon you will get to see what has been keeping Stevie-boy and I busy for the last few months (well Stevie-boy for a weekend or two and me for about 3 months now!) in the gifting arena. I would like to thank both of our daughters for giving us all this challenge as we have both learned SO much from having to adapt what they like to what we are capable of creating. ALL kinds of lessons learned, challenges raised to meet and exciting possibilities arising thanks to this desire to stop Christmas from turning into a series of gift voucher or cash handouts. Let’s all take Christmas back this year folks. It doesn’t have to be a commercial crazy rush of cash flowing out of your account/cards, it can be carefully thought out and meticulously planned but if you don’t end up feeling like you have taken part, what’s the point? Lets take Christmas (whatever it means to you) back from the middle men and place it firmly in the creative bent of our own little hot hands. I know that Stevie-boy has had a lot of fun creating our latest “Christmas tree” and that we are creating all of our own decorations this year. That’s how you feel “Christmassy”…Christmas is in the processes, the lead up, the wonder of creation and the enjoyment of sharing a good meal with good friends and family. Being thankful for the year that has past, the year that is about to hit us (EEK!) and being grateful, thankful and most joyful for our continued existence on this small blue planet navigating it’s way around a small bright star somewhere out there in this wide expanse of a universe. See you all next week 🙂

I will leave you with a parting shot of Serendipity Farm on the first official day of summer just to make you Northerners feel a bit happier about your own bad weather ;)

I will leave you with a parting shot of Serendipity Farm on the first official day of summer just to make you Northerners feel a bit happier about your own bad weather 😉

Just a quick note, next week I will be in Hobart with my 2 daughters getting ready to attend a Ben Folds concert (“SQUEE!”) my Christmas gift from my daughters so Stevie-boy will be left to hold the fort and will be responsible for next weeks blog post. He has just informed me that he wants to write next weeks blog post. You can be assured it will be smaller than my usual blog posts ;).

 

And so this is Christmas…

Hi Folks,

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This is the cute doggy personification of Christmas we couldn’t get our two boys into the spirit enough to dress up and we had enough trouble getting a foot print off them to make decorations but that is another story…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7JE0J4aYe0&feature=youtu.be

This is the reality of our Christmas morning…

I find myself sitting pondering the meaning of Christmas at 5.31am on Christmas morning. I believe in God, and I believe in the reason for the season. That’s how I roll; make of it what you will but I won’t be expecting anyone else to follow me and I won’t be  apologising for what I believe in any day soon. I woke up at 3am and lay there feeling altogether Grinchy. I got out of bed and made my cup of tea while the computer was booting up and Mr Kaspersky was doing his rounds with his hardwood Russian baton. Maybe, like the Grinch, my pants grew 3 sizes too tight yesterday at our wonderful communal family get together. I spent the afternoon making a large pile of delicious Mochi turn into a small pile of delicious Mochi and perhaps that was part of why I felt a bit “off” this morning.

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The kind of “off” that Christmas brings…

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Off like a Christmas light globe that takes the rest of the string down with it…

I sat down with my cuppa and started to wade through my (thankfully small) RSS Feed backlog all the while feeling mildly disturbed. I finished remarkably early (it would seem that other bloggers are somewhat busy at this time of year 😉 ) and headed off to me old mate Pinterest for a little look-see and some mindless vacuous pinning. As I pinned, that disturbed feeling escalated and I found myself at 5am feeling almost at the point of “unhappy” Unhappy on Christmas Day? My usual state of affairs is pretty happy. I am incredibly lucky in that I can be happy with very little and can make my own fun. I found this state of affairs bemusing and a little confusing because there really wasn’t any reason for it.

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Its Christmas…its “supposed” to look like this…

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Large firs and picea bedecked with Nordic symbols go right over the top of our Southern Aussie heads

I had a fantastic day with my children, the dogs and Steve yesterday. We had a glorious communal feast sitting outdoors under the blissful shade of a gorgeous wide span of flowering cherry leaves and a medium sized Sycamore that was only a small sapling when we took up residence in Tasmania as wide-eyed, bushy tailed Western Australians. When Steve built the deck that was heaving with deliciousness yesterday, he left a large gap around the trunk of the sycamore. Yesterday saw him attempting to widen the gap with a small pruning saw because the trunk has filled the gap.

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This is what Christmas looks like in Launceston Tasmania…

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No snow but lots of flowers and butterflies and bees

I had so much fun I completely forgot to take any pictures. It is lucky Steve took a few shots with his mobile or I wouldn’t have any images at all. The food was wonderful, the company was delightful and sharing it all with our growing family was a really blissful experience. So why was I feeling Grinchy this morning? I had a sneaking suspicion that it had something to do with my own idealistic expectations about “Christmas” the panoramic view rather than “Christmas” the reality in my little patch of the world.

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And cicada’s clicking in the trees as the day heats up

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Our friend Jenny’s garden where most of your gardens are buried under a canopy of snow

We Southerners start getting bombarded with “Christmas” around about November…we see snow and reindeer and holly and ivy when our own reality is spring and exponential greenery and in some parts of Australia, heat shimmering off the tarmac. It is almost surreal for northerners who have lived “proper” Christmases to come to Australia and find themselves amongst prawns on the barbie and t-shirt wearing tanned humanoids who seem to think that this is a normal state of affairs. I know that Steve doesn’t feel Christmassy and that it is endemic with northerners. Glad next door is 91 years old and STILL doesn’t feel like it is Christmas after all of her years living in Australia. The latest link in the chain has been the yearly production of proper English pork pies that get gifted to Glad and her daughter Wendy and that Steve gets to eat on Christmas Day. It goes part of the way towards making them feel a little bit more seasonal. I was a little worried about Kelsey feeling left out but we all tumbled around each other on the small deck, hunting food, sharing and enjoying each other’s company and she tumbled with the best of us. You are made of the right stuff to be part of our family girl 🙂

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Delicious and most enormous English pork pies made to salve the lack of cold and hot dinners for Steve, Glad and Wendy the ex-pats

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Me giving all of the dogs Christmas treats in town yesterday

Each New Year I dedicate myself to a new venture. I mulled over my New Year’s “resolution” (for want of a better word) and decided that this year is going to be my year of New Things. I am going to try something new each and every day. I am going to learn things, try things, plant things, discover things, invent things etc. As I sat here contemplating my year of New Things I found that something interesting was happening…I wasn’t feeling quite so Grinchy anymore. All I had done was contemplate something new and interesting and my Grinchiness shrunk 3 sizes…interesting… so I did something new. I headed over to the kettle and made myself another cup of tea. I grabbed my large, fluffy brown, carefully folded, cold early morning, wrap around blanky and took my large mug of tea out into the early morning to watch the sun rise.

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Taken this morning at 5.30am while I was outside in my blanket

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Absolutely NOTHING to do with Christmas…I just wanted to see if you were paying attention 😉

I sat in the chilly morning air, rugged up with my cup of tea warming the cockles of my belly and my heart followed suit. I learned something new this morning. I learned that how you “feel” is pretty much up to you. I learned that if you don’t like where you are and how you are feeling about it, take yourself someplace you do. I deserted my computer screen. No need to worry, Pinterest will still be there when I get back…and I headed out into the chilled beauty of nature on a still summers morning. It should reach about 25C today. A lovely sunny, blue sky Christmas.

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Sorry about the lack of images, we were caught up enjoying ourselves so I don’t think you will mind. We had to pass the food through the laundry window in order to prevent the dogs rampaging through the house while we were eating

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Here I am telling Stewart something with lots of hand actions…can’t for the life of me remember what though 😉

I learned something else today. You don’t need snowflakes and reindeer and icicles for a wonderful Christmas. You just need to have a good reason to be happy and you have to waft it over your head like mistletoe. Bollocks to not feeling Christmassy, and bollocks to lusting after idealistic Christmas scenes. Today narf7 is off down to the bottom of our property to make an oak leaf mould angel. I may, or may not emerge fully clothed in leeches. Today narf7 is going to eat luxury Christmas Nacho’s. Some of you are eating hot dinners but Christmas Nachos are perfect for Serendipity Farm on a 25C balmy day. Today narf7 is going to be thankful for the gift of being able to see and to be able to be happy with little and love a lot. Today my pants might swell an additional 3 sizes but my heart will outdo them in leaps and bounds. Today is a great day folks. Let’s all find something magnificent in our own humble lives to celebrate. Let’s not look at what everyone else is doing because the old adage “be careful what you wish for, it might come true” is most probably the case and “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” is a sad state of affairs for our competitive modern lives. Life is good, and today we get to contemplate purpose, the end of our year, arriving at the dawn of another year and all of the hope, dreams and possibilities that accompany it

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Delicious Indian curry puffs and Asian mini pork pies

3am narf7 = The Grinch; 6am narf7 = a happy little vegemite… note to self…”You are one lucky narf7 🙂 “

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Sausage rolls…you can’t do Christmas in Australia without sausage rolls

If anyone is reading this post they are most probably a little outside the Christmas festivities. Maybe you are feeling a bit lonely, a square peg in a round hole. Maybe your trousers are huge and your capacity for giving a damn is small but there are always reasons to be thankful. You just have to find them in your own life. THAT is the secret of true happiness. I decided to give you that gift. It’s a beaut, and I wish I had been given that gift a long time ago but it took me a long time to learn and I am still turning it around slowly and looking at it in wonder inside my head where I really live. I am, as always, a bit of a bolshie slow learner when it comes to life lessons. Consider me full of Christmas good cheer and in about 6 hours that Christmas good cheer will be somewhat enhanced by alcohol.

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Bezial smiling for the camera 🙂

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Merry Christmas from Earl to all of his fans out there 🙂

I will raise my glass to you all. To the motley crew of outcastes and beatnik’s that choose to frequent Serendipity Farm. I will give thanks for each and every one of you because you make my days better by just being there. Here’s to the reason for the season, whatever you choose to insert there and here’s to 2014 being the best year yet…bring on the NEW 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN4Uu0OlmTg

Of standing still and mentally collecting ourselves

Hi All,

In the spirit of the mania of the season I find myself feeling like a starfish being pulled in the tidal rip of “Christmas”. I appear to have been washed over by some giant force much bigger than I can resist but amongst all of the dragging (sometimes kicking and screaming, can’t let the bolshie babe side down now can I? 😉 ) there is the knowledge that I am not doing this alone. That there are people out there kicking and screaming in unison with my desire to live a simpler, more fulfilled life and that together we can make a difference. Just saw this on another blog post and loved it. It instantly said what I would like to say to all of you, my dear constant readers. We are “connected”…

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

Here’s wishing you the best of this season, whatever you celebrate, believe in or adhere to and if you, like me, find yourself drifting around helpless in a sea of tidal Christmas consumerism just remember…there are lots of us and I guess one day when the tide slows we are all going to wash up on the same shore, battered and bruised but alive and knowing the bliss of a new year, full of possibilities, where we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and have the opportunity to live our lives to the fullest each day 🙂

Narf7 🙂

“On the scrounge again…”

Hi All

“I just can’t wait to get on the scrounge again…” (ALL apologies to Mr Willy Nelson for taking his sterling effort and narforising it…)

Disclaimer…just before you start attempting to wade through this post it is probably one of the longest posts I have ever put on this blog. I completely and utterly forgive you if you just want to flick through the images and get a visual idea of what the post is about today. I guess summer has just taken over my brain…its my excuse, and I am sticking with it! 😉

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These are Gladioli carmineus corms. Gladioli carmineus (Mini Gladioli) are a low growing gladioli that grow quickly and spread like wildfire. I got these bulbs when leaning over a gardeners fence and admiring her plants on one of my morning walks with Earl

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Steve gets the bucket and I get the tahini from inside it…a win-win situation

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Whatever these plums are they are not cherry plums. I noticed these on a small tree amongst some wild cherry plums so I picked some before the possums stripped the tree and am going to plant out the seeds

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geranium cuttings and the reason why you pick fruit when it is green around here…the possums sampled my pilfered plums…cheeky sods!

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I am a manic list maker…here you see some of my lists, some clasps to ensure that the hose doesn’t blow (again) and bags of chia, quinoa and amaranth seed that I am going to plant along with some buckwheat as experimental crops this year

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The hay bales in Steve’s shed have just been appropriated for “other purposes”. I don’t mind, at least I know where this nest is!

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Looks like it has more than one occupant!

Well here I am again on Wednesday but what a difference a couple of weeks makes to this little black duck. 2 weeks ago I was a spent husk. Today I am bursting with possibilities. December 1st was apparently the first day of summer but Tasmania seems to have decided to succeed from the rest of the world and do its own thing and we have had spring, autumn, winter and a tiny hint of summer thrown in over the course of the last 2 weeks. I can’t say I mind. I love all of the rain that we are having and so does the garden. 2 weeks ago the veggie garden was a sad reminder that I had been hiding under the bed with my fingers in my ears a little bit too long but the season appears to have been hiding under the bed with me so everything is rosy on Serendipity Farm.

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Steve’s Chinese (larger) bonsai Japanese maple that he sourced from under the deck as a tiny seedling and has been training for 3 years now with it’s own nitrogen fixing crop of clover growing with it

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A little primrose and a strappy liriopes both bought from the little stall at the top of the hill for $2 each

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When I sorted through the potted plants I found this succulent that is just about to flower and a lavender that I can plant out in the garden

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My newly purchased Egyptian walking onion and perennial leeks along with grape vines grown from cuttings from a Muscat grape and pelargonium and scented geranium cuttings sourced from one of our walks

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Healthy melon and capsicum (pepper) plants that my daughter Madeline grew from seed and that are excess to her needs so I get some (cheers Madeline 🙂 )

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More geranium and pelargonium cuttings. I usually take a whole lot more care with cuttings but geraniums and pelargoniums are very hardy and should all strike no problems

The vegetable garden is going great guns. Because of all of the rain that we have been having, the rest of the garden is great gunning as well; especially the forget-me-nots that I am studiously pretending don’t exist much to their amusement. I looked down at my jeans yesterday after I had gone hunting for eggs amongst the undergrowth (I live in hope and am ever optimistic…) and I was covered in forget-me-not seeds…the little buggers LOVE me! Earl, who had accompanied me on lead was also covered in forget-me-not seeds BUT the difference was, he just shook himself and they magically dropped off him…I attempted to follow suit and nothing happened…I was still scraping them off my jeans and muttering under my breath when I managed to haul Earl up the deck steps to the deck above. If truth be told, the jeans aren’t the only thing that is covered in forget-me-not seeds but every time I get infested I toss the item into the washing and continue on regardless “I CAN’T hear you forget-me-nots!”

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Wheeling loquat seedlings, cherry plum seedlings and displaced herbs around to the veggie garden from the shed

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An oak leaf hydrangea flower on the way

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The only thing stopping this artichoke and the Jerusalem artichoke in this photo from being scoffed are the forget-me-nots and other “garden miscellanea” in this garden bed preventing the chooks from being able to see them

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Looking back from the first garden to the house where you can see one of our fine specimens of guard dogs on alert…pity they weren’t on alert the other day when we had some Jehovah’s witnesses breach the compound, walk up the steps, come onto the deck and tap on my window for a good 5 minutes before I realised that it wasn’t Earl’s tail on the window, it was (shock horror) PEOPLE! I calmly informed them that I had NO idea why our big dogs hadn’t bounded around the corner barking to greet them, politely said “no thank-you” when offered literature and said goodbye to them as they headed back down the steps. Suddenly the deck started to rumble, an eruption of barking ensued and shamefaced dogs who had been sleeping on the job pelted down to bark off the intruders…sigh…

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I hope you are all getting the picture as to why I am hiding under the bed and have NO idea where to start in the garden. Everything has gone completely mental and who would know what most of this is!

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Our mountain of home grown compost underneath some ex fish farm netting that has been dampened to keep the worms in it happy

Now that I am free to wander around the garden at will (forget-me-nots and all…) I have rediscovered my love of gardening all over again. It goes dormant for winter and appears to have erupted out of me with a vengeance this year. As a penniless student hippy who desires to live simply and sustainably I have to find all kinds of different ways to get what I want that don’t involve the green folding stuff (or even the silver stuff to be honest 😉 ) and the last week has seen me scrounging with impunity to our advantage. Here is a list of recent scrounges…

  1. Live Christmas trees scrounged by Stevie-boy, the son-and-heir, his Texan sweetie and my daughters from the firebreak between a pine plantation and our friends property
  2. 2 x 20 litre tahini buckets scrounged by Stevie-boy from Wholesome House health food shop for his shed that contained enough organic tahini to fill a large glass jar…BONUS!
  3. A visit to the Deviot Heritage Apple and Pear enclosed orchard yielded rooted cuttings of various kinds of herbs that had gone rampant into the path and that are now replanted into a large pot
  4. More angelica seed from the same garden scattered all over the place on Serendipity Farm
  5. Some cuttings of Tagetes lemmonii (an aromatic shrub native to south-eastern Arizona and south into Mexico) that I have on the windowsill in a mug of water with the hopes that the cuttings will produce roots
  6. 4 more small loquat trees that are now potted up and happy as clams in the veggie garden
  7. Lots of cherry plum seedlings found on a recent walk down at Bonnie Beach that are going to become the welcoming fence line trees on Serendipity Farm in the future
  8. A selection of pelargoniums and geranium cuttings that were sourced from plants growing on the side of the road on another one of our walks recently. I realised that some areas of Serendipity Farm are always going to be pretty arid so have decided to grow plants that will be able to tolerate low water conditions and geraniums and pelargoniums are perfect cheerful specimens. Soon to come will be lavender cuttings, rosemary cuttings and anything else that I deem drought ready and willing
  9. I walked with Earl over the Batman again and took my secateurs and a large plastic bag this time and arrived back home with cuttings from Cistus x “Purpureus” (Pink Rock Rose) and that unknown grey leaved sage type plant that I am experimenting with. I have put half of them in a glass of water on my kitchen windowsill and the other half are in potting mix in the veggie garden
  10. Seeds, seeds and MORE seeds…collecting like a crazy woman from wherever I can see something that I like (that doesn’t involve pole vaulting over someone else’s garden fence 😉 )
  11. I found a stash of possum sucked loquat seeds underneath a large loquat tree that I may, or may not have been going to predate (but the possums got there first…) and brought them home and shoved them into the ground in likely places of survival all over Serendipity Farm. I kept 5 back to plant in potting mix as I love loquats and want them all over the place as part of my lines of defence between us and the marauding natives. I figure, by the time they get to the heart of our garden where the “good” things are, they will be so stuffed full on lesser fruits that they will hardly be able to waddle…ever the optimist is narf7 😉
  12. I have been snacking on native cherry fruit as I have been walking Earl in the mornings down Auld Kirk Road. There is a particular tree that Earl likes to make a fuss over (due to a large brown hound once attempting to accost Earl in this exact place…) that gives me a little time to snack on the large native cherry tree in the vicinity. The fruits are small, reminiscent of cashew fruit with the seed sticking out the bottom of the fruit and the same shape (except a lot smaller) and quite tasty when they are ripe. There are so many of them the birds can’t actually keep up with them this year.
  13. Free seedlings from Madeline, my eldest daughter including red capsicum seedlings and some kind of melon (either rock or honeydew). I am just about to clear them their very own mountain of horse poo to grow happily in. The pumpkins that sprouted from compost hurled under the horse poo before we sunk the first pole in the veggie garden are all starting to grow like crazy so some melons may as well join the parade
  14. Still finding lots and lots of beer bottle caps on the side of the road that I am collecting to make this

That’s only a small selection of free or minimal cost things that I have been hunting out with a view to utilising them on Serendipity Farm. I get so excited about the possibilities of growing free plants and guess what I did this week…I FINALLY managed to sort through all of the potted plants and move them to one area. Steve helped me set up the overhead watering system so that most of them get watered without effort and only a few are going to need to be watered with the hose but pretty soon we will be taking some of them off to one of the Deviot Saturday morning basket markets with a large painted sign saying “Free to good home”. I would like to think that people will make the most of some free plants for their garden and that our potted babies will make someone else happy 🙂

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Even the possums have been hiding under the bed when faced with the wealth of crazy undergrowth that Tasmania is generating. I am starting to think that we have switched poles and Tasmania is the new Bali! This rose bush is usually twigs. It lives as twigs for most of the year and then goes twiggily dormant…this year it has been allowed to keep it’s leaves and these little roses smell amazing. “Cheers possums!”

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Steve’s Strelitzia’s are just about to bloom and this large black cicada has just hatched out of his pupae and is waiting for his wings to harden enough for him to fly off to the trees above and join hundreds of his brethren in a chorus that will herald the heat of summer. They are great food for birds and other animals and every 4 years we get invaded by these huge slow chirping behemoths

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The offending pipe that kept blowing apart when we turned the tap on in the veggie enclosure. This pipe is all that stands between water and the garden so I mended it today with some of those clips that you saw in an earlier image. Soon we will get another water tap inside the enclosure but for now this one is good enough

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This used to be the first series of 3 garden beds in our original set-up. We were late to the game this year so decided to use the existing infrastructure to get going sooner and after pulling out the now unnecessary partitions we have a fair bit more room to grow veggies

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The bed in the foreground contains silverbeet that our horticulture friend Jenny gave us months ago. They were languishing in a cardboard box with most of their soil washed away and I am amazed that they survived, let alone are growing like crazy now! It can only attest to their hardiness

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Next time I plant carrots I will use seed tape…as you can see “someone” accidentally tipped a few extra seed halfway along that third row…oh well, the packets were only $1 each and the thinnings should be prolific

I have been studiously ignoring Christmas almost as much as I have been ignoring the forget-me-nots to the same effect…it is just flowing past me regardless. I have reached a point where I am just about ready to tentatively stick my toe into the Christmas tide BUT I will be doing it at my pace and point blank refuse to get caught up in the hype. The television is manic with “GREAT DEALS FOR CHRISTMAS” but narf7 is content with “slowly, slowly catchy monkey”. Wouldn’t a monkey be great on Serendipity Farm? He could live in the veggie garden and have fun with the possum marauders on their nocturnal visits…but seriously, this year will be spent doing what we want, when we want. A most glorious wish and one that I get the feeling I just might get.

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Rows of peas going crazy…now I just have to work out how I am going to support them when they get bigger

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On the left hand side of this small garden bed are some scarlet runner beans that formed large bulbous tubers last year and that the chooks scratched most of the soil away from. I didn’t expect them to grow back this year but once we topped up the soil and added lots of horse manure they started growing again. Bonus crop with no sowing effort at all!

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The nut trees that had been living in Steve’s shed to protect them from the native animals are much happier out in the open

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My 2 yacon plants surrounded by the pallid tendrils of a forgotten bag of potatoes in the back of the pantry

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Horse poo mountain that I am going to leave in this spot because all of these pumpkins spontaneously grew here. I must have dumped some household compost underneath this spot and now they are growing happily…more plants that I didn’t have to coax to seedling height and transplant out…I LOVE this gardening lark!

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More free plants. This time they are some of the strawberries that I sourced from a stack of strawberry runners that someone threw onto the green waste at the local dump. Their loss, my gain! This pot is one of almost 15 that we will be planting out “somewhere” inside the veggie compound

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The Egyptian walking onion and perennial leeks in situ. Is it just me or does that Egyptian walking onion look like Earthworm Jim? 😉

Bev, from the wonderfully inventive and sustainable blog “Foodnstuff” posted a post this week that was completely invigorating and got me out and about collecting plant material and getting stuck into the garden. Sometimes you just need a gentle shove and Bev’s post was mine. If you would like to see how a real garden works, click on the link above and head on over and check out Bev’s garden full of possibilities. I love Bev’s blog because every time I see a new post it gives me some new ideas and new ways of doing things that I didn’t know before. I am ever on the scrounge for useful information and Bev’s blog is cram packed full of it

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The sum total of the lettuce population in the garden…a bit sad really but we are just about to remedy this problem. I have to use slug/snail pellets in the garden at the moment because they appear to have heard on the grapevine that there is free grub on Serendipity Farm and I am NOT losing any more food to freeloading varmints…

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Looking into the veggie garden at the possibilities…note the amazing architectural construction of the gateway into the garden. Another one of my dad’s “wonderful creations”. I am just REALLY glad that he didn’t build the house! 😉

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Note the garden is now taking over the “lawn”. Note also that someone has to mow the lawn! (Note to self…mow the lawn BEFORE you show them another photo of this area! 😉 )

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This is what is commonly called “Elephants Ears” or Bergenia cordifolia by people who want to appear horticulturally clever “You KNOW who you are!”

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Note Earl has just about had enough of me walking backwards and forwards and taking photos…We picked up that Cray pot full of floats for $5 at the last progressive garage sale in march…I love the progressive garage sale 🙂

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Sadly, I don’t know what this is. I bought it in a pot at Wychwood because the lady told me that it was hardy. Here you can see it fighting a loosing battle against some native raspberries (note to self add “make tepee’s for the native raspberries as number 732 on your to-do list”…sigh…)

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Unlike the unknown perennial that the native raspberries are attempting to throttle, these little guys are edible. They are going great guns in the garden under the deck and you can see the small fruit forming on the vines now

I am just about to gird my loins and head off to a local friend’s home and spend some time chatting to her about making my idea about developing local community a reality. I know that there are a lot of people living in the area who might be interested in getting together with other like-minded people in order to develop our local community and share our combined knowledge to everyone’s advantage. My idea is to have a meeting to see how many people are interested, to start a group of us that are interested in getting together over a cuppa for a crafting group, baking circle, gardening group etc. all invested in teaching each other new skills and forging a sense of community here in tiny little riverbank Sidmouth. Stevie-boy suggested the name “Sidmouth Sustainability Group” which sounds like a plan to me and my friend is the perfect place to start because she has been a “hippy” for most of her life and knows more about sustainability than I have had hot dinners (and that is a LOT folks 😉 ). Together we should be able to at least host a few interesting talks about various subjects ranging from keeping goats, making goat cheese, spinning, gardening (Roxy) through to keeping ferments, cooking for allergies etc. (me). The idea keeps lodging itself in my head and I think it’s the right time to bring it to fruition. I will keep you in the loop about how it pans out but I doubt I will do anything about it till after Christmas (oh NO! I said it! If you acknowledge it, it will come! Sigh…)

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This spot under the deck is very dry and this is where I am going to plant lots of those pelargoniums and scented geraniums in order to keep moisture in the soil and to grow other shrubs that wouldn’t otherwise survive in this arid spot. There was nothing here last year and as you can see, we have some plants growing. A note to anyone who thinks that where they live won’t grow flowers. Plant snap dragons. Those snapdragons are self sown from “somewhere” (dad most certainly didn’t sow them!) and keep coming back and spreading year after year.

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This was a scented geranium that I potted up as a cutting last year that we planted out earlier in spring

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So is this one. They are hardy, have pretty flowers that stay on the shrub all summer and whenever they are touched by anything (including wind or water) they release a lovely scent. The perfect plant for under the deck on a hot summers day 🙂

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This bottlebrush seems happy out the back but it will soon be enclosed inside the dogs compound (we are going to extend it) so I can’t vouch for it’s continued happiness. We can only hope that Earl decides to “mark” things a bit further afield but I won’t hold my breath…

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Steve’s collection of “Solar Groovers”, little solar powered things that he has collected that wiggle in his music room window. You can see one of his tab books on the music stand in the background.

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Back on the deck now (much to Earl’s delight) and looking back towards the veggie enclosure. Note the gypsy hoards of chooks wandering around pinching things…sigh…

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Our bedroom window with assorted vegetation

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“Someone” who wishes to remain anonymous because he was a very silly man, left the door to the pantry open where he had placed his nice new crocs that he had purchased the day before…

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We can’t be having Earl get ALL the attention now…better do my cute “upside down” number and have a bit of a chew on what was left of that croc while I do…

Looks like I have earbashed you again but like the large black cicada’s that are hatching out all over the place, my summer exoskeleton is firming up nicely and I will be ready to fly in a week or so. I have even been contemplating the Christmas meal! Next week I will have the tree put up and decorated (although it will probably take me a month to take it down again…), decorations made of an interesting baking soda clay from this site… and goodness only knows what else will be fermenting on Serendipity Farm so stay tuned for the next summery instalment of simple sustainability on Serendipity Farm and enjoy your nice warm fires and hot chocolate because at the moment, I am doing the very same thing! 😉

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The cherry plum seedlings that I found on our walk at Bonnie Beach

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The loquat seedlings that I found on our walk in Deviot…if you keep your eyes open and look for things you would be amazed at what is right there on the ground

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I was happy to get a red cherry plum seedling so it should remain true to type and stay red as it grows with red cherry plums

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The herbs that I pulled out of the sawdust path at the Apple and pear heritage orchard in Deviot. No idea what they are but probably some form of mint. They look a bit sorry at the moment but they will soon perk up. Anything with a square stem (minty sage type families) tends to be very hardy

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Some of the cuttings that I took from the park over the other side of the Batman bridge while I was walking Earl the other day on the kitchen window ledge

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The Scented marigold shrub cuttings that I am hoping will strike in water also on the kitchen window ledge that is pretty full incidentally. Note the collection of shoes that need to be removed before we come inside due to being coated in something insidious and the lengths that we have to go to in order to ensure that they remain wearable and out of doggy reach.

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One Fran went to mow…

Hi Folks,

I can feel it starting…it feels like a small itch in my brain. A tiny little irritation that I know is going to grow a little every day until I am consumed by its scratchiness and am forced to itch. I have felt this before on many occasions. It’s the herald of a new beginning…the start of something new and the tiny flicker of a flame that I know is going to be a raging bushfire furnace by the end of summer. I have become…a “Gardener”. A small tendril of green twined around my soul while I was out watering my new veggie garden. I felt it start to unravel and a little leaf came into existence. I think it’s a beanstalk. Narf7 doesn’t do anything by half and neither do beanstalks. Addiction comes hard and fast and soon I will be waxing lyrical about potatoes and moon planting and gumboots and powdery mildew but at the moment it’s just a small twinge where my addiction valve appears to have developed a little leak… the garden is trickling out and it wants me to do its bidding

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Can you feel it pulling me in? That honeysuckle is rampant!

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Grass mowed and left to mulch the “lawn” as the weather gets hotter

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Steve’s Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise) just about to flower for the first time

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Amongst all of these weeds there are raspberries!

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My haul for the walk included these 4 little loquat japonica trees

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They might be considered weeds here in Tasmania but I love dog roses 🙂

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The key to Steve’s heart 😉

I don’t mind being a garden slave. It’s something that pays you back. I have been a slave for lesser things and this makes a refreshing change.  However there is the delightful pastime of “pottering” and there is “solid hard work” and I am afraid that Serendipity Farm requires less of the first and a whole lot more of the latter. We just had a couple of days of real summer. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the plants decided to make hay while the sun shone and so did I. We officially finished our course on Thursday last week and on Friday I headed over to my daughters to stay overnight in order to get a nice early start on a trip to Hobart. I love how my daughters have inherited my adventurous spirit when it comes to cooking and food. They are wonderful cooks and they use some very interesting ingredients. Whatever you get is always delicious and you probably won’t get the same thing twice.

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The Deviot Heritage apple and pear enclosure where I shamelessly pilfer seed and cutting material. That large “stalk” on the right hand side is angelica and I discovered that it was just about to seed…

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That’s not rolled oats in my bag folks, that’s angelica seed!

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Another view of the enclosed garden. This is where I got the idea to build our own fully enclosed garden and ours is bigger than this one 🙂

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One of the lovely gardens that we pass on our Deviot walks with the boys…

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And another one…

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And another one

We got up early on Saturday and headed off to Hobart so that the girls could do their Christmas shopping. We had a great time on the drive down and the girls had thoughtfully provided me with homemade iced coffee made with agave nectar as they know that I don’t have sugar. It certainly kept me awake for the drive. We arrived nice and early to get a car park at the Salamanca Markets and spent 2 hours wandering around testing delicious products. I had a scrumptious vegan pie for breakfast and then just before we headed off I had a vegan burrito which was delicious also. Hobart seems to be a much more cosmopolitan city than Launceston. The place that we stayed was amazing value and very central to where we wanted to be in Sandy Bay. The Korean restaurant that the girls had picked out for us to have our evening meal at was right at the front of it and we were surrounded by Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants and there was even a German bakery for dessert. We walked around a bit to check out the shops and found a small Korean shop that the girls got very excited about and a new trip has been planned for early next year in order to go on a Korean food shopping spree.

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Cue one delicious Korean meal

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Followed by a nice brisk uphill walk to wear it off

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Bethany reliving her childhood

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And me having a second one 😉

We got up early the next morning and packed our things and headed out to hunt for the elusive breakfast. We parked at one end of the city and realised that we would have to hang around as the meter didn’t start till 9 and we were early. We noticed a sea of blue tents that heralded an outdoor farmers market and we headed in to be told that “we can’t officially sell anything to you until 9”…sigh…9 is apparently the magic Hobart number. I had noticed some perennial leeks and an Egyptian walking onion for sale that I needed…yes…I NEEDED! So after checking out an indoor (sad) market we headed back to the outdoor market and I got my perennial vegetables. Madeline wanted some Tatsoi and Mizuna to try in her garden so I bought her some. Now I need to get my hands on some potato onions but I have to wait till late December before they become available again. At least the supplier is in Tasmania so that means I won’t have to jump through hoops to get them.

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Gotta love anyone who has a Trogdor the Burninator sticker…I am dead jel!

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I loved this little mustard yellow leather couch that was in our room

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The rest of the room was excellent as well, 2 huge queen sized beds and a large bathroom with a bath

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The view just outside our door

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Under one of the walkways in the undercover open air area outside the rooms

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The “roof”, a large canvas circus tent type arrangement that covered the entire area

We drove back home slowly and after depositing the girls at home and taking the son-and-heir out to buy a plastic jerry can to fill with fuel in order to mow his lawn I drove back home ready to be jumped on and I wasn’t disappointed. Dogs certainly know how to show you that they missed you :). For the rest of this week I have been mowing. The title of this post is somewhat accurate because I mowed some of the meadow which made it even more obvious that I am going to have to get out there and mow/whipper snip  the rest of it in order to skip around the outside of getting a fine. We have started watering our potted plants again and I have been eating strawberries from my pots as I head out nice and early to walk Earl. It’s almost cherry season and cherries herald Christmas in Australia. It looks like it is going to be a really good cherry season this year as we even have cherries on our poor old specimen…the possums ate the leaves but not the cherries (so far…). We will be starting work on extending the dogs enclosure soon which will give them a much bigger area to run around and play in. Earl will be able to spread his territory around a bit and hopefully won’t rust the deck poles any more in the process

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The next day we headed into the city to have breakfast. You can see Mt Wellington in the background

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Delicious wood fired pizza at the Salamanca Market

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A ragtime band of buskers called “Mangus” playing for the crowds at the markets

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A lovely atrium idea linking 2 businesses

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The outdoor markets where I got my Egyptian walking onion and perennial leek

I would have liked to have started sinking the poles for the enclosure a bit earlier but time is against us this year and we will have to do the best that we can. The chooks have gotten cleverer and I have NO idea where they are laying most of their eggs. One chook has been laying on a hay bale in the shed so I know where to get her egg and her underlings that all lay in the same nest so I get a couple of eggs a day and we have a LOT of chooks…so many we have had to start buying more chook food in order to keep them happy. We noticed another hen down in the teatree garden with a small flock of chicks. I also noticed a larger chicken in the outside enclosure that I have NO idea where it came from. We shuffle chooks and babies into this area in order to give them a chance against the feral cats that spend their days waiting to catch chickens. For some reason they stay clear of the outside compound (maybe the rooster is fierce!) so we figure if we can herd them into this compound, they have a better chance than most to stay alive and so far we have been right. There are 7 babies of varying ages inside this compound with their mums.  I just went on a very hopeful egg hunt of the outside part of the chook run and noticed this chick that hadn’t been there before. Maybe I have just missed it in passing as it has a rather striking camouflage look about it. It is mostly brown like a Wyandotte but has white and black markings on it as well. Whatever it is it’s a clever little critter to find its way into the safe part of Serendipity Farm. I know it doesn’t belong to anyone inside the compound because it is the lowest on the pecking order but it is determined and it’s pretty and I applaud its spirit for being able to recognise where the chances of survival are the best. I had best watch this chook, most of them are lacking in velociraptor ancestors? 😉

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Bethany is an insomniac and stays awake for ages but Madeline and I were absolutely knackered…the only way that we could see for her to stay up reading and for us to get some sleep was to get clever with pillows…

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My pillow had obviously been stolen by this point 😉

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On the way down to Hobart some bright spark had amended this sign 😉

My daughters have come up with what they believe to be the answer to the conundrum of Christmas. Now that Stewart and Kelsey live here in Launceston we are all together for Christmas but in saying that, we are all quintessential hermits who like our own space. Getting together just because we are told to get together breeds resentment especially when people have their own ideas about how Christmas should go (read the girls EXTRAVAGANZA and our simple…) so I got Madeline to throw some ideas around with Bethany and they have decided that we should all start a new Christmas tradition of getting together the day before Christmas for our communal celebration. Technically most of Europe starts their celebrations the day before Christmas and in central and eastern Europe (in particular Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania have a traditional meatless 12 dish Christmas Eve Supper before opening gifts. I won’t mention the “meatless” part but the opening gifts are going to be part of it. At least I will be standing in solidarity with my Russian brothers and sisters and won’t be eating any meat ;).

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Looks like we have a hairy visitor…

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The birds are hatching out babies all over the place

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The Jerusalem artichokes that I shoved in here last year are apparently alive and well and growing exponentially

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One of many pumpkins coming up from compost dumped on top of the spent horse manure

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These peas were planted last Wednesday…

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So were these carrots…Jenny doesn’t do anything by halves, there are 1000 carrot seeds and 10 rows of peas

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Just about to start transplanting these and their brothers and sisters into the ground inside the enclosure along with red currants. The wild raspberries are going crazy this year and all have tiny fruit developing. I will try to see if I can get a few photos to share with you all before the birds scoff them all. Much like wild strawberries, these tiny little wild raspberries have the most intense exquisite flavour, the birds are clever sods!

I like the idea of sharing a communal meal the day before…everyone bringing something that they have made to the table and a dessert each…sort of an Aussie thanksgiving for us all being together and then on Christmas day we get to celebrate however the heck we want to. Even Steve is happy about this new tradition so the girls are on to a winner there. Sorry about talking about Christmas but you are all going to have to face it soon…it’s coming for another year and it’s like a steam train this time. At least all of you Northerners get a “proper” Christmas, we Aussies are wandering around in our t-shirts wondering how little we can wear to Christmas lunch before we offend one of the neighbours and they call the police! The weather will be hot, most of us will eat a HUGE hot meal and will roll off to the beach to watch the kids play cricket…Aussie Christmas is NOTHING like a Northern Christmas.  Before you know it we will be up to our armpits in 2014. I hope you all get a handle on your Christmas preparations and that it goes incredibly smoothly and wonderfully this year. By the way…don’t look now, but it’s snowing on Serendipity Farm! I noticed it earlier…must be something to do with global warming… ;). See you all next week 🙂

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 😉

A Sustainable Elegant sufficiency…We wish you enough

Hi All,

My last post saw us barely surviving a major financial crisis. We started out annoyed at Centrelinks bungling and ended up thrust into something completely out of our control or sphere of influence. We were reminded of how very little control we actually have over our lives and the entire event gave us back a true appreciation for living simply with less and making do with what you have. Last year we wanted to share a truly sustainable, low cost and anti-consumerist Christmas together but we got a bit hijacked by mum and her desire to feed the world. After mum died 9 days after she returned home from Serendipity Farm we realised that sometimes, someone else’s desires are more important than your own and mum having had a fantastic time hijacking our Christmas resulted in point taken and most graciously learned. This year we decided to make sure that our Christmas would be a balance between something special and a truly sustainable celebration. We wanted to bypass the hype that accompanies the Christmas season…we wanted to arrive at the end of the day satiated and content rather than bewildered, confused and in debt for 6 months with very little to show for it. We started off by making sure that we only bought what we actually wanted to eat on the day. We wanted to keep it small and try to prevent the problem of leftovers that don’t get eaten or that force us to eat more than we should in an effort to prevent wastage. We asked each other what we felt were “special foods” that would make us feel like we had feasted in style and headed out to shop for as much of it as we could before the day came, spreading out the cost and minimising the financial stress. We tried to shop for Australian grown/made and produced foods and preferably in nice jars so that they could be reused when preserving our coming harvest. We grew our salad vegetables and it was wonderful to water the garden and then harvest our own spinach, red and green lettuce and rocket for our salad and in the process we saved ourselves a 100km round trip having to head into Launceston to pick up our fresh veggies at the last minute on Christmas Eve. At the end of our simple but elegant meal we were satisfied beyond the physical and the tiny amount of waste, the lemon skin from our homemade alcoholic fruit punch and the avocado shells along with the Christmas pudding box and the cheezel box, were all recyclable and ended up being cut up fine and put into the compost bucket to turn Serendipity Farms ancient soils into something more fecund and worm friendly to create next years “soil” for our next Christmas vegetable haul…cycles of manageability and perpetuity…taking us from season to season and building on the foundations of sustainability that we are stacking on top of the stones that form Serendipity Farm. Our Christmas was just enough and left us replete and entirely satiated, physically, mentally and spiritually. The sustainable Christmas that we wanted we got and we are not paying for it in any way at all today. Come February, there won’t be any nasty surprised for us and Christmas has taken on new substance and meaning and has evolved to fit our personal ethos. This year…we learned :o)

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Here is the end result of the marathon Stollen making event…2 of the 6 Stollen ready to be transported to our neighbours alimentary canals

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Steve’s pork pies with his patented jelly injecting aparatus

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A true Brit will ALWAYS find a way to satisfy cravings from home and these pork pies are Steve’s way of satisfying his Christmas cravings. He also made some scotch eggs, another “Steve” Christmas tradition

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Our Christmas Day salad quotient from our veggie garden on the left, and the chooks Christmas Day silverbeet quotient on the right. Aren’t the stems of this ruby chard/silverbeet beautiful?

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Our simple Christmas Day feast…a most elegant sufficiency for 2 happy hippies in the Southern Hemisphere 🙂

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Our compost bucket with all that remains of our Christmas feast 🙂

I took a little bunch of lavender to lay at the foot of mums Claret Ash. Whenever I see the tree I think of mum and how much she loved it here. I tucked a Cecile Brunner rose and a Bourbon rose into the tiny bouquet because wherever mum was shuffled off to in her higgledy piggledy life she centred the chaos by building a garden and there was always a Cecile Brunner and Bourbon rose planted first up. I find it incredibly ironic that both of these roses are growing on Serendipity Farm and are true survivors, much like mum was. We exchanged our yearly bottles of wine over the garden gate between our place and Glad’s next door and as Glad and her daughter Wendy were drooling over Steve making homemade pork pies for Christmas he offered to make them one each as well. As expats they all need to stick together and talk soon ran to “have you found a decent sausage here yet?” and all things traitorous and anti-Aussie until Glad started talking about her annual pudding making marathon and Steve said “I will buy one off you next year Glad” and she promptly headed off and gave him a magnificent homemade pudding redolent with spice and what appears, most suspiciously, to be rum! Steve took one of his homemade pork pies down with a loaf of Stollen and his pork pies rated 9 out of 10. Not bad for someone who lived on chips and beans in his bachelor years. The Stollen were an experiment and after following Tobi’s recipe carefully I set about making the homemade almond paste for the stollen first using frugally bought almonds in skins and as I poured boiling water over the 600g of them and started slowly peeling each individual almond I realised that our incessant need to remove the simple processes of life has also removed “thinking time”…it’s no wonder so many women race around like chooks with their heads cut off…we don’t have that centring time that comes with these humble processes and with the popularity of homesteading these wonderful processes are giving us back so much more than we lose in time. I really enjoyed my time skinning those almonds and remembering doing the same when “helping” mum make her fruitcakes each year. I am sure that we ate more almonds than we skun but as we popped the soaked almonds out of their skins we were learning the value of making things from scratch…the frugality of doing things yourself and the camaraderie of time spent learning at your mothers feet…precious time that you only appreciate when you have children of your own and your mother isn’t there to learn from any more

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Mums little bouquet of memories

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Some of our Christmas goodies to inject “Christmas Spirits” into our day (sorry about the bad pun but SOMEONE had to make it! 😉 )

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Home grown strawberries from our tip plants with some of the pretty icecubes that Steve made for our Christmas wine punch and some raspberries from our friend Roxy who kindly gave us some

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Wine punch in lovely glasses given to me last year by my clever stylish daughters…all of the fruit included in the punch came from a 10km radius, the fruit juice is Aussie juice, the wine is Aussie wine and the softdrink came from small Aussie producers…even the rum that Steve didn’t see me tip into my green glass was Aussie 😉

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Christmas Cheer!

We have been thinking of ways to raise money and Steve has come up with a vajazzle kit to raise funds…anyone wanting to take advantage of his half price “Mates rates” send a plain brown self-addressed and stamped envelope and he will see you right ;)…he is a product of Essex after all folks! ;). We saw the Black pearl pirate ship on doomsday folks! No…I didn’t drink too much rum yesterday (although to be honest, everything towards the end of our marathon “The Vicar of Dibley” watching event started to blur into itself for no known reason…). We really did see a black replica pirate ship with a black flag and black sails silently gliding down the river right using the tide to propel it sideways underneath the Batman Bridge. We haven’t been able to find out anything about this obviously special boat but know that it is/was anchored just off the Deviot Yacht Club just around the corner from Serendipity Farm and there was nothing in the local newspaper about it. We would like to think that they have come to pick Steve as the new Dread Pirate Roberts. He would be perfect. He has all the swashbuckling charm of a top pirate, twinkling pirate eyes, a nice beard that could quickly be rendered “swashbuckling” with a bit of a shear and 9 earrings…yes…he had a misspent youth folks! I figure I would be allowed to tag along but would suffer the ignominy of being used as the ships ballast/anchor or chief cook and bottle washer… Earl would make a perfect pirate dog…he has the same “Devil-may-care” attitude as Steve and doggish good looks…Bezial would be huddled in the galley howling on the floor until he was released, still howling, back onto the shore by disgusted pirates as the shameless landlubber that he is. We aren’t all born to be pirates, but those of us who are need the minimum of a small aluminium dinghy to keep them happy and Steve spent this morning out on the water tootling around in his own floatation device happily fishing and catching nothing. The fun is in the floating apparently but in my mind, the odd fish wouldn’t go astray…

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“The Black Pearl” (if this is indeed Captain Jack Sparrows ship…)…”Revenge” (if we are going with The Dread Pirate Roberts) or what the hey… how about “The Black Pig” and we could go with Captain Pugwash! All in all a decidely piratey ship floating down the Tamar River at 9pm on Doomsday…

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12120049Here you can see a dog who is well aware of how blissful freedom can be relining in state on the grassy slopes of an embankment somewhere on Serendipity Farm

12120054Here he is accompanied by a dog who most decidedly DOESN’T know the value of freedom and who flagrantly flouts the rules and blunders through the boundaries that Bezial completely understands…sigh…”One day Earl…One day…”

Our veggies are going ballistic and we should get tomatoes by the bucket load this year. We were clever and planted mostly cherry tomatoes that should have plenty of time to grow and ripen over the next few months in our short growing season. We are starting to think about making a massive great enclosed walk in veggie patch with more free ex-fish farm netting and upping our veggie production in the process. We are letting some of our rocket and lettuces go to seed to collect for next year and the coriander went straight from seedling to seed in a single step! Our rocket is rapidly following suit and rather than complain about the situation I am enjoying the possibilities of flowers to throw into my salads, seed to save and share and the value of perpetuity and cycling on Serendipity Farm. Now that the chooks are contained I am starting to notice how much damage they actually did to the garden and am silently apologising to the wallabies for damage that I attributed to them and that was in actuality, chook damage. Pingu was the worst culprit and spent hours on end jumping to defoliate tender tasty shrubs and the Physalis peruviana (Ground cherry) has suspiciously started growing leaves again below the “jump zone” of a small, most determined hand reared Plymouth Rock hen, hell bent on destruction and self-gratification. She also developed a taste for beech tree leaves and our poor special dwarf weeping beech is only just beginning to grow a few sparse leaves to keep itself alive and photosynthesising until it can grow some new ones next spring. Pingu has adapted well to being put in the chook run along with her sisters despite living in Steve’s shed with a “birds-eye” view of the river from her lofty perch on a large terracotta pot on a bench overlooking the river. The chooks don’t seem to be missing their freedom at all and seem most content. We have still got 3 feral youngsters that we couldn’t catch roaming free, 2 roosters and 1 small hen and a single hen (one of Effel Doocark’s prodigious penultimate batch) managed to elude our best efforts and hatch out 6 more babies down under the massive big oak tree at the very front of the property between Serendipity Farm and Glad’s property “Four Oaks”. We took her down some water and food and will attempt to catch the wayfaring brood and rehouse them in the chook run along with her sisters 11 remaining babies…the more the merrier eh? 😉

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It took an hour to turn this previously empty hall into this…hopefully the event went well, they didn’t need us for Christmas day and so we said our goodbyes and will do it again next year…a most worthy use for 1 hour of our time

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This Physalis peruviana had been so devastated by Pingu that it decided to take it’s chances growing through the deck rails

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You can see the green fruit like a tiny green lantern  that will soon turn buff and when the fruit is ripe it will fall to the ground, protected by it’s papery husk and waiting for us to pick it up, peel it and eat it

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A shot of our homemade driftwood Pirate Christmas Tree (Maybe THIS is what the pirates were looking for…it wasn’t Steve at all! And to think… he hid under the bed for 3 days quaking in fear! 😉 )…lit up like the proverbial and doing it’s job admirably

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Aren’t these icecubed that Steve made especially for me pretty? Who knew he had it in him! You old romantic you Steve 😉

Another year is galloping to a close and we are satiated and full of the gratefulness that a very close call can bring. 2013 is beckoning to us from behind its veiled position on the horizon and after sharing a simple and most satisfying Christmas day I would just like to leave you with this article to ponder the true meaning of Christmas and the endurance of the human spirit despite all odds…

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2011/12/peace-on-the-western-front-goodwill-in-no-mans-land-the-story-of-the-world-war-i-christmas-truce/

How to turn trash into treasure…

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A few years ago when we were still attending horticultural day classes at our local Polytechnic we noticed one of the classrooms being gutted and all sorts of things being thrown out into a large skip right outside where we sat and daydreamed while our poor lecturer tried to get something to stick in our heads in the midafternoon warmth of summer. On the way home we asked the workmen if we could take a look in the skip that contained all manner of amazing things including filing cabinets, desks, office chairs and these magnificent orbs of 70’s plastic, having obviously once served duty as oversized light shades somewhere. Our friend in the witness protection stored them at her place until we could bring them home and “home” they sat for 3 years…this year we decided to remedy this and we put them to use on Serendipity Farm…

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After taping up the orbs Steve spray painted them with cheap spray paint in his Pingu free shed…

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While one was drying, we sprayed another…

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Then we added stripes of other colours to our oversized Christmas baubles…

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Doesn’t the base look like a Union Jack?! This shot was to show you how clever we are…what forward thinking little penniless student hippies we are and how your taxpayer dollars are actually being put to good use in teaching us to plan and think… Tasmania + Summer + rain = enormous oversized baubles FULL of water and weighing a tonne…a carefully drilled hole in the base of our baubles and the prospective problem simply vanishes…

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Our oversized Christmas baubles hanging over the gate at the front of the property…Now we just have to work out how to get them down…

When the end of the world is a better option than real life…

Hi All,

Remember when the queen of England said that it had been an “annus horribilis”? Well we just had one of those condensed down into a single day. It started out fine…Steve was off to do the shopping and we were waiting for the end of the world. He said that he figured that I would be washed off the planet before him as he was 50km inland from me and I was on the coast so he was going to phone me every 30 minutes to see if I was still there and to make sure that I answered the phone because he was going to look a right idiot running around the supermarket screaming “THE END IS NIGH!” to the bemused and jaded Christmas shoppers who were still milling around doing their last minute shopping in their hoards if nothing happened… by the way…the end of the world WASN’T nigh…it was another case of us giving some wide eyed loony the publicity that wide eyed loonies should NEVER be given because they tend to run with it and excite hosts of loonies that come flocking out of the woodwork (like zombies) to join en masse and start hallucinating together and causing murmurings in the fringes of the general community. If enough of them get together the mutterings can be registered all over the world and like any good rumour mill…enough muttering starts to give weight to the story, no matter how crazy it seems. We let the loonies take the stage and we actually gave them a microphone…while they were all fighting for the microphone and talking about their latest greatest doomsday prophesies the real world was carrying on regardless and our day started off innocently enough with me having to call our local income support centre “Centrelink” to try and sort out why they hadn’t paid us our student payment AGAIN…sigh…they are a groaning behemoth of a government department that is massively understaffed (how ironic that the workers keep finding themselves on the other side of the desk as the government keeps nibbling away at their population…) and as all good bureaucracies go, they do have to deal with an enormous workload and in the process of trying to keep us all honest, they make a lot of “interesting” decisions.

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A peek over the netting of the new chook pen with some incredibly contented chooks. Big Yin is VERY happy because he can see all of his remaining girls in one hit and everyone seems happy with their new situation…the pen extends to the left and right of this view and to the left there are large clumps of agapanthus that the hens are nesting and laying in…all’s well on the Western Front!

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I thought you might like to see how the little hazelnuts and walnuts we grew are going…

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The closest we are going to get to “snow” on Serendipity Farm 😉

As students we rarely have to deal with them. We receive a payment from the government to re-educate ourselves and ironically our payment is a lot less than that of people who are job seeking. We are not complaining though…we are just very VERY grateful that we live in a country where you CAN get income support to pursue an education to give yourself a better chance to find a job in a market place where the strings are stretched tight enough to give a Stradivarius a run for its money. Every time we get to the end of the year we have to inform Centrelink of our intentions to continue our studies next year…whenever we move on in our studies we inevitably hit the coal face of Centrelink and end up with a few problems…it is expected and this year was no different. We had a few teething problems trying to use the departments website and after informing them of our intentions to study and our course of choice we had our payments cut because they were too busy to update our details even though they were completely aware of them…a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing but again…we just saw it as an inevitable case of bureaucratic fumbling and kept wading through the mire till we informed the right people and everything got sorted out…this happened a few more times and we found ourselves phoning them up last Wednesday to see why they had cut our payments and after talking to a customer service officer we were under the impression that everything was sorted out and that it wasn’t our fault…she apologised profusely in fact, and our payment would be put into the bank on Friday…doomsday… we should have known that it was on the cards to be an “interesting” day…

I got the recipe for this wonderful stollen from a fantastic food blog called “The Vicar Died Laughing…” Tobi is an amazing baker and bakes scrumptious looking breads, cakes and all sorts of other wonderful recipes. I have kept his blog hidden deep in my rss feed reader but I think that as you have all been VERY good…I might just share one of the best baking blogs on the internet with my dear constant readers…

http://thevicardiedlaughing.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/stollen.html

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Prior to making your Stollen, you need to make your almond paste. I chose to keep with the frugal theme and skin my own whole almonds and process all of my ingredients together in my vitamix

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And here it is ready to store in the fridge until I need it…

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This pavlova is NOTHING to do with Stollen but who needs continuity eh? It’s a very overrated thing 😉

Our payment wasn’t put into the bank on Friday and as Steve headed out the door to do his doomsday/Christmas shop I was left with the unenviable task of phoning up Centrelink when they opened the phone lines at 8am. It isn’t uncommon to sit on the phone for hours waiting to talk to a service operator and with the entire department closing for a week over Christmas I phoned up at 8am on the dot! I was reading my rss feed reader and commenting on blogs while I waited on the phone listening to the solitary classical song that they play over…and over…and over…and over again after speaking as clearly as I could to the voice recognition software that they employ to infuriate you and ignore what you are saying and put you through to the wrong department…I finally got through to someone after going through an epiphany before phoning. I had been annoyed that they hadn’t paid us…I had the outrageous indignation of the slighted righteous unpaid student and had girded my loins for battle with the first service operator that I got to speak to (there is a reason why Steve deals with all phone calls to government and service departments! 😉 )…when I stopped in my tracks and really thought about what I was doing…we are so LUCKY to be in the position that we are in! We might have had our payments cut due to bureaucratic bungling BUT we at least “got” a payment and had the security of this payment as a backup unlike most of the rest of the world where social support is only seen as a luxury and a waste of taxpayers’ money. I immediately stopped feeling outrageously indignant…I didn’t have any right to feel that way. I was suddenly infused with gratefulness and thankfulness and rather than getting angry and indignant at the customer service operator I was going to be a beaming ray of pure sunshiny happiness and forgive them their extended ineptitude and scare the living daylights out of them with my shiny shininess…

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Mixing the fruit into the Stollen dough

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Spot the integral ingredient in my Stollen…

I eventually got through after several false starts…”No thank you”…I didn’t want to set up a phone account…”No” I didn’t have a pin number and “No thank you” I didn’t want to set one of those up either…I just wanted to speak to someone…(which meant, apparently, that I had to wait longer as people with phone accounts and pin numbers get served first…) and eventually after a reasonably short period of time I got through…I shone my shininess at the customer service officer…I beamed at her using my smiley voice over the phone…I commiserated with her over how busy and stressful it must be to be working at the coalface where most of your “customers” were stressed out individuals who were a taught string ready to snap at any given moment and after shining like a beacon of light I asked her why we hadn’t been paid…she then proceeded to pull the rug completely out from under me and say “because you have too many assets and your payment has been cancelled”… that answer came straight from side left and hit me right out of the ballpark…”too many assets?”… “EH?!”… we have been straight down the line with Centrelink from the very beginning and had told them at the start everything that we inherited when my late father died and had been assured that we were under the limit for the assets test that we needed to meet to continue to be paid our payment…according to this doyen of darkness…this purveyor of rug pullers…not only were we not entitled to our payment…they didn’t know why we had been allowed the payment 2 years ago in the first place! Forget doomsday cults…when your world and your security comes crumbling down around your ears the roar of the crazies immediately fades into the background and the “End of the world” fades into the background along with them…I now had the roar of terrifying possibilities to replace them!

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The dough ready to proof for 1 hour

Like all good terrified, rug pulled penniless student hippies who see their lifeline being surgically cut in front of their eyes I stopped shining and started to ask incredibly pertinent questions in an effort to go into damage control…the service operator told me that we would have to go to our local office to see what this meant and hinted that we may even have to pay back the payments that we had been paid for the last 2 years…Steve and I worry for a living…we can make a meal of stress and suddenly I was plunged into a 10 course degustatory feast of stress! I put down the phone dazed and confused and wondering “WHY?!” because the service operator (who didn’t deserve my “shiny happy” demeanour at ALL) had completely side skipped telling me anything or answering any of my questions with a bog standard “I don’t know…you will have to go to your local office…” all I could hear was “no payments” resounding in my ears and I did what every good panic merchant does at a time like that…I panicked! I phoned up Steve who was busy doing battle with the nana’s fighting over the last Christmas puddings and shared the load. Steve can worry for the queen and we both went into overdrive. Steve stopped spending and headed immediately to the local office to find out what was going on and a very nice lady in the office told him to bring back our rates notice for the property and a bank statement and as they don’t book interviews any more we would have to sit and wait to see someone. Steve came home laden with Christmas shopping and radiating stress…after a quick hug we both decided that a weekend of stressing and waiting for Monday to arrive to deal with it WASN’T an option…we like to deal with things immediately and so we threw the long suffering dogs into the car…we phoned up our daughters in town and gave them two options…”look after the dogs for us for a few hours or move”…they chose the former 😉 (Thanks girls, it was a good choice 😉 ) And we dumped the dogs unceremoniously and headed off with loins so girded that we could almost taste our underpants at the back of our throats…

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Stollen shaped and ready to proof again for 1 hour. You are going to have to wait to see them finished as they are just baking in the oven now :). Thank you SO much for this amazing recipe Tobi and for allowing me to share your wonderful blog with my readers 🙂

Steve dropped me off at the traffic lights and I waited in line while he headed off to find a park in a consumer stuffed city full of Christmas shoppers…I talked to people behind me in line…one very interesting man called Andrew had also had his payments cut because the lady that was supposed to phone him had gotten sick and not informed anyone that she hadn’t phoned up her customers and all 800 of them had their payments cut…I had read about a man who had gone to the Centrelink Ombudsmen (Yes…I had done my homework folks! I had done EVERYTHING possible to understand our “enemy”…it’s what I do best…would you expect any less of me? 😉 ) And had read about a man who was standing in line waiting for his appointment with Centrelink who had a grand mal epileptic fit. It must have been bad because the paramedics were called and while they were dealing with the hapless man, his name was called out and as he was comatose at the time, he didn’t respond. The paramedics told the front desk that they would have to take the man off for observation but apparently that wasn’t good enough and he had his payments cut! He had to go to the Ombudsmen to have them reinstated…that scared me…the power that this bureaucracy had to not only ruin someone’s life…but keep the process going for a long…long time and force this man who was obviously in the right, to go to an Ombudsman to get what he was rightfully owed had me worried. Like all good behemoths, Centrelink has an incredible degree of power over people’s lives and like all good bureaucracies, they regularly run roughshod over the top of their “clients” in an effort to keep the wheels greased and the machinery running…collateral damage is inevitable but due to our most careful and honest dealings with them and our incessant need to shove all correspondence and paperwork into our filing cabinet and our inherent lack of trust regarding past dealings with this bureaucratic giant we were armed with the right kind and the right amount of ammunition to pierce their armour plated tanks and get to the crux of our problem.

After waiting we were seen by the very same lady that Steve had talked to earlier and at this point I would like to say that this lady did EVERYTHING that she could to help us. I want to give this lady my shiny happy voice from earlier in the day but by the time we got to see her I couldn’t find it any more…it was girded inside my underpants too tight to extract and so she got my worried middle aged penniless hippy countenance to have to deal with and she gave us back our hope. She said “This is weird!”… She asked us some pertinent questions and she said “what did you two do to have this happen?”…after that she looked at our papers, she took them off to her boss and she returned after having made a decision with her boss to use our paperwork to substantiate our claim and reinstated our payments immediately. I don’t know if this lady has any idea how her kindness helped us yesterday. Her female boss, although unseen, pulled strings to give us back our lives. This pair of kind women gave me back my Christmas spirit yesterday and my belief in human kindness…Lord knows I would turn into a machine working for this massive department where human desperation was the norm rather than an aberration and where the coalface regularly exploded against the pitted side of “the machine” but this woman genuinely cared. I wanted to reach over her desk and hug her but I settled for thanking her from the bottom of my heart and giving her my special shiny smile because SHE deserved it :o)… the rug has been reinstated and aside from having the value of our “asset” in town (the home that our daughters live in) revalued by the self-same government department that set the rateable value last year at our request (so presumably we shouldn’t see too much of an increase on what they set back then…) we have better than average odds of being able to manage this situation. What was our own private annus horribilus yesterday has been salved… for now…

And this brings me to the end of my post for today…Its walnut day and I have spent the whole post crying poverty and the end of the world and haven’t even mentioned Earl’s walnutty abilities! I wanted to save it till last. I wanted to inject you all with the hope and the smiley happiness that you deserve for surviving not only this mammoth post, but also the apocalypse! We are all true survivors folks…just getting out of bed alive in the morning and waking up is a miracle but we don’t think about that…we just take it for granted that we are going to breath…that we are going to make it to the end of the road in one piece and that we are going to live to old age unscathed…its moments like these that we NEED minties! Sorry…commercial jingles have incredible power over you!…It’s moments like these that you really see what is important and like Sting crooned “how fragile we are”… we really have something to give thanks for this Christmas…our lives have been reinstated…we didn’t have to live off the “kindness of strangers” and Effel Dookark didn’t have to give up her life to become Steve’s weekly ration of meat and we didn’t have to suffer the indignity and dehumanisation of going cap in hand to various community agencies to ask for help to pay our bills…and in the newfound honest and true spirit of gratefulness and thankfulness that a period of dangling over the edge of a precipice can deliver to a person I offer you Earls little walnut of great happiness…

And the winner is…

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Here is the video of Earl choosing Christi from the walnut selection 🙂

http://s1101.beta.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/earls_zpsa783bf6e.mp4.html

As our last post before Christmas Steve and I would both like to wish everyone out there the most wonderful Christmas…no matter how big or small it is…no matter how many relatives you have to contend with…no matter what your situation or your story we are all united by a common bond here and the bottom line is that we are all incredibly lucky to be sharing whatever celebrations we are sharing with each other and NOONE knows that more than we do today :o)… see you the day after boxing day where life should have returned to a degree of something approximating “normalcy” on Serendipity Farm and the poignancy of girded loins and walnut draws have melted into the past… gone but NOT forgotten :o)

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The winning walnut with Christi’s new wooden spoon 🙂

Steve has just told me that he really enjoyed making the spoon for this prize draw and has promised to make more lovely custom wooden spoons for future Serendipity Farm draws so everyone that missed out on the spoon this time will have more chances in the future to own a little piece of Serendipity Farm 🙂

The New Costa and the U.K. Beet

Hi All,

Isn’t Christmas getting close?! I must admit we are a bit up in the air at the moment because my brother is supposed to be coming over Christmas with a friend but hasn’t told us when and as quintessential planners it is driving us nuts! We are in the process of relocating our chooks into their new enclosure and tomorrow they will all be inside the fence rather than outside looking in. It isn’t going to be easy for them and no doubt we will have some escapees that are going to have one of their wings clipped but today I took advantage of knowing that one of the feral chooks that remains (we gave 4 away recently) was clucky and her exact location so after putting up with a serious hen talking to I picked her up and deposited her in the new enclosure. I figure if anyone can find a chink in its armour it’s a clucky feral chook with a nest that she wants to return to. We are tidying up our woodshed and getting it ready for next year’s wood futures. After tomorrow I can start mulching the garden with the certainty that it isn’t going to be dug up directly behind me as I work. I have a love/hate relationship with the chooks and they are the most stubborn creatures under the sun! If they want to dig a hole halfway to China and spread dust halfway to Oklahoma they will! They only stopped digging the other day when they hit a buried dog bone and decided that it was time to start a new hole. After a year of learning to quash my frustration as they chooks defoliated, ate, dug up, scratched around and generally defiled my poor long suffering plants I find it hard to believe that pretty soon I may just be able to plant something will stay in the ground! Steve is whipper snipping the honeysuckle out the back that keeps trying to take over the world. So many dictators on Serendipity Farm! I wish that one of them would take the front running Napoleonic seat so that we could at least focus our efforts on a single enemy.

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Some gratuitous “flower” shots to remind everyone in the North that it IS summer somewhere in the world 😉

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A lovely Callistemon at our back gate in full  bloom relishing its newly cleared out status

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One of millions of Erigeron karvinskianus (Seaside Daisies) that call Serendipity Farm home

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A Stylidium gramminifolium (Trigger plant) in full flower taken on one of our early morning walks with the dogs

We have noticed a bird flying around that looked like a swallow and it landed on the deck the other day and Steve got a good look at it. He raced inside to tell me that it had a blue beak…time to Google that little sucker! In the process of identifying our new feathered friend which turned out to be a Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus) I found a fantastic Tasmanian blog about Tasmanian birds compiled by Alan Fletcher, a local man with a penchant for taking breathtaking photos of our endemic birdlife. It was very simple to identify our new friend using Alan’s wonderful site and after sending him an email to ask him for permission to use a photo from his site he graciously allowed us to do so and in return I urge you to head to Alan’s beautiful site to see just how special our native birds are. You can find a link to Alans blog and from there to his photo gallery above his photo. I loved his blog so much I subscribed to it :o)

http://tassiebirds.blogspot.com.au/

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Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus)

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Physalis peruviana (Ground Cherry or Chinese Gooseberry) with the lesser spotted “Earl” underneath

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Aeonium arboreum Zwartkop recovering from duck attack nicely

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A little cactus enjoying it’s sunny spot

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And this explains why Melaleuca linariifolia is commonly known as “Snow in Summer”…not sure what these little beetles are but they also love roses and banging themselves senseless on our windows at night

I am slowly working my way through my rss blog reader and have been finding some incredible posts. People are so generous with their information! I was looking for a way to make home-made banners of substance and style and found this shining beacon of a site that I now subscribe to…

http://katescreativespace.com/2012/12/16/in-praise-of-simple-pleasures/

Disclaimer: Do NOT go to this blog if you are likely to collapse into a sobbing wreck of a human being when faced with gorgeousness beyond belief, creative majesty to only wonder at and a severe dearth of anything…ANYTHING resembling we mere mortals normal lives. I go to this blog to see how the other half lives…it’s beautiful, it’s incredibly organised, its Pinterest ready and it’s my secret lusting station but don’t say that I didn’t warn you! Halfway down into this perfect post and I find that this lady reads! She is planning on tackling some novels for the second time and says…”They sit full of promise on my bedside table, and the anticipation of losing myself in them again is half the pleasure” Oh what a lucky woman! I have to hide my books in the spare room out of sight, out of mind where Earl can’t render them “snow” along with the rest of the couch cushions that live (quaking in fear) in our bedroom wardrobe and the overwhelming luxury of a stack of amazingly anticipated literature right at my fingertips let alone on my bedside table will remain a wistful fantasy until Earl loses his desire to chew, or his teeth…if I am being honest (and it’s STILL my year of living honestly…) even if I WAS able to run my hands over a stack of soul food…I would leap into the realms of my imagination and would manage a paragraph or two before I woke up with a crick in my neck and a most carefully and gently shredded copy of my latest paramour laid reverently and soggily in my outstretch hands an undetermined amount of time later…no more than I deserve!

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A Psaltoda moerens (Red Eye Cicada) newly emerged from it’s juvenile skin sitting on a large buddleia leaf outside our bedroom window

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You can see why they are commonly known as Red Eyes. After a few days their exoskeletons turn a very dark greeny black and they head off to join the clicking throng of their brethren in the trees

In another blog post I found this…

“The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, “If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.” Said Diogenes, “Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.”

― Anthony de Mello

I really like this reflection on an interaction from a bygone era…it fits with my ethos of learning to live frugally, simply and in so doing, empowering our lives and allowing others to do the same. It delivers a fundamental message about which ferryman you want to pay and how you want to live in the process. I choose the lentils even though I am not overly fond of them because in choosing lentils I choose a degree of freedom and internal satisfaction that feeds my soul. I can align myself with the rest of the world and I don’t have to feel guilty about my choices in life but most importantly, I am able to learn how to effect a positive change in my own lifetime and feel like I am really living my life. That is something to aim for folks!

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We are still harvesting mushrooms from our veggie gardens courtesy of the mushroom compost mulch

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Check out the beets we grew! Steve made these into some pickled beetroot U.K. style (all vinegar and spice and no sugar) to grace our Christmas table next week

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Bezial giving our home grown spinach his own special “seal of approval”! (I hope you washed that before we made gnocci with it last night Steve!)

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My own personal vegetable gnome I found in the veggie patch :o) He thinks that he has a chance at beating Costa Georgiadis to the top spot on Gardening Australia…good luck babe…you might be cute but that beard needs a bit more “OOMPH!” before you become a serious contender 😉

Well today is walnut day folks! We will identify your possible ownership of Steve’s handmade Blackwood spoon and associate your hopes and dreams with a numbered walnut. We are going to attempt to video Earl selecting his chosen nut and one of us (the bravest…) removing it from Earl’s gaping maw in an effort to identify the number that he has chosen (he can have it back then!). This is your last chance to enter the draw to anyone out there who would like to enter. There are no conditions, anyone from any country can apply and the winner will receive a lovely handmade spoon in the mail some-time after Christmas. Today’s post is going to be a shorter post again because I have spinach gnocchi to make for Steve’s tea tonight. We are combining our desire to use leftovers (homemade bolognaise sauce) with vegetables from our garden (spinach) and make the most of our food dollars. Steve is enjoying all sorts of different food and hasn’t complained about anything that he has been served so the vegetable garden must be delivering quality veg. I noticed a plethora of little snow peas on their vines when I was watering today and will pick some when I am up collecting the spinach for the gnocchi today and I might just redirect the cucumbers from their determined efforts to scale the zucchini’s to the poles that we installed specifically for them to grow up. The tomatoes are covered in flowers but will definitely not be on our Christmas table but on the bright side, we will be able to grace our table with our very own home grown lettuce and salad leaves which makes it all the more special this year. It is a very interesting experiment and very rewarding to grow veggies. I recommend it to anyone. We have even started a new compost heap up near the veggie gardens in anticipation of needing a whole lot more compost in the future. I have plans for making strawberry beds and broad bean beds and have been contemplating sourcing some Jerusalem artichokes to set loose on Serendipity Farm behind the new chook pen. Before anyone tells me how exponential they go, I already know and I love it! :o). Who wouldn’t love sunflowers in spring followed by delicious knobbly roots in the summer…and who cares about the resulting sunchoke gas…we are descending into feral heaven on Serendipity Farm and we love it! :o). Another post down on Serendipity Farm in the middle of summer in the pouring rain. We just keep on saying “it’s good for the garden”…and you know what? It is! :0)…See you Saturday and good luck to everyone who has entered the spoon draw…

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Here are your walnuts folks! Check your nut against your number below and note there are still more walnuts…sad…lonely…unmarked walnuts that could be graced with your own personal number…

Spoon Draw
1. Rabid little hippy http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com
2. Spencer http://www.anthropogen.com
3. Little sundog http://littlesundog.wordpress.com
4. Kym http://brymnsons.wordpress.com/
5. Christi http://farmlet.wordpress.com/
6. http://www.bitesizedthoughts.com/
7. Bev from Foodnstuff http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/
8. Pinkus
9. Jean http://allotmentadventureswithjean.wordpress.com
10.Hannah http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/
11.8 acre farm http://eight-acres.blogspot.com.au/
12.Chica Andaluza http://chicaandaluza.wordpress.com/
13.Wendi http://scarsandallyoga.com
14. Thinking Cowgirl http://thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

In the (highly likely) event that Earl picks more than one walnut his actions  will immediately force a redraw…lets just hope that Earl doesn’t think that this is enormous fun or this draw might go down as the longest prize giveaway draw in history! 😉 and are you feeling lonely there Pinkus? That’s because you don’t have a blog! 😉

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