A nod is as good as a wink to a blind bat

Hi All,

What the hell is she talking about now? At least I don’t bore you dear constant readers ;). What today’s post is about is communication. That vital synaptic leap between the brain of one to the brain of another… a mutual process of understanding we know as “communication”. You might have the best most amazing idea in the world…you turn it around in your head, you feed it with possibilities, you craft it carefully and lovingly…you sample it and it tastes sweet and you want to share it with your friends but unless you are able to take that kernel of an idea and plant it firmly in the damp earth of someone else’s mind you are lost. I spend my mornings reading blogs through my rss feed reader. I keep evolving with what I do and don’t like and regularly throw blogs into the ether to make way for amazing new blogs. My new blogs are all about possibilities…fermentation, making things yourself, xeriscape gardening (and one combines xeriscape gardening with vegan cooking… what’s not to love!)And what I love about these blogs is their ability to communicate their ideas and processes with a wider audience. I am a processes girl. I learn through following processes and getting familiar with those processes. When my guitar teacher (who ran away from his wife leaving her available to become my dad’s partner and who inevitably left us Serendipity Farm but that, my dears, is another story! 😉 ) told me that practice makes perfect…aside from lying, he was outlining the perfect way for me to learn. Not everyone learns like this. There are many ways that people learn. Some people (take Steve for example) learn on the fly. They like to hurl themselves into the “experience” and pick it up as they go along. That way of learning scares the hell out of me! I need to start at a point where I understand “something” about the process and work in incremental stages from there till I arrive at the other end. To see Steve jumping in at the deep end and swimming with the fishes of his creativity is like being probed by aliens…frankly terrifying. Are you starting to get a bit of a picture of how difficult it is to sometimes translate what is going on inside “my” head to that of my wildly arm waving Don Quixote of a husband? 😉

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“Well what do we have here then eh? A lovely little Aussie Christmas beetle (Anoplognathus montanus) still hanging about after Christmas Day…”

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“RUN!”…

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The fixin’s for a batch of Steve’s favourite calzones. He has gone from being very suspicious about the idea of a calzone to demanding them on a constant basis 🙂

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This is a Boozy Oatwell Slice…the hybrid result of a man who just couldn’t make his mind up “I would like an oat slice…but then that bakewell slice you made the other day was delicious…and I could go a batch of eccles cakes…” rather than bake 3 separate things, I combined them all and a new classic is made…AND Steve loves it! 🙂

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“Quick Steve…get the chilli and garlic spray…there is something in the vegetables!”

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“Beetroots conquered and divided SIR!” Not only do we get the root but we get the delicious leaves to use like silverbeet in whatever we want. Tonight I am having some in my soup 🙂

Serendipity Farm is all go at the moment. Not the sort of “go” that eventuates in enormous swathes of things being done, but lots of little patches of “done”. I am spending a lot of time in the veggie garden much to Steve’s surprise. He expected that he would have to be the brawn where the veggie garden was concerned but Dame Elizabeth and mum are spurring me on and won’t let me rest if something needs doing out there. Yesterday I was mulching everything with some of the tinder dry lawn clippings and dead oak leaves that we got from Glad’s place. They were perfect to grab handfuls of and shuffle between the plants. The veggie garden is looking suitably smug now in its new blanket of deceased vegetative matter and I know that once it rots down it can only add to the fecundity of the soil. I am already learning the distinct benefits of being a “Doer”. This is my year of “Doing” and instead of thinking about projects I am actively hurling myself into them. When I say “hurl” I mean Fran’s planning type hurl rather than Steve’s jump in with both feet hurl. When mum used to be in her garden for most of her days I simply couldn’t understand the attraction…what is out there?! Now I know. Mum’s final communication with me (aside from her stint as chief muse that is…) was received, planted and has grown to fruition. I finally “Get it” mum :o). The sum of the process is worth so much more than the little bits that make it all up. We almost had an Hitchcockian case of extreme vertigo when faced with the garden when we first got here. Nothing would have changed unless we stepped out in the faith that we could, indeed, make a difference. We are slowly introducing cycles to the property…compost heaps to take care of green waste, food scraps and anything that will rot down to minimise landfill and to maximise our soil; vegetable gardens to feed ourselves; chickens for eggs, meat (roosters), nitrogenous manure and spent hay bedding that can be used for mulch and composting and many more. Today I took another wheelbarrow of oak leaves and dry lawn clippings to mulch the strawberries that are in containers by the side of Steve’s shed. I can feel the information that I have been collecting flowing out of me as I work…”make sure to cover all of the bare earth so that you minimise soil evaporation…don’t use the green leaves, make sure you only use the dead ones to minimise nitrogen draw-down…Don’t plant those chives with those snowpeas! They release substances that limit the growth of the peas…” It takes knowledge AND action to effect change. Incidentally, if you would like to see a good companion planting guide check this one out via Sustainable Gardening Australia…

http://www.sgaonline.org.au/?p=6986

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One extremely squished ex-golden nugget tomato courtesy of “The possums”…

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How much more fortification do we need?!!! Aside from buying a long metal chain and situating Earl in the wood shed to the right of this photo, we are not too sure what to do next…barbed wire perchance?

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Lets just call these pears “Romeo and Juliet” because they are together and still alive only because the possums haven’t found them yet…say goodbye to Romeo and Juliet 😦

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The butterfly Romeo and Juliet…for some reason butterflies love to hide under this tarpaulin where I keep the grass clippings and spent oak leaves that we got from Glad and every time I open it up, I find a few dead butterflies…

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The potato futures that we tossed into the compost heap the other day are all starting to grow!

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Some of the recent items harvested from Serendipity Farm including the rare golden nugget tomatoes (well NOW they are 😦 ) and a bouncy ball that was found in the bushy area next to the Auld Kirk church…”throw it over to the filthy heathens children…we shall save them YET!”

I have been singing the praises of the Tamar NRM for a long time now. They are an amazing source of information and practical application for how to manage your land using natural resources. Amanda, the powerhouse behind all communications and the lady that keeps everything running smoothly and efficiently recently asked me if I would like to write an article about my attendance at many of their workshops last year and how it has affected what we are going on our property for their next newsletter and I accepted. I just sent her 2 pages of words which was very difficult to do because my muses would have liked me to write a small novella, but for the sake of those reading (most probably mainly farmers who could care less to be honest) I reined them in this time. You can only imagine how difficult that was! ;). I sent a few photos to accompany the article but it will be interesting to see what Amanda does with my words and photos and how it looks in the next Tamar NRM newsletter. I might even link it so that you can all see it. Well the possums did it this time! I was out walking Earl this morning because Bezial is having one of his sporadic limping episodes. It curiously coincides with Bezial running maniacally around Serendipity Farm like a mad dog but he insists it is NOTHING to do with that. Earl and I arrived back home to Steve twitching more than normal. Apparently, while we slept, the possums decided that waving their hairy little arms through the bird netting to grab the occasional snack wasn’t enough…they decided to chew their way through to our tomatoes! We had a beautiful golden nugget tomato loaded with almost ripe perfect golden little orbs that were completely trampled flat and all of the gold stolen. I WOULD phone the police, but after heavily fortifying the entire “fruiting” bed (containing anything that a possum would be vaguely interested in…) and throwing some ex-fish farm netting over the top for good measure (they might chew their way in from the top!) we realised that what we had just made looked suspiciously like we were trying to hide “something” amongst our tomatoes…the spotter plane, most fortuitously flew over right at that time and we are waiting for the cops to bust down our door and demand to be taken up to see our illicit grown products. Best not trouble them while they are plotting the downfall of the Sidmouth 2 😉

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This is the “Queen of Hearts” jam making spoon with it’s own little heart for Valentine’s Day. It was a very clever idea but Steve isn’t happy with the watermark in the wood on the spoon bowl so away he went to make you another spoon…nothing is too good for our dear constant readers!

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Enter the gorgeous Ms. Myrtle…a stunning example of a local Tasmanian wood and something that I want to enter the draw for, let alone you lot! You get to choose which spoon you would like should you happen to win the spoon draw…be sure to let us know in time for this Saturday’s draw!

Well it’s spoon day again! Steve spent a few hours making what he called “The Queen of Hearts” on Thursday. He made it out of a lovely piece of Ash but in his haste he didn’t notice a little watermark in the wood that made the spoon look a little discoloured. Ash is pure white wood and this little watermark is very distinctive. He went to the trouble to make The Queen of Hearts spoon a true jam tart spoon with a little heart and a smaller tsp measure at the end for tasting the jam…you have to hand it to him, aside from being a great ideas man (re- booze bus…) he tried to make this spoon for multitasker’s…”make the jam, feed the baby…make the jam, put sugar in your tea…make the chutney, add some spices and salt…” but that little watermark made him twitch…he rubbed the spoon down and now it feels like smooth bone…light as a feather. Ash is hard wood…it broke 3 of his blades but this spoon is delicate looking. I can see this spoon lasting through the tough times, much like the Ash tree that it was made from, it is a stayer. Not happy with the watermark, Steve headed off and came back out of the shed today with a gorgeous Tasmanian Myrtle spoon. It is the most gorgeous colour and is just as light and smooth as the Ash but now he isn’t sure what to do with the Ash spoon. He has asked me to ask you to see which spoon you would like for the draw. Anyone who reads this blog, who wants to enter the draw for a spoon, please let me know in the comments and I will put you into the draw. This spoon draw will be drawn on Saturday so you really don’t have much time to get yourself into the draw. Steve wanted it to be drawn and sent so it has a chance to get to the recipient for Valentine’s Day and as mentioned, the choice of spoon is yours. Earl is twitching with happiness to be drawing another walnut draw. Little does Earl know that I have added a few ex-Christmas nuts to the bowl and there will be a choice of walnut, Brazil nut, Almond and Hazelnut. Again, if you would like to enter the draw please get back to us ASAP to get your name in the draw…we already have 7 people on the list so don’t wait or you might miss out :o). I will leave you with this Facebook reply that my little brother made when I was ranting about our recent tomato loss to the possums…

”I feed my possums to stop them running amok, and it works but the possums here aren’t as invasive nor as big as over in Tassie…brush tails ringtails and pygmies are full after a piece of bread some apple and a dried apricot. And because I’ve been bribing them with food, the nectarine tree near my back door has tripled in size and is well loaded with good fruit…in saying that, when the fruit has a week to go from being ripe and pickable, I’ll be camping out there with a metal colander /strainer on my head and a fly swat chanting subliminal messages to them under my breath.!”…

Oh NO dear constant readers…it runs in the family 😉

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 😉

The frugal bug bit me hard

Hi All,

Frugality is a bit like exercise. You start off noticing every time you set off and you are knackered when you get back BUT pretty soon you find yourself enjoying the previously taboo subject and finding all sorts of ways to slip it into your day to day life with good results. Frugality conjures up scrooge. I am too generous to be a scrooge but frugality has really started to sit well with me. I love to share the love around with anyone who wants to share but I am learning to condense my efforts into those that offer a bit of reward for your hard work. I am starting to get very enthusiastic about making our own pasta and the prospects of taking it a step further and making all sorts of weird and wonderful farinaceous goods from far flung countries. Just about every country has some sort of pasta equivalent albeit made from yak’s butter and a dab of the local earth to get it started. I have always wandered the degustory earth like grasshopper in search of foodie Nirvana…not “Foodie” like Anthony Bourdain, but Foodie like “Oh MAN that tastes so good I need to make it again…right now!” That sort of foodie :o). As a penniless student hippy there are certain ingredients that are out of my reach but they are not unattainable, just luxuries. I save them for special events where their inclusion will lend an air of “special” to the occasion. Growing our own veggies is another case in hand…not only can we grow our own vegetables, we can plant things that we otherwise would never be able to get in the shops. I am in the process of working out how to set up an Australia wide network of Seedy Pen pals to share open pollinated seed and other edible and ornamental seed with we long suffering Aussies whose borders shall be protected at all costs! I am right there with customs on preventing disease from entering our borders…I just see the end results where we can’t get cheaper seed material BUT if we are willing to pay the earth and at least one of our limbs we CAN import the bare rooted material from a nursery who is willing to make massive profits on the mainland and pass ALL of the costs onto the poor Tasmanians or Western Australians who are desperate enough to want something a bit different. Plant material should know no boundaries except those that exist to stop diseased material from passing them.

Some of Noel Button’s glorious special irises that he grows on a small allotment in Exeter and sells them once a year at Entally.

I LOVE living near the water. There is something magical about being able to watch the ebb and flow of the river

It was hard to take this shot when there were 2 overexcited dogs trying to drag us in so that they could have a swim. I don’t know how Steve managed to take it!

The more Serendipity Farm starts to emerge like the phoenix from the ashes of Highfield Gardens, the more excited I get at the possibilities. While we will NEVER be the glorious manifestation that Wychwood is (check out this amazingly gorgeous and highly enviable garden here… http://www.wychwoodtasmania.com/Garden/gardenM.htm and it’s only 2 ½ acres AND it’s not too far from Serendipity Farm!) we can make this a little permaculture paradise in an oasis of dry summer humidity. I know “dry” and “humidity” don’t really work but we have the luxury of a short growing season coupled with a lack of rain (thanks to the mountains to the west stealing all of the rain before it gets to us) and a LOT of natural vegetation that tends to leak out its moisture as soon as the temperature gets over 25C. Couple this with the hole in the ozone being directly over us and the sun really packing a punch and our conditions become humid and dry…go figure! Finding free edible plants like our figs and our little loquats was great fun as well as money in the bank. Frugality breeds frugality simply because it feels so good. We aren’t going to start hoarding what we have but we are most definitely enjoying living simply and richly. It’s now Sunday and I am SO excited! I only recently told you about my lack of success with growing Moringa oleifera. I had purchased seed online several times and no matter what I did it wouldn’t germinate. I blamed on selling and old seed BUT that didn’t stop me from tossing the last of the seed that I bought about 2 years ago into my automatic sprouter along with the purple king beans that Bev recently sent me and the last of the beansprouts that we used most of last night in a wonderful stirfry. I was watering the strawberries when Steve called out to me and came out of the shed with his hands cupped around something. I thought that he had caught one of the little banjo frogs that live amongst our potted plants eating the insects that are attracted to the moisture but he had one of the Moringa seeds in his hands and it had sprouted! As my dad would have most euphemistically spouted “You could have bloody well knocked me over with a feather!” The only reason I tossed the seed into the sprouter was so that I could emphatically finish the sad saga of the Moringa and call it the bad lot that it was but it paid off and I might just get those (well…at least one!) Moringa’s that I have lusted after. That’s the thing about growing things from seed and cuttings, you get a chance to mess about with the mystery of life and the end results can be nothing short of enlightening :o)

Lest we forget…

Buttercups!

We managed to grow at least 1 Muscat grape from our original vine that we left with our daughters in town and hopefully we should get some more as the cuttings are starting to leaf up well

It was Remembrance Day today. We remembered. I remembered my grandfathers who both went to war. My dad’s dad was in both wars and my mums dad was in WW2 in Papua New Guinea. I remembered that the fantastic life that we lead today is only because of these men who were brave enough to do what their country called them to do. I am not talking about whether or not they SHOULD have been called to war…just that they were ready to go to protect their families and their country…nothing is nobler than being willing to lay down your life. We were over at Glads collecting a trailer load of grass clippings and old dead leaves to bring back and inoculate our new hot compost heap with. We had been chatting to Glad and Steve was still enviously staring at the sky where not 1 but 2 sea planes were swooping low…landing in the water and then taking off again in tandem when Glad said “must be getting near 11…” and we remembered that we needed to observe 1 minute’s silence. Glad headed indoors and Steve started the car and then suddenly stopped it. From the car radio the last post rang out clear and pure and flowed down to flood the river where boatloads of people stopped what they were doing and looked up and listened. We do remember grandad. We remember that life is too short to wage war on each other and that any time there are enough brave men who are willing to lay down the law there in the midst is humanity. Thank you SO much for what you did for us. For the chance to be able to think what we want to think…do what we want to do and be who we want to be. I don’t know much about what my grandad’s went through. I know that my dad’s dad got gassed by mustard gas. I know that my mum’s dad came back harbouring a particularly virulent form of malaria and had to spend a long time convalescing in hospital. I know that neither of them would have been the same after they returned and the burden of what they had witnessed burned deep into their psyche forever. All I know is that I will be eternally grateful for what they did for me.

Serendipity Farm looking “spesh” for spring 🙂

A plethora of eggs

Bean futures on steroids with a punnet of bicolour corn and some tiny little Cavello Nero

I also remembered something else. I remembered back when I was at school and played the tuba in the school brass band. I remember how on Remembrance Day we would all be shuffled off in uniform to march from the school down to the memorial and most of the town would turn up stoic and scrubbed and looking like the farmers playing dress up that they were. Uncomfortable in their suits and shiny shoes but as soon as the last post started we all stood to attention and we listened…a whole community united by remembrance. After the last post and some other cornet interlude played by a quavering youth whose adolescent honking usually only bore a vague resemblance to the original score, we marched right back to the school and back to our lives without much more thought about what we were remembering. I remember the weight of that tuba…I remember the song that we played as we marched and the “Boom Boom” of the big bass drum. I remember how badly we marched and how heavy that damned tuba started to get about halfway down to that memorial. The memorial had the epitaph “Lest We Forget” emblazoned on its monolithic brow and we never forgot…not once…to march for the soldiers.

Things certainly grow quicker in spring. This is the little walnut that was only just out of the ground on Saturday…

and this is one of the little hazelnuts that stratified over winter and we forgot about till we wanted the esky back. The little nut trees are being protected by the wheelbarrow till they are old enough to move out of the shed as Pingu the great defoliater lives in the shed with them!

The weather is starting to heat up and my thoughts are turning to irrigation systems. We have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment and as one iron gets beaten by the blacksmiths hammer of activity, the others have to lay there smouldering until we can get around to dealing with them. Irrigation is going to have to come to the fore soon as we have been planting out our precious babies and whilst they are going great guns with the spring rain that we have been having, pretty soon we will hit our 3 months of summer with very little rainfall and we need to be ready to irrigate. The cleverest way to irrigate our widespread trees is to use black polypipe and brown dripper hose in a circle around the tree/shrub that you want to irrigate in a series of watering stations. Black polypipe is cheap… brown dripper hose is not. That’s why you need to use a whole lot more black polypipe than brown dripper hose and make it count. You also need to ensure that the precious moisture that you are giving your plants stays put in the ground around their root zone and so you have to mulch Mulch MULCH to the max. In a couple of years’ time our trees won’t need our supplemental water. Till they are able to establish deep and decent root systems we will need to give them enough to survive on till they can stand on their own two feet. We are always mindful of our sustainable ethos here on Serendipity Farm and one thing that has been grating on our consciences is the lack of a large water tank to take advantage of the annual winter rainfall that cascades from every orifice on site. We have several outbuildings on the property and any one of them could be collecting precious sky water for use over summer. I wish we could afford an enormous rainwater tank but we simply can’t. That won’t stop me looking for as many water barrels as I can over the coming year to shove under drainpipes and harvest next year’s water but for now my frustration at not being able to have collected all the water that we need for the summer watering regimen is pretty high.

My new fortified compost pumpkin and potato future bin. Good luck breaking in possums…I overengineered it to the max!

Our veggies are going great guns. They seem to like the position in full sun that we gave them and are growing like crazy. The tomatoes are happy and I am about to trial pinching out the shoots on the tomatoes and potting them up to grow tomato cuttings to keep the harvest growing well into next year. I learned this technique from Bev at “FoodnStuff” a wonderful Victorian blog that taught me all about water wicking garden beds and Hugelkultur gardening techniques. Bev is a mine of information and is living real. Check out her website for some wonderful ways to garden Aussie style :o)

http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/dehydrated-pumpkin/

That post was a most interesting run down on preserving pumpkin for future use. Rabid little Hippy just told me about another new Aussie sustainability blog that one of her friends has started up in Queensland. It’s called The Tropical Hippy and although she hasn’t posted many posts yet this blog promises to be a most interesting read and I have tucked it in my rss feed reader between “These Light Footsteps” and “Turning Veganese”. I hope she likes the company ;). If you would like to check her out feel free to wander on over to

http://thetropicalhippy.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/growing-veges-from-veges/

And this post should reward your efforts handsomely. It’s about growing vegetables from the ends of other vegetables and is great fun!

The tip strawberries that are now incredibly happy (and also fortified) and are just about to start producing strawberries for us. Some of the berries are starting to turn red…Hopefully there will be some strawberries left to show you 😉

I am SO glad that I had this mostly done post cribbed up my sleeve! We have been working exceptionally hard this week to finish off a mammoth design each and suddenly it’s Wednesday and my eyes are sore and twitchy from being forced to watch a computer monitor for hour after hour. I actually really enjoyed the process though. AutoCAD and I have had a bit of a history going. We didn’t like each other much and we still treat each other with a degree of suspicion but we are learning to get along now and I am actually proud of the sustainable landscape design idea that I created. In the few brief minutes that we allowed ourselves away from the computer I fortified the compost heap because I had an epiphany. I was tossing the latest contents of my compost bucket onto the heap under the interested gaze of the chooks who instantly fall on any scraps with gusto and scratch them all over the place eating very few of them (fussy sods!) and leaving the way open for the possums to wander about scarfing scraps at their leisure. I have been noticing pumpkins popping up in the compost bin along with a potato growing out the side. The potato has lost its leaves to wayfaring wallabies but the pumpkins were managing to survive because I tossed a large dead lavender into the compost because it was too hard to snip up and was waiting for it to decompose and it was protecting some of the young pumpkins from the possums…as I upturned the compost bucket into the compost bin I thought to myself…”why don’t I contain this compost bin and grow spuds and pumpkins in it?”…just like that I had a great idea! Serendipity Farm soil isn’t anything to write home about thanks to the heavy clay and the plethora of rocks BUT my compost bin has been sitting there full of happy worms elevated above the rocks and the clay and things are growing in it magnificently. Rather than hump the compost off to the veggie garden, I am just going to plant the veggies IN the compost! A win-win situation all round and so I headed outside with the dregs of a bag of King Edward spuds that had gone to sprouts and some Kipflers that we bought a while ago that I just never quite got around to planting. I am going to put a trellis up the side of the chook house and train the pumpkins up the trellis. Once the pumpkin gets to the chook roof it will have all the space to run laterally that it can and hopefully, if I do my job and keep it happy with food and water, I will get some pumpkins AND the chook house will get some thermal insulation against the heat of the day.

Cacti enjoying the sunshine in their pot 🙂

Ok, it’s just about time to post this post and I am going to spend the evening (you guessed it) staring at the computer screen doing a bit more work to complete one of our final units. In a few weeks we won’t be horticulture students any more. We will students of fortune…our own good fortune. We will have time to spend in the garden. We will have all day, every day, to put our heads together and make gates, bean beds and sort out our chook yard. We have applied for the graphic art and printing course that we want to do next year and now we just have to wait to see if we get accepted. I am really enjoying the processes of Serendipity Farm in the spring. I was looking out the window this morning at some of the hard work that we have done here and realised that it feels like “our place” now. The amount of pleasure that I get out of getting down and dirty is completely out of proportion to the act of getting down and dirty. I have a sense of peace and happiness that I haven’t had in ages and I feel like a woman in her castle…perhaps we should have called this place “Serenity Farm” ;). To all of you who don’t know what I am talking about…go watch one of the few amazing Aussie movies called “The Castle” and you will get it :o). See you all on Saturday when we will be up to our armpits in beans and we had better have remembered to get that bird netting to protect them or they might take over Serendipity Farm! :o)