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 🙂

Add a liberal dash of humour to life and let the flavour energise your outlook

Hi All,

Have any of you wandered far away from home on the search for a good recipe? I am not talking physical miles here folks…I am talking ether miles…a long hard slog to find a rare and precious gem of a recipe that will serve as a holy grail in your degustory repertoire. I am at all times a magpie. I have beady little eyes that seek out precious shiny things in all aspects of my life and recipe hunting isn’t immune to my scavenger hunts. I head all over the place hunting for these shiny little tasty morsels and usually I find what I am looking for. I found a recipe for Korean rice cake noodles…I found a recipe for how to make home-made healthy margarine…if it’s out there I will find it BUT…the downside is that it usually comes wrapped in someone else’s language that doesn’t quite compute with my own. What’s a girl to do but head on over to Google Translate, copy and paste and spend some quality time falling off my chair laughing at the translation. I found a fantastic recipe for butter cookies via another website via another site via a link that showed a wonderful picture of a pig bun. Yes folks… I ended up finding a recipe for butter cookies written in Spanish after seeing a picture on a non-food blog for little pigs made out of bread. This brings me to humour, and where we put it in our lives. I would equate humour to being the salt in life’s recipe. Without it, life is just a pale representation of what it could be. Pepper might be passion but my mind isn’t made up on that one yet…maybe chilli for passion? Perhaps I could write a translation for human emotions using spices and herbs! I have always prized a good sense of humour over all else. I figure it can get you through some really tough times. It can also get you into trouble but you just have to learn where and when to burst out laughing …that and the ability to stifle yourself in both job, and police interviews 😉

We recently headed into town for a lecture with our illustrious leader and after our lecture we dropped off what was left of our hosta’s to live at their new “forever home” (until the snails and slugs find them here that is!) at Nat’s. I got Steve to take some photos with his phone because Nat’s garden is gorgeous. I want to lay down amongst all of the beauty and just absorb it like mushrooms absorb horse manure…deep into my soul. This garden has been created by a TRUE natural landscape designer. Nat just has “It”…I, sadly, don’t. The photos in today’s post are garden porn…enjoy my friends…enjoy 🙂

Everywhere you look in Nat’s amazing garden there is something special. It doesn’t hurt that you have the old quarter of Launceston as your view…

Even a gratuitous clothes line shot can’t take away from Nat’s gorgeous garden

I must admit to being drawn to a good sense of humour like a moth to a flame. My rss feed reader is stuffed equally well with amazing food blogs and well written blogs tempered with humour and insight into our common condition…life. I think we all take ourselves too seriously. So we have a wrinkle! Who really cares…the only ones making money out of them are the plastic surgeons and mirror salesmen. Who wants to decompose in a coffin with only their botoxed foreheads and silicone implants remaining for some poor future archaeologist to discover and wonder “WHY?!” Now I am laughing! I just made myself laugh…I had best put myself in my rss feed reader ;). You see? It’s easy to not take yourself seriously. It puts a bit of a barrier between you and the rest of the world. To give yourself a little space and permission to be yourself. Life wasn’t meant to be easy but it was also meant to be bearable. Humour gives us the edge to counteract many of the little irritations that life brings and tempers our days. I love nothing more than immersing myself in some well-honed comedy programs on television like Black Books…Futurama…My Name is Earl… there are some really amazing and funny shows out there…how about Third rock from the sun? Hilarious! We Aussies haven’t contributed much in the way of hilarious television comedy BUT we tend to live our lives in a humorous manner so perhaps we don’t need to manufacture it wholesale. The very best humour…the crème de la crème comes from working class front line communities. It comes from places where life is close to the edge and where people meld together in rows of terraced communion and are forced to wake up together, to empty their bins together and to live side by side no matter how much they don’t get along…comedy was born of salving the seething mass of variety that humanity breeds and giving us a way to all laugh together…healing the gaps and making us whole again. When you stop taking yourself so seriously you are allowing yourself to see someone else’s point of view and you are giving yourself permission to just be “you”.

Every available space has been loving stuffed with something gorgeous. This garden is only 4 years old (barely) and as Nat said the other day “It’s just starting to look how I saw it when I planted everything”

Isn’t this clematis growing on an archway with a gorgeous Pierre de Ronsard rose absolutely beautiful?

This beautiful Sambucus nigra “purpurea” (black elderberry) is just starting to flower and the wonderful dark purple complements the Cercis canadensis or forest pansy and on the left of this shot you can just about see a wonderful Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady”. Nat most certainly knows how to use beautiful, special plants in a reasonably small space

It’s Thursday and in between the sun shining and then clouds zooming over and threatening to rain Serendipity Farm is basking in the spring weather and everything is blooming. Steve and I have been working incredibly hard on our final design plans to ensure that everything is as perfect as we can get it. We have the gift of a lecturer who expects our best and we have the ability to realise that this is indeed something precious. Nick is one of those true teachers who actually love learning and knowledge. The acquisition of knowledge is probably one of my most base desires and I spend a lot of time trying to learn things to salve my way along my chosen life path. We are going to miss Nick and that incredibly high benchmark that kept moving to accommodate our new found skills. I, especially, truly appreciate where your expectations took us Nick and although you will most probably never read this, I am indebted to you for your dedication and your desire to teach. You gave me the confidence and the sheer pig headed will to succeed where I would usually have thrown in the towel and I have learned to never give in when something becomes hard work and THAT is a precious thing to learn. We have both completed online forms where we had to support our applications to study graphic design and printing next year…I HATE blowing my own trumpet. It goes against every single tall poppy slaying oath that an Aussie born in the 60’s was subject to by their parents…”Don’t get up yourself” was our parents creed and any early attempts to elevate yourself above your common brethren was dealt a squashing blow and you returned to the fold both chastened and knowing that no matter how “special” you were…you were part of a familial machine and that machine wasn’t going to work if you decided that you were too special to take your place and do your bit. As such, I had to gild the lily and wax lyrical and point out how amazing both Steve and I were and at the end of it I felt much like I would imagine a prostitute feels after her first mark…a fair bit dirty and feeling like something was not right in the state of Denmark. Hopefully the artistic temperament’s that decided that we nameless faceless applicants should fight it out using our literary and physical accomplishments will appreciate a few diplomas and a desire to use their services as a springboard to better graphics in our concept plans and a springboard to university. We can only hope that they believed my pained and plaintive outpourings and that they don’t see through to the squirming middle aged hippy below who just wanted to tell them to shove it!

A better shot of that wonderful tree pansy complemented by the lime green of the Cotinus behind it and the darker purple of the succulents in pots

Another Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady” and a maple with some more lovely things massed in the foreground.

Isn’t this border wonderful? Nat is a natural with roses. Every single rose in her garden is spectacular and complemented by salvias and all sorts of other perennials that set of the roses to a “T”

Histrionics aside…we really both want to do this course. We have decided that it’s “one in…all in” and if only one of us gets in, we will both pass. We have other ideas for how to pass a year…who knows…we might even have to fall on the “Work for the Dole” that so terrifies Steve as a brief hiatus until we can reunite ourselves with higher education…we might even throw ourselves into the job market for a year and see if we can’t “mow ya lawn guvnna…” it all remains to be seen and all we are assured of as I type this is that we have about 8 weeks off where we are going to make hay, compost, vegetables, eggs, propagate seeds, take cuttings, graft while the sun shines and enjoy all of the processes along the way. We have reached a point where we can start to really make some changes here now and we are going to have to sit down and use some of our newfound landscape design skills coupled with some hard grafted permaculture material online to change the sustainability contours of Serendipity Farm. We are on a hill…the top of the hill is very dry…the bottom of the hill…not so dry. We have the knowledge and the will to apply the knowledge needed to be resourceful about doing what we need to do to improve our land and give it back a sense of identity other than the sad Madge, Dame Edna’s bridesmaid, which she has become.

This garden is true eye candy that is backed up with a solid background in hard slog gardening. It’s a real tribute to Nat as a gardener and she was married in this garden…

Isn’t Nat’s house lovely? Note the colour scheme repeated throughout the garden. Nat is a big fan of blues, purples and dark reds and uses the palette to the max. I am in awe of Nats design skills 🙂

I just noticed that this photo is pretty similar to another one but whatchagonna do eh? It’s magnificent!

It never ceases to amaze me how many answers and ways to do things there are out there when money is conspicuous by its absence. There are so many ways to get what you need if you really want it and forging a sense of generosity within your community is a good start. As I type this I am eating my breakfast. I only mention this because I am attempting to meld health with satisfaction and have ended up with a very strange brew indeed! I started with rolled oats…I added a teaspoon of dried ginger…I then added some chopped almonds and some chopped dried dates…no problem there…I poured over boiling water and allowed it to steep BUT then I added a teaspoon of turmeric powder. It’s supposed to be amazing stuff and no doubt it is but when you add it to my first set of ingredients you get a really strange tasting result. I think I might just stick to putting turmeric in my savoury dishes, especially dhal, because it tastes best there. I have curried oatmeal at the moment and I am not sure how I like it. That doesn’t mean I won’t eat it…just I won’t enjoy it ;). I found some more amazing food blogs this morning. I subscribe to the amazing “Vivian Pang Kitchen” blog and with amazing recipes like this I feel like I won recipe lotto whenever she posts…

http://vivianpangkitchen.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/vanilla-steamed-bunsmantou-straight.html

I have found all sorts of amazing Chinese recipe blogs out there and using Google Translate to give me both a hilarious interlude AND some amazing recipes I am a much richer person for subscribing to this blog. The only problem is that I keep stuffing more and more wonderful food blogs into my rss feed reader. I had only just flensed the dross from it when I padded it right back out again. I guess I am a blog glutton (this curry porridge is growing on me…still metaphorically but you never know!). I have a recipe for making curry puffs with interesting home-made spiral flaky dough that I am going to trial tonight for Steve’s tea. I also have some great steamed bun recipes with all kinds of flour. I love messing about with the road less travelled and I might not be dabbling in gluten free or paleo but I like to find out how to use different flours like rice, potato, tapioca and chickpea to give interesting flavour and variations to my recipes. You never know when you are going to have to change what you use and if you already have a wide variety of alternatives you are less likely to come unstuck.

I really like this photo…I think I might sell it to a garden magazine…or use it to run paying tours to Nat’s garden when she is at work 😉

There are some truly special plants in this part of the garden

More of that gorgeous view and Nat’s gorgeous garden

I am waiting till Steve gets back to plant out a punnet of bicolour sweet corn. It’s apparently a fast growing quick cobbing variety which is lucky because we are behind the 8 ball on this season. I read “Sarah the Gardener’s” blog and feel a compelling need to expand and grow more. Perhaps it is my natural competitive streak and a little dash of over the Tasman rivalry but I get this desire to compete whenever I read Sarah’s wonderful posts. You can check her out here if you would like to see how a real home gardener does it…

http://gardeningkiwi.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/there-are-only-16-days-left-in-spring/

Sarah has been some of my inspiration for cobbling together veggie gardens and is one of those amazing “propagate your own” people that I so aspire to be. Next year I want to be able to grow our own seeds for our own vegetables and keep saving seed and growing it year after year. Sarah gives me hope that despite the local wildlife having degustory desires firmly aimed at mass consumption of our hard work, there IS a light at the end of the vegetable slavery tunnel and it does taste incredibly good. I want to go a whole lot further than vegetables though. I want edible fruit, nut and “other” trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers etc. all over Serendipity Farm. When we got here I realised that I should be careful about what I wished for because indeed…Serendipity Farm was totally covered in edibles…blackberries and banana passionfruit prevailed so I am glad that at least SOME of the edible species are under control!

The only bit of this garden that doesn’t have anything in it is under the clothes line and Nat had just been working in this space removing some enormous herbs that had gone feral

This small collection of conifers are all very special conifers and a source of great envy with both Steve and I…hey Nat…we might have time to do whatever we want whenever we want…we might have HEAPS of land to plant anything we want and we might be living the life of student hippies BUT you have the most GORGEOUS home and garden. I think we can call it even 🙂

Steve just made a whirlwind return and has unloaded the pile of grass clippings that we got from Glad’s place the other day and will be loading up our little trailer with as many bolts of ex fish farm rope as he can fit. They have lots of it and just put it out into a paddock for anyone to take. We have first dibs and a good free source of good quality ex fish farm netting is top of our priorities at the moment so he has raced back out to ensure that we don’t miss out. He has been sharing a cup of tea with an elderly German gentleman called albert who makes his own everything and who, along with his elderly wife are entirely resilient. Albert, up until this year, made all of his own wine. He had put in a series of grape vines and this year he decided that it was all too much for him. We all volunteered to pick his grapes for him but he isn’t willing to pay for the fertiliser that he says he needs to keep them going so he is going to pull them out. Methinks it’s an opportunity to gain some productive plants if he wants us to tow them for him. In return we can help him if he needs anything in the future…the building and forging of communities only happens when people are willing to share the love and the work around. We met a young couple with a young family last year when we attended one of the Tamar NRM’s seed collecting days. At the time we were not interested in the native seed that we collected and gave it back to Tamar NRM to propagate for field work. We met Tod and Shelley who are building their own home not too far away from Serendipity Farm and who are completely smitten with permaculture, homesteading and sustainability. I loved their ethos but we haven’t kept in touch. We wave to Todd as he drives past and he does the same with us but methinks it’s time to get back in touch again and add another community bow to our communal strings. I want to delve into the Deviot community basket as well. The community over there is resilient and self-sufficient and most determined. It’s hardly surprising that they are go-getters with most of the population comprising doctors, lawyers, architects and artists and I would like to put out my feelers whilst working with them to find ways to extend that sense of community and communal commitment to our own little local borough to see if we can’t get a few things going around here. Why can’t we have a community garden? Why not a farmers market? How about using the Rowella hall to get some homesteading or sustainability meetings of like-minded people going. Let’s reinstate the Country Women’s Association and the injection of community and family spirit that comes with it. It would seem like everyone is too busy to put anything into their community and we have the Madge communities that we deserve. I get the feeling that if we were able to get a few passionate people together and head off with purpose to various local government authorities we may just be able to get our community back.

A while ago I took the time to complete a submission towards allowing hemp seed to be considered as a viable and legal crop in Tasmania. I got an email saying that my submission had been accepted and the other day I got an update on the proposal and they are actually looking into it and it looks favourable that someday soon we will join the rest of the world in being able to take advantage of this crop that will give us an amazing food source full of omega 3’s and 6’s. As a vegan I would LOVE to take advantage of this amazingly healthy food on a regular basis. In the U.S. you can buy hemp seed milk like you can buy soymilk here and it would be fantastic to be able to produce my own hemp seed milk. It would also be a boost to farmers because this is one of those crops with a large demand and very little supply in Australia. It’s good to know that when you take the time to put an effort in, sometimes you DO get rewarded :o). I will keep you in the loop about hemp and one day we may be able to grow our own on Serendipity Farm :o)

Oops! I got so excited about hemp I almost overshot the mark and hit 3000 words! I had better stop there so I don’t. Have a great weekend and see you all back here same time, same place on Wednesday :o).

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)

Expectations and where they come from

Hi All,

Today (Monday) is apparently a public holiday in Tasmania. It’s been given the dubious moniker “8 hour day” which aligns it with labour day in other Australian states…I don’t know why various states have holidays on different days…may as well just clump them all together and have national holidays but apparently there is no fun in that so separate strangely named days are our predilection. I had just gotten up from my 2 hour morning rss feed read marathon and was buttering bread for the chooks and the dogs morning snack, making Steve’s morning cup of coffee in bed, getting ready to cut tiny cubes of tasty cheese for the cuckoo shrikes and wrens and I suddenly got to thinking about how these things became expected of me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing these things, I was just wondering how they became institutionalised on Serendipity Farm. These little occasional treats have become regular “expected” events that need to be kept up for the sake of the peace. As I was buttering the slices of shop bought bread that we don’t eat and only buy for the animals, I thought about how our own expectations of what life is meant to be have arisen. We “expect” that we will be able to go about our business safely and with rights but where did those expectations come from? Someone in the past had to fight for all of the expected normalcies that we take for granted and whenever there is a cause and a fight, there is someone fighting just as hard to keep the status quo. We expect choice in our shops. We expect to be able to find a job, to buy a house, to get credit on our purchases. We don’t even think about these things…they just “are”.  The more people “get” in their lives, the more they tend to expect. It’s a bit like getting a promotion at work with a good pay rise attached…after a while your lifestyle absorbs the pay rise and you are back where you started from…we have a habit of upping the ante whenever we get a run of good fortune and becoming blasé about how well off we actually are. In deliberately choosing to live a simpler life we all get to choose to be grateful for what life has handed us all over again. I, for one, am extremely grateful for the plate that I have been handed :o)

The ubiquitous repurposed automatic sprouter has done itself proud! Here you can see the scarlet runner beans sprouting

Here are the borlotti beans that apparently loved the conditions in the automatic sprouter. They, along with all of the other beans, have now been planted in seed trays and once they get big enough they will be planted out into our new bean garden

Here are the sprouting Yin Yang beans. If our summer is as long and hot as they say it is going to be these little babies should do well

I love meeting like-minded people through blog hunting. I recently found a wonderful Aussie blog with the delightful moniker of “Rabid Little Hippy”. Go and have a look for yourself…this blog is a frenetic blast of positive sustainable energy all rolled into a jumble of kids, a tiny tractor driving husband and a weekly commute between an old and a new life eagerly anticipated…

http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/another-weekend-in-ballan/

How could you resist a name like that? Aside from the name, the blog is a wonderful blend of homesteading, sustainable living and a zest for life that is positively infectious. I have never met anyone with so much energy and I just realised that although I follow each one of this wonderful bloggers posts I have NO idea what her name is! For the purposes of this post she shall be known as “rabid”… I have had great fun conversing with “rabid” via the comments section of her blog and after a recent post we discussed a swap event that she had been to. I assumed that it was a seed swap but apparently, it involved people taking things that they no longer used/needed and that they had made/grown etc. to barter for other goods. In Tasmania times are tough. There are very few jobs to be had and most jobs tend to be part time or transient. If any state needed a boost of positive sustainable energy it’s our humble little full stop at the bottom of the wealth generation of Australia. After listening with growing excitement as “rabid” told me about where she had been and what she had swapped my nose was twitching like Tabitha from Bewitched and I had formulated a plan to head in to the next Sustainable Living group at the Tamar NRM (Natural Resources Management) centre and postulate this wonderful idea for a chance for the locals to barter their excess or unwanted goods for other excess and unwanted goods. What a fantastic idea! “Rabid”, you may have just made some Tasmanians almost as happy as your faithful reader narf7 by telling me about this fantastic way to effect change whilst cycling goods in an incredibly sustainable way to everyone’s benefit.

Here are the punnets of mixed zucchini and rainbow chard that we have since planted out into the vegetable garden. The orange punnet at the front contains some of the Cavolo Nero that we will plant in the veggie garden and after that, out in the main garden

Who could resist dinosaur kale? It has lots of names including Cavolo Nero but I am going to call it “Sideshow Bob” kale

Bev from the wonderfully informative blog with truly useful information sent me a copy of The Weed Foragers Handbook. I am over the moon! I was going to buy this little tomb but now I don’t have to :). Thank you for that wonderful gift Bev along with the purple king bean seeds that you can see here in the automated sprouter along with the moringa oleifera seed that I am optimistically attempting to sprout 🙂

Some of our past experiences with purchasing seed online have been less than triumphant to say the least. We have paid quite large sums of money for seed that refused point blank to germinate and that was most probably too old and had been sold on at a profit from other sellers. We learned the hard way and so seed swapping with locals with seed that has local provenance is truly the best way to go about purchasing/gaining seed. We really want some Moringa oleifera seed to grow this amazing tree on Serendipity Farm. We previously purchased several batches of seed in an attempt to grow it with no luck. I retained some of the seed in a fit of pique whilst muttering about the seller’s dubious parentage under my breath and promptly forgodaboudit. We found the seed the other day and after the bean seeds grew so well in the sprouter, I decided to see if the Moringa oleifera would sprout. Nothing has happened yet but if I can manage to get the seed to sprout I will be a very happy camper. The beans that we sprouted recently are now planted out into flat trays to grow on until they are big enough to plant out in their bean garden home. There is something very addictive about propagating from seed. We have grown all sorts of plants from seed but most of them were ornamental shrubs or trees and growing our own food from seed adds an entirely new dimension to the fun. Today we removed 4 loquat saplings that we dug up from the side of the road as tiny little seedlings. We stashed them in the glasshouse in pots over winter and now they are ready to harden off before we plant them out. We also brought 3 more fig trees out of the glasshouse. We planted out one little fig tree to see how it went and it is going great guns so we figure 4 fig trees are better than 1. We have more walnut and hazelnut seedlings than we could shake a sustainable stick at and none of them cost us a cent. Sometimes you have to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. Three of the fig trees had ground layered on an old overgrown fig tree at a local school where we walk our dogs and we grew one from a now removed tree in Launceston city central. We collected the walnuts from a tree on the side of the road and we were given the hazelnuts from Glad’s daughter Wendy. There is a degree of primal delight to be had from helping nature to furnish your larder and growing edible plants from seed goes even deeper than that. Here is a link to show you why I am really eager to get some Moringa oleifera growing and thriving on Serendipity Farm…

http://enviro.org.au/article_moringaTree.asp

The little loquats that we rescued from the side of the road last year are hardening off prior to planting out

2 of the figs either side of the loquats and in the background you can see our little Gingko biloba that we planted out into the side garden

Another $2 roadside stall find…this time its garlic chives

Steve found this in the shed not so long ago…he promises me that with sharp blades it will be just as good as the petrol mower…for the sake of our sustainable future I certainly hope so! 😉

Steve and I took the boys for a small walk up the road this afternoon and noticed that Glad and Wendy next door had been mowing. We had a chat to them over the fence and Steve headed down to drop off some eggs and asked them what they were going to do with the pile of lawn clippings and oak leaves…”burn them” was the reply! He then asked if they would mind if we had them and they were overjoyed. Wendy pointed out another large pile of lawn clippings and leaves at the top of the property and asked him if we wanted those as well? “Darned RIGHT” we do! Now we can make a large compost heap near our vegetable garden area that will help us in the future…another example of how one mans trash/problem is another mans treasure. Whenever they mow they are going to give us their unwanted clippings and as Glad has 6 acres that amounts to a whole lot of clippings. It also highlights how proactive being part of a community can be. I was wondering where to get more compost ingredients from and the answer was right next to us all the time 🙂

I am twitching with excitement! It’s nothing to do with the $100 million lotto draw that apparently half of the Australian population has bought tickets in (not me!) and everything to do with farinaceous goods. I have been a rampant voyeur over the last month of all things Vegan and have found all sorts of amazing food blogs thanks to Annie at the fantastic blog An Unrefined Vegan. Here’s one of her delectable posts should you ever want to make heavenly peanut shortbready biscuits whilst learning some skills in the process.

http://anunrefinedvegan.com/2012/10/19/veganmofo-peanut-sandies/

Annie, along with some equally amazing vegan food blogging friends, spent a whole month coordinating Vegan Mofo…a chance for anyone with a vegan food blog to shine with as many recipes as they could post in 31 days. I followed avidly and spent every morning from 5am – 7am in a vain effort to keep up with these amazing posts, save them for future degustory delight and comment on as many as I could. At the end of the month quite a few of them got together to have a Vegan Potluck virtual meal online and again, my rss feed reader runeth over. As I pored over what was on offer I felt a distinct desire to cook and share that went as far as hinting that I might like to participate in next year’s Vegan Potluck. That gives me a year to think up some splendiferous idea to knock my peer’s socks off…an enormous vegan spongecake with multi layers filled with delicious spreads and topped with homemade vegan truffles? How about a scrumptious vegan pie? Homemade vegan lasagne? Whatever I choose to do, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be practicing it for a while and that it will be scrumptious…why would you want to share something with your peers if they had made it before? Time to get thinking…

One of the little hazelnuts that we potted up this week after checking the bags of stratifying seeds in our overwintering esky

A wheelbarrow full of free nut trees. Most of these are hazelnuts which seemed to germinate later than the walnuts that are in the glasshouse. I LOVE free edible plants 🙂

We need a gate at the side of the dog compound. We don’t want to spend much on the gate. Steve is a clever little vegemite and has worked out a way to turn this metal gate into a perfect gate in the compound. Stay tuned to see what he does with it

Steve and I have been dabbling in the farinaceous arts as I mentioned earlier (before I veered off to the left and got mentally lost…). We are on a quest to live as simply as we can whilst at the same time living as well as we can. Life is too short for bad wine and Steve has been blending his own peculiar bad wine with his good wine to render it all drinkable. I decided to use some of the various pieces of kitchen equipment that I have stashed in the top of the pantry out of sheer guilt for having paid so much for some of it many years ago. We had a go at making our own pasta as a way to use up some of our egg futures. We decided to mess about with a spinach pasta recipe that we found online and it was a really good recipe. If you want to try it yourself here it is…

http://cookingequipment.about.com/od/maincourserecipes/r/SpinachPasta.htm

Little Pig 🙂

The home made lasagne that we made from scratch

We then made a really delicious lasagne from scratch by making our own pasta, pasta sauce, meat sauce and béchamel. Steve really enjoyed it and the amount of pasta that we made was WAY too much for our lasagne needs and so we had to come up with some ideas of what to do with the left over pasta. Steve had some tonight in a bowl of homemade Asian noodle soup and pronounced the noodles delicious. I segued nicely back to why I was so excited earlier in the post…to make the noodles I remembered “Little Pig” in the top of my pantry cupboard. Little Pig is a non-centrifugal juicer that I bought many years ago when I was on a bit of a health kick. I have used Little Pig to make fruit mince, juice a few carrots and that’s about it. I remember reading that the juicer could be used to make Korean rice cake noodles but as I didn’t have a recipe for them I didn’t attempt to try to make them. Today I remembered that Little Pig had various nozzles that extruded dough’s into different shapes and after I got Steve to heft Little Pig down from the top shelf we put the remaining wrapped spinach pasta dough out on the bench top to reach room temperature while we made some Asian chicken broth and prepared vegetables to add to it. Once we got the soup on to simmer we turned back to attempt to make a spinach pasta version of udon noodles to go into Steve’s soup. Having never tried extruding pasta or any kind of dough through Little Pig I was a little dubious about it’s ability to perform but I shouldn’t have worried because after fitting the noodle nozzle and feeding the pasta dough into the top of the machine it made perfect round green noodles that were delicious in the soup. We have a large serving of noodles left that we are attempting to dehydrate as I type this to see if we can make our own dried pasta to store for later use. The speed and ease of making pasta this way got me twitching (FINALLY she got around to why she was twitching! 😉 ). I have visions of all sorts of pasta made from all sorts of grains, legumes, and seeds with different nuts, pesto’s, herbs and spices in a wide range of natural colours. The extruding process through Little Pig means that I should be able to intertwine various colours of dough and get amazing looking rainbow noodles in all sorts of shapes. I can make Korean rice cake noodles thanks to an amazing Korean online recipe site and I get to use up some of our excess eggs in the process. If our dehydration of the remaining pasta works, we will be able to mess about with all different kinds of pasta and dehydrate them for future use.  My excited twitching comes from the realisation that we won’t ever have to buy pasta or noodles again! I feel an amazing rainbow pasta recipe coming on for the Vegan Potluck next year :o)

We decided to sprout some mung beans at the same time as sprouting our beans and we will be using these babies in a stirfry tomorrow

The only potato doing anything other than sitting in the pantry on Serendipity Farm. Our soil is predominately comprised of rocks which sadly, are not conducive to the growing of potatoes…the compost heap appears to be an option…

The little mulberry is leafing up and the garlic growing underneath it was planted by my brother when he visited my dad many years ago. You can see some overbown asparagus in the foreground and in the background we have a lovely little mandarin tree

Here you can see “Possum Damage”. This is why Australians who live rurally spend a lot of time tearing out their hair or spending a fortune protecting their precious edible specimens from these furry little larrikin hooligans. This poor little mandarin tree suffers horendously every single year while its sibling sits not further than 10 metres away from it completely untouched. I will NEVER understand the mental processes of possums!

We are almost at the end of our studies and are finalising our sustainable landscape designs. We have yet to hear if we got an interview in our chosen courses for next year but should we miss out, we can always find something else relevant to study till Steve gets his Australian citizenship and we head off to university in 2014. We might even study drafting as we already have a good handle on AutoCAD…I love the possibilities that have opened up for us since we took a leap of faith and decided to live like penniless student hippies in order to pave the way for further learning opportunities. I have no doubt at all that our lives have been made much richer in the process and that our abilities have been honed to fine pointy tips and have allowed us to make amazingly good use of what life has thrown in our direction. The quest for “Happiness” is apparently on the rise…people have discovered that money isn’t the answer to this elusive state and curiously, people want to live in a constant state of happiness not realising that happiness only gains its beauty after periods of contrasting emotions. Happiness is inside every single one of us. We all have it within our reach and it has much more to do with being grateful and thankful for our roll of the dice than it has to do with any external forces. Life has a natural balance about it and as we seesaw our way up and down through a gamut of emotions we need to remind ourselves of Newton’s law of motion… “For every action…there is an equal, and opposite reaction”…a constant striving for equilibrium and whilst we might be down at any given time…it won’t be long until we are up again. Have a great week folks and count your blessings because sometimes what we are expecting overshadows how very lucky we already are :o)

If any of you are feeling a bit down this song is bound to make you feel better…get a saucepan and a wooden spoon and do a bit of tub-thumping yourself! 😉 Or Steve says…”even better…you drink the whisky drink…you drink the lager drink…you drink the cider drink…and after that you won’t CARE” 😉

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kS-zK1S5Dws

And if you aren’t laughing yet…check out Homer singing his version of tub thumping…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFvSUi-QFX4

How my unmade garden unlocked a book

Hi All,

I got a small email from my mum yesterday passing on an email that someone sent to her. This one is worth sharing. A very clever take on how the Christmas story message would be spread in these modern times using social networks and the internet…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE2Qk88yUZ0&amp%3bfeature=share

It certainly makes you think about how small the world has become since the internet made everyone a click away. Steve and I were talking about how when we were kids and if one of your family members emigrated somewhere, you rarely saw them or heard from them again. It cost a lot to phone internationally and the distance seemed huge. Now I can send an email to Steve’s mum Pat in the U.K. and have her respond (if she is online) within a few minutes. It’s an amazing thing to be so close and yet so far. You always hear the negative things about the internet. The positives far outweigh the negatives and it has opened up some amazing doors for people that might otherwise never be able to live normal lives. Disabled people can simply be themselves online…shy people, agoraphobics etc. You can join groups of like-minded people online without ever having to actually meet them. You can live your life reading about the outside world whilst never having to leave your home. We often hear about how insular being online can make you, but there are so many people trapped inside their homes and bodies for whatever reason who can live much more enlightened, interesting and fulfilled lives thanks to the internet. I guess there are positives and negatives with everything and the internet is no exception.

Mr “E” is nothing to do with the internet. He is, however, a result of an online search so perhaps he could be distantly related to this theme? Here he is, looking down from the deck at the feral cats below with disdain. Earl practices the ancient Swiss art of yodelling on a regular basis. He doesn’t just bark…he yodels “Woo…woo…woo”! Especially at cats or when he wants Bezial to stop sulking and come and play with him (Bezial is not known as Emo-dog for nothing!). Earl, as has been established in many previous posts, has eaten at least 10 times his purchase price (which was not inconsiderable) in various household items, plants and anything else that has found its way into his ever hunting maw. We found out the other day that we had a criminal lurking near our house for 2 days. He was watching from the church grounds (where he no doubt slept in the toilet block that the church doesn’t lock) and waiting for an opportunity to pinch someones car. He decided to take our neighbour Frank’s car, various Christmas food and drink and his I phone and computer etc. The police had been tailing this man as he beat up a prostitute in town before heading out here and then taking his loot off to Bridport to his parents place (yeh…Tasmanian criminals are NOT all that bright!) where he was apprehended, Frank’s car and ‘stuff’ was returned and the criminal is now languishing in the clink. Can anyone out there see why he decided to target Frank rather than us? Hmmmm I wonder if our 2 big American Staffordshire terriers and their incessant “Wooooooo……BARK ” might have made him think twice about heading over to our, more secluded, house to pinch our stuff? Either that or he came over while we were out, had a look through the window and decided that our stuff was NOTHING compared to Franks :o) Ta Frank. There is nothing like a set of well heeled “Joneses” living next door to you to draw the burglers fire away from your house. We would like to think that Earl barking at nothing around about the time that this man was casing the joint had something to do with him not choosing us. You finally did something right Earl! :o)

I requested, picked up and am just about to read a children’s book from the library. It’s not because I am reverting to childhood or because I long for the days of the old school yard…it’s because about a week ago I was heading out to feed the chooks and was thinking about ‘things’ as you do. I was thinking about sustainability and surviving off the land (mainly to do with the vegetable garden not being anywhere near close to being constructed) when some invisible key apparently unlocked the memory vault inside my head. It was back in year 6 and I was most probably 10 years old. I have a birthday later in the year so that is a pretty good guess. I went to a school where we had a lot of first year teachers fresh out of university and having suffered a year of Mr Pages-Oliver who must have had some sort of stress relief problem and who was perpetually angry and withdrawn, we got Mr Pearce who was the most laid back and easy going man and very good looking to boot. He introduced reading time where he read books to us a chapter a day. No doubt this was torture to some of the male members of our class but thanks to Mr Pearce’s looks most of the girls were more than happy to sit and gaze up at him lovingly while he read to us. I was more interested in the books. For some reason, I have always loved to read. My parents both read and so do my siblings. I have passed this love on to all of my children and believe fervently that reading is where you develop your imagination and thinking skills. Back then I was a bit of an outsider. My parents had divorced the year before and I was the only larger person in my school. I was quiet, shy and withdrawn but despite that had a small core group of good friends that gave me plenty of company. I preferred my own company and can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of times that I have felt truly lonely.

Here is the humble little paperback that I have and you know what? It is every bit as engaging and enthralling as it was when I was 10 :o)

Books were my escape and I hurled myself into them with total abandon. I preferred to read books myself. I wasn’t really interested in other people’s book choices and when ‘reading time’ was introduced, I just saw it as a way to get out of maths! The very first book that Mr Pearce read to us (and interestingly, the only book that I can remember!) was a book called “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George. We settled down on the carpet in front of Mr Pearce and as he started to read I suddenly realised that this was more than a book…it was a revelation. Does anyone out there remember the television program “Grizzly Adam’s?” It was about a man (with a beard that Costa would have been jealous of) who dropped out of society (can’t remember why) and lived off the land out on his own in the woods. My side of the Mountain is the children’s version of Grizzly Adams. I sat enthralled every day as Mr Pearce revealed the story page by page. We shared in how the hero of the story, San Gribley,  ran away from home with only a flint and steel in his pocket…we learned how he hollowed out a massive Hemlock tree to live in. How he caught fish, lived off the land, remembered what his father had taught him on past hunting, camping and fishing trips and survived loneliness, hunger, fear and the forces of nature to come out the other side alive, well and triumphant. This book made a profound mark on me and obviously an enduring one. I could go as far as to say that this book started me on my journey to sustainability. I took this book out of the library and despite knowing that you should never revisit your past…the memories are always better than the actual visitation…I am going to read it cover to cover. Perhaps it will be cathartic? Perhaps it will make me smile. I don’t really know what I am looking for in this book, but sometimes you just have to go with your instincts and my immediate instinct when faced with that unlocked memory was to read that most profound novel that truly made a difference to my life at that time over again. I hope it’s not like when I read the novel “Chocolat” and was severely disappointed because the movie was so much better (nothing to do with Mr Johnny Depp being the leading man…). That doesn’t happen very often. Usually the movie is nothing like my imagination and the novel gives me a mental workout. Wish me luck with my revisitation. It’s a bit like looking at photos of yourself when you were thin and innocent and the world hadn’t given you a bit of a thrashing.

I subscribe to various blogs around the place and I must admit I subscribed to this blog because I loved watching “The Great British Bake off” on TV and thought that Ruth Clemens was jipped when she came second. I did a little bit of research to see what happened to the contestants after the series was over and was very surprised to note that most of them got cooking careers out of simply being on this show. Ruth has a great cooking blog and so I subscribed. Today’s post is cute, most probably delicious and very clever take a look…

http://www.thepinkwhisk.co.uk/2011/12/reindeer-cake-pops.html#more-2119

I have been getting a recipe a day because Ruth decided to do a “12 days of Christmas” thingo with recipes instead of gifts. Go have a look at her site; it’s full of amazing recipes for all sorts of occasion’s especially sweet treats and cakes. The reindeer just tickled my fancy so I shared them with you.

Isn’t it great being able to share blog sites and things that you find online with your friends? I love it! I got up early this morning. I was a little ashamed of myself because I wanted to stay up last night and watch the total eclipse of the moon but couldn’t keep my eyes open past 12. I would like to think it’s because I get up early rather than anything to do with getting older :o). I had some amazing soup made by Steve last night. I don’t know what he does but he makes the most delicious soup with very few ingredients. I have lots of it left over to slowly work my way through over the weekend. Lucky I love soup isn’t it! Earl is slowly working his way through a large white candle that he ‘discovered’. I have learned that Earl has an alien intestinal tract that can deal with just about anything that he decides to chew and so am not worried about him consuming this candle. I have seen the remains of shoes, toys, grass and various other foliage and feathers etc. all passing directly through Earl and into the environment with no obvious signs of any problems with their passing. He was just spitting bits of candle out as they were sticking to his teeth but is going back for more as obviously this is a new texture/flavour combination that Earl hasn’t had the privilege of attempting before. Living with nature is most definitely NOT boring…  I had best post this now as the sun is coming out from behind the clouds, the dogs are sick of watching me sit here posting and are starting to get rambunctious and Steve isn’t far behind them. Today we are going to decorate our gate (it was raining last night so we put it off) and do pretty much whatever we like. We have plans to make a delicious home-made pizza as I found my “Best ever pizza dough” recipe that I lost a while ago and Steve is keen to revisit that heavenly crust. I have soup that might get dressed up with some lentils or potatoes depending on my mood and the boys will get some sort of delicious treat fresh from the oven. I might even make the chooks some bread of their own with some less than stellar stoneground wholemeal flour that I had forgotten about that is now a bit suspect. I wonder if we put tiny little wicks in the hunks of candle that are stuck to Earls teeth and lit them, and turned off all the lights at night and videoed him trotting around if it would be reminiscent of yellow beard? More likely we would be done for animal cruelty, but Earl would be up for it! :o) See you all tomorrow and remember…there are “only 14 days left till Christmas” ;o)

Oops! I forgot to add Earls candle. This used to be a whole candle. It even had a wick. Most of the candle and all of the wick are now forming the contents of my early morning collection tomorrow. Cheers Earl! :o)