Wednesday wanderer

Hi All,

Guess who was spoiled last Friday night and who got ferried in style into the city to go and see my favourite comedian Mr Bill Bailey? “ME!” that’s who :). Stewart and Kelsey bought me tickets way back when it was my birthday for last Friday’s concert and the big day finally arrived. We had a lovely Japanese meal and wandered around the city for a while till it was time to head over to the theatre and be seated. We were very close to the front and the concert, although it was the very last one in this current tour, was hilarious and thought provoking in a most musically intelligent way. As one of Mr Baileys very closest friends on Facebook (along with about 130 000 others…) he shared some photos of his exploration of our little state of Tasmania over the weekend and it looks like he had a really excellent and enjoyable stay before jetting back home to old Blighty where the temperatures will no doubt be several degrees colder than when he headed off at the start of his tour. Thank you Mr Bailey, your thoughtful, clever and most insightful humour always broadsides me and I am in your debt and Stewart and Kelsey’s, for allowing me to sit in on a couple of hours of pure magic genius.

I really liked this meme when I saw it recently and decided to share it with you all. Douglas Adams insights 101

I really liked this meme when I saw it recently and decided to share it with you all. Douglas Adams insights 101

The guttering shamed us this week...

The guttering shamed us this week…

Stevie-boy helping Kym (hopefully) to find a way to put an image header in her blog

Stevie-boy helping Kym (hopefully) to find a way to put an image header in her blog

Stevie-boy and I have been working like Trojans in order to get as much as we can done around here before the temperatures start to soar and no-one wants to set foot outside. We planted out our new little kefir lime tree which will provide us with fragrant and most authentic delicious Asian flavours in our curries and stir fries for many years to come. I am looking into buying some lemongrass seed if I can’t source some lemongrass locally as I think it would do well here on Serendipity Farm. We also planted out two thornless youngberries and a thornless loganberry that we picked up at Bunnings (Australia’s answer to hardware heaven) and they are now safely ensconced in the ground with trellises constructed of star pickets and plastic coated wire clothes line that we had left over from our fencing job.

2 pots of thornless youngberries, a pot of thornless loganberries and a kaffir lime tree to be planted out

2 pots of thornless youngberries, a pot of thornless loganberries and a kaffir lime tree to be planted out

Everything is growing well in the ideal growing conditions that Sanctuary has thanks to all of that netting that acts as shade cloth

Everything is growing well in the ideal growing conditions that Sanctuary has thanks to all of that netting that acts as shade cloth

Earl was allowed to visit Sanctuary as he has been extra especially good lately

Earl was allowed to visit Sanctuary as he has been extra especially good lately

Earl, still being extra especially good. He was so good he got to walk down to the driveway from the house off leash!

Earl, still being extra especially good. He was so good he got to walk down to the driveway from the house off leash!

We then hammered an old blue pipeline bunk bed base in between two of the garden beds to act as a climbing frame for our adventurous scarlet runner beans that are growing for their third year in a row. This year they will be able to grow vertically and should do better than the previous two years where they had to scrabble along the ground, up the odd pole and contend with being choked out by pumpkins. Steve removed the last of the logs that were in the way of the car and trailer being driven up to the shed that backs onto Sanctuary where we shamelessly hoard all kinds of wood, star pickets and “stuff” that could possibly be used in the garden. You could be forgiven for thinking that we were hillbillies just by taking a surreptitious glance into this shed. The mess is going to be short lived though as we have plans to turn this shed into a potting shed and storage shed in association with Sanctuary where we can store tools etc. to free up Stevie-boys shed.

The big white water container has made it up to the shed next to Sanctuary! That's one step closer to being installed. Note the state of the (hoarding) shed ;)

The big white water container has made it up to the shed next to Sanctuary! That’s one step closer to being installed. Note the state of the (hoarding) shed 😉

The boysenberries trellis and some of the grass we "imported" into Sanctuary. May as well do double duty till we turn it into another compost heap

The boysenberries trellis and some of the grass we “imported” into Sanctuary. May as well do double duty till we turn it into another compost heap

One side of the young-berry trellis with one of the young-berries planted out

One side of the young-berry trellis with one of the young-berries planted out

Talking about Stevie-boys shed, we cleaned it out…not just a rudimentary clean, a real proper one that involved hauling out bags and boxes and going through everything and seeing if it still had any place on Serendipity Farm. A few hours later and Stevie-boy has a whole lot more room in his shed and a whole lot less garbage.

 

"The heap" of grass clippings futures, thanks to Glad and Wendy next door :)

“The heap” of grass clippings futures, thanks to Glad and Wendy next door 🙂

One happy scarlet runner with something to hang onto this year. Fingers crossed for a good bean harvest :)

One happy scarlet runner with something to hang onto this year. Fingers crossed for a good bean harvest 🙂

The little kaffir lime in it's new forever home

The little kaffir lime in it’s new forever home

Some ornamental grape cuttings that fell off a shed that we were passing the other day on our morning dog walk...

Some ornamental grape cuttings that fell off a shed that we were passing the other day on our morning dog walk…

On the left is a thornless blackberry cutting that has been studiously examined for thorns before it got potted up and on the right are some thorny young-berries that if they grow are going to grace the fence to teach the possums a lesson ;)

On the left is a thornless blackberry cutting that has been studiously examined for thorns before it got potted up and on the right are some thorny young-berries that if they grow are going to grace the fence to teach the possums a lesson 😉

 

We drove the large trailer load of grass clippings that Glad wanted us to take from her back block and dumped it inside Sanctuary where it is going to be wheelbarrowed up to join a whole lot of trailer loads of oak leaves and manure and anything else we can get to throw into the mix. We started to think about how difficult it was going to be to wheelbarrow heavy manure and damp oak leaves up the steep incline in Sanctuary and Stevie-boy had a moment of pure genius and decided that we were going to forge a path past the side of Sanctuary and up to the rear of the garden in order to wheelbarrow the manure and oak leaves down into Sanctuary rather than uphill. I like that idea!

I forgot to take "before" photos but this is after we whipper snipped the first part of the new driveway for the car to deliver us to the rear of Sanctuary..."SQUEE!" :)

I forgot to take “before” photos but this is after we whipper snipped the first part of the new driveway for the car to deliver us to the rear of Sanctuary…”SQUEE!” 🙂

Stevie-boy giving you a bit of perspective as to how wide Sanctuary is and how little room we have between Sanctuary and that tree that fell down

Stevie-boy giving you a bit of perspective as to how wide Sanctuary is and how little room we have between Sanctuary and that tree that fell down

Nasturtiums that have escaped from Sanctuary :)

Nasturtiums that have escaped from Sanctuary 🙂

I say “Pure genius” but now that we have done it I have renamed it “Pure madness”. We took our whipper snippers and we headed up. Stevie-boy also took one of his chainsaws with an old chain and an old bar because he was going to commit a cardinal sin…he was going to hack away at the base of some old tree stumps that had been left in the ground and that were in the way. 2 hours later and a whole lot of hacking, sawing, (swearing), and stubborn pigheadedness, we managed between us to hammer and block split the rocks and stumps that were in the way and level out a big dip that may have been our undoing. Thank goodness that we had the foresight to buy a little 4 x 4 when we had the chance. There is no WAY that we could have lived out here without her.

This was once 3 large tree stumps and a pile of large rocks that Stevie-boy and I refused to submit to! Never let the fact that you are middle aged stop you...stubborn angst will take you a whole lot of a distance when common sense would tell you to stop ;)

This was once 3 large tree stumps and a pile of large rocks that Stevie-boy and I refused to submit to! Never let the fact that you are middle aged stop you…stubborn angst will take you a whole lot of a distance when common sense would tell you to stop 😉

The little orange and black thing in the background is an old ride on lawnmower we inherited along with Serendipity Farm. Note the size of the fallen tree and the hole in the ground that we filled with rocks that we levered out from among the tree stumps

The little orange and black thing in the background is an old ride on lawnmower we inherited along with Serendipity Farm. Note the size of the fallen tree and the hole in the ground that we filled with rocks that we levered out from among the tree stumps

Stevie-boy standing at the gate between the back block and the middle block and wondering whether we could call The Examiner and say this was a crop circle... ;)

Stevie-boy standing at the gate between the back block and the middle block and wondering whether we could call The Examiner and say this was a crop circle… 😉

Looking back towards Glad's place next door. That blue tarp is covering some more oak leaves that need to be moved into Sanctuary when we make a way in

Looking back towards Glad’s place next door. That blue tarp is covering some more oak leaves that need to be moved into Sanctuary when we make a way in

This is how tenacious Jerusalem artichokes are. I planted a few in here last year and thought that I had dug them all up (and replanted them inside Sanctuary) but obviously I missed a few! The start of what is going to be many stands of Jerusalem artichokes all over Serendipity Farm :)

This is how tenacious Jerusalem artichokes are. I planted a few in here last year and thought that I had dug them all up (and replanted them inside Sanctuary) but obviously I missed a few! The start of what is going to be many stands of Jerusalem artichokes all over Serendipity Farm 🙂

Stevie-boy (skiving off) inspecting the back netting of Sanctuary to work out where to put a nice new entry point

Stevie-boy (skiving off) inspecting the back netting of Sanctuary to work out where to put a nice new entry point

More perspective to show how steep our block is

More perspective to show how steep our block is

So we were hacking and twitching and stubbornly refusing to give in when suddenly we realised that we had done enough to get the car over…”SQUEE!” We made a swift exit back to the house to hurl the dogs into the car and we tentatively headed up to test out our new drive through. It worked! Aside from a bit of scraping up the side of the car (to join all of the other scraping up the side of the car…) from some branches of the tree that fell down in the last lot of storms and that we just haven’t gotten around to cutting up yet, our driveway worked amazingly well and Steve not only drove up, but he turned around and then drove back down again.

I planted these "brown Egyptian beans" and they look suspiciously like broad beans to me! ;)

I planted these “brown Egyptian beans” and they look suspiciously like broad beans to me! 😉

Look at how crazy the Jerusalem artichokes are going!

Look at how crazy the Jerusalem artichokes are going!

I was so happy to see this, another red clover as my old one that I dug up from the roadside got smothered by the pumpkins last year :)

I was so happy to see this, another red clover as my old one that I dug up from the roadside got smothered by the pumpkins last year 🙂

These nasturtiums are specifically for Linne who loves them. I saved these from the furious whipper snipper of Stevie-boy so that you can see them in my future blog posts Linne :)

These nasturtiums are specifically for Linne who loves them. I saved these from the furious whipper snipper of Stevie-boy so that you can see them in my future blog posts Linne 🙂

We had to drive to Exeter to pick up some tap fittings so that we can transfer a tap from the fence (don’t ask) over to Sanctuary where I can use it to set up an irrigation system and to be used with a hose for hand watering. While we were there we took advantage of the warm day, the fact that we had worked very hard and the desire that had just flooded Stevie-boy to pick up a couple of bottles of ice cold beer. Ice cold beer has never tasted so good as when you drink it after you work hard and you are hot and tired. We were still hot and tired when we got home courtesy of our two furry tanks who managed to give us dog eyes and wangle an extra walk out of us.

Walking down from the rear of Sanctuary and past the garden I can't help but notice how many roses have managed to grow this year thanks to the close proximity of Earl in their immediate vicinity. He is officially a hero of the roses :)

Walking down from the rear of Sanctuary and past the garden I can’t help but notice how many roses have managed to grow this year thanks to the close proximity of Earl in their immediate vicinity. He is officially a hero of the roses 🙂

This time last year this rose was a series of sticks with no leaves. This year it is lovely. Cheers Earl :)

This time last year this rose was a series of sticks with no leaves. This year it is lovely. Cheers Earl 🙂

"Peek-a-boo Foxglove!"

“Peek-a-boo Foxglove!”

The side garden is no longer predated by wallabies on their way through as they are scared of being so close to Earl the avenger and refuse to go near the fence. Earl is earning himself a medal :)

The side garden is no longer predated by wallabies on their way through as they are scared of being so close to Earl the avenger and refuse to go near the fence. Earl is earning himself a medal 🙂

More roses and this stand of orange crocosmia has never looked this lush. Usually it has been scoffed back down to nubs but citizen Earl is on the case "Now wullibeez weel eed mai plandz!" however there is nothing that he can do to stop the chooks from nesting in the middle of it (I found their nest ;) )

More roses and this stand of orange crocosmia has never looked this lush. Usually it has been scoffed back down to nubs but citizen Earl is on the case “Now wullibeez weel eed mai plandz!” however there is nothing that he can do to stop the chooks from nesting in the middle of it (I found their nest 😉 )

And so here we are…I am still working feverishly on my Christmas gift for my eldest daughter Madeline. I have less than a month to get it finished but I am quite sure it is possible. It has been hard work and I have had to completely learn how to do something from scratch so if you are reading this Madeline, I really REALLY hope you appreciate my efforts and even if what I produce might be a little wonky, or a little “rustic” I am hoping that you are able to keep your laughter in check just long enough till we head off in the car ;). I won’t even talk about Stevie-boys effort that is AMAZING and that is sure to garner him the $50 prize booze voucher for what he has created for our youngest daughter Bethany. You can all be sure that I will share lots of photos of what we made in my December 17th blog post (we are giving the gifts on the 14th).

A pot of mint and bergamot that I pulled some out of when I found them growing in a pathway. They appear to like living in a pot in Sanctuary better than living on a pathway :)

A pot of mint and bee balm that I pulled some out of when I found them growing in a pathway. They appear to like living in a pot in Sanctuary better than living on a pathway 🙂

Isn't this lovely? I never even knew this rose existed but it is now inside the safety zone of Earl's kingdom and is saying thank you in the most beautiful way (hopefully Earl doesn't pee on it! ;) )

Isn’t this lovely? I never even knew this rose existed but it is now inside the safety zone of Earl’s kingdom and is saying thank you in the most beautiful way (hopefully Earl doesn’t pee on it! 😉 )

Stevie-boy gets beer, I get juice a perfect way to finish a long hard day :)

Stevie-boy gets beer, I get juice a perfect way to finish a long hard day 🙂

I might just finish there for this week folks. My fingers are a bit sore from “flummoxing” the heck out of some serious stumps and hurling rocks into a gaping cavernous hole, the result of the tree falling over and inconsiderately taking its roots with it. I think I might just head out onto the deck with a nice mug of tea in my nice new mug courtesy of one of my lovely blogging friends who knows what makes a narf tick :). Have a fantastic week everyone. Some of you are almost up to your armpits in snow, some of you are living the life in tropical climes and some of you are wondering just how fast weeds can grow and why we can never seem to keep up with them here in the Southern hemisphere in our rapidly receding spring. Whatever you are doing and wherever you are have a magic week 🙂

My wonderful, splendorous, spanky new great big mug that is officially my new mug of choice :)

My wonderful, splendorous, spanky new great big mug that is officially my new mug of choice 🙂

 

R.I.P. Reprobate

Hi All,

“Stone the crows” it’s Saturday already and I haven’t started this post. It would seem that life has again trotted away from my Zelda red eyes and found me wanting in the posting department. I have gamers droop…but because I love you all so much I am back to share our latest adventures on Serendipity Farm (if you could call the last 3 days “adventures” that is). Steve is off taking photos for me to use in this post and Bezial and Earl are sighing heavily despite going for an extra-long walk this morning and it being a cold drizzly day so the BEST place is right in front of the fire sighing with contentment.

A gray midwinters day in Sidmouth Tasmania

Still pretty gray after our walk but at least the garden will enjoy the rain

One benefit of cold winter days is that they burn off extra calories through shivering…that allows you to eat copious quantities of delicious carbs and a large helping of Steve’s amazing chilli

Its 2 years to the day since my dad died and life turned upside down for us and started the adventure that we now know as life on Serendipity Farm.  The first year was chaos and more life lessons than I could ever have thought possible or have wanted if I am being honest. At the end of the first year we were all frazzled, fried and exhausted with the process that goes with death in the family. Dad would not mind me calling him a reprobate by the way. He absolutely delighted in wayward behaviour and was a quintessential Aussie Larrikin to say the least. He was once dared to ride a circus elephant down the main street of town and hopped up without a second thought to the cheers of the locals. When my working class dad inherited a large sum of money and property from his long-time partner Val his spiel went something like this…

“The working class can kiss my arse…I’ve got a bludgers life at last!”…

“The Foreman’s Song” is a somewhat bastardised version of “The Red Flag” a union song intended to unite the working classes to rise above the oppression of the class systems. I come from a long line of union representatives and members and am most certainly proud of my working class heritage. Dad enjoyed the privileges of his newfound wealth but at a bipartisan cost to his working class roots. Here’s Billy Bragg sharing a bit of my dad’s ethos with you all…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obpd9uc5HVg

Dad was fiercely passionate about his history and with my son Stewart in Ireland at the moment; it is only fitting to remember that Ireland was one of the initiators of the trade union movement for change and equality back in the 1800’s. Australia was founded by Irish convicts. The English sent them as far away as they possibly could so that they wouldn’t find their way back to spread their political poison and many of them were exiled from their homeland through their political liens rather than any crimes that they committed. We don’t treat Ireland like the American’s do…it’s not our “Old Country”…it’s part of what makes us what we are. We share a working class history and a classless (supposedly lol) society with Ireland and a sense of humour that could only have come from a shared hard existence in a hard land. Life goes on (certainly Shane MacGowan does despite his obvious excesses) and our quiet understanding of our historical link with Ireland is apparently mutual…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZqN1glz4JY

Here’s to the working class dad and to the ongoing struggle for equality that carries on today.

Back in dad’s early school days that name would have been a decided disadvantage to have to write in copperplate with ink. I never would have thought that I would find this many flowers mid winter in Tasmania. I didn’t kill all of them dad now can you PLEASE get your present crow incarnation to stop telling me off from that big Eucalyptus viminallis branch?

Dad and Val’s graves and in the close background you can see the jungle presently known as “Serendipity Farm”. I dare say dad is keeping his eye on what we are doing and its very easy to believe that the crow venting his spleen most passionately overhead as we work is his reprobate spirit.

I drop in a few times a day to visit my Facebook page. It’s somewhat compelling to see what my friends and “liked” pages are up to. Apparently it’s been 25 years since the movie “The Princess Bride” was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world and if I was asked “what is your favourite movie of all time?” it would have to be this amazing, beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable treatise to love. Call me an old romantic fool but this movie makes you glad to be soppy :o). Guess what I am going to watch tonight? “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” I also saw a post by Milkwood permaculture about a low cost aquaponics system consisting of a pond and a bathtub (low cost excellent for any sized property) and allowing you to grow herbs/vegetables or even flowers, should you see fit, in an integrated closed system involving the processing of fish waste via plant roots and involving a few strains of microbes in the process. You can be as base or as creative with this setup as you like and you can also run it in a tiny little flat or spread it out as big as your imagination (and your plot of land) will allow. Talk about creative license!

http://milkwoodpermaculture.com.au/courses/details/109-aquaponics-workshop-812-sydney

I would love to attend some of Milkwood Permaculture’s tutorials but aside from the cost…Tasmania is to Mainland Australia as Ireland is to the U.K. so unless I learn to swim MUCH better than my present doggy paddle I will not be attending a Permaculture course any day soon…

As an “almost vegan” (I still have milk in my tea “institution”) I subscribe to many vegan cooking blogs. Vegan is now mainstream and has been subsequently deserted by the trendy set for greener (literally lol) pastures. That leaves vegans to be able to carry on doing what they do best in relative peace and quiet with a greater degree of mainstream acceptance thanks to the fruitcake fruitarians and radical raw adherents making veganism look positively tame in comparison. Bryanna Clark Grogan is a vegan authoress and daytime librarian which sounds a bit like a comparison with Superman and to be honest, she could be called a vegan Superwoman of sorts. She is one of the most selfless people in the promotion of vegan eating and shares her amazing recipes for meat free food with anyone who is interested. Her generosity is amazing and she allows people who change their diets for ethical reasons to continue to eat delicious food whilst learning to adapt their ingredients with no loss of taste and a major boost to health and our environment in the process. She shares how to make mainstream staples vegan from scratch and has taken the reins firmly back from the extremists who would have us believe that unless you are using freaky ingredients with exorbitant price tags that you are simply not vegan. Bollocks to that! Cheers Bryanna for your services to vegan kind and for your generous spirit. We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts :o). Here’s an example of Bryanna’s recipes…you can be vegan AND gourmet…

http://veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.ca/2007/07/update-on-mushroom-leek-gourmet-tofu.html

Whether you like tofu or not this is a very clever recipe for how to make gourmet tofu. I no longer eat soybeans because I don’t want to develop any problems associated with the mimic oestrogen that soybeans produce but tofu can be made with various other beans including chickpeas and so I might give some gourmet chickpea tofu a whirl around the dance floor and see if we can Charleston. Or perhaps I will run its red flag up the flagpole and let’s see if it salutes? ;). I love experimenting with new recipes, especially when they originate anywhere other than mainstream cultures and even more so when I can try something right out of my comfort zone and can make it myself. I also like to mess about with regular recipes and tweak them with more interesting ingredients to see if I can’t invent myself something better. Call it “Magpie’s licence” and you are about where I go with food and cooking. I don’t want to perfectly replicate a recipe; I want to make it taste great for me. Who could care less if something looks perfect if it tastes like cardboard? I am all for “Real food” and bollocks to fake replication. I like to make as many of my ingredients myself aside from base things that is. I enjoy the process and the feeling of developing a pioneering spirit. I come from a long line of pioneering women and love that it lives on in my desire to learn how to do things for myself.

One of Steve’s bonsais in mid moult in sympathy with the chickens

This maple bonsai has been carefully pruned on a periodic basis by our local possum bonsai group. They are very vigilant in their pruning. This stumpy looking almost dead stick will turn into a beautiful maple in spring…at the moment it looks like a walking stick that sprouted

We had another meeting with our long suffering lecturer in a vain effort to complete our 1/5th scale pergola. Making a model is MUCH harder than a full scale pergola because any slight aberration (and I am prone to the spectrum of aberration thanks to a complete dearth of prior experience or ability in the “building” game…) becomes a major problem. A tiny miscalculation is very obvious and so you have to be precise to the nth degree or your small indiscretions are most definitely found out! So far so good but it’s taken us 2 meetings to progress to this somewhat underwhelming structure…

We had to brace the pergola for hampsters with what turned out to be a dismembered warning sign purloined by the ever errant sensei groundsman Cory. The problem was that these strips of ex-sign were not able to brace the poles while they were setting and so a lesson is learned for the next lot of bleary eyed students that stumble into the model making unit…

As you can see our structure was being built in the propagation shed at the Alanvale Polytechnic campus. The big green bin contains perlite used for ammending soil to make it drain more freely. The potting mixtures are concocted in this building as are the practical lessons in everything from cutting taking right through to grafting and specialised methods of pruning. We spent a lot of hours inside this building on the coalface of horticultural practice and it would seem that we are never going to be allowed out of this building any day soon!

A closeup of our amazing craftmanship…”marvel at the straight lines… delight at the symetry…try not to notice that this looks more like a set of balance bars for gymnasts or a ladder that someone forgot wasn’t supposed to have a solid side panel on rather than a pergola…sigh…”

At least its straight Nick…surely that counts for something? We learned a new word in our Landscape vocabulary the other day…”Eye Sweet”. It denotes that proportion of a landscape construction phase where you reveal what you have done and the person paying you the big bickies says “SWEET!”…(well that’s how I remember it Nick lol 😉 )

To all of you snickering behind your hands at this point I concede it doesn’t look like much, but I have certainly learned a whole lot of “process” to carry me through to this result and it might not look all that much but I am as proud of this little baby as I would be of many of my more attractive accomplishments. Talk about pioneering…we are forging ahead with this new Diploma, offered this year for the very first time, and are no doubt acting as guinea pigs for future students. I dare say our lecturer is ironing out the kinks on “The Pimblett’s” before he unleashes these units on his other unsuspecting students who are still slaving their way through the intricacies and various minefields of AutoCAD. Hopefully none of them have been blown up yet…I know I came close to blowing up several times whilst negotiating its processes and pathways. It’s only because of Steve and his inherent ability with technology and subsequent ability to translate what he had found out to me that I actually completed the course last year at all! After we finish this structure (we still have to install the crossbeams) we have to build a 1/5th scale model from a plan that our lecturer will give us all by ourselves. How much fun is that? Terror and fun run hand in hand whenever I think about that prospect so I will stop talking about it for now!

2 chickens underneath a tree…”noice”…

Wait a minute…those chickens are on the other side of the fence to us…

“STEVE THE BLOODY CHOOKS ARE IN GLAD’S PROPERTY!”…Oh well… Glad was only just telling us yesterday that she loved the sounds of the country. Perhaps we can toss Big Yin over the fence to round them up and she can revel in his dulcet tones over a cup of tea

I keep trying to pare back the blogs that I subscribe to in my rss feed reader as I have spent the moments since I discovered Rss Feed Readers (cheers Rhianna ;)) positively stuffing myself with wonderful blogs in an unmitigated display of blog gluttony the likes of which shall not be seen again. I just went hunting for the correct spelling of Angophora costata (Sydney Red Gum) and ended up subscribing to ANOTHER one…sigh…it would seem that life imitates nature in my case and my online desire for knowledge can only be quenched by MORE blogs and more information. The truth of the matter with my blog hoarding (like Daffy Duck when he finds treasure and utters the words “MINE MINE MINE”…) is that I rarely get to actually read posts now thanks to the exponentially growing outpouring of other people’s minds that assails me whenever I dare to head over to read a few posts on my rss feed reader. Gluttony…thy name is Fran! I will attempt to suffer in silence from now on but can’t promise not to throw in the odd whinge in future posts. This Angophora costata is a magnificent member of a very small Tasmanian clan of 2 that we know of in Northern Tasmania… the other one is situated about 3 metres away from the 1st one and also lives on Serendipity Farm. We also have a few Brachychitons growing here that have suffered in silence for quite some time in terrible conditions. We freed them up recently and they are starting to reward our valiant attempts to minimise the weeds in this area by looking positively healthy which is a far cry from what we thought when we initially uncovered them. It’s situations like this that keep us forging ahead with our efforts on Serendipity Farm. Sometimes we non-natural-gardeners are completely overwhelmed by the scope of works that need to be undertaken and completed here without the added time greaser of money to ease our efforts. We get challenged…we find a solution. We come up against a brick wall…we find a BIG hammer to knock it down. In the process we learn more about life than we could have ever imagined and that makes it all worthwhile…along with the positive beaming delight of the newly liberated plants once they get back on their feet again.

Gnarley old Angophora number 1 in mid winter moult…

“Son of Angophora”…coming to a cinema near you…

One of the now happy Brachychitons no longer suffering from crowded root syndrome thanks to a mass infestation of weeds.

I am attempting to multitask and type this post while I am eating my lunch. I Made pumpkin and potato soup for my tea the other night. The recipe consisted of peeling some pumpkin, peeling some potatoes (about equal quantities of both), peeling 2 medium onions and half a head of garlic. Steve sautéed the chopped onions and garlic (pulverised within an inch of its life in my pestle and mortar) in some olive oil and when arrived just this side of caramelisation I threw in my roughly cubed pumpkin and potatoes and Topped the stockpot up with water and deposited an appropriate amount of Massell Chicken (vegan) stock powder and let Brunhilda turn it into liquid heaven. I have NO idea how you could take 5 ingredients and tap water and turn them into something that tastes this good. After reading recently about the health benefits of soup (a scientific study showed that men who eat soup once a week live 7 years longer than men who don’t…) and being more than aware of how economical a recipe soup can be (one of the earlier lessons in how to dupe the paying restaurant customer into parting with their hard earned readies for minimal output in my commercial cookery classes) and with winter mid buffet soup is the thinking cooks choice for soul food. Steve has a newfound delight in all things liquid gold since we made our first batch of chicken noodle soup with our own ex-rooster stock. We then condensed the stock down to a dark brown replication of beef stock and he made another pot of soup that was the pure essence of “chook”. So many soups…so little time!

A Luculia pinceana shrub, one of my prized cold climate species that now graces the side garden on Serendipity Farm. As you can see it’s flowering and aside from Daphne odora (also flowering en mass in Tasmania at the moment) it has the most amazing scent of any flower that I know. We have several Daphne odora to plant in amongst this garden and one day in the future this garden will deliver the most incredibly heady scent sensation directly in through our bedroom window.

Our plants that we deposited into the side garden are showing no signs of being unhappy with their placement and indeed the Luculia pinceana, that has just started to indulge us with most deliciously scented pink flowers that we most sensibly planted near our bedroom window, is flowering on regardless. Luculia’s are supposed to be some of the most “precious” of plants when it comes to their growing conditions. We bought this specimen a long time ago and to date it has stayed in the very same pot under the very same conditions and should it choose to turn its toes up and die, at least it died a free shrub! Now that the shrubs have been planted it’s time to fill in the dots with the smaller shrubs, perennials and bulbs that are littered all over the place in pots. We will be kept busy for the next few weeks finalising the plans, job specifications, planting plans and detailed drawings of our Sustainable Landscape Plan until we next see our lecturer. I will no doubt spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to collect my weights worth of virtual reality gems in Zelda with no real net worth aside from some seriously red eyes. Come rain or shine we will walk the dogs and our ongoing indentured slavery to the chickens goes without saying. Aside from that, Serendipity Farm will carry on regardless, wending its way through the time space continuum in perpetuity albeit a somewhat chaotic careening rather than an ordered and organised pathway. Earl just disdainfully judged my pumpkin soup bowl “unfood” and (at the moment) politely requested that I remove myself from my computer addiction and head on over to his food bowl and feed him. He already ran amok with one of my badly placed socks and enticed Steve, Bezial and I into the ensuing chase but now that the excitement is over, he is going to start applying his willpower into effecting a result that eventuates in his being fed come hell or high water. I will end this post by saying that no matter how dysfunctional my relationship was with my dad…leaving me Serendipity Farm made up for all of the shortcomings that went beforehand. Cheers dad for my new life. No hard feelings. So long and thanks for all the fish :o).

Even on a dreary drizzly rainy mid winters day you can see why we have fallen in love with our little patch of Tasmanian ground. This photo was taken from the doorway leading out onto the deck as its too cold to keep wandering in and out taking photos even if you ARE my dear constant readers

Serendipity Faux Farm

Hi All,

Calling this place Serendipity Farm is a bit of a stretch. The closest Steve or I have ever gotten to farming was in my childhood where I lived on a family farm and occasionally watched my dad or uncle feed the cows (that didn’t belong to us). Steve remembers his grandad’s glasshouse with tomatoes in it and that’s about the extent of our “Farming” experience! In saying that, we have 3 years of horticultural experience each and a massive will to learn and apply what we have learned to this place. Where do we go to when we are flummoxed? (And “flummox” is a really GOOD word for our day to day collisions with homesteading to say the least!)…we head to amazing and informative websites like Anthropogen and Milkwood farm. Here we can sit in the comfort of our computer chairs and discover the alien world of farming, agriculture, agroforestry, permaculture and through following these invaluable sources of precious free information, we are able to facilitate the changes that we want to make whilst at the same time being able to navigate and avoid the “Green Horn” (for want of a better word) mistakes that others have made before us. I discovered a lady called Harriet Fasenfest. What a delightful name for a barmaid! No disrespect dear Harriet, you look like the sort of lady that I would idolise and would listen to every silken word that drops from your amazingly literate tongue, however imagine trying to say “Harriet Fasenfest” after several pints and you can see where my skewed sense of humour just took me…

I didn’t have any photos to share with you today so I headed off around Serendipity Farm to herald in the seasons with you. First, on all walks around Serendipity Farm you have to shackle the oppressed. As you can see…”The oppressed” was trying his best “I’ll be good” eyes as he watched his older and much MUCH wiser compatriot head out the gate unshackled and wandering free straight past the chickens as if he hadn’t seen them…all good journeys start with a degree of oppression Earl and I guess you are “IT” for today…

The brown building at the rear of the photo is our wood shed. To the left of the photo are a few trees that we cleared the weed species out from underneath. These trees were NOT happy with their lot. The small stunted one in the middle is a Brachychiton populneus and has recovered admirably from its oppression (learn a lesson from this Earl!) however the taller tree, also a Brachychiton but as yet remains an unidentified species is less happy. It has apparently suffered some borer damage and is leaking a very sticky gum and has been for some time. I am under no misapprehensions that this tree is going to live but at least it will be free to enjoy the sun, a relatively weed free existance and all the chicken dung it can soak up until it decides to shuffle off this mortal coil where it will be turned into some sort of interesting wooden article to celebrate it’s life. Steve is already thinking “Totem Pole” so watch this spot…

Here is the trunk of the unidentified Brachychiton tree with some of the gummy substance in situ. You can see the enormous cordyline australis in the canopy above this tree. We have some reasonably advanced tree and shrub specimens that have managed to eke out an existance here despite their abject neglect and we are enjoying uncovering them

And here is what I thought was some sort of terrifying chicken disease when I first spotted it all over the ground in this area. I had visions of the entire flock suddenly sucumbing to a mysterious disease until I looked up at the brachychiton and realised that this was rain melted puddles of gum! Disgusting indeed but nothing to be phoning the vet about (yet…)

This lady wrote a few articles that blew me away with their forthright delivery of “A University of Grandmothers” knowledge about their past. The one phrase that knocked me over was “We knew how to be poor”…I just requested that our library buy a copy of her book “A Householders Guide to the Universe”…enough of a title to get me to take it out of the library even if I wasn’t aware of the absolute wealth of information contained within. I might even go so far as buying this book myself and that is saying something. A book has to be amazing before I will part with money to keep it close to my heart. I discovered recently (a slight aside I promise!) that The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition is now back in print! I typed this entire book out and now I might just have to buy it because it is a precious resource that I will turn strange colours and make it smell unusual (to say the least) as it will be used over and over again and handed down as the precious fermentation manual that it is. If you want to get a copy yourself, head to the following place…

http://www.tagari.com/store/12

I absolutely love the way that Harriet Fasenfest writes and I wholeheartedly absorb everything that she talks about. She is a passionate exponent of reintroducing home economics and teaching people how to live off the land. This woman is singing my song! Not only that, but she started out running a café (food) and headed up Habitat for Humanity, a not for profit organisation that gets people out volunteering to build cheap housing minimising the cost of the house and making it affordable for everyone. Check out this link to see more about this amazing premise…note that this is the Australian leg of this amazing principal put into action.

http://www.habitat.org.au/

Friday 25th May is the anniversary of the Glorious Revolution on Treacle Road in the most honourable book Night watch by Terry Pratchett. I think that this was the very first of the Discworld books that allowed me to see that Terry Pratchett was not only an amazing story teller, but that he had a real handle on our human condition. I loved this book. I cried reading it. There is something about an Englishman writing comedy that brings out the best in it. I dare say its comedy born of centuries of fighting, living next door to “me mam” and learning to get along with “the natives” all over the world as they slowly yielded to that stiff British upper lip. Basil Fawlty wouldn’t be Basil Fawlty if he didn’t contain a quintessential Englishman bearing humour and pathos in the same well brylcreamed head. We don’t need our humour sanitised and turned into the equivalent of Sesame Street after Jim Henson died…we don’t need to shield our children’s eyes from the truth…we need to deliver it with dignity and a large dose of good humour. We are all going to die one day, however we can be dragged kicking and screaming denying every second or we can take something precious from each and every moment that leads us from where we are right here and now to where we will one day be deposited wide eyed and ready to start again. I am not a believer in death being contained in a mouldering body or a puff of wind borne ashes. I believe in the movement of spirits wherever they go. As such, I would rather face my own mortality with dignity and with a degree of acceptance and understanding than with a bright smudge of red lipstick, some terrifying surgery and a back catalogue of beauty products that cost more than a small third world countries national debt. This book gave me a deep and most poignant reminder about mortality and like most of the Discworld series gave me some really deep thought about my own human condition. I was hunting for a set of instructions for making my own crochet hook out of wood yesterday. I need a very large oversized crochet hook that would no doubt cost me the arm and leg that it would almost be the length of and being the wily homesteader that I am (previously wild spendthrift…) I decided to use some of the sticks laying around on the ground waiting to be gathered up for “Mornings wood” (my dad’s name for kindling derived from small sticks) to give me my desired object for sweet bugger all. I LOVE “sweet bugger all”. It is the means to many of my ends and allows me (after hunting the internet like a hawk for some most generous and amazing instructions that is…) to do many things on Serendipity Farm that we might otherwise not be able to do if I was waiting for the money fairy to leave her wares under my pillow. I found a really great site showing me not only how to make an enormous crochet hook, but finding out that this hook can be used not only for oversized crocheting (my desired outcome) but also for something called “Tunisian” or “Afghan” crocheting. I then headed off (like Billy Connelly savouring the meat in one of his long winded and most delightful stories) on a tangent to hunt down information about Afghan crocheting. You might be getting an idea about how frustrating it is to be working with me when I am researching. I start off with all of the best intentions of finding out the information needed to complete my task at hand…I inevitably discover something of interest on the sites that I click and end up needing to save information, sites, Authors etc. in sticky notes, in word documents and in various other formats (all catalogued and stuck in various “boxes” and folders right through my PC presence and bleeding over into scraps of paper and the local library in the physical world). I am frustrating…infuriating and boring to work with. “I work best alone” is what probably comes to mind and poor Steve, who has negative patience when it comes to waiting for someone to find something ends up twiddling his thumbs and then heading off “I will be back in a minute…” for the next hour until I return from where my mind has taken me back to the task at hand. I found a site where I got instructions for a most enormous crochet hook as well as instructions for how to go about crocheting in the Tunisian/Afghan way. What I wasn’t expecting to find was a most poignant and insightful story about the woman who’s blog I was raiding and her relationship with her grandmother and how it changed her outlook on life (see…segued back nicely there ;)). She said (and I quote)…

‘Someone once said that procrastination is the thief of time, but since time is what life is made up of, procrastination is therefore the thief of life, and what I have learned from my dear grandmother the most is to enjoy the simple things, and not waste any day.’

And that is what I would say to you all today… don’t lose sight of what is really important here. We all share a common condition…we faced death the moment that we were born and we need…NEED to embrace the life that we are given with everything that we have. Life has a way of picking us up young and hopeful, racing us through relationships, children, mortgages, money stress, careers, responsibilities and spitting us out at retirement confused and wondering where the hell the last 50 years went! Society is running a frenetic race to the finish line…I don’t particularly want to be running to my own personal finish line. I would like to walk the road less travelled. I would like to consider the roses (those that the possums haven’t yet consumed that is…), I would like to hug a dog, watch a small child delight in discovering their world around them…I (to Quote a most snivel inducing Aerosmith song) “don’t want to miss a thing”. Good and bad…whatever it brings, its mine and it’s all I really have. Thankyou lady in a blog somewhere in Australia who I don’t know and most probably never will for reminding me to slow down and smell my life before it’s just a whisper in the ether. Another most important thing to remember about life is that your children will be the ones to choose your nursing home so keep that bit of information safely tucked in the back of your mind before you do anything rash from the point where they are able to start rationalising you in one!

Heres the view down the driveway towards the gate. We have been tidying up this area and clearing it out of debris, weeds and crown lifting the trees. Its starting to look clearer and despite several large piles of debris that need to be dealt with (example stage left…) we are starting to get on top of it.

Here you can see a VERY happy rhododendron. This rhododendron is happy because prior to a month ago it was totally covered in blackberrie vines and was unrecognisable as a shrub, let alone a rhododendron. After some severe blackberry removal and a period of warm sun and some good earth soaking rain this little fellow is truly starting to return to the land of the living. I love being able to give plants back what they need to grow. It gives me a degree of pleasure far in excess to the act of clearing them out.

This is part of a cluster of Nerine bowdenii in a garden close to the house. They are in full flower now but curiously, their red cousins Nerine sarniensis have long since finished flowering and are putting on leaf matter at a huge rate of knots. We don’t have any white nerines but I wonder if they have a different flowering time?

This little Podocarpus lawrencei (Mountain Plum Pine) along with many of its brothers and sisters (Podocarpus lawrencei being a dioecious species of conifer having both male and female plants and needing both for reproduction of the species) has been enjoying stretching their feet out in the rock gardens surrounding the house. We are hoping that they will join up in a draped carpet over most of the rockeries producing edible fruit for native animals and birds in the future.

It would have been my father’s 79th birthday tomorrow. My father and I had a difficult relationship to say the least! My mum once said “I don’t think your father should have had kids”…I would hope that she meant that he wasn’t born to be a father rather than her own personal thought about us as children 😉 but I would tend to agree with her on that one. I loved him dearly but the man was an utter conundrum. Perhaps the fact that he was born a Gemini would go part of the way to understanding how one man could have so much festering and brewing in total and abject opposition to each other at the one time. I am still trying to make sense of how he lived, who he was and what he left behind him and as of yet, despite thinking of myself as a somewhat rational, philosophical human being I can’t for the life of me see ANYTHING that I can understand in my father’s ethos, life or legacy. I do, however, get a very strong feeling that our only true legacy is the memories that we leave behind us. My mum died in January this year and already the pain of thinking about her has transposed into nostalgia and memories with wholesome fuzzy outlines. If I am honest (and this IS after all my year of living honestly), I didn’t feel that bitter loss when my father died. He was one of those men who you never quite knew what would set him off…and I am starting to think it might have been “me”. I mentioned that it was also the 25th of May that heralded the Glorious Revolution on Treacle Road in the Discworld book “Night Watch”. I personally think that dad would have fit in well with the men at the Night Watch. They strike me as being the bread and butter workers endemic in every establishment where blue collar is the name of the game and this was where my dad lived, breathed and navigated himself through life until he “fell on his feet” and inherited his partners not inconsiderable effects and chattels and tried “A bludgers Life” for a change. They say that with age comes wisdom, but I am not so sure…I think that when your parents die, its meant to be a little warning…”Don’t mess about with what you have left of your life…LIVE IT!”. Consider me told, informed and actively embracing this sentiment!

This is one of the areas of the garden that we recently planted out. As you can see, the specimens that we planted out appear to be loving their newfound release from potted slavetude and some have put on some good growth. The strappy blue/green leaves here are the Nerine sarniensis (Red Nerine) that I talked about previously. As you can see they have put some good growth into their now cleared leaves and are really enjoying being free of all of the weeds that were previously surrounding and covering them

The garden that we planted out with our dward conifers and some grasses last month is also very happy. We are still working out what to do with all of the potted specimens in the foreground, but our money is on a conifer arboretum in the paddock behind the house.

This is the area that we cleared out last week. you can now see straight through to the rear of the house and this area is going to be planted out with my cold climate shrubs, many Chilean species that I have a particulare interest in and that are particularly suited to our Tasmanian climate and conditions.

Now that we have cleared out this area it is starting to show us lots of possibilities. Its just really REALLY lucky that we are starting to get an idea of just how to go about making this garden something special and what to remove and what to leave in situ.

This is the previous scene taken from halfway up the steps (visible in the last shot) showing the side garden and lawn. This “lawn” was brown and extinct up until the first rains that we had about 3 weeks ago. It now looks delightful! It’s amazing how nice a garden can look in photographs. We can’t for the life of us see this picture when we walk through our garden!

I can hear the bells at the beginning of the ACDC standard that rebirthed the band to glory and international fame after the death of Bon Scott and the induction of Mr Brian Johnson into the new incarnation of Aussie Rock legend and history…”Hells Bells” was the very first song that I heard from the Phoenix out of the ashes album “Back in Black” and aside from being the third best-selling album of all time…it’s Aussie for crying out loud! (this colloquialism has been used and inserted into this post with the express understanding that it is in honour of my late father and his long list of Aussie colloquialisms… consider it a tribute dad wherever it is that you are currently residing…my belief is you are muttering the daylights out of some poor crow who is waiting in the garden for his wodge of dripping…), it leads me nicely (again segue…I am getting slowly better at this and am using less words to get there! There is hope for me yet dear constant readers ;)) back to the sound of the bells. Last year’s introduction to progressive garage saling, gave me both the $2 hand crafted throne that I sit on when I type my posts or use the computer and…a lesser known treasure…an enormous cast iron frying pan that looked like something you would pan gold in with a handle. I don’t know why I bought it. It was rusty, old and most probably called to my garden arty brain. I stuck it on the deck…I hung it on a nail…I forgot about it…it was removed from the nail in a fit of pique by a man who had banged his head on it one too many times and now resides on another nail up against the wall directly adjacent to the kitchen window. Tasmania is a windy place and lately, with the onset of winter and wind of greater velocity than usual, I have been starting to hear something akin to deep Church bell sounds emitting from the deck. I went hunting to find that my lovely garden art cast iron frying pan is acting as a wind generated bell up against the bricks of the house. Aside from sounding EXACTLY like the bell tolling at the beginning of the ACDC classic (which for me is reason enough to leave it there!), it is a really lovely sound reminiscent of a Buddhist gong. Steve and I both smile whenever it gongs and know that wild weather is on its way…forget my trick knee…I have my own personal ACDC Freedom bell to herald in a storm…

Remember my poor half dead remaining succulents and cacti that the ducks had rejected because they were too spiky (or poisonous) to eat? They are starting to recover nicely now and at least I have some of them left to cater to my need for symetrical and orderly plant matter!

Heres my other pot of them. I had so many more and a most delightful rose succulent that the ducks took a particular delight in scoffing… a fitting (albeit ironic) end to its life considering it was taken from one of Nat’s pots as a pup and it was the ducks that Nat inadvertently gave us that ate it…oh well…easy come…easy go!

We had a lovely crisp clean day today, the sun was shining, and we had lovely blue skies and my shiny things were shining so I thought that I would share them with you…(I am not considered a quintessential magpie for nothing you know and literary and informative shiny things are not my only passion…)

Lastly, here are my little articulated fish and our enourmous hot water tank. Anyone else want to come and have showers here because the 2 of us can’t for the life of us use all the hot water that our wood burning stove and this massive behemoth delivers! It keeps boiling over and threatening to turn any chickens under the deck to instant stock…

Steve is back from his shopping “Event” for the fortnight. Shopping has gone from being something that we could do all day every day to being something that we have to plan most carefully to ensure that we don’t waste fuel and money having to drive to our nearest town to buy something we forgot.  It’s a marathon shop now and he comes home tired but we very rarely run out of anything these days. We have learned to plan well. It’s Saturday night and we finally managed to dispatch Little Red. I thought that it would be easier to remove him from the flock because he has always been feral and lived in the conifer out the front of the house but when push came to shove it was actually harder and I felt guiltier than the others because unlike them, he was free. The things we do to satisfy the neighbours! Oh well…again, it’s important to feel compassion for the animals that you kill and to appreciate them fully for the part that they play in our lives. No supermarket packet meat for us and so we have to be faced with taking lives. We have dispatched 6 roosters now and despite being much better at being fast at doing the deed, it hasn’t gotten any easier. We have stock on to boil, the dogs have some chicken skin crisping up in the oven, the feral cats got the insides and now wait at the garage whenever we come out at night time for their spoils. Steve gets another chicken meal and we don’t allow a life to go to waste. I am proud that we use everything that we can and don’t waste anything. Tomorrow I am going to make some crochet hooks from sticks. I have been baking all sorts of interesting things and cooking lots of delicious meals of late because I want to celebrate life and remember just how precious every day that we get is. Who knows when someone is going to pull you out of your conifer and dispatch you cleanly? I, for one, am going to make the most of my clucking time! See you all Wednesday with some more “muckin abaut” (cockney spelling intended…)…