5 Go mad in Sidmouth

Hi All,

Enid Blyton was one of my favourite authors when I was a small child. I got endless entertainment reading about whatever the “5” were up to on any given jolly set of hol’s. Enid was fond of a good mystery and we had ourselves a very Blytonesque mystery on our hands on Monday. We headed out to open the doors of the hen house to allow the hens into the enclosed area that they now live in. We lock the doors because of quolls, a native animal somewhat like a cat, that loves nothing more than a tasty fat docile hen added to its menu for the day and they hunt at night when the hens are at their most docile and compliant. We have the luxury of a cement floored hen house that was once a woodshed and even the most determined quoll is going to come up chookless when faced with 500ml of cement to have to tunnel through. We made small hen sized doors and a ramp down to the enclosed outer area and the hens go into the hen house at night and are ensconced safely till we let them out the next morning. We recently discovered one of the late great Effel Doocark’s daughters who had decided to head WAY down to the front of the property to lay a few eggs and go clucky and after waiting for the feral cats to eat her babies and then herd her into the enclosure along with her other sisters we discovered that unlike Effel, her daughters are EXCELLENT mothers. This hen managed to situate her chick’s right up close and personal in the feral cat’s domain and only lost 1 chick to them. We noticed her near the gate of the enclosure and with some careful manoeuvring; we were able to get them all into the enclosure…WIN! The only problem with enclosing feral chooks, as indeed this hen’s babies were, is that they have a taste for the outdoors and are rarely content to stay put. The chicks have grown somewhat and their mother has taken to going into the hen house at night to be with the rest of the flock but her babies are steadfastly refusing to go into the hen house and on Monday they escaped. Steve and I heard tell-tale “peeping” outside the enclosure and on further investigation we found them frolicking around in the leaves under the blackwood acacia trees and herded them back in. 6 more escapes later and we started to lose our cool! We had inspected the netting for holes…these chicks are not big and so could easily have slipped through a larger hole in the ex-fish farm netting that makes up the bulk of the enclosure.

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The Moscow State Circus comes to Serendipity Farm…

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2 ferals

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A little crab that we found in the middle of the road as we were walking back dripping from a recent walk in the rain with the dogs

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I had a little chat to Mr Crab and we decided that even though he might have thought that he wanted to make like a chicken and get to the other side, his life as a crustacean would be much more fullfilling (and long) if he would just learn to be satisfied to stay in the river

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We are finding more and more of these little reminders discarded on the side of the road that prove that cyclists are full of something other than the “clean green” image that they would like us all to believe that they represent …it’s not only Lance Armstrong that is shaming the world of cycling…

We decided that the chicks were escaping by flying over the top of the enclosure. This confused us a bit because none of the other chooks (including a couple of erstwhile ferals that we had herded in after we dispatched their brothers) had managed to fly over but there is a small mandarin tree situated inside the enclosure and we did notice the chicks all roosting in this small tree…after cutting several lengths of extra ex-fish farm netting we started tacking pieces into the trees that border the chook enclosure and the whole shebang started to look like the Moscow State Circus. STILL the chicks got out! We figured that perhaps they were climbing up onto some blackberries in the enclosure (left to try to encourage the chook to feel safe about laying their eggs outside) and cut back all tendrils…STILL they got out! We put another large piece of netting all along the side of the enclosure where the blackberries and agapanthus hiding spots were and STILL they got out. It was getting beyond a joke and so this time we cut the flight feathers of each of their rotten little wings and smugly headed inside to make a warm drink…when we headed out to smile smugly at the captured prisoners 30 minutes later they were out! “WHAT?!!! HOW???” We took turns to sit incredibly still outside the hen house watching for several hours when the chicks did absolutely nothing aside from lay with their mother and dust bath but as the day started to heat up and the shade disappeared so did we…and they got out…sigh…I had a really good look and decided that their might just be a weak point in the defences and we put ANOTHER bit of ex-fish farm netting up so that we were totally covered. Sure that we had fixed the problem we headed back inside…after checking a little white later they were still in the enclosure and we were ecstatic…”WE WON!”… An hour later 3 of them were out… Again we put up some more netting  and this time we had the whole circus represented…all we needed was a ringmaster and a lion…a lion would most certainly have sorted out our chicken problem! This time there was no WAY that they could escape…we had over engineered the enclosure and Houdini himself would have been flummoxed. When Steve went to close the doors at 8.30pm they were out… Now you can only BEGIN to imagine how bad tempered I was by this stage! I was to the point of leaving them out to their fate with the quolls…

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Steve is starting to branch out with his spoons now

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Mid summer acorns

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A little wallaby next to his blackberry and bracken fern home

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A most innovative name for a vessel that pootles…

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Summer twinkling on the river

We both ruminated about how the heck they were getting out because there was pretty much no way to escape from the top of the enclosure and we both decided that they MUST be escaping from lower down…We both headed off in different directions around the enclosure and inspected the lower part of the run with a fine toothed comb…after 20 minutes of painstaking inspection I heard Steve say “I found it!”…I headed inside the enclosure to where Steve was standing next to one of the poles used to anchor the netting to. What he had discovered was a teeny tiny space between 2 rocks that these miniature Houdini’s were tunnelling through to get out to the other side. They had to squeeze themselves between the rocks, up through a tunnel of netting and then take a hard right turn and squeeze out underneath another couple of rocks to escape! Kudos to them and I will NEVER underestimate the brain of a determined feral chook again! They haven’t escaped again and peace has returned to the Moscow State Circus and Serendipity Farm. I am thinking of writing a children’s book called “5 go wild in Sidmouth” or “The Great Escape 5” in the tradition of a good Enid Blyton sleuth. I might throw a chance meeting in with Justin Bieber and Harry Potter and a guest appearance by the wiggles and Elmo and I should get a book deal with ease 😉

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This grey protrusion is a basking seal. This photo was taken about 200metres from our front gate from Steve’s boat this morning

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Flippy pretending to be a shark…”you won’t fool Steve THAT easily Flippy!” 😉

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A huge sea eagles nest on the river bank. This nest is very old and is constantly in use and is approximately 2 metres across

We just took delivery of 4 more large rolls of Ex-fish farm netting with the promise of as much as we can handle to come. I have visions of Serendipity Farm partitioned off into undercover bliss including an entirely enclosed orchard area that is currently battered and bruised after years of possums being allowed to run amok amongst the trees and our enormous edifice full of protected vegetables. We have smaller projects including compost heap construction and protection of various small garden beds but the luxury of being able to take what the fish farm sees as waste and turning it into our treasure makes me even happier.  Steve has just headed out to see what the river might yield in the Mumbley cumumbus. He is ostensibly “fishing” but in reality he is trawling around like Huck Finn on the river with his straw hat and his fishing line tied to his toe while he eats his cheese sarnies (1 with Brit Piccalilli…Crosse and Blackwell no less, and the other with some of his delicious home preserved ultra-thin cucumber pickles) in ex-pat heaven. It’s a really lovely day here, nice and cool but with the sun shining brightly and packed full of possibilities. Earl and Bezial are hoping for fishing futures and I am hoping for some photos that I can put in today’s post but aside from that Steve is Scott free and able to bob around on the waves in comparative solitude. That’s one of the benefits of being a penniless student and the shining beacon in our gratitude quotient. Sometimes it is difficult when we would rather have the money to instantly gratify our wants. It’s not like we want the moon…a water tank would be nice, a few solar panels to hook up to the water heater when Brunhilda is in hiatus and a mulcher to mulch all of the debris that we are generating via our sporadic concerted vegetative ethnic cleansing episodes…I could care less about fame and fortune, give me a $15.95 copy of Jackie French’s “The Wilderness Garden” and I feel like I just won lotto. I consider myself to be a very lucky woman. I am completely content with my lot and the possibilities in our lives and I am constantly excited and invigorated by simple things. In the eyes of society we are unimpressive and easily dismissed and that’s how we like it :o)

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One side of Redwood Island (Steve’s prime fishing haunt)…

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The other side of Redwood Island…All of our photos are taken with our 7 year old totally outdated FinePix Fujifilm camera. No lenses, no special whistles and bells…we are lucky if it zoom’s when we ask it to but it does take a lovely photo.

Its 5.44am Wednesday and Steve just headed off with his boat in the dark. He has just finished scrying his crystal ball (http://tides.willyweather.com.au/tas/northern/sidmouth.html ) and found the timing is right for a morning’s fishing/pootling in the river. It might be dark but I can’t hear the wind chime’s gentle melody so there isn’t any wind to chill the early morning air further…I love the hint of chill that is starting to creep in before dawn. I love that we have had Brunhilda on 3 times this week. I also love the free hot water and the ability to cook our meals on her as well as cook pots of legumes, have the kettle gently simmering ready for a drink and keep things warm in her lower ovens…my autumnal (sorry my American friends, “autumnal” is a MUCH more lyrical word than “fall” 😉 ) processes are waking up and it’s still summer. I know that New Zealand is enjoying our customary weather (hot without rain…peculiar for them at this time of year thanks to the recent cyclone that has tumbled our weather around) and we have theirs. Cheers for the swapsy guys…any time! I don’t mind the last gasps of summer in February because we have had this little rain fuelled interlude that has soothed the savage beast and eased the crustiness of Serendipity Farm…the garden is happy, I might even get some germination of the free roadside seed that I have been collecting over the summer and broadcasting in the side garden.

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Mandolin + home grown cucumber = very finely sliced cucumbers…

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What we choose to call Steve’s “Never ending refrigerator pickles” 😉

I just found a fellow Tasmanian’s blog…she is about my age and shares my ethos and has a lovely enthusiastic gardening blog like mine. If you want to check out Kate’s blog, head on down south to Cygnet and have a look at her world…

http://vegetablevagabond.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/time-to-sow-and-reap.html

Aside from her delightful blog, she has some really good Tasmanian links that I will be spending some time this morning checking out. Most of Tasmania’s “Hippies” live down south and there are so many seed swapping groups, transition towns and all kinds of sharing going on and I am envious. I wish we had something as vital as that up here but our local groups are not as active and tend to be a bit “closed shop”. There are some very active members but I am going to have to dig a bit deeper to find relevance to our ethos here on Serendipity Farm…oh well…I can admire from a distance :o)

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This last series of photos are an homage to an old video game hero of mine…I thought that this little beetroot (one of our recent harvest) looked remarkably like one “Earthworm Jim”…knowing that I can’t claim to have replicated him (on pain of being sued blue and black) I shall call my little creation “Beetroot Nemotode James” 😉

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Here he is nestled amongst his brethren waiting for his fate…

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“Well what do we have here?”…

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Surely this is the end of our erstwhile hero James! How could anything survive a scalding stream of fragrant pickling liquor! Stay tuned to find out what happens next in the continuing story of our hero…

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I don’t know what you think but he certainly looks like he is happy enough with his lot (ignore the colour, that’s what happens when you let Steve take the photo and he doesn’t want to use macro 😉 ) “Off to the fridge with you young nematode!”…

Have you noticed that I have been cutting my posts down a bit lately? I am trying to ensure that I don’t write marathon posts and make it difficult for you all to get through them in one bite. My muses are both enthusiastic and prolific and there isn’t much I can do about that BUT I can harness them and make them work in the direction that “I” want to pull… February is here and summer is almost over and autumn is just about to crest and that means W.O.R.K. on Serendipity Farm. Aside from turning piles of woody debris into Hugelkultur gardens and biochar (and tidying Serendipity Farm up considerably in the process), we will be planting out as many of our chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts as we can along with 4 loquats, 3 figs, 5 avocado plants (well sheltered) and will be situating a length of perforated drainage coil at the base of each root ball so that we can give them supplemental watering next summer…this summer hasn’t gone yet and we are already plotting for next summer! Does that make us “real” farmers? 😉 I don’t think so! Steve wants to get as many of his Brachychitons into the ground along with as many pines as he can fit. We love them with a passion and all of their in-ground brethren are going gangbusters so we figure “what the heck!” I know that my son rarely reads these posts so the words “Not in our lifetime” are not going to make him twitch ;). Most of these pines yield edible seeds so perhaps by the time Stewart and Kelsey inherit this property they may be able to harvest pine nuts along with everything else that we are setting up here for them…any grandchildren (now he is REALLY twitching if he has stumbled onto this post! 😉 ) will be able to graze freely (along with the native wildlife) from the food forest that we are in the process of setting up. I have no idea what I am meant to be doing with my life…so far I have just surfed along the crest of it hoping that I didn’t wipe out too badly but since we moved to Serendipity Farm, everything that has happened in my past seems to be knitting together to form a purpose. I think I was born to do this and the happiness that this simple life is bringing me gives me a sense of real purpose that mainstream worldly success couldn’t. I think I am going to have to put the plug in on my muses…they want to wax lyrical for a few more pages but I need to put some photo’s into this post guys…”SHHHH!” See you all on Wednesday and I hope that the rest of this week flows smoothly…if it doesn’t, remember “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”…best I can do with all these muses yelling in my head 😉

Earl is my Muse….

Hi All,

Our 4 years of horticulture have just flown past. In 4 years we have managed to pack in Certificates 2 and 3 in horticulture and a Diploma of horticulture with a soon to be Diploma of Landscape Design following suit. It’s amazing how much information can be crammed into your head before it bursts. I still haven’t reached bursting point but I sometimes thing I am getting close. You NEVER stop learning when it comes to gardening and nature. All of these (usually self-proclaimed) garden equivalents to Gordon Ramsey who easily impressed gardeners aspire to be are merely skating on the surface and tend to be more marketing tools than true information highways. I tend to head over to the alternative side whenever I want to find out truly useful information but am as prone to envy as anyone when it comes to a really spanky garden. Steve and I are not natural gardeners. I shared Nat’s little piece of heaven with you all on Saturday and our garden will NEVER be like hers. We are too lazy and our sentiments and aspirations lie elsewhere (predominately in the gastronomical arena of edible plants). Whenever I drop in to Nat’s house I can spot something desirable in one of its stages of envy inducement glory. I gave up long ago with my aspirations to a gorgeous cottage garden cram packed with glorious perennials BUT I can use some of the principals of cottage gardens to help us get what we want on Serendipity Farm. Cottage gardens are mass planted. Cottage gardens have tiers and levels and borders…cottage gardens mass all different kinds of flowers together and in so doing they promote natural pest control and the massing minimises the weeds. There are many incredibly self-sufficient perennials that truly deserve a place here… I just have to sift them out of the hard work basket and work out where I can put them (most likely the side garden) so that they are close to the house so I won’t forget about them. The Catalpa bignonioides (try saying that with a cold 😉 ) or Indian Bean Tree that we bought 2 years ago from our fellow horticultural lefty mate Andrew at Red Dragon Nursery that has been only barely hanging on to life in its too small pot and its regular water stressed environment got planted out a few months back and is leafing up now. We planted it on the fenceline between our place and Glads as one day it’s going to be a gorgeous tree and it can get full sun where it is. Just a quick aside, I just checked how to spell “bignonioides” and found out that the leaves secrete extrafloral nectar as well as regular nectar in the flower in an effort to attract pollinators. What a clever plant! We have decided that we are going to plant a row of Brachychitons down the fenceline from the top of the property down to our woodshed. I can only imagine some future visitor to Serendipity Farm marvelling at the eclectic mass/tangle of plants and wondering at the minds that decided to use the eclectic selections of plants that we are choosing and what was in our minds to do so.

We took the boys to Paper Beach on a lovely cool still day and Steve took some lovely photo’s with his phone

I love the round stones on the riverbank and covet them beyond belief. It’s just lucky that I am aware of how unsustainable it is to pinch river stones or I might bring a rucksack with me every time that we visit this lovely beach

So we are plant rebels! Who cares! Someone has to be :o). Most Brachychiton species have edible seed. They thrive in dry conditions and you won’t get much drier than our back block. They were grown in Tasmania and some of the seed was collected in Tasmania so it is from established stock that has acclimatised itself to our conditions, in other words, it has provenance. Something with provenance has been grown in local conditions and is more than happy to survive and flourish. They are the perfect plants to grow in your garden or on your property because they have a proven track record. I like to check out peoples gardens in the local area. I am naturally nosy but that isn’t why I wrangle Earl in from his rabbit hunts and his sniff fests to crane over someone’s fence to attempt to see what they have thriving in their garden. I do it because if it’s happy on my neighbours property there is a good chance that it may be happy on ours.

River grass contrasting with the pure still river in the background and the 2 black swans made this a nice photo

I really liked this persons fence. The gates appear to be hand made

This photo is to give you some idea of how massive this oak tree was. The house is underneath it and is totally swamped by this enormous specimen. We couldn’t even fit it all in the shot as we would have had to back up into the river to get it all

I want to trade this wonderful man for our stupid prime minister. He is living a sustainable life by choice not postulating about it and doing deals with China behind her back to sell us and keep our economy afloat on the books. Check out this inspirational article about the President of Uraguay. This is one politician that I would actually invite into my home to share a meal. Bravo Jose Mujica you might be “The world’s poorest President” but you are one of the richest in human spirit :o).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20243493

It’s a pity Jose isn’t the president of the United States of America isn’t it? Imagine how easy it would be to change over to sustainable ways of doing things with someone who lives it every day as his creed in the top seat? Oh well…we live in hope :0).

I am SO envious of this little segment of wasteland between a house and a shed that we spotted in Exeter today. Obviously the home owner used this area to throw their green waste that obviously consisted of a proportion of potato. Isn’t it both amazing and ironic how well vegetable grow when you could care less about them? 😉

If a boat wants to head down the river into Launceston we get to see it heading past Serendipity Farm. This little tug boat is off to be serviced in Launceston. We also get to see the Astralobe, the boat that goes to Antarctica, when it comes in to be serviced. Life on the river is never boring 🙂

I just got another example of how life can give you a belly laugh when you least expect it. “Aubergine”…for 1, we don’t use that word here in Australia. We call them eggplants…but I was trying to find a really delicious looking recipe that I saw on an episode of “Andy Bates Street Feasts” last night. The recipe was for a vegan burger that started by cooking all sorts of curried things in a large pot and then adding coconut cream and THEN adding polenta to soak up all of the liquid and the resulting burgers were shaped and fried and looked scrumptious. They then kicked it up a notch by using Khobz flatbreads instead of burger buns, adding all sorts of delicious chutneys and salads and folding them up into a nice neat envelope shape that was open at the top and eating them. My kind of grub! Anyway…I was hunting for the recipe and after finding it, I copied and pasted it into a word doc and as usual Word took offence to some of the spelling. It usually takes offence to Americanisations where the words have been changed but this time it wanted me to change “aubergine”. Fair enough…I don’t use the word aubergine so lets just change it to eggplant and be done with it. I clicked on Words suggestion and it wanted me to change aubergine to aborigine! That might not have been such a terrible swap apart from the context of the recipe that wanted me to take said aubergine/aborigine and peel and dice it! I had to laugh…I guess you had to be there 😉

It may not be the most beautiful of gates but I love my new rustic garden gate :). It has given me the ability to head out to the vegetable garden whenever I like and it has given Earl the newfound joy of being able to lay in wait and terrorise passing chooks

This photo is looking back towards the new gate. The star pickets and white bird netting contain the first of the little figs that we planted out. He will soon be joined by his 3 siblings because he has responded so well to his new home.

It’s suddenly time to post my hump day post and we have been flat out fixing up things in our designs. It would seem that we raised the bar in our designs and our dear esteemed lecturer Nick has raised his expectations right along with them…sigh…oh well…I guess we were back to the drawing board on a few things! We have just finished off the work and hopefully Nick will be happy with what we have changed and added and our next meeting might be our penultimate meeting. I plan on making a celebratory cake…maybe a nice orange and almond flourless cake with an orange glaze? Who knows…maybe a coffee and chocolate spongecake…whatever we make it usually goes down well for morning tea. I have really enjoyed studying the way that Steve and I have been studying over the last few years. Studying online gives you the freedom to work at your own pace and so long as you are disciplined, it’s the best way to study. There have been times that we kept going long into the night to finish something off and there have been times that we haven’t laid eyes on a book for months. Flexible delivery is the best of all worlds. It doesn’t use precious physical resources in a classroom situation and it allows people to work at their own pace and effectively receive 1 on 1 tutelage. Steve and I attend our meetings together and poor Nick has to juggle us both but I think that it really works well because we have different strengths and weaknesses and we are able to work well together once we know what is expected of us. Nick has always expected our very best and we have always strived to give it to him…plus 10% 😉

Earl in his element. As you can see, this is the part of the loungeroom that we have given up on and have allowed Earl to systematically disassemble whatever he finds in his mouth at any given time. He is munching on one of Steve’s t-shirts that he stole this morning…sometimes Earl’s games start a little bit too early for us and racing about the house after Earl with an “I am the Stig” t-shirt in his mouth is too hard for us at 7.30am

A man and his buddha

Earl has been helping me to write this post. He wants it known that he is my muse. This morning he was trying to sing something to me and I am obviously pretty stupid because I didn’t get it. I can see him staring at me sometimes as if I am brain dead. I know that I am not very good at my doganese but I have come to it fairly late in life and can’t be expected to learn new tricks all that fast. Earl spends most of his days trying to get one or the other of us to let him out of the gate…preferably unleashed but if he MUST he will wear a collar. Due to his penchance for attempting to ethnically cleanse Serendipity Farm of all domesticated and wildlife, his days unleashed have been few and far between and usually as a result of some bloody idiot forgetting to shut one of the gates before releasing the hounds after their walk. Earl is part alien part feral and part ADHD dog. He spends his life actively pursuing life on the other side of the fence and apparently I am the weakest link in the chain and as such his telekinetic powers of persuasion should be able to get me to do his bidding. As a muse Earl sucks. The “music” that comes from within is manic. The creative thoughts are terrifying and the literature pure horror. When Earl gets bored he eats things. His latest trick is to sneak into the spare/middle room when I am stupid enough to go in without shutting the door behind me (which is all the time…) and pinching walnuts out of a large container of them that I didn’t get around to stratifying this year. Once he gets the walnut it’s game on until one of us gets bored and then its a quick “crunch” and the walnut falls neatly in half suddenly becoming a very boring game and something to be shunned. I get to pick up the slobbery bits and deposit the walnut into the compost bin. Good try Earl…today isn’t your lucky day…I am wearing my tinfoil hat! Alien BEGONE!

A newly thin Fatty after recently giving birth…sigh…we now really REALLY have to deal with the exponentially exploding cat population on Serendipity Farm

This is Steve’s favourite little female feral that he has called “little pig”…don’t ask me why but she is very tame and may just end up being caught, sterilised at the vets and become part of life here on Serendipity Farm 🙂

I don’t usually type my post straight into the wordpress arena. I might actually save it before I hit “publish” because wordpress has a habit of losing entire sentences of prose and rendering the author hair free and rabid. I have cooked Steve some interesting curried pasties with home made curry paste, mashed potato, onion and cheese to be wrapped in puff pastry later on. I have been on a roll this week with making tasty meals and hopefully this one will fit the bill tonight. We finished off our studies at 4pm and after racing about to feed the seal eyed dogs (who want their evening meal at 3pm promptly and BOLLOCKS to daylight savings…) and sorting out what has to be done at the end of the day I find myself running short of time. Its that springtime thing again combined with it being the end of the year very soon. I am slowly getting used to waking up at 5am aside from my brains attempt to sabotage me into sleeping in by having me in deep dream sleep mode right when the alarm goes off. I have learned that precisely as the alarm goes off the automatic radio track has the “good” song on. If I lay in bed too long I end up with the “bad” song…good song = creedence…bad song = katie Perry…The first song that I hear in the morning usually stays with me all day and I have learned to quickly get up in the throws of the good song and turn off the radio before the bad song starts playing and sticks in my head to torture me for the rest of the day. I guess the universe is telling me that old adage “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”…it might make a “man” all of those things but it makes me “sleepy, dopey and grumpy” and as all of you know, that’s just on half of the 7 dwarves! Talk about a weird way to start the day! Ok, you get off lightly in the posting stakes again. If Nick gives us the OK it will be back to having the time to actually contemplate our navels whilst choosing what to do with our days rather than study…Study… STUDY as our sole option. See you Saturday when we may have started our big chook run thanks to Steve picking up some ex fish farm netting with a promise of more to come. Once those ninja chooks are behind bars where they belong we can mulch the poor long scratched and suffering garden and cover it up to minimise water loss. Once that happens we can install some irrigation to keep everything (mostly us) happy and we can then start to do a few more pressing things around Serendipity Farm. Have a great rest of the week and remember…it’s just on a month till Christmas (just thought you might like to know 😉