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…
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.
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…)…