And so this is Christmas…

Hi Folks,

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This is the cute doggy personification of Christmas we couldn’t get our two boys into the spirit enough to dress up and we had enough trouble getting a foot print off them to make decorations but that is another story…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7JE0J4aYe0&feature=youtu.be

This is the reality of our Christmas morning…

I find myself sitting pondering the meaning of Christmas at 5.31am on Christmas morning. I believe in God, and I believe in the reason for the season. That’s how I roll; make of it what you will but I won’t be expecting anyone else to follow me and I won’t be  apologising for what I believe in any day soon. I woke up at 3am and lay there feeling altogether Grinchy. I got out of bed and made my cup of tea while the computer was booting up and Mr Kaspersky was doing his rounds with his hardwood Russian baton. Maybe, like the Grinch, my pants grew 3 sizes too tight yesterday at our wonderful communal family get together. I spent the afternoon making a large pile of delicious Mochi turn into a small pile of delicious Mochi and perhaps that was part of why I felt a bit “off” this morning.

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The kind of “off” that Christmas brings…

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Off like a Christmas light globe that takes the rest of the string down with it…

I sat down with my cuppa and started to wade through my (thankfully small) RSS Feed backlog all the while feeling mildly disturbed. I finished remarkably early (it would seem that other bloggers are somewhat busy at this time of year 😉 ) and headed off to me old mate Pinterest for a little look-see and some mindless vacuous pinning. As I pinned, that disturbed feeling escalated and I found myself at 5am feeling almost at the point of “unhappy” Unhappy on Christmas Day? My usual state of affairs is pretty happy. I am incredibly lucky in that I can be happy with very little and can make my own fun. I found this state of affairs bemusing and a little confusing because there really wasn’t any reason for it.

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Its Christmas…its “supposed” to look like this…

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Large firs and picea bedecked with Nordic symbols go right over the top of our Southern Aussie heads

I had a fantastic day with my children, the dogs and Steve yesterday. We had a glorious communal feast sitting outdoors under the blissful shade of a gorgeous wide span of flowering cherry leaves and a medium sized Sycamore that was only a small sapling when we took up residence in Tasmania as wide-eyed, bushy tailed Western Australians. When Steve built the deck that was heaving with deliciousness yesterday, he left a large gap around the trunk of the sycamore. Yesterday saw him attempting to widen the gap with a small pruning saw because the trunk has filled the gap.

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This is what Christmas looks like in Launceston Tasmania…

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No snow but lots of flowers and butterflies and bees

I had so much fun I completely forgot to take any pictures. It is lucky Steve took a few shots with his mobile or I wouldn’t have any images at all. The food was wonderful, the company was delightful and sharing it all with our growing family was a really blissful experience. So why was I feeling Grinchy this morning? I had a sneaking suspicion that it had something to do with my own idealistic expectations about “Christmas” the panoramic view rather than “Christmas” the reality in my little patch of the world.

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And cicada’s clicking in the trees as the day heats up

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Our friend Jenny’s garden where most of your gardens are buried under a canopy of snow

We Southerners start getting bombarded with “Christmas” around about November…we see snow and reindeer and holly and ivy when our own reality is spring and exponential greenery and in some parts of Australia, heat shimmering off the tarmac. It is almost surreal for northerners who have lived “proper” Christmases to come to Australia and find themselves amongst prawns on the barbie and t-shirt wearing tanned humanoids who seem to think that this is a normal state of affairs. I know that Steve doesn’t feel Christmassy and that it is endemic with northerners. Glad next door is 91 years old and STILL doesn’t feel like it is Christmas after all of her years living in Australia. The latest link in the chain has been the yearly production of proper English pork pies that get gifted to Glad and her daughter Wendy and that Steve gets to eat on Christmas Day. It goes part of the way towards making them feel a little bit more seasonal. I was a little worried about Kelsey feeling left out but we all tumbled around each other on the small deck, hunting food, sharing and enjoying each other’s company and she tumbled with the best of us. You are made of the right stuff to be part of our family girl 🙂

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Delicious and most enormous English pork pies made to salve the lack of cold and hot dinners for Steve, Glad and Wendy the ex-pats

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Me giving all of the dogs Christmas treats in town yesterday

Each New Year I dedicate myself to a new venture. I mulled over my New Year’s “resolution” (for want of a better word) and decided that this year is going to be my year of New Things. I am going to try something new each and every day. I am going to learn things, try things, plant things, discover things, invent things etc. As I sat here contemplating my year of New Things I found that something interesting was happening…I wasn’t feeling quite so Grinchy anymore. All I had done was contemplate something new and interesting and my Grinchiness shrunk 3 sizes…interesting… so I did something new. I headed over to the kettle and made myself another cup of tea. I grabbed my large, fluffy brown, carefully folded, cold early morning, wrap around blanky and took my large mug of tea out into the early morning to watch the sun rise.

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Taken this morning at 5.30am while I was outside in my blanket

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Absolutely NOTHING to do with Christmas…I just wanted to see if you were paying attention 😉

I sat in the chilly morning air, rugged up with my cup of tea warming the cockles of my belly and my heart followed suit. I learned something new this morning. I learned that how you “feel” is pretty much up to you. I learned that if you don’t like where you are and how you are feeling about it, take yourself someplace you do. I deserted my computer screen. No need to worry, Pinterest will still be there when I get back…and I headed out into the chilled beauty of nature on a still summers morning. It should reach about 25C today. A lovely sunny, blue sky Christmas.

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Sorry about the lack of images, we were caught up enjoying ourselves so I don’t think you will mind. We had to pass the food through the laundry window in order to prevent the dogs rampaging through the house while we were eating

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Here I am telling Stewart something with lots of hand actions…can’t for the life of me remember what though 😉

I learned something else today. You don’t need snowflakes and reindeer and icicles for a wonderful Christmas. You just need to have a good reason to be happy and you have to waft it over your head like mistletoe. Bollocks to not feeling Christmassy, and bollocks to lusting after idealistic Christmas scenes. Today narf7 is off down to the bottom of our property to make an oak leaf mould angel. I may, or may not emerge fully clothed in leeches. Today narf7 is going to eat luxury Christmas Nacho’s. Some of you are eating hot dinners but Christmas Nachos are perfect for Serendipity Farm on a 25C balmy day. Today narf7 is going to be thankful for the gift of being able to see and to be able to be happy with little and love a lot. Today my pants might swell an additional 3 sizes but my heart will outdo them in leaps and bounds. Today is a great day folks. Let’s all find something magnificent in our own humble lives to celebrate. Let’s not look at what everyone else is doing because the old adage “be careful what you wish for, it might come true” is most probably the case and “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” is a sad state of affairs for our competitive modern lives. Life is good, and today we get to contemplate purpose, the end of our year, arriving at the dawn of another year and all of the hope, dreams and possibilities that accompany it

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Delicious Indian curry puffs and Asian mini pork pies

3am narf7 = The Grinch; 6am narf7 = a happy little vegemite… note to self…”You are one lucky narf7 🙂 “

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Sausage rolls…you can’t do Christmas in Australia without sausage rolls

If anyone is reading this post they are most probably a little outside the Christmas festivities. Maybe you are feeling a bit lonely, a square peg in a round hole. Maybe your trousers are huge and your capacity for giving a damn is small but there are always reasons to be thankful. You just have to find them in your own life. THAT is the secret of true happiness. I decided to give you that gift. It’s a beaut, and I wish I had been given that gift a long time ago but it took me a long time to learn and I am still turning it around slowly and looking at it in wonder inside my head where I really live. I am, as always, a bit of a bolshie slow learner when it comes to life lessons. Consider me full of Christmas good cheer and in about 6 hours that Christmas good cheer will be somewhat enhanced by alcohol.

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Bezial smiling for the camera 🙂

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Merry Christmas from Earl to all of his fans out there 🙂

I will raise my glass to you all. To the motley crew of outcastes and beatnik’s that choose to frequent Serendipity Farm. I will give thanks for each and every one of you because you make my days better by just being there. Here’s to the reason for the season, whatever you choose to insert there and here’s to 2014 being the best year yet…bring on the NEW 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN4Uu0OlmTg

A Sustainable Elegant sufficiency…We wish you enough

Hi All,

My last post saw us barely surviving a major financial crisis. We started out annoyed at Centrelinks bungling and ended up thrust into something completely out of our control or sphere of influence. We were reminded of how very little control we actually have over our lives and the entire event gave us back a true appreciation for living simply with less and making do with what you have. Last year we wanted to share a truly sustainable, low cost and anti-consumerist Christmas together but we got a bit hijacked by mum and her desire to feed the world. After mum died 9 days after she returned home from Serendipity Farm we realised that sometimes, someone else’s desires are more important than your own and mum having had a fantastic time hijacking our Christmas resulted in point taken and most graciously learned. This year we decided to make sure that our Christmas would be a balance between something special and a truly sustainable celebration. We wanted to bypass the hype that accompanies the Christmas season…we wanted to arrive at the end of the day satiated and content rather than bewildered, confused and in debt for 6 months with very little to show for it. We started off by making sure that we only bought what we actually wanted to eat on the day. We wanted to keep it small and try to prevent the problem of leftovers that don’t get eaten or that force us to eat more than we should in an effort to prevent wastage. We asked each other what we felt were “special foods” that would make us feel like we had feasted in style and headed out to shop for as much of it as we could before the day came, spreading out the cost and minimising the financial stress. We tried to shop for Australian grown/made and produced foods and preferably in nice jars so that they could be reused when preserving our coming harvest. We grew our salad vegetables and it was wonderful to water the garden and then harvest our own spinach, red and green lettuce and rocket for our salad and in the process we saved ourselves a 100km round trip having to head into Launceston to pick up our fresh veggies at the last minute on Christmas Eve. At the end of our simple but elegant meal we were satisfied beyond the physical and the tiny amount of waste, the lemon skin from our homemade alcoholic fruit punch and the avocado shells along with the Christmas pudding box and the cheezel box, were all recyclable and ended up being cut up fine and put into the compost bucket to turn Serendipity Farms ancient soils into something more fecund and worm friendly to create next years “soil” for our next Christmas vegetable haul…cycles of manageability and perpetuity…taking us from season to season and building on the foundations of sustainability that we are stacking on top of the stones that form Serendipity Farm. Our Christmas was just enough and left us replete and entirely satiated, physically, mentally and spiritually. The sustainable Christmas that we wanted we got and we are not paying for it in any way at all today. Come February, there won’t be any nasty surprised for us and Christmas has taken on new substance and meaning and has evolved to fit our personal ethos. This year…we learned :o)

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Here is the end result of the marathon Stollen making event…2 of the 6 Stollen ready to be transported to our neighbours alimentary canals

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Steve’s pork pies with his patented jelly injecting aparatus

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A true Brit will ALWAYS find a way to satisfy cravings from home and these pork pies are Steve’s way of satisfying his Christmas cravings. He also made some scotch eggs, another “Steve” Christmas tradition

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Our Christmas Day salad quotient from our veggie garden on the left, and the chooks Christmas Day silverbeet quotient on the right. Aren’t the stems of this ruby chard/silverbeet beautiful?

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Our simple Christmas Day feast…a most elegant sufficiency for 2 happy hippies in the Southern Hemisphere 🙂

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Our compost bucket with all that remains of our Christmas feast 🙂

I took a little bunch of lavender to lay at the foot of mums Claret Ash. Whenever I see the tree I think of mum and how much she loved it here. I tucked a Cecile Brunner rose and a Bourbon rose into the tiny bouquet because wherever mum was shuffled off to in her higgledy piggledy life she centred the chaos by building a garden and there was always a Cecile Brunner and Bourbon rose planted first up. I find it incredibly ironic that both of these roses are growing on Serendipity Farm and are true survivors, much like mum was. We exchanged our yearly bottles of wine over the garden gate between our place and Glad’s next door and as Glad and her daughter Wendy were drooling over Steve making homemade pork pies for Christmas he offered to make them one each as well. As expats they all need to stick together and talk soon ran to “have you found a decent sausage here yet?” and all things traitorous and anti-Aussie until Glad started talking about her annual pudding making marathon and Steve said “I will buy one off you next year Glad” and she promptly headed off and gave him a magnificent homemade pudding redolent with spice and what appears, most suspiciously, to be rum! Steve took one of his homemade pork pies down with a loaf of Stollen and his pork pies rated 9 out of 10. Not bad for someone who lived on chips and beans in his bachelor years. The Stollen were an experiment and after following Tobi’s recipe carefully I set about making the homemade almond paste for the stollen first using frugally bought almonds in skins and as I poured boiling water over the 600g of them and started slowly peeling each individual almond I realised that our incessant need to remove the simple processes of life has also removed “thinking time”…it’s no wonder so many women race around like chooks with their heads cut off…we don’t have that centring time that comes with these humble processes and with the popularity of homesteading these wonderful processes are giving us back so much more than we lose in time. I really enjoyed my time skinning those almonds and remembering doing the same when “helping” mum make her fruitcakes each year. I am sure that we ate more almonds than we skun but as we popped the soaked almonds out of their skins we were learning the value of making things from scratch…the frugality of doing things yourself and the camaraderie of time spent learning at your mothers feet…precious time that you only appreciate when you have children of your own and your mother isn’t there to learn from any more

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Mums little bouquet of memories

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Some of our Christmas goodies to inject “Christmas Spirits” into our day (sorry about the bad pun but SOMEONE had to make it! 😉 )

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Home grown strawberries from our tip plants with some of the pretty icecubes that Steve made for our Christmas wine punch and some raspberries from our friend Roxy who kindly gave us some

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Wine punch in lovely glasses given to me last year by my clever stylish daughters…all of the fruit included in the punch came from a 10km radius, the fruit juice is Aussie juice, the wine is Aussie wine and the softdrink came from small Aussie producers…even the rum that Steve didn’t see me tip into my green glass was Aussie 😉

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Christmas Cheer!

We have been thinking of ways to raise money and Steve has come up with a vajazzle kit to raise funds…anyone wanting to take advantage of his half price “Mates rates” send a plain brown self-addressed and stamped envelope and he will see you right ;)…he is a product of Essex after all folks! ;). We saw the Black pearl pirate ship on doomsday folks! No…I didn’t drink too much rum yesterday (although to be honest, everything towards the end of our marathon “The Vicar of Dibley” watching event started to blur into itself for no known reason…). We really did see a black replica pirate ship with a black flag and black sails silently gliding down the river right using the tide to propel it sideways underneath the Batman Bridge. We haven’t been able to find out anything about this obviously special boat but know that it is/was anchored just off the Deviot Yacht Club just around the corner from Serendipity Farm and there was nothing in the local newspaper about it. We would like to think that they have come to pick Steve as the new Dread Pirate Roberts. He would be perfect. He has all the swashbuckling charm of a top pirate, twinkling pirate eyes, a nice beard that could quickly be rendered “swashbuckling” with a bit of a shear and 9 earrings…yes…he had a misspent youth folks! I figure I would be allowed to tag along but would suffer the ignominy of being used as the ships ballast/anchor or chief cook and bottle washer… Earl would make a perfect pirate dog…he has the same “Devil-may-care” attitude as Steve and doggish good looks…Bezial would be huddled in the galley howling on the floor until he was released, still howling, back onto the shore by disgusted pirates as the shameless landlubber that he is. We aren’t all born to be pirates, but those of us who are need the minimum of a small aluminium dinghy to keep them happy and Steve spent this morning out on the water tootling around in his own floatation device happily fishing and catching nothing. The fun is in the floating apparently but in my mind, the odd fish wouldn’t go astray…

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“The Black Pearl” (if this is indeed Captain Jack Sparrows ship…)…”Revenge” (if we are going with The Dread Pirate Roberts) or what the hey… how about “The Black Pig” and we could go with Captain Pugwash! All in all a decidely piratey ship floating down the Tamar River at 9pm on Doomsday…

DSCF7517Steve’s own personal “Pirate Ship”…”The good ship Stig”…may she sail long into the 4 winds on the Tamar River…

12120049Here you can see a dog who is well aware of how blissful freedom can be relining in state on the grassy slopes of an embankment somewhere on Serendipity Farm

12120054Here he is accompanied by a dog who most decidedly DOESN’T know the value of freedom and who flagrantly flouts the rules and blunders through the boundaries that Bezial completely understands…sigh…”One day Earl…One day…”

Our veggies are going ballistic and we should get tomatoes by the bucket load this year. We were clever and planted mostly cherry tomatoes that should have plenty of time to grow and ripen over the next few months in our short growing season. We are starting to think about making a massive great enclosed walk in veggie patch with more free ex-fish farm netting and upping our veggie production in the process. We are letting some of our rocket and lettuces go to seed to collect for next year and the coriander went straight from seedling to seed in a single step! Our rocket is rapidly following suit and rather than complain about the situation I am enjoying the possibilities of flowers to throw into my salads, seed to save and share and the value of perpetuity and cycling on Serendipity Farm. Now that the chooks are contained I am starting to notice how much damage they actually did to the garden and am silently apologising to the wallabies for damage that I attributed to them and that was in actuality, chook damage. Pingu was the worst culprit and spent hours on end jumping to defoliate tender tasty shrubs and the Physalis peruviana (Ground cherry) has suspiciously started growing leaves again below the “jump zone” of a small, most determined hand reared Plymouth Rock hen, hell bent on destruction and self-gratification. She also developed a taste for beech tree leaves and our poor special dwarf weeping beech is only just beginning to grow a few sparse leaves to keep itself alive and photosynthesising until it can grow some new ones next spring. Pingu has adapted well to being put in the chook run along with her sisters despite living in Steve’s shed with a “birds-eye” view of the river from her lofty perch on a large terracotta pot on a bench overlooking the river. The chooks don’t seem to be missing their freedom at all and seem most content. We have still got 3 feral youngsters that we couldn’t catch roaming free, 2 roosters and 1 small hen and a single hen (one of Effel Doocark’s prodigious penultimate batch) managed to elude our best efforts and hatch out 6 more babies down under the massive big oak tree at the very front of the property between Serendipity Farm and Glad’s property “Four Oaks”. We took her down some water and food and will attempt to catch the wayfaring brood and rehouse them in the chook run along with her sisters 11 remaining babies…the more the merrier eh? 😉

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It took an hour to turn this previously empty hall into this…hopefully the event went well, they didn’t need us for Christmas day and so we said our goodbyes and will do it again next year…a most worthy use for 1 hour of our time

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This Physalis peruviana had been so devastated by Pingu that it decided to take it’s chances growing through the deck rails

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You can see the green fruit like a tiny green lantern  that will soon turn buff and when the fruit is ripe it will fall to the ground, protected by it’s papery husk and waiting for us to pick it up, peel it and eat it

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A shot of our homemade driftwood Pirate Christmas Tree (Maybe THIS is what the pirates were looking for…it wasn’t Steve at all! And to think… he hid under the bed for 3 days quaking in fear! 😉 )…lit up like the proverbial and doing it’s job admirably

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Aren’t these icecubed that Steve made especially for me pretty? Who knew he had it in him! You old romantic you Steve 😉

Another year is galloping to a close and we are satiated and full of the gratefulness that a very close call can bring. 2013 is beckoning to us from behind its veiled position on the horizon and after sharing a simple and most satisfying Christmas day I would just like to leave you with this article to ponder the true meaning of Christmas and the endurance of the human spirit despite all odds…

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2011/12/peace-on-the-western-front-goodwill-in-no-mans-land-the-story-of-the-world-war-i-christmas-truce/

How to turn trash into treasure…

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A few years ago when we were still attending horticultural day classes at our local Polytechnic we noticed one of the classrooms being gutted and all sorts of things being thrown out into a large skip right outside where we sat and daydreamed while our poor lecturer tried to get something to stick in our heads in the midafternoon warmth of summer. On the way home we asked the workmen if we could take a look in the skip that contained all manner of amazing things including filing cabinets, desks, office chairs and these magnificent orbs of 70’s plastic, having obviously once served duty as oversized light shades somewhere. Our friend in the witness protection stored them at her place until we could bring them home and “home” they sat for 3 years…this year we decided to remedy this and we put them to use on Serendipity Farm…

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After taping up the orbs Steve spray painted them with cheap spray paint in his Pingu free shed…

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While one was drying, we sprayed another…

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Then we added stripes of other colours to our oversized Christmas baubles…

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Doesn’t the base look like a Union Jack?! This shot was to show you how clever we are…what forward thinking little penniless student hippies we are and how your taxpayer dollars are actually being put to good use in teaching us to plan and think… Tasmania + Summer + rain = enormous oversized baubles FULL of water and weighing a tonne…a carefully drilled hole in the base of our baubles and the prospective problem simply vanishes…

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Our oversized Christmas baubles hanging over the gate at the front of the property…Now we just have to work out how to get them down…