Earl turns 4, Three wise herons and learning to appreciate snotty oysters

Hi All,

Late last week I could have cheerfully had my little brother neutered and sent off to obedience class. Alas, this is WAY beyond the scope of my rights as a big sister (watch out Earl!) Instead I ended up having an (shall we say, for the want of a better word…) “interesting” conversation on Facebook with him which culminated in him badgering me to unfriend him. I just noticed that spellchecker has no problem with the word “unfriend”. I, on the other hand, do. You can’t just “unfriend” someone who has, for the last 46 years of your life been part and parcel of the rough and tumble of your existence. That old saying “you can choose your friends but you (are stuck with) can’t choose your family has never been more poignant. If you are reading this Jamie, “keep reading!”…so where was I, AH that’s right, halfway between “neutering” and “sending off to obedience school”…so this delightful situation that we found ourselves in wasn’t just a spat between brother and sister, this time it was between all three siblings and it had been brewing on the back burner for quite some time.

Story of my life, ever cautious ;)

Story of my life, ever cautious 😉

 

Steve's little mate "Wall-e-bee" helping us deal with the sow thistle problem on Serendipity Farm "EAT FASTER!" ;)

Steve’s little mate “Wall-e-bee” helping us deal with the sow thistle problem on Serendipity Farm “EAT FASTER!” 😉

Our friend Jenny grew globe artichokes just because she could. She doesn't actually like them so guess who got the chokes!

Our friend Jenny grew globe artichokes just because she could. She doesn’t actually like them so guess who got the chokes!

Christmas marinated artichoke heart futures :)

Christmas marinated artichoke heart futures 🙂

Things like that you don’t take to Facebook so why did we? Because we are first and foremost “Stahl’s” and we tend to think with our outrageous indignation and it is only when we retreat to lick our wounds that a little light bulb comes on in our heads that says “er…maybe I could have moderated that a bit better.” I only mention this because some of my dear constant readers (you know who you are) are also Facebook friends so you may have been privy to said “spat”. My sister, who has a more genteel constitution than myself unfriended him but I have the hide of a hippo (and the bum but we won’t expand on that here and now) and as we all know, the predominately vegan hippo kills more people in Africa than the macho carnivorous lion. Wise words to ponder over folks… wise words INDEED.

Jenny and I and her grandson Dylan went to Red Dragon nursery last Thursday. I would love to share some photos that I took of this beautiful place. The plants are amazing, unusual and the owner is my favourite horticultural nutcase. You rock Andrew ;)

Jenny and I and her grandson Dylan went to Red Dragon nursery last Thursday. I would love to share some photos that I took of this beautiful place. The plants are amazing, unusual and the owner is my favourite horticultural nutcase. You rock Andrew 😉

This magnificent cloud pruned conifer was cloud pruned by Steve and I back in 1010 when we did some work experience for Andrew at Red Dragon  Nursery.

This magnificent cloud pruned conifer was cloud pruned by Steve and I back in 1010 when we did some work experience for Andrew at Red Dragon Nursery.

Steve and I love this place

Steve and I love this place

Jenny's (first) cart full of plants, mine are on the wall behind the cart

Jenny’s (first) cart full of plants, mine are on the wall behind the cart

This place gives "garden rooms" a whole new meaning as each turn, path, side track delivers you to another little section of gorgeousness to peruse, ponder and purchase if you see fit :)

This place gives “garden rooms” a whole new meaning as each turn, path, side track delivers you to another little section of gorgeousness to peruse, ponder and purchase if you see fit 🙂

I adore Zenobia's but my specimen died. This one is well and truly alive and flowering to boot

I adore Zenobia’s but my specimen died. This one is well and truly alive and flowering to boot

Andrew is most proud of his selection of very large leafed rhododendrons. He even gave me the name of this one to share with you all. This is very hard to get and is Rhododendron sinogrande with leaves that reach 780cm. What a magnificent beast!

Andrew is most proud of his selection of very large leafed rhododendrons. He even gave me the name of this one to share with you all. This is very hard to get and is Rhododendron sinogrande with leaves that reach 78cm. What a magnificent beast!

More of those beautiful rocks (with a protective hand...he knows my magpie tendencies ;) )

More of those beautiful rocks (with a protective hand…he knows my magpie tendencies 😉 )

The exit to the nursery

The exit to the nursery

Part of the outside grounds where examples of the trees and shrubs for sale have been planted so that people can see what they will look like in a garden situation

Part of the outside grounds where examples of the trees and shrubs for sale have been planted so that people can see what they will look like in a garden situation

More of the outside garden. Aren't these conifers gorgeous?

More of the outside garden. Aren’t these conifers gorgeous?

I adore this golden bamboo. Jenny bought herself a large pot of black bamboo. We have seen these bamboos in other nursery's for $120 but at Andrew's this very healthy specimen was a mere $32 (and that was expensive!) Jenny has promised me some when it starts to shoot :)

I adore this golden bamboo. Jenny bought herself a large pot of black bamboo. We have seen these bamboos in other nursery’s for $120 but at Andrew’s this very healthy specimen was a mere $32 (and that was expensive!) Jenny has promised me some when it starts to shoot 🙂

After all of the bru-ha-ha had settled down a most magical thing happened. My testosterone fuelled, angst ridden, outrageously indignant brother who thinks with his sharp pointed finger and who holds onto his anger with a furious dignity that could be admired if it wasn’t so very infuriating, apologised to me. He may have deleted most of the more incriminating parts of said post but he apologised. I am thinking that much like Mr Rudyard Kipling’s most glorious ode of father to son masculinity “If” , my little brother has become a “man”. There comes a time in your life where being right is less important than being part of a small but most stalwart collective of bunched up and twitching outrageous nervous energy or as mainstream humanity would call it, part of a “family”. You are part of my family Jamie. You always will be. Whether you choose to flail about and sustain collateral damage (hippos think with their mouths…) is up to you, but I love you and you will always be in my heart.

The little building here is the nursery office. Andrew, Steve and I share a passion for cold climate shrubs and trees that bonded us all from the start

The little building here is the nursery office. Andrew, Steve and I share a passion for cold climate shrubs and trees that bonded us all from the start

Andrew also shares a passion for the beautiful rocks that can be found on beaches all around the shorelines of Tasmania.

Andrew also shares a passion for the beautiful rocks that can be found on beaches all around the shorelines of Tasmania.

2 lovely maples side by side

2 lovely maples side by side

Loveliness

Loveliness

More loveliness

More loveliness

Everywhere you look there is something beautiful to delight your eye. My photos don't do this wonderful place justice.

Everywhere you look there is something beautiful to delight your eye. My photos don’t do this wonderful place justice.

:)

🙂

The entrance/exit

The entrance/exit

Even the trolley bay is pretty

Even the trolley bay is pretty

Red Dragon Nursery specialises in rare and hard to get rhododendrons and azaleas. This is a rhododendron but I certainly wouldn't have picked it as such

Red Dragon Nursery specialises in rare and hard to get rhododendrons and azaleas. This is a rhododendron but I certainly wouldn’t have picked it as such

This azalea appears to have a split personality ;)

This azalea appears to have a split personality 😉

Now that the mushy stuff is out of the way lets talk about what the heck narf7 is on about with that title! Well today is Earl’s birthday. It was 4 years ago today, somewhere in rural South Australia that little Earl first tumbled out into the world, no doubt making his presence felt as soon as he could. From that day on, he has spent his life infuriating, exasperating, eating, dissecting, scraping, chewing, frolicking, barking, did I mention eating? And loving us all. Earl is one of a kind. He is a doggie shaped enigma and we love Earl to bits. It took me a fair while to warm to Earl because he was so very feral but now we are mono-a-mono and there is no separating us. I love him so much I carried home 3 segments of pool noodle that someone had thrown out in a roadside collect today, 2 km to the bemused stares of early morning commuters just so that he would have the joy of tearing them into tiny “squeaky” shreds on his birthday. Today will bring white chocolate (yes, dogs can have it), pizza, eggs, balloons, pool noodles and lots and lots of love, just how it should be when a dog turns 4 🙂

Earl not long after we got him

Earl not long after we got him back in April 2011 wasn’t he a cutey? 🙂

Earl in his usual habitat, a trail of chewed mass destruction in his wake ;)

Earl in his usual habitat, a trail of chewed mass destruction in his wake 😉

Here is that small collective of pool noodle/s that I carried home this morning. Most of them have been shredded but one remains in the lounge room for grazing on later in the day ;)

Here is that small collective of pool noodle/s that I carried home this morning. Most of them have been shredded but one remains in the lounge room for grazing on later in the day 😉

The heron bit…well yesterday on our early morning walk, Earl and I noticed a flock of 14 herons winging their way in from the river to a large dead gum tree. They all landed in the tree and it took them all of 4 seconds to note us walking under the tree. 9 of the herons flew away protesting loudly but 3 remained, stoic in the knowledge that there was no WAY this side of the Pecos that a somewhat overweight 50+ year old woman and a dog who was tethered to said woman (thus completely immobilised by his fat anchor…) were going to be able to climb up 50 feet into the sky to catch them without them at least getting a bit of a whiff of the clear and present danger LONG before it arrived. 3 of those herons were clever. Their babies will be taught by clever parents. And thus the clever bring more cleverness into the world…

Steve took this photo of a dandelion covered in seeds not so long back. Pretty isn't it?

Steve took this photo of a dandelion covered in seeds not so long back. Pretty isn’t it?

It might not be as delicate and sensitive as a zenobia but this deutzia is just as pretty and much hardier. You have to be clever with what you plant, you can usually find something almost the same that will be most happy to live in your garden :)

It might not be as delicate and sensitive as a zenobia but this deutzia is just as pretty and much hardier. You have to be clever with what you plant. You can usually find something almost the same that will be most happy to live in your garden 🙂

Sunshine in Sanctuary and another opportunity to get stuck in to food production

Sunshine in Sanctuary and another opportunity to get stuck in to food production

The last part of the title (and the least pleasant to think about) is the snotty oysters. I can hear you all thinking “I thought narf was a vegan? What the heck is she doing eating and learning to appreciate snotty oysters?!” Well I was being metaphorical rather than actual in this part of the title. Walking with Earl at 5am gives me time to contemplate the world without having to worry too much about ducking over to the very edge of the verge (and coincidentally the very edge of the river bank) in order to avoid being run over by cars. You tend to think more about your own mortality at 7am than you do at 5am. I had just stood and witnessed the sun coming up over a glorious still river and watched the shadows give way to that amazing light that only comes at sun up and Earl and I stood silent and in awe (well I was, Earl was sniffing a dandelion) of this amazing world, how beautiful and privileged we were (again, Earl was otherwise occupied so I really shouldn’t be speaking for him) to bear witness to the start of another amazing day on this slow revolving blue planet that occupies this point in space and time.

These are the plants that I bought at Red Dragon. We have stopped buying ornamentals and everything here has at least 2 purposes. The manna ash has sweet sap that can be harvested in Mediterranean climates like maple syrup, the katsura has toffee apple scented leaves and amazing autumn foliage, the small pot is a Tasmanian pepperberry and the pot on the far right is a New Zealand wineberry BUT I did a bit of research when I got home and they are dioeceous which means that they need both a male AND a female to produce fruit. Looks like Stevie-boy and I will be heading back out to Red Dragon in the near future. Oh what a difficult thing to do! ;)

These are the plants that I bought at Red Dragon. We have stopped buying ornamentals and everything here has at least 2 purposes. The manna ash has sweet sap that can be harvested in Mediterranean climates like maple syrup, the katsura has toffee apple scented leaves and amazing autumn foliage, the small pot is a Tasmanian pepperberry and the pot on the far right is a New Zealand wineberry BUT I did a bit of research when I got home and they are dioeceous which means that they need both a male AND a female to produce fruit. Looks like Stevie-boy and I will be heading back out to Red Dragon in the near future. Oh what a difficult thing to do! 😉

Friends who live down the road had a garage sale on Saturday.

Friends who live down the road had a garage sale on Saturday.

I bought this loveliness... well I didn't buy those wicker balls at the front, I got them for free from another roadside stand that was giving things away. They are going to be used on our homemade Christmas tree this year along with all of our other homemade decorations :)

I bought this loveliness… well I didn’t buy those wicker balls at the front, I got them for free from another roadside stand that was giving things away. They are going to be used on our homemade Christmas tree this year along with all of our other homemade decorations 🙂

I also got some small ounce scales (no, I am NOT going into "business" I just liked them ;) ) and this lovely copper pot and small sugar bowl...

I also got some small ounce scales (no, I am NOT going into “business” I just liked them 😉 ) and this lovely copper pot and small sugar bowl…

...with feet! Who can resist something inanimate with feet :)

…with feet! Who can resist something inanimate with feet 🙂

Stevie-boy bought me a passionfruit and a kiwiberry on Monday when he was doing our fortnightly grocery shop.

Stevie-boy bought me a passionfruit and a kiwiberry on Monday when he was doing our fortnightly grocery shop.

A different variety of Jerusalem artichoke to my regular variety that I have planted to add to the mix, a punnet each of rainbow chard, spinach and jalapenos and my compost bucket ready to be emptied in Sanctuary

A different variety of Jerusalem artichoke to my regular variety that I have planted to add to the mix, a punnet each of rainbow chard, spinach and jalapenos and my compost bucket ready to be emptied in Sanctuary

That Jerusalem artichoke and some that needed to be removed from the garden bed. Once you have Jerusalem artichokes you won't ever be without them but as I love them I really don't mind, it's all bonus food and sunflowers for me! :)

That Jerusalem artichoke and some that needed to be removed from the garden bed. Once you have Jerusalem artichokes you won’t ever be without them but as I love them I really don’t mind, it’s all bonus food and sunflowers for me! 🙂

A whole lot less pumpkins but a whole lot more order and choice. I am planting things out randomly in the hope that nature will be happy with my chaos. (That's my story and I am sticking to it ;) )

A whole lot less pumpkins but a whole lot more order and choice. I am planting things out randomly in the hope that nature will be happy with my chaos. (That’s my story and I am sticking to it 😉 )

They might not be the most professional looking tomato cages but they serve the purpose and were made with love by Stevie-boy for my 2 San Marzano paste tomatoes :)

They might not be the most professional looking tomato cages but they serve the purpose and were made with love by Stevie-boy for my 2 San Marzano paste tomatoes 🙂

Earl was peeing on a tree by this stage but I was still full of the heady bliss of it all and my thoughts turned to life, the universe and everything. I started to think about how each new day was like an oyster being opened. Inside you could find a pearl or you could find a snotty oyster. Pearly days are absolutely wonderful, snotty oyster days are to be endured, unless you find a way to appreciate snotty oysters and then you are ahead. I guess what I was trying to say (other than “I don’t like raw oysters”) is that if we learn to appreciate our days, come what may, we end up with a better quality of life, no matter what our circumstances. Life is what we make of it, not what it hands us. Some lives are harder to live than others and some circumstances are more difficult to endure but there is always a way, always a silver lining and always a way to put the check book back in balance (metaphorically speaking) we just have to find it. I would like it known that I will NEVER appreciate snotty oysters (or cooked okra) I will just pass them on to someone who does and thus ends the lesson for today. Time to head off into our respective lives, to live, to love, to moderate our Facebook rants and to make of our lives what we will. Here’s to Earl and his unmitigated merriment no matter what and a birthday full of things that make him happy 🙂

This is what makes Earl happy, loud music and love and adoration from his humans :)

This is what makes Earl happy, loud music and love and adoration from his humans 🙂

Study sucked all of my time

Hi All

 

Well another Wednesday just appeared out of the ethereal fog of study and I just realised that I haven’t chiselled a blog post out of the possibilities between my ears. It’s 5.22am and I am on the mental prowl for some choice narf7 tid-bits for you all to marvel at and wonder what you did prior to learning but you know what? My head is full of bampf! Last week it was OH&S where we were able to use a bit of what we did last year (but not much) to satisfy the requirements but this week it is hard slog and nose to the grindstone and all of those painful things that require you to spend hours online trying to remember how to type in a useful query that will garner you the best results. As of this moment in time I SUCK at useful queries even though we learned about them only a few weeks ago

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We had to go hunting for an image stored on a hard drive the other day and we found a few images of Bezial back when he was numero uno dog all on his own. This is Bezial in town when he was a year old

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Bezial in his favourite position on the back of the sofa in a sunbeam 🙂

I have been wandering lonely as a cloud in the early mornings that have just been padded out by an hour thanks to daylight savings going back to the hole that it crawls out of in October every year and my brain being crammed full of study thoughts…a walk with Earl is a dangerous thing when you are fully conscious of where you are stepping and what you are being dragged into but when you are preoccupied and thinking about other things you don’t notice the rabbit warrens or the rocks or the fact that you have suddenly veered off the beaten track and are being dragged backwards through woodlands of sheoak’s that really REALLY want to eat your hair. Earl is very good at sniffing out those kinds of woods

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Bezial casting his vote on just how delicious Madeline’s amazing white chocolate vegan mud cake (for her sisters birthday) was… I think he gave it 9 out of 10. It would have been 10 out of 10 if it was about 10cm closer to the edge of the counter…

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My experiment in kefir and buckwheat, a wonderful study in how to make prize hooch without doing much at all. The layer on top of this amalgamated mass is pure alcohol. Not entirely sure what I am going to do with this but for now, it’s a fun experiment. Might toss it out for the possums to fight over…now THAT would be fun! 😉

 

Instead of dealing on a daily basis with my RSS Feed Reader (that now contains 123 unread posts …”EEK”!) I am spending my early mornings wading through research so that Steve and I can formulate what I have found into some semblance of notes in order to answer the questions we have been asked. Most of our classmates are lamenting this part of the course but they don’t realise that we have the lament x 2 and then boosted on steroids because we have to come up with twice the examples that they do and twice the research because there are two of us. Thems the breaks I guess but sometimes it feels like I have cotton wool between my ears and I spend my days in a kind of fuggish haze. Today we have an online class where we have to share what we have found out about the questions that we have to answer. Forgive me for being a little cynical but if I have just spent the best part of 24 hours of my life slaving away researching and compiling I am somewhat loath to share all of my information. I am not being mingy or mean, I am just wondering why we have to share this information prior to it being submitted whereby other class members who may have been watching dvd’s, listening to music with their feet up, playing video games etc. for the first part of the week can sit around their PC with a pen and paper and take notes on everyone else’s hard slog and then hand those answers in… there is collaboration and there is blatant lazily riding home on someone else’s coat tails. I will leave you to make up your own minds about that

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The app that Steve downloaded for his Nokia the other day (Pic Sketch Free) can do some pretty impressive things

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Taken this morning when I was attempting to wake Steve up…Earl was NOT amused by the flash

Enough about the studies! My life seems to be taken over by them and I have planted out babies that are actually starting to sprout! Tiny little brassicas that are waving at the sunlight and making me happy. I have most cleverly labelled most of them but I have a tray of “Misc. and boobity boo” that are all mixed in together. I like a mixed bag. There is something good about getting what you are given and something tells me that because I didn’t carefully label each row and I have NO idea what is going to come up in this tray that this tray is going to grow the best 😉

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Can anyone explain to me how these “cactus thing-a-ma-hoozits” are surviving on nothing but air? We dug them up when we were building the veggie enclosure last year!

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The ubiquitous “Pie, mash and liquor”

I have also been attempting to reduce the amount of tinny packetty things that Steve likes to call “food”. Being from the U.K. he is predisposed to eating things out of tins and packets. Fresh fruit and veggies are much more expensive over there and when we visited in 2006 we practically lived on cheap frozen foods from large frozen food chains where you can buy a 10kg bag of chips (French fries) for 2 pounds. Well you could back then! We ate frozen burgers and pies and cakes and roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings and when we were out and about sightseeing we ate pub lunches where you had “buy 1 meal, get 1 free”. There were 5 of us so we paid for 3 meals, not bad but it left my daughters with a complete disdain for “chips” of any kind. I, on the other hand could eat chips for every single meal and NEVER grow tired of that but then I am a freak of nature ;).

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Can you guess there are at least 2 of us that are VERY keen to get out of the front gate?

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It has been a grey old drizzly day today but I won’t be complaining about the weather for at least a couple of months yet…

Steve is from Northern England and as such he has his regional preferences when it comes to food. They eat a meal called “Pie, mash and liquor” which he likes to make healthier by adding frozen peas into the mix (SO proud of you babe 😉 ). It comprises a couple of pies from a packet, some mashed potatoes (would have been “Smash” a proprietary brand of dehydrated potato flakes in the U.K.) and a packet of purest green masquerading as “parsley sauce”. Much like having a good old U.K. fry up occasionally, he is prone to wanting this sort of thing on enough of a regular basis for me to want to tinker with it a bit and render it “safe”. I can’t completely change everything at once. That would be MADNESS! So I have sneaked in good mashed potato first. He didn’t mind that. He likes that. Next thing was the pies. I can make a good homemade meat pie but at the moment I doubt that I am going to liberate Steve from his shop bought pies any day soon so it’s back to the drawing board and that leaves us with the “liquor” quotient. When I mentioned to Steve that I was going to have a go at making “liquor” for his meal I got those eyes…you know “those eyes”. The eyes that tell you “O…K… you are going to expect me to actually eat this?” Those eyes…

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We took a slightly (higher) route for our walk this morning going up a steep hill which eventuated in this magnificent view.

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This was taken on Steve’s phone at the same time as my image on my little old Fuji.

So I cooked and mashed the spuds, Steve cooked the pies on the bbq (a maestro on the bbq with a shop bought pie…) and I set about making a good roux which I then turned into a delicious white sauce and added lots of fresh chopped parsley from the garden. I checked online and compiled a list of flavour requirements for “liquor” and ended up using a recipe from BBC Food, a more sterling U.K. food endorsement you couldn’t get unless it was from Delia Smith herself! They suggested adding a little white wine vinegar to the sauce to get that peculiar “liquor” quotient so I added a touch and after serving it up to Mr suspicious and having him prod it a bit and then give it a tiny taste he pronounced it “delicious!” Good-O it looks like another packet can be relegated into the “do not buy” basket 🙂 1 for narf7 and nil to the ubiquitous “liquor” middle man!

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Taken on the way home. This image shows an approximation of where our property is. That big oak tree behind that interesting (and still working) light house is just on the other side of our fence. You can see how close the river is to our driveway

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Another shot of Glad’s front “garden” and that overgrown mass of trees is our place 🙂

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Glad’s place was the old church manse (ministers home) and is MUCH neater and tidier than our place even though Glad is 92 this year and we are not 😦

I recently bought some wool in order to make a pair of slipper boots. A wonderful fellow blogger who goes under the delightful moniker of “The Snail of Happiness” made me a very happy narf7 camper by sharing this free pattern. Head on over and grovel a bit and she might share it with you too. Her site is well worth visiting and she is a dead set U.K. legend when it comes to promoting hand crafts, permaculture and living sustainably. I am now following The Snail of Happiness. Thank goodness snails are slow buggers because her blog starts with a “T” and as Pauline will tell you, it can take me a while to get to “T” in my RSS Feed Read especially when I am otherwise occupied ;). Anyhoo, I have the wool. I have 3 new nice shiny pastel coloured crochet hooks in big…Bigger…and BIGGEST! Goodness only knows what I am going to crochet with the biggest one but the packet of 3 was cheaper than buying a single hook so far be it from me to snaffle a bargain when I saw one, 3 I bought. I haven’t had time to put hook to magic circle yet (let alone learn how to make a magic circle in the first place) and there are a few abbreviations I am going to have to Google as my crochet tends to be of the simple and long lasting (unless Earl finds it first) kind whereby I sit…I pick up my wool and hook and I watch television and crochet. Repeat this exponentially and that’s what crochet is to me. I rarely finish anything, it is a lovely repetitive action that soothes my inner savage beast (I have a narf7 “Earl” living inside me 😉 ) and allows me to just mindlessly create something whilst preventing me becoming a statistic on a government health list

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I bought this little pot of chocolate mint for $2 from Di’s little plant stall at the top of the hill because I finally have somewhere to plant it that the wallabies can’t scarf it in! Also because I deserved SOMETHING for walking up that hill!

Autumn has brought blessed relief from the heat but in saying that, it has also brought dogs to bed. Dogs that were content to lounge around on the cool wooden floor are now feeling that early morning coolness and are migrating to those nice warm lumps of meat in their feather and down doona that you can snuggle up to and freeload from their radiant heat. I don’t mind sharing the bed aside for 2 component’s of the bed sharing arrangement (when I say “arrangement” I mean all one way!)

  1. Earl jumping on and off and on and off and on and off the bed all night in order to check various noises, to patrol his territory (there be cats!) and to urinate on a regular basis on the stoic aquilegia that is still growing at the back door despite getting “watered” at least 10 times a day by Earl. I am now a heavy sleeper so the getting off the bed doesn’t bother me, the problem comes when Earl gets back ON the bed and has to jump on my stomach every single time! I might be a heavy sleeper but I challenge even the heaviest sleeper to not wake up when a 33kg American Staffordshire terrier has performed a jump worthy of the Olympic trampoline team fair and square in the middle of your solar plexus
  2. Earl radiates his own heat. He is like a little hot water bottle and when you are snug as a bug in a rug in your feathery down doona you have enough heat. Once Earl starts cuddling up you start to think that you are radiating more heat than a coal fire furnace and you need to remove the doona from your person…problem is, once you do that you get cold again so for the rest of the night, while your canine “friend” is snuggled up to you, you are intermittently getting hot, hurling the doona off your person and then, getting cold and pulling it back on you again…all…night…long!

Bezial doesn’t snuggle up to you, Bezial doesn’t radiate heat, and Bezial isn’t the dog that insists on sleeping on our bed, sigh…

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I think “someone” stole a squash!

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And ran away with it…dropping it on his way around the corner…

Well looky here! I managed to make it to just on 2000 words through sheer complaining! There has to be an award out there someplace for bloggers who are able to complain their way through an entire blog post?! Steve is still fast asleep, so are the dogs, so are the birds for that matter. There might be some possums outside with stomach aches from attempting to eat the diabetes inducing date and chocolate blondies that I made the other day that the bbq decided to turn into rocks and despite Steve’s best (kindest) efforts to consume remained stoically tough and inedible to the end and that I may or may not have tossed over the balcony in a fit of pique (there was 250g of butter in those blondies!) to the chooks below who couldn’t even manage to peck their way into them. Pretty soon my day is going to begin. I haven’t read a single post in my RSS Feed Reader but I did finish off the last of my own learning tasks which frees Steve up to do his while I am off walking Earl this morning. He can then upload all of our work to the various places that we have to upload it to (another bugbear…why do we have to upload all of our work to 3 different places?!) where I employ the sanity instilling mode of “ours not to reason why, outs but to do or die!” when it comes to comprehending why we are required to do anything that I don’t comprehend as logical or essential.

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“You want the squash? Come and get it!”

After that we have to sit down and compile a watered down list of answers to the questions that we have been asked. A sort of chef’s shared version where you just KNOW they left out the most important ingredient of their prized recipe…that sort of share 😉 we then have to take part in the online discussion which will involve Steve and I hopping the computer chair and making each other cups of tea (me) and coffee (Steve) and attempting to look like we are vaguely interested (which neither of us are). We then get the afternoon to work on our assessment tasks for this unit and we should be able to knock them out by late afternoon and then we can start on our negative space/white space unit to hand in for Monday. I don’t know how people who work are able to accomplish the amount of work needed for these courses but most of the people in the course with us work full time. SO glad we are penniless student hippies and can give this course everything that we have got…just not entirely sure I WANT to give it everything I have 😉

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“Oops! When I said “come and get it” I didn’t mean NOW! better pick it back up again and run for my life!”

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“My squash slid off the deck at about 60kph and landed on the ground…I almost “squashed” the chooks!” sigh…Earl and his thieving ways! 😉

Have a great week folks. I made it to just on 2500 words. Aren’t you glad? I might just give you one of those Wordles of today’s post that I shared a while back. I think they are pretty and it’s one less photo that I have to attempt to take on my walk with Earl the terrible this morning 😉

Wordle 4

Where do I start…

Hi All

This week has been a study in restraint for me. I have been holed up planning everything that I am going to do to those fecund, exponentially explosive blackberry bushes out there waving at me every time I walk out onto the deck. I have SUCH nefarious plans that I can’t even talk about them here in case those clever buggers have learned to read and find a way to hook into my internet connection to find out what I am up to. I SWEAR I killed them all last year…I swear often to my shame, but they must be made of sterner stuff because they are all back and twice as prickly. I am doing my best to minimise them by eating their tender, black, juicy babies but to no avail…they think they have me bested but not THIS little black duck. Come the cooler weather when I won’t wilt into a puddle of blackberry coloured narf, I am going to systematically remove all of the blackberries from Serendipity Farm. It’s not a wistful want…it is a driven need! Oh “Its ON” blackberries!

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“What have we here? A snoring troubadour if I am not mistaken!”

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“Yup”…he is fast asleep and still ready to spring into action as soon as he wakes…now THAT is a true musician 😉

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We had to make a quick trip into town recently when one of the second hand games that Steve had bought recently refused to work and he had only a couple of days left on his warrantee and we noticed an Indian grocery shop on the way and being me, Steve (without a word being spoken…I have trained him well 😉 ) stopped the car, handed me the wallet and got out to let some breeze into the car as it was a particularly hot day and we had the dogs with us. Look at all of this deliciousness! There was SO much more but I felt too guilty to peruse the shelves for too long as the dogs were hot. I am going to have to return ASAP but this time sans Steve and dogs 😉

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Sometimes Steve can make me snort wine out of my nose. Here is one of his nefarious ways to turn my nose into a wine tap (would that make me a cask? 😉 ). This recently purchased “interesting” packet of the Indian equivalent of Asian prawn crackers (except containing no prawn) is, according to Steve, Crash Bandicoot’s Indian Cousin…”Far Far” It took me a few seconds but as soon as I got it the wine started to flow…copiously! 😉

I received a post bag in the mail yesterday (Monday) and when I flipped it over and had a look at the sender I had a little “SQUEE!” moment. To everyone out there who hasn’t been infected by Jess/rabidlittlehippies amazing word that signifies and documents that precise moment where you think your head is going to explode with joy closely followed by your heart thanks to a delicious and most precious discovery/thing that has just happened to you…”SQUEE!” say the word…test it, roll those vowels around in your mouth and couple them with those expletive consonants and “SQUEE!” like a girl in a shop full of 90% off designer shoes ALL IN YOUR SIZE! Yeah I KNOW you know how to “SQUEE!” now! 😉

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“Earl…its hot…start the car!”

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You can actually see the point at which Earl realises he doesn’t have opposable thumbs…by the way NO comments about how dirty our car is. We are currently living in a dust bowl where whenever you set foot outside the house you raise a small puff of dust as you walk.

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I need this…I need this NOW! An old round trampoline base turned into a stringy magic carpet 🙂

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I reckon it might be time to plant these cuttings out don’t you? 😉

My mad “SQUEEING” that brought the boys racing up the deck thinking that one of the chooks had turned feral and was pecking me to death (got to protect your interests you know…Steve isn’t the one that feeds them 😉 ) was due to seeing that the parcel was from one Ms Pauline, one of my wonderful and most deliciously artistic followers. I have NO idea what I did to deserve Pauline following my blog. I started off our blogging correspondence by roundly insulting her. She kept coming back for more! What can I say; the girl LOVES a challenge obviously 😉 Seriously though, Pauline makes the most beautiful, insightful comments on every single blog that she follows. You know when Pauline has gifted you her wonderful sense of humour and her delightfully lyrical use of the vernacular because you feel right royally hugged by butterflies.

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My camera doesn’t do justice to these delightful hand painted tiny little works of whimsical art. They are all gorgeous and Pauline is the cleverest thing since sliced bread and twice as talented 🙂

Pauline created some cards for me to remind me of just how very lucky I am. She and I share a beady-eyed magpie desire to collect and adore shiny things and each and every one of the cards that she made for me were bright, blissfully coloured and shiny out the wazoo! It was all I could do to not lick them Pauline, I wanted to ingest all of that gorgeousness…they are now OFFICIALLY my preciouses…good luck to anyone or anything that would like to liberate them from me. I am off on a studious hunt for gorgeous frames to frame them all in and will be mounting them on the wall above my enormous desktop monitor along with my sacred “Biscuit of Loveliness” card sent to me by the gorgeous thinkingcowgirl all the way over the seas in old Blighty where they actually get precipitation coming from the sky folks…I know! It really does happen in some places in the world 🙂

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This mornings breakfast of cooked buckwheat porridge (fresh ground from whole grain), a chopped red apple, some date paste and some homemade sesame milk. It was delicious 🙂

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I now realise why people who post about brownies rarely have good images. Do you KNOW how hard it is to take a good photo of a brownie?! This is the best shot I could get. These are vegan brownies that contain a hefty 2 cups of grated zucchini (something that Steve swears he is allergic to 😉 )and instead of the walnuts (that Steve doesn’t like) I added the equivalent amount of chopped dates that gave these delicious brownies some incredible body and texture. For a man that doesn’t like zucchini he certainly woofed down more than his fair share of these babies. They are dense and gooey and I am SUCH a good narf7 that I am going to share the recipe here with you 🙂

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/zucchini-brownies/

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Here’s an image of the 2 mixes ready to be gently folded together. I used raw sugar but the zucchini melted it nicely

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This is the point at which you would fold in the walnuts…feel free to sub them with anything you like…dates, chocolate chips, dried or glace fruit, squid, jars of vegemite (aHA so you were reading it eh? Just testing 😉 )

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Here is what the mix looked like spread into a buttered and floured cake pan. It rose nicely and was entirely delightfully easy to cook although we did have a bit of crusticular caramelisation occur due to it being baked in a covered bbq. Easy fix, cut off the “caramelisation” 😉

Aside from the cards that are now stamped on my heart, Pauline most generously sent me 3 of her gorgeous printed cards (all destined to be framed and mounted), a splendiferous and most beautifully written (you have lovely handwriting Pauline 🙂 ) card with an image of King Orlando on the front of it and 2 of her gorgeous prototype hippy bo-ho bracelets that I am going to wear shamelessly until they fall off me ragged and sweaty and full of narf7 skin cells most probably someplace in the veggie garden where the beads will turn up embedded in a scarlet runner bean pod at some day in the future where I need me a “shiny thing” moment. Pauline you floored me with your generosity and your talent. All I sent you was a wooden spoon…I didn’t even send you a card! I actually forgot your kefir grains! All will be remedied this week 🙂

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I purchased this packet of brown rice pasta when I was staying at my girls and heading to Hobart last. I decided that I might use it to make something delicious out of some leftovers…

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Cooked pasta at the back, a pan with butter and plain flour on the left ready for me to cook and add milk to form a roux sauce (which I then tossed cubed feta cheese and an indecent amount of grated cheddar cheese into to make rich and thick cheese sauce) and the leftover component of the recipe, some Bolognese meat sauce from spag bol 2 days before

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Tip the bolognaise sauce into the pasta and shovel copiously into a tagine that has NEVER been used to make a tagine

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Ladle on vats of rich cheese sauce and then cook in your oven of choice (ours is a covered bbq at the moment) until the top crisps and browns most deliciously. Steve could have cared less that he was ingesting brown rice pasta. He woofed down most of that large tagine full of this creation so I call this re-use of leftovers a success!

Pauline has a delicious blog where you can drool over her gorgeous artwork BUT I need to make this clear…no matter how gorgeous her artwork looks on her blog…don’t be fooled. It is 10 times lovelier in the flesh! Pauline has a delightful Etsy store where she sells her gorgeous things and where everyone can take advantage of Pauline’s amazing ability to take colour and splosh it about and end up with magic…pure shiny magic. As Molly Meldrum, an old Aussie music show host once said…”Do yourselves a favour and race out and buy these”!

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Taken just up from our driveway at 6am on my early morning walk with Earl

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As you can see it was pretty dark…

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A long stretch of road where Earl gets to sniff the delicious smell of fresh warm cows. I wonder if that is the doggy equivalent of fresh coffee and bread to us?

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This is the point at which we normally turn around and head back down this hill but today…we didn’t!

I have been walking Earl at sunrise lately. I have been enjoying heading out before the day heats up and we have been catching up with Jan and Mica most days and having a lovely “pack walk”. We were even joined by Bezial a couple of days last week when his dicky leg was up to it but the group frolic after party at Micas house might have just been a bit too much for him. All that frolicking and jumping and racing around left him hobbling around the next day so we are giving him a few days of “light walking duties” before setting out on a longer walk again. Bezial might not need long walks but Earl is the king of long walks. We set off on Sunday morning in order to burn off some of Earls excess energy and we walked our usual beat and when we arrived at our usual turning point to head home, I looked at Earl and said “let’s go a bit further eh?” He seemed up for it so we headed off up the hill and down the road to Bonnie Beach. Once we got to Bonnie Beach we decided (mutually) to keep going around to the end of Camm’s road (just so that anyone reading this who would like to stalk our walk on Google Earth or Google Maps can get a reference 😉 ) where we had a brief sniff of the gate of Rebecca Gibney’s of “Packed to the Rafters” fames gate before heading back home.

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We kept going and saw this old fellow on the way…

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A sunrise shot of Bonnie Beach where I asked Earl if he would like to keep going…you can probably guess his answer to that 😉

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Around the corner from Bonnie Beach and I just wanted to share this image of a “Dead Tree Walking” 😦 That branching fungus fruit there spells the end of this tree. Its a real pity as this is a most magnificent tree in a lovely place. Earl gave it the 3 legged salute to show his solidarity and we moved on…

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This embankment completely parted way with the road (that I am standing on) in last years incessant rain and so come clever thinking was put into action resulting in this gabion retaining wall. Most attractive and functional at the same time 🙂

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When you are walking 8km and you have to stop every 50 metres for “someone” to have a sniff it certainly makes a long walk turn into a L…O…N…G… walk!

We got almost home when Earl pricked up his ears and the familiar rumble of our little 4 x 4 came hurtling around the corner driven by a worried looking Stevie-boy and one most energetically prancing Bezial “sitting” in the front passenger seat. Apparently Earl and I had been gone for 3 hours…3 hours! And Steve and Bezial had gone for a walk and not been able to find us so they mutually decided to get out the “rescue van” to hunt further afield. Earl and I think that we were taken by aliens because it most certainly didn’t feel like 3 hours’ worth of trundling.  Earl was officially knackered but I was not! Obviously, I was being carried by all of my little microscopic kefir and kombucha inhabitants. I reckon I could have walked a few more kilometres quite happily. We worked out that we walked 8km and I think I might make that our “Sunday walk” from now on

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One rodent that I wouldn’t mind communing with 🙂

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Almost to the halfway point of our walk!

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Earl checking out the fortification on the jetty at the end of our first leg

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Lots and LOTS of oysters but you can’t eat them (even if you aren’t vegan!) because they contain 4 times the level of heavy metals considered to be a safe dose…cheers industry!

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On our way back and I couldn’t resist taking a shot of this gorgeous Corymbia ficifolia eucalypt. You can see how dry it has been around here by looking at this lovely “lawn” and this is a green one!

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It looks like Woolworths and Coles have successfully fooled nature with their nefarious desire to put Easter eggs into shops the day after Christmas…the Easter lilies are here!

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This would have to be the loudest beagle on the Pecos in full “BAAAOOOOO” 😉

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Heading back home and this shows where we are in relation to where we live. Those buildings are (from left to right respectively) Franks house, The Auld Kirk Church and we are somewhere in the midst of that pile of dark green there to the left of that small island 😉 still quite a while to go but unaware that the rescue wagon is on its way! 😉

I took a lot of pictures along the way and am using them predominately to decorate this post. I am more than aware that most of my dear constant readers don’t “read” my posts and I am down to a select core of stalwarts who are as mental and type A as I am who read the paragraphs between the images. The images are to satiate my followers for whom my aberrant and eccentric use of the vernacular isn’t appreciated (“PLEBIENS”! 😉 )

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Now we get to the ubiquitous shots of the veggie garden. Here you can see narf7’s patented (well it should be!) door closing device.

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I have stopped trying to achieve order in the garden and am just letting it go feral to its hearts content. Its heart is VERY content!

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More feral

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Both recent rescue figs are alive along with another adventitious compost tomato plant

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If you water them…they will come!

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Don’t ask me why this corn is so far away from its brethren…it “vants to be alone”?! No idea! I must have dropped a seed out of my pocket or gumboot (if I had one) or something but here it stands, the tallest of the corns and most majestic in its stately happiness. Are you starting to get an idea about how much planning I put into planting out this garden? 😉

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These are garlic chives. Are they meant to be this tall?!

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Remember that baseball sized pumpkin from last week? Well it is now basketball sized and has a baseball sized brother

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The pumpkins have decided that there isn’t enough room in this crowded spot to grow horizontal so they are growing vertically

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There is an experimental compost heap under this lot

Does anyone know what a Nutritarian is?!!! I am hazarding a guess that it is someone who is desperately attempting to make themselves appear to be a whole lot more interesting than they really are. Is it just me, or has there been an explosion of “crazy” when it comes to what people eat these days? It used to be that you ate “food” and some people were a bit more restricted than others due to true allergies, religion or personal choice but these days there are new “arians” coming out of the woodwork on a weekly basis! Someone even has a “Nutritarian” page on Pinterest. As far as I can gather by a quick perusal of the page, a “nutritarian” eats food. Go figure eh?

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We cut this sheoak down but it appears to want to come back. Who am I to argue? I might just keep it coppiced or whatever the equivalent is of allowing it to live and look like cousin IT in my veggie garden

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Kale that has been growing for almost a year now and is finally starting to look like kale!

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I have my suspicions that these aren’t pattypan squash. When they are “pattypan” sized they are bright green…they grow to football size before they turn yellow…

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“Oh what a tangled lot we weave when first we practice to get lazy and plant everything out wherever…”

It keeps threatening to rain here today but is holding it in and is making me cranky…”Just RAIN already!” I was guaranteed of a 95% chance of rain today and I had better not be disappointed weather men or I am going to start a campaign to save a WHOLE lot of money and have you all fired. The best way to tell if it is going to rain or not is to stand outside for a bit. If you come back in wet, it most probably rained. Some people get paid an exorbitant amount of money to translate that bit of wisdom 😉

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My bottle find that made me happy today. I guess it is natural selection at its finest. I am learning about Permaculture thus it is changing my way of thinking. I no longer see this bottle as “rubbish” I see it for all of the possibilities it contains. SO many possibilities! You just have to head to Pinterest to see what you can do with a humble glass bottle to get excited. I then pick up the bottle from where it had been thrown and take it home with me, thus removing the problem of litter and creating a nice clean patch of soil for someone else to throw out another bottle…Perpetual Permaculture 😉

I am starting to think that there might be something a bit strange going on with me lately. Does anyone else find bottles on the ground and hoot with glee? I was walking Earl over the Batman Bridge this morning and discovered a most delightful bottle sans cap that I found not too far from its bottle and I picked them both up (cap for my bottle cap wind chime) and carried them home along with a pair of twin bottles made by the same company. Here in Australia we do some fine boutique spirits but our old stalwart booze comes in the form of rum made in the sugar cane refinery rich state of Queensland. Distilling your own spirits is illegal in Australia where in New Zealand it is entirely legal (another reason for me to pack my bags and wing it over the Tasman…). The bottle that I found this morning appears to be new on the market for Bundaberg Rum and I was most interested to see a combination of Creaming soda and red rum! Sounds like a kiddies party drink to me but I am assured that it was 4.5% alcohol by volume and the 500ml bottle that I found, when full, could have rendered a child paralytic methinks.  My joy comes from collecting another bottle towards my stockpile that I am going to start using in interesting ways soon. Watch this space…

I have a lot of images to share with you in this post so I might just stop with DSCF7131

Take one packet of organic tofu…

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Combine these ingredients any which way you like and then pour them over the tofu that you cubed in between images

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Cubed tofu marinating in deliciousness

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Sprinkle furitake on top and serve to a husband who could care less that there is no meat in here…”it’s ALL good” 😉

the verbosity about now. I add comments to my images and even a few words add up to an exponentially long post when I use a lot of images. As our hot weather starts to (hopefully) cool down a bit I am hoping a swing in weather occurs for you northerners who could probably do with a bit of sunshine on your pasty snow covered countenances. We brown Aussies will be MOST glad to surrender it to you at your nearest convenience. Have a wonderful week and enjoy your weekend enough so you remember it with hazy joy and see you next hump day when I will have most probably done something but I am not promising anything! 😉

And now we are three…

Hi All,

Technically we are 4…but if you add our peripheral family in we are 9 but the title refers to this…

nowwearethreeBecause yesterday Earl turned 3.

Here is a photo of the original toys that the stories were based on…

Original and real Pooh bear and friends

Eeyore and Bezial are very much one and the same critter and Earl has “Tigger” written all over him but maybe this Tigger is not as representative as this one…

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That’s an image of the very last Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) in captivity. Earl and this “Tigger” are more closely related methinks 😉

DSCF5350Because he is a “Big Boy” now, Earl got to drive the car for his birthday. He was checking the rear view mirror here…

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Remember the old Batman series on the television when the villains were on screen everything went sideways…Here is our own resident Serendipity Farm villain with one of the 25 balloons that he had the BEST time bursting.

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I emerged from my OH&S repressed state like Heimlich from A Bugs Life…I felt like a “Beeoodiful butterfly” and headed out the door to go flitting from flower to flower but was met by this…overgrown weeds EVERYWHERE!

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Get a gander at that grass!

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So being the tenacious narf7 that I am I headed down the driveway to rid it of its weedy extremities

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When I say “weedy extremities” I mean “Extreme weeds”. Here you see a gorgeous forest of Scotch thistles and forget-me-nots waving in the breeze

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Here one minute…gone the next…

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Everything was going swimmingly until I tackled this scotch thistle and it ate my whipper snipper line

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Back to the shed to get more…I found plenty of it BUT I couldn’t work out how to get the whipper snipper head off so that was it for the day…but then I headed off and did a lot of pruning, mulch shovelling…

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and general tidying up until lunch time and after lunch the boys and I headed up to the veggie garden to fill in the holes left by pulling out the walkway partitions that were previously installed and I spent 3 hours shovelling horse poo into the wheelbarrow and driving it to the garden beds to fill them…

DSCF5391At least SOME of us were working hard…

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Ducky still sitting on her clutch of chook eggs

DSCF5384Earl hunting lizards…Earl nil, lizards 1

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Earl hunting watering cans…Earl 1, watering can reduced to rubble 😦

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Got to make sure that the boys don’t go thirsty…all of that lizard hunting and laying around tires a body out you know

DSCF5380Scarlet runners from last year have decided to grow again!

DSCF5406Sorry Pinky…those lovely pristine gardening gloves that I dare say you imagined me pottering around like Margot Ledbetter out of the Good Life in her rose garden with got a sterling workout yesterday.

DSCF5416The rest of the images in this post are of this mornings walk with Earl. I figured that you might all be interested in a narf7 perambulation. Here you see the newly shorn driveway and the newly 3 Earl eagerly forging ahead…note the taut lead…

DSCF5423The first sniff for the day…

DSCF5424The first pee for the day, and we haven’t even gotten out of the driveway yet. It’s going to be a long 5km

DSCF5446For all my New Zealand readers “we have them too!” A lovely tree fern growing on a steep incline on a hairpin bend. Probably the only reason why no-one has pinched it 😉

DSCF5455The only thing holding this section of bank together are this trees roots. You can see a good cross section of what our soil is like here…can you imagine trying to dig this?!!!

DSCF5458“You KNOW you want to give me a treat now…”

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“Cheers!”

DSCF5555Standing over the road from the Auld Kirk Church looking at the Batman Bridge where we are heading

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Walking across the Batman Bridge

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Looking back at the Auld Kirk Church and that red and white “thing” is the lighthouse where we took that picture of the Batman (are you dizzy yet? 😉 )

DSCF5480Some of the incredibly water wise plants that are growing sans water in the park on the other side of the Batman. This is a hebe and hebes will grow just about anywhere and are very drought tolerant. Apparently it is “Earl’s” park…just so’s you know…

DSCF5482Another incredibly water wise plant, an Escallonia. These will grow from a cutting stuck into the ground and produce lovely honey scented flowers that bees adore

DSCF5486This is a Cistus x purpureus and originally comes from the Middle East. There is a white variety called Cistus ladanifer that is equally as hardy

DSCF5494No idea what this is aside from it having squared stems so it is most probably in the laminaceae family but it’s pretty, the leaves turn a lovely grey colour as they age and it gets HUGE. I am going to take hard wood cuttings of all of these shrubs and get them growing on Serendipity Farm. A wise gardener takes good note of what is growing well around them because that’s what will grow well in your garden too. These plants don’t get watered ever and so they are perfect for Serendipity Farm and most of them are pretty as well so its a win-win situation

DSCF5513Council chopped down all of the old HUGE Pinus radiata that were in this area of the park. I know that a few branches blew down in the strong winds but this makes me sad.

DSCF5519To give you a bit of scale to see how big the trunk was on this smaller one

DSCF5523Guess which narf7 will be taking the trailer back for a few of these gorgeous big pine chunks to make into features in her new veggie garden. Council is just burning them and I feel like that is sacrilege…so does Earl. Here he is contemplating just how much urine he is going to have to produce to make sure that EVERYONE knows that they are all his

DSCF5563We finally arrived back home and decided to take a final shot of Serendipity Farm peeking out from behind the Auld Kirk Church…all of this before 8.30am “bring on the rest of the day!” 😉

I hope you don’t mind me giving you another image intensive post. I had a very busy day today with an unexpected drive by “dropping in” from a friend who decided that we were going to plant out a vegetable garden there and then…the garden is now FULL of veggies and I will have to share photos in my next post as for now I am absolutely knackered! See you next week when I should hopefully have some good photos of how the garden is progressing. I have plans to fill tyres with soil and plant out pumpkins to grow all over the place in the top part of the veggie garden that we won’t be developing till next year (no time this year) to cover the soil and keep the moisture in. I will also be planting out lots of sprouting spuds that I just found in my cupboard and that my friend brought with her and will be wheelbarrowing a couple of cubic metres of home grown black gold compost to make a large compost heap at the top of the garden. It’s all hands on deck…it’s summer on Sunday! See you in Summer/Winter 🙂

Whats love got to do with it?

Hi All,

Ok so I don’t usually do this kind of thing but for Joy, I will make an exception. Joy the Baker is one of those bloggers that has it going on. She might seems like a shallow hipster from an initial glance at one of her posts, she might seem like someone as vacuous as a turnip who could care less about anything but shoes and doughnuts and her latest baking pan but if you actually bother to read her posts rather than just ogle at the food porn that she so lovingly crafts, you will instantly realise that this girl has chutzpah. I don’t know what chutzpah actually is. You see I am an Aussie and that is a Jewish word. I am in love with the Jewish vernacular…who couldn’t love words like “Chutzpah” and “Shmendrik” and “Pisher” and “Schlimazel”, all spoken with passion and with an image of Woody Allen and his glasses sliding errantly down his nose burned into my psyche for all time. If you would like to get versed in Jewish insults you can find 22 of them here in this wonderful post by “The Editor and the Beast”…

http://theeditorandthebeast.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/twenty-four-insults-a-guide-to-yiddish-words-in-american-english/

Joy has Chutzpah and under all of the hipsterescent blog speak and polished food porn perfection it really is worth the effort to read her posts. Today she turned 32 and you know what? Today’s post is dedicated to “Joy”. Here is her 32nd birthday post and I particularly love the list that she writes at the end of it. We should all write birthday lists like that :). Feel free to head over and see what got me tapping away at this aberration of a post that is a decided departure from what you, my dear constant readers, are used to imbibing when you come to visit on Serendipity Farm…

http://joythebaker.com/2011/07/angel-food-cake-with-vanilla-strawberries/

Now narf7 might have been around that block but she aint no holler back girl no SIR! And narf7 knows a little bit about pinching other people’s pictures and waving them about and pretending that they are her own. I didn’t know early on in my blogging career and waved with impunity but as soon as I learned, I stopped using other people’s images. How am I going to illustrate this post for Joy without images that are worthy of her customary awesome food photography and little heart at the bottom of the page…hmmm…not enough time (or inclination to be honest) to take lots of arty hearty shots…I know! “To the Bat mobile Robin, we are off to Morgue File!” Morgue File is a wonderful source of free images. You don’t have to join up, you don’t have to allow spammers to sell your first born when they turn 21 (unless you particularly want to that is…) and you get to choose from a large database of photos. You just click on the free photos button (because otherwise they are going to naturally direct you to their paying bit 😉 ) and type in what you are after into the search bar… for instance…narf7 wants “hearts” so narf7 typed in hearts and lo and behold… she gets pages and pages of “hearts” or…to be honest…what people load up as “hearts” which may, or may NOT be what you are after…it’s free folks, you take your chances! Here is a linky to Morgue Files. Have it tattooed to your left inner wrist if you are a blogger…it’s that valuable!

http://www.morguefile.com/archive

and here is my search for “hearts” so anyone out there with too much time can load up and see where I got all of the following images…a post in images…that you, my dear constant readers, are not usually privy to, but this post is less words and let the images tell the story so here we go…

http://www.morguefile.com/archive#/?q=Heart&photo_lib=morgueFile

Once upon a time narf7 wanted to do justice to a post by one of her blogging heroes, Joy, of Joy the Baker blogging fame. Joy takes amazing photos, Joy is a professional, Joy is hip and cool and everything that narf7 isn’t but for some reason Joy resonates with narf7 and manages to never EVER get thrown into the RSS Feed Reader equivalent of Death Row. I wanted a heart or two to pay homage to Joy and her wonderful photography so here we go…

Lets start where I actually wanted to start…a nice picture of a heart…

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A heart in a coffee…that’s exactly the sort of image that Joy would like…but wait…she likes tea! (I KNEW there was more to this infatuation than just food porn…) this will NEVER do…

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How about a nice heart shaped doughnut? A squiggle of fake icing blood and you have a true representation of what love is all about…but this image isn’t anywhere NEAR as classy as Joy’s wonderful images so I am going to have to dig a bit deeper…come on Morgue Files…don’t let me down…

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I could stop here…I really could folks. This is just about what I was after but look a bit harder…that’s why these images are free…that top cupcakes icing has been compromised and as our lecturer would say “too much tension created by half cupcakes and quarter cupcakes and one eighth cupcakes…DO IT AGAIN!”…sigh…

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That’s…sort of better…see that dent in the top right hand corner? And we thought that food bloggers had it easy!

Obviously if I am going to do justice and homage to Joys amazing photography I am going to have to look a bit further…the problem was, the further that I headed down the list the stranger the images became. This next image seems alright at first glance…

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but it’s too shiny…good chocolate doesn’t look like that folks. Too shiny and plastic looking…NEXT!

How about this one? Candy hearts. You can’t go wrong with bright coloured sugar but again…look at bit closer and suddenly what seems like a collective of tiny diabetic coma’s becomes a bit more stalky/creepy…take note of the heart at the bottom…”meet me”…seems innocuous enough but the rest of the hearts have been turned over except for “marry me”…now forgive me for being a bit world weary and jaded but surely there should be SOME degree of separation between “meeting” and “marrying!”

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Or how about this…pleading…or demanding? You get to choose…

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From here the selection rapidly slid into a selection of the strange and the macabre. At first this message seemed full of dark foreboding…

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Until I realised that further down the page it had a partner…

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There…that’s better now 🙂

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There are people that love chilli

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Badly photoshopped tanks…at least the thought was there 😉

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This appears to be a Cercis Canadensis… It’s heart shaped and something that a gardener could, indeed, love but it is a bit far off the mark for what I needed

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Yup…it looks like a heart but that’s about where the similes stop

Far from finding a pretty little paisley or pastel heart image that I could use in my post, the images listed under “heart” were starting to make me twitch.  Its starting to get disturbing and this is where you see just how “interesting” Morgue Files can be. Love is obviously a very subjective word to many people out there. I totally “get” the image of the egg below…if you don’t own chooks that have only given you an egg a week for 5 months and then you release them (hopefully so they run away and stop costing you an arm and a leg to feed for NO RETURN…) ostensibly to make them happy again and you start getting more eggs than you can deal with (after hunting them down in forks of trees and in the middle of blackberry thickets…) you KNOW that eggs = love.

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“EARL!”…remember how Earl was sitting at my computer desk on my computer throne a couple of posts ago? NOW you know what he was up to! You might have tried to cover your tracks by calling yourself “Earl53” but I am onto you…no more leaving you alone with the PC till you are at LEAST 3! Joy just turned 32 Earl…a biker chick in a bikini is NOT going to make her feel better!

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Sigh…then we have someone called “JusBen” who seems to take the word “heart” a bit too literally…his 2 entries in the “heart” arena are…

SONY DSC                                                                                                                                           A heart monitor and…

file000735740454byJusben                                                                                                                                       A couple of lamb hearts.

I think someone needs to take “JusBen” aside and give him a little bit of a quiet chat about the sorts of things that people looking for “hearts” are actually after! At the risk of giving Joy the Baker a heart attack of her own should she EVER foolishly stumble over here to find Serendipity Farm in full possession of her 32nd birthday and linking it with lamb hearts…I had best move on quickly…

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Another meaty heart. Yes, it DOES look like a heart and you might love chicken BUT it’s simply “wrong”! How about this lovely Rorschach blot of an image…hopefully someone’s child produced this and they have placed it here through blind parental love is all I can say!

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I get the feeling that someone of the feminine persuasion forgot their anniversary and rather than get off the couch mid “Day’s of our Lives” to hustle their way to the closest petrol station to pick up one of those cheap scented car trees to make up for it, they decided to gift their partner (the long suffering “Ron”) this wonderful homage to their love…

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You gotta love the bold statement and the underlined “Ron” just in case she forgot and put someone else’s name there…

file9491342304279bymaena                                                                                                     Yeah, we are sticking with the egg = love theme with this image…

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                                                                                    We can only imagine that this image is a warning message to we “heart” seekers?

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I have NO idea at all why a pyrex baking dish full of stuffed and baked onions were listed under “heart images”. I am not even going to attempt to work it out. All I know is that I gave up on finding something suitable for what was GOING to be my original post around about now. Don’t get me wrong, there were some lovely images. My favourite one was this one…

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A perfect representation of real love…”it’s on my shoe…course I love you!” :).

The last image is just plain terrifying…I will leave it here as a reminder to “be careful what you wish for…it might just come true…”

10th_December_2010_011creepygingerbreadlovebybusinessplansThere you go Joy…don’t say I didn’t think of you.Have a happy 32nd birthday. You might be officially “old” but at least you can still take a better photo than these gingerbread zombies and the only place to go from here is up! Cheers…thank me later :).

Note, if my wonderful little treatise leaves you more terrified of MorgueFiles than excited and champing at the bit to go steal yourself your weights worth of images, try signing up for Pinterest. I did…after the ubiquitous waiting period where you are supposed to feel like you are being hazed or inducted into the Grand Moose club or something they approve you and you get to stick red pins into every single image you see online. After you steal it, you can repin it all over the place and fill up the interweb with your own Morgue of pictures and hints and tips and other “useful stuff” that we all know we are never going to look at or use ever again. I reckon those gingerbread zombies could do with having a big red pin stuck right through the middle of them…

Narf7’s job here…is DONE! Go forth my dear constant readers and fill your posts with beautiful, quirky and just plain downright terrifying images with impunity because “The Man” can’t touch you…they are ALL free :o)…just tell them narf7 sent you 😉

A little reminder of winter in the middle of summer …

Hi All,

There is beauty in a rainy, grey day folks. When you look outside and the whole garden resonates and shimmers in heat stress and you can see the leaves curling up in an attempt to save that life giving sap a day of cloud crying is a blessing. I am sitting here listening to the rain fall on the tin roof. It’s a glorious sound and I can almost hear the garden singing Vivaldi’s 4 seasons (all of them!) as it steadily pounds the roof…”Keep it up chaps…you are all doing very well!”…funny how the rain brings out the old Blighty in me ;).  I love rainy weather. You won’t find me complaining about it (aside from how the leeches suddenly reconstitute from their benign one dimensional stasis and turn into 3 dimensional sluggy vampires…). I have my wonderful winter rituals carefully tucked away, wrapped in mental tissue paper because these precious processes sustain me through the cold winter months. I love waking up nice and early in the dark…to be honest it doesn’t get light till quite late in winter so this could be accomplished even if I slept in, but there is something magical about getting up hours before the rest of the household…special time to yourself and most precious to me now. Soon, I won’t have to spend this time alone. Brunhilda, who is currently semi naked and being painted and primped ready for her coming 10 months of solid hard work, will be my constant companion. I missed her. I missed waking up and throwing a few sticks onto the slumbering behemoth that is “fire” on Serendipity Farm. I totally “get” why cavemen were so enamoured of it…fire is the bomb people! That early morning crackle of the first few tinder dry twigs as Brunhilda has her breakfast and rev’s up for the day. We learned how to feed her slowly and regularly last year. In our first year she suffered indigestion thanks to our constant stuffing and her constant overheating…last year we honed our relationship with Brunhilda and we know how to keep her lean, mean and keen… I can’t wait till that crackling companionship returns. This morning it is dark, raining and cold and I feel the lack of crackle keenly. I get to keep the kettle on the side of the stove…I fill it up at night before I go to bed (I LOVE processes 😉 ) and just move the already warm kettle to the flame and suddenly that first and only cup of tea becomes part of the process of awakening and lends my winters days a real sense of being grateful for my lot. Our water heats through the back of Brunhilda…we don’t have to worry about gas bottles…she does it gratis. She will allow me to dry things out and keep things warm in her lower ovens…she is a most gracious friend. She never once let me down last year…she never once refused any of my requests…she may have added her personal touch of a bit of “caramelisation” but to her credit, I should have read her better…we share a mutual relationship together…Brunhilda and I are mano-a-mano, kindred spirits and our symbiosis is what makes winter on Serendipity Farm a privilege rather than something to be endured…that’s Steve’s job…”winter endurance”…well SOMEONE has to chop the wood! 😉

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A weedy Passiflora caerulea (Blue Passion Flower) that we found recently on a long walk…the fruit is juicy and sweet but quite bland

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The vine we picked the passionfruit from

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Our friend in the witness protection gave me a large bag full of snow peas from her enclosed veggie garden. Some of them had gone over to the dark side and I decided to keep them for seed to grow next year. The stapler and tape are most probably what Steve has come up with to graft my poor jam spoons 😦

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A nice bright hippy shop…our friend in the witness protection and I (and Steve for that matter) are all old hippies and this sort of shop attracted us in like moth’s to a flame…

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A lovely little street display to lure passers by into a small garden shop

Steve’s birthday (Sunday) was spent doing what he wanted to do including alternating between playing his guitar whilst watching television and wandering out to the shed to make teaspoons out of wood. He is truly addicted to making wooden things and has plans for all sorts of creations. He recently saw a gardening dibbler and wants to make them now. I, for one, am not complaining. I tend to get the prototypes as part and parcel of his efforts and have some pretty interesting things that his most creative mind has come up with including a wonderful enormous teaspoon with a carved bowl on one end and a spike on the other for negotiating my VitaMix blender. He is working on making me another long teaspoon but this one will have a small bladed scraper on the other end to allow me to get the little bits out from underneath the blade (that take so long to remove)…it is positively blissful having a talented husband who can make things :o). Steve also spent yesterday dictating what he wanted for his birthday tea…”I want fried rice…and I want curry…like in the fish and chip shops in the U.K…and I want sticky date pudding for dessert…” Expat’s tend to get teary eyed at things that they used to buy from the local “chippies”. We get fish, and chips and the odd dim sim and potato cake from our local fish and chip shops but in the U.K. they had pickled eggs, pickled onions, curry sauce to go with their chips and all sorts of odd things! Never one to shirk my duties we fired up Brunhilda and made the lot! Steve had a great day and will most probably have a hard time getting out of bed as he had as much red wine as a teetotal wine lover could imbibe without falling over sideways…birthdays are barleys apparently! 😉

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This Asian beauty was parked out the front of a small country shop that we passed on the way to Wychwood…the locals are certainly “characters” ;)…Rose Porteous anyone? It would appear to be her shoes…

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A little leaf hopper that fell in love with my finger when we stopped to admire some gorgeous Rugosa roses in a small park…

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Isn’t this a glorious garden bird feeder? I fell in love with the garden art placed strategically and most tastefully around Wychwood

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Another beautiful castle bird feeder complete with copper turret

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The small kitchen garden at Wychwood which was a mix of traditional and interesting veggies along with lots of beneficial attracting plants and flowers

It’s raining in Queensland and they are drowning in the results. I read a few Queensland blogs and it seems so ironic that on Saturday they were bone dry and one blogger was about to sell her cows and suddenly it’s time to build an ark. Australia isn’t an easy country to farm in. You can try to find a property where the conditions are somewhat even but then something happens…drought, flood, fire and you lose everything. Farmers have to be the most optimistic people alive. They keep on keeping on long after the ever ready bunny batteries have run out and they deserve more than what they get because they truly are the backbone of our world. It is a bitter irony that people are so removed from their food supply and have no idea that the plethora of items available on their supermarket shelves once started life as an ingredients list of humble primary produced items (unless they are aimed at children and then they are usually 100% man-made from artificial chemicals and glow in the dark…) Today I did it. Yes…”IT”. I actually managed to get through my rss feed read blogs nice and early with time to spare to tap away at this post in advance. How did I do it? I woke up at 4am! I am already considering continuing on with waking up at what will be 4am in April when the clocks go back. I find myself scrambling to get through my rss feed reader blogs, answer the comments for the blog and write lucid and relevant comments for particularly beneficial posts on the blogs that I follow and 4am seems to be the magical number that keeps recurring…4am isn’t for chumps…it is for dedicated maniacs who are addicted to lists and doing things the right way…I have to blame the latent German in my genes. It has been watered down with good old Blighty tempering and a smattering of Scottish blood but the German is strong in this specimen young padawan and my list making, tidy, clean line desires cannot be denied. “You put that back in the cupboard wrong!…Why oh WHY did you leave that there?…no…you have to do “X” before “Y”…” sigh…I love order and I hate chaos and often my order collides with Steve’s need for chaos and the inevitable result is explosive (on my side) and a visit to the shed (on Steve’s side)…no wonder he has started making wooden things! 😉

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A most interesting grass maze located near Mole Creek at the outer edge of Wychwood

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I purchased some organic turmeric from a local health food shop and FINALLY it is starting to grow!

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My little Moringa oleifera looking decidedly happy with it’s lot in the heat of the glasshouse

Steve and I spend our lives together pretty much 24/7. We have been living like this since he moved here from the U.K. We are both reclusive hermits and obviously reasonably well suited or we would have killed each other by now. No retirement problems for us…our friend in the witness protection has been having some pretty spectacular fights with her partner but when talking about them on our recent road trip she made an interesting correlation…”I just noticed (she said)…that all of our big fights just so happen to coincide with Glen being home for an extended period of time!”… Is it any wonder that so many people end up divorced when they retire? Steve and I are learning to accept that we are complete polar opposites. I can’t even begin to fathom how his brain works, but work it does and he seems to be able to navigate some pretty choppy water with that brain whether I can understand the processes or not so I am willing to concede that there are other ways of doing things than the way that my mind takes me when I process my information and churn out the results. The problem is that we both think that our process is the best…we spend a lot of time trying to push our idea and in the process completely miss out on the opportunity to join together to form a formidable self-contained yin/yang idea that would knock the socks off the project that we are making. One day we will learn, but for now, we are still in “work together” kindergarten and making very VERY slow progress 😉

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Nothing gets wasted on Serendipity Farm and that includes avocado seeds. These 3 small trees are all the result of previous avocado consumption and go to show just how easy it is to grow them. We have quite a few home grown avocado plants that we will plant out in Autumn

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I found this picture on a blog that I follow…After I got up off the floor from rolling around there in hysterics I asked if I could use this photo in my blog…guess whose chooks are going to be wearing beanies in the latest fall colours this year…

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Ah the elastic band spine of youth! 😉

I have a cure for all you insomniac’s out there…get up at 5am, walk all over the place and go to bed after 9pm. Simple really. If you think that 5am is NO place for a civilised hipster like yourself to be inhabiting you are where I was a few years ago. I didn’t surface till 8am when I expected a cup of tea in bed, about 30 minutes “eye time” (our expression for lazy bollocks that doesn’t want to get up yet) and the pained expression of dogs who know that a walk is just around the corner but who have to be a little bit polite as otherwise those morning dog treats might dry up and blow away… now I not only get up and have 2 hours to myself…2 precious hours where I can read whatever I like when my mind is active and raring to go…but I fill that mind with all sorts of possibilities…I have my morning processes sorted out before I deliver Steve’s morning coffee after 7am and am raring to go…I even beat the dogs to the punch line! We walk the dogs for at least 1 1/2 hours a day and where I used to be a “STEEEEEVE…can you take these to the shed? Can you get me “such and such” can you put this compost in the compost bin?” Now I walk there myself. Steve doesn’t need the exercise, he has spindle shanks that will never see an ounce of fat but my legs need double the attention being my chief fat storage areas and stubborn fat releasers at that…so I walk to the compost bin up next to the veggie garden…I walk out to the shed, several times because I am always forgetting to bring something from or take something to the chest freezer out there, I walk down the driveway with Earl who needs more than a single walk or he eats furniture (or at least threatens to…whoever said that dogs are stupid…doesn’t have a dog!)…I walk back up the driveway (2 times up our driveway in a day is enough to make anyone knackered!)…I sometimes just go out for a walk around the place just for fun! I don’t even wait to go to bed before I am asleep…”Wake up Fran!”…that’s Steve’s Hue and Cry these days before I stagger off to sleepily brush my teeth (too tired to even consider looking for wrinkles in the mirror BONUS!), head to the foot of the bed (Bezial has already stolen my pillow at the top of the bed and no point arguing with a 40kg Amstaff who is sulking for the queen…too tired!) where you have left a pillow (happens a lot…sigh…) and flop into bed…Wait for Earl to trot in 2 seconds later and you might or might not remember Steve giving you a kiss goodnight but within 3 minutes you are out like a light…Insomnia…you used to be shackled to me…you ran roughshod over my nights where you pounded me with my secret fears (December 2012…old age…death…) but I don’t have time to lay awake contemplating my aging lack of a navel (don’t ask…just believe me…I have NO belly button 😉 ), I am out like a light…and not only do I not need sedatives, but falling into bed and blissful sleep is delicious! Truly folks, if you have exhausted your body and given it more than enough food for thought at 5am it rewards you with the most amazing sense of blissful achievement coupled with the heady beauty of “rest”. Cheers old books, whoever coined the phrase “Early to bed and Early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” was giving truly sage advice…(aside from “a man” and “wealthy” I totally agree!)

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Serendipity Farm cucumbers…99% water…1% purest “Green”…

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Steve found a recipe for making lightly pickled cucumbers and this is the result…they are really tasty and well worth donating a percentage of our purest green to

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Steve has taken a left turn at Albuquerque and has headed off into teaspoons and spice spoons and has visions of plant dibblers, tatting shuttles, earings, pendants and some amazing wooden guitar picks…he gets bored easily 😉

Well it’s a nice early post from me and it’s chilly outside and Brunhilda is lit and everything is right in our world (for the time being…) so I might try to hold my eyelids open and read a Patricia Cornwell or Ruth Rendell book…I have both, taken out of the library on a wistful whim that I might have time to read them and both calling me from their lofty position in the spare room. Reading is good for your soul…about time I did more of it :o). See you on Saturday when I will share the lengths at which 2 penniless hippies will go to in order to stop a small battalion of most determined chickens from escaping from Alcatraz…

When the end of the world is a better option than real life…

Hi All,

Remember when the queen of England said that it had been an “annus horribilis”? Well we just had one of those condensed down into a single day. It started out fine…Steve was off to do the shopping and we were waiting for the end of the world. He said that he figured that I would be washed off the planet before him as he was 50km inland from me and I was on the coast so he was going to phone me every 30 minutes to see if I was still there and to make sure that I answered the phone because he was going to look a right idiot running around the supermarket screaming “THE END IS NIGH!” to the bemused and jaded Christmas shoppers who were still milling around doing their last minute shopping in their hoards if nothing happened… by the way…the end of the world WASN’T nigh…it was another case of us giving some wide eyed loony the publicity that wide eyed loonies should NEVER be given because they tend to run with it and excite hosts of loonies that come flocking out of the woodwork (like zombies) to join en masse and start hallucinating together and causing murmurings in the fringes of the general community. If enough of them get together the mutterings can be registered all over the world and like any good rumour mill…enough muttering starts to give weight to the story, no matter how crazy it seems. We let the loonies take the stage and we actually gave them a microphone…while they were all fighting for the microphone and talking about their latest greatest doomsday prophesies the real world was carrying on regardless and our day started off innocently enough with me having to call our local income support centre “Centrelink” to try and sort out why they hadn’t paid us our student payment AGAIN…sigh…they are a groaning behemoth of a government department that is massively understaffed (how ironic that the workers keep finding themselves on the other side of the desk as the government keeps nibbling away at their population…) and as all good bureaucracies go, they do have to deal with an enormous workload and in the process of trying to keep us all honest, they make a lot of “interesting” decisions.

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A peek over the netting of the new chook pen with some incredibly contented chooks. Big Yin is VERY happy because he can see all of his remaining girls in one hit and everyone seems happy with their new situation…the pen extends to the left and right of this view and to the left there are large clumps of agapanthus that the hens are nesting and laying in…all’s well on the Western Front!

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I thought you might like to see how the little hazelnuts and walnuts we grew are going…

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The closest we are going to get to “snow” on Serendipity Farm 😉

As students we rarely have to deal with them. We receive a payment from the government to re-educate ourselves and ironically our payment is a lot less than that of people who are job seeking. We are not complaining though…we are just very VERY grateful that we live in a country where you CAN get income support to pursue an education to give yourself a better chance to find a job in a market place where the strings are stretched tight enough to give a Stradivarius a run for its money. Every time we get to the end of the year we have to inform Centrelink of our intentions to continue our studies next year…whenever we move on in our studies we inevitably hit the coal face of Centrelink and end up with a few problems…it is expected and this year was no different. We had a few teething problems trying to use the departments website and after informing them of our intentions to study and our course of choice we had our payments cut because they were too busy to update our details even though they were completely aware of them…a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing but again…we just saw it as an inevitable case of bureaucratic fumbling and kept wading through the mire till we informed the right people and everything got sorted out…this happened a few more times and we found ourselves phoning them up last Wednesday to see why they had cut our payments and after talking to a customer service officer we were under the impression that everything was sorted out and that it wasn’t our fault…she apologised profusely in fact, and our payment would be put into the bank on Friday…doomsday… we should have known that it was on the cards to be an “interesting” day…

I got the recipe for this wonderful stollen from a fantastic food blog called “The Vicar Died Laughing…” Tobi is an amazing baker and bakes scrumptious looking breads, cakes and all sorts of other wonderful recipes. I have kept his blog hidden deep in my rss feed reader but I think that as you have all been VERY good…I might just share one of the best baking blogs on the internet with my dear constant readers…

http://thevicardiedlaughing.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/stollen.html

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Prior to making your Stollen, you need to make your almond paste. I chose to keep with the frugal theme and skin my own whole almonds and process all of my ingredients together in my vitamix

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And here it is ready to store in the fridge until I need it…

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This pavlova is NOTHING to do with Stollen but who needs continuity eh? It’s a very overrated thing 😉

Our payment wasn’t put into the bank on Friday and as Steve headed out the door to do his doomsday/Christmas shop I was left with the unenviable task of phoning up Centrelink when they opened the phone lines at 8am. It isn’t uncommon to sit on the phone for hours waiting to talk to a service operator and with the entire department closing for a week over Christmas I phoned up at 8am on the dot! I was reading my rss feed reader and commenting on blogs while I waited on the phone listening to the solitary classical song that they play over…and over…and over…and over again after speaking as clearly as I could to the voice recognition software that they employ to infuriate you and ignore what you are saying and put you through to the wrong department…I finally got through to someone after going through an epiphany before phoning. I had been annoyed that they hadn’t paid us…I had the outrageous indignation of the slighted righteous unpaid student and had girded my loins for battle with the first service operator that I got to speak to (there is a reason why Steve deals with all phone calls to government and service departments! 😉 )…when I stopped in my tracks and really thought about what I was doing…we are so LUCKY to be in the position that we are in! We might have had our payments cut due to bureaucratic bungling BUT we at least “got” a payment and had the security of this payment as a backup unlike most of the rest of the world where social support is only seen as a luxury and a waste of taxpayers’ money. I immediately stopped feeling outrageously indignant…I didn’t have any right to feel that way. I was suddenly infused with gratefulness and thankfulness and rather than getting angry and indignant at the customer service operator I was going to be a beaming ray of pure sunshiny happiness and forgive them their extended ineptitude and scare the living daylights out of them with my shiny shininess…

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Mixing the fruit into the Stollen dough

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Spot the integral ingredient in my Stollen…

I eventually got through after several false starts…”No thank you”…I didn’t want to set up a phone account…”No” I didn’t have a pin number and “No thank you” I didn’t want to set one of those up either…I just wanted to speak to someone…(which meant, apparently, that I had to wait longer as people with phone accounts and pin numbers get served first…) and eventually after a reasonably short period of time I got through…I shone my shininess at the customer service officer…I beamed at her using my smiley voice over the phone…I commiserated with her over how busy and stressful it must be to be working at the coalface where most of your “customers” were stressed out individuals who were a taught string ready to snap at any given moment and after shining like a beacon of light I asked her why we hadn’t been paid…she then proceeded to pull the rug completely out from under me and say “because you have too many assets and your payment has been cancelled”… that answer came straight from side left and hit me right out of the ballpark…”too many assets?”… “EH?!”… we have been straight down the line with Centrelink from the very beginning and had told them at the start everything that we inherited when my late father died and had been assured that we were under the limit for the assets test that we needed to meet to continue to be paid our payment…according to this doyen of darkness…this purveyor of rug pullers…not only were we not entitled to our payment…they didn’t know why we had been allowed the payment 2 years ago in the first place! Forget doomsday cults…when your world and your security comes crumbling down around your ears the roar of the crazies immediately fades into the background and the “End of the world” fades into the background along with them…I now had the roar of terrifying possibilities to replace them!

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The dough ready to proof for 1 hour

Like all good terrified, rug pulled penniless student hippies who see their lifeline being surgically cut in front of their eyes I stopped shining and started to ask incredibly pertinent questions in an effort to go into damage control…the service operator told me that we would have to go to our local office to see what this meant and hinted that we may even have to pay back the payments that we had been paid for the last 2 years…Steve and I worry for a living…we can make a meal of stress and suddenly I was plunged into a 10 course degustatory feast of stress! I put down the phone dazed and confused and wondering “WHY?!” because the service operator (who didn’t deserve my “shiny happy” demeanour at ALL) had completely side skipped telling me anything or answering any of my questions with a bog standard “I don’t know…you will have to go to your local office…” all I could hear was “no payments” resounding in my ears and I did what every good panic merchant does at a time like that…I panicked! I phoned up Steve who was busy doing battle with the nana’s fighting over the last Christmas puddings and shared the load. Steve can worry for the queen and we both went into overdrive. Steve stopped spending and headed immediately to the local office to find out what was going on and a very nice lady in the office told him to bring back our rates notice for the property and a bank statement and as they don’t book interviews any more we would have to sit and wait to see someone. Steve came home laden with Christmas shopping and radiating stress…after a quick hug we both decided that a weekend of stressing and waiting for Monday to arrive to deal with it WASN’T an option…we like to deal with things immediately and so we threw the long suffering dogs into the car…we phoned up our daughters in town and gave them two options…”look after the dogs for us for a few hours or move”…they chose the former 😉 (Thanks girls, it was a good choice 😉 ) And we dumped the dogs unceremoniously and headed off with loins so girded that we could almost taste our underpants at the back of our throats…

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Stollen shaped and ready to proof again for 1 hour. You are going to have to wait to see them finished as they are just baking in the oven now :). Thank you SO much for this amazing recipe Tobi and for allowing me to share your wonderful blog with my readers 🙂

Steve dropped me off at the traffic lights and I waited in line while he headed off to find a park in a consumer stuffed city full of Christmas shoppers…I talked to people behind me in line…one very interesting man called Andrew had also had his payments cut because the lady that was supposed to phone him had gotten sick and not informed anyone that she hadn’t phoned up her customers and all 800 of them had their payments cut…I had read about a man who had gone to the Centrelink Ombudsmen (Yes…I had done my homework folks! I had done EVERYTHING possible to understand our “enemy”…it’s what I do best…would you expect any less of me? 😉 ) And had read about a man who was standing in line waiting for his appointment with Centrelink who had a grand mal epileptic fit. It must have been bad because the paramedics were called and while they were dealing with the hapless man, his name was called out and as he was comatose at the time, he didn’t respond. The paramedics told the front desk that they would have to take the man off for observation but apparently that wasn’t good enough and he had his payments cut! He had to go to the Ombudsmen to have them reinstated…that scared me…the power that this bureaucracy had to not only ruin someone’s life…but keep the process going for a long…long time and force this man who was obviously in the right, to go to an Ombudsman to get what he was rightfully owed had me worried. Like all good behemoths, Centrelink has an incredible degree of power over people’s lives and like all good bureaucracies, they regularly run roughshod over the top of their “clients” in an effort to keep the wheels greased and the machinery running…collateral damage is inevitable but due to our most careful and honest dealings with them and our incessant need to shove all correspondence and paperwork into our filing cabinet and our inherent lack of trust regarding past dealings with this bureaucratic giant we were armed with the right kind and the right amount of ammunition to pierce their armour plated tanks and get to the crux of our problem.

After waiting we were seen by the very same lady that Steve had talked to earlier and at this point I would like to say that this lady did EVERYTHING that she could to help us. I want to give this lady my shiny happy voice from earlier in the day but by the time we got to see her I couldn’t find it any more…it was girded inside my underpants too tight to extract and so she got my worried middle aged penniless hippy countenance to have to deal with and she gave us back our hope. She said “This is weird!”… She asked us some pertinent questions and she said “what did you two do to have this happen?”…after that she looked at our papers, she took them off to her boss and she returned after having made a decision with her boss to use our paperwork to substantiate our claim and reinstated our payments immediately. I don’t know if this lady has any idea how her kindness helped us yesterday. Her female boss, although unseen, pulled strings to give us back our lives. This pair of kind women gave me back my Christmas spirit yesterday and my belief in human kindness…Lord knows I would turn into a machine working for this massive department where human desperation was the norm rather than an aberration and where the coalface regularly exploded against the pitted side of “the machine” but this woman genuinely cared. I wanted to reach over her desk and hug her but I settled for thanking her from the bottom of my heart and giving her my special shiny smile because SHE deserved it :o)… the rug has been reinstated and aside from having the value of our “asset” in town (the home that our daughters live in) revalued by the self-same government department that set the rateable value last year at our request (so presumably we shouldn’t see too much of an increase on what they set back then…) we have better than average odds of being able to manage this situation. What was our own private annus horribilus yesterday has been salved… for now…

And this brings me to the end of my post for today…Its walnut day and I have spent the whole post crying poverty and the end of the world and haven’t even mentioned Earl’s walnutty abilities! I wanted to save it till last. I wanted to inject you all with the hope and the smiley happiness that you deserve for surviving not only this mammoth post, but also the apocalypse! We are all true survivors folks…just getting out of bed alive in the morning and waking up is a miracle but we don’t think about that…we just take it for granted that we are going to breath…that we are going to make it to the end of the road in one piece and that we are going to live to old age unscathed…its moments like these that we NEED minties! Sorry…commercial jingles have incredible power over you!…It’s moments like these that you really see what is important and like Sting crooned “how fragile we are”… we really have something to give thanks for this Christmas…our lives have been reinstated…we didn’t have to live off the “kindness of strangers” and Effel Dookark didn’t have to give up her life to become Steve’s weekly ration of meat and we didn’t have to suffer the indignity and dehumanisation of going cap in hand to various community agencies to ask for help to pay our bills…and in the newfound honest and true spirit of gratefulness and thankfulness that a period of dangling over the edge of a precipice can deliver to a person I offer you Earls little walnut of great happiness…

And the winner is…

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Here is the video of Earl choosing Christi from the walnut selection 🙂

http://s1101.beta.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/earls_zpsa783bf6e.mp4.html

As our last post before Christmas Steve and I would both like to wish everyone out there the most wonderful Christmas…no matter how big or small it is…no matter how many relatives you have to contend with…no matter what your situation or your story we are all united by a common bond here and the bottom line is that we are all incredibly lucky to be sharing whatever celebrations we are sharing with each other and NOONE knows that more than we do today :o)… see you the day after boxing day where life should have returned to a degree of something approximating “normalcy” on Serendipity Farm and the poignancy of girded loins and walnut draws have melted into the past… gone but NOT forgotten :o)

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The winning walnut with Christi’s new wooden spoon 🙂

Steve has just told me that he really enjoyed making the spoon for this prize draw and has promised to make more lovely custom wooden spoons for future Serendipity Farm draws so everyone that missed out on the spoon this time will have more chances in the future to own a little piece of Serendipity Farm 🙂

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