How my grandmother would have loved the internet

Hi All,

Steve's new camera view from over our deck

Steve’s new camera view from over our deck

I always remember my grandmother as a very strong and resourceful woman. As children we used to love visiting her house as she always had some new and most interesting thing for us to do and if she hadn’t gotten around to getting grandad to make us a small loom or some other craft, we always had a large box of the most interesting puzzles and homemade games to keep us amused. If we weren’t in the mood for a game or puzzle, we had their wonderful garden to explore or we could always push off in the bootle bumtrinket, a tiny little rowboat that we could explore the small island that was just off a point not too far from their home on the inlet. My grandmother was a most interesting person and it showed.

What do you have for tea when it is 37C inside the house and you really don't want to cook and heat it up even more? You cook good old fashioned Aussie sausage rolls on the bbq! ;)

What do you have for tea when it is 37C inside the house and you really don’t want to cook and heat it up even more? You cook good old fashioned Aussie sausage rolls on the bbq! 😉

Steve took this lovely shot of some lichen on a branch at Hollybank

Steve took this lovely shot of some lichen on a branch at Hollybank

Another "Wait a minute while I take a photo!" moment...This is half a cooked artichoke that I am actually in the process of eating prior to being used as a hand model ;)

Another “Wait a minute while I take a photo!” moment…This is half a cooked artichoke that I am actually in the process of eating prior to being used as a hand model 😉

We no longer dread taking down the decorations as our "Ikea flat pack tree" makes it such an easy process. It's now under the spare bed taking up NO room at all :)

We no longer dread taking down the decorations as our “Ikea flat pack tree” makes it such an easy process. It’s now under the spare bed taking up NO room at all 🙂

She always had some kind of interesting thing that she was learning. She knew how to knit, to crochet, to tat and much more. She grew herbs in her garden and she was always learning as much as she could. I am sure that the local library gave her a gold card she used it that much. My grandparents weren’t wealthy but they had a wealth of knowledge between them. Grandad was a carpenter and could make just about anything to do with wood and Grandma was one of the most resourceful women that I know.

Steve using some kind of "mode" on his new camera that makes things look extra teeny tiny from high up. All you tech heads probably know what this function is but whatever it is, it looks pretty shmick ;)

Steve using some kind of “mode” on his new camera that makes things look extra teeny tiny from high up. All you tech heads probably know what this function is but whatever it is, it looks pretty shmick 😉

Lunch that consists of onion lightly sauteed in olive oil with lots of garlic, peas and beans and covered with water, brought up to the boil and some veggie stock powder added and then some ground brown rice flour. A most interesting and tasty lunch

Lunch that consists of onion lightly sauteed in olive oil with lots of garlic, peas and beans and covered with water, brought up to the boil and some veggie stock powder added and then some ground brown rice flour. A most interesting and tasty lunch reminiscent of polenta

A nice shot of moss from Hollybank

A nice shot of moss on an old dry stone wall at Hollybank

A tiny (1.5cm) frog on raspberry leaves at our friends house the other day

A tiny (1.5cm) frog on raspberry leaves at our friends house the other day

I was hunting for information about natural dyes this morning and found this amazing link

http://maiwahandprints.blogspot.ca/p/guide-to-natural-dyes.html

Practically a whole library book of information available to moi, sitting here in my early morning fuggish haze tinged with excitement from my glorious find. Anything that I want to learn about is online. I just have to do a bit of sifting and hunting for the quality stuff. It is getting harder and harder to sift through as so much utter garbage is being shuffled about in the name of twitter, hash tags and links that don’t actually lead anywhere but that’s the minefield that is the net. If you want quality information, you are just going to have to go out there and find it and that’s where I step in.

Bezial would like it to be known that he is NOT fat, he is big boned!

Bezial would like it to be known that he is NOT fat, he is big boned!

A Tasmanian trigger plant (Stylidium graminifolium) that Steve took a photo of with his new camera

A Tasmanian trigger plant (Stylidium graminifolium) that Steve took a photo of with his new camera

 

I love learning. I am also a penniless student hippy who lives a fair way away from the library. I adore the library and use it a lot (although not so much recently) but the internet allows me to hunt from my inner sanctum and save this information to my own little library of great happiness. As soon as I get interested in something (and lets face it, just about everything interests little old me 😉 ), I go hunting. My 3am starts are part RSS Feed Read and part “lets just see where this will take me…” a most delightful way to find things out.

A lovely young Tasmanian fairy wren sunning himself early the other day when we walked the dogs in the park over the Batman bridge

A lovely young Tasmanian Superb fairy wren sunning himself early the other day when we walked the dogs in the park over the Batman bridge

Steve headed over to the Gorge restaurant site in order to see if he could get some nice pictures the other day when he was in the city doing the shopping. This male peacock was most insistent that he take his photo. Isn't he lovely?

Steve headed over to the Gorge restaurant site in order to see if he could get some nice pictures the other day when he was in the city doing the shopping. This male peacock was most insistent that he take his photo. Isn’t he lovely?

My grandmother would have adored the internet. She would have immediately realised it’s intrinsic value to her as a long standing magpie. Information…for free…that you didn’t have to drive to town to get? SCORE! Grandma didn’t drive and my grandad only had his motorbike license so they had to wait till mum drove them to town so the internet would have given my grandmother a degree of freedom that she couldn’t have thought was even possible. She would also have been able to keep in contact with her sisters and other family in the U.K. for free. OH what an amazing resource we have at our fingertips for pennies. My grandmother would have called me a “lucky bugger” and I am fully cognisant of just what a lucky bugger I am.

New Years day cocktails

New Years day cocktails. Enough fruit and veggies in this one to call it lunch! 😉

Hot days = cold beer and shandies

Hot days = cold beer and shandies in our redneck drinking mugs 😉

Me sorting through my beer bottle caps that I have been collecting for a year

Me sorting through my beer bottle caps that I have been collecting for a year

(do you see what I have to put up with! ;) )

(do you see what I have to put up with! Apparently this is motion blur and focal points 😉 )

Getting jiggy with the hammer and flattening out the remaining beer bottle caps to turn them into teeny tiny alcoholic bunting for Stevie-boys music room

Getting jiggy with the hammer and flattening out the remaining beer bottle caps to turn them into teeny tiny alcoholic bunting for Stevie-boys music room

We have been very busy little beavers this week.  On New Years Eve I stayed up and both Stevie-boy and I welcomed in the New Year for once. We had a little basket with coal (that my mum had given me on her last Christmas here, I must have been naughty! 😉 ), bread and money in it and as Steve is naturally dark haired, he had to walk in to the doors (both opened up to let out the bad and let the good in) and receive the basket. By the sound of it, we were the only ones in Sidmouth up at 12 to see in the New Year. NO idea why we did this aside from sticking with someone else’s tradition and then we popped a cheap bottle of peach flavoured passion pop that Steve picked up as he thought that I wouldn’t stay awake for 12 and we wouldn’t need it. OH how wrong he was! It was pretty much undrinkable so we had a sip each, grimaced and then went to bed.

My prototype drop spindle until Steve can get around to making me a Turkish drop spindle

My prototype drop spindle until Steve can get around to making me a Turkish drop spindle

Gorgeous caramel coloured alpaca fleece for spinning on the drop spindle

Gorgeous caramel coloured alpaca fleece for spinning on the drop spindle

Even lovelier kid alpaca silvery grey/white fleece for spinning

Even lovelier kid alpaca silvery grey/white fleece for spinning

Steve has been taking SO many photos since he got his new (baby) camera. Here you can see me attempting to eat breakfast whilst being coerced into being a "model" for his practice ;)

Steve has been taking SO many photos since he got his new (baby) camera. Here you can see me attempting to eat breakfast whilst being coerced into being a “model” for his practice 😉

New Years Day arrived and we decided to spend it crafting. I hammered out bottle caps to make beer bottle bunting and a beer bottle lamp shade for Stevie-boys music room and researched how to nailbind. Nailbinding is an ancient Nordic craft that preceded knitting and crochet that the Vikings used to make clothing. It involves using a “nal” or a kind of long needle made out of bone or wood. Steve knocked me up a “nal” and I am ready to go once I start spinning my alpaca wool…alpaca wool?! Yes, Stewart and Kelsey came out and gifted me 2 enormous garbage bags of the most beautiful caramel and silvery white alpaca fleece for me to learn how to spin on. Stevie-boy had made me a drop spindle and they were out hunting for more wool for Kelsey as she is learning to spin on a drop spindle as well and thought that they might get me some as well. MUCHO happy guys :).  Now I just need to find the time to get started!

It always looks like Steve is doing all of the work around here but someone has to duck away to take the photos! ;)

It always looks like Steve is doing all of the work around here but someone has to duck away to take the photos! 😉

After hauling the 2 long sections of garden bed up the hill and into Sanctuary we hammered small star picket stakes into the ground in front of the bed to keep it in place when we loaded it up with soil

After hauling the 2 long sections of garden bed up the hill and into Sanctuary we hammered small star picket stakes into the ground in front of the bed to keep it in place when we loaded it up with soil

Looking back from the mountain of manure and oak leaves to the site where the new garden bed was being built

Looking back from the mountain of manure and oak leaves to the site where the new garden bed was being built

We then decided to create the next 2 gardens from the great and mighty mountain of aged horse poo and rotted oak leaves. Steve and I cobbled together  a garden bed out of old half rounds that we had found on the property and bits of rubbish timber that we had been storing for “a rainy day” (or a garden bed 😉 ). We then used it as a sort of terrace in Sanctuary. Steve headed off to do the shopping on Monday and I shoveled the second of the two new garden beds into place. We had generated some “char” in a recent burn off of branches (after we cut off any usable wood). I wouldn’t call it “biochar” as it wasn’t produced properly but most of the pile was charcoal so “char” it is and I am sure it will be good for the garden so after it cooled down I hauled it up to Sanctuary in a wheelbarrow and tipped it onto the ground before I dug the second of the new beds.

My wheelbarrow of "char". Nothing gets wasted around here!

My wheelbarrow of “char”. Nothing gets wasted around here!

Earl "helping" in Sanctuary

Earl “helping” in Sanctuary

Earl helping some more...

Earl helping some more…

Steve noticed this really wonderful way to make a good water hand pump out of PVC pipe and a few easy to get hold of cheap items (to make the valves) on Facebook the other day. I will share it here with you all as you can never have enough hats, bags and good cheap water pumps!…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaho7JSVS1I 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG6own141z0&feature=youtube_gdata_player 

The first video shows you how to make the pump and the second one shows you how to make the one way valves. The pump can be used to pump water or air. I am going to make 4 of them, one for each limb 😉

King Earl of the dung heap ;)

King Earl of the dung heap 😉

The sweet potato cuttings that I got from our friend Jenny's house last Friday. I read that the best way to grow sweet potatoes was by cuttings.

The sweet potato cuttings that I got from our friend Jenny’s house last Friday. I read that the best way to grow sweet potatoes was by cuttings.

I am in awe at how quickly these roots grew. This was 3 days after I put them into some water in the kitchen and just before I planted them out

I am in awe at how quickly these roots grew. This was 3 days after I put them into some water in the kitchen and just before I planted them out

My new large bench and a potted up cucamelon for a friend

My new large bench and a potted up cucamelon for a friend

Yesterday Steve and I pruned our 7 little grape vines that I grew from cuttings from our muscat grape vine in the city. We researched how to do it and we staked them up so that next year we can start training them to grow on a trellis. Steve made me a lovely big bench to use in Sanctuary and then knocked up another one because I said that I could carry the bench around with me and sit down and water (and Don Burke thought that HE was the lazy gardener! 😉 ) and now I don’t even have to lug the bench around :). It got pretty hot then so we hunkered down inside and spent the rest of the day relaxing. Today has been spent out in the garden potting up my 10 long suffering artichoke babies that desperately needed moving to bigger pots to grow on before I plant them out in the main garden. I also planted out my cucamelon/mouse melon (Melothria scabra)  babies (and potted one up to give to a friend). I was sent the seed by the wonderful Bev from Foodnstuff on the mainland after lamenting that I would never find the seed here in Tasmania. I then found out that my son was growing cucamelons as well. When asking him where he got his seed he said “Bunnings”…oh well! 😉 I had 19 of them germinate and gave 8 of them away so I have 11 left. That was my mathematics lesson for the day folks! (Did I pass?) If you would like to know more about this most interesting of fruits/vegetables (one of the two 😉 ) here is an interesting link that also contains a recipe for how to preserve them…

http://homegrown-revolution.co.uk/savoury-fruit/growing-cucamelons/

The top new garden planted out with potatoes that had gone to seed and sweet potato cuttings (that you can't see but that are already growing leaves :) )

The top new garden planted out with potatoes that had gone to seed and sweet potato cuttings (that you can’t see but that are already growing leaves 🙂 )

The new garden bed planted out with all kinds of seedlings from the glasshouse. I have since added basil and bergamot seedlings to the mix.

The new garden bed planted out with all kinds of seedlings from the glasshouse. I have since added basil and bergamot seedlings to the mix.

The second new garden bed is very long. I didn't have enough manure/oak leaf mix to fill it all so the last bit is now my new compost heap where I will create my own soil for another garden. I love the possibilities of gardening :)

The second new garden bed is very long. I didn’t have enough manure/oak leaf mix to fill it all so the last bit is now my new compost heap where I will create my own soil for another garden. I love the possibilities of gardening 🙂

I also planted out basil, bergamot and some chilli’s that had been languishing in with the artichokes as now we have room to plant them. I had already planted out eggplants, tomatoes, tomatillos and capsicum plants. I am not really bothered that it’s a bit late for them, I just didn’t want to waste them in the glasshouse and now they at least have a chance to grow out in the sunshine. Steve and I often walk our dogs over in Beaconsfield, a small town about  10 minutes away from here and on one of our walks we noticed an old cast iron bath out the back of the local council buildings. We kept seeing it on our walks and so I decided to phone up council and ask if we could have it. I got a phone call back today to say that I could pick it up whenever I wanted it and so Sanctuary is just about to get a nice pond. I have been lusting after a bath ever since Bev from the amazingly informative permaculture blog “Foodnstuff” posted about storing water in the garden in non-conventional (and cheap) ways…

https://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/storing-water-for-the-garden/

Can you see one of your baby pepino's in the jungle that is Sanctuary Bev? ;)

Can you see one of your baby pepino’s in the jungle that is Sanctuary Bev? 😉

Towering 8ft tall Jerusalem artichokes dwarfing rhubarb that has gone to seed and raspberries in a compost heap

Towering 8ft tall Jerusalem artichokes dwarfing rhubarb that has gone to seed and raspberries in a compost heap

Potted up artichoke babies and one of the chaotic garden beds that forms the bulk of Sanctuary

Potted up artichoke babies and one of the chaotic garden beds that forms the bulk of Sanctuary

My little tiny loquat seedlings that I dug up from the road verge last year are growing like crazy now that I have planted them out inside the new dog compound. Nothing touches them and the fruit is delicious :)

My little tiny loquat seedlings that I dug up from the road verge last year are growing like crazy now that I have planted them out inside the new dog compound. Nothing touches them and the fruit is delicious 🙂

Cucamelons ready to plant out

Cucamelons ready to plant out

The new cucamelon enclosure. Apparently they can grow to 3 metres high so maybe I should have planned a bit better but they are over in the top of Sanctuary where not much else exists so if they want to invade Poland they can knock themselves out ;)

The new cucamelon enclosure. Apparently they can grow to 3 metres high so maybe I should have planned a bit better but they are over in the top of Sanctuary where not much else exists so if they want to invade Poland they can knock themselves out 😉

A regular sweet cherry and a sour cherry that our friend Jenny gave to us. She can't plant them on her property as the possums would simply hoover them down. Now that we have an Earl protected (at all hours of the day) inner sanctum compound, these cherries should grow and flourish free from possum invasion

A regular sweet cherry and a sour cherry that our friend Jenny gave to us. She can’t plant them on her property as the possums would simply hoover them down. Now that we have an Earl protected (at all hours of the day) inner sanctum compound, these cherries should grow and flourish free from possum invasion

So we have been busy as beavers here in sunny Sidmouth on Serendipity Farm. Hopefully you have all had a most excellent first week of the new year. We have certainly started out as we mean to finish up. I have even been writing things in my new day to day diary to make sure that I don’t forget things (that probably won’t even last till February but whatchagonnadoeh? 😉 ). I am tired but in a good way and very excited by all of the different things that we are contemplating this year. Have a great week everyone until we get together again next Wednesday to have a chat and a cuppa and catch up where we left off 🙂

Earl had a hard night on the bottle ;)

Earl had a hard night on the bottle 😉

The return of the prodigal hen’s daughter

Hi All,

Effel Doocark died last week 😦 . She hadn’t been well for a few days and just suddenly passed away on what had been the hottest day so far this year. We buried her under mum’s memory tree so that in some way, she will keep going on in the cycle of things on Serendipity Farm. We had been trying to work out how to get one of Effel’s remaining two daughters and her 7 baby chicks safely past the hordes of feral cats and over to the new chook run where they would be safe. The hen was most determined in wanting to come up to the house, after all, it had been her home when she was chick free and she was darned well going to come back here come hell or high water! Unlike Effel, she is an excellent mum, as is her sister that we also kept. Her sister hatched out 14 babies in a shrub near the old chook coop before we added the new enclosure and was easily herded into the small enclosed area that we already had for the chooks and her chicks are 8 weeks old now and we recently gave 6 of them away to someone starting out again with chooks. We see them as we drive past their new home and they are happily scratching around in their new enclosure. Effels other daughter went further afield to hatch out her brood…for further afield read at the furthest corner of the property! She hatched her babies out under the massive big oak tree that borders Glad’s and our boundary line and stayed down there for 2 weeks till they got too big to live from the insects scratched from underneath the teatree area and that was when she marched on Jericho and decided to tear down the ferals walls of expectation. She did lose 2 babies in the process but when you see how many ferals are seething around you can only begin to imagine how determined this hen was to protect her babies. This morning when Steve was opening up the coop door for the hens to come out into the enclosure he noticed that she was standing over next to the door of the enclosure and called out for me to come and help him and we managed to coral them all through the door and into the relative safety of the enclosure! Now we have 2 roosters and a single young hen that roam free on Serendipity Farm. We just have to isolate where those early morning exploratory crows are coming from and we can catch them in the act and rehouse them. Simple things make you incredibly happy :o).

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This little Penstemon was grown by our friend in the witness protection from cuttings from some well established shrubs in her garden. If you want something that will keep on keeping on no matter how harsh and dry your conditions are enter the penstemon 🙂

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Buddleia globosa, just one of the buddleia’s that are thriving on Serendipity Farm after a good haircut. They are wonderful shrubs that will grow in extremely arid conditions, they attract butterflies and bees and have a lovely scent…what’s not to love?

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A white Buddleia davidii

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Anyone for puce?

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A different kind of cicada to the redeyes that have all but been eaten out of existance now. This one was lucky he was rescued from a very interested Earl who has been known to eat cicadas en masse…the only thing that saved him was he clicked and increased his “play factor” exponentially

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It’s a toss-up between Earl and these little guys as to who eats the most cicada’s. This little fellow has decided that this part of the deck is his and he can be regularly seen out sunning himself

Steve has just headed back out fishing for the afternoon. He is armed with several fishing rods, a new boat rod that he picked up for $30 from Tamar Marine (free plug because you are such great blokes! 😉 ) and all sorts of stinky lurey baity things that should dump a load of fish into his little tinny should he actually feel like fishing. Steve has fallen prey to pootling about in his metal coracle…he loves nothing more than perambulating his little marine craft gently over the river surface and going exploring. I, for one, am extremely happy :o). It’s good for people to get out on their own and do something that delights them. I have all sorts of things that make me happy…simple things like reading, writing blog posts, researching, reading my rss feed, learning things, gardening…are you getting the picture? Steve is a little more superficially manly than me. Aside from his newfound love of wood and it’s possibilities he has suddenly taken interest in repurposing things and is currently repurposing an old fridge that was in the unit out the back of the home where our daughters live that had died into a wonderful cupboard and recently made a very hand gadget for storing sauce bottles so that you can get the last dregs. We are even making our very first Instructable of it! Fishing has given Steve something to do with those questing hands and that ever twitching mind…the man needs to be constantly on the go and fishing is all the
“GO” that he needs. I love that he has found something that makes him incredibly happy and this afternoon he is sailing the high seas with his sandwiches and his sense of adventure. Whether he catches a fish or not is irrelevant. He found a portal to simple happiness and is exploring his world :o)

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A birds eye view of some home grown spinach and a gravity defying frozen banana in my vitamix blender

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A close up of a tbs of chia seed to be added to my green smoothie after it is blended

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The end result…”purest green!”

I am incredibly happy today. It might have something to do with my green smoothie cleanse that I have been undertaking since Wednesday. I feel great! I am also marvelling at how the garden is coping with “summer” and it even rained this morning. The dogs are lying on the deck in various degrees of slumber…once the sun heats them up enough they stagger, semi-comatose, inside where they flop down using the least amount of muscles into almost instant, albeit cooler, slumber. I have been out broadcasting chia seed as my last broadcasting event resulted in Nigella damascena (love-in-the-mist) growing all over the place! I am going to have to pick up some black cumin seed (Nigella sativa) to broadcast around if it grows that easily! The chia seed (Salvia hispanica) is apparently very easy to grow according to Spencer from Anthropogen

http://anthropogen.com/2012/05/26/lamiaceae-salvia-hispanica-chia/

Who gave me this reply to my query as to whether or not it might grow here in Tasmania…

“I think they’d do great in your climate. It originated in the western USA, all along the California coast to Mexico. It was a major staple food of indigenous groups in the area. Extremely nutritious. I tossed a few handfuls around on the hillside around my house in California on my last visit and they’re all growing now. Very drought tolerant when established….”

And that’s enough for me to hurl seed with gay abandon! I didn’t have a little basket to skip along with but I did broadcast the seed all over the place and it had just rained so you never know…some of the seed might make it. I love the serendipity of a garden and I love how if you let them, they evolve despite your best intentions. I have changed (some might say “devolved”…) from my initial desires to have “magnificent European style cottage gardens…a tangle of gorgeousness darling…” to “bloody hell those aggies (Agapanthus africanus) are great down the driveway Steve!”…I once HATED agapanthus; to my shame…I have changed from a plant snob through necessity. I consider myself chastened and flagellated. If it will grow luxuriously and it flowers beautifully year after year and it needs minimal ANYTHING and it doesn’t grow crazily so one minute you have space and the next it is full to the brim with said species…it is welcome on Serendipity Farm! My eyes have been opened to “real gardening”…no more pretty vs. productive…if it doesn’t have 2 uses and if it can’t survive on its own and it refuses to do what it is supposed to do without all kinds of cosseting and primping it is OUT. Enter the new chance to research annuals, perennials, ground covers, shrubs, climbers and trees that are water wise, drought tolerant and that will survive a bomb blast…my new best friends are slowly starting to amass around me…chia is in, because it is drought tolerant, has lovely flowers AND it gives you amazingly nutritious seeds…vegetable amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus), ditto…could even be considered a weed should I ever get stupid enough to not harvest it but what a weed! You can eat the leaves and the seed and it can be used medicinally as well. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) has beetroot, spinach, the weed fat hen and tumbleweeds as its relatives and that qualifies it as a hardy specimen if ever I heard of one. Again I am consummately in love with gardening and the possibilities it has given us. Sometimes all it takes is a good result, a little bit of success to keep you in love with a process. I just planted some elderberries that I had dried a while ago after finding some on a shrub when we last went to the Evandale markets. I found a lot more seed that I had collected at the time and headed out to throw it to the 4 winds to allow nature to do what she will with the seed. If it grows, good on it, if it doesn’t, it wasn’t meant to. I got a new Milkwood permaculture post this morning giving a link to a wonderful free PDF about growing the right plants for our Aussie conditions to attract bees…the site is affiliated with the federal government and is called Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation. The website where you can download your own copy (remember to click “PDF Download”, the free option on the right hand side unless you want a $60 hard copy) is as follows…

https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/12-014

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Lots of previously “lost seed” now found, distributed or planted (depending on its relevance to what we are doing) and the envelopes have been shredded in my little hand turned shredder and thrown into the compost…I wonder if any of these seeds grow? It is always an adventure when you plant seeds to see just what might grow. All of these seeds are very hardy so at least some of them should germinate

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A lump of oak branch that had blown down in winter 2012 that must be 100+ years old. Steve has lots of plans for this piece of wood from Bonnie Beach

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The good ship “Tubby Piggins” out on the high seas in rough conditions…it is VERY lucky that I wasn’t there because I suffer from motion sickness…and would be “feeding the fishes” 😉

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Steve’s clever idea to stop the frustration of trying to get the last bit of sauce out of the bottle…hang them upside down! Great idea… we just need to remember to close the lids…don’t we Steve! 😉

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Steve made this lovely spoon today out of golden sassafrass (Atherosperma moschatum) a wonderful endemic timber. He is currently working out what he is going to make for the next Serendipity Farm spoon draw. It cost almost nothing to send Christi her spoons and I can’t imagine it would cost much more to send them anywhere else in the world so we are going to carry on with our spoon, spatuloon, spork…whatever floats Steve’s boat on the day giveaways…keep your eye open for your next chance to win a one of a kind Serendipity Wooden accoutrement

While I was out broadcasting chia (might head out with some quinoa and amaranth as well in a bit…) I noticed something interesting. When we hacked back the overgrowth in the side garden next to our bedroom I decided not to waste this green haul. I finely cut everything that I could up and returned it to the soil as a very meagre coating of mulch. Some of this mulch consisted of small chunks of Buddleia davidii that have taken root and grown into small shrubs! I realise that Buddleia davidii could be considered a bit weedy but again, if it lives in our conditions, indeed THRIVES in our conditions and can survive what this property can hurl at it, it is welcome to stay. We have butterflies all over the place thanks to the Buddleia’s and that can NEVER be a bad thing :o). Our friend in the witness protection gave us some cuttings that she struck from her Pentstemon’s. She gave them to us because these perennials put on a glorious show year after year no matter what Mother Nature throws at them. Now THAT is the sort of plant that we want on Serendipity Farm! Tough as old boots, drought tolerant, showy, pretty flowers and bee and butterfly attractant. I think I might ask her for some more cuttings so that I can grow some more and dot them all over the place. A Wikipedia search curiously omits to mention that it will be cockroaches and pentstemons left to repopulate the earth after the next great ice-age but I guess the writer was only interested in the “pretty” value and not the hardiness. I am going to have the best time hunting around finding all sorts of gorgeous hardy perennials, shrubs etc. to be planted here that will give Serendipity Farm its own personality. I can feel the love :o)

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We headed up the hill today for our daily walk with the boys and after checking this little plant stall for anything desirable, I decided to take a photo and share it with you all. I have purchased lots of plants for Serendipity Farm from this little wooden stand

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I was attempting to take photos of the flowers of this Coastal Tea-tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) and noticed this little fellow trying, vainly, to blend in with the background. Coastal Tea-trees are incredibly hardy and are endemic to our local area. When the seed sets I am going collecting and will be attempting to grow some of these hardy bee attracters for Serendipity Farm

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Its no WONDER that little shiny insect was laying low! This rather more alarming insect is on the hunt for fodder for its young…

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Not too sure what this leptospermum is but its on the property and it is incredibly happy that we liberated it from forget-me-nots last year. It is also well past “shrub” and is almost a small tree

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Our driveway on the way back up to Serendipity Farm from our walk…nothing like having to walk up a 30 degree slope after a long walk!

The veggie garden is still going great guns and I picked 3 delightful small Lebanese cucumbers whilst looking for snow peas…I think finding produce that you weren’t even looking for makes you doubly happy as there is that serendipitous element when you are cutting back zucchini leaves and you suddenly find cucumbers sheltering en masse under the canopy…they are tasty little creatures too! Steve and I just ate 2 of them. He has a curiously U.K. desire to put them on his cheese sandwiches and to slice them up and pickle them…I love them straight with hummus which is how I had them for my lunch today. I recently read something very interesting “In a crisis situation, it isn’t the strongest or the most intelligent that survive…it is those that are the most able to adapt”…how interesting! The problem solvers survive eh? I have been trying to release my natural need to be in total control of everything this year. Last year saw us with a potential cataclysmic problem thanks to nothing that we could have prevented and I learned that “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. You need to be that person who takes it on the chin, who gets up and who finds a way through to the other side and I am in the process of learning how to weather storms. You have to be that problem solver, the one that they don’t eat because they are so incredibly valuable! I think that I am past “good eatin’” and am somewhat safe in that department but the reality is we are living in a rapidly changing world. Those of us who work to effect positive change on all levels in their lives are going to be more resilient than those who put their heads in the sand. I guess that is Serendipity Farm in a nutshell…an oasis of possibility and a plank/tightrope to walk for our own personal change. And there, my dear constant readers, I am going to leave this post for today. A bright summers weekend of possibilities lies ahead of us and we have all sorts of things to choose to do. Have a great one folks and see you on Wednesday where we may, or may not, have done something worth blogging about 😉

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One of the little figs that we appropriated from under an overgrown unkempt fig in Beaconsfield whose branches had layered. We got 3 large fig cuttings and every single one of them survived the winter in the glasshouse and are loving living on Serendipity Farm…Fig futures!

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Potato futures in one of our compost heaps

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The first of our corn futures

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I guess you would call these cucumber presents?

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And last, but by no means the least (because they keep on growing…more and more of them…they NEVER STOP!)…Golden zucchini futures 🙂

How to freak out a penniless hippy and bean sprouting 101

Hi All,

This is a special post for 2 reasons.

  1. Bev from Foodnstuff requested that I do a little post about how to use an automatic sprouter to facilitate vegetable and other seed sprouting
  2. I just had a MAJOR woo-woo moment (Christi will know what I mean by that 😉 )

The sprouter first… I bought this sprouter when I was on a health kick.  I have a link to what my sprouter is here…

http://www.organicsaustraliaonline.com.au/prod4521.htm

But I most DEFINITELY didn’t pay that for it! Mine was $49.00 through my local health food shop. The sprouter promised…yes…it PROMISED that I would reverse my aging, I would suddenly go from middle aged saggy plump hippy to firm taught vibrant slim jogging vegan in a single swoop through the simple ingestion of crunchy “magic”…as with many of my past health kicks this one lasted about a week…which was coincidentally the same amount of time that it took the automatic sprouter to sprout me a plethora of sprouts that all tasted a bit more bitter and crunchy than magic and sunshiny to me and after soaking and cleaning the unit for about a month and still not being able to make it look like new again I put it away (with a few whispy tendrils of sprout root clinging infuriatingly and most tenaciously to some of the plates) and promptly forgodaboudit. I had the bright idea of using it to sprout my larger beans after reading Bev of foodn’stuff blogging fame’s post about beans and waiting for them to come through…I am NOT patient. I don’t like waiting for things to sprout and tend to think that they are dead and toss them out into the compost heap…we also have a plethora of slugs on Serendipity Farm and I didn’t want to be muttering about how long my beans were taking to germinate when in actuality they germinated a month ago and were promptly set upon and devoured by slugs in my absentia. The sprouter had our bean seeds up and sprouted within a week and after we planted them out they went gangbusters and we only lost 2 to said slugs (right before I caught them writhing upside down on the slug pelletised mushroom compost…) and one that had been slug snipped is actually regrowing.  I hope that this is useful to you Bev…if not just let me know what I omitted (probably everything 😉 ) and I will email you with the straight dope on it.

What do we have here? Why I DO believe its Tragopogon porrifolius otherwise known as oyster plant or common salsify…

And here are some more…if that’s not an open invitation to collect seed and spread it with wanton abandon on Serendipity Farm I don’t know what is!

Seed collected and ready for wanton abandoned spreading in some potting mix. Another one of those lucky little finds that result in me feeling like I won vegetable lotto 🙂

I would imagine that you could just put your beans into a jar and sprout them that way. The main benefit of the automatic sprouter is that it waters the sprouts for you so if you have a mind like a sieve that tends to be miles away from where your body resides at any given time you won’t forget to rinse your beans and they won’t shrivel and die before they extend their little rootlets to the sunshine, closely followed by their little shootlets. I have a secret to share with you…you all have to be very careful to listen to what I am about to say in a whisper…turn your ears down to low as this is something pretty special for me…I…managed to germinate…a Moringa oleifera in said automatic sprouter! SHHHHH! I don’t want the fates to hear me! I want to have it keep growing in the glasshouse until it gets big enough to plant out on Serendipity Farm under heavy guard because EVERYTHING is going to want to eat this baby. I actually managed to get one to germinate and that is a magic feat indeed for me. I have been after one of these trees for so very long and if this little fellow who is growing incredibly quickly is able to keep growing and thriving I will actually have one of these amazingly useful trees. Next stop…neem!

At first glance this might appear to be a jar of Chestnut Cream. Chestnut cream is delicious and this jar did, indeed, contain chestnut cream in one of it’s past incarnations but it is currently containing home made sunflower seed butter that I made using a mortar and pestle the other day because I am the sad owner of a shit food processor that refuses to “process” anything other than meat. Oh the irony for a vegan to own something that is obviously carnivorous 😦

Here’s me taking secret deck shots (using the zoom) of Joe Cool doing the whipper snipping…

You can almost see the moment where this suddenly escalated into something that couldn’t be spoken about  in polite company can’t you? ;)… time to sneak back inside and put the camera somewhere safe 😉

I love being able to grow things myself. Things that we might otherwise never see on Serendipity Farm let alone in Tasmania. We have been growing Brachychitons and have lots of different kinds ready to be planted out, given away, swapped or sold should we ever manage to organise ourselves out of a paper bag and get it together enough to man a stall at the Exeter markets one day. I have visions of a row of incredible Queensland bottle trees (for that, indeed, is what Brachychitons are…) all the way down the fenceline between our house and Glad’s next door. It would most certainly be a talking point for future generations. I watched an old episode of The Cook and the Chef last night and Simon Bryant was talking to some permies in South Australia who were saying that once it gets too hot on the mainland for citrus that the logical and perfect replacement were pomegranate trees. I LOVE the positivity of permaculture…no sitting around whinging about how we won’t have citrus trees soon and isn’t it terrible…just straight away looking at the possibilities and adapting. That’s what I prize…adaptation and the ability to look on the bright side. That’s what is noble about the human race…that plus dying for your mate but hopefully I won’t have to do that any day soon! I have been thinking about what to do with an area up the back block that was “accidentally” cleared in our absence by the neighbours to the rear who wanted to take a swathe of trees right the way down to the front of the property out so that they could get a view (and more for their property that they are trying to sell…). The man that was caretaking our property at the time (before we moved here) started to ask questions when they wanted to start felling down into the second paddock and phoned us up…that was where I reiterated that I had told this neighbour at the back that he could take out a couple of trees along the fenceline that runs between our property and theirs NOT the whole damned property! Some people take liberties and I plan on planting out a memorial to the lost trees that consists of a row of Pinus radiata right along the boundary line (what’s that you say? They grow tall? Do they? 😉 ) And running down the steep slope I want to plant pistachios, pomegranates, figs and olives with perhaps a run of grape vines closer to the house and vegetable gardens. The area has been cleared anyway and may as well get used for food production. It’s perfect for these sorts of plants and now I just need to source them. The pomegranate isn’t too hard but the pistachio may be a bit more difficult.

Despite their best efforts the chooks haven’t yet managed to totally defoliate Serendipity Farm…this Deutzia scabra is loving it’s spot planted out into the garden and is rewarding us with some beautiful flowers…it has a twin in the middle garden that is doing just as well.

Another Serendipity chook appocolypse survivor. This member of the lily family has managed to hoodwink them but it’s less fortunate Asiatic lily cousins have fallen prey to their dustbathing and curious pecking and most probably to a few possum and wallaby attacks

I wonder why the chooks passed up this chance to make a quick horticultural conquest…it’s down the driveway in their stomping ground…wait a minute…its a Dracunculus vulgaris aka “Voodoo lily”, “Dragon arum”, or “Stink lily”… last year there were 3 of them…this year there are about 20. I just did a bit of a check and found out that they originate in the Balkans and Greece. No WONDER they do well here without supplemental watering!

And this is an open one…stinking to high heavens of rotting meat. It uses this subterfuge to encourage pollination which obviously works because we have 20 of them when last year we only had 3. Anyone HATE their neighbour and want one of these babies? Revenge is foetid 😉

The woo-woo part of this post is quite interesting actually. I have been veering off into finding some really good gardening and environmental blogs lately. All thanks and kudos to my dear constant reader Argyle socks of “Science on the Land” blogging fame…

http://argylesock.wordpress.com/

Who recently was nominated for a blogging award. Much like me she tends not to bother with things like that and much like me it’s because she probably couldn’t be bothered with going through all of the rigmarole that seems to go with these awards and speaking for myself I kind of feel a bit “chain lettery” whenever I see them although I have to admit to being chuffed when I have been nominated in the past and very appreciative of my fellow bloggers kudos :o). She did post an amazing list of blogs that she follows and mine was one of them…I headed off to peruse every single blog (obsessive compulsive? Moi?!) and found most of them a bit TOO scientific for my mind to comprehend. I did, however, find a couple of fantastic blogs that made me feel like I had won blog lotto and that got crammed into my rss feed reader post haste so as not to lose them. Aside from Argyle sock who I am GOING to have to ask her what her name is because I have to post “Argyle sock” on other people’s blogs 😉 whose blog is a fantastic read, you can check her list for yourself and see if there are any close fits for your scientific desires…

http://argylesock.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/blogs-that-i-recommend/

There is something for everyone folks…no matter how much you think that you don’t like science. The woo-woo bit came from where Ms Argyle (or is it Ms Sock?) had typed out a little bit about our blog after the link and she had typed “The Road to Serendipity Pen and Steve try to find order in all of this chaos.” (she has since changed it to “Fran” because that is actually my name) my mum called me “Penny” because that is what she wanted to call me…as much as I dislike “Frances” as a name it might be a good thing that my father’s insistence on calling me the family name (much like he had been called the family name before me…sigh…misery loves company! 😉 )  won out because I would be Penny Pimblett if my mum had her way and that is only a hop-step and a jump from pippy longstockings and Chrystal tips and Alistair! The woo-woo part comes from me watching a television program about near death experiences and knowing how much mum loved it here and how recently she had been to our home before she died I was thinking about whether it was possible for people to be able to communicate from wherever we go to when we die. I do believe that we go “somewhere” but as I haven’t been there yet I can’t say where “somewhere” is. I don’t ascribe to the theory that we just “stop” when we die… I am an optimist remember. I had been thinking about mum on and off for a week or so now…I woke up to an email asking me to moderate Argyle socks pingback to my blog and almost fell off my chair…which is a usual occurrence to be honest because at 5am before I have sipped my first brain awakening cup of tea assuming that I have a sense of balance is a most enthusiastic assumption. Using mum’s pet name for me in the pingback was incredibly pertinent to what I had been thinking about the night before and although I tend to be a reasonably sceptical person, my woo-woo valve was twitching. Ms Sock had obviously been to my “about” page and having seen Steve’s name in the blurb…just kept reading comments until she found mum’s comment calling me “Pen”…an easy mistake to make but how very VERY coincidental that she should post this post and make that mistake right after I had been pondering about after death experiences.

Does anyone else get the feeling that “someone” is SO far over Earl’s birthday that he is just about to meet himself coming back the other way? 😉

Someone doesn’t like having his photo taken…

It’s a magnificent day today in northern Tasmania. The sun is shining, in fact it’s glaring down. The sky is blue the water is magnificent and we took the dogs to their favourite place to walk (and ours to drag behind them…) just up the road from here in a place called Swan point. I got some lovely photos for today’s post and the boys had a ball. Bezial is now to be officially called “The great blowfish hunter” because he had his head under the water in a vain attempt to catch one of the small blowfish that zoom around in the shallow warm water. Earl was very confused because he couldn’t even SEE the blowfish and was watching Bezial in a most bemused way jumping in and out of the water and kept racing over to see what all the fuss was about…Earl doesn’t like to miss out on anything and he was feeling decidedly missed out. I have a driftwood Christmas wreath to construct and found an adult conifer with tiny little cones that it had littered all over the place on our walk and collected 2 bags full of them one for my wreathy creation and the other for a friend who wanted some for Christmas craft. I found an interesting picture in one of the recycle, reuse repurpose blogs that I follow that led me to another site with instructions for how to make cloth bowls using cloth remnants and rope. The thing that made me excited was that someone had taken this sterling idea and ran with it all the way to their pile of plastic bags and had turned the idea into a series of magnificent looking outdoor planters! WOOT! What a great idea! This little black duck will be using her bags for more than plarn and by using nylon rope that we find washed up onto the shoreline all of the time, I can make some really interesting outdoor planters that are as frugal as they are bright and cheery. Steve is whipper snipping the paddock next to the house because both of our close neighbours have suddenly become pyromaniacs who light small fires all over the place. Glad was having a fire the other night when I headed off to bed! Frank was trying to smoke us out this morning with lots of little raked heaps of Poa grass…he really does need to accept that he lives in the bush and that “neat and tidy” are merely a concept that needs to be exorcised if he ever wants to find happiness out here in the scrub.

A warm spring day down at Paper beach and Steve is feeling artistic

Its amazing how pretty a swampy bit of water can look if you accidentally ace the shot 😉

I have an interesting post for Saturday that started when I picked up a discarded plastic coke bottle on one of my solitary walks with Earl while Bezial was recovering from an attempt to join the ranks of the parkour elite. It got me thinking about what we throw out and I ran with the theme. Our new course next year has us working through a lot of conceptual ideas and one of the units is titled “50 pumpkins”. What we are required to do is sketch 50 different ways to look at a pumpkin and submit them to our lecturer. That means that Steve and I will be submitting 100 pumpkins! I had been thinking about the concept and realised that there are many ways to skin a cat and many ways to conceptualise a pumpkin and that led me to Saturdays post. It’s too nice a day to be sitting here wasting folks…I have garden beds to build…I have Purple King beans threatening to take over Steve’s shed if I don’t plant them out and I have 2 sulking dogs who are waiting for me to take them out to water the veggie gardens (in Earls case…literally!) so I must love you, and leave you. Parting is such sweet sorrow BUT if you come back on Saturday you can read all about the irony of a coke bottle…I think that was just a teaser for my next post?  Whatever it was…see you then!

I finally worked out how to get a good shot of Bezial…wave the bag of dehydrated steak treats above the camera!

What do you know…it works for Earl too! 😉

Living simply on Serendipity Farm

Hi All

I sometimes wonder if “living simply” is an oxymoron because in our efforts to live a simple life, we seem to be doing a whole lot! The old saying “before you can make an omelette, you have to break some eggs” is particularly pertinent to our situation. I dare say we are going to break quite a few eggs as we accidentally discover hidden feral chook nests all over the place in the spring and that fact that most of them will be found via the whipper snipper AND that most of those eggs will be teetering on the verge of disgusting by then will no doubt be fuel for a future post. Life is starting to speed up on Serendipity Farm. Big Yin is spending his days ensuring that every single adult female chook is “his” (nudge-nudge wink-wink say no more!) in no uncertain terms and so we have a new flourish of pre-spring eggs but they are all covered by determined fluffy derrières that are intent on hatching out more of Big Yins progeny. It’s a spiralling decent into chicken domination that we have decided to harness for the good of all mankind. WE may not be able to use all of the eggs that our chickens produce but our long suffering neighbours should at least be able to share in the reason for all of those early morning crows and clucks and their occasional invasion by our ninja chook squad. We are past being terrified of dispatching roosters and now that we have come to terms with our rights and responsibilities with living with chooks en masse, Steve is actually looking forwards to chicken stock futures and knowing where the meat portion on his plate is coming from and how it was raised with food miles measured in minutiae. I can’t help but get excited whenever I add a new tree that promises to give us a greater ability to live on this hilly outcrop on a river leading out to the sea. My daughters are giving me a couple of almond trees (yes I know I will have to choose them and pick them up girls BUT the thought is there :o) ) and I am in the process of buying Miyoko Schinner’s amazing new vegan cheese book “Artisan Vegan Cheeses” so that someday I will be able to use the nuts from my almond, walnut (already on the property but not utilised), hazelnuts (we are growing walnuts and hazelnuts at the moment), chestnuts (again, growing HEAPS of them) and avocados (yup…we got some!) to produce our own vegan cheeses and non-dairy produce. I know that avocados are not nuts by the way folks…I just got excited by the fact that we grew them and had to include them for bragging rights 😉

Here’s a bunch of spring daffodils for you 🙂

Aren’t Daffodils pretty? That bright yellow colour and their unobtrusive scent positively scream “SPRING IS COMING” 🙂

Check out what happened to the end of the daffodils when I put them into cold water on the windowsill…this should give you an idea of how cold it is in Tasmania at the moment…who needs icewater! I get a daffy at one end and a shamrock at the other! 😉

The “Chosen One’s” from the borlotti selection that I shelled. The unchosen ones are ruminating in my stomach as I type this and these fortunate embryo’s are being dried out on my kitchen windowsill to plant in the spring

Hopefully I am not sounding like a zealot there. My new found zeal comes less from a divine intervention and more from a personal awakening to the possibilities. So many of us, me included, feel like we are drifting along like flotsam on a sea of change. I, personally, suck at change. I am one of life’s “baulkers”… you throw me a curve ball…I tend to duck…I like finding my own way and HATE things being forced on me. I like to let all of the knowledge and information that I find (and as a quintessential magpie I am CONSTANTLY bathed in it from many different sources…) ruminate around inside me and if some sticks, so be it…if it’s not important or pertinent to what we are doing or who we are it just flies out of my other ear and into the ether so that someone else can pick it up and use it if they see fit. Knowledge is indeed power in my situation and it’s precious to me. I have learned so much since I first picked up a mouse (upside down) and attempted to turn the magic of the internet to my own use.  Some of my most prized websites and blogs are those that deal with living simply and putting thoughts and words into alternative action. I just wanted to say that often, when we blog, we don’t realise how our own personal sharing can help or enlighten someone else. Bev, from the wonderfully helpful and enlightening (and funny folks) blog “FoodnStuff” has NO idea how valuable her site is to me. It’s one of my “can’t miss” reads from my early morning RSS Feed Reads and if I was forced to narrow them down (NOOOO!) you would be in the top 10 Bev. I learned about water wicking beds…I learned about Hugelkultur gardening, making compost in rows and all sorts of fantastic permaculture ideas that are entirely transferable to Serendipity Farm from Bev and she doesn’t even realise how valuable that is to me! It’s past valuable when I can take that information and apply it to our property to our advantage and I got that information for free! It didn’t cost me a cent and gave us back a degree of sanity with trying to work out what to do with our piles of debris and fallen rotten trees. Cheers to everyone who shares online and gives part of themselves over to typing up regular posts. No doubt most of you don’t have verbal diarrhoea like I do and the words don’t just come flying out of your fingers and sometimes posting must seem like a chore. Even I have thought “who the heck is going to read this stuff? Is it worth my efforts?” and you know what? It IS worth our efforts. We are the means for millions of people to get something worthwhile from the internet. They sifted through the garbage and found us and ticked “like” and gave us hope that what we are saying, doing and trying to do makes sense and they gave us a little validation for our efforts.  So to all of my dear constant readers AND my wonderful blog writing friends who really don’t realise how important their efforts are, a hearty and most magnificent CHEERS! :o)

With spring comes sunbeams…second only to Brunhilda in Bezial’s heirachy of desire

“Excuse me Steve…can you see where my nose it pointing?…It’s pointing at that tin there…inside that tin is the object of my desire…thanks to a freak accident of nature I appear to be missing my opposible thumb and as such I am unable to reach for or open this tin…could you do us a favour and reach in…pick it up and open the lid for me?”…

“ah go on! It never is too close to dinner time!”

How can people living in poverty in India be happier than we are? Scientific studies prove that they are. They are happier than we are because they are aligned with what humans are meant to be doing. They get up early, they work in the fields, they eat simply and they come home and share their days before they head to bed. No endless hours in front of the television, the computer, on their phone texting, no money to buy these things so they are freed by their poverty from alienation from their families. Perhaps God is telling us that we need to stop trying to find happiness in “stuff” and turn back to our families and friends and see our happiness reflected in their eyes? I don’t know the answers, but I DO know that whenever I am close to the sea, to the soil, whenever I am sharing music, a laugh, something that makes me smile with my friends and family I am the most centred and alive as I can be. I think it will be good to lose some of our luxuries…it will be good for us to learn to work with the soil again. To have less choice in our grocery stores…and those choices to be locally available and seasonal. Would you really mind if you had to go to the butchers, the bakers, and the hardware shop separately? I remember living in a small town with all of these shops and no supermarket at all. Do we need to hand our choices over to middle men who dictate just what and when we get our goods? I would rather live simply and employ more people in the process. If we have to remove machines from our lives (when fuel prices itself out of the water…) that means more jobs for us all. We might not have as specialised jobs but we all need to eat, to learn, to be entertained and as some jobs go, others will open up. I choose to see change as being positive in this case and that is why Steve and I are learning everything that we can about soil, gardening, growing our own food, planning gardens and alternative organic growing practices. We want to be able to share what we are learning and apply it directly to our own and to other people’s needs.

Steve teaching Earl how to use the keyboard

Sunbeams are a dogs best friend

The first of my new books to arrive!

Doesn’t this look like a little dog hiding in the sofa? It’s actually one of the boys toys that I probably sat on and saved from imminent gutting by the boys (for now)

Apparently Mark Knopflers wistful music has me philosophising today…I wonder if I had left Steve’s Iron Maiden on how this post would have panned out? I plan on spending the rest of the afternoon listening to Ben Folds 5 and mellowing out. I love weekends. Not because they are particularly different to the rest of our week but they just feel more relaxed and easier to wear. We tend to be more adventurous with what we cook for our meals, we tend to listen to music more and “do” things other than study. I love creating things and making things. I sorted through some seeds to plant in the near future. We ARE going to have a few veggie gardens this year and I have some organic red flowering broad beans from our friend in the witness protection, some saved scarlet runner beans from Glad’s daughter Wendy (next door), some Barbara pumpkins from Bev in Victoria that can take over the outside chook yard with impunity (pre fertilised and full of oak leaves and hay) and we have some fresh local borlotti beans that Steve bought the other day that I chose the best and brightest to dry out and use for growing. I LOVE the possibilities of gardening. I LOVE that we can save seeds and that they will grow next season and give us food and more seed in perpetuity. To put a small dry seed into the ground and wait for it to awaken and unfurl when the time is right is the ultimate in hopefulness. I sometimes wonder why I was born so enthusiastic. I know that it irritated my father no end. I can’t help my natural delight with simple things. It streams through me and I can’t help wanting to share my simple little “finds”. Thank you for all wanting to share them too :o). I think I might leave this post here for today…as philosophical as it has been it has meandered around a bit and has reflected my mellow mood today. Take it easy folks and remember to focus on what matters today. Take a look at how amazing your life is and try to phase out all of the bampf that our competitive distracting lives keep tossing at us and look underneath it…there are cobwebs there…there are the dusty husks of what our lives could be clinging tenaciously deep down inside and just like those dried up dead looking seeds…you too can slowly unfurl if the conditions are right :o)

Before shot of Steve’s music room today…

Steve’s music room AFTER…doesn’t look like the same room does it! 😉

Steve Solomon, seeds and Serendipity Farm

Hi All

Today is going to be a little bit different to most of my posts. I headed off for a visit to Steve Solomon’s garden yesterday and this post is going to be all about my visit. Steve Solomon is an ex-pat American man that moved to Tasmania many years ago and calls my local area home. He developed a seed company in the U.S.A. that my good blog mate Christi who is a prolific author and gives us all her wonderful take on life in Western Washington at http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ regularly purchases her veggie seeds from. He has produced a range of seeds and fertilisers specifically for our local area with mindfulness of how depleted and ancient our soil is in Australia. The man certainly knows his stuff as this interesting article posted on Mother Earth website will show you (along with a free recipe for his great natural homemade fertiliser)

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2006-06-01/A-Better-Way-to-Fertilize-Your-Garden.aspx

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/search?searchTerm=Steve+Solomon

This shows the proximity to the street from Steve’s vegetable garden. Note the espaliered trees along the front of the fenceline and the trellised kiwifruit. To the left you can see the feathery remains of a happy asparagus crop that he dug up to sell the crowns at $1.25 each crown and he got 900 crowns from this 10m bed. You can also see the brassica’s doing their level best to repopulate the earth

People wandering around the well ordered winter veggie beds. You can see the colour and structure of Steve’s soil in this photo. He credits his low water requirements to the composition of this soil and he also told us that he doesn’t mulch because he believes that mulch carries and shields too many pest species from view and harbours fungal pests so his plants are more widely spaced to minimise water stress and the soil is exposed but not compacted

Some of the people that came to hear Steve talk about his garden listening most intently to what he has to say. Steve is the grey haired gentleman in the blue jeans standing in the middle of the group. The man in the white pants is one of the Tamar NRM representitives present on the day. You can see how close Steve’s suburban block is to his neighbours

Everyone is sampling Steve’s delicious veggies in this photo. The poor girl on the left hand side with the purple fuzzy hat kept getting passed the plate. She must have thought that she looked hungry. The lady wearing the blue jeans with my backpack over her shoulder and the long dark hair is my friend in the witness protection and I was wandering about taking photos to share with you

As you can see there were quite a few people that turned up to this event. Most of them were interested in organic vegetable growing and some of them just wanted to get more out of their soil and grow better veggies. Steve gave his undivided attention to everyone but there was one younger man who just earned himself a felt hatters moniker. In the photo above he is the young sunglass wearing (on an overcast rainy day mind you…) man in the navy blue jumper and blue jeans standing just to the right of the elderly white hatted man. This guy just couldn’t shut up! I thought that I had a problem with being a bit of a know-it-all but this kid made me look like a mute! He had verbal diarrhea littered with as much scientific jargon as he could muster from his overcharged brain. Steve is a bit of an old hippy and admitted that “I just want everyone to be healthy” to which our sunglass wearing young entrepreneur asked “what is your marketing stragegy?”I rest my case! I could have forgiven him his verbosity if I hadn’t found out that he had booked a spot to gush on we less intelligent mortals at the upcoming Food Sustainability Day that I will be attending. At least I have forwarning and can take some ear plugs should the need arise to give my poor ears a rest!

This shot was taken looking back towards Steve’s lovely home to show you the other view of the garden

More of the garden looking back towards Steve’s house and you can see the green crops (lupins) that he is using to overwinter these garden beds and give them a nitrogenous boost with. As you can see, his garden is a decent size and produces enough to feed his family and to fill 7 CSA boxes a week for locals who love his fresh and delicious organic vegetables yielding him an additional $560 a month in income with very little extra work

The sun came out for 5 seconds and you can get a really good idea of how rich and red this lovely friable soil is. As you can see (when I can be bothered to stop taking arty shots and attempt to focus on a single garden bed for a change) this garden is set out in a very organised, logical way and when we asked Steve why he chose 10m x 2m garden beds he said “to make it easier to work out how much of my fertiliser to apply to them”. Good answer sir! 🙂

Some of the handouts and one of the free pens (in her left hand) being held by my friend in the witness protection. That lovely purple jacket that she is wearing contains goose down and by the end of the 2 hours spent sitting in a cosy warm room she was wishing that she hadn’t worn it! We all expected to be standing around outside in Steve’s garden for most of the talk but he was incredibly considerate of us all and brought us into his lovely home for most of the lecture.

Sorry it’s a bit dark but this is Steve sharing his passion for growing vegetables that are able to take up minerals from the soil. Our health shouldn’t be in the hands of supermarkets and “others”. We owe it to ourselves to eat the best and most nutritious food that we can. Steve is trying to make sure that we all do 🙂

I left Steve Solomon’s garden with a new passion for growing vegetables and with newfound hope that our soil may not be quite as bad as I thought that it was. It obviously isn’t as glorious as the red Ferrosol soil that Steve bought his property because of, but our silty topsoil covering a subsoil of clay and rocks will give us really good soil moisture retention. I am going to dig up as much comfrey as I can from my daughters place in town and plant it EVERYWHERE on Serendipity Farm. Comfrey is a fantastic perennial herb that has very deep penetrating roots and that should be able to deal with our soil and bring minerals and nutrients to the surface. I can then use its leaves to throw into and accelerate our compost making thus killing two birds with one plant! Yeh…I know…I mixed my metaphors…I was never one to adhere to metaphoric correctness 😉

The lovely book plate personally signed by Hannah, an amazingly talented young vegan cookbook author that is going to be affixed with pride as soon as my copy arrives from The Book Depository in the U.K. Check out her beautiful blog for all sorts of decadent, sinful but oh so healthy treats…
http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/

My new pumpkinescant best bud “Barbara’s” embryo’s arrived in one piece unmolested by the pumpkin police and hopefully not irradiated beyond an inch of their lives. Cheers to the effervescent and eternally opptimistic Bev from the wonderful down to earth and incredibly entertaining and education blog “Foodnstuff”. I am having a little chuckle here, as I had to head over to Foodnstuff to get the url and read the first paragraph of her new post that I am sure that she won’t mind me reproducing here…
“I know God hates me because I’m an atheist and when he sees me out in the garden, he sends it down.
He must have been otherwise occupied this morning because I actually got a lot of weeding done before he woke up that I was out there.”
Check out why I spend my mornings loitering about in the hope that Bev has posted again and I can sit there with a cuppa and a stiffled guffaw before anyone else is up here…
http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/

Our Mise en plus all ready for starting on our 1/5th scale model…this nice neat pile is now a chaotic teetering stack bedecked with sawdust and slightly Earl nibbled timbers and discarded timber offcuts

The eggs in the carton are duck eggs and are a lovely green/blue colour. I use them in cakes but my daughters have expressed an interest in duck egg futures so I won’t feel the need to be constantly baking to keep up with their ready supply

This part of the post is pre-garden visit. Steve and I had a quick drive-by viewing and Steve’s garden is decidedly underwhelming at the moment but then again, most gardens in Tasmania’s north are the same thanks to a long, cold, hard winter. It will be very interesting to see what Steve has to say about gardening in our local conditions. It will also be very interesting to talk to him about how he developed his seed catalogue to get the best of them with our local growing conditions. According to Christi, his previous seed company, “Territorial Seed Company”, is the place to go to get seeds in her neck of the woods. I think that the word “neck of the woods” is most pertinent to Christi’s local area as I would have a cricked neck for a month from looking up at all of those amazing conifers that grow naturally where she lives.  I am particularly interested in one of his earlier books titled “Gardening when it counts: Growing food in hard times”. Steve says that he grows half of his families food requirements in his garden and it will be interesting to see just exactly what he grows to do this. All in all it will be a most interesting visit and at least Christi should be interested in this post :o).

These are the fluorescent coloured veggie burgers that Steve made for my birthday. My dear sister Pinkus said that they looked like sweets but they were deliciously savoury and full of flavour despite looking like they should taste of strawberries…

This is what the veggie burgers look like when they are cooked…a whole lot more like traditional burgers and no-one would confuse them for sugary treats any more!

A side view of a most delicious birthday tea with sourdough bread, salad AND delicious oven baked chips.

Here’s my delicious vegan wholewheat chocolate peanut butter cake with the only candle that we could find albeit somewhat bent from one of the kitchen drawers. This cake was a triumph and Steve is now my new Sous Chef 😉

We all got to sample some of the vegetables from Steve’s garden cut up raw and aside from some delicious carrot sticks and some lovely fresh cabbage there was a butter yellow coloured vegetable that was tinged with green that tasted as sweet as an apple but with a hint of brassica. We couldn’t work out what it was but assumed that it might be the “Tasmanian Butter Swede” that he had been developing for the seed market. Upon asking the man from the Tamar NRM who was busy passing platters of vegetables around we were told that it was kohlrabi! The only experience that I have had of kohlrabi have been decidedly unpleasant and I swore never to eat it again thanks to stringiness, an over pronounced cabbage flavour and a distinct bitterness from the specimen that I purchased from the supermarket. Growing your own vegetables allows you the freedom to choose what you grow as well as which varieties. You can sample your way through the vegetable catalogue and arrive at your firm favourites and then you can allow the biggest and best to go to seed and collect the seed for next year ad infinitum. Steve is very passionate about people growing their own vegetables and taking control of their own health and nutrition in the process. He is just about to start up a soil testing facility in conjunction with an American soil testing agency and as his first “clients” we were given the chance to have our soils tested, a consultation with Steve regarding our results as well as a personalised fertiliser compiled from the data assessed for $20. My friend from the witness protection and I turned to each other and both said “Bargain!” Steve took us all into his lovely home and proceeded to talk about his past life developing seeds and how he got into the nutritional profiling of the vegetables and soil that he dealt with. Steve has a new book coming out in November called “The intelligent gardener: Growing nutrient dense food” that teaches people how to analyse their own soils and how to redress the problems that present themselves in your soil profile. We now have the instructions for how the soil needed for testing needs to be collected and we will be collecting our soil samples, bagging them and taking them around to Steve’s next week to be sent off and within a month they should be back and we can begin finding natural ways to get the best out of our soil for growing nutrient dense vegetables.

A previously unused attachment for my overworked food processor that squeezes oranges which made The process of squeezing 6kg of navel oranges a WHOLE lot easier…pity there wasn’t an easy fix for the 24 oranges that I had to hand zest…

There are worse things than a sink full of oranges…say…a sink full of oranges that most of them need to be hand zested…sigh…

The reason for 6kg of juiced oranges, 24 zested oranges, 4kg of juiced lemons, the zest of 4 lemons and a coma worth of sugar is fermenting away nicely on its second day of mutual introductions…Dear constant readers meet…orange wine!

I may have lost my hot water bottle last night to a rubber perishing accident but the orange wine is nice and cosy settled down on a woolen blanket right next to Brunhilda’s gentle wafting sideways heat. I might take up residence on the other side tonight if it gets any colder!

I am racing to get this post ready to post and am going to leave it here. Again, I realise that I have barged my way into your heads with sustainability, soil profiling, horticulture and seeds and if this is so much “yawn*” for you I appologise. To the rest of you who are in similar situations and who can see just how chuffed I am with what I am learning and the potential of it all I share my excitement and my delight :o). Hopefully the rest of the week will be kind to you all and you will hit 5pm on Friday running and ready to spend your weekend productively however you see fit. Take it easy and see you on Saturday :o)

Putting the AGRO in Agroforestry

Hi All,

Has anyone else noticed that Agro comes first in the word Agroforestry? That is NO coincidence folks! As a very wise sage (one might think equal to heaven…) once said “Before you can have a cookie you have to lift the lid…” much like the delicious reward of that cookie (white chocolate and macadamia you say?!), developing a smallholding food forest comes with a huge degree of Agro before you get the reward of that forest of food. I have been scouring Anthropogen.com to find out as much about agroforestry and edible food forestry as I can. There isn’t a huge amount out there about food forests because to be honest folks…the people doing it are too busy bums up in the air planting, tending and planning to be sharing information with interested bystanders. I have never been one to jump in without a plan and with the dubious honour of being horticulturalists (AND prospective landscape designers…) we have to be seen to know something about what we are doing. In past posts people have commented about how lovely it is here. I think I must have been gilding the lily somewhat and only showing you the pretty bits. We have some solid undergrowth and some massively overgrown plants that are tough, mean and angry about having been neglected for 20 years. Some of the blackberries that we have been dealing with should come with health warnings on them as not only are they thorny and hard to remove, but lugging great swathes of them over to the trailer usually results in at least one of us spending the next few days feeling the love.

Here is a photo of Earl that Steve messed about with on his mobile. I quite like it…Steve says it is “Olden Days Earl”… there were more than one of him!!!

Earl…or who we like to call “Mr Big Head” looking decidedly like a shark…but the best bit you can’t see…he had his arm on the arm rest of the car while I was taking his photo basking in the delicious cool air after a long walk…one HAPPY dog 🙂

“Poke…poke…poke…press…poke…can we PLEASE go for a walk?”…

“I don’t CARE if it is the start of winter…DOGS DIE IN HOT CARS!”…

“Wheres the bus?”…

Today (Monday) we decided to tackle path renovation 101. We had discovered a rock bordered path leading into an enormously overgrown English May bush (Spiraea thunbergia) and as most of this week is supposed to be relatively rain free, we decided to get stuck in and see just where that pathway went. As usual we ended up generating an ENORMOUS amount of debris. Some of the English May bush had thin spindly branches that measured in excess of 5 metres. You can’t help but feel a sense of compassion for something that has had to go to those sorts of lengths to survive and that has had the tenacity to keep going. That feeling lasts all of about 10 minutes until you have to start cutting, hacking, lugging and toting and then the air becomes colourfully redolent and plant love flies out the window. We knew that we were going to meet up with some of our arch nemesis Mr Blackberry…but the blackberries that we had to deal with were mostly dead and spindly. Dead blackberries are more dangerous than their live counterparts because apart from splintering into shards of spiky debris, they hurt more when they stick you. Spindly blackberries are also bollocks. It’s hard to see them…they lay on the ground pretending to be “other things” and you generally miss one or two of them resulting in massive plants in a year or so. We did 2 ½ hours in the garden and created 3 full trailer loads of debris and a small clearing in the undergrowth. Steve sometimes gets discouraged by how much work we have to do just to accomplish a small task. He spent time crown lifting trees so that we could liberate other shrubs underneath so that we could get inside the shrub to the blackberries hiding within. I don’t look at the big picture…I just look at that 1 square metre of “stuff” in front of me and lay waste to it…when I have finished I work on the next 1 square metre and eventually there won’t be any more left. It’s a bit like being a parent. None of us would survive the act of raising children to adulthood if we didn’t first master the art of selective deafness.

We reported a set of stone steps as being dangerous to the West Tamar Council and the very next day this sign appeared! The little hominid in the picture is doing exactly what I did when I stepped on the lowest step…

 Isn’t this an awesome picture? I won’t try to make you guess what it is…it is actually a steel girder that has rusted away and weathered and is part of the original Beaconsfield Mining days back in the 1800’s

I love this photo…it gives me the impression of the age of mechanisation rusting out and ceasing but the trees are still there waiting for all the chaos to die down…

I always check out the blogs of people that like my posts. It’s not megalomania, it’s my natural curious (some would say “nosy”…) nature coming into play. I would like to know what sort of people find Serendipity Farm an interesting and indeed worthwhile place to drop by and take a visit…share a first cup of mental tea/coffee in the morning with me before the sun comes up…I am CONSTANTLY amazed by the people that click “like” on some of my posts. Obviously the picture that randomly pops up for the post is going to attract some readers but reading and liking are 2 completely different things. I think that is what keeps me blogging, knowing that I am making a connection with people out there somewhere in the ether and whether our lives have ANYTHING in common or not, it doesn’t matter. Right there inside someone else’s head I made sense on some level. Now THAT is something special. I click “like” because a post predominately affects me, moves me, sometimes enrages me and often enlightens me…my click is my “bravo!” It takes a lot to make me click and even more to comment. Whenever I get a “like” or a comment it validates this blog and my thoughts about life and the world. It gives me some solace that there are people who think like me out there and that I am not the only one who wants to find ways to make life full of colour and depth. The world is full of uncertainty at the moment. I saw on one of Steve’s apocalyptic documentaries where a scientist said “the natural human tendency when disaster happens is for humans to find each other and group together”… he was talking about alien invasion at the time but I think that whenever times get tough, that’s when we seem to find the best and worst in people. I would hesitate to add that I personally think that without hard times we never really understand how very lucky we are to be living where we are and being who we are. We might all be totally different people but we share a common goal and to all of the people out there who click “like” on my posts, thank you from the bottom of my heart for seeing something in my words that resonates enough for you to tell me that you like them :o)

We had just walked the dogs and noticed this little gem just waiting to be photographed. As you can see this road leads to the tip/waste transfer station…looks like someone didn’t want to pay the $5 to complete the “waste transfer” to me and lends a whole new meaning to “Your bike is rubbish…” 😉

This is the first stage of the dogs getting a walk in the morning…I head to the bedroom to put on my walking shoes…can you see the happiness in their eyes or is that wary disbelief…I have several more stages to go through before I get out the gate…

Its Wednesday already! On Monday we headed out into the garden after walking the dogs to take a look at what stage we are at in our Serendipitous redevelopment. We realised that it won’t take too many days to clear out the undergrowth in the densely covered area of the garden that no-one has set foot in since most probably 2004 when I came to visit my dad after his partner died. I headed down into that area of the garden and remember there being pathways lined with the rock that predominates the entire area let alone Serendipity Farm. It’s a total PAIN to dig this soil but when you are looking for free foundation materials to make raised garden beds…dry stone walls and retaining walls there are no shortages of these weathered rocks and yet again I am reminded that everything has its uses. I remember wandering down into the garden past a large palm and it was already overgrown with buddleia. I just took 20 minutes to get up, take some photos of the morning sunrise, make Steve his first cup of coffee and take it to him and predominately to try to find out what that buddleia actually is that I was talking about. I can’t find it! It would seem that Buddleia davidii is the go when you are after “Buddleia” in an internet search and as persistent and dogged as I can be about internet searches, even I know when to give up and head to the horticultural books! The Buddleia in question is more of a small tree than a shrub and has the most incredible scented flowers that are not like the classic davidii shaped flower at all. They are clusters of flowers on a branch. I will let you know what they are as soon as I can find them…sorry about that little “aside” there, I have a strong need to know things sometimes and that was one of my “need to know” moments ;). Consider it a brief segue back to my story. I wandered around this garden enchanted by how overgrown and wild it was. Since 2004 the garden went wild. I dare say my dad no longer had anyone telling him to get into the garden so he didn’t. My memories are the only thing that tells me that there are pathways, benches, and most importantly “form” out there in that jungle and unlike Steve who often finds himself overwhelmed and bewildered in this area of the garden, I am able to use my memories to guide me to where the good stuff is.

This is one of Effel Doocark’s babies that are now our constant companions whenever we set foot into the garden. We can be completely alone when Steve starts up his chainsaw and within a few moments we are inundated with small chickens and a very determined Effel. They are getting a bit tamer as we are making the effort to pick most of them up. This little girl is quite tame and finds herself being picked up more than the others. Isn’t she cute?

This was big red rooster…now he is Zac Brannigan rooster…if he keeps threatening the female members of the flock he will be chicken lasagne! “We are watching you sunshine!…”

Here is one of my little  Ceratonia siliqua (Carob/St John’s Bread) that I managed to grow from seed. We are going to plant them out on the property and make good use of their leguminous properties as well as their pods. There are many uses for carob and they are a most useful tree to plant if you have room on your property. Now if I can only get my hands on some Moringa oleifera I will be a happy little sustainable camper!

I wonder why whenever you get stuck into clearing out an area of the garden, the resulting “cleared bit” is a whole lot smaller than the generated debris? It’s a bit like the Tardis of Dr Who legend in that it would appear something wasn’t quite right when measuring up the equation. Our lecturer (poor long suffering Nick…) has had to steel himself to understand that my mind is on a need to know basis and whenever you are trying to introduce new and exciting premises…it needs to be shown why it should be putting all of this effort into thinking about said premise in the first place or it simply isn’t going to happen. Nick told me that whenever you alter one side of an equation, you need to adjust the other side accordingly…I saw it mentally as a see-saw effect and luckily I am the sort of person who’s mind is constantly seeking equilibrium and so this made perfect sense to me. Trigonometry…you are now my friend. Not so sure about Calculus though… when viewing the enormous piles of debris generated and the small space cleared my ordered mind found something askew in that equation. I guess I am thinking in two dimensions rather than the 3 dimensions that are actually present and as the third dimensional portion of Serendipity Farm appears to be stuffed to the back gills with overgrown exponentially increasing plant matter, I can let my mind rest somewhat easily. You can only teach an old dog new tricks that make sense to it. If you want to travel outside that box, you are going to have to do some SERIOUS work Nick ;). I have to say one thing here. I doubt that my lecturer reads this blog so I can say it with impunity. Despite having to teach mature aged students who started off being able to share their horticultural knowledge on a 20c piece, he has risen to the occasion remarkably. He is one of those lecturers who are willing to take the journey with you to learn. Whenever we come across a problem with the software that we are using or a conundrum about our course we know that he will be on the case for a solution as soon as we step outside the building. He is a fellow lover of knowledge and information and despite us being very different people, Nick goes the extra mile to actually teach and for that sir…I thank you from the bottom of my heart :o)

This is a lovely small kalmata olive (Olea europea) tree that is one of many situated right on the fenceline at Marion’s Vinyard. There are many other varieties of olive represented in the trees planted along the side of the road and I collected a selection of them so that we can try to grow some here on Serendipity Farm. I am more than aware that olives grown from seed are a very long term proposition and that taking cuttings is a much quicker way to get yourself an olive tree (as well as an exact copy of the olive that you have isolated) but you know what? I like a challenge! I will be taking cuttings next summer from these trees but for now I will plant the seeds and see what happens.

My little money bag of olives. If I can get some of them to grow, this might be a most fortuitous place to be holding them 😉

This is to show you the different types of olives I have. The vinyard owner most kindly has a sign up telling people the types of olives and which trees are representitive of those types alongside the roadside planting so it will be nice and easy for me to identify my cuttings (so long as I remember to label them accordingly…)

On Tuesday we walked the dogs and when we got back we discussed what we were going to do for the day. Steve has wanted to get his weeping maple collection planted out and so we decided to do that. We set about removing as many rocks from the small garden surrounding the bird baths as we could before Steve set about digging some “root growth zones” (a.k.a. “holes…) to plant them into. He swapped between the shovel and a mattock for the task and we removed lots of large rocks from the area. Maples have shallow root systems that like to spread out a lot with lots of feeder roots. This is because they are understory small trees and needed to adapt to their cramped soil conditions. They also don’t like wet feet and need to be planted out in free draining conditions. Our soil isn’t the most ideal soil in the world consisting of a reasonable percentage of silt but thanks to the 20 years of neglect, all of the leaves that “should” have been raked up have fallen and decomposed in the garden and have added some much needed organic matter to this thin denuded soil. The rocks will actually help us with Steve’s maple garden, they will ensure that the soil doesn’t get compacted no matter how many chickens decide to get stuck in and stomp the area into the ground and we used some of the smaller rocks to form a small cairn around each of his precious babies to stop the advancing hoards of chickens from scratching the living daylights out of their newly planted root systems. Being a gardener means having to weigh up the positives and the negatives and trying to get them to work for you…We planted out some really lovely specimens that will become a truly lovely display in spring through to autumn. At the moment they look like a garden of sticks. Their branching is so fine that you can’t even see most of them from the deck but we know that they are there and we also know that they will be delighted to be planted out and ready to take off at the first signs of spring.

Today we decided to head off and do some more blackberry killing in the side garden. We are on a quest to reduce the blackberries on Serendipity Farm to the minimum. We know that the birds are going to constantly bring them here but we will be watching for any signs once we remove the large outbreaks that have been reproducing exponentially for the last 20 years and will nip them in the bud as soon as we see them. The most tiring thing about removing blackberries is trying to ferret them out from the ingenious places that they manage to grow. We killed one today that had actually grown up an irrigation riser and had to be untied from the riser before we could extract it from its hiding place. Blackberries are clever…who needs a rudimentary brain stem when you are able to grow in so many ways. I do appreciate their delicious sweet fruit but I can head out and harvest it in the bushland and waste ground around Sidmouth and Beaconsfield and we don’t need the double edged sword of blackberry vines on Serendipity Farm. Tonight we are going to watch some episodes of the U.K. sitcom “The Good Life” that we managed to get hold of from a boxed set so we get all of the extra and special episodes. I remember watching this when I was very young and loved every single episode. It was like Fawlty Towers…witty, incredibly funny and so far from Steve and I with our humble “farming” endeavours but so close with the honesty that is so very refreshing in U.K. television programs (well…some of them…). That’s what many people simply don’t get…the best humour is tinged with pain. That’s how you appreciate it to the max and revealing something sad in the middle of the humour makes you remember it and feel it more than you normally would. You “engage” with it more… like in the final Black Adder where they all went over the wall to certain death…in the movie 4 weddings and a funeral with the death of one of the main characters… wherever there is pathos and humour there is more of a connection. Tom and Barbara Good are true pioneering spirits for the sustainability Movement and were years before their time. I truly love this show and am going to have a great time watching every single episode. See you all Saturday and have a really fantastic evening…I most surely will :o)

And by the way Kymmy…what was at the end of that path was a WHOLE LOT MORE HARD WORK…sigh…