The Mis en Place of life

Hi All,

This is post number 3 that I have up my sleeve…what a luxury! I have been guilty of only having about a quarter of a post ready to post on the day that I am due to post it. Not only that, but I have also been guilty of realising that the day got away from me and that I have 1 hour to post…as a natural processes person I take great delight in the deliciousness of order and progression and I try to do as many things as I can to smooth the way through our days. I love prep. I love to get things ready and sort things out and am a maestro of mis en place when it comes to recipes. I learned it the hard way and getting everything that you need ready before you start something is a wise lesson to learn. Another wise lesson is to clean up your previous mess before you start a new task. My grandmother always pushed “Clean up as you go along” as her mantra. It stuck. I hate a great pile of dishes to do after I cook so as I cook I wash dishes and wipe them at the same time. At the end of the process there may be some dinner dishes to do but not many. I hate waking up to dishes, or a messy kitchen. It’s a new day after all and a new day deserves a clean start. I know that some of my processes annoy Steve. I can only imagine what his flat in the U.K. looked like but I have a good idea ;). Steve lived on his own and was able to drag a doona out to the couch whilst watching television. He could leave his guitar and amp in the lounge room where it would remain (un-chewed by Earl) until he felt like playing it next. He could dump his clothes on the floor until he ran out of them and could head down to the Laundromat just around the corner to throw a load of washing into the machine and the pace of his life was completely centred on his own processes. We have been together for 14 years now (16 if you count the 2 years we spent in an extremely long distance online relationship) and he still doesn’t get why he can’t just throw his clothes on the floor by the bed when he wants to sleep…”it’s not like I am dropping them in the lounge is it?”…but for once, Earl is coming to my rescue. Earl has started to invade Steve’s deftly dropped clothing…I have an early morning disclaimer here…I did NOT train Earl to demolish any of Steve’s carelessly dumped items…he learned how to do it all by himself! ;). Earl has started pulling things out of Steve’s pockets. Steve really only has himself to blame because he leaves bags of dog treats in his pockets and Earl is always ready to find food. Earl is also ready to extract anything else out of pockets that have been carelessly left at Earl’s beak level and he is VERY good at it. Steve wakes up to find chewed up sweet wrappers (minus the sweets 😉 ), dog poo bags that have been deftly rendered useless (Earl has a problem with us picking up his deposits…he deposited them for a reason and is annoyed and somewhat disgusted that we pick them up after he carefully places them at the topmost point of grass clumps and bushes and low walls…) and obviously the dog treats disappear (that goes without saying) and Steve has a habit of cramming his pockets with all sorts of bits and pieces and Earl has now taken to bypassing sticking his nose into Steve’s pockets and just chews right through till he gets what he wants to amuse him. You can’t blame Earl, you have to look squarely at the person dumping their clothes on the floor and you REALLY have to wonder why this person is STILL DOING IT AFTER EARL ATE HIS PANTS!…stubborn willfulness won’t put the ass back in your pants Steve 😉

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I LOVE having a post up my sleeve 🙂 Here is a photo up my sleeve to match the post up my sleeve. We think that this is some kind of funky ferry but whatever float-a-ma-jig it is, it’s most certainly interesting

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We took the dogs to the dog park today. We took a tennis ball and a rope ring and all the good intentions in the world. Earl tried to slip under the gate and run away and Bezial stood still for 15 minutes sniffing the same blade of grass for the entire time…After we got disgusted with them (the YOUTH OF TODAY!) we got back in the car and noticed this pretty picture so the effort wasn’t entirely wasted on our plebian dogs! 😉

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Check out the olde worlde last century chalk folks! I am getting school memories just looking at it 😉

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May as well stick with the boaty theme of this first set of photos and post a pic of the tug that zooms up and down the river. I say “zooms”, it actually “Chugs” very VERY loudly

Ok, fingers crossed…I am just about to turn the modem back on after a 20 minute hiatus. If it is stuffed we are going to have to head into town soon and get another one because our studies demand that we have an online connection. I will let it do its thing (blinky blinky green lights blinky blinky and a bit more blinking) for a while and will then test and see if I have the net back. This could change our plans for the day and we might have to take an emergency trip into the city to buy a new modem. I hope not, we are saving at the moment. We want to get ahead with our bills and save some money for emergencies and for when bills that are unexpected come in. Penniless student hippies live pretty close to the breadline…in fact; most of us live UNDER the breadline. We are not complaining, we choose this life and are prepared to bypass all sorts of wants and desires in order to keep living the way that we live BUT “The Man” demands a pound of flesh on a regular basis and we don’t have much choice but to pay at the moment. That means “money” and even though we don’t receive a lot of money as students (we get even less than people bumming around doing nothing on the dole) we are still able to save up and we found a plan that if we stick to it, we should arrive at the other end of it with a significant amount of savings for a “rainy day”. Like most other things in life I have a “better safe than sorry”. For a girl who rebelled against her grandmothers “tyrannical rule” on a constant basis, I think I am starting to turn into her! Those early lessons keep coming back “better safe than sorry”, “clean up as you go along”, “don’t put your shoes on the table or you will never be able…” (“Able” to what gran? I had 3 kids after loading up the table with shoes and your method of birth control SUCKS! 😉 )…all sorts of little wisdoms that annoyed the heck out of me when I was forced to comply but that keep coming back to me now as solid proof that my grandmother was a wise and wonderful soul. I didn’t appreciate you enough gran, you really knew your stuff! I think I might be like her…It has only taken me almost 50 years to admit that and she died last century (makes it sound like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? 😉 ). Time to test that connection… (Fingers crossed… 😉 ….

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Here’s the nectarine tree at my daughters house in town AFTER I spent 2 hours removing blackberries from it’s protective circle

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Here is the pile of blackberries removed and on a tarpaulin so that the rotten things don’t invade Poland and start growing from pieces. “Fool me ONCE!” 🙂

Well it looks like it’s either the modem has died or Google has decided to deposit one of Earls mighty dumps on my head for daring to use a tag in last night’s post called “Better than Google Reader” ;). Either way it’s just you and me this morning and those 300+ blog posts are just going to have to wait. I made a wonderful sourdough carrot cake last night. I have made it 2 times now and both times it was amazing. The funny thing about it is that the recipe states that the cake is “nothing special, just a wholesome cake to eat with a cup of tea”… I have never made a carrot cake (before this) that worked. My carrot cakes were always too moist and gluggy and the texture was wrong. This cake has consistently given excellent results and has Steve actually asking me to make it. I threw some ground ginger into the mix along with lots of cinnamon last night and Steve tasted it and pronounced it wonderful (even though he doesn’t like ginger and has NO idea it is in there 😉 ). I love experimenting with recipes and this one is a completely different recipe to the sourdough chocolate cake recipe that I have been baking. In last night’s version I cut the oil back to ½ cup and upped the amount of kefir (not actually called for in the recipe) and added 2 tsp of organic vanilla extract to the mix. I think the trick is in grating the carrots very finely and squeezing them out to get a dry pulp to add to the mix. Whatever the processes, the end results are stellar and my new go-to snacking cake for Steve to have with a coffee. The dogs love it as well and actually beg for it. I took my desire to offload the enormous quantity of mature kefir that I have been amassing of late to a new level. I used a cup and a half (I still have over 2 litres to use up) of very thick mature kefir (it looked like very thick sour cream or Greek yoghurt) in Steve’s quiche last night. I was prepared for a backlash because Steve is VERY suspicious of new things in his favourite recipes but he said that he couldn’t taste anything different and kefir has just elevated itself into a usable commodity on Serendipity Farm…”YIPEE!” I can now add it to all sorts of things with impunity :o). That means that if I want to make a creamy potato bake with bacon, capsicum, caramelised onions, garlic and cheese, I can opt out of paying for sour cream and can use copious quantities of kefir in its place. My little grains work overtime to produce this unctuous thick rich probiotic stuffed product and I owe it to them to use it in abundance. Unlike Jess (Rabid from www.rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com ) I don’t have 3 kefir loving mouths to consume my kefir as soon as the grains produce it and I have to think how I am going to use it. With Steve’s newfound acceptance I can use it with impunity and might even make some kefir icecream after I toss the icecream base into the freezer overnight. The amazing thing about kefir is that it doesn’t go off. It contains in excess of 60 different probiotics and seems to be able to ward off any other invaders so long as I keep it in the fridge it is fine. My stockpile is going to disappear rapidly now that I know I can use it and Steve won’t reject the results with suspicion.

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We decided to open up the computer desk to get maximum space today and ended up making room for a large pine box that we can store things in as well as dealing with the cables that were snaking out all over the place behind the P.C. and making a haven for dust. Much better 🙂

I think I need 10 points and maybe a factotum gold star for not hyperventilating about my inability to use the net today. My early mornings are actually tied up in online use and this morning I am sitting here in the dark tapping blog posts to my dear constant readers rather than expunge my readers exponentially increasing backlog of posts (just typing that made me think I need a paper bag!). I guess Steve is going to have to use his techy skills when he gets up. My instinct is to give it a whack but I will curb that instinct because technology and “bashing” tend to result in dollar signs ;). We have been working a bit ahead of our course because we finished and handed in all of our work early (can anyone say “big fat factotums!” 😉 ) and rather than sit here twiddling our thumbs we are working through our next unit. I know we aren’t meant to be doing this till next term and that we have an assessment that we have to complete on this Design unit but we haven’t been given it yet and so we will continue to work through our next unit on Photoshop. We are enjoying it immensely and are learning a lot about digital manipulation of images. Yesterday Steve was able to help my brother sort out a problem using what we have learned so far. My brother is going to attempt to sell some of his lovely photos at the local markets where he lives on the weekend. He has been paying a premium to print out A0 poster sized prints at the printers but couldn’t work out how to get more than 1 panorama on an A0 sheet and was only using ¼ of the sheet in the process. Steve sorted it out for him yesterday and now he can get 4 panoramas on an A0 sheet and is saving himself $90 a sheet. It’s great to be able to put what you are learning into practical use and help people at the same time.

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Looks like it’s gutter cleaning time again… 😦

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“Hmmm How did you get up that ladder eh?”

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“It certainly looks like a lot of fun…”

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“Ok, I recon I could handle it…”

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He didn’t manage to climb the ladder but Steve did along with his trusty muck bucket and blow-a-ma-jig

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Isn’t it funny how last year this was disgusting to me and this year I see it as a precious resource? It’s all a matter of how you look at things :). Notice that black “thing” (that’s about all it could still be called…) on the right hand side of the bucket? It is one of a pair of “black things” that Steve fished out of the gutter and then was able to identify as some of his socks that he obviously put up on the gutter in order to prevent Earl from predating them…the problem with that very clever idea sir, is that you forgot about them and they got blown into the gutter where they have been mouldering for the best part of 8 months 😉 Needless to say they now reside in the bin! That bucket was a “found thing” that we discovered on our walk discarded amongst the bushes today. It’s an old oil bucket that blew over from the Exeter Show recently and that Steve eagerly took receipt of and will be stowing in the Mumbly Cumumbus as his new bailing/fish bucket

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Apparently the roof is Steve’s domain and this mess blown down onto the deck is mine…funny how no-one talked about this “Domain” stuff prior to Steve heading up the ladder with his blow-a-ma-jig eh 😉

When we were at our graduation ceremony last week, we had a chat to Meg, the team leader of another course who was helping out on the night to take registrations and direct graduates in the right direction when they arrived at the ceremony. Meg is a wonderful generous person who works with disabled and indigenous people to teach them how to create horticultural spaces. She specialises in environmental science and is perfect for the job. She is eminently qualified and her caring nature makes her ideal for helping people to use what they have to facilitate positive changes in their lives and make the most of their situation. Meg loves Steve and I and we love her right back. I think Meg has romantic goggles on and thinks that it would be wonderful to work with your partner and study/learn together. That might be the case if you weren’t exact opposites and had NO idea how the other person can even function with brain/thought processes like that! Steve and I are slowly learning to adapt to each other’s processes but they are as foreign and alien to each other as to be bordering on crazy and as we both think that we are right in our own processes, it can sometimes be a difficult process in itself to unite and learn anything together. We have learned to break down the task into what Steve does best and what I do best. I research best…I type best…I am good at problem solving and Steve is technical and stubbornly keeps going till he works it out. Together we are formidable in both the French meaning of the word AND the English version ;). If we can’t get the net back today we are going to have to find a solution for this problem. Hopefully it is just the network and isn’t anything to do with our connection per-se but it’s been a long time since we had to phone up Dodo and try to wade through those Indian accents to get to someone who isn’t in automatic damage control and who insists that the problem doesn’t lie with them…let’s just hope that the problem can bypass the need to phone Dodo. I feel a headache brewing if it can’t…

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The meat and onions and garlic cooking for Steve’s “BEST EVER” chilli recipe just before the red wine goes in…

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Some of the other ingredients and the recipe. This chilli is truly unctuous and gorgeous and we haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like it yet. We used to make this in HUGE vats when we volunteered at the local Salvation Army kitchen to help feed the homeless. Steve’s chilli is still talked about long after we stopped working there (and they have probably forgotten who we are but that chilli speaks for itself 🙂 ). We will make you some when you come Kymmy 🙂

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Not the greatest photo but this chilli bubbles away to an unctuous thick delicious flavoursome pot of heaven and served with some steamed rice and some oven wedges (home made of course) it will be Steve’s happiness tonight 🙂

It is 6.10am and I have managed to write 3 posts all bordering on the gargantuan this morning. I could keep typing posts but I fear they would be obsolete before I posted them! So I am not too sure what I am going to do now with the next hour before I wake Steve with a cup of coffee and wait 30 minutes while he wakes up slowly before I dump the problem with the net on him. I have lots of things that I can do today that don’t involve the net. We have the lizard piles of wood to collect up (and maybe a lizard rescue might be on the cards) and deposit under the deck and out of the weather (should “the weather” ever decide to come that is 😉 ), I have plans to use as much of my kefir in cooking today as I can. I need my fridge back! Kefir and sourdough starters don’t mix well. I only found out the other day that kefir makes a perfectly good starter all by itself! I didn’t realise that kefir has lots of yeast and that it can be used to raise a loaf of bread and might test it out one day. I know that when I add it to sourdough cakes in place of milk, the cakes always rise well and have an excellent flavour so perhaps I can take advantage of this in some of my recipes. I want to get hold of some water kefir grains in the near future and will be converting half of Kid Creole’s coconuts into true coconut milk loving babies. If they die I will just keep trying to convert more as Kid produces them. He seems content to repopulate the earth with his progeny at the moment so that isn’t an issue. I have been researching and it is entirely possible to convert kefir milk grains to coconut milk grains or soymilk grains… it just takes persistence and a slow progression. I make my own coconut milk (out of coconuts…what a coincidence! 😉 ) and as such, I end up with coconut water as part of the equation. I would like to use it productively to make water kefir and so I might have to send a quick missive with accompanying moola off to Dom in South Australia to avail myself of some of his amazing water kefir grains. I want to experiment with various juices (including the über sweet carrot juice I squeeze from the carrots that I use to make Steve’s sourdough carrot cake staple) and fermenting them.

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On one side we have Steves oven wedges marinating in olive oil, chilli, pepper and salt and ready to go onto the bbq after the dessert on the other side is cooked

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This is the way that I cook apples now. I prefer it to using water or juice. I thinly slice the apples and fry them gently in butter, cinnamon, mixed spice and a tsp of organic vanilla extract till they are tender and then I add 1/2 cup of sugar (you could use rapadura or coconut sugar or honey or whatever you like here) and after a few minutes cooking in the resulting syrup I remove the apples and reduce the syrup to a thick caramel that I then pour over the apples. The results are superb and so far removed from apples stewed in water they could hardly be considered the same thing. I call them my “toffee apples” and use them as a base for my crumbles and for tonights dessert which will be covered in a light vanilla sponge and served with custard. Steve has earned his chilli and dessert tonight with his antics on the roof 🙂

I have been stretching out my posts in order to ignore having to deal with the fact that the modem is not working properly. It might be something to do with the weather (although I am bordering on my mother’s steadfast desire to cling to superstition there! Whoa neddy! 😉 ) but my guess is that our network is down and that an unmarked white van will turn up at the little wooden box up the road that is ostensibly Telstra’s and that Dodo has to share with them and will do a bit of fiddling around and hopefully the problem will be solved. I dare say you will know if we get back online by the presence or absence of posts ;). I am going to leave it there for today folks. It’s now 6.21am and the rubbish truck just took our rubbish and soon the recycling truck will be rumbling past to collect our recycling as well. It is still dark but I can spend the next 30 minutes getting ahead of my processes thus allowing us to launch into our day a bit earlier than we normally would. I hope you all have a wonderful day and weekend ahead of you and that you are able to spend some quality time doing what you truly love to do. See you all on Saturday  :o)

A study in Irony

Hi All,

As I alluded to in Wednesdays post this will be Post 1 in a series of gutter posts. If you spend as much time walking dogs as we do you tend to be well versed in gutters and their foibles. If you walk strong dogs you might even get dragged into gutters occasionally and if you live in Tasmania you usually get to see more than your fair share of rubbish laying in these gutters. After Bezials recent attempt to break the world parkour record (and failed epically mind you) I found myself walking Earl myself and pounding the gutters alone. I was on my way home from one of my recent solo ventures when I picked up a coke zero bottle from the gutter as a token prize for Earl when he got home to take his mind off the tastiness of our leather sofas. Up until now we haven’t had too much trouble with Earl and the sofa’s but you never know…better safe than sorry and so if we plant to head out into the garden for an extended period of time (which spring tends to bring out in us…) we like to provide Earl with something other than the cushions of our sofa to exercise his teeth on. Plastic soft drink bottles (yes…here in Australia we call them soft drinks…you may titter now my dear constant American readers…) are one of Earl’s favourite things to while away time left abandoned and alienated from his pack. Bezial is still there but he is usually too busy sulking about his own abandonment to want to play with Earl so keeping Earls mandibles occupied is a reasonable precautionary measure. As I picked up the coke bottle I noticed that it contained an empty snickers bar wrapper. I thought to myself “how ironic that someone was drinking coke zero and in some alternate universe thought that this was going to negate the calories from the snickers bar?!”… I then got to thinking about irony and how it should really be my middle name…”Frances Irony Pimblett”…

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This is the coke zero bottle that spawned this post

The irony is that this coke bottle symbolifies so very much that our society is kidding itself about. “If you eat broken Tim-tams (a most delicious chocolate Australian biscuity version of crack cocaine…) and drink them with diet coke you won’t put on any calories… who are we kidding?! The diet industry has us panicking about anything that we put in our mouths…supported by the dieticians and food scientists that constantly elevate foods to “superfood status” and then pull the rug out from under them by finding out that they cause cancer or that rats that ate them had spasms or developed terrible twitching habits. How many people spend a fortune buying “diet” and “lite” versions of foods only to find out that what they are putting in their mouths is ironically packing on the pounds! As I looked at the coke zero bottle in my hand and tried to keep Earl from stealing it from me I noticed the shape of the bottle…subliminal advertising folks! Have you ever looked at a coke zero bottle? It has a waist! It also has little indented lines that give it an even more sylph like appearance…the irony here is that we have just been told that diet products are actually causing people to put on weight. If the bottle I was holding in my hand was any indicator of the truth the anonymous consumer who hurled their bottle out the window and gave me pause for thought had just mixed more than metaphors and had obviously arrived at allowing themselves to eat a snickers bar because they had accompanied it with a diet soft drink. Aside from the chemical cocktail that coke zero contains this person had consumed more than they obviously would have if they had chosen a regular coke OR a snickers and this is where it gets a bit hazy…people who choose “diet” and “lite” and “fat free” equivalents appear to be eating and drinking more because of this implied negation of calories.

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Note the “waist” it would give Barbie a run for her money…

Who doesn’t remember Alanis Morissette and her wonderful anthem to “bollocks”…” Ironic”. I swear people have written entire doctoral thesis on this album and the song could more accurately be titled “Sardonic” but it certainly made us sit up and take notice of a woman scorned (and think twice about flaunting your newfound happiness Uncle Joey!). If you have been living under a rock or in a dark cave for the last 40 years here is a Youtube link to Alanis singing her pain ridden angst out of a bad relationship…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jne9t8sHpUc

I have to say that Alanis certainly had a lot of character back then ;).

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Someone is getting impatient with me taking photos of “his” coke bottle!

So many ironies…so little time! One of my own personal ironies is that I am possessed of an adventurous soul that would love to drop everything and race off to Morocco to wander the Moroccan tundra’s (or whatever approximates tundra’s in Morocco) and find my inner narf. I indulge my soul by finding things out…by learning everything that I can and I have completely taken to heart the theory that learning keeps you mentally young. The irony is that my soul might be experimental however it gets regularly squashed by my head that is purely practical and my inner mouse that tends to run scurrying for the nearest hole whenever an adventure is at hand. I love my creature comforts…my bed…my own little box and my happy little mindless routines that help me to feel safe and hurling myself into the unknown holds nothing but terror for at least 2/3rd of my being. The other 1/3rd is going to just have to learn to be happy with this life that I lead because Morocco is nowhere on the horizon.

Coke started out with a special ingredient…cocaine (hence the name). Steve was watching a television program on Drugs and how policing drug sales and use is a futile experiment. It listed all kinds of designer drugs that are actually completely legal and able to be sold and drug dealers are one step ahead of legislation and the police with all kinds of little tweaks to their chemical cocktails that will allow them to be sold Willy-nilly to their enthusiastic audiences of people willing to experiment with their lives. One of them was sold as a plant food and another one was registered as an alloy wheel cleaner…I ask you…people who are willing to ingest something that is designed to clean alloy wheels must be made of different stuff to the rest of us! Who would take a risk like that when it came to their lives?! It would seem that most of Scotland and a goodly percentage of our youth and people living on the poverty line in slums the world over would… that’s who. Why could they care less about their lives? Because their lives are filled with fear, uncertainty, physical, mental and spiritual poverty and they stone cold suck THAT is why. A little bit of chemical happiness is just the ticket because the world is stark and horrible and full of failure and the inability to find a way to succeed…that’s why we have drug problems. The irony in it all is that the jails are full of the poor. There aren’t a lot of wealthy cocaine users languishing in prison cells…the prisons are chock full of people who got caught smoking crack cocaine, making their own chemical cocktails of happiness and it would seem that happiness is more addictive than crack because these people keep taking incredible risks to get that “high” no matter what the cost. The complete irony is that this war is NEVER going to be won until the real reason why people keep turning to drugs is dealt with… when your life sucks…you will find an out…drugs are an out on steroids. Give people back hope… give them back a chance at a life…give them back a home, and a sense of dignity and family, a neighbourhood worth living in…good healthy food and a chance to work and experience how beneficial it can be to have a purpose and the rate of drug usage will fall. I guarantee it :o)

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10c is nothing to sniff at when you are a child who has spent their pocket money and the highway is littered with bottles. Supervised groups of children could make a fair bit of money in Tasmania!

Another little irony of the coke bottle is that only 1 of our Australian states and territories has woken up to a fantastic way to keep their roads and highways clear of recyclables. South Australia (home of the Earl) kept bottle deposits and returns long after all of the other states and territories ceased offering money on the return of glass and plastic bottles. I dare say it would be hard to find a discarded glass or plastic bottle in South Australia because 10c is 10c folks and 10 of them is a dollar… collect a carton of them and you are halfway to buying yourself another bottle of soft drink. If you can offer someone a reward at the end of their mindless consumption that results in their hip pocket being a little bit fatter along with an pat on the back and an environmental “tick” for their efforts you are most of the way to eliminating wanton rubbish disposal. I remember when you could return a bottle to the place that you purchased it and you got money. I also remembered that the scouts used to wander the highways with the scout leaders and bottles were a good source of fundraising without having to constantly hassle poor long suffering mum’s for “more cakes please mum”. Fitness and free money…what more could a child want? Maybe the real reason why Australians are getting more obese has nothing to do with junk food and everything to do with how we no longer wander the streets searching for deposit return bottles! It’s a theory…it hasn’t been disproved… There was some talk about using this scheme once more in Tasmania to try to quell the rubbish thrown out of people’s car windows. They mentioned that the 10c return would have to be reflected in a 10c increase in price but who would notice 10c on a bottle of soft drink that already costs $3.00 in most convenience stores? Bring it on I say!

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Waiting for permission to get stuck into his coke zero bottle…I sometimes think that Earl gets more pleasure out of the outside of a softdrink bottle than most people get out of the contents 😉

The final irony of the coke bottle is that I will head down into the gutter to pick them up in the first place. People drive past me carrying my collection of soft drink bottles and smile…I can actually feel them thinking “good on her! At least someone is trying to tidy up Australia”… the irony is that I am only collecting these soft drink bottles to feed to my dog to stop him from eating the furniture. I get to bask in the reflected glory of my wonderful deeds when in reality I am just satisfying my own need to still have furniture to sit on at the end of the day. Whatchagonnado eh dear constant readers? Have a great rest of your weekend and normal blog post services will be resumed on Wednesday where we will talk less about irony and a whole lot more about Serendipity Farm :o)

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All I have to do is fish out the snickers wrapper and the rest of the bottle is recyclable…Earl obviously doesn’t like coke zero… I think that Earl needs all of the calories that he can get! 😉

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Finally we have someone who could snip one of those coke bottles in half in a second with that big beak. A baby yellow tailed black cockatoo who has just been coaxed out of his nest by his parents with the promise of hakea nuts. Steve took this shot just outside our back door today.

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! 😉

If you can’t beat them…EAT them!

Hi All,

We recently did a bit of research on the subject of Armillaria luteobubalina because we had to answer a few horticultural questions to satisfy one of our Diploma of Landscape Design units and discovered that this humble fungus is not something that you would want to encourage in your garden. We completed the question about this innocuously named “Honey fungus” and how there isn’t really anything that you can do about it once you have it on your property short of plant perennials and find some sort of woody tree that it can’t stand to inhabit. Here is a link to a Wikipedia page explaining it in simple common or garden terms…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armillaria_luteobubalina

By the way my dear constant readers…anyone… ANYONE out there who scoffs at using Wikipedia as a source of horticultural information and a springboard for further  adventures into your area of interest is a horticultural snob. Wikipedia may have its disadvantages when it comes to many things but the people drawn to writing pages regarding horticulture and other scientific studies do it for love and do it because they know a LOT about their chosen subject and actively want to share it with the rest of us. Don’t use it for your thesis but DO use it to find out about what you are interested in and as somewhere to start your subject hunt. I read a post this morning about honey fungus and their edible properties. The post was pertinent to the US, the UK and Canada BUT after our recent scavenger hunt for information about Armillaria luteobubalina I noted the “honey fungus” and the “Armillaria” and how many of them were edible and thought…”surely A (honey fungus) and B (Armillaria) = C (Edible)”…hmmm more instruction needed! First stop Wikipedia…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armillaria

I found out some interesting things about Armillaria luteobubalina including “unpleasant flavour” being one of them HOWEVER on further hunting I found that cooking the mushroom reduces the bitterness and it is completely edible…edible you say? Turn a frown upside down…when life hands you lemons make lemonade…if your garden becomes predominately Armillaria luteobubalina ridden and all your trees fall down EAT the fungus and at least get some degree of satisfaction regarding the situation…there you have it. My creed for life. If it aint broke, don’t fix it and if you can’t beat it…EAT it! 😉 The same goes for those weeds that you can’t eat…make weed tea out of them and steal all of the delicious nitrogen that they stole from you back plus all of their hard formed nitrogen that they were stashing for spreading around in their wanton weedy ways. Don’t take it lying down people…find a way to turn situations to your advantage even when the chips are down. I don’t recommend doing what a Northern Tasmanian man did a few years ago and feed your murder victim to your pigs…apparently pigs are a whole lot more fussy than we have been led to believe in movies like Hannibal Lector and turned up their noses at said murder victim…might be easier just to eat him yourself…

Spot the rooster in this photo…you get 10 points if you spot Big Yin and 50 points if you spot Bob his numero uno chick

Steve’s cactus “Bob” (Marley) that despite being stuffed into an olive oil can seems to be extremely happy with his lot

Some more cacti flowering happily in the late spring sunshine

I just started and finished a very slim book that was cram-packed full of pause for thought. I often get shoved by the universe into doing things that I otherwise wouldn’t do. I had never heard of Kurt Vonnegut prior to seeing an article about him on a blog that I follow and decided that I might like to read some of his work because for some reason it appealed to me. I decided to choose a book blind from our local library…I chose by name…”Like Shaking Hands with God” arrived on Wednesday and I picked it up yesterday while I was eating my breakfast, finished half of the book by the time I put my spoon down and finished the book later on in the day whilst sitting outside on the deck with a cup of tea after weeding the maple garden and laying down mulch to protect the soil. I couldn’t put this book down. It was sub-titled “A conversation about writing” and was based on a series of Author/Audience meetings that took place back in 1999 between Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer. I had never heard of Lee Stringer either but will most certainly be seeing if I can get hold of his book “Grand Central Winter” about his life on the streets. What hit me in my mental solar plexus about these men was their complete and utter honesty about the life that they had been handed and how they spent their lives sharing the world through their writing and their experience. I wonder how many other amazing authors are out there that I have NO idea exist. Cheers universe for letting me discover these wonderful writers and thanks for the shove in the right direction :o).

Some of the rescued Tip strawberries enjoying their sunny spot on Serendipity Farm

Our very own integrated pest management brigade 🙂

Look how much the hazelnuts and single walnut (in the largest pot) have grown since wednesday

It’s a beautiful 25°C late spring day today on Serendipity Farm. Steve was going to whipper snip but his own fortune shoved him and the whipper snipper decided not to play ball today. We have loaned “Betsy”, my whipper snipper, to our daughters to render their jungle somewhat less jungle-like and so he couldn’t use Betsy to finish the task so we headed down to the front gates and the river bank where the duel daily rushing tides conveniently pull all of the floating debris right opposite our front gate and we collected some driftwood to make ourselves a Christmas tree. We got enough so that I could make a Christmas wreath out of driftwood as well and all I have to do now is work out how the wreath has been put together and replicate it for Serendipity Farm. We just spent the rest of the day making our tree and it has been Earl approved. He promises to pretend not to notice it at all until we stupidly leave him to his own devices one day and he re-enacts the wreck of the Hesperus with the vengeance that only a 35kg termite can wreak. I guess we have been warned… We reused our Christmas star that I made 4 years ago when we first started making our own Christmas trees using various deceased woody portions. We plan on making quite a few of our own beach tree decorations to hang on our new tree and hopefully it makes it to Christmas day without suspicious nibble marks or outright disassembling by “He who must be watched”

Time to plant out these purple king beans

Tiny little Cavello nero

“Come and get it slugs and snails…what’s that you say? Snail pellets in the barrow? No surely not! ;)”

I have been watching “Hoarders…buried alive”. I have a degree of commiseration for the hoarders that obviously have mental problems but then there are the divas that just can’t be getting their nails dirty who put on a face to the world and who live in a jumbled chaos of clutter. The first part of their road back to normality is for them to admit that they have a problem and most of them simply don’t think that they do. The majority of them are being forced into parting with their blissful hoarding ways thanks to complaints from the neighbours (how inconsiderate? 😉 ) or threats of demolition by their local building authorities and so they tend to be somewhat less than appreciative and helpful in the process. I have to admit something here if I am ever going to have a degree of normality in my life (highly unlikely but here goes…) I am a hoarder. There…I said it! Steve claims that my small stack of plates and bowls constitutes hoarding but I am not talking about how many plates I have in my easily closed cupboard, I am talking about my addiction to hoarding information, especially recipes that I find. I hunt information and recipes like a woman possessed. I just checked my recipe folder and it’s probably time to send it to one of our bulging hard drives because it has 2.48Gig of squirrelled away Word documents. Now I KNOW that I am never going to make my way through actualising these recipes BUT I don’t care. They are mine…I hoarded them…I need them for tomorrow. Good luck loosing my grip on them because my hoarded pile isn’t visible unless you check properties on my folders and count the number of burned CD’s that I have full of past hoarding events. I used to take books out of the library and carefully copy out recipes that I wanted to keep back when my children were small and I guess it was my way of taking control in a life that felt somewhat meaningless. I was a stay at home mum and always felt guilty for doing so even though I loved being available to my kids and all stay at home mums will agree with me when I say that there is an undertow in the community (well there definitely was back in the 1980’s!) that stay at home mums were cop out bums. I had the time to read to my children and they are all prolific readers today with wonderful imaginations and enviable problem solving skills. I may have spent a degree of my time trying to find some purpose for my life due to feeling adrift and writing out recipes gave me something to focus on. My failed crafts cupboard just made me feel worse but writing out a steady stream of recipes “for posterity” made me feel like I had actually accomplished something with my time and my life. Everyone needs a goal to work towards and mine was writing. I transferred it to typing and am much better and faster at typing than I am at writing. I was able to transcribe entire books in much less time and typed out an entire copy of The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition in 3 days because back then, it was out of print (please no bright spark tell me that it is back in print and only costs $50 because I already know and it will make me twitch 😉 ). I love the act of completion and have since learned to enjoy the process as well. We all need goals in life to give us satisfaction and to show us that we are progressing. My recipes show me that I am getting somewhere and should the entire system shut down and everyone wants to know how to make their own healthy margarine I am your go-to woman!

A nice big chunk of Tasmanian native blackwood ready to create a magnificent spoon for some lucky dear constant reader of the blog

Christmas tree futures

MORE spoon futures…and spatula futures…and small wooden box futures…and little herb spoon futures…

It’s Saturday and I have most of my post completed so I can share a most interesting thing that I found out this morning when reading my rss feed reader. Christi from the wonderful blog Farmlet who lives in Olalla Washington, who is doing what we are doing but on polar opposite sides of the globe (I am SURE that there is some sort of time continuum thing going on 😉 ) will most probably know what I am going to talk about here but to the majority of us, and I am guessing that a fair few of my dear constant readers in the U.S. included, will have never heard or seen what I am about to reveal to you before. Have I got you curious? I was reading a post this morning from one of the “Living sustainably” blogs that I follow and the poster was talking about sustainable thanksgiving mains choices. Now I am heartily over Thanksgiving guys… I have had so many pumpkin pie posts in the guise of vegan, paleo, raw and plain old decadent and dairy ridden that I would rather eat one of Steve’s feet than have to read about another one. It’s my own fault for following 390 blogs in my rss feed reader, most of them U.S. and most of them to do with food now isn’t it? I started reading about “the usual” Thanksgiving foods and was working back through what was truly sustainable when I got to number 3 and couldn’t for the life of me work out what they were talking about! A food that I have NEVER heard of? Time to go hunting! My interest was further piqued when I read that this food was sourced from Puget Sound which is right next to where Christi lives! This “food” is apparently harvested and sustainable but I don’t know how sustainable it is when this giant mollusc can live for 169 years but it was number 3 on the sustainable Thanksgiving list right after “Heritage Turkey” so if you live near Puget sound and you fancy something that looks suspiciously phallic for your next Thanksgiving meal knock yourself out…its geoduck all round! Check out what geoducks actually are in the following link and the link after that has a good photo of something that is apparently edible and makes me take back EVERYTHING that I have said in jest about how folks in Louisiana will eat anything…Christi…your countrymen just shot straight past the hillbillies and hit first place! 😉

http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/pugetsound/species/geoduck.html

http://geoduckrecipes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/geoduck-size.jpg

If being born in a stable was good enough for Jesus…it’s darned well good enough for our Christmas tree!

Hows this for an action shot…drilling the hole at the top of the “Christmas Tree” to insert the star

A 35kg termite and his sidekick

Emmmmm!

Nothing to do with me!

I forgot to tell you that we got accepted into our chosen arty course for next year. We think it might not have been the course that we initially wanted to do. Steve swears that the course that we were aiming at is a completely different course offered from a completely different Polytechnic (I.T.) but after talking to the lecturer and checking out the website we are very excited about learning all about making our own websites and will probably take a year off to study the other course that we initially were going to sign up for after this course. It’s good to take a bit of a hiatus from intensive study in one area because it leaves you refreshed and multi-skilled. We decided to learn how to produce our own high quality websites as part of our business plan. Through our studies we have discovered that landscape gardeners appear to be lacking in the computer skills department. Most landscape gardening sites are pitiful links through sites like HotFrog and give prospective customers (and students trying to find out information) massive headaches trying to find them. You have to phone up to get any information whatsoever and most of them don’t answer the phone to you anyway. This isn’t just a Tasmanian problem, we discovered it bleeds over to the mainland and trying to find an herb wholesaler with a web presence was like trying to find a speck of sand in a sand dune. We are determined to be successful when we eventually start our business and as such we want to be as proficient with as many areas of our chosen field as we possibly can be. Perhaps Jack of all trades master of none may apply BUT at least we will know something about every facet of our business which can only be a good thing. After learning how to produce a quality website and web presence we can head over to the other course and learn how to produce quality concept plans using the Adobe 5 suite and then it’s off to university with a diverse range of qualifications that can only help us to give Landscape Architecture our most sterling effort. “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well”…see…I DID listen Gran 😉

An elderly auger bit that a friend gave Steve that despite its aged look still has a whole lot of life left in it

The Auger bit in action taking out a nice spoon sized portion of this incredibly tough wattle wood…this is one wooden spoon that WON’T break

“Oh Tannenbaum…oh tannenbaum…”…

Ok, it’s time to head off and make Steve something scrumptious for his tea. It’s really just shepherd’s pie but he LOVES it and would eat it every day if he could. Sad, but if it makes him happy, it’s his :o). He is working on producing the spoon that I am going to give away to one of my wonderful constant readers who comments on the post directly after I get 100 followers. It’s getting close folks and I won’t be doing the stupid “like my Facebook page…like my twitter account (not that I HAVE a twitter account)…etc…) it will be Earl…choosing your number…from a hat full of numbered walnuts. How much more random could it be than that?! See you all on Wednesday and have the best weekend possible in your neck of the woods :o)

I have a couple of photos left over so you get a bonus. Here we have 2 little carob trees that we grew from seed. We have another one and hopefully we get at least one male and one female because they are dioecious and you need both a male and a female tree to get pods

I didn’t realise how much active snarfing went on in my now heavily fortified compost heap when I wasn’t watching! Everything is now growing like crazy and we have King Edward, kipflers and various pumpkins growing in it now that they are protected from chicken and possum enslaughts

Pumpkin futures! I LOVE pumpkin 🙂

The 1 1/2 hour duck and Steve Solomon reads our soily tea leaves

Hi All

Now that the sap in my brain is flowing at an equal rate to that of the plant community on Serendipity Farm I am hurling myself into a new phase. I am researching cool climate permaculture at night and in the day, Steve and I are venturing out into the sodden soggy wasteland that we call home with new eyes on. No more overwhelmed city slickers for us! Its year 3 on Serendipity Farm and we have learned to combine our studies with our ultimate reason for being here, our desire to change Serendipity Farm for the better. Procrastination stops action and is the scourge of our generation where change seems to be ramping itself up on a daily basis and it’s wonderful to immerse ourselves in a slower more holistic approach. It’s also wonderful to be able to stand back and see what we once thought were problems, turn into solutions and actual assets before our eyes when permaculture and other systems that work sympathetically with nature are applied. I have actually managed to get my rss feed reader blogs down to a manageable level. I am loath to rid myself of any of them and have found a way to make sure that I get an amazingly broad spectrum of my personal interests in a nice slice of daily mind nourishing blog cake. It’s like one of those rainbow layer cakes for the brain but substitute artificial colours, flavours and white flour for healthier alternatives and you have my daily rainbow cake of happiness. Spencer at anthropogen.com never ceases to amaze me with his never ending search for ways to apply natural solutions to the worlds current problems and more importantly, he shares his findings freely. Yesterday I learned how rainfall in the Amazonian rainforests is initiated by microscopic organic fungi particles…a fully self-perpetuating environment ensuring that water falls where it is needed most and it could almost be seen as the rainforest itself directing water where it is needed. When you start to remove mainstream human endeavours from the equation and step back and take a good look at what nature is actually doing ad-infinitum, you can’t be anything but awestruck by the magnificence of that amazing cyclic symphony of perpetual life.

Red sky in the morning, rain on Serendipity farm

Keen little certificate 3 horticulture students at the soil carbon day…I am sure that our class never looked this enthusiastic about anything!

I sat with Nat and our friend from the witness protection at the soil carbon day today and a great time was had by all

I TOLD you my brain sap was rising ;). Steve has been finding me all sorts of information about permaculture that is fuelling my inner fiery desire to get “stuck in” to working outside again. Steve sources the stuff and I mainstream it. As usual, we are entirely different when it comes to how we work. Steve is a hands on man who works from the outside in and isn’t all that interested in where the information came from. He would rather just go out and “do” it. I am the exact opposite. I am the researcher, the porer-overer of books, the disciple of knowledge and information who positively beams whenever I find a precious little gem that gives us a way to do something that we can use to effect change on Serendipity Farm and together we are formidable! I started wading through everything that we have been finding over the weekend and discovered that most of it is stacked for the tropics. I accept that its heaven on a horticultural stick to grow plants in the tropics BUT we don’t live there…so now I am honing my searches to cool climate permaculture so that we can use what we find directly without having to sieve it through several filters to sift out the heat, the plants that will NOT grow here and the sense of disappointment that comes from not being able to apply a large swath of information directly to our needs. Never one to give in that easily, I have managed to source a cool climate permaculture book by David Holmgren called “Sustainable living at “Melliodora” Hepburn Permaculture Gardens: a case study in cool climate permaculture 1985-1995”. Written for a cold climate and extremely pertinent to our local conditions (we might even be a bit warmer than David’s property!) this book has been placed on hold at the local library and we will be able to see how someone else has juggled a 4 season cold climate as compared to a 2 season (hot and dry or VERY hot and wet) tropical climate.

Frank Strie with another wonderful presentation about Biochar and how the process of slow cooking wood gives a multitude of benefits when dealing with our soil and with energy/heat production

The components of Franks illustrative biochar burner model. Note the can full of twigs that approximates a 44 gallon drum full of dry limb wood

Now tip that 44 gallon drum (imagine people…use your imagination!) upside down and drop it into a slightly larger metal drum that you have drilled large holes in the base so that you have a slight margin left between the sides of the drum full of wood and the slightly larger drum

The internet is wonderful! Not only can I talk to you from the comfort of my computer chair in front of my massive television monitor (I DON’T NEED GLASSES!), but Steve can ring me from town while he is in my Aladdin’s cave of great happiness…”Wholesome House” health food shop in Mowbray where David and Lee not only sell the products but know everything about them and practice what they preach and I can check something online for him to make sure that it’s what I want in an instant. Technology isn’t all bad folks! I have been delving deeper into Korean cuisine and found a wonderful website that I actually added to my rss feed reader it was so good. Mochi is something that I absolutely adore and this website gave me several recipes for how to make it along with how to make your own Korean ricecakes which are a sort of extruded thick paste (think big fat rice noodles as chunky as your little finger) that is cut into segments and used for body and texture in Korean cookery. Korean food is all about healthy, spicy tastiness and being a vegan, most of these recipes can be adapted to my kind of food. Steve and I were talking about vegetarianism yesterday whilst watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s great adventure into vegetables. Under his cover story of “I wanted to get healthier” was an apparently sky high cholesterol reading and a rapidly invading middle aged paunch. I forgive him his vanity because he is one of those genuine people who put his fame/money where his mouth is and gives as good as he gets. Cooking vegetarian is a doddle folks! Vegetarian cookery is full of eggs, cheese, cream and the only thing missing is the meat. Not hard to get something scrumptious when you coat it in sour cream, roll it in egg and crumbs and douse it liberally in thickened cream and when you add all of the options of other countries cuisines you can see how easy it is to venture into a world without meat. Going vegan is a bit harder but is now sufficiently mainstream as to be a “desirable” way to live. The extremists have veered off to Paleo diets and raw food diets and left us vegans to get on with quietly living our lives out of the spotlight.

Now you loosely fill that gap with small twigs, leaves or sawdust and light it

To eliminate smoke from the chamber you add a lid to the equation with holes in to catch the heat/smoke exchange

A slightly smaller metal drum (an old oil drum from some bulk cooking oil?) with a piece of metal tubing inserted through the top to carry the heat byproduct up through this second chamber

Going vegan is a worldly experience because there is a world of experience and love for pulses, legumes, grains and all sorts of weird and wonderful cultures and fermentations out there that open your eyes to just how amazing the human race is to have survived on local and attainable foodstuffs. Even things that are generally considered inedible or unpalatable have been messed about with and tweaked to yield edible foodstuffs. The humble acorn is one such food. On its own its disgusting. I know…I tried one! After being dried, pounded into a flour and washed continually until the tannins are leached out of the flour it is not only edible, it’s a staple food for many Baltic and other European countries. Try eating a ripe olive straight from the tree (again…I know because I tried one…) and you are given to wonder how ANYONE would think that “maybe I might be able to make this tasty if I brine it?”…we owe so much to our forefathers and foremothers for their dedicated hard work in showing us that you can not only eat these things, but they are delicacies. Crickets, worms, fermented stinky tofu…hmmmm maybe there are limits! But everyone takes for granted the amazing wealth of knowledge out there regarding food preparation and how to get the most nutrition out of what we eat. Food production is generally outside our sphere of thought because we just go to the shop and get it right? That’s what we did when we moved in and decided to make the most of the 4 acres of land that we have, we decided to make it work for us, and for all of the native inhabitants of Serendipity Farm.

Now for the bit where you diversify! You need a metal drum slightly larger than the second (bulk cooking oil) drum with copper pipe coiled in through a hole lower down in this drum and coiled to fit loosely around the inner drum and exiting through a hole further up the drum…stay with me here folks…

Here’s the second chamber over the holes in the lid of the first chamber

And now you invert the last drum (with the copper coiled pipe) over the top of the drum with the pipe and voila, you have a small personal biochar manufacturer coupled with a hot water heater! I love this idea so much I am going to attempt to manufacture one of these for summer use on Serendipity Farm

As we walk the dogs every day, I have started to really look at what grows well in our local area. Cherry plums grow amazingly well. In Tasmania its apparently a sport to whinge about Cherry Plums. They grow like topsy here and I, for one, have made a mental note to plant some along the boundary fences to feed the possums and distract them from our more highly prized fruits. I dug up 4 little loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) from a road verge last year and they overwintered in the glass house and are going great guns. After a sufficient hardening off period in a sheltered spot on Serendipity Farm, these little free babies are going to be put to work as possum bait futures. We will be planting out kiwifruit, Muscat (and other) grapes and all sorts of currants and berries including ground covers (strawberries), vines (thornless blackberries) and shrubs (currants and native plum pines and native cranberries) to lure the possums away from our primary crops. It’s all about sharing the land and once our local possums get wind of a year round food supply they will be battling the ensuing hoards for their position of superiority. Feeding a few possums to guard from the many is a good sacrifice to be making! On Wednesday (today but typed on Monday) our friend in the witness protection and I are heading into Launceston to “The Tramshed” where we are going to learn all about local soil and its limitations as part of the Tamar NRM August Sustainability Month. I have gotten an incredible amount of free knowledge from this wonderful organisation and feel very privileged to have met so many passionate local people. It’s a huge pity that Tasmanian’s as a whole would rather eat their own feet than learn something new, and even the prospect of an amazing free day with morning and afternoon tea and a fantastic lunch provided can’t even lure them out of their armchairs. I am NOT Tasmanian. I don’t even mind being a “Mainlander Outcast”…suits me folks! If that means that I can sit in a room of 15 people with a fantastic view of the podium and learn quality information for free then so-be-it! I have really been reinvigorated by everything that I have learned over the past month and am inspired to apply most of it to our day to day working on our property.

Check out the root system on one of Frank’s lettuces grown in compost layered with biochar. This stuff is amazing!

I just had my very first case of what might be construed as “homesickness” since we moved to Tasmania. The funny thing was, it wasn’t even “home” I felt nostalgic for! It was the Western Australian capital city Perth that got me feeling a little wistful. Perth is an amazing multicultural hodgepodge of everything a person could need. We used to head up at least a few times a year on the 400+km long haul to stock up with everything that we couldn’t purchase locally, usually Asian grocery items and other ethnic foodstuffs that Albany simply didn’t have. I loved Perth aside from the heat when it was summer (which was coincidentally our usual time to visit…). I remember one of our “must visit’s” being Kakulas Brothers bulk produce that made me incredibly envious of people in Perth who could just drop in whenever the fancy took them. For us, it meant a large spend to stock up on all sorts of dried beans, herbs, spices etc. that we simply couldn’t get in Albany. The very last time that we shopped in Kakulas we were served by Mr Kakulas (since passed away) who started this thriving and no doubt incredibly profitable landmark in the city. He had to leave part way through serving us and the girl that took over told us that he had a real hands on approach to his business and was often to be found serving behind the counter and chatting to customers asking them about what they liked and didn’t like about his shop. I dare say that this 80 something year old man had his finger on the pulse of that well-oiled machine because every single time we ventured through those hallowed doors, the place was thronging with customers. You give people what they want, they come back! I also remember Kong’s, a large Asian supermarket, one of many in Northbridge a multicultural suburb of Perth and the restaurant strip of the city. A very exciting place to wander around and immerse yourself in culture. I love Perth. I haven’t found a city close to its vibrant eclectic laid back sense of entitlement and always loved to visit even though the 6 hour car trip had knobs on!

The stuff that dreams are made of!

Back to Wednesday and just about to have a shower ready to head off to Launceston with our friend in the witness protection for a day learning all about soil carbon courtesy of the Tamar NRM. I have a newfound appreciation for this humble behind the scenes group who have been putting on some pretty amazing free events in the hope of educating some of us as to what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our soils. Steve has been hunting. He has found me a myriad of information about permaculture including videos, pdf’s and all sorts of documents that I am going to share with my friend today. “Just bring your laptop and I can stuff you full of garden hope!” We are in similar situations with our garden. “Chaos”. Hers is denuded of all vegetation and anything that she plants is instantly visible and noted as “prey” by the many nocturnal visitors to her 50 acre property out in the bush. She is so far out in the bush that she doesn’t have electricity, water or phone and her family are completely off grid.  We have plenty of vegetation’s but no order and both of us have those troublesome little nocturnal visitors who like to swing about on our tender new vegetation, however the feral cats have been leaving us “tails”…we can only guess that they were once young possums! No sign of the duck that we owned for 1 ½ hours that we bought for our lonely girl who quacks herself hoarse for her sister. We bought it from the grouchy old bee/duck man up the road for $15. Lucky we didn’t spend a fortune because after luring us to let it out of the outside coop area by making doe-eyes at our duck and trying desperately to get out “to her” it hightailed it over to the nearest high spot and made like a tree and leafed! The last we saw of it, it was running faster than Earl on the scent of a chicken towards the bush at the back of our neighbours block. We must have made a funny site, just on dusk, running with rakes in pursuit…our neighbour to the rear drove down to see what the commotion was about (no rake I note Noel…not going to join in the frothing melee?) and we had to reassure him that we were not insane nor were we intent on taking our rakes to Frank’s house. Not only are we now “those crazy hippies down the hill” but we are also “those crazy whacked out hippies down the hill!”…sigh…I have found a use for a large stainless steel enclosed drum that we inherited on dad’s “steel pile” left here for years by nefarious steel pilferers around the state. I am now the king of that castle by default and so I am trying to make the most of what we were left “cheers for that pile of steel dad…” by putting it to uses that my dad would have shaken his head and said “done ya dough” to whilst walking away disgustedly. I have come to terms with the fact that I was never going to be one of my dad’s favourite children and actually enjoyed the rise I got whenever discussing my fantastic schemes…dad hated hippies…my job there was done!

Looky here people, another massive post rolls out onto the printing floor and I haven’t even had my shower yet! Sorry about sitting here overnight smelly and with unkempt hair but you know how it is… the press never stops! Got to get you all something to read over your cocoa and here it is, unadorned, severely unedited and most definitely passionately heartfelt. Have a fantastic time till Saturday. The sun is weakly sniffing around the perimeters of Serendipity Farm but I am NOT lured into thinking that we are going to have anything other than the rain that was forecast! A day sitting indoors listening to precious information about soil amelioration and soil carbon is most probably the best outcome for today. See you Saturday and don’t sweat the small stuff folks…it will still be there tomorrow! 😉

Don’t sweat the processes

Hi All

We have been so very clever at sidelining life’s “Processes” as time wasters, energy robbers and too menial for our consideration that we have failed to notice that life is IN the processes. We have fallen victim to the hype and the advertising blurb and we have handed over huge chunks of experience and understanding and knowledge for something with an electrical plug and food prepared beyond its nutritional capabilities on a dyspeptic plastic wrapper and we actually believed that it would give us back something that we were missing…the ironic thing is that what is missing in all of our lives is the process that takes us from A to B to C and back again…the cycles that make up our birth, our life and our death are all interconnected and designed to teach us vital lessons so that we can live each precious moment of whatever time we have here on earth. I realised this when I was walking from my daughter’s home to where the Food Sustainability day was being held. I had an umbrella clutched in my hand to shore myself against the rain and soon fell into a regular gait that matched my thoughts. Where do we think we are going in such an almighty rush and what are we expecting to find at the end of it? Are we all losing our happiness in simple moments thanks to an exponential expectation of needs that we are assured are not (are NEVER) being met? I backed out like a hermit crab on steroids of mainstream treadmill hell quite a few years ago. I gave away my right to be a supermodel (an obvious choice), a superlative career on the stage (my 2 years of Speech and Drama assured me of something akin to acting Nirvana…) and any claim to being the most popular person in the world, a lesson learned way back at the age of 4 when Chad Johnson assured me of my position in the pack by telling me I was fat. I pushed Chad Johnson in the pond and was severely chastised for my efforts (but MAN it felt good to show him that assholes don’t always win and set me up for a lifetime of truth, justice and the Aussie way! 😉 ). I gave it all up folks for a chance to live a “real” life. To be able to take the time to bumble my way through my own personal experiences in my own good time and find out just what this life actually means to “me”.

Steve’s clever idea for how to achieve extra space on our countertops

Bags of mushroom compost waiting to be unloaded and stored for future use and for garnering a crop or two of mushrooms before that.

Glad (ys) next door is turning 90 on Saturday. We bought her a card with an elderly (no doubt younger than her but you wouldn’t know it!) lady with her bloomers in the air on the ascent of a ride on a swing. I dare say she will get her fill of flowery, sentimental cards. From her reprobate neighbours she will get her card with “Happy 22nd” written inside it, she will get a spongecake with some precious elixir jam from Olalla so that she can taste Olalla heaven at least once in her life and she will get a dozen Serendipity Farm eggs. I would give her 4 dozen but she doesn’t eat many eggs and my gift would end up a hindrance. Glad has taught me about resilience, about how living out in the bush all by yourself is not something to be feared. This 90 year old lady (and I use the word “lady” without hesitation!) heads out into her garden and walks around the block every day. She is as quick as a whippet and twice as fast in a verbal relay and if I wasn’t worried that she was thinking that I was “in her pocket” I would visit her more often. She grows vegetables every year, she laughs like a stevedore (I haven’t heard her swear but I dare say if she did, it would be with gusto) and she gives me the hope that old age isn’t all it’s made out to be. On the pointy end of 49 I am putting out my mental tendrils and am tentatively touching “aging” as one of my new parameters. Glad has shown me that it’s nothing to fear. That is something special and precious Glad, thank you for being our neighbour :o).

Spring comes to Serendipity Farm along with some purest green

I am relishing my penniless student hippy requirement to be thrust right back into the dreaded “Life Processes”. I am apparently a loser…someone who doesn’t consume much and thus a burden on society. The last sentence is not my personal view but that of any advertising agency in the world. I won’t be buying a new car any day soon…I don’t want to buy the latest shoes, makeup or haute couture…I am trying to minimise my spending and my carbon footprint down as far as I can and in the process I am automatically negated entirely in their eyes and I couldn’t be happier! I am really enjoying learning how to make sourdough and am bucking the trend for needing “more time for ME” in my life. I am starting to discover that “ME” is in the processes as well…I am finding my own personal rhythm, my own personal pace and mental alacrity as I tend the chickens, feed the sourdough starter every two days, fetch wood for the fire and I am finding a sense of peace, happiness and direction that only appeared when I gave up trying to keep up on that societal treadmill to nowhere. I like “wasting my time” for 3 days to bake a loaf of sourdough bread that is going to feed more than my body. I like pulling time out of my day to read…to research…to learn…to take my mind where it hasn’t been before. I might not be able to ever set foot on the moon (if, indeed ANYONE ever has…) BUT I am able to land my own personal mindspace craft on a new planet of information each and every day. What’s not to love about that? “Swings and roundabouts”…we make trades every day of our lives and how many of us actually think about the consequences of those trades that we make mindlessly and assisted only by someone with profit margins and not our own interests at heart?

Herman safely in his fruit pot. Note the bent lid…he has been forcing his way out!

Herman doing his best baby bird impression to get me to feed him

I am slowly (and admittedly fearfully) making my way through my rss feed reader that becomes packed to the back gills if I leave it for a single day, let alone a week. I love all of the blogs that I have crammed into my overworked reader and always greedy for something, I have stuffed my mind full of their delicious contents…can your mind get obese? I think mine is approaching Jabber the Hutt status as I type this. Hopefully I don’t have a mental coronary and end up sitting halfway through a post with far-away eyes (cheers for that one Mr Jagger 😉 ) and drool running down my chin but that’s the risk I take…”someone has to do it!” I absorbed so much information when I went to the Food Sustainability day run by the Tamar NRM that my brain got tired. Even with a few beige speakers who were intent on elevating themselves to some personal Nirvana by educating we lesser human beings (yeh like we NEED to know about pressure cookers or how little we know about soils actual chemical composition and how f@#*ing fantastic your own soil is!) that I could tune out and allow my overly excited brain a bit of a rest in-between the quality stuff, this little black duck wanted it all! I got all sorts of websites (curiously, the link to the techy beige persons amazing you beaut PDF for we mere mortals to gain his quality information from didn’t work 😉 ) to eke out my need to find out more. Some might call it nosey; I choose to think of myself as “pro knowledge”. I have been researching pyrolysis, biochar, permaculture and all things to do with food sustainability in our local environment and have discovered hectares of precious information for the taking. I feel like a rat let loose in a cereal factory and I can feel my brain swelling with each and every delicious morsel.

Herman and “the others” on the proving rack over Brunhilda

A quick hunt online and we suddenly had a solution for what to do with “The Others”

In the dehydrator soon to be joined by 8 more trays that after a day are just about dehydrated and tomorrow will be nice and crispy and dry and ready to crumble up and store away “just in case” or for any friends wanting a starter

I don’t think that I could ever be a “real” writer. I love words too much. I couldn’t cull them and cut them and my natural verbosity comes from a desire to cloth myself in description. I wouldn’t be able to keep an editor long because of my passionate desire to pad out life with descriptions. I don’t work well with others, ask poor Steve  ;).  It’s a glorious day outside! Who would have thought that the weather man could be so heinously wrong? I could have washed my blankets today…I could have planned a day out in the garden…I could have stood on my head in the sunshine and performed some complicated yoga move (I am sure I could find one online) but NO…I believed the weather man again and made plans for a wet day holed up inside. “Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on ME!” No more Mr Weatherman! You have fooled me once too often and it will be a cold day in purgatory before I believe your silver tongue again! I am just waiting for Steve to make one of his new signature Serendipity 4Q hangers. He got the idea from a photo on Facebook and he has been ruminating about them ever since. He is sending one of them down the road to our friend’s house where I am just about to deliver 1 dozen eggs and a banksia that we grew from seed. At least ONE of our potted plants will find a happy forever home out in the soil. Our friend asked us if we would like any old rope net because he has been getting heaps of it from the local fish farm. Yes PLEASE! I can see vegetable gardens free of possum invasion in our collective near future! Generosity breeds generosity and I fully believe that if you are a generous spirit, when you need something, the universe will find a way to give it to you. That’s always been my creed and I am not going to stop thinking like that any day soon. It helps when you don’t have a whole lot of anything to be free with though ;). I love the bartering process. I love slicing the middle man neatly from the entire transaction and going straight to the source. I used to like watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall barter for what he wanted by working or cooking or doing other strange things to enable him to gain what he needed. I think he has underlings bartering for him now but more credit to him; he certainly puts his money where his ethics are so he is still my numero uno sustainability television hero of choice. I am a frivolous creature though, fickle to the core so don’t get too comfortable in your esteemed position sunshine…I am likely to dump you like a hotcake should you ever turn tail and head down the mass consumerist road like several of my past heroes have done!

I think I am going to enter Steve in the local Agricultural Show this year in the “Spongecake” class…I think he has a chance don’t you?

Herman after his measuring out and feeding this morning. Hopefully he doesn’t mind his new glass container (kids can be so tempermental!)

I have inherited a monster! I should have known when my new sourdough turned up smelling like booze and he had escaped his container that he was going to be a handful. I have the sourdough starter equivalent of Earl running amok on Serendipity Farm. 1 became 2 that became 4 that became 8 that went back to 5 because I gave 3 of them to new homes. Then we turned 2 into the 3 day project known as “sourdough bread manufacture”. Today we fed them and they took so much flour that I ended up with 2 large casserole dishes full of dough and a very large ceramic bowl overflowing with manic frothing vinegar hell bent on taking over the kitchen. I just threw every last skerrick of flour that we have left in the house into the bubbling cauldron and hopefully the inclusion of the remains of a forgotten packet of wholemeal flour might just suck up some of its enthusiasm. I feel like we are living on borrowed time and tomorrow…we bake! I am off for our first meeting of the Tamar Permaculture Permablitz Society. I just made that up. Really, we are just a motley crew of passionate misfits with a desire to change the world, one property at a time. I think I just created our advertising blurb! I have no idea who is going to turn up to this first meeting aside from me and Frances. Me because I need this and Frances because it’s her house so she doesn’t get a say in it. Again I find myself tapping away late at night after realising that I will be away most of the day tomorrow and when I get back I will be held in slavetude by at least 4 sourdough loaves that will be barking at their container rims and demanding that they be baked. I baked off some roasted veggies today including some lovely small parsnips, some carrots, sweet potatoes (both orange and white) and the remains of a pumpkin just about to turn various mouldy shades of the rainbow before I halted it in its descent into madness. I used some garlic oil that I found in the fridge that had a curious scent of cinnamon until I realised that I had omitted to wash the cinnamon out of the jar before I grabbed it to store the oil so I decided to balance the flavour/scent with cumin and coriander. I used some of the roasted veggies to line some miniature vegan tartlets that I made for tomorrows “do” and I made a batch of borlotti bean hummus to spread under the veggies. I made another batch of small tarts with some home-made roasted cashew cheese and asparagus, artichoke, grilled capsicum and mushroom and black olive. The remainder of the roasted veggies are going to be tossed into tomorrow night’s barley risotto, a nice easy meal after what promises to be a long and exciting day. I will take as many photos as my shutterbug fingers will let me as I want to share this process with you all. As we progress through our understanding of Permaculture and how to apply it to our requirements. In the meantime, I will be shackled to the kitchen counter feeding and baking sourdough bread. I half expected my sourdough experience to be a brief and sad affair resulting in something akin to a brick on a plate that I would put aside and rarely speak of again in anything but a derisory manner, however I was wrong! This sourdough starter doesn’t want to die; indeed it appears to have a very Napoleonic view of Serendipity Farm. Bring it on you sour froggie… the offspring of Attila the Hun is waiting for you! (Well…I DO have Germanic heritage 😉 ).

Steve picked me this bunch of free range daffies and in our recycled cut blue wine bottle who could ask for a prettier kitchen window? 🙂

Another manic week comes to a close. What is it about spring that seems to turbo-charge the environment and makes everything go so much faster? “I” don’t go any faster! I have a degree of internal excitement that would like me to go faster but I am doing my best to quash it before it erupts and causes me to do something that I may regret at a later date like order some kefir milk grains or start making sauerkraut. I think I will trundle my way into spring this time and remain aware, lucid and able to make credible judgement calls. The blackbirds, wattle birds, sparrows, wrens, Cuckoo Shrikes and every single hen on Serendipity Farm are on a fast track to crazy land but this little black duck is marching to the beat of her own drum this time! See you all on Wednesday and stand steadfast and take the change of seasons in your own good time :o).

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! 😉

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