How to make your chicken stretch to the max

Hi All

Another days’ worth of edibles slides down our throats and got me thinking about how differently we humans eat from one country to another. What is standard fare for me is freaky food for other people and what people in India eat may be out of someone in Russia’s comfort zone. Apart from using the ingredients that are locally available which up until this point has been the wisest way for a country to survive, what makes us eat what we do? Here on Serendipity Farm we tend to work out what we are going to eat on the day that we eat it. Sometimes we utilise our leftovers into a meal because we don’t waste food here. If it’s not eaten it gets put into the compost (where the feral cats and possums fight over it long into the night) but we want to make sure to use every last bit so that we are minimising our carbon footprint. I have been taking some surreptitious photos of what we have been cooking and preparing for a few days now and thought that a post about grub on Serendipity Farm might be something that you might be interested in.

Interesting…some sort of meat and veg…correct! This is some diced cooked steak, carrots and toasted rolled oats…

All mixed together to make up what our dogs have every second day. On the other days they have raw meat. Not a bad life for a dog eh?

A wonderful thing happens to cornflour at 60C. It’s much like what happens when you install a Flux capacitor into a Delorean and put pedal to the metal and hit 88 miles per hour…magic! It’s one of those moments where the act of cooking transcends its boundaries and bleeds over into the strange mystical world of science and chemistry where you can find mythical creatures cavorting about with lab coats on with beakers and test tubes of bubbling multi coloured liquids doing strange things that defy the laws of gravity (oops…strayed into the Physics department… “Sorry guys”…). It’s those sort of moments when I could almost see myself hitting the books and getting excited about chemistry again but despite Heston Blumenthal making the BEST thrice cooked chips and some amazing chemical combinations that pass as Michelin star food, this little black duck is quite selective about where she will let her brain be manipulated and a department full of mad scientists is NOT for me! So when confronted with half a chocolate cake that we are ONLY talking about because I have only just stopped seething about it since I baked it last Friday. Words like “Perfect cake”…”Never EVER Fail” and “Easy Recipe” were bandied about by the author of this recipe and I launched myself into baking a “Chocolate Sponge Cake”… first, NEVER believe it when someone says “Never Fail” because there is always a first time and its highly likely to be yours… second, there is no such thing as a perfect cake, just a cake that you can slap enough accoutrement’s on to give you a degree of salvageable dignity.  This cake was dense, rich, dark and…flat…not so good :o(. I was going to use it along with one of Steve’s close to perfect sponge cakes to take in for morning tea at our meeting with our lecturer. Not bribery per se, but let’s call it mutual degustory satisfaction and be done with it. Our lecturer provides the fresh brewed coffee and we provide the cake. Anyhoo…I have a smidgen of pride and couldn’t be presenting the chocolate equivalent of a pancake to my lecturer with any degree of satisfaction so it was crumbled into a bowl and set aside for “later”. I decided that today was “later” and as we no longer waste food, I had to find a way to make this chocolate pancake suitable not only to eat, but to have for desert tonight. I decided to make a chocolate trifle and put the crumbled (pan) cake into a decorative bowl. I made some chocolate custard and poured it over. I then realised that I had a significant lack of any sort of cream on the premises and no incentive to drive 8km to the nearest town to buy some. Given this mini conundrum I often think “What would mum do?”…mum was a cook who worked as a shearers cook, a hotel cook and as a caterer for most of her life and often had to fix some mini disaster or other at short notice on the cookery front line and the answer came right back at me “Mock Cream”. Cheers mum…I don’t mind you acting as my cooking muse if you want to :o). Mock Cream, for those of you born closer to the end of last century than the beginning of it is a substance developed to cater for rationing in and after WW2 and there are various recipes for it, most of them involving some sort of solid fat and sugar blended into each other and tempered with flour, cornflour, boiling water etc. None of this sounds in the least bit appetising and so I went hunting further afield to see if I couldn’t find a Mock Cream that was more luxurious in its ingredient quotient yet contained no actual cream (the missing link). I came up with this recipe and after making it have tucked it safely away for future use. No cream…no worries…I gots me a GOOD Mock Cream recipe 😉

http://www.food.com/recipe/glens-creamy-cake-filling-mock-cream-188314

I would just like to point out that this website is a really awesome site for recipes of all kinds. I have found so many foundation recipes here and tweaks for recipes so that I can turn them from regular to vegan that I subscribed to get newsletters from them. This recipe allows you to choose regular Mock Cream or Chocolate Mock Cream. I dare say you could come up with some variants should you feel so inclined. I am just happy to be able to make something to top that mass of chocolaty goodness.

This is what I started with…crumbled chocolate NOT spongecake…

This is what happens when you mix some home made icing sugar with a bit of water to make “a consistency where it will just slide into the mix”…

Whipped butter and icing sugar (that was “slid into the mix”), you can see the change from regular (uscraped from the side of the bowl) butter to whipped butter that the beaters could actually reach

Starting to look a fair bit like the cream that it is supposed to be mocking…

This is the point where you have to start adding alternating boiling and cold water…not too sure why apart from tempering the sugary flavour in the mix

Unlike Nigella you will notice that my pans and oven slides are most definitely used more than once before they are donated to charity! I actively seek out the darker older pans whenever I am scouring thrift shops and garage sales for a bargain. As a cook I know that these are the well-seasoned vehicles for happy cooking and the best results.

The initial ingredients needed for making the chocolate custard

my trusty whisk being used to ensure that the custard isn’t lumpy

Chocolate custard poured onto the chocolate NOT spongecake, cooled and ready to be decorated with the mock cream

Doesn’t this look lovely? How could you tell the difference between this and regular cream? Well the consistency when it was removed from the fridge might be a bit of a dead giveaway! This cream could have been rolled down our rather steep driveway and would have looked virtually identical to this picture when it rolled to a standstill…sigh…it was solid as a rock! We had to put it over the warmth of the wood fire to soften it a bit, re-whip it and add more boiling and cold water before it stopped looking like a curdled mess and started to look like “cream” again…honesty is the best policy folks and I would HATE to have any of you try this recipe without being aware that you are going to have to store it at room temperature before using…

Aside from that little hicup, here the cream is, rebeaten into submission and doing what a good mock cream representation should!

And this is the finished product. A few shaves of chocolate and voila! Desert.

When we dispatch our roosters it isn’t with their tasty meaty goodness in mind. If the roosters could learn to live in a utopian harmony with the rest of the natives on Serendipity Farm they could live out their lives in full but like most males of the species, roosters are prone to strutting about and trying to take over from each other. They are also prone to random acts of sexual molestation that startle the hens out of their laying routine thus making them seed scoffing menaces to our egg futures and when they start to crow all through the night, its them or us. Little red rooster was the last of our roosters to bite the dust in a line of 5 before him. I am collecting their wishbones so that they are not forgotten and they will all go into an artistic display of life on Serendipity Farm (or perhaps death on Serendipity Farm would be more to the point!) somewhere in the future when I find the time to contemplate my navel, my inner artistic muse and my ability to find something to adhere the wishbones to. 2 of the wishbones are still clinging tenaciously to their hosts in the freezer in the garage as roast chicken futures. I had thought that little red would be tough because unlike his more tame brothers, he was wholly feral and had been crowing since he was only 3 months old. Crowing is associated with the onset of maturity and thus, at almost 5 months old I had imagined that he would be tough…stringy and fit only for mincing. Minced he was, along with being turned into delicious stock and his stock meaty portions and skin were fed to the dogs. The skin was first turned into chook scratching’s in a hot oven and even the feral cats got the intestines to squabble over. We don’t waste much here. If I could bring myself to do something with the feet I would but beak, feet and feathers are disposed of. If we could dig the soil we would bury the head but we are going to have to work out what to do with them other than surreptitiously depositing them into the bin (bad I know but whatchagonnado?) and the feathers languish in the compost bin until they blow all over the place in a gale…

This was an interesting spice that my daughters bought for me when they were buying some products from an Australia based seller of U.S.A. foods, curiously called “U.S.A. Foods”. To all of you living in the U.S.A. it might make you curious why I would be showing my dear constant readers this spice mix that is readily available to you all. In Australia we have a fraction of the variety of foodstuffs that you are able to purchase on a day to day basis. We often have a really hard time replicating recipes because we have to find a local substitute for some of the ingredients in your recipes. This is one such ingredient and I use it for making potato wedges and to add a bit of spicy flavour to anything that needs it.

I removed a package of past rooster mince from the freezer tonight to make something for Steve’s dinner. I decided to make small rooster meatballs to go with some rich tomato pasta sauce and some spaghetti and cheese. I used 250g of ex rooster and mixed it with fresh breadcrumbs, Italian mixed herbs (dried), some yellow American mild squeezy mustard (one of Steve’s personal favourites), some smoked paprika, some good old tomato sauce, a shake of Massell vegetable stock powder, a bit of minced garlic, a shake of Emeril’s All Natural Rib Rub (a gift from my daughters from an online American wholesale outlet in Australia) and a shake of Worcestershire sauce all formed into a mass and made into small balls. I then placed them on a baking paper lined oven tray and baked them. I used the remaining 250g to make into Thai chicken patties tomorrow night to be served with some kefir lime scented rice from the freezer and a left over portion of a veggie mix that I invented because Steve said “I NEED vegetables!” (in addition to his normal veggies that is…) where I cut the kernels from a fresh corn cob, and cooked them with some frozen peas and garlic in some butter and tossed in some sliced mushrooms and a carrot shaved with the potato peeler. Apparently delicious (what ISN’T delicious when cooked in garlic butter eh? 😉 ). I mixed the remaining portion of ex rooster with some smooth peanut butter. I normally wouldn’t have this in the house but SOMEONE told me that dogs LOVE peanut butter and that I should buy some to put into Earl’s Kong for when we go for our lectures and the boys get left here. I allowed the boys to sniff the specially purchased jar of peanut butter expecting the equivalent of dog raptures (remembering that I was promised that they LOVE peanut butter and can’t resist it…) and despite putting a bit on Earl’s nose that he promptly wiped off in disgust, their love of peanut butter was decidedly underwhelming to say the least! I have to find ways to use it up and biscuits, Thai noodles and adding it surreptitiously to just about everything I can get away with is how I am going to discontinue its shelf hovering career in the pantry. I then added some Korean chilli paste, some minced ginger, and some minced garlic, more fresh breadcrumbs, and some Massell vegetable stock powder and mixed it all up. It’s marinating in the fridge overnight for me to make into small patties tomorrow night and serve. I love thinking up frugal and deliciously inventive ways to make leftovers into something tasty. The rooster meat has come in handy and is totally different than supermarket chicken. Its darker, it’s more flavourful and it goes further than regular chicken does.

Here’s the ex-rooster turned into meatballs ready for Steve’s spaghetti and meatballs…

And here’s the finished dish. He had already grabbed the plate and started it when I insisted that he stop eating to take this photo!

Tomorrow we will be using one of our roosters past to see if they are tender enough to roast. The rooster selected was huge, fat, lazy and just on the point of crow. We know that because the rooster in question was called “Big Bertha” right up until 3 days before it’s demise and so it should be tender enough to roast. We have been doing experiments with our rooster meat. Its something akin to male calves in a dairy herd, not something desirable and so we let our roosters live happily on Serendipity Farm until they start to cause the girls problems and then its time for a culinary adventure. Big Bertha/Bert is going to be celebrated by stuffing under the skin with herb/garlic butter, roasting, and accompanying with roasted goose fat potatoes, yorkshire puddings, peas, carrots, stuffing and pan gravy. I will let you know how it all goes. We will only be roasting half of Big Bertha/Bert because only Steve eats meat and we can use the remaining half to make a chicken casserole that can be used in a future pie. When you start to look at what it takes to produce your food, it gives you a lot more respect for the process. Its not easy to kill a rooster when you have raised it from a chick and its important to make sure that you respect that roasted chicken on your plate. Still not too sure what we are going to do with all those wishbones…Steve suggested something along the lines of making a necklace out of them like Predator…hmmm perhaps not! Ok, I know I have a lot of photos to put into this post and so I am going to finish up here. I hope you liked the change of pace in this post and things will be back to normal on Wednesday (if I can be dragged from my newfound love of Amanita games to type a post that is! 😉 )

Why hippies are thin

Hi All,

Have I piqued your interest yet? Over the last (almost) 2 years we moved from relative bliss in the suburbs, totally devoid of any understanding or care about where anything came from and just predating shopping centres at all hours of the day and night whenever our stomach’s rumbled or we felt like bedecking our intestines and arteries with some form of tasty chemical indulgence and got thrown into the abyss of country living. We didn’t have time to blink, let alone adjust to our situation; we were thrown in running and immediately started trying to reclaim Serendipity Farm from the clutches of chaos. I have discovered many important truths since we got brave enough to come out from under the bed what seems like eons ago and would like to share a few of them here with you now.

1. Everything wants to eat you or your possessions in the country. Termites, rats, mice, possums, wallabies, rabbits and in our case “Earl” all join together in a ferocious free for all as soon as you open the door and attempt to ingratiate yourself with any degree of wilderness and settle down out in the sticks

2. Life runs on a parallel time frame in the country. This is to be confirmed, but somewhat like the unseen university in the Discworld…country living has its own peculiar time portals that swallow you up and spit you out the other side confused and wondering why it is dark and where the day went…or I may have just been taken by aliens…either way, confusion reigns

3. Unlike living in an urban environment, your house in the country will instantly form a tiny microcosm where everything starts looping in cycles. In the city you feel small, in the country you are suddenly aware of how very important these little cycles are and your place within these cycles

4. You have to learn to think laterally when you live in the country. You also have to learn to think on your feet (sometimes concurrently with thinking laterally…no mean feat!) and you also have to learn to amuse yourself because the only other person here is watching The Swamp Men on television and isn’t likely to stop in the perceivable future

5. Last but not least…(this is where the title comes into it…aren’t you glad you kept reading?) everything takes a zillion more steps and 100 times more effort in the country when you are penniless student hippies (as most hippies are) and can’t just buy what you want or pay someone else to do it for you. Simply getting warm involves a trip up to the back block to collect some of the firewood that you hadn’t gotten around to moving down to the wood shed yet after chopping down the dead tree, chain sawing it into logs and splitting with a block splitter, isolating some kindling wood (usually whilst doing some form of callisthenic exercise involving bending and stretching up trees and under shrubs), running the gauntlet of getting the firewood past Earl who isn’t called “The eatinator” for nothing and then rubbing 2 sticks together for about 3 hours. Ok…so I fibbed about the last bit and we do use the occasional match (shock HORROR…send the environmental police around…sigh…). To get food you have to grow it yourself…to have a roast chicken you have to “first kill your rooster”. In the city you can live an idyllic life so far distanced from the origins of your food and without an exertive care in the world. You can reach for the telephone and all manner of piping hot (or its free!) comestibles will wend their merry way right to your doorway. Sugarplum fairies (or their corn syrup equivalent in the U.S.A.) lure you at every café, lunch bar and supermarket but out in the country you have to make your own and you are suddenly confronted with exactly how much of what is entering your digestive tract in the form of hidden fat, sugar and chemical enhancers. When you live in the country you either bury your head in the sand or you fess up to your previous life of sloth and degradation and start finding ways to turn it around and all of the “ways” involve hard slog and nutritional change. Enter the thin hippy. People who care tend to be thin. Do you know why? Because they are so busy racing around after causes, events, volunteering, eating on the run, thinking about their food and trying to eat ethically to put on weight. Hippies are thin because they are living nature how it was meant to be lived and whether or not they end up with a bit of diarrhoea from eating something unwashed, or left out for more than 10 minutes or that hasn’t been scrubbed within an inch of its life or doused in Dettol doesn’t matter because if you grow it yourself, and you embrace sustainable permaculture principals you can put a handful of that fecund dirt into your mouth and eat it and it will probably do you good! There you go…hippies (the lucky buggers) are thin because they are so active and vital and caring and concerned that they don’t even care about how much they weigh and so Murphy leaves them alone. No fun in shoving kilos onto someone who needs them is there?

I promised you a couple of photos of Targa. Steve was right on the corner when this car span out and got bogged. They had to sit out this stage of the time trials and were not all that happy about it!

This was supposed to be Steve’s moment of glory…his 15 minutes of fame…but they never used the footage of him jumping up and down, waving like crazy at the camera or of Serendipity Farm (which is where the helicopter is hovering in this picture). Steve says “Bollocks!” I say “Thank goodness! Did you even LOOK at yourself when you headed up the back paddock with the camera to take a few photos?!

Look at those eyes…latent suspicion and violent tendencies along with ninja stealth when it comes to hopping into my poor long suffering succulents…

The following pots are the sole remaining cacti and succulents that we could save from these marauding hyenas of the veld (a.k.a. ducks)

I used to have so many amazing cacti and succulents that I couldn’t even count them. Each one sourced locally and hunted in various nurseries, horticultural shows and small pieces given lovingly (and sometimes taken surruptitiously) by friends. You will notice that most of what remains is heavily armoured. I swear the ducks have been formulating a plant to remove the spines so we repotted them and put them up out of the assassins reach.

We are continuing on in the garden attempting to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Does that sound a bit like sour grapes? You are darned tootin it does! It seems like the more effort we put into removing years of neglect, the more like a barren wasteland Serendipity Farm is becoming. We have huge piles of debris littering the landscape; we are constantly followed by small members of the poultry confraternity standing in the arches of our boots waiting to catch all sorts of disenfranchised evicted creatures from their resting places in the shrubbery. Our 2 ducks, who until now have been somewhat suspicious of us and who have managed to maintain a significant distance between themselves and our person, have now decided that we are worse than Hitler because we have been removing all of the vegetation that they previously hid in whilst making surreptitious raids of my succulent patch. We have dispatched yet another rooster to that great roasting pan in the sky for attacking Pingu and pulling out heaps of feathers and forcing Effel to subject to depraved sexual acts. Goodbye Trogdor. I am sure you will make a very tasty roast dinner. I have noticed something very interesting about our poultry population. Big Yin is an amazing rooster. We couldn’t hope for a better one. He looks after the flock, he finds food, nests, shelter and anything else for his girls and makes sure that they get all of the choice titbits that we toss out to them throughout the day. As each new rooster gets old enough to start acting like roosters are prone to do, and we dispatch them summarily, the next rooster in line, who has until this point remained latent and benign and who hasn’t done much more than crow takes up the flag and starts roostering for all they are worth! No sooner had we dispatched Henry (rollins) the initial rooster who was causing problems in the hen house, Trogdor, who had up until that point been so benign that we had considered he might be gay, stepped up to the mark and became Big Yin’s chief nemesis. Now that Trogdor is out of the picture, Big Bertha (yeh…I know…good pick…sigh…) is crowing for all he is worth, molesting all and sundry and has just signed his gender confused death warrant in the process. We then have another quandary with Little red. He is the first of the feral chooks that live “elsewhere” to the chicken coop and we are going to have to hunt him down with a torch one night. Is it just me that takes great delight in reading my blog spam? I get quite a bit. Some days I get more spam than I get views! Lately I am getting some hilarious spam that I enjoy over my early morning cup of tea and guffaw outrageously at. Do yourselves a favour and have a read of your spam…it just might make your day :o). Here are 2 examples from my spambox (like a lunch box but with the vegetarian equivalent of spam luncheon meat…perhaps seitan?)…

“You know therefore considerably when it comes to this topic, produced me in my opinion consider it from a lot of varied angles. It’s like women and men aren’t interested unless it is something to do with Girl gaga! Your individual stuffs excellent. All the time care for it up!”

And how about this enlightened comment…

“Great beat! I wish to apprentice while you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear idea”

If anyone out there can enlighten me to what either of these comments actually mean I would be most interested to find out. Here’s one I actually sent on to share with my daughters the other day…

“You might want to revitalize your best then you will likely have large amounts with high supplement in the male body. Growth hormone is definitely a necessary lifestyle deliver by way of our company’s pituitary gland which may be the culprit for much of our maturity.”

There you go! I thought about hooking up to their company’s pituitary gland but then realised that it was the culprit for my maturity! See what you are all missing out there? Who needs to buy newspapers and turn to the funnies, these are MUCH funnier than that…

“Now you see me…now you don’t!”…one of Effel’s babies showing how well they can camoflage in with the endemic vegetation and why, despite her best efforts, she still has 8 of them.

Most people (at least in Tasmania) would see this pile of tyres that we inherited along with Serendipity Farm (and quite a few more to boot) as a problem. We don’t. We are going to have fun working out what to do with them. We could make a tyre garden. We could use them to make steps (found a site online that shows us how), or a retaining wall…or even as the basis for a wall filled with our local rocks and sand. There are so many ways to use old tyres so why are local Tasmanian’s throwing them into every ditch that they possibly can? Because they have to pay $5 a tyre to dispose of them at the local tip, THATS why…sigh…

This is what we have had to do to protect anything vaguely succulent in nature. Even euphorbia’s, with their irritating sap, are not safe from those feathered assassins…just take a look at that rectangular teracotta pot…the day before it was green! Today it is picked down to the brown base.

It’s Friday morning and we are having an unusual early morning off from walking the dogs. Today we are combining picking up my book requests from the Exeter library, hauling a mass of vanquished blackberry foes to the Exeter tip green waste centre and walking the dogs in one of their more preferred locations all at the same time. We have learned that multitasking saves time and money. One trip for 3 requirements makes me feel good. We had to learn that lesson the hard way when we first moved here. We spent so much time racing back and forwards between the city and here and we seemed to be constantly on the go. Now we wait, we plan and we make sure that we do as many things as we can whenever we get into the car. We have spent the last month really getting to grips with the tangle of foliage on Serendipity Farm. We know that autumn is the very best time to plant out our potted babies and so we are removing as much of the weedy neglect as we can to find space to give them the best start for the coming year. We have learned a lot about ourselves in the process and are starting to fall into our own routine. We have the peculiar distinction of being parents that leave their children. We left my son living in the rental house that we lived in when we moved here. He was working and inner city rentals were both expensive and difficult to find so he was happy to take over the lease. When we moved out to Serendipity Farm we left our two daughters (both adults before you start to phone social services…) in our house in town so rather than have our children move out on us leaving us empty nesters, we emptied ourselves out of the nest! We were in the most privileged of positions when my dad died to inherit 2 houses. My brother and sister both got 2 houses of their own and before anyone starts envying any of us, every single house came with an overwhelming list of repairs, neglect and mounting cost so each of us had to earn what we have inherited. Far from being ungrateful, I know that we have been given a very precious gift and that as penniless hippy 40 something students we would never have had the opportunity to buy a house let alone end up debt free like we are today. We love our life out here and are starting to get a feel for being 2 people out in the wilderness. There is something quite terrifying about being left alone with your partner. I think that is when many marriages start to fall apart and when a mans shed becomes more important than it has ever been before. That’s when there is no-one else to focus on and suddenly you are confronted with each other with no-where to hide. If you throw retirement into the process you get, most probably, the very first time that either of you have had to spend extended periods of time together and someone that you can share a house with for half a day quite easily can become “the enemy” overnight. You just have to watch “Keeping up appearances” with the ubiquitous Hyacinth Bucket (“Boo-kay…it is pronounced BOO-KAY”!) to see just how terrifying retirement must be to a couple. Again, Steve and I spend 24/7 together. Retirement will be much like school holidays…we most probably won’t notice it like we didn’t notice them so again we buck the system.

“Ok, so your back from town…these are in bags…and they appear to be some sort of food…”

“Wait a minute! There’s nothing tasty in these bags!”

2 distinct varieties of Jerusalem Artichokes that I picked up in one of our local green grocers when we were in town on Friday. I am most excited about being able to get really big interesting looking specimens like these and will be planting them out as soon as they start to sprout a little bit. I picked up 3 wizened tubers in a pack at Woolworths a few years ago and planted them out in our house in town. As I type this the girls have harvested tens of kilo’s of these tasty (albeit flatulence inducing but whats a little fart joke between friends?) tubers that have the added benefit of having pretty sunflower like flowers, being perenial and dying back so you can slash the stalks and use them for mulch and in having the ability to reproduce exponentially much to the Canadian’s amazement. They are classified as “weeds” in Canada. Obviously the Canadian’s are not able to take a (fart) joke…once you have these babies, forget about caring for them…they look after themselves and you won’t ever go short of nutty crunchy delicious tubers as they seem to be able to grow in any condition known to man

“Ok…theres nothing tasty in this lot of toys that they brought back from town…you know that someone is going to get the blame for all of this mess…”

Apparently Bernard and Manny (the Javanese Finches in the cage over to the right of this photo) did this. They have taken full responsibility and wish it to be known that they are ashamed of themselves and will clean up this mess post haste. They apparently did it alone with no help whatsoever…

There is nothing like living in the country to remove all pretention from a person. When your lower body is covered in mud and chicken manure, your arms are scratched up with hand to hand blackberry combat, you look like a brown zombie (who remembers sunscreen when you need to get up and going early before the sun is up) and you are starting to regret not listening to your lecturer when he said “don’t forget your earplugs when you use the chainsaw” because much like Pete Townsend, you are starting to have problems hearing people. You go to town looking peculiar because you have attempted to scrub your skin free of dirt and debris that has plastered itself violently all over you in your heady pursuit of finding something ordered in a sea of chaos and you turn up looking wide eyed and innocent in the middle of the city. Simple country folk. I no longer ask Steve “does my bum look fat in this?”…I say “can I get away with this…” or “are there any holes (Earl), stains (no end of creatures and situations want to stain everything that we own) or fraying (treacherous blackberries!)?” It’s no longer a matter of “I need that new shampoo to make my hair look like golden tresses” its “did I wash my hair? Are there any leaves in my hair? “Could you just get the scissors and trim it straight across the bottom for me?”…country life certainly changes a person and woe betide anyone who chooses to attempt to maintain their idealistic romantic notions of picnics in the fields and picking wildflowers and drinking wine out on the deck whilst gazing into the eyes of your lover because the chickens have been in the paddock first…the wildflowers are classified weeds and you had best remove them QUICK before DIPWE catches you with them on your property and your lover has already gulped his glass of wine down in one swig, is too tired to focus on your eyes and you both look like you have been dragged through a blackberry patch backwards (curiously…that saying is incredibly pertinent to our current situation!) and you BOTH have a headache. Much like Tom and Barbara Good from “The Good Life”, we are discovering that country living isn’t quite so idealistic and nostalgic as many wistful city dwellers might have us believe. In saying that, I wouldn’t give up what country living has done for us. We have a degree of freedom that we never had in the city. If I want to throw off my clothes post haste and hunt for leeches on the deck, so long as I don’t choose to do it at 12pm when the Tamar Cruiser wends its way past us on the river delivering its amplified speech about the Auld Kirk Church, I am safe to do so. We can start, finish and “do” whatever we want around here. We can eat what we want, when we want to. There are very few rules and regulations that have to be enforced and we are quickly discovering so much about ourselves and our place in the world and together that we would never have learned whilst surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city.

Another pile of vanquished blackberries off to the hoosegow  to do the time for crimes against mankind

And here they are effectively “zipped” (old school computer talk for condensing to all of you young hipsters out there…) and ready to dump at the Exeter Green Waste Centre. Here we are parked at the Exeter Library where I just picked up Flaubert’s Parrot and Women of the Silk to read over the coming week. I have a few more books in transit, I am getting greedy in my lust for literature…

I hereby swear never EVER to leave a library book lying on the kitchen table and head outside to see what Steve is on about. Earl took advantage of my 5 minutes respite from reading to ingest some literature of his own. Earl is now semi filled with war, death and “The Push”…sigh…the only thing that I have going for me this time is that the first entry in the fading yellow paged cello taped paperback copy of “A Covenant with Death” by John Harris was 1964, making this book almost as old as I am! Steve was actually born after this book entered library circulation and so I am going to argue my case if faced with a hefty bill for replacement. It seems fitting that a book has been dispatched today as we suddenly discovered 2 new roosters. That only leaves 1 of the heavier chickens that we imported in limbo as to its sex. My theory about roosters is gaining momentum as each time we dispatch a rooster, another “hen” steps up to take its place. We now know who is a hen and who isn’t apart from the younger ferals, Effel’s babies and the silver Wyandotte’s 3 who are now shared between a golden laced Wyandotte and the silver Wyandotte. We just took an afternoon wander around the property with Earl on a lead and Bezial free ranging. Wherever we have cleared in the last month is now able to get rainfall down to the soil and everything is looking happy and green. We are starting to work out what plants we can use from our large potted stash, and which plants we are going to have to get rid of. We donated 3 roses to our Polytechnic yesterday because they are simply possum fodder here. We are in the process of repotting all of our stock that we have grown including all sorts of maples (sourced from seed from all over the place) and all sorts of conifers (sourced from seed and cuttings from all over the place). Steve potted up some of our glasshouse specimens to give them some more room to grow and I dumped the remaining potting mix and left over tomato stems into our compost heap. I will be topping it up with spent chook roost hay covered in nitrogen rich manure when I clean out the hen house tomorrow. Bernard and Manny, our Java Finches, are getting their cage cleaned out as well and their spent hay will be added to our compost. It is now second nature to throw “anything that was once living” (apart from meat grandma!) into a smaller bucket in the pantry to be tossed out into the compost heap when it is full. We phoned up a local machinery hire agency and we can get a large chipper/mulcher for a weekend for $95. We have some BIG plans for that mulcher and hope to eliminate our massive great pyre of decaying branches down in the teatree gardens as well as crown lifting and mulching tree branches all over the property. We will remove the Photinia x fraseri “Robusta” that are on the dividing fence between our place and the graveyard at the Auld Kirk church and will mulch them all into a large heap to rot down and use in the garden elsewhere. We checked what had once been a large pile of oak leaves that we raked last year for Glad next door and it has rotted down to a very small amount. We will top it up this year with year 2 of raking and being neighbourly and will use the leaf mould on the garden as it becomes available. I love being able to reuse waste on site. The only thing that we are taking to the tip (vegetative matter wise) are the blackberries. One day, when the blackberries are at a manageable level we will be able to make weed tea out of them but we don’t have a large enough vat to tackle the vast amount that we are dealing with at the moment. We need to isolate some plants for our garden starting with a source of Moringa olifera or drumstick tree. This tree is amazing. You can count the things that this tree ISN’T good for on one hand. We would also like to give neem a go. I know we are not tropical but we do have a range of plants growing here that shouldn’t be happy to do so including Jacaranda’s, Brachychitons and 2 Sydney red gums that should be roots up in Tasmania let alone thriving like ours are. We would like to see if we can grow as many of our own insecticides, food trees, medicinal plants etc. on site. I look forwards to hunting them down and sourcing nurseries and individuals with stock that we can buy swap or take cuttings/seed from.

Here are the veggies and the 15 (hand counted) whole peppercorns ready to be put into the stock water when the carcass has been simmering gently for an hour and fifteen minutes. 45 minutes later we had very unphotogenic but probably heavenly stock

The last of our elephant garlic that we grew this year. Juicy, hot, spicy and incredibly fragrant it was really something compared to the cheap imported garlic that is available in the shops.

Colours…we need coloured food for antioxidents and for visual appeal. I don’t like chunks of carrot so we tend to use a vegetable peeler to make long quick cooking strips that are perfect for stir fries

This pile is waiting to be turned into Steve’s special fried rice

Ok…so this home made black bean sauce doesn’t look all that tasty…that is a BIG understatement, but this fragrant paste is redolent with flavour, heat, texture and low food miles using our own garlic, chillies, local olive oil and only the black beans (salted) were imported. I dare say we could have found an Australian source if we tried or I could turn to my trusty typed out copy of “The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition” and make my own! I love a challenge especially a food challenge. I once made a man with Coeliacs who was also unable to have dairy a vegan pizza made with spelt (he didn’t react to spelt) and home made vegan dairy free cheeze. He hadn’t had pizza in 6 years and apparently ate most of the enormous offering all by himself with no reaction whatsoever. As I said…I LOVE a challenge 🙂

Steve cooking up the veggies and black beans for the brown rice fried rice

Check out the colour in our home grown free range eggs…I almost needed sunglasses to make this omelette for Steve’s stir fry

This chicken has been marinating in chilli flakes, sesame oil and some mirin overnight in the fridge

Brown rice black bean fried rice…absolutely delicious!

The eggs are still this colour when you cook them. Here they are waiting to be divided into 2 portions. One for Steve’s meal and one for the dogs to share. The utensil here is an Australian designed and made “Chopula” made by Dreamfarm, a forward thinking sustainable company who really does care about all aspects of their production. I love this egg slice. It will sit on the bench when not being used without leaving any of its current occupying foodstuffs on the bench. It will hook on the side of the pan when you are cooking and you can chop, slice etc. whatever you are cooking and the shape allows the easiest flipping of a frypan full of pikelets that I have ever experienced. Hell yeh I am promoting this amazing tool! Do yourselves a favour and buy yourself one. These guys are not paying me to promote them, they just deserve it they are so good 🙂

I have just discovered (purely by accident) a site where I can get a like for like copy of A Covenant with Death sent to me for $12. Cheers Jennifer of Parklea books! She might have had to lift it from her market stall but lift it she did and as soon as I can verify her account details the $12 will be wending its merry way to Jennifer and that well-aged paperback will be handed in along with my freezer bag of torn shreds (Earl never does anything by halves…) as replacement all before I have to suffer the injustice of not being able to take any more books out of the library until I replace it. Steve and I decided to cook today and to take advantage of the stove being on to do as many things as we could. We used some of the first rooster to make a chicken stew to be frozen and used later on. We put the rooster carcass and wings on to gently simmer and made a large pot of free range stock with surprisingly little fat despite me leaving the skin on the carcass. We then made a crunchy oat slice for Steve (and the dogs) and cooked a large pot of brown rice and dried it out in the warming oven for my meal of fried rice tonight. Into the fried rice went diced onion, diced yellow (hydroponic) capsicum, the last of our fresh garlic that we managed to wrestle from the wallabies crushed, some chopped mushrooms, some carrot and lots of secret sauces etc. that Steve throws in at the last minute to make something truly delicious. He had stir fried marinated chicken with home-made black bean sauce. We like to do as many things as we can ourselves and after seeing a recipe for black-bean sauce online I decided to try it. The result is salty, hot and sweet and absolutely delicious! We have various pots of food cooling all over our kitchen so that we can prep them and fridge or freeze them depending on their future use. Steve has a whole bowl of left over stir fry and will have that tomorrow night with some of my brown rice fried rice and who knows what I will have…we tend to wing it! I was going to watch some television tonight but remembered that I had to post so you saved me from brain numbing. I am instead going to play Hammer Heads, a most interesting hybridisation between whack-a-mole and gnome warfare. One day I am going to beat the king. Until then, I can but keep trying to whack my hardest and give it the old college try. When I get bored with that I can read Flaubert’s Parrot or sit by the fire with a big cup of tea and simply ruminate mentally about life, the universe and everything (hopefully I don’t get sued by Douglas Adams for that!) Have a great week and see you on Wednesday. Hopefully I will have done something by that stage to share with you as our weather is apparently going to be drizzly for the foreseeable future. Not that I mind, I LOVE the rain :o)

Gravity is my Bitch

Hi All,

Did you miss me in your inbox every day? This post is going to be long!  I must admit to enjoying the freedom to add little bits to posts whenever something interesting happens rather than having to think up things to say. I also like the freedom to take photos of interesting things rather than having to take them for the sake of a daily post. This week where I have abstained from posting has most certainly revealed a few things about me to myself. The very first thing that it has revealed is that I used the computer too much. I would spend hours here researching, posting, hunting for things and was spending more time online than I was out there in the great outdoors. We have collected an enormous amount of dry firewood from the property and have saved ourselves a fortune in the process. All of you constant readers will know that we are doing another Diploma this year in landscape design. I am saying “sustainable landscape design” because that is where my heart is. I could care less about standard gardening and commonplace ideas and would rather scrape by sustainably than live a life of mass consumption. Steve and I have been noticing all sorts of ways to save money, reuse and recycle things around Serendipity Farm and are starting to notice that our attempts are paying off. As we are penniless hippies living on the breadline we need to ensure that our ‘income’ (such as it is…) not only stretches to paying our bills but that it allows us to do what we want to do on Serendipity Farm. We have some future wants including large and small rainwater collecting tanks and we want to buy a wind turbine because Serendipity Farm is one of the windiest places that we have ever lived and it makes sense to use what is available. We were spending about $80 on booze a fortnight and decided to give it up for our savings and our health. I decided to give up a lifelong bad habit of dieting and simply learn how to eat what my body needed. Paired with at least an hour of walking the dogs a day and I have managed to lose 5kg (yes Nat…I got out those scales!) without even noticing that I was even doing so. I feel better, my poor long suffering knees are feeling great (despite my determination to get them to give way at every available moment) and I am starting to discover what it is to have actual available energy when you want and need it thanks to not starving myself and feeding my poor long suffering body what it needs to function.

A little  Philadelphus to mark the felling of a large tree in the first garden and the subsequent squishing of most of the tangled overgrown Philadelphus (Mock Orange) and a fair percentage of blackberries in the process. You win some…you lose some…

The early morning breakfast board. The bread is for the 5 older feral chooks and Houdini and her 7 mid sized baby chooks and the cheese is for the feral cats. We have added a small bowl of tiny cheese bits for Effel and her babies. Please don’t tell me that “Cheese isn’t good for cats” because these are feral and you know what? Dead bits of frog, mumified possum and bin scrapings are probably not good for cats either but I dare say this lot would jump at them in an instant so a little bit of daily cheese is the least of their worries

This is a  Carpobrotus acinaciformis or Pigface as it is commonly called around here. It is usually found on the shoreline of sandy beaches and dunes and is a most interesting salt tolerant (just about everything tolerant if the truth be known) succulent.

Usually they have red or pink flowers but this one appears to have a sort of apricot colour.

Here you can see the base of the flower and this is where it starts to get interesting…

Here is what happens when the flower drops and a fruit forms. The fruit is entirely edible and Australian Aboriginals eat them. We have this plant growing on Serendipity Farm and as mentioned, it is almost indestructable. You can walk over it, it has lovely bright shiny  mesembryanthemum flowers and will grow in just about any soil type. All that plus it is a native and I figure that this great ground cover is going to feature in more than one place on Serendipity Farm

I am, however, a little bit miffed. Steve…who no-one would call “fat” has just lost 6kg by doing nothing other than giving up booze. Men have it all over we women (especially we women who are of a ‘certain age’ and who nature and gravity are conspiring to bring down to earth with a massive bump…) when it comes to metabolism and Steve had a head start thanks to genetics. I am pleased to announce my new “diet”. Eat more food in the morning and lunch time than you do at night…add lots of veggies and cooked beans to your diet (stop pulling faces…it works!), buy a dog and walk it and get your ass off the computer and out into the great wild outdoors with your poor long suffering husband who usually has to do everything himself because his dearly beloved is sitting on the P.C. engrossed and you are too polite to get a crowbar and evict her. This week, after realising just how much time I spent on the computer, I decided to check my emails in the morning and nothing else. I have stuck to that apart from study where we had to do a bit of typing, and in place of messing about accomplishing little online, I have crocheted, I have read copious quantities of books, I have wandered about outside sucking delicious fresh air into my previously “cooped up” lungs, I have helped Steve as he lumberjacked, chainsawed and lugged wood from all sorts of areas over Serendipity Farm and have discovered that gravity is not just something that you learn about in science and that it CAN be my friend. When you have finished huffing and puffing your way up a very steep slope (like the steep slope that can be found all over Serendipity Farm…) to a large pile of chainsawed logs, you can use gravity to your advantage to throw those round logs down the hill and once they stop rolling (say by hitting the fence for instance…) you can then load them into the trailer that you can actually get to this bit of the property (because the rest of the property is overpopulated with rocks) and then transport them to the wood shed. I never knew how satisfying it could be to really get stuck into hard slog and then stand back and look at your mounting pile of firewood, knowing that you haven’t had to pay anything for it other than a little bit of fuel and chain bar oil for the chainsaw and a bit of petrol to get the car and trailer up to the top paddock. I have a new found respect for Steve and his amazing capacity to move around, lug heavy things and keep going and by sourcing our firewood from our own property we have reduced the amount of fuel and energy that we have to use and the garden is much tidier after our efforts.

We passed this most interesting of gates on one of our walks this week. The little dog was barking his head off and I could hear his owner telling him to be quiet and asked her if I could take a photo of her interesting planter box. She was more than willing for me to do so

Ecclectic sustainable artistic gardening and xeriscape (water wise) to boot! Good on you attractive young hippy lady with a small child on your hip. Cheers for letting me share your wonderful repurposed gate and this pretty windowbox

I don’t know if there is anything sustainable about this wonderful house boat but the elderly couple that allowed me to take this photo seem to be leading a most interesting life on the tideline in their rustic home. I wonder if the fishing is good?

Isn’t this a really lovely dry stone wall?

This picture was going to be a nice long line of delightful artisanal craftwork for you to enjoy but fatty refused to budge from rubbing his nose on the lawn so you are stuck with Bezial in the shot

We walked the dogs a whole lot and we have spent time relocating Effel and her 4 squintillion babies all over the place. They started down the driveway in a large clump of agapanthus but with bad weather on the way and our advanced knowledge of Effel and her terrible mothering skills, AND the fact that most of these little sweet fluffballs are actually blue Wyandotte’s and might be worth $20 each in a few months we decided to try to keep as many of them alive as possible and relocated them to Steve’s shed in Pingu’s old cage. It only took us 2 days to realise that Effel was NOT going to be happy cooped up inside a tiny little hay filled cage and that we were going to have to think about a slightly longer term solution for Effel and her babies. Knowing that they needed to be isolated from the other hens made it somewhat hard as we had removed the chicken wire in the chook roost when our hens started to reproduce exponentially and they started to fill the small bit of the roost where we had previously thrown our clucky hens whenever they wanted to hatch out a clutch of eggs alarmingly and so we had to confine Effel to the outside enclosed area of the coop. We decided to reuse (LOVE that word and it’s application :o) Pingu’s cage that Effel and her fluffballs had been living in for 2 days and cut a door into the front. After cutting half of the wire from the front of the domed cage we then covered it with 2 tarpaulins to make sure that it was weatherproof and we stuffed it full of hay to keep the little darlings dry and warm. We didn’t want the hay getting wet should it rain so we mounted 2 old wooden louvered doors from an old pantry cupboard that had completely disintegrated but we kept the doors for just such a purpose as this, on some treated pine logs and then put the new fluffball home on top. That evening, when we were making sure that Effel got her babies into their new luxury pad we noticed Effel sitting on 2 babies and the rest huddled in the cold in a corner…soon after a most frustrating (for us) but hilarious (to anyone watching) bout of running around chasing tiny chickens who have an incredible turn of speed and who were most determined to hide UNDER their new cage rather than in with their mum we managed to rake the babies out of their hiding places (yes RAKE!) and hurl (sorry place gently) them in with Effel all the time muttering under our breath about how we were going to decapitate Effel at the next sign of cluckiness. The next day we removed the tin, we took Hebel blocks and placed them all around the outside of the cage to stop the chicks from hiding underneath the cage and mounted a nice new longer (less of an angle to get up into the cage) wooden gangplank for the babies to climb up inside their new home. It seems like we have spent the whole week fussing over Effel and moving her all over the place but finally it seems like we might have sorted out the problems and everyone is still alive and we assume, happy.

This is a Rosa rubiginosa L. (Wild briar rose) that has become a bit of an environmental weed here in Tasmania. I am going to take advantage of its apparent glee for spreading all over our local area and am going to harvest the hips (fruit) to use in making wine, jam and syrup. Why waste one of the best sources of vitamin C when it is just going to waste?

This is the sole walnut that we were able to isolate from our Juglans nigra (Black Walnut) tree. It is quite a large tree and the rats have been taking advantage of its bumper crop of walnuts this year. I am thinking about tethering Earl to the walnut tree to see what the rats think of him

This is what a fresh walnut looks like. It was white and sweet and nothing like a regular dried walnut kernel. I savoured it slowly and will be tethering Earl ealy next season and awaiting a rat pelt jacket…we cant waste anything around here you know!

The temptation to “just have a little go” on the computer has slowly given way to an uneasy feeling that I have been wasting a whole lot of time online and that I have to do something to make up for it. The lugging of the wood was in part due to this feeling. Steve is very happy that I am actively starting to “do” physical things around the place. I regularly do a MAX music survey where I am asked my opinion of some short bursts of music. I do this, because I need to address the obvious bias of the young towards total crap music and ensure that the rest of us (not young) are able to turn on radios and hear something that won’t make us cry, vomit or pull our hair out in frustration. Let’s get one thing straight…I HATE manufactured garbage American/Australian/U.K Idol “music”. It’s NOT music people…it is carefully crafted phaff that garners bits and pieces from anything that has made it big and the people that “sing” it are primped, stuffed, anorexic people who are there because they look or sound like someone who has managed to make it big. Real music is born of passion and talent, not of a mishmash of platinum selling hits bound together with well-known riffs and sung by plastic ken and Barbie dolls on steroids. Thus it is my duty to ensure that all of the easily led mass consuming children of today are balanced out by an aging penniless hippy hell bent on promoting real music. I vote up groups that are original and that actually sing and I vote down crap and Beyoncé (can’t stand the bird). In saying that…after the last survey where I promoted Gotye and bucketed Katie Perry I was asked what my favourite song of the month was. I chose “somebody I used to know” (Gotye) and then my explanation was that I really…really…really…really…really loved it. I won a C.D. Great you might say, but it was a C.D. of crap music! AARRGGHH! I just did a quick phone around and palmed it off before I have even taken receipt of it to one of my daughters who dabbles in “crap” music on a regular basis. It’s even going to her house rather than here so that I don’t even have to be offended by touching it.

One of our trailer loads of nice dry wood that we have been collecting this week

This little Astroloma humifusum or Native cranberry is a Tasmanian native groundcover and apart from the small red flowers (that took me on a merry dance when I was trying to find out what this plant was because they look like heath flowers) it has an edible fruit. Another thing that is growing all over Serendipity Farm that is most welcome to stay

This skewed photo (reminiscent of old Batman episodes) shows the new home of Stretch. Stretch is a horrifying mix of plastic, beans and stretchiness that has taken on the form of a rubber chicken. Stretch was purchased many years ago when we lived in Albany on the lower South coast of Western Australia from the $2 shop for (coincedentally) $2. When we moved to Tasmania 5 years ago, I gave Stretch to mum to look after as she couldn’t bear to see him get thrown out. When I went back to Albany for my mum’s funeral and travelled to her little unit with my sister to help her sort out some of the contents I found Stretch in one of her cupboards. I decided that Stretch had been languishing in W.A. for too long and that his fame (or infamy more likely) should spread to Tasmania.

Don’t let his flacid stretchy naked body fool you…beneath that benign rubber surface lies the cold hard eyes of a killer! Look deep into the eyes of Stretch and be afraid…be VERY afraid…

I also decided that with some of my new found spare time that I would take a few extra books out of the library. I ended up with a very eclectic pile of books garnered from the few meek mild mannered shelves at the Exeter Library. I have never perused the shelves there before because, to be honest, there aren’t all that many of them. I was surprised at the range that I discovered and selected a book about Terry Pratchett (my favourite author), a book by Bodger from Scrapheap challenge all about living sustainably and minimising your carbon footprint, a book on “hot plants for cold climates” full of delightful tropical looking plants for winter wonderlands like ours, a book about “down to earth garden design” that isn’t really what I thought that it would be but is interesting reading anyway and last, but by no means least a book called “Bust D.I.Y. guide to life”. I didn’t really look at it in the library but saw D.I.Y. and decided to give it a go. It turns out that “Bust” is a magazine founded by women for women and aimed at “real women” rather than the hopeless, consumerist, neurotic anorexics that “womankind” is becoming thanks to the best efforts of the media and gay fashion designers. I have never heard of this magazine before but this book was a real eye opener! Forget all about “cucumber packs” for your eyes…this book tells you how to repair relationships, bury your dead and make your own sex toys! Now I don’t know about you, but any book that is going to tell you how to make your own sustainable sex toys is alright by me! I don’t think that I will be making many sex toys but I will be making some of the woven bracelets made out of embroidery thread and there are some interesting printing projects for fabric and wallpaper that amused me along with home-made shower curtains and some most interesting recipes. This book is great fun and everyone should take it out of the library or buy it to support women like this who are trying to tear down the stereotypes of what makes a good women’s magazine. If I can find this magazine, I am going to subscribe to it.

“Well looky what little Early has found here eh?”…a nice stash of bottles ready for the taking…

An action shot of the descent from the table of a dog who knows that he really shouldn’t be on the table sourcing his own supply of plastic bottles before they are offered but who could care less about being told off or the opinion of his protesting owners

I have some very interesting people reading my humble little blog now from all over the globe. I have no idea why they are reading my posts because when I have gone to their blogs to have a stickybeak at their lives I am totally in awe of these amazing people and how they are living and what they are doing. Fantastic photographers with great senses of humour, amazing sustainable blogs, people travelling the world and sharing their horticultural, sustainable lives with us in daily posts and some amazing people sharing all sorts of fantastic plans and knowledge. I love you all! I don’t know you personally, but thank you so much for sharing your blogs with me, let alone reading this whacked out little attempt at communication with the rest of the world. I promise you that I am getting so much more from you than you are getting from me, but should you ever find yourself lost and scared in Northern Tasmania (not hard to do…) please feel free to drop in on Serendipity Farm where you will get a warm welcome, a nice hot cup of tea and we will even be good enough to point you in the direction of the nearest airport where you can safely hightail it out of Australia’s equivalent of the Ozarks. The only thing missing is the alligator’s and to be honest, global warming is most probably going to deliver them into our waiting laps in no time flat. I have been letting my hair grow longer and after brushing it after my shower this morning, and after scaring the dogs with my howling whilst removing all of the knots, I realised that should I be that way inclined…you know… really REALLY sustainable, that I could most probably weave something out of my own hair. I just read that book that Florida recommended to me “Lambs of God” and a fair bit of human hair weaving went on inside the covers. I wouldn’t want to wear a human hair jumper as I would imagine it would be right up there with a horse hair couch, but I dare say you could use it in some form of artistic expressionism involving textiles. Do you see what I have been reduced (or elevated) to? I am starting to think of all sorts of weird and wonderful things because my brain has been freed from the relative security (your security, not mine) of confinement online to creative expression out there in the big wide world. Apart from the study days that have harnessed my thoughts and prevented me from making human hair underpants, there hasn’t been a whole lot to keep me safely out of the way of the rest of humanity. We have walked the streets of Sidmouth, Rowella, Beaconsfield, Exeter, Launceston, Georgetown and Kayena and I have been spotted collecting discarded soft drink and water bottles on these walks. I dare say the bus driver that waved to me this morning was lauding my community spirit to the kids on the bus as he noted my arm full of these bottles. I would love to be smug about my rubbish collection but I can’t. It is my year of living honestly and I have an ulterior motive. I am typing this on Thursday and we are off to town tomorrow (or yesterday as you are reading this on Saturday night/Sunday morning depending on where in the world you are) and apart from wheeling our computer and study workstation (desk) into the spare room and closing our door to stop Earl from removing all of the stuffing from our nice new king sized bed mattress (he started nibbling it last week) we have to leave our house to the mercy of Earl. I collected all of these water bottles, coke bottles, iced tea bottles and even a 2 litre juice bottle from the roadside verges so that I can put them all around the house in the vain hope that Earl will eat the bottles rather than anything else that he decides to lay eyes on. I promise that I will insert the remaining mangled shards of plastic into the recycling bin so in a way, Earl is helping us to recycle and clean up Australia, but I don’t have a lot of faith that everything will be fully intact by the time that we get home from our meeting with our lecturer. Steve has a lot more faith than I do in Earl. After our last meeting Earl hadn’t eaten anything. The next day, after a lovely long hour and a half walk he started eating the mattress. We don’t really know how to explain Earls desire to eat things as it transcends all of the literature written about “why dogs run amok”. “Day are bored” say’s Cesar Milan…Earl is NOT bored…we just walked him for 2 hours all around the neighbourhood…he peed on every single light pole, tree and several rubbish bins, he sniffed up a lawn full of grass, he rolled on the gravel verge 77 times, he ran, he jumped, he saw cows, he saw goats, sheep and chickens…he even saw a goose…HE IS NOT BORED! Why is he eating our house? Because he likes to. That is what we have decided. Now we didn’t have to pay $500 for Cesar’s C.D. course or do dog psychology 101 to find that out, we just had to see how happy he was when he was eating the bed…the bottles…the toys…Pingu…pieces of wood out of the wood box etc. Earl just likes how things feel in his mouth. One day he will stop doing that and we will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Until then, we have to take evasive action and should we forget and leave something out we have really no one to blame but ourselves so its bottle scattering on Friday for me…

This photo was taken over the water at Georgetown when we were walking the dogs yesterday. As you can see the weather has adapted to it being autumn now with a passion and we only just missed the downpour that those clouds were holding in our honour before we got back to the car.

Much as I don’t like being in photos SOMEONE had to hold those leads as otherwise carnage would ensue. I am looking a bit like Richard David James of Aphex Twin fame…sigh…oh well…I guess that’s better than some of the people that I could look like! In case anyone out there is admiring my sense of style (HA!) and would like to drop in to their local clothing purveyor to copy my look you can’t!  I am proud to anounce that my entire ensemble was sourced from various thrift shops and that the thrift shopping in Tasmania is brilliant. I am most proud of recycling classic clothes rather than buying into the need to consume precious resources to follow fashion which is nothing more than a marketing ploy to sell more clothes. I am constantly amazed by the range and extent of clothing that you can pick up in thrift shops and even my Doc Martin’s were sourced from a Thrift shop for $1. Cheers to everyone that donates so that both Charity and our precious world resources (and my bank account) can be spared their respective denudations (is that a word?!)

I am going to leave it there for today. I dare say I will be able to add a bit here about our meeting with our lecturer and Earl’s behaviour for tomorrow. I am really enjoying my time out in the real world. I guess what I thought was my control base was really a bit of a prison. The real world is fun too. I am just going to have to develop a bit of a balance between the two. Oh MAN am I tired! It is mid-afternoon Saturday and it’s the beginning of a personal epiphany. Steve got up this morning at 6am as he wanted to take both dogs for a walk in the dark. They love spotting wallabies and possums and rabbits and the excitement factor makes up for walking their usual route. We are trying to save petrol and Earl wouldn’t care where we walked but Bezial is a walk snob and expects to be given a different vista each and every day or he balks and refuses to walk. It is difficult to get a 40kg dog to move when he is stubbornly digging in his heels and dragging 40kg of stubborn dog up hills is no fun. We learned to give Bezial his different walks and he will allow us to do the same route approximately once a fortnight. We have to pay an exorbitant price for fuel (10c a litre more than Launceston) out here so we try to make sure that we don’t have to put any extra fuel in when we don’t have to and so we have taken to subterfuge and trickery to lure Bezial into walking the same way twice in a fortnight. It worked and the dogs got back home and tumbled through the dog door to greet me and slobber all over me just as I had gotten out of bed and had the kettle on ready for my morning libation. I had spent 30 minutes lying in bed thinking about life. As mentioned previously in this post there are some amazing bloggers reading my blog and exponentially more whose amazing blogs I am reading. I have developed a deep thirst for good quality information especially regarding the environment, the truth and sustainability (with a few closet sittings of food porn thrown in for good measure). I tend to be quite introspective and think a lot about things and have done so most of my life. After my divorce, I promised myself to always simplify my life and be honest and up front with even the most challenging of concepts and events. I have discovered that this might hurt bitterly at first but is always the quickest and cleanest way to deal with things. Whilst lying in bed this morning I was thinking about Serendipity Farm and just how much work needed to be done around here. We have plenty of conundrums going on including feral cats, chicken population explosions and various piles of debris growing exponentially every time we start to clear out the undergrowth. My epiphany came when listening to U2 singing “it’s a beautiful day” on the radio closely followed by David Bowie and “Changes”…I listened to the words and discovered that I really DID want to get stuck in and do something here. I wanted to stop procrastinating and start “Doing”. I got up, told Steve about my idea and together we just spent 5 ½ hours working to remove the usable wood from the piles of debris that we generated in the heat of summer where council gave us the perfect excuse to ignore the mountains of wood and branches by posting a “Fire Ban” sign at the end of the road…we have been faithfully observing this fire ban with secret glee because it has been stopping us from having to do much and today we took the bull by the horns and reduced 3 of the piles down to nothing, stacked wood up for the winter, cut up kindling wood and removed a weed tree and reduced it to compost sized bits. Steve chainsawed up logs, I collected them and lugged them to their resting place and the hens clucked and got highly excited at the prospect of insects spraying out with the sawdust from the back of the chainsaw. I am absolutely knackered but I am also feeling serene and complete. You are witnessing a woman who has decided to “get stuck in” and over the next few weeks, with the perfect conditions of autumn under our belt I will share how we are going to tackle the tangled mass of Buddleia globosa, Hebe’s, Abutilon, Philadelphus and acres of blackberries at the front of the house. I am most determined to clear this area out and plant out some of our potted plants. It’s so much easier to work for hours on end when the weather is nice and cold and you can relax in front of a warm fire at night time and soothe your aching body whilst feeling content about your accomplishments.

I think I might finish up there folks. I have noticed that this post seems to be almost as big as 7 regular posts…I am almost over my need to turn on the computer every time I walk past it. I am reading Frances Mayes “Under the Tuscan Sun” and am about to attempt some of the weird and wacky crafts (not a euphemism for ‘sex toys’ by the way 😉 in The Bust DIY guide to life (by Laurie Henzel and Debbie Stoller should you want to take it out for your own personal use…to read the articles of course!) and I am feeling more centred and happy than I have since mum died. The temperature is apparently going down to 4C tonight and we are now able to wake up to LAFM rather than the ABC. The old clock radio would only allow us to play ABC on it and it was dad’s old radio… this new radio (installed since Earl ate the cord of the old one) will allow us to play everything EXCEPT the ABC! How incredibly ironic. Well folks, this is it…your weekly post just about to be posted hot off the press. Hopefully it was worth your wait and your weekly fix feeds you for the rest of the week. Thank you and welcome to all of my new blog readers and despite being in awe at how amazing your blogs are, it made me smile to see so many of you signing up to get regular posts. I love being able to read all of your posts and now that posting daily is off limits, I sip my morning elixir as I sit reading these gems and know how it feels to look forward to someone posting. See you all next week and to my newfound blog posters, Cheers for my early morning wake up call.

Next book in the list coming up

Hi All,

I am just waiting for some photos to load in my last post (last night) and am contemplating whether or not to watch rubbish T.V. (the easy option) or read my book. Reading the book is hands down the best idea but there is no doubt in my mind that I will fall asleep within about 15 minutes of starting reading despite it being a fantastic story and I really don’t want to miss anything in a blurry world between sleep and awake. So what do I do? Do I watch “Pawn Stars” with Steve and numb my brain or do I chance falling asleep and missing the developing romance between Captain Corelli and Pelagia? Hmmmm I guess I could just sit here typing for the rest of the evening but tomorrow is a study day and we need to do some serious research to isolate plants that will grow well on Serendipity Farm and sustainable materials for our prospective Sustainable Landscape Design. Steve is going to try to drag some “Complex Access” out of his brain from 4 years ago when we completed 3 complex units in Certificate 4 in Business Administration…Complex Word documents; Complex Spread sheets (Excel) and the most pertinent one for tomorrows work, Complex Databases (Access). Steve has been checking out Access all over again and you know what? We have completely forgotten everything that we learned…Steve is going to tinker around with it tomorrow to see if anything comes back but if it doesn’t we might just be giving our lecturer a nice Word document in place of a database. We are going to drop another tree tomorrow down into the garden area. We were only thinking today that it is lucky that we hadn’t created our vegetable garden area in earnest because the 2 trees that we dropped today completely mangled the veggie garden area and it would have been very disheartening to have that happen with veggies growing (and wasteful). We are hoping that Effel doocark wasn’t mounted on top of her Guinness World Book of Records sized clutch of eggs down in that garden when the tree dropped…

Bezial is determined to hide from Earl on the bed

Earl loves being bounced up and down upside down on the bed…mental!

Tomorrow’s effort will fall into the jungle part of the garden and the blackberries should go part way to softening the blow. We are making sure to get enough firewood for our winter needs. We are going to get a few loads of limb wood from our friend she who must remain anonymous and a decent load of good wood in exchange for some old metal in the first paddock. Barter is sometimes the way to go when you live out in the country and don’t have a lot of money. It rained for queen and country last night and we had a decent amount of thunder and lightning to accompany me getting to the final chapters of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. This book is most definitely going on my favourite book list right up there with Mary Anne Schaffer’s quirky classic “The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society”. It is almost the same book if you look at it with the eyes of a copyright troll but as both books are delightful I will suspend my sense of disbelief that Mary Anne might have borrowed a fair bit of her material for her book from her list…the more books you read from this list the more Mary Anne is revealed…I think that reading your way through someone’s favourite book list is like reading their diary. It is so very personal and what makes them feel deeply gives you a real and unclouded look at who they really are. It’s Friday and the skies are very dark outside as I type this. The dogs are both lying in bed with Steve which appears to have become a morning ritual over the last week. I like getting up and checking emails and spending a little time sitting here thinking about the day. Now that we are studying it takes a degree of order and planning to sort out just what we are doing and I keep finding all sorts of great information that keeps forcing me off track of my original query when I am hunting online. Anything great and anything free needs to be saved which slows down the hunt considerably. Steve and I have come up with some really amazing sites. One of them is an Australian site where you can narrow down native plant species that will flourish in your endemic area and you get the common names and botanical names so that you can head off and hunt for them in your local nursery. I would personally get stuck in to collecting some seed, not all…I have been to a seed collecting workshop with the local Tamar N.R.M.A and appreciate leaving some for plant diversity in the immediate vicinity. After collecting seed we will spend some time growing our own endemic plants to grace Serendipity Farm. I discovered a most enthusiastic lady permaculturalist in a series of videos yesterday whilst hunting for information pertaining to rocket stoves (another story). Her name is Rosina and she is like so many others out there who catch the permaculture bug and use it to change their lives. I don’t think that Annie from The Micro Gardener would mind me sharing the link to Rosina’s story on her blog Green Journey.

http://www.greenjourney.com.au/inspiration/112-general-body-copy/167-rosina-a-garden-to-call-home

The main thing that I get from learning to live a sustainable life and using permaculture (and other sustainable) principles to guide your garden and your life is that far from feeling overwhelmed, it gives you a real sense of empowerment (what a wanky word!) over your immediate situation. Anyone can apply as little or as much permaculture process to their requirements. A small set of pots on a balcony (see The Micro Gardener for some amazing ways to do this) to a 50 acre property are all based on a series of zones and processes. Cycles of things that act with nature to facilitate good change. Working with nature stops all of that hard work trying to stop nature from doing what it does best so you are saving time in the process. The more I delve into permaculture the more I appreciate its fundamental truths. I am starting to sound like a permaculture zealot aren’t I! The good thing about falling in love with permaculture is that it doesn’t do anyone or anything any harm; it’s a way of giving you back a degree of choice and a direction for your life. In this day and age of hopelessness when we are all faced with the growing concern about Global economics and how they seem to be taking a turn for the worse on a daily basis, permaculture and its hope is a shining light through the gloom. Not only does it give you back your choice, but it also allows you to hook up with all sorts of people from all over the world and the sense of community that dealing with people that are trying to affect positive change can’t help but brighten your outlook. I have added some really good blogs to my “Follow” list and now eagerly await a new post from Milkwood permaculture after checking out the site and finding it a most valuable resource for those seeking information and a good story at the same time. If you are interested here is the link to the site

http://milkwood.net/

A friend gave us these quinces the other day with an assurance that I could have lots more in a week or so. Quince jelly…baked quinces, poached quinces and maybe even some quince paste but I need to find my welding gloves first as that stuff hurts!

I have no idea where we are going to walk the dogs today. It rained all night accompanied by thunder and lightning and apparently it is going to be a rainy day all day all over Tasmania. I love rain and despite having to wade through mud to give the boys a walk in winter I wish that we had discovered swales in our implementation phase last year at Serendipity Farm. No doubt all of that heavy steady rain washed most of our steep driveway away again and dumped a deluge of water down into the teatree gardens where it is least needed. We have plans to install a series of swales and perhaps collection ponds to ensure that the water stays on Serendipity Farm in the future. We have learned so much from hunting about researching for our studies and are eager to implement some of the ideas right here. The top paddock isn’t called the top paddock for nothing. It isn’t far from the lowest point of Serendipity farm (we are only 4 acres) but if you were forced to walk from the front gate straight up to the top of the property without a rest and you were as unfit as I am you might need to pretend to faint clean away about halfway up just so that you could have a rest. The top paddock is mostly native vegetation and consists of native tussock grass (Poa labillardierei) and Sheok trees (Allocasuarina duncanii) interspersed with a few blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) and a disproportionate quantity of rock. We have plans to use tough fruiting trees like olives and figs that don’t mind low water conditions at the top of the property in an area that had previously been cleared of large eucalyptus trees by the neighbour to the rear when we were not living on the property. I still can’t get over the cheek of this man and how he took advantage of us to get a view to attempt to affect the sale of his property. He had come to my father’s funeral and subsequent “wake” (for want of a better word) and had asked me if he could clear away some trees from the boundary fence. As you can imagine I wasn’t really all that concerned about trees on the boundary fence at that time and agreed that he could remove the trees on the fenceline. He then proceeded to remove all of the trees all of the way down to the gate on the second paddock and was attempting to try to persuade the man that we had caretaking our property while we were living in town finishing off our year of studies that we had assured him that he was allowed to clear fell all of the trees all of the way down to the house block. I am glad that the caretaker decided to balk at this brazen attempt to gain a view and that we now only have to deal with a back paddock that 1/3rd of the vegetation has been removed from. When we plant olive trees and fig trees that block this man’s view I am NOT going to feel at all remorseful. I might feel a twinge of guilt when we install pigs up there…but you know what? There is nothing like a large pig to dissuade someone from climbing over the fence in the night to poison your fruit trees…

I love how this old enormous conifer stump has spawned a young juniper…life goes on

Does anyone know what this tree is? I really liked it and noticed it on our walk. It has the look of a poplar.

This is a stand of the tree that I am trying to identify. Very nice shiny thick green leaves and a nice shaped tree to boot

We ended up taking the dogs to Beaconsfield and giving them a nice long walk. It is cool today and overcast and threatening to rain quite heavily. We are working on our project design brief for our lecturer for our course and are starting to wish that we hadn’t let things get in the way of us buying a whole pile of those big blue plastic barrels last year for $5 a barrel as I think that there are new Chinese people managing the orchard around the corner from us and they appear to have disposed of all of the barrels. The Chinese people come here for the picking season (cherries and peaches) and then disappear leaving a much neglected orchard over winter. No pruning has been done this year or weed removal around the peach trees. They don’t actually want to deal with the peaches and don’t export them because they are not big enough to satisfy their market requirements. Locals are able to buy them at a reasonable price and we bought some last year and made peach poison, the wine that knocked your socks off but that had a taste like some sort of oven cleaner. We drank it though… that is why we gave up drinking! When you are able to persuade yourself that something that smells like paint thinner is worth putting into your mouth you need to stand back and have a think about your motives. I just headed out to the shed to retrieve a load of dry limb wood that we stored there to save us having to go to the wood shed (previously the boat shed) to get wood for our next fire. With the weather at the moment our “next fire” is likely to be today so in between showers I raced out with the wheelbarrow to get the barrow load of wood. I stayed up till 12 last night/this morning (never quite sure what to call it when you put your book down on the stroke of midnight…) reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin as mentioned previously in this post and Mr Lois de Berniѐres is a true craftsman when it comes to being honest in a story. I hate it when I am watching something on T.V. that has a bad plot line or that is heading somewhere and suddenly everything turns out A.O.K. and everyone goes home hand in hand with big smiles on their faces and they completely disregard the honesty of the situation to save the audience having to face some uncomfortable truth. This book is dealing, blow by blow, with the harsh realities of the invasion of Cephalonia in the war and isn’t sparing a moment to waste time pussy footing around how I, or any other reader, feel about how things pan out…it tells it like it is/was and there is a degree of truth to it all because it is based on a true story. I thought that this was an entirely fictitious story but on researching a bit there are many aspects of truth involved that give it a solid feel. I think I am going to spend the afternoon finishing off this wonderful book and then I have another one to start. How lucky am I? See you all tomorrow when we can talk about lumber jacking, tree felling and gathering wood (not nut’s…yet…) somewhat earlier than May.

A pod of happy kittens

Jacko’s hiding place on a cubic metre of potting mix next to the shed

Beware the Ides of March

Hi All,

Yes…it is March the 15th. That didn’t mean anything to me either until I heard the D.J. on the radio this morning saying that today was the Ides of March and it reminded me of the Shakespeare play “Julius Caesar” and here you are…a nice and most convenient name for my post for today. Yesterday was a hot day for Tasmania and last night was too warm for this time of year. I remember when we first moved to Tasmania and were looking forwards to escaping the Western Australian heat of February but it turned into a scorcher and because Tasmania is a very green and lush island when it gets above 25C the temperature is accompanied by its best friend humidity (my nemesis) and when it did start to cool down it was the coldest winter in years and my youngest daughter Bethany and I both got chilblains and this condition was so foreign to us we didn’t know what they were. We have had a couple of nice mild wet summers and winters…the growing season hasn’t been halted by extreme cold in winter but this year we are back to hot summer and by my mental calculations…a cold winter to come. At least we know that it is cyclical and is a crucial part in the 4 year cycle of the enormous black cicada’s with red eyes that spent this year clicking maniacally in the top of the trees trying to form a deafening single note repeated to infinity to drive all humans in the close vicinity somewhat mad (is that why people go “Troppo”? It isn’t the heat and the humidity…the cicadas finish them off!).

Just a note on how unobservant I am…we must have walked past this interesting willow tree 20 times as it is on the way to the dog park where we let the dogs roam free and I have never seen it once until yesterday when we were walking the dogs at Gravelly beach

Just call this “chaos photography”…it’s really amazing you know…the camera just sets itself, it focusses on whatever the heck it wants to and you are just the physical means to press the button to take the shot…avant garde guys…(not crap photography…)

Check out this amazing repurposed credenza (which is what we Aussies would call an office bench) and how this clever little vegemite has managed to take something that was left on the curb to be scrapped and turn it into something beautiful, functional and extremely practical. It is things like this that make Instractables a most valuable site indeed.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Scrap-Credenza/

Then check out this lovely handmade tansu (step cupboard) featured in the same newsletter for Instructables. I LOVE this site. It is everything that makes me smile…a sense of communal sharing, people who are incredibly talented and able to solve problems and think laterally coming together and giving the rest of us the plans for how to make and do things that we might otherwise have never thought possible…

http://www.instructables.com/id/Nojo-Design-Large-Step-Cabinet-February-2012/

I keep going on about all the free stuff out there for the taking. Not only is this information free, but it gives us a great deal of power in our own lives. Whenever we make something for ourselves we not only cut out the middle man but we stop being consumer based and start making do with less. We are renewing, recycling and we are giving ourselves something to feel justifiably proud of. I have mentioned before that I came from a single parent family that lived on the breadline. I have also mentioned that for most of the time my siblings and I were not really aware of this because we had all of our basic needs met. One thing that I was a little bit touchy about was the stigma that went with wearing clothing that came from a thrift shop. Back when I was a child (not really all that long ago in the scheme of things but it was last century so I guess that makes me older than 12…) there was a degree of stigma associated with thrift shops and a lack of money in general. My mum worked very hard to shield us from our situation but as an adult I am well aware of how hard she would have had to work to keep our small family afloat. She lived a sustainable life because she had to. I dare say she would have been most happy to bypass thrift shops but they were our chief source of books, clothing and furniture back in those days. Now days I take great delight in walking into a thrift shop. They make me feel like I am on the brink of winning something. I have no qualms about raising my not inconsiderable posterior into the air whilst rummaging through boxes and shelves of someone else’s cast off items. I no longer feel cheated by circumstances, my societal view has totally changed and I feel like I am making a positive choice for our future whenever I choose to buy used clothing, furniture or other goods. I actively avoid buying anything new whenever I can. Apart from the sustainability of purchasing recycled and refurbished articles as a foil for exponential consumerism, I often get things that were built or made years ago before  built in obsolescence was a mandatory consideration for consumable items. I prize old things. I actively seek them out and feel lighter in spirit and soul whenever I am able to rescue something that isn’t trendy and that has seen a life of service prior to my taking on its ownership. I count myself immeasurably lucky to have been born and raised on the breadline. I don’t have all that far to fall when it comes to giving up my consumerist ways…I haven’t ever really been able to be a mass consumer and have had to live on my wits and problem solving abilities to get me to where I am today debt free and willing to have a go at pretty much anything that will advance the cause of sustainability on Serendipity Farm. My heroes are people who endure, much like the meaning of sustainability in the first place. It came from the Latin “tenere”, to hold; “sus”, up…”holding up” is a synonym for enduring and our human ability to change and endure is the baseline premise of sustainability.

How is this for lazy bollocks Tasmanian council workers? Do you reacon that this tree is over the need to be staked yet guys? I didn’t bother wasting your time showing you a photo for every single tree in a row that had a stake like this growing out of it. Call this “Future Chainsaw Grief” but you know what? When future councils are cutting these trees down they DESERVE to have their chainsaw teeth removed!

Here’s the plan…all of these oysters (not sure what kind…don’t care…vegetarian…) keep shedding their very hard “skins” and this little black duck has decided to look into collecting said middens of oyster shells that are a total pain to the council because apart from having to get bulldozers to heap them up into middens they are a safety issue as they cut dogs (and anyone not wearing shoes) feet to ribbons, then washing them thoroughly (to remove all salt) and then crushing them roughly and then using them for mulch on the garden…what do you think? Our soil is reasonably acidic here and a bit of applied oyster shell lime might not be a bad thing…

Isn’t this a lovely wooden boat? There are heaps of them going for pennies in Tasmania and this one is up on the slips having its hull mended. I just think it was beautiful, most probably because of all of the wood…I am a sucker for all things wooden

Here is a really amazing deal…you go to this site…you put in a few details (real or fabricated I don’t think it matters as it sent me straight to the download site even though I fabricated most of the details) and you get access to 20 free e-books to do with permaculture and sustainability etc. Awesome content and all free. They have some amazing prices on their regular stuff as well but I dare say the postage would be quite expensive (from the U.K.) so I would go to “The Book Depository” for anything that you wanted (free postage to Australia and low low prices). Here is the link for those free books should you want to take advantage of them

http://www.green-shopping.co.uk/books/ebooks/free-ebooks.html?limit=all

I have gotten carried away with posting this weekend. Now that I post at night time and we are studying in the day it is difficult to find the time to post and so weekends find me with a bit of time and a whole lot of posting to do so that is when I get a few posts up my sleeve. I have to type out some more recipes from a few books and read a couple of books as well. I have the most amazing Captain Corelli’s Mandolin sitting on the desk looking at me accusatorily because I keep walking past it and touching its cover on my way to doing something else. It’s like top quality Belgium chocolate and I don’t want to guzzle it all at once…I want to slowly savour every delicious piece and am reading it in little well savoured chunks and allowing it to seep into my psyche slowly. Hopefully “Atticus” is going to feed my need for good literature like Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is currently doing with great aplomb. I then have an Australian author to tackle who has previously written crime novels and who has branched out into what Florida assures me is world class quirky stuff. Florida has read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and must have found it as delightfully soul quenching as I did. She recommended Marelle Day’s book “Lambs of God” and by the blurb on the cover it promises to be a really good read. If it is, I can guarantee that I will be adding her crime novels onto my secondary book list (Please God let me live long enough to read all of this exponentially increasing list of books!) Since I gave up food as my solace from the world, I have taken up devouring books in its place. I am being fed with elegant sufficiency to say the least and as far as I am aware they are totally calorie free. Well done Nat by the way…you are looking fantastic! Nat gave up smoking and has taken up eating nutritiously in place of substituting food for smoking. It isn’t easy to go cold turkey (I know…Steve and I gave up booze…) but it is really rewarding and now that my body is starting to realise that it isn’t going to have to cope with any more boom and bust situations, it is starting to tentatively heal itself. No more feast and famine for me! I am feeding my body what it needs to heal itself first and perhaps as a side benefit I might lose enough weight to make me healthier. I guess it is like living sustainably…you have to go through a bit of a mind swap about how you are going to do things. Nat has a sparkle in her eyes that was decidedly missing at the beginning of the year; she is one of the lecturers at the Polytechnic who has been subject to WAY too much change in a very short space of time. Having mum die in January left me emotionally depleted, stressed out and feeling very tired. You would expect that to be the case but coming back from holidays and having the equivalent amount of stress levelled at you in the form of job cuts, workload increases and job insecurity is not far from what I had to deal with. I commiserate with anyone involved in education, health and law in Tasmania at the moment and hope that the worst is over now for all of you and that our state government don’t decide to give themselves a 38% pay raise for their atrocious misuse of public monies like they are postulating at the moment because our tubby little state premier is NOT above suffering the same fate as Marie Antoinette and there are not many of us still eating cake Lara…

What do we have here….

PIGS!!!!!!!!!

I LOVE pigs…one day I am going to get a pig or two (they like friends) and we will have pigs on Serendipity Farm. These little slips were on their way to their new home after being bought at auction in Launceston. Hopefully they end up somewhere nice with lots of delicious blackberries to rootle and live a nice long life.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Hi All,

Good old Pete Seeger back in 1955 decided to pose this question to those of us willing to listen. I wasn’t willing to listen at that point because I had yet to be born, but as soon as I “was” born, music became my second favourite thing. I was always told that at the age of 2 and upon hearing my Uncle Wallies latest Beatles album blaring from the stereo and arriving in force in the kitchen to the dulcet tones of  “Aint She Sweet” was to be seen gyrating unashamedly to the beat. All I can do is thank God that youtube hadn’t been invented then and that my mother and her kin were not privy to any form of recording material as I dare say I would be like that poor horizontally challenged kid that would most probably quote the day that he decided to film himself waving a broom around like Luke Skywalker and post it to youtube as the most stupid decision that he has ever made and might have to take on the robes and mantle of a wandering Buddhist monk to escape the fallout. If you don’t know what I am talking about…this kid was the very first person to suffer the effects of being “hit” repeatedly and shared around all over the world…the very first example of how the net can turn you overnight (whether you want it or not in this case) into an international phenomenon… I will just find out for you where this kid is today (because I know how lazy you all are and you won’t be bothered to do it for yourself…)

http://mashable.com/2010/06/03/star-wars-kid/

That is the article about where he is today and what he is doing as well as the original video of him as a bored teenager filming himself. How could he possibly know that he would go “viral” online and that he would get 900 million hits! Be careful what you say and do online because you just never know where it is going to end up…

This is Meg. She gave me permission to put this photo on my blog and I would like to introduce you all to her because she is a very amazing woman. Meg is always on the go teaching people about gardening and taking all sorts of disadvantaged students and teaching them the benefits of gardening. She has numerous university degrees and is the most enthusiastic and supportive person that I know. She is standing in the lower garden at the Polytechnic where we study. Cheers for loaning me “1 square foot” (book) Meg and for not complaining when I forgot to give it back until now :o)

 This most interesting and balanced garden and recreational area was designed by our lecturer. Each year the Certificate 3 students have a “project” to construct and our project was this lawn, the Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Silver Queen’ that are at the moment small bushy looking things with yellowish tops in the picture (behind the lawn) were grown by our class and we did a lot of the planting in this design.

Our class split into 2 groups…our group and the numpties (lol) and our group planted that flowering plum tree on the left whereas the numpties planted that tree that you can’t actually see in the background because it has no leaves…there was a degree of competitiveness between our groups because that’s human nature and I guess it keeps you working harder than you would otherwise work when you are competing with another group (clever James)

Our class laid the straight bit of paving (along with acres more paving…can you tell that I DON’T like paving?) and we planted most of the plants that you can see in the immediate vicinity in front of the Chamaecyparis. WE RULE :o)

All in all we are suitably proud of how we implemented our lecturers design. Steve and I asked if we could irrigate the lawned area when we were constructing it. We figured it would be the smartest thing to do to install irrigation before the lawn was planted rather than for it to be dug up later on and thankfully our lecturer (now, not then…) agreed and it looks like the lawn is doing alright (apart from one of the students apparently thinking that he/she was mowing a golf club…)

The bumble bees are buzzing and bumbling around looking for something to pollinate. They are hovering around the clematis waiting for it to flower in earnest. Just about everything else has died of in the extended dry period or succumbed to the early autumn that we appear to be having. There are Easter lilies (yes thankyou Nat…”Amaryllis belladonna”) all over the property that are no doubt being most jealously guarded by the biggest fattest bumble bees but the rest of them are slowly bumbling around mentally singing that old Pete Seeger son to themselves…

These crocus are very pretty and are some of the only flowers still going strong. The easter lilies are all on the decline and the agapanthus are all seed heads. Poor bumble bees…

 My poor long suffering bumble bees who are still waiting for the clematis to open would love a few minutes in these crocus flowers

You just have to love Dwayne Johnston a.k.a. “The Rock” when he can come up with stuff like this off the top of his head when beefing up the “John Cena vs. The Rock” wresting match coming up. They are both hilariously funny men in their own right and good actors to boot. Together they are having a really good time with this match and here is a little taste of what one side of the equation is touting…

Rock history lessons 1 & 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91BJaogkxBY

And here is another little amusing bit of candy ass entertainment by a nice bit of eye candy himself…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQFowkMubZw

FRUITY PEBBLES is all I can say to that!

I have been doing a little bit of research into the authors that I really like from “The List” (Mary Anne Schaffer’s list) and have been checking Marele Day out. She is an Australian Author who really interests me and when asked about why she started writing she gave this very insightful answer that touched a string inside me because when we write we are expressing that inner unique voice that no-one else usually hears…

Marele Day

“I think when you are travelling it is a way of hearing your own language. I don’t mean by that, just English, but one’s individual language”.

Wasn’t that poignant? Apart from researching authors I am now getting all sorts of really interesting posts from some really great blogs sent to me on a daily basis. I get up earlier than Steve (at 6am) after I listen to the news and the breakdown of the main stories I get up when it is still dark, pat Bezial and give him permission to get on the bed to snuggle up to Steve…Earl is already there and has been all night but Bezial apparently needs permission (and sometimes a heft up…). I then head out to the kitchen where I look out the window at the darkness and get a kettle on the stovetop for a nice mind awakening cup of tea. I say “cup” but what I really mean is “bucket”. My first cup of tea (and most of my subsequent cups) has to be 600ml or my mind refuses to wake up. Simple as that really so I need to indulge my brain especially when I have hauled it out of its nice comfy sleep pattern where it was just starting to formulate a dream about the news broadcast that it had semi listened to. Once that first cup of tea is in place in front of me I settle down to check out our emails. Now that I know how to work the tags, I am starting to get more people checking out life on Serendipity Farm and I usually get a few interesting people from around the world liking last night’s post. I am posting at night because we are studying in the day and it takes a while to upload photos etc. and so I do it at night which also allows me to take full advantage of when most of the rest of the world seems to be awake. I got a really interesting post from Anthropogen this morning about Masanobu Fukuoka who was a Japanese farmer, scientist and philosopher who was celebrated for his natural farming techniques and revegetation of desertified lands. He chose no-till, no herbicide grain cultivation farming methods that are traditional to many indigenous cultures and when combined created his particular way of farming that he called “Natural Farming” or “Do Nothing Farming”. He wrote a few books, scientific papers and a few other publications and in the 1970’s came to fame for his ideas about observing and integrating with nature’s principles and cycles.

This next bit I pinched straight from Wikipedia so I had best give you the page so that you can check it out for yourselves should you be interested…

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

And here is another Wikipedia page about the clay balls that really interest me and that I am going to start manufacturing with our own clay on site and native seed that we are going to collect locally.

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

Here is that bit of pilfered information (remember I am laying NO claim to authorship of this bit of information at all and should anyone want to sue me I am a penniless student hippy who is unafraid of going to jail for her principles because I get my education paid for, my teeth fixed for free and 3 square meals a day …what have I got to lose so sue me…you will get sweet bugger all and you will be doing me a favour :o)

Natural Farming

Fukuoka called his agricultural philosophy shizen nōhō (自然農法?), most commonly translated into English as “natural farming”. It is also referred to as “the Fukuoka Method”, “the natural way of farming” or “Do-Nothing Farming”, despite being labour intensive.

The system is based on the recognition of the complexity of living organisms that shape an ecosystem and deliberately exploiting it. Fukuoka saw farming not just as a means of producing food but as an aesthetic and spiritual approach to life, the ultimate goal of which was “the cultivation and perfection of human beings”.

The five principles of Natural Farming are that:

Human cultivation of soil, ploughing or tilling is unnecessary, as is the use of powered machines

Prepared fertilisers are unnecessary, as is the process of preparing compost

Weeding, either by cultivation or by herbicides is unnecessary. Instead only minimal weed suppression with minimal disturbance

Applications of pesticides or herbicides are unnecessary

Pruning of fruit trees is unnecessary

Clay seed balls

Fukuoka re-invented and advanced the use of clay seed balls. Clay seeds balls were originally an ancient practice in which seeds for the next season’s crops are mixed together, sometimes with humus or compost for microbial inoculants, and then are rolled within clay to form into small balls. This method is now commonly used in guerrilla gardening (of which Bill Mollison one of the inventors of Permaculture is a proponent) to rapidly seed restricted or private areas.

This is what happens when a local redneck takes a pile of rubbish to the local tip and finds out that this tyre is going to cost them $5 to dump at the tip.

Look at these delicious looking grapes…I wonder why they are still sitting there on the outside of the fence and haven’t been eaten by passers by? Perhaps the 2 large Rottweilers that jump up at you as you walk past and scare the heck out of you might be the answer?

Forget truffle dogs…we’ve got BEER DOGS! Worth their (not inconsiderable) weight in the amber fluid

This is a lovely gnarly old Rowan tree. I really liked the way that the branches were more like strangler figs than Rowan. Perhaps it is trying to escape?

Lastly we have…(wait for it…) Carbon Footprints :o) I can’t take all of the credit for that one…I will share the groans as Steve noticed these pavers and said that I should bring your attention to them. We might even get a pair of them and sink them near the gate on the front verge…

Here is Anthropogens post. This man is a heck of a researcher and makes me (who stays up late into the night hunting) look like a rank amateur. He is a chief source of information regarding everything environmental and to do with horticulture and agroforestry. I think he has developed the ability to fly because each post is from a different continent and he posts daily. An awesomely useful blog by a most awesome blogger. Cheers Spencer…at this rate I am going to have to share my Diploma in Landscape Design with you…

If you are interested in your own urban guerrilla gardening or if you simply want to scatter these clay seed balls around your property to germinate as and when nature dictates here is a really good tutorial to make them

http://heavypetal.ca/archives/2011/01/step-by-step-how-to-make-seed-balls/

And here is another really good blog post about making them and if you are anything like me, you now have 2 more websites tacked onto the end of a massive great word document waiting for you to check out in more detail when you “have time”…

http://freedomgardens.org/2010/10/04/make-your-own-seed-balls/

And last but by no means least, here is a youtube tutorial for how to make these amazing little seed bombs that will germinate when the conditions are right for them. Check it out and take note of all of the fantastic things on the right hand side of the video and prepare to be spending a good deal of time hunting through this lot fascinated and learning and doing your soul and the world good…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWyduWsoy8o

And that lot came from just 1 of my inbox posts! I also got a query about “If you had unlimited land what sort of animals would you have?” from another blogger…interesting question and one that needs to be answered with my head rather than my heart (or my most vivid imagination) so no cows… too much work and too expensive to keep, no elephants or gnu because apart from the prohibitive import duties and extensive quarantining I am not sure that Bezial would ever recover from watching an elephant walk past on the driveway below where he parks himself on the deck. I chose goats, pigs, geese, turkeys, rabbits (in chook tractors) and hens with guinea fowl and fish in the form of aquaponics. Now to work out how to house, feed, purchase and live with all of them! Next we have Anthropogen again and a fascinating article about biochar which is apparently being investigated as an approach to carbon sequestration to produce negative carbon dioxide emissions so it has the potential to help mitigate climate change via carbon sequestration. It can apparently increase soil fertility, raise agricultural productivity and reduce pressures on forests. It is a stable solid, rich in carbon and can endure in the soil for thousands of years. All of this information has been drawn directly from Anthropogens post and if you want to learn about biochar which is produced by smouldering agricultural waste (i.e. covering burning biomass with soil) in pits or trenches. It is a most fascinating way of recycling, reusing and ultimately reducing our carbon footprint whilst boosting the soil fertility so I am right on this one!

http://anthropogen.com/2012/03/11/terra-preta-biochar/

Now we get to my Instructables newsletter which always leaves me feeling like I owe someone something because I always get something great out of it. Today there is a huge range of projects including…

http://www.instructables.com/id/Super-Mario-Mushroom-Cookies/

As you can see…who wouldn’t want the recipe for the cutest and tastiest Super Mario Mushroom biscuits…we call them biscuits here for any Americans reading…our scones are your biscuits by the way…and you pinched “Popovers” they are actually Yorkshire puddings!

This next instructable goes to show you just how wide a range of people post their project instructions here. This man is a most interesting looking man who has invented an alternative to a saxophone…

http://www.instructables.com/id/Jumbo-Sax-Tootophone/

Please don’t think that everyone posting project instructions on the site is mental. There are some amazing Instructables detailing all sorts of amazing concepts…home-made tesla coils, how to use various software applications and all sorts of scientific, clever, environmental and just plain insane stuff to keep your mind operating and ticking over for the next century. Go there…indulge…let your mind imbibe and come away amazed at just how diverse and willing to share the human race really is.

Are you starting to get an idea of what the first hour of my day entails? I get mentally stimulated by the tea…then the posts and with all of these amazing ideas pumping through my system I am fortified for the day. Some people have breakfast as their first meal of the day…my first meal consists of a head crammed full of delicious information and for this meal, I don’t need to check the ingredients. I don’t really care if my brain puts weight on from all of this brain candy because sometimes you just have to live with the consequences of your actions and this one I am willing to wear.

This isn’t even going into things like posts from a food pornographer (remember the not so closet food blog lust?) and one from a raw foodie in Canada who freely shares some amazing raw food recipes that I occasionally like to mess about with. So many posts…so little time!

So much to do and so little time to cram it all in

Hi All,

I have a conundrum. I have recently taken to reading fiction again but am totally unable to give up typing recipes out of non-fiction books, watching the odd smattering of television programs (don’t bother with “Call me Fitz”…it’s a wannabe “My Name is Earl” without the good script or the quality actors), and an autumn born need to crochet (much like the need to clean in spring). Whenever I take something up I tend to immerse myself in it fully. I want to read fiction 24/7; I want to type out recipes till midnight; I want to crochet till my eyes give up (not hard when Steve has the light out watching one of his horror movies) and I want to research till the “cloud” takes over my free rein. What is a woman to do? I also have to fit study, general chores, the preparation and consumption of edible comestibles and sleeping into this equation and something has to give. I have already had to give up Animal Crossing. When weighed up against amazingly good fiction, the soothing repetitiveness and acquisition of typing out recipes from cookbooks (coupled with the thrill of the chase for said recipes and not having to pay for them…a triple whammy!), being able to feel suitably proud of my crafty nature when watching my crochet project grow (and making something practical coupled with the soothing repetitive thing…that’s ANOTHER triple whammy) and my ceaseless need to learn things (the researching bit) Animal Crossing came a sad and sorry last so it has been tipped off the scale of “Do” and onto the elevated side titled “when I have time”. I guess that is what happened the last time I played this very involved time sucking game…life got in the way and I had to do my mental weighing up and a couple of years got inserted between the last time I picked up the Wii remote and present times. I have even started making things harder for myself (I must be a masochist…sigh…) because some of these books on Mary Anne Schaffer’s list are so very good that I am making more lists of the author’s other literary creations that I am going to read once “The list” is completed. This secondary list is starting to look a whole lot bigger than the first list and should keep me reading well into the need to wear glasses (rapidly approaching) and old age. At least I will have some sort of focus to direct my thoughts should I have pissed my kids off too much and they shuffle me off into the nearest Tasmanian nursing home when I am too weak to wield my honey stick.

This is a Cornus capitata and a most useful tree in an edible food forest in Northern Tasmania. They grow really well here and the fruit is able to be used to make jams and feed the birds as well. We have a spindly little specimen on Serendipity Farm that has had a very hard life. A large tree fell on it not so long back and it has been living under the canopy of some very large eucalyptus for a long time which has caused it to grow leggy in its search for more light. It has also had to fight for every drop of water it has received over the last 20 years and that tells me that this is a hardy plant to grow

Here is one of the fruits from the Cornus Capitata that has been sampled by some local birds. Steve and I grew some Cornus capitata and they are very easy to grow. We gave them to a friend who owns a nursery but might just have another propagation run in the near future

What happens when you have reactive clay and a very dry summer season

Not so long back this area contained a few little specimens of this reed but look at it now! A lovely colour and amazingly good to fill an area quickly but I wonder if this species is going to become a prospective problem?

My honey stick, by the way, is how I see life. It’s tantamount to “fool me once shame on you…fool me twice shame on me” and is how I like to approach life. I will give you 1 free go. If you choose to abuse my open honesty and try to gain some sort of unfair advantage over me then look out! Honey first…closely followed by more honey if you are clever or the stick if you are stupid. Simple premise really. I am tangled up in my newfound love of good fiction like the first flushes of new love. Steve has nothing to worry about with my infatuation; in fact he actively encourages it. It allows him full control of the television remote…sole occupancy of the lounge room at night and a nice quiet compliant wife “eh?…sorry…I am reading…yes…whatever…sure…”(all the time not taking my eyes off the pages with no idea what I just agreed to…) which is something that is so incredibly rare in our relationship as to be nurtured and cherished if you are a clever man (and Steve could never be called stupid). I race from the page to the task that “Must be obeyed” and back again darting from port to point like Pingu out in the main flock of hens. She has decided that she isn’t going to be allowed to get back into heaven (Steve’s music room) so she is just going to have to blend in with these feathery creatures that terrify her and so she is starting to eat more and is growing bigger, she is taking on the feral cats at their own game and was spotted this morning racing for the same bit of cheese that was being thrown to Jacko, a large male tomcat twice her size, and when he caught it deftly with his paw and wouldn’t give it to her, she pecked him smartly on the foot! None of the other hens are brave enough to take on Jacko…only Pingu the brave (some might say stupid…) and we have just remodelled the ducks enclosure outside as her erstwhile home until we can get her to move in with the main flock. Winter is coming and Tasmanian winter is not something a small fat free hen should face on her own so integration with the others is going to be something that Pingu the human hen is going to have to endure because Steve will be bollocked before he allows her back into his music room!

Steve got a bit “Arty” with a few photos and here is one of them. This photo was taken resting on an old rusty metal beam

This photo was taken through a hole bored in the door

You can see the holes (just) drilled in this large door that leads into the old mine shaft workings at the soon to be decomissioned Beaconsfield mine

This little Eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian Blue Gum) is growing in the shadow of its parent

This is the parent bluegum and the tiny sapling is dwarfed by the scope of these larger trees. I love how nature keeps cycling on no matter what we throw at it and no matter how hard the conditions are

I am actually torn between sitting here typing this post for you my dear constant readers and racing off to nestle down on the couch with my well-thumbed library copy of “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”. This book is so well crafted and written that I am adding everything that Mr Louis de Berniѐres ever wrote to my secondary book list.  I had visions of a swarthy Frenchman that looked somewhat like Sacha Baron Cohen but he looks more like James Morrison and is all British!  He is the author of a book called “Red Dog” and something pinged in my mind regarding that name so I headed off to my good friend Google and discovered that it was the very same book that spawned the award winning movie not so distantly released. I then checked out what it was about and it was about a dog’s long journey to reunite with its missing owner and how it united a community together. I lived in Western Australia and my uncle actually lived in the community that this book was written about so you can bet your bottom dollar that I am reading this book sometime soon…With delightful titles like

  • The war of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts
  • Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord
  • The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman
  • Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World

The review for “The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts reads like this…

‘A fat, juicy tropical fruit of a narrative … There is astonishing landscape. There are numerous good jokes. And, indispensably in such a novel, there is magic’
Independent on Sunday

And how about this for “The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman”…

‘An extraordinary feat of imagination … a sensuous, often farcical and ultimately optimistic argument for spiritual sanity’
Time Out

How could I resist? I love quirky well written books and quirky well written movie and television scripts. As mentioned previously I watched 2 episodes (and will indeed watch 5 in all to make sure I give it a fair go) of “Call me Fitz” the other day because of some reviews that I read online. I loved “My Name is Earl”. It is a really humorous look at Karma, mid-western life in the U.S.A. and our human condition all tangled up with a really wonderful storyline, well written episodes and a really amazing cast that have a symbiotic chemistry. You have to get it all right before it works and television executives are constantly hunting for what makes that chemistry and churning out acres of bad television in the effort to ape these spectacular (but very rare) successes and their massive profit potential. I loved “Northern Exposure” and “Sea Change” but “Call me Fitz” is a big fitzhog. It’s like that with books for me. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” was like that for me. Amazingly well written, exemplary plot development, quirky characters revealed slowly and pathos injected at just the right time. Couple this with a sense of common humanity that these books pull us into and cause us to feel at one with the story and you get the reason why we read. I consider authors and musicians who are masters of their craft the highest form of artistic food. This is where your imagination can run wild and where you can free yourself to really “feel” even if you are unable to allow yourself this pleasure in life. That’s why I love books. Not because I can’t feel…I am someone who wears her heart on her sleeve and who can’t seem to stop falling in love with life, words, theories and knowledge, but because it frees up part of me that I don’t often allow other people to share and in so doing it feeds that poor starving inner romantic innocent who longs for a tale that builds and grows and wends its way through my psyche. I don’t let her out much…she tends to embarrass me by crying at the national anthem of just about every country on earth, yelling at thugs who are hell bent on denaturing society and she gets hurt so very easily that I have to keep her tucked inside in a lovely decorative box lined with soft feathers until it is time to wake her up and settle down in the foreground with a cup of tea, a great book and my feet up next to a crackling fire…

I was so happy to find this specimen of  Salix  babylonica (weeping willow) because I used to collect the willow whips from a few specimens at the Riverside hotel in town when we lived there to make my baskets and now I have found this lovely specimen I will be right there when it is time to harvest some for my prospective projects

As you can see Tasmanians LOVE their animal products…when I first got here and revealed that I was vegan I got some pretty hostile responses and some completely confused people. I am now merely “vegetarian” and have elevated myself from “Freak” to “Pain in the Ass”. I guess that is progression?

I had to smile when I saw this house. The owners have totally enclosed their front yard so that their feline mates can roam free within this enclosure but they can’t get out and wreak havoc on the native wildlife. I had to give them kudos for their thoughtfulness and sense of responsibility because people that live in Beaconsfield tend to be more on the Redneck side than the thoughtful side. This little orange and white cat had stuck his head around the corner and I had a lovely shot lined up with him just about touching the camera with his curious little nose when Earl decided to have a look at what I was looking at and a hissing fit later and this is as good as I could get. Kudos again Beaconsfield resident. I don’t know you but I totally respect you

Another one of the lofty residents inside the cat enclosure in Beaconsfield. This one had the brains to stay away from the front gate

Here you can see Bezial and his “froggy” shadow. He definately looks like he has assumed a frog shape or that of Smeagol…somewhat alarming isn’t it? I would like to call this photo “Nana Power” because this elderly lady was mowing the Anglican church lawn and doing a really good job…we should know…they taught us the fundamentals of a good mow in our horticultural certificates and this lady knew her stuff…You could do worse than allowing this nana to take on your lawn

I just wanted to finish off this posts photos with a photo that I would like to call “Three little birds”. I love Bob Marley and his philosphy as well as his music and these 3 little starlings reminded me of that song. Peace Bob :o)

Some people have asked me “how do you do it?” in relation to posting every day. I don’t know. Perhaps it is something to do with knowing from a very early age that words were going to be my tool to communicate with people. Some might find it incredibly hard to believe but I was a very shy child who didn’t talk much. I dissolved into the background and into books where I voraciously devoured page after page, book after book and could never quite seem to fill that aching need to play with the written word and fill myself up to the brim. I have always loved the way that words play on the page and get grumpy with authors that mess about with the story with too many interjections. I tried reading Anne Rice books but she is the literary equivalent of Mariah Carey and all of those twiddly bits and unnecessary bampf took away from the true meat in the story. Let it tell itself is what I think and so my story and the story of Serendipity Farm just pours out here in my posts. I never run short of something to say because I have exercised my mind to run wild since I was a small child. Words are my escape, my delight and my closest friend and so it is only fitting that they harness themselves easily to the yolk of my endeavours to share them here with you. Do you want to know why I think that “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” is worthy of kudos? Here is a little passage that delighted me and where I can share how well-crafted this book is and what a clever author Mr Louis De Berniѐres really is…

This book is about the Italian and to a lesser degree German occupation of Cephallonia in Greece in W.W.2. Far from being a dry retelling of wartime conditions, it is littered with pathos, tiny glimpses of deprivation and the human spirit and will to survive all carefully crafted together with a healthy dose of humorous irreverence. This paragraph relates to the prostitutes that the Germans ferried around from barracks to barracks to keep morale within their ranks…

“Their existence was nothing but friction (no wonder their skins were smooth) and an eternity of ceilings. Like the young German grenadier, the whores all wanted to be blonde, but they achieved with violent peroxide the end that he pursued by means of the sun. The inch of black roots at the parting of their brittle, coarsened hair gave them a disappointed and disappointing air, as if they had lacked, like a talented but unmotivated artist, that final impulse that might have consummated the illusions of artifice”

Good stuff eh? Well I think so. And so I am back sharing why I have this conundrum in the first place… I can’t give up anything. I gave up Animal Crossing because deep inside I knew that I was just wasting precious time. It gave me a few weeks of order and complete control (no control freak could say no to that if given the chance) but now that I have so much more “real life” to get stuck into it was an easy choice to dump Animal Crossing. Now I am starting to hack into fundamental things. I LOVE every single one of my time hogging hobbies and steadfastly refuse to even consider giving any of them up thus I am rendered washed out…sleep deprived and red and bleary eyed. So many conundrums…so little time…see you all tomorrow when I most certainly won’t have sorted this all out and will most probably have my nose stuck firmly in a good book whilst attempting to crochet at the same time, will have something downloading on the computer and will be thinking about my next typing stint in the evening…oh well…at least it keeps me safely off the streets!

Strider soup

Hi All,

I am a happy chicken because gunn’s (they don’t deserve a capital letter…) have just lost their prospective (and most shonky) partner who was going to bail them out of the toilet and give them the funds to get this massive great white elephant of a pulp mill up and running. I am all for looking after local businesses but when they are as corrupt and shonky as guns, I can make an exception. This is a case of the little men holding steady and refusing to give up against goliath. Hopefully gunn’s will come toppling down like the top heavy overweight plutocratic behemoth that it is! Are you starting to get the feeling that I am not enamoured of gunns or its politics? Tasmania is like the Wild West of Australia. If you had enough money (in the not too distant past) and were a big enough bully boy, you could pretty much do anything that you wanted in Tasmania. Times are slowly changing but you can see remnant pockets of corruption nestled in both the labour and liberal state government here and that makes it hard to work out who to vote for when it is time to vote. I want to make my voice count but when state government is this self-serving and has completely lost its ability to judge just who is voting for them and why they are in power in the first place, I don’t have a lot of faith in either of these major parties delivering any sort of positive statement to the people of Tasmania. We need jobs but not at the expense of our environment and we need health, law and education as well but they appear to be unimportant to our state government in the quest to achieve massive (38% is massive to me) pay rises for themselves when businesses are folding all around them and people are losing their jobs every day. It is a bit like King Canute in the state of Tasmania and our good lady premier is refusing to step down from her throne. I have a decided political lien to the beginning of this post today but I just heard about gunns partner pulling out and had to say something about it. It has been a most incredibly frustrating situation having no say whatsoever about this totally unsuitable development proposed to be built just around the corner from our home. The best our premier could say was “we need the jobs” and when queried why she was allowing gunns to be exempt from anyone complaining about the mill for 2 years, her answer was “we can’t afford the litigation”…sigh…that is what we have to live with out here. I figure there are a few of us that might need Frontier psychiatry…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLrnkK2YEcE&ob=av2e

Yeh…I figure after that I might actually need therapy!

This is a picture of a most contented Bezial. This was back before we got chickens and they took over the outside world. Bezial used to walk with Steve and I all over Serendipity Farm and if we stayed out in the bush too long (whipper snipping etc.) he would trot back to the house and lay on the deck keeping watch. He loves Serendipity Farm

Then Earl showed up…Bezial’s world turned upside down and is only just now starting to calm down a little since Earl turned 1

 This is a perfect representation of Earl. He has that look in his eye that shows that he is watching EVERYTHING and that nothing is going to escape this little brown and white dog…

It is Saturday morning and I have started to get up with the alarm (after listening to the news of course…there is a tiny bit of my dad in my genes that requires that much of me…) and sit here for an hour tapping away, checking up on my subscription posts sent to my email until it starts to get light at 7am and Steve can get up (I take him a cuppa) and we can head out to walk the dogs while it is still cool and crisp and all of those delicious wildlife smells are still hanging in the breeze. I was checking out the posts sent to our inbox and realised that I have some mighty stuff sitting there. Since I started using the power of Tags to add to my posts I am getting a lot more international people checking in and reading about Serendipity Farm and a fair few “like” ticks from some very well written and constructed blogs. It reinforces my belief that the internet is a most powerful tool for free information for “the masses” I realise that makes me sound like a communist there but it is difficult to separate the 99% of us living on salaries and wages and benefits from the 1% who control the world. I headed off to check out the blog of “The Sustainability Puzzle” who liked one of my posts enough to tick “like”. I know from my own blog hunting habits that it takes a fair bit for me to “like” a post so I take that as kudos indeed so “Cheers” Robert of The Sustainability Puzzle who looks a whole lot like Tobias (Toby) from Cert 3 so if you feel like taking a look (Nat) you can back me up there. Go check out his blog, it is very interesting and so informative that this little black magpie has had to subscribe to follow his posts. I can feel a wealth of free information coming my way that I might be able to share with you all and that will add to my militant outrageous indignation about how corporate greed is overriding the processes of change towards sustainability…

http://sustainabilitypuzzle.wordpress.com/

I have several environmental/sustainable blogs that I follow and I have several mind expanding sites including Instructables. Really folks, if you haven’t bothered to head over there and check it out you really are missing out on the most incredible wealth of information about how to bypass “the man” (that dreaded middle man that I have so come to loathe…) and learn to do and make your own “stuff”. Bollocks to paying someone out there to grummage (my own word so bollocks off spellcheck!) our precious non-renewable resources out of the ground to mass produce Brittney Spears tee-shirts and plastic toys to lure small children (and their surprising amount of pulling power) into fast food restaurants. Should you be desperate to have a Brittney Spears Tee-shirt why don’t you make your own? Learn how to screen print and make your very own amazing Brittney Spears (ech…is that an oxymoron or what!) tee-shirt and you might open up a market for sustainably produced tee-shirts that you can sell at markets and give yourself an incredible sense of satisfaction by producing them sustainably (use potatoes to print…think laterally!) while being able to make a bit of money. That’s what it is all about…think laterally to get what you want…do more with less… live simply so that others may simply live. Give what you are doing a bit of thought and take the extra 3 minutes to wash out a glass jar and toss it into the recycling. What are we saving our time for? We need to stop believing marketing and media giants who are making a (literal) killing out of our gullible (and if we are being honest lazy) need to be directed to what we want and need. We are developing into people who are “too busy” to think and choose. Once we give away our ability to reason…think and choose we have given away our basic fundamental right to what makes us human (our choice). I got quite heavy there didn’t I? You might be led to believe that I am some sort of environmental dynamo who spends her time wandering the Ethernet in search of ever increasing militant communistic incitement when to be honest I couldn’t be bothered with violent protest. You get more from your chosen victim with honey than you do with a stick and I choose to wave a honeyed stick to deliver my message. To be honest I am just as susceptible to anyone to some pretty pictures, some nice bright text and a few great recipes and am stepping out of the closet and straight into a 12 step programme to reveal my secret lust for food porn. I can’t help it, I am only human (and a greedy one at that who’s main vice is ingested with gusto) and I am only reading them for the article’s “I swear!”

Check out the latest at Ruth’s blog “The Pink Whisk”. She came second (SHE WAS JIPPED!) on the television series “The Great British Bake-off” and her blog is drool worthy indeed. She gives a light and humorous touch to baking and her cakes are delectable (the main reason I checked her blog out in the first place) and well worth checking out.

http://www.thepinkwhisk.co.uk/2012/03/grasshopper-cake.html

Again, I am so happy about how easy it is to share online. I hunted through that post above and found Ed Kimber’s blog (the guy that came 1st in The Great British Bake-off). I didn’t even know that he had one! This guy is someone who lost a tonne of weight and turned his life around and now puts his obvious love of food into feeding other people (a curious thing that happens to most people who lose a lot of weight…let’s just call it “food transference” and it tends to fatten up their nearest and dearest…). This guy is the king of techniques and perfect delivery. Check him out and see why he just pipped Ruth to the post…

http://theboywhobakes.co.uk/2010/01/grasshopper-cake/

And you can compare their different takes on the very same recipe. I am really excited about my new ability to isolate information that I am interested in. It’s just like cataloguing books in the library (I can hear you yawning but bear with me…) and is exactly what Google have started to do. I don’t know about the rest of you but I am online pretty much 24/7 when I am not studying, reading, crocheting and serving as general slave and scullery maid on Serendipity Farm and I “notice” things. Google searches are now watching what you are looking for. I went hunting to find out what a “Seral Community” was yesterday and once I had isolated the single entry on the first Google search page that had anything to do with what I was looking for (I DIDN’T want serial numbers or a serial crack for my illegally downloaded software…) and clicked it…Google set about the clanking of chains to make my next search completely compatible with my last search so it isolated “Seral” as a component of my next search, taking in to account that most people are hunting for something that is related to their last search. Good on you for that Google but it DOESN’T make me forgive you for attempting to “cloud” up our lives with a power hungry grasp for our free information. While it is still free I am going for it and am collecting and collating as much relevant content to what we are studying, my interests and to Serendipity Farm and its outcomes as I possibly can. One day I will have it all to share with anyone who wants it…perhaps Serendipity Farm will be the next Google? ROTFL! Narp!

I noticed this little teracotta dove on a brick gate post when we were walking in Rowella the other day. I really liked it because it wasn’t run of the mill cutesy and was a little bit different

I really liked this Hibiscus syriacus and when I was taking the photo I noticed that little insect sitting on the flower…on closer inspection the shrub was loaded with these little critters that were very quick and that had nefarious intentions. I am glad it’s not my shrub!

I quite liked this large planter. There are 2 of them in the garden on either side of a gate that doesn’t have any fence attached to it…just sitting in the middle of the garden on a concreted pole and latched onto another concreted pole. I am wondering if they are going to put a fence in or just leave it as a talking piece…it got me talking didn’t it?

The boys have been using their latent “ratting” powers to hunt for mice in the pantry cupboard. Our endeavours to ensure a rat/mouse free cupboard have resulted in Bezial being confused because he doesn’t have to do any of that sort of “dirty” work anymore…apparently that is what we bought Earl for…and Earl getting excited because of his close proximity to food and cat biscuits to be specific. In all it was a fruitless pointless exercise that exposed a gaping hole in the theory that the animals that live with us are “Wild Creatures” and should be treated as such. Our dogs are pampered sloths that require food (only the best), water and a king sized bed to recline on at night. They require that we do what they want whenever they want it and that we spend at least 50% of our waking hours walking them in ever more interesting places (can’t go to the same place 2 days in a row or Bezial balks and refuses to walk…) and spend our evenings sitting on the sofa acting as dog pillows or should we dare to do anything else (like me sitting here in the kitchen/living area typing or researching) one of them (paper…rock…scissors…LOSER) has to lay here sighing heavily next to me on the floor until I do the right thing and go into the lounge room to do my duty. It seems like we hold the Midas touch when it comes to creating ideal situations for our fellow creatures to live a life of decadent sloth. Our feral cats all lay outside oblivious to the tasty little morsels that would lure them should they be actual wild cats rather than fat sleek capitalist’s growing in number on a daily basis and creating slaves of our dwindling resources. The hens are just money pits who have decided to conserve their energy and suck up as much free range grain as they can…why lay eggs? They expend energy that you might be using to grow exponentially larger to take over the world! We feed cheese cut into small cubes to the local cuckoo shrikes, bread to the sparrows (who also take advantage of the free range hen food and the dogs bones laying around the enclosure) and anything else that wants a free feed drops around to eat grain, potted plants and anything else that it can lay its hands/beaks/feet on in the full knowledge that the dogs and cats are so full that they couldn’t be bothered to lift up their lazy slothful heads to attack them…life on Serendipity Farm is indeed “A Dogs Life”…

I really like this little old cottage and its lovely garden in Rowella. I love that Japanes maple that is starting to change colour quite early. That symbolises an early and hard (cold) winter…that and my trick knee…

This is the sea wall at Bonnie Beach. I just really liked the look of this picture and decided to include it for you all to see how the tides affect the banks of the Tamar River. I haven’t ever seen tides like we get on the river. They occur twice a day and mean the difference between a pebble beach for the dogs to walk on and suddenly water up to the top of this wall. When looking out of the windows in the day you can sometimes see Egg Island as almost able to be walked on from the point and at other times it is indeed a separate body. Interesting whirpools occur under the Batman Bridge and the jellyfish take advantage of these incredibly strong currents to coast in and out to and from the sea almost like they are surfing under water

This sunflower is pretty isn’t it? We grew it and it is in the glasshouse as it got a rather late start in its lifecycle and needed a boost to get it to flower. Like most “late” things this sunflower is actually quite small but Steve did his best to make it look humungous for you all to be dead jealous of…are you impressed?

We have just gotten back from our walk in Beaconsfield and I took a few photos of the stump left after the removal of the massive big Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) that was just removed from the park area opposite the main shops in Beaconsfield. I know it had to be removed because it was dangerous and there was no WAY that the West Tamar Council (remembering that they support the pulp mill…) was going to spend anything on bolting and bracing/cabling this ancient old tree who has been watching over this tiny mining community for more than a century but it had a real presence, and it is somewhat fitting that the removal of this majestic old tree coincides with the closing of the Beaconsfield mine very soon and what amounts to the end of the town. There are “For Sale” signs up everywhere and the locals are being stoic about their chances of keeping a sense of community but it is inevitable that once the only source of employment for 50km dries up, something is going to have to give. The natives steadfastly refuse to give up their blinkered view about how society should work…men go out to work…you buy a house…you have kids…you retire on your pension and you go fishing in your boat that you bought with your superannuation. Life is so much more complicated now and filled with so many choices (or so the superannuation, life insurance and general media would have us believe) and it’s “way too hard” to make up your mind about anything important any more…best you farm off your choice and your decisions to an expert…who just so happens to be one of my dreaded middle men! If you wipe out the experts you have to rely on your own ability to think both in black and white common sense and laterally. You have to suddenly develop problem solving skills and seek alternatives to your usual materials, resources, sources and you have to start weighing things up…thinking about consequences and taking responsibility for your own actions… in short…you become a responsible ethical human being who actually gives a stuff about other people and who thinks twice before negatively impacting on the world. Everything is habit and progression. If you don’t progress you stagnate…simple as that. We develop habits like callouses. They come with experience and life and our habits are how we choose to deal with what life delivers into our inbox. They are entirely up to us and are the result of our unique way of coping. The problem is that once we have gotten through what we have to deal with, we tend to wear our bad habits as little mental and emotional accessories, cluttering up our thought processes and getting in the way of us making any sort of positive change. I see it like hermit crabs pasting bits and pieces all over their shells (or is that shrimps making a hole? I am a horticulturalist NOT a biologist!) getting more and more weighed down until they either move house to a nice clean shell (take control of their negative habits) or simply sit put (stagnate) in their existing shell mounding it up with resentment, pride, fears and anything else that will excuse their bad habits and give them a sense of self entitlement for these behaviours. I don’t fancy sitting around in a pile of my own resentment so despite “hating change” being one of my problems, I am attempting to do something about my bad habits.

Here are our “ratters”. Note they are looking down which is where the pots and pans are…we thought this meant that they could sense rats… what they could scent was that container in the lower left hand side with the red glass knob that contains dog biscuits…sigh…

Bezial has decided that he has a better chance at getting that box of bird seed and Earl is wondering why the door that covers the fridge is closed as he has a better chance of opening the fridge and getting something alltogether more tasty…

Here is the place where that amazing old Ash tree stood. The area now gets no shade and will most probably just be turned into a grassy (water sucking) space devoid of any sort of character. I miss that beautiful old Ash tree already…

And here is Steve with Bezial standing on the stump of the tree. At least I have photos of this lovely tree and the boys will miss it if only because it was a great place to catch up on the Beaconsfield dog news and leave a little “article” of their own for the locals to ruminate over

The title of today’s post is the result of me ruminating mentally about a discussion that our lecturer had with us yesterday over a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee whilst sitting out in the sunshine watching another group of students tend a vegetable garden. That sounds good does it? Well sign up for Horticulture at the Alanvale Polytechnic, there are worse ways to spend your days believe me! We were discussing our exponentially increasing amount of chickens and how the hidden eggs are posing more than a stink bomb threat to us on Serendipity Farm. Every time one of our clucky girls finds an abandoned clutch of eggs at least some of those eggs are viable and ready to go. As soon as she decides to pluck that very first chest feather (symbolising her desire to sit on those eggs for a bit…) and settles down to 3 weeks of sitting, pecking and running from nest to food, water and back, we have the chance of more chickens. I thought that chickens were delicate little fluffy things that got eaten by everything but Houdini is an amazing mum and every single one of her chickens has survived and grown on. Her first 5 feral babies are now a firm clique here and with their own little rooster in charge looking out for them they live in an enormous Kunzea ambigua on the fence that borders Glad’s place. Houdini’s fluff balls are now small chooks and it looks like we might have another 3 roosters in that pack of 7 and suddenly we are being forced to deal with the roosters. This brings me back to what we were talking to our lecturer about. He appreciates a good sustainability moment and actually built himself a mud brick house on a bush block property out in the sticks near Mt Barrow. Tasmania is full of beautiful places to live and areas of wet and dry sclerophyll forest that lend themselves to being bolt holes for errant hippy sustainable alternative types who leap out of the wilderness to upset poor hard working salt of the earth forestry workers…hopefully you can detect the sarcasm dripping from my disdainful words there as our state is being held hostage by old school mentality that needs a severe update. We can’t keep raping and pillaging Tasmania for its raw resources, it’s too valuable a resource for that. We need to encourage effective food production using the abundant (at the moment) water that we have available, we need to think about harnessing some of the creative energy that is being postulated all over the place in arts councils, theatre and musical ventures and sorry to say, artistically temperamental people tend to severely lack common sense…there I said it! They tend to be too busy creating to think about the real world and whenever you let a group of “artistic” people together you end up with all sorts of fanciful ideas that are bandied about bouncing from one stage to another and very rarely getting off the ground. We need creative people. We need beauty and passion and creativeness in our lives to balance out the cold stark hard face of reality but we also need common sense and people who are able to implement (doers) ideas. Let’s all get together here and work out a sustainable plan for Tasmania. A REAL sustainable plan, not a pile of elitist ideas about “greening”; “ecotourism”;” “clean-green” or any other garbage bampf that our government and their spin doctors are touting at the moment to try to get us to part with our money. Note anything “Clean, Green or Sustainable” always comes with an enormous price tag…

So what do we do? First…we stop postulating and start implementing. On Serendipity Farm this means listening to something that our closet hippy lecturer posed yesterday and doing something about the growing rooster population on Serendipity Farm. Strider…Steve’s pet rooster has decided to spend his days attacking Steve. I am as “Sooky la-la” (Kym’s word and now common speak on Serendipity Farm…) as the next person but if you want to have a go strider…BRING IT ON! There is nothing so cathartic to your sentimentality (at least in my case) as something “taking the piss”. I will have to explain that to overseas readers…that is Aussie speak for challenging behaviour tantamount to pushing your buttons. Steve’s Stryder is “taking the piss” and as Steve is most probably too Sooky la-la to remove his head and stop the problem and as our lecturers idea of tossing all of the roosters into the shed and then releasing the hounds (what a terrifying picture that leaves in my mind!) is NOT going to be something that we are even going to contemplate, it is going to have to be good old fashioned “Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall” type homesteading on a Serendipity Farm scale. See…I DID  get around to explaining that title didn’t I? I just went all over the place to do so. I like to share my inner journeys with you here on Serendipity Farm and if you have a spare moment for a mental cup of tea and a bit of time to think about “things” we can share many a moment here in the Ethernet postulating all about the meaning of life…42 if I am not mistaken…see you all tomorrow

Seral communities meet feral communities down on Serendipity Farm

Hi All,

It’s Friday (yeh…it SAYS Saturday but wachagonnadoaboudit?) and we have had our meeting with our lecturer. He gave me permission to put his photo here along with Steve…now I just need to get the permission of the other Diploma student and I can share it with you. I got an email from Florida to say that not only did she get the little hen that escaped after flying out of her box staggering along the gate and falling into the Westbury Reserve area behind her house back…but she is now a “fly in, fly out’ hen and has been named (most appropriately) “Feral Cheryl”. Florida’s princesses have apparently reverted to their true chicken natures and are all putting up a fight against the 4 newcomers but my lot are girls from the bush and are used to being pushed around. I dare say what Florida’s girls are doing is a walk in the park to their usual positions in the pecking order around here. Who would know how many chickens we have on Serendipity Farm anymore? Effel has gone A.W.O.L. and we see her very rarely (and most furtively) sneaking out from wherever it is that she has discovered that mountain of hidden eggs to get a drink of water or a quick peck of food and then she is right back to her hiding spot…the hens have got another nest somewhere now and good luck to us ever finding that one. We have 2 clucky hens that we had to toss out into the outside compound to prevent them sitting on nothing and preventing their egg laying sisters from laying in the nesting boxes…all in all I am OVER chickens at the moment. We got 3 eggs for 3 days and for the amount of food that we are broadcasting all over the place here, we are decidedly put out to say the least. We are going on an egg finding expedition tomorrow. I have my pith helmet (a most necessary article to stop Steve from taking the ‘pith’ out of me for even bothering to try to outsmart Big Yin and his maze of nests) and will be arming myself with a decent stick should I rustle up something a little more slithery than one of our errant hens.

The person who owns this property is a stickler for neatness and tidiness. The poor man had to live next door to my dad’s tennants in the house to the direct right but now my brother has sold the house, they must be breathing a sigh of relief. I just wanted to share a few photos of this mans incredibly tidy and well set up veggie garden

Note the old bath being used in the veggie garden design. I would use it as a worm farm with a nice big hessian sack and a container to catch the worm wee from the plug but this person has used it to plant companion plants and herbs and for the pumpkin vine to scramble up apparently. Note the fence around the outside to keep the possums out and the decent gauge wire to stop them climbing up. If we did that here our tricky possums would find a way in and would trash the lot simply because they would want to teach us a lesson…

I like the clean space around the raised garden beds in this veggie garden. I like the use of blue metal and the neat shed and greenhouse made out of plastic. This person has it together

Here is the last picture of this really neat veggie garden. One day we might get our act together enough to get something like this going but we will be using some very interesting substitutes for the poles, the fence and the raised garden beds and we will be companion planting the lot in a completely vain effort to put the possums off the scent of our veggies…

We get up nice and early and now that the sun isn’t rising till 7am, we have plenty of time to walk the boys and be back to let the hens out to then follow their every waking move. If Steve heads after one pack (down the driveway where Henry is practicing his yodelling quietly so as not to alert Yin to the fact that there is a young whippersnapper upstart hot on his heels…) and I hobble around up in the first paddock with Yin and his cohorts we might just find that nest yet. As mentioned in a previous post, we should be able to see the pile quite soon by just looking at Google Earth because it’s been ages since we got any degree of eggs so they are out there somewhere…we just need to find where…I am most enthusiastic about our Diploma course this year. We headed in to town to see Nick our most illustrious lecturer who never fails to enthuse me even if I haven’t had enough sleep for a week (mostly due to getting too enthusiastic about researching our latest unit) and had a really good morning talking about sustainability, applications of sustainability and a new word to my repertoire…”Seral”. Of course, I was no sooner in the door than I had to head to the computer and check it out. Here’s what I found from my good old friend Wikipedia…

“Ecological succession is the phenomenon or process by which an ecological community undergoes more or less orderly and predictable changes following disturbance or initial colonisation of new habitat. Succession was among the first theories advanced in ecology and the study of succession remains at the core of ecological science. Succession may be initiated either by formation of new, unoccupied habitat (e.g., a lava flow or a severe landslide) or by some form of disturbance (e.g. fire, severe windthrow, logging) of an existing community. Succession that begins in new habitats, uninfluenced by pre-existing communities is called primary succession, whereas succession that follows disruption of a pre-existing community is called secondary succession.”

“A seral community is an intermediate stage found in an ecosystem advancing towards its climax community. In many cases more than one seral stage evolves until climax conditions are attained. A prisere is a collection of seres making up the development of an area from non-vegetated surfaces to a climax community. Depending on the substratum and climate, a seral community can be one of the following:

  • A Hydrosere Community – in freshwater
  • Lithosere Community – on rock
  • Psammosere Community – on sand
  • Xerosere Community – in dry area
  • Halosere Community – in saline body (e.g. a marsh)

This is really interesting stuff…it represents natures actions in balancing out a breakage in its cycles. We were talking about balance and how complex a premise “Sustainability” really is and how open to interpretation it can be. We get to so some research about endemic plants that will grow best in our local conditions and we also get to work out a client brief for Serendipity Farm. We have been given a fictitious $50 000 budget and we now need to establish what we can do to give Serendipity Farm as many sustainable processes/cycles as we can for that not inconsiderable amount of money. Steve had the idea that we should invest it on the short term money market, add the interest to the principal and then increase our budget to insure against shortfalls…not a bad idea but I don’t think that monopoly money is acceptable to our fat cat banks even though that seems to be all that they are willing to give us in interest lately. We can’t be cutting into our luxury cruise budgets now can we!

There aren’t a lot of plants that will grow directly underneath a large conifer. Apart from the serious lack of light due to the canopy usually being evergreen and quite dense, they tend to release chemicals that disuade growth underneath them. How is that for stopping weeds from invading your root space? The problem is that if you can’t grow anything underneath you need to mulch them and can’t use green mulch (ground covers) to keep the soil moisture in around them so seeing this little nasturtium growing directly beneath a large ancient conifer and in an area that rarely gets any sunlight at all (a large archway of huge conifers) made me think. Even if you got it planted out in the sunshine and trained it underneath the conifers you would get naturally fast growing ground cover to keep the moisture in the soil, attractive flowers and the benefit of nasturtiums being natural pest protection

Unless you have small children or tend to walk about on your lawn in bare feet a lot these little English daisies (Bellis perennis) are the perfect answer to a regular grassy lawn. They will grow anywhere, as this little fellow growing right next to the sea attests to, and they have the bonus of having pretty flowers. I was so happy when they took over our lawn in town and they always made me stop and smile when they were flowering and attracting every honey bee and bumble bee for miles around. We don’t need perfect lawns people, what we need is diversity and these little “darlin’s” are right up there with creeping thyme as one of my best “lawn” choices

We get a long weekend here in Tasmania for “Labour Day” which is a bit ironic as most Tasmanian’s are out of work or in the process of losing their jobs. That makes it all the more pertinent for us all to be learning how to think laterally and live on the smell of an oily rag. We can all sit here wide eyed and scared waiting for the government to save us or we can roll our sleeves up, get stuck in and look after ourselves. One thing that concentration on Sustainability has taught me is a greater dependence on community rather than individuality. I dare say communities began as a way to spread the load around and take some of the weight of being a sole provider from the shoulders of our early ancestors. We have drifted away from our communities and many people don’t even know their neighbours let alone have much to do with them. I have been thinking about that for a while and realise that with the threat of dwindling resources we have been given an opportunity to re-engage with our communities. As money becomes scarce, bartering for goods and services will come to the fore. I laughingly said to Steve in the car the other day “We could start a business working for “stuff”…” Steve was less than impressed, but many professionals in smaller communities throughout the world get paid in kind…a basket of eggs here…a box of veggies there and suddenly you are cutting out the middle man (my chief bugbear) and are dealing directly with the primary producer. The world is getting way too complicated. We are all being told that we shouldn’t (Indeed can’t) do anything and that there is always someone more qualified than us who should be being paid to do that task. I say “Bollocks” to that! Let’s take back our power and our ability to do things for ourselves. Far be it from being scared about change, not THIS little black duck! I am usually the very first to be ducking for cover but this emerging situation is suddenly elevating those of us that can think (and ultimately “do”) for ourselves into a new and most interesting position. There is hope for us yet!

Here is our little “Fishbowl” office that we have our meetings with our lecturer in. Where the photo is being taken is a large glass window and when the door is shut it feels like you are sitting inside an aquarium and everyone that walks past stares in…

Here’s the waiting room at the Alanvale Polytechnic department of Horticulture. The classrooms are to the left and the staffroom is to the right. Its quite a nice building but very cold in winter and warm in summer which makes it hard to stay awake on a long day of watching the board.

The big fishtank is Coreys. He is the “handyman” but that word comes nowhere near approaching what Corey actually is to this department. Steve and I recognised the treasure known as “Corey” from our early days in Cert 2 at Polytechnic when we had to attend classes for a year and a half. Corey was a fount of information and was the most go-to-it person that I have ever met. Completely optimistic and always happy and a fantastic person to talk to and deal with. Highly intelligent and motivated but with no need to be a star, this man became our sensei Corey and together Steve, Corey and I designed, sourced the materials for and built the enormous compost tea manufacturing plant at Polytechnic. We really appreciate Corey and have all the time in the world for him. He is someone that we won’t lose touch with when we finish up at Alanvale.

This was our Cert 3 classroom. The desk with the swivelly chairs is at the back of the classroom and is where Steve, Richard and I sat on a regular basis. They say that the naughty people sit up the back…I note Harvey sits there too…Poor James…hopefully he gets a nice quiet well behaved class but there is always one student….look on the bright side James, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger ;o)

Now that the weather is cooling down we have a new found enthusiasm to get stuck into gardening. We are going to be dropping a couple of dead trees tomorrow. One is situated right next to the hen coop and obviously, we are going to leave the hens in the coop until after we drop the tree…why? Not because we dislike the hens or have tired of their endless egg hiding and expensive free range grain guzzling, but because we care about them and don’t want to squash them when we fell the tree. Our hens might be shrub savvy but they tend to run about as if the big bad wolf was after them whenever anything occurs that is out of the ordinary. They also have the curious habit of running towards us whenever they hear a chainsaw. I blame Steve because he is usually chain sawing up logs that contain delicious grubs that the hens have become addicted to and he looks a bit like the Pied Piper of Hamelin except substituting the rats with hens (the feral cats ate all of the rats) whenever he starts up the chain saw. It’s a bit of an interesting Pavlov response and it just goes to show how quickly our hens learn…Steve has gone out hunting for eggs. As soon as we find the hidden nest, they will stop lying there. We are due for a chicken explosion or a literal egg explosion around here someday soon. Steve just found a nest with 11 eggs in it all apparently laid by the same hen…we just need to find where the remaining hens are laying and we will be set! I have been a bit remiss in sharing my fiction reading habits with you of late. I am nose deep in “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” and aside from a chapter that left me a bit mental (all about Mussolini spoken in the 1st person so no doubt most probably it WAS mental…) this book is another gem. Thank goodness I didn’t watch Nicholas Cage before I read this book because the book is a real treasure. Amazingly well written and Mary Anne Schaffer must have really loved this book because there is more than a little literary “borrowing” going on when you compare the scene “The Guernsey Islanders under occupation woven through with a love story” and “The Cephallonian Islanders under occupation in W.W.2 woven through with a love story”…hmmm…anyway, I don’t care. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was a once in a lifetime read and gave me a little ray of sunshine through the stress of dealing with mum’s death. It is very interesting to note that my next book “Atticus” by Ron Hansen was written by a man who won the Wallace Stegner (of “The Angle of Repose” fame) award for this book…are we starting to see a bit of a picture here? I don’t really mind because woven through all of these books is a sparkling ability to spin a tale out of a printed page. I have a brief respite with a book that promises to be wonderful. Florida gave me the name of a book that she had enjoyed and it was in my hot little eager hands within a week of placing it on hold at the Exeter Library. “Hi Helen” if you are reading this :o). I am STILL waiting for “Under the Tuscan Sun” and have been waiting since before Christmas. I would like to think it is because good things are worth waiting for.  I have also started crocheting again and so I have 3 fiction books on the go juggled with 3 non-fiction (cookbooks) that need me to type out all of the “good stuff” recipes, I have the crocheting to do as well as lots of research etc. and so I have a VERY full long weekend ahead of me, especially because I have to finish up with 2 of the cookbooks by next week. There is something incredibly satisfying about having a weekend full of doing things that you enjoy doing. And Steve is posting his top billion best guitarists of all time today so we will be jostling for computer time for most of the day. See you all tomorrow when hopefully we will be able to isolate where these egg futures are before they blow…

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