A study in Irony

Hi All,

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

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This is the coke zero bottle that spawned this post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transition towns on Serendipity Farm

Hi All

I think that contentment with your lot is an entirely underrated concept. I decided to take it from concept mode and apply it to my real life. No longer is contentment shelved with the occasional mental dalliance with Brad Pitt or George Clooney, but it’s out here in the open being given a long overdue airing. I think that my much mulled over purchase of Brunhilda our enormous wood burning stove has had something to do with this. Since we moved to Serendipity Farm we have been choosing to live more frugally and more simply. It’s not of necessity and is more to do with making a conscious choice to live with less. We had an opportunity to totally change our lives and we decided to go with it. Sometimes you can’t afford to just carry on regardless and this was one of those times, however our road less travelled is a pilgrimage to understanding more about who we are and where we fit into this unusual landscape we call life. I didn’t realise that something as fundamental as food, warmth and the early morning predawn sight of a firebox full of flames would give me so much satisfaction. Aside from the flames I can now cook whatever I want pretty much whenever I want. I can cook a cake in one oven, a meal in another and be defrosting something in the coolest oven whilst proving my bread, setting my yoghurt, making breadcrumbs or dehydrating (fruit, veggies AND the occasional shoe) in the other. I can set my cup of tea on one of her covers and it will stay hot for as long as it sits there. I can boil a kettle of cold water in a few moments and it will sit on its own little rectangle of warmth ready to be reactivated, bubbling and singing its heart out in a moment’s notice…always a bonus when you are as addicted to tea and coffee as Steve and I are. It’s the elixir of thought in my case, and a channel of direction for Steve’s nervous energy. Just making very small changes to our lives has opened up a whole lot of possibilities. Swapping milk from a carton for home-made almond milk has given me back some choices and allowed me more control over what I am consuming. The purchase of 2 more almond trees will give me more control over my ability to continue using almond milk in my tea. The more you think about your ability to sustain your lifestyle using your own hands, a degree of thought and problem solving and what you have around you the more exciting the possibilities get.

Literally “The road to Serendipity…” 🙂

There is so much doom and gloom around at the moment in the environmental movement. Why would anyone want to bother trying to do anything positive about changing their environmental footprint when we are hit by barrage after barrage of negative information, hopeless outcomes and doomsday prophesies that appear to take more than a small degree of delight in mankind’s ultimate demise…I choose not to listen to them. I choose to actively try to change my own personal footprint and life so that what I am doing isn’t going to make it worse and might just make it better. I have always tried to be a glass half full person. That doesn’t mean that I stick my head in the sand or never stress about anything, this is my year of living honestly and sometimes I can be positively vibrating with stress. The last few years have taught me how much stress someone can actually live with and how detrimental to your health that stress can be. I don’t want to heap unnecessary stress on top of the stuff I can’t choose and worrying about the end of the world won’t do anyone any good. I guess the environmentalists are trying to push these changes through by using a blunt approach. That’s what the Australian government are trying to do with cigarette packaging…it doesn’t work because you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink and if someone doesn’t want to change their thought processes and actions then nothing that you say or do is going to get them to. I decided long ago not to preach to people. It’s not worth it and they could care less. I just do what I can to live within the parameters of my own ethos and ideology and hopefully people can see that a simple life is more conducive to being a happy one.

The Aurora Australis heading back down the Tamar River to the sea. It makes a deep throbbing noise as it chugs its way down the river that you can hear for miles and Steve had advanced warning that a “photo opportunity” was approaching today

Part of the reason that I would love to study mushrooms and immerse myself in mycology is that fungi play such a fundamental part in our day to day lives and we need their activities for so many things. Here’s to you little branching fungus… live long and prosper!

I can’t stand people who jump on a cause because it might just earn them some popularity. I have made some sustained lifestyle choices and NONE of them were for the popularity points. I don’t labour the point with a vegan lifestyle because it’s what I choose to do and nothing to do with anyone else out there. I am not going to picket my friends’ houses because they choose to eat meat. Get a bit of a grip people…you end up looking like idealistic gits and most certainly don’t show anyone the benefits of living the way you choose if you are too busy trying to elevate yourself above everyone else with your trendy lifestyle choice. No tattoos for me…no shaven sides of my head…no husband with a soul patch…”How will anyone KNOW that I am vegan?”…you know what…I don’t actually CARE if anyone knows that I am vegan. I am content to just “be” vegan and know that it ticks one of my own personal happiness quotient boxes and be done with it. This segues me back to today’s meeting. I won’t be talking about it in this post because it’s in the future and I may still be ruminating over what I have heard today so you can expect a full critique along with photos on Wednesday. I can’t promise that I won’t have taken the odd surreptitious photo of the back of a felt hatters head (felt had firmly in place and most probably blocking someone behind thems view of the proceedings)…I can’t promise that I won’t have had the odd comment to make to a grandstanding felt hatter who turned up to “have their say” but who couldn’t be bothered to actually get up on stage and put the effort in to attempt to show people how to do something and I can’t promise that I won’t get a bit overexcited about something that I learned. You know me well now dear constant readers and excitement is my middle name! I am really looking forwards to attending the garden visit with my friend from the witness protection program. I will be taking copious photos of Steve Solomon’s personal veggie garden along with the odd photo of my friend’s shoe. He wrote the book “Growing Vegetables South of Australia” a most detailed scientific approach to growing veggies in my local environment. Steve lives about 15 minutes away from Serendipity Farm and as such, what he is talking about is quite pertinent to my own requirements. He is also an old hippy, a hermit and is into trying to live a simple sustainable life. He is also an expat American who has developed a range of seeds for our local climate that he sells through the Exeter nursery. It will be very interesting to attend this lecture and find out what Steve does with his own garden. You can learn more about someone from their personal actions than you can from a million of their words…

http://www.soilandhealth.org/05steve’sfolder/05aboutmeindex.html

There is something very invigorating about being in a room full of people who want to facilitate change in their local environment.

Here’s part of the knowledge base of Serendipity Farm. Note the large monitor that allows me the vanity of thinking that I don’t need glasses AND the ability to switch between computer, television AND Wii. My own personal little entertainment unit that allows Steve the run of the loungeroom at night and the freedom to watch trashy tv and the Olympics without my derogatory comments.

The transition town lecture has me inspired. We are such a fragmented society now. Technology has given us the ability to be distanced from the earth and to purchase our wants and needs from middle men and from overseas. I am not saying that it’s not fantastic to have the range of goods and services that we have but I am saying that a fair few of them we don’t actually need and we are soon going to have to renegotiate what we can and can’t live without. I would rather have a washing machine than an I-pod. I would rather install a wind turbine than continue to watch as our electricity prices skyrocket out of all proportion to what is being delivered. We DO have choices and we can exercise our ability to head on over to where the choices fit our ethos and Transition towns fit right smack bang in the middle of my own personal utopian ideal. Our civilisation was able to exist long before anyone thought of using oil to grease the chains of capitalism and so long as we haven’t stuffed up our environment too much, we will be able to exist long into the future. I CHOOSE to see the bright side because I don’t want to live in perpetual fear and depression. Our fragmented society has done nothing for families, for the once esteemed position of the elderly and it’s a rare person who is actually content with their lot. Communities are a thing of the past apart from in Third World countries where they will feel the loss of oil somewhat less than we will. I am not talking about survivalists when I talk about Transition towns. There are always going to be people who want to succeed from the human race (usually with guns and traps and water purifiers). To be honest, I wouldn’t want to live in a post-apocalyptic world where your choice was selfishness or to eliminate the competition. That brings me back to transitions. Change is always a very difficult thing for me. I like to know what is going on and where I fit into it and as such, I tend to make sure that I am well aware of my local environment. The truth about peak oil is that change is something inevitable and the sooner we see where we fit into this change the better. I can see a lot of benefits. I see the loss of supermarket giants hold in our communities due to the skyrocketing price of fuel. That means that we will get our bakers, our butchers, and our local store on the corner back. We will lose our ability to instantly access goods from overseas, BUT we will be able to take full advantage of what is local and seasonal and we may all end up healthier for this. No more Monsanto! We will have to learn how to manage our pests naturally…no more monocrops. Far be it from fearing this, we should be learning how to grow food within our communities to sustain us locally. In other words…it would be back to the hamlets…small towns and communities that naturally formed before the rise of oil consuming machinery. It wasn’t that long ago folks…only last century people didn’t have cars and that’s only a collective blink in the history of the world. The stranglehold of capitalism based on oil has been rapidly depleting our environment of its beauty and resources to our detriment. We CAN live on after peak oil…we just need to learn how to do it and not to fear the changes. I guess transitioning can be summed up in a sentence…” Remove “ME” from its elevated position of envy and put “US” up there in sustainable lights”.

The “blurb” about the event that I attended today

The lady standing coordinates the Tamar sustainable living group. She is living the life that I want to emulate here on Serendipity Farm and has an incredible amount of knowledge about living sustainably and will be coordinating the next sustainable food choices event that I will attend in a fortnights time. Can you see a couple of felt hatters? 😉

We were asked to get into groups and brainstorm some ideas about what we wanted to achieve within our local communities. This was my little group and we had some great ideas

Ok, enough transitioning for me! I need to head off to the shower, pack some fruit for my lunch (it might be transition towns but I bet they still forget to cater for the vegetarians (let alone the vegans 😉 ) and take my trusty camera to see if I can’t take a few shots for you today of what this is all about. I like being a lens for learning. I guess I should probably have stayed at my studies when I was at teachers college but looking at some of the harried teachers and lecturers around me makes me believe that the world did me a favour when it removed me forcibly from a career in “sharing”. I guess you can see that I am very excited about this month and the possibilities of sustainable living and transition towns. I hope that you will stick around to read about my interpretation of what it’s all about because that’s what I am all about at this phase of my life…love me…love my transition town ;). Today it’s Kelsey, my son Stewart’s partner’s birthday. “Happy Birthday Kelsey” and welcome to our strange family! It’s my own birthday tomorrow. I will be spending the day being spoiled and cossetted by the man that I love. He is going to throw himself out on a limb and bake me a vegan cake and we are having veggie burgers and home-made chips for tea (my own personal request). I am sure that the dogs will be entirely unimpressed with our meal but take heart Steve…at least they won’t be begging from your plate tonight! Have a great weekend dear constant readers and remember that we all have choices, it’s just up to us how we decide to exercise those choices :o).

Dog 1 and how enthusiastic he is going to be tomorrow night with the food choices available to the average scrounging dog…

Dog 2 after being told by dog 1 what is going to be on offer at the table for my vegan birthday feast. Bad luck doggies…its my night! 😉

Anti Pulp, please don’t sue me Jarvis Cocker

Hi All,

Despite my vehement desire to stop the proposed bell bay pulp mill the title of this post has NOTHING to do with this issue. On our walk this morning (time machine people…remember the time machine…) we ran into our long suffering neighbours Frank and Adrian who asked us if we had noticed a whopping great tree falling down right on the boundary fence between our place and theirs…our tree obviously…sigh…no, we hadn’t noticed and when we just went up to take a look at the tree it was completely rotten to the core, had a mangled and long dead possum skeleton in one of the knot holes (habitat?!) and someone out there is looking after us because it caused the bare minimum of damage to anything at all. Remember…the possum is skeletal and so departed the earth a long time ago so it can’t be counted as collateral damage. We figure the tree must have fallen down on Saturday when it was incredibly windy and we were out for 4 hours at the progressive garage sale because something that big falling down would have made a rather loud “CRASH!!!”… We can’t use much of it for firewood because it is rotten but we can heap up the logs in the corner of the property to rot down and improve the soils cation exchange (organic matter + topsoil = happy days…) and provide a little pile of habitat on Serendipity Farm although I don’t think that many of our invading hoards feel the need for natural habitat to be honest…they just move on into anything that will fit them. We are starting to feel lucky to have a few feral cats about as they are catching rats and mice that are attracted to the chicken food and this time last year we had to use baits…no such problem now! As I said…there are good points and bad points about everything.

This is the long dead tree that fell on the dividing fence between our property and our long (and still) suffering neighbours property

Here is the same tree after a bit of time and some hard yards with a chainsaw and returned to the property from whence it fell

As you can see, the centre of the tree was effectively mush and despite not getting much in the way of usable firewood from this decomposing beauty, this delightful “mush” will rot down quickly when the wrens and hens have finished picking at it and will improve the soil in this area

I decided to shield your eyes from the skeletal possum that was well past its mumification date and will just let you use your imagination should you wish to pursue that train of thought. Here is Effel and some of her lovely blue laced Wyandotte babies. As you can see…following me everywhere I go because “Human = food” appears to have paid off this time

We found several of these large borer grubs and Effel and her 7 babies had a feast that will ensure that I have 8 little shadows whenever I venture out into the wide outdoors

We headed off to Beaconsfield to delight our dogs this morning (Sunday TIME MACHINE REMEMBER!). We decided to park in the local school car park and as we headed off with the dogs I noticed that the fig tree that I normally predate had some figs on it. I have no problems eating fruit overhanging fences in Tasmania because the locals don’t seem to eat much fruit. I know…why would you have fruit/nut trees if you don’t actually use the fruit/nuts? No idea people, but their loss is my gain! I picked a couple of last figs to nibble on our walk that the birds hadn’t nibbled before me and noticed a spindly fig branch sticking out of the weeds underneath the tree. I tugged it to pull it up out of the weeds because it might not be “my” plant, but I still care about it and when I tugged it I noticed roots on the stem…layering… interesting folks! We walked the boys around Beaconsfield and I collected some more walnuts from underneath the tree that I got the last lot that are sprouting from. Again, the householder wasn’t interested in harvesting these nuts as they were lying on the ground and most of them had been eaten by rats. I collected what I could and they are now stratifying in the shed along with their second batch of friends (the first 5 that have sprouted are now overwintering in the glasshouse) and a bag of hazelnuts. We got back to the car and I headed back to where the fig tree was located and managed to find 3 long branches with roots on that I could remove from amongst the weeds. I used one of our faithful and always useful doggie doo bags to put the rooted cuttings into and filled it up with leaf mould from around the base of the tree. I can’t tell you how many times we have walked down the road with a large bag of something other than nefarious dog poo! We got back home and put the cuttings and roots into a bucket of water with seasol and Auxinone in it and then potted them up and staked them using the water that they had been soaking in to water them in. They will also overwinter in the glasshouse and hopefully will develop a good set of roots. Taking root or aerial layered cuttings allows you to jump a few years on with fruit and nut production when a nut tree usually takes 10 years to produce nuts from plants grown from seed or cuttings. A good substitute for Auxinone, if you can’t find it, is to use Berocca tablets dissolved in water. When accompanied by a good splosh of seasol, the Auxinone/Berocca’s give the rooted cuttings a better chance of survival and we get very few die on us so hopefully these tall cuttings will like their new home. At least they are vertical now rather than horizontal!

Here are those 3 figs in their new home where they will overwinter until spring later on in the year. Behind them we have our 2 bananas and their “humidity generator” a.k.a. a Monstera deliciosa that allows them to have their own little humid microclimate. They lived through last winter without their new friend so hopefully they will arrive in spring as happy little customers. We tidied out the glasshouse to prepare it for winter and its inhabitants for receival of the maximum light that they can get over the next few months

We are opportunistic whenever we see cutting material that we can use to grow plants for Serendipity Farm or for swapping with nursery owner friends for plants. The same deal goes for seed. There is something really primal about collecting your own seed and growing plants from cuttings. I dare say it harkens back to the days when our survival revolved around our ability to hunt and grow our own food.  I love waking up when it is still dark and quiet in the house and slipping quietly out of bed and heading into the kitchen where I can settle down to see what the world delivers me right into my inbox. I subscribe to some very interesting blogs and am usually not let down by the content of my early morning mental breakfast. I like to learn things. I was born to learn more than my fair share for some reason and where some might crave that first cigarette or that last piece of chocolate, I crave knowledge. I must add here that I crave knowledge for things that interest me! Should anyone want to indulge my quest for knowledge by sending me their old university mathematical physics or chemistry  textbooks they will be returned with “Not at this address” scrawled in bright red crayon (after I eat the first red crayon that is…). There are elements of all of those most noble of mind breaking concepts that not only pique my interest but actively make me swoon but too few to list here and so we will forget about them for the moment. I choose to learn what my mind needs to take in new concepts and sometimes that is maths…so I learn the bare basics to get me through and wing it as I go along.

Now I don’t know if you are in agreement with me here, but I get the feeling that there is something that smells VERY interesting on this bit of driftwood…

Steve took a few arty photos when we were at the beach the other day. I quite liked this one

And I REALLY liked this one

I am typing while I wait for my “dog pikelets” to cook. They aren’t actually my dog pikelets…I am home alone dog sitting while Steve does the fortnightly shopping 50km away and have 2 sulking dogs who haven’t had a walk yet. Much like children, dogs can be somewhat distracted from actively sulking by waving food under their noses and so after heading out to let the chooks out of their coop and having feral cats follow me the whole way looking pitiful and having seen them catch rats the other day thus earning at least something in return I decided to give the chooks, cats and dogs a bit of a cold morning treat. I headed in to the cupboards and discovered that there wasn’t all that much there that would interest a cat, dog or even a chook. We have reached that time of the fortnight where shopping becomes less of a chore and more of a necessity. I had to get creative with what was available…1 large container of out of date thickened cream (still smelling fine…)…3 free range eggs that our hens have decided to spring on us of late…1 tin of tuna found at the back of the cupboard…2 semi floppy carrots found in the crisper (note to self “CLEAN THE CRISPER”!…sigh…) add a bit of Self-Raising flour and a bit of left over lard from making pork pie pastry to fry it all in. An instant human heart attack but bliss for animal-kind. They don’t look all that bad and 4 of them have disappeared into the dogs so I think I am on to a winner. Consider that my recipe for hump day. Technically these would be fritters rather than pikelets but I have the ump with New Zealand (home of the fritter) at the moment for selling themselves to the highest bidder (in this case China) and for allowing themselves to be the food laundering capital of the world. Your reputation is plummeting New Zealand and if I check a label and see “New Zealand” on it, I won’t buy it because it is a veneer for “Chinese Import”. Almost all of our frozen vegetables are routed through New Zealand from China to give them a fake façade of clean and green and New Zealand is allowing this to their own detriment. That’s why these are pikelets (still semi-New Zealand but like Pavlovas and Anzac biscuits… WE MADE THEM FIRST! ;o).  There you go…I couldn’t let a Monday go past without having a bit of a rant albeit a small one (I will say this for the last time this post… Time machine people…that is how I can jump around from the past to the present so easily…)

I decided to use the 4 teracotta froggy pot stands that I bought for 20c each at the progressive garage sale on Saturday to good use in the kitchen. This little setup reminds me of  the  Discworld which consists of a large disc resting on the backs of four huge elephants which are in turn standing on the back of an enormous turtle named Great A’Tuin as it slowly swims through space. In this case… it is a disc of Huon pine resting on 4 small teracotta frogs who are in turn resting on my butchers block as it slowly wheels around my kitchen. If you don’t know what I am talking about here… you really REALLY need to get yourselves a complete Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett and settle down for one of the most entertaining, humorous and enlightening journeys of your life

This is Steve’s $5 backpack from the progressive garage sale. We have been filling it with water and allowing it to soak to ensure that we won’t be killing off any of our precious babies with any prior contents. We will be using this backpack sprayer to apply seasol, powerfeed and worm tea along with compost tea…weed tea…liquid manure…anything natural that we can manufacture on site to give our garden an edge

I found this fossil on the beach the other day. No idea what it is but Steve swears it is an octopus… hmmm…does anyone have the heart to tell him that octopi do not have anything to fossilise? No… I thought not…lets just keep it as our little secret 😉

I am trying to be more proactive than reactive. It’s quite difficult because I think I was born to be somewhat reactive (as my posted rants about all things that push my buttons would tend to allude to…) and so this is new territory. When you wake up and the very first song that you hear on the clock radio is “Born to be alive” by Patrick Hernandez and it gets stuck in your head and you spend the morning singing an ancient disco song to a most ungrateful of audiences (if dogs could put their paws over their ears these 2 would…) you soon realise which side of the proactive/reactive fence you tend to reside. I would love to be one of those “Doers”. One of those people who jump out of bed fresh and ready for the new day. They have all of their ideas condensed down into perfect little dot points of action and after a healthy pre-planned vegan super food breakfast they race off to tick off their lives in sequence arriving at the end of their day satisfied, satiated and successful. I have been delving a little bit deeper into these sort of people and have made a startling discovery… they simply don’t exist! Behind every good man is a good woman and behind every “proactive” go getter/doer there are a team of hidden supplicants facilitating their every move. As much as I love Richard Branson, I dare say he just has to postulate an idea and it eventuates with a click of his fingers. Who wouldn’t be happy and always with a smile on their face if they merely had to suggest to make something happen with only the idea as “work” for the day? I know that there are people out there who are able to strategically work through their day arriving at the end satisfied and happy with their lot and they tend to live in the sustainable community living a hard life with all natural hippy rewards but perhaps somewhere along the way they learned to be a whole lot happier with a whole lot less? What I am trying to say is it’s all a matter of how you choose to see things. If you take a good hard look at what you actually have (not what you owe a stack of credit on folks…that doesn’t belong to you!) and make your peace with what you can and can’t immediately afford and learn to live within your means life can take on a whole different slant. Do you really need that investment home? Do you need all of that pre-made food that minimises your time spent in the kitchen to microwave…ding…eat…? What are we actually racing about attaining all this wealth for anyway? I read once, (I have actually read more than once but this is leading into a story and not a literal quantification of how much reading I have accomplished in my life ;o) that if someone gets an increased amount of money to live on…even one significant enough to allow them to save a lot of extra money…most people will simply adapt (more quickly than they would like to admit) to increasing their spending to absorb this amount rather than saving it. It’s natural human nature to want more and we are buying in to an ever increasingly powerful media and advertising sector that seem to be dictating trends rather than trying to get us to follow. We are eager to jump into buying a new car even though we only bought our old one 3 years ago…we need a new bed…a new toaster a new partner! Everything is geared at trying to get us to hand over our readies (whether cash or credit) to pay for something that if we really thought about it, we most probably wouldn’t buy. It’s a lot easier to be sanctimonious about people spending money when you don’t actually have any to spend yourself I will admit. There are entire multinational corporations of people selling “futures”… things that haven’t even happened yet! It is so very difficult to hear yourself think these days because everything has advertising in it including our emails (is anyone else heartily SICK TO DEATH of that bloody grey monkey on the incredimail advertisement’s?) and so the further you can take yourself away from the madding crowd and the more you are able to learn to hear that little inner voice telling us what we REALLY need rather than what society is telling us that we “need” the more likely we are to arriving at some point where we can be grateful, thankful and happy with what we have in our lives right here, right now. Our own private nirvana in our lifetime :o). GO AWAY PATRICK HERNANDEZ!…sigh…it seems that whatever song I wake up to on the radio in the mornings tends to stick in my brain for the rest of the day. I can be sweeping the floor and suddenly find myself whistling that song…throwing bread out to the chooks and I am humming it…I will be collecting the wood up in the paddock and loudly singing it sorry Frank (our neighbour) and today’s menu item is “Born to be alive”…a song that I didn’t even like when it first came out last century and am cursed to vocalise for the rest of the day.

Earl looking a bit the worse for wear after a particularly vigorous race full pelt around the house

If you look REALLY hard you can see Fatty, Felix’s sole remaining kitten peeking out of the conifer

The sight that greets me when I take Steve in his cup of coffee at 7am most mornings

I have mentioned before that I learn more about the real world by wandering around paying attention to what is going on around this 4 acre property than I have up until now in my life. I was throwing out my tuna/carrot/lardy goodness cakes (to keep me getting spammed by the Chinese-New Zealanders about just who invented pikelets/fritters…) to the waiting throng of chooks, sparrows and feral cats below whilst passing morsels sideways to the waiting dogs, when I started to notice interesting societal things about our little ecosystem we call Serendipity Farm. The cats have had to learn to get along with the chooks because it became pretty obvious that if you stalk a chook you get a piece of wood thrown at you. Not only do the cats not attack the chooks (apart from the odd fluff ball that doesn’t stay close to mum and who disappears “somewhere” in the ether) but they are actively afraid of them! This is NOT normal. Chooks are supposed to be afraid of cats but on Serendipity Farm where nature gazes from below up at a benefactor with attitude they learned pretty soon that the cats were not going to mess with them and have turned from terrified cat snacks into bullies who will steal food from the cats mouths. How out of whack are we?!  From the very first group of 8 point of lay chooks that we bought last year and that chased a terrified Felix down the pathway in blatant avian angst our chooks have attained a level of induced fear that would rival a biker gang in human terminology. They strut…they peck…even Pingu runs into the throng of cats and delivers savage blows to the top of their hissing heads should they dare to even LOOK at her. Our chooks are more dangerous than our dogs! Forget Bezial and Earl any burglars out there… you would be sneaking into the danger zone the moment you stepped onto the property. Be afraid… be VERY afraid!

All of this society 101 has sprung from several people over the last week telling us that they envy our lifestyle. Steve and I just turn to each other in wonderment whenever anyone would even think of wanting to do what we do every day. I guess it’s the grass is greener meets the photos that we post on the blog. No-one likes to portray the bad things about their lives and so we tend not to post anything depressing or sordid that might perhaps make someone think differently about us. My dad died on July 7th 2010 leaving us more aware of our mortality and suddenly able to call a few acres of land “mine”. “You lucky bastard!” (Said in Michael Palin’s voice from “The Life of Brian”…) and here it is if you are the poorer for never having discovered Monty Python so far… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EI7p2p1QJI Yes…we ARE lucky and we will always be grateful to my dad for giving us something that we would never have had otherwise but right there is where the scene of happiness and joy starts to fade into reality and hard work. Nothing that is worth having is easy people! We tend to look to the future to deliver us from our lives today and some of us spend our lives waiting for “the kids to leave home”, “retirement”, “that winning lotto coupon” rather than taking stock of what life has actually dealt us and learning to not only accept and live with it but find real happiness in our own personal circumstances. How many of you have watched documentaries about native tribes out in the middle of the South American jungle who despite their lack of anything that we would be able to identify as “wealth” are all smiling, curious and most happy members of the human race with the strongest whitest teeth I have ever seen. I wonder how people living a subsistence life can be so very happy? Is it because they are living close to the earth that feeds clothes and sustains them and they have discovered their niche within this endless ancient balance of cycles. They are living how we all should live. Simply, with few needs and it’s only when you start introducing societies “wealth” that problems start to occur. I dare say I am glossing over the squabbles, the human vices and the general need that we humans have to stuff up whatever we are given that would be present wherever 2 or more people group together to coexist, but in general they would deal with it themselves and they would be very aware of the consequences of their actions. I find it laughable that we in 1st world societies have so much and are always hungry for more when these simple people are very content with their lot. Serendipity Farm is our chance to make a difference to our own little plot of earth and see if we can’t leave it better than when we arrived on it just under 2 years ago. The process of change that we are taking and where we found out how to go about changing for the better is what this blog is all about. I am trying to be as honest as I can about our lives but am as guilty of the next person in omitting some of the more nefarious things or glossing over them with humour. Life is tough enough without being constantly faced by negativity and so I try to temper reality with humour as often as I can.

3048 words! How did I get to 3048 words! I only just sat down! Sigh…surely that word check on the bottom of Word is fibbing…I often wonder if there will ever be an end to the need to splash what’s inside my head onto a page. I don’t think that my muse (who is a combination of Billy Connelly and Leonardo De Vinci with a little smattering of Albert Einstein (probably the dyslexic bit…) thrown in) wants to give up any day soon so other than writing a “Dear Abbey” column, I guess you guys get it all :o). Thanks for listening to my outpourings. I sometimes think I should be paying you all for taking the place of a psychiatrist but to be honest, that should be something that our state government does for the safety of our state so you lose out this time. See you all on Saturday night/Sunday morning (depending on which side of the Equator you are) where we can take up this session where we left off…till then…”Domo arigato Mr Roboto” (because I can’t spell Sayonara)

Holy Crap Batman…they’re effecting change on Serendipity Farm!

Hi All,

We all have them and April is one of our birthday months on Serendipity Farm. My oldest child turns 30 and my youngest turns 22. Don’t feel left out Madeline, you already had your birthday (24). Since we moved to Serendipity Farm we no longer spend a large amount of money on people for birthdays. This came about due to us considering how much money we had, and how much money they had and working out that we were the lowest common denominator in the money chain so we now give gifts rather than moola. No doubt my son is racing out to take up bungie jumping, sky diving and anything else that he can to deny his descent into 30 and my daughters will spend the day together celebrating with an amazing feast revolving around gourmet products. Since we moved out, the girls have become gourmands. I talked to them yesterday and was informed that they had just been shopping and purchased goat shanks…GOAT SHANKS! What on earth does one do with the shanks of a goat? No idea, but the girls saw merit in them and purchased them along with a dozen oysters, a kilo of mussels and various weird and wonderful varieties of sausage that they bought from a tiny local smallgoods firm directly opposite where Bethany attends Polytechnic as an art student. Their fridge is like Aladdin’s cave and always contains something new and most interesting. Their shelves are full of weird and wonderful Korean concoctions along with various weird grains, strange brands of noodle and couscous and all sorts of unusual sweets and biscuits. I now have to think of what to get someone who lives in the “Paris” sector of Melbourne for his birthday and what to get my gourmet daughter for her birthday 7 days after my son’s. I have a week or so to think about it but the clock is ticking…

Steve was determined to not miss getting a home grown tomato this year. We started late…VERY late and this is the sum of our most delicious tomatoes that have been raised in the glasshouse.

Stretch was complaining about how cold it is moving from Western Australia (hot) to Tasmania (cold) when you are a stretchy bean filled naked rubber chicken. Apparently Stretch is working on it…

Figs and Juglans regia (English walnuts…even though they come from Persia…go figure!) collected in Beaconsfield and subsequently eaten (figs) and stratified (walnuts…apart from 1 that Earl decided to crack and sample and find wanting…)

Hi guys! It’s Monday and Steve is racing around town having a wonderful time on his own. Steve likes to establish, maintain and keep up an alarming pace whenever confronted with shopping and town and despite my best efforts I am totally unable to keep up with him. Aside from my 2 steps to his 1, I have a “curious mind” and need to pick things up…turn them over…sniff them (which has gotten me into trouble more than once I can tell you!) and generally savour this new and unfamiliar product where Steve grabs it, bungs it into the trolley on the run, pausing only to pay the checkout chick before they arrest him for motorised shoplifting. He will be munching his way through a couple of Macca’s sausage Mcmuffins (both held in one hand) and slurping noisily on a boiling hot beverage (most probably Gloria Jeans…) with the other hand…driving with his knees in the expert way that only someone who has lived most of his life in enormous cities knows how to do. I panic at the first sign of a brake light, but he lives vicariously enjoying every thrilling heart stopping minute (of our 100 000 odd population teeny tiny city) of the chase. He phoned me about 30 minutes ago (I have been commenting on some great blog posts that I got in my inbox today) at 7.30am to tell me that he had done all of the shopping and was just waiting (Mcmuffins in hand) to get the dogs meat, my stuff (can you hear the impatient sigh?) at the health food shop and then he is off to get a brand spanking new razzmatazz phone from the Telstra shop. Our 24 month contract is up and he has the desire for a smart phone burning a hole in his psyche at the moment. After doing some research we found the perfect phone for regional use (most important) to get coverage out here and that will allow him to play “Need for Speed” whenever he wants (no doubt with Mcmuffins in the other hand and driving with one foot…). I could care less about mobile phones…so long as they are able to be used for the purpose of “Phone” (obviously hidden under all of the aps, games, music etc.) and have nice easy steps to get there I am happy. Steve is a techno geek and loves new things and will be messing about with whatever he ends up getting for hours muttering under his breath at regular intervals about GPS…MP4 etc. and speaking that foreign language that people who love technology attempt to pass off as normal conversation. Have fun babe…just make sure that I can press something to phone a friend should the need ever arise!

I would like to call this photo “What you lookin at Willis!” for all of you who are older than 10 and remember the sitcom Different Strokes. Pingu could have gone one of two ways after her last attempt at scaling the Pearly Gates. The first time Earl broke her leg and left her for dead (although she was very much alive and only playing possum…) the second time she was standing at the gate waiting to be let back in to her rightful home or be fed a piece of bread, whichever came first when she made the mistake of getting a teensy bit too close. Earl seized the day/moment and pulled her under the gate and Steve came out to find feathers all over the deck…Pingu coloured feathers! We thought for sure that she was dead and were not at all surprised as she liked to stare through the gate at a slavering Earl on a regular basis. She was, in fact, relatively unharmed after her plucking as Earl had stupidly taken his mouth off her and she ran and then flew straight off the 3 metre drop from the deck to the ground. She was waiting for her bit of bread at the bottom of the steps! Now, as previously mentioned, this would leave you one of two ways…scared witless and terrified of EVERYTHING or…in no mood whatsoever to tolerate any sort of aggressive behaviour and with a massive chip on your shoulder…Pingu chose the latter. She can now be found terrorising the feral cats and stealing food out of their mouths. She runs at them full pelt with her wings out and pecks any part of animal that she can. Bezial is now allowed out to wander around with impunity as he totally ignores the cats and the hens (with age comes wisdom…) but Pingu ran up to him and decided to check him out tempting fate severely. She has decided that he might be alright and didn’t actually attack him but she follows Earl (on the lead) at a safe distance now… watching and waiting for her chance to pounce! That’s one ANGRY little bird!

I love finding like-minded souls on the other side of the world. Back in the olden days (20 years ago) when I was actually alive (shock HORROR!) I didn’t even think about the “other side of the world”. It was like thinking about the moon and anything “American” or “English” was consigned to history, newspapers or social studies in school. Now, with technology (specifically the internet) making the world a much smaller and more immediate environment, I am able to wake up, settle down in front of my PC in the wee small dark hours of the morning and slowly wake up with a cup of tea nestled lovingly in one hand and the other one caressing the mouse. Do I love my newfound “overseas” friends? Damned right I do! I don’t know these people who share their passion, humour and essence across the miles but I consider them soul buddies (as wanky and hippy as that sounds) because whenever I get one of their carefully considered (although some of you might want to consider using the spellcheck every now and then!) content rich posts I am getting a little glimpse of their lives way over there in the U.S.A. or the U.K. or Canada or any of the other places that I regularly poke my nose into to have a careful sniff around. I found a really great blog when I was nosing around at The Soulsby Farm. A fantastic blog in its own right and a great source of information and cheap makes for we homesteading pioneers (read poor sad fools who have fallen prey to weed infestation and under the spell of animals en masse) and right there on the blogroll (some people actually do look at them you know…) I discovered Hanna and her wonderfully honest blog “This Garden is Illegal”. I will give you a little soupçon of Hanna’s fantastic way of looking at things and her great writing skills here in her latest post…

http://www.thisgardenisillegal.com/

Not only is she informative, money wise and clever (all A+ features of a blog that I want to read) but she is funny, wry and honest and this elevates her right up there with the best. Go check out her blog and you tell me that she hasn’t got an edge on writing about gardening and its foibles. I could most probably write all of this post today if I wanted to but we are planning on being bums up in the garden for the rest of the week and so I would no doubt miss out on telling you about how one of our new roosters has turned into a rapist and is just about to say hello to God, I will no doubt be covered in leech bites and will resemble something out of a John Carpenter movie by the end of the week (bring on the Jehovah’s Witnesses then!) and we will hopefully have had many opportunities to take interesting photos for you to ooo and ahhh over. Welcome to everyone who has recently subscribed to the blog by the way. Cheers for your faith that I will be able to amuse you and inform you whilst performing acts of super human strength out there in the jungle of a garden that we call Serendipity Farm. Someone on the road to Beaconsfield got pigs. Now I know that it isn’t like “got nits” or “got worms” but for me it is almost as contagious because I WANT PIGS. I love them. They are most probably the closest animal to my own personal state. Pigs are smart (tick) they are funny (tick) they tend to run to seed (tick…tick…tick…) they spend their lives looking for somewhere to wallow and cool down (oh MAN that’s a tick!) and love nothing better than standing next to a tree rubbing their large expanse and grunting in extreme satisfaction. I figure I must have been a pig in my past life. Steve wants goats and in particular miniature goats. My daughters ate goat shanks the other day and have been lauding the delights of said goaty meat ever since so you might want to think about those goats VERY carefully Stevey boy… Harvey (The Tassie Farmer) thrust pigs into my semi-awake mind this morning and coupled them with Eliza Wood who is a country livestock morning presenter on our local ABC who has rare Essex saddleback’s on a property up in Penguin (YES we have a town named penguin…sigh…) and who recently had an open day on her and her partners farm. Lots of rare breeds of things and all no doubt VERY exciting but you lost me at pigs Harvey. I sat there daydreaming about how Brian up the back (the tree felling neighbour with the sanctimonious wife) would LOVE to have pigs living in the bush block adjacent to his property (who wouldn’t?) and how they would fit in most incredibly well with the rest of us here on Serendipity Farm. Indeed…should I ever want to head off into town on secret nefarious business I could just put a pair of my jeans and a sun hat on one of the larger ones, plonk it down into the middle garden and let it do what it did best and Steve would never know the difference! It is with regret that I stop typing here and leave some space for future “events” to occur. When I get on a roll it is like a wellspring opening and the words just want to keep tumbling out. See you later on in the week 🙂

I allow my mind to be gloriously and most vicariously innovative and exciting. I try to learn all sorts of new and interesting things and tend to slide right off the Richter scale when it comes to weird and wonderful “stuff” to cram in the few spaces left in my mental capacity but as chaotic and exciting as my mind is, the rest of me is the exact antithesis of chaos and I love nothing more than to be soothed by routine and a dearth of change going on at any given time. I mentioned this only because I have just gotten hungry and have ventured into the previously foreign territory known to others as “Breakfast” recently. Working hard in the garden needs a degree of staying power and last night’s tea simply doesn’t cut the mustard when you need to lift, heft and hack on a massive scale especially if you intend on carrying on the process rather than making one fell swoop at glory. Staying power aka “energy” has been an elusive dream of mine for quite some time. Since I started eating something in the morning I have had energy for the first time in many years. Coupled with eating nutritious food and totally knocking out sugar and white refined products I have suddenly developed a new spring in my step and have lost 6kg without even trying. I think I have discovered a precious secret here about “weight loss” but at the moment I am still in familiar territory and when I have lost 10kg I will let you know about the true nature of my new eating regime. My breakfast this morning (and every morning if the truth be known) is “some minute oats”, “some dates cut up with a pair of scissors” with boiling water poured over them and set aside to absorb said boiling water all topped off with a finely chopped apple. Might sound boring but it tastes lovely and keeps me going till mid-afternoon when I have my main meal. I used to eat 1 enormous meal in the evening but now I eat 2 meals and something nutritious if I get hungry in between. I use olive oil in my cooking and I eat however much I want to. I am a big eater and so if anything is going to make me fall off the wagon it is portion control. I can live on broccoli and carrots (and have done so before) but if you make me weigh them out I am outta there! Gone are the days where I would get “funny” and start minimising my portion sizes, cutting out entire food groups and trying to scrape every last skerrick of fat out of my diet. It’s there because we need it folks to metabolise some of our most important vitamins and minerals and without it we look like deflated balloons (skin etc.) and apart from working hard in the garden we are walking the dogs 5km a day. Easy ways to lose weight and get healthy without even trying. I added some ground cloves and a pinch of ground cinnamon to my breakfast today and it tastes lovely. I know that at some day in the future even I, with my endless need to categorise and follow a nice sensible routine, am going to get a tad bored with this meal and so I am already looking out for interesting nutritious alternatives. In my travels I found a recipe for fermented muesli (An Instructable) which really caught my eye. I love the idea of using my dehydrator (second in cost and lack of use only to the “you-beaut” $1200 blender) to make this amazing healthy looking muesli containing equally amazing probiotics. I am a sucker for a bacterium, and even found an instructable for harnessing your own little greeblies to work for you (isolated from buttermilk should I ever find a live source in Australia that is…). This brings me back to my life’s work. I have a fever… A FEVER I TELLS YA for hunting out how to make basic things and compiling them. Recipes for healthy home-made margarine, baking powder, sourdough starter, potato yeast as well as how to make just about everything that you could possibly need/want yourself. Bugger the middle man (my arch nemesis…) bring on “do it yourself” in a way that it actually relates to our inner need to feel competent rather than societies need to foist all kinds of consumerist goods that we don’t need and can’t afford in the name of D.I.Y. Does anyone else get “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine? Has anyone else noticed how it is just an enormous advertisement from cover to cover? D.I.Y. sells BIGTIME people and don’t think it took the middle man long to work that one out and harness themselves to all of our grindstones as we did the work and they flogged the products. I have dabbled in all sorts of weird and wonderful food rituals over the past few decades and was originally one of those poor lost souls that bought each and every new super food and gadget that popped up promising eternal life. With age comes wisdom and I would like to think, a healthy degree of cynicism for these sorts of claims and products. I would even join a sceptics society for new food fads should they ever develop one. I do, however, make sure to check out as many informative food blogs as I can and use bits and pieces, recipes, hints, tips and anything of worth. A good magpie never wastes information and I would classify myself as a “Top Bird” in the magpie confraternity :). Here is a link to a PDF template of home-made seed packets. Only a “Top Bird” would find and share this sort of thing (can you see me preening my feathers?). I plan on using this template a lot and working out how to print some pretty (also pilfered) images on the front of my packets to enable me to both use collected seed and be delighted by the process. Take your own delight and get printing! (And when you do…could you let me know how you did it…sigh…). The link below also gives you a few predesigned templates to get you started (guess I had best only save tomato, sunflower and pea seeds eh?)

http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/make-your-own-seed-packets.aspx

Here’s another great blog just waiting for you all to trundle over there, find a few minutes peace and quiet to have a little look-see over a nice beverage of your choice (chocolate biscuit optional but preferable). All sorts of lovely crafts and fun things to do all revolving around “Gardens”. Love it, just subscribed to it and will be going there often.

http://gardentherapy.ca/diy-rock-spiders/comment-page-1/

Veggie burgers waiting to go into the oven and Copycat (I will take the secret to the grave!) Hobnob (U.K.) biscuits fresh out of the oven. Even when we couldn’t climb the stairs we still managed to eat…

In one of the videos about permaculture that I found online (somewhere in the ether) I was made aware of (discovery was “mine” they already knew about it…) a most interesting premise about soil. Topsoil is precious. I already knew that…I had it drummed into my head by my poor long suffering lecturer James when I was completing certificates 2 & 3 in horticulture. I dare say he was quite glad to see the back of me because I was one of those students who always wanted to know “why?” and “how?” thus making him have to come up with answers. Usually I had found my own answer by the time he gave them to me so I stopped asking after a while but the value of topsoil was one thing that we learned very early on in the piece. Australia is known for being an inhospitable arid place populated by a highly poisonous population of just about everything and what isn’t poisonous wants to kill you anyway. We get hot dry conditions and our soils are ancient and can’t afford the extreme weather events that we are starting to see as a result of our continued pillaging of natural resources at our own detriment (anyone outside looking down might just be wondering why the human race has suicidal tendencies…I know I am!) and as such we all need to be building our topsoil for future generations. Preventing it from drying up and blowing away is a good start so incorporating organic matter and mulching and getting decent soil holding root systems (preferably arboreal) into place are not a bad start. I watched a most intense, passionate thin man telling me about how the most amazing soil is produced underwater every day. Leaves, twigs, insects, anything organic falling into water and becoming subject to anaerobic bacterial activity forms amazing soil much more quickly. I must admit to being a little bit sceptical about this. Scepticism is a very healthy thing. It allows you to exercise your right to choose what you believe in and gives you the impetus to go searching for proof and information to back up said claims. I promptly forgodaboudit as is my usual way when confronted with information for more than 10 minutes…too much knowledge…such a little brain… something’s gotta give!  I was reminded of this interesting piece of information when Steve was fixing the guttering and drain system on the side of our new wood shed. We had removed a massive ancient blackberry shrub that was reclining all over the surrounding area and that had a really REALLY bad attitude. Deprivation had made it hard and lean and it really didn’t want to give up its position of power. Once we had put paid to its sequel by grubbing it out of the ground Steve headed up the ladder to clean out the slurry in the guttering. He called me over to take a look at the “amazing soil” that was coming out of the guttering. I have no idea how long the leaves and twigs had been falling onto the wood shed roof and into the guttering but they had rotted down in a puddle of stored water to a rich, dark wonderful smelling soil. I wonder if we can “make” our own soil by using water to facilitate a speedier process (waiting several millennia is a little out of my ability to wait…) and if that sludge in the bottom of the duck pond/boat could be put to good use somewhere in the garden? Having little money to spend on luxuries like additional soil I am starting to turn to more adventurous ways to get what we want around here and thanks to the internet, there is no shortage of wild eyed, hirsute, dreadlocked thin people lining up to tell me how to effect change on a shoestring budget.

Ok…time to bite the bullet! The weed species that have been allowed to run rampant for 20 years need to be taught that they have a new master and his name is pain! Here we go…

 Take that Elisha’s Tears! (Leycesteria formosa, follow suit blackberries, osteospermum daisies and twitch grass and you can just about forgedaboudit Rosa canina your asses are MINE!…

The first person to comment on how that “crown lifted” conifer looks now is going to have said comment inserted where the sun don’t shine… just a warning folks! Apart from the Truffula Tree, this area can now be considered cleansed brethren! Do I hear an AMEN?!

While I was wading through the blackberries, Steve was pruning, raking and generally clearing out the first garden “grassed” (HA) area. It now doubles as a lovely sandbath for the hens

What do you think? Not too bad for a water stressed garden at the end of summer

The view now from the stair end of our deck

If you haven’t yet gone to check out the blogs on my new blogroll more fool you! I am not going to force you to go there but it’s you that are missing out. I am anything but magnanimous in my desire to spread the word about sustainability and one of my favourite sites “Permaculture Power” had a most interesting full length documentary called “Garbage Warrior” about “The epic story of radical Earthship eco architect Michael Reynolds, and his fight to build off-the-grid self-sufficient communities.” I watched most of this video tongue in cheek because this man is a typical 60’s hippy with accompanying utopian dreams and some of his “Earthships” were bizarre to say the least. In saying that, I was totally engrossed with what he and his friends were and are trying to do. Using garbage like old tyres, beer cans and rock hard New Mexican soil baked under the sun for 9/10’s of the year and frozen solid for the remainder removed from the ground with brute force and inserted unceremoniously into the tyre walls to create thermal mass. They used different coloured bottles to give jewel coloured stained glass effect to their buildings and despite taking years to build, they were very cheaply constructed and totally off the grid. Wouldn’t you like to be totally off the grid? So would I! Now I just have to learn how to make my own composting toilet (I have actual plans…), plumb that sucker in (might have to take a plumbing course at Polytechnic in my gap year 😉 and get Steve drinking again except using cans rather than bottles…”it’s for the sake of the earth Steve…GET DRINKING!” If you would like to check out this bit of hippy environmental history and you can turn a blind eye to the architects annoying accent and outbursts of manic enlightenment, Harley Davidson and enormous F200 SUV while he is spouting all about how the earth is going to hell in a hand basket because of humanities actions (apparently it is “do what I say…not what I do” in this man’s case or perhaps he has bought some trees in Guatemala and is therefore allowed to produce as much carbon dioxide as he wants…hmm) this is a really informative documentary and no doubt it will spur you on (like me) to continue saving your bottles (I have 2 wheelbarrows full already), aluminium cans (NOT aluminum…) and heck…after watching the poor sods try to remove some of that hard baked New Mexican soil to fill their tyres I feel positively decadent about our rock filled clay bollocks soil! I feel a garden shed constructed out of tyres (on the property…dad was too tight to pay the $5 each to throw them out so we got them left to us along with Serendipity Farm), beer cans and Serendipity Clay. Who knows where this will end? Most probably with Steve in the mental asylum, but at least we will have lots of “Thermal Mass” in all sorts of unexpected places on Serendipity Farm… Might have to rename it “Earthship Farm”! Here’s that link…

http://permaculturepower.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/garbage-warrior-full-length-documentary/

I think this post is going to be gargantuan. I have SO much to share! I went hunting on some of my friends Facebook pages to see if they were all doing well (as none of them post regularly and I just wanted to see if they were doing alright) and on Florida’s page I found a link to a “Britain’s got talent” entrant called Jonathan Antoine. This 17 year old boy was wearing a Jimi Hendrix tee-shirt, a pair of track pants and had long curly hair and was very large. The girl that accompanied him was very pretty and well dressed. As they came out onto the stage you could see Simon Cowell (the chief judge) mouth to the judge sitting next to him “and you didn’t think it could get worse”…You could feel the lack of interest and disdain dripping from every word that Simon uttered and it was almost as if he wanted the act over and done with before it started. “Do you think that you can win?” he asked them somewhat incredulously and only the girl answered. The boy fumbled a little bit at the beginning of the song and started a teeny bit early but after glancing at the girl they started to sing and it was the most amazing sensation to be listening to someone who at 17 rivalled Pavarotti. This kid, shy, grossly overweight and bullied who had suffered a nervous breakdown and was no longer able to go to school thanks to “normal society” and its need to be perfect, wiped the floor (and Simon Cowells gaping maw) and had everyone giving him a standing ovation. Simon had to eat his words (once he found them again) and admitted that they were listening to a future star. Thank you so much Florida for sharing that with me. Now we just have to hope that “normal society” don’t stuff this amazingly talented kid up by “grooming” him to within an inch of his life and turning him into a money making machine to his detriment. If you haven’t watched this amazing performance I urge you to check it out here.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt3Utn4mjeg

Awesome eh? Good luck Jonathan, although with that incredible natural talent I doubt that you are going to need it!

Look at this lovely little Cercis canadensis (Judas Tree) that we discovered hiding underneath a mountain of blackberries alongside the driveway. We also found a lovely weeping camellia, lots and LOTS of weird and wonderful bulbs all in the first flushes of growing and all sorts of foundation plants just waiting to be given a helping hand after we weeded all of the invasive species from over the top of them.

Can you see that nice camellia to the right of this picture? Can you see the Clivea miniata? Nope?…neither could we till we liberated them from underneath this mass of blackberries  and (I am guessing) Brachycome Iberidifolia or Swan river daisies that have taken over every available bit of space that the Erigeron karvinskianus (seaside daisies) have left vacant. We also discovered under this mass a Daphne odora, a dead specimen of Cistus ladaniferus and an almost alive one that I don’t know why I am mentioning because in my frenzied secateur offensive I clipped off the only piece of shrub that remained alive…sigh…

Here we have a wider shot of this area. It’s cram packed full of blackberries and Vinca major (Periwinkle) and any other invasive species that could take advantage of 20 years of freedom to explore their natural surrounds.

This shot was taken just around the corner from the last shot and shows that this area is indeed somewhat overgrown and in serious need of attention by two penniless horticultural student hippies who have been avoiding this mess like the plague! Can you see 2 specimens of Brachychiton populneus in this shot? Neither can I and I know they are in there!

There one is! These poor sorry suffering specimens of Brachychiton populneus have done their level best to survive in less than sterling conditions for a very long time. One of them is stunted and on its last legs and the other is weeping sap at an alarming rate. Even though we have cleared out under them and have given them back their sunlight we severely doubt that they will make it. We have been growing Brachychiton populneus from some locally sourced seed for a few years now and we can replace them should they die, but I feel an incredible camaraderie with all of the long suffering plants that survived their 20 years in the wilderness with my horticulturally challenged dad and to arrive where they are now and die is incredibly sad to me

We are always accompanied by our feathered friends whenever we venture out into the garden in any capacity. Here, we have Big Yin and his girls clearing an area of newly exposed insect life and injecting their own special brand of highly nitrogenous fertiliser onto this poor denuded soil.

Remember what this area looked like only a few hours prior to Steve and I launching our offensive? Go back a few photos and check again… After a bums up, secateurs flying, whipper snipping marathon that ended with us sitting on the deck being slobbered on with impunity by happy pooches because we were too tired to defend ourselves. The sense of accomplishment is what is keeping this old hippy chick going and it would seem that hard work and great results are somewhat addictive…you are going to be seeing some interesting things happening on Serendipity Farm, fueled by some newly invigorated hope filled land carers :o)

We have been laying low like Brer Rabbit around here for a while. It’s lucky we have only just started on the briar patches in that case isn’t it? Steve and I spent Wednesday and Thursday of this week totally changing our aspect. We have been collecting wood, removing blackberries from the poor long suffering plants along the driveway and generally skirting all around the outside of having to deal with the massive problem of the overtaking blackberries. We have been working really hard and over the last 2 days we most certainly effected change! We started in the enormous conifer on the driveway and removed a massive clump of wild briar roses that had been growing there for as long as I had known this place (2004) and got stuck into removing the weedy species from the garden next to the conifer. We fully intended on “bumbling around” which is our way of saying “taking it easy” for the day as we had really done a lot of work the week before and were just going to work to rule for a few days to recover. In the end we did a solid days work and totally changed this area. We had to remodel a tall thin conifer that now looks somewhat like a weird helter skelter lollypop but we can plant things underneath it and make it look less like something out of Dr Seuss. We then decided to tackle an area of the garden that I doubt dad had ever bothered to deal with. It was absolutely cram packed full of blackberries, Periwinkle, dead shrubs and trees and a massive tangle of dodder (a native mistletoe species) that was threatening to take over the entire area. In the process we found a nest with 4 eggs in it. Speckled Bob (one of our original hens) had been felled out of her last nest by Steve dropping a tree right where she used to lay her eggs and had only just made this nest and it was plundered. We know it was Bob because she headed straight to the nest and looked into it to check her eggs were still there thus allowing us to spot the culprit! Steve pruned the trees in the area and crown lifted as we proceeded and I waded in with my trusty secateurs and dealt with the blackberry invasion. They were none too happy with my efforts and despite vanquishing my arch nemesis (for now…) I am covered in blackberry bites…so much so that the mosquitoes left me alone last night as they couldn’t find a bit of me that hadn’t already been punctured.

It’s Good Friday today as I type out this bit of my post and last night, after working hard in the garden and being almost incapable of moving due to extreme fatigue, I set myself the task of making hot cross buns for the occasion. We don’t like shop bought hot cross buns. They always let you down by being stale and tasteless and so last year we made our own. Mum was here at the time and we set about making what ended up being stodgy and heavy buns that although Steve and mum ate them stoically, I just knew that they were being polite when they muttered encouraging words about them. As someone who earned her living from cooking before we moved here I figured I could do better and so last night, scratched, knackered and resilient I set about melding 2 recipes that I had found to make 1 successful recipe and hopefully at least a few buns that would be edible and in fact, tasty, today. I made the dough and set it to prove and then noticed that the buns took 12 hours to rise! It was 6pm at the time and so I decided to form the buns into their bunescent shape, put them onto a buttered baking tray and after buttering the tops of the buns, slid the entire kit and caboodle into a massive big black garbage bag (sans garbage) and shoved them into the fridge till today. I got up early this morning and removed the bag of buns from the fridge and put it up on the bread warmer to sit while we walked the dogs. When we got back I made up the cross mix and did my best to put the crosses on and we then cooked them on the bbq (our old work-horse oven that we used for a year when we first moved here and the stove was broken). Steve, and the dogs, pronounced them delicious and light and fruity and full of flavour which made me very happy. Sorry I couldn’t give you light fluffy hot cross buns when you were here mum but I dare say you are smiling wherever you are that I at least got to make 1 batch well :o)

Here we have our newly crossed buns after they emerged from their enormous black garbage bag to be baked in the outside bbq because it was early and we couldn’t be bothered lighting the fire…

Here they are, fresh out of the bbq (oven?) and glazed with a tasty mix of brown sugar and jam melted in a saucepan (Simon Rimmer style)

The proof is in the eating and these babies were delicious! Full of cinnamon, ground ginger, cardamom and ground cloves (who would remember to buy mixed spice when it was coming up to Easter?) they were a very interesting mix of whatever “sweet spice” I had in the cupboard. Steve had some toasted today and apart from me forgetting a batch and setting off the fire alarm they were, apparently, delicious!

We walked the dogs in Beaconsfield the other day and I collected a lot of fallen walnuts from a Juglans regia tree. My motto is “Waste not want not” and as no-one was collecting these fallen nuts I decided to take avail of their tasty neglect and they are now stratifying in peat in the shed ready to spring to life (hopefully) in spring. I also collected some lovely ripe figs that I had for my lunch later on. Nothing like figs picked perfectly ripe from the tree to make you know the full meaning of happiness. I had to wonder if the pairing for figs and walnuts was merely a culinary thing as they are both ripe at the same time so that would make them seasonally available at the same time as well. I managed to collect some more walnuts (also regia) from another tree on our walk around Bonnie Beach yesterday so we have a decent representation of local specimens of walnut so hopefully choosing nuts from trees growing well in the local area I will get a good germination rate and they will be adapted to the local growing conditions. We also collected some Washington Hawthorn berries to stratify and grow as well. They have really beautiful autumn colouration and edible berries and massive thorns making them a really good choice for using for hedging around Serendipity Farm. The native birds will love them for habitat and for food. The specimen that we got the seed grew from seed spread by birds so it shouldn’t be all that hard to get ours to grow. We can also take cuttings (hard and semi-ripe) in winter and summer respectively. With our hard work in the garden, Steve and I are both starting to get a bit of hope that we can make this garden ours.

I celebrate Easter in my own way. Steve was looking up why Easter is at different times every year. This came about because Easter fell on April 24th last year and this year it is April 8th…that is quite a variance! It turns out it is to do with the Vernal (lunar) equinox and that it is all about plastering religious ceremonies over the top of pagan ceremonies. Easter, Eostre, oestrus Esther and symbolic fertility all linked to the moon and tangled into each other in a melding of religious beliefs. I actually believe that Jesus died for humanity. I also believe that he rose from the dead. That is about where my actual beliefs veer massively from those of most common religious teachings. My dad was an atheist and mum was “Church of England” whatever that meant to mum I don’t know as we were never privy to her understanding of “church” in any way other than a vague need to adhere to it’s guidelines. My aunty used to drop by and pick my sister and I up to take us to Sunday school and we both fell into attending church. We had some interesting times and far from falling away from God, he has always been part of my life. I look back on my earlier understanding and cringe. Church isn’t where God is, he is everywhere and in everything. I once explained my concept of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to my daughters. I need to explain here that none of my children are mindless vacuous shallow creatures and every single one of them has an excellent brain that they occasionally use when promoted. They all have some very interesting ideas about “things” in general and after I explained my concept my 2 girls both told me that I was mad and most probably would be stoned by the members of the Auld Kirk church for my beliefs. I guess my children are not the only unconventional thinkers in our family! I don’t think it’s all that hard to digest, but it has taken me a fair while to arrive at this point and I have had to sift through a fair amount of life and literature to get to where I am happy to be. Whatever you believe let Easter be a time of contemplation, gratefulness and thankfulness for your life and everything that you have and are.

We left Earl and Bezial on the deck watching us as we worked in the garden. Earl likes to keep us guessing and has a most chaotic way of acting so that he just lures us into thinking that he is a “good dog” and suddenly he strikes like a canine viper. Earl mastered table jumping at an Olympic level not so long ago and so we really should have been more sensible leaving things on the table when we headed out to work in the garden for hours on end. Steve headed up to the house yesterday to get us a cold drink and noticed Earl eating something on the floor. Earl was halfway through chewing and digesting his large leather collar that we had bought from a man at the markets especially for him. He had eaten past the tightest hole on his “Shackles of oppression” and there was no point in attempting to remove the collar from him as he had done his worst with it and rendered it useless. Earl is going to have to wear a large black heavily studded collar that we used to have for Bezial until we realised the effect that it had on passers-by when we walked him. Earl had not only eaten his Shackles of oppression, but he had sampled a walnut (only 1) and found it lacking. He had selected a walnut, cracked it and had a taste of the nut and the remains were left on the rug under the table which is where Earl strews his spoils of war (and their remains). I guess we were very lucky that he didn’t decide to eat Steve’s new mobile phone, but perhaps he was warming up to tackling it. Luckily we will never know because Steve arrived to stop him from sampling anything else on the table.

I have been doing online surveys for a few years now. I started off with 1 group in answer to a referral from my son (for which he got 200 points) and just kept going. I am now doing surveys for 4 survey groups and have received $170 up until now for my efforts. I just got $140 of gift cards in the mail from one of my survey groups and have $130 to be claimed in another group. It’s actually good to be able to have a say in consumer goods manufacture and make my opinion heard whilst gaining some kind of reward for my efforts. I am going to stop dealing with one group because they make it incredibly hard to claim rewards whereas the other groups are much easier to deal with. Here’s a shot of my latest haul and also of what I am going to spend $100 (the Bunning’s vouchers) on.

Here’s my “winnings” from my reward surveys

And we are going to buy one of these D.I.Y. 3 spotlights for the lounge room with the Bunnings cards. Gotta love the barter system eh? I give them every tiny little bit of information about myself including my underpants size and they give me a loungeroom light a win-win situation!

I had to pay the library $1 for an overdue book on Wednesday. I hate forgetting to take library books back to the library and incurring fees and most begrudgingly paid the library the money in 5c pieces. It’s MY protest and I can be as petty as I like thank you very much! I picked up my next book from Mary Anne Schaffer’s list and it is going to be a doozie of a book to read by the look of it. It is called “Covenant with Death” by John Harris and is “the tremendous story that traces the fate of one battalion of men from the time they obeyed Kitchener’s pointing finger until the morning they ‘climbed over the top’ to meet their baptism of fire – and death”. Ok, so that is pretty intense isn’t it! I am a sooky la-la (thanks for that Kym, it suits me down to the ground :o) when it comes to things like that and couldn’t bring myself to watch the final episode of Black Adder thanks to it being about just this topic. I took back my copy of “Under the Tuscan Sun” due to its boring, shallow and most uninspiring of content even though I had been waiting for it for months and ended up coercing the librarian into ordering the large print copy for me. Nothing is worse than anticipating a great read and being sorely let down. I am still waiting on Flaubert’s parrot to arrive. I was assured by T.A.L.I.S. (online library site) that it was “in transit” on Tuesday which meant that it should have been there on Wednesday to pick up but it wasn’t so I guess I am meant to read “Covenant with Death” at this point in time. How coincidental that I am to read this just before ANZAC Day eh? I am obviously meant to be digesting this book while I remember the lives that were senselessly lost to humanities need to elevate themselves to a position of power above the masses. What a total waste of life that we most certainly didn’t learn enough from. I am really starting to get a feeling for what made Mary Anne Schaffer tick and what moved her and filled her with compassion and the desire to put pen to paper. Each one of these “favourite books” that I read gives me a little taste of what she felt when she read them. Apart from 1 shameless romance novel and one that I can’t get because it isn’t in the library thanks to being banned because it explained how to make a bomb, the majority of books on her list are soul feeding comfort food that are leaving an indelible mark on me as much as they apparently did on her. My favourite to date has been Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I loved this book and I loved how it was written and can’t wait to get stuck into my secondary list (other books by the authors that I enjoyed from the initial list…I LOVE my lists ;o) when I can read the rest of Louis de Bernieres no doubt wonderful books. If you like to read,  this man is a true story teller.

We have been “Flat out like a lizard drinking” (a little tip of my hat to our Forefathers colloquialisms… in fact forget forefathers, my father was a great one for colloquialisms “stone the crows!”…”Stiffen the bandicoots!”) This week and I have had to really drag myself tiredly to the computer to tap out these faint pathetic utterings this week. So tired…so little sleep thanks to Earl shoving us off the bed most nights and acting as a thermo-nuclear heat device. We have done so much this week that I can’t even begin to fathom it all and I love it! I haven’t had time to miss sitting about doing nothing because we have been busy cleaning out forgotten corners of Serendipity Farm and tackling the big issues rather than sliding them under the mat for another year. We have actually effected change this week and I am so very proud of we two penniless hippies for our dedication in crawling out of bed each morning to walk the dogs and iron out our spines as we walk from the day befores hard slog. Hard work is addictive. We had a day off and I wanted to get back outside and into changing our vista. We did heaps today as well but I am going to use what we did today to start next week’s blog. I don’t think I have room for any more photos do you? Have a fantastic week this week and remember not to sweat the small stuff that’s what we are doing so you may as well put your feet up and enjoy the sweat free ride!

TIMBER and fire futures

Hi All,

First I want to talk to you all about something…many of you may have noticed that my posts occasionally appear to have been written in the past and then suddenly you will see a bit added that is somewhat random and may not have much to do with the post in general. Let’s just say for curiosities sake that I have invented a Serendipity Farm time machine. I have put flux capacitors, twiddley knobs and all sorts of weird and wonderful hoozamagigs that I am not going to explain because hey…I might want to manufacture them and make a bit of pocket money at some time in the future. Just a little aside here…it would be a good thing if we keep this little secret between ourselves because otherwise I may suddenly “disappear” and not be posting any more (courtesy of the C.I.A. or some other “interested party”…). Back to the time machine. Now this thing DOESN’T run on plutonium by the way…apart from me not having a ready access to it and having no idea how to manufacture it from raw materials (nor in fact having any desire to do so as I was born with a brain…) it is being run on an entirely sustainable and renewable source of energy (let’s say something along the line of Tesla coils…) and that I am able to hop my posts from one day back and then forwards and that I take avail of this sometimes. Let’s just say that because it is a whole lot more interesting and romantic and gung-ho than the actual truth and for the sake of your sanity (and I would probably have to kill you if you found out…) you just accept that OK? There…that wasn’t so hard was it? A suspension of disbelief is all that it takes…you all watch television don’t you? All of that was to lead into me spending the morning of Monday doing manly things with Steve. No…I wasn’t spending “Labour Day” drinking beer in the shed, scratching my private parts and watching football…I was out doing some hard physical labour and toting logs while Steve cut them up with the chainsaw and then split them with the log splitter. And before you say ANYTHING about how come I am talking about Monday and it is actually Saturday? Remember… the time machine… (Wink wink…)

I had been up for just over an hour before I took this shot of the sunrise…what am I going to do when daylight savings stops next month?!

An early morning lumberjack with his challenge

As you can see these trunks are right next to my compost bin and Pingu’s house…

Steve has already cut his tree on the other side and is now cutting his wedge hole

Sorry these are dark but I was hiding behind a tree MILES away from this and zooming in for you to see…this is the wedge cut

Steve is using his block splitter to knock a wedge shaped bit of wood into the chainsaw cut. He has already cut the front of the tree and now he is tapping the wedge into this cut to slowly tip the tree where he wants it to go

TIMBER!

Now I have been trying to stall this tree felling event for a while now. I am a natural worry wart and Steve is a natural gung-ho manly man who likes to get stuck in before he engages his brain sometimes. After having a chat with some manly friends who both said “Piece of piss”…which is a masculine Aussie colloquialism for “Easy peasy” with regards to chopping down the 2 smallish trees and with everyone scorning my obvious “girly” fears, Steve was able to isolate an actual date (Labour Day) to get me to assist him in cutting down these trees. When I say “assist”, what I mean is hide behind a VERY large tree as far away from the actual event as possible taking pictures. Just another quick note here…we don’t recommend that anyone do this with the minimal safety equipment that Steve had on. Get yourself some good safety gear before you do this but for today’s little effort, Steve decided to go nude… (Sigh…). Both Steve and I have undertaken and completed our chainsaw licenses through our Certificate 3 in Horticulture and both of us know about tension, compression and how to read wood. In saying that these trees were a very easy and predictable drop and they were both stone dead. I would never allow Steve to cut down live trees because they are totally unpredictable with how they are going to react. Wait till they die and THEN cut them down :o). Ok, now all of that safety (or lack therein) has been discussed let’s get down to what we did. I took lots of pictures but as it was pretty early (7.30am) some of them are quite dark. Because I was being a sooky la-la and hiding behind a large tree the stupid flash kept going off and making the picture even darker so you will have to bear with me, but here is the progression as it happened…(oops…maybe I should have put the first 7 photos here…but you get my drift…)

The Lumberjack is fashioning himself a rudimentary chopping block (I feel like David Attenborough doing a commentary…)

It looks like Steve is gesticulating at me in a most Italian and derogative way but it’s just my early morning photography…I am not all that good at the best of times but this is BEFORE my first cuppa and I can’t be held responsible for my actions

Now it’s time for the second, smaller trunk to be felled. By now I was more blase about Steve’s abilities and was only half a mile away (but still behind a tree…it doesn’t pay to get TOO cocksure…)

Hey…I actually got this one falling! Action shot (another tick from my “must do before” list…)

Admiring a job well done…not a single tap was flattened…no hens fell in the wayside and Pingu is entirely 3 dimensional and the compost bin lives to feed the possums another day

Ok that was a lot of photographic documentation and I am tired and need to head off to get a cup of tea now after all of that exertion… ok, back now and ready to tackle the rest of this post. We have a wood burning stove that doubles as a hot water system in winter and that requires regular food or it doesn’t work. A pretty simple concept and something that we are well aware of. My “trick knee” has been telling me that winter is going to be a hard one this year. Our elderly neighbour Glad told us that you could tell how hard a winter was going to be by the brightness of the cotoneaster berries. They are flame red this year so perhaps they are trying to tell us something. Never let it be said that I ignore nature’s signs because I have most definitely learned to do so at my own peril. I figure we are due for a very cold dry winter and as such we are going to need enough firewood to keep the stove operating effectively for the winter and most probably up to about October when it starts to warm up a bit and the last frosts occur. Over winter I use the wood stove extensively for drying clothes in front of, heating the entire house, cooking all sorts of amazing things and lots of staple foods like bread and for heating our hot water. It is very efficient and doesn’t need an incredible amount of wood to heat up the top plate and the water so if we don’t need to cook anything in the ovens we only need to keep it “ticking over” and we use very little wood in the process. We are learning all about this old way to cook and by the end of this year we should have a good handle on just what it takes to get our stove to do what we want it to do. There are all sorts of knobs and things on the stove to open and close flu’s and to direct heat all over the place. Steve, being the technology genius, has taken it on himself to “learn the ways” of the stove. I hope he teaches me because apart from being good at lighting fires (past life) I have no idea about how to get this baby working well.

This is how close those trunks were to my compost bin…

Steve and I have both commented that there is an optical illusion going on in this photo. The area where these trees fell is nowhere NEAR as big as it looks in this photo. Lots of delicious wood for warm cosy fires in the freezing cold winter so I can wear tee-shirts when it is stormy outside

The hens were all going ballistic to be let out before Steve started up the chainsaw. Chainsaws = grubs so the hens weren’t particularly upset when he started it up but as soon as he started to use it on the tree they all took off inside their coop. Here they are coming out very VERY slowly to look at the carnage…

It doesn’t take our courageous girls long to get curious and come out to see what is going on

Here is what the fallen sentinels looked like from the deck (Note we haven’t planted out the Claret Ash yet Nat…we did learn at least 1 thing from James…that was plant in the autumn…

Most of you will be aware that Steve recently had a haircut. His hair was previously pretty long for him and had been dyed blond a long time ago and gave him a decidedly gypsy swashbuckling look. Once he got his hair cut he looked like a different man. He had said that he wasn’t going to get his hair cut until we finished everything that we were going to do on Serendipity Farm. Once he realised that his hair was going to tangle up on a daily basis (welcome to my world!) and that he was going to have to brush it (shock horror!) and that we are most probably going to be working on getting Serendipity Farm “finished” for the rest of our lives he decided to bite the bullet and get it cut. Now that he has had it cut it needs to stay cut and with our frugal life I told him that I was going to cut his hair…here is what he thought of that…

And this is how happy he was when I told him that I was only joking…

I decided today that I am going to only post once a week now. I figure that familiarity breeds a bit of contempt. With our studies taking up more of our time and with our newfound efforts in the garden at Serendipity Farm we have a lot less time to do what I have been doing for 8 weeks over the holidays. I love posting for the blog but am starting to find that my posts are starting to contain very similar things. I started the blog as a way to keep in the loop with family and friends interstate and I think that my daily long posts appear to have been doing the opposite thing to keeping in touch. I get the sneaking suspicion that some of my “constant readers” are not reading many of my posts. I know how easy it is to hit “delete” when my inbox is too full in the mornings and I don’t want Serendipity Farm to become something that is easy to delete. I look forwards to my weekly posts from some of my blog subscriptions and think that a week on Serendipity Farm will yield a much rounder and more fulfilling post for you all to read. I haven’t run out of words I just want to remain relevant to family and friends and be something that they look forward to receiving so you will get a post from Serendipity Farm on the weekends now. It will contain everything that we have done through the week and lots of photos to describe it. Today we will be taking out another tree and no doubt that will be in next week’s post. This will be my final daily post for Serendipity Farm. The time that I spend here typing out posts I will pour straight back into the garden. Steve and I have a renewed energy and drive to get stuck into the garden now that the weather is cooler and we can burn some of the piles of debris that are littering the landscape.  Our new study course is also giving us a lot of impetus towards directing our efforts into our sustainable future here on Serendipity Farm. When you are trying to set up a permaculture based sustainable lifestyle for yourself the initial processes are the hardest and we figure we had best get stuck in now and make it happen. With our trusty Earl nibbled pig skin copy of “Creating a Forest Garden” in hand and a new appreciation of looking at small chunks and dealing with them on a regular basis rather than being overwhelmed by the big picture, we are going to affect change here and when spring gets here we will be ready for it. That doesn’t mean that I won’t allow myself the odd intermittent post…I am somewhat addicted to posting and it is a bit like when your children leave home (or live in one of your homes away from you…) and suddenly you miss the little buggers so don’t be surprised if you get the odd mid-week post to salve my need to type or I might have to channel it all into a book somewhere. We are noticing small trees growing where we have cut the grass consistently in the back paddocks and left it lying on the ground to act as mulch. We are seeing native heath flowering, wallabies visiting and are starting to think about how we can redirect the massive problem of storm water that thunders down our steep sloping block to our advantage. The more we learn the more excited we get about being able to apply these principles to our own situation. Steve whipper snipped the teatree garden area yesterday. Prior to our arrival on Serendipity Farm just on 16 months ago the area was covered in forget-me-nots up to our knees and a massive invasion of Periwinkle (Vinca major) that was taking advantage of a series of fallen spindly teatree (Melaleuca alternifolia) to climb out of the sea of forget-me-nots and reign supreme over the invading hoards. The whole area was a sea of blue and purple and whenever anyone walked through this area they emerged out the other side covered in sticky forget-me-not seeds and usually after at least one trip incident thanks to the tangle of thin Vinca stems. We have been pretty consistent with whipper snipping this area. We wanted it to return to a state where native wildflowers could return and native grasses and we are starting to see that since the competition from the exotic weed species has been reduced, the native plants are starting to return let’s just call this a short term seral community thanks to nature and her never-ending desire to reach equilibrium.  It’s an exciting time for us here and with renewed energy and a desire to get “stuck in” we should be able to really make a difference over the coming autumnal period and into winter on Serendipity Farm. We have quite a few overgrown shrubs and small trees to tackle and while the weather is conducive to working outside and the trees start to lose their leaves and return to a dormant stage it is the perfect time for remedial work and removal of dead, diseased, dying, deformed and in our case “demented” foliage, branches and most probably entire shrubs that have overgrown exponentially and are trying to move to Glad’s place next door by osmosis.

If you look REALLY hard up against the side of the shed you might be able to see, just behind that blue tarpaulin, our first stack of wood that we cut

We found Effel Doocark’s nest! It wasn’t easy as she is a crafty old minx but she made the mistake of revealing herself at lunch time yesterday just after we had taken a break from our studies and were tossing a bit of bread to Pingu over the deck railing when I noticed her amongst the bread scoffers. She has been sighted over the last week and then almost immediately she disappears without a trace. We decided that we were going to follow her the next time that we saw her and thus began the saga of the Doocark hunt. Our prey was a worthy opponent. She knew almost instantly that she had been spotted and set about a most impressive array of defensive action based on subterfuge and decoy. She waited until she thought that I wasn’t looking (my covert mother ability to look out of the corner of my eye when I was staring straight ahead didn’t let me down) and as soon as she started running off in her hilarious hen gate down the pathway leading to the area of garden where we had suspected her of bunkering down I alerted Steve who was hiding on the bottom step of the deck stairs. He took off after the crafty old minx who was rapidly receding into the distance and she suddenly veered off to the left which is most definitely NOT where we thought that she would be nesting. On inspection Steve discovered that she was employing guerrilla tactics and was attempting to divert our attention away from the true direction that she wanted to take (the crafty old hen!) and he spent the next 20 minutes sneaking from large agapanthus clump to agapanthus clump to disguise his presence. Effel kept spotting him and taking evasive action but eventually her need to get back to those rapidly cooling eggs took over from her desire to evade and she ran full pelt back to a massive clump of overgrown driveway lining agapanthus right near the gate at the front of the property! Steve lost her then and was just about to come up and admit defeat, whilst isolating where she might be, he hadn’t managed to spot her from that point and so I came down and we set about Effel isolating in earnest. We got a couple of old teatree branches and started to lift up the agapanthus fronds and poke around inside them. They are most interesting things when they have been stuck in the same place for years and small ones grow on top of larger ones with long aerial roots draping to the ground and in amongst one of these ancient monsters Effel was sitting as still as a statue. She never moved once even when she knew that she was rumbled. That wily old hen had led Steve a merry dance for 30 minutes all over Serendipity Farm and so we decided that she deserved her peace and quiet and pretended not to have noticed her and headed off elsewhere. Effel must make that long upwards (our driveway is very steep and is enough to deliver a mild dose of “winding” to anyone unfit and overenthusiastic enough to climb it quickly) journey at a full run (because that is the only way that Effel knows how) to get a drink and some food because there are no food or water sources anywhere near where she has nested (apart from the Tamar River). What a brave old girls she is and how tenacious is her need to find somewhere away from any predator’s and despite her giving us nothing but jip I totally admire the old girl. I might even take her a bowl of water and a scoop full of seed down to the bottom of the driveway today to reward her for her tenacity. Here is a little newsflash courtesy of that Serendipity Farm time machine that I am able to use to go back and forth in my posts. When taking some grain down today to Effel, we heard squeaking and managed to count 6 babies. It is so cold today that we decided to rehouse Effel in the shed with her babies, knowing what a bad mum she is and not wanting any of the poor little things to perish in the cold down next to the gate right next to the Tamar River and the wind. We can see that we have a few little blue Wyandotte’s like their mum in the group and when we got the dog carrier that Earl arrived in and headed down to collect Effel and her babies we found not 6…not 7 but 12 babies! Effel and her babies are now safely ensconced in Pingu’s old cage in the shed until Effel’s babies are big enough to survive curious cats (about 2 weeks old) and “the masses” (as we shall call them until they start to be more than fluff balls and develop a bit of character…that is apart from “Owl face” who Steve has already named). We give away 7 hens and we gain 12 babies…No wonder we are overrun with chooks and are only able to find 1 egg a day at the moment…the hens are taking advantage of the 4 acres of overgrown shrubs, trees and massively invasive weed species to tunnel themselves impregnable fortresses. I have noticed that every single nest that we find has been situated right in the middle of a blackberry bush. Now that there are 3 roosters crowing on Serendipity Farm and they show no sign of attempting to destabilise the existing governor (Big Yin) they are taking their harems to various different areas on Serendipity Farm and setting up all sorts of covertly created nests. The hen problem is rapidly approaching the feral cat problem, indeed one day the hens might just deal with the cats for us as there won’t be any room left out there in the jungle for the cats to live in.

That’s a bit easier to see isn’t it? That cage covered with the blue tarpaulin was where Pingu lived for a while when Earl broke her leg. She is now living in the old duck enclosure most happily in transition between this cage and moving in with the rest before winter. The cage shown here is now cram packed full of Effel and 12 little blue wyandotte fluffballs…the cutest little things that you ever saw. Notice the hens in the background pecking insects (mainly termites) off the wood that we cut from our felled trees. Sustainable living involves using nature to clear out your pest species. Our hens scoff their weight in insect life every day and if they EVER let us know where they are laying eggs, they will just about pay for themselves on Serendipity Farm…Steve did find a nest with 17 eggs in it (thank GOODNESS Houdini didn’t decide to sit on that one!) the other day and Effel had 14 eggs (all hers) all up in her nest so there are some enormous clutches of eggs around here…

Here is our pile when we chainsawed a few more logs to top the pile up. This pile is now safely in the wood shed up behind the house that used to be the boat shed. We are saving up our wood futures and just like Fry said from Futurama…

Fry:  It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long the  grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter while the octopus mooched off his  girlfriend and watched TV. Then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and  the octopus ate all his acorns and also he got a racecar. Is any of this getting  through to you?”

I am sure that there is some sort of lesson in there for you lazy bollocks feeding from the grid while we slave for our wood, but I am starting to think that perhaps Fry might be right!

Steve was going to make a chair but decided to make himself a nice chopping block from these stumps and I dare say they will be well used by the possums climbing into my compost bin…

We are off now to cut down the first of 3 trees that need to be removed from the garden in front of the house. I realise that we may be taking habitat from wildlife but if any of these trees fall they will be taking OUR habitat and so it is survival of the fittest at the moment and we have to remove these old dead trees before nature and winter do it for us. Now that we know that Effel isn’t ensconced in the blackberries where we are going to fell these trees (yes we are WELL aware that felling trees into blackberries might result in difficulties later on when we need to log these trees but this is the lesser of all of our considered evils as anywhere else would result in massive flattening of existing shrubs) we can drop them with impunity. 1 of the trees will fall into the jungle area that we haven’t dealt with yet. Hopefully none of the feral cats are hunting birds in there when we drop the tree…

Note the hens have gone from being somewhat scared of the chainsaw to totally ignoring it because it is the heralder (if there is such a word) of delicious insects and even when we have cut up our logs, we still have limbwood (in the foreground) and kindling wood to cut up…nothing is wasted in our trees

Steve wanted me to take a couple of pictures of his shed for him. He tidied it up the other day and it won’t stay in this state for long (indeed Effel and her 12 babies are making short shift of the ‘nice and neat’ and rendering it ‘hay filled and smelly’) and he wanted it documented for posterity and where better to put something for posterity but a post? (Yeh I KNOW that was lame…I would say punny, but you can have your own opinion on that)

Here is the last of the numerous photos for the day. Steve’s shed was still tidy and Effel free…We had yet to load all of that wood into the trailer and take it up to the wood shed and unload it and I wasn’t full of soup like I am now  (lets just stop while I am ahead)

I forgot to add a site to one of my posts in the last few days (too many words in my head and my muse is Billy Connelly…) and because we are finding all sorts of really valuable websites and databases about water wise xeriscape plants I would like to actually share this one with you. It’s no fun living somewhere where the sun kills EVERYTHING that you plant out and that water is something you actually have to think about. I would imagine that some inland areas of Australia are right up there with the Kalahari desert and the dry canyons in America but there is ALWAYS a solution people…you just have to think outside the local nursery box. Sometimes you might have to buy some seed and grow your own (like we do) if you want something that the local nursery selling bog standard phormiums, pittosporums and cordylines haven’t even heard of let alone stock. Don’t you love how anyone these days thinks that they can run a nursery? The same problem exists with Health Food Shops.  Here is a great Australian website and sorry to all of you wonderful readers elsewhere in our big beautiful world but you are just about to find out how WE feel whenever we hunt for information pertinent to what we are interested in and have to wade through all sorts of mental arithmetic involving seasons (you are the reverse of US not of you by the way…) Here it is… we are using it to compile a basic list of plants that are pretty much guaranteed to grow in our local conditions. If you look hard enough you will notice that these plants are even trademarked and so you may even be able to communicate with your local nursery because they may have a book “somewhere” with these little babies listed…now you just have to use hand signals to get them to understand what you want…

http://www.floraforfauna.com.au/

It’s a little bittersweet to sign off now for the first time where I am not almost immediately thinking about my next post. Hopefully the quality and content of my weekly posts will make up for them not being every day and that all of you dear constant readers will be able to settle down on the weekend to a nice long letter “from home” over a cup of tea and some toast. See you all next Sunday morning (Aussies) as I will be posting the post on Saturday night. I am off to help Steve cut up the tree that he just felled…but that, my dears, is another story…