The amazing adventures of Frances Fennel Pants and Co.

Hi All,

I don’t think I own a pair of pants that don’t smell of some form of strong vegetation. The reason behind the olfactory enhancement of my derrière pockets is because whenever we walk the dogs (and that would be a daily event) I tend to find some seed pod or other to shove into my back pocket along with the various rocks, bits of shiny river tumbled glass and old pottery shards that I collect on our travels. My latest foray into the world of hardy bee and butterfly forage plants is fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). I have been collecting seed as it ripens along with Queen Anne’s lace and I am looking for a source of Jerusalem artichokes, canna lilies and day lilies to add to my extreme hardy Zone 4 collection. I want plants that will survive anything that comes, that are hardy, tough, waterwise, can stand a drenching and that will attract beneficials to Serendipity Farm and have a degree of edibility about them. The only one from the list I wouldn’t eat anything from is Queen Anne’s Lace but I dare say that it has some form of medicinal qualities (I just haven’t had time to look it up yet). We got an envelope of Angelica Sylvester ‘Purpurea’ from Karen at Wychwood (to see some of this amazing garden check here… http://wychwoodtasmania.com/?page_id=4 ) yesterday to share with our friend in the witness protection. We are going to grow and plant out elderberries (Sambucus Canadensis) and various other fast growing extremely hardy plants (including the loquats that the wallabies sampled to within an inch of their lives recently). I learned a lesson about gardening over the course of the summer. I let one set of garden beds go nuts. The tomatoes did whatever they liked, fell over, lay on the ground, covered EVERYTHING and I let the chook wheat grow on the hay that I spread over the garden. It’s like a jungle in that side of the garden but a very productive one that requires half as much water as the carefully tended sparser series of veggie gardens on the other side. Mass planting really does work! I have some serious hunting to do over the next few months for hay bales, hardy edible groundcovers, vines, perennials, annuals and shrubs. We have some serious tree planting ahead of us including sweet chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, figs, avocados, Brachychitons and now a small mango that has grown in our new compost heap from a seed that I tossed in wondering if it might grow. It’s amazing what will grow if you give it a chance.

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I have shamefully resorted to posting photo’s from my archives in order to give you enough to look at today. We have been flat out studying, making sourdough carrot cakes and baking quiche and the time got away from us. This is a homemade Thai green curry chicken pie, one of 4 that Steve enjoyed over the course of a couple of days

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Another shameless photo from the archives, this time of potato wedges that went with one of those delicious Thai green curry chicken pies

Its 6.02am and I am listening to the ethereal sounds of Miles Davis playing the trumpet and doing my own little social experiment on myself. Steve has been doing a social experiment on Facebook but sometimes I really don’t know where my dear husbands mind goes…I just let it go, it’s his to direct and some of the weird and wonderful posters he is posting boggle the mind…who knows what they say (most of them are in Russian) but it makes him happy to be making his statement (whatever that is…) so go for it I say :o). This little personal experimentation of my own involves me, good music and my days. I am attempting to see if it really is true that what you put into yourself forms you. I am hoping that this gorgeous soul uplifting music is going to give me back a degree of mellowness without the need to partake of the pharmacy of the multitudes. I figure I am overdue a script for “mellowness” and aside from learning how to meditate which strikes me as altogether a bit of an adventure laterally that I just don’t fancy at this moment in time, where multitasking as I tap away here posting, or finding recipes or information seems completely within the boundaries of my current thought processes…no stepping outside my comfort zone to toss Miles Davis Sketches of Spain into my brain, mainlining those castanets as we speak… I am exploring the difference that adding good music (obviously a completely subjective thing to explore and everyone has a different idea of what is “good”…) to my life in early morning doses. Yesterday I floated down the road behind Earl after spending a very pleasant morning listening to 3 CD’s and today I took my cue from a post found inside another post on a blog I don’t even follow (well I do now!) that recommended someone called Chet Baker and I had a bit of a listen and after a bit I decided to switch to Miles Davis…glad I did :o)… (Are those castanets or crickets Miles? Miles the maestro perfectionist may just be able to mesmerise crickets to do his bidding! 😉 ) Life is all about little experiments (well mine is) where conscious efforts blend with subconscious to give added meaning and precious nuance to where I am here and now “today”. It’s so easy to get lost in processes and not really experience the moment (like dogs apparently do according to our Dorg Wheesperer Caesar Milan…) and I am LOVING this moment. I have never actually listened to Miles Davis…I KNOW! Where have I been for 49 years?

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This is the last of the poached photos from the annuls of my saved photos for today. I always have a few spare shots up my sleeve and they languish in folders till I forget to take enough photos and you end up with them. I think this meal is about 6 months old and consists of home grown rooster ground up into chicken patties served with Asian style coconut curry rice and veggies. It was quick, tasty (according to Steve) and made the most of last years roosters 🙂

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This was taken on St Patrick’s Day of one of my breakfast smoothies. I figured it was particularly fitting to have a green smoothie on St. Patricks Day 😉

I had to switch RSS feed readers yesterday. I know…my early morning life revolves around my rss feed read so obviously I was a bit twitchy to say the least when Google decided to notify me via a small box in the middle of the page saying “We are taking away your early mornings…forget about suing us because we are SO AMAZINGLY HUGE that you are merely nothing in our eyes. So long and thanks for nothing you freeloading hippy…” well, maybe in not so many words but it struck panic into my comfortable early morning routine and as soon as Steve was awake I requested an instant transition over to someplace safe, equally as good and most importantly “Free”… Steve on the case is soothing. Steve on the case is happiness and Steve got on the case and found me a new and most amazing RSS feed reader that does it all with whistles and bells in a MUCH better way than Google did and even better…it simultaneously syncs with Google reader to poach all of my feeds so I don’t have to worry about July 1st arriving and losing all of my 498 blogs that I follow…how delicious it feels to stick it to Google? Not that they care…just another faceless penniless plebeian hippy off their existential books that they don’t have to drag around their profit mongering megalith of a corporation (does anyone get the feeling that I am a bit “pissed” at Google?) anymore… I love my new feed reader already and this is amazing considering I took a year to write my first blog post because I twitched whenever I thought about the technicalities of using a blog. This sucker does it all…no more opening up other pages or trying to scroll down in blogs, it’s the bomb and it’s MUCH BETTER THAN GOOGLE READER! I might even tag it as such…”Better than Google Reader” let’s see how much traffic from hyped up angry hippies I get for THIS post eh? When a corporation gets so big that it doesn’t have to care about projecting a positive image of itself anymore and it can do whatever it likes whenever it likes without considering its users it becomes a very scary corporation… you just elevated yourself to the level of Monsanto Google…

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I shared with you a while ago about the Chinese owned orchard that they have abandoned to its fate and that was prior to this year a well watered orchard. It got no water this year and I would estimate 80% of the trees are dead. This is what they look like…

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Do these cherry trees look alive to you? Me neither…what a waste. Our government should demand that foreign owned interests are able to maintain the arable farming land that they purchase prior to the sale. This is a prime example of greedy foreign interests taking everything that they could from the land and then discarding it when it required work. The trees haven’t been pruned since they took over, the grass hasn’t been mowed and the tiny skeleton crew of Chinese people shipped in to harvest and sell the fruit were completely overwhelmed by the task at hand.

Anyone out there ever made coconut jam? I just found a recipe for it and am going to make it as an alternative to regular sugar. I am going to make some date paste today because I have been using dates in my green morning smoothies and they deliver a subtle hint of caramel sweetness and I figure that a paste would be easy to shleck into the VitaMix goblet rather than cutting the dates up finely so that I don’t have to whizz everything around for so long that it melts my ice. I am thinking about what I am going to substitute for my morning green smoothie in winter. I might keep it going but I doubt I will be adding ice! Maybe congee? I love Korean food and might go hunting for some delicious vegan preparations. This winter is going to be so different to last winter. I have my early morning habits and Brunhilda and I will be able to wake up together and start our days long before the sun rises. I also have my newfound dedication to music…currently Kenny Burrell and the longest version of “Summertime” I have ever heard but am delighting in every single note :o)…every addict indulges themselves by jumping fully clothed into the fount of their new found addiction so you are going to have to indulge me for a little while here till the novelty wears off (if it ever, indeed, does! 😉 ).

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Guy is trying to cut a hook from this poor Southern Right Gull’s foot. It got caught in a fishing net and was noticed by a local and Steve and Guy went to the rescue in The Mumbly Cumumbus…

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I don’t think the gull liked Guy hanging it upside down…check out the next shot…

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Take a close look at where the birds beak is now and guess what he did to Guy just after this shot was taken 😉

Steve is off rescuing pelicans. The other day we were walking the dogs and talking about Peak Oil and how a friend seems to be getting a bit swallowed up by it all. Steve said “No problems…we will just keep the chooks for the odd bit of meat and for eggs, feed them on veggie scraps and let them free range around the place, you can grow veggies and fruit and nuts and I can go out fishing on the high seas in the Mumbly Cumumbus and it will be like pirates stealing the tea from the English” (that last bit was because I was lamenting that I would have to start drinking dandelion root tea and we BOTH know what Earl does to our stash of dandelions…). That got us talking about pirates and Steve was immediately identified with “The Dread Pirate Roberts”…but he didn’t really suit that moniker so then we thought of Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride, but he wasn’t really that either and we arrived at “Pirate Steve” from the movie Dodgeball… after that we decided that Earl was most definitely “Yellowbeard”…a mad lunatic that can’t be stopped…a perfect vision of Earl and then Bezial ended up as Captain Pugwash (“NO” spellchecker, I DON’T want to change that to “Captain Pigwash”!!! ) because he gets seasick on boats and would rather stay on shore. I cleverly dodged being included in this pirate invasion and chose to stay home and cook the tea because every pirate needs to come home to a nice warm meal (and preferably some grog to go with it). The Mumbly Cumumbus has had to be employed by Steve, Roxy and Guy (our friends down the road) to rescue a trapped pelican from a net. Steve cleverly remembered to take protective clothing and gloves (fool him once!) and hopefully they will be able to release the trapped bird. He has taken his camera with him so that you might be able to share in his adventure. There aren’t many pelicans in our neck of the woods and hopefully this pelican will be able to resume its lifecycle out on the Tamar River without too much damage or trauma. It wasn’t a pelican, it was a Southern Right Gull and after its rescue the rescuers got together over some good German beer and debriefed ;).

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This is the name of a cafe in Beaconsfield and we thought that you might get a chuckle out of it for St Patricks Day (albeit in the past now 😉 ). I think it is called “Pot of Gold” because it costs you an arm and a leg to shop there 😉

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Some very tame young cows and steers that decided to come over and investigate what Steve was doing today on our walk with the dogs. Take a look at that paddock and be sure to let go of winter over there you Northerners…we obviously need it here!

IT RAINED…I don’t  know whether to race about singing or just sit here stunned but it actually “rained”. The garden looks stunned. It looks flat, deflated, brown and stunned but underneath it all I can hear autumn stirring and it is GOOD! I have been thinking about how we interact with people when we blog. I did a survey once (as a bolshie bird I tend to do surveys to ensure that the social imbalances are redressed ;)) asking me about a specific blogger and what my impressions of her were. I think that when your dear constant readers start to number more than the hairs on your head you have achieved rock star status in the blog world and you get your own fan club of supporters that mass together to attempt to get you elected as President whether you want it or not. The difference between rock stars and bloggers is that the rock stars get the dosh to balance out the adoration, bloggers usually don’t. A free book and the odd surreptitious package of canned goods wouldn’t be anywhere near enough for me to lose my anonymity and with my 133 blog followers (most of them sleepers 😉 ) I feel confident that I am never going to be hustled into the white house any day soon but I do feel a distinct responsibility to you all. I feel the need to post when sometimes I might not be post worthy…I feel the need to ensure you have something nice to look at (and sometimes something not-so-nice to balance it out 😉 ) in each post and I try to channel my muses into playing the same tune in order to get something approximating “readable” to you twice a week. As a penniless student hippy I don’t “work for the man”…the man probably wouldn’t want me anymore which suits me just fine but I have my processes and blogging is now firmly one of these processes. Whenever someone new comes to join our merry eclectic (mental) little throng here on Serendipity Farm I feel like I am welcoming someone into our book club (mental asylum) or our little knitting group or our baking circle. It’s a privilege to connect with other people and to allow them to mould themselves into our circle and  Queen of everything that I see, touch and can possibly begin to imagine here on Serendipity Farm I feel like I should at least show you around a bit and give you a cup of tea (you can have a good cup but not too sure if I can find a matching saucer at the moment…it is probably covered in drying tomato seeds, cherry plum stones or something fermenting as an experiment…) and a homemade biscuit. If you seem a little shell shocked after exploring around a bit I will give you another cup of tea (still with the mismatched saucer but you are looking a bit confused and probably won’t notice…) and I might even try to revive you with one of the chocolate biscuits from the top shelf…I love how each reader and commenter has their own place here in the blog. We all share this experience because we all “make” this space. If no-one comes, it is like that tree in the forest and when it falls no-one cares. Here in this tiny patch of ether in the Southern Hemisphere we all matter, no matter how humble we are because my dear constant readers and I are not like “other people”, we have time to share if it means we are going to hear a good story. We can find the energy to appreciate your efforts, we can applaud your talents and we can laugh and cry with you when something twangs the strings of your life. Like Stephen King once said “We all float down here” and in this little sewer we are united in our endeavours :o)

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This was taken just in front of the gate down on the river bank

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An early morning shot of Bonnie Beach just before the dogs started complaining because we were taking too long to get going on our walk

It’s just about time to start the day for Steve and the boys and I have been up and functioning (at least on some rudimentary level) since 3.30am. I just finished the tidy up from my mornings online degustation menu and noticed that I had 2 spam in my Hotmail account…1 from the ubiquitous “Big Willy”, a regular visitor to my spambox and the other from “Daily Bible Verse” another spam contender from way back…I find it humorous that Big Willy and Daily Bible Verse are the only occupants of my spambox and wonder if they converse while they are languishing in perdition waiting for me to shoot them straight into the ether and wouldn’t it be fun to be a fly on that spammy little wall listening to THAT conversation! 😉 I am still imbibing heady gusts of long forgotten C.D’s and loving every moment of it. It’s cold this morning and it rained yesterday and I am starting to have hope that there really might be an autumn this year and we won’t just bypass it and go headlong into the throws of winter. You northerners (you KNOW who you are!) are hogging your winter. I read about how you are protesting about how much you can’t wait for summer but I recon its only lip service, you aren’t sharing and we need it. We NEED it folks…our summer has just about sapped everything green and vibrant and alive from our hearts, minds and souls and we need a rest of it all. We need to sit and commune and talk and share hot chocolate and wander in a garden that might be asleep but at least shows some signs of being alive rather than the flat defeated brown shards of curling leaves and sad looking half dead flowers that greet us on anything other than a run to the car. We choose to look up at the clouds as we walk down the driveway which should probably result in us falling flat on our derrières but somewhere up there the powers that be kind of like us and we have been spared the ignominy of falling down our own driveway on a regular basis.

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A closeup of a series of houses on our walk at Bonnie Beach that don’t have fences…they all coexist together and share a large common back yard. The do this because they all got together when they initially built the houses and decided that fencing would obstruct the glorious view that they have of the river and decided to do without 🙂

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I love this shot of the boys…Earl looks like he has just heard the funniest joke and Bezial actually allowed us to take a photo for once. That’s a pretty rare thing to get both boys smiling and focussed at once 🙂

Well it looks like another post just hit mammoth proportions…how do you “regular” bloggers manage to find an earlier “stop” point?! My muses would have me up at night if I didn’t share the contents of my day’s digestive tract ;). Have a great week this week folks. No matter how mundane it might appear, there are always little interesting things in your week and there is beauty everywhere, we just have to be sure to see and feel it. I think the real world has us aiming too high…focussing on a point too far away and constantly yearning (or is that “constant craving” K.D. Laing? 😉 ) for something just out of reach when really, it’s right here quietly waiting for you to notice it. I recently read a post on The Naturephile, one of the wonderful blogs that I follow. Finn (what a wonderful name, wish I had thought of this one when I was naming my son :o) ) was talking about how he was watching a murmuration of starlings dancing with a sparrowhawk while he was sitting at a red light. How many of us grab the mobile phone and start to text, grab a lippy and re-apply, start thinking about what’s for dinner and completely miss what nature is sharing with us? We get too focussed on ourselves and our goals and our days and we miss out on living outside ourselves and in companionship with the world and I get the very strong feeling that is how we managed to disassociate ourselves from reality enough to do what we have done to the earth. Go watch some gorgeous rare Red Kite’s swooping into someone’s back yard to grab some croissants (lucky they didn’t say where they throw these croissants or my U.K. doppelgänger might just have been around a bit earlier to raid the pile! 😉 )…

http://thenaturephile.com/

See you on Saturday folks…bright as buttons and hopefully more aware of what is going on outside you rather than focussing too much on your inner machinations. You never know where that kind of anti-societal behaviour is going to take you 😉 …

A confraturnity of early morning bloggers

Hi All,

What have I done! It would seem that my newfound zeal for early mornings has managed to insinuate itself on Jess (a.k.a. “Rabid”) from   http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ and now one of Jess’s blog followers the wonderful Linne http://arandomharvest.wordpress.com/  has started following the blog and suddenly here we are…a confraternity of early morning ladies gathering in spirit all over the world! Admittedly our early mornings are Linnes evenings but our ethos is woven together over the miles (kilometres in our neck of the woods but who is going to count eh? 😉 ) and this small sisterhood of communication and mutual respect has begun. Who couldn’t love someone who says that “My inner geek is a luddite!” The girl is speaking my language! Next, I got this marvellous comment when Linne had a peek at our sideline page where we admit to being middle aged hippies…

‘’Aging Hippies’??? Wonder what that makes me, then . . . nope, you are still very young; try using my New Age Ruler: 0 – 50 = Young; 51 – 100 = Middle Aged; 101 – 150 = Old; anything after that and you’re Ancient’

And this lovely lady lives in Alberta…that’s in the U.S. to all of my dear constant readers in other places in the world (all 4 of you 😉 ). Don’t forget Christi of http://farmlet.wordpress.com/ who is officially my olalla twin and so many more of you that I have come to think of as family more than dear constant readers. I have to admit that when I started this blog it most certainly wasn’t to communicate with like-minded people in far flung corners of the globe, but more a way to keep my mother who lived in my home state of Western Australia in touch with us without the need for a 7 page email every day. Mum loved the blog and it was a sort of letter from the new country to her heart and she loved Serendipity Farm with a passion. Like most things born of necessity, the blog grew like topsy and took on a life of its own. I have met amazing people through this blog, pioneers of their own minds who take hold of what life has handed them and make the most of their lot. True heroes who explore the parameters of life and tease the fabric of the extremities just to see how far their life can take them. I love you all dearly and you go a long way to making my own personal life a more meaningful and vibrant place to be. I think the blog has given me more than a means to communicate, it has given me a way to release my inner writer and despite my inner writers desire to maniacally type till the cows come home, you keep coming back to pore over my rampant words and find something that resonates with you and I thank you all for your confidence in me :o)

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Kniphofia uvaria seed stripped off a stalk on our walk this morning with the dogs and scattered near the gate just inside Serendipity Farm. It’s plants like these that are going to give us the look and feel that we want here at no cost and with minimal intervention. It’s all about getting cluey enough to work out what is going to do the best on your property/in your garden and get clever about sourcing it and planting it. Over winter this year I will be poring over my gardening tomes to find all different kinds of plants that will love living here and that will be something that we actually WANT to live here…a juggling act that will be worth the effort

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Badumna longinqua “Black house spider” whose habitat is listed as “tree trunks, logs, rock walls and buildings (in window frames, wall crevices, etc).” I would like it known that the “etc.” part of this equation also encompasses sports shoes…and my worst nightmares!

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Here she is looking decidedly groggy after her forced eviction from my shoe. Note the laces have been undone because Steve insisted that she was gone…I am an Aussie…we Aussie Sheila’s don’t “bugger off” all that easily mate…I KNEW she was still in there…apparently the females never leave the nest (unless they are forced out with a stick and the arachnid equivalent of a force 10 earthquake when their new house is being banged against the brick wall…) and remain in situ waiting for males to come along and coax them out of their homes…this one decided that my sports shoe was a LOT better than the shoe that she had been living in (rent free mind you!) right next to where my shoes were stashed… its VERY lucky I decided to take a peek inside them before I put them on!

Back to the early morning thing… I am sitting here at 4.22am thinking “I had best get back to my rss feed read”…I think I am addicted to it, to be honest. These early mornings are more to feed my information habit than for any other reason. I am a quintessential knowledge fiend who loved to acquire useful information that is pertinent to our own personal situation. I don’t know why I feel compelled to hoard this precious information but it’s like gold to me and gives me the ability to be able to choose to bypass mainstream consumerism (which is a good thing because mainstream consumerism involves large quantities of the plastic folding stuff and here on Serendipity Farm that is a rare commodity!) and find ways to do what we want to do here at minimal cost. Have you ever felt rich beyond your wildest dreams? Sometimes a recipe, or a technique or a specific way of doing something that I wasn’t aware of before that is revealed to me in an early morning blog when my mind is wide awake and I am vibrant with possibility after a good night’s sleep makes me feel like that. Its really strange the more I focus on how lucky we are, how happy I am and how many possibilities there are out there to give us what we want and change our lives, the happier I get! Its not like anything has really changed, we haven’t suddenly taken receipt of any secret formula for how to change the world around us and it certainly isn’t as if we have come into a large sum of money, it’s something more fundamental than that. It’s the ability to think, act and do for ourselves what humanity has been doing for millennia and what has delivered us to this very point here in our existence with the ability to choose to “first do no harm” to ourselves and our surrounding environment. Once you get your head around the fact that you DO, indeed, make a difference and that even your smallest efforts are like that smile that we have all heard about that can travel the earth or that small ripple on one side of a lake that causes a bow-wave on the other side, we can start to feel like our existence is worthwhile, meaningful and that there actually is “Hope”. Happiness is something that we weave ourselves…it might have a lumpy boucle look, it might be ruched by the dog pulling the wool/fabric of your existence, it might have slipped stitches and mismatched colours and be badly knit and you might have to wear it minus the collars and cuffs because life is too short to learn how to make them BUT at the end of the day you have a life jumper and it warms you when its cold and it gives you a sense of solidity that your life is actually something that you chose to take part in…your life HAS meaning and at the end of the day, that’s something precious :o)

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“Look! Lassie came home!”…wouldn’t Earl just LOVE that! This is Della a beautiful bearded collie. She is one of the boys friends from one of their regular walks and she comes up to the fence to get treats. She is well behaved, beautiful, elegant and dignified… her son “Tiny” shares NONE of those traits and spends he days racing up and down the fence barking at the top of his lungs and attempting to incite riots with Earl who studiously ignores him (making Tiny even crazier)

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Meet Tenodera australasiae or “Purple-winged Mantis” (thanks to http://www.ozanimals.com/Insect/Purple-winged-Mantis/Tenodera/australasiae.html for pictures so that I could identify him 🙂 ). This one was sitting on the edge of the ashphalt and so we picked him up and put him into the shrubs on the side of the road

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This is an Egretta novaehollandiae or “White faced Heron”, one of the local birds that cohabit our little space between the river and our property. They nest on Glad’s property next door and spend their time alternating between invading our garden for worms and insects and fishing in the river

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This is Cassytha melantha or “Coarse Dodder laurel” and I am assured by a most reputable website that the fruits are edible and harvested from the wild but we know dodder more for its ability to completely cover a tree and kill it. Any parasitic plant that kills its host is a bit mental but as you can see, dodder fruits prolifically and if the seed is actually tasty, its no wonder birds carry it for miles

That’s what early mornings deliver to me…I am a philosophy major at 4.32am ;). Let’s see how my mind, my energy levels and my desire to wax lyrical change over the course of a day shall we? It’s Friday…todays’ blog post (posted Saturday night) is going to go…today we have to upload all of the activities that Steve and I have been slaving over for the last week. This course isn’t difficult but it is work intensive and we are learning heaps about all different kinds of things and I, for one, am loving it. Steve has very kindly let me do most of the work…I know that sounds like I fell for some sort of sales pitch and Steve is sitting with his feet up and a straw in his mouth dreaming of television and a nap on the sofa BUT “I” am the luddite and “he” is the computer literate and to let me bumble around in programs where he can just zoom, is an act of love on his part. Steve is like Speedy Gonzales that little Hannah Barbera mouse who goes 110% all of the time. To slow down to my Luddite speed is tantamount to being given a huge dose of valium and told to “sit”. Not an easy task for him to say the least but to give him his credit, he has been an angel about me clicking the wrong dropdown boxes for the 27th time in a row and I am only able to detect him twitching after about 6 hours solid of sitting here next to me. I didn’t think that I would like this course but I actually love the freedom that learning about how to really use the Adobe suite is giving me. We are even talking about heading out and designing our own web pages and bollocks to WordPress but that’s in the future and like we all know…in the future there are robots!

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These are Crassostrea gigas or “Pacific or Japanese oysters”. In some places in the world they would be sought after seafood and indeed, many tourists scarf down copious quantities of them on their camping holidays but eating these babies from the Tamar River might give you more than a stomach ache. As filter feeders they collect lots of heavy metals and it simply isn’t worth eating them. This shot was to show you why we don’t let our dogs loose just over the road from Serendipity Farm…we love them too much 🙂

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One of the panorama’s that Steve took from directly in front of Serendipity Farms front gate. The lighthouse to the left is in front of Glad’s house and is an historical monument and the rest is just…”rest”…whatever the camera picks up while Steve is slowly tracking. If you want to see this photo larger just click on it and when you finish looking hit your back button to return to this post…I will wait for you here…no really… knock yourselves out! 😉

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Another misty morning and part of the payback for walking the dogs every day is that we get to see things like this, nice and early before most people are up 🙂

That’s about all I am going to do now as it’s 4.39am and Bezial just came in from his early morning back yard dog bone munching efforts and on his way past he sighed at me…he has ensconced himself on the sofa where he will “mind” me for the next few hours till Earl gets up at approximately 6.45am and prods both Bezial and I in readiness for his happiest part of the day…”THE WALK”…the reason for Earls very existence is “THE WALK” and his questing beak is stuck into any portion of both human and kennel mate in a furious effort to arrive at “THE WALK” as soon as is possible after that 6.45am wake-up call. See you later in the day to see how these synapses adapt after a few hours study… It’s now 1pm and Serendipity Farm is shimmering with heat. Steve is outside taking a few panorama shots for me with the new/old camera that my brother gave us and Bezial and Earl are panting under the table. That’s what autumn brings to us here in Australia, 32C today and no change in the immediate future…global warming has knobs on! We finished our learning activities for our course yesterday (all except having to draw 50 pumpkins and we won’t talk about that for a little bit because it makes me hyperventilate and need a paper bag…) and posted all of the links to our pseudo blogs up. Do you remember me making snide comments about the class factotum? Well Steve and I just officially moved into that spot as of this morning when we uploaded EVERYTHING that we possibly could to the study site and we can actually “feel” the rest of our class seething through the ether…too bad…we have 50 pumpkins to draw over the next few days and we don’t need any distractions getting in the way. Now all of our current workload is uploaded we are free to concentrate on those dreaded pumpkins. We are studiously avoiding them at the moment. “It’s too hot…I need some photo’s for tomorrows blog…I have to think about what we are going to cook for tea tonight…I need to lay on the ground and look at my navel…” you know the kind of procrastinations that we humans can come up with to avoid having to do what we know we are going to have to do sooner rather than later…

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Another one of Steve’s panoramas, this time showing you the state of our “lawn” in the side garden and see how some of the shrubs are actually starting to curl up? Not a good sign!

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Looking back towards the house and if you notice that the “lawn” hasn’t been mowed, keep it to yourself. “Tut-tut” me and “Pfft” me all you like but do it behind my back…I am a broken woman with all of this heat and mowing what’s left of the “grass” is a sobering reminder that rain isn’t going to be coming any day soon 😦

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This walkway leads from the driveway up to the house. You can walk this way or you can head on up the steep driveway if you are insane enough… I choose the steep driveway every time. It’s nothing to do with my sanity and everything to do with me heading straight out to water the veggie garden as soon as we get back in from walking the dogs. I water, I think, I ruminate, I pick a bunch of spinach and I head indoors to blend a green smoothie and start my day

I can’t wait for the weather to cool down. It’s not only the heat, the dryness, the cracks in the ground and the soul sapping, ongoing, stretched-outedness of summer, it’s the minimalist role that cooking takes in summer that gets to me. I want to dance the dance of the Swedish Chef from the Muppet show as I hop from one pan to the next on top of Brunhilda and all ovens have something exotic wafting from them. I want to “feel” the warmth of the fire as part of something wholesome and not something that has to be endured. You can tell the plants on Serendipity Farm that have suffered through all of the extended summers past and they are eking out what remains of the soil water at the expense of the green stuff that some would call lawn that is now brown, crispy and blowing away on a regular basis. If the soil wasn’t so hard, rock filled, sloped and comprised of clay I would simply get rid of most of the “lawn” and would make more garden beds. I saw a really great idea on Facebook…Facebook is where I get a lot of ideas. I am a bit over it for “communication purposes” but ideas flow left right and centre from the carefully selected pages that I like and today I noticed some spiral herb gardens giving lift and shape to garden beds. One was simply made of rocks (we HAVE those!) and the other was made of gabion and looked fantastic. We don’t have a lot of wire at the moment (it’s draped over EVERYTHING that we don’t want the possums and wallabies to inhale…) so gabions are out of the question but like cooking, gardening in our “autumn” is starting to make me twitch. You can almost feel the earth yearning for water. I noticed someone digging out their dam today on our morning walk with the dogs. Large scoops of duck infested slime being removed so that this year’s winter rain (if, indeed, we get winter…) will fill it anew. Steve still hasn’t returned from his photographic sojourn down to the river… (Speak of the proverbial…he’s back! 😉 ). Off for a bit to check his photos :o)

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This is a “red lily” don’t ask me to find its botanical name because I already tried that. I can tell you what it ISN’T…just not what it is. I have NO idea what it is but it cost me $2 from Big Pot Nursery and it seems to like it here so it can stay 🙂

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Orange seems to be the colour of late summer…maybe nature is trying to reflect the enduring heat of it all…
I have been pulling this plant out all over the place becase I thought it was a weed…this one escaped my attentions after hiding out in a spiraea (English May) bush and isn’t it pretty? I hereby cease my efforts to remove this “weed” from Serendipity Farm! 😉

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Some beurre bosc pears that my eldest daughter Madeline shimmied up the tree and picked for Steve when he was visiting on Monday. I may, or may not have eaten a few of these pears and I may or may not have inadvertently consumed a coddling moth larvae. I expect to have an angry lynch mob complete with pitchforks and lit torches from the vegan society banging on the door any day soon to take my membership card away…

It’s Saturday and it’s still hot :o(. I am NOT happy about the “hot” bit because hot and I make bad bedfellows. Luckily we don’t have to study today because we were such swats yesterday and handed in most of our work AND we uploaded our websites so our fellow students can REALLY think we suck. Sometimes you just have to do what you gotta do and finishing up work early is how we roll. It’s a good lesson to learn when you work from home and we learned it very early in the piece. We still have to draw those pesky pumpkins but I can feel a smattering of artistic interest being piqued by my artistically challenged brain so it might be more interesting and enjoyable than first thought. For today though, I have fed Audrey, the fridge dwelling sourdough, I syphoned off 250g of her unfed bulk to make a large sourdough carrot cake tomorrow and I have decided to have another go at making home-made soy milk. I own a soymilk machine that has been gathering dust for years now after I tried to make soymilk that would work in my daily cup of tea and failed abysmally. I know that store bought soymilk has little tricky inclusions like sunflower oil, gums, starches and sugars to give it body and flavour and mine just tasted watery and beany and not very nice in my tea. I am going to spend the day hunting to see if I can’t find a recipe to approximate store bought soymilk at home. I dare say the spiders will be upset about being evicted at short notice from the soymilk maker but fair do’s, they have had a VERY long lease! ;).  I am getting more and more interested in fermentation and feel the need to ferment myself some miso and other interesting Japanese ferments. I have found a source of koji (the ferment used) but need to source it from the U.S. It might be a very exciting experiment as miso tends to be a slow cultured ferment and I like the idea of tucking it away and waiting till it is ready, sort of like a Japanese Christmas present. There are so many ferments that indigenous cultures use every single day. We think of them as exotic, but to their daily users, they are just a means to an end in food form. I really like the idea of knowing how to make these incredibly useful and nutritious ingredients myself and in being able to source the cultures. Once you start making your own miso, you can keep using it to culture future batches. I had an amazing book about tofu that I can’t find. Steve and I just turned the house upside down and I fear I may have included it in a stack of books donated to the local thrift shop! “Zut alors!” Or more like “Dummkopf” on my behalf :o(. Oh well…I DID find a great ex libris copy of a fantastic book on how to make your own soba noodles so that salves my tofu and miso parched soul…

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I have Birdy style “Skinny love” for these eggplants. I most cleverly (I can’t be waiting for you lot to praise me up so I am just going to have to do it myself…) chose to plant these smaller Japanese style eggplants so that they wouldn’t require a longer period to ripen than our short season can give them. I did the same for our tomatoes choosing cherry tomatoes and “medium” tomatoes (that are large but shhhh! Don’t tell! 😉 ). You have to work with what you have, what will grow well in your endemic situation and you have to learn from your mistakes…consider it done! Next year I will be an older (sigh…) and wiser Narf7 🙂

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Here we have Kid Creole and his coconut. I can’t help but think of the Clash song “Rock the Casbah” when I look at my kefir pot. Kid just sent his coconuts off to convert the milk that I made from this very cute coconut. Just a quick aside…does anyone else think that the advertisment for Wrigley’s Extra Gum delivers the wrong message? I don’t see that cute food as anything bad, in fact I want to embrace that doughnut! I want to bring him home and snuggle him up into a paper bag so that I can open it and look at him whenever I need a smile. To all of you outside Australia, here’s one of the adverts if you would like to check it out…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTEhfj24PBc&feature=endscreen&NR=1

“The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking. Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odour around from place to place, setting off complex repertories through the brain, polling one centre after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection.” – Lewis Thomas

Am I the only one that uses their sense of smell more than just a way to get those stomach juices roiling? Scents can take me all over the place…I get a slight whiff and I have strong and vivid memories related to these scents. I have a theory (might even do a thesis on it one day should I ever stray into the realms of social nutrition or psychology 101…) that we more “generously” proportioned human beings have much better senses of smell than you skinny malinkies out there. We are able to use our olfactory senses to seek out food, much like little piggies hunting out truffles. Rather than be sneered at as a lack of personal willpower, it should be seen as a survival trait, much like our bodies stubborn refusal to give up its fat stores at all costs…modern humanity scorns it, we exhibit it and it could help us live longer in a famine situation…see how I turned that negative into a positive? I would like a positive point now please…preferably a nice shiny factotum gold star ;). Well the heat is starting to melt my brain. Its autumn and its hotter than summer was. I am more than over summer and 90+F (that’s for all of you Americans who scoff at our 32C days because you didn’t see the “C” and thought we were whinging about the cold…) Indian summer that we are being forced to endure. I am going to resize some photos, soak some soybeans, decant my weird fizzy sour tasting homemade coconut milk that Kid Creole’s coconuts just made me and put Kid into some new fresh milk…I am then going to try to work out what to do with 2 litres of kefir  and do my level best to find a free online PDF of “The book of tofu”…”The book of Miso” and “The book of Tempeh”… consider it a challenge and this little black duck loves nothing more than a challenge! “To the fray Robin!” (That’s you Steve…NO I get to wear the cape! 😉 )…

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This is OFFICIALLY “Me” 🙂

When more isn’t the answer

Hi All,

Writing is a struggle against silence.

Carlos Fuentes

Isn’t that lovely? I hasten to add that I hardly need to worry about the silence because whenever I get 2 minutes to myself the silence suddenly disappears into a frolicking dog, a husband who needs a hand with something or I fall asleep…hardly time to worry myself about silence but let’s just start tapping away to make sure that it doesn’t invade our psyche and do some sort of Freudian damage. I wasn’t sure what I was going to type today. We have been pretty full on with our studies this week and it is somewhat difficult to get back into the study habit when you have been luxuriating in all the free time in the world and being able to do whatever you want with said time. The course isn’t difficult but it is making us think a lot and is pulling us into a more creative frame of mind which suits both of us just fine. We learn something every day and Steve is picking up a copy of the student version of Adobe C.S.6 on Monday when he heads in to do the shopping so that we can launch ourselves into Photoshop 6. My wonderful kind younger brother bought himself a new camera not so long ago and gave us the perfectly good camera that he already had. This works out wonderfully because we really need a camera each for this course and now we are able to head off in different directions and take lots of photos for the course requirement. Steve is really interested in using Photoshop etc. and there are some very interesting programs in this package for writers as well. At least we are gaining a lot of information that is helping me, especially, to learn more about technology.

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The camera that my brother gave us. If you are reading “Cheers Jim! :)”

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On wednesday Serendipity Farm was dripping wet…today it’s sunny again

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The vacancy rate might not be anything to write home about but at least 1 wasp lived here over the summer season 🙂

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Serendipity Farms view of the Tamar River this afternoon

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A panorama taken with the new camera…not bad! 🙂

I pulled up the older corn and stripped the few cobs of corn from it. It wasn’t a huge success but at least we got some corn. The tomatoes, on the other hand, are going great guns. I just picked another large basin full of them and there are plenty still on the bushes. I picked lots of eggplants and I am tossing up what to do with them. I will give some of the tomatoes and eggplants to my daughters along with some zucchini and their creative minds can come up with something that they would like to do with them. No doubt it will be something Korean and delicious. Our chickens are still on strike and I am getting tired of “no eggs” as their mantra. I know that they are moulting but surely someone could lay an egg?! We are giving 6 away on Monday to minimise the flock a bit and we are also giving away some of Kid Creole’s coconuts (excess kefir grains) and I am feeding up Audrey to donate some of her to our local health food shop. David and Lee are lovely people who are very knowledgeable about health and when I asked them if they would like some excess kefir spotted an opportunity. I dare say they will be able to share it with customers who would like some. I love the way that generosity flows around. You pass something on to someone else, and they share with someone else and pretty soon everyone is sharing. I saw a really great idea on one of the blogs that I follow the other day. It was about a new system at the library where if you hold a library card you can take a packet of saved seeds to grow in your garden. Once you grow your seed and bring back seed to swap you can swap it for another packet of seed. I love the idea of using a library for more than just books. Libraries are hubs of knowledge for the common man. You don’t need the internet to take out a book and as your library card is free, the knowledge is also free…how precious is that? :o). I have been formulating my seed swap network along with designing a web page for the course we are doing. Steve is working on his spoon website to sell wooden spoons and I figured I may as well start where I meant to finish up and so will be working on designing and planning how to go about swapping seed in Tasmania. Firstly I need to get a network of people who are interested in saving and swapping seed and I might have to pick the lady who blogs at http://ediblethings.net/ mind regarding her seedy pen pal swaps and see what kind of swaps can be made. It’s an entirely exciting proposition and one that would develop a network of like-minded people and a virtual seed bank of possibilities for many others.

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Apparently my kitchen is part of the arch nemisis of Batman confraturnity  but even though I was on a considerable lean, you can see some of the harvest from this morning along with Kid Creole and his erstwhile coconuts awaiting their morning bath in fresh milk

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We seem to have a decidedly orange theme going on in the last 2 photos. I keep throwing found road things into that brass hanging pot and the blue thing on the top is my latest find. We discovered it on one of our daily walks and it’s the brass nozzle of a spray painting unit.

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I was testing out the new camera…Bernard and Manny our Java finches say “Hi” 🙂

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Still a bit orange but that’s mostly to do with the Western Red Cedar cladding. This photo was to show you how happy the yellow banksia rose is now that I have tipped a heady mass of mulch over its previously parched roots…it wants to repay me by taking over the house. Join the queue rose, Earl is first in line…

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I have just snuck this shot in as Steve found it and said “This is genius food!” He is going to buy some frankfurters and spaghetti on Monday in the shopping and is going to reproduce this amazing food. He also said “No kid would be able to resist these!”…obviously not… 😉

It’s the second day of autumn but you wouldn’t know it here in Tasmania. We have the promise of 27C today, 27C tomorrow and 30C on Monday. I am starting to wonder if summer is going to be the new black! I still have a big heap of mulch that I might start wheelbarrowing around to the side garden to try to give it a bit of relief from the long dry season that we have just had. I heard on the weather report that we have broken all of the records for temperature and for dryness in Australia this year and that’s not something to be proud of. They were saying that if you are 27 years or younger, you have no idea of what Australia’s “average” temperature for summer is because for the last 27 years we have exceeded it. I am not a fear monger and I am not in the business of trying to scare people but this long extended dry season is starting to make me twitch. I know that we aren’t the only people sick of summer. I read blogs about the flip side and how people can’t wait for summer. If I could bag it up and send it off to you I would folks! Most Australians would love to deliver a big bag of summer right to your doorstep for a bit of rain and a few days indoors near the fire. I am trying to work out what we are going to plant for winter crops this year. I haven’t ever grown a winter crop before and it’s a complete unknown quantity to me. I have been shamelessly pilfering information from wonderful gardeners like Sarah from the wonderful blog http://gardeningkiwi.wordpress.com/ because New Zealand is just a hop-step and jump from us here in Tassie and so what she is doing, I can surreptitiously pinch and do here. Sorry Sarah, remember that they DO say that copying is the sincerest form of flattery ;). There are some amazing gardening blogs out there and one of my favourites is http://www.sgaonline.org.au/ and I certainly get heaps of ideas from this blog but I like the personal touch of checking out what other people are doing just like me. I can learn so much from these more experienced gardeners and even though they might be on the other side of the world I also follow Margaret at http://awaytogarden.com/ that has a fantastic blog with amazing information. Her back posts are the stuff that this penniless hippies dreams are made of and she shares her knowledge so readily. Her friend Gayla is also amazing and has a fantastic blog called http://www.yougrowgirl.com/about/ all of these gardeners are our kind of gardeners…real people with real problems and solutions for what happens from day to day in their gardens. We might not have some of the pests and diseases that they have and they might not have some of the imported weeds that we suffer with but the online gardening community is an incredibly vibrant place to be and in sharing what we learn, we are giving someone else the chance to get down and dirty and fall totally and utterly in love with this big wide beautiful world. Getting your hands dirty is tantamount to a serious sensual awakening folks…you can’t help but gain something from the experience :o)

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Flower number 1. I found this nice little geranium, that has the added benefit of being scented, on one of our walks and took a piece to grow. Geraniums are incredibly hardy, waterwise and very easy to grow for those of you who aren’t gardeners and I plan on sourcing lots of lovely specimens for Serendipity Farm

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This pretty Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan) is thriving in Steve’s shed. It is too hot to plant it out yet and once it cools down a bit and we get some rain I will be planting it somewhere in the side garden

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The Mondarda that I bought when I went to Wychwood has finally flowered. It too lives in the shed for now, but will be planted out in the side garden as well.

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I had just watered our potted plants and noticed this most interesting effect on a small Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ears) in a pot. I liked how the hairy leaves had held onto the water droplets

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My small potted fig tree has produced tiny figlets for the last 2 years but they dropped and nothing eventuated. This year it has 2 large figs… maybe I will get to try one? It all depends on whether the possums learn to fly… 😉

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One of the Nerine bowdenii that are flowering like crazy in the front garden and are making a lovely splash of autumn promise

It is getting hard to find nice pictures to share with you all. The garden has had enough of summer and we don’t have to worry about pulling weeds or mowing lawns in 2013 because they are all officially deceased. Brown is the new green in our neck of the woods and Tasmania is wet compared to most of the rest of Australia. Where I come from in Western Australia the vegetation is brown for most of the year as millennia of low rainfall has taught it not to trust dark clouds. You would be surprised just what grows in arid areas though and Western Australia has some of the most beautiful plants and wildflowers in all of Australia. I have one little bit of hope that at least nature thinks that it is autumn. The nerines are all flowering. It’s hard to believe that anything would have the will to flower when the soil it is growing in is little more than transient dust but flower they are and most beautifully as well. I have a cunning plan. I am going to formulate a list of very hardy arid waterwise plants (preferably perennials and shrubs) that I am going to source next spring to plant on Serendipity Farm. I am tired of planting things that need extra care when what we need are hardy plants that are just happy to be in the ground. No more mollycoddling plants and anything that doesn’t like living here won’t be getting any preferential treatment any more. We have been amazed at being able to grow plants like cardamom and turmeric and even if we have to resort to doing something like this…

http://permaculturenews.org/2010/01/11/free-hot-water-from-compost-wheelie-bin/

to keep our glasshouse warmer in winter and grow happy tropical rhizomes we will. Isn’t that a good idea by the way? The West Tamar council are trialling giving ratepayers a compost bin each to see if it doesn’t cut down green waste. At the moment the scheme is only available to the residents of Gravelly Beach but hopefully it will expand and we will all get one. Ratepayers can choose to use it as a compost bin or to put all of their green waste into it and wheel it out once a month to the curb to be collected by a council truck that will haul it off to be composted en masse.  I think it’s a great idea and if we do get one, I will make a hot water glasshouse heater with ours :o)

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We went to Deviot to walk the boys today and Steve liked the look of this shot…I like the look of it as well 🙂

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An Echinacea angustifolia growing inside the heritage apple and pear covered garden at Deviot. I am waiting for the seed to dry and will shake a few into a paper bag for Serendipity Farm

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The toilet block at the back of the Deviot Hall. I like these donated white tiles that were painted by the local children and their parents and that now grace the loo.

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Just to show you how dry our soil is here at the moment. This large crack was spotted on our walk this morning

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A ricketty jetty leading out into the river.

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Looks like Italy doesn’t it?

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Its been a really good blackberry season this year so far. I am doing my best to collect as many as I can to use my alchemy and turn into blackberry wine

It certainly took me a long time to get around to talking about the title of the post today didn’t it? Anyone who has been reading my blog for more than a few posts knows that I have been attempting to get healthier since my mum died last year in January. I took a long hard look at my relationship with food and decided that my 40 year love/hate relationship with food was officially OVER. I stopped dieting because you would think that if something was going to work it would have done so in the previous 40 years so I figured that dieting wasn’t working for me (or anyone for that matter) and started to eat healthy food, to exercise daily and to start coming to grips with severing the link between my emotions and my mouth. I weighed in at 90kg when I headed over for mum’s funeral. Not lightweight by anyone’s ideals and I had a lot of problems with my knees and was starting to think that I might actually need surgery on them in the near future. Since mum died I have lost 23kg. I now weigh 67kg, which might not be light by some people’s reckoning but that, is the lightest that I have been since I was 12 years old. I no longer have pain in my knees and although my left knee is stiff, it isn’t sore. When I gave up dieting I gave up so much more than an unhealthy relationship with food. I gave up the need to legitimise myself through food and my excuses for why I wasn’t a capable person. After just over a year, food is just that…”Food”. I no longer think about it every waking hour and that is possibly one of the most liberating things that has ever happened to me. I love to walk now and actually volunteer to walk Earl when Bezial has a sore leg. I have heaps of energy and have discovered that getting up early gives me some precious “Me” time every single day. I think there comes a time when we all have to question our bad habits and see if they are worth our support. My emotional need to overeat was holding me back from living. I can do what I need to do now. The only problem that I have is when Steve wants me to hold both dogs’ leads when he wants to take a photograph because now, their combined weight exceeds mine :o). The best thing of all is that I haven’t felt like I have been deprived of anything whilst I have been steadily losing weight. I plateaued at 76kg for about 4 months but then started having green smoothies for breakfast and suddenly I started to lose weight all over again. I don’t eat any less, I just eat what my body needs me to eat and I make sure to include healthy fats because despite what modern society might preach, we NEED fat folks. Fat is incredibly important for metabolism and for our ability to absorb certain vitamins. If you want nice skin, you need to eat the right kind of fats. I no longer have to starve myself, I no longer have to count calories, I no longer have to weigh myself morning and night and I certainly don’t have to strip down to my undies to try to eke out the best result. I am left lighter in body but more importantly, in mind, spirit and soul. I have been given a second chance while I still have time to enjoy it and I will make sure not to abuse this privilege

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This poor Stewartia pseudocamellia was on its last legs in the ground but we dug it up, repotted it and left it to soak in this container of water and look at it now! Plants are very resiliant things 🙂

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Some of the grape vine cuttings that struck…all of them will be planted out around the circumference of our large fully enclosed veggie patch

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These potted plants don’t get hit so hard by the direct sun because they are on the South side of Steve’s shed but they are still showing signs of being completely OVER summer

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The sole artichoke plant that survived. I think its simply because it is right near the deck in a semi enclosed area and the wallabies are too scared to get too close to the deck because the silent marauder lives on the deck (One of Earl’s pseudonyms…)

I am going to head off now and spend the rest of today hunting for recipes for ways to use up kefir. Kid Creole and all of his coconutty babies have been going nuts and producing a steady stream of yoghurt like kefir that I don’t consume and that Steve is wary of. I include it in Steve’s favourite sourdough chocolate cake now but 1 cup once a week isn’t going to empty my fridge of kefir and as self-appointed “house researcher” it is my duty to find useful and tasty ways to use it up. Wish me luck folks or we might drown in the stuff! See you all on Wednesday and make sure to take a moment out of your day to be grateful for everything in your life, It is a most rewarding practice and apparently, according to scientific research, it makes you a happier person and who wouldn’t love to be a little bit happier for free? :o)

A Small interruption in normal transmission

Hi All,

EVERYONE knows that I am not tech savvy. I have given myself the moniker of “luddite” and generally shuffle anything vaguely technical over to Steve. I can’t even work the remote control for our television (much to Steve’s delight 😉 ) and my first instinct when something doesn’t do what it is supposed to do is to yell out “STEEEEEVE!” ;). The other day my brother in Western Australia had his Facebook page hacked into. He lives on a remote property out in the sticks in Western Australia and uses a laptop with Wi-Fi to access his satellite network along with a stick. Someone, that he foolishly trusted, took personal information quite easily from him and he asked Steve to give him a hand to sort it out. It would appear that he is going to have to start a new Facebook page, re-friend his 400+ friends and perhaps even purchase a new laptop computer because his “friend” was able to access all kinds of other information because my brother, like many of us, was completely unprepared for this hack. He isn’t like me, he does know quite a lot about computers but this attack broadsided him and showed him just how vulnerable our information really is. As we were wading through the morass of information online in an attempt to try to find a solution for my brother it became more and more apparent that we were completely vulnerable ourselves on several fronts. I decided that I would like to share what we found out and how to protect yourself further from external attack and that we would outline how you can make your own computer and personal email, Facebook pages, Websites, Blogs and other regularly visited sites along with your browser a much safer place to inhabit.

Let’s start with Facebook as this was the initiator of this post. We need to get you a secure Facebook page if it isn’t already! Check your address bar at the top of your browser…does it say “http” or “https”…we are looking for the “s” as it makes a HUGE difference. Mine was “s-less” so we headed off to amend that ASAP! Here’s how you can do it…

How to make Facebook a safer experience…

After logging in to your Facebook account do the following.

Note: where necessary, I will give you the techy way and the way for luddites to make it completely clear 😉 …

1. Click on your account settings (the little spoked wheel in the top right hand corner on the bar)

2. Choose and click on the tab “Account Settings”

3. You are on the General Account Settings page now

4. On the far left hand side you will see a list of options to choose from. Choose the “Security” button and click it

5. You are now on the “Security Settings” page

6. Click “Edit” on the “Secure Browsing” option

7. Tick where it says “Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) when possible” and click “Save Changes” once you have    ticked the box.

Every time you log into Facebook now, you will be a lot safer, especially when using a Wi-Fi network :o)

Now we will show you how to make Hotmail Safe…

1. Type or copy and paste the following into the address bar of your web browser…

https://hotmail.com

2. Enter your password when prompted

If you want to tick the “remember this password” button feel free. We prefer to remember our own password and enter it each time :). Now your Hotmail account is safe 🙂

Although I don’t use Twitter, I know a lot of you do. I decided to check out how to secure your Twitter account as follows…

Note: this is particularly important when using Twitter on unsecured Wi-Fi connections!

1. Go to your settings on Twitter

2. Click the box next to “Always use HTTPS” which is apparently at the bottom of the page

3. Now click the “Save” button.

Note: There are also a few instances where turning on HTTPS in your settings doesn’t force HTTPS. For instance, when accessing Twitter from your mobile browser, you will need to go to https://mobile.twitter.com to use the HTTPS option at the moment. Twitter is apparently working on a solution that will share the “Always use HTTPS” setting across twitter.com and mobile.twitter.com, so that you don’t have to think about which device you are using when you want to check your account. Always check apps when using a third party application to ensure that you can see HTTPS to make sure the apps are secure

Now the big one…WordPress!…

Note: this will secure your dashboard but not your blog page (the page visible by everyone else) which should make it a little bit less hack-able (we hope!)

1. Go to your dashboard on WordPress

2. In the top right hand corner choose the “Screen Options” drop down bar (the little tab with the arrow pointing down next to    “help”

3. Tick the box that says “Always use HTTPS when visiting administration pages” and you are almost done…

4. Leave your WordPress dashboard open as we are going to stop an irritating warning that may appear (note: feel free to stop here if you are at ALL uncomfortable with doing the following…we are trying to increase your safety, not make you feel vulnerable 🙂 )

5. With your dashboard open go to the top right hand corner of your browser and click on tools (the spoked wheely looking thing next to the housey and the star 🙂 )

6. From this list select and click “Internet Options”

7. A box will appear. Choose the “Security” tab along the top of the box and click it

8. Now click “Trusted Sites” to highlight it and click the “Sites” button

9. The reason you are still on your dashboard is that your blog site will now be visible in the box. Check that it is your blog site, if not, close everything and make sure your dashboard window is open then follow these steps again 🙂

10. Click the “Add” tab and make sure that the “Require server verification (https 🙂 for all sites in this zone” is unchecked (no tick)

11. Click close

Note: what we just did might seem somewhat suspicious! It isn’t. What we did was to circumvent a problem that regularly occurs where you get a constant warning regarding security from windows. This is similar to allowing a program to access your computer through a firewall and doesn’t compromise your security. You are just adding WordPress to your list of trusted sites 🙂

12. The “Internet Options” tab should still be open. Click the “Custom Level” button

13. Scroll down till you get to “Miscellaneous” (you might have to do some serious scrolling here!)

14. Slowly scroll till you find the sub heading “Display mixed content” and click “Enable”

15. Click the “OK” button

16. Click the “OK” button on the open “Internet Options” box and your WordPress dashboard is now secure 🙂

Note: If anyone feels remotely unsure about following the security part of the above (from number 4. onwards) please feel free to stop at 3. If you get overly irritated with the warning that keeps coming up, you can come back and follow the instructions to stop it :o)

“WHEW!” That took a long time. As you can imagine, I am starting to twitch because my poor addled brain isn’t set up for that kind of marathon but I feel strongly enough about you, my dear constant readers, to want you to know how to protect yourselves from having unsecure websites that you visit on a regular basis and rely on. Any time you see “http:” it means that the site is unsecure. Never EVER give any bank details or information to an unsecure site. A BIG thank you to Steve, who just helped me with that list of tutorials. If anyone reading uses “Blogger”, I wasn’t able to find a way to secure “Blogger”. Apparently Google isn’t quite there yet with securing your blog…sorry about that! I also tried to find a way to secure “Pinterest” but at this moment in time, it’s not a secure site (aside from the log in screen). I wouldn’t have even thought about these security issues prior to learning about them the other day. I just thought my Virus protection would sort everything out. The biggest problems come from people using unsecured sites when they are browsing using Wi-Fi apparently. There are all sorts of free programs out there that are easily downloadable (even by tech numpties like me!) that can give people complete access to unsecured passwords, information and can let them see whatever you can see if you haven’t secured these sites! Imagine sitting at an airport waiting to fly and doing a bit of banking (as you do) or browsing Facebook etc. and someone sitting a few metres away being able to watch everything that you are doing! Not any more they can’t! At least it will be a bit harder for them and they will have to work for your information and why bother when so many other people are blindly going about their days with the equivalent of a sign on their heads saying “hack me PLEASE”. It’s a bit like being a burglar and approaching a house with a dog… you are probably going to move along to an easier target ;).

I did a short post Bev! Do I get a present? 😉 I will now add a few photos to pad this otherwise “dry” post out. See you on Wednesday when “Normal Service will be resumed” :o)

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Meet “Boof” he is a shamless blend of terrier and poodle who will do whatever it takes to extract dog treats from Steve

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Steve noticed this small snake on the side of the road on our morning walk with the dogs the other day. We live near a river and the odds are that we are going to have snakes in the local bushland. This poor little man had the bad misfortune to be slithering about when a cat was walking past. Cat’s HATE snakes and will kill them if they can…cat 1, snake 0

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Steve and I noticed this on another recent dog walk (hey, we do it every day folks, we are going to notice things!) and after a quick confab, we figure the local council are trying to hide something from us all…we are off up to the road tonight to dig up what is OBVIOUSLY treasure! 😉 (Note I am HOPING that this is treasure and not where the zombies are buried with instructions to emerge at night!)

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On Valentine’s Day I did what I do every day, I got out of bed before 5am, I shuffled into the kitchen to put the kettle on for my one cup of tea a day…I put my teabags in my mug and after the water boils I pour in my water…much like I do every other day of the year. I headed to the fridge to get my soymilk and when I got back I was struck by the shape of a small clump of bubbles in my tea…a teeny tiny heart! I know the photo is a bit blurry but I am not at my best before my first cuppa, you are lucky you can even see the photo! ;). Someone out there in the ether loves me 🙂

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Here are some seed pods that I collected on one of our past dog walks (I am always industrious 😉 )

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And here are some of the seeds that one of the pods jettisoned out of itself at high speed when it exploded not long after I put it into this bowl… it exploded with such force that it hit the roof and scattered its seeds all over the place (I am still finding them!) and scared Bezial and Earl in the process. The rest of the seeds got thrown out into the side garden to explode at will in a safer environment 😉

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This fruit was collected from a Sorbus tree on one of our walks and I collected it because the fruit is a particularly lovely colour

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I found this Arestia major seed pod in the middle of the road on another walk (we DO get around… 😉 ). The woman who had told me the name of this plant also told me that she hadn’t seen another one in Tasmania (and obviously didn’t want to, because she wasn’t keen to give me any of the seed!)… it just goes to show that sometimes the will of nature to reproduce is stronger than the social standing of a snooty socialite! 😉

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A wealth of Queen Anne’s Lace seed…now I just have to wait for the bumper harvest of Wild Fennel seed just up the road so that I can seed the bottom of the property…”Bees…do your stuff!” 🙂

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The contents of one of my Green Smoothies. I have one for breakfast every day and on weighing myself this morning I was happy to see that have reached my target goal weight!

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Our very first loaf of sourdough bread courtesy of Audrey who is now allowed to keep her name because as my friend Kym from Western Australia so rightfully said “Audrey is a classy name…it reminds me of Audrey Hepburn…” Audrey was beautiful and resilient and so is this sourdough starter so “Audrey” she shall stay! 🙂

Processes and possibilities

Hi All,

It’s Tuesday and we are heading into Launceston for the day. We decided to go today because we received a “power outage” forecast in the mailbox for today promising us a day without power so we decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and go in to pay off our Polytechnic fees for the year and sign up for our course. Since I last posted we have been beavering away in the garden and bumbling around Serendipity Farm in general. Steve has been out fishing and caught a few that he felt sorry for and put back and he went to town to help a friends mum remove a pile of debris that came from an old carpet warehouse that was in the upstairs building of an inner city shop that she purchased and is going to renovate the top part as her home and have a shop underneath. The warehouse contained lots of long steel poles that go in the middle of display rolls of carpet and Steve’s friend told him that he could have as many as he liked. Steve had the brilliant idea that they could be used when we make our enormous edifice to human ingenuity of a vegetable garden and a morning helping a friend has given us another cornerstone to our ethos :o). I learned from Jessie/Rabid that I had to feed Audrey (soon to be renamed) directly before I put her into the fridge for her sourdough hiatus so that she could languish in style whilst feeding on her bounty. I had fed her, but about 8 hours earlier so I pulled her out of the fridge and fed her up and she rose up beautifully…is there nothing that this lovely and most gracious lady can’t do? Rabid shared about how she and Bertha (Audrey’s mum) are harnessed together and work as a team. I am still learning all about the team work and am having to do a lot more forward planning because you can’t just grab a jar of dried yeast from the cupboard and “bake”. You have to nurture the sourdough back to a happy state after feeding it and you have to plan your prospective baking event in advance because just about everything that involves cooking with sourdough takes more time. I am a processes girl and love the new routines but am still learning my timing. Last night Steve was running a diagnostic on the computer that took a LONG time and I didn’t get access to my sourdough information until 9.30pm. I was tired and crabby and poor Audrey needed feeding, dividing and putting back to bed in the fridge. I managed to grump my way through making the pizza dough for Steve’s tea tonight and what seemed like an ENORMOUS quantity of bread dough for baking later on today when we get back in and ended up with a kitchen full of flour, a bad temper, a twitching husband and poor Audrey being subject to being harnessed to a cranky cow rather than a willing helper. Once I learn the processes I love to refine and hone…I am always carving and grooming my processes and making them run like a well-oiled machine and someday, hopefully soon, this new baking friend and I will share some amazing adventures :o)

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This is what we feed our chooks and it is fortified with calcium (in the form of shellgrit) and has lots of grains and seeds. They seem to like it and when we discovered the 3 newly hatched chicks the other day we turned this into…

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This with the aid of my trusty Vitamix high speed blender.

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Here’s 1 of the babies, the rest are underneath “Blondie” our silver laced Wyandotte hen

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Steve made another thin spoon out of golden sassafrass…the metal teaspoon is for size comparison…Steve isn’t quite up to forging his own steel just yet 😉

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What’s left of my most comfortable early morning slippers…If you are reading this Stewart (oh dearest son of mine kissy kissy)…you know what to get your dear old Mam for this mother’s day! (Cheers Earl…sigh…)

We are still going through troubled times with the dogs refusing their food on days when it isn’t straight meat. Bezial is the worst culprit. We know that dogs need more than just meat for their health. They aren’t straight carnivores like cat’s are and need fibre and vegetables etc. for their internal health. Bezial and Earl are both good representatives of what is known as a very strong willed dog breed and Bezial is up there with the most stubborn of dogs. He has been refusing to eat for 2 days now and Earl has just been skimming the meaty lure off the top of his fibrous ingredients. They have a bone stash outside that Bezial has been living off and he even ate a few of the despised dog biscuits last night whilst looking at me piteously as if to say “you are starving me woman!” I can’t back down on this issue because it is what is best for the 2 of them but ignoring those pathetic eyes is very hard! Bezial is chief manipulator and attempts to get Earl to join him on his hunger strikes but Earl’s hunger is more important than Bezials need to be the boss and get his way and Earl has yielded to the foodie lure much to Bezials disgust so he is standing stolid on his high moral ground and I can hear his stomach creaking…good luck with that Bezial! If my children couldn’t make me give in to their foodie whims, you have NO chance! 😉

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Mum and baby kookaburra having a drink and a bath in some of the water baths that we keep topped up with fresh water. We have had a lot of babies born on Serendipity Farm including baby cuckoo shrikes, baby black cockatoo’s, baby butcher birds and baby kookaburras.

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Mum on watch while her baby splashes about in the bird bath

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An oak sapling takes 10 years to produce its first acorn…I think this might well be Serendipity Farms very first acorn! It grew on an oak tree that grew from mulched oak leaves taken from the front of the property

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There isn’t much flowering on Serendipity Farm at the moment…everything is on heat watch and is just marking time till we get some rain but this little nigella proves that if you pick the right plant for your situation, you can still have colour in an arid place

I have been following a lot of blogs that share how to do all kinds of things for yourself from foraging from weeds through to building your own wind turbines. I am up for the weeds but not quite ready for the turbine yet! I knew that you can make kefir with coconut milk and so decided to make my own coconut milk from dried coconut in the pantry. I found a good recipe, I whizzed up the soaked coconut with its soaking water and strained it all through a clean cotton pillow case (gotta get me a nut bag…). I took the remaining pulp out to the food dehydrator to make coconut flour and smugly placed Kid Creole (my kefir grains…newly named from the 80’s band “Kid Creole and the Coconut’s”…) into about a cup full of my coconut milk. My coconut milk separated into cream on top and whey underneath and I didn’t care…my kefir grains sat there…and sat there… and sat there…and nothing happened. I got a bit concerned when the next day the milk was still watery and the kefir grains hadn’t set the milk and I decided to take mercy on Kid Creole and clean him off and put him into a glass of regular milk where he is fermenting to his heart’s content. I blame Rabid and her organic milk…she has spoiled Kid for anything other than pure dairy! ;). When we were in town on Tuesday we headed to the fruit and veggie shop and I found 8 mangoes for $4. I thought that was a pretty good deal and bought them along with half a rockmelon for $1.50 and when I got home I cut them up and froze them for my morning green smoothies. I also found passionfruit with lovely wrinkled skins that were fragrant and promising so I bought 2 and when we got home I sieved the pulp and juice from the seeds and poured it into Steve’s home-made orange and lemon cordial that I made the other day. It was already delicious but the addition of 2 passionfruit made it heavenly and after I picked some of our fragrant ripe ex-tip strawberries and pureed them up with about 500ml of the orange and passionfruit cordial the results both smelled and tasted amazing. Homemade isn’t second best folks…it’s the bomb!

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Passionfruit seed from 2 passionfruit drying out on a coffee filter ready for me to have a go at growing them from seed

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Same goes for rockmelon 🙂

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Here we have a plethora of seed etc. all waiting it’s day in potting mix. The bags are full of fermenting fruit. I am doing experiments and am trying to echo nature to get the best germination rates. I figure that plums and fleshy fruited plants would drop their seed and it would either go through an animal or would ferment on the floor and so I am prefermenting the fruit in it’s parental juices to see if it doesn’t grow better. Might work…might not. Thats the beauty of experimentation and if it grows “Good oh!” if it doesn’t “Them’s the breaks” and I will put it into the compost bin 😉

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Coconut milk on the left and coconut pulp on the right. The pulp is now dehydrated and in a jar in the pantry waiting to be used in recipes. I might even start fermenting the pulp before I dehydrate it for better digestion…so many experiments…so little time in the day! 😉

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Those large leaves are my turmeric that finally started to grow. I bought organic turmeric from a local health food shop and it loves the conditions in the glasshouse, which is lucky, because that is where it is going to have to live if it wants to survive on Serendipity Farm! 😉

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The last of the turmeric taking its time…pay NO attention to the Oxalis…I don’t! 😉

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A pot full of Oxalis and Discorea elephantipes developing their basal cordex amazingly well…nice and corky and round, my favourite kind 🙂

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One of my cardamom plants that seems to be loving the conditions in the glasshouse. I might get Steve to make me a big raised planter box that we can plant the turmeric and the cardamom in as a more permenant fixture in the glasshouse

Before we headed into Launceston to sign up and pay for our new course at Polytechnic yesterday, I took out the sourdough pizza dough that I had mixed up the night before from the fridge where it had been sitting in stasis. I left it on the counter because the recipe called for it to ferment 8 hours so I figured that it would be ready to turn into pizza when we got home. I eyeballed it when we got home and gave it a suspicious sniff and it smelled lovely and had risen to double its size.  We had more than enough for a large pizza tray and so I rolled some very thin and put it on another tray along with some thinly rolled out dough with some cheese pressed into it. We baked it in the bbq while we were topping Steve’s pizza and when we were ready to put the pizza in the oven Steve got to taste the results. He was more than happy with the flavour and how crunchy the thin dough was and the cheesy twisty thing’s tasted great as well…I was starting to get excited by now because the sourdough was actually rising, rolling and behaving like real bread dough! Steve pulled his pizza out of the oven after 15 minutes and ate the entire thing and pronounced it “delicious”. We have a large bowl of sourdough bread in the fridge rising slowly and tomorrow we will bake 2 loaves. If the loaves turn out, I am going to pronounce this sourdough experiment completely and utterly successful and will start baking in earnest (or Brunhilda…whichever one comes first 😉 ). I checked Audrey and found that she had escaped her container and was spilling down the side so rehoused her in a larger taller container to allow her to slowly grow and eat her organic rye flour at her leisure. It is going to take me a little while getting used to having to plan so far ahead when baking but I love processes and so am enjoying the learning experience and the possibilities that sourdough baking bring to Serendipity Farm.

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Isn’t this baby gorgeous?! I had to take a photo of it and share it with you 🙂

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The possums have been restless…sigh…note the complete lack of leafy greens on the top of this bean cube? They don’t eat the bean pods so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much…mutter…mutter…

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Eggplant futures!

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Mulch futures soon to be seen to migrate about a metre to the left…

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The last of the mulch futures…not sure where this is going but if we don’t need it in the front garden it can go into the stockpile ready for using in our new enormous enclosed vegetable garden…I love saying that “ENORMOUS ENCLOSED VEGETABLE GARDEN”! I am going to yell it tonight at the top of my lungs when I go outside at about 10pm before I head off to bed and I can hear the possums fighting over my bean bed… sigh…

I was thinking about processes while I was making my coconut milk (which I am going to have to think of something to do with now that Kid Creole has refused to work with it 😉 ) and how we can choose to pick up something ready made from the supermarket OR we can choose to have a go at making it ourselves. When you buy a product from the shelves it has “cost effectiveness” embedded into its ethos. The product is there because someone wants to make a profit out of it and you can rest assured that its flavour profile has been compromised in order to give it an extended shelf life and keep the cost down. When you make things yourself you might have to factor in the cost of making the item (electricity, personal effort etc.) BUT you get so much more out of the process. You get to learn the process of how to actually make the item, you get various items through the process, i.e. When I made Steve his homemade cordial I got orange skins to preserve and some for the compost, I got passionfruit shells for the compost and I got passionfruit seed that I am going to attempt to grow. When I bought rockmelon to put into my green smoothies I got the shells to put into my compost and the seed to attempt to grow as well as the frozen rockmelon pulp to add amazing flavour to my drink…we can customise what we make to our own personal tastes…too much sugar? Add some lemon juice…not enough sugar, add some more. It might take more time to make something yourself than it takes to grab something from the supermarket but there is an amazing depth of satisfaction to be gained from making your own and cutting out that insidious middle man who thrives on the profits of others. You can also take advantage of what is in season and preserve it for later and again, the satisfaction of shoring up your supplies for another time and giving yourself a degree of food security is immeasurable. There is another benefit to doing things yourself…in my case it results in my efforts to collect and save fruit seeds makes the kitchen smell AMAZING! :o)

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More pumpkin futures…another experiment. This is inside one of the compost heaps and aside from a few manky potatoes that get regularly stripped of leaves by either possums reaching in, wallabies waiting for the potatoes to (stupidly) poke out or slugs just slithering about at their leisure picking the tastiest bits to chew…they don’t like pumpkin leaves but they DO love the young fruit :(. Again, I see it as another way to learn how to be clever…I figure by the time I am laid 6 ft under I will be the cleverest woman in Sidmouth! 😉

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The chives are so happy they are flowering…wallabies LOVE the allium family, the chives close cousins, the garlic, have all had their tops munched down by the wallabies that parade around the outside of the veggie garden at night looking for anything poking out

The more you pare back from your life the more beautiful the simple things you retain become. I am enjoying my early morning wake-up cup of tea SO much more now that it is my only cup of tea. It tastes amazing and I fully appreciate it accompanying me as I read my rss feed reader blogs. I always have my eyes open for opportunities to collect plan material on our early morning walks with the dogs and have a large pile of all different kinds of seeds collected locally from perennials, trees and shrubs that are doing particularly well in our area. I collected some seed from a shrub at the Polytechnic where we signed up that appears to be a type of hawthorn with large panicles of white flowers and very large red fruit. It has enormous thorns and was growing in a very arid part of the garden all of which make it an excellent choice for growing on Serendipity Farm. Thorny plants are great habitat for small birds as are shrubs that are tall enough to make it difficult for predators to climb. Fruit and flowers are a bonus for bees and food for birds and it appears to be hardy enough to grow in very dry conditions making it ideal for our area. I phoned up the West Tamar Council and asked them about a large pile of wood chips that I have been eyeing off for about 9 months now. The parks and wildlife resources manager phoned me back and told me that if the pile had been there that long without being used that they obviously didn’t want it and that I was welcome to it! Steve and I spent 1 ¾ incredibly well spent hour’s today collecting 4 trailer loads of free mulch. It is rotting down nicely and is a good combination of leaves and bark and was nice and damp which shows how good it is at retaining moisture because we haven’t had a lot of rain for the whole summer. We left some around the base of a large liquidambar so that it wouldn’t be compromised by our removal of its windfall mulch and I am going to spend most of tomorrow shovelling it all over the garden under the deck and along the driveway to cover the exposed and parched soil.

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The tomato jungle…all the fruit is contained in this jungle…I am going to have to be narf7 the explorer and go hunting in here one day soon (or try to con Steve into doing it for me 😉 )

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My spinach beds, plundered on a daily basis for my morning green smoothie habit but it seems to have made them stronger and they haven’t wanted to go to seed so far…maybe pinching leaves all of the time is a good thing for a plant? The little beetroot haven’t amounted to much (they were the teeny ones left over when we harvested the bigger ones) but I figure I can eat the leaves if they don’t form roots so they have earned their place in the garden…note the numpty who’s shadow is included in this shot 😉

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Our corn bed with rocket going mental/to seed. I am allowing the rocket and lettuces to go to seed now so that I can collect seed for next years crops 🙂

I had best stop waxing lyrical and head off to sort out some photos to accompany this post. No Bev… it aint short! ;). I just have to hope that my enthusiasm for life is infectious and that my happiness in the simple processes bleeds through to you my dear constant readers and gives you your own simple enthusiasm for your own lives…at the end of the day…what more can we really hope for? See you on Saturday when I may, or may not have made some lovely yellow dishcloths with the pattern that Rabid sent to me…more like I have knitted a few rows…Earl has pounced on my most interesting moving yarn and either grabbed it and run, rendering the square suddenly puckered and decidedly unsquarelike or snicker snacked off the wool and run off with the ball…either of these 2 eventualities are highly likely! 😉

A Tale of 2 Sourdough’s

Hi All,

Barter is a beautiful thing. I recently swapped 2 of Steve’s lovely handmade spoons for a new sourdough starter and some kefir grains. It’s great sticking it to “The Man” and no “man” deserves sticking it to more than our supermarkets folks! How do penniless student hippies get the extra’s that they want? They barter for them! Aside from being a means to an end, bartering is fun, sustainable and bolshie, all of my favourite things rolled into 1. I know that supermarkets don’t sell sourdough starter and kefir grains but they do sell white crappy bread at $1 a loaf that lures people with reduced incomes to their doom and drags farmers down with them. Milk and other dairy products are also heavily discounted, to dairy farmer’s detriment, and intensive dairy farming with minimal returns result in cost cutting farmers and something’s got to give.  My first sourdough effort resulted in something orange and funky that needed to be flushed down the loo A.S.A.P! I got given Herman’s grandfather by a fellow blogger and after coaxing him back to life from his long journey from N.S.W. he rewarded me by 2 months of slavetude and vinegar bricks. Herman had the misfortune of being fed only once a day and was teaming with lactobacilli, the bacterial quotient of the symbiotic relationship that results in a good sourdough. Thanks to being lactobacilli heavy, he was concurrently yeast challenged. It’s a bit like a seesaw relationship, too much of one means not enough of the other and you have to make sure you juggle your sourdough bacilli with yeast initially until your starter stabilises and becomes strong enough to develop its own robust personality. Herman was sour. Herman was past sour, he was positively vinegary! He couldn’t raise the skin off a rice pudding either and so Herman is in stasis on my pantry shelf in a vacuum sealed bag. I don’t blame Herman, I blame myself. I didn’t realise that a balance needed to be established and Herman was the result.

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My cinnamon muffin mise en place with the glass of cultured kefir and my breakfast smoothie spinach

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A closeup of the cultured kefir which is a lot like yoghurt. The difference between yoghurt and kefir is that yoghurts culture is eaten along with the yoghurt, kefir grains are fished out and reused over and over again and can be used to culture just about every kind of milk aside from UHT milk (what does THAT tell you? 😉 ), goat, sheep and non dairy milks as well.

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Here’s the fermented starter, flour, milk and rolled oats for the cinnamon muffins. You can see that the mix has bubbled up and looks somewhat like pikelet batter

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The resulting muffins looking and feeling more like cake than robust sourdough muffins

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A closeup of the fine texture that the fermented sourdough gave to these muffins

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The miracle chocolate cake…once separated oily ropey gunge, now combined and smelling amazing! Sourdough magic 😉

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As dear old Mr M Loaf once sang…”2 out of 3 aint bad”…and he was right 🙂

Now that everyone knows that I am unbalanced…lets proceed! Herman in stasis and me swearing to never dabble in the sour arts ever EVER again lasted about as long as a first time mothers pledge to never EVER have another child…the memory softens and gets a sepia tone to it and suddenly you are pregnant all over again or in my case, begging for sourdough starter from Jessie, a.k.a. “Rabid” from the wonderfully sustainable blog http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ and a chunk of her brains. Well, little white brain like kefir grains to be more specific ;). Not only did Jessie send me a lovely hand knitted black organic cotton dishcloth (that is too nice to use 😉 ), she sent me the daughter of Bertha that she split with another lucky recipient and some kefir grains. The kefir grains have decided to band together in a mass and spend their days backstroking around a glass of milk until it sets where they call out to me telepathically and I change their milk for fresh milk. I used the cultured milk to make icing yesterday and apparently it tastes lovely. I will give them a week of happy backstroking before I introduce a new medium into the equation and let them take a float in some home-made coconut milk. Variety is the spice of life kefir and life on Serendipity Farm is about as spicy as you can get! I had fed Audrey twice a day for 2 days before I decided to actually use some of the discarded sourdough and following recipes closely I mixed together the flour, milk and starter for a batch of cinnamon muffins, a chocolate cake and a batch of English muffins. The remaining starter was fed a cup of rye and white flour mixed a cup of water and after it rose up in her jar she was put into the fridge. I am going to rename “Audrey”. She deserves to have a much more favourable name because when she was initially named I envisaged a hungry tyrant who would lead me to baking’s dark side and it would ultimately end in tears…to the contrary, this new starter is malleable, compliant and most charmingly willing to please!

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Bezial was hot and bothered on our walk on thursday so we let him off his lead for a swim and here he is fishing, a much happier and cooler dog 🙂

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We found this poor tawny frogmouth in the road on our walk. Steve thought that it was dead but when I went over to investigate it was still alive.

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We took the poor thing in to Launceston to the vet who told us that he was too far gone to recover and he was euthanised. I was in 2 minds whether or not to share these 2 photos with you but decided that he deserved to get his 15 seconds of fame. R.I.P. Mopoke 😦

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We took this photo at a little park in Launceston where we stopped to give the dogs a drink of water and a bit of a walk after taking the Mopoke to the vet’s. This shop specialises in high quality fake flowers and Christmas decorations…very specialised but they must sell enough because they are still there.

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This is the bark of a gorgeous old Pinus pinea (Italian Stone Pine) in the same small park. We have several small ones that we grew from seed collected from another specimen. These trees produce cones that contain the edible nuts sold as “pine nuts”.

I got up yesterday morning and had a little peak and the separate bowls of fermenting milk, flour and starter to find that the ensuing mass had indeed risen and was rippled with bubbles and smelled yeasty and only slightly tangy. If I had used Herman the whole lot would be curdled, it would smell like malt vinegar and would take your breath away and it would be flat as a tack! We were already ahead! We headed out to walk the dogs and when we got back I started to bake. Steve headed out to the shed to make a spoon when he was interrupted by a local calling out to him from over the gate and he headed down to have a chat and was offered several trailer loads of spent horse bedding hay for our garden beds. All we had to do was go and pick it up. Sorry Steve…I am too busy, it’s going to have to be you ;). Steve does all of the cooking in our covered bbq and is quite proficient with it. I have never cooked anything in this bbq and was to be left alone with it to cook my sourdough creations so if something was going to go wrong, it would go SPECTACULARLY wrong! The bbq was behaving itself and I was able to mix up the cinnamon muffins and after 20 minutes (turning halfway) the muffins were ready. They smelled amazing! They had a light and fluffy texture that I wouldn’t have thought possible from sourdough products and in addition to their flour, milk and starter overnight ferment they had rolled oats. After a night the rolled oats had virtually disappeared and the resulting muffins were more like a light spongecake than a robust muffin. That would be a “tick” for recipe 1…I pulled down the homogenous mass waiting to be made into chocolate cake. I mixed the chocolate part and stirred it into the homogenous fermented mass and dubiously poured it into a baking tray (it is a big cake). It had started to separate, had greasy blobs all around it and generally looked like a failure waiting to happen. Being the stalwart that I am, I decided to bake it anyway and after 15 minutes cooking I headed out with dread to check it. Feeling sure that it would have bubbled over and set the bbq on fire I was pleasantly surprised to find a “chocolate cake” doing the right thing under the cover. After 35 minutes of low heat the chocolate cake was finished and set out to cool on a wire rack…that would be tick number 2

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I found this “thing” on my walk with Earl yesterday. We took a bit of a detour down the Batman Highway to check out a source of Foeniculum vulgare (Weedy fennel) seed but it was still in full flower and no seed yet but we DID find this. Steve thinks it looks like it came from an irrigation system. No idea but it is huge…it is metal…and it is mine! It looks steampunk enough to carry one of my more spiky succulents or cacti 🙂

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We went through the overflow pantry cupboard in our middle spare room on thursday and ended up finding several ancient containers of goodness only knows what. One smelled of garlic and was riddled with weevil tunnels…(Italian weevils are a problem on Serendipity Farm 😉 ), another contained Macca powder that had suffered the same weevil infestation albeit a long LONG time ago. These weevils are the equivalent of biblical humanity to their modern day weevil equivalents. The white stuff is some sort of African processed cereal product made from maize that I bought and tried once only. Maybe African’s actually like the flavour of wallpaper paste? The darker brown is from some forgotten (also weevil infested) zaatar and there was a jar of ancient breadcrumbs that joined the throng. I poured a kettle and a half of boiling water over this mass and served it up to the chooks for breakfast. At least SOMEONE enjoyed that garlic, macca, zaatar flavoured wallpaper paste!

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This is the lush foliage of one of the cape gooseberry plants on Serendipity Farm. You can see the green fruit capsules hanging like lanterns from this perennial plant. The offer is still open to anyone (aside from Kym who has already taken me up on the offer 😉 ) who would like some of the seed to grow in their gardens. It produces edible berries that can be eaten raw or cooked and it will grow in the Gobi desert it is so hardy 🙂

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The fruit is inside the husk

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1 of our transplanted artichokes (showing signs of predation) that might just make it. The rest of them have disappeared 1 by 1 into various chicken, possum and wallaby craws

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I found this little fellow in amongst the carrots that our friend gave us recently. I couldn’t bring myself to chop him up. He is currently sunbathing in the lid of my recent coconut conquest 😉

I then attempted to make the English muffins. It has now become apparent that you need to make a somewhat stiffer dough for the muffins and Jessie has given me some hints and tips for making them next time. This time they were more like pikelets or flatbread and although Steve ate a couple of them with some butter I know he was doing so because he was hungry after hauling all of that hay rather than a genuine desire to eat the results. I just processed up the cold remainders to put into the dehydrator to dry out and make breadcrumbs. No waste here :o). At the end of the day I was completely enamoured of my new starter. She is currently hibernating in the fridge where Jessie told me she can wait it out for 4 days before needing to be fed again. She deserves a place of honour for her efforts and my recent bartering has opened up a world of yeasty possibilities, hours of happy researching and a plethora of recipes and experiences waiting to be discovered thanks to a mutual swap. Life doesn’t have to be tough and there are many ways to skin a cat. We need to be able to step back and think about other ways to get what we want if the folding green stuff is remote or completely absent.

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This trailer load of old horse bedding hay got forked into the chook yard for the hens and Yin to fossick through to their hearts content.

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The rest got dumped next to the existing vegetable garden beds

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Garden bed futures…I just realised that our veggie garden area is looking a bit “Tip Like”…time to get on top of that pile of junk Steve! It is all metal and apparently in demand. We owe some of it to our friend in the witness protection’s welder partner and we will use some of it in future ventures but for now we are going to stack it up nice and neat so that we might look like we are growing illicity crops BUT at least they will be neat! 😉

It has been exceptionally windy on Serendipity Farm for the last few days which has reinforced my desire to one day install a small wind turbine to harness the power of the wind. Tasmania is prone to windy gusts and this phenomenon has been given a name, “The roaring 40’s”, which is also the name of a large wind farm in the states north east. I am really interested in alternative energy and as the technology becomes more and more mainstream the prices of sustainable and renewable energy should reduce. We are waiting for a reduction in price before we jump onto the bandwagon. We don’t want to be lumbered with a substandard solar hot water system because of unscrupulous producers racing to take advantage of the windfall that government subsidies dropped into their laps. Many Tasmanians’ raced to sign up and are only now finding out solar powers limitations in our state where summer tends to be peppered with cloudy days. You need to tailor your requirements and make sure that you aren’t hoodwinked by savvy salesmen and green wash hype. Do your homework. Our friend in the witness protection is a case in point. Her home is completely off grid. They rely on water from tanks, mobile phones and a large shipping container bank of solar panels to power their home. The solar panels can’t generate enough power for the requirements of her family and her partner, a welder, has had to put a water jacket in the back of their solid fuel heater to ensure they have enough hot water for their needs. I downloaded tutorials for how to make your own wind turbine but wanting your own wind turbine is a far FAR cry from being able to build one. I know my limitations and electronics and I are not good bedfellows. It’s another one of those “wait” opportunities to learn patience…it’s a pity that patience and I are not good bedfellows either!

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Bev from the wonderful permaculture in practice blog Foodnstuff http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/ has asked Steve to make her a sugar spoon. He decided to try something new and this lovely rounded celery top pine spoon is the result

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This is the back of the spoon

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The angle of the handle and bowl detail. Steve is really enjoying where making spoons is taking him and has been developing lots of ideas for spoons for his website that we will be creating this year. You will be the very first people to see our website designs. Stay tuned folks, it is going to be a most interesting year! 🙂

That brings us to the end of today’s post. I have lots of photos to share with you and they should have finished uploading into my blog by now. Time to tack this post into the appropriate space and dust it all off for you to read tonight (or yesterday if you are in the Northern Hemisphere 😉 ). Have a lovely Sunday and see you all again on Wednesday :o)

The confessions of a self-absorbed hierophant

Hi All,

I made it! I managed to stay up till after 12 for the very first time in years! Steve and I stumbled out of bed at 5am so that he could go fishing and I could get my very first post of 2013 up and running. It’s amazing how hung over you can feel without even having a drink ;). I have had a most interesting few days. In preparation for my 2013 ethos (I like to have a goal and a theme 😉 ) I have been “doing” lots of things. I want to be a better (read less lazy) cook this year and create a lot more “from scratch” things. I want to hone my skills this year so you can expect a lot more tutorial type posts and interesting recipes…at least photos of what we cooked. I made Steve a savoury pithivier the other day and rather than use milk to make the base sauce, I used white wine. It was delicious apparently and the leftovers got recycled into a huge quiche the next day using zucchini, our own eggs (14 of them…we have 9 dozen to get through and rising!) and some of our spinach. I want to become more organised and condense my processes down and get Serendipity Farms cycles integrated better this year. We are composting everything that can possibly be composted and it is amazing how something turns from a problem into an asset with a little bit of knowledge. Finding ways to effect positive change on a shoestring is what warms the cockles of my little penniless hippy heart. I found out an incredible amount of information last year and stashed it away for future use. I learned how to make hugelkultur gardens, how to ferment, how to grow a sourdough (even though Herman is still in cryogenic stasis as I type those words…) and how to do all sorts of things from scratch bypassing the consumer dollar in the process. We spend our money locally as much as we can and have stopped buying supermarket meat in favour of our local butcher Nigel from “Nigel’s gourmet on Tamar”…he didn’t give me anything to plug his business there folks…his quality produce was all that needed me to laud him and there are so many small primary businesses out there that could use a bit of a capital injection from we the public. The supermarkets are insidiously replacing all of the branded products on their shelves with their “own labels” to maximise their profit margins. Check out the back of these products and take note that they are not supporting Aussie farmers in their endeavour to rule the Australian consumer dollar…they are importing cheap foods from goodness only knows where and packaging them here in Australia to try to make them look better. Don’t support them if you have any other option…even penniless student hippies can choose to shake their moth eaten sock into their open hands to the benefit of Australian producers.

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The quiche of a million eggs for your perusal!

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Here is a photo that Steve took from his aluminium coracle whilst pootling around on the river the other day. If you look REALLY closely (or if you click the photo and make it bigger…) you might just be able to make out what that red blob is up on that deck…its me! Our house is only really visible from this position in the river and from here you can see The Auld Kirk Church, Steve’s shed and our house and those rocks in the foreground actually belong to Redwood island which Steve is conveniently anchored near to give you a bit of perspective. All of those trees are pretty much ours and the area in front of the house used to be landscaped and terraced garden…not any MORE it isn’t! 😉

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These tyres contain the entirety of a packet of seed that we were given to us by the funeral directors back in 2010 at my fathers funeral. At the time Serendipity Farm was in no condition to broadcaste seed around but we found this packet the other day and decided that our veggie garden needed some flowers to confuse the predatory insects and so Steve built this little tyre garden while I was away at my daughters house. As you can see there is a plethora of possibility here in this tyre…not being an annual person myself, I have no idea what these little green babies are (hopefully not weeds!) but whatever they are they can at least get to see the light of day from their packet and act as little first defence soldiers in the war of integrated pest management

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My little Moringa oleifera that I have been gestating in the glasshouse that will eventually be planted on Serendipity Farm

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The fecundity of the well fortified old compost heap…

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This is an old beer can…one of the cluckies who had been hunkering down for over a month in the new chook pen (before it was a new chook pen to be exact!) was actually sitting on it. I bravely checked under her and was duly repelled with great gusto and all for this remnant of my dad and his drinking buddies…sigh…

I have some dried fruit soaking in the last of the Christmas rum ready to make boozy Eccles cakes for Steve today. Steve has been steadily working his way through the Christmas booze because he wants to give his liver a bit of a rest for lent this year and wanted to start early ;). When we were taking the dogs for a walk up the highway the other day I found a tiny little metal spoon bowl that had become separated from its handle. I have NO idea how it got to be on the side of the road but I picked it up and we brought it back home and Steve make it a handle out of a Serendipitous twig and took a bit of adventitious rust off it and now it sits proudly in the cutlery draw, given a new life by someone who saw it’s intrinsic value. Steve has managed to get on top of the list of spoons that needed to be made and I even got a massive great Spoondle (a cross between a spoon and a ladle). He got creative for Roz’s spoon and decided to make a cross between a wooden spoon and a spatula…the Spatuloon is born! I love that we can both make spoons. The end results are startlingly different and entirely personalised to our own view of the wood that we are working with. I also love that the small pieces of wood that Steve cuts his spoons out of get recycled into small spoons and the remainder get bagged up ready for fire lighting futures. The sawdust gets swept up and bagged as well to use for odour control in my indoor compost bucket and for increasing the suite of organisms in our compost heap. By the way folks…add all sorts of things to your compost…add leaves and broken up twigs from all sorts of plants and trees and tip your beer can dregs into your compost bucket… they all add something exciting and new to your compost brew and make for adventurous growing seasons and who doesn’t love to see what amazing fungi grow out of their compost heap! I know that composting will never be the same for me after opening up the compost bin at Polytechnic in my very first compost turning event and seeing fungi mycelium threaded right down through the compost pile…the fecundity of it all excited me along with the cycles and processes that were initiated by what went into that compost and got me wanting to grow my own fungus…I LOVE fungi :o).  Earl has been getting restless whenever his snout manages to get within sniffing distance of the bowl of walnuts in Steve’s music room…he has personally asked us to do another spoon draw so that he can reintroduce his questing nose into that bowl full of walnuts as he loves to crack them in half and leave them lying around for foolish barefoot hippies to find… another spoon draw is on the horizon folks :o)

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Pinky my dear younger sister’s new spoon in its finished but raw state…

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If you can take your eyes off that spiders web in the top left hand corner for a bit, you will notice that the spoon is now a different colour. It has been rubbed with Eco-oil, a natural food safe blend of orange and tung oil that gives wood a lovely lustre and enhances its natural beauty

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You can tell that these hands belong to Steve…firstly by the hairy arms and secondly by the long fingernails…murphy’s law states that all guitarists must grow their fingernails at an exponential rate because fingernails get in the way of playing…

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This is my Spadle…its huge and pot ready and I can’t wait to wave it about like excalibur over my head when diving into cauldrons of bubbling harvest futures

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A selection of wooden spoons that Steve has made since he decided to become “The Spoonman”

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Earl wistfully prodding the walnuts with his nose

Not long after I found the little spoon bowl on our recent walk I noticed a large tree growing on the road verge and my horticultural bones started to twitch…”Steve…I think that might be a chestnut tree!”…my horticulture spidey senses were on full alert and indeed it WAS a chestnut tree! I haven’t seen an adult chestnut tree in flower and it was a very interesting thing to behold. The flowers are long and pendulous and have a very “interesting” fragrance…not entirely pleasant but my guess is (assisted by the clouds of flies and beetles covering the tree) that they are not aiming at bees and butterflies to pollinate them. I could see tiny chestnuts forming on the ends of the branches and another free food source has been isolated. I am definitely going to plant some chestnut trees out now. If they will grow on a road verge with no outside source of irrigation they are definitely a tree for Serendipity Farm. As we were walking back to our car I noticed a red clover (Trifolium pratense) plant growing in the gravel on the side of the road…again my horticultural senses twitched because deep in the over clogged information highway of my mind something put 2 and 2 together and came up with “bonus!”…I did a bit of research when I got home about red clover because I hauled the red clover plant out of its desert gravel pit and put it into one of our incredibly useful dog dung bags (we use them for horticultural purposes more than their intended use!) and it is sitting in the laundry sink happily bathing its toes in fresh water as I type this. My ethos is “never let a chance go by” and I am glad that I didn’t because this baby had a HUGE root system and because it was covered in seed ready to broadcast if it was worth cultivating. It’s always a good sign if your query results in 2 results lauding the health benefits of said red clover before you get to the Wikipedia entry and apparently I learned something in my horticultural endeavours because I found out that red clover has been used for centuries as a metabolic diuretic, an expectorant and a blood purifier. It contains lots of nutrients and phytoestrogens to balance hormonal activities and is being researched for its uses as a natural treatment for cancer, menopausal symptoms and skin disorders. It makes a pleasant cup of herbal tea and 1 – 2 tsp of dried flowers infused in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 – 30 minutes is all it takes to add this delightful natural remedy into your diet. See what a bit of knowledge can give you? I am going to spread the clover all over the place on Serendipity Farm…I am going to infuse the “lawn” with it, I hope to attract bees from all over the place by having a lot of it growing here. Knowledge is power of the highest degree and the kind of power that this freely sourced knowledge can give you is immensely empowering to those of us living on a shoestring

Trifolium pratense red clover

This is a lovely stock photo of red clover…MUCH better than I could take for you so you can acutally identify it in the wild using this shot

Pirate Ship

I am hoping that I can sneak this photo by the internet trolls… I am going to give full kudos to The Examiner our local rag for this shot. Its of the pirate ship that I talked about not so long ago and a Melbourne man built it from scratch and has been sailing it around since Christmas… I don’t know about pirate but at $5 a person to take a sneak peak on board, he might just be rolling in dubloons by the end of the season!

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Here is what the little found spoon looked like after I extracted it from the pocket of my jeans

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Here it is resting on the twig that I picked to be its new handle

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And here is what it looks like now after a bit of a clean up and a nice new twiggy handle 🙂

We are off to take some rubbish to the tip tomorrow. I have a plethora of amazing books to pick up from the local library as it opens again on January 2nd and Nigel slaters complete back catalogue appears to have landed in my request box ;). We try to combine as many things as we can into a single trip and tomorrow (today really but I typed this yesterday 😉 ) we will be walking the boys in Exeter, heading up to the tip and perusing the tip shop for any hardwood that we can find including floor boards to make spoons and spatulas with, going to the local op shop to see if anything new has arrived and picking up my weights worth of free books from the library. I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of the library. I know it is easier to just buy a book but when funds are tight, it’s not an option and when time is an asset that you have plenty of, typing out the best recipes from a good cookbook isn’t an issue and if you run out of time you can just request it again :o). I have a wonderful selection of books at the moment ranging from vegan cookbooks by the iconic Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a vegan pioneer who has, along with her good friend Terry Hope Romero, dragged vegan food kicking and screaming out of the “too hard” box and directly into the oncoming path of mainstream society. I purchased “Vegan cupcakes take over the world” in a selection of vegan cookbooks from the U.S. a few years ago and now we have “Vegan pie in the sky” (on my desk waiting to be typed out) and “Vegan cookies invade your cookie jar” is waiting for me to pick it up tomorrow…I get very excited whenever I get near the library. It’s a knowledge thing…a fundamental ingredient in my makeup that gives me a “good dog!” pat on the head whenever I head into that hallowed hall of literature and I never cease to amaze myself at how greedy I can be when it comes to books. I never have a spare space on my library card of 15 allowed books and regularly use my dear non-literary husband’s library card to shamelessly hog 15 more books. I can never hope to get through all of them in my allotted 3 weeks but whatchagonnado eh? 😉

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You wanted pictures of the veggie garden…you GET pictures of the veggie garden…this is the view from the house side of the veggie gardens…

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And this is the view from the other side…that blue tarpaulin still has some of the organic compost underneath it waiting to be used to fill duckies old boatpond and used as a raised herb garden

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Some of the rainbow chard that I cut to give to the chooks surrounded by sage and cucumbers and snow peas

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3 different kinds of zucchini, some chives, some snow peas, some cucumbers and a rustic attempt at allowing the cucumbers to go viral

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English spinach, beetroot, sage, cucumbers and those exponentially grow-before-your-eyes zucchini plants

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The spinach and beetroot bed…beetroot leaves are delicious by the way and every bit as good as silverbeet

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Looking back towards the corn and silverbeet

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Tomato mania! I am standing up taking this photo and you can see how crazy they have gone!

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A bed full of lettuce, rocket (going to seed but still tasty), capsicums (peppers), jalapeno chilli’s and more! I think you will all agree that our summer veggie garden experiment appears to be paying off 🙂

I think I may have stumbled onto the next greatest thing in vegan cooking…I am saying this because I know that Hannah, the vegan degustatory equivalent of Albert Einstein reads my blog posts…I hope you are reading this one Hannah because I am sharing my new found secret passion with you right here…right now. I LOVE cheese…I love it with a passion rivalled only by my love for potatoes (and butter…and bread…and…well you get the picture!) and I have sorely missed that cheesy flavour since I went over to the bright side of the street where the vegans hang out in the hipster side of town… it was one of the main reasons that I stuck steadfastly to my vegetarian past and stubbornly refused to cross that dairy free line. Eggs…no problem…cheese and butter “NOOOO!” but cross I did for health reasons and here I am still lusting after that deep cheesy flavour that comes from well-aged cheddar and I haven’t found a vegan alternative yet. I do love the taste of aged nut cheeses and I like vegan homemade yoghurt but the nut cheeses are expensive to make and while I was staying with my daughters they introduced me to something revolutionary that gave me back my cheesy hit without any effort on my part…magic! We had a complete weekend of cooking; we made homemade pizza and 12 different Korean recipes and Asian sago pudding and delicious icecream and all sorts of things. The girls had cheese on their pizza along with all sorts of weird things. They like to experiment with their food and often take recipes to their limits in the process. They have all sorts of unusual multicultural ingredients in their home and as they are going through an Asian phase at the moment they had purchased lots of Asian products in tins and jars to experiment with. Apparently my youngest daughter Bethany had bought a jar of Chilli bamboo shoots on a whim and after opening the jar and trying them she didn’t like them and the jar had remained on their fridge shelf gathering the fridge equivalent of dust for a while. When we were considering what to put on my vegan pizza Madeline (my eldest daughter) said “why don’t you put some of those chilli bamboo shoots on it?”…never one to shirk my duty to try new things I agreed and thus was born my newfound addiction to these wonderful fermented little shreds of vegan cheesy happiness. They taste almost identical to aged vintage cheese. If you don’t believe me Hannah, head down to your nearest Asian food store and buy a jar of Double Coins Chili Bamboo Shoots and see for yourself. I know you are a very innovative girl and are not averse to trying new things and I am sure that you will be able to integrate them into some of your wonderful vegan recipes…time to start a new trend Hannah and you will be right there at the beginning :o). Don’t say that I am not a generous blogger :o). I just let Earl (who likes to stand up and give me a kiss when I am typing on a regular basis) a sniff of the chili bamboo shoots and he started licking his lips and attempting to insert his doggy tongue into my precious jar of cheesy vegetable goodness…Earl is a cheese fan of old…I rest my case!

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Here it is Hannah…it might not look very promising but these fermented little strips of pure cheesy flavoured goodness were enough to lure Earl to attempt to stick his nose into the top of the jar and Earl is a true cheese afficionado of old! Check them out and let me know if you don’t agree that these shards of vegetabley goodness are not a craze waiting to happen 🙂

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We sprayed the roosters past wishbones and were going to thread them together to make a garland for the Christmas Tree but completely forgot them and so they will have to be this year’s project. We are going to spray some of them red and some gold over the top of the green but we only had green spray paint at the time…

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The end result of an experiment to see what happens if you dehydrate a whole raw egg…what happens is that you get something surreal that the dogs ate with gusto!

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A quick mercy trip to deliver a fridge to my daughters resulted in an impromptu trip to Launceston. I took lots of photos and will share them with you over the next few posts as this post is crammed to bursting! I just wanted to share this one with you to show you how pretty Launceston is 🙂

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The genius of street art…what is it? Not sure, but it does resemble my 5am face should I ever be foolish enough to look in the mirror at that unGodly hour!

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This is OBVIOUSLY the next fashion trend for the season…Steve and I will be sure to embrace it fully the next time that we visit…

So much for me cutting my post size down for 2013! I guess you have to work at “resolutions” don’t you? You can’t just expect to go cold turkey on your muses right up…I hereby give you 300 less words this post! I expect lavish applause and multiple congratulations for that… (Good luck getting me to repeat it 😉 ). See you on Saturday and have an amazing rest of the week my wonderful dear constant readers :o)

Herman and Ethel Merman run amok on Serendipity Farm

Hi All

“Bojon”c. 1900. Probably combined and condensed from Bo-hemia +   Hun-gary. Used as a pejorative.
A very stupid person of Central/Eastern European Slavic descent who works   with their back instead of their head. Fit only for manual labour, the bojon   nonetheless frequently finds him/herself in political office, especially in   areas of heavily bojon dominated constituency in the USA, as well as the   backward, shithole areas of Europe where they originate. The bojon is   characterised by a very brief attention span and being unable to perform   tasks requiring much mental agility. Ideally suited for repetitive tasks, as   long as it doesn’t involve anything very important.“The stupid bojon was unable to pour the piss from his   boot, even though the directions were clearly written on the heel.”(appropriated from urbandictionary.com)

I love the word Bojon. I discovered it last night when hunting for sourdough recipes on a wonderful blog called The Gourmet Bojon. I had NO idea what a Bojon was and the assumption was that “Bojon” meant great unwashed unemployed masses and it struck a chord with this penniless student hippy. Aside from that, the blog was both humorous and very well written and is now tucked up to bed in my rss feed reader for my next mammoth perusal. Check it out here if you have a few spare moments and a yen to dabble in some pretty amazing recipes…

http://www.bojongourmet.com

This mornings breakfast consisting of oats, chopped dried dates soaked in boiling water with home made almond milk and a dollop of pure sunshine a.k.a. Christi’s precious peach and rhubarb jam 🙂

Not a patch on my breakfast in their present state but soon…these little seed kipflers will be planted out in bags and are the beginning of our potato futures on Serendipity Farm

The surreal screen saver that greeted me this morning…Steve has been messing aboot!

I have been replying to comments on the blog and only I could make a comment that was almost as long as a blog post! I think I am going to have to channel all of this verbosity and literary enthusiasm into writing of some sort. I could drain that bubbling spring and see if what eventuates is less verbose and more pointed and pertinent, condensed, LOL see what I mean? I use too many words to get to my point ;).  Saturday was a bit of an anticlimax to me. The permaculture meeting that I attended was interesting and somewhat informative but was more along the lines of a get together over a cup of tea and a bit of an informal chat and lunch. I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the effort that the lady facilitating the meeting took BUT…I am a bit past talking about things and want to get stuck into “doing” on Serendipity Farm. I can find out things out of books by buying the book myself. I can check out blogs and I can educate myself online without having to take 140km round trips that eventuated in a sense of deflated excitement for something that didn’t quite hit the mark with me. As Steve would say “It wasn’t quite what I was after today” and I would have to agree with him.

The results of 9 trays of sourdough starter turned into sour little crispy shards

A closeup of the sourdough “crisps” looking a whole lot like Lavash bread

The process of turning sourdough crisps into salt and vinegar scented sourdough starter powder for sourdough futures and for sharing with friends and family

As this IS my year of living honestly, the second deflation of the day was the sad homogenous mass that awaited me when I got home that refused to raise much and that when baked could have been used to construct the foundations for a mud brick house. I am talking about the sourdough bread that we baked. One of the loaves was reasonably easy to cut and could possibly have been eaten without having to check in to the dentist’s emergency department soon after attempting. The remaining 3 were decidedly terrifying in weight, height, texture and taste. I have to admit to adding about 3 times more sourdough starter than was called for in the recipe (thanks to my frugal heart, my desire to use the starter rather than throw it out AND my fear of what might bubble up out of the septic tank should I be stupid enough to flush it…), using up all of the various packets and bags of flour left on Serendipity Farm (some of it expired last December…) and just about every single process involved in the production of said bricks being ignored . What did I expect? Vinegar bricks is what we got :o(. The vinegar bricks were cut up this morning (Sunday) and strewn in the compost heap in a vain attempt to initiate a few new suites of “organisms” in the mix. I think it is somewhat telling that they are still in the compost heap and even the sparrows are shunning them. After some online research and the addition of several new blogs into my rss feed reader, we are now enlightened members of the online community about sourdough. We have a few adjustments to make to our starter and a couple of new recipes to follow and we should be able to produce something at least edible next time!

Little grape hyacinths that were lazily dumped on the ground to be dealt with later, still in their heap on the ground but flowering against the odds… “way to make a girl feel bad guys!”

Aside from the wonderful crop of Oxalis growing in the pots, these orchids are really enjoying their freedom in the mottled sunshine

Aren’t they beautiful? Very exotic looking but one of the true tough survivors on Serendipity Farm

I wish I had attended the Tamar NRM (natural resources management) Sustainable Living seed swap day before I headed to the meeting because I could at least have collected some free seeds that we could have used in our vegetable garden. I think I am going to have to call yesterday a bit of a dud. Never one to be kept down by a dud day, I got up this morning full of renewed energy and excitement about turning Serendipity Farm over to the Permaculture side. We have decided to move our veggie garden into the external chook coop that is protected from wallabies, rabbits, possums AND chooks (who do the most damage of all 4 if you ask me!) and extend this compound out to form a large area for veggie gardening in. If you can’t beat them…join them! That’s what we are doing…moving our veggie production inside the chook pen to stop them from scratching and pecking their way into the record books for vegetable destruction. They can stand and stare into the compound with their sad little chooky eyes and watch those delicious vegetables grow bigger and riper and the ironic thing is that when the door was open to this area, they never set foot inside!

A little Camellia Reticulata discovered in the undergrowth and free to flower in the sunshine note the clivea underneath

A little flowering quince (Chaenomeles) coming into bloom with a little flowering chook hiding underneath.

One of the natives dropping in for a visit.

It’s been raining for the last few days on Serendipity Farm but we don’t care! We have been holed up slaving for “the man”. In this case, “the man” is our lecturer Nick and we are his beavering slaves. We had procrastinated enough about not doing our Job Specifications for the unit that we are currently undertaking and the memory of manipulating our way around the vernacular and jargon of “the industry” has us twitching at the thought and the Job Specifications are penultimate only to the actual costing of the job where we find out that all of those lovely sustainable touches that make everything more simple and natural actually cost twice as much as doing it old school. The planting alone amounts to $14 000+. Isn’t it lucky that it’s only theoretical? We may be only working on this plan for our Diploma but our lecturer gave us freedom and said “knock yourselves out!” with our plans and we have discovered some amazing products, wonderfully sustainable practices and now have several plans up our sleeves should we ever come into any form of ready currency in the near future.

A bank of mushroom compost and some wood futures (sensibly stacked under the deck close to the house) along with hay for the chook roost

After abandoning Herman’s sour building material offspring earlier in the week, I found a fantastic blog that walked me through the process of sourdough excellence from start to finish and as usual I have been overcomplicating things. The blogger actually said that they don’t even measure their starter, flour or water and just give rough approximations in their bread making. I have been messing about with hydration levels (whatever they are…) with the remaining 3 sourdough starters that I have left. Herman, my original, is still half rye and half white because I am aware that should I kill the other two, I won’t have a starter left so he is being maintained “old school” so that I can fall back on his regular rise and fall should something strange hybridise out of the others. From Herman sprung Ethel Merman, the unbleached organic sister of Herman and mother to Myvanwy (Miff for short) who is a 75% hydrated variant of her mum. Both Ethel and Herman have a steady rise and fall but Miff seems to be bucking the trend. I would have thought that less water would make the process slower and shorter but I would have been wrong! The flour rich sourdough starter goes up and stays up much longer than her predecessors and actually looks very yeasty in comparison to Herman and Ethel who look more “doughy”. I also read that the strongly vinegar smell that I have been concerned about is just a starter phase that most newbies (consider me numero uno newbie on the sourdough starter block!) mistake for their sourdough starters declining and is the cause of many a good sourdough being flushed into the sewer system. The acetic acid bacteria clean out all of the bad bacteria and lay the path for lactic acid and yeast which are the desirable proponents of sourdough. Herman, Ethel Merman and Miff all have a nice fruity yeasty slightly lemony smell now. I expected Herman to still smell vinegary but he has changed. It’s great fun messing about with fermentation. I still haven’t worked out how to stop things from going mouldy in my vegetable crisper. Most probably use them within 6 months might be a good start…

Mushroom futures!

I am going to let you off easy with a shorter post tonight. I don’t even know if I have photos to accompany it! I am usually very regimented about sorting everything out early but sometimes it’s good to fly by the seat of your pants and wing it! I am looking forwards to Christi of http://farmlet.wordpress.com/  blogging fame’s post because she is going to tell us all how to make the heavenly heady concoction she humbly called “Peach and rhubarb jam”, sent to me recently that we are just about to run out of and are doing paper, rock, scissors over who gets to scrape the jar out with their finger…I am just about to head off to the net to see if there is a way that I can cheat to beat the odds! See you all on Saturday when it’s supposed to be a sunny day and Earl has bagsed a nice long walk on the beach :o)

Don’t sweat the processes

Hi All

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

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

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

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

Spring comes to Serendipity Farm along with some purest green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a mole in my head

Hi All

I am in the enviable blogging position of having too much to post today. I have at least 4 posts worth of material ruminating about inside my head and am going to have to divide them (much like amoeba) and sift through their content to make sure that no cross breeding goes on. I have an entire post of how I spent an hour on Sunday with my daughters and what we all created. I won’t be posting about that today because I have photos to jolt my memory for that post and need to document the rest because after a few days it fades into the ether and may never have the opportunity to resurface because my head tends to be constantly crammed full of “stuff” and my poor addled brain spends its days sifting through useless information and discarding it ad hoc (Note to self…you need to pay that poor overworked organ more!). I liken my condition to watching a mole at work. It makes a concerted start on an area of earth and starts flinging soil out in all directions until it achieves its holey goal. Most of the dirt that has been displaced just settles into a moley angle of repose that erodes away to nothing after a few days leaving no trace of mole activity. You wouldn’t even know that a mole had even dug aside from the hole, a few missing turnips and the erroneous dirt. Thus is the fate of my thoughts. The main reason for my visit to town was to attend a Sustainable Food Day. I attended last year and many of you can still remember my aversion to the felt hat brigade. Well I am pleased to say that the felt hat brigades were very conspicuous by their absence this year. It might have been too cold for them and aside from one lady who appeared to have made a career of being negative, the rest of us were there to learn. The most interesting (to me) talk revolved around Biochar and the speaker, Mr Frank Strie, was passionately eloquent about how the process of Pyrolysis can produce carbon negative energy whilst achieving increased soil fertility and locking down carbon in the soil at the very same time. Who couldn’t help but get excited about prospects like that?!

Frank is the very first person in this line of speakers all waiting for us to quiz them about their areas of expertise

Despite morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea supplied free of charge and all being substantial and delicious this is the sum of the local interest in food sustainability in the Tamar region. The speakers almost outnumbered the audience! It did make for a very cosy and friendly atmosphere though.

Here is Franks carrot experiment. The small carrots were grown in soil minus charcoal and the large carrots were grown in charcoal (Biochar) rich soil with the same packet of seeds and the same soil/growing conditions. This alone was enough for me to consider hosing down my burning piles before they reduce to ash in the future

Franks basket of tricks containing various jars of charcoal in different grades from coars through to dust and the “tin” at the back of the basket was actually a small model of a pyrolysis set up where the heat harnessed from slowly burning the charcoal is converted to power. A VERY interesting premise and one that I will be looking into in the near future

I met an amazing array of people and some of them are shaping up to be wonderful sources of discount information. A group of us are having a meeting this Saturday about Permaculture and what exactly “Zone 1” means. To keep the costs down we are going to meet up in each other’s houses and supply our own food for the duration of the meetings. Some of us live in far flung places and have started applying Permaculture Principals already so it is going to be very interesting to see just what other people are doing with their own little patch of Nirvana. We are building our own communities and taking what we are learning to friends, family and the wider community in the hopes that we can develop real community relationships that work. Frances (how could she NOT be an unmitigated genius with a name like that 😉 ) is also talking about Permablitzes where a group of like-minded Permies (cute name…like Kermit the frog is “Kermie”…) get together and blitz someone’s garden in a day. Everyone gets a turn to share in the work as well as a turn in getting their own garden blitzed. Frances is an amazing person who is incredibly knowledgeable about Permaculture and who has applied it in various places throughout the world. I can’t wait to see what we can do about Serendipity Farm and the obstacles that have now started turning from huge blockades into something usable. The more I learn the more excited I get because we can use our “problems” to work for us. Piles of weeds and debris? No problem! Use them to make weed tea, compost, and mulch or row compost.  Soil full of rocks that sets like porcelain in the summer? No problem! Use the rocks to form swales for the problem of the sloped nature and water run-off problem and kill 2 birds with one stone! As our lecturer Nick likes to remind us on a regular basis…”for every action, there is an equal, and opposite reaction”. It’s up to US to work out how to use whatever we have here to gain positive change.

A Daphne odora at the back door at my daughters home in Launceston. If you have never smelled Daphne in full flower you are missing out!

Some Hellebores that keep on keeping on also at my daughters home in town the irises just starting to emerge are a lovely bright yellow when they flower

A large camellia that Steve and I crown lifted when we lived with our daughters in town before we moved to Serendipity Farm. The dead looking mass of sticks in front of the camellia is actually a small cherry plant

A mass of my favourite flower, violets. I LOVE spring! 🙂

I think that spring is shoving the rear end of winter a little hard this year as it appears to be overriding the cold and ignoring the last bastions of winter. Everything is leafing up and starting to flower and the birds are all agitated and pairing up for the breeding season. I dare say we have a season of chickens just about to land on the doorstep but we are too busy to care at the moment. It would seem that just as nature has increased her activity, so have we. I seem to be steering a course for real activity on Serendipity Farm with all of the information that we have been getting and we are itching to get out into the garden and start working on our first year of vegetable gardening and planting out. We are going to try to get as many of our potted plants into the ground as we can in the next few weeks. Those that remain are going to be repotted and those that we don’t want, rehoused. My mind is a bit of a maelstrom with everything that I am trying to force into it at the moment and all of the new processes that we are starting. Usually winter blends pretty seamlessly into spring around here but this year seems to have an urgency about it that demands to be acted upon so never one to shirk the urgency of a season (who knows WHAT might happen if I did!) we have been rudely awakened from our winter hibernation and flung head first into instant activity. I just received the last of the fermentation books that I ordered from The Book Depository on Monday and an enormous tomb it is. It’s more an explanation of fermenting various things than actual recipes and allows the reader to experiment with ideas. It would seem that just about everything can be fermented and that segues nicely with my next book arrival, this time from Amazon. I had a bit of birthday money burning a hole in my already holey pockets. When pockets as holey as these start blazing its best to spend your dosh while it still lasts and before the bills arrive so spend I did! I bought 3 books, 1 of which isn’t in stock apparently and I have to wait. Guess which book it was Hannah… ;). One of them I have been waiting for most excitedly and with my latest round of fermentation it will fit in wonderfully. I can’t wait for Miyoko Schinner’s book “Artisan Vegan Cheeses” to get here. I have been using the bread prover over Brunhilda to give my ferments a chance to bask in her radiant love, much like Bezial lies lovingly at her feet with his big black head up against the warming oven.  They have been rewarding me with exponential growth and after giving away 3 of the 8 sourdough starters that Steve and I have been cultivating (to share the love) there are still 5 of them bubbling away ready to move to new homes when the desire arises. Up until lunch time today they were sharing the proving rack with a glass jug of wine yeast doing its thang that is now swimming free and winning the Serendipity Farm equivalent of the Olympic 100 metres breast-stroke in 17 litres of “Skeeter Pee”. Skeeter Pee is apparently potent quaffable lemon wine best drunk chilled in the summer after working hard in the garden. At 14% alcohol you wouldn’t want to drink too many of them in between shifts! We are enjoying seeking out alternatives to paying the middle man our hard studied dosh for something that we can make ourselves out of seasonal produce and by harnessing natural bacteria and fungus to work for us.

My idea of the juxtaposition between winters last bastion and the first flush of spring

Rescued rabbits from a battery meat farm in the North rehoused at Big Ears Animal Rescue where the girls rabbits have now found their new forever home. More about this admirable place in future posts.

Christi and The Bearded One land safely on Serendipity Farm. I am going to put this little picture in a small frame as original artwork by Keith to accompany the wonderful book that Christi sent to me along with some amazing Farmlet jams and some long gone dog treats that are but a fond memory in a sleep twitching dogs dreams now. I am going to use a little bit of this wonderful jam in a small cake that I am taking over for Glads 90th birthday this Saturday. Thank you SOOO much for you open friendship, your incredible generosity and your sisterhood Christi 🙂

I was chatting to the owner of Inspirations Nursery in Exeter the other day when we were picking up some mushroom compost. I love mushroom compost and its propensity to give. Why spend $25 on a mushroom kit when a few bags of mushroom compost will give you pretty similar yields and a whole lot of usable compost to hurl into your garden for quarter the price. We have 7 bags and are just about to lug it into the hidey hole under the house. I have some interesting ideas about what we can do with this wasted space directly beneath the house and growing mushrooms might be a good way to utilise it. After we picked up the mushroom compost we headed inside the nursery to have a little look at the range of seeds that were developed along with Steve Solomon and that are now propagated by a school as a partnership project. I found out that one of the local Resource Management groups is also partnering with the school so the children grow native plants for revegetation. It’s a win-win situation all round and a great way to show children that trees aren’t just for cutting down (it IS Tasmania after all 😉 ). While Steve was roaming about the outside looking at plants in pots I had a look at this amazing seed range and was struck by the wonderful rare old bean selection that was being offered. Apparently the owner has also partnered with another man who is passionate about cold climate beans. This struck a chord with me because one of the points that came out when one of the speakers was talking about food security was that Tasmania doesn’t grow its own grains or legumes. The selection of wonderful looking beans got me very excited. Most of them are grown to dry out and store for use as pulses and ground for high protein flours. Once the owner realised that I was very interested in his selection of beans he opened up and told me about some of the history of the beans. One long black bean was an American Indian variety called “Field of Tears” and was their staple bean crop named after their displacement from their homeland. There were beans of all shapes and colours and one particular kind of bean got me very excited. Getting excited about beans is lame, by the way, and only a fellow vegan could understand how excited I got with this one ;). It’s called a Tepary bean and is a Northern American bean that is just starting to discover a new audience thanks to its incredible drought tolerance and good texture and flavour and keeping qualities. The beans were grown in the desert and living on one of the driest countries on the planet anything edible that promises to perform well in drought conditions is my kind of food! Inspirations Nursery sells 2 kinds of Tepary bean, one nondescript light brown squarish bean and its gaudy white with blue spots cousin, also drought hardy and very nutritious. Here’s a good website with some quality information about Tepary beans if you are interested…

http://www.seedsofchange.com/enewsletter/issue_56/tepary_beans.aspx

The lazarus almond that was stone dead only last year, so much so that I had thrown it up the back of the garden and completely forgotten about it where it spent all summer devoid of water has apparently decided to live! My girls told me that it was alive and I didn’t believe them. It goes to show that plants can be a whole lot more resilient than you might initially think and it also goes to show that I have at least 1 almond tree ready to plant out on Serendipity Farm 🙂

This poor little Pieris japonica had been completely squashed by vegetation all around it last year. We liberated it and gave it a hair cut and it is repaying us (and the bees) by putting on an amazing floral display this year.

The chickens are not content with being able to roam freely all over Serendipity Farm horizontally, now they are determined to conquer the vertical! If they start laying on the chook shed roof you can just about forget paper, rock, scissors Steve!

One of the speakers at the Sustainable Food day talked about spreading various hardy edible plants around your garden and allowing them to go to seed and take up residence all over your property. I dare say this man’s garden isn’t ever going to feature in “Home and Garden” magazine but the idea struck a chord with me. He suggested broadcasting silverbeet, parsley, coriander, rocket, bok choy, chicory and another lady chimed up with celery, carrots, fennel and parsnips as also being easy to let run free on your property. The same man turned what is an incredibly invasive pest plant, Allium triquetrum (Three cornered Garlic) from something that was almost impossible to remove without herbicide to a positive asset by showing that it was indeed a culinary herb, edible and delicious! I love finding ways to turn a negative into a positive and the ultimate revenge is to eat your pest! Making weed tea or piling weeds up and covering them with black plastic for a few years is also a wonderful way to expunge your pent up frustration at a garden full of nitrogen scoffing weeds. Make them work FOR you. Everything has at least one positive (and usually several negative) points and if you can exploit that positive, you are ahead as far as I am concerned. I have a small patch of nettles in the veggie garden area that Steve has been itching to whipper snip since it grew. I am saving my nettles. Not only are they a good vegetable source of iron, make excellent soup and wine BUT they encourage beneficials, they are an indicator that the soil is very fertile (especially in phosphorus) and that the soil has been disturbed. They can be used as a compost activator and can be used to make weed tea that is low in phosphate but has good amounts of magnesium, sulphur (which is low in Tasmanian soils) and iron and coincidentally, they are one of the few plants that can tolerate and flourish in soil rich in poultry droppings ;). For every action (negative) there is an equal and opposite reaction (positive). Cheers Nick! Permaculture teaches us that everything has a use. We were just about to burn some piles of debris and wood and I mentioned this to my new Permaculture guru Frances and she said “DON’T”! She and I had talked about how water runs down our property and how we can’t dig swales to slow the descent and keep the water in our own soil thanks to the rocks. She pointed out that forming the vegetation into rows will act as a swale along with rocks heaped over them. I have SO much to learn but I am going to enjoy every single minute of it :o).

All kinds of fermenting bubbling experiments on Serendipity Farm. This bread proving rack is situated above Brunhilda and is the perfect place to ferment warm cultures. After receiving my latest big book of fermentation I can see this place being populated by some pretty weird foodstuffs…watch this space!

Kipfler seed potatoes ready to be planted into bags…having soil full of rocks is NOT going to stop me from enjoying my new kipflers fresh from the ground! The brown rice in the jar was used last night for blind baking Steves chicken, bacon, mushroom and beer pie pastry.

Another couple of thousand words just flew out of my fingertips. Get in line Merlin I have the magic touch! I might just spend the rest of this evening formulating my next post because I am just getting started and it’s time to finish. Steve is making me vegan pea and “ham” soup by substituting smoked paprika for the ham and green split peas for the regular yellow ones so tonight I will be dining on experimental food. I think that spring is full of experimentation. All sorts of new chances to mess about in the garden, to spend time working on projects outside, to give new life to our poor long suffering potted plants that are envious beyond belief at their already planted brethren. So much to do before the heat sets in and robs us of our energy and will to head out into the garden as surely as the winter rain does the very same thing. Serendipity Farm is awakening to all of the possibilities of spring and it would seem that so am I :o). See you all on Saturday and here’s hoping that all of you in the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying the heralds of spring. Sorry you lot in the North, you HAD your turn! 😉

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