5 Go mad in Sidmouth

Hi All,

Enid Blyton was one of my favourite authors when I was a small child. I got endless entertainment reading about whatever the “5” were up to on any given jolly set of hol’s. Enid was fond of a good mystery and we had ourselves a very Blytonesque mystery on our hands on Monday. We headed out to open the doors of the hen house to allow the hens into the enclosed area that they now live in. We lock the doors because of quolls, a native animal somewhat like a cat, that loves nothing more than a tasty fat docile hen added to its menu for the day and they hunt at night when the hens are at their most docile and compliant. We have the luxury of a cement floored hen house that was once a woodshed and even the most determined quoll is going to come up chookless when faced with 500ml of cement to have to tunnel through. We made small hen sized doors and a ramp down to the enclosed outer area and the hens go into the hen house at night and are ensconced safely till we let them out the next morning. We recently discovered one of the late great Effel Doocark’s daughters who had decided to head WAY down to the front of the property to lay a few eggs and go clucky and after waiting for the feral cats to eat her babies and then herd her into the enclosure along with her other sisters we discovered that unlike Effel, her daughters are EXCELLENT mothers. This hen managed to situate her chick’s right up close and personal in the feral cat’s domain and only lost 1 chick to them. We noticed her near the gate of the enclosure and with some careful manoeuvring; we were able to get them all into the enclosure…WIN! The only problem with enclosing feral chooks, as indeed this hen’s babies were, is that they have a taste for the outdoors and are rarely content to stay put. The chicks have grown somewhat and their mother has taken to going into the hen house at night to be with the rest of the flock but her babies are steadfastly refusing to go into the hen house and on Monday they escaped. Steve and I heard tell-tale “peeping” outside the enclosure and on further investigation we found them frolicking around in the leaves under the blackwood acacia trees and herded them back in. 6 more escapes later and we started to lose our cool! We had inspected the netting for holes…these chicks are not big and so could easily have slipped through a larger hole in the ex-fish farm netting that makes up the bulk of the enclosure.

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The Moscow State Circus comes to Serendipity Farm…

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2 ferals

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A little crab that we found in the middle of the road as we were walking back dripping from a recent walk in the rain with the dogs

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I had a little chat to Mr Crab and we decided that even though he might have thought that he wanted to make like a chicken and get to the other side, his life as a crustacean would be much more fullfilling (and long) if he would just learn to be satisfied to stay in the river

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We are finding more and more of these little reminders discarded on the side of the road that prove that cyclists are full of something other than the “clean green” image that they would like us all to believe that they represent …it’s not only Lance Armstrong that is shaming the world of cycling…

We decided that the chicks were escaping by flying over the top of the enclosure. This confused us a bit because none of the other chooks (including a couple of erstwhile ferals that we had herded in after we dispatched their brothers) had managed to fly over but there is a small mandarin tree situated inside the enclosure and we did notice the chicks all roosting in this small tree…after cutting several lengths of extra ex-fish farm netting we started tacking pieces into the trees that border the chook enclosure and the whole shebang started to look like the Moscow State Circus. STILL the chicks got out! We figured that perhaps they were climbing up onto some blackberries in the enclosure (left to try to encourage the chook to feel safe about laying their eggs outside) and cut back all tendrils…STILL they got out! We put another large piece of netting all along the side of the enclosure where the blackberries and agapanthus hiding spots were and STILL they got out. It was getting beyond a joke and so this time we cut the flight feathers of each of their rotten little wings and smugly headed inside to make a warm drink…when we headed out to smile smugly at the captured prisoners 30 minutes later they were out! “WHAT?!!! HOW???” We took turns to sit incredibly still outside the hen house watching for several hours when the chicks did absolutely nothing aside from lay with their mother and dust bath but as the day started to heat up and the shade disappeared so did we…and they got out…sigh…I had a really good look and decided that their might just be a weak point in the defences and we put ANOTHER bit of ex-fish farm netting up so that we were totally covered. Sure that we had fixed the problem we headed back inside…after checking a little white later they were still in the enclosure and we were ecstatic…”WE WON!”… An hour later 3 of them were out… Again we put up some more netting  and this time we had the whole circus represented…all we needed was a ringmaster and a lion…a lion would most certainly have sorted out our chicken problem! This time there was no WAY that they could escape…we had over engineered the enclosure and Houdini himself would have been flummoxed. When Steve went to close the doors at 8.30pm they were out… Now you can only BEGIN to imagine how bad tempered I was by this stage! I was to the point of leaving them out to their fate with the quolls…

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Steve is starting to branch out with his spoons now

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Mid summer acorns

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A little wallaby next to his blackberry and bracken fern home

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A most innovative name for a vessel that pootles…

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Summer twinkling on the river

We both ruminated about how the heck they were getting out because there was pretty much no way to escape from the top of the enclosure and we both decided that they MUST be escaping from lower down…We both headed off in different directions around the enclosure and inspected the lower part of the run with a fine toothed comb…after 20 minutes of painstaking inspection I heard Steve say “I found it!”…I headed inside the enclosure to where Steve was standing next to one of the poles used to anchor the netting to. What he had discovered was a teeny tiny space between 2 rocks that these miniature Houdini’s were tunnelling through to get out to the other side. They had to squeeze themselves between the rocks, up through a tunnel of netting and then take a hard right turn and squeeze out underneath another couple of rocks to escape! Kudos to them and I will NEVER underestimate the brain of a determined feral chook again! They haven’t escaped again and peace has returned to the Moscow State Circus and Serendipity Farm. I am thinking of writing a children’s book called “5 go wild in Sidmouth” or “The Great Escape 5” in the tradition of a good Enid Blyton sleuth. I might throw a chance meeting in with Justin Bieber and Harry Potter and a guest appearance by the wiggles and Elmo and I should get a book deal with ease 😉

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This grey protrusion is a basking seal. This photo was taken about 200metres from our front gate from Steve’s boat this morning

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Flippy pretending to be a shark…”you won’t fool Steve THAT easily Flippy!” 😉

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A huge sea eagles nest on the river bank. This nest is very old and is constantly in use and is approximately 2 metres across

We just took delivery of 4 more large rolls of Ex-fish farm netting with the promise of as much as we can handle to come. I have visions of Serendipity Farm partitioned off into undercover bliss including an entirely enclosed orchard area that is currently battered and bruised after years of possums being allowed to run amok amongst the trees and our enormous edifice full of protected vegetables. We have smaller projects including compost heap construction and protection of various small garden beds but the luxury of being able to take what the fish farm sees as waste and turning it into our treasure makes me even happier.  Steve has just headed out to see what the river might yield in the Mumbley cumumbus. He is ostensibly “fishing” but in reality he is trawling around like Huck Finn on the river with his straw hat and his fishing line tied to his toe while he eats his cheese sarnies (1 with Brit Piccalilli…Crosse and Blackwell no less, and the other with some of his delicious home preserved ultra-thin cucumber pickles) in ex-pat heaven. It’s a really lovely day here, nice and cool but with the sun shining brightly and packed full of possibilities. Earl and Bezial are hoping for fishing futures and I am hoping for some photos that I can put in today’s post but aside from that Steve is Scott free and able to bob around on the waves in comparative solitude. That’s one of the benefits of being a penniless student and the shining beacon in our gratitude quotient. Sometimes it is difficult when we would rather have the money to instantly gratify our wants. It’s not like we want the moon…a water tank would be nice, a few solar panels to hook up to the water heater when Brunhilda is in hiatus and a mulcher to mulch all of the debris that we are generating via our sporadic concerted vegetative ethnic cleansing episodes…I could care less about fame and fortune, give me a $15.95 copy of Jackie French’s “The Wilderness Garden” and I feel like I just won lotto. I consider myself to be a very lucky woman. I am completely content with my lot and the possibilities in our lives and I am constantly excited and invigorated by simple things. In the eyes of society we are unimpressive and easily dismissed and that’s how we like it :o)

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One side of Redwood Island (Steve’s prime fishing haunt)…

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The other side of Redwood Island…All of our photos are taken with our 7 year old totally outdated FinePix Fujifilm camera. No lenses, no special whistles and bells…we are lucky if it zoom’s when we ask it to but it does take a lovely photo.

Its 5.44am Wednesday and Steve just headed off with his boat in the dark. He has just finished scrying his crystal ball (http://tides.willyweather.com.au/tas/northern/sidmouth.html ) and found the timing is right for a morning’s fishing/pootling in the river. It might be dark but I can’t hear the wind chime’s gentle melody so there isn’t any wind to chill the early morning air further…I love the hint of chill that is starting to creep in before dawn. I love that we have had Brunhilda on 3 times this week. I also love the free hot water and the ability to cook our meals on her as well as cook pots of legumes, have the kettle gently simmering ready for a drink and keep things warm in her lower ovens…my autumnal (sorry my American friends, “autumnal” is a MUCH more lyrical word than “fall” 😉 ) processes are waking up and it’s still summer. I know that New Zealand is enjoying our customary weather (hot without rain…peculiar for them at this time of year thanks to the recent cyclone that has tumbled our weather around) and we have theirs. Cheers for the swapsy guys…any time! I don’t mind the last gasps of summer in February because we have had this little rain fuelled interlude that has soothed the savage beast and eased the crustiness of Serendipity Farm…the garden is happy, I might even get some germination of the free roadside seed that I have been collecting over the summer and broadcasting in the side garden.

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Mandolin + home grown cucumber = very finely sliced cucumbers…

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What we choose to call Steve’s “Never ending refrigerator pickles” 😉

I just found a fellow Tasmanian’s blog…she is about my age and shares my ethos and has a lovely enthusiastic gardening blog like mine. If you want to check out Kate’s blog, head on down south to Cygnet and have a look at her world…

http://vegetablevagabond.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/time-to-sow-and-reap.html

Aside from her delightful blog, she has some really good Tasmanian links that I will be spending some time this morning checking out. Most of Tasmania’s “Hippies” live down south and there are so many seed swapping groups, transition towns and all kinds of sharing going on and I am envious. I wish we had something as vital as that up here but our local groups are not as active and tend to be a bit “closed shop”. There are some very active members but I am going to have to dig a bit deeper to find relevance to our ethos here on Serendipity Farm…oh well…I can admire from a distance :o)

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This last series of photos are an homage to an old video game hero of mine…I thought that this little beetroot (one of our recent harvest) looked remarkably like one “Earthworm Jim”…knowing that I can’t claim to have replicated him (on pain of being sued blue and black) I shall call my little creation “Beetroot Nemotode James” 😉

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Here he is nestled amongst his brethren waiting for his fate…

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“Well what do we have here?”…

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Surely this is the end of our erstwhile hero James! How could anything survive a scalding stream of fragrant pickling liquor! Stay tuned to find out what happens next in the continuing story of our hero…

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I don’t know what you think but he certainly looks like he is happy enough with his lot (ignore the colour, that’s what happens when you let Steve take the photo and he doesn’t want to use macro 😉 ) “Off to the fridge with you young nematode!”…

Have you noticed that I have been cutting my posts down a bit lately? I am trying to ensure that I don’t write marathon posts and make it difficult for you all to get through them in one bite. My muses are both enthusiastic and prolific and there isn’t much I can do about that BUT I can harness them and make them work in the direction that “I” want to pull… February is here and summer is almost over and autumn is just about to crest and that means W.O.R.K. on Serendipity Farm. Aside from turning piles of woody debris into Hugelkultur gardens and biochar (and tidying Serendipity Farm up considerably in the process), we will be planting out as many of our chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts as we can along with 4 loquats, 3 figs, 5 avocado plants (well sheltered) and will be situating a length of perforated drainage coil at the base of each root ball so that we can give them supplemental watering next summer…this summer hasn’t gone yet and we are already plotting for next summer! Does that make us “real” farmers? 😉 I don’t think so! Steve wants to get as many of his Brachychitons into the ground along with as many pines as he can fit. We love them with a passion and all of their in-ground brethren are going gangbusters so we figure “what the heck!” I know that my son rarely reads these posts so the words “Not in our lifetime” are not going to make him twitch ;). Most of these pines yield edible seeds so perhaps by the time Stewart and Kelsey inherit this property they may be able to harvest pine nuts along with everything else that we are setting up here for them…any grandchildren (now he is REALLY twitching if he has stumbled onto this post! 😉 ) will be able to graze freely (along with the native wildlife) from the food forest that we are in the process of setting up. I have no idea what I am meant to be doing with my life…so far I have just surfed along the crest of it hoping that I didn’t wipe out too badly but since we moved to Serendipity Farm, everything that has happened in my past seems to be knitting together to form a purpose. I think I was born to do this and the happiness that this simple life is bringing me gives me a sense of real purpose that mainstream worldly success couldn’t. I think I am going to have to put the plug in on my muses…they want to wax lyrical for a few more pages but I need to put some photo’s into this post guys…”SHHHH!” See you all on Wednesday and I hope that the rest of this week flows smoothly…if it doesn’t, remember “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”…best I can do with all these muses yelling in my head 😉

When “The Booze Bus” comes to town…

Hi All,

We might like to imbibe a little of the amber fluid on the odd occasion on Serendipity Farm but don’t panic dear constant readers, we didn’t drink and drive and live to suffer the consequences…Steve just had a brilliant idea for a business. We are in NO position to take this idea anywhere and even if we had the money to facilitate its start-up, we have much better things to spend our money futures on than the rabid New Year’s delusions of a man fond of a tipple who is currently on the wagon…we were walking the boys this morning and I could see a light bulb of an idea switch on while we were talking…”I have a GREAT idea for a business” said Steve. “You know icecream trucks?”…Yes…yes indeed I know icecream trucks, or the legend of “icecream trucks” anyway as everywhere that I have ever lived has managed to maintain a severe dearth of the perambulatory frozen sweetened dairy variety of truck. “What if someone delivered alcohol to people…what if they were on the road from 6pm till 12 and were open for delivering booze to people out in the country who either couldn’t be bothered to head into town or who were unable to do so for whatever reason…”…yes…yes I can see where you are going Stevey boy…a constant stream of supermarket trucks up and down the Batman Highway delivering to our immediate vicinity has lent this idea a bit of strength…”It could be called “The Booze Bus” and the driver could wear a suit and a pork pie hat and dark sunglasses and could be called a “Booze Brother”…”…o…..k….. “And the bus could actually trawl for business like an icecream truck only instead of Greensleeves…it could play Tubthumping!”… I have to give it to him. The man can certainly navigate himself around an idea! No funds Steve…no endless tap on the keg of life is going to deliver you that dream any day soon but to anyone out there entrepreneurial enough to take this idea on board and take advantage of the fact that whenever there is an economic downturn and funds are low there is a distinct spike in the sales of alcohol and people go back to the movies…the masses have to have SOMETHING to entertain them…feel free to take Steve’s dream BUT there is one clause…when you are millionaires from the profits of another man’s dream…could you just send one of those booze buses down Auld Kirk Road with “Tubthumping” blaring as loud as it can and stop right out the front of the Auld Kirk Church, drop off a freebie carton (you owe him that much…) and make a broken man’s day? 😉

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The Booze Brother himself with his entourage…

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Looks like one of the entourage has left the building! Thems the perks of being a “good dog” when you go out…

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“Me Alone”…what happens when a dog thinks that he is cleverer than he is…this one thought that because I was making a cake, we were going to leave them on their own the day after (our usual polytechnic routine)…this one refused his tea…this one’s stomach was grumbling and THIS one won’t look at the camera…

Somer of Vedgedout blogging fame http://vedgedout.com/ has given me permission to blog about my experiences on her green smoothie challenge. She recently made a free PDF of this plan available for anyone who wants to start the New Year off with clean gizzards who doesn’t want to resort to falling prey to salmonella or a wandering gastro bug to give them the same results. I decided to try it because after taking a look at the plan, it certainly gave you a lot of choice and aside from the obvious health benefits, you might just lose a bit of weight in the process. I still have a few kilos to lose before I am completely happy to call my weight acceptable but I like to lose weight slowly now because years of yo-yo dieting has taught me that if you get something quickly and with very little effort or determination to change it very rarely lasts.  Admittedly it took me about 30 years to learn that but better late than never is my motto! I am really enjoying the processes of this plan. I like working through the choices and I am even enjoying my pond water with frog spawn. You don’t have to choose “pond water with frog slime”…I am just partial to it now. I add chia seed that has an interesting tendency to swell up and become decidedly frog spawny and I put tonnes of home grown fresh spinach into my smoothies so they end up verdant green and reminiscent of algal bloom on a duck pond. The best thing about this plan is that it gives you the ability to customise it to your own wants and needs. It is completely meat free and grain free (aside from a bit of quinoa in one of the soup recipes) but I figure that anyone could handle a week of this. I very rarely manage to eat/drink everything that I am supposed to eat in a day because there is so very much of it! It just goes to prove that you can eat a low calorie diet without feeling empty…you just need to be clever about what you are eating. If you like to eat a LOT (like I do…) then increase the veggies in your diet…eat HEAPS of them, especially the green ones because they tend to be low calorie and very filling. I no longer diet and if I wasn’t expected to weigh myself to share with the rest of the group of people worldwide that are undertaking this challenge I wouldn’t bother. I go by how I feel and I am feelin’ fine my dear constant readers…I am waxing lyrical, I am not grouchy in the mornings and I have lots of energy so I am calling this plan a success. You could technically eat this kind of food for the rest of your life. It is full of vitamins and minerals and it is positively brimming with vitality but I love my grains and starches and want to integrate them back, albeit in smaller portions, to my regular diet so I will be revisiting this green smoothie challenge on a regular basis to keep my intestines happy. I might do this once a month it is that easy to follow and I am someone who quintessentially bucks following “programs” of any kind. I heartily endorse this free program and anyone wanting to feel a bit healthier or lose a bit of weight feel free to head on over to Somers and download the plan. She is a most gracious host :o)

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Prime crunchy sweet organic home grown cucumbers 🙂

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A barrow load of chicken coop hay about to be used to mulch the capsicum garden

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What happens to rocket when you show it a good time…note the capsicum in the foreground (a bit of a “Where’s Wally?” moment 😉 )

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The pile of rocket extracted and mulching complete!

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A newly refurbished capsicum and chilli garden bed well covered in spent hay to keep the moisture in the ground where it belongs to cut down on watering in the month and a half of summer that we still have in front of us

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Possum invaders!…sigh…back to the drawing board!

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Bread clips from too many loaves of supermarket cheap bread 😦

I just tossed another bread tie into a small bowl that I keep them in. I once saw a blog post on how to turn them into things…to repurpose them but all I have is a bowl full of them. It stands as a constant reminder that I should be baking bread…baking bread is actually very easy and incredibly therapeutic. It doesn’t even take all that much time aside from the proofing so my only excuse is that I am too lazy to bake it and these little tags remind me of how I am a slave to the bread “man”. This recipe doesn’t even require the obligatory kneading! I have NO excuses… http://gggiraffe.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/no-knead-honey-and-oat-bread-ii.html I try to give myself excuses “It’s only for the chooks…Steve doesn’t eat much of it…it’s cheaper than making your own…” but it all ends up at the same place sustainable “FAIL!” I don’t like failing…I fear I have a type A personality and failure is tantamount to …well…failing! I know how to make bread. I make GOOD bread…I will feel a sense of accomplishment when I make bread BUT there is something stubborn and primal inside me…call it my middle aged child that bucks my desired ordered system and wants to read a book or go online or phone a friend…it’s a sad sorry state of affairs when you are having a parent teenager battle with yourself! “Get off your derrière and bake some bread and while you are at it, you could wipe those crumbs off that breadboard, put that washing on and you could wipe down that counter”…”You NEVER let me have any fun! It’s NOT FAIR! I HATE YOU”… a body could end up needing therapy if they allowed their teenaged selves to win!

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Isn’t this Stapelia hirsuita gorgeous? At this stage it looks like a beautiful purple hairy star…

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It then turns its petals up and forms an orb of foetid stinkiness to attract the blowflies and other carrion scavenging insects that it needs to pollinate its beautiful but nose-holdingly stinky flowers…we don’t care, its too beautiful not to love 🙂

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Myrtus communis (Common Myrtle) a wonderfule xeriscape plant that has edible fruit that are used to make a type of liqueur in the Med. I just love these flowers and might propagate some more of this lovely shrub for some of the dryer areas on Serendipity Farm

I was just considering retitling this post “Never mind the bollocks…this means WAR!”… We are fighting an ongoing battle with possums that sees them gaining ground in the night and us having to rethink our fortress and add all sorts of protective devices to the best of our abilities to stop the little buggers! Yesterday I removed an enormous crop of rocket that had gone to seed and was bitter and inedible. Obviously the possums thought so too because they had left it well alone, even though I now realise that they had been into the veggie garden questing for food! I thought that Steve had left the veggie garden open yesterday because the netting was loose. Steve had been checking out the size of his capsicums nestled amongst the tangle of rocket and I thought that he had just done his usual half-assed job of closing up the veggie garden when he emerged but today I realise that the rocket actually did a sterling job to protect the veggie garden against the possums that had tentatively pushed the netting till they were able to get in. Not so much luck today (for us, anyway) because the bitter rocket was gone and the tender capsicums were exposed and highlighted by a lovely empty garden bed full of easily navigable hay…you can guess what happened and they took some tomato with them and although I know that capsicums are perennial, the two that were completely decimated are most probably not going to bear fruit this year. We were walking the boys in Deviot today and stopped at the hall where the wonderful community of Deviot have built a lovely fully enclosed heritage apple, pear and herb garden and we had decided that we were going to copy their idea to build our much larger fully enclosed veggie garden. Steve, after inspecting the damage to his capsicums (not only did they chew the leaves, they took a single bite out of his precious first capsicum rendering it rooned!), has decided on using a large yacht mast that was left in the tangled pile of metal next to the veggie garden to erect a sort of circus tent style roof for the veggie garden when we make it in autumn (so that we have softened ground after the rains) and it will be fully enclosed in ex-fish farm netting. It will be a HUGE enclosed garden and good luck to the possums even getting a sniff at our coming season’s veggies! I want to enclose our small orchard eventually as the possums hoovered the pears from the last of the pear trees the other day. I didn’t cover them so I guess I deserve the dearth of fruit but I am starting to wonder at how many possums are parading the grounds of Serendipity Farm after dark there must be a veritable army of them!

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Our local “Loire Valley” equivalent “Marrion’s vinyard”. The West Tamar region is well known worldwide for its quality wines and this little vinyard is a fine example of its ilk

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Lonicera hildebrandiana (Giant Burmese honeysuckle) in a garden on one of our walks this week

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2 of the scented geraniums that I have grown from cuttings taken from plants on the road verge on past dog walks

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Bakewell slice made for a man who was lusting after “something sweet”…

Steve is off pootling again…he pootles at will now and spends lots of his time creating spoons out of enormous piles of wood shavings. I am using the wood shavings in my compost bucket and can’t wait to see the fungi that grow from some of the exotic woods that he is working with. I have just finished a week of green smoothie challenging and aside from losing 2 ½ kilos effortlessly I feel amazing! I feel bright and vibrant and clean and have decided to incorporate this plan into my everyday eating repertoire. If it aint broke, don’t fix it! I was broke…I fixed it ;). It would seem that the possums were held at bay last night with the measures that Steve and I took yesterday to curtail their night scoffing. Nothing was touched and I noticed that our eggplants are going gangbusters and since I mulched with hay around their bases they are taking off and are flowering all over the place. I love a good eggplant in the morning and these little finger eggplants promise to give us a good harvest this year (so long as the possums aren’t hatching any plans that is…). Aside from bouncing around full of good health I have a spring in my step because everything is starting to come together and work in cycles like I had hoped. Where we cleared out the side garden the buddleia is not only attracting bumble bees, regular and native bees and a plethora of exotic looking butterflies, it is shading everything underneath it and giving it respite from the heat of the sun. The garden is starting to take off how we want it too and I have been collecting seed and cutting material on our morning dog walks that I can then propagate or broadcast around the garden when we get home. I got some Washington hawthorn cuttings yesterday that we are going to trial and see if we can’t grow some of these valuable habitat plants that have edible fruit and that have the most amazing autumn foliage display. The thorns on these babies would dissuade the most persistent predator and if we can grow some, they will be planted around Serendipity Farm as hedging for the local birdlife to nest safely in. All in all I am feeling incredibly happy with my lot these days despite us remaining the penniless student hippies that we were last year. The sun has stopped frying everything in its pathway and the lovely 25C days that we are having have allowed Steve and I to be both creative and relax at will over our holidays from Polytechnic. We are doing what we want to do and are enjoying every single minute of it. We will be back at school soon enough, but for now, we are loving our time to ourselves bums up in the garden and in a wild flurry of woodchips.

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Two more beautiful spoons…the top one is made of Native Tasmanian Olivewood (Doral) and the lower spoon is made from Blackheart Sassafras (Atherosperma Moschatum) and the black line is actually caused by an interesting fungal relationship with the plant and makes for a very striking result…who KNOWS what wood Steve is going to use for the Valentine’s Day spoon 😉

I might finish todays post there folks. This Saturday we will be offering you another chance to get one of Steve’s beautiful handmade spoons…this one is specifically for Valentine’s Day and will be perfect to give your sweetie so let us know if you want to enter to win a spoon and you will make Earls day! The more walnuts in that bowl, the happier Earl will be :o). The draw will be open to anyone, anywhere because the cost to send a wooden spoon to just about anywhere in this wonderful world is extremely cheap and we truly enjoy sharing See you all on Saturday :o).

The return of the prodigal hen’s daughter

Hi All,

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

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

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

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A white Buddleia davidii

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Anyone for puce?

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

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

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

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

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

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The end result…”purest green!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Potato futures in one of our compost heaps

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The first of our corn futures

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I guess you would call these cucumber presents?

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

“How’s the Serenity?”

Hi All,

To anyone unfamiliar with the wonderfully quirky Aussie movie “The Castle” (and let’s face it, if you live outside Australia, what are the odds you WOULD be familiar with it…) have been missing out on a peek inside our Aussie ethos. If you can find a copy of this movie, watch it with a beer in one hand and a sense of humour ready and willing to go…you won’t be disappointed :o). If you can’t find it, check out this trailer for one of the most quintessentially optimistic “Aussie” views on life that has ever been documented and you can get a fly on the wall look at the “Aussie” condition. A sort of David and Goliath tale with an undertow of antipodean joy…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prnQLmVg5V8

We are starting to feel a bit guilty about still having our Christmas tree fully decorated in the lounge room but are using the excuse that we only put it up late in the season to our advantage…Earl is doing his best to shred our decorative pine cones all over the floor to give me the dual happiness of exercise and compost dry carbon material and will most probably start on the actual decorations if we don’t pack them up ready for Christmas 2013. We started a new compost heap…although “heap” seems a somewhat glorious word for a ring of weldmesh plonked over a pole to prevent the wallabies and possums from log rolling it down to the front gate. We have to put weldmesh over the top of it as well or the possums climb down into the compost and hand out the good stuff to their mates on the outside. Australian possums are like U.S. racoons…all that is missing are the masks (and Earl wears that form them). They are truly gregarious little creatures but their joy at our obvious stupidity can wear seriously thin at times…we lost an entire nectarine tree full of white nectarines thanks to forgetting to protect it with netting this year. It’s our own fault and the possums took great delight in taking a bite from each unripe fruit. It’s a game of cat and mouse here on Serendipity Farm and the closest thing that we have to mice, now that the ferals eat everything small and furry, are the bandicoots that thump around and dig little divots out of the area between the house and the veggie garden that are just big enough to stop the wheelbarrow short in its tracks and render your lower portions bruised and your temper flared. Living with nature and the local wildlife is like a waltz in black…you know you are going to have to do it but you put it off till the last moment. We had to throw a heavy sheet of weldmesh (for once I thank you for your need to hoard dad…) over the top of our bean crop as the possums had not only trampolined their way across the protective bird netting over the top of them, but were using their little grubby hands to reach into the top of the netting and pinch everything green (including the tips of the bean plants) within their questing digits reach. I can’t say that I can really blame them…our veggie garden is a little oasis of tastiness that they can probably sniff out for a mile but its “OURS” you guys…we work hard to grow it and we are going to work hard to keep it! The weldmesh stops the possums from climbing up and stealing with impunity although when I was watering yesterday I noticed that one of the tassels from the top of one of our corn plants had been snapped off…possum frustration knows no bounds! Fran 1, possums nil! 😉

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If you look really hard you can see the little eggplant flowers on my eggplants

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Remember Bert, the straighlaced pigeon fancier straight man to Sesame Streets Ernie? This photo is a “Where’s Bert” moment…

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Note the large section of weldmesh over the bean plants…the things we have to do to stop our little ambidextrous native mates!

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Here’s the reason why we had to put the weldmesh on top of the bean bed…note the lovely lush beany leaves on the left…note the distinct lack of beany greenness on the right…sigh…

Steve is out floating around on the river actually catching fish! How do I know that? Because he phoned me up and told me! This time he took his binoculars out with him and is having just as much fun looking at things as he is fishing. Bezial and Earl will get fish for their tea, the ferals can fight over the gizzards and Steve can have that U.K. special “fish supper” that he lusts after…all is well on Serendipity Farm :o). It’s gone from a heatwave to rain today. Yesterday we sweat our way through 30+ and today it’s grey and a bit cold. I don’t mind, today we walk in Exeter, we post off all of the spoons that Steve made recently to their intended recipients and we get to go to the Exeter thrift shop to see if there is anything new. A series of possibilities will eventuate…possible photo futures, possible shoulder dislocation (Earl didn’t get a walk yesterday and today’s walk is somewhat late thanks to Steve pootling/floating about in his “tinny” with his thermos of coffee and his cheese “sarnies” catching fish for all his is worth and probably not coming in till they stop biting…), possible thrifty frugal purchases and possible happiness that those spoons are FINALLY on their way. I love possibilities. I have been hurling blogs out of my rss feed reader and filling the gaps that they left instantly with other blogs. I seem to be choosing more and more unusual and eccentric blogs as I do…I tossed a Polish cooking blog (in Polish) in today…they make amazing things out of cake and biscuits and Google Translate is my new bestest friend…I found a couple who have a sustainable living blog who showed me how to cover my fridge in blackboard paint and make it my own personal shopping list (if they can tell me how to remember to put the things that I NEED on my shopping list on the board then I will be a happy little alternative camper…), I also found a scrumptiously creative geeky blog from the U.K. where they showed me how to make a set of random event invention die. Yes…just like I said it “random event invention die”…I throw them in the air and suddenly I become creative to the max! I no longer procrastinate around in my kitchen looking into the fridge for creative solutions to my hunger and ending up holding a bag of uncooked rice in my hot little hand and due to my lack of creative nonce, finding myself eating said raw rice out of the bag rather than do anything with it…possibilities folks…and plenty of them…you just have to go hunting and there they are

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Steve has been chatting to seasoned fisherfolk out on the river and was put onto these little babies (most probably they took pity on him for trying to bait up with sweetcorn!)…

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Add a few more customised river boat fishing accoutraments and suddenly the possibility of fish catching increase exponentially…

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22 fish! Steve had fish for tea, Bezial had fish for tea, Earl had meat for tea (he decided that he doesn’t like fish…) and I…I get to see my feet from my head! What more could a girl want eh? 😉

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Not fish, but linked in a round-about way…these are muscat grape vines that struck and are going to be cossetted for a bit to get them happy and then they will be planted out with the eventuality of producing some grapes…then wine…and then Steve can have wine with his fish! A bit of a convaluted pathway but we got there in the end 🙂

I planted a bag full of garlic that had sprouted out into the veggie garden and we heavily fortified the bean crop to stop the possums reaching their greedy little (almost opposable) thumbs in to grasp handfuls of bean foliage as far down as their questing little digits could go. We also stretched out the bird netting that we used to fortify the veggie garden in the first place as tight as a drum so that the wallabies can’t hurl themselves at it bodily taking little wallaby sized mouthfuls of the tender greens that inevitably protrude…what with the possums bouncing about like Olympic trampolinists on the top of the veggie gardens and the wallabies going all “strong-arm tactics” on the sides the poor veggie garden was starting to suffer. Steve did our usual fortnightly shopping yesterday and on the way home he dropped in to check out some craft wood that had been listed for sale up on a local noticeboard. He picked up some lovely pieces of timber and will be making some amazing spoons soon (when he has finished catching his weights worth of fish that is)…he had been getting tired of catching “bugger all” (a fishing term that means …”bugger all”…) and decided to get tricky. He prized my fingers from the mouse and took over the P.C. to do a bit of research about “rigs” and “river fishing” and all things “catch fish – eat fish”. He then picked up all sorts of accoutrements from the nearest K-Mart and a boat rod from the local large fishing/boating shop and some special scented lures that are practically guaranteed to catch you fish and you know what? It worked! “Bugger all” turned into “15!” by 7am this morning.

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A Cornus capitata tree on Serendipity Farm with its own little occupant. We didn’t know what this tree was until we saw this flower…horticulture pays off!

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Our little Stapelia gigantea that we smuggled back from the Melbourne Flower Show in 2010 as a bare rooted cutting has finally decided to flower!

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An interesting conundrum…this little hand powered paper shredder cost $4 from K-Mart…we purchased it so that we can finely shred paper to put into our compost heaps (that are springing up exponentially all over Serendipity Farm like hives on an allergy sufferer…) however the irony didn’t escape me that I was purchasing something in order to allow me to recycle things…$4 well spent? I don’t know for sure yet but it certainly gives paper a run for it’s money, it gives my right arm a bit of a workout and it is a lot of fun 🙂

Steve and I were sitting on the side of the deck looking through the railings looking at the river at sunset last night (as you do) and talking about how glad we were that we moved to Tasmania. We could have been still living in Albany Western Australia but for Steve’s decision to “go for it!” when dad asked us if we would like to move here. I would have stayed in W.A. in a heartbeat if Steve had decided that he didn’t want to move. Sometimes taking a bit of a risk (even for 2 worry-warted hippies like us) is absolutely, positively worth it. I HATE change…I am a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to forging ahead and blazing trails. I like to wander about a bit and familiarise myself with a concept before I commit and jumping in with both feet before I have Googled it isn’t my ethos. “Slow and steady wins the race”…”Slowly slowly catchy monkey”… not “Last one in is a…” curiously Steve isn’t one for racing off waving his arms about like windmills either. We both have a degree of restraint when it comes to making instant decisions. We are list makers, weighter uppers’ and careful considers and Steve’s quick decision to move here was obviously out of the ether and most definitely side left to his usual mental mechanics. Our lives wouldn’t have been as rich, as meaningful or as colourful as they are now. I have learned so very much by having to live a frugal and sustainable life out in the sticks that I can’t imagine that I would recognise my West Australian self should I meet her in an alternate universe (let’s not talk about the quantum physics of that statement or rips in the time/space continuum…). I have really learned that happiness comes from the processes that you choose to take part in, rather than your material circumstances.

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Check out some of our tomato futures

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A little bit closer to future enjoyment…

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“Tonight we dine!” :o)

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We aren’t the only ones dining…

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The little sods have been pruning the tips of our tomato plants for us in the night!

I am going a bit cross-eyed here…I have one eye on my typing and one on the word count. I have been trying to deliver shorter more succinct posts and have been falling woefully short. I didn’t make New Year’s resolutions this year but choose to be a “Doer” and I am learning and applying Pilates to my life, I am propagating edibles on a mass scale to really get that edible food forest going, I will be planting out last year’s edibles en masse and I will continue to learn, Learn LEARN everything that I can and share it here. I had a bit of a think about where I want this blog to go and decided that I am most happy with my dear constant readers and anyone who wants to come along for the ride. I don’t want to compete with statistics no matter how competitive my nature is (DOWN FRAN!) and I want to deliver concise and poignant posts with the positivity of good humour. No resolutions but a bucket-load of possibilities folks and hopefully you will all want to stay along for the ride…Happy hump day and see you all Saturday :o)

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I have added a couple of tyres that have now been planted out with garlic that had sprouted…”Waste not, want not”…I hear you Grandma! 🙂

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The things that we have to do to prevent the wallabies from eating our garlic…they adore anything allium and will munch them all down to ground level if they are not protected.

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Some of the beautiful wood that Steve picked up cheaply from a fellow wood lover who is moving. There might be a future spoon draw in some of this!

Just a quick little aside…I have decided to accompany Somer from the wonderful blog site http://vedgedout.com/ in her green smoothie week for the beginning of the year along with and a throng of veganauts from across the globe …nothing like a bit of a clean out, both external AND internal to make you feel all brand new for the New Year. She has a PDF free to download on her site with the green smoothie recipes and accompanying soup and salad meals. To be honest, the “allowed” food in this 1 week program is more than what “I” eat in a day and I eat a LOT so aside from a few kilos and a nice squeaky clean intestinal tract…what have you got to lose? Come and join us (does that sound creepy or WHAT! 😉 ) and give your gizzards a bit of a spring clean for the New Year. I might just share what I have been eating on Saturday because most of it is coming from the veggie garden and I like to share :o)

Bolshie broads and the lessons in a spoon

Hi All,

Steve is up to his eyeballs in wood shavings. He is out in the shed producing spoons out of Serendipity Farm wood. We have been hunting through our wood piles and have managed to find some Cotoneaster wood that is an amazing light fine grained wood much like oak and very hard. Steve is working on one Cotoneaster spoon now and has enough wood for another one and after that he will be working with some native Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis) that we plucked from our huge wicker man pile of wood in the teatree garden. Native Cherry is beautiful pink wood and if the moth larvae have left it alone it should make some very attractive spoons. We have been thinking about the dog’s diet lately as they seem to have fine-tuned it specifically to straight beef steak and each night we offer them a slight variation they turn up their noses and choose not to eat it. The food that we are offering them would be snapped up by most dogs, our boys are just spoiled and we are doing them no favours in the health stakes allowing them to continue eating only beef steak. Dogs, unlike cats, are not designed to eat only meat. They are NOT carnivores and are omnivores like we humans. In saying that…Earl is quite certain that he is the exception to the rule! Bezial is partial to mashed potato so long as there is a LOT of butter folded in. We have decided that we are going to have to do battle with the dogs on their stubborn and steadfast refusal to back down whenever we try to introduce fibre into their diet. We headed over to Georgetown today to pick up a large sack of dog biscuits. Little do the boys know but there are worse things than potatoes… they are just about to be introduced to the dog biscuit diet. For the next 2 weeks they are going to get dog biscuits for their evening meal. I am assured that dogs will only refuse their food until they are really hungry and the only thing wrong with our two is that they are incredibly spoiled and strong willed. Much like children, you have to give them boundaries and our boys are just about to learn an important lesson, refuse your meals at your own expense. Tonight they dine on Dr Harry’s finest ;).

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We visited our daughters today and Beth showed me some photos that they took over Christmas and was kind enough to allow me to share them with you on my blog…this is Qi. She is the queen of her street and God help ANYONE walking past on the footpath that she doesn’t like. Here you can see her performing a most useful trick for the camera…this trick has been known to get her all manner of tasty treats in the past… if it aint broke…don’t fix it!

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One of Bethany’s chalk drawings on a blackboard in her room…both girls are very talented artists

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Qi waiting for her Aunty Madeline to return from the shop before she is presumably allowed to get stuck into those presents under the tree!

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A white chocolate cake Buche Noel complete with chocolate acorns and a chocolate maple leaf on top

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Christmas dinner well underway…

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A mustard glazed ham covered in fruity goodness

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This cake has NOTHING to do with Christmas but everything to do with carrot cake deliciousness…it would seem that the girls artistic abilities drizzle over into their culinary triumphs as well :). Well done girls! I would sink my teeth into this beauty any day!

Another spoon has found its way out of a chunk of aged Tasmanian oak and into spoon form. Steve has decided to share his spoon making with me and has bravely taken on the task of teaching me to find spoons inside wood. He makes it seem so easy…a line here…a shave there…a bit of a look and the application of an auger bit or a hand held rasp and suddenly there it is…beautiful in its simplicity with smooth sides and wonderful grain. I have decided to make small spoons. Until today, I had wondered why you don’t see small wooden spice and condiment spoons apart from those mass manufactured Chinese imports but I now know that the return that you would get on them is far outweighed by their fiddly nature. I like fiddly things. I like untying knots in things, unravelling wool and Christmas lights. I like the process of taking something exasperating and releasing the calm. It’s a pity I can’t find it in myself to do the same thing but that is another story ;). Making smaller spoons allows me to use the offcuts from Steve’s bigger spoons, minimising the waste and allowing the wood to yield a lot more bang/spoon for our metaphorical buck. While I was digging through Steve’s offcut bucket I noticed a very large spoon blank that had been partially formed. When I say large…this blank was 2 ½ feet (76cm) long and extremely chunky. Steve had apparently discovered a bit of a flaw where the spoon basin meets the handle and tossed it (in his own words) “into the too hard basket”. I looked at this behemoth of a spoon and immediately felt an instant camaraderie. I, too, am a bit of a handful spoon. I am a bolshie broad. I don’t fit easily into societal moulds and bits of me hang over the side protesting loudly and waving banners and the spoon inside that massive chunk of wood called out to me and the deal was sealed. Forget those little spoons for a bit, my very first spoon is going to be a massive great Blackwood ladle. I used our Dremel and a special carving bit to remove all of the spoon that didn’t want to be there…I know it didn’t want to be there because I asked it. The spoon guided me around it saying “Don’t take that bit, I need that!” and “gently…gently…GENTLY! Can’t you understand spoonese?”… As I carefully pared all of the bits that weren’t spoon away, saving the sawdust for using in my compost bucket to minimise smells and maximise the suite of organisms that infest our compost pile, I thought about how Steve goes about making his spoons and how very different our processes were. We both let the spoon talk, but Steve let the spoon “out”…I think I have a bit too much of my German heritage in me to let some mad artist take over the status quo and I like simplicity, order and symmetry. Steve’s spoon has curves, angles and wends its way into being. My spoon is solid, heavy, deep and should last centuries even if it gets used to repel boarders on more than one occasion.

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A chunk of dry cotoneaster we culled from Serendipity Farm. Steve uses his chainsaw to cut a sliver from the side of the log and then runs it through his thicknesser to make a thick plank. He then draws a spoony outline onto the wood and cuts out the shape with his jigsaw

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After some serious rasping and shaping with an auger bit on an angle grinder he removes all of the bits of spoon that aren’t “spoon”…

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Almost finished aside from the handle and the final sandpapering

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Hows this for a massive great chunk of Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood)? This is MY spoon/ladle and over the next few weeks I will be slowly allowing it to take shape (or…I will hurl it in a fit of pique across the shed where it will remain until some rodenty creature adds it’s own mark to my shame! 😉 )

I love to think of the spoons that we are creating heading off into the kitchens of friends and family. I love to think of the continuity and the simple day to day use that these spoons will be part of. Stirring preserves and jams while the kitchen resonates with discussion and music or simply being part of it all…these spoons will see kitchens that I will never see…they will be privy to amazing celebrations and the darkest moments in someone’s life. Babies might cut their teeth on the ends of these spoons, harvests will be put up, and stews will be stirred, strange regional specialties that I can only marvel at will be spun into existence and all from a chunk of Serendipity Farm wood that was destined for the fire. I thought about attempting to embellish them but something stopped me… most probably the inner German who likes things simple, unadorned and classic and that wants these hand crafted spoons to find their own voices and speak for themselves. I can see this becoming something that Steve and I can share. We are so very different and our interests are incredibly variable but this is one thing that we can do together, side by side in the shed and sharing a common bond of creation. It is going to take a LONG time for my ladle to emerge. It has promised to fight me every step of the way but in so doing, it promises to give me some precious life lessons in that process. I sometimes think that we bypass so many opportunities to learn and grow in life because they are tossed into the “Too Hard Basket”. It might be time for us to go back there and pick something out and give it a go…see if you can’t find whatever it is that exists inside your chosen chunk of life and pare away everything that isn’t it. In so doing, you might just find something precious

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This is the spoon that Steve made for Christi to give to her daughter who is getting married. It’s made of Tasmanian oak and has a very classic shape. It’s hard to get too artistic when you don’t know the person that you are making the spoon for and although this spoon started out with some “interesting” collar bones that Steve swears the spoon told him it needed, my Germanic need for Art Deco simplicity came to the fore and said collarbones are now only a memory (you can thank me later Molly! 😉 )

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The chunk of aged Tasmanian oak board that Steve used to create this spoon…another reason why we should take to heart the lesson “you should never judge a book by it’s cover…”

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We ran out of Eco oil (a blend of edible orange and tung oil) to finish the 2 spoons that Steve made but you can see them here with Christ’s winning spoon almost ready to be finished and sent and being guarded by Mr Steve Vai himself 😉

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And here they are after a nice rub over with Eco oil. It really brings out the natural beauty in these spoons. The first spoon is the cotoneaster spoon, the second is the Tasmanian oak spoon and the third is Christi’s winning spoon in Blackwood. We will send them next week and I hope that you enjoy them girls 🙂

I got the book that I won from Emily over at “Sincerely, Emily” in the mail today. If you would like to see a cracking way to use up some of your zucchini’s this season, check out her latest post that pairs potato and zucchini in a most scrumptious, innovative and healthy way…

http://emilysincerely.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/zucchini-and-potato-au-gratin-sort-of/

It’s a lovely book full of weird and off the wall creations that really makes my heart sing because I can’t be abiding with boring things and I love to create customised recipes because life is too short to eat lima beans if you don’t like them. I, personally, LOVE lima beans but I do understand that there are some of you out there (mad, foolish people that you are) who don’t and so I won’t go hunting for a lima bean recipe to share with you from the book but on opening the Index I get instantly excited by the possibilities. I might be the Sidmouth equivalent of Letitia Cropley (if you don’t know who I am talking about, head off and watch “The Vicar of Dibley” for goodness sakes… you are missing out severely if you don’t!) but there are amazing combinations in this book that I haven’t even heard of and I had heard of Gremolata before the chef that taught me commercial cookery so that is no mean feat in a book! I am going to treasure this book because it doesn’t only instruct, it educates. It doesn’t only share; it gives you the impetus to try new things…to experiment and in so doing, to create new recipes of your own. That’s what makes the cooking world go round folks and “Put ‘em Up!” A comprehensive home preserving guide for the creative cook from drying and freezing to canning and pickling by Ms Cherri Brooks Vinton is one of those rare tombs that you simply don’t want to put down let alone lend anyone. Please don’t ask me for a lend of my copy because I won’t be letting it out of my sight for a good few years yet. I have too many things to learn from it like… “What the heck are ristras?”…and “Heirloom watermelon jelly?” …and “Agua Fresca?”… and any book that talks about probiotics and kimchi in the same breath as “red hot vodka” and something as lascivious as a “Strawberry Blonde” (whatever that may be…) is one that is going to be kept in the kitchen, just out of reach of Earls questing mandible’s and right there where I can find it, amongst my wooden spoons ready for duty at a moment’s notice. Thank you SO much Emily. You have given me something wonderful and this coming harvest surplus is going to be such fun to preserve :o)

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My wonderful new cookbook and Emily’s lovely personal note to me included 🙂

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We picked up a few bags of soft toys for the boys to deconstruct on Christmas Day and included in one of the bags was this sock monkey… every man needs a sock monkey in his music room so Earl didn’t get to sample this one…”better luck next time Earl! You are going to have to be content with raiding the clothes hamper and stealing Steve’s dirty socks”

I am officially terrified of our vegetable patch. Steve, who just watered the veggies, is in agreement. The tomatoes have gone mad and have not only invaded the “Poland” of their neighbouring tomato bed but they have both joined forces and are threatening to go all Genghis Khan on the poor lettuce bed. Beetroot that are supposed to be “medium” are now exploding from their bed and the spinach that we were expecting to be lucky to get a few bunches from because it was so slow in taking off, has taken off with a vengeance and is rivalling the silverbeet (Swiss chard) for height and stature. I am not really complaining because aside from going exponential on our derrières the veggie garden is producing edible vegetables. I can only put it down to using compost as the base of our garden beds, lots of small chunks of decomposing wood for air and room for roots to grow and the wonderful black organic compost that we picked up in Exeter as the soil substitute that having to build upwards forced us to utilise. It has certainly excited us regarding vegetable growing and eating and its true folks…home grown veggies taste MUCH better. Steve is eating things that he would have turned up his nose at in the not so distant past and is eating them raw in salads. He didn’t even realise that he ate spinach and perpetual spinach in a salad the other day, he just raved about how tasty it was. You want your kids to eat their veggies? Try growing them :o). Our newfound excitement at being able to eat what we are growing notwithstanding, our terror is still rising. How much bigger can zucchini plants get! I have already cut off their Samson like locks army style in an attempt to allow my poor eggplants to get a bit of light and within a week they were towering over the poor huddled eggplants cowering beneath their enormous elephantine leaves. Not only are they growing faster than is physically possible, they are armour plated and cutting their leaves to put them into the compost heap without wearing gloves is a painful lesson that I will only have to learn once. Our cucumber crop is promising to be amazing as each of the 6 vines is covered in flowers with tiny little Lebanese cucumbers at the bases. I can hear my daughter Madeline applauding as I type that sentence and she will put our excesses to good use sliced thinly with some rice wine vinegar, mirin and sesame seeds. Our corn is magnificent, our silverbeet tastes delicious, our beans are going gangbusters and all in all we are having a great vegetable season.

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In the breeding season the local Cuckoo shrikes are hard pressed to find enough to eat while they are cramming their noisy brood full of insects and we give them a bit of cheese to help them out. Here you can see the rare large spotted nosey bird hunting for cheese…

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While we were in Launceston today I took a heap of photos to share our beautiful city with you all. I don’t get to go there often now and I really do appreciate it’s beauty. While I was taking a few shots of the Japanese garden near the library I noticed someone taking photos and realised it was me! Can you see how tired Earl is of me stopping and taking off the lens cap? 😉

Steve is going to head off and go “floating” again on New Year’s Day. I knew that he would love pootling around in his aluminium dinghy if he took it out a few times. There is something soothing about skimming a large body of water with only a thin skin of aluminium between you and a cold splash and it’s great fun to steer your little coracle between the drifting jellyfish that the tide wash up and down the river twice a day from the sea and back in a never ending cycle of jellyfish waltzing. You can be master of your own possibilities and should you manage to catch a fish you can get your wife to fillet it for you and cook it fresh from the boat…like veggies from a veggie garden to your plate, fish from the boat tastes amazingly good…unless you caught blowfish in your ignorance… Steve used to enjoy catching fish when we lived in Albany Western Australia. I worked strange hours as befits a cook and he would drop me off at work and head off fishing till it was time to pick me up and head home. He spent many a hot summer moonlit night with only the city lights and the sounds of the humpback whales singing their sea shanties in the harbour to keep him company. He would drop me off early in the morning on my day shifts, before the sun came up, and would make a beeline for the aptly named “Salmon holes” where accompanied only by a little Chinese fisherman who couldn’t speak a word of English but who using sign language to ask Steve for his unwanted fish heads and for a time they shared silent communion with the waves and the dolphins in the breakers and the sea, he would catch his bag limit of 7kg Australian salmon and then face the daunting task of carrying them back up the almost vertical steps half a kilometre (straight up) back to where the car was waiting. Salmon fishing is an Aussie male rite of passage. Something that “the blokes” do and that needs to be accompanied by an esky bedecked with beer and bait and tales of “the mongrel that got away” and “I bloody nearly had it!” echo semi-convincingly around the pub with your mates after a day of sunstroke and sunburn. What more could an Aussie bloke want? Aside from a bbq to slap the catch on when they got back and a doting wife with a fridge full of amber ale to keep the stories growing exponentially long after the sun has gone down and half your mates are asleep. Steve is new to blokish behaviour but it certainly hasn’t taken him long to embrace the amber fluid in its chilled form and I haven’t heard him “whinge” in a long time…”we will make a bloke out of you yet young ex-pat Stevie boy!” 😉

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Christof in Oz’s photo of the steps leading down to where Steve caught those salmon “You’re legs are like coiled springs young padawan!” 😉

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Generic touristy shot pinched from the interweb of the walkway running along the top of the cliffs above where Steve used to fish for salmon…beautiful, amazing scenery, good fishing and subject to random king waves that have swept many unsuspecting fishermen to their deaths in the past few years.

Well it’s time to wrap up this post and head off to embrace the weekend. It will be 2013 the next time we meet. We managed to all mill together over 2012 and we survived the Mayan apocalypse en mass…we learned, we grew and we shared and 2013 can only give us more opportunities for the same. I can’t wait to share it all with you and I just want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for coming along for the ride on Serendipity Farm…I know I tend to take you in the old 60’s land rover with the bung suspension and I tend to go through the back paddocks and hit every damned pothole on the way but you have to admit…sometimes I find something special to share with you and you are the very first people that I want to share it with every single time :o). See you on the Boxing Day equivalent of New Year’s Day…you would think that some entrepreneur out there would have cashed in on the possibilities but for now, your poor long suffering wallet is safe from New Year’s Boxing Day 😉