Forget the Ides of March, we have the Daffodils of September

Hi All

“Daffodils are like ideas, they spring up in the middle of waste land and they give you hope for future possibilities”

That quote is a narf7 original. It sprung out of the ether in my overstuffed brain one day when I was walking Earl and noticed a pile of rubble in the native bushland on the side of the road with a daffodil flowering profusely in the middle. Life is a bit like builders rubble sometimes. We make our “buildings” and we might not always build them strong. Many times they fall down and we are left with our own piles of “builders rubble” that need to be sifted through to salvage what we can from the experience and to start again but there is always a daffodil in every pile of rubble, we just have to sift through and find it.

The dogs have gone mad...they appear to be begging for cauliflower! "NO It's MINE!"

The dogs have gone mad…they appear to be begging for cauliflower! “NO It’s MINE!”

White men might not be able to jump but 50 year old white girls can certainly head-bang with the best of them

White men might not be able to jump but 50 year old white girls can certainly head-bang with the best of them

Earl is VERY impressed with my ability to rock

Earl is VERY impressed with my ability to rock

The son-and-heir just managed to pull an almost extinct rabbit out of a hat and find a job in Tasmania. Not only did he find a job, but his new office was so eager to have him join their crew that they created a position for him with extras to the job that was being offered. It’s always nice to feel appreciated and now Stewart can move to Tasmania with his Texan sweetie Kelsey, who has become a firm part of our family, and start to negotiate his way around the “real world”. Living in inner city Melbourne is like living in a bubble. You are surrounded by commerce and an artificial bustling reality that has very little to do with the real world. Moving to Tasmania will allow them both to relax a bit and to stretch out their minds to other pursuits. Both of them want to explore the beautiful scenery here in Tasmania and as they are moving into the unit behind the house where my daughters live in the city, they won’t have to pay rent and will be able to pay off outstanding bills and start saving towards their future life together

I asked my brother in W.A. to send me some stone worn smooth by the Southern Ocean from where I came from.

I asked my brother in W.A. to send me some stone worn smooth by the Southern Ocean from where I came from.

He walks for miles on deserted beaches taking photographs and sent me these 4 beauties earmarked as the heralds of my kettle boiling

He walks for miles on deserted beaches taking photographs and sent me these 4 beauties earmarked as the heralds of my kettle boiling

Hmmm Might need to dust the kettle! Pebbles in situ ready to tap-dance their way into Serendipity Farm history

Hmmm Might need to dust the kettle! Pebbles in situ ready to tap-dance their way into Serendipity Farm history

We were given a very similar chance when my father extended his offer to allow us to live in the house that my daughters live in. At the time we were working and studying and paying rent in Western Australia. I love Western Australia. It’s where I was born and where I grew up and it forged what makes me “me” but I also love Tasmania. I am ever the adaptable narf when I can see the benefits of a long haul move. Stewart and Kelsey will be able to split the annual bills that come with living in a house with his sisters which will leave them both a lot better off. Sometimes life changes the gameplay and you find yourself riding an entirely different bus…you think that you are headed in one direction and next minute you are looking out the passenger window and you are in Albuquerque and it’s time to get off. Your experience lies in how you deal with your bus ride and what you do with your new surroundings when you get there.

The spare bedroom is the only room with old carpet still in it

The spare bedroom is the only room with old carpet still in it

Steve and I both decided that we would remove the carpet in a recent burst of Spring cleaning. We removed the bed and  Earl realised that he could see outside

Steve and I both decided that we would remove the carpet in a recent burst of Spring cleaning. We removed the bed and Earl realised that he could see outside

I am affecting change...Bezial HATES change...Earl is wrapped up inside change...

I am affecting change…Bezial HATES change…Earl is wrapped up inside change…

A job well done and now the bedroom floor looks like the rest of the house :)

A job well done and now the bedroom floor looks like the rest of the house 🙂

Stewart and Kelsey have been given a chance to change their lives and mould them how they see fit. Not everyone gets that chance in life. Some people are stuck in lives and jobs that they see going nowhere and that they feel have no value. It’s hard to see other people making a break for the sun when you are stuck under a rain cloud but you just never know where that rain cloud is going to take you. You might just be marking time until your ship comes in. How you mark time is going to shape your personality and how you deal with what eventuates in your life. I am very philosophical here today aren’t I? I guess you get milestones in your life and although this isn’t my personal milestone, it might be a significant moment in Stewart and Kelsey’s life path. It looks like “Thanksgiving” might become part of our new family traditions…we wouldn’t want Kelsey to feel out of the loop but I am NOT eating sweet potatoes and marshmallows girl…THAT is a step too far for this little black narf 😉

Earl and a little friend... or is it?!!! This was an image that Steve found online. Doesn't this look a whole lot like Earl!

Earl and a little friend… or is it?!!! This was an image that Steve found online. Doesn’t this look a whole lot like Earl!

This week has seen us planting trees like crazy. Actually it’s been a fortnight of tree planting and now we have come to the point where we have no idea where to plant the remaining trees that we want to get into the ground. We have so many trees and not enough Serendipity Farm to do them justice. As horticulturalists we know how big these trees grow and how much space they are going to need to be happy and we can’t simply cram them all into the ground close to each other and claim ignorance at a later date. We owe these trees more than that. Most of them we grew from seed that we collected, some from other countries, sourced from the stashes of friends, new acquaintance’s, adventitious “over the fence” seed collection and gardeners that we chatted with over the gate who are incredibly generous with information and cuttings most of the time. As a penniless student hippy I have learned how to be very savvy when it comes to collecting plant material and when I want something for the garden, it’s not hard to get it and most of the time it’s free.

"If...I...Just...stretch...a...tiny...bit...more..."

“If…I…Just…stretch…a…tiny…bit…more…”

I have been communicating with Jess from the wonderful sustainable blog “rabidlittlehippy”. She is putting into practice everything that I want to do here. She tends to be a lot more active than I am and gets stuck in where I procrastinate a little too much methinks. You are more likely to find me pinning on Pinterest than out in the garden hacking blackberries but Steve and I are moving out of winter mode and back into the garden. Jess has been telling me about various plants that I want to institute on Serendipity Farm and never thought that I could get here and we are cooking up how to get hold of Yacon, an amazing root crop from the Andes that promises to be a natural sweetener that should do well here. It’s all an experiment really and who knows what is going to grow happily here. We have a rough idea of what the seasons are going to deliver to us now that we have been living here for almost 3 years (in December).

Rincewind in human form...

Rincewind in human form…

The tree that was dangling like the sword of Damocles in the side garden and that had us using extreme gardening techniques whenever we had to mow underneath it has been felled. I didn’t even hear it fall! Apparently the crash made the dogs jump and Steve and our friends Guy and Lee pulled it down with a thick rope and Lees Toyota Landcruiser (note Toyota…if you notice this advertisement in my obviously influential blog please feel free to send me a box of Landcruisers. I will be sure to share them with friends and family and praise your products worth to anyone who will listen 😉 ). Aside from squashing a poor shrub that had already been split down the middle by fat chickens perching on its lower branches, the side garden suffered miraculously little damage and now I can start using the area to plant out smaller shrubs and perennials that I wasn’t willing to risk being squished like grapes till that tree fell.

"ExCUSE me...I am Pinteresting here!"

“ExCUSE me…I am Pinteresting here!”

The recent planting endeavours has shown us that there are way too many trees being held captive in small pots that really should be given away to people who will appreciate them. It’s hard. Not because we don’t want to give them away, but because we grew these trees from seed. We nurtured them while we learned and those trees signify our horticultural passion and a stage in our lives where a lot of doors opened up for us and changed our direction. Moving to Serendipity Farm back in December 2010 allowed us to have space to grow but it also showed us that our city plans weren’t going to be all that compatible with our actual country reality. There are a lot of obstacles that appeared in the way and it’s our job to find a way to jump those hurdles and see those daffodils that are growing up, most determinedly, through our early piles of builder’s rubble. When you are 50 and there are 4 acres of determined weeds and invasive exotics waving in the breeze at you taunting you from the deck it’s sometimes hard to know where to start but Steve and I have plans…

Doesn't this look pretty? Well the camera tells fibs folks! It never ceases to amaze me how pretty photos of Serendipity Farm look and how rangy and terrifying reality actually is!

Doesn’t this look pretty? Well the camera tells fibs folks! It never ceases to amaze me how pretty photos of Serendipity Farm look and how rangy and terrifying reality actually is!

I SWEAR I removed all of the garlic from this area last year. I actually dug around in the soil and pulled everything I could find out! It would appear I didn't. The little mulberry tree above the garlic probably benefits from it's protective pest resistance

I SWEAR I removed all of the garlic from this area last year. I actually dug around in the soil and pulled everything I could find out! It would appear I didn’t. The little mulberry tree above the garlic probably benefits from it’s protective pest resistance

There is a stand of tall spindly Melaleuca alternifolia at the bottom of our property. It denotes an area that gets swampy in winter. Melaleuca alternifolia are also known as Tea Trees. Their leaves contain an essential oil that is known world-wide as a natural antiseptic and as such, they are a valuable resource however the Melaleuca alternifolia on Serendipity Farm are a dime a dozen and those in the tea tree garden area are predominately spindly and falling over due to over-competition and a distinct lack of light. We haven’t touched them aside from the odd thinning out event to generate a few poles to use as makeshift fencing but the other day I was looking at them and thought “why don’t we cut them down and use the area to plant out our nut trees?” Why not indeed? There is about half an acre of land being occupied by tea trees and aside from keeping a band of them (thinning out the spindly ones and letting the healthier trees reach their full potential), why not avail ourselves of some of that land to our advantage? Nut trees are a perennial food source. They keep on keeping on and like fruit trees; they offer you a source of long term food. In our family, nuts feature more than just snacks and additions to baked goods. I am vegan and make my own nut milk to use in my tea every day. They can be ground and used in many different ways and as Tasmania is perfect for growing hazelnuts, walnuts and chestnuts, why not put this half an acre of land to better use?

Green and purple asparagus! Cheers to Bev for reminding me that it is asparagus season :)

Green and purple asparagus! Cheers to Bev for reminding me that it is asparagus season 🙂

There are always compromises to be made. Serendipity Farm is bookmarked to be a food forest. To do this, we have to weigh up what we do and don’t want to remove from the garden and how we are going to mix native and exotic species to get the best of all worlds. We are playing horticultural alchemy here folks and throwing climate change and instability of world markets into the equation and suddenly a food forest is a lot more important than a few spindly Melaleuca alternifolia that are reaching the end of the line. I think, as custodians of the land, it’s up to us to make the most of it. We need to be aware of the natural cycles that are currently operating on Serendipity Farm and make sure that we don’t dent them too significantly. We need to find ways to get what “we” want, whilst maintaining equilibrium or in Serendipity Farm’s case, achieving equilibrium would be a good start.

(what's she showing us this wonky pile of debris for?)

(what’s she showing us this wonky pile of debris for?)

"BUGGER!"... three more chicks on Serendipity Farm...sigh...

“BUGGER!”… three more chicks on Serendipity Farm…sigh…

This is entirely off topic folks. When Stewart was here visiting on Sunday after having a job interview the day before he was checking something on our computer and accidently closed one of the windows that he had open that he wanted more information from . Did you know that if you do that, you can call that window back by pressing the “Control”, “Alt” and “T” buttons? Neither did I! How many times have you accidentally closed a window and had to go through the process of searching all over again or having to sift through your computers history for the day to see if you can’t narrow it down…well NO MORE FOLKS! Now, thanks to second hand info from my genius son, you can just press Control, Alt and “T” and your page will miraculously come back. This only works for the last page that you closed…if you open another page or do anything in between closing your page and using this shortcut you are on your own, but it’s great to at least know that you can catch your mistake after the event.

I had to share this with you all as this is the cleanest you are EVER going to see Steve's shed. Don't let him fib and tell you that he is tidy...he is chaos on legs!

I had to share this with you all as this is the cleanest you are EVER going to see Steve’s shed. Don’t let him fib and tell you that he is tidy…he is chaos on legs!

It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks. I have so many photos and not enough posts to share them in! Last weeks excited bread post took over from the norm and the images are starting to back up and fall off the factory conveyor belt. I met Jo who blogs at “All the Blue Day” yesterday in our shared health food shop of choice. Poor Jo was under siege as I was distracted with the HUGE shopping day ahead of me (that started at 6.30am and  didn’t end till I got home at 3.30pm) and my adult daughters were hell bent on out consuming each other to the max…”how much is that imported Canadian maple syrup with the maple leaf shaped bottle?”…I can only thank my lucky stars that as Bethany, my youngest daughter reminded me “it’s our money and you don’t have to pay for it!” ;). Seriously though, it was lovely to meet Jo over the dates and mixed nuts and to furtively exchange lemons for dehydrated kefir grains and a dozen free range eggs…I am hoping the lovely lady behind the counter ignored us and poor Jo might not recover from our bombardment of her sensibilities but meeting a fellow blogger was a lovely experience and perhaps we can have that “cuppa” one day and really meet each other on a level, un-twitching, playing field :o)

A local thrift shop was having a winter clothing clearance and I picked up lots of clothes for $2 an item. This shot is for my daughters..."I am Robbie Rotten!" ;)

A local thrift shop was having a winter clothing clearance and I picked up lots of clothes for $2 an item. This shot is for my daughters…”I am Robbie Rotten!” 😉

I went back to the op shop a few days later and everything was going out for 50c an item! Here you see Narf7 modelling a $1 Spring outfit

I went back to the op shop a few days later and everything was going out for 50c an item! Here you see Narf7 modelling a $1 Spring outfit

Why not have some fun when you are cleaning up the detritus of ex stuffed toys...wearing another 50c jumper and rocking to Pearl Jam's "Evenflow"

Why not have some fun when you are cleaning up the detritus of ex stuffed toys…wearing another 50c jumper and rocking to Pearl Jam’s “Evenflow”

That’s the end of the line folks. It’s 5.14am on Tuesday and I have a few things to fix up before my lecturer is going to let me pass my assessment. I am learning that “criticism” isn’t always personal and that I tend to take criticism to heart rather than see it as a tool to educate me. I have been offered a chance to grow…I am choosing to take it. We need to head into town and clear out all of the boxes of past life (ours and dad’s) detritus from the unit so that Stewart and Kelsey can move in and make this small space their own. It’s a chance to clear out old papers and items that are no longer used. Let’s face it…if it has been in a unit out the back of a house in town for almost 3 years, methinks it isn’t crucial to our survival on Serendipity Farm ;). We also need to deliver the queen-sized bed that is in the spare room to the unit and swap it for the high rise bed that Steve made for me back when we lived in Western Australia. I LOVE that bed and it was our bed for many years before we moved here. Steve is going to cut the legs down a bit because aside from it being VERY high, the people that might want to visit and stay (read Kym and Bruce who are visiting in January…) may not want to have to use a step ladder to get into bed. Time to clear things out…regroup and march on…just like the daffodils do year in and year out, and hopefully we manage to flower beautifully in the process. See you all next week folks when I have a LOT of photos to share with you and no doubt life will tumble us around in some kind of interesting way to your reading advantage ;).

Today would have been my mum's birthday. I started this blog so that she could see what we were up to over here so I owe her for where this space has taken me. Thank you mum...we miss you

Today would have been my mum’s birthday. I started this blog so that she could see what we were up to over here so I owe her for where this space has taken me. Thank you mum…we miss you

Today's word cloud

Today’s word cloud

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When chaos comes to town

Hi All,

It all started with one small Camellia sinensis and a chance chat with fellow blogger Jessie a.k.a. “Rabid Little Hippy”. If you are a horticulturalist or, indeed, a gardener, you have a pretty good idea what a Camellia sinensis is. If you are someone who could care less about gardening you may not be aware that this humble little shrub is the stuff that wars are made of. Camellia sinensis is the starting point for the elixir of life…tea. I drink several cups in the morning. I have been drinking tea since my tea drinking grandmother introduced me to it when I was 2. It is a tradition that has been passed down through the ages and that my sister and I are wholeheartedly addicted to and woe betides ANYONE that comes between us and our first cup of tea in the morning. It is our wake-up ritual and our collective sigh of acquiescence to our early rising habits (hers natural, mine entirely artificial 😉 ). A good half of the world wakes up to it each day and uses this humble brew to ignite their wavering brain cells to greatness. I would like to think that Mr Leonardo Da Vinci was fond of a cup or two…perhaps Mr Einstein? Even Mr George Bernard Shaw was most probably prone to a sip or two before he launched into the mental minefield that elevated him to his own personal form of greatness. Life without tea is unthinkable…as Fezzik from the wonderful movie “The Princess Bride” would say …life without tea is “Inconceivable”…but is it?

Sketti Doritos

Remember Steve’s “Sketti” meal from the last post? 😉

Tamar NRM Bush Tucker Gardening Workshop

I just signed up with Jenny (how relieved am I that I no longer have to say “friend in the witness protection!” to attend this Tamar NRM workshop and will make sure to take lots of photos and to post all about it for you all

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Don’t you love natures way of dealing with aphids? Let something else make a meal of it…cycles and circles

We have all heard of the principal of “Peak Oil” and whether we choose to deny its existence or not, if the oil companies are buying up patents for any kind of clean energy producing systems as fast as they are being invented, this little black duck has stepped on over into the “believer” camp. What IS Peak Oil? In a nutshell…it is the opinion that we are well past our due date for using up our available reserves of oil on this planet. Oil makes the world run. We are so used to its black liquidity greasing our economic system that the mere thought of it not being available is the cause of most of our modern day wars. What happens when the oil runs out? Most of the processes that keep society running will cease folks. Peak Oil has spawned a massive market in prepping. There are people all over the world digging shelters, hoarding and there are vultures sitting on the fringes making money hand over fist out of people’s terror. I choose not to weigh into that fear here on this blog, needless to say there is a LOT of fear and it is spawning an industry.

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Gardening smart involves finding what is going to do best in your conditions and planting within those parameters. Rhododendron’s might be pretty, but they are some of the hardiest shrubs around and can take a long dry summer where some of our conifers died. Do your homework and you can have a lovely garden that is completely functional within Permaculture parameters 🙂

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Using plants that are native to your country as well as to your local region will give them the best chance to grow successfully in challenging conditions.

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There is always room for “pretty” things especially when they attract bees and butterflies and other pollinators

I choose to be positive about the inevitability of Peak Oil. Yes we will be without the ability to head down to our local fast food franchise and buy ourselves a burger and fries. Our ability to produce food in massive factories is going to stop. Where we now put our food production into other people’s hands, we are going to have to think about where our food comes from. Is this a bad thing? I choose not to think so. I turn 50 this year. I remember life (last century 😉 ) when there were no supermarkets. I remember corner shops and butchers and bakers and small hardware shops and I remember towns being important. I remember that most people had a job and Peak Oil might just return us to full employment. No fast food = a chance to get our health back on track. To get a burger is going to cost more in time and effort and is going to involve taking back those extraneous processes and doing some of them ourselves.

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Shrubs with hairy and thin leaves are better acclimatised to survival in dry conditions and we get 4 months of extremely dry weather over our summer so this exotic plant is perfect for our conditions.

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“Weeds” are just useful plants growing in the wrong place folks! These dandelions might be taking advantage of Earl’s free nitrogenous injections but the roots will be perfect for making a coffee substitute and should we ever be able to wean Earl of his desire to “decorate” them on a regular basis, the leaves are very nutritious and wine can be made from the flowers

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This Liquidambar styracaflua might have pretty leaves but its common name sheds more light on how useful this attractive deciduous tree might be. They are called Sweet Gums and like Maples, their sap can be used to produce a natural sweetener

Humanity has specialised itself out the wazoo. There are people employed to answer telephones. Their whole life revolves around moving voices from one place to another. Peak Oil may just restore some reality about the processes of life that are truly important. What about that little Camellia sinensis? Well this little black duck doesn’t want to give up tea any day soon. Tea is a product that tends to be made in foreign parts. It IS produced in Australia but there isn’t a lot of it and when Peak Oil strikes, the important economic rule of “Supply and Demand” steps in. With half of Australia’s population drinking tea, the demand is going to be very high and the supply very low. Think “sailing ships” folks… without that black iquor keeping our wheels of trade thrumming under our mental thresholds we are going to have to rely on good old sail power (or at least something green that approximates it) and that takes time. The concept of having to wait is going to be a very hard one for modern society that is used to being delivered what it wants instantly.

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This has absolutely nothing to do with Peak Oil but isn’t it a pretty picture?

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Preparing the first paddock area for the beginnings of our 14 metre x 12.5m fully enclosed vegetable garden. That’s 4 times bigger than we had this year and I was able to live predominately from our 7 small garden beds this year despite significant possum and wallaby predation. One day the entire first paddock will be enclosed and we will grow a good proportion of the food that we need ourselves

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The sheoak in this picture took it’s revenge on the veggie garden to the left of this shot and dropped it’s canopy right on top of the garden…luckily nothing tall was in the bed and the silverbeet underneath the branches sustained very little damage.

I own a single tiny Camellia sinensis. I have plans for that little Camellia sinensis. They involve me taking cuttings and growing more. I plan on having my own little mini tea plantation on Serendipity Farm. I have saved articles about how to process tea…which bits to use…how to ferment it to get the best out of it and this little black duck won’t be without her tea come the revolution. I have also tucked away how to make a coffee substitute using acorns or dandelion root. Tasmania is full of oak trees and acorn coffee is something that should be easy to make if the need arises. Aside from a Camellia sinensis I also have a coffee plant. I know that Tasmania isn’t a prime location for this tropical shrub BUT enter my optimism and as the weather situation starts to heat up; this little coffee plant might just feel more at home on Serendipity Farm. For now it lives in the glasshouse but who knows…

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This is an Arbutus unedo or Irish Strawberry tree. There are a lot of food producing plants growing locally and the more that we know about them, where they are, what can be done with them and how to prepare their yields for maximum benefit the better off we will be

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This is what the fruit of the Irish Strawberry tree looks like on the shrub. I decided that it was wasteful to leave this fruit to rot on the ground and so I harvested some

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After collecting some of the fruit I chose some to dry out to attempt to harvest the seed and grow some more Arbutus because this particular tree produces very tasty fruit which isn’t always the case.

I took Earl for an afternoon walk the other day. He was twitchy and I was up for an additional walk. Sidmouth in autumn is a lovely place to be. As I waited for Earl to sniff and urinate his way along Auld Kirk Road, I ruminated about my little Camellia sinensis and the value of at least knowing how to do things for yourself. I am a vegan. I don’t eat meat, dairy or eggs. I don’t eat honey but that’s not because I am vegan, it’s because honey is a prohibitive price and I prefer to make my own date paste as a sweetener. As I dragged along behind Earl acting as ballast I realised that “come the revolution” we horticulturalists have a prime roll to play. When humanities “needs” come to the fore after oil ceases to flow, food is going to become something that we all have to think about. Steve and I are in the process of building a very large fully enclosed vegetable garden. Today we will be collecting some of what we need to build it over the next few weeks. It’s the beginning of several interconnected large fully enclosed areas that we are going to build to produce as much of our own and our daughter’s vegetables and other crops as we can. If Stewart and Kelsey move here, we can produce food for them as well. Food will go from being something that is artificially kept at low prices by government subsidies to its rightful place as one of our primary needs. As a vegan it should be easier for me to adapt to life after Peak Oil

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Preparing the fruit to be washed ready to turn into jam

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Good stainless steel non reactive saucepans and stockpots are a very wise investment as they last a long time if cared for and don’t leach anything into what you are cooking

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Mum gave me these when she visited last Christmas. It’s a small jar of cumquats preserved in brandy syrup from her own small cumquat tree. Preserving fruit like this is one way to extend the harvest of fruit and to make it available long after it’s season is over. I decided to use these “mumquats” to add a bit of bulk to my jam

I say “easier” because I don’t need milk from a cow to put into my beverage of choice. I don’t need eggs from a chicken (thank goodness because our girls are skating on thin ice regarding egg production at the moment) to make my cakes and I don’t need any form of animal flesh to grace the centre of my dinner plate. I am not prothletising here folks, I am just stating fact. “Come the Revolution” this little black duck is perfectly happy to live on vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes. That brings us to the point and we have to ask ourselves “how much food do we need?” You only really start to realise how tenuous our food security is when you start to work out the true cost of the food that we consume.

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I processed the cumquats to add flavour and nutrients to my jam

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After cooking for 10 minutes the jam/cumquat mix had to be sieved to remove the small woody seeds and tough skin of the Arbutus

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after straining the mix the resulting smooth pulp was put back into the stainless steel pan and the brandy syrup was added and a little sugar

That burger, fries and coke that cost us under $5 at our local fast-food restaurant costs a whole lot more to replicate at home. If you don’t believe me…try it. After you head to the supermarket and pick up the ground meat, the burger buns, the bag of salad, the tomatoes, the jar of pickles, the container of sauce, the container of mustard, the breadcrumbs for the burger, the egg to hold the burger together and you factor in the electricity cost to cook the burger, the frypan you need to cook the burger and your own time to make the burger (and that’s JUST the burger folks…don’t forget the fries and the coke…) you can start to see just how unrealistic our food costs actually are. Why is it so cheap? Because most of what is going on behind the scenes involves mass production, cost cutting and government subsidisation to keep the prices artificially low. We need Calories, calcium, protein and replacements for dairy (think spreads and oils and avocados and nuts), starches (chestnuts, potatoes and acorns) and we need to think further afield for how to process these things to get the food on our tables that we need to survive. We don’t need “fast” we need reliable.

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This is what the puree looked like after the brandy syrup and sugar had been added and it had been simmered for a further 10 minutes

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Here’s the finished batch in a sterilised jar. It didn’t quite fill the jar so we are keeping it in the fridge. The results are very fruity and a good way to use up fruit that might not initially be considered “edible”

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Please ignore the flour coated shirt, the bright red track pants and the terrible split ends and completely unbrushed hair…Steve wanted me to include this candid shot as he said I was the most animated “spoon rest” that he had ever seen 😉

As I said earlier in this post. I am NOT here to scare people. I want to show that we CAN produce our own food and we can do it well and for the most part, Peak Oil might just be the making of us. At the moment we think of the “Individual” we think of ourselves as solitary units but back before the Industrial Revolution where all of this oily stuff started to be used to form international networks of greed, society consisted of small communities that fed large cities. The size of these communities was limited by their ability to produce humanities needs and most of what this society needed was produced by their own hard work. Butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and farmers were all important. Corner shops (think Arkwright’s shop in “Open All Hours”) were the hub of a small town and everyone in that small community worked together to keep it going. Community is going to become MUCH more important after Peak Oil. Do you know you neighbour? What does your neighbour do for a living? I think Frank was a tugboat driver…Adrianne his wife is a registered nurse, Noel, behind Frank, is a retired Quanta’s pilot and Glad on the other side is pure Chutzpah on a stick. After Peak Oil, what you can actually “DO” is going to become more important. What you “Know” is also going to become important. Why do I want physical books instead of downloading them from some remote “cloud”? Because I like to keep my information close at hand and would rather know that I can physically pick it up and flick to a page to isolate said information rather than having to rely on a tenuous system of delivery that might simply disappear at any given time.

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Making meat stretch further is the name of the game as it keeps getting more and more expensive. I am vegan but Steve is Omni and last nights tea was conjured up from Steve’s school childhood. He decided that he wanted a “Mince Cobbler” for his tea. Not entirely sure what it was but it figured in school lunches and he had fond memories of it so we set about recreating a childhood memory…

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After cooking the minced beef with veggies to extend the meat it was thickened and a spicy scone topping was made to soak up the gravy and to further extend the meat proportion of the meal whilst adding filling carbohydrates and making this a one pot meal.

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After removing the mince cobbler from the oven it was apparently a great version of what Steve remembered and was very tasty to boot.

I have been collecting recipes and food production processes for more years than I care to admit here. My children could all tell you about me scribbling down recipes from library books, pulling out pages from magazines etc. and I have ring bound files in our spare room full of recipes. I love processes. I love to know how they work. I used to think that I was just a bit of a nosy little black duck but now I think it goes deeper than that. I know how to make non-dairy spreads for my home-made bread that are healthy and that approximate butter. I know how to turn beetroot into a sticky sweetener that for the want of a better word we shall call “molasses”…you can do this with any sweet vegetable and if granulated sugar suddenly disappears from our shelves we need to know how to approximate sweetness ourselves. I know how to dehydrate fruits and vegetables to extend the harvest and I know how to do it without electricity. I am growing date palms, fruit and nut trees and various perennial food producing plants and am in the process of planting them out with the eventual hope of creating a food forest that covers the 4 acres that encompass Serendipity Farm.

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One way to make your food budget go further is to make as much of your own food from scratch as you can. You can customise what you cook to your families tastes and you can eat better for less. I choose to use butter to make Steve’s shortbread because I think it is healthier than other alternatives

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Frugal recipes using dried fruit as sweeteners are great ways to add little luxuries to your menu and this recipe came from an old Country Women’s Association cookbook from 1954 where frugality was a lot more important than it is today

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Baking many items to use the heat of your oven more efficiently can save a fair bit on heating and cooking costs

I know how to grow and prepare most of the calories, sweeteners, protein etc. that we need without having to resort to raiding the farmer’s paddocks at night by using legumes, nuts and grains that we can grow here BUT can I grow enough food for our needs? That’s where community comes in. “I” might not be able to grow every single thing that we need but if you spread the food production around a community, the problem starts to ease. Specialisation isn’t a bad thing and we all have abilities that lend themselves to different things. What I am trying to say here is that we CAN do this. We just need to be educating ourselves about the pro’s the con’s the whys and the wherefores. With a few chooks, a small dinghy, a well-planned garden and a well thought out food forest we can produce almost all we need here. We can add various natural systems and cycles to make Serendipity Farm pretty self-sufficient and we are in the processes of integrating these cycles. Composting, worm farming, water harvesting, vegetable gardening, protecting our orchard, planting our own food, integrating all of our systems to maximise potential and minimise hard graft…all possible using permaculture and our horticultural knowledge but most importantly, using what we are learning to give us back hope and choice

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I used some home made coconut flour in these Monte Carlo biscuits to use up something that was a by-product of making non dairy milk. Using as much of your food as you can reduces food waste. What can’t be used by us goes to the chooks…what they can’t eat gets returned to the soil via the compost heap and its wormy and micro-beast inhabitants

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Baking on a Saturday allows me to take note of what I need to be purchased on Monday’s shopping list

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I used some of Christi’s amazing home made jam and some homemade vanilla buttercream to sandwich the coconutty biscuits to form classic Monte Carlos

I would like to thank Jessie for putting this tiny seed into my mind. Up till now I have been pushing “Peak Oil” into the too hard basket in my mind. I have been skirting around the outside of this issue. I know it is coming, I just chose to avoid it whilst increasing my knowledge base as much as I can. Steve and I have learned to be problem solvers. If you are an aging penniless student hippy who lives on 4 acres 50km away from the nearest city you HAVE to learn to solve your own problems. I choose to see the problem of Peak Oil as just that…a problem to be solved. I can’t see the point of running around panicking or hiding under the bed or putting your fingers in your ears and yelling “IM NOT LISTENING” as loud as you can to try to drown out the inevitability. In my mind it’s something that is just going to “happen” like birth, death and taxes…it’s there folks and we just need to start thinking about how we can shore ourselves and our communities up against the worst effects of it. We humans are incredibly resilient. We have been able to circumnavigate the earth; we have been able to tunnel, to elevate, to be incredibly inventive and to increase exponentially to our own detriment. Peak Oil might just be our saving grace and is the equivalent of a set of reigns pulling in the cart horses before they run headfirst over a cliff…dare I say it…humanity might just NEED Peak Oil.

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Steve using a romantic fuzzy halo around his Monte Carlos

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You CAN have your cake and eat it too, you just have to plan, to educate yourself, to learn how to do things for yourself and develop problem solving skills folks… Monte Carlo’s are the result of planning, organisation and processes

Well here we are at the end of the story folks. Nowhere near as entertaining as The Princess Bride. If you haven’t watched The Princess Bride go and watch it or forever know that you missed something special in your life. Wednesday’s post won’t probably contain anything at all about Peak Oil. This is my reckoning, right here. This is where narf7 tells it like it is and after this, it’s all how to get around this massive global problem…it’s all water tanks and Brunhilda and building gardens and shoring up futures and positive hope and how to and D.I.Y. because THAT’S where the future lies…in educating ourselves and learning and finding ways to do what we need for ourselves and in being optimistic that the collective process of man are SO much more than the collective processes that we actually need. Have a great weekend and know that our Peak Oil future really is in the hands of the individual :o)

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! 😉

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 😉