Expectations and where they come from

Hi All,

Today (Monday) is apparently a public holiday in Tasmania. It’s been given the dubious moniker “8 hour day” which aligns it with labour day in other Australian states…I don’t know why various states have holidays on different days…may as well just clump them all together and have national holidays but apparently there is no fun in that so separate strangely named days are our predilection. I had just gotten up from my 2 hour morning rss feed read marathon and was buttering bread for the chooks and the dogs morning snack, making Steve’s morning cup of coffee in bed, getting ready to cut tiny cubes of tasty cheese for the cuckoo shrikes and wrens and I suddenly got to thinking about how these things became expected of me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing these things, I was just wondering how they became institutionalised on Serendipity Farm. These little occasional treats have become regular “expected” events that need to be kept up for the sake of the peace. As I was buttering the slices of shop bought bread that we don’t eat and only buy for the animals, I thought about how our own expectations of what life is meant to be have arisen. We “expect” that we will be able to go about our business safely and with rights but where did those expectations come from? Someone in the past had to fight for all of the expected normalcies that we take for granted and whenever there is a cause and a fight, there is someone fighting just as hard to keep the status quo. We expect choice in our shops. We expect to be able to find a job, to buy a house, to get credit on our purchases. We don’t even think about these things…they just “are”.  The more people “get” in their lives, the more they tend to expect. It’s a bit like getting a promotion at work with a good pay rise attached…after a while your lifestyle absorbs the pay rise and you are back where you started from…we have a habit of upping the ante whenever we get a run of good fortune and becoming blasé about how well off we actually are. In deliberately choosing to live a simpler life we all get to choose to be grateful for what life has handed us all over again. I, for one, am extremely grateful for the plate that I have been handed :o)

The ubiquitous repurposed automatic sprouter has done itself proud! Here you can see the scarlet runner beans sprouting

Here are the borlotti beans that apparently loved the conditions in the automatic sprouter. They, along with all of the other beans, have now been planted in seed trays and once they get big enough they will be planted out into our new bean garden

Here are the sprouting Yin Yang beans. If our summer is as long and hot as they say it is going to be these little babies should do well

I love meeting like-minded people through blog hunting. I recently found a wonderful Aussie blog with the delightful moniker of “Rabid Little Hippy”. Go and have a look for yourself…this blog is a frenetic blast of positive sustainable energy all rolled into a jumble of kids, a tiny tractor driving husband and a weekly commute between an old and a new life eagerly anticipated…

http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/another-weekend-in-ballan/

How could you resist a name like that? Aside from the name, the blog is a wonderful blend of homesteading, sustainable living and a zest for life that is positively infectious. I have never met anyone with so much energy and I just realised that although I follow each one of this wonderful bloggers posts I have NO idea what her name is! For the purposes of this post she shall be known as “rabid”… I have had great fun conversing with “rabid” via the comments section of her blog and after a recent post we discussed a swap event that she had been to. I assumed that it was a seed swap but apparently, it involved people taking things that they no longer used/needed and that they had made/grown etc. to barter for other goods. In Tasmania times are tough. There are very few jobs to be had and most jobs tend to be part time or transient. If any state needed a boost of positive sustainable energy it’s our humble little full stop at the bottom of the wealth generation of Australia. After listening with growing excitement as “rabid” told me about where she had been and what she had swapped my nose was twitching like Tabitha from Bewitched and I had formulated a plan to head in to the next Sustainable Living group at the Tamar NRM (Natural Resources Management) centre and postulate this wonderful idea for a chance for the locals to barter their excess or unwanted goods for other excess and unwanted goods. What a fantastic idea! “Rabid”, you may have just made some Tasmanians almost as happy as your faithful reader narf7 by telling me about this fantastic way to effect change whilst cycling goods in an incredibly sustainable way to everyone’s benefit.

Here are the punnets of mixed zucchini and rainbow chard that we have since planted out into the vegetable garden. The orange punnet at the front contains some of the Cavolo Nero that we will plant in the veggie garden and after that, out in the main garden

Who could resist dinosaur kale? It has lots of names including Cavolo Nero but I am going to call it “Sideshow Bob” kale

Bev from the wonderfully informative blog with truly useful information sent me a copy of The Weed Foragers Handbook. I am over the moon! I was going to buy this little tomb but now I don’t have to :). Thank you for that wonderful gift Bev along with the purple king bean seeds that you can see here in the automated sprouter along with the moringa oleifera seed that I am optimistically attempting to sprout 🙂

Some of our past experiences with purchasing seed online have been less than triumphant to say the least. We have paid quite large sums of money for seed that refused point blank to germinate and that was most probably too old and had been sold on at a profit from other sellers. We learned the hard way and so seed swapping with locals with seed that has local provenance is truly the best way to go about purchasing/gaining seed. We really want some Moringa oleifera seed to grow this amazing tree on Serendipity Farm. We previously purchased several batches of seed in an attempt to grow it with no luck. I retained some of the seed in a fit of pique whilst muttering about the seller’s dubious parentage under my breath and promptly forgodaboudit. We found the seed the other day and after the bean seeds grew so well in the sprouter, I decided to see if the Moringa oleifera would sprout. Nothing has happened yet but if I can manage to get the seed to sprout I will be a very happy camper. The beans that we sprouted recently are now planted out into flat trays to grow on until they are big enough to plant out in their bean garden home. There is something very addictive about propagating from seed. We have grown all sorts of plants from seed but most of them were ornamental shrubs or trees and growing our own food from seed adds an entirely new dimension to the fun. Today we removed 4 loquat saplings that we dug up from the side of the road as tiny little seedlings. We stashed them in the glasshouse in pots over winter and now they are ready to harden off before we plant them out. We also brought 3 more fig trees out of the glasshouse. We planted out one little fig tree to see how it went and it is going great guns so we figure 4 fig trees are better than 1. We have more walnut and hazelnut seedlings than we could shake a sustainable stick at and none of them cost us a cent. Sometimes you have to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. Three of the fig trees had ground layered on an old overgrown fig tree at a local school where we walk our dogs and we grew one from a now removed tree in Launceston city central. We collected the walnuts from a tree on the side of the road and we were given the hazelnuts from Glad’s daughter Wendy. There is a degree of primal delight to be had from helping nature to furnish your larder and growing edible plants from seed goes even deeper than that. Here is a link to show you why I am really eager to get some Moringa oleifera growing and thriving on Serendipity Farm…

http://enviro.org.au/article_moringaTree.asp

The little loquats that we rescued from the side of the road last year are hardening off prior to planting out

2 of the figs either side of the loquats and in the background you can see our little Gingko biloba that we planted out into the side garden

Another $2 roadside stall find…this time its garlic chives

Steve found this in the shed not so long ago…he promises me that with sharp blades it will be just as good as the petrol mower…for the sake of our sustainable future I certainly hope so! 😉

Steve and I took the boys for a small walk up the road this afternoon and noticed that Glad and Wendy next door had been mowing. We had a chat to them over the fence and Steve headed down to drop off some eggs and asked them what they were going to do with the pile of lawn clippings and oak leaves…”burn them” was the reply! He then asked if they would mind if we had them and they were overjoyed. Wendy pointed out another large pile of lawn clippings and leaves at the top of the property and asked him if we wanted those as well? “Darned RIGHT” we do! Now we can make a large compost heap near our vegetable garden area that will help us in the future…another example of how one mans trash/problem is another mans treasure. Whenever they mow they are going to give us their unwanted clippings and as Glad has 6 acres that amounts to a whole lot of clippings. It also highlights how proactive being part of a community can be. I was wondering where to get more compost ingredients from and the answer was right next to us all the time 🙂

I am twitching with excitement! It’s nothing to do with the $100 million lotto draw that apparently half of the Australian population has bought tickets in (not me!) and everything to do with farinaceous goods. I have been a rampant voyeur over the last month of all things Vegan and have found all sorts of amazing food blogs thanks to Annie at the fantastic blog An Unrefined Vegan. Here’s one of her delectable posts should you ever want to make heavenly peanut shortbready biscuits whilst learning some skills in the process.

http://anunrefinedvegan.com/2012/10/19/veganmofo-peanut-sandies/

Annie, along with some equally amazing vegan food blogging friends, spent a whole month coordinating Vegan Mofo…a chance for anyone with a vegan food blog to shine with as many recipes as they could post in 31 days. I followed avidly and spent every morning from 5am – 7am in a vain effort to keep up with these amazing posts, save them for future degustory delight and comment on as many as I could. At the end of the month quite a few of them got together to have a Vegan Potluck virtual meal online and again, my rss feed reader runeth over. As I pored over what was on offer I felt a distinct desire to cook and share that went as far as hinting that I might like to participate in next year’s Vegan Potluck. That gives me a year to think up some splendiferous idea to knock my peer’s socks off…an enormous vegan spongecake with multi layers filled with delicious spreads and topped with homemade vegan truffles? How about a scrumptious vegan pie? Homemade vegan lasagne? Whatever I choose to do, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be practicing it for a while and that it will be scrumptious…why would you want to share something with your peers if they had made it before? Time to get thinking…

One of the little hazelnuts that we potted up this week after checking the bags of stratifying seeds in our overwintering esky

A wheelbarrow full of free nut trees. Most of these are hazelnuts which seemed to germinate later than the walnuts that are in the glasshouse. I LOVE free edible plants 🙂

We need a gate at the side of the dog compound. We don’t want to spend much on the gate. Steve is a clever little vegemite and has worked out a way to turn this metal gate into a perfect gate in the compound. Stay tuned to see what he does with it

Steve and I have been dabbling in the farinaceous arts as I mentioned earlier (before I veered off to the left and got mentally lost…). We are on a quest to live as simply as we can whilst at the same time living as well as we can. Life is too short for bad wine and Steve has been blending his own peculiar bad wine with his good wine to render it all drinkable. I decided to use some of the various pieces of kitchen equipment that I have stashed in the top of the pantry out of sheer guilt for having paid so much for some of it many years ago. We had a go at making our own pasta as a way to use up some of our egg futures. We decided to mess about with a spinach pasta recipe that we found online and it was a really good recipe. If you want to try it yourself here it is…

http://cookingequipment.about.com/od/maincourserecipes/r/SpinachPasta.htm

Little Pig 🙂

The home made lasagne that we made from scratch

We then made a really delicious lasagne from scratch by making our own pasta, pasta sauce, meat sauce and béchamel. Steve really enjoyed it and the amount of pasta that we made was WAY too much for our lasagne needs and so we had to come up with some ideas of what to do with the left over pasta. Steve had some tonight in a bowl of homemade Asian noodle soup and pronounced the noodles delicious. I segued nicely back to why I was so excited earlier in the post…to make the noodles I remembered “Little Pig” in the top of my pantry cupboard. Little Pig is a non-centrifugal juicer that I bought many years ago when I was on a bit of a health kick. I have used Little Pig to make fruit mince, juice a few carrots and that’s about it. I remember reading that the juicer could be used to make Korean rice cake noodles but as I didn’t have a recipe for them I didn’t attempt to try to make them. Today I remembered that Little Pig had various nozzles that extruded dough’s into different shapes and after I got Steve to heft Little Pig down from the top shelf we put the remaining wrapped spinach pasta dough out on the bench top to reach room temperature while we made some Asian chicken broth and prepared vegetables to add to it. Once we got the soup on to simmer we turned back to attempt to make a spinach pasta version of udon noodles to go into Steve’s soup. Having never tried extruding pasta or any kind of dough through Little Pig I was a little dubious about it’s ability to perform but I shouldn’t have worried because after fitting the noodle nozzle and feeding the pasta dough into the top of the machine it made perfect round green noodles that were delicious in the soup. We have a large serving of noodles left that we are attempting to dehydrate as I type this to see if we can make our own dried pasta to store for later use. The speed and ease of making pasta this way got me twitching (FINALLY she got around to why she was twitching! 😉 ). I have visions of all sorts of pasta made from all sorts of grains, legumes, and seeds with different nuts, pesto’s, herbs and spices in a wide range of natural colours. The extruding process through Little Pig means that I should be able to intertwine various colours of dough and get amazing looking rainbow noodles in all sorts of shapes. I can make Korean rice cake noodles thanks to an amazing Korean online recipe site and I get to use up some of our excess eggs in the process. If our dehydration of the remaining pasta works, we will be able to mess about with all different kinds of pasta and dehydrate them for future use.  My excited twitching comes from the realisation that we won’t ever have to buy pasta or noodles again! I feel an amazing rainbow pasta recipe coming on for the Vegan Potluck next year :o)

We decided to sprout some mung beans at the same time as sprouting our beans and we will be using these babies in a stirfry tomorrow

The only potato doing anything other than sitting in the pantry on Serendipity Farm. Our soil is predominately comprised of rocks which sadly, are not conducive to the growing of potatoes…the compost heap appears to be an option…

The little mulberry is leafing up and the garlic growing underneath it was planted by my brother when he visited my dad many years ago. You can see some overbown asparagus in the foreground and in the background we have a lovely little mandarin tree

Here you can see “Possum Damage”. This is why Australians who live rurally spend a lot of time tearing out their hair or spending a fortune protecting their precious edible specimens from these furry little larrikin hooligans. This poor little mandarin tree suffers horendously every single year while its sibling sits not further than 10 metres away from it completely untouched. I will NEVER understand the mental processes of possums!

We are almost at the end of our studies and are finalising our sustainable landscape designs. We have yet to hear if we got an interview in our chosen courses for next year but should we miss out, we can always find something else relevant to study till Steve gets his Australian citizenship and we head off to university in 2014. We might even study drafting as we already have a good handle on AutoCAD…I love the possibilities that have opened up for us since we took a leap of faith and decided to live like penniless student hippies in order to pave the way for further learning opportunities. I have no doubt at all that our lives have been made much richer in the process and that our abilities have been honed to fine pointy tips and have allowed us to make amazingly good use of what life has thrown in our direction. The quest for “Happiness” is apparently on the rise…people have discovered that money isn’t the answer to this elusive state and curiously, people want to live in a constant state of happiness not realising that happiness only gains its beauty after periods of contrasting emotions. Happiness is inside every single one of us. We all have it within our reach and it has much more to do with being grateful and thankful for our roll of the dice than it has to do with any external forces. Life has a natural balance about it and as we seesaw our way up and down through a gamut of emotions we need to remind ourselves of Newton’s law of motion… “For every action…there is an equal, and opposite reaction”…a constant striving for equilibrium and whilst we might be down at any given time…it won’t be long until we are up again. Have a great week folks and count your blessings because sometimes what we are expecting overshadows how very lucky we already are :o)

If any of you are feeling a bit down this song is bound to make you feel better…get a saucepan and a wooden spoon and do a bit of tub-thumping yourself! 😉 Or Steve says…”even better…you drink the whisky drink…you drink the lager drink…you drink the cider drink…and after that you won’t CARE” 😉

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kS-zK1S5Dws

And if you aren’t laughing yet…check out Homer singing his version of tub thumping…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFvSUi-QFX4

The Voles are coming and I have become a hoarder

Hi All,

Having just planted out 7 garden beds with precious vegetable futures we now have to consider the fact that we aren’t the only ones who love vegetables…there are apparently hoards of creatures out there who can’t wait to take a scrump of our loot. Short of buying a rocking chair, a shotgun and putting a straw in my mouth I figure that we are going to have to do some detective work regarding “pests”. Pests come in a couple of forms…invertebrate, including most of the creatures that are going to totally ignore our bird netting cover and who are going to buzz right on through. Because we have covered the beds with bird netting (and here is the total irony of it all…) the little insectivorous birds, like the wrens that patrol our windowsill bossing the tiny cheese cubes out of us, can’t actually get in to scarf the aphids etc. who will carry on regardless. For these insectivorous critters we need to think smarter not harder. Integrated pest management is the way to go. We are using permaculture principals to give Serendipity Farm a whole new ethos. We are reusing, recycling and repurposing just about anything that we can get our hands on because it’s both sustainable practice and cheap and as penniless student horticulture hippies we need to be mindful of “cheap”. We have learned a few things over the last 4 years about building strong foundations for your hopes and dreams starting with the soil and building up from there. I am constantly amazed and excited with the prospects of working with nature rather than against it. As we learn more and more about permaculture through practical application we realise that it is the quickest most trouble free way to get what we want from our land. We are using what we have learned from our mainstream horticulture studies to branch off laterally into permaculture and learning about design has given us a new set of eyes each (like spiders 😉 ) to see how it all fits together. Some of what we are doing at the moment includes: –

Integrated pest management:  if you make conditions ideal for beneficials they will come…they will stay and they will eat your pest populations. We are prepared to wear a bit of insect damage till the beneficial population builds up to meet the pest populations and we are in the process of building overwintering bug houses and installing them around the area. We hand pick snails, slugs etc. and use the most ecofriendly choices for slug pellets that won’t hurt native animals and that biodegrade safely around our vegetables that have been covered and everywhere else has Sargent ducky on patrol. No slugs or snails shall pass by her probing dibbling beak! One of the most valuable tools you can have to deal with invasive pests before their populations become a problem is very simple. Just walk around your garden and “LOOK”. If you are doing this often enough you will notice the tell-tale signs of plant predation and will be able to nip it in the bud early.

Integrated weed management: weeds are just plants in the wrong place guys! I have been learning from some amazing sites where people go hunting for weeds and use them for all sorts of edible and medicinal reasons. No more “bollocks a weed!” for me, aside from some of the invasive grasses and should they become a serious problem, methinks it is time to get that pair of geese that I have been thinking about who eat their weights worth of grass which is their predominate food of choice. Just have to dig a little goosy dam for them and as our subsoil is solid yellow clay, no problemo! Use your weeds and you will be amazed at how they suddenly become managed problems. Use Bernard and Manny’s weeds for an example, Bernard and Manny are our two Javanese finches. They LOVE dandelions and I headed out to pick their favourite snack daily. Pretty soon there were no dandelions left in the front yard and I found myself in the ironic situation of having to steal weeds from other people’s gardens at night just to feed my finches habit. Use those weeds and you can bet your derrière that they will disappear! Murphy’s Law works both ways folks ;).  Don’t use herbicides, use your brains.  Hand grub and use the weeds to make weed tea for yourself (dandelions and nettles) or for your plants. They pinched the nitrogen from your garden in the first place, may as well take it back! No weed can survive a good drowning.  Try chopping the weeds with no seed heads up fine and putting them in the compost or cover the heap of weeds and solarise them with some black plastic. We all have to learn to put away the quick fix because most of them come with a steep price tag both for our pockets and the earth. This site, in particular, is a wealth of knowledge about weedy species and how to use them to your advantage

http://urbanherbology.org/2012/10/30/365-frankendael-day-193/

Here is a way to deal with your weeds thanks to good old Aunty ABC…

http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s2267268.htm

You can also make liquid manure to mix in with the weed tea and you can make compost tea as well. Crush up some charcoal and add it and aside from something that will attract flies for kilometres; you will have a valuable source of nutrients in their more easily assimilated liquid form. Just remember to hold your nose when you are measuring out!

Companion planting: Cheers to my long time gal pal in Perth Kymmy for sending me some information on companion planting. Kymmy has her garden totally together and it’s lovely to wander about in the greenery and tropical lushness that spills onto her undercover area. No tropical here aside from a poor long suffering philodendron that dad was trying to starve to death for 20 years. It’s now under a large tree and its leaves are slowly turning from yellow to a nice dark green…rescue 101 Pimblett style!  Many plants actually grow better with certain other plants. American Indians realised this and grew corn, pumpkins and beans together forming a symbiotic relationship of nitrogen production (beans), green mulch (pumpkin) and height for the beans to grow (corn stalks). I have been hunting around and found a really wonderful comprehensive permaculture companion planting PDF that want to share with you…

http://permaculturenews.org/2010/07/30/companion-planting-guide/

Confuse-a-cat: Plant your food in the garden and your garden with your food. Plant herbs and flowers in with your food garden and why not kill 2 birds with one stone? Make them edible flowers as well. Use plants like borage, comfrey, marigolds, pansy’s (especially Johnny jump-ups that keep on keeping on no matter what the conditions are) Italians have known about this forever. Back in Western Australia (or little Italy as it shall be spoken of from here on in…) the Italians were the market gardeners and started all of the green grocers all over the place. They certainly knew how to grow a tomato and you always saw their front gardens full of vegetables and flowers en mass. That’s how to confuse your pests too folks…mass planting with everything. I just have to get my chooks under control (for under control read locked up!) to start practicing what I am preaching here because they scarf everything edible in the garden and take dust baths in my hard work.

Mulch…mulch…MULCH!: Soil microbes need moisture to carry on their day to day activities and if the soil dries out they will head for damper pastures. Your veggies/plants won’t like it much either. Water has become a precious commodity and its price is starting to cause us to conserve it. Nothing like a hit in the old hip pocket to make you care about something. The perfect solution is to ensure that your soil is mulched to retain its moisture. You can use all sorts of things to mulch soil including organic and inorganic materials. We have a massive heap of Photinias that we removed from the fenceline that we are leaving in situ for the summer so that the leaves will drop off and mulch the soil and the branches will dry out and we can use the larger branches on the fire and we can use the smaller branches to form hugelkultur beds. Mulch will make your garden happy and will significantly reduce your water bills. Couple this with harvesting rain and using it on your veggie garden and you are in a win-win situation

Nothing to do with today’s post but a couple of random dog walking photos taken recently

It was a lovely still morning…

I am waiting to get some seed from that lovely bluey green leptospermum (tea tree) behind that banksia

I will never tire of looking at this beautiful Japanese Maple. Maybe one day some of our little babies will be this beautiful

Finally we get to the vertebrates! These are the boned critters with hearts that pump warm blood…those hearts might pump warm but their thoughts run to cold…stone cold stealin! On Serendipity Farm they run amok and range from rabbits, potoroo’s, wallabies, possums  and the most dangerous of all are “chookus Serendipitus”…the dreaded Common house chook. After reading the gardening blogs that I follow in the wee small hours of the morning I have suddenly become aware of a problem sweeping the US that I had never thought about before…voles! Voles: tiny field mice that remain faithful to their partners for their whole lives that eat seeds and grain and that reach sexual maturity in a month and that can wreak havoc on a good root crop…wait a minute… WE plan on having a good crop! I have unprotected beetroot in the ground that voles could tunnel underneath and lay in wait for those tender red bulbs to form and slowly digest them around their expanding family while I wait on tenterhooks for a vole scented gnawed handful of leaves!

This might be a water vole but its the only stock photo that I could find! No vole lawsuits for me!

I realise that voles are not endemic in Australia. I also realise that most voles could care less about vegetables BUT with global warming who knows where the voles will migrate…there could be voles right now stowing away on cruise ships with tiny sticks over their shoulders and all of their worldly seedy belongings stowed in a tied up gingham kerchief…stealthily and steadfastly wending their way to Australia to start a new beginning. If the Irish can do it…so can the voles. They keep telling us that we now have foxes in Tasmania although most people haven’t seen them and there is a sneaking suspicion that some wily Tasmanian decided that working in the forestry was a bit of a dud and that he might spread the rumour that “there be foxes!” so that he could sit back in a cushy “hunt the fox” job and get paid a handsome sum to stay in bed all day and postulate about “yup…me mate saw one the uva day!”. Most of Tasmania wants to end the “Fox Taskforce” as a bad joke BUT I can see a new direction for it…”Vole Taskforce!” Why not? If foxes can weasel their way over here in the boot of someone’s car (probably said aforementioned wily Tasmanian who ferried them in as “evidence” for his new income venture…) then so can voles! I could put an entire extended family of voles under my hat and a banana in my handbag and run the gamut of the sniffer dogs and insist that I didn’t realise that I wasn’t allowed to bring in a bit of fruit to eat for morning tea whilst the dogs rabidly tried to digest my legs. Once my contraband fruit was handed over they would pass me through customs…no banana “no worries luv”! But I WOULD have a hat full of voles and a new income generating venture for the coming season 😉

This is just to prove to myself that I CAN make fishcakes! Secret = use the potato ricer rather than mash the spuds

Earls potato sack halloween costume. He figures that he can trick people into letting him into their homes and then he can treat himself to whatever he likes and carry it away in his sack

Steve catching Earl in the act as he tried to head over to Frank and Adrian’s place next door and almost fell off the deck…

Stevie Kruger joining in on the halloween festivities…”One two Stevie’s coming for you”…

A plethora of vegan food blogs have exploded exponentially in my rss feed read thanks to vegan mofo. Vegan mofo is a month of crazed recipe creation where every day my inbox is cram packed full of awesome and exciting vegan recipes. I can officially be called a hoarder of vegan blogs and Steve is considering an intervention (but not before I collect a whole lot more!) These blogs freely share homemade cheeze recipes, how to make creamy vegan sauces, all sorts of wonderful sauces, salsas, spices and herby goodness to excite my tastebuds… now could I resist? My rss feed reader is bursting its seams but I just can’t stop! They are all so amazing, so promising, so full to the brim with wonderful creative and scrumptious looking food that my gluttonous fingertips keep clicking “Add to rss feed reader” before my brain kicks in. It IS 5am when I am reading them folks…who is awake then? I am NO exception! I am actually going to make one of the “cheeze” recipes tomorrow. This recipe is made with coconut cream and the resulting cheeze looks like cheddar, melts like cheddar and gives a nice cheesy result for pizza, quesadilla’s and all sorts of previously unattainable recipes. This is why I get up at 5am folks…I am hunting vegan wabbits! I will share this recipe with you because I am the magnanimous and most caring person that I am. If you are brave, give it a go. If you are lactose intolerant, can’t eat nuts, are vegan etc… it could be a life saver.

http://sweetroots.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/vegan-quesadillas-homemade-coconut-milk.html

We built a bean bed today. It involved us removing ancient enormous nails from some old treated pine poles, hammering those poles together to form bed sides with the old enormous nails and putting some scarlet runner, yin yang and borlotti beans into my almost unused electric sprouter. I added some mung beans as the machine has 4 compartments and I may as well get something I can eat out of it in the short term. We were given the scarlet runner beans by Wendy, Glad next doors daughter. I was given the other two kinds of beans by someone from the Sustainable Living Group on one of my brief forays into what they were going to teach as permaculture. The teacher was using a book to teach from and wanted payment for her services so I figured that I would get the book myself and bollocks to paying someone to read a book to me…I can do THAT myself ;). The local Sustainable Living Group is part of Tamar Natural Resources Management and has regular seed swap days to get heritage seed circulating throughout the population. I will be attending the next seed swap day and will be taking some of my little walnut trees to trade. I could almost start a walnut farm with the amount of them that germinated. It pays to use local sources to select your seed for growing whenever you can because it has adapted to your local conditions and has provenance in your area. I chose local walnut trees to get my seed from and most of it germinated without stratification over winter. The same goes for vegetable seeds. Buy what grows best locally and what is suited for your growing conditions to guarantee yourself the best chance of a good result. We decided that rather than waiting 10 days for our little baby beans to struggle through the soil and spread their tiny cotyledons to embrace the fresh air and sunshine on Serendipity Farm that we would use my sprouter and see if they don’t sprout faster. This is a whizz bang sprouter that sprays a fine spray of water over the beans, seeds, grains (whatever you are kidding yourself that tastes good when it is sprouted) and regulates the humidity etc. I bought it in a moment of madness when I had deluded myself enough to think that I was going to eat only raw food. That lasted till winter and fizzled when sprouts and vegetable pulp wraps suddenly become decidedly unappealing. I am sure that I heard Steve muttering something about “no more gadgets!” but he knows better than to get between me and a bargain whose-a-ma-jig that I don’t have in my kitchen already (sigh).

Steve working out how to make a bean bed out of some random treated pine poles

Hoarded building futures…

Isn’t it amazing how much room a man needs to build a small bean futures garden bed?

Voila! Using recycled old nails and hoarded treated pine poles Steve made a bean futures bed ready to be relocated tomorrow. Note that bench with steps, a previous project of Steve’s

The you-beaut sprouter doing its thang with the scarlet runner beans at the front. We have put the sprouter in the shed because it makes so much noise!

Our veggies are standing up happily and are so far free of vermin, pests and disease. Our bean futures are bathing in a light misting of water to facilitate their enhanced germination period, We have a bean bed ready to transport over to where we have chosen to grow our veggies tomorrow when it stops raining and to be filled with the remaining rich compost and some of our compost heap that has been mouldering away all winter long. Let’s just call it an anaerobic compost heap and be done with it because when it was raining I couldn’t find it in my nice comfy position next to Brunhilda to don my raincoat and get turning that friable heap. Thanks to a red wriggler compost worm injection from our friend at Inspirations Nursery Exeter, we have worms in the compost heap and Steve found a container that we are in the process of turning into a worm farm so that we don’t farm off our worms into the veggie gardens at the expense of our new compost heap. We have a gate to build in the dog’s compound around the house so that we can get out to the veggie garden area more easily and we have all sorts of pressing things to do on Serendipity Farm. The difference between this year and last year is that this year we have goals, a purpose and a direction that permaculture has been able to deliver. Last year we were hacking away at what appeared to be a never ending problem. This year our problems are rapidly turning into benefits and suddenly it all looks achievable.  I have some surreptitious ground cover “pinching” to do over the next few months and am going to raid the girls place in town for comfrey and various other cuttings from lavenders and rosemaries so that we can mass plant them all over Serendipity Farm. I now have visions in my head rather than dread. I love it when a plan comes together! See you all on Saturday when it isn’t Halloween and no-one will be knocking at your door asking for candy/sweets or throwing bricks through your window because you forgot to buy any 😉

I couldn’t resist it! Watch out…the vampire voles are coming!

“What’s the name of that garbage monster?”…

Hi All,

“Is it Elmo?”…”Oh THAT’S right…it was Oscar”. That’s what my dear Sesame Street deprived husband said to me on our walk with the dogs this morning. We were just about to pass a notorious dog house where said “Garbage monster” lived and dragged our two past an enormous hairy adolescent of a German shepherd with his voice breaking with excitement to see our boys. I hate to break it to you babe…Earl is the garbage monster! We then carried on our walk only to see a group of extremely tall and thin kids with their dog off the leash…sigh…we turned around and headed back the other way till we were just about to meet up with another Saturday dog walker and did another about face in the other direction and returned back to where we had started. On the way back to the car we met Buster…I can only begin to imagine the thought processes going through Steve’s strange mind that are going to give him his memory cue for that one! At least it gives me entertaining blog post titles to lure the unsuspecting in! 😉

As I just used Steve to shamelessly promote todays post so I had best give you an action shot of him making a mountain of wood futures

When I get out of bed in the morning my warm spot is immediately predated by a heat seeking missile

Earl contemplating a career as a prize fighter

On Wednesday I mentioned that we had berries on a Mahonia shrub in the jungle part of the garden and Spencer from Anthropogen, my go-to place for learning EVERYTHING about practical useful horticulture (in opposition to horticulture that is a bit of a waste of time and that results in things that you can’t use or eat) mentioned in his comment that you can make jam out of them. Always the sceptic I decided to head off and take a look…Mahonia aquifolium’s common name is Oregon grape and as the blackbirds are eagerly hovering around these bright blue berries I figured that I might harvest them and see if I can’t make a small pot of jam out of them. Here is a good website with a great recipe for jam/jelly and some hints about combining the fruit with milder carrier fruit to mellow its flavour…

http://s158336089.onlinehome.us/OregonGrapeJam/OregonGrapeJam.html

We have some Myrtus communis (common myrtle) shrubs on the property as well and aside from making jam from the fruit, it is apparently good for making a type of booze and anything booze is alright by me! Thinking about it…maybe Mahonia could be turned into an interestingly coloured wine? Anyone for blue wine? Talking about blue things, we have seen an influx of the dreaded huge blue ants which form the stuff that Steve’s nightmares are made of. He was once bitten on the foot whilst whipper snipping by one of these nasty critters and aside from being amazingly painful the bite took ages to go away. The ants are not actually ants but are wingless female flower wasps. Here is a website with a picture of one of these beautiful but painful insects to check out for yourself…

http://www.whatsthatbug.com/2010/11/21/blue-ant-from-tasmania-is-flightless-female-flower-wasp/

That’s my “something new I learned today”.  I dehydrated some bananas that I bought for 99c a kilogram the other day. The local grocer that we buy our fruit from doesn’t wait till the bananas go black before he puts them out cheap so they are great to eat immediately or to freeze or dehydrate for later use. I was thinking about how to use dehydrated bananas other than eating them and decided that I am going to partially dehydrate some bananas to the approximate texture of dried dates and then I will puree them and add them to some home-made nut butter. I am also thinking about adding some cocoa to the mix to see how that pans out. Today’s bunch got frozen after I skinned them. I then snipped the skin into fine chunks for our ravenous compost pile to consume. I say that the compost pile is ravenous, but really it’s the small handful of leaves and red wriggler worms that the owner of “Inspirations” nursery in Exeter gave to me. He must have given me about 20 worms and I laid them reverently in the compost bin, covering them with some dried oak leaves and a kitchen scrap bucket load of various choice scraps. I came out later to see the entire compost bin seething with chooks all pecking away like crazy and immediately lamented my 20 red wrigglers, writing their eulogy as I yelled at the chooks and did windmill things with my arms in a vain effort to dissuade them from eating every last one. I figured that the compost heap was now worm free aside from the odd huge native worm that bumbled its way into Nirvana. I was wrong! At least 1 worm must have survived and went exponential on our compost heap in a big way because all you have to do is life a little of the top layer of compost and you get to see a seething mass of worms in various stages of development from teeny little thin whipper-snappers to strapping red gyrating teens. The nursery owner did warn me that they breed exponentially and now I get to reap their composting rewards and they get my buckets of scraps to fight over with the chooks.

The ubiquitous worm laden compost heap complete with an entire dead lavender shrub disguising the baby pumpkins that are growing behind it until they get so big that the chooks can’t possibly hope to quell them

Wednesday’s Mahonia berries are Saturday’s empty stems

Unripe Mahonia berries that will be harvested BEFORE the birds predate them as soon as they are ripe

The extent of my haul of Mahonia berries 😦

I put the two plastic bags that the bananas had been languishing in into my plarn bag and noticed that it was now full of all kinds of plastic bags and ticked the “to do on Saturday” box in my head initiating a plarn manufacturing day in advance. Little did I know that the garbage monster had plans of his own and his plans were for earlier on in the week! Needless to say…never leave your dog’s alone with an unattended bag of plastic bags that you intend on recycling creatively because you may have to change your “plarns” (sorry, I couldn’t resist that ;)). Earl recycled most of my plarn bags into unusable shards and the rest of them are still waiting to be processed by Earl’s internal plastic recycling depot and I am NOT going to make plarn out of them! I read on a website that living sustainably starts a chain of events in your life that can completely change the way that you live and how you see things. I completely agree. All sorts of cycles start coming out of the woodwork and I am constantly amazed at how many ways to recycle, reuse and repurpose things there are. As a natural born skiller (again…sorry…I am full of them today! ;)), I have a driven urge that is apparently the fruit of generations of thriftiness that runs in my blood like ginger beer. Talking about ginger beer…I must get a plant on the go! I keep seeing opportunities to make and do things and I am finding it increasingly hard to just make it to the end of the day having followed my goals because I am always deviating out sideways after finding something new. I thinned out my rss feed reader and rather than making my life easier, it’s actually made it harder! I have so many great blogs that I am actually reading every single post and am commenting on them all because they are all amazing resource rich sources of information and I am always incredibly grateful to those bloggers who yield quality stuff. I am getting up at 5am and have 2 hours to wander lonely as a cloud to find that sea of daffodils BUT those daffodils side-track me like crazy. It’s not MY fault that those amazing vegan food blogs are just about all participating in Vegan Mofo and keep linking to other great vegan food blogs that I just HAVE to stuff into my rss feed reader (like the hoarding pack rat that I am…sigh…) and that the rest of the quirky crafty homesteading mix that I have padding out the vegan stuff is equally as prolific and productive with their amazingly useful posts. I am going to have to spend this entire weekend working slowly through the 840 (yes 840!) posts that are mounting up exponentially in my rss feed reader and I want to read every single one! I keep a word doc open and ready to filch the mouth-watering recipes and how to’s and precious gardening information and by the end of my 2 hours word is ready to go back to bed for the day. I hit 7am (Steve’s time to wake up) running and have started a new tradition of thinking of some amazing music for him to wake up to and heading on over to Youtube, finding the entire album and turning it on as I bring him his morning cup of eye opening java. I am usually a very happy camper to be full of hours of acquired knowledge and information and carefully cribbed amazing recipes and bounce into the bedroom with coffee, wonderful music and a bleary eyed husband and his 2 furry bed mates. I think I am becoming one of those dreaded morning people!

Bananas ready for the freezer

My compost bucket with snipped banana skins to allow them to decompose more quickly

More banana peels to snip and 2 plarn futures bags…well they WOULD have been plarn futures if Earl hadn’t decided to intercede… I love being able to find ways to reuse everything that comes from our purchases and am looking forwards to heading even further afield to find more interesting ways to reuse, repurpose and recycle as much as we can on Serendipity Farm

When I was dejectedly stumbled around the garden after finding the Mahonia stripped bare of all of the succulent blue fruit that I had just decided to harvest I noted the seed pods on an incredibly overgrown and tumble-down Cassia bicapsularis/Senna. The tree is apparently incredibly hardy and this one has seen MUCH better days. I decided to collect some of the seeds and grow some more for Serendipity Farm. Aside from flowering in the winter and being a lovely looking tree, Cassia’s are leguminous and fix nitrogen in the soil and this particular variety are somewhat fast growing so they can act as foundation trees to support other slower growing trees and because they grow faster they can be cut and used as mulch. We also discovered a Kowhai/Sophora tetraptera, another leguminous small tree by complete accident when Steve noticed it flowering. It has very distinctive shaped and coloured flowers. I wonder why many leguminous trees and shrubs have yellow flowers? Genista monspessulana/Canary broom and Cytisus scoparius/English broom that has developed a curious red centre on many of the self-seeded weeds in the area also have yellow flowers as does Ulex europaeus/Gorse. Thank goodness we don’t have gorse on Serendipity Farm! That’s one weed that we really don’t need! This garden is constantly revealing little parts of itself as it evolves. I got to peek into the jungle part of the garden by braving some menacing blackberries and by turning sideways and peering through the hugely overgrown Phoenix canariensis/Canary palm that prevents entry to this part of the garden. I noticed a most interesting looking vibernum and on doing a bit of research, I discovered that there are many viburnum’s that have edible berries and some have leaves that can be used to make teas. I think that the vibernum that I discovered was Vibernum rhytidophyllum from a bit more research.

The distinctive flower of the Kowhai a leguminous tree that we recently found in our garden thanks to this flower

After a while it gets easier to work out what is leguminous and what isn’t. The leaves on the Kowhai are a dead giveaway where the flower isn’t really all that pea shaped

The plant (taken with a zoom lens) that I suspect is Vibernum rhytidophyllum amongst the jungle down in the lower garden area

It looks like Tasmania has decided to shuffle in some last bastions of winter for a couple of days. I don’t mind because I like when the garden gets watered for free and Brunhilda gets to make an appearance for a while and I don’t have to turn on the gas hot water system for a few more days. Steve has been busy fixing the front gate that has been warped by a large tree growing against one of the gate poles. He also fixed the water pipe that we burst the other day when we were planting our maples. I am so very lucky to have a husband who is “handy”. He might want to run at his days like a bull at a gate but he certainly knows how to redeem himself :o). I need to mention here that I finished “Gone Girl”. I loved the book and the interesting premise of the book but the ending was a bit weird to say the least. I had to suspend my sense of disbelief a bit but aside from the strange ending Gillian Flynn has written 3 books that I thoroughly enjoyed and will be reading anything else that she chooses to publish. I still haven’t read Like Water for Chocolate but I dare say I will find 5 minutes to shove my nose into it someday soon. My main problem now is that getting up at 5am renders me zombified by 8pm and completely unable to read anything more than a few sentence’s before I find myself waking up with my chin on my chest. At least I now earn the drool on my shirt with spring giving us so many opportunities to work hard on Serendipity Farm

I just wanted to share a few photos with you of the jungle area of the garden…

The pink coloured tree in the background is a Circis siliquastrum/Judas tree that is struggling to be seen amongst this seething mass of impenetratable vegetation

My sideways, upside down on one leg squinting shot of the garden taken just before I was heartily yanked by a wayfaring blackberry and forced to retreat from the jungle garden post haste

The mushrooms have started to slow down now and I think that my days of free mushrooms are limited by whether or not we pick up some more mushroom compost when we next head into town. The spent compost will be used to top dress garden beds as mulch. I was reading a blog this morning that talked about how restaurants are lamenting how difficult it is to minimise food waste because companies that haul away their food waste for composting charge too much. I wonder why all of the restaurants in a suburb (or even a few suburbs) don’t get together and try to do something about the problem. If companies can make money out of hauling away someone else’s food waste, surely the restaurants could as well? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to start their own communal compost heap somewhere and pay someone themselves to haul away the waste, compost it and sell it on? Thinking about it a little more, perhaps they could supply community gardens and a percentage of the produce could be returned to the restaurateurs to be recycled into their profit margin? I wish I had more food waste to compost as one day my red wrigglers are going to start lining up at the back door demanding I open the fridge for them. I think I might start a real worm farm soon. The compost heap is almost ready to be plundered for its black gold and I am going to have to evict the worms en mass. Beaconsfield tip shop often have ceramic baths for $20 and I think it might be time to head on over for a tip run in the near future to see if we can’t get ourselves a nice pink (strangely most baths thrown out are pink!) prospective worm farm. Another cycle forming on Serendipity Farm to integrate with all of the other cycles. Steve watered the glasshouse with some Powerfeed and worm tea the other day and pretty soon we won’t have to buy our worm tea, we will be able to make it ourselves.  It’s this myriad of cycles that has me excited for the future and once we manage to tame these cycles we should be able to ride the waves of change on Serendipity Farm. Nothing like a bit of proactivity to give you back a sense of equilibrium :o)

One of the lily of the valley’s that have been sprouting up all over the place lately along with the Soloman’s seals

Steve’s weird choice of foodstuffs that comprised 2 spinach and herb wraps consisting of French onion dip spread, roast pork, fresh sliced tomato, baby cos lettuce, sliced tasty cheese, omelette chinese style and some dijonaise all wrapped up and consumed with happy expat gusto. Glad I can make you happy babe but please…NEVER expect me to eat them with you! 😉

“Yeh…I did it…what are you going to do about it eh?”…a lesson in how dogs amuse themselves if you don’t leave them enough plastic milk bottles to work on till you get back…”Goodbye plarn futures till I build you up again!”

It’s just about time to post this post and I am still sitting here tapping away. I have had my tea; I have watched Gok’s wonderful cooking show. Anyone apart from me think that Gok is the Asian equivalent of Nigel Slater? I am ready to trawl the net tonight to find all sorts of quality information and so I bid you adieu for now and wish you all a wonderful weekend and remind you not to forget to listen to some good music when you can, it adds a magnificent piquancy to life and can take you to those mental and emotional places that nothing else can. See you on Wednesday :o)

Cat Stevens is a never-ending cup of the purest unadulterated pleasure and this is what I played first thing this morning to wake Steve up and to fill my heart with simple clean pure joy

The very best of Cat Stevens the full album…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxD6faPrY1M

The best bangers and a mighty tasty calzone

Hi All,

Earl and I braved the highway today for a long walk home. Steve and Bezial are having a bonding day in town and Earl and I are spending a nice quiet morning at home. I quite like the idea of pottering around not doing very much but apparently Earl isn’t all that enamoured of this situation and is sitting on his recliner looking decidedly morose. Steve headed off to town to his awaiting hair appointment with Bezial and dropped Earl and I off up the road next to an apple selling stall and we had a cold but enjoyable stroll home veering off the side of the road whenever a large road train thundered past. I am very glad that Earl isn’t scared of loud noises or walking while traffic zooms by. We arrived home and Earl raced through the house excitedly looking for Steve and Bezial and returned looking quizzical which turned into deflated and now, as previously mentioned, he has receded into morose. Steve just phoned to tell me that Bezial had half a breakfast subway and a frolic with Qi at the girls place in town while Steve was getting his hair cut. Not one to be outdone, I promptly cooked Earl 5 eggs for his breakfast and I dare say the dogs will both sniff each other to detect illicit treats that have passed their lips while they have been apart. With a bit of luck Steve will be able to get some bones from Nigel’s Gourmet Meats on Tamar. Nigel makes the BEST sausages in the world. There…I said it. I just told you that any sausage eaters in your midst need to be EXTREMELY jealous because his bangers are the best. He makes the best Thai chicken sausages around and Steve recently had some amazing pork and black truffle snags that would make the queen drool. Nigel also produces the very best dog bones and Steve will be dropping in today in the hope that he has some left for the boys to share later on this afternoon. I will get another Gillian Flynn book to read…this one is called “Gone Girl”. I really enjoyed her last 2 books that I read and only discovered her through a food blog that I read.

This was the only “person” at the counter when we went to buy a whipper snipper head recently…he stared at us…we stared at him…not to sure what kind of customer service this was so headed on over to another counter!

A gorgeous big Japanese Maple on our walk around Kayena that we do on a regular basis with the boys. I love this house, this tree and this garden. What’s not to love?

Another one of our walks…this time up a steep hill near where we live. We are hill daredevils now! This road leads nowhere BUT it’s a pretty nowhere so we might just take a right here next time we are huffing up the hill…

I have been procrastinating about reigniting Brunhilda. We are on the dregs of dry wood in our woodshed but the weather has taken a turn for the worse and its cold today. I have wrapped myself in a doona as I type and Earl is out on sentry duty on the deck waiting for Steve and Bezial to come home. The weep-weep bird is back along with a particularly annoying new bird that sounds like a cat in distress. It would be bad enough with one bird making punitive cries all day and night but there are two of them singing/crying in unison! I was shaking out the blanket on Earl’s chair this morning  in a vain effort to minimise the hairs floating all over the place in all of the rooms and noticed Adrian next door wandering around looking for something. I think she was trying to find the source of the crying. Hopefully she realises that it is a bird and not something terrified or hurt which is what it sounds like. I just finished a rough draft for the article that I have been asked to write about the Tamar NRM. I can’t praise them highly enough for the recent series of free events highlighting sustainability and natural resource management. Back in the day it was called “farming” and “how to make do with what you have” but as trends change, so do the names that support said trends and everything is green in the state of Tasmania. We just heard that Tasmania has the worst jobless rate in Australia. I am not surprised. There isn’t much going on in Tasmania at the moment and the government seems hell bent on pushing unsustainable quick fixes as our future rather than supporting slow growth via quality food production and clean green tourism and businesses. They cling onto the past with a tenacity verging on panic. No-one wants to say the obvious that Tasmania has lagged WAY behind the rest of Australia thanks to its parochialism and nepotistic desire to cling to the past. The Tamar NRM is showing people how to make positive changes in their lives. Whether you have money or not, you CAN make small changes to how you do things that will add up to a cost saving to you and less of a drain on the world as a whole.

I need to thank Spencer from the wonderful resource http://anthropogen.com/ for sharing a fantastic link with me this morning. I actually subscribe to this blog but somehow missed this amazing article that is completely pertinent to our situation here in Temperate Australia. Here are the two links that caught my eye and got me excited…

http://permaculturenews.org/2012/09/06/perennial-food-plants-food-forest-gardens-and-food-security/

What a fantastic idea and a wonderful way to create a sense of community through ensuring our ongoing food security. That initial post led to this next one which is the first of (hopefully) many land owners sharing what they are doing to shore up their food supplies on their land

http://permaculturenews.org/2012/10/11/food-from-perennialising-plants-in-temperate-climate-australia-for-september-2012/

Its articles like these that keep me fired up for what we are doing on Serendipity Farm. Last week I became incredibly enthused with water wicking. I heard about it initially through Bev at http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com that uses water wicking beds to combat using precious potable water on her vegetable beds. Water wicking promises up to 50% less water used to grow vegetable crops whilst increasing the yield and quality of vegetables thanks to a much more efficient watering system and more readily available water to be used by the plant on call. I learned that you can create a wicked water bed next to your fruit trees and alongside young trees that need initial watering until their roots are able to seek water lower down in the soil profile. The more I learn about these amazing ways to do things that are more efficient along with less energy intensive the more excited I get about applying these ideas to Serendipity Farm. If you are after some quality information for free, check out these resources through http://www.soilandhealth.org/ thanks to Steve Solomon and now Justin Crawford. Its people like these and the many bloggers out in the ether sharing what they learn and know with the rest of us that facilitate a growing grassroots community of resilience and hope. Cheers to all of you and thank you SO much for your efforts. They truly are appreciated by us all :o)

It was a lovely day today on Serendipity Farm. This photo was taken by Steve as he walked Earl. The road goes right up to the edge of the river at this point and gives a lovely photo opportunity most mornings as we set off

I really like this shot of the river…Steve’s phone probably takes better photos than our camera!

It’s a magnificent sunny spring day here on Serendipity Farm. The sun is shining…the sky is bright Microsoft blue and everything is happy and sparkling. The local art group has chosen today to park at the Auld Kirk church next door and are drawing and painting this lovely day for posterity. Our chooks are suspicious of them and are protesting at more humans interrupting their clucking and scratching. Someone has a little Chihuahua type dog and Earl and Bezial have their ears cocked listening whilst pretending to be asleep and basking on the sun warmed deck. Our American hippy friend is apparently going to come to our house and use a Geiger counter to show us how bad our lights are for us…hope he doesn’t go too close to the computer, the fridge, the television and Earl or that sucker is going to go off the dial! Our American Hippy friend sees conspiracies behind every hedge. I prefer to save my conspiracies for when I give a damn about something as much like anything else, the novelty wears off pretty quickly if you immerse yourself in something constantly. He dropped off a couple of conspiracy D.V.D.s for us to watch and one about food forests which I might even watch. He rode his loud old motorbike (that we can hear all the way from his place) up and didn’t even come inside. We had even managed to find a Frank Zappa album in Steve’s collection to add his sort of ambiance to his visit. He was run over by a truck in Nam (or somewhere like that) and has a built up shoe and a strange way of walking but for a man of his age he is most definitely NOT boring. He has a long dreadlock ponytail, an unusual way of looking at things and wants our pile of old steel up behind the house. He can share it with our friend in the witness protection’s partner. The boys whined on the deck while he was here because for some reason they absolutely love him. Bezial thinks that he is his best friend EVER something that was reinforced into Bezials food controlled brain when he bought the boys some pig’s ears and was forever forged in Bezials mind as “A Good Sort”. He is our sort of people. Not completely “right” and definitely not someone that you would take home to meet your parents.

What a lovely part of the world we live in 🙂

As you can see, the road really DOES go right down to the river and this is taken on the border of Glads place next door and our property

I am sure that our respective neighbours will someday come to understand that Steve and I are not manufacturing crack, growing dope or plotting to relieve them of all of their worldly goods. I actually got to talk to one of the more upper crust neighbours who are terrified that our boys are going to eat her fluffy little “Nelson”. I was walking Earl because Bezial has a dicky digit and both he and I need the exercise or bad things happen. I just “happened” to let slip that we are studying our Diploma in Landscaping…not something that I would usually care to slip into the conversation (not being a wanker by choice) but this lady holds sway in the local vicinity and my little ploy appears to have worked because today, Steve was walking Earl on his own (Bezials digit is still dicky) and the middle classers who own the 7/11 on the corner (really an expensive environmentally correct house but it looks just like a 7/11 to us ;)) actually “spoke” to Steve! Normally they would rather walk into the house as the pit-bull toting rednecks wrangled those monsters past…maybe they need a hand with their lavender and rosemary hedges and their dry stone walls and their climbing roses? 😉 Best not ask us then!

Steve took this photo today as he was standing on the deck having a coffee

Looking back towards Glad’s place. As you can see, spring is making everything green here now

Gone girl tastes too good. It’s rich and creamy and I know I am going to “eat” it too fast for my own good and get sick and when I get to the end after rushing/gulping it down in one long marathon, sneaking it into the toilet and carrying it myopically into the bathroom when I am brushing my teeth I am going to be disappointed that I didn’t make it last…sucking the last of the marrow out of its bones and I will be sad. Was that poetic? It’s how I feel when I get a good book and can’t stop being greedy about it. I am a greedy person…generous AND greedy and I love to share my greed. I love how Gillian Flynn writes…she directs you like you are dancing with her and her hand is on the small of your back expertly ferrying you around the dance floor till you arrive at the winner’s podium shocked because you can’t even dance. Authors like that are rare and I am feeling a bit shell shocked that I have only just started her third and most recent novel and I am already lamenting “The End”. I put the book down (with difficulty). I just had to smile because I spelled “difficulty” correctly. The ONLY reason that I can spell that word is that my grandad taught me a little rhyme to remember how to spell it and even though I learned that little rhyme about 40 years ago, it has stuck with me and that word has never tripped me up. I guess one word is better than none! I think I might have to stalk Ms Gillian Flynn and see if I can’t get her to write her next novel A.S.A.P. because the book that I am reading was only printed in August 2012. As nice as she was to write a book for my birthday, it doesn’t make up for the fact that I am going to have to go cold turkey pretty soon so she is just going to have to write faster. If any of my American dear constant readers live anywhere near Ms Flynn, please feel free to head over to her house and tell her that I would like her to write another book… better still…how about she does what they did with the back to the future trilogy and writes 3 at once? Just sayin’…

This little seaplane often comes in for a landing on the river here

Going…going…

Gone!

It’s now just on 5pm and I have a batch of Italian herb bread dough on proving to make Steve some more calzones for his tea tonight. He must have liked the last lot because they are all gone, even the two that were frozen for later consumption. I ran out of sopressa so it’s all bacon, mushroom, capsicum and spring onion with cheese today. For some reason the bread dough was completely different this time to when I last made it. I am not phased because murphy has my name in his book of laws right up there on the first page and constantly feels the need to update me with his erstwhile laws right in the middle of doing just about everything so I am used to things going a bit skewwhiff. It smells good and that’s enough for now!  I might finish up this lazy post pretty soon. I have meandered through the day in a bit of a haze. Unlike most of Australia, Tasmania is still pretty cold through the day and as the last day of the Launceston Royal Agricultural Show has just about come to a halt we can plant out our tomatoes tomorrow! That might sound a bit strange but it’s a tried and tested date that all Northern Tasmanian vegetable gardeners adhere to religiously. If you plant before then…you are a “bloody idiot”! We were bloody idiots way back when we first moved here in 2007 because we didn’t know any better. We made a lovely veggie garden and planted out a multitude of unusual tomato varieties in complete blind ignorance. We didn’t even know to stake them and so we ended up with frizzled dead frozen tomatoes that had to be replaced (muttering and complaining) with more multitudes of varieties because most of them died. We flouted the “after the show” rule and lived to pay the price. Older now, and one would hope wiser, we are preparing to plant our tomatoes, capsicums, chillis and a small punnet of lettuces that Steve bought the other day at one of the local hardware shops (actually Woolworths in “local” disguise) car park sale. Our friend in the witness protection, who works at said hardware shop, was run off her feet and unable to say much because she was being trailed by elderly ladies and buffeted with questions from all sides.

Steve got all artistic today

and again…

Last weeks calzone fillings and a close approximation of this weeks calzone fillings 😉

And so our time together has come to an end…it’s actually come to an end because my calzone dough has risen up nicely and needs to be given a bit of a thump to remove some air and then I will cut it into 4, roll it out into nice 20cm circles and will cover half of the circle with filling, scrunch up the edges in a rough approximation of something that I saw on a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall program (so it must be kosher…), brush it with egg wash and shove it into a nice hot Brunhilda oven to bake. Steve is out trying to stop Felix from scarfing our feral chooks 3 little babies. He can’t sit out there all day and the mother is going to have to take her chances with a proven chick killer. It never stops here on Serendipity Farm! See you on Wednesday :o)

Serendipity Farm is all tied up with string

Hi All,

I overran my last blog post and I am still full of words so I am bleeding them into Saturdays post and its still Monday morning! After a delicious relaxing few luxurious hours of winding my way through other people’s blog posts and pinching their wonderful shiny results like the quintessential magpie that I am, I decided to vacuum the lounge room. Bernard and Manny, our two Javanese Finches, live in a luxury high rise condo that we bought for them last year to allow them to be as free as two movie loving television addicted small birds can be. They can fly around…they can swim in their drinking water (and often do) as well as fly over with their wet little feathers and roll in their seed to make small flying seed covered morsels to torment Earl. In the process of their day to day eating marathons these two little birds that would weigh all of about 70g each managed to dislodge an incredible amount of spent and unspent seed all over the carpet that spreads everywhere. I am able to ignore it for only so long and every Saturday I vacuum it up. I forgot to vacuum it on Saturday and so decided to do it today. Vacuuming isn’t an easy thing to do on Serendipity Farm. I tend not to vacuum much and rarely pull out the vacuum cleaner unless it’s my regular Saturday seed cleaning event or someone is coming to visit and our dust bunnies are almost up to our armpits. I tend to use our good stiff broom to sweep up the detritus that hovers around the house attempting to drown us in dog hair and carpet fluff and dump it into the compost bucket to be removed when filled with vegetable scraps and carpet detritus. It’s a cycle that repeats itself and is becoming something that I don’t mind doing. I get exercise from the sweeping and I do it throughout the day so it could be considered “regular exercise” on the surveys that I occasionally get paid to do online. It’s amazing how you can manipulate “the man” and his survey companies 😉

“What HAVE we here eh?”…

“That would be prime dog steaks!”

Take some of that prime dog steak and slice it thin and then dehydrate it for a few hours on “Jerky” setting in your you-beaut 9 tray dehydrator that you rarely use

5kg of dog steak turns into a large container of dog treats that make our boys happy and we know exactly what’s in them

Aside from not wanting to spend money for electricity to vacuum, we have a resident vacuum cleaner hater. Earl considers Mr Vacuum Cleaner to be his arch nemesis. For anyone not in the know… a nemesis is your enemy…an arch nemesis is a mortal enemy. Earl HATES Mr Vacuum Cleaner and tries to kill him on any occasion that he sets foot in Earl’s peripheral vision. Too many times we have had to extract Earl’s determined jaws from the end of Mr Vacuum Cleaner and the head is permanently covered in dog bites. If you take off the head bit and attempt to suck in corners with the hose it drives him even wilder! Steve is over re-bending the hose back into a circular hose shape able to fit the head back onto it rather than the oval shape that Earl would have it. Again. We could lift Earl off the ground with the determination that he puts into his hatred for Mr Vacuum cleaner much to the bemusement of Bezial who hovers around waiting for a game of “suck me- suck you” accompanied by the odd bark or two just so that the vacuum cleaner knows who is the boss. I think it knows who the boss is as it bears the scars of its tangles with Earl. Earl bit the plug off the cord (don’t say HE doesn’t know how to kill something!), Earl ate one of the hose fittings…Earl is dogged in his determination to eliminate Mr Vacuum Cleaner from Serendipity Farm and so vacuuming is an event to be planned and not something that you want to undertake spontaneously like I did this morning. You need 2 people to vacuum. One to vacuum and the other one to distract Earl from scratching the varnish off the doors that you have to shut when you vacuum. Have you ever seen videos of guard dogs slavering in mortal rage at something? Well that’s what Earl does to the space under the door when you shut it and stop him from dealing with his mortal enemy. I swear the resulting spit could be marketed to the U.S. military as some kind of biological weapon it contains that much venom! I was clever. I shut all of the doors while Earl was out lazing about in the sun on the deck. I snuck Mr Vacuum Cleaner from his hidey hole in the middle spare room to the lounge room and still Earl basked…I plugged it in and I started vacuuming and totally ignored Earls barking and scratching at the door and Bezial even got to feel superior as I let him in the side door while Earl was doing his best to scratch his way into the lounge room under the door and Bezial lay on the floor watching me vacuum clean until I finished where this very clever dog got up, walked over to the side door and in no uncertain terms asked me to let him out. I curiously let him out and packed away the vacuum cleaner, let Earl in whilst carrying Mr Vacuum Cleaner into the middle room again as Earl hunted for his nemesis (he could care less about Mr Vacuum Cleaner in his latent non-sucking form) and then looked out of the side door at Bezial facing the river and promptly forgot that he had heard Bezial in the lounge with me and rather than making Bezial pay for his cheeky ignoring that Earl is the supreme ruling dog, he headed out and gave Bezial a quick slobber on his nose and they both set off hunting for the enemy. I will NEVER underestimate Bezials cleverness again! That dog can think! Earl…you are a clever boy but your impulsiveness leaves you open to stupidity!

We have started making our own drinking chocolate mix and we get this bowl full for the same price as that container. I think we win!

A pumpkin spice bundt soaking up a whole lot of Mayan spice drizzle consisting of brown sugar, water, nutmeg, cinnamon and chilli powder. No pictures of the final cake with chocolate glaze because it curiously all disappeared! 😉

A small leaved azalea that has just decided to flower

The outdoor cliveas putting on a lovely show

The things we do! I have just been sitting here for the best part of an hour to try to identify a lovely small tree that we have in our garden. I knew that it was an Australian native but then had to go hunting for a key somewhere to try to identify it. This small tree was on the chopping block last year but I just liked it and decided to crown lift it and tidy it up a bit and leave it. It is rewarding my clemency by flowering magnificently this year and it has put on quite a bit of growth. I just found out (fanfares here folks…fanfares for the common man!) that it is a Nematolepis squamea or a Satinwood. It has a lovely shape and is massed with small white flowers at the moment. I love it when I manage to find something that I am trying to identify. I can be most stubborn at times but the stubborn comes with a bad temper and a large vocabulary of words that should NOT be spoken in pleasant company so after an hour of researching I tend to be a bit of a coiled spring. I remembered to look this plant up today because we were out in the garden effecting change. The type of change that makes the possums unhappy but the native birds and us VERY happy. We put a temporary fence around Steve’s weeping maples because despite their best and most vigorous efforts to grow exponentially, the equally determined possums are harvesting them nightly for their tender leaves and making Steve’s vocabulary bluer than mine (and that is saying something!). Despite it looking and feeling like it is about to snow outside, we decided to stop the decimation of the maples and bollocks to the rain/snow/hail whatever nature wants to throw at us. Within 5 minutes of erecting the barrier the native birds bombarded the water baths inside because they suddenly realised that the cats couldn’t creep up on them either! We might even make a small (more attractive) permanent fence around the maples if it makes everyone who matters happy. The chooks won’t be happy either but as creatures that have far too much free reign on Serendipity Farm that’s just TOO BAD and they can get used to not being able to rootle around the base of Steve’s maples.

The lengths that maple lovers will go to to protect their precious babies.

Satinwood flowers

Nematolepis squamea in full flower and something that I am very glad I spared last year when it was half this size and spindly

Acer palmatum “Atropurpureum” planted out last week and obviously happy to be in the ground

A large Eucalyptus viminalis absolutely covered in Pandora pandorana, a native climber, looking magnificent

I have noticed that the blogs that I am following on my rss feed reader are starting to become more active. There is a direct correlation between the northern hemisphere cooling down and blog activity. Not only are they becoming more active, but they are also posting more delicious recipes. After getting up at 5am (tomorrow 6am…go figure daylight savings!) this morning to read today’s posts I couldn’t help but become tantalised by all of the wonderful recipes for pumpkins, apples, pizzas, calzones and all things cooler and autumn. Now just to stop my northern readers in their tracks BEFORE I get corrected…we call it autumn here. We like the name. It suits Australia because unless you live down here in Tasmania or somewhere high up in a mountain, most of our plant species are most definitely lacking in the “fall” of their leaves. We don’t have a lot of native deciduous trees, in fact, here in Tasmania, one of the coldest states; we only have 1 native deciduous tree Nothofagus gunii. You can keep your abject theft of English classic recipes (renamed most confusingly to annoy us) and in return, you will let us call autumn autumn ok? Cheers :o). Back to the blogs. I found some amazing recipes this morning and at 5.30am when the sun is just starting to rise and you are wide open to sleepy suggestion an rss feed reader full of recipes tends to send your mind in specific directions. I want to bake. I want to crank Brunhilda up and bake. She has been having a bit of a hiatus of late and was just getting used to napping all day when it’s gone cold again and we are calling her back into the fray. Steve is going to have sausage rolls tonight. I wanted to make calzone’s but Steve is a man who likes what he likes and sometimes my ideas for his degustatory delight are not HIS ideas for something that will titillate his tastebuds. I am an adventurous cook. If I had my way we would live like bohemian’s eating all sorts of weird and wonderful things and sitting around talking late into the night about all things intellectual. Steve could care less about bohemians and intellectuals and so I have to harbour my latent bohemian urges indefinitely.

The beautifully coloured new growth on a small pieris on the side of the driveway

A banksia that was on its last legs last year before we cleared around it and pruned it

One of the wilderness Camellia trees down in the jungle garden portion of Serendipity Farm

A native cyclamen (Cyclamen repandum) growing down in the wild part of Serendipity Farm

Steve is off taking me some pictures of “stuff” for the blog tonight. I dare say said “stuff” is going to be dark. It hasn’t rained today but it has been cold and dark and threatening and a great day to hang about inside. Steve read the last bit of my post while I was in the loo and decided that he would check out what a calzone actually was. To his amazement, it was something that he thought that he might actually like and so I am now charged with making him calzones for tea tonight. That means that I have to stop typing and head off to make some calzone dough.

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/399/calzones

Thank GOODNESS that Brunhilda is on because dough proves so much better on the proving rack situated above Brunhilda’s beatific warm wafting heat layers and so calzones started at 3pm are something that fits within the realms of possibility rather than vain hope. I need to head off down the deck stairs to harvest some of our mushrooms and remove some frozen sopressa that has been sitting in cryogenic isolation since the son and heir and Kelsey’s visit along with some frozen bacon. Add some Italian mixed herbs, some grated cheese, some onion and garlic and some left over salad leaves and I think we have a meal in the making!  Steve has requested wedges with his meal so I will rustle up some Carlingford potatoes to grace his plate in large chunky well-seasoned splendour.  There isn’t much difference between having fussy kids and a fussy husband…they both need coaxing and a degree of creative bargaining to get them to try new things 😉

Some of the plants that we planted out recently looking as pleased as punch with their new situation

The first three hatchlings of the spring on Serendipity Farm

Mummy feral showing her 3 babies where to hide whenever the terrible humans make an appearance

Pear futures

Tomorrow is our anniversary. It is also Steve’s mum’s birthday. It’s entirely coincidental that our anniversary is on Pat’s birthday but Happy Birthday Pat! Thank you for being Steve’s mum :o). Without you, this whole crazy adventure wouldn’t have happened. I hope you have a fantastic birthday and that you know that we are thinking of you from the other side of the world. Everything about Steve and I is unconventional. We met online, we were able to maintain a long distance relationship for 2 long years and if you looked for the opposite of textbook marriage you would find us. We eloped quietly and with purpose after a year of living together to make certain that this was what we both wanted. After we married (in the church behind the house that we were living in at the time) we headed off to do battle with the immigration department but it was more of a “hand over some cash and wait a bit till we get around to your case…” than anything stressful. Steve and I had done our homework. We made sure of every scenario before we applied for Steve’s residency and bypassed a whole lot of problems that other people trying to do the same thing were encountering. Two years after Steve applied for residency in Australia (almost to the day) he got a letter saying “Cheers for the money, you can stay”. We didn’t have any dramas, any problems or any hassles. We were some of the very lucky ones and I suggest that anyone trying to duplicate our success, looks into every single eventuality with discipline and determination and covers their bases at all times. It worked for us! Steve has been here 13 years now and its anniversary number 12. They suggest that your 12th anniversary should be linen or silk. It’s quite a long time on the wedding stakes so you could be going one of two ways…silk for a well-honed and well kindled relationship or linen for your shroud! I choose silky linen as nothing is perfect in this life. There might be moments when I would cheerfully throttle him but I dare say he has had to stifle his natural instincts to euthanise me more than once and so I am going to call it even. A clean slate and a springboard into the next 12 years.

This atmospheric shot shows what todays weather was like taken when Steve was upside down taking photos of the cherry blossom futures

Steve’s calzone and crispy homemade potato wedges…Steve approves! 🙂

Skeeter pee futures!

This beautiful Zelkova serata is my bet on tonights possum degustation event to spite us for preventing mass guzzling on Steve’s weeping maples…sigh…

We are going to have a delicious Asian feast for our anniversary meal. We will need to take a drive to Exeter for some more booze because we had fun working our way through our anniversary booze and the cupboard is sadly bare. I might even make a delicious vegan cake that was nestled in my rss feed reader this morning. It looks heavenly and no-one would complain about having an enormous slice of it placed reverently before them on a special occasion. It’s one of those transcendental moments when vegan shmegan “I want that cake!” I love finding vegan recipes that make Omni’s squeal with delight. This is one of those moments. Savour it my vegan friends, it won’t happen often!

http://www.maplespice.com/2010/03/double-chocolate-mousse-layer-cake.html

I am creeping up to meeting my regular post size and might just nip it in the bud for today. It’s after 3 and I should be getting that calzone dough made. It takes time to be a creative genius and I need to meditate a little to reach Nirvana before I attempt the perfect calzone. Tonight I am going to read. I will sit, basking in Brunhilda’s warmth after shoving Bezial to one side of his couch and ignoring the “evils” that he will be radiating at me. No doubt I will be fast asleep when you read this post, nodding off to la-la land to sleep perchance to dream but my dream will be peppered more with foreboding terror than kittens and bunnies because I am reading Gillian Flynn’s first book. I read her last one and am sampling the beginning of her career…let’s see if she has grown any? I also have Water for Chocolate and might even curtail my horror/suspense for a day and read this slim volume that approximates a chick flick in paper form. Wish us luck with our possum defences. We are certainly going to need it and I hope that you all have a wonderful next few days till we settle down to share some time together once again :o)

Just before I go I am going to start adding what I am listening to when I post my posts. I am blatantly stealing the idea from Green Giraffe who is an Aussie vegan food blogger that I admire immensely. I am sure that she won’t mind me pinching her idea as my soundtracks are NEVER going to be as retro and funky as hers 😉

Today I was listening to The Best of Bowie and rocking with Steve to some old school androgenous rock…one rock to rule them all! (As I post I must admit I am listening to Back in Black ;))

Zone 1 all wrapped up in plarn

Hi All,

Can anyone out there please explain to me how ANYONE has time to be bored these days? I read about bored unemployed people…I am (for the want of a job) “unemployed” but I would really appreciate it if these people could loan me a bit of their spare time that they can’t seem to fill up because my time is bursting its seams! Whenever I get spare time I have all sorts of things festering on the back burners. If I am really free of pressing things to do I can jump online and head off into the ether to read my backlog (at least 500 of them…) of backed up blogs that I absolutely POSITIVELY must keep in my rss feed reader. I add at least 10 new blogs to them every day and am showing no signs of slowing down. My poor reader is starting to strain a bit when I open it at 5am (it would seem that I am not the only one who isn’t fine-tuned for mornings ;)) and I spend some delicious time syphoning magpied recipes, sippets of precious gardening information and all things sustainable and therefore incredibly precious to this little black duck who chooses to simplify her life. I seem to end up heading up all sorts of alternate pathways as I reply to particularly good posts, click on links and wander off searching the globe for solutions for our tiny corner of the globe in the wider blogging and online community. I just spent an hour wading through raw food blogs to sift out some amazing raw dehydrator bread and wrap recipes that I am going to have a go at making soon. I have a huge 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator that I bought years ago when I lived in a hotter clime. I use it mainly to dehydrate the dogs thin beef strips to keep them doing what we want on long walks and to dehydrate any surpluses that we get (like our recent mushroom glut) for the future. I also found out that raw foodists seem to love sweet things more than savoury. I am the opposite and love savoury things with a passion. Give me a cheesy sour cream flavour over chocolate ANY day. Again Steve and I are complete opposites there. He loves sweet…I love savoury…he is measured with his food and I am an abject glutton (much like heifer is a “glutton” in Rocko’s modern life)

This is a prospective Larix decidua grove of tiny trees

A sea of forget-me-nots not being forgotten

If I get bored of surfing for information and I do at times…I always have a large stack of delicious library books (with more backing up on hold to pick up today) that are just waiting for me to curl up on Bezials sofa next to Brunhilda and slowly fall asleep to. Nothing like a book reading nap to remind you that you are no longer 20! Talking about Brunhilda…I got up today and realised that it was October 1st. “A pinch and a punch for the first of the month and NO RETURNS”…childish aren’t I? Last night I decided to end my long running battle with enormous food portions. I have always eaten “well” and when I changed my long standing bad habits earlier in the year and lost weight I hung on tenaciously to the size of my portions. I know that I should eat less, I just don’t want to! Now is the perfect time to cut a sliver off my portion sizes and lighten the night time load. I invented an Asian style soup last night with wakame, shaved orange and purple carrots, my heavenly Korean green miso and veggie paste, some Korean chilli paste (that I am almost out of so I get to go to the Asian food shop in the near future again…YAY!), Massell stock powder (all natural and the best thing that we Aussies came up with since free speech), fresh sliced thick mushrooms, minced fresh garlic and ginger and probably some more things that I have forgotten but it was delicious and it was light and I enjoyed it immensely. The best part about it was that because it was light soup, I couldn’t overindulge. I also woke up ready for my breakfast rather than still full after an oversized meal. Bad habits are hard to change but I figure that changing one of them at a time is good enough for me and this one is a lifelong habit…one of the doozies…so I am not going to hamper myself by trying to tackle anything else while I nail the coffin lid onto my overeating habits. Wish me luck…I am going to need it!

I thought you might like a game of “spot the chives”

Two elephant garlic plants that for some reason, the allium loving possums and wallabies have decided to spare

So I have my library books and my online information highway…I also have the supermarket bag full of plastic bags. I am not saving my bags to use for rubbish because I have ANOTHER bag of supermarket bags for that. This special bag contains all of the supermarket bags that have holes in the bottom…my empty oat packets, date packets. Frozen vegetable packets etc. All of the bread wrappers (again, I have a separate stash that I use for collecting the dogs deposits around the yard…) and in the near future I am going to reduce them all into plarn. Plarn is my new friend. I am going to use my crocheting skills (such as they are) to render said plarn into useful stuff like tote bags for our shopping (I find is somewhat ironic that I am crocheting cut up shopping bags to make a bag for my shopping ;)), scuffy shoey things that look like sandals, hats, dishcloths etc. Check “Plarn” out here to see what I am talking about…

This first blog has how to make plarn and some good projects for using it…

http://www.myrecycledbags.com/2011/03/06/newspaper-bags-recycled-into-plarn/

This is a fantastic blog of crocheted guinea pigs…I kid you not! Someone made plarn AND crocheted guinea pigs…guess who just found something else to add to their rss feed reader 😉

http://planetmfiles.com/2008/09/06/how-to-make-plarn/

And this is for you lazy sacks who don’t like to read (don’t say that I don’t cater for the masses!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdTm2V4ssvY

You should now have a very good idea what plarn is, and how to use it in your day to day life. Plarn takes all of those pesky plastic bags that haunt me in that bit of time that it takes me at night (probably 7.3 seconds these days…) to fall into a deep sleep. I feel so guilty throwing my plastic bags into the bin. I even keep my bread ties! What was I going to do with them all to salve my sore sustainability bone and return my “smug-o-meter” to full? Make plarn that’s what! Good luck eating the plarn by the way Earl. I know you love to eat stuff but plarn isn’t going to give you the rush that scarfing my precious paid for wool is going to do because I will see you frolicking in my crochet bag and will raise my shoulders and say “meh!” You LOSE your ability to make me do that funny windmill thing with my arms whilst advancing on you with rickety speed and mouthing loud stupid humanities at you that constitutes “GAME ON” in your small doggy brain.

Evidence of “possum activity” on this poor long suffering mandarin tree. There is another mandarin tree just across from this one that never gets touched. It just goes to show that you can’t second guess a possums actions

The first of our feral asparagus spears of the year. We have spotted spears shooting up all over the garden delivered to their hidden spots by birds eating forgotten asparagus berries.

Let’s recant what we have so far…So we have the online information highway…the chock full of happiness library books and the plarn…but wait…there’s more! I have a cupboard full of weird stuff that I occasionally like to open and gloat at. I collect weird ingredients. I have things in packets that I have NO idea how to use but I knew when I saw their strange hieroglyphic foreign script with nothing listed in English that I absolutely positively HAD to have them (I like a challenge ;)). I have been delving into my weird stuff lately. I actually used an entire packet of cloud ear fungus and I loved it! I opened up large plastic containers that got shipped here from Western Australia on a container ship last night to see if I had any weird noodles left. I ate the sweet potato noodles (yummy) and the starch noodles and some other noodles that refused to get tender no matter what and saw something noodle like but was deflated when I realised that it was agar-agar flakes (not so good cooked up as noodles…). I noted several weird types of seaweed in the boxes, some unlabelled floury things (no fun if you actually know what they are…) and some bags of gluten flour from previous attempts to make seitan (wheat meat for vegans). I have rice syrup, I have dehydrated wood ear fungus (hey if cloud ear is yummy, I am going to give wood ear a go!) and every weird and wonderful non-English ingredient that comes into my peripheral vision is likely to be added to my collection. I have plans to feed Steve some very interesting creations over the summer months. He is wary of my weird stuff but if he can’t see what I am using to cook with and the end result tastes alright he is fine with it. I plan on making lots of wraps and tortillas this summer using home-made flatbreads and home grown greens, tomatoes and lots of pesto’s, hummus’s and all sorts of wonderful aioli’s and mayo’s. When we first arrived in Tasmania is was a long hot summer and we spent our evenings creating delicious wraps using lots of veggies, sliced meats (Steve and the girls) and condiments. That is how we want to eat this summer so I have practicing to do in my weird foods cupboard. Tapioca flour…potato starch…dehydrated veggie powders, veggie purees, nettle gnocchi you will soon be my bitches and Steve’s bitches indirectly…

More forgotten garlic underneath a small mulberry tree

A stand of white iris that appear to be harbouring the enemy!

I have been planting interesting little pots of things underneath the stairs up to the deck

Because we are starting to develop a dwindling firewood stack in the wood shed (it is looking positively pathetic to be honest) we are going to stop firing Brunhilda up in the mornings. The weather is getting warmer and we aren’t going to need her but my morning routine of happiness encompasses the ignition of Brunhilda and the centring of my qi over that first communal cup of precious elixir tea that we produce together. I didn’t fire Brunhilda up this morning. I let her sit fallow and cold and as I started reading my rss feed reader I heard Brunhilda’s equivalent of a throat clearing “excuse me…haven’t you forgotten our daily meeting?” as wood settled in the wood box. I felt guilty! After Steve headed off to do the shopping and the boys settled into sulk mode I decided to get Brunhilda fired up because it was cold. It was cold and I felt guilty…Bezial had slunk off to lie on our bed so I used that as an excuse to fire Brunhilda up. I think I am addicted to my relationship with you Brunhilda and like all good co-dependent relationships we are going to have to cool it for a bit. I don’t really know how I am going to live without you over the summer. I feel a spirit of camaraderie with you as I turn on the hot tap for that scalding hot water, shove my almond mush left over from making my regular almond milk for my tea, insert the boys frozen meat from the freezer into your coolest oven, rest my cuppa on your closed lid and draw a degree of comfort from the feeling that everything will be alright because we have Brunhilda constantly simmering something or other. Our story has been a love story and ever the romantic, I am loath to lose those first flushes of passion and allow our relationship to slowly ebb to an everyday simmer but slow it must because 35C + Brunhilda = heat stroke. Sorry Brunhilda BUT I promise to totally clean you out. To remove all of the ashes and coals and to give you a good scrub with the brush that came with you and you will have a delicious new coat of black wood fire paint to ready you for the very first sign that autumn is starting to turn into winter next year. I love you Brunhilda…adieu for now.

2 Podophyllum peltatum that are very happy to be out of their pots and in the ground underneath a large Japanese Maple

Helleborus foetidus or the delightful common name “Stinking Hellebore” is one of the most hardy flowering perennials that we have on Serendipity Farm. It grows everywhere, it flowers constantly and it doesn’t stink! Whats not to like about this wonderful plant

When you think of spring you think of little frolicking lambs, those first daffodils of the season, everything budding up and the sun coming out and everything green, coloured and joyful. For some reason Serendipity Farm has heralded spring with angst. Everything is fighting! The birds are all aerial bombing each other into submission and despite our recent rooster culling event, the chooks are all antsy and twitchy thanks to our resident population of gritzy cluckies who set everyone’s teeth on edge and who are permanently nesting and crazy. The soil is sulking because of its recent soaking rains that have plumped up the clay and made it as recalcitrant as a teenager in full Emo angst. The plants are confused and reactive as the possums emerge triumphant at night to render any new tender growth nibbled and scarfed depending on their sugar content. The feral cats are all fighting and we are going to have to deal with the 2 females in the population because soon 8 feral cats will become an explosion of cats. I cling tenaciously to the spring idyll and will be putting my hands over my ears whenever I hear Big Yin erupting under the deck at one or other of his charges recalcitrant ways. My spring mantra is “Forgedaboudit!” spoken loudly (over the top of whatever is trying to ruin my inner peace and joy) and with windmill arm actions that are designed to remove anything from Zone 1 around my immediate person.

I love Freesias for their tenacity, their hardiness, their incredible scent and their colour

At ground zero of our recent mangling of the side garden we have planted out a Gingko biloba tree.

I have been dabbling in my own personal version of permaculture. I love permaculture…it is my creed…my ethos (are those 2 things one and the same? I am too lazy to check) and my new way of life. I am one of those people who hurl themselves into something and instantly start personalising it and customising it so that soon it’s pretty much unrecognisable from its original shape and size. Permaculture is no different to any of my passions and I have decided to renegotiate the principal of “Zone 1”. It’s supposed to be the first zone outside of your home where you regularly walk. I think that is too open to interpretation for me. I like things nailed down and staked (just like I like my vampires…) and so this vague core principal needed a bit of a pragmatic makeover as far as I was concerned. I trimmed it…I shaped it and I showed it the haircut in the mirror and it didn’t faint so here is MY new Zone 1 premise…

“If it’s within 1 metre of my hands at any given time its zone 1”

How’s that? I can be wandering around the house…zone 1…I can be up in the back paddock pulling up weeds…zone 1…I can be in town sitting on a flower bed outside the toilets waiting for Steve to come out and pulling out stray sow thistles…zone 1. My “Zone 1” is more personal and real than permacultures generic zone 1 because it makes me deal with everything that is within my reach. I can’t say “zone 1 = the wood shed” allowing me to only deal with it when I feel like heading up to the wood shed…my zone 1 principal has me pulling weeds rather than including them in my mental data base to deal with in my zone 1 plan later on…I have taken zone 1 from a picture in my head into my own personal reality and there is shall stay as my new way of ensuring that I actually deal with the space immediately outside my own personal space. Bring it on weeds! I am now forced to deal with you as I wander around Serendipity Farm!

Not being an officianado of lilies I couldn’t tell you what kind this is, only that it “is” a lily 🙂 there are all sorts of interesting things starting to come up in the newly cleared out ground and everything is growing incredibly quickly

We planted this Hydrangea anomala petiolaris (Climbing hydrangea) next to a Cordyline australis so that it has something to climb

Steve is tormented by doing the shopping but loath to give up the experience because he knows that I would take all day (he is back by lunch time) AND I would likely buy more weird stuff than normal happy Steve stuff. He has phoned me up 6 times today to ask me about something or other on the list. His way of shopping would drive me nuts! I am very methodical and would ensure that I took the least amount of time by sorting my list into areas where I would have to go to purchase these items and would go about my expedition that way. Steve zips about all over the place. He has a sort of logic behind his path but often forgets something, can’t find something (going too fast to have a proper look) or gets the shits because some supermarket hasn’t got something on his list and has to drive back to one of his past shops to get said item. Steve doesn’t think a lot. He acts. I am the thinker, and without me there he tends to act his brains out! He comes home frazzled and frantic and overstimulated. I told him that I am going to do the shopping next fortnight to give him a rest but I bet he finds some excuse to do it. He is loath to give up his control over the spending process. I have no problems with him shopping because it’s a lovely quiet morning spent surfing the net and doing a few household chores but I know that I wouldn’t be quite so frazzled as Steve by a day in the city. I think he is scared of me going there alone and coming back armed to the back teeth with only vegan sweet potato noodles and no cheese and onion crisps 😉

A very happy newly planted out Magnolia stellata

Not sure what this is…all I know is that it is the possum equivalent of catnip to cats and makes them go crazy in their efforts to scoff it all. I am very surprised that its leaves got this far without being totally annihilated by guzzling freeloaders but they are currently trying to completely defoliate Steve’s lovely weeping maples so I guess it is going to have to wait it’s turn. If anyone knows what this is please let me know

Wait a minute! How did you get here? My arch nemisis…the dreaded forget-me-not! Your days are numbered on Serendipity Farm sunshine! Stop trying to con everyone with that cute exterior…you are pure sticky seeded torment to me…forget-me-nots…BEGONE!

Oh bollocks! I just overran my regular blog post word count! See?! I make my posts smaller and my brain (who is as anal as I am and who has been keeping tally of the word count) has decided to make up the words that I missed out in my smaller posts. I guess I can blame spring excitement as my word count spills over 3000. Anyone want a thesis written? Any assignments, reports, blog posts that you need overrepresented by a poor tormented blogger stuffed full of words? I think I might have a career waiting for me in the wings as a ghost writer! For now, that’s all folks! See you on Saturday when the sun is supposed to be out and we should be full of happiness and joy after at least laying out our first poly tunnel on Serendipity Farm :o)

Penniless hippies of the world unite for we are many!

Hi All,

After walking the boys on a decidedly grey day and taking some lovely photos of wildflowers in our neck of the woods to share with you lucky people who have exotic beauties rampaging through your woods we arrived home feeling a bit seedy today. None of this overenthusiastic imbibing for us, we appear to have caught the dreaded lurgy thanks to one of the speakers at the recent soil symposium that our friend in the witness protection and I attended sitting in between us and coughing violently in a most determined fashion all afternoon…oh well…at least we are miserable together! Steve was grumbling about having to unload the trailer that he had to load with firewood that he collected from our friend in the witness protection’s property on Tuesday as we have just found a source of free spent horse hay bedding laced with nitrogenous deposits in large quantities just as we were scratching our heads wondering how to fill the proposed raised beds inside our (also proposed but veering into the “probable” camp at an alarming rate…) new polytunnels. Suddenly we are to be buried in horse dookie and we couldn’t be happier! I say “we” but it’s really me that’s overjoyed as poor Steve has to take his newly emptied trailer over to meet the man with the excess of spent straw and shovel for the queen. I have been left to mind the dogs and make Eccles cakes and as he has been such a sweetie and hasn’t complained too much, I am going to lace the Eccles cakes with chocolate.

“Chicken” and “Stock” tonight to actual chicken stock. They have assaulted their last hen!

Some of our mushroom futures from the 6 bags of mushroom compost that we were given for delivering 20 bags to a friend

Egg futures! So many egg futures that we don’t know what to do with them (do you think you can dehydrate egg? ECH! ;))

A firework/rocket that we found on one of our walks with the boys

There are only so many fingers that a fork can give you before they become a little bit rude! 4Q, Steve’s new fork enterprise has begun!

When the son and heir and Kelsey, his Texan sweetie rocked up on our doorstep the other day they brought with them all sorts of things. Booze for Steve (anything that you have ever done to Steve has just been forgiven Stewart ;)), cocktail frankfurters for roasting over an open fire apparently… but now safely frozen for future use (next time you come you can take them from their cryogenic chamber and imbibe liberally Kelsey! ;)) and a bottle of Pumpkin Ale for Steve to try. The “Man in the bottle shop” (for “man” read shyster…) had assured Stewart that this was traditional fare for American’s. Kelsey was sceptical, I was sceptical…even Steve, bordering on alcoholic and known to drink things that others would shun just by sniffing them, was bordering on the sceptical and so it was with great trepidation that we opened the bottle and all had a quaff…a very BRIEF quaff…quickly associated with spitting out, loud exclamations of “Good Lord man what is that taste?!”. Firstly I need to assure all American readers that this brew was constructed in Australia…Western Australia in fact, my old stomping grounds so I have to admit that the hideous sweet fizzy tar that briefly touched our lips wasn’t a slight on your brewing heritage, indeed ANYTHING that you could brew would have to be pretty bad before it could descend down the imbibing ladder as rapidly as this pumpkin ale fell…Steve, always the booze trouper, gave it one last swig before he capped it and placed it at the back of the fridge. Why didn’t we toss it into the drain? Well firstly folks, we are very aware of what we throw into our drains because our drains go straight down into the Tamar River and there is NO way that I am going to get the blame for the mutations that this stuff would cause… think the Simpsons episode with the 3 headed fish and that would be tame compared to this stuff and secondly, I decided to give it one last chance to shine. Always looking for a way to not waste anything, I found a recipe for a chocolate beer cake (stout to be more precise and stout tastes like old jock straps after a season of hard play so surely this hideous pumpkin blend might be a worthy substitute?) and am going to make it today. I might even make it a spiced chocolate ale cake just to be on the safe side…spices cover a wealth of evils 😉

My personalised prescription for fixing our soils nutrient problems from Steve Solomon himself. The only problem is that I am having a little bit of trouble working out what he has written…

Bron?…Byron?…whatever it is I need 10% of it!

GYPSY’S! Possums? Ely Possum?

Its VERY lucky that I got Mr. Solomon to translate BEFORE I headed out the door isn’t it otherwise I might be hunting in some inocuous health food shop for some pretty weird things! 😉

Steve should be shovelling nitrogenous masses as I type this now. I have the fruity, chocolaty filling prepared for the eccles cakes and am just waiting for the mix to cool and the pastry to thaw enough to combine the 2, weld them together with egg white and sugar, hurl them into Brunhilda at whatever temperature Brunhilda feels like exhibiting at any given time (we gave up trying to regulate her…everything seems to work out great in her so we let her have free reign!) and hopefully (if I remember to take them out in time) he will have something tasty for morning tea when he gets back. It’s a baking day today on Serendipity Farm. Tomorrow is Bezials 5th birthday. Qi (a.k.a. Princess Pickens) who lives in town with our daughters now, will be 3 on exactly the same day (a decided “woo-woo” moment when we found out!). Earl has to wait till November for his birthday but he doesn’t mind sharing Bezials for the moment. Bezial has asked for homemade bacon, egg and cheese covered beef burgers for his birthday tea accompanied by one of Steve’s spongecakes liberally doused with cream. Always willing to accommodate we will be preparing everything today and tomorrow he and Earl get to shred 2 whole bags of soft toys that we bought earlier in the week to their little hearts content. I figured that as I was baking up dog delicacies anyway, I may as well mess about with the pumpkin ale and reward Steve’s hard slog at the same time. I have a small bottle of prune juice in the fridge that the son and heir had purchased and didn’t want that I am also going to use in baking…might even make some muffins. So as you can see, it might be grey and threatening an imminent downpour on Serendipity Farm, but we are still as busy as the bleary eyed slow bees that are just starting to emerge from their winter hidey holes.

Chocolate Eccles cakes taste a WHOLE lot better than they look

The birthday boy waiting for his birthday toys and spread to be laid before him

Yet another fine spongecake produced for Bezial’s birthday and filled with cream, topped with cream and caramel and white chocolate chunks and heartily devoured before I remembered to take a photo along with the beef burgers with bacon, eggs and cheese that the boys got for their tea. The toys got shredded and I didn’t want to show you the evidence in case any small children ever read these posts!

The title of today’s post wasn’t designed to overexcite the large percentage of the world’s population that live on the fringes of poverty to riot, it was designed to elevate anyone sitting at home wondering how the heck they are going to do ANYTHING with their humble lot. Consider us your humble equals…so humble in fact that we are full of possibilities and the moth eaten sock under the bed is on its last threads. We don’t care. I used to be twitchy about the future and about trying to find ways to make money until I became educated and realised that money is “the man’s” way to keep us subservient (I TOLD you I was a radical hippy didn’t I? ;)). If we sat around waiting for the folding green we would be waiting for a very long time. It’s up to us to find ways to get what we want when we need it without having to resort to cash unless we absolutely positively HAVE to. Some things need money spent on them and some things need good money spent on them. You just have to be clever enough to know what is worth saving and spending on and what can be found for free or for some sort of exchange out there in the big wide world. Our recent introduction to the gentleman with the spent horse bedding material is just such a situation. He has a problem in that he needs to get rid of this stuff…he could care less about the cation exchange rate involved with straw and organic matter in the soil, all he wants is a heap free existence. Along come the crazy hermit hippies from up the road with their trusty trailer and remove his problem. Does he want money? No he doesn’t! He is happy to get rid of the eyesore and overjoyed that he didn’t have to do anything to get what he wanted. He is more than happy to allow us to take what we want for as long as we want and in so doing, we are now able to use this precious soil amendment to our advantage. One man’s horse dookie is another mans (and woman’s) treasure!

I almost missed a photo opportunity! Here are some of the mushroom futures that we ended up drying because we had so many of them that we ran out of things to do with them! 6 bags of mushroom compost have kept us in mushrooms for weeks now AND we have dehydrated mushies to use in stock, soups and chinese food…whats that on the dehydrator sheet with the mushrooms eh Steve?

A nice big round glass jar FULL of dehydrated mushroom futures. I might get out my vitamix and process some down into powder to use in flavoured stocks…the possiblities are endless

Aha! That’s what Steve had tossed onto the dehydrator tray! These are 2 year old thin dehydrated orange slices that I use to decorate our Christmas tree with at Christmas time along with all sorts of other things like star anise pods and home made orange and lemon pomanders. I love Old School Christmas 🙂

We also found out on the grapevine that the local salmon farm just around the corner from Serendipity Farm were offloading their old fish netting for free…lovely thick ropey stuff in large rolls for nothing! Never one to look some gift netting in the mouth we said “Yes Please” to our friend who we had just given some free plants to (again, a good mutual arrangement) in exchange for the plants. Never let it be said that I never learned anything from my sustainability guru Hugh Fearnley-whatsizname (I loved it AND stole it Bev ;)) in thinking outside the box to get what you want. We might be penniless student hippies BUT we are knowledgeable penniless student hippies with qualifications. We can draw you some plans…you can give us some tomatoes…we can help you work out how to landscape your garden sustainably, you can help us in OUR garden when we have a permablitz…so many ways to make ends meet and so many of them don’t have to involve the elusive cash! I have been finding more and more delicious blogs to cram my rss feed reader with. I found a fantastic one through someone else the other day called fixies shelf. This quirky blog is full of whimsical art, sustainable hard work and a wonderful “Can Do” attitude. I got highly excited when I found it because this stuff is right up my alley! Feel free to take my word for it or head on over and have a peek at this delightful marionette filled Aussie blog site…

http://fixiefoo.typepad.com/fixies_shelf/

Dreadies, marionettes, whimsical art, home-made greenhouses and all with an amazing vitality and zest for life that bleeds out onto every post. Consider me hooked!

A nice trailer load of dung futures

Dung futures up close and stinky just how we like them! 😉

The dung futures have arrived! A trailer load for now, soon to be followed up by another trailer load of more dung and a promise of more to come. For now this is good enough for us! We can make a start on our polytunnels (hoop houses) without having to worry about what we are going to plant our veggies into when we finish. Steve is out making my little terracotta butter dish a wooden lid. I don’t like the idea of critters wading through the butter en mass at night when we turn out the light and if they are anything like us when it comes to butter, they will be doing the backstroke in bliss! Anything worth it needs to be protected and butter is right up there in our precious stakes so lidding needs to commence. I bought this little rectangle terracotta pot ages ago and it got absorbed into the “stuff” in Steve’s shed. I re-liberated it and decided that it would make a good butter dish and have been using it as such with the flimsy protection of cling film over the precious golden fat source. I can see it now…out goes the light and the nocturnal insectivorous and verminous wildlife seize their cue to start scrounging around for something to eat. They would obviously start in the dog’s food bowls, not much aside from a few crumbs of buttered oat…butter you say! I know… lets head up to that tasty smelling pot up there and liberate ourselves a HUGE wodge of it to take back to our lair and scarf at our leisure!…all I can see as I contemplate these poor little hungry critters is a motley collection of them all lying prostrate on a thin membrane of cling wrap…the odd one bouncing slightly and peering myopically at the golden headily scented bliss below and wondering just what it would take to find a way through this meniscus of invisibility to that heaven below…sorry guys, I might be a bit of a pushover when it comes to nature and her inhabitants but insects tend to be excluded from the hierarchy of command thanks to their inability to give me seal eyes in any sort of manner that would make me want to give them anything.

Steve’s clever idea for a lid for my little teracotta butter dish with a handle recycled from our old kitchen cupboards

Eco wood oil, our bestest friend in the woody kitchen and many bottles of this unctious orange scented stuff were needed to waterproof and protect our lovely thick bamboo countertops in our new kitchen. This little bit helped us give food grade protection to our new butter dish lid

Oiled and ready to go…maybe a bit of false advertising on the butter dish BUT at least it directs you to what you are about to put it on 😉

I think that there might be something wrong with the new weather notifier at Riverside. Either that or Riverside has gone through a temporal loop and come out the other side a bit ruffled. We drove past the board wearing our winter warming coats and noted the 32C temperature on one side and the 18C on the other…hmmmm…whilst still debating the reason for the anomaly we drove past the Tailrace centre to see “Celebrate Father’s Day here!”…I could have sworn that father’s day was a few weeks ago?! Maybe the fact that my daughters live in Riverside may have contributed to the weirdness wafting around? Who would know, but if it was 32C the other day in Riverside I would HATE to see what it is when it warms up a bit! It’s Friday and it’s raining. It’s not the sort of rain that drizzles a bit and then stops, it’s been going steadily all night and shows no sign of stopping. I love rain and have no problem with it raining for a week if it feels like it BUT it is a constant reminder that we don’t have a water tank. A large rainwater tank is one of those items that can’t be negotiated around and most times you can’t barter your way into one. On the radio yesterday they were talking about Tasmania having a hotter and drier summer than usual…some bampf about “El Nino” and I am starting to think that El Nino is another word for The Boogieman! EVERYTHING is blamed on El Nino. It’s easy to point a finger at a scapegoat rather than on our own actions but for now, that’s the buzz word with the weather men, those self-same weather men who can’t get it right from one day to the next! Maybe El Nino is actually more like “Gremlins”? 😉 Whatever the reason it makes me twitch that we can’t negotiate our way around getting a rainwater tank and that the moth eaten sock under the bed is going to have to put on a lot of weight before we can even consider buying one.

Posts are like caterpillars…they are cute, innocuous and they sneak up on you when you least expect them! This one has been meandering all over the place and has suddenly stopped to nibble on a metaphorical cabbage leaf so it can have its natural hiatus and I am going to call it a day for today. If anyone out there knows how to get a rainwater tank sans cash that doesn’t involve public humiliation or ritual dismemberment PLEASE let us know! See you all next hump day 🙂

All things are GO on Serendipity Farm!

Hi All

I think that we are going to have to get Stewart and Kelsey to threaten to come over to Tasmania from Melbourne more often as we have done more this week than we have for 6 months! Admittedly, in our defence, it WAS winter, but we have been dragging our collective feet for a little while now about taking tentative baby steps back into hard slog in the garden. It’s not that we don’t want to…it’s not that we don’t like the results…it’s the ever-present memory of just how much hard slog there actually still is to even get the garden to a state where we can start to begin to think about planting our potted plants out and actually buying and propagating things again to put into it. I got excited the other day and actually thought about buying some annuals to spread around the garden beds visible from the house but after noting a hardy Hebe’s complete disappearance by what I can only assume was a mass chook dust orgy, I thought again. It’s wise to save your moth eaten sock under the bed for when it counts and fluffy short lived annuals are NOT a wise bet around here.  We have painted and coordinated the door, meter box and the seldom used gas hot water system and today, after we got back from stocking up on suitable “grub” for the Prodigal son and Kelsey’s visit (which we now think is on Sunday night rather than Saturday as always the parents are the LAST to know!) Steve whipped out a can of green outdoor emulsion and painted the rust crumbly mailbox. It might be sagging on its pole (“Stand up soldier!) a bit, but at least it looks the business now and may just pass muster till the poor mail lady tries to drop a letter into it and it slides slowly and dejectedly down its pole to half-mast like an aging pole dancer past her prime.

“Ok Herman…you stay in your bag and you THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU DIDN’T DO!”…sigh…

Anyone else ever started to remove cobwebs and suddenly drowned in them! See that teeny little spider on the roof? Thats responsible for this uber spiders web!

Our haul of eggs and mushrooms. Not too shabby 😉

Steve’s new enterprise “4Q”…

Our vigorous activities have left us tired, satisfied and very happy. It’s amazing how much we can achieve when we have a deadline! I read somewhere the other day to forget motivation as it’s a fleeting concept but that discipline is the only way to achieve what you want. Discipline, meaning doing things when you really don’t want to…keeping something going till it grabs hold of you and becomes habit like my new “No Diet” lifestyle. I found my knees the other day people. I have been afflicted with excess adipose tissue for most of my life and while we were driving home I looked down and saw actual, real, human lady type knees! For a minute there I didn’t think that they were mine, but considering there was only Steve, Bezial, Earl and I in the car and I am the only one vaguely womanly I had to concede that this No Diet way of living really does work! It’s funny that it’s taken me so long to work out that if you want something you have to work for it. I have been bucking the system for quite some time waiting for miracles to fall from the sky and for my fairy Godmother to wave her magic wand and I would wake up in Angelina Jolie’s body Living in the South of France and with the key to a rather large (even for Switzerland…) Swiss bank account at my beck and call but it never happened. I was jipped! My fairy Godmother is a lazy so-an-so who seems more intent on granting everyone else’s wishes to get around to my humble wants and so I have decided to bypass her and go it alone. Find happiness all by myself! I started with dealing with the things that I really don’t like about myself and the things that I want to change. The “No Diet” weight loss is going along swimmingly but the “Stop being a bad tempered old stoat” seems to be taking a bit longer in coming to fruition. I guess it’s persistence over procrastination every time and like many years ago when I used to cycle 40km a day and purposefully chose the biggest hills to climb…it’s a case of looking down at that white line and just carrying on until you are suddenly over that ridge. Consider the lesson noted and ticked off the life list.

We both thought that this stone looked like an old fashioned milestone so decided to give it a job…

We have lots of little Muscari botryoides sprouting up all over the place on Serendipity Farm. I love their vibrant colour and their tenacity. You are going to need it if you live here little guy!

This is the top of our driveway

We might be living in a temperate climate but we will darned well have at least 1 palm tree!

Steve picked up a heap of guitar leads and paraphernalia when we were in town today. It had been stored in the unit out the back of the girl’s house while we were renovating out here and was promptly forgotten. He is messing about in his music room and I get the odd flashback to the 70’s with some incredibly loud Led Zeppelin and Hendrix and then sudden silence perpetuated with clicks, buzzes and strange tapping. I don’t know what he is doing in there but it involves a large unfolded map of words that he keeps muttering about whenever he emerges from his music room and saying things about one of his amplifiers. I find it best to not ask. It’s better that way. I have my own form of musical history but mine tends to be unplugged and involves a degree of lip pursing and blowing the contents of my lungs into a set of glorified pipe fittings. Steve’s musical liens are cooler. He used to be a guitar teacher and has been known to rock the suburbs in a most funky way. His walls are laden with drums, banjo’s and slide guitars and he is hunting for a violin and a lute if anyone has one going cheap. It’s a cornucopia of class and it suits him to a tee. A man needs his shed and Steve has both a shed AND a music room to retire to whenever I get too much to handle (and that is a daily event!). After he emerges from his music room the television is suddenly too quiet and needs to be turned up and he can’t quite hear what I am ranting about…a win-win situation all round! ;).

“Alas…poor Yoric…I knew him well Horatio…”…well that’s a fib because I never knew this little fellow. The feral cats dispatched him before he could grow and cause us to have fits. I guess there are some good things about feral cats!

Anyone would get the feeling that we get a bit of wind here on Serendipity Farm!

From the garden in front of the house

Steve caught these 2 naughty black cockatoo’s stripping the bark from this dead eucalyptus

It’s now Saturday and we are informed that Stewart and Kelsey will be coming tomorrow. It sounds like they have all had fun down in Hobart but I am not quite sure that Hobart is ready for all three of my children to be reunited in one place with the addition of Kelsey. Go get em kids! I am juggling typing the rest of this post, making potato salad, roasted sweet potato salad (both white and orange), marinated mushroom salad, marinating olives (black and green) with some of our home dried, home grown flavourful tomatoes and herbs to go with tomorrow night’s meal. We walked the dogs in Exeter this morning, picked up some more cream to allow us to double the size of the black forest spongecake that we are making for desert (photos in Wednesdays post) and we got home to stock up on wood for Brunhilda as she has a busy day ahead of her. We have baked 2 sponge cakes and everything is on track for tomorrows towering construction that we still need to make the Morello cherry filling and whip vats of cream and grate chocolate. We might even make some chocolate leaves.  Steve zoomed around and took some photos for you before the sun set and hopefully we can pull everything together and tie it with a pretty bow tomorrow. Steve made one of his 4Q forks and is now wailing away with Eric Clapton in his music room. Just to make it clear…Mr Clapton is not physically present but I bet he wishes he was! We have been listening to some amazing music all day. We started with Pink Floyd “The Wall”…then we progressed to David Bowie “Hunky Dory” closely followed by “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” (NO spell checker…I do NOT want to change “Ziggy” to “Piggy”! I doubt that Mr Bowie would have had a hit with “Piggy Stardust”!) And now Eric Clapton. What more could you want? A lovely sunny day…your washing gets dried on the line, the dogs are behaving and even Earl isn’t trying (too hard) to eat the sponge cakes cooling on the table.

Looking back to the house from the second (now tidy) garden

An old tree stump that we decided to repurpose for bird baths. This is Steve’s maple garden now and one day it will be a mass of different coloured grafted maples

Our bug house finally up and ready for it’s new inhabitants

Firewood futures and our other small bug house ready for whatever fancies moving in.

I have a nice grainy mustard to do in my potato salad, my coleslaw has an Asian lien with chopped roasted cashews and I am hoping that my avocados ripen before tomorrow. In fact I stuffed their brown paper bag full of ripe bananas in the hope that all that ethanol should force some sort of ripening action. We are going to have a bonfire tomorrow night and Stewart and Kelsey are bringing marshmallows, chocolate and cookies to make smores (glad to see that you don’t know what “smores” are spellcheck…at least you have a teeny bit of Australian in you!). We unearthed some ancient old wire forks on the property that I decided to keep and they can use those should they ever get close enough to the flames to manage to do anything other than singe their arm hairs, eyebrows and instantly burn their marshmallows. I just burst out laughing because spellcheck wanted me to change “arm hairs” to “arm chairs”! I am getting my money’s worth out of spellcheck today! Well my dear constant readers, I think that in this lull before the food induced storm that is rapidly approaching I might just bid you adieu. Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are and see you on Wednesday :o)

The 1 1/2 hour duck and Steve Solomon reads our soily tea leaves

Hi All

Now that the sap in my brain is flowing at an equal rate to that of the plant community on Serendipity Farm I am hurling myself into a new phase. I am researching cool climate permaculture at night and in the day, Steve and I are venturing out into the sodden soggy wasteland that we call home with new eyes on. No more overwhelmed city slickers for us! Its year 3 on Serendipity Farm and we have learned to combine our studies with our ultimate reason for being here, our desire to change Serendipity Farm for the better. Procrastination stops action and is the scourge of our generation where change seems to be ramping itself up on a daily basis and it’s wonderful to immerse ourselves in a slower more holistic approach. It’s also wonderful to be able to stand back and see what we once thought were problems, turn into solutions and actual assets before our eyes when permaculture and other systems that work sympathetically with nature are applied. I have actually managed to get my rss feed reader blogs down to a manageable level. I am loath to rid myself of any of them and have found a way to make sure that I get an amazingly broad spectrum of my personal interests in a nice slice of daily mind nourishing blog cake. It’s like one of those rainbow layer cakes for the brain but substitute artificial colours, flavours and white flour for healthier alternatives and you have my daily rainbow cake of happiness. Spencer at anthropogen.com never ceases to amaze me with his never ending search for ways to apply natural solutions to the worlds current problems and more importantly, he shares his findings freely. Yesterday I learned how rainfall in the Amazonian rainforests is initiated by microscopic organic fungi particles…a fully self-perpetuating environment ensuring that water falls where it is needed most and it could almost be seen as the rainforest itself directing water where it is needed. When you start to remove mainstream human endeavours from the equation and step back and take a good look at what nature is actually doing ad-infinitum, you can’t be anything but awestruck by the magnificence of that amazing cyclic symphony of perpetual life.

Red sky in the morning, rain on Serendipity farm

Keen little certificate 3 horticulture students at the soil carbon day…I am sure that our class never looked this enthusiastic about anything!

I sat with Nat and our friend from the witness protection at the soil carbon day today and a great time was had by all

I TOLD you my brain sap was rising ;). Steve has been finding me all sorts of information about permaculture that is fuelling my inner fiery desire to get “stuck in” to working outside again. Steve sources the stuff and I mainstream it. As usual, we are entirely different when it comes to how we work. Steve is a hands on man who works from the outside in and isn’t all that interested in where the information came from. He would rather just go out and “do” it. I am the exact opposite. I am the researcher, the porer-overer of books, the disciple of knowledge and information who positively beams whenever I find a precious little gem that gives us a way to do something that we can use to effect change on Serendipity Farm and together we are formidable! I started wading through everything that we have been finding over the weekend and discovered that most of it is stacked for the tropics. I accept that its heaven on a horticultural stick to grow plants in the tropics BUT we don’t live there…so now I am honing my searches to cool climate permaculture so that we can use what we find directly without having to sieve it through several filters to sift out the heat, the plants that will NOT grow here and the sense of disappointment that comes from not being able to apply a large swath of information directly to our needs. Never one to give in that easily, I have managed to source a cool climate permaculture book by David Holmgren called “Sustainable living at “Melliodora” Hepburn Permaculture Gardens: a case study in cool climate permaculture 1985-1995”. Written for a cold climate and extremely pertinent to our local conditions (we might even be a bit warmer than David’s property!) this book has been placed on hold at the local library and we will be able to see how someone else has juggled a 4 season cold climate as compared to a 2 season (hot and dry or VERY hot and wet) tropical climate.

Frank Strie with another wonderful presentation about Biochar and how the process of slow cooking wood gives a multitude of benefits when dealing with our soil and with energy/heat production

The components of Franks illustrative biochar burner model. Note the can full of twigs that approximates a 44 gallon drum full of dry limb wood

Now tip that 44 gallon drum (imagine people…use your imagination!) upside down and drop it into a slightly larger metal drum that you have drilled large holes in the base so that you have a slight margin left between the sides of the drum full of wood and the slightly larger drum

The internet is wonderful! Not only can I talk to you from the comfort of my computer chair in front of my massive television monitor (I DON’T NEED GLASSES!), but Steve can ring me from town while he is in my Aladdin’s cave of great happiness…”Wholesome House” health food shop in Mowbray where David and Lee not only sell the products but know everything about them and practice what they preach and I can check something online for him to make sure that it’s what I want in an instant. Technology isn’t all bad folks! I have been delving deeper into Korean cuisine and found a wonderful website that I actually added to my rss feed reader it was so good. Mochi is something that I absolutely adore and this website gave me several recipes for how to make it along with how to make your own Korean ricecakes which are a sort of extruded thick paste (think big fat rice noodles as chunky as your little finger) that is cut into segments and used for body and texture in Korean cookery. Korean food is all about healthy, spicy tastiness and being a vegan, most of these recipes can be adapted to my kind of food. Steve and I were talking about vegetarianism yesterday whilst watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s great adventure into vegetables. Under his cover story of “I wanted to get healthier” was an apparently sky high cholesterol reading and a rapidly invading middle aged paunch. I forgive him his vanity because he is one of those genuine people who put his fame/money where his mouth is and gives as good as he gets. Cooking vegetarian is a doddle folks! Vegetarian cookery is full of eggs, cheese, cream and the only thing missing is the meat. Not hard to get something scrumptious when you coat it in sour cream, roll it in egg and crumbs and douse it liberally in thickened cream and when you add all of the options of other countries cuisines you can see how easy it is to venture into a world without meat. Going vegan is a bit harder but is now sufficiently mainstream as to be a “desirable” way to live. The extremists have veered off to Paleo diets and raw food diets and left us vegans to get on with quietly living our lives out of the spotlight.

Now you loosely fill that gap with small twigs, leaves or sawdust and light it

To eliminate smoke from the chamber you add a lid to the equation with holes in to catch the heat/smoke exchange

A slightly smaller metal drum (an old oil drum from some bulk cooking oil?) with a piece of metal tubing inserted through the top to carry the heat byproduct up through this second chamber

Going vegan is a worldly experience because there is a world of experience and love for pulses, legumes, grains and all sorts of weird and wonderful cultures and fermentations out there that open your eyes to just how amazing the human race is to have survived on local and attainable foodstuffs. Even things that are generally considered inedible or unpalatable have been messed about with and tweaked to yield edible foodstuffs. The humble acorn is one such food. On its own its disgusting. I know…I tried one! After being dried, pounded into a flour and washed continually until the tannins are leached out of the flour it is not only edible, it’s a staple food for many Baltic and other European countries. Try eating a ripe olive straight from the tree (again…I know because I tried one…) and you are given to wonder how ANYONE would think that “maybe I might be able to make this tasty if I brine it?”…we owe so much to our forefathers and foremothers for their dedicated hard work in showing us that you can not only eat these things, but they are delicacies. Crickets, worms, fermented stinky tofu…hmmmm maybe there are limits! But everyone takes for granted the amazing wealth of knowledge out there regarding food preparation and how to get the most nutrition out of what we eat. Food production is generally outside our sphere of thought because we just go to the shop and get it right? That’s what we did when we moved in and decided to make the most of the 4 acres of land that we have, we decided to make it work for us, and for all of the native inhabitants of Serendipity Farm.

Now for the bit where you diversify! You need a metal drum slightly larger than the second (bulk cooking oil) drum with copper pipe coiled in through a hole lower down in this drum and coiled to fit loosely around the inner drum and exiting through a hole further up the drum…stay with me here folks…

Here’s the second chamber over the holes in the lid of the first chamber

And now you invert the last drum (with the copper coiled pipe) over the top of the drum with the pipe and voila, you have a small personal biochar manufacturer coupled with a hot water heater! I love this idea so much I am going to attempt to manufacture one of these for summer use on Serendipity Farm

As we walk the dogs every day, I have started to really look at what grows well in our local area. Cherry plums grow amazingly well. In Tasmania its apparently a sport to whinge about Cherry Plums. They grow like topsy here and I, for one, have made a mental note to plant some along the boundary fences to feed the possums and distract them from our more highly prized fruits. I dug up 4 little loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) from a road verge last year and they overwintered in the glass house and are going great guns. After a sufficient hardening off period in a sheltered spot on Serendipity Farm, these little free babies are going to be put to work as possum bait futures. We will be planting out kiwifruit, Muscat (and other) grapes and all sorts of currants and berries including ground covers (strawberries), vines (thornless blackberries) and shrubs (currants and native plum pines and native cranberries) to lure the possums away from our primary crops. It’s all about sharing the land and once our local possums get wind of a year round food supply they will be battling the ensuing hoards for their position of superiority. Feeding a few possums to guard from the many is a good sacrifice to be making! On Wednesday (today but typed on Monday) our friend in the witness protection and I are heading into Launceston to “The Tramshed” where we are going to learn all about local soil and its limitations as part of the Tamar NRM August Sustainability Month. I have gotten an incredible amount of free knowledge from this wonderful organisation and feel very privileged to have met so many passionate local people. It’s a huge pity that Tasmanian’s as a whole would rather eat their own feet than learn something new, and even the prospect of an amazing free day with morning and afternoon tea and a fantastic lunch provided can’t even lure them out of their armchairs. I am NOT Tasmanian. I don’t even mind being a “Mainlander Outcast”…suits me folks! If that means that I can sit in a room of 15 people with a fantastic view of the podium and learn quality information for free then so-be-it! I have really been reinvigorated by everything that I have learned over the past month and am inspired to apply most of it to our day to day working on our property.

Check out the root system on one of Frank’s lettuces grown in compost layered with biochar. This stuff is amazing!

I just had my very first case of what might be construed as “homesickness” since we moved to Tasmania. The funny thing was, it wasn’t even “home” I felt nostalgic for! It was the Western Australian capital city Perth that got me feeling a little wistful. Perth is an amazing multicultural hodgepodge of everything a person could need. We used to head up at least a few times a year on the 400+km long haul to stock up with everything that we couldn’t purchase locally, usually Asian grocery items and other ethnic foodstuffs that Albany simply didn’t have. I loved Perth aside from the heat when it was summer (which was coincidentally our usual time to visit…). I remember one of our “must visit’s” being Kakulas Brothers bulk produce that made me incredibly envious of people in Perth who could just drop in whenever the fancy took them. For us, it meant a large spend to stock up on all sorts of dried beans, herbs, spices etc. that we simply couldn’t get in Albany. The very last time that we shopped in Kakulas we were served by Mr Kakulas (since passed away) who started this thriving and no doubt incredibly profitable landmark in the city. He had to leave part way through serving us and the girl that took over told us that he had a real hands on approach to his business and was often to be found serving behind the counter and chatting to customers asking them about what they liked and didn’t like about his shop. I dare say that this 80 something year old man had his finger on the pulse of that well-oiled machine because every single time we ventured through those hallowed doors, the place was thronging with customers. You give people what they want, they come back! I also remember Kong’s, a large Asian supermarket, one of many in Northbridge a multicultural suburb of Perth and the restaurant strip of the city. A very exciting place to wander around and immerse yourself in culture. I love Perth. I haven’t found a city close to its vibrant eclectic laid back sense of entitlement and always loved to visit even though the 6 hour car trip had knobs on!

The stuff that dreams are made of!

Back to Wednesday and just about to have a shower ready to head off to Launceston with our friend in the witness protection for a day learning all about soil carbon courtesy of the Tamar NRM. I have a newfound appreciation for this humble behind the scenes group who have been putting on some pretty amazing free events in the hope of educating some of us as to what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our soils. Steve has been hunting. He has found me a myriad of information about permaculture including videos, pdf’s and all sorts of documents that I am going to share with my friend today. “Just bring your laptop and I can stuff you full of garden hope!” We are in similar situations with our garden. “Chaos”. Hers is denuded of all vegetation and anything that she plants is instantly visible and noted as “prey” by the many nocturnal visitors to her 50 acre property out in the bush. She is so far out in the bush that she doesn’t have electricity, water or phone and her family are completely off grid.  We have plenty of vegetation’s but no order and both of us have those troublesome little nocturnal visitors who like to swing about on our tender new vegetation, however the feral cats have been leaving us “tails”…we can only guess that they were once young possums! No sign of the duck that we owned for 1 ½ hours that we bought for our lonely girl who quacks herself hoarse for her sister. We bought it from the grouchy old bee/duck man up the road for $15. Lucky we didn’t spend a fortune because after luring us to let it out of the outside coop area by making doe-eyes at our duck and trying desperately to get out “to her” it hightailed it over to the nearest high spot and made like a tree and leafed! The last we saw of it, it was running faster than Earl on the scent of a chicken towards the bush at the back of our neighbours block. We must have made a funny site, just on dusk, running with rakes in pursuit…our neighbour to the rear drove down to see what the commotion was about (no rake I note Noel…not going to join in the frothing melee?) and we had to reassure him that we were not insane nor were we intent on taking our rakes to Frank’s house. Not only are we now “those crazy hippies down the hill” but we are also “those crazy whacked out hippies down the hill!”…sigh…I have found a use for a large stainless steel enclosed drum that we inherited on dad’s “steel pile” left here for years by nefarious steel pilferers around the state. I am now the king of that castle by default and so I am trying to make the most of what we were left “cheers for that pile of steel dad…” by putting it to uses that my dad would have shaken his head and said “done ya dough” to whilst walking away disgustedly. I have come to terms with the fact that I was never going to be one of my dad’s favourite children and actually enjoyed the rise I got whenever discussing my fantastic schemes…dad hated hippies…my job there was done!

Looky here people, another massive post rolls out onto the printing floor and I haven’t even had my shower yet! Sorry about sitting here overnight smelly and with unkempt hair but you know how it is… the press never stops! Got to get you all something to read over your cocoa and here it is, unadorned, severely unedited and most definitely passionately heartfelt. Have a fantastic time till Saturday. The sun is weakly sniffing around the perimeters of Serendipity Farm but I am NOT lured into thinking that we are going to have anything other than the rain that was forecast! A day sitting indoors listening to precious information about soil amelioration and soil carbon is most probably the best outcome for today. See you Saturday and don’t sweat the small stuff folks…it will still be there tomorrow! 😉

A hand full of oca and a head full of rising sap

Hi All

Today is the first of spring and the weather has turned on a most magnificent day for it. We had a nice sleep in (7.30am) by ignoring the chickens scolding us underneath our bedroom window, the cuckoo shrike tapping  on the kitchen window and calling out, the dogs alternately hopping into bed and hopping out in anticipation of their walk and got out of bed when WE wanted to. We then fed some bread and butter (our chooks are connoisseurs and will only eat butter) to the chooks and the feral cats; let Pingu out for a few more chunks of bread and butter and then the rest of the coop for a mass orgy of bread and butter flying in the air. Sparrows, cats, chooks, duck EVERYONE had some and then we headed out to walk our boys in the beautiful spring air in Exeter. We parked the car and headed off for a nice long walk and then dropped in to drop off a few “Barbara” pumpkin seeds to the local nursery man who was most grateful and gave me a hand full of what we call “New Zealand Yams” but on further research, their real name is “Oxalis tuberosa” or Oca in their native South American Andes homeland. The New Zealanders are prone to pinching things and renaming them after themselves starting with kiwifruit, a native of China and Pavlova, Lamingtons and ANZAC biscuits ALL of which originate in Australia and now Oca from the Andes…I won’t be hearing that you don’t pinch things you Kiwis! I think you have been learning from your native Kakapo flightless parrots. I watched a Discovery channel programme about them a little while ago that showed how they might not be able to fly, but they can certainly steal things! Australia might be founded on convicts but you have no excuses for pinching things but we do forgive you because your economy is totally stuffed and heck, most of you are heading over here to become Aussies anyway so I guess we will go easy on you for the while…but we are watching you…

More mushrooms growing after we have already harvested a kilo of nice big mushrooms from our freebie bags. After they finish shrooming, we can use the mushroom compost for our garden

One of the feral cats has decided that she likes Steve and follows him around meowing. He does feed them every evening so I guess it might be cupboard love, but she seems particularly taken with him

Serendipity Farm is emerging from its week of drowning and aside from it now being leech heaven around here, we are hoping that the sun will dry it out a bit over the weekend

Its the first day of spring! Time to wash the car and clear out the boat ready to launch it on that lovely water in the background…

While I was at the nursery in Exeter I took advantage of their kind offer of a bag of red wriggler worms for free. Our compost heap does contain worms, however they are the enormous native kind that breeds slowly and that just slug about waiting for blackbirds to eat them. Red wrigglers are adapted to living in compost heaps and the small bagful that I placed carefully into our overladen heap should be incredibly happy to be relocated. Their home at the nursery was seething with comrades but here on Serendipity Farm, they will be pioneering their way into history. Once they breed up we will start a worm farm to collect the worm tea for use on our plants. So many ideas! Steve found me heaps of online information about permaculture the other day and I have been immersed in videos of hope and sustainability. There is nothing like being a penniless student hippy to make you realise that consumerist gardening is not for you! Who can afford to populate their gardens with purchases from mainstream nurseries (and indeed, who would want to!). Our pathway in life gives us lots of time but precious little payola to spend but never people to let problems stand in our way, we negotiate our way around the outside like gyrating, belly dancing hippy buffalo girls and find a lateral way to solve our problem. No money for plants? No worries! We haven’t just spent the better part of 4 years studying horticulture for nothing you know! We learned how to grow plants from seed, from cuttings and how to bud, graft, layer and many cleverer hints and tips to allow us to grow our own.

Thursday over at Beauty Point walking the dogs in the sunshine aren’t we lucky to have such lovely places to walk our dogs?

A clever way to enhance a standard wooden fence

The rest of the fence is the same and most certainly makes this home one to remember on our walk around Beauty Point

We fixed up the glasshouse and have a heat bed of our own to get our cuttings to strike and our seeds champing at the bit and we have the will and the desire to find solutions to our planty problems. The gazillion strawberry plants languishing at the Exeter tip that I waded through mud (after asking permission from the tip guy) to save from a waterlogged death are all potted up and flowering like crazy. I planted the oca in with the strawberries so that I know where they are and aside from the strawberries there is a tiny little Babiana corm that I found amongst the debris and planted and that is now sending up greenery to greet the sun. I love gardening. It’s one of the most positive things that you can do. It’s a way to feel the cycles of the seasons and immerse yourself in the natural world and as the spring sap rises in the deciduous trees and shrubs I can feel it bubbling inside me and rising in unison, full of possibilities and the excitement that comes with effecting change.

Myvanwy doing what she does best. She is a hybrid of Herman and Ethel Merman and is a 75% all white hydration. She appears to be rising magnificently and taking her time to fall so it looks like there is a lot of happy yeasty activity going on in that nice tall glass jar. She is raising at least double every time we feed her and so Miff, is going to be our next baking event. Anyone laying bets as to how she turns out?

Steve’s delicious creation soup the other night.

We found a packet of cloud ear fungus that I must have bought in a past life hiding up the back of the cupboard the other day and decided to use it in our cooking. You soak it in warm water, cut out the bit where it joins to the tree and it is crunchy and vaguely seaweedy. Delicious and we will certainly be using the rest of the packet soon

A young currawong looking through our bedroom window wondering if he might just move in. I know life here is paradise for animals but inside is off limits matey!

I have grand plans for how to slow the rapid descent of water from the sheoky dry bit up the top of the block down to the marshy melaleuca infested area down at the bottom of the property. I am going to build a hugelkultur garden bed. We can’t dig the usual swales that permaculture suggests to perform this task, but if you look a little outside the box you can usually find an answer and hugelkultur seems to be ours. You can start with biochar logs (slow burned to get a honeycomb pattern in the charcoal) or you can start with regular garden debris and we have a depressing amount of garden debris littering Serendipity Farm. I think that the true value of permaculture is being able to use what you have available to effect change rather than having to wait until you have enough money to do it. I can “take a frown and turn it upside down” and those piles of debris that were hanging about waiting for me to hire a mulcher or tote them off to the tip are now a positive asset on Serendipity Farm. I can cut them up, lay them in a long line, cover them with chopped up branches and dead plant matter, I can head off to our friend who has given us all the topsoil that we can handle and get trailer loads of soil to spread on top of our branches along with bagged manure (probably sheep) and then cover it all over with some large bales of hay and I can plant fruit and nut trees and other edible shrubs and herbs directly into it. It’s all about looking at the reality that you have in a different way. Seeing what you have as positive and learning how to use it to your advantage.  I no longer look at the tangle of debris down in the garden as being a massive pain that has to be hacked away in sections, but somewhere that is going to protect our young fruit and nut trees until they grow enough to be able to stand on their own two roots. I am also carving what has to be done into small manageable portions. Instead of being totally overwhelmed with 4 acres of hassles, we now have 4 acres of future edible food forest just waiting for us to wade in and make it happen. We are going to use everything that we have learned to give us what we want here including vertical gardening, aquaponics, hugelkultur gardening, permaculture, biodynamics, xeriscape gardening…all SORTS of things that just typing out here make me excited. I love learning and even more than learning…I LOVE putting what I learn into action and having something to show for those hours spent hunting for the elusive, precious information in the first place. Life is good people, let’s live it!

A lovely little Acer rubrum, a waterwise small tree, one of many that we managed to get to grow from some seed that we bought online. We now have lots of little shrubs all budding up and needing to be repotted. Might be time to do some giving away, planting out, swapping and THEN with the few that are left, we can repot…anyone else out there procrastinating about repotting?

Where the Acer rubrum is hiding amongst his compatriots…one small stand of many small stands dotting Serendipity Farm and all needing our care and attention in the near future

A lovely Nectarine blossom on one of the fruit trees out the back. This is a lovely yellow nectarine and we have a delicious white one next to the chook yard. Here’s hoping that Big Yin doesn’t show his girls how to jump and eat them all like he did last year…

We had our fortnightly visit to see our lecturer the other day and got to paint our assessment model so we are now officially able to share it with you here. We are suitably proud of our efforts and our lecturer seemed to be pleased as well so it was a win-win situation as our lecturer now has 2 models to use for the upcoming Polytechnic open day to show what our course (only offered this year for the first time) is all about. Steve and I didn’t have to learn how to use AutoCAD this year so we could get stuck straight into model building which fitted in nicely with the open day because all of the other students in the course are still getting their heads around the dreaded AutoCAD and without us there wouldn’t have been any models to share. Nat made a flitting visit and it was great to see her. I told her that I would put something about her in the blog because the poor girl doesn’t get to even look at the blog much as she is so busy these days. Her class will be putting on a floral display at beautiful Entally House soon and I can’t wait to see it when it’s done. All of the annuals have been grown especially for this event by her students and it’s an amazing chance to learn how to grow for a specific event and how to pull it all together. Good luck Nat, but you don’t really need that because you are fantastic at organising and are a true asset to the Horticultural department at Polytechnic. Our friend in the witness protection gave me a whole lot of Hippeastrum bulbs a little while ago. She had been keeping them in her polytunnel but we have just stuck them outside in the sun. They are happy enough and hopefully they will flower this year. Our friend is a very generous person and we like to be generous to so sometimes the give and take can go on for a long time with a single gift starting it all off :o). I am off with her to a soilweb presentation in Launceston on Wednesday while Steve stays here with the dogs. I have all sorts of information about permaculture to give to her as I know that she will be as excited as I am with the possibilities that it brings to our lives.

Our original (practice) model construction on display inside the Horticulture Department at our Polytechnic

Our final model painted and ready for submitting to our lecturer with yours truly hovering around anxiously in the background with a paint pot in case we missed a bit…

We passed our model making 🙂

Spring appears to have awoken more than the plants. Steve has been following “The Bearded One’s” stick drawings on Christi’s Olalla Washington farmlet.wordpress.com blog for quite some time now and he decided that he was going to put some drawings of his own on my post for today. I watched him feverishly crouched over his piece of paper (shielding it from my inquisitive eyes whenever I went too close) and when he finished with a final flourish and presented me with his magnificent creations I told him not to tell me what they were (which should tell you that they need a degree of interpretation to say the least!) so that I could attempt to guess. Here are his pictures and firstly my interpretations and then what they are actually meant to be…

Err…

My interpretation of the first picture: I think that this looks like one of the young roosters that has broken into the shed and has invaded the chook feed. They are constantly hungry and hover around under the deck avoiding Big Yin and his deft attacks, crowing, jumping on any passing hen and tomorrow night, they will actually BE their namesake…”chicken” and “stock”!

Steve’s actual description: He said this was originally a self-portrait (no…he hasn’t drunk his 2 bottles of Guinness that he picked up in Exeter this morning…) and then he changed it and it is now “The Cockatrice of Doom”…I think that Steve is having flashbacks to Nam!

Hmmmm…

My interpretation of the second picture: I have been eating a lot of kimchi and lots of cooked beans lately…I think that this is Steve’s way of telling me to not only stop nagging him about his Guinness habit but also to lay off the farty stuff. He is obviously holding me down and I am trying to elevate him from his one true love…Guinness…

Steve’s actual description: I am full of the lightness of spring and he is thoughtfully grounding me and stopping me from flying away. The large pint glass of Guinness in MY interpretation has been replaced with the 20 litre bucket of skeeter pee (lemon wine)…at least I got the booze bit right!

Eek!

My interpretation for the third and final picture: THE ZOMBIES ARE COMING!!! They are rising along with the sap from the graveyard next door and they are apparently armed and dangerous! They have a couple of pigs in tow (for sustenance?) and have attracted some blowflies as they lurch towards our home and our certain doom…(note to self – I must stop watching the Crime Investigation channel before I go to bed…)

Steve’s actual description: We are walking hand in hand through the spring garden where the roots and shoots of the trees are awakening (at least ONE of us remembered our horticultural studies…), the birds are flying above us and our two dogs are with us and Steve has plus fours because he can’t draw board shorts very well…

Ok so I kind of got it a bit wrong. I got it HEINOUSLY wrong. You know those shows and quizzes where you are supposed to guess what your partner has answered for a specific question? Well I don’t think that I will enter us in any of those shows aside from the entertainments value as we are guaranteed NOT to win. We are totally the polar opposite of each other and that is more than obvious by our answers BUT Yin and Yang we are. I am starting to sound a bit like Yoda there so I think it’s time to call this post sprung! See you all on Wednesday when I will have been to a Tamar NRM day all about soil with our friend from the witness protection and I will be all hyped up on mountain dew and knowledge…my favourite state of being! See you all then :o)

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