And so we meet again…

Hi All,

It only seems like yesterday when I was tapping away, tongue sticking out of the side of my mouth, attempting to amuse bouche you guys and here we are again with a new blog post knocking around inside my brain and a deadline of “NOW!” So what’s a girl to do but go all freestyle on your derrières and just wing it with the muses. This week has been a whirlwind of secret crafting business tangled up with gardening and a good dose of telling Stevie-boy what a good husband he is. It’s around about this time of year when everything comes together in the small time and space continuum vortex that is Serendipity Farm and all of the things that I have been putting off all year rise up like phoenixes (or the ghosts of Christmas past more appropriately) to wave their talons/apparition fingers at me and tut in whatever language phoenixes/ghosts tut in.

#Earl loves bloons

#Earl loves bloons

#Earl loves bloons AND walking on the coffee table ;)

#Earl loves bloons AND walking on the coffee table 😉

Stevie-boy, ever the creative genius, has made our youngest daughter Bethany (or Beenz as she has been tagged for a while now) something wonderfully special for her Christmas gift this year. Those of you dear constant readers who have been trying to make head or tail of my blog posts for a while now will know that we are both working on secret Christmas gifts for our daughters as part of a “give us something we like and you might win a $50 booze voucher”. Initially it was that booze voucher that piqued our sense of intrigue but that lasted all of about 10 seconds when the competitive part of the challenge stepped in…”there be WINNING to achieve here folks!” And thus it began…

It's not all about Earl today. This lovely photo of Bezial was photoshopped by Steve

It’s not all about Earl today. This lovely photo of Bezial was photoshopped by Steve

Happy first day of Summer Southern Hemisphere! ;)

Happy first day of Summer Southern Hemisphere! 😉

Stevie-boy listened to my idea for my gift and said “might as well not bother, you have it in the bag”. Which was a great ego boost but to be honest, I didn’t even know if I could create what was inside my head. As I started working on what I have created for Madeline (we got given a daughter each) Stevie-boys competitive streak started to rise up and suddenly he was full of ideas and waving things around in front of my concentrating nose and there were many interruptions to my concentration where I had to “ooo” and “ah” with sufficiently admiring sounds in order to get back to what I was doing. As his creation started to take shape I started to feel the tables flipping and suddenly there was a real competition! Stevie-boy, being Stevie-boy went at his creation like a bull at a gate. He has tamed his desire to finish everything “yesterday” though and is now much more aware of aesthetics and has honed his desire to create quality items rather than “quick” items. I must admit to playing a big part in this transformation…me and my desire to not have the house fall down around us…

Stevie-boy on Saturday faced with this mountain of banana passionfruit that all needed removing

Stevie-boy on Saturday faced with this mountain of banana passionfruit that all needed removing

Most of the banana passionfruit removed and now we just have to remove the dead shrubs under the passionfruit and cut the remainder down to hedge height

Most of the banana passionfruit removed and now we just have to remove the dead shrubs under the passionfruit and cut the remainder down to hedge height

So Stevie-boy’s gorgeous creation is sitting in his music room all finished and ready to be gifted. It is beautiful. I will share it with you in the blog post on December 17th which is immediately after our little familial un-Christmas Christmas celebration as our children are celebrating with their dad and his family who are coming all the way from Western Australia for the occasion. We will have our own delicious Christmas sitting out under the shade of a (not) coolabah tree looking out over the river and giving constant thanks for the circumstances that landed us here on Serendipity Farm.

Narfs breakfast beans

Narfs breakfast beans

The "Dead possum" lily is back for another year. Our friend Jenny just bought one of these. We have hundreds of them that return to reak of death just on Christmas.

The “Dead possum” lily is back for another year. Our friend Jenny just bought one of these. We have hundreds of them that return to reak of death just on Christmas.

My gift creation isn’t so easy. Not only have I had to learn several new skills in order to create this gift, but I have also had to take those newly learned skills and riff on a theme. What I am creating is pretty out there and I have to adapt things from all over the (most wonderful) sharing caring colony of crafters and their wonderful “free tutorials” and then change them to suit my needs. I am quite pleased with the results and everything is starting to come together nicely but it aint finished folks and I am starting to twitch because today is December the third and I need to be finished by this weekend as I have other projects to get stuck into ASAP and this one is starting to take on epic proportions. I can’t wait to share our creations with you and our daughters gave us an amazing gift when they thought up this challenge in the first place. They gave us the gift of actually thinking about the person we are giving a gift to and really homing in on what they like and both Stevie-boy and I have learned a lot in the process so we all win in the end. Stewart and Kelsey have both been given a giftee as well and I know what Stewart has got Madeline  and she is going to be hard pressed to choose between his gift and mine (so that is why I am going to have to slip sleeping pills into his morning coffee and render him AWOL on the day! 😉 ) NO idea what Kelsey is contemplating but now she is a most honorary Aussie (her visa to stay came through…”HOORAY!” 🙂 ), she can stop worrying about heading back to frozen Texas (does it freeze in Texas?) and can spend Christmas Day sweltering away like the rest of us southerners ;).

A wasp is moving in to our bug house! :)

A wasp is moving in to our bug house! 🙂

Stevie-boy is finishing off cutting up last years logs ready for our next load to be delivered.

Stevie-boy is finishing off cutting up last years logs ready for our next load to be delivered.

Stevie-boy deserved a beer after this! :)

Stevie-boy deserved a beer after this! 🙂

So what else has narf been up to (apart from twitching about the rapidly approaching gift giving celebration day that is…), well the garden has taken up a good part of our week. I have been carrying on with my newfound idea to shove all kinds of veggies etc. in all kinds of places. The thing about pests is that they tend to flock when they get a sniff of something in a row. I don’t know what it is about pests but they appear to be regimented and like mass plantings. The problem is, most veggie gardeners love nice neat rows of things as that makes it easier to garden, to harvest and to keep tabs on what you have in your garden and what you can plant in the recently vacated soil. Not for narf, this nice easy life that is “rows”. I have planted out beetroot, okra (the few that the slugs didn’t scoff… see, slugs eat it as they need to replace all of that slime!), Roselle’s (that are developing a gorgeous rosy colour on their little round leaves), beetroot, a single tomatillo (that will be joined by a few of its brethren soon), lots of silverbeet and spinach as they are two of my most consumed foodstuffs over the summer period, 2 cucumber plants (gifted from a friend) and 3 very sad Roma tomatoes from the self-same friend who had just plonked the plants into her small pond and left them there for over a week. Tomatoes are survivor’s folks. These tomatoes were living a semi aquatic lifestyle! There is a whole lot going on in narf7’s garden but only the potato onions and the radishes (yes “radishes” Madeline! 😉 ) are in rows. Everything else is scattered all over the place like a particularly fecund Salvador Dali or Picasso painting.

Steve has been messing around in Photoshop with this lovely original image taken at Hollybank, a lovely reserve 15 minutes east of Launceston.

Steve has been messing around in Photoshop with this lovely original image taken at Hollybank, a lovely reserve 15 minutes east of Launceston.

This version is a reflected version with a soft glow

This version is a reflected version with a soft glow

This version is a reflection in "water"

This version is a reflection in “water”

This one reminds me of the Blair Witch forest!

This one reminds me of the Blair Witch forest!

This is my favourite version. Its haunting but lovely. Isn't Photoshop amazing if you learn how to use it well?

This is my favourite version. Its haunting but lovely. Isn’t Photoshop amazing if you learn how to use it well?

In my first year of gardening I tried to create garden beds but the possums and wallabies caused them to be covered to the back gills with bird netting, wire, chook netting and sticks and although the harvest was pretty good, most of it went to seed as the cruel irony of all of my protective devices was that “I” couldn’t get into there either! Year 2 saw us with Sanctuary but my “get-up-and-go” had gotten up and went. I wasn’t in the mood to vegetable garden and it was only through my friend Jenny and our compost heap contents that anything grew in Sanctuary at all. We shall call it “The year of the pumpkin” for that very reason and the pumpkins took over and ruled the bit of Sanctuary that the possums couldn’t reach. The possums ate everything green as well as quite a few pumpkins and until we managed to completely stop them from gaining entry, they had free reign. Not THIS YEAR possums! This year Sanctuary has been fortified with plastic coated wire clothes line. It looks like a green oasis of possum envy and I have had the incredibly satisfying experience of planting out citrus trees, seedlings and all sorts of berry bushes underneath a sea of seething and most envious possum activity. I know they are up there because their little deposits are fertilising Sanctuary 😉

 

Steve's prototype most awesome new Christmas tree. We haven't sprayed it green yet but it has spacers between the "limbs" and we can move the limbs around to wherever we like

Steve’s prototype most awesome new Christmas tree. We haven’t sprayed it green yet but it has spacers between the “limbs” and we can move the limbs around to wherever we like

And one of the best bits (the bit that makes Steve call this his "Ikea" Christmas tree) is that it folds flat for under bed storage for the rest of the year! :)

And one of the best bits (the bit that makes Steve call this his “Ikea” Christmas tree) is that it folds flat for under bed storage for the rest of the year! 🙂

I have been experimenting by planting things like silverbeet, spinach and the odd Roselle directly into small heaps that I have put compost on one side of and spent horse manure and lots of oak leaves on the other. I learned that a big pile of well-aged horse manure is like gloriously fertile soil to most plants. I also learned it dries out pretty quickly though so adding extra’s to it is part and parcel of working with this wonderful medium. Enter the oak leaf mould and the compost. My experiments have me seeing if adding compost to the higher side of the pile (everything is on a degree of slope on Serendipity Farm aka “Slippery Slope” Farm 😉 ) will cause nutrient run off down to the rest of the pile. I have 3 smallish piles in between all of the citrus trees as I know that they are heavy feeders and I am attempting to kill a whole mess of birds with a single stone. I have a very large compost heap full of compost, horse manure, oak leaves and a lot of dried grass from Glad’s back paddock next door, on the other side of Sanctuary in which a small but most determined crew of red and yellow raspberries is going it’s best to take over the world. I know that they won’t be able to achieve world domination because they have an even bigger and more determined patch of Jerusalem artichokes surrounding them to get through before they can conquer Sanctuary. “Good luck with that raspberries!”

Jenny's raspberries that grew from a single raspberry plant that she planted last year (note to self WATCH those raspberries inside Sanctuary! ;) )

Jenny’s raspberries that grew from a single raspberry plant that she planted last year (note to self WATCH those raspberries inside Sanctuary! 😉 )

Everything eats Jenny's plants but what they don't eat I pay close attention to. If they don't eat it at Jenny's place, there is a very good chance that they won't eat it here! Guess who is about to buy some dianthus...

Everything eats Jenny’s plants but what they don’t eat I pay close attention to. If they don’t eat it at Jenny’s place, there is a very good chance that they won’t eat it here! Guess who is about to buy some dianthus…

And some penstemons...

And some penstemons…

And How about elderberries. Jenny has a particularly nice selection of these beauties. Nothing eats them because aside from the fruit they are completely poisonous :)

And How about elderberries. Jenny has a particularly nice selection of these beauties. Nothing eats them because aside from the fruit they are completely poisonous 🙂

The excitement of propagation has returned and poor Steve had to dig a “root growth zone” (aka “hole”) for me to plant out a new Emperor mandarin that our friend Jenny gave us to add to our growing collection. She has also gifted us a couple of cherry trees as the native wild life at her home just hoover anything fruity down. We are working on creating a Mediterranean garden for her as they won’t touch figs, quinces etc. and so I am thinking that the best bet for her is to plant what the possums can’t stand. You have to work within the parameters that your situation hands you sometimes and then when you have the basics set up, you can start fandangling with the principle of the thing. That’s how we gardeners roll. We are never happy to call it quits because there is always something new around the corner that piques our interest.

A lovely rose at Jenny's house

A lovely rose at Jenny’s house

And the reason why it is still alive ;)

And the reason why it is still alive 😉

We visited Jenny yesterday and gave her a sack of small agapanthus that we crowbarred up from near our front gate. When we were studying our Diploma in Landscape Design we had to come up with a plan each for a Design and we ended up using Jenny’s place as our Design. We came up with a lovely rosemary, lavender and agapanthus series of low hedges surrounding a potager style garden full of things that possums and wallabies and rabbits (and now native crayfish!) wouldn’t like to eat. It was a challenge but the real challenge is that Jenny wants to actually create this garden for reals! So thus finds us crowbarring up agapanthus babies for the near future and sharing the things that we can and can’t grow between us. It is awesome having a good friend who just “gets” us and our crazy desire to be plant slaves and to be like Dr Frankenstein when it comes to grafting all kinds of strange things onto other strange things (cue the thunder, lightning and crazy laughter…)

Lambs ear and (the dreaded) osteospermum daisies and wallflowers. There are a lot of plants that our native animals find unpalatable, I just have to find out which ones they are and plant them :)

Lambs ear and (the dreaded), Arbutilons,  osteospermum daisies and wallflowers. There are a lot of plants that our native animals find unpalatable, I just have to find out which ones they are and plant them 🙂

This is what happens when Jenny tries to plant out fruit trees...

This is what happens when Jenny tries to plant out fruit trees…

The old "stuffed toy to scare the natives away" obviously doesn't work ;)

The old “stuffed toy to scare the natives away” obviously doesn’t work 😉

Visiting friends has benefits, especially when they don't like broad beans :)

Visiting friends has benefits, especially when they don’t like broad beans 🙂

Oh dear. I have manically arrived at a long blog post again. I can’t say that I am sorry as I am not. I love sharing what excites me with you all. Pretty soon you will get to see what has been keeping Stevie-boy and I busy for the last few months (well Stevie-boy for a weekend or two and me for about 3 months now!) in the gifting arena. I would like to thank both of our daughters for giving us all this challenge as we have both learned SO much from having to adapt what they like to what we are capable of creating. ALL kinds of lessons learned, challenges raised to meet and exciting possibilities arising thanks to this desire to stop Christmas from turning into a series of gift voucher or cash handouts. Let’s all take Christmas back this year folks. It doesn’t have to be a commercial crazy rush of cash flowing out of your account/cards, it can be carefully thought out and meticulously planned but if you don’t end up feeling like you have taken part, what’s the point? Lets take Christmas (whatever it means to you) back from the middle men and place it firmly in the creative bent of our own little hot hands. I know that Stevie-boy has had a lot of fun creating our latest “Christmas tree” and that we are creating all of our own decorations this year. That’s how you feel “Christmassy”…Christmas is in the processes, the lead up, the wonder of creation and the enjoyment of sharing a good meal with good friends and family. Being thankful for the year that has past, the year that is about to hit us (EEK!) and being grateful, thankful and most joyful for our continued existence on this small blue planet navigating it’s way around a small bright star somewhere out there in this wide expanse of a universe. See you all next week 🙂

I will leave you with a parting shot of Serendipity Farm on the first official day of summer just to make you Northerners feel a bit happier about your own bad weather ;)

I will leave you with a parting shot of Serendipity Farm on the first official day of summer just to make you Northerners feel a bit happier about your own bad weather 😉

Just a quick note, next week I will be in Hobart with my 2 daughters getting ready to attend a Ben Folds concert (“SQUEE!”) my Christmas gift from my daughters so Stevie-boy will be left to hold the fort and will be responsible for next weeks blog post. He has just informed me that he wants to write next weeks blog post. You can be assured it will be smaller than my usual blog posts ;).

 

For those of us left behind when friends move on

Hi All,

2 years ago we noticed a moving van backing up to one of the houses on one of our walks. When we were walking back we noticed a large Rottweiler standing on the deck and we christened the new neighbourhood dog “Thundercles”. Thundercles barked at us whenever we would walk past the house and our boys would eagerly jump up and down and greet Thundercles excitedly from the wings and even though we didn’t know Thundercle’s humans, we made a pact to always make sure that if we ever ran into them walking Thundercles that we would walk the other way or head up a driveway. Our boys plus Thundercles would probably be a disaster akin only to a major cyclone hitting the coast. We vowed to do our level best to maintain our distance from Thundercles…

"Thundercles" on "his" deck. I would bark as well if I was protecting a view like that ;)

“Thundercles” on “his” deck. I would bark as well if I was protecting a view like that 😉

Mieka :)

Mieka 🙂

And thus it went on. Occasionally we would see Thundercle’s and owners walking in the distance and we would hurriedly make plans for our escape. We weren’t the only ones. Obviously Thundercle’s owners were just as eager to maintain the distance/Status Quo, and we would catch glimpses of them high-tailing it up driveways, into the church and up side roads in order to let us pass. We did this for six months until one day it was just Earl and I walking and we ran into Thundercle’s and his female owner on a stretch of road where no-one could escape. What were we going to do? I called out that Earl was good with other dogs and Thundercle’s owner called back that maybe they should meet? I was a bit worried. Earl loves all dogs but Thundercle’s was doing cartwheels and I really didn’t know how this would go. I shouldn’t have worried. Earl sat down and ignored Thundercle’s efforts to engage him which calmed Thundercle’s down immensely and we decided to walk together back home…

The great and magestic Earl surveying his wood box. We have NO idea why, but sometimes Earl likes to get into the wood box and dig... we don't ask...

The great and magestic Earl surveying his wood box. We have NO idea why, but sometimes Earl likes to get into the wood box and dig… we don’t ask…

Jan gave us a small outdoor table and chairs that we now sit on our deck with and have our tea and coffee. Earl gave up on the woodbox and moved to higher ground.

Jan gave us a small outdoor table and chairs that we now sit on our deck with and have our tea and coffee. Earl gave up on the woodbox and moved to higher ground.

Thus began a most interesting relationship. We learned that Thundercle’s was a girl! Earl and Mieka became firm friends. She and Bezial were not as easy with each other but they did have their moments of happy frolicking and after a while we settled into walking three times a week (and more if we ran into each other) with Mieka and Jan. We eventually met Peter, Jan’s brother, and we all hit it off. We would drop back to Jan’s house for a cup of tea/coffee before heading back home and as we walked and sipped we learned about each other and a friendship blossomed.

Inherited furniture prior to moving it into the house

Inherited furniture prior to moving it into the house

A 2 seater lounge as well as a 2 seater sofa bed and a treadmill for Earl's winter exercise (HA!) in the shed as they wouldn't fit in the house

A 2 seater lounge as well as a 2 seater sofa bed and a treadmill for Earl’s winter exercise (HA!) in the shed as they wouldn’t fit in the house

This week has seen us doing our best to help Jan and Peter pack up their lives and move from Tasmania back to N.S.W. The move to N.S.W. is only for 5 days however and is in order to deposit a shipping container load of “life” to a couple of storage units and then they are off to start a new life in Germany. Stevie-boy has played a big part in the moving bit and I have been keeping the home fires burning and cooking up a storm so that Jan didn’t have to worry about food in the mania that was packing. I hate packing up and moving on. Moving is in the top 5 stressful list, right after death of someone you love and divorce. I am inclined to agree and am quite sure that all of the moving that I did in my first marriage may just have contributed to that first divorce.

New 8 seater kitchen table that looks like it has always been in our house

New 8 seater kitchen table that looks like it has always been in our house

How many of us would be brave enough to pack up their lives into a few storage containers and head off into the great unknown in order to take a chance at a new life? I love my little patch of the world and am enjoying festooning it with narfish festoonings at the moment. Come Christmas this year and it will be positively festooned out the wazoo, but to grab my hat and coat, lock the front door and leave it all behind for a dream? Not sure I would be brave enough to do that. If it meant that I had to drop Bezial and Earl off to strangers I know that my initial bravery would crumble and die. Jan took a trip last week to meet the people that she is going to drop her gorgeous girl Mieka off to today when the ferry lands in Victoria. How brave do you have to be to leave someone behind?

I wonder when the monks are going to want their temple door back?

I wonder when the monks are going to want their temple door back?

Life is a series of choices and it’s our choices that make us who we are. Jan and Peter have had to make some serious choices in order to pursue their dream of starting a business in Germany. In the process they have had to pare away their past lives and give away a lot of their possessions in order to save money and make the process easier. We are not complaining because this process involved us absorbing the possessions that they had to shed. We now have a huge 8 seater table and chairs, a massive and most heavy Balinese coffee table that looks like monks sold off the monastery door after imbibing in too much of the happy juice once too often. We have delicious new bedside tables, lots of lamps, a treadmill for Earl to walk on in winter (HA!) and so much more. Steve’s shed is bursting at the seams with new/old tools and gardening equipment and my cleaning cupboard is about to explode. The fridge and freezer were bombarded and we won’t need to shop for a month. We could have started a second hand furniture shop with what we inherited and we are incredibly humbled and most grateful that Jan and Peter gave us what wouldn’t fit on their shipping container.

Our bed and the two bedside tables that we inherited

Our bed and the two bedside tables that we inherited

It got me to thinking about “moving” as more than just physical. 2 years ago, almost to the day of their move, Peter got divorced. The furniture that he gave us was tangled up with memories and now he is releasing those memories to the 4 winds in order to start out anew. We received little parcels of someone else’s life. Yesterday when we were unloading the trailer of “stuff” that they just couldn’t fit in the car, we inherited a tiny, ancient, German travel iron. I am guessing that it belonged to Jan’s mum. Our possessions reflect who we are. What we choose to keep reflects us more keenly and moving gives us a chance to re-evaluate and update ourselves accordingly. I can see why moving is numero “Tres” in the list of top stressors because it not only involves all of that hard work in packing up EVERYTHING and moving on, but it’s all those little things that accompany a move, changing addresses on all of your personal information, sorting everything out at both ends of the move from cutting ties at the first to sending out tendrils at the new.

Breakfast and coffee out on the deck on a gorgeous spring morning

Breakfast and coffee out on the deck on a gorgeous spring morning

Jan and Peter are being incredibly brave. We waved them off yesterday and they headed up to catch the ferry to head to the mainland. Peter had to sit in the back of the car covered in boxes and clothing that had to be crammed into the car. I dare say that small sedan weighs almost as much as a Mack truck there is so very much crammed into it. As I type this, they will probably be gearing up to land and start driving to take Mieka to her new home. I know that this will be the most stressful part of this whole move. Leaving someone behind, especially a most loved dog who adores you, is tantamount to losing a family member. Jan is doing the right thing by finding Mieka somewhere to live but in the process she has to lose her best friend. I, personally, couldn’t do it. I am NOT brave enough and my dreams are all simple and small and involve me and Stevie-boy and our 2 mutts tumbling around in various states of emotional tussles on this little patch of God’s own earth. To leave our dogs? Nope. Aint happening.

Look at my magnificent artichoke! It must be almost 10 feet tall and growing!

Look at my magnificent artichoke! It must be almost 10 feet tall and growing!

After Jan leaves Mieka at her new home it’s a 14 hour drive to a storage unit in order to meet the shipping container. They then have one and a half hours to unpack the storage container (which took Stevie-boy the whirlwind 2 days to pack) before it has to be removed. Any extra time taken means a most significant rise in the cost of the removal. Then they have 4 days to get the unit packed, sort out everything else that needs to be sorted and next week they are winging their way to Germany and their second winter of the year. We would have walked with Jan and Mieka today and our dogs will pull furiously towards their old home whenever we walk in that direction. We are heading to the beach today in order to avoid that tugging and those reminders that our friends are no longer there.

And I have artichoke futures! :)

And I have artichoke futures! 🙂

Social media means that we can keep in touch. We have “things” that we are attempting to sell on Gumtree for Jan and Peter. Things that would have had to be thrown out as they don’t know anyone else here in Tasmania (they lived here for 2 years). We hope we made the load of moving lighter with our efforts to help and we wish them a most wonderful new life with all the good fortune in the world. Did I mention that Jan is 63 and Peter is 53? Again I marvel at their tenacity to take a chance like this and uproot their lives to chase a dream when most of us “Middle agers” are digging in our heels and settling our roots for the long haul.

This is the main reason why we had to fully enclose our vegetable garden. This is my ex magnificent artichoke, snapped off at the base by possum invasion :( Sadness, thy name is narf :(

This is the main reason why we had to fully enclose our vegetable garden. This is my ex magnificent artichoke, snapped off at the base by possum invasion 😦 Sadness, thy name is narf 😦

These are wallabies. Big Wal and Little Wal according to Steve. They live on our property and the tyres protected my artichoke from their nibbling but couldn't protect it from the possums aerial activity.

These are wallabies. Big Wal and Little Wal according to Steve. They live on our property and the tyres protected my artichoke from their nibbling but couldn’t protect it from the possums aerial activity.

I have bruises on my hips from banging into the new dining table in the dark. I am not used to navigating its girth in my early morning narf hikes to the kitchen. I have a bruise on my shin from the new coffee table and my first up visit to pat a snoozing Bezial on the couch. He sleeps in the lounge room, doing his duty as night time watchman. Earl takes up in the day, Bezial takes the night. We are protected 24/7. Most of the time Bezial toddles off to take up my warm spot offering in our bed when I get up. Not today. Too much happened yesterday and he is playing his cards close to his chest and beady eyes are watching me surreptitiously from the couch as I type in the dark on a Wednesday morning. Moving affects so many things including friends you leave behind. Bezial and Earl are going to miss their friend Mieka. She is the only dog that they regularly play with and walk with three times a week. Now it is just us, and them. I am hoping we are enough.

Steve's pizza he arrived back home to eat at 8pm after spending a full day last week packing the shipping container. He had already delivered Jan and Peter's bigger pizza. I also cooked a huge quiche but forgot to take any photos. They were most appreciated

Steve’s pizza he arrived back home to eat at 8pm after spending a full day last week packing the shipping container. He had already delivered Jan and Peter’s bigger pizza. I also cooked a huge quiche but forgot to take any photos. They were most appreciated

When friends move away it leaves an empty spot. Where habit and lifestyles collide a new routine needs to be created. We can walk further afield now. Jan didn’t like walking Mieka on busy roads. Our boys are used to trucks and cars and city walking and so we can now change our modus operandi to incorporate new walks. Our boys are always up for new walks. Not so sure that “I” am up for their enthusiastic enjoyment of new walks, but like most things in life I try to look for the silver lining and I am calling this “my new gym workout”. Forget personal trainers, Earl is the toughest personal trainer around. I mean, who else would push a 51 year old woman to run down a 45 degree slope backwards, jump over a metre high fence, somersault upside down in mid run and hop and jump up and down maniacally in order to avoid colliding with rocks and low shrubs? If I wasn’t so exhausted at the end of every walk I would probably feel the need to pay him for increasing my fitness.

A most freaky sunburst on a very overcast day.

A most freaky sunburst on a very overcast day.

The freaky sunburst (no sun visible) and a rainbow. VERY strange light.

The freaky sunburst (no sun visible) and a rainbow. VERY strange light.

We meet people in our lives in order to change our point of view, to learn from them, to grow and to teach us how to share our lives and our hopes and dreams. When they leave it makes us think about our own priorities and hopes and dreams and we can clarify who and what we are in comparison. We are both very glad that Earl and Thundercles met way back last year and that we forged our friendship with Peter and Jan through our dogs. You just never know where life will take you if you take a chance…

Whenever someone goes away, we head to the sea.  The sea is a very soothing place to be apart from for Earl, who slipped off the jetty and ended up swimming for his life ;)

Whenever someone goes away, we head to the sea. The sea is a very soothing place to be apart from for Earl, who slipped off the jetty and ended up swimming for his life 😉

This is the jetty that Earl slid in the algae and dove gracefully into the briny sea. I had to haul him out as he dogpaddled furiously. Earl doesn't like getting wet. Earl got VERY wet ;)

This is the jetty that Earl slid in the algae and dove gracefully into the briny sea. I had to haul him out as he dogpaddled furiously. Earl doesn’t like getting wet. Earl got VERY wet 😉

Update: We got a text at 11am from Jan saying that Mieka is now living in Victoria and went to work with her new owner this morning. We are very glad that her meeting with her new family and 2 blue heeler brothers went well.

 

Friends :)

Friends 🙂

Narf7 bakes bread and loses a leg

Hi All,

Today we are going to take a little bit of an aside from my usual blog post format. Firstly, I didn’t lose a leg…I was just borrowing a quote from “Father Ted”. I have been communicating with a lovely lady in the U.K. called Joanne who hosts the wonderful blog “Zeb Bakes”. I found Joanne’s blog through a compilation bread blog site called http://www.wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/ that is one of the most incredible places to find just about any “bread” you could possibly want. Joanne posts some of her wonderful homemade breads to this site and that’s how I met her…through some of my exuberant comments to her blog.

http://zebbakes.com/2013/08/10/date-syrup-kefir-bread/

And here’s a follow up post for anyone wanting to try the recipe but who wanted to only bake a single loaf…Joanne is such a thorough and caring person when it comes to her blog followers…

http://zebbakes.com/2013/09/08/post-script-date-kefir-loaves/

This kefir raised bread couldn’t have come at a better time. I pulled Audrey, my sourdough starter, out of the fridge to feed her and discovered that she had decided to commit suicide. Rather than a yeasty scented mass of dough, she had gone belly up and was exhibiting a scent wholly unbecoming of a sourdough starter. R.I.P. Audrey, I did you wrong. I also found out that starters aren’t meant to be kept in fridges for extended periods of time and you are supposed to feed them regularly…that would be more than once a month…sigh…”BAD NARF7!”…I am a murderer! I tipped the squalid remains into the compost bucket where her now green and fuzzy remains will add a new suite of organisms to the resulting compost. I was just getting my head around the thought that I was going to have to make a new sourdough starter when along came Joanne with “The Recipe”…

I had asked Joanne about “Date syrup” a product that she had discussed in a post because I had never heard of it. I make date paste to use instead of refined sugar and after talking to Joanne a bit we started discussing kefir etc. Joanne posted the following post about using kefir to raise bread rather than using sourdough starter or a commercial dried/fresh yeast. I got VERY excited about this idea because I make kefir regularly using homemade organic soymilk sweetened with homemade date paste. I found that my kefir grains (sent to me by one “Rabid Little Hippy” who gets a HUGE hug across The Tasman for being so babelicious and such a generous blogger) adore the sugar in the date paste and I can tweak the fermentation of the kefir by the amount of date paste I choose to add. I have also experimented using other sweeteners and can’t see why using something like coconut sugar or rice syrup wouldn’t give you a similar result. Bread can also be baked with water kefir so I decided that I was going to give it the old college try and attempt to bake a loaf or two…

Joanne is an amazing blogger. Not only did she give us this wonderful recipe to tinker with, she actually wants us to get stuck in and inject our own take on the recipe. She tried making a gluten free variety but it didn’t work and asked if I would have a go at making a non-dairy version for people who either choose not to have dairy or simply can’t…there are a lot of us out there. I have linked to Joanne’s Post so that you can all go to her wonderful site and see it in person…she even gives you a PDF download of the recipe! Sorry guys, I am not quite up to that yet but give me a few years and you never know…at the moment, the best I can do is take Joanne’s recipe and add myself to it. I have bolded Joanne’s instructions in ”parenthesis” so that you know when I am quoting her wise words…the stupid words are entirely of my own design so please don’t judge Joanne for them, I take full responsibility ;). I am going to post my images here in a slideshow format. They start at the point where I had mixed the preferment ingredients together and end with the final bread. The last few images are of the bread the following day just before Steve made heavenly smelling toast with it…all in all this bread is wonderful and it won’t be the last time narf7 bakes it.

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Narf7 Bakes Date Paste Non-Dairy Kefir Bread

(This is where Joanne had put “Started” and had given the time she assembled the preferment) Started – err…no idea really but it was before lunch time and after breakfast so that narrows it down a bit for all of you bread detectives out there ;). The room temperature was reasonably cool here in Tasmania but we do have Brunhilda, our large wood fired oven slowly ticking over all day and so I would imagine the room temperature would have been around 20C.

Make a preferment with: –

  • 150g room temperature water. I used rain water
  • 200g fresh kefir which I make with homemade organic soy milk to which I add homemade date paste (I soak a packet of dried dates in boiling water to cover and once the dates are soft, I puree them to a smooth paste in a blender. To 1 ½ litres of homemade soymilk I add 300g of homemade date paste and this is the basic food for my kefir grains to feed on). Note, you can use mature water kefir in this recipe as well. Not sure how it goes but Joanne mentioned that another blogger that she knows of has made bread with it so it is possible. Mine was “milk” kefir though so don’t quote me on it 😉
  • 250g strong (bread) flour. I used regular strong white bread flour from a local Tasmanian flour mill
  • 50g extra date paste

“Mix these well together and leave in a covered bowl for approximately 18 hours in a warm room (20 – 22 C)  at which point it should be bubbling and thick and looking ready to go.” Note – I put the mix on a proofing rack over Brunhilda to make sure it bubbled enough but prior to putting it on the proofing rack it was bubbling albeit a bit slowly so I would imagine it would just take a little bit longer at a colder room temperature. Kefir keeps fermenting even when stored in the fridge and I have to open the lid of the container of fermented kefir that I keep in the fridge to make sure the lid doesn’t blow off.

Ingredients for the final dough:-

  • All of the preferment (as above)
  • 850g bread flour. I used the same white strong bread flour as I used in the preferment
  • 282g  water (again, rainwater)
  • 20g salt (I used sea salt)
  • 30g melted butter
  1. Using a Kenwood Mixer I put the starter in first, added the water and then the flours and mixed for about three minutes on the lowest speed. I did this too but my mixer isn’t a Kenwood and it started to list sideways somewhat alarmingly midway through the process so I decided to hand mix the dough from that point on.
  2. Leave to develop in the bowl for 20 minutes. I covered the bowl with cling wrap for the duration.
  3. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and trickle the melted butter in while the mixer is going and continue mixing till the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Again, my mixer had a bit of a hard time with this dough and after allowing it to dance across the counter for a bit, I liberated the dough and hand kneaded it for a short while to make sure the butter and salt were evenly distributed.
  4. You may need to adjust the dough with more water if your flour is very absorbent. Mine wasn’t and the proportions above were just fine.
  5. 5.       (If you mix by hand then go with a more traditional order of ingredients, i.e. mix the water and starter together and add these into your bowl of flour.)
  6. I will let Joanne talk you through the next bit because I had never done this before…”I took the dough out once it was reasonably developed and put it into a big bowl, covered with a tea towel, and left it for about three hours. During this time I folded it in the bowl twice, as much to see how the fermentation was progressing as anything. Folding in the bowl is simply picking up the dough from one side and pulling it out and over the main bulk of the dough, like light kneading except you don’t put it on a board. You can put it on a board. There are no rules here!” I followed Joanne’s instructions to a “T” and figured that I would fold the dough once an hour and each time I folded the dough back onto itself, it had risen double, and I took this as a very good sign!
  7. Again, Joanne is the real bread baker here so once again I will let her talk you through this next bit…”Once it was showing good signs of activity and had increased in size by roughly a half. I weighed it into two equal portions.  Then I split those two portions in the ratio 85:15 using the % function on my scales. If you don’t have one of those, it would be about 135g for the small ball to 765g for the main ball.
  8. 8.       With the first portion I made a boule which I divided into four quartiles with a thin dowel rod and made a smaller boule with the small ball and put that in the middle.
  9. 9.       With the second portion I made a pointy ended baton and then a plait with the remaining ball which I placed along the top of the dough – because the dough had such a long second prove this didn’t come out quite as I had hoped but I like the effect that it gives anyway. A good way to create a nice looking effect on a loaf if you are finding slashing difficult.
  10. I put both loaves on baking paper on trays and tucked them inside clean bin liners to prove.” You can tell that Joanne is a real baker, I attempted to put my bread on a baking tray but realised that I had no way of stopping it for sticking to the bin liner so ended up putting it into 2 bread tins rather than have to fall on the ground twitching when the top of the bread stuck to the bin liner and deflated alarmingly (“FOOL ME ONCE BREAD DOUGH!”…)
  11. Second proof time was about three hours. Be patient, these are just as slow as a more traditional sourdough to rise. I need to point out here that my bread took less time to proof. For some reason it rose fast and it rose incredibly well. Just as good as any regular yeasted bread that I have made in the past. Proofing it on the bread rack over Brunhilda may have had something to do with it but who knows…I was just happy that all of the steps were going like clockwork and I wasn’t going to stick a spoke in any wheels just to ask questions 😉
  12. 12.   Egg-wash the crust with a mixture of egg yolk and kefir whey and sprinkled a few sesame seeds on top for interest.
  13. 13.   Here’s what Joanne said…”Bake in a preheated oven (with steam) either on the trays or slide them off onto a baking stone or kiln shelf which is what I use rather than a stone.” I just put the bread tins into the oven…no steam, no smoke, no whistles, no bells just a hot oven.
  14. “Starting at 220 ºC for the first twenty minutes and then dropping back by stages to 190 ºC for the last ten minutes of the bake.  About 40 – 45 minutes in all.” We had been stoking the fire to make it get hotter and inevitably the oven that we had the bread in kept getting hotter and we had to put the bread into one of the cooler ovens (I have 4 ovens to choose from in various stages of “hot”, how spoiled am I?) but the damage was already done and the bread top was a little “over-caramelised” but not beyond saving in the photo-shoot (and that’s all that really matters right food bloggers? 😉 )
  15. “Leave to cool on a rack as normal once you are satisfied the loaf is cooked; a nice hollow sound when you thump it is a good sign.” Being a natural fuss-budget I wasn’t entirely satisfied that it was cooked and tossed the loaves back into the oven for 5 minutes upside down once I took them out of the bread tin. It was probably overkill in hind sight but I wanted my bread to be a success…I had a lot riding on this.
  16. Wait till the bread is cool before cutting it.

Or if you are Steve and I, you will cut it when it is hot, soak it liberally in butter and Steve will eat 4 slices just before his tea and will feed a further 2 slices dripping in butter to the slavering hounds waiting below…we are ALL class here on Serendipity Farm. I am sure that most of you will have the diplomacy and willpower to wait until the bread is merely lukewarm before descending on it like wolves but whatchagonnado? My excuse is that I wanted to take photos of the crumb…it’s MY excuse and I am sticking with it! ;). The bread was amazing…the bread rose beautifully with no added yeast aside from the kefir whatsoever…the bread was almost textbook wonderful to bake and I couldn’t believe that I was able to replicate this amazingness being that the baking conditions were almost certainly directly inverse to those that Joanne’s dairy kefir were subject to. Let me clarify it a little bit further…

  1. Joanne is a wonderful bread baker and I am a bread plebeian
  2. Joanne used dairy kefir and I used something strange that I keep making because I SWEAR it is alcoholic (“HIC!”)
  3. Joanne is at the tail end of summer and Narf7 is on the tail end of winter
  4. Joanne created a wonderful recipe that anyone can follow and that a bread idiot couldn’t stuff up (I know they can’t, because I didn’t 😉 ) and I am waffling in excited stanza’s that are probably confusing any poor wayfaring baker from the ether beyond belief
  5. Joanne gave you a PDF…I am not even going to PRETEND to know how to do that so my regulars can just do one of two things “forgedaboudit” or “head over to Joanne’s blog and get yourself that delightful PDF and revel in its amazingness like I did when I downloaded it”
  6. Joanne cared enough about her blog followers to do a follow up post that clarified any issues in the first post and that gave interested people a choice whether or not to bake 2 loaves (the original recipe) or reduce the recipe down to 1. I won’t be offering you the same courtesy folks. It isn’t because I don’t love you all, it’s because why would I try to tweak perfection? Just head over to Zeb Bakes and check it out there.

Joanne, as a well-known bunch of geriatric Aussie rockers with a Scottish lead singer would sing loudly and proudly, “for those about to rock…we SALUTE YOU!”. You both “rock” and deserve my “salutations”. Please consider this most pathetic husk of a blog post that isn’t even worthy to crawl on its belly next to your post, a humble experiment designed to be for the greater good. Your recipe is great…mine was good. From this point on I can refine this bread. I can tweak it and mess about with it and I can include bread in my diet once more and for this, I owe you so much more than a bit of experimentation. Thank you for sharing this recipe and for allowing us free reign to tinker with it…consider it non-dairy tinkered and I offer the torch up to braver bloggers than I am to run with the Gluten Free recipe because that is a step too far for one Narf7 to take folks!

Here endeth the post…that’s it, that’s all folks…you can all go home now and revel in the fact that you can make bread WITHOUT ADDING SOURDOUGH OR COMMERCIAL YEAST. Yup…my job here…is DONE! :o)…except for today’s word cloud that is…here it is folks in all it’s bready goodness for you to enjoy…

Nondairy kefir bread blog post