Of Ferments, Foments, Fizzing Synapses and the odd good book

Hi All

I have noticed that a lot of the blogs that I am following are starting to delve into the subject of thrift and frugality. As a penniless student horticultural hippy I am more than aware of the value of thrift and am not only immersing myself in thrifty pastimes but am incredibly excited and rewarded by finding as many ways to live as frugally as possible as I can. I spend a lot of time hunting out how to do things myself. I decided that my “special” thing would be that I knew stuff. Not anything that would get me that million dollars on a game show but useful stuff like how to make milk out of nuts, how to start a fire with knicker elastic and a stick and how to approach a grumpy dog without having your jugular ripped out…you know…”useful” stuff.

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Thinking about cutting my long hair short…I reckon I would look just like Audrey Hepburn…

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See…EXACTLY THE SAME! Told you so 🙂

I think that the power of not being wealthy is that you have to learn to rely on your wits to get you what you want. You have to learn to plan, to organise, to save up and to find alternative ways to get to your goals. I also think the most important thing about being on a low income is how you look at your situation. Steve and I might be living below the poverty line but we certainly don’t feel poor. We manage the money that we do receive well and I feel positively rich. I was gifted a good education (what price that?!) and am able to head to my local library and find books on almost anything I need to know. Whenever I want to find out how to do something I can head straight to the internet and there will be a tutorial or pdf somewhere with my name on it that will give me the information that I need to know for the task.

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That innocuous little pile of “stuff” in the shadows there is netting that we cut to start the long and laborious process of covering our garden bed

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My able assistant showing you how we have to unroll the massive heavy (did I say HEAVY?!) rolls of rainwater soaked fish-farm netting so it could dry out enough for us to cut it in half to use to cover the top of our fully enclosed veggie garden

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I am not just performing my morning Tai-chi routine here folks…I am tying up hundreds of metres of nylon rope in the hope that it will hold up the weight of the heavy fish farm netting

Steve and I are both problem solvers. We are diametrically opposed in just about everything and even that has its benefits…we tend to be able to see all sides of a problem (when we can stop bickering enough to unite our efforts that is 😉 ) and usually, not always, we can nut out a way to at least stem the tide till we can afford to do the job properly. I have a bucket list of wants. At the apex is a wind turbine, closely followed by a HUGE rainwater storage tank. After that I have various smaller wants that mostly revolve around us doing things, planting, plotting and most importantly “DOING”. The numero uno of everything that matters.

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“Check it out Leroy!” part 1 of 3…

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You can see it better from directly underneath this  portion…16m long and 5.5m wide (remember this is only one third of the total size of this MASSIVE great garden area. You can see the old veggie gardens dwarfed underneath this part of the garden

As a seeker of the truth of useful stuff I have a most amazing series of hard-drives cram packed to the brim with what I have found. I have been doing this for years and it’s only comparatively recently that I have started to put what I have learned into practice. Jo, from “All the blue day” recently asked her readers how they had been living more frugally. I commented but it got me thinking about what we do, that we no longer even think about that is frugal. I like to make as much as I can from scratch. That makes good business sense to me. Take out that useless middle man (BASTARD!) and you are left with a lot more money in your pocket so narf7 is on a mission to cure her penniless condition by making as much as she can out from raw materials and recycled “stuff” herself (and apparently talking in the third person makes it even better…)

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I found a very clever idea on Pinterest for half burying wine and beer bottles in the ground upside down for a most aesthetically pleasing and thoroughly sustainable garden bed. “STEEEEVE…GET DRINKING!” 😉

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Some of the seeds that we bought today to start planting out in our veggie garden as soon as we get it under cover and the beds sorted

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A selection of little babies to go into the garden…can you see their little smiling faces? No? Well you aren’t looking hard enough then! Picking up tomatoes and eggplants next week as we like to plant them straight into the garden as soon as possible

I make my own sesame milk for my tea. I used to make almond milk but almonds are expensive and so I started to do a few experiments and sesame milk is my new go-to milk sweetened with a little homemade date paste to give it a rough approximation of regular milk in tea. Aside from that I now culture kefir and kombucha, both of which add valuable probiotics into my non-dairy diet. I can make a very good approximation of yoghurt out of seeds and nuts but now I am delving deeper and have found that I can make a tangy cheese out of cooked beans and my spent sesame seed husks from making milk when cultured with a bit of non-dairy kefir tastes amazing when you dip raw apple slices in it. I am UBER excited about the fermentation process and how invisible industrious little critters can be beavering away in the background making our food digestible. By the way, did you know that our bodies contain more microbes than cells?

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I buy raw buckwheat kernel’s so that I can process it freshly as and when I want buckwheat porridge for my breakfast. That way it is both cheaper and better for me as the nutrients are retained inside the grain. In the background you can see a little bowl of soaking soy beans for my homemade organic soymilk kefir.

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I used the last of Brunhilda’s winter latent heat to cook all of these dried, pre-soaked beans so that I would have some beany material to experiment with over the next few weeks. I am going to perfect making fermented beans to add even more probiotics to my already seething bacteria laden body 😉

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Sometimes my endeavours to make everything myself backfires…

I also attempt to grow as much of what we eat as possible. Living 50km away from the city we shop once a fortnight and we shop well and if we run out…too bad. We are in the process of attempting to grow a food forest on Serendipity Farm to shore our future but the “penniless” bit gets in the way somewhat. Where regular people head out to the nearest Bunning’s we have to get clever. That’s where 4 years of horticulture and decades of watching my mum and Grandma take cuttings, grow from seed and just generally “make a garden from bugger all” comes in. We have figs, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, avocados, carob trees and lots of other food bearing shrubs that we have grown from seed or cuttings. Sometimes if you want something you have to go about getting it another way than the accepted norm. There is usually a way to get what you want but you might just have to think outside that box or learn to do things yourself or stand on your head to see things from a different perspective to get it

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Last years cuttings and seeds that are this years transplants into our garden. Learning how to grow your own food and plants is a fantastic idea if you are monetarily challenged

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Our friend who used to be in the witness protection but who outed herself and became “Jenny” gave us a stack of raspberry canes and 2 Marion berries today from her garden to transplant into our garden. Aren’t good friends wonderful? Jen has been our friend since we all did horticulture together in a local Polytechnic. She says that we are the only people that she would let into her house when it is messy (not that it ever is 😉 ) and the sentiment is mutual…THAT is friendship folks 🙂

If we need something we try to make it out of something that we already have. Enter Steve the amazing. I SWEAR his mum pinched him from a gypsy because this guy can MacGyver his way out of anything and can make pretty much whatever we need here with bits of wire, a bottle cap and some tree sap and what’s better…it lasts. Our temporary dog compound around the house to stop Bezial from wandering when we first moved here 3 years ago has stood the test of time. It holds Earl the fearless in and away from the feral cats that meow and spit at him through the gates so it must be strong. We are in the process of building a fully enclosed vegetable garden the size of a decent tennis court. Another means to an end. I also saw a lovely homemade basket woven willow cloche for preventing chooks from scoffing your preciouses that I am going to start making ASAP so that I can grow things in the garden again (who says Pinterest isn’t useful? 😉 )

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Despite Steve’s little joke with the sharp knife, this ISN’T what it looks like…no still beating heart was held for a single moment by this good vegan (can I still stay in the vegan confraternity this time?…Please?…) what you see before you is the squished husks of a couple of kilos of blackberries that we only remembered that we had when we were cleaning out our freezer in the shed. What to do with a couple of kilos of blackberries? Why make WINE of course!

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Part 2 of the wine making process. Part 1 was squish and soak in water for 24 hours…part 2 is where you sieve out the seeds and pulp over sugar into a sterilised container. Our container is somewhat larger than this small batch of wine needed but we are ever hopeful that one day we WILL fill a container and the “craic” will go on for weeks!

I make bread and just about everything else that we eat here from scratch. The more you bake/make it the better you get at it. I sub a lot of vegetarian options to reduce costs because meat is expensive and Steve could care less because the things that we cook taste delicious with or without meat. It’s all about sauces, spices, herbs and finding the right flavour bases (which we also make ourselves). We are not scared to delve into other cuisines and have found a wealth of amazing recipes, techniques and food ingredients this way. My current adoration of fermentation came from messing around with ferments myself but then reading about homemade miso, tempeh etc. and learning that fermented soy products are the only healthy way to consume soy…and why stop at fermenting soy? Just about every bean, grain, fruit and vegetable has some way to culture it and when you think of all of those little internal microbes you realise that adding a few more to the mix might just add something positive to the balance.

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“I Spy with my little eye…”

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“Itsy bitsy spider but she is flipping’ HUGE!” That will teach us to leave the fish-farm netting rolled up and out in the elements for months without touching it!

I spend a lot of time researching (from 3am till 7am) and then putting into practice what I have learned. I read a lot. I take books out of the library and read them. I am currently reading a book about creating gardens from bugger all (a good book indeed!) and the traditions of community when creating gardens. I am also reading Patty Smith’s autobiography and it’s an amazingly good read. I couldn’t tell you what she sang but I now know a whole lot more about this fascinating complex lady. Reading feeds your imagination and your soul. I am having some amazing dreams and remembering them now. Just needed to fire up the old brain box again 😉

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We took the dogs to the dog park. Note Bezial standing to the left doing NOTHING but sniff the same blade of grass for well over 15 minutes…may as well have a nap…

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Me attempting to stop one of the dogs noticing that this wonderful tree trunk is VERY close to the external fence and performing parkour moves before we could catch them…I don’t think that Beaconsfield is ready for Earl in full parkour

Our studies are also fermenting exciting possibilities. We now know how to knock together a rudimentary website. Nothing fancy at the moment but we are fast learners. Keep your eye on this space. We plan on turning Serendipity Farm into its own little blog space in good time. I am also getting a niggling feeling like I am neglecting our local community in all of this research. What if I was to start a group of like-minded people in the local area? Predominately we could get together over crafts at the local hall or perhaps we could form a baking circle? What about if we started a gardening group/club and shared our information and plant material? What about if I headed over to the local community centre and showed people how to do more with less? What if? What about? It all boils down to taking all of this amazing information and sharing it and THAT dear constant readers is what narf7 is all about. That’s what this blog is about. I have an omnipresent overwhelming NEED to share. I think I was born to share. Imagine how exciting a community of like-minded people could be? Take your stagnant little suspicious neighbourhood and turn it on to possibilities…Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is showing small communities how to get off the grid entirely with wind turbines…a large wind turbine is too expensive to even contemplate for a family… for a couple of families…but what about an entire community? Can you see the possibilities?

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This is the only way that Steve can get the dogs to run around in the dog park…note the bag of dog treats in his hand…

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You can see why these 2 are particularly active if you look to the right of this shot…sigh…

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Earl after running around like crazy, “smiling” up a storm

I am all about the excitement of new possibilities and not giving in to the depressing morass that society has found itself bogged down in lately. I am not an ostrich, I KNOW that we need to be aware of Global warming and the current crazed economic threat of world monetary collapse BUT I can’t personally “do” anything about that…I CAN show people how to do more with less. I vote with my feet and my moth filled wallet and I can learn to do more with less. So can you. Have a great rest of the week folks. Get stuck in to trying to do what you can with what you have. Make it a challenge, not a chore and see how your life and your degree of satisfaction increases exponentially with the results 🙂

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I just wanted to share a gorgeous image that my sister shared with me on Facebook. THIS is a life well lived folks and what I am aspiring to with not only my wonderful sister Pinky, but each and every one of my fantastic confraternity of prospective crones. A reprobated and bolshie old age to each and every one of you 🙂

Holy crap I turned into Denise Scott!

Hi All,

Did you all miss me on Saturday? Don’t tell fibs! You were all happy to get a solid 15 minutes to yourselves without having to wear a literary snorkel and come up for air at regular intervals thanks to my completely bolshie disregard for the use of correct grammar. Who needs commas and full stops when you can just go on…and on…and on… ;). I blame the liberal Australian school system in the 70’s where we were being used as experiments. I think my own personal school experience shows that liberalism DOESN’T pay! Glad they got over their need to go all existential on our young tender derrières and that a generation of 40 something’s (rapidly approaching 50 something’s) can’t spell or do complex maths.  Steve has been away and I have been left here to accomplish studying by myself. It was bound to end up in tears and with me almost burning down the house but he has NO-ONE but himself to blame, leaving a technophobic Luddite in charge of the computer. I spent all yesterday twiddling my thumbs and wandering around the house finding “other” things to do (remember, Pinterest was unavailable to me so whatchagonnadoeh?!) because when trying to follow our lecturers wonderful video of how to convert a video to Roto scoping, our Adobe tool to convert didn’t look like his and by the time I fiddled a bit I had rendered it completely different. I didn’t want to erase the program (also accidentally but there must be a bit of wishful thinking going on there 😉 ) so I had to leave it till Steve came back to sort it for me. I pride myself on being a pretty knowledgeable person but technology and “programs” in general leave me cold and twitching. I really can’t fathom how most of them work until I get practicing and I can’t practice on this one if I just stuffed it up! ;). The highly pathetic thing was that Steve got in, said “easy fix” and reset the program and showed me how simple it was to do what our lecturer’s vid wanted us to do. The problem was I am a creature of sequences…I am like the dreaded computer in that aspect (like repels? 😉 ) I need a series of processes to get me from “A” to “B” and if there is a break in transmission in any of the sequences I just never arrive at “B” till it is fixed and I can progress. Steve jumps straight in at “J” and then doubles back. He instinctively just knows how to deal with technology and I am eternally grateful that he does. My natural instinct is to hit whatever isn’t working or shake it around or if it is being really bolshie, throw it off the deck. Luckily Steve is able to rescue most technology from my grasp before I get that frustrated ;). I couldn’t progress through the video from “A” to “B” because my program didn’t look (or act) like his. How was I expected to follow the process if my program was different!!! Steve has officially been elevated in my eyes to necessary technological genius. That pretty much guarantees that he is safe from rat poison in his coffee no matter what he does 😉

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This image was to show that you Americans used to call “cookies” biscuits like we do! When did it change? Was it after that Boston tea party where everyone decided to bollock of the English or was it the civil war and when the Yankees won they decided to change all of the names so that they wouldn’t be aligned with the Brits? Either way…here’s the proof that cookies ARE biscuits!

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Butter, sugar and dates, a match made in date cake heaven

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One of my experiments with making apple butter with no added sugar. The end results are scrumptious. All I did was simmer these apples and those dates together till they turned into mush and all of the liquid evaporated leaving me with a delicious caramel flavoured apple paste that can be used in all kinds of things…now I just need to experiment to find out what!

After having to align dialogue and audio to our latest media assessment I am officially disillusioned with my voice. I was labouring under the false apprehension that I had the dulcet tones of a radio announcer. I learned that the reality is that my voice is a sad cross between Steve Irwin and Denise Scott. I realise that most of my dear constant readers have NO idea who Denise Scott is. Denise Scott is a wonderful Aussie comedienne “of a certain age” who much like myself grew up prior to mummies being concerned about their daughters sounding like Aussie fishwives and who just let us drawl our way into adulthood when our ingrained speech patterns could no longer be dealt with even by the likes of one Henry Higgins…sigh…here is a picture of Denise.

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Denise is the one on the left. The other “lady” is Judith Lucy, they are seen here in their Short and Girly show. Hopefully they won’t be too grumpy that I used this image. I consider it promotional material and as a blog that supports strange and interesting (the feminine equivalent of “windswept and interesting”…) women I consider it my duty to promote their show…(do you think I got away with it? 😉 ). I think I might need to make myself one of those costumes by the way…I need something to wear out on my 50th birthday…

And here is a 17.35 minute Youtube video of Denise in prize form. Feel free to just listen to her Aussie drawl and picture narf7 hiding under the bed with Earl or if you have 17.35 minutes to spare you can sit down, grab a cuppa and laugh your bollocks off at Denise doing what only an Aussie Sheila of “a certain age” is able to do. I promise you, you won’t regret donating 17.35 minutes of what is left of your life to this healthy pursuit…what have you got to lose folks? 😉

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And here is what she sounds like. I am going to post a link to our animation. I am NOT going to post the audio quotient of it. After listening to Denise Scott you will know why. I am officially traumatised by this whole experience and after posting my assessment off to my lecturer I am going to slither under the bed with Earl to share 2 pints of good ice cream and I might even let Earl lick the spoon with me…

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Earl telling Steve that his dirty socks might be past their use by date…

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The gallon jar of New Yorker chocolate chip cookies that I found the recipe for on Pinterest. It is good for some things aside from wasting time 😉

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More excess kefir grains…these things just keep on getting bigger and breeding! I put the teaspoon next to them to show you the size of them. If living most of the time in non-dairy milk is harming them I can’t see how 😉

Not only did I have to upload my Aussie drawl to my lecturer but I had to do something technical unsupervised! I may just have burned down the house by accident folks…I had to download Google Drive so that I could share Steve’s animation (MUCH bigger than mine) with our lecturer because it exceeded the size limit on our TAFE website. I also had to zip our animations involving me first finding where “zip” was on our computer (admittedly I IMMEDIATELY phoned Steve up knowing that he was still in phone range and able to be reached), second putting the animations and their accompanying movie clip into the zip folder and thirdly sending the zip off. As mentioned, mine was small enough to slip under the TAFE Nazi size limit ruler but Steve’s was well over the limit. As he is over the limit, Google can “Drive”. Get it? I made a pun folks. Well “I” thought it was funny! ;). All of this technology has my brain whirling and I don’t know how to “share” Steve’s uploaded document in Google Drive with our lecturer! I just sent of a missive to him dumping it fair and square into his lap. You want me to wantonly engage in random technology sir, you show me how!

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How pretty is where we live? This was taken by my humble little Fuji point and click camera off our deck last evening as the sun was starting to set. This makes all of the blackberries, the weeds, the rocks, the clay, the everything else (possums and wallabies I almost forgot them!) worth it 🙂

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I zoomed in on Redman Island so that you could see the reflections in the water. I want to get a kayak and pootle around these waters, a great way to get upper body and back strength…I had best get an industrial sized life jacket as I can’t swim 😉

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A little clump of lilies up for another year down in the wilderness part of the garden

Next I have to wait indoors near the telephone. Steve ordered some camera cleaning fluid, some camera cleaning swabs and a blower to hoof the miniscule specks from his new camera lens so that it no longer looks like it has measles in every photo. He was unaware that heading out at night time in the freezing cold trying (unsuccessfully) to get an elusive shot of the Aurora Australis would result in no image and a whole lot of water spots. They certainly don’t tell you about THIS when you are paying over a considerable portion of your children’s inheritance to purchase a new DSL camera do they! I will keep my little point and click any day rather than have to either pay someone $100 to clean the lens or learn the precarious art of “how not to stuff up your DSL lens and have to buy a new camera”.

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This is a Brachychiton populnea that we grew from seed. We have lots more like this one and it has been planted next to a large specimen that is on it’s last legs thanks to borer predation

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Another Brachychiton, this time a rupestris or “Queensland Bottle Tree”. A lovely little specimen that we also grew from seed. They aren’t supposed to grow down here…this little man has other ideas about that!

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You probably can’t see the “canopy” of this Brachychiton. It’s a discolour and has taken off like topsy. It was half this size when we planted it earlier in the year and it absolutely LOVED our hot dry summer. In the background you can see our inherited tractor. One day it will get fixed but for now lets just call it an oversized piece of garden art and be done with it!

Back to the story…I got sidelined…never happened to me before in my life! 😉 So he ordered his innocuous enough products from Melbourne, just over the brine from us and discovered that it couldn’t be sent in the post because camera cleaning fluid is listed on the “DANGER WILL ROBINSON” list of things not to send through the post. O…k… so it had to be sent via the ferry and then delivered by a local franchise of “Star Track” a delivery service. He ordered the products on Monday and on Thursday he got a card left in the mail saying “signature needed”…sigh… so he phoned up Star Track and the nice receptionist pulled up the details and told him that all he had to do was leave the signed card in the mailbox and Bob would be our ubiquitous uncle. He dumped the card into the mailbox and headed down on Friday to find another card in the mailbox along with the first. This one had “SIGNITURE REQUIRED!!” underlined 3 times…so we phoned and found out that apparently this humble little delivery requires an electronic signature from the customer…sigh…just wondering why the receptionist couldn’t have told us that at the time? We phoned…again…and were told that they would redeliver on Monday…today. I said “get them to phone me 10 minutes before they get here so that I don’t have to camp on a deck chair for the entire day awaiting their majestic presence.”

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This is an Indian Hawthorn. They are quite happy in dry conditions and so this one is doing really well here on Serendipity Farm

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If you want something that you can use as a hedge, that is an Australian native and that could care less about cold, dry, wet, clay, sand whatever you want to throw at it get yourself a Westringia fruticosa. They will grow on a hot tin roof

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This is a grevillea. Not sure which one but I think they must be endemic to Tassie because there are lots of them around here growing in the wild.

Is anyone out there getting the picture that Steve isn’t here today? Well he isn’t! He is off with a mate and has left poor narf7 to cope, alone, with nightmares of technology swirling in my head…sort of the anti-sugarplums of the Christmas story AND I have to hightail it down the driveway to sign a card by some pompous delivery guy that I am most DEFINITELY going to give stink-eye to when he gets here! That means that I can’t walk Earl until the parcel has been signed for and delivered…that means the furniture isn’t safe. So far he has satisfied his testosterone by barking at the feral cats from the deck several times and forcing Bezial to play rough house with him. I know that soon it isn’t going to be enough to roll Bezial over on his back (pretending to be dead all the time) like a turtle and he is going to start nudging my elbow and bringing toys for me to chase him with around the house. Ignore that at your own peril narf7!

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A large clump of Dracena with a large palm tree peeking out from behind it

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The same palm tree taken from the other side and surrounded by Senna…yes…the kind that yields pods to be used for limbering up your digestive tract 😉

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This is a Mahonia or Oregon Grape. It is just starting to flower and after flowering it will produce electric blue fruit that jam can be made from. Last year I left the fruit too long and something scoffed it so this year I am going to keep checking and jam shall be MINE!

I experimented on the weekend. I made a batch of date paste like I normally do and then I decided to use up 3kg of small granny smith apples that were threatening to go over to the dark side and make applesauce. As I was pouring boiling water over my dried dates I suddenly had an epiphany moment…”what if I added a packet of dried dates to the applesauce? What if I then cooked them both down till they were thick and reduced and made an apple/date paste?”…good thinking narf7! So I did. And then I went all experimental again and did it with pumpkin and dates. I love the flavour of both of them but think that the pumpkin butter might just need some spice to give it more oomph. I have 11 jars of unctuous brown thick all natural fruit based pastes in my fridge to be used in all kinds of ways over the next week or two. I might try making my non-dairy kefir with some… I might also mess around with soaking almonds and making raw almond butter out of them which I inadvertently managed to do while I was trying to process some soaked almonds to make almond flour the other day. After using half of the almond paste to make my friand’s and crossing my fingers that they would work out (which they did) I then wondered how to use the rest of the paste? I tasted it and it was lovely so I added some date paste to it and used it in my morning pumpkin porridge.

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Here’s part of the reason why the wilderness area remains a wilderness area. That is a HUGE palm tree behind those blackberries…whatever lives underneath it is welcome to it! 😉

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A very trustworthy dog having a bit of a sniff around outside our front gate. I am standing at our front gate taking this image and the river is just on the opposite side of the road

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If you thought that growing azaleas was hard and that they were delicate think again! This azalea has spent the last 20 years down at the bottom of the property with bucklies and NONE chance of getting supplemental water. It seems to be happy enough with it’s aggie mates. Mass planting keeps soil moisture in and that’s what I plan on doing here…planting the wazoo out of Serendipity Farm so that it naturally forms cycles of growth and decomposition that perpetuate the cycles. All I have to do is get those cycles going…(and get myself motivated! 😉 )

The fully enclosed garden is scratching on my subconscious. I can feel it reminding me that all of the various seeds that I have littered all over Serendipity Farm are going to need to be planted out soon so that I can get them into the garden for the start of spring. Frankly, that’s a terrifying thought! We are still missing a wall, a gate and the roof at the moment and nothing much has happened up in the garden since I last posted about it aside from the odd chook invasion. We are being promised 3C days for the foreseeable future and our workload is conveniently huge allowing me to bury myself in study and avoid the fact that there are entire decomposing trees inside the 3 standing walls of the veggie garden where in a few short months some crazed idealistic part of me has visions of green fecundity. I wish I had bought more ice cream…”MOVE OVER EARL I AM COMING IN!” 😉

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Another one of our leaf piles, this one full of decomposing oak leaves under one of Glad’s massive big oak trees. Bezial had a bit of a dig, and is enjoying his freedom

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Here is the reason why you didn’t get a closeup of those snowdrops. Mr E decided that he absolutely POSITIVELY had to follow Bezial and as he weighs more than half my body weight, I didn’t have much say in the matter 😉

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Bezial investigating.

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In a few short months this entire area will be completely covered with lush green oak tree branches and you won’t be able to see the water. Deciduous trees give you a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to landscaping and are well worth their upkeep 🙂

I am in the process of writing a weekly post for a wonderful conglomerate blog called “Not Dabbling in Normal”. As you can see by the name of it, I am perfectly cut out to post in this blog. I am waiting on one of the co contributors to get back to me to show me around the ropes but at the moment I am footloose and fancy free on Mondays for now. With Steve off and gallivanting around the countryside I can get down to working my way through our next study unit. There won’t be any Steve to call on when I undoubtedly hit a brick wall so I am going to have to suck up my bolshie Luddite ways and just try to work it out for myself.  It would seem that the universe is telling me to “get over” my Pinterest addiction. The problem with Pinterest is that it is a combination of pretty pictures (the lure) with the added bonus of taking you (usually) someplace that you can find what you are after; usually a recipe or a pattern thus taking away from time spent searching nicely. That makes it highly addictive to knowledge hounds like narf7. I have been spending a bit too much time on there hunting and pinning and suddenly I find that Pinterest is having a few problems. It won’t let me pin! It’s not just me, it’s happening all over the place so I am being guided forcefully by the universe to get back on track and stop living my life in a delicious online community where I get to control the knowledge flow, again, like crack to we little black duck knowledge hounds 😉

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The Ash trees are telling me that it is going to be spring soon

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The one image that Mr E would allow me to take of the new veggie garden before we hurtled off after Bezial. Note the dead trees that need to be cut up as base material for garden beds

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This is what our entire first paddock looks like…sheoak needles all scratched up to blazes thanks to a herd of marauding chooks that must have drumsticks of iron with all of the energy and passion that they put into it…they certainly take their job seriously 😉

The veggie garden is calling me. I have been taking the dogs for a bit of a walk around the property lately and the veggie garden is telling me in no uncertain terms that I need to get bums up in it. I have trees to cut up and use to layer in the base of garden beds. I have that mountain of horse poo that is mouldering away nicely and I have piles of leaves with tarpaulins all over them waiting to be distributed nicely over the branches and the horse poo. I also have a plethora of loose chooks all doing their level best to scratch up everything inside the area. We have to get 4 more poles sunk (a new addition but needed to support the netting over the top and the fat possums that are going to try to trampoline their way down to my precious vertical growing veggies) and the final net wall up (already cut and ready to put up) and then get the door (donated by our good friend Jen, she who used to be in the witness protection but who can be outed with impunity now) up and suddenly that space will be all mine :o). I will be hauling rocks from all over the property to form garden beds. We have lots and LOTS of rocks. We are positively rich in rocks and for once, I am happy about it! We also have a new shower screen door that a friend gave us from a recent renovation. Our current shower screen door was from the early 80’s and wants to keep coming off its rails whenever you least expect it. This is a solid toughened glass door that opens out and allows you out of the shower where our current door sometimes doesn’t without a fight! We didn’t have to pay for it and it is in amazingly good condition…BONUS!

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This is the first paddock, the back bush block is just behind that fence to the rear of the image. You can see that there are rocks…these are only the rocks on the surface…once you try digging you are always going to find more of them to add to the piles…sigh…

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Our humble little home :o)

I have just about hit the 2800 mark that tells me it’s time to stop waffling and time to bugger off and let you good folk have a break. We have had some gloriously sunny days here in Northern Tasmania, frigid but sunny. Brunhilda is my new champion and has been working for us this year and has been on a nice lean diet of lovely dry wood keeping her happy and productive and very economical. It has only taken me 2 years to learn how to manage her but finally we are at a point where we can work together and both enjoy the benefits. I don’t think of her as an inanimate object, I think of her as a friend :o). Well, that 2800 mark just got crossed and it is time to let you head off dazed and confused after another assault by the literary equivalent of a rush attack by narf7. Have a great day/week and remember to stop and admire the daisies, the bees LOVE them and there is a daisy for every single climactic condition on earth…I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on the moon! ;). See you next Wednesday folks :o)

Using every bit of the metaphorical cow

Hi All,

Firstly, has anyone else out there noticed an increase in blog followers lately? Aside from the blog followers, are any of you experiencing a lot more spam making it through the spam filters for WordPress? Well I have been and so I went hunting to see what I could find. The reason I went hunting was that I am naturally nosey and I decided to see who my “new followers” actually were. It turns out that 6 of the last 10 blog followers are not actually bloggers. Several of them are blogs that show me how to make money out of blogging and the rest are either suspended blog accounts or remain unused. It turns out that this problem, as it IS a problem, has been surfacing on many blogs lately. It would seem spammers have worked out a new way to make revenue out of blogs and are exploiting a loophole where WordPress doesn’t allow bloggers to choose who follows them. A simple choice, like we get with comments, would solve the problem but apparently WordPress is loath to implement this change for some reason. At the moment all we can do is report these spam/faux blogs to WordPress. Here is a bit more information about the problem…

http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2013/04/09/wordpress-com-follower-management/

From the site above I found a link where I headed over to a forum post specifically to do with spam followers…

http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/preventing-spammers-from-being-notified-of-new-posts/page/4?replies=83

If you have suddenly become incredibly popular in the last few months you may have picked up some spam hitchhikers but at the moment we just have to grin and bear them. The only option available to us is to report them to WordPress but as I said, WordPress is in mass denial mode and seem to want to divert the problem rather than deal with it. Let’s just hope that these faux followers are merely a nuisance rather than a problem waiting in the wings that WordPress simply can’t deal with.

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“Sorry? You want me to look dignified? Not today, I am too comfortable”

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A very large boat heading out to sea via the Tamar River

Now I can get back to the title of the post after sharing that with you. I think that everyone needs to know that the spammers are trying to get in the back door so to speak before heading side left into metaphorical cows et. Al. We all need to be more aware of food waste and we vegans can’t be smug in that arena. We might not end up with lots of grisly and gristly entrails dripping with gore when we choose to make our evening meal but we do end up with a whole lot of skins, pips and “other” that needs to be dealt with. We can compost our bits or we can often use some of them to feed domesticated animals (Earl and Bezial would like it to be known that they are NO-ONES domesticated animals and therefore point blank refuse to entertain the idea of eating our veggie and fruit scraps) but what about those skins that worms fear to taste like citrus skins and onion and garlic skins? What do we do with them? I am as guilty as the next person of surreptitiously tossing them into the rubbish bin salving my conscience with “they will biodegrade before I do!” but if everyone throws their peelings into the bin that’s a whole lot of waste on top of the waste that is more difficult to get rid of. What’s a conscientious environmentally aware person to do?

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After paring the white pith away from the zest they had to be covered with cold water and brought up to the boil

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Draining the peel after one of it’s simmering sessions

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After the final simmer in fresh water the peel is added back into the pan along with sugar and water

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Here the peel has taken on a translucent look and the syrup is thick. After checking that the syrup had reached 230F (the recipe was in “F”) I removed the pot from the heat and allowed it all to cool down for 30 minutes. The end results are a delicious way to preserve all of the harvest and minimise waste.

Well, let’s think of a clever way to reuse those problem peels. You can use pips and skin of citrus in marmalade. Save them in the freezer till you need them. You can also turn citrus skins into zest for all kinds of cooking purposes that you can freeze until needed or you can glace or candy the zest for cakes and decorations or just dipping into chocolate or sugar and eating. Here are a couple of links for anyone looking to have a go at minimising their own personal waste in the citrus area…

http://veena-cakesbakes.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/preserved-orange-peel.html

http://kitchenpreserve.com/candied-orange-peel/

http://daysontheclaise.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/preserved-orange-peel.html

http://scraplunchproject.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/preserved-orange-peel.html

The same principals can be used for all citrus zest, just make sure to get as much of the white pithy bit from the zest as you can because it makes the final product bitter. I am peeling some orange skins at the moment and just found out a small tip by good chance. I froze a lot of orange skins in a bag in the freezer and was adding them to the bag as I ate my oranges. The frozen (now thawed) orange skins are much easier to get the zest from than fresh orange peels so if you want to make a lot of preserved orange peel, it might take the edge off all of that pith removal. This next tip is specifically for lemon rinds and results in zest powder and the link after that is a spin on preserved lemons, using the preserved orange rinds to make a savoury ingredient. No waste, useable and desirable edibles and less landfill a win-win situation

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2010/06/roasted_lemon_zest_powder.php

http://scraplunchproject.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/preserved-orange-peel.html

The onion skins make a wonderful natural dye for egg shells and natural spun wool and combined with alum and other mordants you can get some pretty amazing colours out of the humble onion skin. See some of these links for some really useful information and sites…

http://pioneerthinking.com/crafts/natural-dyes

http://craftykatiegates.blogspot.com.au/

http://waysofthewhorl.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/natural-dyeing-take-2-onion-skins/

Anyone wanting to keep their own goats or sheep might want to head to that first blog where there is an extensive list of colours linked to particular plants. The second blog is now defunct but still there for us all to check out and this clever little cookie has managed to use some interesting things to dye skeins of wool including the humble black bean!

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My lovely new friand/financier pan courtesy of my wonderful daughters

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err…”Oops!” I always forget how powerful the vitamix is and this is what happened to my soaked skun almonds, they went straight from nut to paste!

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After sieving the paste through a fine mesh sieve to remove all of the lumps I decided to soldier on and hope for the best that almond paste would suffice for almond meal

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There’s quite a lot of butter in friand but what’s a slab of butter when something is delicious eh? 😉

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The end result, lovely rich, dense little cakes that taste wonderful

I have just been doing a bit of nosing around on a website that I previously pilfered a few tutorials and articles from but haven’t had time to revisit for a while. Jess, a.k.a. “Rabid” from http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com/ and LyndaD from http://middleagedreflections.blogspot.com.au  reminded me what a valuable source of information this site actually is. I was trawling around and discovered this amazing woman. She built a log cabin on a waitress’s wages all on her own and then after losing it to a fire just after it was completed, she and her partner did it all over again! What an inspiration of a woman! Check out her story here and marvel at how this woman was able to overcome the odds and never EVER try to beat her willpower to succeed, methinks it must be diamond skinned!

http://www.dorothyainsworth.com/welcome.html that’s a lot of linkies in one post and I promise no more.

It’s now 4.24pm and suddenly it’s almost time to post this post and I have been phaffing around all day trying to animate teapots and kettles but realising that I am certainly NOT the I.T. Specialist in this family. The clucky who was sitting on eggs has hatched out 4 babies and despite being completely surrounded by feral cats as soon as they realised that there were 4 tasty little fluffy squeakies she still had 4 fluffy little babies. It would seem that her mother’s (Effel Doocark) uselessness with hatching out babies hasn’t passed down to this angry mother of a chook and she is ready to take ALL of the feral cats on at once! She attacked every single one that came close to her and is now sitting in the middle of a pile of grain that I tossed out for her on top of her fluffies and maybe…just maybe she might manage to keep all 4 babies but I am not investing myself in baby chicks anymore. The odds are against them folks and narf7 has no way to make those odds any better short of trapping all of the feral cats, driving them over the Batman bridge and hurling them out into the park on the other side along with the feral crazy man who emerges from his caravan to greet his day with a solid round of yelling each morning. Steve, the dogs and I get serenaded by his dulcet tones. Maybe he would like some cats to keep him company? At least he would have something to yell about then! 😉

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This is Steve’s latest batch of homemade ice cream. It’s rich vanilla bean ice cream with homemade creamy English fudge pieces

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The ice cream packed into a container and heading for the freezer

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My choko now looking like some sort of exotic mantis giving a speech

I have decided to take up knitting for relaxation. I don’t know how that is going to work out to be honest because whenever I get a knot the relaxation quotient of knitting is probably going to get a reworking but the other day I decided to head off and find a sound wav of a kettle boiling. A simple little sound wav that I could put into my next animation. The very first site that I clicked on was infected with a Trojan and instantly, so were we :o(. Steve was out so narfy, the technophobic luddite had to think her way out of the fact that AVG appears to be on the blink and not updating properly and was only managing to “contain” the virus and every 5 minutes I would get a pop-up warning telling me that I had 3 viruses all vying for my attention. After ascertaining that an AVG scan just wasn’t going to cut the mustard and realising that I had NO idea where Malware Bytes was situation on our computer any more (after the last virus went through the start menu got erased)… and as I was downloading Microsofts answer to Armageddon I suddenly realised that we had been contracting a lot of viruses lately, all from websites. AVG SHOULD be catching these viruses before they have a chance to invade Poland but apparently the free version no longer does a very good job. It would appear that “free” is something that WordPress and most internet security services no longer want to host.

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A tray of sausage rolls for Another one of Steve’s evening meals

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Finished and ready for mass consumption

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I had some milk kefir hanging about in the fridge and as neither Steve nor I use it I decided to put it to good use and make a cake. The cake recipe was for a buttermilk spice cake. The end result was incredibly moist and smelled wonderful. Being a spice cake this should mature nicely as well. I even made the icing sugar myself (from regular granulated sugar) in my vitamix.

It took 15 minutes to download the most excellent Microsoft malwares tool (from here should anyone out there find themselves up to their armpits in viruses with no-where to go…)…

http://www.microsoft.com/en-au/security/pc-security/malware-removal.aspx

After choosing “full scan” I was told that it was going to take over 2 hours…there went my morning of study! I spent the next 2 hours clicking “heal” on AVG every 5 minutes and knitting up a storm while I watched the monitor for those 5 minute pop-ups courtesy of Mr Virus and his host of minions, most persistent little buggers they are, so knitting was my only real option. I actually had fun! Once the malware removal tool had managed to find the 23 infected files and deal with them the PC was back to perfick and Mr Virus is going to have to wait till stupid narf7 plays Russian roulette again with wav sites…on second thoughts, I reckon I am going to record the sounds myself as then I am guaranteed virus free. It looks like we are going to have to pay for virus protection for the very first time. A sad but sorry indictment of the “free” software that is lagging behind and is going out of date faster than the viruses are replicating (lightning speed). As irritating as having a virus (or 23) was, there is a real danger that there are many people out there simply unaware that by clicking on a website you can become infected.

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As you can see I have some knitting in prime position next to the P.C. (and yes Sarah, that IS one of your glorious U.K. meadow shots blatantly pilfered and used as my desktop 😉 )

Well that’s Wednesday done and dusted folks. It’s getting later and I have to liberate Steve’s tea from the oven. Tonight he is having marinated tofu and oven baked Chinese rice. We had 3 blocks of tofu that need to be used up and so tonight is the night. Lucky Steve likes it really ;). See you next Wednesday folks. Steve is going to have a look at working out how to format the animations so that I can share them with you along with a few photos. Take note, this post is 800 words less than your usual doorstop and narf7 is honing her craft ;). Till Wednesday, Ciao :o)

Here are my last 3 animations. You will have to click on the links below because WordPress won’t allow imbedded content. Make sure to turn your speakers on because the last animation has sound.

http://s1101.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/BabooshkabeforeEase_zps58a0c4c6.mp4.html

http://s1101.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/FranWindmillTask_zpsdb06ed8d.mp4.html

http://s1101.photobucket.com/user/bezial27/media/typeanim_zps2bd9c39b.mp4.html

Flipper Hitler

Hi All,

This morning we were walking along the riverbank taking the dogs for a walk and suddenly a seal popped out of the river not 3 metres away from us and scared the living daylights out of us. Bezial was most interested and when the seal submerged, he watched the patterns on the water to follow it’s progress and was spot on looking where the seal re-emerged a few moments later…Earl, however, was MILES off. He was looking upstream when the seal emerged back downstream. He blames Bezial for blocking his sonar ;). Steve knows this seal well. It hangs around waiting for the excess baby salmon from the salmon farm around the corner from us to be ejected into the river. He calls the seal “Flippy” and that reminded me of a recent bought of memory hunting on Youtube that we undertook. Steve comes from Liverpool in the U.K. he used to listen to a most interesting and hilarious radio show as he drove from one guitar lesson to the next (he was a guitar teacher in the U.K.) called “Hold your Plums”. Liverpudlians are known for both their ability to charm the pants off you whilst pinching whatever isn’t nailed down AND their incredible senses of humour. This show was funny! It was sort of an online game show where people phoned up and had a go at guessing questions that the announcers threw at them. Some of the answers were hilarious and seeing Flippy the seal reminded me of an elderly lady in her 80’s who phoned up to have a go. I would like to share the link here with you because it had Steve and I laughing so much our stomachs hurt! If you fancy a bit of a deep belly laugh today, give it a go, it might just do the trick :o)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoH3tL1SOZY

Here in the frozen outreaches of civilisation in the frigid tundra’s of Sidmouth we Inuit Pimblett’s have decided that we can’t hibernate any longer and we are just going to have to rug up all Russian style and get out into the brilliant sunshine of what amounts to a day trip to the Gulag peninsula in winter. The piles of debris aren’t going anywhere themselves and we need to chop some wood for Brunhilda who never sleeps through winter. She might not be ravenous but she can certainly pack wood away at a slow and steady pace and if we don’t feed her, she goes on strike. I have to rake the driveway and find it again underneath the thin layer of mulch that the chooks scratched up to liberate some unsuspecting invertebrates and to make the place look a bit tidier. We pulled down the temporary low fence around Steve’s precious grafted maple selection because at the moment they are just sticks and no self-respecting wallaby or possum would bother with them. We want to put up a more aesthetically pleasing fence for the coming spring to dissuade the natives from scarfing the new tender maple leaves and to keep the flow of our view out to the Tamar River which is a constant source of enjoyment and wonder for us…we live here…we own this!

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Earl doing his best “Earlvis” sneer in preparation for his big debut. As it was, he got stage fright and Bezial had to step into the breech and “woof” for Steve’s animation

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As you can see, the choko is starting to take over the kitchen and I am starting to think about where to plant it until the frosts go. Probably in a large pot in the glasshouse for the moment but wherever it goes, it had best go quickly as it is starting to reach for kitchen utensils…

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What am I going to do with this bag of apples? I might turn them into apple butter or cook them down until they are quite dry and make an apple spread with some cinnamon.

The huge enclosed veggie garden isn’t going to build itself. We know that because we have been waiting and it hasn’t happened. We figure that means we are just going to have to get off our middle aged derrières and effect the change all by ourselves. We have the last net wall to go up and a gate to pick up from our friend Jenny who generously donated it to the cause and in early spring we are going to cover the lot with black bird netting and good luck to anything getting into the equation aside from us. The enclosure had an impromptu test the other day when we released the hound (the other one stayed firmly tethered to us but mobile) and he pelted up to the back garden and promptly got confused about how to get out. He barrelled into the net walls because he tends to use his brute force to get out of things but this time he ended up bouncing off the wall and stood there looking incredulously at the net…he then tried to bulk his way out of the wall again and failed again. Think sideways trampoline and you can get a bit of a picture of what Bezial was doing. After his second failed attempt he started to wander the peripherals (he was inside the enclosure at this point) pushing the net with his beak to see if he could shove his way out…nope…Steve ended up having to lift the netting for him (very heavy stuff) and release him. If a 40kg American Staffordshire terrier couldn’t muscle his way out of the netting nothing smaller could muscle their way in. I think we are onto a winner here :o).

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My underutilised mandoline actually getting a workout for once!

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The reason for the mandoline’s outing, we made oven baked potato crisps! Steve ate them all before I could get a photo but it was a test run to see if they were worth the effort it takes to make them…apparently they were :o)

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Icy cold but sunny, Winter is delicious when you have a lovely warm fire to go inside to :o)

My leaves all washed down into the Tamar River and floated away to fairer climes (that’s you Victoria). Glad burned some of them and the rest washed away with the decent rain we had. We should have raked them but have been making excuses to stay indoors and out of that icy cold and ended up losing a wonderful free ameliorant for our new garden soil. We have a HUGE pile of horse poo mixed with straw but oak leaves are precious. Glad said that there are still some leaves there and we will head over to rake the leave from under the large oak tree that borders our properties but we really shouldn’t have missed that opportunity for a few trailer loads of free leaf mould for the sake of warm hands. Steve and I spend a lot of time juggling studies and working in the garden and it’s SO easy to push studies to the front and ignore heading out into the cold. We will chalk our leaf loss up to experience and next year we won’t miss out on that glorious free annual chance to bulk up our soil and add a new suite of organisms to our soil mycology.

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Mass slaughter in the kitchen (note the nose prints all over the cupboards…) Steve usually brings a few bags of stuffed toys home after his fortnightly shop and this is the scene shortly after we dump them on the floor for the dogs to “play” with 😉

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Steve bought me a bonus coconut in the shopping which I decided I was going to turn into coconut butter. First, you need to liberate your coconut, THEN you need to cut all of the brown skin away from the coconut meat and then you need to cut it up finely. I have a vitamix high speed blender and even then it still took ages to process the coconut flesh. Apparently it’s much easier to do this with dry coconut but the resulting finely processed fresh coconut tastes delicious and I am using spoons of it in my breakfast juk

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Bugger…this is the second knife that has fallen victim to death by coconut…I am going to have to rethink the way that I liberate my coconut meat!

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Mid way through the processing scraping down the coconut puree

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Pureed, packed and ready to put on the lid and put in the fridge for future use

Now that I have outed us as lazy comfort seeking bollocks I can redeem myself by saying that today we are heading out, rugged up like Russian Babushka dolls, into the minus Celsius temperatures of Serendipity Farm to burn things. We are going to collect up some of the more aesthetically challenging heaps of branches and twigs that we heaped up and are going to drag them to our burning spot and burn them. Not only will be clearing up the place, but we will be keeping warm at the same time.

I just opened up my RSS Feed Reader this morning (yes…I am STILL doing this post today 😉 ) and had the glorious feeling of being able to manage my RSS Feed Reader…usually I would have somewhere in the vicinity of 600+ posts to manage and try to weave my way through what was “useful” and what was not necessary…I mean seriously folks…how many “recipes” for avocado on toast do we readers REALLY need?!!! On Tuesday I had a bit of a mental crisis. I was over trying to negotiate and satisfy my RSS Feed Reader. It had been a solid week of non-stop trying to eliminate it and I suddenly came to the realisation that I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. Once I realised that I had become a slave to my RSS Feed Reader I decided to take some action. I eliminated posts AND blogs. I now have a tiny core of key blogs that I read. I can now comment on posts again. I have the time to give each post that I read my undivided attention and I am not just skimming over the hard crafted labour of someone else’s mind to get to the next post and to be finished. I am back to enjoying getting up nice and early to open my mind up and learn from other people. I love the interaction of commenting and if someone has taken the time to share an interesting and informative post with us all, I figure I at least owe them a bit of a head’s up.

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The somewhat alarming results of leaving a glass of non-dairy kefir out for a little while…a bit like Mt. Vesuvius!

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One of what the dogs have every single day on Serendipity Farm…and we wonder why they are fussy with anything else? 😉

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I spy…with my little eye…something…beginning with…”C”…I don’t expect you to look that hard but on a recent visit by dad’s old dog Milo, he happened upon this poor unfortunate feral cat that he promptly chased up this tree…

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The cat didn’t come down out of the tree for ages!

So the RSS Feed Reader took a hiding and is a mere shadow of its former self. I have limited my Pinterest action although that’s a hard one because that’s a new addiction and you can find some amazing stuff through Pinterest. I have found that I am redirecting my attentions now away from the gorgeous pamplemousse pies and back to sustainable and frugal hints and tips and crafty deliciousness so I might yet get something worthwhile out of my Pinterest addiction. Steve and I have been cooking up a storm lately. The weather and the free stove have been conducive to us wanting to cook. We have been baking all sorts of delicious things and we both decided that aside from the obvious benefits of Brunhilda, she has given us the ability to not have to worry about what we are going to cook for tea. The ovens are always on, there is always a range of temperatures that whatever we are cooking will fit into and we don’t have to wait for anything to heat up before we can start. We can warm things over her, we can proof our Stromboli dough (Steve has had 2 Stromboli’s in 4 days 😉  ) and she satisfies my need to experiment (read “play”) with my food in a most wonderful way.

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Chestnuts for me to cut slits in and then steam ready to make chestnut paste

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Some of the chestnut paste mixed with some date paste to be used in some sweet steamed buns

I have been messing around with pastes. I got Steve to pick up some adzuki beans and some more black beans on his last foray into shopping on Monday. He also bought me some sweet potatoes, some chestnuts and 2 enormous pumpkins and some black sesame seed. I have settled on eating juk (Korean thin rice porridge) for my winter breakfasts and have modified the recipe slightly to tweak it to my own personal tastes. I am now starting to get a bit more adventurous with the ingredients that I add. My pumpkin juk was delicious and I found a recipe for black sesame juk to try. I am making pastes so that I can use them to make a sort of “instant juk” like instant porridge for when we get back from walking the dogs and I don’t have to spend half an hour prepping the ingredients to make my breakfast. We have been snowed under in studies lately and our animations are starting to take a fair bit of time to produce. We need to get stuck into our work for the day pretty much as soon as we get in from our walks so having the options of “instant juk” is very appealing. Making my own black sesame, black bean, adzuki bean, reduced pumpkin, reduced sweet potato, chestnut etc. pastes in the fridge was a tantalising thought and so far I have made chestnut puree (half unsweetened and half sweetened with date paste) and am about to spend the weekend making all different kinds of pastes. Most of them will be sweetened by date paste and reduced down to thick unctuousness to increase their shelf life. Think “Korean jam” and the ability to stir a few spoonfuls of whatever flavour I fancy on the day into some water with some fresh ground glutinous rice and have my breakfast ready in 5 minutes is very enticing.

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An artistic shot of my last 2 remaining vanilla beans. I used them today to make a rich creamy vanilla custard to make vanilla ice cream tomorrow for Steve

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This might not look like much but it is creamy English fudge…well…the beginnings of it 😉

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And this is the end of it. Some of this is going to be chopped finely and folded through Steve’s vanilla icecream

My experiments with non-dairy kefir are a huge success. I have managed to harness my kefir grains to 3 days producing homemade organic Aussie soybean milk and 1 day basking in regular whole milk to refresh them and gird their loins. I have learned that kefir grains are sugar freaks. They adore the date paste that I sweeten my homemade soymilk with and float around basking in the glory of it. My grains get huge with this regime and despite dehydrating most of them a few weeks ago; I am going to have to dry another tray of them. I am keeping the dehydrated kefir in the fridge in a jar with some organic milk powder in it to snuggle up to in their frigid dream state to keep them happy. I sent some dehydrated kefir grains to Wendy from the wonderful blog quarteracrelifestyle (that you can find here… http://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/ ). She lives in New Zealand and we all thought that she would have her grains stopped at customs but they arrived safe and well and are now producing quality kefir for her and her wonderful husband Roger (who we still want to borrow by the way Wendy 😉 ). No doubt they will start to grow exponentially and they will get snowed under with grains and can give some to friends and family. I can’t believe that there are people actually waiting in line to get kefir grains! Mine just keep on growing alarmingly. I have several clusters of grains that are almost as big as my palm and that keep shedding small nuggetty grains into my milk. I have perfected the daily process of separating the kefir from the morass (you could hardly call the mix of soymilk and brown date paste that mine bath in “milk” 😉 ). I have also learned when to decant my kefir into new milk and how fermented I like my milk. It’s all a learning process and experimenting is huge fun.

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Chestnuts inside my vitamix waiting to be rendered into spread

Steve bought me a coconut on Monday and I put the coconut water (the liquid inside the coconut) into my non-dairy kefir stockpile in the fridge. I keep a 3 litre milk bottle with however much kefir I have managed to produce ready to use and drink whenever I feel like it. We have to release the gas from the lid whenever we open the fridge and the container has managed to swell up alarmingly in the past and actually crack the plastic on the fridge door. Never underestimate the power of gas folks! Think ginger beer and kefir isn’t too far behind it when you put a lid on it ;). Aside from experimenting with my breakfast and making pastes I have been thinking outside the box a bit. I have a “what if” brain. It keeps wanting to wrap itself around ideas and get busy with them. I have been ruminating over a “what if?” for a while now and as Steve is off collecting firewood with a friend today, my “what if” might get a chance to get researched today. “What if I tried to take the natural sweetness from root vegetables and turn it into a useful sweetener?” I am talking along the lines of date paste, but coming from sweeter veggies like pumpkin and sweet potato. I am going to experiment with “butters” to see if I can satisfy my veggie sweet tooth naturally and with minimal flavour additives to the root veggies. I have also been finding lots of naturally sweet thick syrups in my forays online. Things like pomegranate and apple molasses, a result of reducing straight juice down to a thick unctuous syrup like product that has keeping qualities. Obviously this was one of the ways that our pioneering ancestors managed to keep sweet things over winter and preserve the harvest. I wonder what juices I could extract and reduce down to make some amazing flavoured thick molasses? I am going to be experimenting so expect some results soon.

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A selection of ingredients to make some biscuits. The orange peel is awaiting me turning it into preserved orange peel and that biscuit barrel is getting a little bit low…time to make another batch.

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Some of the ingredients for Steve’s Stromboli that he had for his evening meal last night

Another thing that I have been ruminating over for a little while now is this blog. I have honed my RSS Feed Reader down to accommodate our busy lifestyle and to allow me to spend more time in the mornings prepping for our day. My mornings can now be spent initially reading and commenting on my RSS Feed Reads (and pinning worthy posts) and then I get time to deal with my kefir, put beans on to soak for cooking the next day as it’s easier to plan what I need for the day and the next day when I have a specific time set aside to do it. I always forgot to soak my soybeans for my non-dairy milk but now I won’t forget. Morning is when I plan out what I need prepped for my needs. I make a lot of what I use myself including my non-dairy organic soymilk for my kefir, my almond and oat milk for my tea and personal use, a regular progression of homemade date paste and the various cooked beans that I use in my day to day recipes. I love being organised and this newfound freedom to plan my prepping has me thinking that I am starting to get on top of this country living lark. I am thinking about changing the direction of this blog. I am going to drop it down to a single post a week. I tried to do that back when I dropped it from daily, to twice a week but all of my dear constant readers protested. I have noticed that I have a lot of followers who never comment and who are effectively “sleepers”. Some haven’t read a blog post in years and I realise that my long winded, eccentric posts might be a bit much for most people.

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Oops! I am going to run out of images if I am not careful…this is the dough for the biscuits that I made yesterday. It is the same dough that I make for Quaker oat biscuits. The only difference is that I eliminate the cinnamon and sugar and add bacon and grated cheese

There are a small core of you out there that “get” me. That see what I am trying to do here and that appreciate my crazy tangle of muses that want to explode into the arena that forms this blog. I started this blog to satisfy the needs of my mum. She was happy to allow us to move to Tasmania so long as she could see what was going on and the blog allowed me to share with her, and with the rest of the world. It also satisfied my latent need to write. I have enjoyed posting and can truly say that it has never been a chore to me. Words flow out of me like water into a stream and writers block isn’t something that I have had to contend with on a regular basis. I still feel that there are millions of posts welled up inside me but the tide has started to change. I want to hone my posts and make them relevant to what we are doing here. I know that my dear constant readers are interested in what we are accomplishing on Serendipity Farm and I seem to have been stagnating here for a while. Winter and our derrières firmly welded to this P.C. throne as we try to keep up with our lecturers manic and erratic study load have left us with precious little time (or inclination if the truth be told…) to get out into the frozen archipelago that has become Serendipity Farm. You know how I said we rarely get frost? Ignore that as the machinations of a mad woman…it is practically snow here of late! I have been getting very interested in fermenting things. I am also harbouring a burning flame for planting out our food trees. It’s as if something is telling me to hurry up and I tend to listen to those small urgent voices that come from those primal places inside me more than the clamouring voices from outside.

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And here they are! Delicious oaty bacon and cheese biscuits made with butter…and they are all for the dogs! It’s certainly a dog’s life here on Serendipity Farm 😉

I will be cutting posts down to once a week on a Wednesday folks. I want to get stuck back into the garden where we belong, forging the soil, the food forest and the base permaculture cycles that we need to get this place humming along sustainably and spring is coming…the ash trees are starting to bud up! There are bulbs erupting all over the place and jonquils are waving about in the frosty breeze. The whole of the Tamar river looks romantic and windswept from the daily mist events that waft up the river and then back down at regular intervals. I want to be out there living life and facilitating change. I don’t want to wake up one day too old to do what we want to do here and have to live with that for the rest of my life. I know that you will all understand the whys and wherefores of what I want to do and that you will also appreciate the new sense of excitement that will be injected into your posts. I am hoping that my natural cut off point (that just got breached 😉 ) of 2800 words (yes…my muses let me off about then 😉 ) will not expand to a 5000 word small novella once a week. Lets just see how it goes. That’s the glory of blogging, you take it for a spin, you test it out and if it’s a dud you bugger off and go elsewhere to find one that WILL work…see you on Wednesday where Steve and I are going to share some of the animations that we have been furiously tinkering over for the last month. We are suitably proud of them and our lecturer passed us on our very first try with all of them. We were most proud of ourselves when that happened :o). Have a great week everyone and prepare for a rollercoaster of weird experimentation, extreme gardening and narf7’s eccentric take on life, the universe and everything :o).

When chaos comes to town

Hi All,

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

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

Tamar NRM Bush Tucker Gardening Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Preparing the fruit to be washed ready to turn into jam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Steve using a romantic fuzzy halo around his Monte Carlos

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

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

“I’m not dead…I’m just busy!”

Hi All,

I feel like copying and pasting that sentence into several emails to friends and family and using it as my Facebook epitaph. I have decided not to use Facebook any more. It sucks time and energy out of you and it is totally addictive. I don’t want to waste valuable time sitting on my bum indoors when I could be outside in the sunshine (albeit the cold sunshine) facilitating change on Serendipity Farm along with my dear long suffering husband who might be dragging his feet, but he is still coming along for the ride. We have enormous gardens to build. Yesterday, when I was picking the last of the tomatoes and some ripe red chillies for The Virtual Vegan Potluck entry that is now all done and dusted and ready for posting in early May, Steve was planning aloud. That was difficult because Earl was on the end of a lead, Bezial was frolicking free and was up for a game with his harnessed kennel mate and when 2 American Staffies want to play, it’s not so much fun to be the man on the end of the rope! He was planning (while he was being pulled from pillar to post, spun around in circles and was anchoring himself to the nearest sheoak tree…) our plan of attack.

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This is Gok…prior to his recent cooking television series I had nothing but derision for this man-Gumby hybrid. I would see adverts for his television show about making naked women feel good about themselves and would cringe…one of those “empowering the people” shows that was really all about self denial and delusion but then I had nothing to do one evening and decided to watch television and was too lazy to get up when Gok’s Chinese cooking show came on. Truth be told my interest was piqued and I am now a complete convert of Gumby-Gok. I love the man. He has elevated himself into the stratosphere and I totally “get” why hundreds of women would strip for him and parade themselves naked around on television…Gok is the new Nigel Slater and he is the hipster king of U.K. cookery that this wonderful book was sent to me by the wonderful Tanya from http://chicaandaluza.wordpress.com/ a wonderful blog that I have been following for quite a while now. Tanya and I share an ethos, a sense of humour and a deep love for frugality and for living our lives to the fullest and Tanya decided that she wanted to send me a copy of Gok’s Chinese cookbook and I am absolutely rapt :). There are so many recipes that I want to make but the very first one is going to be congee. After that there is an amazing Chinese rice wrapped in dried lotus roots and after that the sky is the limit! I love you Gumby-Gok and I love  Tanya and Toli’s generosity as well 🙂

Steve is the heavy duty practical side of the equation…I am the numbers “man”. Together we figure it out and we put it into play and we usually end up with what we were after. It’s a great result when we work together… the only problem is that we work in such different ways that most of the time we spend trying to figure out what the HECK the other person is doing at any given time. Steve has plans…”those trees there are in the way…they will have to come out (read Steve wants some firewood for next year)… and after that we will put some poles in (read dig holes, concrete poles into the ground where only days before there was a perfectly good tree that we could have used for the same purposes…sigh…) and we can stretch that netting tight between them and after that…” I wasn’t listening by then…I was bums up doing callisthenics in an attempt to try to source some tomatoes from the jungle that used to be a tomato bed. “Next year we stake!” I say loudly and Steve looks at me in a somewhat alarmed way…obviously I must have interjected at some crucial point that most certainly DIDN’T require staking!

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I took this book out of the library recently on a whim…looks like I am going to be exercising my brain for the foreseeable future…

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Here is the button box that I recently gave my friend Kym. We swapped that lovely doily book for buttons…a great swap! We both get something that we want for something that we don’t want…the best of frugality mixed with barter 🙂

Steve says the magic words “after this garden, we will take out those trees over there and will make another one…” and THAT is part of why I love you still you smelly footed, stubborn mule of a man… you feed me what I want and I WANT more gardens :o). I have big plans for the first paddock on Serendipity Farm. Most of it is going to be a fully enclosed series of walk in, walk out vegetable gardens. I want to be able to grow chickpeas, amaranth, chia and quinoa along with buckwheat and various other hardy grains and lots of dried beans. Protein and calories are the order of the day. I am even going to have a go at growing peanuts after Sarah from http://gardeningkiwi.wordpress.com/ fame (and she IS famous folks…she has written a book :o) ) said that she bought a packet off her supermarket shelf (the ones in shells) and is growing them! She said “I like to experiment”…so do I Sarah…so do I! So peanuts are on the cards.

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This is the front cover of a wonderful crochet doily book that my friend Kym from Western Australia sent me recently. I finally found where I hid these photos! Linne wanted to see the cover so here it is…

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And here is one of the lovely doilies inside that I am going to attempt to tackle in the near future

I was going to have a go at growing Brazil nuts but found out that they won’t fruit/nut anywhere other than Brazil because they need a specific and most endemic little pollinator before they will produce the nuts…but the tree looks lovely and I might just grow one…”because I can!” I dare say no-one else in Tassie has a Brazil nut tree growing in their garden and narf7 is bolshie enough to give it the old college try. I have grown mangoes, avocados, walnuts, hazelnuts, figs, carob trees and copious quantities of chestnut trees (easy peasy to grow folks, I just fished a forgotten bag of chestnuts out of the fridge and threw them into some moist coir peat in a plastic bag in a covered esky and almost all of them grew!) and love to grow something for free. It feeds the frugality in me and gives me a sense of purpose to produce things.

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These pumpkin vines are WAY too late in the season to survive the coming winter and were harbouring some small mango saplings that had grown in the compost, so I decided to sacrifice the pumpkins to save the mangoes

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This is what the compost heap looks like today and the sad withered greenery was once pumpkins…next season I am going to have amazing pumpkins that no native animal is going to have a chance to sniff let alone get close enough to taste!

I might have to have a stall somewhere to offload all of the excess food producing plants, however, because even though we have 4 acres, 20 walnut trees and 15 chestnut trees might just be a few too many for that kind of acreage if we want to have a hope in heck of planting anything else ;). That’s part of the problem. If we were rank amateurs we could head out with our heads full of hope and just “plant” but we aren’t…we are fully fledged, dyed in the wool, fully away horticulturalists and we KNOW how far apart we should space things, we KNOW how big they grow, we KNOW about forest plantings and pH and depth of planting and we just KNOW which makes it all the harder to plant out our wonderful free little babies. I might just go doorknocking in the neighbourhood and see if our long suffering neighbours would like some “excuse me…we live just down the road…you might have heard our dogs barking…here…have a tree for your suffering…” ;).

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There might not be many but these potatoes were found when we were digging up the mangoes from the compost bin…SCORE!

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The 2 mangoes in their overwintering palace, the glass house. Lets just hope they survive the winter

I need to self-flagellate…I missed Leonardo Da Vinci’s 561st birthday on April 15th! I also missed that crap mini-series that someone (trying to make a fast buck out of jumping on the bandwagon to link famous long dead (read “can’t sue me anymore”…) people with crappy vampire series…) made about him recently but unlike my sheer unmitigated glee at escaping that utter pile of dog excrement, I am a little bit sad that I missed giving this amazing man the kudos that he deserved. Some people deserve über kudos and Leonardo is one such man…let’s all give him a minute’s silence, heck, let’s give him 2! for being one über cool dude WAY back then that was likely to get you lynched, tarred and feathered or just plain tortured and dispatched. It just goes to show that the brain will out, no matter what is standing in the way (or how much armour or pointy weaponry they are carrying at the time…). I offer you the quintessential anthem to kudos that you deserve sir…ringing down through the ages you ARE remembered…you live on in so many people’s minds and as ACDC would sing, loudly and repeatedly…”for those about to rock…WE SALUTE YOU!”. We most certainly do Mr Da Vinci. :o)

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We didn’t think that these poor long suffering potted babies would survive the long, hot dry summer that we had, let alone live to give us any kind of winter display but here they are looking beautiful and begging us to plant them out this autumn…”I hear you babies…I HEAR YOU” 🙂

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We grew most of these small trees from seed. We aren’t too sure what we are going to do with them all but we might just find someone starting out anew and give them an unexpected bonus of some gorgeous trees 🙂

It’s just turned 3.29am Saturday 20th. Bezial turfed me out of bed because it’s COLD out here and he heard me telling Earl to stop shoving ;). I don’t mind, all the more time for me to tap away here and tie up online ends before my brain turns itself off early this evening. I am now the mother of a 23 year old youngest child. My daughter Bethany had her birthday yesterday and was celebrating with her sister Madeline (25) by having lunch at a new local Korean BBQ house. I hope they had a great time and I know that Bethany’s birthday cake will have been MOST interesting because they were using some purple bubble tea as the basis. They like to experiment with cooking and tend to only use recipes as a basis for their imaginative recipes and 9 times out of 10 they are successful. I tend not to be as inventive as they are but I am reasonably inventive and like to mess about with cultures and letting the cultures metabolise ingredients partially to see what happens to the end result.

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I COMPLETELY forgot to post this heart for valentine’s day! We noticed it when we were walking the dogs AGES ago in Launceston at the university campus…I heart trees 🙂

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This is a leaf hopper…usually leaf hoppers = BAD but this one is in someone else’s garden so he gets to be admired for his beauty and left to nibble another day 😉

I am going to be making more kimchi this weekend. I have a precious cup of kimchi left from my last batch that is going to culture my new batch. Steve rust treated and sprayed my new fire set black that I got for $1 from the tip shop and remembered a fire poker that we had inherited so that got the black spray treatment as well. The handle doesn’t exactly match the set we picked up but who cares? It pokes the fire and that’s fine by me! The best thing about that $1 fire set is that it is solid cast iron and was built to last. I don’t know why someone threw it out in the first place but I have noticed that garage sales are rich playgrounds for savvy people here in Tasmania. The average Tasmanian doesn’t like to get out into the world until around about 10am. We used to head off to the Evandale markets (when we lived in the city) nice and early at 8.30 and we would be finished and on our way home before the long lines of Tassie traffic were passing us in the other direction.

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This is the shop at Wychwood…isn’t it lovely?

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This is the family home at Wychwood but I couldn’t resist sharing this lovely trough of succulents with you all 🙂

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Just around the corner from that lovely trough of succulents is this lovely brick oven. I have a pile of used bricks in town with an oven just like this’s name on it…

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These are the sort of rocks that you find on the beaches around Tasmania. Beautiful weather worn, smoothed by the ocean rocks. It’s hard to leave them on the beach!

Steve shops at 7am in the supermarkets because there are only a few older people there at that time of day…he is usually finished shopping by about 10am and we only shop once a fortnight so these shopping forays take all different kinds of shops into account. We plan this once a fortnight shop meticulously and Steve has his plans of attack. Sometimes the plans of attack involve grabbing things off shelves without looking at them and then finding out when you get home that someone had decided to dump a more expensive product for a cheaper one on sale and Steve just so happened to have grabbed the more expensive product in his hast to be “OUTTA THERE” but that is happening more infrequently now that he is starting to realise that it just isn’t worth handing your tea addicted wife (since she was 2) a packet of über expensive teabags that don’t deliver that rich tannin flavour!  It takes me almost a whole day to do what Steve does in a couple of hours and even then I forget things and come home with heaps of other things that weren’t on the list. I did the shopping the last time that I stayed at my daughters. I did a GREAT job…I was very proud of myself for my efforts BUT (that year of living honestly has forced me to tell the truth 😉 ) I did have the entire weekend to chip away at the shopping list and stretched out the actual shopping over the 3 days that I was away. Some people are built for speed and Steve is one such person :o). Now he just has to allow the concept of “accuracy” to filter into his mindset 😉

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Who would like one of these gorgeous little birdhouses in their garden?

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I took a side view because I am going to have a go at making something approximating this birdhouse…wish me luck!

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I LERVE this chair folks…it is official. We have driftwood from the sea that washes down the river and onto the pebbly riverbank right in front of Serendipity Farm…we have Teatree saplings on the property that need thinning out that would be perfect to make something like this and we have lots of misshapen woody bits lying around from past thinning out ventures. This chair has my name all over it!

Remember how I was complaining about how hot it was in February and March? It WAS hot…it was dry…it was HORRIBLE and now it is cold…it went from 30+C temperatures down to 5C in a matter of weeks. My recent weight loss efforts have handed me energy to spare. It shielded me from our long hot summer and I certainly didn’t miss my extra layer of fat in summer. Everything has good and bad points right? That includes weight loss! Yeh, I might be able to power up our steep driveway in a wave of determination…yeh my knees might be happier than they have been in years…yeh I might almost have broken out into a run with Earl the other day and I might be able to keep up with Steve when we are walking the dogs and yeh I might be able to fit into clothes that I haven’t fitted into for years BUT then the frigid Antarctic autumn descends and suddenly my obsolete layer of fat has taken on a nostalgic quality in my mind…like a nice round nana (cheers for that analogy Jess 😉 ) that gives you a cuddle and a couple of her chockie bickies (that’s chocolate cookies to you Northerners) out of the biscuit barrel when you visit her and you KNOW that the roast dinner she is going to dish you up that night will have more than enough delicious roast potatoes AND there is desert!

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This is an avocado…it appears to be trying to sneak away because it is MORE than aware of it’s fate. Tonight…this avocado will be made into sushi. “Fear me avocado!” 😉

My 25 extra kilos cuddled me in winter. They wrapped themselves around me and insulated me from the worst of the cold and I KNOW WHY SEALS HAVE BLUBBER! I might be able to zip around the place like Speedy Gonzales on steroids…I might be constantly marvelling at how loose cloth feels on my legs and how I have so much energy now but I fear winter. I really do FEAR winter. I am sitting here wearing 2 jumpers, a pair of leg warmers (YES leg warmers 😉 ), my warm slippers and I am STILL cold. Is this what you “normal” people feel in winter? I am going to have to scratch a chalky little note on our shopping list…my chalky little note is going to read “dear Steve…could you please pick me up 14 hot water bottles from K-Mart this shopping…I KNOW 14 seems a little extreme but humour me… I am going to strap them to my body for winter…I am going to knit myself a full set of long john’s (brightly coloured with flares…CMON’! Would you expect any less of me?! 😉 with little flaps where the hot water bottle necks are situated…I am going to sew myself into the long john’s (cheers for that analogy Linnie 😉 ) and I am going to spend winter in my improvised suit of warmth to take the place of my fat. I can just do a few cartwheels to empty them each morning, shiver for a little while as I fill them all and sink into happy hot fugishness through my days. I don’t suggest anyone visits me over winter (bad luck Kymmy, you already booked!) as my new suit might start to reek a bit BUT them’s the breaks folks and you do what you have to do to keep yourself warm and sane 😉

DSCF0920Some of the fire utensils from the $1 tip shop bargain that I got recently. The poker and broom are still in the shed awaiting second coats but already it looks a whole lot better than $1 in my books 🙂

Bezial just got up. He who tossed me out of bed at 2.30 is lying in front of Brunhilda at 3.57am demanding that I poke her and get her going. I am starting to wonder just who is the boss around here… Apparently Bezial already knows! 😉 Bezial has been waiting for this…he and I share a winter tradition of getting up together and me waking Brunhilda up from her overnight slumber so that he can lay in front of her for the rest of the day. Bezial just decided that she wasn’t warming up quickly enough and has gone back to the comfort and warmth of being tucked under my feather doona next to Earl and Steve…sigh…that leaves Brunhilda and I to do the work of warming up the kitchen together…she is crackling into life as I tap this here and its WONDERFUL! :o).

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Still harvesting things from our veggie garden and the spinach is showing no signs of going to seed or giving up the ghost any day soon which is great because I pick it every day 🙂

Last year I got up a whole lot later than I do now…Steve tamps the fire down before he goes to bed at 11 and I will be waking her up again at 3…she seems pleased with the new routine…she  and I have lots of possibilities as the colder weather progresses. I can now add a few new routines of my own into the equation. Now that I am up 3 – 4 hours earlier than the rest of the household why not use some of this time with Brunhilda’s early morning warmth to good avail? Time to start factoring in the warmth of the bread proofer that Steve made for me, essentially a shelf a metre above Brunhilda with a metal mesh allowing the wafting heat to rise through and slowly warm whatever I choose to place up there…I could prove bread up there overnight. A nice slow proofing so that the next day I can get Brunhilda cranking and an hour later I could bake bread…fresh baked bread before the sun comes up? Now THAT is an interesting premise!

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A gratuitous bum shot…I still can’t get over where it went! I have lost more weight since this photo but you are looking at the part of me that was the most significant to say the least…now I know it was there to keep me warm in winter!

Steve recently received a gorgeous jar of Christi from Olalla’s jam. He allowed me a tiny taste but I know that this jam is precious to him. It’s a matter of supply and demand. No matter how much jam he demands, there is a very limited supply. Christi is one of the most generous and wonderful people that I know but it costs a FORTUNE to send things between Australia and the U.S. My daughters send a 4kg (that’s over 8lb) package to my son in a neighbouring state for his recent 31st birthday and it only cost them $17 to do so. I would have to SELL said 31 year old son to pay for the costs if I wanted to send the same parcel to Olalla…that should give you an idea about how expensive it is (AND he is a practicing accountant who won’t get out of bed for under $200/hour so factor that into the equation!). I am just going to have to try to get Christi’s jammy goodness recipes out of her. In the name of transcontinental happiness she just might grace me with the recipe to make Steve happy over his morning toast but the problem is that aside from not being able to get some of the more exotic ingredients, Christi has her own alchemy when it comes to jam. I have NEVER tasted better jam folks. This girl could jar it up and sell it, it is THAT good. I bow to her jammy genius and can only hope that my homemade spadle could do justice to one of her recipes. I have a couple of kilos of blackberries in the freezer…I have a homemade spadle that could stir for the queen and I have a 20 litre stainless steel pressure cooker base that doubles as an “Ace” jam pot…now all I need is that fairy dust that makes “jam”…something that Steve wants to dip his spoon into and eat from the jar 😉

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Who could resist these 2…butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths now would it? 😉

Another tome? “Et Tu Brute?!”…sigh…I guess some of you are still reading my posts and maybe I might be able to coax some strangers from the ether (via unusual tags 😉 ) to stray onto Serendipity Farm and spend the time it takes to get through a BIG mug of tea to read them. I told someone today that my blog is my way of allowing my muses to vent. I guess you, my dear constant readers, are starting to realise just how many muses this poor husk of humanity endures! Brunhilda has managed to heat a kettle of water from cold to just on the point of boiling in under 2 minutes…not bad old girl! She is in fine form and just the crackling is making me feel warmer. Apparently the roosters under the deck are feeling the love as well because they just started to crow…sigh…have a fantastic weekend folks…remember you only get 1 life and this is IT. Do something that makes you feel alive this weekend…bugger it…do something that makes you “SQUEE!” with delight :o). Have the best damned time that you can this weekend and when you have to trudge back to work they are going to wonder what that little smile of contentment is that  is hanging off the side of your mouth…don’t tell them, it’s all yours. See you Wednesday :o)

Exploring the parameters

Hi All,

It’s 5.11am on Tuesday and I should be reading my exploding rss feed reader but with 400+ posts all shrieking for my attention I am starting to feel like a worker in a day-care centre. I have decided to make a start on tomorrows post before tomorrow creeps up and starts howling along with the rest of them. We are entering an interesting phase on Serendipity Farm…our studies are a meeting away from finishing for the year. We are just about to say goodbye to 4 years of horticultural study and head into the unknown and previously unexplored world of art and design but until February we are free agents with only our own wanton desires to harness our guilt valves and our desires run to various activities on Serendipity Farm. A little while ago we were incredibly lucky to take possession of 2 large rolls of ex-fish farm netting from the salmon farm around the corner from here. They have to regularly replace it and after they remove the lead weights from around the base that keep the hungry seals from scarfing their profit margin they haul the rolls out into the paddock and anyone in the know can have them for free. We recently reacquainted ourselves with a couple of estranged friends and gave them a plethora of plants that we were never going to be able to plant on Serendipity Farm. I wanted them to have a life because we propagated them with love and they were languishing in their pots and needed to be planted out before they gave up the ghost in our extended rain free summer. Our friends were very grateful for their newfound plant wealth and asked us what we were up to on Serendipity Farm. We told them that we were in the process of harnessing our chicken population for “good” but were waiting till we were able to accumulate the funds to build the enclosure needed to keep them inside rather than outside and that was when Guy mentioned that he knew where we could get some free netting…the start of an adventure! I have always found that generosity breeds generosity. Like most islands Tasmania relies on a few core industries and recently one of those industries lost its fight to rein supreme. The forest industry is in the process of bowing out of their monopoly but in the process they are taking their jobs with them and leaving behind a bewildered and jobless population. Money is a rare commodity and people are starting to learn the value of a good swap. These rolls of net that Steve picked up a few weeks ago are 20 metres long and 10 metres wide each. We have been promised more of them and after unrolling a roll yesterday I suddenly realised how massive they were. We should get our chook enclosure out of a single roll and visions of my friend in the witness protections fully enclosed garden are dancing like sugarplums in my head…

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Talking about my friends garden, isn’t this clematis lovely? We visited our friend who shall not be named the other day and I took some photos of her garden progress and her wonderful new fully enclosed vegetable garden

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Isn’t this Kalmia latifolia commonly known as mountain laurel, calico bush or spoonwood lovely? Our friend in the witness protection picked this lovely shrub up for a song at a small local nursery

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A closeup of the beautiful flowers.

I can feel the boundaries of the cultivated suddenly gaining possibilities that previously existed only in my mind…in the sad, tired, almost defeated part of my mind along with the “chook” and “feral cat” categories that have been sitting on the “too hard” fence for a while now. Being a penniless hippy is one thing…being an impatient penniless hippy makes it harder. Steve and I have an insatiable appetite for being able to make and do things for ourselves but sometimes even the most pressing desires have to be tempered by the need for some kind of input and whether that input is monetary and we have to shake the moths out of our moth eaten sock under the bed to get what we want or a matter of logistics there is usually an unbearable waiting period that accompanies the process. Steve and I are not country folk. We haven’t learned the value and indeed the necessity of waiting for what we want. Living in the country teaches you harsh lessons…living in Tasmania, where there actually are 4 seasons also teaches you about cycles and change and life in a way that was previously easy to skim over the top of. Sometimes you just can’t change the boundaries no matter how much you try and you just have to wait. When you ask your deity for something you may just have to wait for a response. I tend to let my wants and needs merge together and with a bit of faith that someday they will emerge triumphant they usually do. Before we can really sort out our garden areas we need to remove the ever industrious chooks from the equation. Their unfettered population is going to be minimised and reduced down to a core egg producing population and Yin will get a free ride because he is such an amazing rooster who is completely selfless. After we build this (now possible) chook run over the next few days we will be able to take back Serendipity Farm from the chooks.

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Isn’t this black sambucca lovely? You can catch a glimpse of the new enclosed veggie garden in the rear of the photo

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I really love how our friend has used hardy perennials and shrubs in her garden along with rocks sourced from her property. Not too long ago this entire area was a flat wasteland…under water in winter and dry and rock solid in summer. Our friend is working steadfastly and refused to allow this monumental task to overwhelm her and her garden is really starting to reflect all of that hard work

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Our friend in the witness protection with her grandson Dylan. You can see her families water supply in the background in that big green tank. Her family are completely off the grid with complete solar power, tank water and no telephone line to their home and are certainly no worse off for their lack of utilities

That’s phase 1. Next we need to protect what we want to keep alive and growing from the invading possum and wallaby hoards. I managed to grow a borage plant this year. I remember borage in my grandma’s garden and had an altogether nostalgic desire to have one in my own garden. I saw some growing in an area of wasteland and transplanted one of the small seedlings into the front garden where it promptly died BUT it must have seeded before it croaked and I got a nice healthy borage plant growing where its stunted parent dropped it the year before. It was going great guns until the wallabies decided to take a sample and found it “tasty”. I am now the sad owner of a borage stalk. It joins the ranks of the Nepeta 6 hills giant stalks…the dwarf elm stalks…the rapidly decreasing ornamental grass stumps and the repeatedly harvested back to growing point ground covers that I am attempting to utilise to minimise soil moisture loss in the front garden. Between the chooks scratching my pitiful attempts to mulch around what I love and the wallabies and possums hell bent on eating the water stressed root exposed remains I am bordering on being a broken horticulturalist. With the possibility of more rolls of netting I am starting to get excited again…I have visions. I have visions of a place where the small existing orchard is covered and unattainable to the wandering slavering hoards and they can only cling tenaciously to the boundaries licking the netting like children outside a sweet shop. I have visions of being able to walk into a fully enclosed vegetable tunnel that can be converted in the winter to increase our growing season…I have visions of being able to make attractive netted fencing around Steve’s adored Japanese maple collection that doesn’t make my newfound internal artist wince when I look at the motley collection of chook food bags and bird netting cobbled together in haste to protect them…as usual…needs must at the time but once the necessity becomes a certainty, a fella’s mind runs to aesthetics…

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Our friends home behind the beginnings of what is going to eventually be a Laburnum walkway using Laburnum vosii

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Our friend looks after one of her other friends rescued donkeys. You can see Tasmanian native bushland in the background

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Isn’t this new little baby sweet?

Steve had a day off walking today because he did a glute (or whatever the leggy bit that joins to a glute is called…) when he was rolling up the massive heavy roll of ex-fish farm netting the other day. Bezial didn’t mind staying home because he was being plied with home-made dog jerky when Earl and I headed out the door. It rained last night and the bushland smelled amazing. The sun was shining and Earl and I set off with “Born to be wild” as our ethos and decided to head down the highway and look for a bit of adventure of our own. Steve doesn’t like walking down the highway on a week day because it’s pretty busy and there are lots of trucks but Earl and I are rebels and could care less about trucks whistling past us at breakneck speed. We collected a couple of empty soft drink bottles for our next and final lecture with Nick. I have to say that Nick has been a brilliant lecturer. He really pushed us to excel and gave us a new appreciation for deserved praise. Part horticulturalist, part psychologist and part Hitler, he certainly knew which of our buttons to push to get the best out of us. Kudos to this wonderful lecturer who genuinely loves to teach. They say that those who can…do and those who can’t…teach but this is a massive disservice to most of the teachers that I know who are in it for the long haul and you could completely understand an edge of desperation in their populace here in Tasmania where one in two people can’t read or write adequately and where education is so far down the hierarchy of importance in a Tasmanian’s day to day perambulations that it ranks after having to eat their own feet. Another old saying comes to mind…”you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink” and that echo’s the conundrum that many passionate lecturers over our state would feel when faced with a class full of students who are ill prepared to learn.

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I am incredibly envious of our friends bargain kettle that she picked up at a local market. This kettle is wonderful and if you look at the side of it closely you can see an envious woman taking a photo 😉

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This lovely Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Leopoldii’ (variegated sycamore) has so far resisted the local wildlife and has certainly given us the impetus to get our little specimen out into the ground on Serendipity Farm. Our friends specimen was much smaller than ours last year and now its at least 7 times bigger!

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Isn’t this enclosed veggie garden wonderful? I am green with envy! BLUE with envy…just like that ex tennis court netting that our friends clever repurposing partner decided to use to protect their vegetables from the marauding hoards

We have decided to adjust our dog’s diet to ensure that they are getting enough fibre. I don’t like proprietary dog biscuits because they contain ingredients that are based on profit margins rather than the health of their consumers. That leaves me with having to find a way to include fibre in their diets through something that I have made. I need to point out that I am not a bad cook. In a past life I made my living out of preparing other people’s food so our 2 American Staffordshire terriers complete refusal of their evening meal every second night is nothing to do with my degustatory abilities and a whole lot more to do with how incredibly fussy they are. Amstaffs are naturally very strong willed and our two are no exception. Bezial is part labrador and aside from liking to head out into water up to his armpits and gaze wistfully out to sea in search of the illusion of a partridge and his predilection for enormous quantities of food you would think that he was predominately an Amstaff thanks to his complete disregard for his long suffering owners who are making windmill arms at him and yelling out his name at the top of their lungs while he wanders off, nose to the ground with purpose…Earl is an entirely different kettle of fish and actively avoids the water unless the weather is hot. He has a very finely honed sense of what is right…HE is right…the end. Living with 2 strong willed dogs isn’t much different to living with strong willed children and I have had more than my fair share of strong willed children. I can actually physically hear them all roaring in protest at that sentence but you know what kids? You WERE strong willed…and so was I :o). Whenever the dogs start to lay down the law…I gird my loins and take my years of parenting battles to the negotiating table where they attempt to negotiate and I point blank refuse to yield my territory…it took me years to gain this tiny little bit of ground and I am NOT giving it up for 2 stubborn dogs! Thus begins the battle…no problem on night 1. A large bowl of prime pet grade steak for each of them which usually disappears before I have turned away to wash their cutting board. Its night number 2 where we have the problem. I recently decided to put steak into the food processor and add it to wholemeal plain flour and several grated carrots which I kneaded together and pressed out into a biscuit (yes to my American friends that would be “cookie” in your strange language… 😉 )tray that Steve then takes out and cooks on the bbq. The end result would be eagerly consumed by just about anyone. It looks like meatloaf…it smells like meatloaf…I dare say it tastes like meatloaf but Steve is a party pooper and refuses to try it for me ;). To the dogs it is sheer unmitigated poison and every time I serve it to them they turn up their noses…look at me with seal eyes and head off to lie on the ground at a distance but still within sight so that I can see just how cruel I am being to them, sighing as heavily as they can. The battleground line has been drawn and I SHALL NOT BE DEFEATED! No pity from me! No giving in to their grumbling stomachs in the morning and no giving them extra treats on their walks because they are obviously hungry. What we are trying to serve them every second night is what other dogs would fight to get. Ours are incredibly spoiled fussy buggers who are going to have to learn to eat their fibre like everyone else. I will keep you posted on how it goes but I can bet that they are still refusing their fibre rich tea by the end of the week. I didn’t think that there was anything more wilful and stubborn than my 3 children but you know what? There is! 😉

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This ancient little reprobate is called Tilly. She is the feisiest old girl (aside from Glad) that we know and in this photo you can see her actively rolling around and doing her level best to stop Steve from taking her photo to share with Nat 🙂

I love having leftovers, especially frozen leftovers. It appeals to my frugal bones as well as to my lazy bones and on nights where we have been busy or unexpectedly diverted from our regular activities it is great to have leftovers to fall back on. Even after 2 years of living on Serendipity Farm and leaving our adult daughters behind in our home in town I STILL haven’t gotten used to cooking smaller portions. I think the problem stems from Steve being Omni and me being vegan. It hardly seems worth cooking a single portion so I cook for 4 and Steve ends up with lots of leftovers which we are able to stockpile for unexpected events. I will be heading off to my daughter’s home in Launceston this weekend. We are having a mum and daughter bonding weekend and Steve, Earl and Bezial will be doing some bonding themselves…the girls and I will cook and watch movies and talk etc. and Steve and the dogs will turn feral in the few short days that I am away. I am only mentioning this because I won’t be here to post my Saturday post and Steve will have to do it for me. We have been having a battle with our duck who has decided that she doesn’t want to have the shackles of oppression thrust upon her person by having us lock her in with her fellow chook brethren and who has been hiding amongst the agapanthus where Steve couldn’t find her. I hear her quacking early in the morning in readiness for me throwing out bread and butter to the feral chooks that live in the large conifer out the front of the house. Once we erect the extended chook run we are going to give away 2/3rd of our chooks. We don’t want to give them to just “anyone” because the odds are that these prime egg laying girls will be eaten. I would rather give them to someone who wanted to keep chooks for their eggs and who wanted to give them a good home. If any of my Tassie readers know of anyone who fits that bill, we have some lovely chooks looking for a good home. Please let us know as we are not too sure what to do with 20 chooks! Our REAL problems start when we try to rehouse the ferals who steadfastly refuse to move into the coop with the rest of the chooks. We know where they roost at night and it won’t be hard to sneak in there and nab them but what do we do with them then? I am sorely tempted to toss them over the fence of the unscrupulous woman who sold us “8 hens” and who told us that she was CERTAIN that they were all hens…she has her own karma and is currently overrun by chooks and most probably wouldn’t notice a few extra’s but I couldn’t do that to my chooks no matter how much they infuriate me (and no matter how much she deserves them back! 😉 ) so like everything else on Serendipity Farm, they have to be dealt with A.S.A.P.

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This photo has the sole purpose of reminding me that it does, indeed, rain on Serendipity Farm. I will be looking at this photo wistfully on a regular basis through our coming 3 months of dry weather to give me hope that one day…it will rain again

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Steve…Jack of all trades and master of whatever he turns his hand to ensuring that this pole isn’t going to be the weak spot in our war against chook invasions on Serendipity Farm

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Some of the poles that we dug into the rocks soil on Serendipity Farm yesterday in readiness for our wholesale chook control in the very near future

Don’t forget to send a comment our way if you would like to win the handmade Blackwood spoon that Steve made specifically for this giveaway and from timber sourced from Serendipity Farm. No bells to ring, hoops to jump through or Facebook pages to like, just let me know and you will be in with a chance. He put the final coat of delicious smelling orange eco-oil on it and it has a lovely satin finish and feels and smells wonderful. You have until December 22nd to let us know and go into Earl’s walnut lotto which we plan on videoing and sharing with you all for posterity (and complete transparency 😉 ). See you next Wednesday and remember that Steve is posting my post on Saturday so go easy on him or you will have me to deal with next week! 😉