The day that I graduated from my sponge cake “L” plates

Hi All,

Is it just me or do your senses become more finely attuned in winter? Aside from the obvious “cold neurons” going off at random intervals everything seems to be condensed down and sharper. I guess it’s our traditional time when we hibernate. I am not averse to staying in bed for the winter but it would seem that “The Man” wants me out of bed and actively studying for the future. Its Thursday already and Steve and I are wading through the mire that accompanies a Landscape Design. As with most things…it’s an iceberg. That lovely plan that arrives on your desk (along with a not so lovely discrete bill that you probably (trust me) don’t want to open…) is the culmination of some poor sods hard mental labour. We really don’t think about how hard someone has to work to get something like that onto our desks until we actively try to do it ourselves. The same goes for the production of food…how hard is it to keep everything that wants an advance sample of our fruit, vegetables and grains away from our food without rendering said food inedible? A life of conundrums and questions besieges me and occasionally leaves me mentally exhausted. When Steve and I started out on our horticultural journey it was with very tentative feet. We were not entirely sure if our decision to work with plants was going to be wise. It was Steve’s first venture into even considering plants as anything within his peripheral view and he was a bit incredulous to say the least as to whether he could find much about them to keep his mind active. 2 months later this man planted a tiny Sequoia Gigantea seed that grew and the rest is history. Today both Steve and I have succumbed to our plant masters and are their willing and compliant slaves. We tend them…prune them…water them…sometimes mindlessly following their silent but endless requests but at all times rewarded generously for our servitude.  We have melded with the plants and it changed our lives.

What happens to Brunhilda with her first few chunks of wood…I call this “tea futures”! This is an amazingly good stove and I can’t praise it highly enough. We have had this stove burning now for about 4 months without stop and haven’t had to use that packet of late autumn firelighters that we bought aside from it’s initial lighting. It slowly simmers all night and rises like the sturdy, reliable, little black phoenix that it is every single morning no matter how many embers remain in its toasty little fire box…”I love you Brunhilda!”

Obviously I am not the only one who loves Brunhilda. After their morning walk the boys can usually be found (especially Bezial) in the positions that you see them here. Earl is only still because I bribed him by giving him Steve’s music room door wedge…Bezial is entirely content and when I think back to this time last year and remember the 2 of them huddling next to a teeny tiny little 1 bar gas heater that was our ONLY source of heat I can see why Bezial is luxuriating in Brunhilda’s heavenly wafting heat. By the way…the ONLY reason that lime green wood basket is still alive is because I cut off its handles and it’s full of wood. Earls inquisitive beak can’t get a grip on the sides and so it remains alive so long as we remember to fill it up with wood on a regular basis

This is the kind of photograph that you get when you have told a dog that he is too fat and that you are going to put him on a diet. A diet that doesn’t include fresh spongecake with cream.

Occasionally we find it necessary to poke Earl gently to ensure that he is still alive… does this look alive to you? “POKE POKE POKE!”

Bezial in the throws of Brunhilda love…we should leave them alone now to enjoy each others company…

We have a forecast of rain…rain and more rain for the next few days. The potted plants that we selected for rehousing last week are all still alive and the Luculia is positively glowing. It didn’t drop a single flower bud and is now a mass of soft pink tubular scented heaven right outside our bedroom window. The irony is that Luculia flowers in winter…and the likelihood of us having our bedroom window actually open in the middle of a Tasmanian winter is as slim as Posh Spice. The rest of our potted plants are sulking in their over cramped pots and wondering just what they have to do to get planted out. We have no inclination whatsoever to get out into the garden in the freezing cold and rain so it won’t be for at least a few days. Our studies have taken over from our plant overlords at the moment and I never would have thought that I would hear myself say this…but I am actually enjoying the process. Familiarity breeds more than contempt in my case…it breeds a rare form of happiness that comes with the ability to understand and actually follow the process. AutoCAD is a program full of landmines that are just waiting to pull the rug out from under any unsuspecting (read overconfident) person attempting to use it for any purpose other than a door stop (in its unopened package that is…). We learned early on that AutoCAD is a law unto itself. It will do what it wants…when it wants and our particular version appears to have a very strong will indeed. If we forget to save anything it WILL freeze and make us do it all over again. We have taken to kidding ourselves that we are grateful for the chance to do some more practice…remember “there are NO learning experiences in perfection…” that’s what we tell ourselves through gritted teeth in a vain effort to show AutoCAD that it can’t beat us and make us cry. This year these moments of confrontation have been few and far between because we no longer fear AutoCAD and are able to navigate our way through the endless seas of “process” to at least find the ballpark that we want to be in if not the actual fix for our problem. I guess we are learning and learning from home gives you the best opportunity to really learn because you have to sort things out for yourself for the most part. I mentioned in my last post that we had put in an expression of interest to undertake an Art course next year. We realised quite early on in the piece that AutoCAD is a fantastic program for creating exact plans but it is lacking creative flair and it’s difficult to create concept designs (the “sell” part of the equation) that are aesthetically pleasing. We therefore decided to learn how to turn our plans into eye candy and that’s why we are going to attempt to crash the Arts department next year. Do you think that they will be ready for the Pimblett’s? Probably not…but ready or not…here we come!

Proof that we do pound the pavements in order to give our dogs some form of exercise each day. Not that you would know it in Bezial’s case…

The boys eating their greens…when they find a good patch of grass it’s actually quite difficult to get them to stop eating. They are like mini cows

A nice shot taken from one side of Devil’s Elbow (the Rowella side) to the other (The Kayena side). We certainly live in a pretty place and are very spoiled with the scenery when we walk the boys

This photo was taken later in the day because in most photos you don’t get to see the detail of that bit of land covered in trees in the background but at a certain time of day in a certain light you can…I just wanted to share it with you all 🙂

We noticed (well Bezial the water dog noticed…) a little pathway down to the riverbank and decided to head down to see what there was at the end of the little track and found this delightful vista. Bezial proceeded to drag Steve into the water and Earl stood on the shore sniffing a dead oyster…dog heaven!

With the removal of the last 4 official roosters (I know that Effel has at least a couple overwintering in her flock) Big Yin has decided that he must have some sort of amazing powers as he just starts getting cranky at an emerging young rival and suddenly it’s gone. Using his amazing powers of chicken deduction 1 + 1 = KING OF THE WORLD and he has gone on an unprecedented nest building frenzy in a vain effort to increase the flock and fill it with little Yin’s. No doubt there are nests everywhere out there. We can hear chickens all over the place talking to each other in their nefarious chicken whispers. Big Yin can be heard making his “check THIS out baby…” sounds when he has rolled a bit of grass into a circle and thinks that it is nest worthy for his latest paramour. I must admit that having seen rooster activity on a somewhat large scale now Big Yin is an amazingly good rooster. He hunts for food for his flock, he warns them whenever there is danger and he gives the tasty morsels that he finds to his prize girls. He doesn’t hurt his girls either, unlike (tasty) roosters past and has earned his lifetime security here on Serendipity Farm. The problem that we now have is that our hens are getting wily. They no sooner start laying somewhere and we start collecting the eggs than they head off somewhere else and start laying there and Big Yin is ever ready to up sticks and make them another nest more remote and inaccessible than the last. I can see the day that we are actually overrun with chickens. Roosters will be crowing at all hours of the day and night and I will surreptitiously slip an anonymous note into Frank’s (who has been killing roosters since he was 10) mailbox saying “go nuts! You know you want to…”…until that day we will practice hunting eggs and will ready ourselves for spring and the oncoming onslaught of clucky chooks. I dare say most of our fecund flock will be laying low like brer rabbit in some form of briar patch but we clever humans have been active and have minimised those briar patches so that we can head straight to the remaining patches and be assured of at least 1 chicken occupant! We extracted Effel from her own personal briar patch just before winter set in and we can do it again chickens! Consider this war!

What to do with all those eggs? Make a sponge cake. The very first stage of making a spongecake…”First line your tin”…

At this stage I wanted to make sure that you got the gist that I am a darned good cake tin liner. This was to take your mind off the fact that I was, in fact, making an unassisted spongecake for the very first time…I have made spongecakes before and they have been sad sorry flat excuses for something edible that even the chooks refused. I wanted to break my losing streak and so put myself out there yet again to possibly fail…”Isn’t this tin lined beautifully?”…

These are the real reason why I decided to make a spongecake. 4 pristine duck eggs from our 2 girls given to us by Nat’s stepdaughter and suddenly starting to produce these. I know that duck eggs make amazing cakes because mum TOLD me that they did. I decided to find out for myself…

This mixer might be my handy dandy go to mixer that facilitates the manufacture of cakey goodness on Serendipity Farm but one day I am going to drop this thing on my head and kill myself! Perhaps a rethink of where we are currently storing this heavy metal mixer might be on the cards in the near future…

Notes about duck eggs…they are somewhat cloudier than hen eggs…the yolks aren’t quite as yellow…there were more whites in them and lastly the whites were harder to separate from the yolks but these eggs were uber fresh so perhaps that had something to do with it?

A juxtaposition in the cost of an item. The blender (admittedly only the base is present in this photo) cost just on $1300 and the packet of sugar was so cheap as to be negligable. Just a note to readers in the U.S. our sugar is manufactured from sugar cane where yours is mainly corn based or beet. The blender is amazing, high speed and can turn this sugar here into icing sugar in a matter of seconds. It can also (using the additional expensive goblet) turn grains into dust in a similar time frame. I bought this years ago and have only just started to use it to its full advantage. One of those “why on EARTH did I spend that…oh wait a minute THAT’S why!” moments. I also wanted to point out that buying sugar in a paper bag is better for the environment however the day that they make paper from bamboo is the day that I am going to be one happy camper…let’s all stop cutting down trees for newspapers eh?

This is the first sift of the dry ingredients (1 of 3) and has been undertaken using one of the sieves that I found in a cupboard after we moved in. I would like to continue using these older kitchen items as aside from being made to last, it gives a continuity to my dad’s partner Val who never had any children of her own.

If it acts like a spongecake…it sounds like a spongecake…it smells like a spongecake IT’S A SPONGECAKE! :)…Wait a minute…”thats not a spongecake…THAT’S a spongecake!…”

No words people…just get a fork!

By the way…the cake is curiously decorated because one half is Steve’s (thus the chocolately maltesers) and the other half has been designated “the dogs”

I was just thinking about winter again and how in winter we tend to become more insular along with better insulated. We look inside ourselves and the cold weather constricts our physical and mental boundaries. Come spring and everything starts to become active again and we look outside ourselves but in the middle of winter when it’s cold and rainy and bleak outside there is nothing so desirable as a nice warm spot and a good book. I have fallen by the reading wayside of late. I haven’t even finished my copy of “Tuesday’s with Morrie” and I have to take “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” back on Friday unread. I am drawn more to homesteading books at the moment and a fantastic book that I discovered entirely by accident whilst reading a blog feed was “A Householder’s Guide to the Universe: A Calendar of Basics for the Home and Beyond”. By one “Harriet Fasenfest”. I have mentioned Harriet before albeit fleetingly and mostly because of her chuckle inducing name but this lady is no one trick pony and this book is gold! I have taken to channelling my envy and lust for buying books into a more productive (and less expensive) hobby of trying to gain access to these books through the library. Most of them soon lose that glittering “MUST HAVE” promise when you have waded through the bampf and found them more hype than hope. This book, however, is amazing. It’s one of those books that are actually worth lusting after and indeed pulling that moth eaten sock out from under the bed and extracting the readies to purchase this gem for yourselves. Aside from being one of the most elegant over 50’s women, Harriet has an amazing ability to write what we want to hear. No garbage…full of good humour and actual knowledge gold. What more could you want? (Take note girls who are reading this…my birthday IS coming up soon and aside from wanting a renewed subscription to “Feast” (cheers in advance Bethany…) this book would be most gratefully accepted as a token of your undying love Madeline. Go to “The Book Depository” as it ships fast, costs less and there is no shipping)…I love having adult children ;).

What do you do when you have been given a pile of lemons and you don’t actually use lemons for much and they have been sitting in a bowl for a week and are dangerously close to going over to the dark side…you preserve them for future lemony needs is what you do… first you get yourself a microplane and you remove the zest…

Aside from a boon for the compost heap, these lemon skins made the house smell amazing

Some more tools of the trade with the end results that I batched up into small bags and stored flat so I can chip some off whenever I need it. I love it when my practical side broadsides my lazy side and it is happening more and more often these days. The feeling of putting something aside for future use is exciting and hits just the right spot in this little black ducks homesteading heart 🙂

This was Steve’s tea last night…one home made chicken and mushroom pie in home made cheesy shortcrust pastry accompanied by oven fried chips in olive oil…all of the “Goldens” on one plate! Slather it with salt and vinegar and you have an expat’s chips shop dream on a stick 🙂

Ok it’s time to head out into the oncoming rain and possible hail, sleet and snow to walk the dogs. It’s not worth trying to reason with those seal eyes Steve…just get on your jacket and head outside.  It’s now Saturday so I guess you figured that we got back from our walk in one piece physically (but perhaps not always mentally). I am going to make this post a bit less wordy today because I have a lot of photos that require “ploise asplain” sotto voce Pauline Hanson style. To those of you who are not aware of who Pauline Hanson is (and let’s face it guys, most Aussies would rather forget her) she was a politician who was the face of a political party called One Nation. Her party was so popular because many Australians were feeling very frustrated about the liberal politics that were allowing Australia to be hurled down the politically correct line without thought of consequences but the party took it too far and ended up being more of a sad joke than a force to be reckoned with. Pauline was most noteable for her “Please explain” statements whenever she wasn’t quite up to scratch with what was being asked of her and she came off looking like a quintessential “Dumb Broad” and most certainly didn’t do women in politics ANY favours in their desire to be taken seriously. I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason that she was allowed to advance so far up the political ladder was so that she could be used as a reason why women shouldn’t be allowed into the upper echelons of politics…so…what have we done over the last few days?

  1. Walk the dogs…we ALWAYS walk the dogs…
  2. Study our brains out including plotting out a planting plan for our latest Diploma design that we are suitably proud of and will attempt to share with you AFTER our lecturer gets it first
  3. Cooking and preserving all sorts of things

That would be about it aside from playing Zelda (me) and watching horror movies on the television (Steve and Earl) and sulking (Bezial). We haven’t had time to solve world problems, find a solution for peace in the Middle East or re-inventing the wheel but we HAVE found a fix for Brunhilda’s metal firebox handle that has burned us for the LAST TIME! We have stayed cosy and warm through these short winter days and long winter nights and we have been industrious little beavers with all sorts of fixes etc. I have attempted to give my daughters strong mental and blog posty hints about my rapidly advancing birthday wish list and hopefully they have heard me…if they haven’t…here is a VERY good reason for you to get me the Harriet Hasenfest book “A Householders Guide to the Universe” from The Book Depository Madeline…Its under $20 with free postage and you can’t get a cheaper gift than that (aside from a bag of flour but you just KNOW which one I am actually going to like ;)).  Please feel free to ignore that bit of gratuitous gift wrangling…it’s one of the perks of being the mother of adult children…you get to give them a taste of what it was like when they were kids “MUUUM I NEED a Dr. Dreadful kit…I NEED a Stretch Armstrong…”… Cheers girls 😉

I think that making things for yourself is only hard until you get into the habit of doing it. Here we have the fixings for sesame milk (in the jug on the left) along with the wine bottle that I am storing it in until I can find a suitable container at the local thrift shop…almonds soaking for almond milk (my new tea topper of choice) and the container at the rear has the feral chooks bread cut up ready for early morning degustation and the crust free butter sandwich on the top is Pingu’s breakfast treat. They all get left overnight to be used and processed the next day…easy peasy!

2 of the “Must have” books on my list of “To Buy” books in the near future. I take them out of the library…I go through them with a fine toothed comb (my mind…razor sharp lol) and I ascertain whether or not the information contained within is valuable and precious enough for me to want to hock my right leg and if it is…I buy it…if it isn’t I take what I want (typing 101 and fast fingers Fran) or I just drop it back to the library with negligable cost to the moth filled sock under the bed. I have also found The Permaculture book of Ferment and Human Nutrition has been reprinted! No more lusting after this amazing tomb for me, I can buy myself one for my birthday…I LOVE books! 🙂

Even with his winter wool Steve’s large head is NO match for Earl and his enormous bonce. He accidentally headbutted me this morning…Earls love knows no bounds and he gives it generously…and I am lucky my nose wasn’t broken. Every single part of Earl is solid and weighs a tonne. Here you see him assuming his night time position on the back of Steve’s sofa unless he manages to wedge himself between Steve and the chair and lay full length between the two. Uncomfortable for Steve but HEAVEN for Earl 🙂

Well that’s it for today guys…we have some projects on the burner that I can maybe share with you on Wednesday but for today that’s all folks! Have a great weekend and I hope that Monday finds you

  1. Alive
  2. Happy
  3. Fully functional and able to get out of bed
  4. Finally and most importantly in a good mood and fine spirits ready for doing whatever it is that you are doing this week

I did tell you that this post was going to be photo intensive…I have 2 photos lastly that I would like to share with you. My mum died in January this year and it was particularly difficult to take in because she had just spent time with us over Christmas and then suddenly she was gone. She filled her suitcase up with home made Christmas cakes and preserves and when she died I didn’t have much of “mum” in my life any more. She had been my champion blog poster and is still the third highest on the list and loved all things Serendipity Farm. I had 2 little pots of jam that she had given us…1 she had made the week that she came over here that I couldn’t bring myself to use. I remembered them languishing on the back of the second shelf down in the fridge and decided that mum wouldn’t want that “sunshine in a jar” strawberry jam cram packed full of her own home grown strawberries and gelled to within an inch of its life (thanks to a batch that had been watery the attempt before…) to be stuffed to the back of the fridge…she would have wanted it out there on the counter top, slathered all over some heavily buttered toast and so today I let go of my need to keep my mum in a small jar and opened her memory up to be part of the day to day machinations of Serendipity Farm…welcome back mum…I missed you 🙂

Pass the post please and don’t scrimp on the content…

Hi All,

I have just spent almost a week staying at my daughter’s home in town while they are away inMelbourne. I haven’t had much time to sit around “thinking” which was going to be something that I had fully intended to take advantage of, but I am feeling very happy with myself and the world all the same. I hurled myself into the garden today and wheeled Taylor (the grey Indian Ring neck parrot) out the back to enjoy a bit of outside sunny time with the 3 doves that have moved in. Qi has been wonderful and has been tailing me like a shadow and making sure that none of the poor pedestrians that stop to pass the time of day get close enough to me to do any damage to her food provider. She is a very clever little girl and instinctively knows who is a possible threat and who isn’t. We used to watch an elderly woman walking past each day as we set off walking with our dogs when we lived here 2 years ago. We named her the “Stick Witch” because she had a sharp pointed stick and a very sour face and would stride with purpose up and down the road looking for something to complain about. I dare say she has hit more dogs that just came out to say hello with that pointy stick and today she must have been giving out her “Stick Witch Vibes” on a large scale because Qi was sitting out on the front footpath with me while I pruned the roses. Qi growled at her and she looked like she was thinking about coming over to read me the riot act about allowing dogs out onto the footpath but thought twice and headed off striding maniacally and spearing bits of random rubbish with her vicious pointed stick. What makes people get like that? It’s just a real sad indictment of the human race. I was making sure that my little dog didn’t go near her or even bark at her. I sometimes wonder what someone has had to go through to arrive out the other end as bitter, twisted and angry as the Stick Witch who has never smiled or even waved at us the whole time that we lived here and tried to be friendly. Oh well…Qi is never allowed out on her own so should never have to suffer the Stick Witch’s pointy revenge. When I said earlier that I was “pruning” the roses, I have to be honest…I was actually hacking them down and cutting them off at the bases and painting them with glyphosate! I know…what a terrible thing to do! The roses had been very badly “pruned” by someone in the past and they had cut them back below the scion and they had all returned to the rootstock which was particularly thorny, vigorous and constantly needing to be cut back from the footpath that they had been planted close to. I have finally come to the conclusion that my daughters are highly unlikely to follow in my footsteps and ever become interested in tending the garden so I am in the process of minimising the plants that are high maintenance and adding plants that are easy to grow, water wise and that pretty much do their own thing. When we first moved here I knew sweet nothing about gardening apart from remembering that mum used to take cuttings and just shove them into the ground. This works well with things like lavenders, geraniums, pelargoniums and certain other hardy plants but most plants need a bit more coaxing. I started “Jamming bits in” to turn the barren wasteland of exposed topsoil into something resembling a garden and to my surprise, most of the “bits” grew! The front garden is situated underneath a massive Liquidambar styracaflua. It makes planting anything under its canopy a bit difficult to say the least and so there are lots of perennials and ground covers underneath it that are doing quite well.

This is the incredibly sanitised pile of strawberry plants and runners that I found at the tip…I have already potted up half of them and suddenly remembered to “GET THE CAMERA!”…photo opportunity supreme!

Yeh those ASICS are bright but at least my feet won’t be run over by a speeding milk, wine or salmon truck (yes…we have all 3 of these speeding around the narrow dirt roads around Serendipity Farm at any given time…)…the white cherry box contains strawberry plants that I am working on

My squintillion strawberry plants that have suffered an amazing lack of attrition in the days since I planted them

I learned a bit more about plants and putting the right plant in the right place and have realised that some of my early, most enthusiastic, plantings might not have been strictly thought about much before I “bunged them in the ground”…I planted an Arbutus unedo right next to the porch. These grow to quite large specimens…trees to be exact! I also planted a nice merlot coloured leptospermum right underneath the lounge room window. Again…this particular leptospermum tends to “tree” rather than “small shrub” so my judgment (or lack therein) at the time may have set me up for a bit of hard work in the future. I am trying to make this an easy care water wise garden and am constantly amused at some of the comments that people make to me who walk by when I am gardening and who live nearby. “That tree is a bloody nuisance”…I get a lot of that…for the sparing bit of water that it gets through the summer, “That Tree” gives shade and cool to this house and provides an enormous amount of habitat for birdlife. When the autumn comes and the “bloody leaves” start to drop it provides a free source of large leaves that readily break down to smaller dry particles that form the most delightful soil amelioration and mulch that I know. I wonder if gardening can come to you instinctively. I knew that the denuded soil here that is predominately reactive clay needed to be covered so that it would hold in the moisture and prevent it from drying out and cracking. Once this reactive clay is dry it’s like trying to dig ceramic. Not an easy task! Something in my head said “why waste those leaves?”…I started to rake the “bloody bollocky nuisance leaves” and put them onto the garden in thick droves. This made the roses sad but you know what…I don’t like hybrid tea roses! There you go…I admitted it! I love climbing roses, I love old fashioned roses but I can’t stand those spiky sticks that seem to need so much care and return the odd flower that smells of nothing and that succumb to EVERYTHING. Black spot is our problem here thanks to my endless piling up of leaves. I leave room around the stem but the leaves are somewhat uncooperative and with the first wind, clump around the nearest rigid thing which tends to be “trunks and stems”. Oh well… no more black spot garden!

A very sad and most depressed Bezial laying directly on top of my hot water bottle in bed at my daughters house

You can see the size of the large Liquidambar styracaflua in the front garden in town. This was my very first garden in my life where I could do what I wanted and that belonged completely to me. It contained the tree, the camellia and the yellow daisy that you can just see to the left of this picture and a tiny mostly dead hydrangea. I “bunged cuttings into the ground” (like mum had taught me) and most of them grew! Now the garden needs to be pared back to be managed by my daughters and it’s now a challenge to fill it with waterwise plants and allow it to thrive all over again…a good garden never dies…it evolves

This is where East meets West…We are West, Margaret next door is East and her gate (despite looking like it is unhinged) just shows how steep her driveway is. Nothing grew in this corner of the garden thanks to rock hard ceramic clay soil and after 4 years of me maniacally collecting the leaves in autumn and throwing them back onto the garden (much to the consternation of the rest of the gardeners on our tiny street who thought that I was some mad crazed hippy…) this soil can now be easily dug and the bare patch (that only recently contained a plethora of black spotted spindly hybrid tea roses…) will be planted out with Aeoniums. No ducks here to scoff them!

It’s a jungle out there! Prior to us moving here this was totally denuded of vegetation and completely exposed rock hard clay soil. A few leaves and a bit of time later and its rich friable soil. Nature rules!

Dealing with a small front garden that contains a massive tree has it’s problems. I dealt with the problems of invasive water stealing roots by using water wise shrubs and lots of ground covers to fill the garden and unlike most of the carefully manicured gardens in the street, this unkempt mass of vegetation survived 3 months of no rainfall last summer with no water at all…I rest my case folks!

I have noticed that the years of putting the leaves back onto the garden have paid off and in the summer the garden keeps going despite the girls never watering at all and we have an extended period of dry weather that tends to run from January through to March. We get very little rain in that period and everything starts to suffer. This garden seems to be going from strength to strength and it makes me smile inside to know that all of those people who thought that I was nuts to be snipping all of my green waste back into the garden and piling up those leaves high are shaking their heads mid-summer at their dead and dying gardens. We can’t afford to have gardens like “the old days”. We can’t afford not to take advantage of the moisture retentive properties of mulching, the use of water wise plants, which there are many of to be honest and some of them are surprisingly resilient, and thinking smarter (i.e. lots of ground covers or green mulch as they are commonly called when clumped so they all join up together). Again, something told me that ground covers were the way to go and I set about planting anything that I could that would spread out under the Liquidambar and take up as much space and minimise the topsoil exposure as it could. There are strawberries still producing fruit in this garden. Every time I would find a thriving ground cover growing close to the footpath on our walks I would take a small innocuous piece and get it growing so that I could plant it in our garden. We have violets everywhere, strawberries, pyrethrum daisies and various other low growing ground covers that are all starting to choke out the weeds and cover the surface of the leaf mulch keeping it from blowing away. Instinctive gardening…it’s a pity that our desire to keep up with the Jones’s makes us plant and do some incredibly stupid things in the name of garden fashion isn’t it? I am just about to make Margaret, our neighbour to the left’s day. I am going to kill the jasmine and honeysuckle that I planted there in my horticultural wisdom just after we arrived. I now know that jasmine and honeysuckle have the propensity to grow like invasive aliens and am removing them before I have a real problem on my hands in the future. I used to keep everything pruned and under control when I lived here and took a lot of pride in my very first ever garden of my own. It sometimes depresses me to see what has happened to it, but it’s all still alive, and it’s all growing so that tells me that it’s pretty self-sufficient (in the main part). One thing that died a terrible death was a large Vietnamese mint shrub that I grew from a cutting. You can grow them easily by putting a handful of the mint into a jar of water and they sprout like mint. The problem is that they are very water hungry and would grow IN water if they could. I just pulled up the dead plant and chopped it into small pieces back into the garden…the new rule in this garden is “if you need lots of water you are going to die!” Life is tough plants…I spoiled you, and now you are going to have to grow on your own stems!

My faithful shadow Qi inspecting my raking of the front verge and proclaiming me somewhat remiss…”You missed a few…”

Small strip of front lawn covered in leaves…

Small strip of front lawn not covered in leaves

Here I am home again and enjoying feeling my place in my space with a degree of happiness that I wouldn’t have thought possible. A week away and I missed Serendipity Farm. I missed looking out of the kitchen window and watching the sunrise kiss the Tamar River and make it blush (rain tonight) and I missed the quiet, the space that Steve and I instilled when we renovated this place and I missed Steve and the boys so much that I didn’t mind where we walked on the day I got up, just that we “walked” together. The thing that I missed MOST about Serendipity Farm (and at the risk of sounding superficial) was my wood fired slow combustion stove. The girls have a really good big all gas oven in town that cooks really well but this stove heats our entire house and the ambiance that it brings to our riverside cottage is more than the sum of its components. Bezial came to town with me for a couple of days and missed this behemoth of a stove so badly that he lay next to the small wood burning fire in town constantly despite its sad inability to heat a very small space and when I sent him back home he didn’t move from in front of the fire for the entire day. Winter in Tasmania is a pretty cold experience for an Australian. We are not used to cold and when it drops down below 0C you can actually see the heat pumps being turned on at 4pm reflected in the electricity dimming. Brunhilda has allowed us to remain warm, content and all wrapped up in a degree of inner satisfaction that we are not affected by the power cuts that are as sure as eggs over the winter period thanks to our electricity needy neighbours and compatriots who desire heat at a massive cost to the power grid. The only thing that I miss when the power goes off here is the computer :o)

Beauty Point (10 minutes away from our place) and don’t let this picture fool you…it was FREEZING COLD.

You won’t get many pictures of me…this is effectively a picture of the dogs on the Beauty Point wharf that I just so happen to be in

The pretty little seaside town of Beauty Point where you can buy houses for sixpence (which isn’t much of a stretch of the truth at the moment in Tasmania…)

Well guess what? I forgot to post this post last night! Correct me if I am wrong but this may just be the very first post that I actually “forgot” to post since I started this blog. We spent yesterday creating blocks and polishing our AutoCAD drawing of our sustainable landscape design for Serendipity Farm. My ability to sit happily designing blocks without having a nervous breakdown is a sign that not only can you “teach an old dog new tricks” but that the dog might actually enjoy said trick once it passes its suspicion gland and manages to become something that might be useful. That’s the process that enables me to learn something. I love to learn but if I can’t see a use for it anywhere in my world it’s not something that I am going to embrace or remember any day soon! The past week and a blossoming cold and an impromptu visit from a friend laden with 2 wallabies (for the dogs) and a boot load of firewood (love you friend who remains anonymous in the witness protection program…) and a mad flurry of activity in creating a soul soothing batch of chicken soup for Steve with our very own Serendipity Farm rooster stock (apparently heavenly) and a last minute hastily constructed old fashioned date loaf and custard to cure Steve’s sweet tooth and finally (and most damning of all…) a bout of playing my new copy of Zelda Skyward Sword (Cheers girls :o) ) I completely and utterly forgot to post…I forgot you my dear constant readers and there is no denying it! I guess life got in the way of a good post and if I ever find that good post, I will immediately post it here to  make up for it! Here I am at 6.51am forgoing my early morning rss feed reading degustation menu for the day just for you so that I can make sure that Serendipity Farm is not missing from your online menu of “stuff to read”. The strawberries that I found at the tip (dump…green waste receptacle…whatever floats your boat for a place where people throw what they no longer care about…) when dumping a load of blackberries (forget no longer care about for blackberries…they are instantly thrown into the must obliterate at all costs basket!) and that I spent a few happy hours cleaning up and isolating all of the small plants forming at the end of masses of runners and used up almost all of our cubic metre of prime potting mix on are ALL GROWING. That’s right folks…after goodness knows how long languishing at the tip…a day in the back of the trailer languishing in the frost…2 days languishing in the shed on the floor and a degree of predation by the shed dweller (Pingu)…I suspected at least a not inconsiderable degree of attrition…but as far as I can see every single strawberry from the large well rooted plants to the teeny tiny little buddlings (not a technical term but whatchagonnado?) are all standing to attention in their newfound pots and are threatening to change Serendipity Farm into a mass strawberry producing property in one fell swoop. Don’t you just love seizing the day? I seized the strawberry opportunity and put up with a few hours delving amongst the tangled mass of vegetation to arrive at a point where I don’t have to buy strawberries for my garden and indeed will be able to supply friends and neighbours with strawberries for their gardens as well. Cheers universe!

Who would have thought that just around the corner in the background is the industrial centre of the North, Georgetown?

This Leucadendron goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to have flowers in winter…bracts will do! I am going to be taking cuttings from Leucadendrons as they have proved themselves (through observation) to be ideal plants for water wise gardens in Northern Tasmania. Check out what is thriving in local gardens when you are thinking about what to put in your own garden and learn from other people’s hard work…work smarter NOT harder is my motto 😉

How is this for clever and most organic advertising? The salon is now closed but some bright spark who decided to utilise the existing Boston Ivy to enhance their business advertising should be given at least some superficial kudos from us all

So that’s it for today folks. I would appologise emphatically for not posting last night if I didn’t enjoy the process of forgetting about you and so…in my year of living honestly… here I am making amends. I can feel a cold tickling at the back of my eyes at the moment and filling my head up with nefarious glue…but that’s not going to stop me doing everything that I can to enjoy the process of living in the stanza between this post and the next and hopefully every single one of you will find something in the next few days to be grateful and thankful for. See you on Saturday :o)

Blackbean veggies (made with home made blackbean sauce) with omelette and spicy Thai fish cakes with basmati rice…not a bad thrown together meal if I must say so myself…

This meal just got elevated to degustory heaven for an Englishman in absentia from his homeland…

Now your talking! All that would make this pure heaven on a stick is a dollop of vindaloo on that basmati rice and a side portion of chips in curry sauce…Don’t say that I don’t try to feed you well babe 🙂

How to make your chicken stretch to the max

Hi All

Another days’ worth of edibles slides down our throats and got me thinking about how differently we humans eat from one country to another. What is standard fare for me is freaky food for other people and what people in India eat may be out of someone in Russia’s comfort zone. Apart from using the ingredients that are locally available which up until this point has been the wisest way for a country to survive, what makes us eat what we do? Here on Serendipity Farm we tend to work out what we are going to eat on the day that we eat it. Sometimes we utilise our leftovers into a meal because we don’t waste food here. If it’s not eaten it gets put into the compost (where the feral cats and possums fight over it long into the night) but we want to make sure to use every last bit so that we are minimising our carbon footprint. I have been taking some surreptitious photos of what we have been cooking and preparing for a few days now and thought that a post about grub on Serendipity Farm might be something that you might be interested in.

Interesting…some sort of meat and veg…correct! This is some diced cooked steak, carrots and toasted rolled oats…

All mixed together to make up what our dogs have every second day. On the other days they have raw meat. Not a bad life for a dog eh?

A wonderful thing happens to cornflour at 60C. It’s much like what happens when you install a Flux capacitor into a Delorean and put pedal to the metal and hit 88 miles per hour…magic! It’s one of those moments where the act of cooking transcends its boundaries and bleeds over into the strange mystical world of science and chemistry where you can find mythical creatures cavorting about with lab coats on with beakers and test tubes of bubbling multi coloured liquids doing strange things that defy the laws of gravity (oops…strayed into the Physics department… “Sorry guys”…). It’s those sort of moments when I could almost see myself hitting the books and getting excited about chemistry again but despite Heston Blumenthal making the BEST thrice cooked chips and some amazing chemical combinations that pass as Michelin star food, this little black duck is quite selective about where she will let her brain be manipulated and a department full of mad scientists is NOT for me! So when confronted with half a chocolate cake that we are ONLY talking about because I have only just stopped seething about it since I baked it last Friday. Words like “Perfect cake”…”Never EVER Fail” and “Easy Recipe” were bandied about by the author of this recipe and I launched myself into baking a “Chocolate Sponge Cake”… first, NEVER believe it when someone says “Never Fail” because there is always a first time and its highly likely to be yours… second, there is no such thing as a perfect cake, just a cake that you can slap enough accoutrement’s on to give you a degree of salvageable dignity.  This cake was dense, rich, dark and…flat…not so good :o(. I was going to use it along with one of Steve’s close to perfect sponge cakes to take in for morning tea at our meeting with our lecturer. Not bribery per se, but let’s call it mutual degustory satisfaction and be done with it. Our lecturer provides the fresh brewed coffee and we provide the cake. Anyhoo…I have a smidgen of pride and couldn’t be presenting the chocolate equivalent of a pancake to my lecturer with any degree of satisfaction so it was crumbled into a bowl and set aside for “later”. I decided that today was “later” and as we no longer waste food, I had to find a way to make this chocolate pancake suitable not only to eat, but to have for desert tonight. I decided to make a chocolate trifle and put the crumbled (pan) cake into a decorative bowl. I made some chocolate custard and poured it over. I then realised that I had a significant lack of any sort of cream on the premises and no incentive to drive 8km to the nearest town to buy some. Given this mini conundrum I often think “What would mum do?”…mum was a cook who worked as a shearers cook, a hotel cook and as a caterer for most of her life and often had to fix some mini disaster or other at short notice on the cookery front line and the answer came right back at me “Mock Cream”. Cheers mum…I don’t mind you acting as my cooking muse if you want to :o). Mock Cream, for those of you born closer to the end of last century than the beginning of it is a substance developed to cater for rationing in and after WW2 and there are various recipes for it, most of them involving some sort of solid fat and sugar blended into each other and tempered with flour, cornflour, boiling water etc. None of this sounds in the least bit appetising and so I went hunting further afield to see if I couldn’t find a Mock Cream that was more luxurious in its ingredient quotient yet contained no actual cream (the missing link). I came up with this recipe and after making it have tucked it safely away for future use. No cream…no worries…I gots me a GOOD Mock Cream recipe 😉

I would just like to point out that this website is a really awesome site for recipes of all kinds. I have found so many foundation recipes here and tweaks for recipes so that I can turn them from regular to vegan that I subscribed to get newsletters from them. This recipe allows you to choose regular Mock Cream or Chocolate Mock Cream. I dare say you could come up with some variants should you feel so inclined. I am just happy to be able to make something to top that mass of chocolaty goodness.

This is what I started with…crumbled chocolate NOT spongecake…

This is what happens when you mix some home made icing sugar with a bit of water to make “a consistency where it will just slide into the mix”…

Whipped butter and icing sugar (that was “slid into the mix”), you can see the change from regular (uscraped from the side of the bowl) butter to whipped butter that the beaters could actually reach

Starting to look a fair bit like the cream that it is supposed to be mocking…

This is the point where you have to start adding alternating boiling and cold water…not too sure why apart from tempering the sugary flavour in the mix

Unlike Nigella you will notice that my pans and oven slides are most definitely used more than once before they are donated to charity! I actively seek out the darker older pans whenever I am scouring thrift shops and garage sales for a bargain. As a cook I know that these are the well-seasoned vehicles for happy cooking and the best results.

The initial ingredients needed for making the chocolate custard

my trusty whisk being used to ensure that the custard isn’t lumpy

Chocolate custard poured onto the chocolate NOT spongecake, cooled and ready to be decorated with the mock cream

Doesn’t this look lovely? How could you tell the difference between this and regular cream? Well the consistency when it was removed from the fridge might be a bit of a dead giveaway! This cream could have been rolled down our rather steep driveway and would have looked virtually identical to this picture when it rolled to a standstill…sigh…it was solid as a rock! We had to put it over the warmth of the wood fire to soften it a bit, re-whip it and add more boiling and cold water before it stopped looking like a curdled mess and started to look like “cream” again…honesty is the best policy folks and I would HATE to have any of you try this recipe without being aware that you are going to have to store it at room temperature before using…

Aside from that little hicup, here the cream is, rebeaten into submission and doing what a good mock cream representation should!

And this is the finished product. A few shaves of chocolate and voila! Desert.

When we dispatch our roosters it isn’t with their tasty meaty goodness in mind. If the roosters could learn to live in a utopian harmony with the rest of the natives on Serendipity Farm they could live out their lives in full but like most males of the species, roosters are prone to strutting about and trying to take over from each other. They are also prone to random acts of sexual molestation that startle the hens out of their laying routine thus making them seed scoffing menaces to our egg futures and when they start to crow all through the night, its them or us. Little red rooster was the last of our roosters to bite the dust in a line of 5 before him. I am collecting their wishbones so that they are not forgotten and they will all go into an artistic display of life on Serendipity Farm (or perhaps death on Serendipity Farm would be more to the point!) somewhere in the future when I find the time to contemplate my navel, my inner artistic muse and my ability to find something to adhere the wishbones to. 2 of the wishbones are still clinging tenaciously to their hosts in the freezer in the garage as roast chicken futures. I had thought that little red would be tough because unlike his more tame brothers, he was wholly feral and had been crowing since he was only 3 months old. Crowing is associated with the onset of maturity and thus, at almost 5 months old I had imagined that he would be tough…stringy and fit only for mincing. Minced he was, along with being turned into delicious stock and his stock meaty portions and skin were fed to the dogs. The skin was first turned into chook scratching’s in a hot oven and even the feral cats got the intestines to squabble over. We don’t waste much here. If I could bring myself to do something with the feet I would but beak, feet and feathers are disposed of. If we could dig the soil we would bury the head but we are going to have to work out what to do with them other than surreptitiously depositing them into the bin (bad I know but whatchagonnado?) and the feathers languish in the compost bin until they blow all over the place in a gale…

This was an interesting spice that my daughters bought for me when they were buying some products from an Australia based seller of U.S.A. foods, curiously called “U.S.A. Foods”. To all of you living in the U.S.A. it might make you curious why I would be showing my dear constant readers this spice mix that is readily available to you all. In Australia we have a fraction of the variety of foodstuffs that you are able to purchase on a day to day basis. We often have a really hard time replicating recipes because we have to find a local substitute for some of the ingredients in your recipes. This is one such ingredient and I use it for making potato wedges and to add a bit of spicy flavour to anything that needs it.

I removed a package of past rooster mince from the freezer tonight to make something for Steve’s dinner. I decided to make small rooster meatballs to go with some rich tomato pasta sauce and some spaghetti and cheese. I used 250g of ex rooster and mixed it with fresh breadcrumbs, Italian mixed herbs (dried), some yellow American mild squeezy mustard (one of Steve’s personal favourites), some smoked paprika, some good old tomato sauce, a shake of Massell vegetable stock powder, a bit of minced garlic, a shake of Emeril’s All Natural Rib Rub (a gift from my daughters from an online American wholesale outlet in Australia) and a shake of Worcestershire sauce all formed into a mass and made into small balls. I then placed them on a baking paper lined oven tray and baked them. I used the remaining 250g to make into Thai chicken patties tomorrow night to be served with some kefir lime scented rice from the freezer and a left over portion of a veggie mix that I invented because Steve said “I NEED vegetables!” (in addition to his normal veggies that is…) where I cut the kernels from a fresh corn cob, and cooked them with some frozen peas and garlic in some butter and tossed in some sliced mushrooms and a carrot shaved with the potato peeler. Apparently delicious (what ISN’T delicious when cooked in garlic butter eh? 😉 ). I mixed the remaining portion of ex rooster with some smooth peanut butter. I normally wouldn’t have this in the house but SOMEONE told me that dogs LOVE peanut butter and that I should buy some to put into Earl’s Kong for when we go for our lectures and the boys get left here. I allowed the boys to sniff the specially purchased jar of peanut butter expecting the equivalent of dog raptures (remembering that I was promised that they LOVE peanut butter and can’t resist it…) and despite putting a bit on Earl’s nose that he promptly wiped off in disgust, their love of peanut butter was decidedly underwhelming to say the least! I have to find ways to use it up and biscuits, Thai noodles and adding it surreptitiously to just about everything I can get away with is how I am going to discontinue its shelf hovering career in the pantry. I then added some Korean chilli paste, some minced ginger, and some minced garlic, more fresh breadcrumbs, and some Massell vegetable stock powder and mixed it all up. It’s marinating in the fridge overnight for me to make into small patties tomorrow night and serve. I love thinking up frugal and deliciously inventive ways to make leftovers into something tasty. The rooster meat has come in handy and is totally different than supermarket chicken. Its darker, it’s more flavourful and it goes further than regular chicken does.

Here’s the ex-rooster turned into meatballs ready for Steve’s spaghetti and meatballs…

And here’s the finished dish. He had already grabbed the plate and started it when I insisted that he stop eating to take this photo!

Tomorrow we will be using one of our roosters past to see if they are tender enough to roast. The rooster selected was huge, fat, lazy and just on the point of crow. We know that because the rooster in question was called “Big Bertha” right up until 3 days before it’s demise and so it should be tender enough to roast. We have been doing experiments with our rooster meat. Its something akin to male calves in a dairy herd, not something desirable and so we let our roosters live happily on Serendipity Farm until they start to cause the girls problems and then its time for a culinary adventure. Big Bertha/Bert is going to be celebrated by stuffing under the skin with herb/garlic butter, roasting, and accompanying with roasted goose fat potatoes, yorkshire puddings, peas, carrots, stuffing and pan gravy. I will let you know how it all goes. We will only be roasting half of Big Bertha/Bert because only Steve eats meat and we can use the remaining half to make a chicken casserole that can be used in a future pie. When you start to look at what it takes to produce your food, it gives you a lot more respect for the process. Its not easy to kill a rooster when you have raised it from a chick and its important to make sure that you respect that roasted chicken on your plate. Still not too sure what we are going to do with all those wishbones…Steve suggested something along the lines of making a necklace out of them like Predator…hmmm perhaps not! Ok, I know I have a lot of photos to put into this post and so I am going to finish up here. I hope you liked the change of pace in this post and things will be back to normal on Wednesday (if I can be dragged from my newfound love of Amanita games to type a post that is! 😉 )