A week in pictures…

Hi All,

I have a post ready for today but at the last minute, when I was hunting through the images that we have accumulated over the past week I decided that I might tell the story of the week that was in pictures. They say that a change is as good as a holiday and with Steve’s guest post last week you have had a fortnight off ;). Are you ready to wander through Serendipity Farm? Here we go…

DSCF4725

Having never made homemade thick syrup before I had no idea how to go about making some but never one to back down from a challenge I forged ahead…without a recipe…and without most of the ingredients that you would be inclined to use to make a heavy syrup. It consists of raw sugar and floral green tea reduced. I had a vague recollection about having to test a drop on a saucer of cold water but wasn’t entirely sure what consistency it had to reach. I realised that it wasn’t going to be a thick syrup and had jumped straight to green tea toffee but to be honest,  It’s amazing it managed to get to this stage but after pouring it onto a teflex sheet to set hard…it didn’t. I ended up with a bendy semi-set toffee…what to do?

DSCF4727

Refusing to give up on my vague recollections as fact, I remembered how you can turn semi-set toffee into “taffy” by pulling it. I buttered up my hands and got stuck in to pulling it. Despite liberally buttering my hands this stuff stuck. It didn’t turn to taffy, it didn’t do anything aside from stick to anything that it touched. It is languishing in the fridge in a bowl thinking about it’s actions. I figure we will melt it over homemade ice-cream…and in the words of Jason Nesmith of Galaxy Quest fame “never give in, never surrender!”

DSCF4872

You see before you another selection of half-assed food preservation. The yellow jars are lemon curd/butter. The dark jars are citrus marmalade that was also made with raw sugar and the lighter jars are 6 jars of date and apple paste. I didn’t want to waste some apples that were a bit floury, a huge stash of lemons and Steve just wanted marmalade so what’s a girl to do? These 10 jars of preserves are 8 more than I have made in my 50 years prior to this. This preserving lark is eminently satisfactory 🙂

DSCF4822

What happens when your husband is thinking about something else while he is putting the kettle on to boil 😉

DSCF4714

Time for tea…

DSCF4729

Homemade Asian stuffed buns (for Steve) and the top level of the steamer holds a rich chocolate steamed sponge that he had with homemade custard for dessert

DSCF4738

The buns and stir fried veggie accompaniment but I forgot to take any pictures of the dessert

DSCF4739

“A real sunbeam!”

DSCF4754

It pays to keep your eyes open when you are perambulating around your local neighbourhood. Steve and I found this beauty floating just over the road from our driveway…how convenient! A pity I had to wade out  in the freezing cold water to get it but them’s the breaks and this baby has been earmarked for water storage inside our new veggie garden 🙂

DSCF4775

Decanting the results of a week of Kombucha fermentation mixed with a litre of juice into bottles for secondary fermentation. I am mixing glasses of delicious Kombucha and non-dairy kefir and the results are delicious. Even Steve is drinking the Kombucha because it is really tasty and eminently customisable. My next batch is going to be fermented with some fresh ginger and apple juice.

DSCF4770

Another tea. That pile of riced red potatoes covers a good old fashioned shepard’s pie with some grated cheese on top. Steve proclaimed it “delicious”

DSCF4786

One of multitudes of babies hatching out all over the place

DSCF4790

I have been throwing harvested perennial seeds all over the place in the side garden and finally some of them are starting to grow… those osteospermum daisies days are numbered though!

DSCF4792

We still haven’t finished cutting up the tree that fell into the side garden thanks to the incessant rain but the sun is finally starting to win out and even though the side garden is full of tree, it’s looking quite pretty at the moment

DSCF4793

More tree and more garden

DSCF4808

Still more tree but the other end of the garden

DSCF4807

At least you can see we have at least been TRYING to cut up that tree 😉

DSCF4780

Cutting foraged steel poles to be sunk into the ground and concreted in to stabilise the netting over the top of our huge fully enclosed veggie garden

DSCF4804

Drilling holes

DSCF4805

Holes are needed to string wire through to prevent mass invasion from above by possums

DSCF4813

Another tree that fell needed to be cut so that we could get our wheelbarrows full of concrete through to the veggie garden

DSCF4812

You can see how damp the weather has been by looking at that sky. We were racing against the clock to hammer the poles in and then concrete them in before the rains came

DSCF4818

In the foreground you can see the roots of the tree that fell down and the proximity to the new veggie garden along with the exposed old veggie gardens that have been completely predated by chooks since we uncovered them

DSCF4763

But not before I harvested all of the spinach!

DSCF4816

Jerusalem artichokes that I found growing on the side of the road and rehomed on Serendipity Farm and a wild lettuce that just decided to keep them company

DSCF4844

Steve was gifted an old empty beer keg not so long ago and aside from vague (and vain) aspirations of turning it into a still (HA!) he had to rethink his gifted keg and thought that he might make it into a rustic coffee table. After realising that we don’t need a coffee table he rethought again (all of that thinking 😉 ) and came up with turning it into a stool for his music room. Here you see the remnants of the old leather jacket that I used to cover a stool a few months ago being used again to cover a section of plywood that Steve cut into a circle. The old pillow gave us the padding material and with some rudimentary tools we turned this pile of “stuff” into this

DSCF4847

A padded leather covered keg topper for a musicians derrière

DSCF4852

“Can I have it?”

DSCF4865

Sorry…No, but you CAN pretend you are D.J. Earl…will that make it better?

DSCF4869

He’s all soul 😉

Lastly, here’s a nice composite picture that Steve made using some new software that he recently got called “Snapseed”. It’s much easier to use than Photoshop and great fun to boot. The flower is in the side garden and if you look VERY carefully on the left hand side you can STILL see that tree ;). All in all a good way to say “seeyalateralligator” for today and wish you all a great week ahead…

prewtty

The power of music

Hi All,

In honour of World Permaculture Day on May 5th 2013…(YES I am early but I am giving you plenty of time 😉 )

All of us would acknowledge our own work as modest; it is the totality of such modest work that is impressive. Great changes are taking place. Why not join us in the making of a better future.

Ingenio Patet Campus. The field lies open to the intellect.”

Bill Mollison
2 May 2012

I would just like to add…don’t forget the heart Mr Mollison, for that is where you find the courage to go on in spite of overwhelming odds. Your head might get you to the starting gate but it aint gonna’ win you that race!

DSCF9981

This is what represents Serendipity Farm at the moment. I went for a walk to take some photos of pretty things to cheer myself up because it has been so hot and dry, but outside its actually hotter and drier than inside and all that happened was I started measuring up against places like Texas and The Gobi Desert and found us wanting so here it is…my artistic rendition of what Indian Summer represents to Serendipity Farm!

Today we found my earphones. I used to listen to music for hours on end and own a huge collection of CD’s, some of them helped me through my marriage breakup. Certain songs matched milestones, Pearl Jam “Alive”… Chumbawamba’s “Tub Thumping” EVERYTHING by The Counting Crows and Hootie and the Blowfish and a longstanding musical affair with Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20 after I won their very first CD on an early morning radio station because no-one gets up at 5am and is awake enough to phone up D.J.’s at that time of day…all except me that is…me and my early morning habits…music was always there. I chose it. After I left my ex-husband and we vindictively divided up the C.D.’s I wore my music as a badge of courage and I hid behind it and wore my heart on my sleeve as I tried to work my way through the processes of unpicking a long standing relationship. Music is a bit like that nose/sniffing thing that I mentioned in the post before last. Music can hoist me high or lay me low and it takes me places that I have stumbled through before. Steve was hunting for something in the middle room built-in’s the other day and came out with a large stack of CD cases and reignited my love affair with music and infusing my brain with it as I type and think and hunt online. The next step was to give me anonymity. Steve likes to watch television unhindered by loud music so we needed to supply me with earphones. Steve retrieved his headphones from his music cupboard but they are those old fashioned Cyberman headphones and hurt my ears after I wear them for a while (which I inevitably do) and I remembered my funky set of Mochi earphones that I bought for my MP3 player when I used to go everywhere with music. I lost the time to listen to music and found myself “doing” more and ended up giving my MP3 player to my daughter and I promptly “Forgodaboudit”. We still had Youtube marathons into the night but no solo forays until Steve found my mochi’s and now I am hooked. It’s like I never left! My early mornings are going to be peppered with music. My very first CD that I listened to was Ben Folds 5. Next was Jeff Buckley and “Hallelujah” still makes me cry. Next The Whitlam’s opening number “There’s No Aphrodisiac” and who knows who after that…The Clash? Maybe Mark Knopfler “Sailing to Philadelphia?” How about Ben Harper “Diamonds on the Inside”? or ANYTHING from John Butler before he split with his trio…so many old friends that have been waiting patiently for me to get my mojo back…”I’m back!” :o)

DSCF9957

My favourite of the 50 Pumpkins…this one I could eat! 😉

DSCF9950

The first carrot cake that I can remember that I made that actually turned out! Usually they are tasteless or too wet or just plain ornery but this wonderful sourdough version turned out perfectly! Audrey, you are a star 🙂

DSCF9956

A close-up of the gorgeous crumb. Half is in the freezer and the other half is rapidly receding into Steve

DSCF9945

Isn’t this pretty? It’s Steves creation. I made pastry with grated butter straight from the fridge that made gorgeous flaky pastry. I also cooked a lot of potatos (steamed) and Steve cooked a heap of caramelised onions with chilli and made a delicious rich cheesy sauce and combined it all in layers with cooked capsicum (peppers) and made a fantastic (and most enormous) vegetarian pie.

Its Monday 11th of march and Douglas Adams would have been 61. His candle burned very brightly for a short time. I met Steve because of my early adoration of Douglas Adams. I read every single one of his books and was introduced to philosophy through their pages. Prior to reading the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” trilogy, I had never thought much about life, the universe and everything. The sky was up there and I sometimes lay on my back in the evening looking up at the stars and thinking about how small I was but not much more. Adams introduced me to thought processes outside my comfort zone and to the number 42. When my son was small he was given a small wooden mouse with a leather tail. We called him “Slartibardfast” and despite losing his tail in an early accident (children are curious…) he managed to stay with us through moves all over Western Australia. I have no idea where he is now or if Stewart still has him but I would imagine he would be in an ancient sandpit in a house in the Western Australian fringe outback as I type this. I actually owe my love of Douglas Adams books for meeting Steve. My son, Stewart, then 14, got tired of me complaining about having nothing to do and showed me how to use the internet. I could only type with 1 finger and back then (last century circa 1997) the net was populated by chat rooms, places where you picked yourself a little avatar that you associated with and you waited to jump into someone’s conversation. There were so many different chat rooms and I remember scrolling down the exponentially increasing list in awe and thinking “Where do I start?” As a Luddite technophobe the temptation was to just give up before I started but I chose a room called “Comic Chat” and entered. When I got inside there were reams and reams of text scrolling down the page and despite my best efforts to tap away with 1 finger, by the time I had anything typed the conversations had moved on…I was somewhat bemused at the speed of my brain being entirely unrepresentative of what was coming out of my fingers! I ended up just sitting there watching words scroll maniacally across the page till one sentence hit me…”What is the meaning of life?”…I had a SHORT ANSWER to that one! I quickly (well…quickly for someone who didn’t even know where the number keys were 😉 ) typed back “42!”…little was I to know that this was Steve’s final hurrah online. He had been tapping away for months trying to connect with likeminded people. His friend (also Steve) had gotten him into computers via gaming and he had been making brief but frustrated forays into the chatting world and had decided that he would ask this one question and if he didn’t get a satisfactory answer he was out of there for good! My very first sentence online would seal my fate for the rest of my life. How fitting and how poignant that Mr Douglas Adams would be my teacher and would deliver my ultimate happiness to me via being brave enough to step out into a brave new world. Cheers Douglas and Stewart for my new life, I couldn’t have done it without either of you :o). I saw the Google homepage tribute to Douglas Adams this morning and raced to Facebook to laud him but my sister Pinky had gotten there first. Oh well… I can get there first here! ;). I headed off into the ether for a few moments to find out about how 42 equates with life, the universe and everything and there are some very interesting connotations to the number 42. You can read about them here on my old paraphrasing friend Wikipedia if you are so interested. Aside from being interesting, this page was written by someone with more than a brain cell or two (which lends this Wiki page a bit more weight) because it is littered with some mighty fine scientific backup and there are some very amazing things that start with or end with 42…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42_(number)

I found another page where Mr Adams had decided to give his view about Australia. A most humorous and fitting small article about us antipodeans that is well worth a few moments of your time to read…

http://www.jumbles.com/douglas_adams.htm

Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchet are my favourite fiction authors. It is curious to see that Douglas Adams died so young and that Terry Pratchet is facing his own slow demise at such an early age. Perhaps their brilliance in literature could only burn so bright for a short time? Was it worth it? As someone who has gained more than she could have possibly imagined from both of them and learned so much in the process I salute both of these amazing men and am reminded how “The Old Country” has spawned such a magnificent array of talented artists in all realms. I am bordering on sounding like an Anglophile there! Best stop that quick smart or I will have to hand back my Bolshie workers party pin (along with my Vegan confraternity pin after eating that Beurre bosc pear along with its previous occupier…)

DSCF9961

This is our half of the wonderful stash of natural soil ammendments that Steve Solomon recomended for our soil. Just to ensure there are no readers sending animal protection around…that lime isn’t actually to deal with “moles”. We don’t get moles here in Australia…it’s from a place called “Mole Creek” in Tasmania 🙂

DSCF9965

If nothing else grows on Serendipity Farm in the middle of the hot dry weather these most certainly do! Dandelions are loving the weather and are enjoying the extended Indian Summer

DSCF9964

Kid Creole on the left and his “Coconuts” on the right

We humans have art to express ourselves. Some of us are artistically challenged when it comes to attempting to reproduce what we see around us pictorially but then visual representation is only one of the ways that we are able to reach out and communicate with other people. Neither Steve nor I are dab hands with a paint brush, let alone a pencil. The fact that having to draw 50 pumpkins each for our Media design course (in an attempt to make us think about how to represent a pumpkin in 50 different ways) has us twitching and procrastinating when we have finished the rest of this unit should go a long way to showing you how desperately untalented we both are at drawing anything other than crazed stick men (Steve) and lopsided spheres (me). It’s curious that we should both adhere to other artistic pursuits though. Steve is very musical. He spent his misspent youth dabbling in the art of suspicious substances, enormous quantities of alcohol and generally “muckin’ abart” as a lad with his gang of mates. He had the dubious honour of being alive and of an influential age when Old Blighty was going through a rolling succession of workers strikes and Maggie Thatcher ruled supreme with an iron fist. Whenever inequality and hard times strike it brings out the quintessential artist in the working class and suddenly punk was born, closely followed by the rise of the first set of Goths…Steve straddled both classes and walked the fine line between the two. As a child he was exposed to music as a way of life. His father was a musician in a band and knew Ringo Starr of The Beatles fame. Steve picked up a guitar as a small child and by the time his teenaged angst hit it was second nature to use a guitar to fend off the blues. Steve used to be very shy and his guitar was the weapon that he used to fend off the world and give himself a medium to communicate. When I met him he had been teaching guitar for a few years and had a steady clientele of students and a quiet but comfortable life. Steve has 13 guitars (if you count a lap steel as a “real” guitar that is 😉 ) and has learned to bypass music as a means to communicate. He is now comfortable in his skin and is nowhere near as shy as he was when we first met but his music is a quintessential part of him and his first guitar, a white strat that he bought back in the 80’s, will be buried with him when he leaves the earth.

DSCF9968

I don’t even know what this mad weed is. I know it is a garden plant but it has gone mental all over the place and is another lover of this extended hot weather

DSCF9978

I am not sure what this tree is (there goes my horticultural street cred 😉 ) BUT I know it was on it’s last legs in it’s pot and we planted it out to give it a chance to die in the soil and we haven’t watered it once all summer and it is thriving! Apparently it must taste foul to wallabies and possums because it is putting on foliage and seems to love where we planted it go figure!

DSCF9969

This variagated sedum was almost completely consumed by duckies sister. She had a craze for eating our succulents and cacti and when she disappeared the xeriscape plant massacre stopped.

I was born to communicate…not always effectively but sometimes sheer volume can make up for a lack of direction and like Billy Connelly before me, I have learned the value of persistence…eventually you will get to the point! ;). I too was an incredibly shy child. I had a complete lack of drive and direction and life had been buffeting me around for 34 years before I decided to make my life count. As a result I left one marriage and embarked on a new life. All I knew at the time was that I wanted to really “live”. I didn’t want to arrive at the Pearly Gates and have my cap in my hand and nothing to show for the time that I was given. I couldn’t justify my existence and that was a terrifying thing. Why was I here? Why did “I” get this chance when millions of babies die each year or are not given the chance to even be born? I had to know or at least live a more worthwhile life and after leaving my husband of 15 years I headed off into the wilderness to think. I had never had time to think, or be myself before. I jumped straight from the terror of school into early motherhood and lost myself in the process…I was a pure example of how to function without thought. I can see how easy it is for people to just give themselves up to the processes like robots and how it would be such a tragedy to wake up at 65 and find yourself retired, married to someone you hardly know and suddenly having to face up to the fact that you haven’t done much with your life. I had my mid-life crisis at 34. After my marriage dissolved along with my family (my son chose to stay with my ex and I had to let him make his choice) I took my daughters and started a new life. I had 12 years of education, half a year spent having the BEST time at teachers college (before I got thrown out 😉 ) and a complete lack of a working history if you disregard 6 months spent working for a fish and chip shop and 2 months spent working in a café when I was 15. I was bewildered, terrified, completely unprepared for my new life and as a mother and a prize rabbit (August 1963 put me square in Chinese bunny territory) I was a perfect example of a rabbit bedazzled by life’s headlights. I spent a lot of time finding myself and my daughters will tell you that they were severely neglected. The poor little darlings were obviously left to fend for themselves…eating hotdogs out of an electric kettle and living under a rug…that’s how they tell the story…I remember it a bit differently girls! ;). I remember pulling the girls out of school when the sun was shining and it was too nice a day to be cooped up and driving them out to the tall Jarrah trees and we had a picnic with honey icecream cones purchased from Bartholomew’s Meadery on the way to the trees. We took Barbie and Woody along for the ride and they actually got married on a mossy log under the trees…I remember doing the same (some might say irresponsible, I say “enlightened”) thing on another lovely day when we drove out to a far off beach in Albany and just wandered around feeling our space in the world. If I was living under societal conventions I might feel a bit guilty about my daughters early childhood. More so because of allowing my ex to constantly move around to satisfy his need to climb the hierarchal ladder in his chosen profession but I have since learned that children who are cossetted and not given a modicum of freedom to explore the parameters of their world on their own and who are not taught the value of life lessons and the responsibilities of the natural world never grow up to be independent thinkers. We might have eaten hotdogs from a kettle girls BUT that was because the gas bottle ran out and I didn’t have enough money to buy another one. I remember it as fun…you might have been under a rug while I tapped away to a man thousands of miles away in a completely different timeframe but at least when he eventuated on the scene he didn’t take over your lives or try to change you in any way. The world has a way of communicating what we REALLY need to us, often against what our own perceived views of the world might be. It’s a true to life case of “You can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes…you get what you need”.

DSCF9979

A line of drought hardy nerines all heralding the autumn that just won’t come

DSCF9974

No sign of that lovely red lily from Saturday but look what I found growing right next to the spent stem! This little crocus has managed to grow and flower in the middle of the worst drought we have had in years! Again, you just can’t pick what will and won’t grow here 🙂

DSCF9977

There are at least 2 mango seedlings that grew from the mango seeds that I tossed into the compost and we will make sure that they are protected for their first winter on Serendipity Farm and after that they will be planted out in the food forest. I LOVE free plants 🙂

I would like to appologise to my children for being a somewhat absent mother for a few years there. I DO feel a level of guilt for having to tear you away from your lives but I know that what I did gave us all back our lives including my ex who is now happily married with another child. What might seem chaotic and devastating can be seen from the distance of memory to be very different clothing. My communication…my “art” if you will is my desire to represent my world and my view of the world in words. I might stumble over myself and I might have to endlessly check my spelling because my fingers can’t match the speed at which my myriad muses want me to type but there is a fire inside me and like all good bushfires, it won’t quit till one of its ignition sources is quenched and that doesn’t look like happening any day soon. Maybe one of my parents should have realised that I had a penchant for words and steered me into journalism…My parents had their own battles and I didn’t factor into their peripherals much so I was pretty much on my own when it came to trying to work out what life, the universe and everything meant to me as a child and a young adult. I owe my ex-husband a lot. Aside from my children, he spent the 15 years that we were together plodding along following his own set of processes to give us all what we physically needed to survive. He kept it all together when we were really falling apart and for that, I owe you Robert. I am not sorry that I left you and now that you are happy on the other side of Australia I feel somewhat vindicated in my choices. This post has been somewhat cathartic! I didn’t intend it to be a treatise about my life but in a round-about way it is. Mr Adams gave me a focal point and the key to the door that opened up my new life. 42 was indeed, my meaning of life moment. If you step outside your comfort zone and you dare to take a walk on the wild side, even if it is for only just a short time, you might just find your reason. I know…I did :o).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkGrkNu6mDg

5 Go mad in Sidmouth

Hi All,

Enid Blyton was one of my favourite authors when I was a small child. I got endless entertainment reading about whatever the “5” were up to on any given jolly set of hol’s. Enid was fond of a good mystery and we had ourselves a very Blytonesque mystery on our hands on Monday. We headed out to open the doors of the hen house to allow the hens into the enclosed area that they now live in. We lock the doors because of quolls, a native animal somewhat like a cat, that loves nothing more than a tasty fat docile hen added to its menu for the day and they hunt at night when the hens are at their most docile and compliant. We have the luxury of a cement floored hen house that was once a woodshed and even the most determined quoll is going to come up chookless when faced with 500ml of cement to have to tunnel through. We made small hen sized doors and a ramp down to the enclosed outer area and the hens go into the hen house at night and are ensconced safely till we let them out the next morning. We recently discovered one of the late great Effel Doocark’s daughters who had decided to head WAY down to the front of the property to lay a few eggs and go clucky and after waiting for the feral cats to eat her babies and then herd her into the enclosure along with her other sisters we discovered that unlike Effel, her daughters are EXCELLENT mothers. This hen managed to situate her chick’s right up close and personal in the feral cat’s domain and only lost 1 chick to them. We noticed her near the gate of the enclosure and with some careful manoeuvring; we were able to get them all into the enclosure…WIN! The only problem with enclosing feral chooks, as indeed this hen’s babies were, is that they have a taste for the outdoors and are rarely content to stay put. The chicks have grown somewhat and their mother has taken to going into the hen house at night to be with the rest of the flock but her babies are steadfastly refusing to go into the hen house and on Monday they escaped. Steve and I heard tell-tale “peeping” outside the enclosure and on further investigation we found them frolicking around in the leaves under the blackwood acacia trees and herded them back in. 6 more escapes later and we started to lose our cool! We had inspected the netting for holes…these chicks are not big and so could easily have slipped through a larger hole in the ex-fish farm netting that makes up the bulk of the enclosure.

DSCF9236

The Moscow State Circus comes to Serendipity Farm…

DSCF9201

2 ferals

13010101

A little crab that we found in the middle of the road as we were walking back dripping from a recent walk in the rain with the dogs

13010104

I had a little chat to Mr Crab and we decided that even though he might have thought that he wanted to make like a chicken and get to the other side, his life as a crustacean would be much more fullfilling (and long) if he would just learn to be satisfied to stay in the river

13010100

We are finding more and more of these little reminders discarded on the side of the road that prove that cyclists are full of something other than the “clean green” image that they would like us all to believe that they represent …it’s not only Lance Armstrong that is shaming the world of cycling…

We decided that the chicks were escaping by flying over the top of the enclosure. This confused us a bit because none of the other chooks (including a couple of erstwhile ferals that we had herded in after we dispatched their brothers) had managed to fly over but there is a small mandarin tree situated inside the enclosure and we did notice the chicks all roosting in this small tree…after cutting several lengths of extra ex-fish farm netting we started tacking pieces into the trees that border the chook enclosure and the whole shebang started to look like the Moscow State Circus. STILL the chicks got out! We figured that perhaps they were climbing up onto some blackberries in the enclosure (left to try to encourage the chook to feel safe about laying their eggs outside) and cut back all tendrils…STILL they got out! We put another large piece of netting all along the side of the enclosure where the blackberries and agapanthus hiding spots were and STILL they got out. It was getting beyond a joke and so this time we cut the flight feathers of each of their rotten little wings and smugly headed inside to make a warm drink…when we headed out to smile smugly at the captured prisoners 30 minutes later they were out! “WHAT?!!! HOW???” We took turns to sit incredibly still outside the hen house watching for several hours when the chicks did absolutely nothing aside from lay with their mother and dust bath but as the day started to heat up and the shade disappeared so did we…and they got out…sigh…I had a really good look and decided that their might just be a weak point in the defences and we put ANOTHER bit of ex-fish farm netting up so that we were totally covered. Sure that we had fixed the problem we headed back inside…after checking a little white later they were still in the enclosure and we were ecstatic…”WE WON!”… An hour later 3 of them were out… Again we put up some more netting  and this time we had the whole circus represented…all we needed was a ringmaster and a lion…a lion would most certainly have sorted out our chicken problem! This time there was no WAY that they could escape…we had over engineered the enclosure and Houdini himself would have been flummoxed. When Steve went to close the doors at 8.30pm they were out… Now you can only BEGIN to imagine how bad tempered I was by this stage! I was to the point of leaving them out to their fate with the quolls…

DSCF9204

Steve is starting to branch out with his spoons now

DSCF9238

Mid summer acorns

DSCF9251

A little wallaby next to his blackberry and bracken fern home

DSCF9250

A most innovative name for a vessel that pootles…

DSCF9244

Summer twinkling on the river

We both ruminated about how the heck they were getting out because there was pretty much no way to escape from the top of the enclosure and we both decided that they MUST be escaping from lower down…We both headed off in different directions around the enclosure and inspected the lower part of the run with a fine toothed comb…after 20 minutes of painstaking inspection I heard Steve say “I found it!”…I headed inside the enclosure to where Steve was standing next to one of the poles used to anchor the netting to. What he had discovered was a teeny tiny space between 2 rocks that these miniature Houdini’s were tunnelling through to get out to the other side. They had to squeeze themselves between the rocks, up through a tunnel of netting and then take a hard right turn and squeeze out underneath another couple of rocks to escape! Kudos to them and I will NEVER underestimate the brain of a determined feral chook again! They haven’t escaped again and peace has returned to the Moscow State Circus and Serendipity Farm. I am thinking of writing a children’s book called “5 go wild in Sidmouth” or “The Great Escape 5” in the tradition of a good Enid Blyton sleuth. I might throw a chance meeting in with Justin Bieber and Harry Potter and a guest appearance by the wiggles and Elmo and I should get a book deal with ease 😉

DSCF9205

This grey protrusion is a basking seal. This photo was taken about 200metres from our front gate from Steve’s boat this morning

DSCF9213

Flippy pretending to be a shark…”you won’t fool Steve THAT easily Flippy!” 😉

DSCF9218

A huge sea eagles nest on the river bank. This nest is very old and is constantly in use and is approximately 2 metres across

We just took delivery of 4 more large rolls of Ex-fish farm netting with the promise of as much as we can handle to come. I have visions of Serendipity Farm partitioned off into undercover bliss including an entirely enclosed orchard area that is currently battered and bruised after years of possums being allowed to run amok amongst the trees and our enormous edifice full of protected vegetables. We have smaller projects including compost heap construction and protection of various small garden beds but the luxury of being able to take what the fish farm sees as waste and turning it into our treasure makes me even happier.  Steve has just headed out to see what the river might yield in the Mumbley cumumbus. He is ostensibly “fishing” but in reality he is trawling around like Huck Finn on the river with his straw hat and his fishing line tied to his toe while he eats his cheese sarnies (1 with Brit Piccalilli…Crosse and Blackwell no less, and the other with some of his delicious home preserved ultra-thin cucumber pickles) in ex-pat heaven. It’s a really lovely day here, nice and cool but with the sun shining brightly and packed full of possibilities. Earl and Bezial are hoping for fishing futures and I am hoping for some photos that I can put in today’s post but aside from that Steve is Scott free and able to bob around on the waves in comparative solitude. That’s one of the benefits of being a penniless student and the shining beacon in our gratitude quotient. Sometimes it is difficult when we would rather have the money to instantly gratify our wants. It’s not like we want the moon…a water tank would be nice, a few solar panels to hook up to the water heater when Brunhilda is in hiatus and a mulcher to mulch all of the debris that we are generating via our sporadic concerted vegetative ethnic cleansing episodes…I could care less about fame and fortune, give me a $15.95 copy of Jackie French’s “The Wilderness Garden” and I feel like I just won lotto. I consider myself to be a very lucky woman. I am completely content with my lot and the possibilities in our lives and I am constantly excited and invigorated by simple things. In the eyes of society we are unimpressive and easily dismissed and that’s how we like it :o)

DSCF9227

One side of Redwood Island (Steve’s prime fishing haunt)…

DSCF9226

The other side of Redwood Island…All of our photos are taken with our 7 year old totally outdated FinePix Fujifilm camera. No lenses, no special whistles and bells…we are lucky if it zoom’s when we ask it to but it does take a lovely photo.

Its 5.44am Wednesday and Steve just headed off with his boat in the dark. He has just finished scrying his crystal ball (http://tides.willyweather.com.au/tas/northern/sidmouth.html ) and found the timing is right for a morning’s fishing/pootling in the river. It might be dark but I can’t hear the wind chime’s gentle melody so there isn’t any wind to chill the early morning air further…I love the hint of chill that is starting to creep in before dawn. I love that we have had Brunhilda on 3 times this week. I also love the free hot water and the ability to cook our meals on her as well as cook pots of legumes, have the kettle gently simmering ready for a drink and keep things warm in her lower ovens…my autumnal (sorry my American friends, “autumnal” is a MUCH more lyrical word than “fall” 😉 ) processes are waking up and it’s still summer. I know that New Zealand is enjoying our customary weather (hot without rain…peculiar for them at this time of year thanks to the recent cyclone that has tumbled our weather around) and we have theirs. Cheers for the swapsy guys…any time! I don’t mind the last gasps of summer in February because we have had this little rain fuelled interlude that has soothed the savage beast and eased the crustiness of Serendipity Farm…the garden is happy, I might even get some germination of the free roadside seed that I have been collecting over the summer and broadcasting in the side garden.

DSCF9265

Mandolin + home grown cucumber = very finely sliced cucumbers…

DSCF9268

What we choose to call Steve’s “Never ending refrigerator pickles” 😉

I just found a fellow Tasmanian’s blog…she is about my age and shares my ethos and has a lovely enthusiastic gardening blog like mine. If you want to check out Kate’s blog, head on down south to Cygnet and have a look at her world…

http://vegetablevagabond.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/time-to-sow-and-reap.html

Aside from her delightful blog, she has some really good Tasmanian links that I will be spending some time this morning checking out. Most of Tasmania’s “Hippies” live down south and there are so many seed swapping groups, transition towns and all kinds of sharing going on and I am envious. I wish we had something as vital as that up here but our local groups are not as active and tend to be a bit “closed shop”. There are some very active members but I am going to have to dig a bit deeper to find relevance to our ethos here on Serendipity Farm…oh well…I can admire from a distance :o)

DSCF9253

This last series of photos are an homage to an old video game hero of mine…I thought that this little beetroot (one of our recent harvest) looked remarkably like one “Earthworm Jim”…knowing that I can’t claim to have replicated him (on pain of being sued blue and black) I shall call my little creation “Beetroot Nemotode James” 😉

DSCF9257

Here he is nestled amongst his brethren waiting for his fate…

DSCF9258

“Well what do we have here?”…

DSCF9259

Surely this is the end of our erstwhile hero James! How could anything survive a scalding stream of fragrant pickling liquor! Stay tuned to find out what happens next in the continuing story of our hero…

DSCF9261

I don’t know what you think but he certainly looks like he is happy enough with his lot (ignore the colour, that’s what happens when you let Steve take the photo and he doesn’t want to use macro 😉 ) “Off to the fridge with you young nematode!”…

Have you noticed that I have been cutting my posts down a bit lately? I am trying to ensure that I don’t write marathon posts and make it difficult for you all to get through them in one bite. My muses are both enthusiastic and prolific and there isn’t much I can do about that BUT I can harness them and make them work in the direction that “I” want to pull… February is here and summer is almost over and autumn is just about to crest and that means W.O.R.K. on Serendipity Farm. Aside from turning piles of woody debris into Hugelkultur gardens and biochar (and tidying Serendipity Farm up considerably in the process), we will be planting out as many of our chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts as we can along with 4 loquats, 3 figs, 5 avocado plants (well sheltered) and will be situating a length of perforated drainage coil at the base of each root ball so that we can give them supplemental watering next summer…this summer hasn’t gone yet and we are already plotting for next summer! Does that make us “real” farmers? 😉 I don’t think so! Steve wants to get as many of his Brachychitons into the ground along with as many pines as he can fit. We love them with a passion and all of their in-ground brethren are going gangbusters so we figure “what the heck!” I know that my son rarely reads these posts so the words “Not in our lifetime” are not going to make him twitch ;). Most of these pines yield edible seeds so perhaps by the time Stewart and Kelsey inherit this property they may be able to harvest pine nuts along with everything else that we are setting up here for them…any grandchildren (now he is REALLY twitching if he has stumbled onto this post! 😉 ) will be able to graze freely (along with the native wildlife) from the food forest that we are in the process of setting up. I have no idea what I am meant to be doing with my life…so far I have just surfed along the crest of it hoping that I didn’t wipe out too badly but since we moved to Serendipity Farm, everything that has happened in my past seems to be knitting together to form a purpose. I think I was born to do this and the happiness that this simple life is bringing me gives me a sense of real purpose that mainstream worldly success couldn’t. I think I am going to have to put the plug in on my muses…they want to wax lyrical for a few more pages but I need to put some photo’s into this post guys…”SHHHH!” See you all on Wednesday and I hope that the rest of this week flows smoothly…if it doesn’t, remember “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”…best I can do with all these muses yelling in my head 😉

Penniless hippies of the world unite for we are many!

Hi All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GYPSY’S! Possums? Ely Possum?

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

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

Chocolate Eccles cakes taste a WHOLE lot better than they look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A nice trailer load of dung futures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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