Bezial kissed a cow and he liked it…

Hi All,

I’m back! I learned a couple of things from my trip to my daughters. When you live inland in a cold climate it gets cold. You can put a lead on a dog but you CAN’T make it walk. Parrots like aniseed “people” sunflower seeds and rats are a whole lot cleverer than I thought. I also learned that Vista was an operating system from hades and we are getting our Vista infested laptop exorsised as soon as we can raise the funds. Aside from gorging itself on as many Windows updates as it could (and we haven’t ever used it online so you can only BEGIN to imagine the gustatory spread that it felt the need to guzzle…sigh…) it took 20 seconds to open a new blank word document, 5 minutes to load a Pinterest board and it kept crashing and telling me that Internet Explorer was using WAY too much memory when it wasn’t. Time to get reformatted and be done with it. What I am trying to tell you is that I got bugger all done in town :o(. I hardly even dipped my toes into the massive tidal flow that is my Pinterest board problem and I didn’t even open my RSS Feed Reader (if a word document takes 20 seconds I could only IMAGINE how long it would take it to load my RSS Feed Reader!). I was forced to twiddle my thumbs and knit. Not bad because in between gnashing my teeth at the laptop refusing to do anything but update itself I managed to almost knit a pair of gauntlets out of that wool that our friend Roxy had spun herself. I haven’t knitted in years and was a bit worried that I wouldn’t remember how but I had obviously done a fair bit of it before I ceased because it came back to me like riding a bike…all natural like. I was smug in my ability to knit myself a pair of gauntlets as I even remembered how to rib! I got to the end of the first gauntlet and suddenly realised that I had NO idea how to cast off!  I am most pathetically going to have to check how to do it online…sigh…

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Earl sniffed out the culprit who was sitting and staying shtum on this clutch of prospective feral cat fodder earlier this week. He got a reward of some raw eggs to reinforce his egg hunting (well…to be honest…chook hunting) abilities. Now if we can just get him to do our studies…

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Check out this glass of my non-dairy kefir. It’s thick like kefir even though the original soymilk (organic and homemade) I made it out of was thin and watery. It is bubbly, fizzy and tastes a lot like yoghurt. I add extra date puree to the mix so that it has something to keep snarfling in the tundra of the fridge and it seems to love it. I have been freezing it to add to smoothie futures and drink it by the glassful. No idea if it is doing me any good but I now have a great probiotic live substitute for dairy yoghurt that doesn’t involve me having to choke down that insipid sweet mush that they sell as “yoghurt” in Australian shops. “Score!” 🙂

I am letting the P.C. download my massive RSS Feed Reader quotient for the weekend. All I can do is hope that all of you are outside making daisy chains and having gorgeous picnics in some green lush wooded areas to bother with such trivialities as posting blog posts and that most of the Northern hemisphere is joining you. Note that I am studiously avoiding checking the feed by pretending that I absolutely positively HAVE to make a start on this blog post for Wednesday ;). I had a lot of time to just “think” while I was house-sitting over the weekend. I didn’t bother using the remotes even though the girls gave me lessons before they headed out. I just didn’t feel like watching anything and as I go to bed so early there wasn’t much point. I took some music in with me on a memory stick and after downloading it to my daughters desktop P.C. (they don’t use it online) I looped it and played it in the background all day. I wrestled with the laptop and spent a lot of time thinking and patting and playing with the dog. It’s amazing how your mind will fill in the blanks if you allow it to :o). My rapidly (galloping) approaching 50th birthday has its sights on my thoughts and even though I might have wanted to completely forgedaboudit and deal with it in good stead, other people think it’s an important enough milestone to celebrate so celebrate narf7 will do!

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Beggars can’t be choosers when they get to 6pm on the day of their post and realise that they forgot to take lots of pictures for their dear constant readers… these are raw potatoes. They turned into some delicious cooked potatoes but Steve ate them before I was able to take a photo

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Here are some raw sausage rolls. You remember those potatoes? Same result…snarfled before I could snap.

While I was away one of our friends who live locally decided to test out his tractor and head up to Serendipity Farm and pull down that pesky tree that has been dangling in another tree precariously. So long as we don’t walk underneath it, it doesn’t appear to hold any sort of danger to us but if we manage to get it down we can cut it up for firewood. Guy turned up with his tractor and after Steve hooked a strong rope around the trunk of the semi-fallen tree Guy set forth in his tractor to pull the tree down…except…the tree had other ideas about that. The tractor lurched forwards and shot a spark plug straight into the air causing both Steve and Guy to hit the deck and the tractor to stop working. After spending the rest of the afternoon “tinkering” (as men do when they really don’t know what they are looking at but feel the need to at least look like they do) they had to admit defeat. We now have a large tractor as garden art up next to our defoliated liquidambar tree. Earl has claimed it by urinating on it at least twice and Bezial has detected possum activity in the immediate vicinity. Hopefully it gets sorted out soon and doesn’t become a permanent fixture on Serendipity Farm but at least it is in an unobtrusive place for now. We are assured that when the sparkplug gets mended it will go like gangbusters but for now it is showing its age and having a nap under a blanket.

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I probably should have warned the more sensitive of you (you are still reading this blog?) that I was going to show you a photo of one of the fork/hooks that Steve added to this sliver of Tasmanian Blackwood. Please be reassured that Steve hasn’t felt the need to revisit his punk past and he would like it to be known by all and sundry that this is NOT a rude fork…it is a “Peace fork”.

As a person who doesn’t naturally gravitate towards food early in the morning I have been struggling with “breakfast” as a concept. I know that it is important to eat breakfast. I know that it starts your metabolism and your day off right. I know that BUT that doesn’t make it any easier for me to eat it. I started off with the grainy porridge types of cereals but they made me feel lethargic and heavy for most of the day till they wore off. I dare say they were sustaining me but I would rather be springy and active than in need of a nap at 10am. My daughters gave me a really good idea when they shared some “Juk” with me when I stayed with them recently. Juk is the Korean version of Congee, a thin gruel made from rice. Ostensibly it’s eaten for breakfast and by the elderly and the sick and tends to be seen as comfort food. I see it as the perfect thing to eat for breakfast, especially the pumpkin variety. I have my eyes on a variety that involves black sesame seed but for now am happy with the pumpkin kind. I throw in black beans to fortify the mix and although it might be somewhat unconventional, it’s filling, tasty and it hits the spot and allows me to keep going through my day without feeling like I am weighed down. Now I just need to work out how to throw lunch into the mix and I am set!

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Yeah…I know…”YUM!” ;). Seriously though, this is delicious. I forgot to put the rice in and just ended up with pumpkin and beans cooked with date syrup and water and it was absolutely delicious.

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This is a 2 litre wine bottle. It smacks of the desperation I find myself in that I should stoop to using this image in my post. I am going to try to segue it by saying that Steve used this in his recent animation but he shelved that animation because it was too hard…(maybe I should have used the coffee cup that he eventually used?)…just know that we did, indeed, drink this entire bottle of wine and it wasn’t bad!

I may or may not be still addicted to Pinterest (spoken like a true addict). You know how people who are addicted to porn magazines tell you that they are reading them for the articles? Well I am learning a whole lot from pins that I have pinned to my boards. Just this morning I found this most interesting blog post about how to make your own recycled newspaper yarn. I love the idea of taking something that you either throw into the recycle bin or use to line a garden bed (or start the fire) and make something you can actually crochet or knit or weave with. The end results are quite beautiful…just call them a study in greyscale. Check out the tutorial here…

http://greenupgrader.com/2138/handspun-recycled-newspaper-yarn/

I don’t think I will be making an all-weather hat any day soon but there are some very interesting practical indoor uses for something made from recycled newspaper yarn, think baskets and bags. I found a tutorial on how to cast off! I can now finish off my first gauntlet and get going on the second one. I also managed to untangle an almighty mess of wool that my youngest daughter had stuffed into a supermarket bag and stashed in her wardrobe. She had no use for it and I asked her if I could have it. It’s that fluffy/fuzzy stuff that is a bugger to knit but I am going to practice making granny squares out of it. You can never have enough bags, shoes or granny squares girls! I really enjoyed picking up a pair of knitting needles again after a long hiatus.

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This is the wool that I inherited from my daughter…supposed to be round the other way I know…the daughter should inherit from the mum BUT she didn’t want it any more and I did so lets just call it a role reversal of fortune. I had to untangle the entire mess. You can see I managed to get 1 ball untangled before taking this image

Aside from being assured by my daughters that I was just showing my age, I am getting a great deal of satisfaction out of making something functional. I have some dark sage green wool (khaki?) that I am going to make Steve a pair of long gauntlets out of to walk the dog with. It’s cold in the mornings and that’s the best time to walk the dogs. We rug up well but fingerless gloves don’t come down far enough to keep the breeze off your wrists. I got the great idea from those lovely mitts that Sarah from thinkingcowgirl sent to me a while ago. I have been tumbling them around in my mind to see if I couldn’t customise them to make them slightly more robust. I didn’t want to wear the mitts that Sarah sent me outdoors as “dirt” lives outdoors. It lurks…it waits and it usually adheres itself to Earl whenever he races out the dog door. It is insidious stuff, dirt… no matter how much I sweep or wipe things over it comes back to do the dusty equivalent of a Mexican Wave to me every time I reveal my Italian soul and start waving my arms around all over the place. What’s a girl to do when she is surrounded by male counterparts who could care less about dirt and its nefarious ways? I have to get canny and surreptitiously pretend not to be sweeping but when you have 2 dogs that lie right in front of the broom (they have obviously made some kind of deal with the dust) it’s difficult to say the least.

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Here I was most pathetically trying to gain your sympathy with the size of the pile of wool that I needed to untangle and how matted it was…did I succeed? I didn’t think so…

Steve has been dabbling in time-lapse photography and had some fun the other day taking some long exposure images of stars. We recently became aware (thanks to one of our fellow students in our course that we have been chatting online with) that Tassie is being bathed in the gorgeousness of the Aurora Australis most nights. We live on the wrong side of the hill to see it but I am sure I saw it out of the corner of my eye when I was waiting to pick up my daughters on Sunday night. The sky was too red for a winter’s day and after checking a Facebook page that we were directed to that hosts lots of photos of the spectacular I realised that my right eye might just have seen something that the rest of me hasn’t. Steve also did a bit of light painting with his torch down in the graveyard. I can only hope that Frank and Adrian weren’t standing on their deck at the time to see him waving his torch all over the place in the graveyard and aiming at headstones. Grave robbing isn’t viewed with the same understanding these days as it once was! 😉

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Yeah…a few balls done here and only a small pile of temper tantrum wool that was too knotted to be allowed to fraternise with the rest. This wool might be a pain to knit but good luck spotting the joins…swings and roundabouts folks! 😉

When we were walking this morning we walked past a heard of young steer (male cows castrated and raised for beef) that immediately took an interest in Bezial. It might have been because he was small and black like they are, it might have been because he was on a lead but it’s more likely because every few metres he was stopping to eat grass. Both of our dogs love to eat grass and if we were to allow them cart blanch in the mornings we would be out for hours while they munched their way through most of the road verge in Sidmouth. We aren’t that patient and Steve was in the process of dragging Bezial away from a particularly green and lush patch of grass when they were both approached by a most determined young steer on the other side of the fence. He put his head down and stared at Bezial who completely ignored him. Earl jumped up in the air, did a mid-air pirouette and had to be taken to the other side of the road in disgrace (the story of Earls life) but the steer kept staring at Bezial and so Steve decided to allow Bezial to meet the steer. I just need to point out here that where Earl is completely untrustworthy when it comes to any form of animal aside from human beings, Bezial is the most trustworthy hound on earth. He accompanies me to the hen house in the mornings and watches excitedly as I feed them. He follows Pingu and sniffs her nether regions with glee because she is “his”. They bonded when she lived in Steve’s music room as a small chick who had only just escaped death and she is the only chook who isn’t afraid of him. He walks through the throng of feral cats and completely ignores them. The only time he chases a chook is when I urge him to run over and stop one of the feral roosters having his wicked way with one of Yins girls and Bezial obliges by pelting over and scaring it off while the hen ruffles her feathers indignantly.

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My natural desire to organise things has been outed :(. After untangling the balls from each other I lined them up before untangling the balls from themselves. Talk about double handling! 😉

Bezial can be trusted…Earl can’t. To anyone who has watched the U.K. television program “Black Books” it is the same situation as when Bernard and Manny were left in control of Bernard’s friends wine cellar and drank the very expensive bottle of wine that he was going to give to the Pope. You don’t make the mistake of forgetting which dog you allow out the gate without a collar and lead on… you only make that mistake once. The steer seemed to really want to get close to check Bezial out and by this time, Bezial was interested in the big black fuzzy thing directly in front of him. They both had a really good sniff of each other and then the steer licked Bezial’s muzzle and Bezial licked the steer back. I wish we had a camera because it was a really excellent photo…”American Staffordshire Terrier kisses cow” He might never live it down. He has been telling Earl that he was just tenderising it but Earl doesn’t believe him for a moment! We all know that Bezial is a cow lover now 😉

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Woo-hoo! I did it!!! 🙂 Now I have some fluffy/fuzzy wool to use for “something” in the future. By the way Bethany “no you CAN’T have it back now!” 😉

I have a nice mug of mint and ginger tea sitting in front of me. I have a huge pot of homemade Soup Dragon (Steve) made soup on Brunhilda bubbling away and tonight it contains lots of barley. I have the beginnings of a cold slithering around in my bones and 2 enormous bags of oranges that are my way of hedging my bets. Steve and I have been beavering away at our studies and have managed to create 2 passable animations that hopefully have our lecturer patting us on the head and saying “good students” and tomorrow we animate windmills…well…we “attempt” to animate windmills. If you live anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere you are most probably going to be able to hear us yelling tomorrow. Just ignore us; we stop after a while, like the roosters ;). Have a great rest of your week folks. Here in Tassie it’s finally raining! Now that it is, it’s grey and wet and muddy and I suddenly remember why people get S.A.D. in winter. Enjoy your sunshine you Northerners and cheers for finally sending the rain our way :o)

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Where there’s muck, there’s brass

Hi All,

Have you ever listened to roosters till the novelty wears off? I do it on a daily basis. I have come to the conclusion that roosters are just like bagpipes. The similarities are actually quite startling. They are both bags that when inflated and squeezed (the pipes are man squeezed, the roosters are self-motivated…) they make a noise. The “noise” that emits from them could, initially, by some romantic person living 3 blocks away, be seen as entertaining for approximately 5 minutes before the novelty wears off and the repeated inhales and exhales punctuated by a raucous droning sound become unbearable. I have the dubious luxury of being situated directly above where our 2 feral roosters roost at night. We know that they roost there because aside from the loud inhales and exhales that can start anywhere from 1am onwards, we have discovered a large pile of nitrogenous fertiliser on a tall pile of firewood under the deck that coincides with the rough approximation about 2 metres above said pile of fertiliser that narf7 sits above as she taps away here to her dear constant readers…that would be you!

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Here we have the two feral roosters that I talk about in this post. I have officially named them “Ralph” and “Hewie”. Their female counterpart who tends to hide a lot has been named “Elvira”. That interesting metal thing to the left of Ralph (the dark rooster with the rose comb) is my prospective still/rocket stove. I have yet to work out how to make it but for now, prospective is good enough for me!

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This is not a rooster. It is a duck. You would think that a duck wouldn’t have the bagpipe lungs of a rooster but you would be wrong. A duck can use her lungs to great advantage when she wants to and this one wants to every 10 minutes.

Roosters are windbags. They are solely there to make a lot of noise and to repopulate the earth with mindless hens. The hens are mindless BUT they have enough primal cunning built in to allow them to hunker down and stay shtum once they spot more than 3 eggs in a nest…they remain hunkered for 3 weeks when they emerge triumphant leading a bewildered and bedraggled selection of fluff balls out of hiding and straight into the jaws of the starving feral cats…roosters are SUPPOSED to be protectors of the flock. In our experience, they are the first to run and hide up a tree and crow from a nice safe distance once they have covered their own furry derrières. If a mindless hen spots ANYTHING out of the ordinary…say a human standing in an area that they weren’t standing in 10 minutes ago…they will send out an alarm cluck…this cluck will be passed on with exponentially increasing degrees of alarm and clucking, much like the ubiquitous Chinese Whispers game, until all roosters are crowing maniacally, all hens are clucking in unison and the alarmee is supposed to flee in mortal terror at the sheer amount of noise going on.

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If you look carefully you will see the quack-bag herself hiding behind this snapdragon that self seeds every year from goodness only knows where.

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Myrtus communis…a Mediterranean fruit that tastes somewhat foul on it’s own but that enterprising Greeks have managed to turn into some form of potent (lethal) alcohol that they imbibe on a regular basis…you have to love the Greeks…they certainly know how to take a difficult situation and make it rock!

I read a lot of blogs folks…a LOT of blogs. Some of them deal with life on farms and smallholdings and no matter how many times you read about the keeping of hens, and what a pain in the derrière they can actually be, there is a propensity for “regular folk” (that’s you lot, living in cities and big towns) to wear rose coloured glasses whenever you think about fluffy bottomed chooks clucking quietly and pecking delicately around your back yards in a romantic countrified way. The reality is that chooks are the equivalent of Somalian pirates. They rob from the rich (supposedly “us”) and they give to themselves. They navigate Serendipity Farm with stealth and cunning that leaves us alarmed, bewildered and afraid for our lives. We managed to coral them into an enclosure for 5 months and the resulting garden happiness was directly correlated to a decided lack of the ovarian orbs that make keeping chooks worth it. We might not have had chicks popping out from all over the place but we also didn’t have any eggs. What’s a smart person to do? Give in to the pirates that’s what!

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One of the “things” that have been keeping us busy on Serendipity Farm. Our crazy hippy friend down the road wants us to drink rainwater…we don’t have a say in it apparently, we HAVE to be drinking rainwater so he has given us a permanent loan of this 600 litre rainwater tank…I wonder if he will let us paint it blue to match the gas hot water heater (that is full of spiders as it gets turned off for most of the year while Brunhilda is pumping out her delicious heat…)

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Another one of the things that has been keeping us busy for the last few days. Steve headed out bush to get a load of wood with a mate on Sunday and this is the resulting haul. He will be heading out again for more wood sometime soon so thanks to his wonderful mum Kaye, whose property they are plundering for firewood, narf7 and Stevie-boy should make it through winter without turning into human popsicles

We are already finding nests in far flung well hidden places. I can only image how this is going to end and I have a VERY good imagination. When we bought our initial 8 chooks from an unscrupulous (read desperate) woman at a local market she insisted that they were all hens. I now know that this poor woman was desperate to offload at least one of her windbag roosters to some poor newbies with rose coloured glasses and visions of gorgeous fluffies assisting them with their permaculture ideals. I have since discovered that this poor woman’s flock have gone over to the dark side. No longer working FOR her, they have taken over her entire property and are festering malcontent all over the place. She has no control over them anymore. They live out of the lovely high-rise coop that her husband made for her back when she was a wide eyed newbie (not all that long before I myself came into the picture…) and they live in the trees and on the surrounding neighbour’s properties. There are so many roosters that have gone feral that there is no chance of stopping this maniacal hen invasion and the only option is to plead insanity…Allison…I no longer hold you responsible for your actions when you slipped Big Yin into my initial 8. I would do exactly the same thing. Desperation breeds craziness…a yard full of chook poo, no eggs, 40 000 chicks and 20 feral roosters all crowing directly under your window at 2am is going to render you somewhat crazy no matter how stoic and resilient you are. And still my dear constant readers will smile knowingly and will muse internally about the delights of keeping chooks. That’s how they get you folks…be afraid…be VERY afraid…

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I have been given permission to share a few of Steve’s more creative endeavours with you…

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I like to call this one “Serendipity Farm as a Christmas Bauble”…

I have been invited up to a neighbours for “morning tea”. I am a hermit. I have forgotten the niceties of social graces. I eat cake with my hands and tea from the ceramic equivalent of a bucket. I don’t have to worry about slurping or where my pinkie finger ends up or how to make small talk because Steve could care less about any of it. We talk about what our lecturer is going to do when he sees some of our “creative” photography and how we are going to be able to amend our creativity once he does. We talk about rain, and we talk about digging holes and how to deal with feral cats. I have NO idea how to talk to real people. These people, an older couple from Western Australia, my home state, are very nice. They live in a lovely old homestead with a gorgeous cottage garden in a completely walled property with gorgeous deciduous trees and three lovely miniature schnauzers. The only thing that we have in common with them is a love of gardens and a propensity to visit the husband’s place of work, he manages a bottle shop.

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I bought this ice-cream maker years ago from a market stall at the Evandale Markets. I paid $10 for it and have hardly ever used it. I would like to draw your attention TO the delicious chocolate ice-cream that is being churned in the ice-cream maker and AWAY from the dribbled chocolate creamy custard that narf7 dribbled onto the ice-cream maker and that Steve wouldn’t let me clear off before the shot was taken because I might melt the ice in the machine…sigh…

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Aside from the chocolate deliciousness in the ice-cream we chopped up some Cadbury’s dream finger biscuits and an entire crunchy bar to add. Steve is hovering around the freezer just waiting till he has eaten tonight’s Cornish pasty and spicy homemade oven wedges till he can serve himself a HUGE bowl of it. There are a lot of benefits to having a vegan wife…consider this as being one of them ;).

By the way, if anyone would like to try the truly innovative recipe for homemade chocolate ice-cream that doesn’t require eggs and is loosely based on David Lebowitz’s recipe, you can go to my food porn heaven site at Food 52 and find it here… http://food52.com/recipes/5872-naked-chocolate-ice-cream-for-lovers

Being “me” I have tried to think about the angles of this “visit”. Steve has been let off the hook (the lucky bollocks) because someone has to stay here because today is the day when the electricity metre reading man turns up and we had to promise to be here and contain our dogs because he took one look at them 5 months ago and refused to read the meter even though they were completely enclosed at least 10 metres away from where he would be reading said metre. We now have the honour of being able to read our own metre 3 times in a row and only having to lock up our dogs once every 4 months for a day till the metre reader has been. Today IS that day so Steve is off the hook. I, however, am not. A social butterfly I am not. A bewildered narf7 I am! I made a cake. I made it last night out of whatever I could cobble together that I figured would taste good and that I could eat a thin sliver of. I made it vegan and I made it chocolate and I made it with tofu and I used this recipe…

http://dairyfreecooking.about.com/od/cakes/r/veganchoccake.htm

I then decided to top it with a couple of jars of homemade coconut oil (that I almost blew my food processor motor out on trying to make), some date puree and some cinnamon to replicate a caramel topping. I ended up with something more akin to a caramel marzipan but it tasted delicious so I went with it. I formed it into a round on top of the cake and patted it neatly into a disc that fit the top of the cake nicely. I used a bit of Christi’s Farmlet jam, the BEST JAM IN THE WORLD to put in the centre of the cake and the end result looked both presentable and tasty, who could ask for more?

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Today is Bezial’s day on the blog. He is tired of Earl getting the centre stage and told me in NO uncertain terms that it will be a dog day afternoon if I don’t do something to redress the imbalance so here is a profile picture of Bezial (showing his good side apparently…)

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He will magnanimously allow this shot of Earl and would like to point out that battle scar that he, personally, inflicted on Earl making him the superior beast on the block. He doesn’t want me to tell you that this wound was inflicted while they were both rolling around playing on the floor…that would NEVER do 😉

I will hold this cake aloft like Excalibur along with a bottle of my non-dairy milk. I would hate for anyone to feel put out by my personal choice to exclude animal products from my diet. I hate a fuss being made and as I am already at a social disadvantage, I don’t want to add “crazy health nut lady” to my exponentially growing list of “crazies”. Steve and I keep to ourselves. We have, on occasion, visited with Glad next door. Glad is lovely. She is 90 years old, tough as old nails, calls a spade a spade and is ANYTHING but “old”. She also could care less what we wear and seems to like us. Frank and Adrian, our long suffering neighbours to the left seem to have gotten used to living next door to ferals. Feral cats, feral roosters, feral chooks and feral neighbours…they sigh but seem resigned to their fate. We never see Noel, our ex pilot neighbour who lives behind Frank and we don’t talk about our neighbours directly to the rear but needless to say, if “feudin’” were to be part of life on Serendipity Farm, we would pick these neighbours to start with…

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Here you see yet ANOTHER reason why we have been busier than beavers around here on Serendipity Farm. We saw a note stuck in our gate latch the other day saying “ring this number to get some more horse manure”…we phoned and were told that we could have a mountain of aged horse manure from a gentleman’s property because the person who was supposed to be taking it, didn’t so it was now free for the taking…we took! Here you can see 3 trailer loads. We ended up with 6 so even after our feathered buccaneers did their best to level the heap you can imagine the size of the mountain of manure that we can use in our new fully enclosed veggie garden 🙂

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Bezial laying next to a pile of spent hay that the chooks have done their best to redistribute all over Sidmouth. I am thinking of hiring them out as earth  movers…sigh…

The people that I will be visiting today (Tuesday) live directly opposite the neighbours directly to the rear of us. I will be heading up through the back of our property, cake aloft, plastic beer bottle full of non-dairy milk aloft and will gingerly attempt to step over the barbed wire fence between our properties where there is a council enforced “no-man’s-land” that was once mooted to be a road before they realised that lesser Sidmouth was NEVER going to be a teaming metropolis and shelved the plans to fester, along with neighbourly coveting of this area of non-road. We could care less about this small stretch of prospective road but Frank has already claimed his bit. He let us know in NO uncertain terms that should his bit of ex-road become available, he had kept it cleared for the past 10 years and had first dibs. Fair do’s Frank, you have earned it!

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Steve insisted that I put this photo of me actually doing some work on the blog. Here I am…narf7…willing and able to be the stunt double of the lead singer of Aphex Twin 😉

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Someone MUCH more handsome to look at. Isn’t he lovely? He actually smiled in town the other day and Steve got this lovely shot of him where Bezial has an uncanny knack of being able to avoid being photographed 🙂

I am not so sure that I would be as accommodating with the ex-road at the rear of our property…our neighbours to the rear are the same folk that duped our house sitter into cutting down trees on our back block so that they could attempt to gain more of a view to sell their house for more. No-one is willing to pay the ridiculous amount of money that they are asking for their modest home and so they are resorting to telling fibs to try to increase their chances of a sale. These self-same people sold my dad a dud of a car that he then gifted to my eldest daughter for her 21st birthday. He paid enough for it to have bought a sensible small modern car but a massive great automatic Mercedes Benz from the 70’s is NOT an ideal first car for a girl to learn in. When it stopped doing what cars are supposed to do…”Go”…she managed to sell it for $200 and is well shot of it. She catches buses along with her sister and living 4km from the city centre is an added bonus. No need of a petrol guzzling, road tax requiring car when you practically live in the middle of Launceston. It’s this ex-road that I will be navigating to get to my morning tea date today. Wish me luck folks and hopefully our neighbours to the rear don’t choose today, when my hands are both full, to decide to take a pot-shot of your own dear narf7!

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Here is Steve wearing his Canadian Club hat that keeps his ears warm…

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And here is Steve “Acting the Giddy Goat” as my nana would say. I doubt that he thinks I am going to put this picture in today’s blog post…but you know what Steve? You would be wrong! HA!!! He just told me he doesn’t care because this Canadian hat has been superseded by his new Russian hat that you will have to wait till my next post to see…

Bollocks…a week has passed since this post and I am tossing up whether or not to hurl it into the ether but I only have a day till I need to post again and narf7 needs something under her belt (aside from a stiff vodka) to get her through the day. It’s all things go here on Serendipity Farm. On Sunday Steve was fast asleep in bed and I was pootling around buttering bread to throw to feral chooks (it’s a tough life here on Serendipity Farm…) when the phone rang. I picked it up in shocked confusion hoping that my daughters hadn’t managed to get the dog stuck in the blender…again…and was pleasantly surprised to hear the dulcet tones of our friend who lives down the road asking for Steve. I carried the phone reverently in to Steve who was now awake and a detour for his day was on the cards. Our friend Guy was off to collect wood on his mum’s farm and had invited Steve to go with him “someday”. Apparently Sunday was “someday” and Steve was up for it. He jumped out of bed (another Jamie Oliver “literally” moment…) and hooked up the trailer and was off in a space of 15 minutes (had to have a coffee as well). That left the boys and I twiddling our thumbs and doing sweet nothing which gave me the time to eradicate my RSS Feed Reader and actually do something else on my Sunday

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Here’s a blended photo of Earl and Bezial. We had 2 photos. One where Bezial looked good and one where Earl looked good but the other dog (in each shot) was looking away so Steve used a Photoshop blending tool to blend the images. This is his first attempt but if you look closely at Earls little pink nose, you will notice it looks a little bit strange…

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With a bit of blending and a bit of cropping Steve turned less than great images into 1 wonderful image…Photoshop is the bomb! 🙂

I chose to take some gorgeous brightly coloured knitted sock boots that my wonderful son had bought for me previously. I had removed the red fleece insert prior to Earl nibbling 2 holes in each one and they had been languishing in the cupboard as I was loath to hurl them out. It’s lucky I didn’t hurl them out, even though they have the equivalent of a small airplane of a moth bite in each one, I can unpick them and use them for my next knitting project. My last knitting project, if I can remember back that far, was when I lived in Western Australia and attempted to make my ex-husband a jumper. It got as far as the front and back portion and the 2 sleeves and when it came time to put needle to collar and cuffs that was all she wrote folks! I have been married to Steve for 13 years this year so you can work out for yourselves how long it has been since I knit anything. I am going to take this gloriously and most raucously dyed (supposedly) Tibetan wool (it is certainly rustic enough in texture to be nomadic…) and after wrangling it out of its booty shape, which takes HOURS and is punctuated with moments of arm waving and Earl restraining as he is reminded of just how tasty nomadic Tibetan woollen boots are, rolling it up into ball shape and then actually knitting gauntlets using a pattern that I found through Ravelry, a most wonderful and magical place where furtive knitters and crocheters can go to satisfy their textile lust in packs. You can get some amazing patterns for free if you hunt and cheers to Linnie for sharing it with me…

http://www.ravelry.com/

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Here is a random stolen image from my brothers Facebook page of the beach where I come from in Western Australia. Check it out folks…it’s paradise :). It took a fair bit for us to consider leaving this wonderful part of the world and relocating down to the hole in the ozone layer but the lure of 4 acres of self sufficiency was strong young padawans and here we are…but I do miss those beaches…and Steve misses the fishing…by the way sorry for pinching your image Jim (no I’m not…you never read my blog posts anyway! HA!) 😉

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I designed this shirt. I WANT this shirt. Steve Photoshopped it for me and I am going to just have to head in to a printers somewhere and get myself this shirt.

On Monday I got addicted to Pinterest. That’s all I really need to say about that. On Sunday I looked down at anyone who used Pinterest as “sad” and “pathetic” creatures who didn’t have a life. On Monday Steve left me alone to go shopping and by 11am I was hopelessly addicted with the fervour of a heroin addict on a crack high.  I have been a Pinterest “member” since foreverty-boo and just ignored it ever since. I like the fact that I had to go through a waiting period to be admitted (and they say that clever marketing doesn’t work!) which shows that I fit exactly smack bang into the middle of their ideal demographic and niche market… the person (usually female) who has NO control over her life but who has a tragic desire to put EVERYTHING in labelled boxes and create order in her chaotic (read “real”) life. It’s food porn folks, food, and health, and travel, and photographic and just about everything else “ic” that you can think of and I am now officially addicted beyond hope thanks to Steve going shopping and my RSS Feed Reader emptying out nice and early in the day. I spent an entire morning cramming my Pinterest fluffy cloud with as many foodie things as I could find and I can find a HUGE amount folks, that’s what narf7’s are for…finding things. Steve returned with a carload of stuff and I had 154 Pinterest pages open on my poor groaning browser and couldn’t do ANYTHING till I had clicked “follow” on every single one. I learned (quick smart) how to make other pages on my page and now have so much food porn I won’t ever have to cook anything myself ever again to be able to satisfy that “perfect shot”. Don’t you love the fantasy of the interweb? 😉

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Steve and I FINALLY finished our media studies for this term. We finished nice and early to give ourselves 3 weeks off to get our veggie garden built. We needed to produce a slideshow of 11 photographs that we took ourselves that mirrored the 11 rules of photography for our final assessment. The only real stipulation was that we had to link them with the common theme of a colour. Steve chose green and this photo is a portrait shot…

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This was my submission…I chose blue…I didn’t get away with it. I had to repost another image that was less photogenic where Earl and I were both looking most intently over the deck rail but a girl has her pride you know and I liked THIS shot! It might not give a very good representation of portrait but who cares…for once I am happy to post an image of myself to the blog so here it is…happy days! 🙂

So there you have it…another big mutha post and I haven’t even caught up with what we are doing! I guess that means I have plenty for Saturdays post already so I might just start it off so that when I am laying somewhat comatose at 3pm because of all of the hard work that I have undertaken for the last week and am unable to lift my feeble fingers to keyboard to share it all with you, I will at least have something to offer you, my dear constant readers. See you then and whatever you do…DON’T go to http://pinterest.com/ …don’t say I didn’t warn you folks! 😉

The New Costa and the U.K. Beet

Hi All,

Isn’t Christmas getting close?! I must admit we are a bit up in the air at the moment because my brother is supposed to be coming over Christmas with a friend but hasn’t told us when and as quintessential planners it is driving us nuts! We are in the process of relocating our chooks into their new enclosure and tomorrow they will all be inside the fence rather than outside looking in. It isn’t going to be easy for them and no doubt we will have some escapees that are going to have one of their wings clipped but today I took advantage of knowing that one of the feral chooks that remains (we gave 4 away recently) was clucky and her exact location so after putting up with a serious hen talking to I picked her up and deposited her in the new enclosure. I figure if anyone can find a chink in its armour it’s a clucky feral chook with a nest that she wants to return to. We are tidying up our woodshed and getting it ready for next year’s wood futures. After tomorrow I can start mulching the garden with the certainty that it isn’t going to be dug up directly behind me as I work. I have a love/hate relationship with the chooks and they are the most stubborn creatures under the sun! If they want to dig a hole halfway to China and spread dust halfway to Oklahoma they will! They only stopped digging the other day when they hit a buried dog bone and decided that it was time to start a new hole. After a year of learning to quash my frustration as they chooks defoliated, ate, dug up, scratched around and generally defiled my poor long suffering plants I find it hard to believe that pretty soon I may just be able to plant something will stay in the ground! Steve is whipper snipping the honeysuckle out the back that keeps trying to take over the world. So many dictators on Serendipity Farm! I wish that one of them would take the front running Napoleonic seat so that we could at least focus our efforts on a single enemy.

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Some gratuitous “flower” shots to remind everyone in the North that it IS summer somewhere in the world 😉

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A lovely Callistemon at our back gate in full  bloom relishing its newly cleared out status

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One of millions of Erigeron karvinskianus (Seaside Daisies) that call Serendipity Farm home

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A Stylidium gramminifolium (Trigger plant) in full flower taken on one of our early morning walks with the dogs

We have noticed a bird flying around that looked like a swallow and it landed on the deck the other day and Steve got a good look at it. He raced inside to tell me that it had a blue beak…time to Google that little sucker! In the process of identifying our new feathered friend which turned out to be a Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus) I found a fantastic Tasmanian blog about Tasmanian birds compiled by Alan Fletcher, a local man with a penchant for taking breathtaking photos of our endemic birdlife. It was very simple to identify our new friend using Alan’s wonderful site and after sending him an email to ask him for permission to use a photo from his site he graciously allowed us to do so and in return I urge you to head to Alan’s beautiful site to see just how special our native birds are. You can find a link to Alans blog and from there to his photo gallery above his photo. I loved his blog so much I subscribed to it :o)

http://tassiebirds.blogspot.com.au/

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Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus)

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Physalis peruviana (Ground Cherry or Chinese Gooseberry) with the lesser spotted “Earl” underneath

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Aeonium arboreum Zwartkop recovering from duck attack nicely

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A little cactus enjoying it’s sunny spot

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And this explains why Melaleuca linariifolia is commonly known as “Snow in Summer”…not sure what these little beetles are but they also love roses and banging themselves senseless on our windows at night

I am slowly working my way through my rss blog reader and have been finding some incredible posts. People are so generous with their information! I was looking for a way to make home-made banners of substance and style and found this shining beacon of a site that I now subscribe to…

http://katescreativespace.com/2012/12/16/in-praise-of-simple-pleasures/

Disclaimer: Do NOT go to this blog if you are likely to collapse into a sobbing wreck of a human being when faced with gorgeousness beyond belief, creative majesty to only wonder at and a severe dearth of anything…ANYTHING resembling we mere mortals normal lives. I go to this blog to see how the other half lives…it’s beautiful, it’s incredibly organised, its Pinterest ready and it’s my secret lusting station but don’t say that I didn’t warn you! Halfway down into this perfect post and I find that this lady reads! She is planning on tackling some novels for the second time and says…”They sit full of promise on my bedside table, and the anticipation of losing myself in them again is half the pleasure” Oh what a lucky woman! I have to hide my books in the spare room out of sight, out of mind where Earl can’t render them “snow” along with the rest of the couch cushions that live (quaking in fear) in our bedroom wardrobe and the overwhelming luxury of a stack of amazingly anticipated literature right at my fingertips let alone on my bedside table will remain a wistful fantasy until Earl loses his desire to chew, or his teeth…if I am being honest (and it’s STILL my year of living honestly…) even if I WAS able to run my hands over a stack of soul food…I would leap into the realms of my imagination and would manage a paragraph or two before I woke up with a crick in my neck and a most carefully and gently shredded copy of my latest paramour laid reverently and soggily in my outstretch hands an undetermined amount of time later…no more than I deserve!

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A Psaltoda moerens (Red Eye Cicada) newly emerged from it’s juvenile skin sitting on a large buddleia leaf outside our bedroom window

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You can see why they are commonly known as Red Eyes. After a few days their exoskeletons turn a very dark greeny black and they head off to join the clicking throng of their brethren in the trees

In another blog post I found this…

“The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, “If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.” Said Diogenes, “Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.”

― Anthony de Mello

I really like this reflection on an interaction from a bygone era…it fits with my ethos of learning to live frugally, simply and in so doing, empowering our lives and allowing others to do the same. It delivers a fundamental message about which ferryman you want to pay and how you want to live in the process. I choose the lentils even though I am not overly fond of them because in choosing lentils I choose a degree of freedom and internal satisfaction that feeds my soul. I can align myself with the rest of the world and I don’t have to feel guilty about my choices in life but most importantly, I am able to learn how to effect a positive change in my own lifetime and feel like I am really living my life. That is something to aim for folks!

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We are still harvesting mushrooms from our veggie gardens courtesy of the mushroom compost mulch

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Check out the beets we grew! Steve made these into some pickled beetroot U.K. style (all vinegar and spice and no sugar) to grace our Christmas table next week

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Bezial giving our home grown spinach his own special “seal of approval”! (I hope you washed that before we made gnocci with it last night Steve!)

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My own personal vegetable gnome I found in the veggie patch :o) He thinks that he has a chance at beating Costa Georgiadis to the top spot on Gardening Australia…good luck babe…you might be cute but that beard needs a bit more “OOMPH!” before you become a serious contender 😉

Well today is walnut day folks! We will identify your possible ownership of Steve’s handmade Blackwood spoon and associate your hopes and dreams with a numbered walnut. We are going to attempt to video Earl selecting his chosen nut and one of us (the bravest…) removing it from Earl’s gaping maw in an effort to identify the number that he has chosen (he can have it back then!). This is your last chance to enter the draw to anyone out there who would like to enter. There are no conditions, anyone from any country can apply and the winner will receive a lovely handmade spoon in the mail some-time after Christmas. Today’s post is going to be a shorter post again because I have spinach gnocchi to make for Steve’s tea tonight. We are combining our desire to use leftovers (homemade bolognaise sauce) with vegetables from our garden (spinach) and make the most of our food dollars. Steve is enjoying all sorts of different food and hasn’t complained about anything that he has been served so the vegetable garden must be delivering quality veg. I noticed a plethora of little snow peas on their vines when I was watering today and will pick some when I am up collecting the spinach for the gnocchi today and I might just redirect the cucumbers from their determined efforts to scale the zucchini’s to the poles that we installed specifically for them to grow up. The tomatoes are covered in flowers but will definitely not be on our Christmas table but on the bright side, we will be able to grace our table with our very own home grown lettuce and salad leaves which makes it all the more special this year. It is a very interesting experiment and very rewarding to grow veggies. I recommend it to anyone. We have even started a new compost heap up near the veggie gardens in anticipation of needing a whole lot more compost in the future. I have plans for making strawberry beds and broad bean beds and have been contemplating sourcing some Jerusalem artichokes to set loose on Serendipity Farm behind the new chook pen. Before anyone tells me how exponential they go, I already know and I love it! :o). Who wouldn’t love sunflowers in spring followed by delicious knobbly roots in the summer…and who cares about the resulting sunchoke gas…we are descending into feral heaven on Serendipity Farm and we love it! :o). Another post down on Serendipity Farm in the middle of summer in the pouring rain. We just keep on saying “it’s good for the garden”…and you know what? It is! :0)…See you Saturday and good luck to everyone who has entered the spoon draw…

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Here are your walnuts folks! Check your nut against your number below and note there are still more walnuts…sad…lonely…unmarked walnuts that could be graced with your own personal number…

Spoon Draw
1. Rabid little hippy http://rabidlittlehippy.wordpress.com
2. Spencer http://www.anthropogen.com
3. Little sundog http://littlesundog.wordpress.com
4. Kym http://brymnsons.wordpress.com/
5. Christi http://farmlet.wordpress.com/
6. http://www.bitesizedthoughts.com/
7. Bev from Foodnstuff http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/
8. Pinkus
9. Jean http://allotmentadventureswithjean.wordpress.com
10.Hannah http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/
11.8 acre farm http://eight-acres.blogspot.com.au/
12.Chica Andaluza http://chicaandaluza.wordpress.com/
13.Wendi http://scarsandallyoga.com
14. Thinking Cowgirl http://thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

In the (highly likely) event that Earl picks more than one walnut his actions  will immediately force a redraw…lets just hope that Earl doesn’t think that this is enormous fun or this draw might go down as the longest prize giveaway draw in history! 😉 and are you feeling lonely there Pinkus? That’s because you don’t have a blog! 😉

Pretend cheese and heavenly vegan baking books

Hi All

Wow its 11.20pm on Friday night and I just realised that I haven’t yet started my post for Saturday! We have been studying and working on landscape plans for a few days now as we have been given an assignment to design a plan for a pergola with a seat. That has kept us busy researching everything from tensile strengths of timber to the sheer factor of bolts. Can’t have people sitting in our pergola seat and ending up on the floor! I spent tonight engrossed in a sea of vegan cheese recipes. It all started with me remembering that a book that I have been waiting to be released is just about to head onto the shelves. It’s called “Artisan Vegan Cheese” by Miyoko Schinner and promises to be the answer to this cheese lovers dreams. I never liked “fake” cheese and am one of those people that would rather go cold turkey than make do with something less than par. I dabbled in making some vegan cheeses myself and some of them were quite tasty but none of them were cheesy or acted like cheese. This book promises to deliver melty, tasty, cultured cheeses and none of them going anywhere near a cow or other milk producing creature. I can’t wait to have a bit of a mess about in the kitchen and make some of these cheesy creations. I spent tonight hunting down more recipes by Miyoko Schinner and in the process discovered that this lady is very generous with recipes and that there are quite a few great recipes out there available for free. If you would like to see some of them just head off to Youtube and enter her name and there are a plethora of choices. Some of them include a mozzarella style melting cheese for pizza made out of readily available cheap ingredients, a nacho cheese sauce that is thick and gooey as well as delicious and this new book promises all sorts of amazing cheesy experiences that also involve my latest greatest flavour of the month, fermentation!

A great big THANK YOU to my good friend Kymmy for my lovely trivet (cum wall hanging). I am assured (by my good friend Google) that this is the sign for a hug…
: X not sure why, but HUG it is 🙂

I always check the spoon and fork box whenever I go to thrift shops because I love old cutlery. I found these really long handled old spoons a while ago and was going to drill holes in them and make a mobile but they told me not to. They live in one of the cutlery drawers and as of yet I haven’t found out what they are actually for

Talking about amazing books, I am waiting on my copy of “My Sweet Vegan” by the irresistible Hannah Kaminsky of http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/. Whether you are vegan or not, the amazing recipes in this book will have you heading back for more. I can’t wait to get my copy and start baking! Hannah is a regular reader here on Serendipity Farm and just elevated herself to a second chocolate biscuit (vegan of COURSE :o) ) with her cup of tea by sending me a signed book plate to place with all due reverence into my copy. How amazing is it that we can share our lives with such talented people as Hannah. It never ceases to amaze me how approachable vegan cookbook writers actually are. I collected every single cookbook by Bryanna Clark Grogan and this lady has done so much to bring vegan cooking out of the exotic and into the mainstream and has taken the mystery out of “what the HECK am I going to eat!!!” by many a new vegan. After friending her on Facebook to follow what she is cooking of late she regularly comments on comments that I have made. The world is such a small place these days and I am eternally grateful to each and every vegan cookbook writer who has made this journey so much more adventurous and exciting than it might otherwise have been. What the heck Hannah…you can have 3 chocolate biscuits, I am feeling generous :o). If you want to check out the book that I am just about to most gratefully acquire, head over to this site and take a most delicious look.

http://www.mysweetvegan.com/

It has been so cold on Serendipity Farm and surrounding districts that Brunhilda has been invaluable to us. We were only talking about how this time last year we were living in a house with no heat source. This year we have been totally spoiled and Bezial can’t leave the house for more than a walk without pining for his position in front of Brunhilda. I have taken to wearing fingerless gloves on our walks and we headed to the Exeter thrift shop today to look for some assorted old cutlery for me to make a mobile with and while I was sifting through the pile of forks and spoons, Steve headed off and found himself a brand new pair of black converse shoes for $3 and an amazing hat with flaps so that he can look like an itinerant Russian potato farmer when we are on our early morning walks. The problem with early morning walks in the freezing cold is that anyone with earrings really suffers as they tend to get very cold and they make your ears hurt. I have 7 earrings and Steve has 9 so he needs that hat with flaps. I need to point something out here…Steve puts on the hat with flaps and instantly looks cute…I put on the hat with flaps and look like a true Russian potato farming woman that is ANYTHING but cute…hats and I do NOT agree. I managed to pick up enough interesting old cutlery to make a mobile over the weekend and I also got a nice black top with abalone buttons and a nice stripy hoodie. The Exeter thrift shop appears to have been taking donations from “filthy hippies” as there were all sorts of amazing brightly coloured skirts, jumpers and poncho’s. I am a jeans and jumper type girl myself but should any of you feel like exploring your inner hippy (and who wouldn’t?), feel free to head over to Exeter and go nuts…you will be doing both yourself and the community centre that the thrift shop supports a huge favour

This piece of glass that looks like an eye is apparently Greek. It keeps out evil apparently. Not too sure of its heritage but Steve brought it out here with him when he moved so here is where it stays

“What’s all this aboot then?!”

Hillbilly or Gypsy, the jury is out but that banjo is swaying the verdict

Steve found a good cheap source of banjo strings online and bought a set of them for his banjo. We don’t know why he bought that banjo but he really wanted it a few years ago after my son, who was working in an auction house at the time, told us that they had a consignment of new banjo’s come in to the auction house and he was suddenly smitten with banjo lust. Now that he is learning how to play clawhammer picking on his acoustic guitar, he thought “what the heck!” and is learning it on the banjo as well. It’s like having my own personal Billy Connolly on tap without the ribald jokes. All we need now is our own personal still and we can officially call ourselves Hillbillies. We are one step closer to actually growing veggies on Serendipity Farm in the spring! We recently made friends with a man who gave us some of his surplus heavy hardwood railway sleepers to use as garden beds. I love trading things…we gave him some heavy plastic weather blinds and he gave us the sleepers. No money had to change hands and everyone ended up with something that they actually wanted. We have to do a bit of pruning in exchange for some gardening tools that he no longer wants or needs and together we are forming a tiny little community within a community. Penniless hippies we may all be, but sometimes you don’t need money…you just need someone else with what you need, who no longer has a need for it. After we did a bit of work for our friend we came home to get stuck into doing a bit of work for ourselves. The next week is supposed to be sunny and dry and so we are going to get as much work as we can done and today I mucked hay while the sun shone.

Here are my little tireless helpers in the garden scratching around in the silty topsoil layer I have just shovelled tirelessly (HA!) over half of the spent chook hay.

My tarp covered silty topsoil after half of it has been shovelled onto the first layer of hay. That strange structure in the foreground is an old brass firehydrant that we found out in the woodshed

Looking down into the vegetable garden and the second layer of spent hay that appears to still contain its past occupants. Apparently they haven’t quite finished with it yet…

The last of the silty river topsoil over the top of the spent hay and now all we need are some worms and other undersoil beneficials to move on into the mix and do their thang.

I don’t actually mind changing the spent, nitrogen rich hay in the chook pen any more. I see it as gardening futures. We paid $3 a bale for meadow hay from the Exeter groundsman of the local footy club. They were raising funds and we were in need of cheap hay…a match made in comparative heaven. We have been storing up our 10 bales that we bought and are just about through them now. We use them to line the concrete floor of the chook shed and once it needs changing I muck it out with my trusty wheelbarrow and compost fork and today I actually used something that I read to get us a step closer to being able to produce some of our own food (aside from eggs and chicken that is…) on Serendipity Farm. I am completely envious of permaculture gardens that I see online and in books. I want that! I want lovely vegetables and climbing fruit bearing vines and pumpkins taking over the back paddock and I want it soon! Today I remembered that I had read to layer soil and spent hay and manure to create a veggie garden. We had a trailer load of silty topsoil from our new friend who had to install drainage on his property and just wants it removed. We can have as many trailer loads of silty river soil as we want. Now I need to make it friable and something that not only worms and ground dwelling critters will be happy to call home in, but something that will support and give nutrition to our future veggies. We learned that straw is amazing for soil cation exchange (DON’T make me explain it again…just go Google it ok? 😉 ) and that chook poo is incredibly rich in nitrogen but burns plants if it is fresh…so we have hay…we have chook poo (copious quantities of it…) we have a trailer load of silty soil and we have an impatient wanabe permaculture gardener with all of the knowledge and none of the practical ability so if you put all of that together you end up with an idea…I layered the spent hay and the soil to form a large mound in the prospective veggie garden area that I might even get Steve to help me lug some of those old railway sleepers down to soon and allow it all to rot down over what remains of winter.

Rustic industrial garden futures! I should be able to get some more like this in the near future. Cheers Mike 😉

While I was mucking out the chook pen, Steve was dealing with this little problem that we noticed earlier in the week. Tomorrow is our day of rest which coincides with the weekly church meeting at the Auld Kirk Church so we figured that today might be a good day to deal with it.

It looks like its fellow trunk is about to go out in sympathy!

This is what’s left of the last tree that fell down in the corner of the veggie garden. Rather than remove all of this rich decomposing matter I am going to take a leaf out of a fellow bloggers book. This permaculture follower is someone that I take notice of and she uses water wicking garden beds to great advantage. Check her blog out here, its well worth a look-see. I learned that I can heap soil over this pile of rotting timber and use it to garden pretty much straight into!
http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/a-pumpkin-called-barbara/

Future nettle wine…and by the way osteospermum daisy…I DO see you hiding amongst my precious nettles and I WILL be dealing with you in the next few days so enjoy what is left of your time thinking that your little camoflage attempt worked!

It’s time to start taking all of that accumulated knowledge and throw it into the ring! Hopefully I don’t end up squished and gored by permaculture and am able to ride it to glory. No doubt I will share the results here and we can only hope that they are positive or you are going to get sick of me moaning about it aren’t you? :o). Any of my dear constant readers who are also practiced gardeners (and you KNOW who you are…) can feel completely free to share any hints and tips with we rank beginners when it comes to food production. I have so many ideas and so little practice putting my ideas into fruition. Couple that with a terrible temper and a degree of impatience and you are starting to see why the dog needs therapy. Is anyone else totally over the Olympics’ yet? If I have to hear Eddie McGuire and his condescending tones one more time I am going to throw our television into the Tamar River. For the sake of Steve’s continued happiness I think I might just close the doors between the kitchen and the lounge room tonight while he continues to watch the opening ceremony and I cease to rant and rave through the open door about the incredible waste of money (over 40 million) spent on that opening ceremony for a country that really can’t afford it. It’s a bit like Tasmania spending up big when we are broke, time to face the music guys…sports just aint worth it! I have never been a sports fan and can only be found watching fringe sports that cross over into the bizarre like Curling, coits and Greco Roman Wrestling. I just went hunting to look for a few more to make me look somewhat more learned about Olympic weird sports and found out that there have been some pretty weird sports that are now discontinued from the games…want a little peek at what we “could” have been watching should the Olympic committee this year been less mingey?…

  1. Tug of war from 1900 – 1920 which was a bit of a cheat as they let individual clubs enter as opposed to countries and in 1908 Great Britain won Gold, Silver AND Bronze as a number of teams were allowed to represent the same country.
  2. Jeu de paume or “Real Tennis” in the U.K. was only included in the 1908 games in London and only 2 teams (the U.K. and the U.S.A.) competed. The U.S.A. won gold so obviously the U.K. got respectable Silver and the players didn’t use a racket and were allowed to hit the ball with their hands
  3. Forget Clay Pigeon Shooting…in 1900 they had LIVE pigeon shooting! It was included in Paris’s 1900 games and it is apparently the only games that animals were deliberately harmed
  4. In the 1900 Paris Olympics they also allowed long jumping for horses for some reason…(at least they didn’t have high jumping for the poor long suffering creatures!)
  5. They had rope climbing in 1896, 1904, 1906, 1924 and 1932 for some reason
  6. A game called Roque was played in 1904 and only the United States competed in the event so obviously won. I guess that is ONE way to ensure that you bring home the gold! ;). It looked a bit like croquet and was dubbed “The Game of the Century” but I haven’t heard of it… have you?
  7. Water motor sports were on the cards in 1908 and only France entered due to bad weather and won gold. Again it’s a good way to ensure that you get a gold medal if your games have a weird sport that is only played in your country…
  8. The next one is an oxymoron. “Solo synchronised swimming”…EH!?! This ran for 3 consecutive Olympics from 1984 – 1992 until someone actually thought about it and they decided that it didn’t make any sense… (12 years to work that out eh?)
  9. In the swimming obstacle race we Aussies apparently won in 1900. Good old Frederick Lane won the day by scrambling over a random pile of junk in the water to almost match his time swimming the course minus the flotsam and jetsam!
  10. I like this one…”Club Swinging”. Something to do with rhythmic gymnastics and on the cards in 1904 and 1932 and resulted in the gymnast standing still and waving the clubs around all over the place in an effort to look a bit better than the other competitors wiggling their clubs around in the air…It would seem that someone said “Enough of that!” in 1904 and in 1932 some bright spark decided to give it another go and ended up out of a well-paid Olympic job after it fizzled

Well there you have it folks…10 unusual sports that are discontinued in the Olympics… (Maybe the U.K. should have thrown in a few of their endemic sports like tiddlywinks…competition drinking for England and plum duffing (whatever THAT is!) and they may have had more of a chance to get piles of that Olympic gold…). Whatever happens in the Olympics you can bet that coke paid dearly for its product placement.

The little boofy tabby here is Fatty. He was the only one of Felix’s kittens that we didn’t manage to locate and take to the R.S.P.C.A. his dad Garfield has been hanging about and if Fatty gets anywhere near the size of his massive dad, he will be almost as big as Earl!

Big Yin surrounded by some of his girls. He now thinks that he is omnipotent and is taking his job most seriously of late. I caught him following me surruptitiously around today when I was egg hunting in the scrub and making little clucking noises to his girls as if to say “don’t worry girls…my nests NEVER get found”. Here they are checking to see if we have thrown anything over the deck that might suffice as food but sadly we were too busy living our lives to be hurling food to overstuffed poultry so you are going to have to walk to your pen to get more Yin…lifes a bitch eh? 😉

Christmas in July the first “NO Earl!”…

Hi All

The first “NO EARL!” was probably around about this time last year (mid-July) which would have been very closely followed by the second “NO EARL!” and we are probably approaching our 175 000 “NO EARL!” about now. The angels didn’t sing…in fact the only thing “singing” (if you could call it that…) were the dulcet fisher wife tones of yours truly echoing obtrusively throughout otherwise quiet valley of Sidmouth, fighting its way aggressively out to Bass Strait to terrorise an unsuspecting penguin colony somewhere. I am going about this post upside down today…nothing to do with traction and everything to do with today…Wednesday being effectively “Wrong”. I can’t tell you what, exactly, is wrong with today but it started with a headache and no feral cats meowing under the deck for something to eat, chickens that didn’t want to eat bread…dogs that didn’t want to eat meat and Bezial getting sick in the car for no apparently reason (other than extreme anxiety brought on by a total of 3 walks. An unheard of reason to barf with excitement…). We didn’t want to work on our latest AutoCAD plan today because being what it is, it would have ended up not working for whatever reason and I might have had a prospective future meltdown. We decided to let today be wrong. If it wants to gyrate itself into oblivion sideways it’s not our business and we are just going with the flow for the remainder of this unusual day and so posting the end of the post first seemed somehow most fitting.

This photo just goes to show you how “Wrong” today is. I would normally not show you our back yard (or more to the point…the dogs back yard) as its not very aesthetically pleasing due to Earl’s plant eating habits

Who wouldn’t like to live in a lovely house like this with a beautiful garden leading out to the driveway…

It’s nice isn’t it? Well this is the front facade and a most manicured facade at that. We walked the dogs around the back of this house today and the back yard is littered with bicycles, the garden is a shambles of overgrown trees and shrubs and you wouldn’t be able to match the front facade to the back if you were asked to “match the front to the back yard”…sometimes what you see isn’t all that you get!

It’s a wise person who takes stock of what they have in their lives and who they are and are able to not only come to an amicable agreement with themselves to accept this, but actively enjoy their lives. As penniless hippy students we exist on the breadline. We are happy with our lot and enjoy our way of life incredibly; however we don’t have a lot of leeway with the ability to purchase whatever we want. We have a list an arm long of what we want to get for Serendipity Farm and a moth eaten sock with a few coins in it under the bed that we are loathe to raid for even the smallest purchase. We are proud of how we are debt free and able to live on a shoestring, but it makes it all the more important that we are able to access information online about how to make our shoestring stretch exponentially. I have found some amazing websites and blogs that share all sorts of hints and tips and am eternally grateful to everyone out there who shares what they know and how they do it for free. We can learn how to upholster a chair, how to recover a book, how to make strange and wonderful ferments and recipes to use them in. We can learn how to do simple home renovations and get comparisons of various articles before we pull that long suffering sock out from under the bed to spend our precious savings. It’s not easy living on next to nothing but there is a stoic satisfaction in being able to not only make do, and save as well, but enjoying the process is the most satisfying thing of all. It’s all too easy to get scared about the world around us and all of the changes that are slowly starting to happen. Peak oil, G.M.O. crops and all sorts of large headlines in the papers making us wonder if our homes and lives are safe but economies rise and economies fall and always in the background are the people living day to day…adapting and changing and learning and rising and falling and living around the outskirts of the headlines and the war and the famine and the fear…communities working together to share and foster hope and I can’t help but feel that we humans are probably due for a bit of a shakeup within our consumerist fragmented society. It might not be so bad if we have to live with our parents…it would certainly be cheaper and returning to some of our past community ways can only be a good thing. Ensuring that the elderly are treated with respect as the keepers of the ways of the past and seeing life and death up close and personal can only be good for our children. Forget shielding them from the world, they are only going to get hurled out into it eventually so they should be able to see reality and ask questions and get valid and caring answers. Life is tough but it is also beautiful and humanity as a whole barely live their lives any more in the pursuit of the elusive consumer “happiness” bird.

Autumn demolition of the side garden has resulted in this decidedly underwhelming vista but as you can see, the little Luculia that we planted out is beaming from its new position in the earth and to this day, still hasn’t dropped a flower. It is an example of how being grateful for what you get is a beautiful thing

This is Beauty Point in the middle of winter and the greyness is echoed all around our local environment

Another grey picture showing you where we walked today. Despite the colour scheme being pretty monochromatic, there is a dignity and a sense of place that comes with winter that gives it an austere beauty all of its own

“What’s she on about now!”…well…my son just got back from America and Ireland with his new partner Kelsey and he is just about to head over to visit us on Serendipity Farm. Steve and I met online when he was in the U.K. and I was in Western Australia. Life online is a fantasy and pictures that we post on blogs shield reality. Who wants to post pictures of dog chewed rugs and piles of decomposing branches in the top paddock? Who wants to share that they sweep the floors at least 5 times a day to ensure that you can actually see wooden floor under all that dog hair and who wants to admit that they haven’t got a clue how to go about washing that wooden floor that they so thoughtfully decided to wax rather than polish with high gloss chemicals…not I! Reality has a way of pushing its way to the fore and giving you a shove. Earl is real…he has a way of pushing you with his nose and letting you know that something isn’t right in the state of Kansas. I don’t want our reality to be something that Kelsey isn’t comfortable with. We choose to live frugally and simply and are incredibly happy with our lot and can only hope that she will see that and realise that happiness isn’t always wrapped up in expensive wrapping paper and tied with a credit debt bow. One day Serendipity Farm is going to be Stewart’s and perhaps Kelsey might be right there with him when he moves in and I want them to see hope and prospective happiness and a life close to the ground and the ability to choose their own destiny that is tied up with owning your own home. We are incredibly thankful and grateful for that chance and hopefully they will be too. Does this smack of a bit of self-flagellation? I think its more fear of the unknown. I am a quintessential magpie AND a bit of a control freak. I don’t like the unknown precisely because it is just that…”unknown” and I can’t plan for it. Just come and visit us Kelsey and don’t have any preconceived ideas…we can make some bread together…we can go for a walk with the dogs and have a chat about life, the universe and everything…we can roast one of our chooks and you can have as many free range eggs as your heart desires (here’s hoping that Kelsey loves eggs!) and in the process of unwinding, I hope that you will slowly look around you and think…”I could do something here…”…that’s all I ask :o)

You may remember Pingu, our little hen who started life out on the wrong foot. No-one wanted her and we found her almost dead on her own in the chicken compound. We put her in a basket on top of Brunhilda (before you call the R.S.P.C.A. we had the plate covers down!) and Earl has tried to dispatch her twice now but she keeps coming back. She will never be a normal chicken but again, whoever is normal on Serendipity Farm doesn’t belong here! We take waifs and strays and the fringe dwellers here and Pingu has earned her place here especially as she lays a lovely brown egg every two days :o)

Pingu submitting to human interaction for the sake of her continued breakfast each day of bread and butter…

The indignities that a poor long suffering hen has to go through to live in the shed on a large flowerpot and get fed a mangy bit of bread and butter in the mornings!

You often hear about a lonely cuckoo singing in a tree somewhere that sets the tone and the mood in books…we have cuckoo shrikes here. They are about as far from a real cuckoo as you can get and spend their lives looking in my kitchen window and yelling out on the deck for us to deliver small cubes of cheese into their gaping maws. The insects have apparently gone into hibernation or hiding to escape the hens rabid beaks and the cuckoo shrikes have stripped as much bark from the eucalypts as they dare and there are apparently not enough insects to go around. Dad used to feed them mince but mince is not an option for us and so they get small cubes of tasty cheese. They LOVE it! I had some spare mince a while back, and feeling magnanimous and content with my lot on that day, I put some out for the cuckoo shrikes for old time’s sake. They picked it up…they carried some off and they came back and completely ignored it! “We want the cheese…bring us the cheese!”… oh well…they only come like this in winter when times get tough and in summer we rarely see them aside from the odd shredding of eucalyptus bark and the odd squeak in the distance. They raise their young, they bring them to the deck to learn the “ways of the cheese” and they head off to have more babies and there are generations of cuckoo shrikes that have lived like this…a symbiotic relationship with the humans and we are hoping to carry on this tradition along with planting out lots of habitat and food plants for the local birds for many years to come.

Here is the little female Cuckoo Shrike who usually sits on Steve’s hand but this is the only picture that I could take of her that turned out as she is WAY too fast for my slow fingers to click

There’s a bit of chicken jealousy going on between the coop dwelling chickens and Pingu. They have heard about her shed and her daily breakfast and have decided to move in on her territory (and Steve’s) even more than I have with my strawberry pots while I am trying for the life of me to work out where to put them to protect them from the hungry possums. I have a vertical garden idea that I am ruminating on at the moment and will keep you posted

When we were researching ideal shrubs and small trees to use for our water wise sustainable garden plan that were a combination of incredibly hardy, able to grow just about anywhere in any situation, that offered habitat for birds, protection for them along with food we discovered, quite by accident the genus Elaegnus. I had heard of this genus and after a small bit of research realised that it included Russian Olives, a most desirable tree. This genus is amazing! It contains some of the most water-wise, hardy, adaptable edible plants known to man and the entire front garden of our plan is cram packed full of them now. I just did a spell check as word didn’t recognise the word “Elaegnus” (and let’s face it anyone not involved in horticulture most probably wouldn’t!)…and it wanted me to swap “Elaegnus” for “Eloigns”…EH?! Now THERE is a word that makes more sense and that we all know and love right? NOT! Apparently the word Eloigns means (and I quote from the Free Merriam-Webster online dictionary…)

“Definition of ELOIGN. transitive verb. 1. archaic: to take (oneself) far away. 2. archaic: to remove to a distant or unknown place: conceal …”

Now I know that Elaegnus is a genus that usually consist of more thorns than leaves and I know that you might wish to remove yourself from the close proximity (read “in the middle of”) of any Elaegnus that you may have innocently fallen into the middle of post haste but Eloign doesn’t really cut the mustard to describe this genus, Word, so keep to what you know best (irritating grammatically erratic bad spellers like me) and leave horticulture to the gardeners! My own personal interpretation of the word Eloign is “once bitten twice shy”! I will commit this new word to memory to be used in conversation around the water cooler should I ever be lucky enough to fall victim to getting myself a regular job in the near future and feel the need to ensure that everyone else around the water cooler knows that I am an unmitigated nob.

Here is the boys dinner for tonight slowly defrosting in Brunhilda’s slowest warming oven. The temperature is perfect for slow defrosting as well as for dehydrating an added boon that I didn’t think of when we were contemplating our justification for Brunhilda’s initial cost and a massive help on cold winters days

Doesn’t this photo of Paper Beach make you feel wistfull? Well it does me!

We have bone wars going on at Serendipity Farm. The only thing that we have any problems with our 2 male dogs with is bones. When we first got Earl we used to give both dogs bones as they are the best thing for their teeth (cleaning) and for their digestion and healthy bowels. Bezial has always been a bit mean with bones and Qi learned early on not to even THINK of having a personal bone and that the odd nibble when Bezial was laying upside down inside was the best that she was ever going to get on the bone front. Earl isn’t like Qi and soon learned to stand up for his bone rights. We didn’t want any problems between the boys so we stopped buying them bones but today we thought of a possible solution to our problem and bought 2 large beef thigh bones. Earl is shut on the deck and Bezial gets his bone out the back door…never the twain shall meet and silence and happiness shall reign on Serendipity Farm…that would be the situation in an ideal world but Serendipity Farm is NEVER ideal and Bezial ONLY eats rancid bones that have been lying about undisturbed for weeks. Earl can’t be kept on the deck for the 2 – 3 weeks that it takes for Bezials bone to get to the desired level of putrescence and so we are back to square 1. Bezial lying next to Brunhilda with one ear up listening for if Earl makes any surreptitious moves towards the back door and Earl hurriedly eating his bone so that he can start on Bezials…the grass is apparently greener (and so is the rancid bone…) on the other side of the gate…sigh…back to the drawing board!

“Lassie came home!”…well Della did…she has had puppies and has gone from being Bezial’s mate to being a barking mother much to Bezial’s consternation… it’s tough being a clueless male. She was trying to catch the plovers that were flying shrieking around her attacking her in this photo and it was hilarious to watch her snapping at them as they bombed her from on high.

These are some of the glass houses at the Polytechnic department of Horticulture and go part way to showing you how bleak winter can be in Launceston Tasmania in July

Although winter is upon us and its cold, grey and a bit depressing I wanted to share this photo with you that Steve took yesterday when we went to Paper Beach to walk the boys. Love is eternal and so is optimism! “Hurry up Spring I am cold!”

Well it’s time to start preparing food for the various creatures that inhabit Serendipity Farm (ourselves included) and another few days have headed into the abyss of time. At least when I am old and have time for reflection (should the day ever come when I DO get to reflect!) I will have these posts to look back on and wonder what we ever did to deserve this! 😉

TIMBER and fire futures

Hi All,

First I want to talk to you all about something…many of you may have noticed that my posts occasionally appear to have been written in the past and then suddenly you will see a bit added that is somewhat random and may not have much to do with the post in general. Let’s just say for curiosities sake that I have invented a Serendipity Farm time machine. I have put flux capacitors, twiddley knobs and all sorts of weird and wonderful hoozamagigs that I am not going to explain because hey…I might want to manufacture them and make a bit of pocket money at some time in the future. Just a little aside here…it would be a good thing if we keep this little secret between ourselves because otherwise I may suddenly “disappear” and not be posting any more (courtesy of the C.I.A. or some other “interested party”…). Back to the time machine. Now this thing DOESN’T run on plutonium by the way…apart from me not having a ready access to it and having no idea how to manufacture it from raw materials (nor in fact having any desire to do so as I was born with a brain…) it is being run on an entirely sustainable and renewable source of energy (let’s say something along the line of Tesla coils…) and that I am able to hop my posts from one day back and then forwards and that I take avail of this sometimes. Let’s just say that because it is a whole lot more interesting and romantic and gung-ho than the actual truth and for the sake of your sanity (and I would probably have to kill you if you found out…) you just accept that OK? There…that wasn’t so hard was it? A suspension of disbelief is all that it takes…you all watch television don’t you? All of that was to lead into me spending the morning of Monday doing manly things with Steve. No…I wasn’t spending “Labour Day” drinking beer in the shed, scratching my private parts and watching football…I was out doing some hard physical labour and toting logs while Steve cut them up with the chainsaw and then split them with the log splitter. And before you say ANYTHING about how come I am talking about Monday and it is actually Saturday? Remember… the time machine… (Wink wink…)

I had been up for just over an hour before I took this shot of the sunrise…what am I going to do when daylight savings stops next month?!

An early morning lumberjack with his challenge

As you can see these trunks are right next to my compost bin and Pingu’s house…

Steve has already cut his tree on the other side and is now cutting his wedge hole

Sorry these are dark but I was hiding behind a tree MILES away from this and zooming in for you to see…this is the wedge cut

Steve is using his block splitter to knock a wedge shaped bit of wood into the chainsaw cut. He has already cut the front of the tree and now he is tapping the wedge into this cut to slowly tip the tree where he wants it to go

TIMBER!

Now I have been trying to stall this tree felling event for a while now. I am a natural worry wart and Steve is a natural gung-ho manly man who likes to get stuck in before he engages his brain sometimes. After having a chat with some manly friends who both said “Piece of piss”…which is a masculine Aussie colloquialism for “Easy peasy” with regards to chopping down the 2 smallish trees and with everyone scorning my obvious “girly” fears, Steve was able to isolate an actual date (Labour Day) to get me to assist him in cutting down these trees. When I say “assist”, what I mean is hide behind a VERY large tree as far away from the actual event as possible taking pictures. Just another quick note here…we don’t recommend that anyone do this with the minimal safety equipment that Steve had on. Get yourself some good safety gear before you do this but for today’s little effort, Steve decided to go nude… (Sigh…). Both Steve and I have undertaken and completed our chainsaw licenses through our Certificate 3 in Horticulture and both of us know about tension, compression and how to read wood. In saying that these trees were a very easy and predictable drop and they were both stone dead. I would never allow Steve to cut down live trees because they are totally unpredictable with how they are going to react. Wait till they die and THEN cut them down :o). Ok, now all of that safety (or lack therein) has been discussed let’s get down to what we did. I took lots of pictures but as it was pretty early (7.30am) some of them are quite dark. Because I was being a sooky la-la and hiding behind a large tree the stupid flash kept going off and making the picture even darker so you will have to bear with me, but here is the progression as it happened…(oops…maybe I should have put the first 7 photos here…but you get my drift…)

The Lumberjack is fashioning himself a rudimentary chopping block (I feel like David Attenborough doing a commentary…)

It looks like Steve is gesticulating at me in a most Italian and derogative way but it’s just my early morning photography…I am not all that good at the best of times but this is BEFORE my first cuppa and I can’t be held responsible for my actions

Now it’s time for the second, smaller trunk to be felled. By now I was more blase about Steve’s abilities and was only half a mile away (but still behind a tree…it doesn’t pay to get TOO cocksure…)

Hey…I actually got this one falling! Action shot (another tick from my “must do before” list…)

Admiring a job well done…not a single tap was flattened…no hens fell in the wayside and Pingu is entirely 3 dimensional and the compost bin lives to feed the possums another day

Ok that was a lot of photographic documentation and I am tired and need to head off to get a cup of tea now after all of that exertion… ok, back now and ready to tackle the rest of this post. We have a wood burning stove that doubles as a hot water system in winter and that requires regular food or it doesn’t work. A pretty simple concept and something that we are well aware of. My “trick knee” has been telling me that winter is going to be a hard one this year. Our elderly neighbour Glad told us that you could tell how hard a winter was going to be by the brightness of the cotoneaster berries. They are flame red this year so perhaps they are trying to tell us something. Never let it be said that I ignore nature’s signs because I have most definitely learned to do so at my own peril. I figure we are due for a very cold dry winter and as such we are going to need enough firewood to keep the stove operating effectively for the winter and most probably up to about October when it starts to warm up a bit and the last frosts occur. Over winter I use the wood stove extensively for drying clothes in front of, heating the entire house, cooking all sorts of amazing things and lots of staple foods like bread and for heating our hot water. It is very efficient and doesn’t need an incredible amount of wood to heat up the top plate and the water so if we don’t need to cook anything in the ovens we only need to keep it “ticking over” and we use very little wood in the process. We are learning all about this old way to cook and by the end of this year we should have a good handle on just what it takes to get our stove to do what we want it to do. There are all sorts of knobs and things on the stove to open and close flu’s and to direct heat all over the place. Steve, being the technology genius, has taken it on himself to “learn the ways” of the stove. I hope he teaches me because apart from being good at lighting fires (past life) I have no idea about how to get this baby working well.

This is how close those trunks were to my compost bin…

Steve and I have both commented that there is an optical illusion going on in this photo. The area where these trees fell is nowhere NEAR as big as it looks in this photo. Lots of delicious wood for warm cosy fires in the freezing cold winter so I can wear tee-shirts when it is stormy outside

The hens were all going ballistic to be let out before Steve started up the chainsaw. Chainsaws = grubs so the hens weren’t particularly upset when he started it up but as soon as he started to use it on the tree they all took off inside their coop. Here they are coming out very VERY slowly to look at the carnage…

It doesn’t take our courageous girls long to get curious and come out to see what is going on

Here is what the fallen sentinels looked like from the deck (Note we haven’t planted out the Claret Ash yet Nat…we did learn at least 1 thing from James…that was plant in the autumn…

Most of you will be aware that Steve recently had a haircut. His hair was previously pretty long for him and had been dyed blond a long time ago and gave him a decidedly gypsy swashbuckling look. Once he got his hair cut he looked like a different man. He had said that he wasn’t going to get his hair cut until we finished everything that we were going to do on Serendipity Farm. Once he realised that his hair was going to tangle up on a daily basis (welcome to my world!) and that he was going to have to brush it (shock horror!) and that we are most probably going to be working on getting Serendipity Farm “finished” for the rest of our lives he decided to bite the bullet and get it cut. Now that he has had it cut it needs to stay cut and with our frugal life I told him that I was going to cut his hair…here is what he thought of that…

And this is how happy he was when I told him that I was only joking…

I decided today that I am going to only post once a week now. I figure that familiarity breeds a bit of contempt. With our studies taking up more of our time and with our newfound efforts in the garden at Serendipity Farm we have a lot less time to do what I have been doing for 8 weeks over the holidays. I love posting for the blog but am starting to find that my posts are starting to contain very similar things. I started the blog as a way to keep in the loop with family and friends interstate and I think that my daily long posts appear to have been doing the opposite thing to keeping in touch. I get the sneaking suspicion that some of my “constant readers” are not reading many of my posts. I know how easy it is to hit “delete” when my inbox is too full in the mornings and I don’t want Serendipity Farm to become something that is easy to delete. I look forwards to my weekly posts from some of my blog subscriptions and think that a week on Serendipity Farm will yield a much rounder and more fulfilling post for you all to read. I haven’t run out of words I just want to remain relevant to family and friends and be something that they look forward to receiving so you will get a post from Serendipity Farm on the weekends now. It will contain everything that we have done through the week and lots of photos to describe it. Today we will be taking out another tree and no doubt that will be in next week’s post. This will be my final daily post for Serendipity Farm. The time that I spend here typing out posts I will pour straight back into the garden. Steve and I have a renewed energy and drive to get stuck into the garden now that the weather is cooler and we can burn some of the piles of debris that are littering the landscape.  Our new study course is also giving us a lot of impetus towards directing our efforts into our sustainable future here on Serendipity Farm. When you are trying to set up a permaculture based sustainable lifestyle for yourself the initial processes are the hardest and we figure we had best get stuck in now and make it happen. With our trusty Earl nibbled pig skin copy of “Creating a Forest Garden” in hand and a new appreciation of looking at small chunks and dealing with them on a regular basis rather than being overwhelmed by the big picture, we are going to affect change here and when spring gets here we will be ready for it. That doesn’t mean that I won’t allow myself the odd intermittent post…I am somewhat addicted to posting and it is a bit like when your children leave home (or live in one of your homes away from you…) and suddenly you miss the little buggers so don’t be surprised if you get the odd mid-week post to salve my need to type or I might have to channel it all into a book somewhere. We are noticing small trees growing where we have cut the grass consistently in the back paddocks and left it lying on the ground to act as mulch. We are seeing native heath flowering, wallabies visiting and are starting to think about how we can redirect the massive problem of storm water that thunders down our steep sloping block to our advantage. The more we learn the more excited we get about being able to apply these principles to our own situation. Steve whipper snipped the teatree garden area yesterday. Prior to our arrival on Serendipity Farm just on 16 months ago the area was covered in forget-me-nots up to our knees and a massive invasion of Periwinkle (Vinca major) that was taking advantage of a series of fallen spindly teatree (Melaleuca alternifolia) to climb out of the sea of forget-me-nots and reign supreme over the invading hoards. The whole area was a sea of blue and purple and whenever anyone walked through this area they emerged out the other side covered in sticky forget-me-not seeds and usually after at least one trip incident thanks to the tangle of thin Vinca stems. We have been pretty consistent with whipper snipping this area. We wanted it to return to a state where native wildflowers could return and native grasses and we are starting to see that since the competition from the exotic weed species has been reduced, the native plants are starting to return let’s just call this a short term seral community thanks to nature and her never-ending desire to reach equilibrium.  It’s an exciting time for us here and with renewed energy and a desire to get “stuck in” we should be able to really make a difference over the coming autumnal period and into winter on Serendipity Farm. We have quite a few overgrown shrubs and small trees to tackle and while the weather is conducive to working outside and the trees start to lose their leaves and return to a dormant stage it is the perfect time for remedial work and removal of dead, diseased, dying, deformed and in our case “demented” foliage, branches and most probably entire shrubs that have overgrown exponentially and are trying to move to Glad’s place next door by osmosis.

If you look REALLY hard up against the side of the shed you might be able to see, just behind that blue tarpaulin, our first stack of wood that we cut

We found Effel Doocark’s nest! It wasn’t easy as she is a crafty old minx but she made the mistake of revealing herself at lunch time yesterday just after we had taken a break from our studies and were tossing a bit of bread to Pingu over the deck railing when I noticed her amongst the bread scoffers. She has been sighted over the last week and then almost immediately she disappears without a trace. We decided that we were going to follow her the next time that we saw her and thus began the saga of the Doocark hunt. Our prey was a worthy opponent. She knew almost instantly that she had been spotted and set about a most impressive array of defensive action based on subterfuge and decoy. She waited until she thought that I wasn’t looking (my covert mother ability to look out of the corner of my eye when I was staring straight ahead didn’t let me down) and as soon as she started running off in her hilarious hen gate down the pathway leading to the area of garden where we had suspected her of bunkering down I alerted Steve who was hiding on the bottom step of the deck stairs. He took off after the crafty old minx who was rapidly receding into the distance and she suddenly veered off to the left which is most definitely NOT where we thought that she would be nesting. On inspection Steve discovered that she was employing guerrilla tactics and was attempting to divert our attention away from the true direction that she wanted to take (the crafty old hen!) and he spent the next 20 minutes sneaking from large agapanthus clump to agapanthus clump to disguise his presence. Effel kept spotting him and taking evasive action but eventually her need to get back to those rapidly cooling eggs took over from her desire to evade and she ran full pelt back to a massive clump of overgrown driveway lining agapanthus right near the gate at the front of the property! Steve lost her then and was just about to come up and admit defeat, whilst isolating where she might be, he hadn’t managed to spot her from that point and so I came down and we set about Effel isolating in earnest. We got a couple of old teatree branches and started to lift up the agapanthus fronds and poke around inside them. They are most interesting things when they have been stuck in the same place for years and small ones grow on top of larger ones with long aerial roots draping to the ground and in amongst one of these ancient monsters Effel was sitting as still as a statue. She never moved once even when she knew that she was rumbled. That wily old hen had led Steve a merry dance for 30 minutes all over Serendipity Farm and so we decided that she deserved her peace and quiet and pretended not to have noticed her and headed off elsewhere. Effel must make that long upwards (our driveway is very steep and is enough to deliver a mild dose of “winding” to anyone unfit and overenthusiastic enough to climb it quickly) journey at a full run (because that is the only way that Effel knows how) to get a drink and some food because there are no food or water sources anywhere near where she has nested (apart from the Tamar River). What a brave old girls she is and how tenacious is her need to find somewhere away from any predator’s and despite her giving us nothing but jip I totally admire the old girl. I might even take her a bowl of water and a scoop full of seed down to the bottom of the driveway today to reward her for her tenacity. Here is a little newsflash courtesy of that Serendipity Farm time machine that I am able to use to go back and forth in my posts. When taking some grain down today to Effel, we heard squeaking and managed to count 6 babies. It is so cold today that we decided to rehouse Effel in the shed with her babies, knowing what a bad mum she is and not wanting any of the poor little things to perish in the cold down next to the gate right next to the Tamar River and the wind. We can see that we have a few little blue Wyandotte’s like their mum in the group and when we got the dog carrier that Earl arrived in and headed down to collect Effel and her babies we found not 6…not 7 but 12 babies! Effel and her babies are now safely ensconced in Pingu’s old cage in the shed until Effel’s babies are big enough to survive curious cats (about 2 weeks old) and “the masses” (as we shall call them until they start to be more than fluff balls and develop a bit of character…that is apart from “Owl face” who Steve has already named). We give away 7 hens and we gain 12 babies…No wonder we are overrun with chooks and are only able to find 1 egg a day at the moment…the hens are taking advantage of the 4 acres of overgrown shrubs, trees and massively invasive weed species to tunnel themselves impregnable fortresses. I have noticed that every single nest that we find has been situated right in the middle of a blackberry bush. Now that there are 3 roosters crowing on Serendipity Farm and they show no sign of attempting to destabilise the existing governor (Big Yin) they are taking their harems to various different areas on Serendipity Farm and setting up all sorts of covertly created nests. The hen problem is rapidly approaching the feral cat problem, indeed one day the hens might just deal with the cats for us as there won’t be any room left out there in the jungle for the cats to live in.

That’s a bit easier to see isn’t it? That cage covered with the blue tarpaulin was where Pingu lived for a while when Earl broke her leg. She is now living in the old duck enclosure most happily in transition between this cage and moving in with the rest before winter. The cage shown here is now cram packed full of Effel and 12 little blue wyandotte fluffballs…the cutest little things that you ever saw. Notice the hens in the background pecking insects (mainly termites) off the wood that we cut from our felled trees. Sustainable living involves using nature to clear out your pest species. Our hens scoff their weight in insect life every day and if they EVER let us know where they are laying eggs, they will just about pay for themselves on Serendipity Farm…Steve did find a nest with 17 eggs in it (thank GOODNESS Houdini didn’t decide to sit on that one!) the other day and Effel had 14 eggs (all hers) all up in her nest so there are some enormous clutches of eggs around here…

Here is our pile when we chainsawed a few more logs to top the pile up. This pile is now safely in the wood shed up behind the house that used to be the boat shed. We are saving up our wood futures and just like Fry said from Futurama…

Fry:  It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long the  grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter while the octopus mooched off his  girlfriend and watched TV. Then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and  the octopus ate all his acorns and also he got a racecar. Is any of this getting  through to you?”

I am sure that there is some sort of lesson in there for you lazy bollocks feeding from the grid while we slave for our wood, but I am starting to think that perhaps Fry might be right!

Steve was going to make a chair but decided to make himself a nice chopping block from these stumps and I dare say they will be well used by the possums climbing into my compost bin…

We are off now to cut down the first of 3 trees that need to be removed from the garden in front of the house. I realise that we may be taking habitat from wildlife but if any of these trees fall they will be taking OUR habitat and so it is survival of the fittest at the moment and we have to remove these old dead trees before nature and winter do it for us. Now that we know that Effel isn’t ensconced in the blackberries where we are going to fell these trees (yes we are WELL aware that felling trees into blackberries might result in difficulties later on when we need to log these trees but this is the lesser of all of our considered evils as anywhere else would result in massive flattening of existing shrubs) we can drop them with impunity. 1 of the trees will fall into the jungle area that we haven’t dealt with yet. Hopefully none of the feral cats are hunting birds in there when we drop the tree…

Note the hens have gone from being somewhat scared of the chainsaw to totally ignoring it because it is the heralder (if there is such a word) of delicious insects and even when we have cut up our logs, we still have limbwood (in the foreground) and kindling wood to cut up…nothing is wasted in our trees

Steve wanted me to take a couple of pictures of his shed for him. He tidied it up the other day and it won’t stay in this state for long (indeed Effel and her 12 babies are making short shift of the ‘nice and neat’ and rendering it ‘hay filled and smelly’) and he wanted it documented for posterity and where better to put something for posterity but a post? (Yeh I KNOW that was lame…I would say punny, but you can have your own opinion on that)

Here is the last of the numerous photos for the day. Steve’s shed was still tidy and Effel free…We had yet to load all of that wood into the trailer and take it up to the wood shed and unload it and I wasn’t full of soup like I am now  (lets just stop while I am ahead)

I forgot to add a site to one of my posts in the last few days (too many words in my head and my muse is Billy Connelly…) and because we are finding all sorts of really valuable websites and databases about water wise xeriscape plants I would like to actually share this one with you. It’s no fun living somewhere where the sun kills EVERYTHING that you plant out and that water is something you actually have to think about. I would imagine that some inland areas of Australia are right up there with the Kalahari desert and the dry canyons in America but there is ALWAYS a solution people…you just have to think outside the local nursery box. Sometimes you might have to buy some seed and grow your own (like we do) if you want something that the local nursery selling bog standard phormiums, pittosporums and cordylines haven’t even heard of let alone stock. Don’t you love how anyone these days thinks that they can run a nursery? The same problem exists with Health Food Shops.  Here is a great Australian website and sorry to all of you wonderful readers elsewhere in our big beautiful world but you are just about to find out how WE feel whenever we hunt for information pertinent to what we are interested in and have to wade through all sorts of mental arithmetic involving seasons (you are the reverse of US not of you by the way…) Here it is… we are using it to compile a basic list of plants that are pretty much guaranteed to grow in our local conditions. If you look hard enough you will notice that these plants are even trademarked and so you may even be able to communicate with your local nursery because they may have a book “somewhere” with these little babies listed…now you just have to use hand signals to get them to understand what you want…

http://www.floraforfauna.com.au/

It’s a little bittersweet to sign off now for the first time where I am not almost immediately thinking about my next post. Hopefully the quality and content of my weekly posts will make up for them not being every day and that all of you dear constant readers will be able to settle down on the weekend to a nice long letter “from home” over a cup of tea and some toast. See you all next Sunday morning (Aussies) as I will be posting the post on Saturday night. I am off to help Steve cut up the tree that he just felled…but that, my dears, is another story…