When chaos comes to town

Hi All,

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

Sketti Doritos

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

Tamar NRM Bush Tucker Gardening Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Preparing the fruit to be washed ready to turn into jam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Steve using a romantic fuzzy halo around his Monte Carlos

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

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

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Damn the man!

Hi All,

I DID IT! It might have taken me 6 months but I DID IT! I damned the man. 6 months ago to the day, I barely blearily woke up assured that Daylight Savings wasn’t going to make me its biotch ever again. No longer would I stagger from my bed in October in a rough approximation of jetlagged for the next fortnight till I got used to having a precious hour of my day removed surgically by the nefarious powers that be, I would wake up an hour earlier AND I would hit Daylight Savings running…but then my ever inquisitive questing mind realised that this would be a pattern that would repeat itself and that I would just slide back into absorbing that extra hour come the end of Daylight Savings in April… how was I going to prevent this happening. You have to go back into the ether 6 months ago to see how very different my life was then…you have to imagine that wibbley wobbly cutaway scene that they are able to recreate on telly but that I seem to be having difficulty reproducing here in my post so it’s up to you guys to wibble and wobble ok? Righto, back to the story folks! 6 months ago I was a night person. I stayed up regularly till 1am reading, watching television and generally inhabiting the night. My mornings were a study in grouchiness and Steve was always up before me proffering my first (bucket) mug of tea with shaky hands and the scene was set with Steve, fully dressed and raring to go, both dogs twitching with anticipatory excitement at their prospective walk and me, stubbornly clinging to the bedclothes and my teacup in a vain effort to stay in bed…I grumbled…I complained, I muttered my way into my mornings with my ears pinned back in warning to ANYONE foolish enough to talk to me or even look in my approximate direction. I was a morning harpy folks! A full month before Daylight Savings was going to hit us I decided to get up slightly earlier to adapt to the full hour that Daylight Savings was going to steal from me. I started with setting the alarm clock 15 minutes earlier each week and by the time Daylight Savings hit, I was ready for it and it didn’t render me apoplectic and staggering like every year prior. Not THIS little black duck! I was bright eyed and bushy tailed and when I realised that there might just be a problem at the other end of Daylight Savings I just decided that if I could adapt to 6am…why the heck couldn’t I adapt to 5am? Now for me, this was tantamount to crazy land. I hadn’t seen 5am aside from the start of long trips and 5am wasn’t a time, it was a beginning…

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“Err…excuse me…someone appears to have forgotten to leave the gate open, do you think you could do me a favour and just open it up?…please?…pretty please?…”

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“I KNOW you aren’t going to leave me alone till you take a photo so just take it and bugger off!”

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Steve’s collection of twang (note the inclusion of a banjo so that we can blend in with the local’s if we ever need to 😉 )

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The invaders are coming to deliver a telephone mast to the other side of the river…”GET THE TIN FOIL STEVE!” 😉

After adjusting my brain to 5am and realising that there were so many possibilities with waking up at this ungodly hour, I started to wake up even earlier. In 6 months I have gone from a night person who shunned mornings to a very early morning person who went to bed at 7pm last night. Once you set yourself on the pathway to changing your habits you never know how much it is going to change your life. In the past 6 months I have managed to totally change my days and nights (although I don’t really know what happens at night anymore because I am fast asleep!). I went from having a degree of insomnia where I would lay awake worrying about the state of the world to being unable to prevent sleep and having no problems staying asleep. I went from someone who hated walking the dogs and exercise in general to someone who is out the front of the walk and eager to carry on. I went from bordering on obese to “ideal weight” with very little effort and you know what? I think it all came from that initial desire to damn the man and make a tiny positive change in my days. There is a Bupa health fund ad where people see their future healthier and fitter selves and that’s what I am doing today. If it wasn’t for my bolshie desire to bugger up Daylight Savings and remove its tentacle hold on my life, I wouldn’t be the vibrantly buzzing healthy specimen of early morning happiness and possibilities that I am today. One tiny little stubborn desire has entirely changed my ethos and my way of life.  I wonder what other tiny little changes could predominately effect our lifestyles? If something as simple as waking up 15 minutes earlier in my day could deliver this sort of massive change, what else could I start with by just putting my feet on a new pathway?

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Talking about a new pathway…this is a Stromboli. A Stromboli is Steve’s latest favourite food. This one consists of some homemade pizza dough (with the inclusion of mixed herbs, chilli flakes and home grown, dehydrated and powdered tomato) and cabanossi sausage made by Nige our local butcher at “Nigel’s on Tamar” (do I get some free meat Nige? 😉 ), bacon, home grown sliced last of the season tomatoes, thin sliced local grown onions and a mix of grated parmesan and cheddar.

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Once you top the Stromboli, you need to roll it reasonably tightly

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Next you need to cut the Stromboli midway through with a serrated bread knife

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Put your Stromboli, along with the baking parchment you SO cleverly rolled it up on to prevent having to do washing up onto a baking sheet

I got a request for sharing a recipe for those baked spring rolls that I shared a photo of in the comments section of my last post so here is my recipe. Steve and I customised it to be healthier than regular deep fried spring rolls because Steve isn’t a fan of anything deep fried (I, on the other hand, LOVE deep fried anything and that, my dear constant readers, is why I had trouble fitting through doors in a past life 😉 ) and although baked spring rolls need to be served up and eaten pretty much straight away to maintain their crunch, you can be smug and satisfied that you get pretty much the same taste with a whole lot less fat and a lot more nutrition…

Homemade baked spring rolls

1 packet of spring roll wrappers (usually 20 in a pack). We get ours from Coles as they are the only reasonably priced option in Tasmania but feel free to get yours anywhere you want to

A large quarter of a cabbage finely shredded

6 large carrots grated (the longest part of this equation)

1 egg (I don’t eat these spring rolls anymore and the egg binds the filling and reduces any liquid that would make the rolls soggy)

2 packets of MI Goreng (ramen) noodles along with their seasoning packs OR if you are being über healthy, sub veggie stock powder (Massell is the BEST and is Aussie made :o) ) cook the noodles according to the packet, drain them and chop them finely with scissors and reserve the seasoning packs to add to the main mix or you could just add some dried Chinese noodles of your choice. We used to add rice vermicelli and that worked amazing well so it really is up to you :o)

You can add finely chopped capsicum, mung bean sprouts, finely chopped cooked mushroom (to remove excess moisture) and just about any other vegetable or Chinese add (we have previously used soaked dried wood ear fungus and white fungus to great advantage) in that you like at this point but we usually just use cabbage and carrot and the results are yummy

We add some form of protein. Steve likes finely diced chicken cooked with some chilli flakes and I used to have firm tofu but you can add diced up cooked omelette, bacon, any finely diced lightly fried meat, prawns, anything really and you only need about a cup of finely diced protein in total for 20 large spring rolls

Then comes the seasonings. I use lots of oyster sauce (for Steve), Thai chilli sauce, yellow American style mustard, a squirt of toasted sesame oil, lots of crushed garlic (about 7 cloves) and an equal quantity of crushed fresh or jarred ginger, a couple of squirts of Worcestershire Sauce and we add a couple of teaspoons of dried chilli flakes but we love hot food so I would suggest a little sprinkle if you aren’t sure as you already have chilli in the sauce (depending on how hot it
is). Steve likes pepper added and I used more of the Massell veggie stock powder (sub whatever stock powder you fancy to your heart’s content) and feel free to add any other favourite condiment to your batch that takes your fancy. It’s all about customising to your own personal tastes here…that’s what makes these delicious and what makes “homemade” the best.

Mix the entire mass together with clean hands. It’s therapeutic to be up to your elbows in Chinese food. Once you have an even distribution of sauce through the shredded/grated veggies you can start making the rolls. Open your packet of spring roll wrappers and keep a clean tea-towel over the packet to keep them from drying out as you work. I am pretty quick at rolling up a batch of 20 but I have had a lot of practice over the years. Here’s a great tutorial to show you how to roll them up…

http://www.steamykitchen.com/22276-chinese-spring-rolls-with-chicken-recipe.html

She also talks about draining off the liquid to prevent soggy spring rolls. Liquid is an antagonist to a spring roll and keeping the filling reasonably dry is especially important with baked spring rolls. This tutorial makes small spring rolls…yours are going to be big spring rolls but the rolling method is the same and feel free to go ahead and deep fry them if you fancy. The process is the same BUT we like to brush ours with olive or rice bran oil and bake them till they are crisp and golden brown. Either way you end up with something full of flavour, absolutely addictive and you don’t have to pay by the roll. Very economical and much tastier than what you can buy from the supermarket or most food vendors. Give it a go, if you like Asian food (who doesn’t?!) you are going to love these :o)

YUM just found another pictorial tutorial with a completely delicious looking recipe for more spring rolls. Remember, it’s all about customising them to your own personal taste and when you are eating a plate piled high with your own personal favourite flavours you can smugly damn the man all over again!

http://shesimmers.com/2011/06/fried-spring-rolls-po-pia-tod-html

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This is what the cooked Stromboli should look like. I didn’t include a photo of Steve as he was drooling too much to be anywhere near presentable enough for a photo 😉

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Cut crosswise into chunklets just like you would with a Swiss roll and eat…eat a lot…eat too much of it and there will STILL be enough left over to satisfy your appetite the night after with some home baked homemade oven wedges 🙂

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I forgot I had this casserole dish…I picked it up for $2 from a local thrift shop because it didn’t have a lid. How many times do I need a lid? Not many! This is a shepherds pie topped with a mountain of riced cooked potato. Ricing the spuds keep them separate and make a lovely crisp topping.

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I am still getting zucchini’s and a trickle of tomatoes and these are the very first of our ripened jalapeno chillies along with “something” curious that tends to invade most of my photos these days 😉

I am sitting here quietly on Tuesday morning tapping away with “eau de rotting kangaroo carcass” wafting through the air. The decomposing large roo that is about 20ft from the back door is starting to attract more than flies and crows and its wonderful aroma is starting to permeate more than it’s immediate proximity. The native wildlife has done it pretty tough this year and after a couple of bumper seasons, the bushfires that removed a lot of their grazing territory and the long, hot, extremely dry summer that we just had has resulted in a lot of animal deaths. Tasmania is the Aussie home of road kill, thanks to its cooler conditions and larger proportion of vegetation. The animals have been forced to eat pretty much anything this year and my guess is that our kangaroo friend up the back is the culprit who has been eating all of the potato leaves and rhubarb leaves and his toxin tolerance just hit zero. Steve had to take an impromptu trip into town because when we got back from walking the dogs our daughters phoned up to tell us that the hot water tap in the kitchen decided to turn itself on permanently last night and they had to turn the water off at the mains (at least they now KNOW where the mains is 😉 ). Steve was expecting a major job but $15 for a tap and a few extras and about the same amount of minute’s worth of work resulted in job done and happy campers all round. Steve thought that his midday adventures pootling around in the Mumbly Cumumbus were going to be extinguished but now they are back on the cards. I just finished my wireframe drawing of my poster, the final part of my assessment that needs to be submitted on Monday and have the rest of the week to put in a concerted effort to reduce my RSS Feed Reader and to plan our veggie garden that we will be starting on quite soon. I am hoping to convince Steve that our small orchard could do with enclosing fully at the same time so that we can prune the poor long suffering possum playgrounds and perhaps get some fruit next year.

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Proof…Irrefutable PROOF that Flares ARE coming back man!

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And the foolishness continues…Just in case anyone wanted to know what colour our kitchen was 😉

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This is a Schacht Inkle Loom. I bought it for $5 from the year before last’s HUGE progressive garage sale that spans 15km along the Tamar River and is our favourite event on the yearly calendar. I have NO idea how to use it so any clever clogs out there who know about weaving (you KNOW who you are 😉 ) can tell me whether it is something I should/could be bothering with or whether I should just let Earl eat it like he has been trying to do for a year and a half

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The Mumbly Cumumbus just in from Steve’s latest “pootling” event on the river. He actually caught 2 flathead (fish) and the dogs got both of them… well Bezial got both of them as Earl was suspicious of Steve’s intentions and wasn’t going to eat the fish in case it negated us giving him large quantities of steak. Bezial would live on fresh fish if he could 🙂

I am starting to get excited about the prospects of being able to garden with impunity. To be able to plant things that nothing can get (aside from the insects but their predatory grubby friends can deal with them). In preparation for the garden I have been thinking about where to find lots of bulk to fill the prospective garden beds for free or at least as cheaply as possible. My idea is to use keyhole gardens (cheers YBert 😉 ) coupled with a lot of vertical action to gain the maximum amount of growing space. I found some Jerusalem artichokes growing on the road verge this morning and managed to procure a couple of them to plant out in one of my compost bins till I can sort out a corner of Serendipity Farm for them to live happily in and spread to their hearts content. I have visions of both Jerusalem and globe artichokes growing all over the place and if winter ever comes I have visions of spending long wet hours cuddled up near Brunhilda with the laptop, an excel spread sheet (Jess already beat me to it 😉 ) and my permaculture and food forest spidey senses tingling with the research possibilities. I love a good researching event and finding the right perennials, shrubs and trees to deliver food for our series of endemic conditions on Serendipity Farm is a wonderful challenge that I am up for. Permaculture gives us that option. It gives us a new way of looking at our problems and allows us to use our problems to form solutions. What might initially seem like a bit pain in the derrière can be twirled around till it’s good points are facing frontwards. Rocks in the ground? Dig them up and use them to make raised garden beds…Dry conditions causing you growing problems? Store water any way that you can through winter and use it on your gardens when the dry weather hits and use clever gardening tricks like mass planting, mulching, trickle irrigation, choosing food crops and plants that grow in arid conditions and you can bypass a lot of problems. There is ALWAYS  a solution…it’s just up to us to look for the answer and sometimes what you are trying to solve might not be the real problem. My Jerusalem artichokes come with a “you will NEVER be rid of them!” warning. I don’t want to be rid of them. I want food that will grow itself without too much effort. I want to be able to have food all over Serendipity Farm eventually, not just zone 1, but everywhere. I have a vision of fecundity and production and an eventual harmony/equilibrium of cycles on Serendipity Farm that fills me with a sense of hope and happiness. It’s often how you choose to look at things that gives you answers and I like to turn things around a whole lot and look at the bits that other people tend to shun…I’m a bit strange like that 😉

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Another lovely day on the river

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Steve’s aquatic companions

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The Deviot Yacht Club from the river. You can see the deciduous trees starting to colour up nicely

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Some of the houses in Deviot that span the riverbank

Well I am back to normal. I am just about to finish this post off as somewhat less than a novella but definitely more than a quick read over a 5 minute tea break. I hope that all of my dear constant readers are beavering away in their respective changeling seasons between the wet and the dry and vice versa. Spring and autumn are definitely bridging seasons and whatever you are trying to achieve this year, I hope that you get it at least started before the heat of summer or the cold and wet of winter sets in for the long haul. Have a great rest of your week and see you on the weekend, rested and ready to rumble :o)

How to steal a life…

Hi All,

I was going to call this post “Put Henry in the Curry” as a tribute to Spike Milligan’s skit that is most probably politically incorrect in some people’s eyes until you realise that Spike was born in India and is therefore poking fun at himself. I changed the name of the post because I just realised that today is ANZAC day. To many of you, ANZAC day isn’t anything that you would stop to think about. I couldn’t be bothered to paraphrase this as it said it all in a nutshell…good old Wikipedia!

“Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in military operations for their countries”

I recently finished (as did Earl but my digestion was mental and Earls was most decidedly physical) “A Covenant with Death” which really made me think about war and why we seem to keep doing this to ourselves. In truth, most casualties of war are the lower and working classes and the safest place to be in a war is inside an officer’s uniform. I was thinking about this early this morning when I was idly tossing some grain to the hen that inhabits the side garden with her 3 chicks. I say “her” chicks, she stole them from another hen when she failed to produce any eggs herself (after we pinched all 17 in a fit of pique to stop the exponential explosion of hens on Serendipity Farm). She now trots around with someone else’s babies, masquerading as hers. The other hen has sadly given up trying to get her babies to return to the correct fold and this other hen has effectively stolen her babies. I realised that there are many ways to steal someone’s life other than identity theft and war and chick theft both result in someone having a broken heart.

Now that I no longer use pictures that I filched from the interweb for the purposes of making my posts interesting, I discovered, most sadly, that this is the closest thing that I have to a photograph of anything French to tie in with the war theme of this post and keep it relevant in my posession. This is French goose fat. Not only does it have nothing whatsoever to do with France or the war, it’s nothing like as delicious as everyone says that it is and was a bit of a waste of $16. Go with duck fat people, its MUCH better value and far tastier (in Steve’s humble opinion)

Last night we made a huge pot of home-made chicken stock. In my past lackadaisical life where food came from magic supermarket fairies and I never had to think about the ethics or logistics of its production stock making was shoved (very quickly) into the too hard basket. A lot of things got shoved into the “too hard” basket and I am only just starting to discover that the “too hard” basket is a most interesting place to delve. The stock turned out rich and golden and had a heady scent that was totally absent from boxed stock. We then converted this rich stock into Mulligatawny soup. We ground the spices, garlic and ginger and used Korean red chilli paste to add heat and flavour. We try to do as many things as we can ourselves to cut out the middle man. The middle man and I have a Superman/Lex Luthor thing going on. I would like to think of myself as Superman in this equation although Superman didn’t have as many fits of pique as I do and most certainly saved the world on more occasions than I can remember myself doing so but you have to start somewhere don’t you? My world saving ability is to think laterally, to problem solve and to vote with my consumer dollar. We recently had a conundrum. A REAL conundrum for someone who has just returned to the vegan fold in that we had to do something about our burgeoning rooster population that was threatening to take over and wreak havoc on our previously utopian hen house. Something had to be done and we were just the superheros to do it! Henry (Rollins) was “removed” in the night. Over the course of the next few nights his henchmen Trogdor and Big Bertha (the gender confused chook) also met their fate. We discussed how to make the most of our newfound rooster futures. Henry is the only rooster that we have been utilising at this point of time because as the most active for the longest period of time we decided (using logic as our guide) that he would be the toughest (if tough was going to factor into any of them). We have been experimenting with this free range grain supplemented meat and have found it to be a very different proposition to shop bought chicken. Being new to wholesale rooster slaughter we still feel a bit bad about having to kill them but good about taking responsibility for the consequences of owning hens (and in our case roosters). We might just be able to step over that line that will take us from urban existence into true country sensibilities but for now, we are at least happy that we are making the most physically and ethically with our newfound rooster population. We might need a new Mulligatawny soup recipe however, we have a large pot of very heady overwhelming cardamom and ground clove flavoured soup that we are going to have to doctor to make it edible. Oh well…back to the drawing board! Check this out remembering that this was from the early 70’s and life wasn’t full of litigation and political correctness like it is now…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0n88tZQc4Q

Steve was messing about in the shed with some miniature callistemon seeds for the third (and he says final) attempt at getting some to survive beyond seedlings when I heard him calling out to me. I went out to find him clutching one of the bags of potting mix that we had put our hazelnuts and walnuts collected and then stratified a few weeks ago and got as excited as he did when I saw that 2 of the walnut’s had sprouted! I had assumed that they wouldn’t sprout until spring but I was wrong. Given the right conditions (moist potting mix, a series of nice warmish days and a nice dark place to fester a.k.a. one of our eskies…) these babies have decided to germinate in record time and I have to consider that it may be partly because the seed was collected locally and the conditions are perfect for their development. I hope that this burst of activity carries on and we end up with a nice selection of small Juglans regia to choose from when deciding what to plant out on Serendipity Farm.

Here are our walnut futures. There is something amazing about growing your own food and growing your own fruit and nut trees is a step on from that. Wish us luck with these little babies and their little hazelnut buddies that seem to be a bit sleepier than their walnut mates

I have no idea what this little fungus is called. I have been hunting for you and have found some photos of it on a website but not its botanical name. All I know is that it is cute, looks like a flower and puffs spores from the centre making it most probably a puffball family member. I just have to add this bit because I just found out that this is an “Earthstar” fungus and thought that it was fitting that a little fungus with this name would land on Serendipity Farm :). Hows that for 3 years of Horticulture eh? I am a closet mycologist and Tasmania is full of fungi. Check out this link to see some real beauties…

http://www.realtasmania.com/topic/606-mushrooms-fungus/

This is a type of crocus. I am way WAY too lazy to head out to the other side of the house with a torch clutched in my hand to see exactly which crosus this is. You can be sure that it is the best crocus that I could purchase for $2 from a local nursery and appears to be paying me back for my spendthrift ways by flowering before it gets consumed by one of the many vertebrates intent on scoffing our potted plants

Isn’t this little girl turning out to be pretty. I love the furry feet and her colouration. She is perched precariously on a recently felled sheoak sapling that was threatening to short out the entire neighbourhood by reaching vicariously for the nearest power line. Sorry little guy but some life lessons are harder to learn than others and yours was pretty tough!

I started reading Flaubert’s parrot today. I had laboured through the heart wrenching “A Covenant with Death” that had me lying awake late at night thinking about the futility of war, how short life is and reminding me that my sisters birthday was the same day as Adolf Hitler’s which in turn allowed me to race to the PC and wish her happy birthday just before it was too late. There are some merits to being in a time zone 2 hours ahead :o). I was under the impression that Flaubert’s parrot was going to be a bit of light quirky entertainment however it appears I was wrong and despite the promising and glowing reviews on the cover, this book just isn’t “me”. Never judge a book by its parrot. I have 3 other books from the library sitting alongside Flaubert’s parrot. One from the list… “Women of the silk” which is about Chinese women working in a silk factory that form a collective voice to question their working conditions. The other 2 I found on a random website that I initially found a recipe on. The poster had mentioned in the post that they had formed an online book club and being the nosy and adventitious person that I am I had to take a peek at her book choices.  Most of the books were non-fiction (a curious choice of reading material for a book club) but 2 of them stood out and called to me. I decided to order them post haste and “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” and “The Dirty Life” arrived today. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was written in 1938 the same year that my mother was born. The cover gives me a sneak peek at what I am about to ingest “Miss Pettigrew is a down-on-her-luck, middle-aged governess sent by her employment agency to work for a nightclub singer rather than a household of unruly children. Over a period of 24 hours her life is changed – forever”. Sounds interesting doesn’t it. The other book is a true story about the chance meeting of the author and her future partner over a farming interview and a deconstruction of her sensibilities. It’s amazing how I have gone from wandering the wilderness without prose to guzzling my not inconsiderable weights worth of delicious literature and it’s all thanks to Mary Anne Schaffer and her novel “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and how it did more to heal me after my mother’s untimely death earlier this year than anything else. Ms Schaffer never lived to see her novel published but she has certainly touched many lives with her beautifully written treatise about love and war all tangled up with stoic good humour and the resilience of the human spirit in extreme duress. I will continue my newfound love affair with literature for the foreseeable future and have no intentions of giving up this fantastic new vice. Who needs chocolate…books are MUCH more indulgent and have the added benefit of being totally calorie and fat free :o)

Here are a couple of the glasshouse babies that needed repotting recently. As you can see they are an interesting and exotic lot living in harmony in the glasshouse. The two Dracena draco (Dragon’s blood trees) had filled their pots with roots and the little Araucaria bidwillii (Bunya nut trees) at the very front is one of  3 that we grew from 3 seeds smuggled back from the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in 2010. Along with it’s 2 siblings it is doing fine in Tasmania and it’s 2 siblings have been living outside the glasshouse (horticultural experimentation) for a year now so it looks like we might be able to plant them out and have them survive in our local environment. The yellowy green leaves in the background belong to several Michelia champaca or Golden joy trees. We were informed by the source of the seed that these plants wouldn’t grow here in Tasmania but these are only half of our results and the rest have been living outside along with the 2 remaining Bunya nut trees. We get milder temperatures here because we live on a rocky steep sloped block right next to the river which keeps our temperatures more stable and less likely to vary wildly than inland. This means that we can grow things here that are simply daydreams in other areas of Tasmania

Here they are all potted up and ready to grow on a bit before they get repotted again. The joys of being a horticultural student!

I read somewhere once that a dog’s intelligence is equal to that of a 4 year old child. That most probably explains why we are confronted by a most petulant pair if we decide to deviate from our early morning ritual in any way as the average 4 year old loves their rituals. This morning we decided to wait for a little bit before we walked the boys. I had just gotten notice of the imminent arrival of my 2 new library books and it seemed sensible to kill 2 birds with one stone and pick up the books in Exeter and walk the dogs there at the same time. The dogs take an inordinate amount of interest in my personal activities in the morning. Steve can walk in and out of the gate…he can put on a hat…pick up the dogs leads…he can dance the hokey pokey but nothing that he does is of any interest to the dogs because somewhere in the recesses of their minds, their walks are initiated by me. Steve is always ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice and so the dogs have learned to watch for me heading to the bedroom to put on my shoes. I am shadowed by both of them intent on watching each lace tied and often accompanied by sighs and whining. I then have to head to the bathroom and put my hair up ready for the walk. Bezial is so tuned to this part of the walking equation that he doesn’t even bother heading to the bedroom and waits for the bathroom phase of the equation before he bothers to turn up and complain. After this stage it is straight out the door and a short wait at the gate before we are off adventuring! Imagine having two 4 year olds forever…permanently and perpetually 4…ARGH!

Hows this for a bunch of keys? If you are missing any keys for your property, your suitcase, your car, your shed, your tower that you locked Rapunzel up in, they are most probably here in this bunch. Steve thinks he has the key to the highway in this lot and about the only key missing is the key to the city…and that is one key that NO-ONE is ever going to give we leftist mad horticultural hippies any day soon 😉

Look what I made the other day. Steve requested his oat biscuits in slice form (because he is too lazy to roll all of those balls…) and here is the result

Then I made this tray of blondies. No idea what blondies are apart from chocolate free brownies apparently. I made them so the dogs would stop begging for Steve’s brownies that I also made…they contain dates for sweetness and Steve and the dogs ate them all first because they were apparently heavenly

And here are the brownies. I asked Steve whether or not he wanted cakey or gooey brownies and he chose the latter so that’s what he got! This recipe didn’t fail to deliver him a most delicious squidgy treat

Chestnuts? Why is she showing us chestnuts?…keep reading dear constant readers and you shall find out!…

I have a predilection for chestnuts. I am not ashamed to admit this to you all and am just about to indulge in a chestnut feast for my evening meal. I like to cut a cross in the top of them, steam them until they are tender and peel the shell and indulge whilst watching television. The shells then go into the compost bin where I can feel sufficiently happy that I am not contributing to the landfill problem but in doing that, I need to remember not to become one of those smug bastards who think that because they install energy efficient lighting it means that they are somehow better than anyone else. It’s so very easy to tip into “smug” but that robs you of all of the simple pleasure that you can get from feeling at one with the world and knowing that you are trying your hardest to leave the smallest footprint that you can. We have been working on our latest sustainable design and incorporating all sorts of interesting ideas. Our lecturer told us about a company that makes retaining wall units out of concrete that are also water storage devises. You can make walls, seats and even raised garden beds that also hold water to be used however you see fit. A really fantastic idea and you can check it out here if you are interested.

www.landscapetanks.com.au

Really great if you have a small space and you need a dual purpose module but not really my cup of tea. I like more natural looking things and Steve and I found this local producer of tanks and raised garden beds and are going to use them in our design

http://www.raincatcherstas.com.au/

We have been trying to use Adobe Illustrated cs4 to make a more natural looking design but we don’t have a year to learn the intricacies of Illustrator to apply to our course. Anyone out there wanting to give us a few tips feel free!

I am truly suffering for my newfound desire to make you all happy with a smaller post. I have to keep stopping myself from wandering around all over my mental landscape of thoughts that often look a whole lot like something from a 60’s Beatles movie. I need to learn literary discipline and learn how to condense my words down to find their simple, no doubt intensely flavoured, essence but much like Illustrator and AutoCAD and learning how to knit cable (and socks on 4 needles for that matter) and making stained glass windows and being patient and not losing my temper, I am going to have to shove literary discipline into my failed crafts cupboard along with everything else clambering to get out and push HARD to shut the bulging door. One day they will all burst out and fill up the house like that expanding foam stuff most probably suffocating me in their delight to be free. Until they do, and I have to use Earl as a life raft, I am going to keep stuffing my failures into the cupboard to be dealt with at a later date. See you all on Saturday when Anzac Day will be another year away and I won’t have to feel so sombre and unworthy of those brave young men dying so that I can choose to spend my life scratching my expanding derriere whilst watching people hunt alligators in a Florida swamp on an oversized television. To say that I am feeling guilty is a VAST understatement…

I just have to add something here that makes me feel really “chuffed”. I just checked my emails while I was waiting for the photos to load for this post and found that 10 people had signed my Avaaz petition against the gunns pulp mill (they DON’T deserve capital letters!). One of those 10 was Dr Warwich Raverty whom I hold in high esteem…he signed my petition! I am feeling star struck in the most environmental of ways! Please read this small article to get more of an understanding of what my petition and Dr Warwich Raverty are about. I am going to have a bit of a lay down to recover my composure!

http://tapvision.info/node/117

And should you feel strongly enough about big corporations nefarious dealings with government in order to effect their own needs whilst totally negating the desires of the people and the environment please feel free to check out my petition at Avaaz and sign it. The more people that sign the better. Thanks in advance for your support 🙂

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_the_Tamar_Valley_Pulp_Mill_from_being_built/