Chicken whispering with an axe

Hi All,

It suddenly turned into Saturday afternoon and this is the first time I have sat down to post since Wednesday so let’s just see how verbose I can be in a couple of hours…my guess is my inner manic muse won’t let me down and before you know it I will be teetering on the edge of 3000 words trying to think of bits to leave out. This week the weather has finally decided to reflect the fact that we are now most of the way through autumn and I am only just thinking about putting on jumpers. It’s not because I have become accustomed to colder weather, it’s because we have had unseasonably warm weather…some might call it an Indian Summer which leads me to believe that this winter is going to be VERY cold. I don’t mind. We have been gathering acorns while the sun shines…translated (from manic inner muse to “normal” human terms) that means we have been collecting wood like crazy in an effort to have enough for winter. I love cold weather especially when you don’t have to be cold and you get to sit next to a lovely warm fire crackling away, cooking your meals and heating your water. I need to keep feeling grateful about all of this because it will be several years before I am able to feel guilt free for spending the better part of the price of a cheap small car on a static heat source.

“Would you like fries with that? Please drive through…”

I was hunting for fungi the other day (it’s best not to ask…) and found this pretty specimen that had grown over a clover leaf.

Yin has been hollowing out dead trunk bases again to try to lure his girls away from the nests that I know about…one day Yin…ONE DAY!.. sigh…

We had a meeting with our lecturer this week and spent the day learning how to measure elevations with a theodolite. A theodolite for those of you not in the know…and let’s face it…before I did this course I would have been right up there with you… is a piece of equipment that takes horizontal and vertical readings (after you spend most of the day setting it up accurately that is…) so that you can get someone to pay you for this information translated into some form of plans involving the great outdoors. Architects and draftsmen use them…builder’s use them…landscape designers and contractors use them and now, so do we! Apart from looking suspiciously like Cybermen (Dr Who people…get with the programme!) they are most useful things that allow the person using them to find out all sorts of information that then allows them to fill out sheets using trigonometry to arrive at angles, minutes and seconds. If you are confused, don’t worry, you are not the only one! Mathematics and I are NOT friends. I realised the other day when I was banging my head on the table over Cos, Sin and Tan, that something must have happened to me at some time in the past for me to have completely bypassed understanding maths at all. I decided to head back into the ether… back… WAY back to where I would have been learning my 6 times table (because that is about where maths and I parted company). I discovered that year 5 at school is approximately where you learn you’re 6 times table and you start to get familiar with simple fractions (the beginning of my mathematical mental breakdowns). I played around in my mind with what was going on when I was in year 5. In Western Australia, you are about 10 when you get to year 5…

I always thought that it would be nice to have a dress the colour of the sky when it was just about to drop a massive deluge of rain on the earth. Even when I was a child I was a mental hippy ;o)

Here is a midden of oyster shells. The good folk of Paper Beach have decided to eradicate these oysters (apparently “introduced pests”…not sure most people would think of oysters as pests but it takes all kinds to make up a world…) from their pristine chunk of riverbank and have erected a sign asking everyone who takes a stroll up the beach to take one of the buckets (conveniently located on nails sticking out of a pole in the ground) and fill it up with oysters. I get the sneaking suspicion that most of the locals like the odd free oyster or 2 (on months with or without “ber” on the end of them…or is it the other way around?) and that this enterprising idea will meet with a lukewarm welcome. I think I might start bringing buckets of these oyster shells home to crush up and use as  slug/snail/duck deterants around my succulents…

3 little sage plants and a healthy little chive plant picked up last week on the progressive garage sale

I thought more about any events that may have affected me and had one of those “Epiphany” moments. My parents split up when I was in year 5! We then proceeded to go through a pretty traumatic time being bundled from relative to relative until mum could find a place to live and despite me not having any bad memories about that time it obviously affected me more than I was aware. I didn’t think that I was too traumatised by this event and had a bit more of a think about my past and realised that year 5 was the year that I was taught by Mr Pages-Oliver…a thin dour man who spent his life frowning and sneaking up on unsuspecting students and slamming a metre ruler down on the desk to startle them. Mr Pages-Oliver who terrified the living daylights out of me, coupled with my parents’ marriage dissolving when no-one else’s parents were separated let alone divorced, must have had an educationally disastrous effect on my 10 year old virginal maths (and spelling) mind. You really don’t realise how important it is to have teachers who want to teach. I can count on one hand the teachers that I know who are passionate about teaching students the subject that they are employed to teach. Most of them see it as a job…you do it, you get paid, and you have more holidays than the average person. I can’t blame them. I was going to be a teacher and circumstances saved me from becoming the jaded, world weary English teacher that I could have become. As much as I love sharing knowledge with people, the school system is not set up to enable teachers to teach. It’s not only students that fall through the cracks…it’s a rare teacher who survives to long service still in possession of their early passion to teach. Mr Pages-Oliver couldn’t even lay claim to that long term loss of hope because he was a first year out Teacher! What possessed this young man who obviously hated doing what he did to take up teaching is beyond me. Perhaps the saying “those who can…do…those who can’t…teach” was true of Mr Pages-Oliver…all I know is that the rest of my school life was spent unable to comprehend all sorts of very important concepts because of the interruption to that most formative of years. I thought I hated maths when I am actually well suited to it! Now that I am grasping concepts that should have been taught to me more years than I would like to admit here ago, I am actually enjoying the mental processes that trigonometry and working through mathematical formulas is giving me. You owe me Mr Pages-Oliver!! (You also owe my year 12 Maths and Economics teachers who probably had nervous breakdowns after trying to get me to understand what they were telling me!)

The spent hay that I am just about to remove from the chicken coop.

Mucking out the chicken shed might not be my favourite way to spend a morning but the resulting nitrogen rich hay makes amazing compost and fills up 3 lasagne beds so it tempers the job and makes it a lot easier to get stuck in when you are getting fertiliser for free!

The rear of the chicken coop along with what we used to use to feed them (before the great population explosion of 2012). Steve found plans online for how to make a gravity fed chook feeder and it worked really well until we ended up with too many chickens to use it. Now it just sits there doing nothing but act as a night time perch for one of the fatter less agile chickens at night

Tonight we decided to allow Effel to go into the main roost with her fellow adult chickens. She has been perching in here every night for the last week and Steve has been having to grab her and toss her into the outside area where we erected a covered area for Effel and her babies to ensure at least some of them grew to adulthood (remembering she had 12 when we first put her in there and the reputation of being a TERRIBLE mother…). We put this lower perch up for the babies as Effel leaves them huddled on the floor. Steve just reported that Effel and her favourite baby are up on one of the high perches and the remaining babies are on the ground…oh well…back to the drawing board :o)

On the way home from our lecture we dropping in to pick up a jar of sourdough starter that a lady I met in the library in Exeter gave me. She wasn’t home and left us a message to pick up the starter and a bucket of globe artichokes which we dutifully did. We had a little look around her garden and it inspired me to get going with lasagne gardening in earnest. I have been putting off starting the process of growing vegetables for ages, mainly because there are so many factors up against us doing so it is frankly logistically terrifying to contemplate. We need to find some way to stop the hens, possums and wallabies from scoffing our efforts. We need to create irrigation systems for the garden beds because vegetables are very water intensive. We need to do all of this on less than a shoestring budget and using our ability to think laterally and problem solve and use what we have available to us here on site. The more I delve into permaculture online, the more excited I get because apart from lauding recycling and reusing, these sites actually share with you how to effect these changes cheaply, because penniless hippies are highly proportional in the permaculture community. Thank goodness that penniless hippies like to share because otherwise Serendipity Farm would be a barren wasteland forever! The lady that gave me the sourdough starter had made an amazing difference to her small property using hay bales, lasagne gardening techniques, no digging, and all a work in progress that looked fantastic. My kind of garden! Quirky, plants everywhere, veggies in the flower garden, a pond in the middle, a small pen of suspicious chickens and rocket and other herbs growing in every crack in the home laid paving. It all melded together to give a truly homespun and thoroughly delightful garden that I now realise is totally feasible for Serendipity Farm. This lady, who lives on her own, has just “started” and keeps going. Steve and I are rank amateurs when it comes to vegetable gardens and living in the country and I could procrastinate for the queen (Gold medal procrastination 101). Monica showed us that gardening is more about getting started and finding your feet from there than it is about creating an instant oasis of beauty. Again, the process is where you learn the most so I guess we are just going to have to get started with solving the problem of how to keep everything out of our veggie gardens and how to afford to fill our raised veggie garden beds and somewhere along the way we will discover that we have actually accomplished what we set out to do! We walked the dogs this morning in Beaconsfield in the misty crisp part of the day where walking is actually enjoyable. It warms you up and makes you feel glad to be alive. The past few weeks of rain have allowed the grass to turn green again and gardens to start looking like they might contain something other than hay. I needed to pick up some organic spelt flour to feed the sourdough starter that I had been given and so we dropped in to the café that doubles as a tiny health food shop to see if we couldn’t pick some up. I was very surprised to be able to buy spelt flour in Beaconsfield but the population is starting to change from mine workers to younger families moving away from the city because housing is much more affordable in Beaconsfield and surrounding districts. I remember my dad once saying to me that he and his partner could have bought just about every house in Beaconsfield when they first moved to the district. The Beaconsfield mine was silent and had been for many years. The town was limping along wearily and house prices were ridiculous. The company that took a chance on using modern technology to allow them to extract more gold from the mine were able to make it last for 20 years but in June this year the Beaconsfield mine is going to close again and the main source of income for the locals will be gone. It’s easy for corrupt state government officials to hold up the bell bay pulp mill as being the answer to Tasmania’s unemployment problems but this is simply a fabrication. The truth of the matter is that this mill will employ skilled workers that will be imported from elsewhere. Tasmanians are not known for their educational prowess and most Tasmanian’s work in blue collar jobs. Rather than retrain these people and have to face up to years of woeful educational outcomes, our state government would rather lie to them about the future of forestry, pulp production and mining in this state. We can’t afford to keep going the way that we have been in this state for the past 100 years. We need to be able to find employment in sustainable opportunities rather than exploiting our dwindling natural resources to our own detriment. In Tasmania we are just treading water but selling us down the river to the highest bidder (or most corrupt business) isn’t going to solve anything. It is just going to relieve the ‘heat’ from our state politicians and allow them a bit of breathing space to weasel out of the problems that bad governance has tumbled them into over years of negligent and nepotism in this state.

Steve has just spent the afternoon removing and disabling programs to make our laptop work faster. We had the misfortune of buying it loaded with Vista (sigh) and we are just about to take it to have XP installed because Vista righteously SUCKS! It is now running heaps faster and until we can remove Vista from the face of Serendipity Farm, we can live with it…

In keeping with our “work with what you have” ethos accompanying our “recycle/reuse” ethos here are some of our avocado plants overwintering in the glasshouse. I have NO idea what the possums and wallabies will make of avocados but fully intend on kitting them out for jousting on the joyous day that we plant them out in their “Full metal jackets” (Bring it on possums!)

Heres a lovely little Banksia serrata that Steve was going to turn into a bonsai after seeing a particularly magnificent specimen at the Launceston Bonsai Centre. I think it would look lovely growing in the garden but need to argue the point with Steve who is still tossing up whether or not to give it a good hair (and root) cut

Bollocks to food miles…we will just grow our own! This is a coffee plant…yes…we know that Tasmania is not known for its tropical clime but we are ever optimistic and one day we might be hotter and wetter than we are now and our little coffee plant will be given pride of place where it can grow and give us coffee berries to be roasted (hopefully not after being passed through Earl…) and ground on site making Steve’s morning brew carbon neutral!

I picked this little Camellia sinensis (or tea plant) up from a little nursery up north for $3. I will be heading back to see if I can’t buy some more as I drink a whole lot more tea than Steve drinks coffee ;o)

I had to laugh this morning when I checked my Facebook page and noticed one of the pages that I like had listed “Joe Walsh” as against alternative thinking people. I had a think about that and couldn’t for the life of me work out how someone who had imbibed more than his fair share of nefarious substances and who was right up there with Ozzie Osborne in the shambling mumbling living dead stakes could string together a coherent sentence about alternative lifestylers let alone use so many large words!  To show you what I mean, check out this evidence that Joe Walsh is on another planet to the rest of us (please forgive the bad quality but it’s the only video I could find of this to share with you)… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1mG0feiEc0 I rest my case! I went hunting to see what had riled this ex Eagles guitarist/singer up so much that he would start spouting politics as his new mantra and discovered that he isn’t the only famous “Joe Walsh” and that there is an American congressman called Joe Walsh as well. It shows how small our world has become now and how social media, especially Facebook, has allowed us to become privy to all sorts of worldly events that a few short years ago we would have had no knowledge about at all. I can only imagine how entertaining Joe Walsh and Ozzie Osborne would be should the American public ever get desperate enough to elect them to congress. I think that a jaded American public could do much worse than have to watch backbiting self-serving congressmen stabbing their way up the political landscape replaced by the amusing antics of the Joe and Ozzie show. I might start a campaign on Facebook for them :o)

I just spent the better part of ¾ of an hour maniacally wielding a block splitter alternating with a small sharp hatchet. I wasn’t re-enacting Jack Nicholson’s part in “The Shining”, I was doing something much more philanthropic. First…does the word “philanthropic” pertain only to selfless acts for humans? I hope not because I don’t know the equivalent word for selfless acts for chickens. We collected some wood from a dead tree that Steve felled the other day to use on the fire tonight. It was a little damp and the centre was rotten and Steve chopped the larger rings into smaller wedges while the chickens raced around in between his legs catching the various grubs and termites that flew from the wood. I had cleaned out the chicken coop bedding (hay) and thrown all of the hay into the compost heap and the 3 unused veggie beds that we are in the process of making and forgot to collect my jumper from the shovel that I had left it on. I decided that I would head to collect the jumper and ever the entrepreneur, collect a barrow load of wood at the same time. The wood was still a bit damp and after I loaded it into the barrow I noticed a particularly damp bit of wood and proceeded to chop it with the block splitter. Effel and her babies were hanging about. Ever since our adventures in removing the dead tree from the boundary fenceline Effel has suddenly materialised every time I set foot outside the gate and today was no different. Shadowed by her 7 babies she watched me cut the chunk of wood and as I cut it, it released a spray of termites onto the ground. Effel and the babies were delighted. I then rendered most of the firewood into kindling to enable Effel and her babies (and any other chicken brave enough to take Effel on for termite rights) to consume their weight in apparently delicious termites. The babies got less and less scared of me as they settled into their feeding frenzy and I had small chickens sitting on my feet, my hands as I was trying to chop the wood and Effel kept putting her head on the block of wood as I was attempting to chop it! I am NOT the best axeman in the world and so it is only sheer flukish good luck that Effel is still pecking around Serendipity Farm as I type this.  Night is falling; all of the animals have been fed and are heading off to wherever it is that they spend the night and I am set for a night of typing out recipes and hunting the internet for recipes to use up my future cups of left over starter. We will be burning off debris tomorrow and clearing out the side garden so that we can plant out more of our potted babies before the wallabies eliminate them all. Have a great weekend and see you all on Wednesday rested, relaxed and hopefully ready for another instalment of Life on Serendipity Farm.

Anti Pulp, please don’t sue me Jarvis Cocker

Hi All,

Despite my vehement desire to stop the proposed bell bay pulp mill the title of this post has NOTHING to do with this issue. On our walk this morning (time machine people…remember the time machine…) we ran into our long suffering neighbours Frank and Adrian who asked us if we had noticed a whopping great tree falling down right on the boundary fence between our place and theirs…our tree obviously…sigh…no, we hadn’t noticed and when we just went up to take a look at the tree it was completely rotten to the core, had a mangled and long dead possum skeleton in one of the knot holes (habitat?!) and someone out there is looking after us because it caused the bare minimum of damage to anything at all. Remember…the possum is skeletal and so departed the earth a long time ago so it can’t be counted as collateral damage. We figure the tree must have fallen down on Saturday when it was incredibly windy and we were out for 4 hours at the progressive garage sale because something that big falling down would have made a rather loud “CRASH!!!”… We can’t use much of it for firewood because it is rotten but we can heap up the logs in the corner of the property to rot down and improve the soils cation exchange (organic matter + topsoil = happy days…) and provide a little pile of habitat on Serendipity Farm although I don’t think that many of our invading hoards feel the need for natural habitat to be honest…they just move on into anything that will fit them. We are starting to feel lucky to have a few feral cats about as they are catching rats and mice that are attracted to the chicken food and this time last year we had to use baits…no such problem now! As I said…there are good points and bad points about everything.

This is the long dead tree that fell on the dividing fence between our property and our long (and still) suffering neighbours property

Here is the same tree after a bit of time and some hard yards with a chainsaw and returned to the property from whence it fell

As you can see, the centre of the tree was effectively mush and despite not getting much in the way of usable firewood from this decomposing beauty, this delightful “mush” will rot down quickly when the wrens and hens have finished picking at it and will improve the soil in this area

I decided to shield your eyes from the skeletal possum that was well past its mumification date and will just let you use your imagination should you wish to pursue that train of thought. Here is Effel and some of her lovely blue laced Wyandotte babies. As you can see…following me everywhere I go because “Human = food” appears to have paid off this time

We found several of these large borer grubs and Effel and her 7 babies had a feast that will ensure that I have 8 little shadows whenever I venture out into the wide outdoors

We headed off to Beaconsfield to delight our dogs this morning (Sunday TIME MACHINE REMEMBER!). We decided to park in the local school car park and as we headed off with the dogs I noticed that the fig tree that I normally predate had some figs on it. I have no problems eating fruit overhanging fences in Tasmania because the locals don’t seem to eat much fruit. I know…why would you have fruit/nut trees if you don’t actually use the fruit/nuts? No idea people, but their loss is my gain! I picked a couple of last figs to nibble on our walk that the birds hadn’t nibbled before me and noticed a spindly fig branch sticking out of the weeds underneath the tree. I tugged it to pull it up out of the weeds because it might not be “my” plant, but I still care about it and when I tugged it I noticed roots on the stem…layering… interesting folks! We walked the boys around Beaconsfield and I collected some more walnuts from underneath the tree that I got the last lot that are sprouting from. Again, the householder wasn’t interested in harvesting these nuts as they were lying on the ground and most of them had been eaten by rats. I collected what I could and they are now stratifying in the shed along with their second batch of friends (the first 5 that have sprouted are now overwintering in the glasshouse) and a bag of hazelnuts. We got back to the car and I headed back to where the fig tree was located and managed to find 3 long branches with roots on that I could remove from amongst the weeds. I used one of our faithful and always useful doggie doo bags to put the rooted cuttings into and filled it up with leaf mould from around the base of the tree. I can’t tell you how many times we have walked down the road with a large bag of something other than nefarious dog poo! We got back home and put the cuttings and roots into a bucket of water with seasol and Auxinone in it and then potted them up and staked them using the water that they had been soaking in to water them in. They will also overwinter in the glasshouse and hopefully will develop a good set of roots. Taking root or aerial layered cuttings allows you to jump a few years on with fruit and nut production when a nut tree usually takes 10 years to produce nuts from plants grown from seed or cuttings. A good substitute for Auxinone, if you can’t find it, is to use Berocca tablets dissolved in water. When accompanied by a good splosh of seasol, the Auxinone/Berocca’s give the rooted cuttings a better chance of survival and we get very few die on us so hopefully these tall cuttings will like their new home. At least they are vertical now rather than horizontal!

Here are those 3 figs in their new home where they will overwinter until spring later on in the year. Behind them we have our 2 bananas and their “humidity generator” a.k.a. a Monstera deliciosa that allows them to have their own little humid microclimate. They lived through last winter without their new friend so hopefully they will arrive in spring as happy little customers. We tidied out the glasshouse to prepare it for winter and its inhabitants for receival of the maximum light that they can get over the next few months

We are opportunistic whenever we see cutting material that we can use to grow plants for Serendipity Farm or for swapping with nursery owner friends for plants. The same deal goes for seed. There is something really primal about collecting your own seed and growing plants from cuttings. I dare say it harkens back to the days when our survival revolved around our ability to hunt and grow our own food.  I love waking up when it is still dark and quiet in the house and slipping quietly out of bed and heading into the kitchen where I can settle down to see what the world delivers me right into my inbox. I subscribe to some very interesting blogs and am usually not let down by the content of my early morning mental breakfast. I like to learn things. I was born to learn more than my fair share for some reason and where some might crave that first cigarette or that last piece of chocolate, I crave knowledge. I must add here that I crave knowledge for things that interest me! Should anyone want to indulge my quest for knowledge by sending me their old university mathematical physics or chemistry  textbooks they will be returned with “Not at this address” scrawled in bright red crayon (after I eat the first red crayon that is…). There are elements of all of those most noble of mind breaking concepts that not only pique my interest but actively make me swoon but too few to list here and so we will forget about them for the moment. I choose to learn what my mind needs to take in new concepts and sometimes that is maths…so I learn the bare basics to get me through and wing it as I go along.

Now I don’t know if you are in agreement with me here, but I get the feeling that there is something that smells VERY interesting on this bit of driftwood…

Steve took a few arty photos when we were at the beach the other day. I quite liked this one

And I REALLY liked this one

I am typing while I wait for my “dog pikelets” to cook. They aren’t actually my dog pikelets…I am home alone dog sitting while Steve does the fortnightly shopping 50km away and have 2 sulking dogs who haven’t had a walk yet. Much like children, dogs can be somewhat distracted from actively sulking by waving food under their noses and so after heading out to let the chooks out of their coop and having feral cats follow me the whole way looking pitiful and having seen them catch rats the other day thus earning at least something in return I decided to give the chooks, cats and dogs a bit of a cold morning treat. I headed in to the cupboards and discovered that there wasn’t all that much there that would interest a cat, dog or even a chook. We have reached that time of the fortnight where shopping becomes less of a chore and more of a necessity. I had to get creative with what was available…1 large container of out of date thickened cream (still smelling fine…)…3 free range eggs that our hens have decided to spring on us of late…1 tin of tuna found at the back of the cupboard…2 semi floppy carrots found in the crisper (note to self “CLEAN THE CRISPER”!…sigh…) add a bit of Self-Raising flour and a bit of left over lard from making pork pie pastry to fry it all in. An instant human heart attack but bliss for animal-kind. They don’t look all that bad and 4 of them have disappeared into the dogs so I think I am on to a winner. Consider that my recipe for hump day. Technically these would be fritters rather than pikelets but I have the ump with New Zealand (home of the fritter) at the moment for selling themselves to the highest bidder (in this case China) and for allowing themselves to be the food laundering capital of the world. Your reputation is plummeting New Zealand and if I check a label and see “New Zealand” on it, I won’t buy it because it is a veneer for “Chinese Import”. Almost all of our frozen vegetables are routed through New Zealand from China to give them a fake façade of clean and green and New Zealand is allowing this to their own detriment. That’s why these are pikelets (still semi-New Zealand but like Pavlovas and Anzac biscuits… WE MADE THEM FIRST! ;o).  There you go…I couldn’t let a Monday go past without having a bit of a rant albeit a small one (I will say this for the last time this post… Time machine people…that is how I can jump around from the past to the present so easily…)

I decided to use the 4 teracotta froggy pot stands that I bought for 20c each at the progressive garage sale on Saturday to good use in the kitchen. This little setup reminds me of  the  Discworld which consists of a large disc resting on the backs of four huge elephants which are in turn standing on the back of an enormous turtle named Great A’Tuin as it slowly swims through space. In this case… it is a disc of Huon pine resting on 4 small teracotta frogs who are in turn resting on my butchers block as it slowly wheels around my kitchen. If you don’t know what I am talking about here… you really REALLY need to get yourselves a complete Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett and settle down for one of the most entertaining, humorous and enlightening journeys of your life

This is Steve’s $5 backpack from the progressive garage sale. We have been filling it with water and allowing it to soak to ensure that we won’t be killing off any of our precious babies with any prior contents. We will be using this backpack sprayer to apply seasol, powerfeed and worm tea along with compost tea…weed tea…liquid manure…anything natural that we can manufacture on site to give our garden an edge

I found this fossil on the beach the other day. No idea what it is but Steve swears it is an octopus… hmmm…does anyone have the heart to tell him that octopi do not have anything to fossilise? No… I thought not…lets just keep it as our little secret 😉

I am trying to be more proactive than reactive. It’s quite difficult because I think I was born to be somewhat reactive (as my posted rants about all things that push my buttons would tend to allude to…) and so this is new territory. When you wake up and the very first song that you hear on the clock radio is “Born to be alive” by Patrick Hernandez and it gets stuck in your head and you spend the morning singing an ancient disco song to a most ungrateful of audiences (if dogs could put their paws over their ears these 2 would…) you soon realise which side of the proactive/reactive fence you tend to reside. I would love to be one of those “Doers”. One of those people who jump out of bed fresh and ready for the new day. They have all of their ideas condensed down into perfect little dot points of action and after a healthy pre-planned vegan super food breakfast they race off to tick off their lives in sequence arriving at the end of their day satisfied, satiated and successful. I have been delving a little bit deeper into these sort of people and have made a startling discovery… they simply don’t exist! Behind every good man is a good woman and behind every “proactive” go getter/doer there are a team of hidden supplicants facilitating their every move. As much as I love Richard Branson, I dare say he just has to postulate an idea and it eventuates with a click of his fingers. Who wouldn’t be happy and always with a smile on their face if they merely had to suggest to make something happen with only the idea as “work” for the day? I know that there are people out there who are able to strategically work through their day arriving at the end satisfied and happy with their lot and they tend to live in the sustainable community living a hard life with all natural hippy rewards but perhaps somewhere along the way they learned to be a whole lot happier with a whole lot less? What I am trying to say is it’s all a matter of how you choose to see things. If you take a good hard look at what you actually have (not what you owe a stack of credit on folks…that doesn’t belong to you!) and make your peace with what you can and can’t immediately afford and learn to live within your means life can take on a whole different slant. Do you really need that investment home? Do you need all of that pre-made food that minimises your time spent in the kitchen to microwave…ding…eat…? What are we actually racing about attaining all this wealth for anyway? I read once, (I have actually read more than once but this is leading into a story and not a literal quantification of how much reading I have accomplished in my life ;o) that if someone gets an increased amount of money to live on…even one significant enough to allow them to save a lot of extra money…most people will simply adapt (more quickly than they would like to admit) to increasing their spending to absorb this amount rather than saving it. It’s natural human nature to want more and we are buying in to an ever increasingly powerful media and advertising sector that seem to be dictating trends rather than trying to get us to follow. We are eager to jump into buying a new car even though we only bought our old one 3 years ago…we need a new bed…a new toaster a new partner! Everything is geared at trying to get us to hand over our readies (whether cash or credit) to pay for something that if we really thought about it, we most probably wouldn’t buy. It’s a lot easier to be sanctimonious about people spending money when you don’t actually have any to spend yourself I will admit. There are entire multinational corporations of people selling “futures”… things that haven’t even happened yet! It is so very difficult to hear yourself think these days because everything has advertising in it including our emails (is anyone else heartily SICK TO DEATH of that bloody grey monkey on the incredimail advertisement’s?) and so the further you can take yourself away from the madding crowd and the more you are able to learn to hear that little inner voice telling us what we REALLY need rather than what society is telling us that we “need” the more likely we are to arriving at some point where we can be grateful, thankful and happy with what we have in our lives right here, right now. Our own private nirvana in our lifetime :o). GO AWAY PATRICK HERNANDEZ!…sigh…it seems that whatever song I wake up to on the radio in the mornings tends to stick in my brain for the rest of the day. I can be sweeping the floor and suddenly find myself whistling that song…throwing bread out to the chooks and I am humming it…I will be collecting the wood up in the paddock and loudly singing it sorry Frank (our neighbour) and today’s menu item is “Born to be alive”…a song that I didn’t even like when it first came out last century and am cursed to vocalise for the rest of the day.

Earl looking a bit the worse for wear after a particularly vigorous race full pelt around the house

If you look REALLY hard you can see Fatty, Felix’s sole remaining kitten peeking out of the conifer

The sight that greets me when I take Steve in his cup of coffee at 7am most mornings

I have mentioned before that I learn more about the real world by wandering around paying attention to what is going on around this 4 acre property than I have up until now in my life. I was throwing out my tuna/carrot/lardy goodness cakes (to keep me getting spammed by the Chinese-New Zealanders about just who invented pikelets/fritters…) to the waiting throng of chooks, sparrows and feral cats below whilst passing morsels sideways to the waiting dogs, when I started to notice interesting societal things about our little ecosystem we call Serendipity Farm. The cats have had to learn to get along with the chooks because it became pretty obvious that if you stalk a chook you get a piece of wood thrown at you. Not only do the cats not attack the chooks (apart from the odd fluff ball that doesn’t stay close to mum and who disappears “somewhere” in the ether) but they are actively afraid of them! This is NOT normal. Chooks are supposed to be afraid of cats but on Serendipity Farm where nature gazes from below up at a benefactor with attitude they learned pretty soon that the cats were not going to mess with them and have turned from terrified cat snacks into bullies who will steal food from the cats mouths. How out of whack are we?!  From the very first group of 8 point of lay chooks that we bought last year and that chased a terrified Felix down the pathway in blatant avian angst our chooks have attained a level of induced fear that would rival a biker gang in human terminology. They strut…they peck…even Pingu runs into the throng of cats and delivers savage blows to the top of their hissing heads should they dare to even LOOK at her. Our chooks are more dangerous than our dogs! Forget Bezial and Earl any burglars out there… you would be sneaking into the danger zone the moment you stepped onto the property. Be afraid… be VERY afraid!

All of this society 101 has sprung from several people over the last week telling us that they envy our lifestyle. Steve and I just turn to each other in wonderment whenever anyone would even think of wanting to do what we do every day. I guess it’s the grass is greener meets the photos that we post on the blog. No-one likes to portray the bad things about their lives and so we tend not to post anything depressing or sordid that might perhaps make someone think differently about us. My dad died on July 7th 2010 leaving us more aware of our mortality and suddenly able to call a few acres of land “mine”. “You lucky bastard!” (Said in Michael Palin’s voice from “The Life of Brian”…) and here it is if you are the poorer for never having discovered Monty Python so far… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EI7p2p1QJI Yes…we ARE lucky and we will always be grateful to my dad for giving us something that we would never have had otherwise but right there is where the scene of happiness and joy starts to fade into reality and hard work. Nothing that is worth having is easy people! We tend to look to the future to deliver us from our lives today and some of us spend our lives waiting for “the kids to leave home”, “retirement”, “that winning lotto coupon” rather than taking stock of what life has actually dealt us and learning to not only accept and live with it but find real happiness in our own personal circumstances. How many of you have watched documentaries about native tribes out in the middle of the South American jungle who despite their lack of anything that we would be able to identify as “wealth” are all smiling, curious and most happy members of the human race with the strongest whitest teeth I have ever seen. I wonder how people living a subsistence life can be so very happy? Is it because they are living close to the earth that feeds clothes and sustains them and they have discovered their niche within this endless ancient balance of cycles. They are living how we all should live. Simply, with few needs and it’s only when you start introducing societies “wealth” that problems start to occur. I dare say I am glossing over the squabbles, the human vices and the general need that we humans have to stuff up whatever we are given that would be present wherever 2 or more people group together to coexist, but in general they would deal with it themselves and they would be very aware of the consequences of their actions. I find it laughable that we in 1st world societies have so much and are always hungry for more when these simple people are very content with their lot. Serendipity Farm is our chance to make a difference to our own little plot of earth and see if we can’t leave it better than when we arrived on it just under 2 years ago. The process of change that we are taking and where we found out how to go about changing for the better is what this blog is all about. I am trying to be as honest as I can about our lives but am as guilty of the next person in omitting some of the more nefarious things or glossing over them with humour. Life is tough enough without being constantly faced by negativity and so I try to temper reality with humour as often as I can.

3048 words! How did I get to 3048 words! I only just sat down! Sigh…surely that word check on the bottom of Word is fibbing…I often wonder if there will ever be an end to the need to splash what’s inside my head onto a page. I don’t think that my muse (who is a combination of Billy Connelly and Leonardo De Vinci with a little smattering of Albert Einstein (probably the dyslexic bit…) thrown in) wants to give up any day soon so other than writing a “Dear Abbey” column, I guess you guys get it all :o). Thanks for listening to my outpourings. I sometimes think I should be paying you all for taking the place of a psychiatrist but to be honest, that should be something that our state government does for the safety of our state so you lose out this time. See you all on Saturday night/Sunday morning (depending on which side of the Equator you are) where we can take up this session where we left off…till then…”Domo arigato Mr Roboto” (because I can’t spell Sayonara)

A Fracoon is eating my library books!

Hi All,

My daughters took one look at our new pup a year ago and said “It’s a Fracoon”. A fracoon is apparently a cross between “Redd Fox” from the Nintendo game Animal Crossing and a racoon. Earl has proven to be a worthy combination of the two. Redd Fox was a dubious ‘merchant’ in the game and whenever you bought something from his nefarious shop, you were always aware that it might not be quite kosher (if you get my drift) and ran the risk of being ridiculed for buying a fake. Foxes are nefarious creatures that slink around looking for something to eat or some trouble to get into and raccoon’s reputations precede them. They are gregarious, brave, inquisitive and little demolition derbies on wheels, much like our Aussie brush tail possums. Earl is all of the above in a much bigger skin. Like foxes and racoons he has his cute moments. Earl isn’t a bad dog…he is a bored dog. Steve and I walk both dogs at least 5km a day which takes us over an hour. Bezial is fine with this and spends the rest of the day lounging around on the deck or moving from sunbeams to a bit of shade. Earl is another kettle of fracoons and we just have to amuse him throughout the day. I have foiled the library and have purchased a copy of “A Covenant with Death” by John Harris from an online second-hand book seller and it is winging its merry way across the Tasman as I type this post and once it arrives I will take it, along with the shredded remnants of a young dog’s inquisitiveness and face the music at the library. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are going to start suggesting library books to me. You know the kind…the tattered yellow dog-eared kind with more sticky tape on them than book because so far, the library has been coming out of the “Fracoon book cleansing” events on top. Earl’s first attempt was a hardly read copy of a hard cover book about edible food forests. It was replaced with a brand new copy sent out from old Blighty post haste. This second book was from the early 1960’s. Some might say “a 60’s book is a classic so would cost more to replace”. I would say “this book could be found for 20c at an op shop if I had the time and the ability to hunt through the shelves in Launceston” but I don’t and so the online option where the book was actually removed from someone’s market stall at the Melbourne Markets had to be effected. This book is shiploads better than the copy that Earl segmented and so again…the library comes out on top. I hope that Earl (and I) have learned our lessons now. Library books are NOT worth eating or leaving anywhere that fracoons can find them.

This is the very first Garage Sale house for us. We started at the opposite side of the run of houses and were going the opposite way to just about everyone else. The story of our lives! Doesn’t this place look more like Vermont than Australia? Steve got his backpack sprayer here. Perfect for seasol, worm tea etc.

Garage sale number 2 and the start of a trend for various kinds of boats for sale. We even saw an unattended boat on the side of the road with a “For Sale” sign on it…

“The Others”… Have any of you seen a U.K. show called Mr Bean? In it, we can only assume an alien abducted (and rejected summarily) ausbergers man navigates his way through the “normal” world leaving an hilarious trail of debris behind him. There was an episode where he went on holiday and for some reason, singled out a man to compete with. This family are our “man” and we are playing the part (most magnificently I might add…) of Mr Bean. Brett and Sandy are locals that we know quite well. We don’t see them very often and usually only say hello to their dog Tommy while he is barking at us walking the dogs. We last saw them last year at the progressive garage sale where we rose victorious in our quest and bought the bargain of the day that is still spoken about in hallowed circles. Today we were chatting with them about how to defend yourself against marauding dogs when walking your dog on a lead. We said that we were going to buy a pair of telescopic walking poles from Ebay specifically for the purpose. Brett said “That’s a bloody good idea!” and as we both drove off in a cloud of dust it was on! later on they overtook us and we met them coming back the other way with a victorious Brett waving a telescopic ski pole out of the window saying “It only cost $3!”…Touche Brett and Sandy…Touche…for now! There’s always next year…

The next garage sale was a thinly veiled attempt to draw unsuspecting people in to a photographic gallery. We decided not to subject you to the pathetic items on display whilst the owner ushered us all into the gallery…we took photos of his goats instead. They were MUCH more interesting and attractive and I bet they were a heck of a lot cheaper! Goat 1

Goat 2

Steve and I have been working on one of our latest projects in our landscape design diploma. Today we will be making blocks in AutoCAD to place into our plan so that we can give our lecturer a “Concept Plan” for when we next see him. We have been looking online for concept plans to see if we can’t tailor AutoCAD to do what we want it to do because as technical and detailed as it is, it was never designed to be an artistic application and our results look unpolished. We discovered that many landscape designers use other, more artistic, applications but we are not in the position where we can pay for another computer program to make our plans “look pretty” at the moment so we are doing what we do best and thinking laterally. Studying from home allows us to make a whole lot of silly mistakes using AutoCAD and because our lecturer isn’t right here with us we pretty much mess about and see if we can’t solve our own problems before we send off a volley of “HELP” messages to his inbox. We often come up with solutions that our lecturer might not otherwise have had to deal with and so we learn more about what we are doing than we would otherwise do if we were sitting in a classroom of students watching the board. Studying from home is really great for us. For the first 18 months of our horticultural adventure we had to attend class daily. We lived 4km from the city centre at the time and had just signed up for our diploma in horticulture when my dad died suddenly and everything changed. We moved from 4km away from the city to 50km away from the city. Because we were penniless hippy students we were unaware how our inheritance of 2 houses would affect our student payments and so we spent the rest of 2010 cramming in as many units (5 in all) as we could (the most expensive units in the diploma) to ensure that we wouldn’t have to pay full price for these units the year after. Tasmania’s low priced houses allowed us to keep both houses and still fulfil our student payment obligations and so life didn’t suddenly become massively complicated and we were able to move here and carry on studying as we had before. We are so very glad that we had been studying horticulture because without that lifesaving backbone we would still be huddled under the bed hiding from the massive vegetative problem we inherited. We are using our property for our sustainable landscape design. It’s given us a degree of personal satisfaction to use what we already know and supplement it with permaculture principals using information gleaned from as many of the incredibly generous people out there who live a permaculture life and who are willing to share their trials and tribulations with the rest of us. We learn from their mistakes and are able to use their hard work to our avail. One day we will help community groups to design outdoor spaces that suit them using what we have learned. We hope to barter our way through life as we turn Serendipity Farm into our own personal little oasis of permaculture bliss. I dare say I won’t be writing “The Serendipity Farm Little Book of Calm” any day soon, but things are starting to feel like they are working together around here for the first time in almost 2 years. Cycles are starting to integrate and we can see a light at the end of this most chaotic of tunnels. We are growing our own nut trees, fruit trees, edible fruiting shrubs and as much as we can to help us to turn this property into an edible food forest for the native animals and for us. Our lecturer is jaded about country living. No doubt he was once a bright eyed bushy tailed (sorry Nick…I just made you sound like one of your arch nemesis possums there!) horticulturalist out to save the world but things wear you down and the native wildlife here is most persistent. Wonderful ideals can come tumbling down or can be worn down slowly until their shell is as smooth as a cynical rock. I don’t blame him for being sceptical about our food forest idea. It’s easy to throw ideas around like Earl throws feathers from one of his plucked victims but I never do anything by halves. I have a burning need to research things and find the best possible outcome and one day, we will be able to live with the possums, indeed, they, being the territorial little bully bruisers that they are, will do our work for us. One family will rule them all and will keep the rest from scavenging everything that grows and there will be so much food here that one family won’t be able to eat it all. That’s my aim and over the next few years we will see if I end up victorious or jaded. Either way my stubborn willpower won’t allow us not to have our edible food forest. It might just look like a Steampunk garden covered in old smooth metal and strange gnarled structures designed to minimise damage by the natives. Either way we will have a garden worth visiting.

The outside of the Deviot Hall, the recipient of the proceeds of the garage sale fees today.

This startled looking lady was a stallholder inside the hall. I bought a pair of Dutch canisters from here. The canisters were for “Suiker” and “Koffie”…

This most suspicious man seems to be in quite a few of my photographs. It’s lucky that he was standing right there in front of this large Eucalyptus viminalis. As you can probably guess, this next garage sale was not all that photogenic…

We purchased a most interesting “lion” at this house. At least we THINK it is a lion…it was only $2 and a fitting plaything for the boys to dismember after our day out hunting for bargains

It’s just on dawn and I can hear Little Red (rooster) Big Yin’s first male progeny giving it the old college try outside and alerting me to stop typing and get his bread chopped. Steve and the dogs are still in bed. I like having an hour to myself in the morning and no sooner do I get out of bed than Bezial (who vacates the bed in the night) is waiting wagging his tail to hop into my nice warm patch and be covered over by the doona. I take Steve in a cup of coffee at 7 and we work out what we are going to do with our day. Today we will be walking the dogs early and we will then design some blocks for our concept plan in AutoCAD and after that we are going to cut a path through the weeds at the side of the house from the steps to where we have our potted plants around the side. We have been wondering why we haven’t done this sooner but we tend to flit around from project to project on Serendipity Farm to keep us motivated and this project has been on the back burner in the “not important or not dire” pile. Up to now we haven’t had the luxury of choosing, we have had to tackle the weed problem, the grass problem and the firewood problem as matters of importance. We DON’T want a fine from council for being a fire risk, we don’t want to perpetuate the weed problem that we have here and spread it to our neighbours (any more than it already is…) and we don’t want to be cold in winter so we needed to deal with those fundamentals first. Now we have the relative luxury of being able to choose and this pathway is one of our first choices because it will mean that we don’t have to walk 150metres to reach somewhere that is actually 10 metres away, just totally inaccessible thanks to tangled and massed vegetation. It will make our lives a bit easier and I am all for that!

I might only have bought a freaky handmade lion (that has since gone to meet its maker) but I fell instantly in love with this tiny bulldozer! Nothing would give me jip if I had this little baby on the property…not rocks…weeds…Earl…NOTHING would stop me! It’s just a pity it wasn’t for sale…

Many houses in Tasmania have apple packing sheds on the property. Tasmania is predominately an apple growing state and this old packing shed only opens once a year for this garage sale. I bought an Inkle loom and some world music CD’s from here last year and this year I bought a double disc DVD of Bill Grainger (an Australian Cook for everyone out of the loop) for $1. I just really love these steps…

And this bit…

And this bit too! See you next year Apple Packing shed…

Isn’t this ornamental grape lovely? That black coated woman in the background is me attempting to get Steve to think about letting me have some old wooden doors and a window sill for $5 each. We didn’t end up getting them and thank goodness because I have NO idea why I wanted them!

We made a few blocks, we cleared out a pathway and as we usually do, we were not content to leave it at that and headed off tackling blackberries with our swashbuckling secateurs and our trusty small pruning saw. We lopped 15ft tall roses that should never have ventured above 5ft, we removed enormous boneseed plants, weeds from South Africa (as are most Aussie invasive weeds because they LOVE it here) and had to be very careful wherever we trod because the 3 latest silver laced Wyandotte babies and their 2 mums and Effel and her remaining 7 babies were everywhere! As usual, we managed to carve a way through the wilderness to make it easier for us to go from the steps to the potted plant area around the side of the house and in the process generated 3 trailer loads of debris (mostly boneseed, blackberries and enormously overgrown Buddleia davidii). Once we removed the overgrown Buddleia shrubs on the side of the deck we opened up a newfound gap in our Earl proof garden defences and we had to fix it up post haste! Earl had a bit of a nibble on the new fortification and decided that the taste and texture of thick weldmesh are not something that he is going to ingest any day soon. Owners 1, Earl nil. The petition that I started on Avaaz a few weeks ago when foaming at the mouth (a regular occurrence for me whenever I watch, listen or become aware of “news” in general) at a news bulletin about our state leader telling us how we NEED that (bloody) pulp mill for Tasmania’s future…eh?! If we are relying on it, Tasmania is totally bollocked as far as I am concerned. I no sooner settled down (still foaming and muttering) to the PC when I noticed a post from Kosmos9, a blog that I follow, sharing a site where normal people can make a difference by starting a petition. I threw myself into it with great gusto and set about transferring all of that froth and angst and frustration into that petition. I got an email from one of the Avaaz volunteers who is an Aussie living in Sweden and who helped me reformulate the petition into a smaller, more condensed (less foam and more meat ;)) petition and now the petition has been noticed by most of the local anti-pulp mill groups and it went from 10 signature’s to just on 400 in one day! I hope EVERYONE signs this petition. We are unable to get the media to be unbiased regarding this matter and so those of us who don’t want this mill (most of Tasmania’s population) are simply ignored and don’t have a voice. We are told blatant lies in the media that we can’t counteract because we are stifled whenever we try to have our voices heard. One can only think that the media in Tasmania is bought and paid for by big business along with both major political parties in our state. This petition was my one way of sharing my angst with the rest of the world and it looks like the rest of the world is actually starting to listen! Cheers to anyone reading this blog who has signed my petition. You are giving us back our voice and a degree of hope that we might be able to do something about this injustice. There are over 500 signatures for the petition now and growing (hopefully exponentially).

When we pulled up in the driveway of this house there was a little covered stand loaded up with jonquil bulbs, enormous organic grapefruit and small sage and chive plants in recycled newspaper pots for “donations to the famine in Africa”. I knew that I was just about to meet some kindred spirits and on meandering down their driveway and seeing this totem pole, it bolstered my opinion of them no end. It also gave Steve the idea of making his own totem pole

This is a permaculture garden with a large almond tree in the centre and various annuals and perenials as well as edible plants and vegetables. The owners told me that they wanted to reach an eventuality where they had minimal human input with the garden. Good luck with that guys 🙂

I just loved this little gargoyle on that stump. It personified exactly how I feel sometimes when I head out into the garden and have to start thinking about where to get stuck in…

I didn’t like the woman running this garage sale. She was somewhat snooty and very overpriced so I headed out to where she actually had something interesting and took a photo of this possum fortified veggie garden combined with a chook house and a weather vane. I really appreciated her chook yard…I didn’t appreciate her!

Heres the other side of the chook jail with a wistful rooster peeking out…

We got up bright and early this morning to go to the annual progressive garage sale that we went to last year totally by accident. We were heading somewhere with our trailer when we noticed the garage sale sign and found out that lots of houses were involved. It’s a great idea and allows everyone to sell off their unwanted items at the same time so they don’t have to pay for the publicity and there are more people out and about than might come for a single garage sale. We walked the boys early and packed them into the car with the lure of “walking at the beach”. For the next 2 hours we got in and out of the car and had to shove an ever more reluctant Earl into the back. I love garage sales and have the opinion that I don’t have to race from door to door because I might miss something (as many of the people we saw were doing) because if we were meant to get an item, it would be there for us. I took lots of photos to share with you whenever I could. We cashed up $50 into coins and smaller notes because there is nothing worse for someone having a garage sale than people wielding $50 notes. We still had $23 left when we got back and bought heaps of unique and interesting things and met some really interesting people. At the final garage sale I met a lady that I had met in the Exeter Library who had a common interest in sourdough bread making and she told me that she has just succeeded in making a great starter and is going to give me some! We found an amazing seed pod on a Eucalyptus conferruminata and its currently residing in the cooler of our 4 ovens so that we can see if we can get some seed from it. I had a really good time wandering around other people’s driveways and gardens and was more interested in what people were growing than in what was for sale! I got a most eclectic mix of items and am most happy with what we bought. Steve got a backpack sprayer from the very first garage sale that we went to for $5. It is a step up from the small spray pack that we are currently using that came with seasol when we purchased it. I love getting bargains and re-using things that other people no longer want. We bought a wonderful handmade wall tile for $2 with a wonderful representation of the sun on it that is now hanging out on our wall on the deck. At the end of the garage sale line we got to Paper Beach and it was blowing up a storm when we got the long suffering dogs out of the car. They won’t be in such a hurry to get into the car next time!

This was the last garage sale of the day and I loved this metal pelican statue. We skipped a few garage sales and I didn’t take photos of some of the others which is very lucky because otherwise this post would be bordering on a novella again wouldn’t it!

This is the flower of the Eucalyptus conferruminata that I mentioned earlier.

And the magnificent seed pod (my daughters who have just started reading these posts again are rolling their eyes and skipping over this bit saying “MORE PLANTS”…)

Sorry about the lack of focus on this spent flower bud but apparently my camera can only focus on the foreground OR the background and its the backgrounds turn this time…sigh…

And lastly the leaves of this most beautiful and interesting of Eucalypts

In keeping with my need to make my posts smaller I will finish up here for the day. Hi to Kelsey if you are reading this post. I was really glad to meet you and I hope you have a fantastic life changing holiday. To everyone else, have an awesome week and see you hump day…

Here are some of the bargains that we got… the 2 glasses cost a total of $1 and are hand blown glass and that reed thing on the right hand side is a pot with a handle from Papua New Guinea for my “reeds of the world” collection. I don’t really have a reeds of the world collection but apart from making me sound interesting, I might just have to start one now!

I met many interesting people while garage saling and Steve met a real fun guy…you can see him at the very front of the photo…fun guy…fungi oh come ON people! We all need a little lightness and laughter in our day 😉

To bee or not 2 bee gnat is the question

Hi All,

Ok, so that was lame…VERY lame…but it got you looking at my post didn’t it so it worked 🙂 The post also has a little bit about insects in it and a bit about jellyfish so while you are here to chastise me about my lame pun filled post, you may as well have a look at the post over a cup of mental tea on Serendipity Farm. You never know you just might like it here and want to stay…

Lets start our photographic evidence (some might say forensic looking at this…) about what we have been up to on Serendipity Farm this week. We had these bamboo screens plastered all over the 3 metre high wall that we put up in town to minimise our forced cohabitation with the troll when my dad was alive. Our daughters are now living in the house in town (with no troll in sight) and asked us to take down the Berlin Wall so we had these screens left over and so we decided to put them to good use. The garden in front of these screens is sad. It is full of Cape gooseberries, tiny native raspberries and some azaleas that are proving incredibly hard to kill. Forget delicate things, azaleas are survivors people. After being hacked to death they are all growing back and some of them are flowering.

All this week I have been expanding my mind and attempting to redress a few years of stagnation in body and soul. It’s really easy to sit back and let life lead you where it will but you run the risk of not having much of a life at all and in being perpetually scared because being reactive is being out of control and being proactive gives you a modicum of choice. Along with that choice you also get the chance to shuffle people out of their ruts. If someone does something unexpected or reacts in a way that is different to the norm it isn’t only the “Doer” that has to think and thus starts a most interesting chain of events. I doubt that first sentence is going to rival Moby Dick any day soon but it was where my mind was settling on Sunday last week. Steve was in his shed cleaning it up which apparently gives him a great degree of joy and so it is now understandable why he makes such an awful mess every time he uses his shed. I can hear him howling outside and doing extreme injustice to some band on LAFM. Thank goodness for Chilli FM by the way. It has taken all of the crap music from LAFM and left us with “all of the best music from the 70’s’ 80’s’ 90’s and today” meaning everything that wasn’t manufactured on some countries form of “Idol” or spliced by a DJ. I am not going to run every DJ down because there are some very clever people out there making some amazing music but the problem is…most of them don’t make it to the airwaves and we get some watered down hash of 80’s pop spliced together with any recognisable riff that they can pilfer and BAM! Just like the Spice Weasel, we have a cloud of dust that delivers no flavour to our musical palate and that leaves us jaded and world weary.

Here’s the reason that it is always wise to call before you rock up to Serendipity Farm. Should we not be here…the boys will be and as you can see they take their job “watching” very seriously…

We also have killer chickens roaming all over Serendipity Farm. This one is particularly dangeous. She has taken out 4 Jehovah’s Witnesses, an encyclopedia salesman and a morman and that was in the space of a week…enter at your own risk.

It’s now Wednesday and we have really been making a difference this week on Serendipity Farm. Last week I gave up sitting on the PC and it seems like a lifetime ago (and several leech bites) since I sat here safely tapping away living an entirely surreal mental life over the school holidays. We are back at Polytechnic now and armed with our work and as we work from home, our lives can be planned around when we study. We have a month off before our next meeting with our lecturer that encompasses his trip to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show and Easter and so we figured we had a bit of time up our collective sleeves before we needed to get stuck into completing our latest task (with the aid of Google Earth and a well labelled copy of the plans to the block to assist us) and so with my newfound desire to effect change on Serendipity Farm we decided to throw ourselves into reducing and removing the various piles of debris that we created over summer and couldn’t burn. We are very mindful of how wasteful burning is. We have spent the last 3 days working our way through these piles of debris and removing all of the limb wood, logs, kindling sized wood and allowing the leaves to remain in situ (as mulch) and the brushwood is going to be burned and the resulting ashes and embers will not be wasted either. We plan on baking potatoes in foil in the ashes and the feral cats will savour the warmth from the fire like they have on previous debris removal attempts. We almost removed Houdini with our last fire because she was hunkered down with her latest lot of ferals in a shrub that got scorched when the flames went up. She steadfastly refused to give up her hiding spot and is a most formidable mother despite being the smallest of our hens. We have piles of logs and limb wood all over the place now as we have steadily worked our way down from the house paddock around to the front of the house. We have heaped up the brushwood to enable us to collect it all and take it around to our metre squared fire site (so that we can get a permit to burn) and render it ashes.

Never let it be said that we don’t take advantage of natures bounty. These hazelnuts were selected from a large quantity of hazelnuts given to us by our neighbour Glad’s daughter Wendy. Wendy has several trees and very generously donated some to us. I ate most of them over a period of a few weeks and these select few remain to be stratified along with these Juglans regia (English walnuts) that we found on one of our walks popping out of their little husks and begging to be collected and stratified

I think this is what is colloquially called an “Ark”. I think it is several cubits long and quite a few wide and whoever made it appears to be heading down the Tamar River to higher ground…

When we were clearing the blackberries out of this poor long suffering rhododendron we discovered this leprechaun nest. We have spotted several of them darting around Serendipity Farm and now that we have isolated them down to this communal nest we should be able to wait them out and collect their pot of gold the next time that we get a rainbow

I can’t say that I can even remember working as hard as this, getting as dirty as this or being on the go quite so long as this in a long time. Steve and I are hauling logs, hoisting brushwood on the end of long poles, have a newfound angst at all things “wattle” and “cotoneaster” because whenever they are culled (the New Zealand word for killed…) they remain stubborn and difficult to deal with right up to the bitter end. I am covered in scratches and had some of my precious life fluids removed by stealth when in a shaded area of the garden yesterday. We had to stop cutting up logs because “a man” appeared on the driveway and we had to stop and find out what said “man” wanted. It turned out he was from the water board and was trying to isolate our water meter so that he could change it over to a new meter. It’s just lucky that we were home because our water meter is nowhere near the front of the house where any sane person would think that it would be. The poor man would NEVER have found it all the way up the back paddock and halfway along the fenceline where some bright spark decided to put it. When we were looking at our block plans the other day (and raising a silent prayer up to God for giving us Degrees, Minutes and Second readings for the entire site CHEERS GOD!) we noticed that all around our property were roads where there are currently none. We know that there is an easement between our property and Frank’s next door because Frank has already called “dibs” on it should council ever release it to the land owners. There is also apparently an easement just behind the house at the rear of the property for the very same purpose but our nasty neighbour at the back obviously assumes that we are too numpty and red necked to even know about anything as technical as an “easement” and has decided to simply assimilate it into his property without prior permission…are you starting to see why we don’t like him? We directed the poor water board worker, who had himself been bitten by a leech the day before whilst being kind to some neighbourhood chickens that had materialised when he and his workmate were eating their lunch. His bite site was a rather embarrassing one as the leech had slithered down the back of his pants and situated itself between his buttock cheeks (always honest at Serendipity Farm is my motto…spare not the sensibilities of my readers as that is everyone else’s job) and I was most relieved when my 2 leeches had the decorum to situate themselves on my lower back and leave a representation of a walrus gone Dracula on my person.

Not too long ago this white hen would have been taking her life into her own hands walking into the “Lion’s Den” like this. This conifer houses most of the feral cat population on Serendipity Farm on and off throughout the day. With the burgeoning population  of poultry exploding all over Serendipity Farm the feral cats are now significantly under represented and have had to take a back seat to the hens. It is a common site to note hens stealing cheese right out of the mouths of the cats. Nature is a most interesting master and the hens now rule this roost!

The price of operating our house phone has increased to a ridiculous amount and so we have decided to use a more sustainable method to contact friends and relatives. We did a bit of research online and discovered a site where we learned to use smoke signals to make up messages and Telstra can bite us now because we can bypass their robbing asses!

This is a bunny plant (Oryctolagus cuniculus). I grew it specifically  for easter. As you can see the 2 green leaves truly represent a rabbits ears and this amazing plant produces easter eggs that ripen on easter morning. I have NO idea how it is able to ascertain when Easter occurs each year as I am clueless about it’s whereabouts until someone reminds me that it is on its way. The small trees behind the bunny plant are money trees. They take a really long time to grow and most probably we will be in our dotage by the time they start to produce the coins that precede the notes that these trees are held in high esteem for. At least the kids will get something from all of our efforts. Maybe we can graft some note scion onto our coin rootstock?

Hard physical slog and making sure that I eat my evening meal mid-afternoon has ensured that I am now sleeping like a baby. I haven’t got time to miss sitting about here wasting time because we are doing things and making a difference. Steve is taking full advantage of this because he knows me of old and thinks that all of this activity is going to be stuck in the “failed crafts closet” along with the lead lighting and the manufacture of kefir in the not too distant future and he is trying to save himself some solitary man hours by using my new found desire to get “stuck in” to the max before it recedes, dwindles and dies for the year. I am ever a cyclic person (something about women and the moon and water or something…that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it!). I can’t blame him for thinking like this but I am here to stay this time. Not only am I feeling satisfied and content at the end of my day (some might call it knackered out) but my previous gym training has decided to allow my muscles to recover and take on forms other than “flabby” my least favoured muscle form of all and I am starting to understand what keeps people working hard in the first place. Forget bungie jumping and base jumping, this is as close to adrenalin as this woman is going to get! We are walking the dogs first up as we have to leave them on the deck while we work around the house. We found some Juglans regia (English walnuts) falling out of their husks and collected 8 of them (roadside benefits of walking the dogs) to stratify along with the biggest and juiciest looking of the hazelnuts that I shared with you in a previous post and they are now settled nicely in their potting media waiting for springtime and new life. If anyone out there can smuggle me some Juglans sieboldiana var. cordiformis (Heart nuts, a relative of the walnut and pecan) I will be eternally grateful to you and would give you my first born child but he has told me to stop offering him for slave labour on the open market because he is too busy at work to mow lawns, make people’s dinner and generally wave large feather fans and peel grapes (party pooper!) so I will have to find some other way to recompense you 🙂

European wasps have 2 phases. A sugar phase and a meat phase…can you tell which phase this little fellow is in? He is attempting to eat the boys dinner and he is VERY lucky that he is situated on the bbq out of the reach of Earl because Earl takes pilfering of his dinner to heart.

When we were walking the dogs the other day we decided to go to Bonnie Beach, a very pretty walk around the old gardens at Kayena. There are some lovely old trees in this area but for once we were more interested in what was drifting off the pontoon than what was growing in the earth. We decided to walk the dogs out onto the pontoon because the tide was low and the oysters were exposed. We have a plethora of oysters on our local river bed and at certain times of the day it is very unwise to walk out to the water unless you want your shoes shredded and to get an instant infection. Bezial is part water dog and you can see the gleam in his eyes and his faraway expression whenever he gets anywhere near water and as the oysters were beckoning, we decided to allow him to get closer to the water on the pontoon. When we started walking out we noticed lots of the big white jellyfish slowly manoeuvring their way through the water. They are really quite graceful and despite thinking that they were just prisoners of the tide I watched one that had gotten too close to the rocks do the equivalent of what people in small boats with outboard motors do and “whack it in reverse” and head back out into the free flowing water. The jellyfish themselves were most interesting but what really interested us was how little fish that appeared to be leather jackets were swimming out from the rocks and swimming right next to the jellyfish hunting for any excess food that they might be finished stinging and scoffing. What a clever symbiotic relationship! The jellyfish are called “Jelly Blubber” or Catostylus mosaicus and are apparently very delicate. If you want to learn more about them check here…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jelly_Blubber

We also saw schools of tiny little fish and much larger fish that we thought might be cocky salmon. Cocky salmon are the young version of the ubiquitous Australian Salmon. This fish is nothing like its European counterpart but is an excellent sports fish and is good eating if it is bled as soon as it is caught which confuses a lot of tourists on our local beaches in salmon season when they see fishermen with large fish stuck upside down in the sand. It’s just gone 7am on Thursday morning and we have a big day ahead of us. We have been working our way through tasks that we have been unable to do and some that we have been putting off. Yesterday we cleared a large stand of ancient blackberries that had been clinging against the side of the wood shed and that were threatening to move in. We removed an old ramshackle fence between the house and the area of property behind the house and opened up the area to make it easier to walk around the property. We want to get on top of Serendipity Farm and need to finish off the clear up before we can get stuck into making it really ours and effecting the changes that we want to make here so we have a few solid weeks of hard slog before we can start planning and planting out. We also have some serious pruning to do to open up the jungle down in the second garden but we are dropping a tree in that area and so we will be forced to work there after the apocalypse. Nothing like dropping a tree in an area to effect change!

Here is a load of wood being carted up from the front gates to dry out this year to be used for next years fires. We had to remove these mostly dead hakeas from the driveway and their death won’t be in vain as they will be used in all sorts of ways as well as being used for our wood fired stove. We have some plans for using up some of the spindly tea trees that we have to remove from the teatree garden in order to allow the remaining trees to grow properly. We are going to use them to make possum barriers around our vegetable gardens. Stay tuned for our prototype in the coming weeks

Here is another one of those killer hens. Note it has made itself a den where it can drag its unsuspecting prey back to dismember it in peace and quiet. Note the graveyard right next to the hens den. These hens cost us a lot of money but what price security?

Here is our newly tidied up (no piles of messy debris thanks to our fire off to the left…) first garden. See those 2 giant mushrooms that grew after the last rain? Being someone who loves mushrooms I am proud to have these Guiness World Record Largest mushrooms growing right here on Serendipity Farm.

Did you notice the blog roll in the right hand margin today? I got the idea from a few blogs that I had been to and handed over the “discovery reins” to the techno maestro Steve to deliver me a blog roll to share my favourite blogs with you all. Hopefully I can run that sucker for miles because I am FULL of fantastic blogs to share. I am being decidedly picky and making sure that all of my dear constant readers will be able to get at least something out of at least one of the wonderful blogs listed. I have always been interested in nature and how things are interrelated and work. I like to pare back everything to get to the simple natural essence of things and I am most interested in fungi being the predominate species on earth and insects. I like to take a leaf from Annie from The Micro Gardener and see “Pests” and “Weeds” as prospective mates that I haven’t yet learned how to harness for the benefit of Serendipity Farm. Everything has its good and bad sides and we tend to focus on the bad when it comes to pests, diseases, weeds etc. Where would we be without penicillin? Where would be without lactobacillus? 2 prime examples of humans being curious and adventurous enough to mess about with some natural processes and make them their own. Weeds are fantastic things. We should all yearn for the ability to not only grow, but thrive, in harsh environmental conditions. Forget trying to eradicate them, we should be trying to isolate just what it is that gives them their tenacity. They are pains in the neck but they are also indicators of our soil conditions and just what is missing or in overabundance in our soil. Like weeds, pests are just adventitious little insectivorous wanderers who are taking advantage of good conditions. It’s up to us to find ways to use these little babies to our advantage. My hens are currently making short shift of a mini plague of small grasshoppers. They are all over the place but here on Serendipity Farm they are hen food. Some bright spark in the warmer areas of Australia has harnessed the native honey bee and is selling hives to people who want to farm their own native extra sweet honey. We can’t have them here in Tasmania but we do have bumble bees and various other bees that all come for a visit. I found this interesting specimen when we were walking the dogs the other day. I have NO idea what it is. It’s either a bee, a fly or a wasp (see…I am destined for a career in entomology obviously!) and it is most decisively deceased. The closest I got to working out the identity of this little fellow was an Amegilla dawsoni which are the largest bees around. Weird and freaky they are typical W.A. specimens (I come from W.A. I rest my case) and are otherwise known as Dawson’s Burrowing Bees. As we are in Tasmania and quite a long way away from W.A. I figure my detective work may have led me down the path to taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque somewhere, but these bees can regularly be found trying to get out of the windows of our home. No idea why they come in, but they most definitely want to go out once they get in. Perhaps they don’t like dogs… check out all about our endemic Aussie bees here…

http://www.aussiebee.com.au/beesinyourarea.html

I think it’s time to post this post now. It’s a bit higgledy piggledy today and hopefully it has something of interest for you. I made bread and fishcakes today along with some cauliflower cheese. While the oven is on I try to make sure that we use it to its full potential to take advantage of all of the heat generated. The bread is just about due to come out of the oven and will be duly stuffed into the gaping maws of various creatures waiting under the deck for their regular titbits. Steve will get a bit and the dogs will also share some toast in the morning (along with the fishcakes that they just shared with Steve). Life is good albeit tiring on Serendipity Farm and it’s been great to share this week with you. See you all next week and to all of the wonderful blogs that I subscribe to…keep those great posts coming! By the way… I haven’t gone stark raving mad…It’s April fools day somewhere around you reading this post so I am taking a little creative license with the timing as it’s also the end of daylight savings and we are entering the realms of mathematics here so you are just going to have to work with me on this one and accept that you are all April Fools! 😉

Gravity is my Bitch

Hi All,

Did you miss me in your inbox every day? This post is going to be long!  I must admit to enjoying the freedom to add little bits to posts whenever something interesting happens rather than having to think up things to say. I also like the freedom to take photos of interesting things rather than having to take them for the sake of a daily post. This week where I have abstained from posting has most certainly revealed a few things about me to myself. The very first thing that it has revealed is that I used the computer too much. I would spend hours here researching, posting, hunting for things and was spending more time online than I was out there in the great outdoors. We have collected an enormous amount of dry firewood from the property and have saved ourselves a fortune in the process. All of you constant readers will know that we are doing another Diploma this year in landscape design. I am saying “sustainable landscape design” because that is where my heart is. I could care less about standard gardening and commonplace ideas and would rather scrape by sustainably than live a life of mass consumption. Steve and I have been noticing all sorts of ways to save money, reuse and recycle things around Serendipity Farm and are starting to notice that our attempts are paying off. As we are penniless hippies living on the breadline we need to ensure that our ‘income’ (such as it is…) not only stretches to paying our bills but that it allows us to do what we want to do on Serendipity Farm. We have some future wants including large and small rainwater collecting tanks and we want to buy a wind turbine because Serendipity Farm is one of the windiest places that we have ever lived and it makes sense to use what is available. We were spending about $80 on booze a fortnight and decided to give it up for our savings and our health. I decided to give up a lifelong bad habit of dieting and simply learn how to eat what my body needed. Paired with at least an hour of walking the dogs a day and I have managed to lose 5kg (yes Nat…I got out those scales!) without even noticing that I was even doing so. I feel better, my poor long suffering knees are feeling great (despite my determination to get them to give way at every available moment) and I am starting to discover what it is to have actual available energy when you want and need it thanks to not starving myself and feeding my poor long suffering body what it needs to function.

A little  Philadelphus to mark the felling of a large tree in the first garden and the subsequent squishing of most of the tangled overgrown Philadelphus (Mock Orange) and a fair percentage of blackberries in the process. You win some…you lose some…

The early morning breakfast board. The bread is for the 5 older feral chooks and Houdini and her 7 mid sized baby chooks and the cheese is for the feral cats. We have added a small bowl of tiny cheese bits for Effel and her babies. Please don’t tell me that “Cheese isn’t good for cats” because these are feral and you know what? Dead bits of frog, mumified possum and bin scrapings are probably not good for cats either but I dare say this lot would jump at them in an instant so a little bit of daily cheese is the least of their worries

This is a  Carpobrotus acinaciformis or Pigface as it is commonly called around here. It is usually found on the shoreline of sandy beaches and dunes and is a most interesting salt tolerant (just about everything tolerant if the truth be known) succulent.

Usually they have red or pink flowers but this one appears to have a sort of apricot colour.

Here you can see the base of the flower and this is where it starts to get interesting…

Here is what happens when the flower drops and a fruit forms. The fruit is entirely edible and Australian Aboriginals eat them. We have this plant growing on Serendipity Farm and as mentioned, it is almost indestructable. You can walk over it, it has lovely bright shiny  mesembryanthemum flowers and will grow in just about any soil type. All that plus it is a native and I figure that this great ground cover is going to feature in more than one place on Serendipity Farm

I am, however, a little bit miffed. Steve…who no-one would call “fat” has just lost 6kg by doing nothing other than giving up booze. Men have it all over we women (especially we women who are of a ‘certain age’ and who nature and gravity are conspiring to bring down to earth with a massive bump…) when it comes to metabolism and Steve had a head start thanks to genetics. I am pleased to announce my new “diet”. Eat more food in the morning and lunch time than you do at night…add lots of veggies and cooked beans to your diet (stop pulling faces…it works!), buy a dog and walk it and get your ass off the computer and out into the great wild outdoors with your poor long suffering husband who usually has to do everything himself because his dearly beloved is sitting on the P.C. engrossed and you are too polite to get a crowbar and evict her. This week, after realising just how much time I spent on the computer, I decided to check my emails in the morning and nothing else. I have stuck to that apart from study where we had to do a bit of typing, and in place of messing about accomplishing little online, I have crocheted, I have read copious quantities of books, I have wandered about outside sucking delicious fresh air into my previously “cooped up” lungs, I have helped Steve as he lumberjacked, chainsawed and lugged wood from all sorts of areas over Serendipity Farm and have discovered that gravity is not just something that you learn about in science and that it CAN be my friend. When you have finished huffing and puffing your way up a very steep slope (like the steep slope that can be found all over Serendipity Farm…) to a large pile of chainsawed logs, you can use gravity to your advantage to throw those round logs down the hill and once they stop rolling (say by hitting the fence for instance…) you can then load them into the trailer that you can actually get to this bit of the property (because the rest of the property is overpopulated with rocks) and then transport them to the wood shed. I never knew how satisfying it could be to really get stuck into hard slog and then stand back and look at your mounting pile of firewood, knowing that you haven’t had to pay anything for it other than a little bit of fuel and chain bar oil for the chainsaw and a bit of petrol to get the car and trailer up to the top paddock. I have a new found respect for Steve and his amazing capacity to move around, lug heavy things and keep going and by sourcing our firewood from our own property we have reduced the amount of fuel and energy that we have to use and the garden is much tidier after our efforts.

We passed this most interesting of gates on one of our walks this week. The little dog was barking his head off and I could hear his owner telling him to be quiet and asked her if I could take a photo of her interesting planter box. She was more than willing for me to do so

Ecclectic sustainable artistic gardening and xeriscape (water wise) to boot! Good on you attractive young hippy lady with a small child on your hip. Cheers for letting me share your wonderful repurposed gate and this pretty windowbox

I don’t know if there is anything sustainable about this wonderful house boat but the elderly couple that allowed me to take this photo seem to be leading a most interesting life on the tideline in their rustic home. I wonder if the fishing is good?

Isn’t this a really lovely dry stone wall?

This picture was going to be a nice long line of delightful artisanal craftwork for you to enjoy but fatty refused to budge from rubbing his nose on the lawn so you are stuck with Bezial in the shot

We walked the dogs a whole lot and we have spent time relocating Effel and her 4 squintillion babies all over the place. They started down the driveway in a large clump of agapanthus but with bad weather on the way and our advanced knowledge of Effel and her terrible mothering skills, AND the fact that most of these little sweet fluffballs are actually blue Wyandotte’s and might be worth $20 each in a few months we decided to try to keep as many of them alive as possible and relocated them to Steve’s shed in Pingu’s old cage. It only took us 2 days to realise that Effel was NOT going to be happy cooped up inside a tiny little hay filled cage and that we were going to have to think about a slightly longer term solution for Effel and her babies. Knowing that they needed to be isolated from the other hens made it somewhat hard as we had removed the chicken wire in the chook roost when our hens started to reproduce exponentially and they started to fill the small bit of the roost where we had previously thrown our clucky hens whenever they wanted to hatch out a clutch of eggs alarmingly and so we had to confine Effel to the outside enclosed area of the coop. We decided to reuse (LOVE that word and it’s application :o) Pingu’s cage that Effel and her fluffballs had been living in for 2 days and cut a door into the front. After cutting half of the wire from the front of the domed cage we then covered it with 2 tarpaulins to make sure that it was weatherproof and we stuffed it full of hay to keep the little darlings dry and warm. We didn’t want the hay getting wet should it rain so we mounted 2 old wooden louvered doors from an old pantry cupboard that had completely disintegrated but we kept the doors for just such a purpose as this, on some treated pine logs and then put the new fluffball home on top. That evening, when we were making sure that Effel got her babies into their new luxury pad we noticed Effel sitting on 2 babies and the rest huddled in the cold in a corner…soon after a most frustrating (for us) but hilarious (to anyone watching) bout of running around chasing tiny chickens who have an incredible turn of speed and who were most determined to hide UNDER their new cage rather than in with their mum we managed to rake the babies out of their hiding places (yes RAKE!) and hurl (sorry place gently) them in with Effel all the time muttering under our breath about how we were going to decapitate Effel at the next sign of cluckiness. The next day we removed the tin, we took Hebel blocks and placed them all around the outside of the cage to stop the chicks from hiding underneath the cage and mounted a nice new longer (less of an angle to get up into the cage) wooden gangplank for the babies to climb up inside their new home. It seems like we have spent the whole week fussing over Effel and moving her all over the place but finally it seems like we might have sorted out the problems and everyone is still alive and we assume, happy.

This is a Rosa rubiginosa L. (Wild briar rose) that has become a bit of an environmental weed here in Tasmania. I am going to take advantage of its apparent glee for spreading all over our local area and am going to harvest the hips (fruit) to use in making wine, jam and syrup. Why waste one of the best sources of vitamin C when it is just going to waste?

This is the sole walnut that we were able to isolate from our Juglans nigra (Black Walnut) tree. It is quite a large tree and the rats have been taking advantage of its bumper crop of walnuts this year. I am thinking about tethering Earl to the walnut tree to see what the rats think of him

This is what a fresh walnut looks like. It was white and sweet and nothing like a regular dried walnut kernel. I savoured it slowly and will be tethering Earl ealy next season and awaiting a rat pelt jacket…we cant waste anything around here you know!

The temptation to “just have a little go” on the computer has slowly given way to an uneasy feeling that I have been wasting a whole lot of time online and that I have to do something to make up for it. The lugging of the wood was in part due to this feeling. Steve is very happy that I am actively starting to “do” physical things around the place. I regularly do a MAX music survey where I am asked my opinion of some short bursts of music. I do this, because I need to address the obvious bias of the young towards total crap music and ensure that the rest of us (not young) are able to turn on radios and hear something that won’t make us cry, vomit or pull our hair out in frustration. Let’s get one thing straight…I HATE manufactured garbage American/Australian/U.K Idol “music”. It’s NOT music people…it is carefully crafted phaff that garners bits and pieces from anything that has made it big and the people that “sing” it are primped, stuffed, anorexic people who are there because they look or sound like someone who has managed to make it big. Real music is born of passion and talent, not of a mishmash of platinum selling hits bound together with well-known riffs and sung by plastic ken and Barbie dolls on steroids. Thus it is my duty to ensure that all of the easily led mass consuming children of today are balanced out by an aging penniless hippy hell bent on promoting real music. I vote up groups that are original and that actually sing and I vote down crap and Beyoncé (can’t stand the bird). In saying that…after the last survey where I promoted Gotye and bucketed Katie Perry I was asked what my favourite song of the month was. I chose “somebody I used to know” (Gotye) and then my explanation was that I really…really…really…really…really loved it. I won a C.D. Great you might say, but it was a C.D. of crap music! AARRGGHH! I just did a quick phone around and palmed it off before I have even taken receipt of it to one of my daughters who dabbles in “crap” music on a regular basis. It’s even going to her house rather than here so that I don’t even have to be offended by touching it.

One of our trailer loads of nice dry wood that we have been collecting this week

This little Astroloma humifusum or Native cranberry is a Tasmanian native groundcover and apart from the small red flowers (that took me on a merry dance when I was trying to find out what this plant was because they look like heath flowers) it has an edible fruit. Another thing that is growing all over Serendipity Farm that is most welcome to stay

This skewed photo (reminiscent of old Batman episodes) shows the new home of Stretch. Stretch is a horrifying mix of plastic, beans and stretchiness that has taken on the form of a rubber chicken. Stretch was purchased many years ago when we lived in Albany on the lower South coast of Western Australia from the $2 shop for (coincedentally) $2. When we moved to Tasmania 5 years ago, I gave Stretch to mum to look after as she couldn’t bear to see him get thrown out. When I went back to Albany for my mum’s funeral and travelled to her little unit with my sister to help her sort out some of the contents I found Stretch in one of her cupboards. I decided that Stretch had been languishing in W.A. for too long and that his fame (or infamy more likely) should spread to Tasmania.

Don’t let his flacid stretchy naked body fool you…beneath that benign rubber surface lies the cold hard eyes of a killer! Look deep into the eyes of Stretch and be afraid…be VERY afraid…

I also decided that with some of my new found spare time that I would take a few extra books out of the library. I ended up with a very eclectic pile of books garnered from the few meek mild mannered shelves at the Exeter Library. I have never perused the shelves there before because, to be honest, there aren’t all that many of them. I was surprised at the range that I discovered and selected a book about Terry Pratchett (my favourite author), a book by Bodger from Scrapheap challenge all about living sustainably and minimising your carbon footprint, a book on “hot plants for cold climates” full of delightful tropical looking plants for winter wonderlands like ours, a book about “down to earth garden design” that isn’t really what I thought that it would be but is interesting reading anyway and last, but by no means least a book called “Bust D.I.Y. guide to life”. I didn’t really look at it in the library but saw D.I.Y. and decided to give it a go. It turns out that “Bust” is a magazine founded by women for women and aimed at “real women” rather than the hopeless, consumerist, neurotic anorexics that “womankind” is becoming thanks to the best efforts of the media and gay fashion designers. I have never heard of this magazine before but this book was a real eye opener! Forget all about “cucumber packs” for your eyes…this book tells you how to repair relationships, bury your dead and make your own sex toys! Now I don’t know about you, but any book that is going to tell you how to make your own sustainable sex toys is alright by me! I don’t think that I will be making many sex toys but I will be making some of the woven bracelets made out of embroidery thread and there are some interesting printing projects for fabric and wallpaper that amused me along with home-made shower curtains and some most interesting recipes. This book is great fun and everyone should take it out of the library or buy it to support women like this who are trying to tear down the stereotypes of what makes a good women’s magazine. If I can find this magazine, I am going to subscribe to it.

“Well looky what little Early has found here eh?”…a nice stash of bottles ready for the taking…

An action shot of the descent from the table of a dog who knows that he really shouldn’t be on the table sourcing his own supply of plastic bottles before they are offered but who could care less about being told off or the opinion of his protesting owners

I have some very interesting people reading my humble little blog now from all over the globe. I have no idea why they are reading my posts because when I have gone to their blogs to have a stickybeak at their lives I am totally in awe of these amazing people and how they are living and what they are doing. Fantastic photographers with great senses of humour, amazing sustainable blogs, people travelling the world and sharing their horticultural, sustainable lives with us in daily posts and some amazing people sharing all sorts of fantastic plans and knowledge. I love you all! I don’t know you personally, but thank you so much for sharing your blogs with me, let alone reading this whacked out little attempt at communication with the rest of the world. I promise you that I am getting so much more from you than you are getting from me, but should you ever find yourself lost and scared in Northern Tasmania (not hard to do…) please feel free to drop in on Serendipity Farm where you will get a warm welcome, a nice hot cup of tea and we will even be good enough to point you in the direction of the nearest airport where you can safely hightail it out of Australia’s equivalent of the Ozarks. The only thing missing is the alligator’s and to be honest, global warming is most probably going to deliver them into our waiting laps in no time flat. I have been letting my hair grow longer and after brushing it after my shower this morning, and after scaring the dogs with my howling whilst removing all of the knots, I realised that should I be that way inclined…you know… really REALLY sustainable, that I could most probably weave something out of my own hair. I just read that book that Florida recommended to me “Lambs of God” and a fair bit of human hair weaving went on inside the covers. I wouldn’t want to wear a human hair jumper as I would imagine it would be right up there with a horse hair couch, but I dare say you could use it in some form of artistic expressionism involving textiles. Do you see what I have been reduced (or elevated) to? I am starting to think of all sorts of weird and wonderful things because my brain has been freed from the relative security (your security, not mine) of confinement online to creative expression out there in the big wide world. Apart from the study days that have harnessed my thoughts and prevented me from making human hair underpants, there hasn’t been a whole lot to keep me safely out of the way of the rest of humanity. We have walked the streets of Sidmouth, Rowella, Beaconsfield, Exeter, Launceston, Georgetown and Kayena and I have been spotted collecting discarded soft drink and water bottles on these walks. I dare say the bus driver that waved to me this morning was lauding my community spirit to the kids on the bus as he noted my arm full of these bottles. I would love to be smug about my rubbish collection but I can’t. It is my year of living honestly and I have an ulterior motive. I am typing this on Thursday and we are off to town tomorrow (or yesterday as you are reading this on Saturday night/Sunday morning depending on where in the world you are) and apart from wheeling our computer and study workstation (desk) into the spare room and closing our door to stop Earl from removing all of the stuffing from our nice new king sized bed mattress (he started nibbling it last week) we have to leave our house to the mercy of Earl. I collected all of these water bottles, coke bottles, iced tea bottles and even a 2 litre juice bottle from the roadside verges so that I can put them all around the house in the vain hope that Earl will eat the bottles rather than anything else that he decides to lay eyes on. I promise that I will insert the remaining mangled shards of plastic into the recycling bin so in a way, Earl is helping us to recycle and clean up Australia, but I don’t have a lot of faith that everything will be fully intact by the time that we get home from our meeting with our lecturer. Steve has a lot more faith than I do in Earl. After our last meeting Earl hadn’t eaten anything. The next day, after a lovely long hour and a half walk he started eating the mattress. We don’t really know how to explain Earls desire to eat things as it transcends all of the literature written about “why dogs run amok”. “Day are bored” say’s Cesar Milan…Earl is NOT bored…we just walked him for 2 hours all around the neighbourhood…he peed on every single light pole, tree and several rubbish bins, he sniffed up a lawn full of grass, he rolled on the gravel verge 77 times, he ran, he jumped, he saw cows, he saw goats, sheep and chickens…he even saw a goose…HE IS NOT BORED! Why is he eating our house? Because he likes to. That is what we have decided. Now we didn’t have to pay $500 for Cesar’s C.D. course or do dog psychology 101 to find that out, we just had to see how happy he was when he was eating the bed…the bottles…the toys…Pingu…pieces of wood out of the wood box etc. Earl just likes how things feel in his mouth. One day he will stop doing that and we will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Until then, we have to take evasive action and should we forget and leave something out we have really no one to blame but ourselves so its bottle scattering on Friday for me…

This photo was taken over the water at Georgetown when we were walking the dogs yesterday. As you can see the weather has adapted to it being autumn now with a passion and we only just missed the downpour that those clouds were holding in our honour before we got back to the car.

Much as I don’t like being in photos SOMEONE had to hold those leads as otherwise carnage would ensue. I am looking a bit like Richard David James of Aphex Twin fame…sigh…oh well…I guess that’s better than some of the people that I could look like! In case anyone out there is admiring my sense of style (HA!) and would like to drop in to their local clothing purveyor to copy my look you can’t!  I am proud to anounce that my entire ensemble was sourced from various thrift shops and that the thrift shopping in Tasmania is brilliant. I am most proud of recycling classic clothes rather than buying into the need to consume precious resources to follow fashion which is nothing more than a marketing ploy to sell more clothes. I am constantly amazed by the range and extent of clothing that you can pick up in thrift shops and even my Doc Martin’s were sourced from a Thrift shop for $1. Cheers to everyone that donates so that both Charity and our precious world resources (and my bank account) can be spared their respective denudations (is that a word?!)

I am going to leave it there for today. I dare say I will be able to add a bit here about our meeting with our lecturer and Earl’s behaviour for tomorrow. I am really enjoying my time out in the real world. I guess what I thought was my control base was really a bit of a prison. The real world is fun too. I am just going to have to develop a bit of a balance between the two. Oh MAN am I tired! It is mid-afternoon Saturday and it’s the beginning of a personal epiphany. Steve got up this morning at 6am as he wanted to take both dogs for a walk in the dark. They love spotting wallabies and possums and rabbits and the excitement factor makes up for walking their usual route. We are trying to save petrol and Earl wouldn’t care where we walked but Bezial is a walk snob and expects to be given a different vista each and every day or he balks and refuses to walk. It is difficult to get a 40kg dog to move when he is stubbornly digging in his heels and dragging 40kg of stubborn dog up hills is no fun. We learned to give Bezial his different walks and he will allow us to do the same route approximately once a fortnight. We have to pay an exorbitant price for fuel (10c a litre more than Launceston) out here so we try to make sure that we don’t have to put any extra fuel in when we don’t have to and so we have taken to subterfuge and trickery to lure Bezial into walking the same way twice in a fortnight. It worked and the dogs got back home and tumbled through the dog door to greet me and slobber all over me just as I had gotten out of bed and had the kettle on ready for my morning libation. I had spent 30 minutes lying in bed thinking about life. As mentioned previously in this post there are some amazing bloggers reading my blog and exponentially more whose amazing blogs I am reading. I have developed a deep thirst for good quality information especially regarding the environment, the truth and sustainability (with a few closet sittings of food porn thrown in for good measure). I tend to be quite introspective and think a lot about things and have done so most of my life. After my divorce, I promised myself to always simplify my life and be honest and up front with even the most challenging of concepts and events. I have discovered that this might hurt bitterly at first but is always the quickest and cleanest way to deal with things. Whilst lying in bed this morning I was thinking about Serendipity Farm and just how much work needed to be done around here. We have plenty of conundrums going on including feral cats, chicken population explosions and various piles of debris growing exponentially every time we start to clear out the undergrowth. My epiphany came when listening to U2 singing “it’s a beautiful day” on the radio closely followed by David Bowie and “Changes”…I listened to the words and discovered that I really DID want to get stuck in and do something here. I wanted to stop procrastinating and start “Doing”. I got up, told Steve about my idea and together we just spent 5 ½ hours working to remove the usable wood from the piles of debris that we generated in the heat of summer where council gave us the perfect excuse to ignore the mountains of wood and branches by posting a “Fire Ban” sign at the end of the road…we have been faithfully observing this fire ban with secret glee because it has been stopping us from having to do much and today we took the bull by the horns and reduced 3 of the piles down to nothing, stacked wood up for the winter, cut up kindling wood and removed a weed tree and reduced it to compost sized bits. Steve chainsawed up logs, I collected them and lugged them to their resting place and the hens clucked and got highly excited at the prospect of insects spraying out with the sawdust from the back of the chainsaw. I am absolutely knackered but I am also feeling serene and complete. You are witnessing a woman who has decided to “get stuck in” and over the next few weeks, with the perfect conditions of autumn under our belt I will share how we are going to tackle the tangled mass of Buddleia globosa, Hebe’s, Abutilon, Philadelphus and acres of blackberries at the front of the house. I am most determined to clear this area out and plant out some of our potted plants. It’s so much easier to work for hours on end when the weather is nice and cold and you can relax in front of a warm fire at night time and soothe your aching body whilst feeling content about your accomplishments.

I think I might finish up there folks. I have noticed that this post seems to be almost as big as 7 regular posts…I am almost over my need to turn on the computer every time I walk past it. I am reading Frances Mayes “Under the Tuscan Sun” and am about to attempt some of the weird and wacky crafts (not a euphemism for ‘sex toys’ by the way 😉 in The Bust DIY guide to life (by Laurie Henzel and Debbie Stoller should you want to take it out for your own personal use…to read the articles of course!) and I am feeling more centred and happy than I have since mum died. The temperature is apparently going down to 4C tonight and we are now able to wake up to LAFM rather than the ABC. The old clock radio would only allow us to play ABC on it and it was dad’s old radio… this new radio (installed since Earl ate the cord of the old one) will allow us to play everything EXCEPT the ABC! How incredibly ironic. Well folks, this is it…your weekly post just about to be posted hot off the press. Hopefully it was worth your wait and your weekly fix feeds you for the rest of the week. Thank you and welcome to all of my new blog readers and despite being in awe at how amazing your blogs are, it made me smile to see so many of you signing up to get regular posts. I love being able to read all of your posts and now that posting daily is off limits, I sip my morning elixir as I sit reading these gems and know how it feels to look forward to someone posting. See you all next week and to my newfound blog posters, Cheers for my early morning wake up call.